Planning for the next seven days.

In eight days I will be in Solberget again – that’s only 40 km away. What should I do in between? I’m still unsure.

Option 1: A ski tour in the Muddus nationalpark. A nice place – I’ve been there once. Disadvantage: There is much forest in the Muddus, wonderful and real old forest as a matter of fact. I don’t have a big backpack with me, only the pulka (a sled for drawing things behind) and I’m not quite sure if it is smart to use a pulka in forests. I’ll have to check it.

Option 2: Finding some nice spots nearby and sleep in my tent, making some day trips with skis. This may be the easiest option.

Option 3: Driving back to Riksgränsen via Kiruna and Abisko. I would love to do it for some reasons, mostly the weather. But the same weather may make this option impossible.

Today smhi (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) published a warning class 2 (up to 25 m/s average winds in combination with dense snow showers). So I guess the roads will be closed again and I cannot get to Riksgränsen.

And the snow in Riksgränsen? According to the forecast of klart: Today 22 mm, tomorrow 19 mm, Sunday 5, Monday 21, Tuesday 35, Wednesday 19. That’s 120 cm in six days. In combination with the storms (more to come) probably neither weather for tenting or doing ski tours alone, not to mention taking photos showing something different than a greyish white.

Option 4: Driving to Kvikkjokk and doing ski day trips there. Hm, maybe …

Option 5: Driving northeast to Pajala near the Finnish border. Hm, maybe …

There are much more options than these five and I have to decide tomorrow. I would love option 3, since I love extreme winter weather. but it’s probably not realistic. I have to check the forecasts again tomorrow.

Addendum: Now the whole Northern Sweden got a weather warning class 1 for tomorrow: Wind gusts up to 24 m/s, that’s beaufort number 9.

Dear blog readers: Your comments? Ideas? Suggestions?

Murjek: Through the forest, over the bogs

Day 23: Ski tour in Murjek

After seven hours winter market in Jokkmokk yesterday I was in need of being in nature again. And today it was sunny, wind was calm and it was not very cold. Perfect weather for a relaxing tour. Half past nine I’ve packed my stuff and clipped on my skis. I followed the snow shoe trail, continued and came to the scooter trail along the power poles that I followed a bit.

As usual in winter when there is a lot of snow, many trees are in camouflage, disguised as geometric figures, abstract objects or strange animals.

Quite soon I left the scooter trail and took a unploughed way in direction northwest. On the way lay at least 80 cm snow, beside of it even more. But with the skis I hardly sank more than calf deep into the powder. That changed where the way ended and I crossed a forest. Sometimes I was knee deep in snow, later occasionally even up the hip if a small birch tree hid under the snow layer and I broke through. But soon I left the forest and came to a huge swamp or bog.

I followed the open land still heading north west. I thought about going up the hill shown in the photo above but I could see that it was a bit further away than expected and in addition to this completely tree-covered. I hardly would get a nice view up there. So I decided to change direction. Sometimes I was in woody patches with big trees quite easy to traverse. Sometimes it was a thicket of birches. These fellows use to bow under the heavy snow load until their treetops are under the snow. There they will freeze so that the birch trees builds arcs and bows. That sometimes can give you a hard time to find a way and sometimes I had to go over the birch trees to get ahead. Tree climbing with skis …

I tried to avoid these thickets but that’s not easy, you cannot see it on the map. But I was glad when I finally reached another huge swamp where I started my way back to Murjek. Perhaps just in time because the sun slowly started to go down.

I love these monotonous wastelands, but now I wanted to came home. I was hungry (I had no chocolates with me), the water in the plastic bottle started to freeze, my gloves where wet and half frozen and I started to feel exhausted. But I had to go some more kilometres according to GPS and map. Finally I came to a crossing – a crossing of snow mobile trails with a signpost showing the way to Jokkmokk, Vuollerim, some other places and – finally Murjek. Guess which trail wasn’t used since the last snowfalls …

… yes: 100 points. Murjek!. Even if I could guess the trail it was no help, the snow under the skis was as deep as before. Larger birches formed an archway above the trail.

That’s the last photo, I wanted to reach Murjek before dark. I followed the trail for some time until I came to a fallen tree that lay across. But on the other side I could see fresh scooter tracks. And the snow was stable. Finally I just could glide over the surface – glorious.  Now I headed for the small kiosk in the train station to buy some food (and yes, some sweets, too) and continued the main road to my nice and cozy room.

Résumé: 12.9 km, most of the time pathless. Great weather. Always great to be outdoors. Next time: A thermos again, because it was a bit colder than expected: -8 °C, when I came home. Plus extra gloves plus extra socks. I didn’t need the socks today but some tiny patches of the bog are still a bit wet under the snow and you never know …

Now the sky is completely cloudy and it started to snow a bit.

Winter wonderland

Day 21 – Deep, deep snow

Today I left Kurrovaara. The narrow street back to the main road is quite steep and covered with new snow. My friend and a teammate took the ATV to plough the snow away for me. After that I started the road up. First it went well but then came a steep passage with a bent. And there I stood and didn’t come any further. My friend had to help me. He, who is both much more experienced with car driving and knows the way by heart drove my car up to the main road. I was so grateful, without him I guess I would have been forced to wait until summer to climb this road. Yes – another argument for having a car with a four wheel drive …

The rest of the journey was quite relaxing: Kiruna – Gällivare – then not the Nattavaaravägen as usual, but via Purnu. I was curious how deep the snow was and stopped beside plain terrain – I guess a meadow or a field. I took some steps through real deep snow and stopped. I just moved my legs a bit and down I went. I was standing shoulder deep in snow until I hit firm ground. Unbelievable! I tried some other places to make sure that I didn’t hit a hole in the ground, but more or less it was all the same: Breast to shoulder deep and that means 140 cm snow in average!

So it wasn’t only the coast, that got a lot of snow (Luleå got 113 cm and broke the old snow record from 1966), but the inland as well, Many places in Northern Sweden have more than one metre snow now.

I continued the journey and made a short stop in the Wilderness Lodge Solberget, where I’ll stay a whole week later this month. Since last Thursday they have got huge amounts of snow  – a neighbour talked about 60 cm on a single day – and the wind created snowdrifts up to three metres height. So they had a lot of work to dig out doors, windows, cars and much more. Just some impressions from today (much snow is shovelled away already):

After having a fika (the Swedish coffee break) and making these photos I continued to the village Murjek where I’ll stay for some days, mostly for visiting the famous winter market in Jokkmokk but perhaps a ski tour as well if it works with so much snow.



Nice evening in Kurravaara

Day 20 – a nice stay over night

Finally my car was up and running again and my mood improved almost instantly. From Kiruna it is only a short trip to Kurravaara where a friend works on a campsite. It was so nice to see him and meet some of his workmates. We finished the evening with a short and hot sauna. So relaxing after the stressful day.

On the photos: First the bastu – the sauna, then my home for a night.

It’s great here but I want to visit the market in Jokkmokk and have to carry on tomorrow. But I’ll be in Kiruna again at the end of February and this could be an opportunity to make another visit.

We’ll see …

Small battery – big trouble

Day 20 – the car doesn’t want to start …

Why I didn’t make so much yesterday? It was less because of the weather but more because of my car. I wanted to drive to Tornehamn where I’ve been last year, but …

My car had its own plans and thought about taking a day off (or two or three). I was totally unable to start it. So I had to change plans.

I talked with a German friend and based on my error description and especially the fact that the motor started without problem, when I got a jump start some days before, he was quite sure that my old battery just died from one day to another.

So I solidarised with my car and took it easy, too yesterday. But I wasn’t relaxed at all, because I was quite nervous. T. who rented out the house promised to help me today. But what, if he couldn’t help? If it’s not the battery? If it’s the car electronic? Of something else that needs a replacement part that takes one week to ship in? How will I come to the next car garage in Abisko? Will I ever make it to Jokkmokk? And so on, and so on.

So my mood was not the best yesterday and I even fantasised of being home and taking a hot bath …

Today in the morning I rang up a car garage. They didn’t have the right battery and couldn’t help me, but they could give my another telephone number. The second garage did have the battery and even time to change it today. Great!

Later today T. found time today to help me. He connected a spare battery. I tried to start once, twice, three times, but I couldn’t start the motor.

T. connected another battery in addition to that. I tried again – and was almost successful, but just almost, the motor still didn’t start.

I remembered my start help that I bought for the journey and that I charged just yesterday. We tried that – again in vain. I started to get really frustrated.

Meanwhile the motor of T’s car was warmed electrically and T. turned his car to jump-start mine. And – YES!  – it worked! I was so reliefed! Now I just had to take care that the motor won’t stop on the trip to Kiruna.

It took round an hour to reach Kiruna where I took the way to the car garage. To make a long story short: Yes, they had the battery, changed it in short time and my car started again like a charm. Phew!

When I started planning the trip I never ever thought about how much room the car (including the driving) will take place in my journey and even in this blog. Sometimes I think, the car should write way-up-north, not me.

Other things my car got today:

  • An examination of the tyres: Yes, they are in really good shape
  • Correct air pressure in the tyres
  • A lot of fuel
  • A new light bulb
  • Cooling liquid

Perhaps I’ll take the bicycle next time. But on the other hand these might get troublesome as well:

Abisko: Where are the mountains?

Day 19

Where are the mountains? I guess they’re still there, they are hard to move. But I couldn’t see them the whole day. When I stood at the edge of the lake I could see the island Ábeskosuolu, 700 metres away, but the rest of the terrain was hidden in a greyish white. I guess it was less the falling snow but the blowing snow that hid the surroundings, because the wind was quite fresh and gusty. SMHI, the Swedish weather office published a level 1 warning for today: hård vind med snödrev/nederbörd (high wind with ground blizzard/precipitation).

Two other images of today, the first showing one of huge snowbanks that were built up on the houses lee side. The other shows the restaurant and bar from the outside with blowing snow.

Photographers note: I like the last photo of the restaurant’s outside. And I took it without a tripod: ISO 3200 35mm f/2.0 1/320 sec


Abisko: White snow, white sky

Day 18

Another ski tour today, not up the hills but down to the lake Torneträsk, which ist the seventh biggest lake in Sweden and 168 metres deep. But on the lake there’s a layer of at least 50 cm ice and a bit snow. This snow was so low in contrast that you could see just a uniform white without any structure at all. When I came to the first small island I could hardly see where the slope began. White snow, white sky.

I went half around the first nameless island and half across. Then it was only some hundred metres to the island Ábeskosuolu which is bigger and higher. I didn’t dare to climb the top with my skis but went around here and there. After taking a rest I continued to Abisko Turiststation, the big tourist station in Abisko. I went over the ice straight ahead.

Even on land I tried to continue quite directly, which was both quite stupid and quite funny, because the labyrinth of steep small hills was full with a thicket of birches. A snow hare looked at me from a safe distance. I guess he thought, I’m mad and perhaps the hare is right. I continued plunging through the deep snow taking many detours to come uphills until I reached the station. Arrival 13:45 – just in time to get a late lunch. I enjoyed especially the salad bar. After a rest and eating a bit too fast and too much I went back to the village Abisko, but this time on the direct way near the road and the railway line. That’s only two kilometres and I was soon home again.

Meanwhile home: A snow storm has covered Skellefteå and around with huge amounts of snow. Some people wrote on Facebook, they’d been snowed in. I looked at the photos and – yes – I, as a snow fan would love to could have shared this experience. But on the other side we had much snow in Skelleftehamn the last years, especially because the nearness to the coast. For example:

Here in Abisko wind starts to increase and snow shall come tonight, but just some centimetres.

Retrospect one

Today is the last of January and day #17 of my current journey “Nordkalotten 2015”. Time for a litte retrospect. Thoughts. Opinions. The good and the bad parts.

1. The activities

I loved all days where I was outdoors, especially in the mountains. The walking tour in Stokmarknes, the snow shoe tour in Tromsø, the ski tour in Abisko today, all were great fun! I could do that again and again.

The whale watching tour in Andenes was a great experience, but that’s a thing I don’t need to have every week.

It was great to spend time with my friends J and R in Haukenes. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for the great ecological food. Caution: I’ll come again!

I love Tromsø, but the weather was dull and I wasn’t in the mood to visit a city. I seem to prefer the outdoors more and more.

It was great to see so many Northern Lights. I think I saw them 8 times already, but I didn’t take photos every single time, only in Stokmarknes and Abisko up to now.

I enjoyed many other things: Meeting people, short walks, long talks, good food, much sleep and other things that may not be newsworthy but are part of a long holiday.

Conclusion: All fine but I’ll try to travel less by car and be more outdoors in the nature.

2. The car driving

The landscape is so beautiful and that’s the fun part of the car driving. But always when you have the most beautiful view you can bet you’re not allowed to stop to take a photo. Furthermore I think it’s a bit boring to drive alone.

To be honest: Driving car in Norway in wintertime is not favourite thing and I underestimated the difficulties. I really wish I’d have a car with four-wheel drive!

The car ride cross the Norwegian mountains in rain storm on wet, icy roads was awful! I never want to experience such again.

The car ride in convoy cross the Bjørnfjell to the Norwegian-Swedish border was really exciting. But driving in storm was exhausting and I was glad to arrive in the cozy room in Abisko after the long trip from Tromsø.

I love my new roof box, many things are out of the way and even the loaded car with the roof box on top doesn’t consume more fuel than the empty car home. A real surprise to me!

Conclusion: Definitely less driving in Norway when weather is bad! Or is there anyone out there that will give me a big jeep for free?

Kilometres so far: 1968.9

3. The accommodations

Should I feel guilty or have a bad conscience? I planned to tent quite often. But how many nights did I sleep in a tent by now? 0 – zero – nil! I should mention that I had good reasons: My tent needs tent pegs to stand erect. I even have special snow pegs that are great – if you have snow! Most Norwegian ground was snowless but deeply frozen, I would have needed a pneumatic hammer to ram in the pegs, and since we had a quite a lot of wind it was just impossible to erect the tent safely.

Now I’m back in Sweden, we have enough snow and I start thinking about the tent-thingie again. But on the other side: It’s so comfortable to sit in a chair, to take a hot shower, to use the laptop with wireless internet, to cook standing.

But I have to start to cut costs as well. I only have some friends on the way, most often I have to pay for a room. And that adds up within 82 days of travelling. I’ll guess you’ll read some tent stories in the near future …

Conclusion: Starting to tent but enjoying houses and huts, too.

4. The weather

First of all: I love winter! I adore winter!

I love snow. Huge amounts of snow. All less than a meter is a nothing!

I love crisp cold air, the colder the better (at least for some days). All above -35 °C is not really cold, is it?

I love bright clear blue sky in daytime and a starry night with or without Northern Lights.

I even love snow storms, especially if I’m inside in the warmth … . Being out I’m not too fond of strong winds and consider stormy weather as exhausting.

Let’s see: There was nothing for record hunting yet. The all-journey minimum was -23 °C, that’s nothing, I was looking for -40 °C below (That’s why I have a huge down parka, down pants and an extremely warm sleeping bag with me).

And the snow? 70 cm in Abisko? I’ve had more snow in Skelleftehamn every single winter the last years. And even now there’s much more snow in for example Älvsbyn (130 cm now, more to come) which is less then two hours away from my home. It feels a bit strange to make a long, long journey and have more snow near home.

On the other side there where many days with clear sky day and night, especially on the Vesterålen. Let’s see what the next weeks will bring …

Conclusion: Wait for two metres of snow, wait for -43 °C. Curse if it doesn’t happen and repeat the journey next winter …

5. The equipment

All equipment works great. I just have  to attach a new lace to the zippers of my photo-backpack, that’s all. But neither was it cold enough to use the expedition-style down clothes, nor did I use tent or petrol stove. But pot, bowl and spoon came in handy in the hut in Tromsø that had an electric cooker but no dishes and cutlery at all.

Camera works like a charm and so does the laptop. The iPhone hates the cold and even when battery is on 80% it will switch off itself when its below zero. That happened just today.

Conclusion: Make an equipment retrospect after the journey to be able to travel more lightweight next time. Ignore the learnings completely and stuff the car again.

6. Your thoughts?

As always, feel free to comment. I’m looking forward to your thoughts, your questions and your options.

Abisko: A first small ski tour

Day 17

Finally – my first time on skis! I didn’t dare to use them in the Tromsø mountains, they are too steep for my mediocre skiing abilities. The mountains – the fjäll – in Abisko however is not so hard.

EquipmentWhat do I need for a (short) day trip? Let’s see …

  • windproof clothes
  • a down jacket for resting
  • warm woolen mittens
  • hot tea
  • goodies
  • a compass
  • a good map
  • my GPS with spare batteries
  • first aid kit
  • headlamp
  • camera equipment
  • bivy bag
  • some money (just in case)

I love it when I can start a ski tour just from the doorstep. Weather was fine, partly blue sky, partly clouds, -15 °C and no wind at all. The first time in this winter I put on my ski shoes, attached the skis, unattached them again to get the other mitten that still was in the house, attached the skis again, took the backpack and ski poles and started the tour. First the tunnel under the railway (Stockholm–Narvik) then up the street and into the open woodland. First I followed the snowmobile tracks. That’s easy because the snow is solid and it’s easy to go. But it’s a bit boring, too. So I left the trail after a while and went cross-country. The snow is new – it snowed 30-40 cm the last days and quite soft. Soon the skis were more under than on the snow, mostly calf deep, later sometimes more than knee deep.

In average the snow was 70 cm deep – that’s not so much for the fjäll, but I was quite glad that I could continue cross-country even if it was a bit exhausting. Again and again the snow around me slumped down under my weight sometimes snapping like a whip, sometimes growling like thunder. This is what avalanches are build of. It was clear that I had to avoid all steeper terrain today.

Soon the valley Lapporten, that you can see from Abisko as well, came into view again.

I hit another snowmobile tracks and followed them. An a slope ahead a snowmobile approached and I stepped aside to make place – sinking into snow almost knee deep again. The snowmobile was followed by eleven tourists that booked a dog sledding tour. I laid down into the snow to make pictures and since the dogs came to a stop I could make a photo of the husky with its snow-covered nose.

The dogs continued and so did I. But now I had a minor challenge. The track on the slope was quite steep and so narrow, that I couldn’t make V-steps big enough to go up on skis without sliding back. So I left the track and tried to go up zigzag beside the track. But after ten steps I was bogged down into the snow more then knee deep. I tried to go up, but impossible, at least for me. I returned to the hard snowmobile track, unmounted the skis and went up afoot.

Up on a bleak plateau I left the snowmobile trail and continued cross-country again in direction Lapporten. On the treeless plateaus it has been much windier and the snow was pressed and beared my weight. I continued a bit further and enjoyed the beautiful views and impressions.

But soon I headed back and skied down again through the untouched terrain. Downhill skiing was a bit thrilling: Some patches where hard and the skis ran fast but soon a patch filled with deep soft snow waited for you. It was pure luck that I didn’t fell. Four hours later I was in front of the house – right before the doorstep. A nice tour.

Over the storm-beaten Norwegian fjell

Day 16 – about storms, waiting long, a dead battery and Northern Lights

Today I left Tromsø and tried to reach Abisko. But I couldn’t say if I should reach it today since two parts of the mountain road were still closed.

The first part was extremely windy and I could feel the squalls shaking the car. Again the question – was it smart to drive a car in this weather? But soon when I came to Fagernes and started crossing the mountains – the fjell – it got much better. Then I arrived in Bjerkvik where one road goes to the Vesterålen and the other to Narvik and Sweden. Just after I left Bjerkvik, after a tiny bend the storm stroke again. I left the road to Narvik and turned left following the E10 to Sweden. The car climbed the steep passage up and than I saw a queue of cars. Stop.

I switched the car off (Bad idea, Olaf!) and waited. What’s happening? Are we waiting for a convoy? Is the road still closed? I waited. After half an hour it got cold in the car – outside it was stormy and -9 °C – and I turned the car key to start the car again. No reaction beside of half a second light on the dashboard and some disturbing noises. I tried again, and again. The car was dead! “Sh**!” was my thought.

I asked the car driver behind me. No, he doesn’t know anything about cars. The next one. Yes, I should check the contacts of the battery first. That’s what I did but they looked ok. While considering what to do next, the guy came to look as well. He checked the battery contacts once more and came to the same conclusion. Just seconds later a big red car approached from the back, stopped some centimetres beside of mine, a guy jumped out, two jumper cables in his hand, fixed them to the batteries of our cars, asked me to start and my Saab started like a charm! I just could say “tusen takk” – Thousand thanks and back in the queue vanished the red car. This guy is my hero today! I was both grateful and very relieved.

Now I focussed on not stalling the engine under any circumstances. As all other cars I continued waiting. After about two hours of waiting some really official looking cars came from the back and minutes later a guy picked all the “normal” cars to follow. We had to wait another fifteen minutes (“do not stall the engine!”) and then we could follow a snowplough.

Even now where the road was open and ploughed it was an adventure. You could see snowdrifts everywhere and the strong wind still blew loads of snow through the air. Sometimes you could hardly see the hazard lights of the car in front of you. Some new snowdrifts started to cover the road again. It took time until we crossed the Bjørnfjell – the Bear Mountains and came to the Norwegian border where another long car queue waited on the other side for their turn.

Now I was in Sweden and the other road segment was already ploughed and open so that we quite easily could continue driving, still minding the snowdrifts and the stormy wind. Finally I arrived in Abisko where I am in the same room like two weeks ago –it  seems like ages ago.

It really feels like home being in Sweden again – the Swedish language, the Swedish mobile internet without expensive data roaming and – last not least – the Swedish prices! After a short rest a went to a restaurant and ate and drank for 85 SEK, less than the half of what it would cost in Norway.

After that I took a photo tour. The sky had cleared up and a long band of Northern Light covered the sky over Abisko.


jumper cableStarthilfekabel
stall the engineden Motor abwürgen
ploughedgepflügt, freigeräumt
hazard lightsWarnblinker