Tromtinden

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

It wasn’t planned, that I woke up already before 6 o’clock. Anyhow I took the opportunity to get an early start for my 2nd mountain tour of #onceaweek. Todays destination is the Tromtinden in the northwest of the island Kvaløya. The starting point is 50 km away so I had to take the car. It won’t be the last time.

The car ride however is incredible. Now many trees bear autumnal colouring. It is already impressive in the shadow, but then I suddenly drive into the sun and was almost blinded by these colours, to bright and intense they were.

I have to take another photo, that shows the road to Tromvik. It lies in the shadow while the sun illuminates the bald mountain peaks.

Already at 7:20 I start the tour. It’s 2 °C. It seems that most Norwegians prefer to start their hiking tours much later and so I am completely alone. The first part crosses boggy ground. There are some planks leading over wet parts but they are quite slippery because of ground frost.

The way leads up through a sparse birch forest. Now the path is less muddy and starts being dominated by rocks. No wonder – it’s going to be a mountain tour.

On a small plateau I find some cloudberries. There are overripe and have a bland taste, but the frozen one in the shadow is really tasty. Cloudberry sorbet!

On a saddle between the Mellomtinden and Tromtinden the view opens to the northwest and a mountain lake as well as the sea appears.

I follow the ascending path until I stand on a larger plateau. From here I can see the steep northwest face of the Tromtinden and the marking of the summit.

After traversing the plateau the path gets steeper, leads mostly over rocks and I have to stop several times to look where it continues. Do you see the mark on the next image?

After crossing some rock fields and a bit of level I “climbing” I arrive at the summit plateau with its impressive cairn and an even more impressive 360° view.

9:15 – finally time for breakfast. Three cloudberries didn’t fill me up.

I almost spend one hour on the Tromtinden and enjoy being outdoors completely undisturbed.

Finally I start walking down. Slowly and carefully I take my steps on the rock fields but then the path gets easier and easier. When I am halfway down I meet the first other hiker – a woman with a dog. From now on I meet twelve other people (plus three dogs) until I arrive at the car. The sky is blue and it has become so warm, that I only wear a t-shirt.

I arrive at the car at round 11 o’clock. I’m surprised that the car thermometer shows only 7 °C, but the sun has still quite a lot power. Now I’ll head home, only with a detour to the grocery to buy a huge bowl of salad for lunch.

For the stats: 8.3 km, summit altitude 636 m.

The first polar light of the season

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

Is the polar light shy? It was quite bright, when I peeked out of the window of my tiny room in Tromsø. It got pale when I took pictures at the bay Telegrafbukta. And it got really bright after that while I was returning home because clouds had been gathering.

Anyhow, it’s the first polar light of the season 2021/22 and therefore worth photographing.

There was another light at least as fascinating as the polar light. Plankton that was washed ashore. This plankton was bioluminescent and glowed blu- turquoise. I have a real ugly photo for the records. When this a common phenomenon I’ll try to take better photos some other time.

A hike to the Stor-Kjølen

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

Let’s be honest and face it. I’ve been really lazy this year and my outdoor fitness is near non-existent. I don’t like that. There is a simple solution for that: Be more outdoors!

Today I started the project #onceaweek. I want to make an outdoor tour with at least 10 km every week. (Thanks M. for your inspiration.)

I will try to blog about these tours and I want to give each tour some photographical focus. Today’s theme: vegetation zones.

From forest to fjell

The gravel road is quite steep in the beginning. First it leads through birch forests that have started to colorise autumnal. Then the landscape opens and is not dominated by trees anymore.

Gaining height

At the lake I leave the gravel road and the character of the hike starts to get alpine. It’s however still a hiking tour, no climbing needed on the whole tour.

From earth to moon

The vegetation is becoming more and more sparse. Some tufts of grass, a fern, moss, map lichens. And then I pass the first snow field. I look up the mountain I wish to climb. It is just an enormous pile of stones. Fortunately there’s a way round this slope.

The mountain top of the is a plateau of rocks with even less live. It’s almost like being on another planet or moon. And there it is: the space station.

“Oh, the space station looks so cozy inside!” – „Well, that’s not the space station, it’s the varmebua, a small wooden cabin to give shelter to hikers.“

“Um, hikers? On an alien moon?” – “Well, we are on earth and the ‘space station’ is a radar station used for controlling the air traffic of a larger part of Northern Norway.“

I had been almost alone on my way up but on the summit there were many other hikers. Some passed, others took a rest like me.

Looking around

The plateau provided a 360° panoramic view. I could see many mountain chains, the higher tops all snow covered. Anyhow, it’s Tromsø and so fjords and open sea are present as well.

This could be a favourite place of mine in Tromsø’s gorgeous nature. But it is way too early to know this. Remember, it is my first tour of #onceaweek. There will be other places to discover.

For the stats: 16 km, summit altitude: 788 m.

April weather – Olles Spår

After yesterday’s snow fall Umeå municipality sent an SMS to Annika today at 8:28: “Olles Spår 5,0 km, Klassiskt preparerad”.

Olles Spår is one of Umeå’s cross country ski tracks. Annika and I planned to ski there after work today. I was however a bit doubtful, because at home the snow was thawing away the whole day and in the afternoon it even rained.

When we arrived at the parking place of Olles Spår only a single other car was parked there. And that is what the parking place looked like:

We planned to ski at least 1 km no matter how it goes, but the ski track was much better in shape than expected and so we skied 5 km.

Perhaps we ski again this week, otherwise it was probably the last time this year. And then spring shall come!

Apropos spring: On the way back we stopped at Degernäs – a bird’s paradise.  At least a hundred common cranes flew overhead within minutes and a several hundred whooper swans had been gathering in the shallow waters of the flooded meadows. Not mentioning the many geese. That’s another clear sign of spring.

 

Just a detour to work

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Though Saturday I went to the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday to get a handover from a former colleague. I went however not the direct way (20 minutes) but a long detour (90 minutes) to catch some air and some light before being in the office until dark.

Just some photos taken with my mobile.

It’s nice to go lightweight and taking pictures with the iPhone. While the photos are impressive considering the size of the lens and sensor, the quality is of course long from that of my Nikon. So next time I’ll carry more weight but probably I’ll be more content with the image quality afterwards.

 

Technique sea kayaking course

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

I was really in doubt about writing this blog article and showing photos of the last weekend, where I participated the course Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking).

Why? Because my photos lie. They show sea kayaks lying on nice beaches and us paddling in calm waters. All these photos are true but they tell only a fraction of the experiences I made when I kayaked in Northern Norway in the beginning of November.

Saturday – day 1

The paddling course was supposed to take place on Sommarøya. A beautiful place, but quite exposed to wind and weather. Due to the wind forecast (average wind 15 m/s) the instructors chose a more sheltered place for the first course day: Eidjordneset, just 12 km away from the boat house of the sea kayak club Trulle.

We gathered round 7 o’clock in the morning: We are the instructors Tim and Pål and four participants. Kind of luxury! We put the kayaks on the trailer and started driving: Past the airport, over the bridge crossing the Sandnessundet strait, to the left and then taking the turn to the island Håkøya where we parked and changed clothes for the tour. In my case: woollen underwear, two pairs of socks, a thick woollen sweater, drysuit, neoprene boots, gloves and hood. In addition to that the sprayskirt, life vest, towline system and helmet. We do not only dress for the chilly air but for being in the water as well. Tim wrote in the email: “We will be doing a lot of swimming”

We started to dress in darkness but when we were ready it had got light.

We put the kayaks into the sea and started paddling east along the Håkøya. After getting our paddle strokes improved we started to practise partner rescue. One kayaker capsizes, opens the sprayskirt and swims. Then there are different techniques of emptying the capsized kayak and support the swimmer to enter the kayak again. While we were training this several time. As Tim said: a lot of swimming. While practising the wind blew us more and more to the east. Time to turn back.

Now we had to paddle against the wind. First it went quite well but we already could see the huge shower cell coming towards us. Round 2–3 °C in the air. Would it be rain, sleet or snow? No – it was a grown up hail storm approaching. Within minutes we had wind speeds of round 20 m/s howling around us, blowing spray from each wave and throwing hail right into our faces (ouch, my lips!). The instructors decided to guide us to land where we waited for the hail to stop.

Soon the weather was calmer but still very windy. It took a while until we reached the bridge, where we started the tour. On the way back I had one of the rare opportunities to take some photos with my iPhone while paddling. Mostly I was too occupied with practising or catching up.

When we arrived at the bridge we crossed under it, because on the other side the sea was a bit more sheltered. Here we practised a lot of different paddle strokes as edging or low and high brace. This was quite intense – only interrupted by a short and frugal lunch break – and I’ll have to train a lot until my body has understood the movements. We ended with a rescue case: One of the participants had to pretend having an injured shoulder and we had to both give support balancing her kayak and tow her on land. Well, there was a lot of discussion but finally we managed it. Ok, it was only 20 metres or such to tow.

To make it short: changing into warm clothes · putting the kayaks onto the trailer · heading back to the boat house · I got a lift home · hot shower · great!

Sunday – day 2

Two of us met Tim at the boathouse, where we got a lift to a petrol station, our meeting point. As you can see it had been snowing and it was quite slippery.

Now on day two we would drive to Sommarøya and take the second course day there. Great, because the area round Sommarøya is wonderfully beautiful. Sommarøya is more than 50 km from Tromsø and the shorter way is leading through the mountains, so due to the weather conditions it took a longer time to travel there. And that’s how it looked like from the bay Steinsvika on Store Sommarøya.

We paddled to a flat rock covered by breaking waves and tried out some paddle strokes from the day before. That gave us opportunities for more buddy rescues, because of three capsizings. We made a short break on one of shallow beaches.

After that we started to round the island Storholmen where the Sommarøy lighthouse is located. First we tried to stick near the rocks to play with the waves. The further we came to the open sea, the higher the waves became and we increased distance.

Especially at the northwest tip we had waves up to 150 cm coming from several directions so that it took all my concentration just to paddle on while feeling quite stressed and a bit helpless. A bit further the waves coming from the open sea behind us built up to huge rollers and breakers on the shallow bay. I was too scared to join the others that played in these waves (with several capsizings and rescue manoeuvres). Therefore I paddled a bit further to reach a more sheltered part of the bay and wait there not to split the group. One other paddler joined my shortly after. Then all of a sudden a really huge wave came, broke just where we were and knocked us both over. There was nothing I could do. I immediately lost my kayak in the wave and it took a bit of time and help from the others to fetch my kayak and get us in again. I know that I have to learn to paddle under such rough conditions as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy it.

I really was glad about the lunch break. Here Tim and Pål told us about the star rating system for waves. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and mostly we had 3-star conditions out there, with one two-metre-wave probably being a 4 star.

Even after lunch I was mentally quite exhausted. But at least we had started heading back and were soon in calm waters again. The others learned some more rescue manoeuvres and such but I kept aside for a while because I couldn’t focus any more.

Finally we made another towing manoeuvre, where two of us towed another kayak while the fourth paddler supported balance. While I was mentally tired I still had physical energy so I tried to drag a bit harder the last part to come up onto the sandy beach as long as possible. And that’s where Tim took this photo of us. I’m in the front – watch the nice violet helmet!

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

Conclusion: This course was too difficult for me. I was too scared and overchallenged. But I had skilled instructors, great fellow paddlers and learned a lot – though the hard way. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to join this course and already decided to take the same course again as a fresh-up next spring.

The day before tomorrow

Don't take it too seriously …

Like yesterday, it rained a lot today. It was also very windy with squalls between 20 and 25 m/s.

Tomorrow the weather looks quite alike. There maybe a bit less wind and probably less rain, since it will mix with wet snow due to falling temperatures during the day.

What a lovely day to go kayaking the whole day.

This weekend I’m participating the Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking course). I’m a bit scared that the level could be too advanced, especially in this rough weather. Tim, the course leader who gave me some private lessons last week promised however that we would mostly paddle in sheltered areas. I hope so.

Anyhow, come rain or come snow – I’m prepared ;-)

upper left: the webcam some hours ago – lower left: wind stats of today – right: dressing proposal, when the weather becomes too bad …

I try to make some photos tomorrow but probably I won’t have too many opportunities for that while being on the water.

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