A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.

 

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Dessert

This article is part of the series “2015-12: Short trip to Arvidsjaur”.

Monday afternoon at our cabin near Arvidsjaur: -22 °C. How cold will it get the night. Well, not so cold, since the sky overclouded and it got gradually warmer. The next morning the thermometer showed mere -11 °C. The sky was overcast and the diffuse light seemed hardly able to light up the scenery.

Annika and I took a small snowshoe walk on the lake Arvidsjaursjön. Last night’s fog has covered all trees with a thin white layer of hoarfrost and the nature looked more like an old black-white painting than real.

What a contrast to yesterdays mountain hike in full sunlight!

Two other pictures of the same day:

These images were taken on a minor side road. It felt like being hundred miles away from civilisation, but the main road was just 500 meters ahead.

When it darkened the sky cleared up again, but now we were ready for our way back to Skelleftehamn where it was quite warm compared to Arvidsjaur: -1 °C.

A short trip to Arvidsjaur – Main course

This article is part of the series “2015-12: Short trip to Arvidsjaur”.

Yesterday morning was cold: The thermometer at the stuga – the cottage – showed -19 °C. Our plan for the day: Try to find the snowy mountain that we saw yesterday and make a snowshoe tour if possible. After breakfast we packed snowshoes, cameras, GPS, map and warm clothing and entered the car.

Meanwhile we knew the following:

  • The mountain area is called Vittjåkk (“white stream”) – samian: Vyöhtjage.
  • Arvidsjaur wanted to sell the ski resort last year.
  • There where two ways to Vittjåkk, but we didn’t know if any of them was ploughed.

We tried the direct way, which is more like a maze of forest paths. Fortunately almost all of them where ploughed. Thanks to Annikas great navigation we found our way to Vittjåkkstugan, the valley station of the ski resort where we parked our car. Beside of another car and two pedestrians walking their dogs the whole area seemed to be deserted.

We mounted the snowshoes and ascended the first mountain. The sun hadn’t risen yet but the whole horizon showed warm pink and orange pastell colours. While we ascended the slope on a snowmobile track parallel to a ski lift the deep orange sun rose above the hilly forest landscape around and started to illuminate the snow.

We continued the tour until we were on the first peak, enjoyed both view and sun and wondered why it seemed so warm. Hadn’t it been -19 °C in the morning?

We turned right and descended the first peak just to head to the main summit. I was really stunned that you could find such a mountain landscape just “round the corner”. There were many tracks. Snowmobile tracks. We didn’t see any ski or snowshoe tracks; people start to get lazy.

After a while we stood on the top of the main summit – don’t ask me for a name, I couldn’t find any – and made a short rest, both of us drinking tea and taking pictures.

On the descent we wanted to catch as much sun as possible and took a detour. As you can see we succeeded …

… but we had to leave “safe terrain” and had to plunge through snow – sometimes knee deep even with the snowshoes. After 2 hours, 45 minutes we arrived at the car. A short but fantastic mountain hike.

When I started the car engine the car thermometer showed -8 °C, but it dropped down to -18 °C when we drove down toward the valley to Arvidsjaur. A good example for atmospheric inversion.

When we arrived at our cabin, we had -21 °C, later the temperature dropped to -22 °C. Probably the whole day had been quite cold in the lowlands. The inside of the cabin was quite cold, only + 11 °C, since the main heating wasn’t build for those wintry temperatures, but on the other side it was still 33 °C warmer than outside. A huge difference!

The rest of the day: Calm and lazy – just perfect after such a great tour.

Tromsø: In the mountains

Day 14

Today I was up in the mountains. I took the first cable car at 10 o’clock and had a beautiful view on the town Tromsø below.

The whole day was like a symphony in colours. Starting with deep bluish purple shades and pink pastel tones the light got warmer changing the light to this incredible colour between pink and light orange. Does it have a name? I don’t know.

This time I had snowshoes with me. They weren’t necessary today but after the last mountain hike I won’t go without anymore. I headed for the first small peak called Fløya (671m), just two kilometres away. The views of the multicoloured mountains in all directions were fantastic.

I continued southward to the Bønntuva (776m), the next peak. I really love the patterns that the wind has cut into the crusty snow.

I continued a bit farther to a nameless peak (754m), mostly to make a photo of the pile of stones. Stone piles are used in Norway to mark ways, but I guess some of them are built of tourists just for fun. But the weather was perfect and the terrain quite simple so I didn’t mind the waypoints.

I was slow because I was more into looking and taking pictures, not into being fast. So I decided to turn and go back to the top station of the cable car. But not without taking some more pictures. One of them shows a ship, it’s the Hurtigruten heading Tromsø. I could see it far away more than an hour before it landed in Tromsø.

As you can see on the latter photo sun went down again and the shades turned into pink and purple again. When I came back to the fence protecting the tourists falling down the cliff it was dark enough to start the night photos. Tromsø looks really beautiful when it is illuminated in winter time and sky is still blue.

Half an hour later I took the cable car down and went back to the car. That took a while because the official parking place costs 20 NOK the hour and I was much to mean to pay 13,50 Euro just for parking.

My plan was to continue the journey tomorrow but I changed my mind because of the weather. The Norwegian region round Tromsø and Narvik will get a “liten storm” that matches level 9 on the Beaufort scale with gusts up to 35 m/s (level 12). The Swedish mountain region will get strong winds as well with poor sight and much snow. I’ll start a day later, on friday.

Just an image for the photographers: My cheap thermometer is Arca-Swiss compatible! – 7 °C today.