Mammals by the sea, snow on the peaks

A colleague, a friend of hers and I went on a car trip to the island Ringvissøya today. My colleague knows a place where you can spot otters and we wanted to give it a try. On the way there it was raining. While I drove the car the others watched the coastal line. Our first stop however was not for an otter but a huge flock of common eiders.

Sometimes the whole flock dove down for food and then – Plop! Plop! Plop! – they appeared again. Click! I got some photos, but only with my large telephoto lens, because the ducks where quite far away.

We continued a bit and then the first otter was spotted. It was swimming in the fjord occasionally diving to hunt for fish. All the next photos are 100% crop of shots made with 600 mm so the photo quality is inferior, but that was the best I got today. Did the otter get fish? Yes, at least twice we could see it eating. Then, at a shallow bay it went on land and went up through the grass where we lost it from view.

The otters were not the only mammals around. We spotted some porpoises, though only for seconds and a seal, that occasionally swam quite near the shore.

Meanwhile the weather has become quite nice.

Since the otters were not to be seen any longer we decided to continue the road and go for a hike. At a parking place between Kårvik and Skarsfjord we took our backpacks and started hiking up the hills. There was hardly any snow at the beginning of our tour. That changed when we gained altitude. Although there was more snow the ground was not frozen yet and partially wet. Sometimes it felt like walking on a sponge.

We came to a frozen lake, that looked pretty wintry but probably the ice was quite thin, at least in the middle. In the background of the first of the next photos you can see the mountain peak of the Gråtinden (586 m).

The snow had hardened and sometimes bore our weight but mostly we broke through the thin ice layer. But still it was possible to go up, the snow was less deep than I had expected.

And then – after round about 4 km we reached the summit of the Gråtinden.

Here you have an awesome view of the sea, the lowlands and snowy mountain chains in all directions.

We took a rest by the cairn marking the peak, then we started going back. I was quite glad to move again, because I wasn’t really prepared for the hike and had started freezing. While we made our way back and down the sun started to set and the mountains become more orange.

At 16:30 we were back at the car, same time as sunset. And since it even started drizzling again I think we had an excellent timing today.

Thanks for the tour, colleague and friend!

P.S.: Here’s a panorama that I took with my iPhone on the way up today:

Snowy mountains in the blue hour

I’m lucky. The place where I shot this photo in yesterday mornings blue hour is less than 500 metres away. The snow here by the coast has melted away but as you can see the mountains are white now and probably will stay like this for many months.

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

1 October 2023

Looks, like October flips the switch. While the last five days were pretty warm for the season with max temperatures above 10 °C the temperature dropped from 9 °C to 4 3 °C today and the gusty wind blew a lot of leaves from the colourful trees.

When the weather forecast is correct for next week some of the precipitation will come as snow and night temperatures might drop below zero. When it is autumn in Tromsø winter is already knocking on the door.

The last Thursday kayaking 2023

No, I haven’t joined many of “torsdagspadlinger” organised by the Tromsø sea kayak association this year. But at least the first one on the 4th of May and the last one this evening.

We were a group of ten heading to the island Grindøya in the west. When I arrived at the boat houses round half past five the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains of Kvaløya. Half an hour later we were on the water. The weather was quite warm and it was very calm –perfect conditions for a relaxed tour.

We headed to a sea mark – resting place for a small flock of cormorants. They flew away, when we gathered there.

While we were continuing to the northern tip of the island it was becoming dusky. We all had lights at our kayaks or our lifejackets. Less to see but to be seen.

After we passed the northern tip of Grindøya we turned left (meaning south) and calmly paddled along the forested island.

When we arrived at the beach at the southern tip it already had become pretty dark. The lights of the mainland illuminated the horizon. The single light at the left top corner of the next photo is the mountain station of the cable car Fjellheisen.

On the way back it was really dark. We paddled in pairs to ensure that no one was left behind and it was too dark to take snapshots. Just before we arrived at the boat houses again I took the iPhone out of its waterproof bag and took a photo. With a bit of help from Lightroom it’s surprisingly sharp.

It’s a pity that this was the last torsdagspadling but understandable, because it gets darker and darker every week. And if the weather forecast is correct it may snow next week.

Takk for turen – thanks for the tour, especially to the tour guides. See you next year.

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Back to Tromsø

Friday

This week spring has come to Umeå and Obbola. Temperatures above 15 °C make the snow melt every hour and the first Tussilago blossoms in Obbola peek through the dry, brown grass. I take a promenade wearing a t-shirt and in the evening Annika and I sit by our barbecue place. The very same place that was snowed in up the top edge three weeks ago.

Saturday

The alarm clock rings at 1:00 in the night. It’s a dreadful time to get up, but there is a direct train to Narvik with a bus connection to Tromsø and this train departs in Umeå at 2:12.

Near Bastuträsk, 3:57. The bogs look dull and depressing. – Gällivare, 8:12- It is snowing but everything is wet. How deep might the enormous water puddle on the parking place be?

The lake Torneträsk, 10:29. Here it looks like winter, but I wouldn’t dare to step on the lake any longer. Somewhere in Norway, 12:08. Fresh snow covers the birch trees.

We arrive in Narvik punctual to the minute. Half an hour later the bus to Tromsø departs. A local bus and I’m back at my “work home” in Tromsø. The journey took 16½ hours from door to door.

In Tromsø it looks wintry. The average temperatures were above zero for 18 days, but not it’s slightly subzero and about 10 cm of fresh snow cover my car and parking place.

Sunday

I wake up at 5 o’clock. Sunrise was an hour ago and the sun shines on the freshly fallen snow. – 3 °C. I put on some clothes and walk to the beach to take some photos. But then it’s time to sleep a bit more.

So it looks like winter is still present here. It may take a bit of time until I can see the first Tussilago in Tromsø. I’ll post a photo of the first wild flower as soon as I find one.

Jämtland tour 22 – the landscapes

This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.

I’m sitting in the train to Umeå. We have a longer stop in Kiruna where the train changes direction. The other trains standing here are cargo trains that transport iron ore from the mines around. Temperature is -10 °C or lower and there are some centimetres of snow covering the ground. Winter finally has arrived in the Swedish fjäll.

I’m so glad to arrive home in Obbola tonight. I haven’t been there since July. Now I’ll stay until Christmas working from home for the Norwegian Polar Institute.

I’ve been however in Sweden in August, too. Not home but for a hiking tour with my sister and family together with my wife Annika.

This reminds me that I almost forgot to publish the last blog article about our hiking trip in the Jämtland. It will take more than seven more hours until I arrive in Umeå, so there’s plenty of time to start blogging now, as long as the mobile net allows. Earlier I’ve written about the cabins, some day trips, the trail and way marks. Today I want to show some photos of the landscape. Let’s go back three months in time. It is late summer in Sweden.

What I love about the Swedish mountains – the fjäll – is its variety. Not only in weather but also in landscapes. In the lowlands there are forests – mostly birch forests – but all Swedish cabins we visited lie above the tree line and here you have a wide view of the mountains, small and large lakes, rivers and streams, bogs and stone deserts. Let’s have a look.

15 August, our first day. The landscape is rising and we have left the forest behind. The trail between Storlien and Blåhammaren leads over many swamps and bogs and is wet and muddy.

16 August. We leave Jämtland and cross the border to Norway. The cabin Storerikvollen lies quite low and we descend through forests of crooked birches.

18 August. Still in Norway we take a resting day at Nedalshytta. I talk a walk along the lake Nesjøen. The water level is extremely low and so I can cross some mud fields that normally are under water. This landscape looks a bit hostile and is not typical for this region.

19 August. Again the terrain is wet and has many small lakes and water puddles. The mountains are hidden behind low hanging clouds.

We start hiking up the Ekorrpasset. Looking back we witness one of the most unphotographable landscapes I know. In reality it is an impressive view of a hilly terrain with uncountable lakes, ponds, streams and puddles. The photos however always look pale, blurred and boring.

Let’s not look back but ahead. The peak of the pass is more than 1300 metres high. That may not be much in the alps, but in these latitudes only few plant can survive these altitudes and so we walk through a desert of stones and rocks. Hidden in between some moss and the flower Ranunculus glacialis.

And let’s look aside. We pass the mighty Sylarna massif (1574 m) with its glaciers and rugged rocks. Impressive.

The Sylarna cabins lie lower. Grass and heather cover the ground presenting the landscape much more mellow, especially in the soft colours of dusk.

20 August. We leave Sylarna and continue to Gåsen. For that we have to hike through the valley of the river Handölan. Here we meet birch forests again. And some quite impressive rapids.

22 August. After a resting day in Gåsen we continue to Helags. The landscape is wide and broad. And where it is not too wet there are surely some reindeer around.

24 August. We are on our way to Fältjägaren, the last cabin of our tour. The weather is sunny and we are accompanied by the mountain Predikstolen (the pulpit) which shows itself from some of its many beautiful sides.

In the evening we stand outside watching the sunset and the incoming night. Soon the lakes are the only part of the landscapes visible. The rest is almost black.

25 August. Our last hiking day. On the other side of the valley we can see the gaps in the forests covering the mountain slopes. These are the ski slopes of Ramundberget where we’ll take the bus to Östersund. Back to civilisation.

And back to the present. I’m still sitting in the train. Where am I? Ah – half an hour left to Gällivare. Now I’m longing for a cold and snowy winter. But then I want to change ski boots with rubber boots and go for a hike again.

Scotland: wetness

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

You cannot deny, that Scotland can be a pretty wet land. There are however different kinds of wetnesses.

Bathing in the sea

This kind of wetness I love: bathing in the sea. Finally Annika and I managed to find a sandy beach that looked very promising for taking a bath. And it was perfect. No stones, no currents, no sharp-edged shells, no waves as high as a house. The water was warmer than expected and it hardly rained.

Rain and muddy trails

We continued our road trip through the region of Assynt and parked our car by the Stoer Lighthouse. From there we took a circular hike to the Old Man of Stoer, a 60 metre high sea stack. It rained and the trail was soaking wet and partially quite muddy. I managed to keep my rubber boots dry but Annika’s hiking boots were soaking wet after our hike. Her dancing experience helped her to change to dry shoes.

Adventurous roads

As the days before it was Annika that drove the rental cars. You don’t want to fall asleep while driving in Scotland. Beside the single file tracks with its many meeting points sometimes the roads are blocked by sheep. The road sign warning of a 25% steep hill however looked much more dramatic than the road was.

Ardvreck Castle

We have passed Ardvreck Castle several times the last days. Now it was time to stop and have a look.

The lake Loch Assynt was flooded and so was the path to the castle. I like hiking in rubber boots which is a bit overdressed sometimes. In Scotland however I think it’s perfect footwear. Here they helped me to wade to the castle to take some more photos, while Annika waited ashore.

Sea monsters

I almost forgot to tell: At the beach of Clashnessie I observed sea monsters! Carefully I sneaked up to one of them and I managed to take a photo as a proof. There are sea monsters in Scotland!

10 cm high sea monsters.

10 cm high sea monsters buried in the sand.

10 cm high sea monsters buried in the sand looking suspiciously like seaweed.

Sandnessundbrua

Last night I dreamed I would go on an arctic expedition today. The ship would depart at 16:00. I was surprised in my dream that I almost forgot and started packing. Three pairs of socks … then I woke up.

Today I went paddling with some members from the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. We were six people from five countries. It was cloudy, a bit rainy and +2 °C. It was calm, hardly any wind or waves. According to the forecast wind would increase and come from north, so we headed north to get tailwinds on our way back.

I never paddled north from the club. As soon as we started to round the airport the huge bridge Sandnessundbrua came into view. It connects the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, is more than a kilometre lang and has a maximum clearance to the sea of 41 metres.

I use the bridge quite often when I go hiking on Kvaløya but on sea I drove through it only once. That was 19 February with Kronprins Haakon on our way to the Arctic. Some memories popped up while I was approaching the bridge by kayak but soon I was back in the present and took some photos before catching up with the others.

We continued north passing the airport till we reached the bay Sandneshamna. After a very short break – wind has arrived and it felt cold just standing around – we went the same way back. This time we paddled against the current but with wind in our backs.

After 12 kilometres and 2½ hours we were back at the boat houses. Thanks for the tour! Hope to see you again on the water.

Still in my drysuit I took the car to a supermarket and bought some food for lunch. When I left the shop it had started snowing.