A mountain tour in Arvidsjaur

Yesterday I used my new car to drive to Vittjåkk, a small skiing area near Arvidsjaur, two hours away from home. Annika and I were there in wintertime and made a showshoe tour up the hills. I lived in Munich for six years and do not call these hills real mountains, but at least they reach above the treeline.

I parked again at the same parking lot and ascended the first hill that seems to be nameless. The sky was free of clouds, it was quite warm and I was completely alone.

Soon I was on top of the first hill. I wasn’t alone anymore. Some horseflies tried to make friends with me or at least with my blood. I descended the first hill and went up the Vittjåkk.

From the top I had a wide view over large forests, lakes and a higher mountain range.

Beside of taking pictures I didn’t rest because the horseflies really loved me. So I continued downhill again and was a bit flabbergasted that the whole hike took hardly more than 90 minutes. The hut village was completely abandoned, only a snowmobile showed that this place is only used in wintertime. And other signs showed that too …

Four typical observations in Northern Sweden’s inland in summer, when you go by car

One: construction sites. Almost all major roads are under constant repair each summer. It takes a lot of time to travel. Sometimes you have to wait for a traffic light becoming green or a follow-me car. Sometimes you follow an expencive camper whose driver doesn’t dare to drive more than 20 km/h on the gravelly sections. And this may go on for miles. Swedish miles! (A Swedish mile is 10 km.)

Two: lupins. Many roadsides are overgrown with lupins. They are beautiful, but they are invasive and threaten biodiversity. The Swedish Transport Agency has started to fight theses flowers.

Three: reindeers. Most reindeers are in the mountains but there are always reindeers left in the inland. Keep attention when driving! When you see one reindeer you can be quite sure that others are around, too.

Four: bilingual town signs. On many place in Northern Sweden you are in two countries at the same time. Sweden, the official nation and Sápmi, the region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. Therefore many places have (at least) two names, a Swedish and a Sami one.

I drove a lot yesterday: 535 km in total. But as a result I know the new Subaru Outback much better and got used both to the automatic gearbox as the electronic systems. I’m very satisfied with the car that is much more comfortable than the old one. The only drawback, it might be the white colour: The horseflies just love the car. When I return to the car it is mostly surrounded by some dozens of this pests and they will even try to follow when I set off. (They manage round 25 km/h.)

 

Travel remainders

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

Some unpublished photos from my winter journey. I want to show them as long it is still wintry here.

2 February – Jokkmokk

While the grown-up huskies are doing their job the puppies have to wait in the trailer. I guess it is very boring for them. There are curious and seek contact.

21 February – Kirkenes

While Chris, Annika, Ørjan and I are enjoying the gorgeous breakfast in the hotel Thon an asian tourist is waiting outside. She seems to be well protected against the elements but why has the fur to be pink …?

1 Mars – Ekkerøy

On the way to Kiberg Annika and I make a stopover in Ekkerøy where we enjoy a beach walk. Here we meet H. who invites us to visit her. We will make that true some days later. I take a photo of Annika’s and H.’s footwear. Tradition, meet modern world.

1 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay lies directly at the beach. I could spend weeks with only watching the tides and the changing weather.

4 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

There’s hardly any commercial fishing left in the small former fisher villages and the large drying racks for drying cod remain empty. Some people however still dry cod for personal usage.

5 Mars – Ytre Kiberg

A view through the window of Cape East Arctic Adventure. Today we will continue our journey.

10 Mars – Berlevåg

We hardly have the time to explore Berlevåg, we only buy food. Two images of Berlevåg anyway. Just for the records …

11 Mars – Kjølnes Fyr

This snowstorm shaken rocky shore appears more arctic than many other places of this journey.

14 Mars – Hurtigruten, near Øksfjord

A woman has found a wind protected place and watches the Norwegian winter landscape.

16 Mars – Saltstraumen

On our long car trip back from Ørnes to Skelleftehamn we pass Saltstraumen, a small strait with one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. We are too early to see the strongest maelstroms and I’m too eager to continue home. It’s still 500 km to drive.

Now I finally can erase my “later” folder on the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 7 to 9

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

Day 13 to 15 of my winter journey 2018

(finally the last part about Jonas’ and my ski tour five weeks ago)

Tuesday, 13 February

I woke up in the cabin Tarrekaisestuga at 7:20. Some more centimetres of fluffy snow had fallen over night and it was still snowing slightly.

While Jonas and I had breakfast the snowfall intensified so that the mountains and the opposite shore of the lake Darrávrre were hidden by the falling snowflakes. Even the deep tracks of our pulkas from the day before had been snowed over and we couldn’t spot them anymore. We planned to gradually walk back on the other side of the lake and find a tenting place there. After breakfast we packed our equipment into the pulkas, cleaned up the cabin and started our tour by crossing the lake. It was still snowing quite heavily and on the lake it was quite windy, too.

It was not easy to find a path on the other side of the lake. The snow was soft and deep, some parts were forested quite densely and some passages were quite steep. At least for me, who lacked both power and general fitness for dragging a heavy pulka uphill through this sort of powdery snow where you sink in 20 to 40 cm with every step – with skis on!

Slowly and with many small detours we managed to ascent the southern hills until we reached the treeline where the terrain is more open and less hilly. We found a boulder where we found shelter against the wind. Here we took a snack: Chocolate, trail mix and hot tea.

We continue skiing slowly going uphill heading east. It stopped snowing and the wind dropped but the weather was still grey and dull. At least we could see the mountains again.

Suddenly we came to an abrupt stop. We stood at the edge of a deep, steep ravine impossible to cross. Such can happen if you do not make a detailed tour planning but just have a general idea of where to go.

After a while we started to look for a place to tent. First we followed the ravine that the river Áhkalmgårttje had cut into the landscape then we descended a bit to find a sheltered place between some birch trees. The snow was really deep and without skiers I sank up to my stomach into the fluffy snow.

Fortunately the snow was stable enough to build up the tent after we had trampling down it thoroughly with our skis.

Later in the evening: I wonder, why it is never completely dark. Is it still lights of civilisation reflected by the clouds? Suddenly something was flickering between the clouds. Is it a strong aurora? No, it’s just too vivid. But what is it? It was two snow mobiles that illuminated half the mountain landscape with their strong full beams. Slowly they passed on the lake below us.

Temperatures were round -10 °C, quite warm for a February night in the Kvikkjokk mountains. Soon I fell asleep.

Wednesday, 14 February

As usual I was awake quite early and I had a challenge: going on the loo. I just slipped into my warm mukluk boots, put on the down jacket and took toilet paper plus snow shovel with me. I went back on our track from our day before thinking it would bear my weight. It went well a few steps then I just fell through the snow and stood there, again up to my stomach in powder snow. This plan didn’t went so well. I climbed out of the hole, brushed off the snow of my long johns and looked for a better place. (I found it.)

This morning was even warmer with only -8 °C and quite foggy. Both wide angle lenses were completely fogged and it would take most of the day until I could make clear photos again. That’s what the morning  looked like:

As usual we took it easy and started only at 11 o’clock. We descended through the hilly open woodland until we met the winter trail. Snowmobiles had used this trail not long ago and now it was quite easy – even if a bit boring – to get ahead. And after some time even the sun tried to twinkle between the clouds. The first time after many cloudy days we casted shadows again. And it was snowing at the same time.

I skied fast on the snowmobile trail where I could use cross country skiing techniques. Too fast for Jonas and too fast for myself, too. I couldn’t hold the tempo and after some time I was really exhausted – not for the first time on this tour. On the other side it was already afternoon and we were already quite near Kvikkjokk, where I had parked the car. Jonas found a nice clearing in the forest were we tented the last time on this tour. And even the sky cleared up a bit.

Thursday, 15 February

We do not know if we missed northern lights while we slept. The morning however the sky was grey and overcast again and half a centimetre of dust-like snow covered the tent. (And my green anorak that I had forgot to put into the pulka.) Today we would have it easy. Just some kilometres skiing on the winter trail that means, following the snowmobile tracks, mostly on the river.

We passed the place where we had left the very same river the very first afternoon to find our tenting place. Here, in the “valley” much less snow had fallen and our deep tracks climbing up the steep riverside were still visible. Now it wasn’t long to the private shortcut that we had used on our tour start. When we came to this place, a snowmobile approached from that very shortcut, a man waved at us and made a turn to talk to us. It was Björn, the very same local that we met when we started our tour! He was quite eager to hear about our experiences even though he was a bit in a hurry. He also told us about two other Germans that he just had met at the very same parking place where I had parked my car.

The last kilometres, crossing a small frozen river …

… following the shortcut (which is quite long for being a shortcut) and finally we arrived at the parking place. We hadn’t much luck with the weather, we didn’t ski long distances, but it was an awesome tour anyway. Thank you, Jonas!

Plans for the next ski tour:

  • be better trained and exercised (!!!)
  • have less equipment (!!)
  • have (partly) better equipment (!)

Photo #6 and #9 in this blog article are made by Jonas Balbasus.

At the parking place we met Dan and Helen, also from Germany, who just were on the point of starting a much longer tour within less than two weeks: Following the Padjelanta, crossing the Sarek, returning on the Kungsleden. A very ambitious tour in my opinion. But they made it as you can read in Helen’s blog:
Winter ski tour through Sarek National Park – Sápmi / Swedish Lapland

 

 

 

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 5 and 6

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

Day 11 and 12 of my winter journey 2018

After our second night in the tent (it was 20 °C warmer than the first night) I woke up at 7 o’clock. My thick isolated sleeping bag was much too warm and I was glad to get out of “bed”. Time for some photos of our tent and the surroundings.

Today we wanted to leave the trees behind and ascend to the kalfjäll – the treeless mountains region. Since we already were level with the treeline we soon came to the place where you hardly see anything more than snow, some rocks and the winter waymarks.

Jonas is interested in many things, among others bouldering. When we came to a nice large boulder after some hours of skiing, he took the opportunity for a (very) short bouldering session. Here’s the evidence photo:

After that short break we continued our tour over the kalfjäll. It snowed and it was quite windy. The boulder was quite near to the mountain shelter Kurajaure, where we arrived half an hour later.

The wind had grown stronger and stronger and we were glad to enter the shelter. We took the pulkas in, too. These mountain shelters aren’t made for overnight stays beside of emergency situations. We however decided to stay in this shelter anyway for some reasons I won’t reveal here.

Of course we didn’t use the woodstove and firewood. We took our own paraffin stove, prepared food and slept in our sleeping bags, since unheated the shelter was as cold outside as it was inside. But there was a big difference: We were protected against the strong snowfall and the rough winds. I went outside anyway to take some photos in the dusk.

This time we did something new: we set the alarm clock for the next day. We wanted to reach the mountain hut Tarrekaisestugan which we passed two days before and suspected that we had to ski through a lot of fresh snow against rough headwinds and strong snowfall. Since we didn’t know how much time it would take we had set the alarm clock to 7 o’clock. The plan was to leave 8:30, but it became 9:20 when we started our 6th tour day.

It was -12 °C and quite stormy. I guess the windchill was round -30 C. I closed my fur trimmed hood as much as possible and later I took even a buff over mouth and nose to protect against the icy snow that the wind threw into my face. I used three pairs of gloves and mittens – one over the others – to protect hands and fingers. Here’s a selfie of me (left) and Jonas (right) made on the kalfjäll.

There was a lot of new snow, probably 10 to 15 cm. All snowmobile tracks (and our own from the day before) had disappeared. We returned the very same way that we went the day before. Although weather was rough, skiing was easier than expected, because we went more down- than uphills. The steep part however was a real disappointment. This stage had costed a lot of efforts to climb the day before, now it took less than ten minutes to ski down. After a passage over the frozen lake Tarrekaisestugan came into view.

It took more time than expected to cross the lake, but the most exhausting part was the slope by the lake that we had to climb up to reach the mountain hut. Here at least 30 cm of fresh snow had been falling and even the deepest snowmobile tracks were hardly visible. After we arrived and removed our skis I removed ice from the outside of the window. I had to plunge through hip deep snow to reach it. The snow depth behind the hut was at least two meters.

After two cold nights we were glad to dry both sleeping bags and clothes and hung up mittens, jackets, boots, caps and much more and to heat the woodstove.

Our dinner: couscous with roasted salami, dried tomatoes and ready-made champignon sauce. Tasty!

The two photos showing me on skis are made of Jonas Balbasus.

 

Crossing three borders

Day 19 of my winter journey 2018

Whilst I still haven’t finished the blog articles about my ski tour with Jonas, life (and holidays) went on. Jonas and I had arrived at Solberget on Thursday evening and Jonas went home yesterday (on Sunday). This morning I packed the last things, stuffed them into the car and went to Nattavaara Station, where Annika arrived with the 7:38 train. With this reunion another stage of my six and a half week winter journey had begun. Destination: Kirkenes and Varanger, the easternmost parts of Norway.

Today we started with a travel day by car. We travelled 600 kilometres and crossed three borders.

Stage one: (Solberget) – NattavaaraGällivareSvappavaaraVittangiÖvre SopperoKaresuando.
And the first border: Sweden – Finland.

Stage two: Karesvanto (Finland) – Palojoensuu (Finland) – road 93 …
Second border: Finland – Norway.

Stage 3: … road 93 – Kautokeino (Norway) – Karasjok (Norway) – Karigasniemi (Finland).
The third border Norway – Finland. And since it was dark and I was tired we directly continued to our destination for an overnight stay: Giellajohka (Finland).

The temperatures had been between -20 °C and -28 °C for the last hours and the weather was bright and clear. The new fingernail moon shone above the eastern horizon and the first stars came out. Good conditions for polar lights. And we had polar lights actually here in Giellajohka but unfortunately a thin layer of clouds approached and therefore the aurora was less impressive. A photo anyway:

Tomorrow we will continue to Kirkenes to visit friends. It’s a smaller distance to travel than today, just 209 kilometres.

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 4

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

Day 10 of my winter journey 2018

After two days in the Njunjesstugan Jonas and I continued our tour in the mountains west from Kvikkjokk, The weather continued to be grey and dull with temperatures round -11 °C and last night’s snowfall brought five to six centimetres of downy snow.

The winter trail led through forests and hills – one of them so steep, that we hardly managed to ascent it by foot. I guess, that some of the people marking the way prefer the snowmobile before the skis and adapt the trail to that …

Soon we reached the lake Darrávrre which we followed to the mountain hut Tarrekaisestugan. We made a rest, not to stay there but to simplify the continuation of our ski tour. The next tour would lead uphills and we wanted to reduce weight. Therefore we left food, paraffin oil and some spare clothes in the wood shed and took only food for two days with us. After two days in the higher mountains we would return to the hut.

We carried on. By crossing the lake Darrávrre to the west we left the hiking trail Padjelantaleden. On the other side of the lake the trail climbed up the hill. It was not as steep as feared and even if the ascent was quite exhausting for me we managed to get up to the tree line.

We reached an altitude of approx. 680 meter. Here we left the trail and erected the tent in the twilight between some birch trees. This time the snow was stable after tramping it down with the skis and we hadn’t to dig down as three nights before. It had become even warmer: -7 °C and it snowed. Both of us were longing for clear, crips and sunny winter days but it didn’t look like we would get better weather. At least it wasn’t as stormy as forecasted.

 

A ski tour in the Kvikkjokk mountains – day 2 and 3

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

Day 8 and 9 of my winter journey 2018

After the first night in the tent (it was a cold one!) we were eager to continue the tour. The tent was packed and so were the pulkas. We started by skiing through powder snow – a slow movement. I guess I hardly reached 2 km/h in average and I definitely was much slower when I had to go uphills. We looked for a good place to access the river again since it was much easier to follow the stable snow on the snowmobile tracks. After a while we found a good place to enter the river bed. Mostly the winter trail followed the river, only twice it continued on land where the river is narrow and had open water.

After some kilometres the river bent southwards and our trail left the river to continue more westwards. We continued the snowmobile tracks that led through forests and over smaller bogs.

We started to think about reaching the mountain hut Njunjes but weren’t at all sure if we would reach it before darkness. Anyhow, we didn’t had any pressure, since we had anything with us which we need for tenting:

  • a tent (of course)
  • down filled camping mats
  • very warm sleeping bags and vapour barrier lines
  • warm clothes from head to foot
  • a lot of food
  • a paraffin oil driven cooker
  • … and much more …

The way was easy but the pulkas were heavy loaded and after hours of walking I started to get tired and exhausted. That’s one of the reasons why I hardly made any photos. Another reason was that both my cameras refused to work in the morning with temperatures round -30 °C. It became warmer, but it was still round -25 °C, although it had become cloudy and overcast that day quite early.

Beside of a longer and a shorter rest we continued skiing, now with the defined goal to reach the hut. It started to get dark but we knew that we only had to go another hour or a bit more to make it.

After a while it went so dark that we skied with headlights. The buildings of Njunjes had come into view but they were on the other side of the river. When we were on a level with Njunjes we realised that the river became a quite deep ravine, probably with open water and quite impossible to cross …

… but we were really lucky: there was a metal chain bridge that led over that very ravine. It was quite a fight to climb up the slope after crossing the bridge, but with a lot of pulling (and without our skis) we managed it.

Soon Jonas found the open winter room with was made for people like us who like to travel off-season. A stove, wood, a bunk bed for two people, hooks for drying clothes, a table and two stools – anything to stay here for a night or two.

Day three was a day off. It was warmer than the day before and mostly dim and cloudy. I took pictures of the chain bridge, the mountain hut and the landscape (as far as it was visible)

 

After breakfast we attached new climbing skins to my skis and took a ski tour. First cross the river again and right to the sun. Then up some minor hills through sparse birch forests and eastwards to meet the branch to the hut that we had missed the day before. The skins worked well but it was almost a pity to have them attached to my skis since they slowed me down when skiing downhills through the loose powder snow. The sun was hardly visible through the clouds and the landscape almost looked sepia – like an old black and white photo.

First it only snowed a bit but when we finished our tour and arrived at “our” mountain hut snowfall increased. While Jonas was busy sawing and chopping wood I took a small nap.

In the evening we planned to continue to Tarrekaisestugan the next day – the next mountain hut in the west – and probably to continue and tent again in the wintry forests.

Photo #2 in this blog article is made by Jonas Balbasus.

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 cold and crisp winter day

Day 4 of the winter journey 2018

This morning was cold, clear and crisp with temperatures round -25 °C. The snow glittered and the sun slowly started to illuminate the snow covered trees. Today Annika would travel back to Umeå and our main plan for that day was to not have any plans at all.

Dirk, the owner of Solberget asked me however if I could have a short photo session to make pictures of his reindeer sledges in action – one of the attraction of the wilderness retreat. And I gladly accepted. Here’s a first selection of the photos i made.

When I later took Annika to the nearest train station Nattavaara the temperature dropped to temperatures round -30 °C. Good to know, that the small station in Nattavaara has a small heated waiting room where you can wait for the train.

Her train was several hours late (I’ll come back to that topic later …) but thanks to internet and mobile app we already were informed about that delay and hadn’t wait too long until the train arrived in Nattavaara.

Annika will be away for two weeks until we’ll meet again and start our main winter journey. Meanwhile I’ll do a ski tour with Jonas, a good friend from Germany who should already have arrived the day before. Which he didn’t. Well, the train delays – I promised you to come back to that topic.

Due to a snowstorm in Gävleborgs län all trains to Northern Sweden had been cancelled. Jonas had been stuck in Stockholm. He couldn’t take the train the next day neither since it was fully booked. Therefore he was forced to wait another day and then take the night train with a scheduled arrival on Monday, 7:38. This train however was stuck in Vännäs for many hours due to technical problems. Instead of arriving on Saturday, 12:40 as originally planned he arrived on Monday, 17:00. That’s more than 52 hours delay!

But finally he arrived and tomorrow we can plan our ski tour which we’ll probably start on the day after tomorrow, 7 February.