12 + 31 + 29 + 31 + 13

Exactly five years ago I posted an article called “108 free days”. I was still working as an employer but I was on leave for a while with the result of having 108 days on vacation – almost the whole winter!

Yesterday was the last day of a quite tough project I was working on since early August. Today is my first free day and – if I do not change my mind – the start of en even longer period of free time. 116 days I have time for travelling, taking pictures and – finally – writing and publishing an online shop for my photo website.

Hopefully the weather will improve. Instead of the forecasted 6 cm of new snow we had freezing fog today and the last weeks were hardly better.

This weather makes it easier to say goodbye. Today Annika and I will take the night train to Stockholm Arlanda and then fly to Munich where it’s for sure that we won’t have a white Christmas. But after the holidays, when I’m back and want to travel through Northern Norway, Swedish and Finnish Lapland I hope for better weather. And snow more like this:

I’m sitting in the bus to Umeå and the fog has turned into rain. But I don’t care the weather. (Hopefully the bus driver and other car drivers do!) Now it’s visiting family and friends that matters!

Since I probably won’t post anything anymore this year I’ll wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

See you next year – in 2020!

Skelleftehamn at night?

No, Skelleftehamn in the afternoon. The days are short and it’s only four days left until winter solstice. So the bay Kallholmsfjärden is pitch black anyway – or better said, it would if it weren’t for Rönnskär, the industrial peninsula.

Boats between ice and water

Normally I try to make a winter kayak tour as soon as parts of the sea are free of ice. Not this year. Either it was too windy or the sea was ice covered again or I was travelling.

While my kayak is still sleeping in the garage two other boats have already been taken out. I saw them in the afternoon but made the photos in the evening.

It may look like the sea is frozen again, but the transparent ice is floating freely. Look closely and you’ll realise that the second boat has moved while I took the photo and therefore is a bit blurred.

Although the boats are a clear spring sign the ice makes the photos look still wintry. Today’s day temperature however was round 10 °C and for the first time I jogged in a t-shirt.

Late April weather

It has been warm for days, it rained for hours and some puddles in Skelleftehamn look bigger than an average flat in Munich. This is probably the most awful weather I experienced in Sweden in February since I came here in 2010.

It’s however not the first year, where the February is much too warm for a longer period. It had happened several times before. The future will show if it is just normal weather variations or part of the ongoing climate shift.

Lunar Eclipse

Just for the records. Today’s lunar eclipse at 6 o’clock in the morning.

The photos themselves are a bit boring. They could have been taken everywhere. The experience itself however was great: Crossing the sea ice to the near island Storgrundet in the darkness – following older footprints through the island’s forest with a flashlight – sitting on the ice wall at the island’s northern tip and watching the moon turning red – thinking of warmer boots even though it was just -20 °C.

The next lunar eclipse that is visible in Northern Sweden will be in 2025 if I looked right.

Pack ice at the dead of night

It’s a quarter to one in the dead of night. And this is a special night. It’s the longest night of the winter, the night of the winter solstice. Yesterday the sun went down at 13:27, today the sun will rise at 9:39. That makes the night last more than 20 hours.

When I came home from lunch today, the sun was already below the horizon. It was however still bright enough to make me realise, that the bay Kallholmsfjärden was covered with pack ice. At 22:45 I took the car to make some pictures of the ice but first I drove to the peninsula Näsudden to check the ice conditions there. Probably the open Baltic Sea would be free of ice beside of some sheltered bays. I was really surprised to see a belt of packed ice even here, probably half a kilometre wide.

After my eyes got used to the darkness I realised, that the pack ice was slightly moving. The drifting ice floes hadn’t frozen together yet and were moved by the waves. Now I could even hear the cracking and creaking sounds of the ice floes. Extremely fascinating and almost inviting to try to jump from ice floe to ice floe …

… no, I didn’t try that. I stayed at the ice rim, that parts land from sea, felt the wind, looked at some snowflakes drifting by and watched the vibrating sea ice. And I took some photos. That’s my tonight’s favourite:

After an hour I started to feel cold. I didn’t plan to be outdoors so long. Learnings: Always take an even warmer jacket and windproof pants with you. But freezing was no big issue: Driving home was a matter of minutes and the first thing I did was taking a really hot shower.

Tomorrow I will take another look. It’s not only weekend but also the first day of my Christmas holidays!

Hurtigruten in Berlevåg

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

Annika and I travelled a lot over the Varanger Peninsula the last ten days and we only saw one Hurtigruten ship far away. Tonight we stay in Kjølnes, just six kilometres outside from Berlevåg. So we took the opportunity and looked at the incoming Hurtigruten ships at the port. The north going and south going ships meet outside of Berlevåg, today the Polarlys and the Vesterålen. Unfortunately the ships arrive at 21:45 and 22:00, so it was dark, when we stood at the edge of the breakwater to welcome (and photograph) the Hurtigruten ships.

In three days we’ll be in Berlevåg again, this time on the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge, but that’s another story …

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 1

This article is part of the series “2018-02: Ski tour near Kvikkjokk”.

Day 7 of the winter journey 2018

I’m really glad, that my friend Jonas and I managed to realise a ski tour this year. It’s our 3rd ski tour together, but the last one was five years ago. A long time. Actually we had planned for eleven days, but due to severe snow falls between Gävle and Sundsvall two weeks ago the whole train traffic was cancelled and Jonas arrived more than two days later than planned.

On Wednesday, 7 February we left Solberget and took my car to Jokkmokk, where we bought food for nine days. Anything from muesli (with powdered milk), tea and chocolate to pasta with pesto, salami, potato mash and much more. Have a look:

After taking a lunch we continued to Kvikkjokk. The weather was sunny and the temperatures sank below -20 °C. In Kvikkjokk we packed our pulkas, transport sledges you carry behind, locked the car, put on the skies and started our tour. First along a road, then on a snow mobile track. We didn’t come long when we met a local with a snow shovel who asked for our plans. He looked at our heavy loaded pulkas and mentioned that we would have a hard time in pathless terrain. He said, that it was 100 cm of snow in Kvikkjokk and 150 in the mountains.

I reparked my car – another tip of the local – and we started our tour again. With his permission we used his private snowmobile track that led us to the river where it joined a larger snowmobile track. It already had been starting to get dark and our plan was to find a place for our tent quite soon. We weren’t alone on the river – two moose (mother and calf) stood on the river some hundred metres away. We waited until they left and continued. The river slopes were quite steep and after we had decided to leave the river we had to put off our skis and drag the heavy pulkas up through hip deep snow. Exhausting! At least we found a nice little clearing in the forest for our first night in the tent.

As usual we started to tramp down the snow with our skis to make it stable enough to bear the weight of tent and ourselves after some time. This snow however was so loose that it seemed impossible to us to erect the tent on top of it. Therefore we digged down half a meter (making round 6 cubic meters of snow to dig) and erected the tent in the hole. The temperature had continued to fall, now down to -25 °C. Finally the tent was “ready for occupation” and we were eager to eat something warm.

After Chinese noodles with some asian ready-made sauce we left the tent and watched the amazing clear starry night. The milky way gleamed over half the sky and Sirius had just started to rise on the eastern horizon. What a wonderful first night!

… and a cold one. When we started to sleep the temperature had fallen to -30 °C. Jonas and I have huge down sleeping bags and we had it warm and cozy anyway. I just had problems to sleep because I don’t like sleeping on my back and always have trouble to fall into sleep the first two, three nights when tenting.

Next morning: Clear blue sky, some feathery clouds that just started to colour purple. Jonas’ thermometer at the pulka showed -34 °C. It was completely calm and we decided to cook outside. Cooking in the morning mainly means boiling water for tea and for making milk for the muesli. I was glad about my warm mukluk boots, down pants and my puffy down parka. And finally the sun rose over horizon and trees.

Today we would continue westward to the mountain lodge Njunjes and probably sleep there.

Photo #1 and #6 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.

A starry night at Solberget

Day 1 of the winter journey 2018

After a first day on the winter market in Jokkmokk Annika and I enjoyed the cozy sauna at Solberget, my very favourite of all saunas I know. I was really tired after the sauna but just had to make some photos of the beautiful surroundings in the moonlight.

And while I made photos of the window of the sauna hut even the polar light increased a bit.

Today Annika and I will head to the Jokkmokksmarknad again. Yesterday we got a lift, today we’ll take my car.

Lagom winter

It’s probably not the first time, that I use the word lagom in this blog. You could translate it with “just right”. Not too hot, not too cold – not too much, not too little. That’s lagom.

Just now the winter behaves lagom, too. Om Friday evening 5 cm of snow covered my garden, tonight it’s round 20 cm. Not 76 cm as last year, not 2 mm as the year before, just 20 cm. That’s lagom! Even the temperatures are quite moderate, lying round -5 °C.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy this winter, because I’ve worked quite much the last time. Today evening however I managed at least an evening promenade through the near forest, first along some ways and paths, then across country. It was snowing a bit and everything was quite. I could hear neither bird nor car, only the scrunching of the snow under my feet. Today I went afoot but I got my back-country skis from the garage hoping for more snow to come.