Sunday, half past five in the afternoon. I just arrived in Breivikeidet by car, waiting for the ferry.
It was a quite spontaneous decision to take the car to the northern tipp of the Lyngen Peninsula to watch the midnight sun before the polar days are over in Northern Norway. Without the ferry I would have to drive 200 km one way, using the ferry it is less than half the distance. And there the ferry arrives.
Eight a clock. I have parked by car on a camping ground and the backpack is packed. Camera equipment, something to eat and drink, an extra jacket as well as sleeping bag and camping mat. Hopefully I can sleep in the tiny hut that is near the lighthouse I want to hike to. If not, I’ll sleep outside and get eaten by mosquitoes …
The way there is only 3 km. First I follow the broad gravel road then I turn right and hike along a path that meanders through the mountain landscape. The forecast of the Norwegian weather service yr was right: the weather is nice and mostly sunny. Hopefully it will be clear this night.
And there it is: Lyngstuva Lighthouse. The hut is tiny but it’s open and no one else is there. Nice!
Behind the lighthouse lies the open sea with the prominent shape of the island Nord-Fugløya (Northern bird island) in the north. On the sea there are surprisingly many ships, some of them large. The largest (and ugliest) is the touristic cruise ship Viking Mars with place for 930 passengers. Then there are two Hurtigruten ships. From the left comes Kong Harald on its way to Skjervøy, from the other side Richard With with destination Tromsø. Both have a capacity of 590 passenger.
As usual the ships greet each other with the ship’s horn. Again and again they toot, apparently checking who will have the last word. Finally some minutes after she ships have passed, Richard With toots a last time for half a second and Kong Harald answers the same way. Then it gets silent.
I enter the tiny hut and take some pictures before I make myself at home. It’s cosy!
I soon realise, that I may have the hut for myself this night but definitely not the place. The french couple has gone but in the next hours many other people will appear “on stage”.
Dramatis personae: A couple from Amsterdam. Two people from Lithuania (he’s here for the 7th time) with friends. A group of Finnish scouts. Some more random people. M. and F. from Bavaria.
With the latter two I spend the evening and night. They are the perfect outdoor hosts. They already have collected wood for a campfire, that is soon is burning. We sit round the fire and chat about all sorts of things. I’m even invited to a glass of red wine if I have a glass. No, I don’t have any glass or cup but I have a pot of yoghurt. I only have to eat the yoghurt and clean the pot and – voilà – I have a high standard quality wine glass. Later this evening F. surprises me once more: He brought a travel guitar and so we have live music while we watch the sun slowly lowering but mostly wandering to the right.
At 0:28 the sun has vanished behind the island Nord-Fugløya in the north.
Will it be visible in the mountain gap at 0:44, the time when I think it’s lowest? Yes, at 0:42 it shows up and at 0:44 it is mostly visible again. It’s not my very first midnight sun I see, but a very beautiful one. I’m glad, that I have come here.
I take some more pictures – from the lighthouse and hut and from the mountains behind whose red rocks now seem to gleam by themselves.
Then I say goodbye to my “outdoor hosts” and enter the hut to sleep.
I decide not to take the tiny room under the roof but to roll out my camping mat in the main room. The camping mat and I have some disagreements on the topic of sleep comfort but anyhow I sleep quite ok. Just much too short. Because the next day is today and today is Monday and Monday is a working day. A quite tired working day but it was worth it. I never regret being in nature.
In Tromsø the first sunset will be in three days, at the Lyngstuva Lighthouse it will take another day, because it’s a bit more north. Now I’m looking forward to spot the first star. The last one I think I saw in the end of April.
This summer vacation with Annika had a clear photographical focus: showing the bathing areas we or I hopped in. It was ponds, lakes and rivers where we enjoyed bathing and swimming on our one week trip through northern Sweden and Finland.
The places and bodies of waters were:
Bygdeträsk (Göksjön) — Mårdseleforsen (Vindelälven) — Harads (Luleälven) — Tolkibadet — Harriniva (Etuväylä/Torne älv) — Kittilä (Ounasjoki) — Aarniluosto (Aarnilampi) — 2× Ylitornio (Etuväylä/Torne älv) — Hovlösjön.
And the motto? Allt kommer att bli bra. Everything will be fine.
After to weeks of home office home in Sweden Annika and I have a week of vacation. Yesterday we went to a concert of the Umeå based balkan folk band Mullin Mallin on the island Norrbyskär. On the ferry there it rained.
But then the weather became better.
While the soundcheck it was drizzling a bit but then the sun came out and we could listen to Mullin Mallin under a blue sky.
After the concert Annika and I had almost two hours until the 22:30 ferry that only runs after evening events. Time to sit by the sea and watch the sun set. While the sun was disappearing behind a cloud the ship was approaching. We went on board and were brought back to Norrbyn on the mainland, where Annika had parked her car.
After a 40 minute drive we were home. That day was a great way to start our vacation. Norrbyskär is always worth a visit, even when it rains and you have to eat the ice cream inside.
This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.
This photo was taken three days ago:
These photos were taken three hours ago:
Quite a contrast, isn’t it?
18 June (four days ago)
I stand on the sea ice for the last time as part of the polar research expedition with the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon. It has become quite foggy and we will close the ice station earlier due to bad visibility. If you cannot spot the polar bears it is not safe and we had quite a few of them the last two weeks.
19 June (three days ago)
Today we stop the ship several times for the usual CTD casts to get the salinity and temperature of the sea water in different depths. For science it is always interesting to get comparable measurements. One way is to do a transect, a series of the same type of measurements in different locations, mostly in a line. Today we do CTD casts at 2° W, 1° W, 0°, 1° E, and 2 °E. So today we have crossed the Prime Meridian.
For doing CTD casts the ship must stand still. At 1° E I use this to fly my private drone from the helicopter deck for the first picture above. (Memo to myself: do not fly a drone in fog, it is hard to land.)
20 June (two days ago)
After four days of fog it finally clears up in the evening. And for the first time in 18 days we can see land again, the long and narrow island Prins Karls Forland.
We can get a lot of information about what’s going on on the TV. On channel 9 there is OLEX, a navigation system. I see, that Helmer Hanssen, another research vessel owned by the University of Tromsø is nearby. The ships are getting closer and closer and I go up to the helicopter deck to take some photos. There’s a reason for the ships to meet. Malin, a researcher in the field of arctic and marine biology is transferred from our ship to Helmer Hanssen by boat. She will join another cruise.
21 June (yesterday)
In the morning we have approached Adventfjorden, where the main city Longyearbyen is located. Due to the touristic cruise ships occupying all dock places we will stop in the open water. From there we are transferred to land by boat as well. I’m in the first boat because I want to meet people in Longyearbyen at Forskningsparken. There UNIS, the university of Svalbard is located and a department of the Norwegian Polar Institute, too.
We get a car transport there and I meet Vegard, that helped me with drone flying and Luke, that I have worked with quite a bit. Luke and I have even time to get some outdoor lunch in the summery town. It’s sunny and more than 10 °C. (Too warm for me.) He mentions that it got quite green in Longyearbyen. And I spot the first flowers.
At the airport there are long queues everywhere. It is not build for large groups of slightly disorientated tourists. But we arrived early. Shortly after half past two we lift off. I glue myself to the window to see the fjords, the mountain chains and the glaciers of Svalbard passing by.
Amidst between Svalbard and Tromsø I manage to spot the arctic island Bjørnøya in the haze. For the first time in my life! The photo is heavily processed to make Bjørnøya visible.
And then we land in Tromsø where the vegetation just has exploded in my three weeks of absence. Everything is green and there are flowers everywhere. I am lucky and get a lift home. (Thank you, Tore!)
22 June (today)
I drop by in the office to meet my colleagues. Good to see them in real life. We talk about the cruise and many other things. But after work I take a bath in the sea. So refreshing when it is summer and 25 °C! That’s more than twenty degrees warmer than four days ago when I navigated my small drone to take a photo of Kronprins Haakon in the sea ice somewhere between Greenland and Svalbard.
23 June (tomorrow)
Tromsø is my work home, but Obbola in Sweden is my home home. Tomorrow I will travel there. If everything goes well it “only” takes 18 hours. And then I finally will be united with my wife Annika again in our cosy house by the Baltic Sea.
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.
This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.
If you want to hike you need either a good map and a compass, or a GPS, or you have an area with designated hiking trails. Then you in most cases have only two issues: find the right trail and follow it.
Easy, isn’t it? Yes, but wait – what’s that?:
Why are there two trails to Storerikvollen? Check the symbols. One shows a skier, the other a hiker. That’s the first think you have to know: There are summer and winter trails in the Swedish mountains. The latter ones are often a bit less hilly but can lead over bogs and lakes. So choose the right track. Quite often they go together for a while and then split up again. That’s where you have either to check a map (take an up-to-date one) or follow the right waymarks.
The waymarks for summer trails use stones and red paint. In Norway it is a red T, in Sweden it is mostly a red dot. Mostly they are painted on large stones, rocks or on cairns – heaps of stones. The advantage of cairns: they are easier to spot when it is foggy.
In wintertime most summer waymarks are hidden under a deep snow cover. Then it is the time of the winter waymarks: Red diagonal crosses.
The poles can be several metres long because of the snow, the depth of which can vary greatly. When you have snowstorm conditions in winter you sometimes just can spot the next cross. When you’re lucky. I took the following photo on 20 February 2020 on a ski tour. Two hours later we experienced average wind speeds of 25 m/s. Then you start to love the waymarks that guide you through the storm.
Back to our August Jämtland tour this week. We could watch some people replacing the old winter waymarks by new ones. An important job, probably done on a voluntary base. Voluntary work is so important in Norway that it has its own word: dugnad.
I guess the best sign posts we found in Nedalshytta in Norway. One “summer signpost”, one “winter signpost” and even ratings for the trails from green to black.
It’s always nice to meet some signposts on your way, but not all of them show the distances. I like the last one. The letters are holes in the metal sign, so it won’t snow over so easily in winter time.
But not all signs are about following the trail. They can show you the Swedish-Norwegian border. Or the way to the toilet. Or the toilet – often a “privy” – itself. Or where to park your dog in case you have any.
And some of the signs or marks are quite creative. I almost missed this “in-tree” waymark in Norway. Perhaps more funny than helpful.
But the clearest sign we directly spotted on our first hiking day in Storlien:
The words say henan, dittan and hittn which are apparently words in Jamska, a group of Jämtland dialects. They mean something like here, →there and →here. I cannot express it better. Anyhow this is an article about signposts and waymarks, not about linguistics.
This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.
It is 23 August, day 9 of our hiking tour through the mountains of Jämtland. Today we take another day off and I decide to try to reach the glacier of the mountain Helagsfjället. I don’t know how near I can get but I’ll see.
This glacier is the Sweden’s southernmost and parts of it are visible from the Helags fjällstation. You can even see the mark of the top (1797 m) which is round 750 metres higher than the cabins.
On my way up I meet three men heading for the top. I hear that it is easy to climb, even for children. Other hikers will confirm that later. Well, perhaps I’ll do that another time but today I want to touch the glacier.
I walk first up on across county, reach the main trail and follow it for a while. Then I turn right to follow a smaller path heading to the glacier. I reach a field with large rocks and boulders. Carefully I follow the cairns that mark a path until I stand in front of the first glacier tongue.
Time for a selfie!
I spot another glacier tongue. For coming there I have to climb over a rock outcrop. Mountaineers will laugh that I call it climbing but I’m more a hiker than a climber and as soon as I have to use both hands I call it climbing. The effort was rewarded. What an impressive view on the glacier!
I stand still for a while. First of all it is beautiful weather and then it is fascinating just to see the colours of the glacier changing while shady clouds pass by. And then I move again to take more pictures. And I drink some water and eat a bit of chocolate.
How long I stand there? I cannot say. I start my way back. My first view is on the radio station on the mountain Jalkedsåajja. This is where my sister and brother-in-law are today. But it is too far to spot if they are there right now.
While walking back I come to the small glacial lake that I already passed on my way up. Some people had written their names using stones. Wait – some people!? Only now I do realise that the whole area is covered with messages arranged by stones. An ancient social media stream – though without cat videos.
The whole tour took only three hours, with a lot of photographing and taking rests. If you plan to visit Helags you definitely should consider to give the glacier a visit. I keep my fingers crossed that you get nice weather, too.
This article is part of the series “2022-08: Jämtland and Trøndelag”.
On the photo above you can see the trail from Blåhammaren to Storulvån. It is in fact two trails together: the winter trail that is marked with red crosses and the summer trail that mostly is marked with stones with a large dot of red paint on it. We didn’t follow this trail I only took the photo because of the beautiful evening colours.
Many parts of the trail are just like this. They lead through heather, grass, crowberries, and dwarf birches. Other parts of the trail lead over hills, across rock fields, through forests and sometimes over a reindeer fence.
This is when the trail is dry. But often it isn’t. The trail can just be very wet of last nights rain as we had it on our third day.
The trail can be boardwalks that lead over swampy area or bogs. Some of them may be under the water which makes them rather slippery.
And then there are rivers, streams and brooks. Some of them are crossed by a bridge. Some bridges are big, some are – well – small, simple, and pragmatic.
And then there are rivers that you have to ford. I ’m used to hiking in rubber boots and so I could splash through while my fellow hikers had to switch to sandals and wade through the ice cold water. Already Douglas Adams said: You have to know where your towel is.
And then there is mud. It can be slippery and sometimes quite deep, especially right before or after a plank. When you have a plank.
Especially the first day trail section Storvallen—Blåhammaren was in an extremely poor shape. The others went around all these muddy patches while I – hey, I have rubber boots! – just continued straight ahead. But then at one point it happened. I made a step ahead and my right leg sank thigh deep into the mud. On the trail! Luckily Blåhammaren had a dry room.
But don’t be afraid, that’s not typical. Many sections of the trail look more like this:
How long the trail was? I don’t have the exact numbers but I think we hiked round about 135 km on 8 days, so round 17 km a day.