The first winter promenade

Down there, that’s the southern part of Tromsø. That’s where I live when working for the Norwegian Polar Institute.

There are reasons why I see Tromsø from above today instead of working in the office. First of all my wife Annika is here this week. Then it is wonderful weather today. I was able to take a day off today and so Annika and I could fetch the first cable car up to Stor­stei­nen, 421 m above sea level. From there you have a fantastic view on the islands Tromsøya and Kvaløya, the strait Tromsøysundet and many, many mountains.

While Tromsøya itself is free of snow all mountains look wintry on this sunny day. Our hiking tour starts in the shadow and it takes some time until we reach the pre-summit of Fløya where the sun shines on our faces the first time.

From there it is not far to the summit of Fløya (671 m).

It has become windy and grains of snow are drifting over the snow. In the low sun they look like grains of gold.

Although it is chilly we stay on the top for a while, because the wintry landscape is so beautiful. The season’s first snow hike is always something special and I’m glad that I can share it with Annika this year.

Slowly we walk back. On the top it was easy to go, later the path gets steeper and the snow makes the path slippery. The sun stands lower now and the drifting snow is even more colourful.

We find a sunny though windy spot to drink warm juice and eat some cookies, then we head back to the mountain station of the cable car. While sunset is near, the almost full moon that has accompanied us the whole day starts rising again above the wintry mountain chains.

Scotland: Stac Pollaidh

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

It’s 12 October, day 6 of Annika’s and my Scotland holiday this autumn. Today we want to hike round the Stac Pollaidh – or “Stac Polly” – a mountain in the Assynt region of the Northwest highlands. Its twin summit is quite prominent. We start our tour after lunch, where weather was supposed to get better. (And it was.)

Slowly we start hiking up following the excellent cobblestone path.

Technically our tour follows a circular path round the summits, but it climbs up almost on level of the east summit. The west summit is round 80 metres higher and needs a certain amount of scrambling and mountaineering experience that we lack.

It is still cloudy, but the sun starts to peek more and more through breaks in the clouds. Quite soon the views are impressive, from hazy tones of dark grey against the light to circular views that seem to cover the whole Assynt region. Harsh mountain tops – nunataks in the ice age – hilly landscapes – countless lakes, and to the west: the sea.

The ascent gets a bit steeper, the cobblestone path zigzags up the mountain. The passing clouds constantly change the landscape’s appearance. Again and again I have to look back for the views.

Finally we arrive at the junction to the east summit. It is not far to climb it and it rewards with a scenic 360° view, only interrupted by the higher west summit. Stunning! Me meet a local that shows and names all mountain massifs and tops around. Wind increases and we are pretty glad about our windproof clothes.

It’s hard to leave this beautiful place but finally we leave the summit and walk back to our circular route. The first part is near perfection, then it gets quite muddy and slippery. But the views are still awesome.

The more we loose elevation the more we approach our starting point. We can see the harsh rocks of the west summit and partially hidden behind the east summit that we just had visited. The sky is bluer than and Stac Pollaidh looks friendly. Other mountains in directing sun however look sombre and almost hostile.

We reach a last sheep gate and shortly after arrive at the parking place.

Two photos in portrait format – they never blend in with my other landscape format photos. The first is from the ascent, the second from the descent.

Shortly after we have arrived at the car it is starting to rain. Wow, that’s perfect timing! And beyond that it rewards us with one of the most durable double rainbows I ever saw. Intensely it is shining for more than 40 minutes while we are driving to our hostel in Inchnadamph. Even when it gets dark the sun still is illuminating a cloud blanketing a mountain.

Along with our day on Isle of Lewis’ west coast this day is definitely one of my personal highlights of our holiday. Thank you Annika for planning the tour and sharing the experience!

 

 

10 days in Scotland

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

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

Aurora Lightshow in Tromsø

Hooray – finally the polar light and I were awake the same time!

It’s not the first polar light this season. But either there were clouds or it vanished when I was at the bay Telegrafbukta for taking pictures or I just slept. Today however I was lucky and was at the right place at the right time.

 

Summer paddling to lunch

Since last Friday we have summer home in Obbola, Sweden. Temperatures are round 25 °C (and higher in town) and the sky is mostly blue.

Today it was sunny again. Although working I finally managed to paddle to the beach Bredviks havsbad and eat lunch there. Tour–retour it is about 7 km and since the weather was very calm it was easy to paddle there.  I paddled in shorts and t-shirt but it was still almost too warm. At the beach I took a bath to cool down while waiting for Nouri’s tasty Pinchos.

 

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 5: marine fauna · entering the ice · temperature drop

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.

Day 5 · 23 February 2022

12:30 – it gets colder

Over night it has become much colder and windier. Temperature has dropped to -17 °C and the relative wind speed has increased to 17 m/s (ca. 60 km/h). According to the wind chill formula that feels like -33 °C. The taut nets around the deck are covered with ice structures and ice fog hovers over the still open sea.

14:00 – marine fauna

A large trawl net is being pulled up. Scientist are waiting on deck, they look eager. What will the trawl reveal?

The net is up and the haul is emptied onto the deck.

At once the marine biologists gather round the catch and start browsing, identifying, sorting. I know some of the animals, but neither taxonomy nor latin name. It’s a childhood’s memory – me walking along the shore, my eyes glued to the soil to search for shells, jellyfish, worms, starfish. As a child I wanted to become a researcher but live has changed many times. Anyhow it finally brought me here on this polar expedition on Kronprins Haakon. But I digress, back to some photos of marine fauna and scientists:

I would love to know a bit more about the taxonomy of all these species but this will take some time and efforts, nothing you will get for free.

14:37 – the first sea ice

And there it is. The first sea ice is ahead.

The photo is awful. Noisy, underexposed two levels but I want it here in the blog. Not only for you but also for me because it’s the very first photo of sea ice on this cruise.

But there is more. While we continue north, soon the Barents Sea gets covered with pancake ice – called because of the rounded shapes of the ice floes – that soon make place for larger ice floes. That takes only 20 minutes.

(The images are not in chronological order for layout reasons)

For more than an hour I stand at the bow of the heli deck and watch the changes of the ice coverage. I love ice, I love the sea, I love cold winter and here I can get it all together. I feel happy! And cold it has become. Temperature -22 °C, relative wind speed 16 m/s resulting in a wind chill of -39 °C. The Canada Goose Snow Mantra parka starts to make sense. It shows what it can: keeping me warm under these conditions.

I use a pair of gloves and two pairs of mittens to keep hands and fingers warm. With one exception: Smartphone selfies. These I take bare-handed. While doing that the pinky of my right hand gets really cold and I will feel this for many hours. I’m lucky, the fingertip has no frostbite but I decide to stop making selfies in such harsh conditions. I love the arctic, but I play piano, too. I need my fingers. All of them.

15:59 – dinner pleasures

The haul caught a lot of animals, amongst others a lot of shrimps. Only some of them are needed for research. I help cleaning them, plucking away starfish and other species while a huge pot with salt water starts boiling. And at dinner we all get shrimps. Freshly caught in the Arctic. Delicious!

19:00 – photo shooting

A. a marine taxonomy expert asks me if he can borrow a tripod, he wants to take photos of some of the animals. Oops – I forgot the mount for attaching other cameras. I make another proposal: I’ll drop by and take pictures by myself. From this day I’m the “official court photographer” of non-microscopic animals. That’s work I really like. The first results are not the best, but I’ll share them anyhow:

Species identification taken from the cruise report of Andreas Altenburger. Thanks a lot!

21:30 – Sailing through the night

It’s dark. Ice has become thicker and you can hear the cracking and feel the vibrations from Kronprins Haakon breaking the ice. Again I stand on the heli deck looking ahead. Two strong spotlights illuminate the ice.

And for some minutes there is even a Northern light palely glowing in the sky.

While I stand there, happily watching the ice and the sky, muffled up warmly in my down parka and pants, temperature has dropped even more. -28 °C, windchill -44 °C.

temperate in °C | wind speed relative to the ship in m/s | resulting windchill in °C.

 

Night promenade at Telegrafbukta

Clear sky, almost full moon, no wind. The snow is crisp and glitters in the moonshine. -10 °C. I take a promenade and enjoy the calmness of the night. The aurora is weak, more a bonus than the main act. Snow and moon win tonight.

January sun in Tromsø

After ten days with snow and wind, rain and storm and many, many clouds – there it is – the sun. The first time i see the sun in Tromsø since some day in November.

Photo taken with my iPhone through the window pane of the canteen at lunch break.

 

Four winter days in and round Obbola

OK guys, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m too lazy to write long texts. I just show some photos of the last days where our German friend Medi joined Annika and me on various excursions with some notes.

Thursday, 6 January – skiing in Västermarks naturreservat

+++ Västermarks naturreservat, 50 km north from Umeå +++ a non-commercial forest made us climb over and under fallen trees that lay across the marked loop trail +++ by the trail a wooden cabin +++ time was too short to fire the oven but lighting candles is cozy, too +++

Friday, 7. January – lunch break skiing

+++ right next to our postbox (500 metres from our house) starts Spåret, a 3600 metre long forest trail +++ we use back-country skis to ski Spåret in my prolonged lunch break +++ we, that’s Dirk – guest for two nights – Medi and I +++ -12 °C, but my Anorak is too warm +++ I tie it round my hip +++ on the photo it looks like a skirt +++

Photo: Dirk Thomas

Me sking “Spåret” – Photo: Dirk Thomas

Saturday, 8 January — cross-country skiing on Olle’s Spår

+++ grey weather, -14 °C +++ the trees are covered with snow +++ black-and-white imagery +++ after some days of back-country skiing it’s nice to use cross-country skis on a real trail +++

Sunday, 9 January – Northern lights and sunrise

+++ 1 o’clock in the night +++ I check for Northern lights +++ we are lucky +++ Medi and Annika watch the aurora beside of the garage +++ I take some photos from our garden +++
+++ 8:20 in the morning +++ the Baltic Sea freezes over more and more +++ sunrise colours by the sea  +++ and then in our garden +++ watching sunrise while taking breakfast +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – Strömbäck-Kont

+++ just a short walk at one of Annika’s and my favourite places: Strömbäck-Kont +++ looking at the ice ridge by the sea +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – halo effects

+++ after lunch we are taking Medi to the airport +++ strong and colourful parhelion or sun dogs halos +++ the photo is taken at the airport +++ I am questioned by the security and show the taken photos to prove I’m not a spy +++

Sun salutation

While the polar night in Tromsø started in the end of November and continues for two more weeks there is no polar light home in Obbola which is 6 degrees south of Tromsø. So if there is clear sky, then there is sun.

After Christmas in Norway Annika and I arrived in Obbola some days ago. First the weather was cloudy and stormy but today  sky was quite clear. Therefore I could witness the sun today for the first time in more than a month. I only had to go 200 metres to the edge of our little bay Grundviken where I waited for the sunrise.

I love sunrises and sometimes I can stand up quite early to witness it. But today it was really special to watch the sun rise higher and higher up the sky while in Tromsø polar night still continues.

After breakfast we took the car to Byviken in Obbola to join the winter bath. Round 40 cars were parked there and a queue of winter bathers waited at the ice hole. Winter bathing has really become a popular sport within the last years. We decided to avoid the queue and continued to our favourite beach at Vitskärsudden where we had to climb over a wall of ice but then we were the only winter bathers. Air: -10 °C, no wind – perfect conditions. Great!

(Photos: Annika Kramer)

We may take another outdoor bath today, but then in the hot water of our friend’s hot tub. I guess this bath could take slightly longer than the previous one.