Ski tour in Sweden – side trip to Nallo

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Day 10 – 7 March – Vistas—Nallo

After our break day in Vistas we have planned to go for a side trip to Nallo, a small STF cabin embedded in high mountains just nine or ten kilometres away. We will stay there overnight. The weather forecast looks great for today (sunny and calm) and ok for tomorrow (overcast but also calm). In the morning it was -13 °C but temperatures are rising quickly.

After breakfast we pack our things, but leave some items behind. We’ll be back tomorrow. Our friend Dirk who is stugvärd here accompanies us a bit then we start our ski tour. Then we continue alone up the valley Stuor Reaiddávággi.

We arrive at lunch time and make something warm to eat. This time no packet soup as usual, but trekking food (mostly powder). Quite ok, if you ask me. I manage to take a photo of the cabin in the sun, that shines here for less than an hour this season because of the high mountains in the south.

The cabin is an Abrahamssonsstuga (or Fjällstuga 65). This type of cabin has 21 places and was built a lot in the mountains between 1965 and 1973. It can happen that you hike the whole day to arrive at a cabin that looks exactly alike the one you left in the morning. However, I like them if there are not too crowded and this night we will be only six people (plus the stugvärd) sleeping there.

At dinner we eat trekking food again, this time another brand. That pulp was the most disgusting stuff I have eaten for ages and neither of us manages to finish the meal. Good, that we have chocolate left to cover the bad taste. After dinner another polar light is building up. First just a thin stripe like a spotlight, then it broadens. At the same time the first clouds have started gathering but are held back by the mountains.

Day 11 – 8 March – Nallo—Vistas

Oh, the weather forecast was correct. It is cloudy today. However we have an easy job today: Just skiing back the 9 (or is it 10?) km and loose 220 metres of altitude. Breakfast, packing, doing our cabin duties and off we go.

While Nallo was above the tree line Vistas isn’t. First there are single birth trees than birch forests. Back with the trees comes the animal life, mostly the ptarmigans that sometimes sit on a branch of a birch looking like big, fluffy snowballs. Not the best camouflage … . What we however do not see are the four moose. We will see them later from the cabin using a binocular.

And then we are at Vistas and the Sauna is almost ready.

After sauna Annika is preparing the farewell dinner. Dirk already had watered the dried potatoes, feta cheese and vegetable in the morning, now she is making frittata with porcini mushrooms. Delicious! Dirk contributes the dessert and we have a “gemütlich” evening together. It’s Annika’s and my last day in the mountains. Today we will reach civilisation again.

 

 

 

Ski tour in Sweden – Tjäktja—Alesjaure—Vistas

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Day 7 – 4 March – Tjäktja—Alesjaure

I may repeat myself but again we have sunny weather and blue sky at -6 °C. The only difference, it is windy today. It started last night when we were out to watch the Northern Lights and now the wind is blowing snow over the mountains and through the valley. While we are starting our tour we are having an impressive parhelion and a piece of halo right of the sun. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t created by stratospheric clouds but by the blowing snow.

We descend into the valley Alisvággi and leave the blowing wind behind us. Now sun feels warm but on the ice of the river system Aliseatnu the cold air still wins.

It takes some time until we can spot some of the cabins of Alesjaure. I can see them behind the rocky hill. No, they are on the rocky hill. I remember having tried to climb this turtle shell-like hill with skis and pulka years ago. I have learned my lesson, we walk up. And then we are welcomed by the warden with a hot and very sweet juice. We chat for a while (we have met once years before) and then Annika and I sit on the reindeer skin lying on the bench by the table and take an outdoor picnic. We may choose a room because we are first. We enjoy the weather, inside and outside. Later, after dinner we will head for the sauna.

I thought it would be extremely crowded here but we arrived on the right day. Yesterday: 40 guests. Tomorrow: 50 pre-booked guests. Today: 11 :-)

Day 8 – 5 March – Alesjaure—Vistas

Today is a special day. We do not take a break day, we continue to Vistas where our friend Dirk is currently warden. With 18 kilometres it is the longest distance on our ski tour this year and I was a bit afraid that it could get tough. Is there a track? How is the snow? Therefore I have urged Annika into raising up ridiculously early. We have the large kitchen for us while ptarmigans are hopping and clucking outside of the windows.

The sun starts to illuminate the highest mountain peaks, soon we will have sun as well. 7:05 (sic!) we start our tour.

… and get a little lost. We navigate by eye and sync the stones marked in red with the summer trail on our map. Anyhow it doesn’t fit. The GPS helps and now we know where we are. While finding a good route to get more north were we assume the correct route to be we realise that the summer markers are all over the place. Not helpful! Our assumption was correct, there is the unmarked winter trail. It is obvious, because now we see snow mobile tracks, ski tracks, pulka tracks, boot tracks, snowshoe tracks. I guess we won’t have any navigation challenges anymore today.

We cross the first lake Bajip Čazajávri and the second lake Vuolip Čazajávri, then we stand at the “abyss”. The steepest part of this declining slope falls 50 metres on 200 metres and we both decide to unmount the skis. Beside of a patch of soft snow the snow is good to walk on.

Now we are in the beginning of the valley Visttasvággi which will gently descend for the rest of today’s tour. And since it descend we leave the barren kalfjäll and meet the first birch trees, the first ones since a week.

The next hours we will ski in the sun. The hot sun. First I take off my jacket, then cap and gloves, then I roll up my sleeves. Finally I put on the shirt’s hood again, not for cold but for sun protection. Some photos from the tour:

Moose droppings are not the only animal tracks we see. There are the typical deep moose tracks, the smaller reindeer tracks, countless ptarmigan tracks (both feet and feathers) and a special track – like a fox on snow shoes. This was the description of the Sami on Sälka when he described wolverine tracks. The wolverine track follows the trail for a long time and watching it is pretty exciting.

The wolverine tracks are special, since these animals are rare. Only round about a thousand wolverines live in Scandinavia. But I love the ptarmigan prints as well. They often seem to tell stories.

My titles: 1. Zen garden / 2. Hieroglyphs / 3. Salsa party

After some hours of sun we finally come into the shadow. Almost a relief. Now it is not far anymore to the Vistas cabin, which is not part of the famous Kungsleden trail since it lies in a side valley. Skiing there was much easier then I expected and we had a faster pace then on the preceding shorter distances.

Dirk has seen us already and welcomes us outside with two cups of hot juice. Later we get an incredible five star afternoon snack. It consists of two surprises. First surprise: We found cookies in the leftover food in the kitchen cupboard! Two sorts, one of them with chocolate. That has never ever happened to me before and I hardly can imagine why people should leave cookies behind. I won’t! Anyhow I’m grateful. Second surprise: Dirk does not only invites us to coffee but also to Christmas stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake. It is never too late to eat stollen. Thanks, Dirk, for sharing it with us!

After dinner – Dirk invited us again – I just walk around to take photos. A faint polar light can be seen but it is nothing compared with the last days, especially the night in Tjäktja.

Day 9 – 6 March – Vistas

Today is the fourth and last break day we take on this tour. Are we lazy? Yes and no. Annika is sawing logs, I am chopping the wood (not my best day though). I fetch water from the river by lowering a bucket from the bridge into a patch of open water. The ice on the river is not save. But we also sit outside reading and I am using the short period where the sun shines on the cabins (yes, another fine day) to take some photos.

Tomorrow we will ski to Nallo and stay there over night, then we will come back to Vistas.

Ski tour in Sweden – Sälka—Tjäktja

This article is part of the series “2024-02: Ski tour Sweden”.

Day 5 – 2 March – Sälka—Tjäktja

It is our second morning in Sälka. The night was quiet – no storm, no snow. That’s quite a bit of luck for the travel group that left pulkas and skis on the ground without even thinking about finding shelter for their equipment.

Today Annika and I will have a short distance to ski. It’s only twelve kilometres to Tjäktja but we have to cross the Tjäktjapasset which is pretty steep. 8:15 – we say goodbye to the warden and his friend and follow the undulating terrain north. We can already see the pass in the distance. It is still 8 km away.

The terrain is still undulating but it slowly changes. First we skied up and down, now we ski up or straight ahead, a sign that the terrain starts to rise.

Ah, I love my pulka. Most of the time I can pull it effortlessly over the hard snow, although there is a lot of food in it and a tripod and safety equipment and two down jackets and other clothes two sleeping backs and more. But when I have to climb steeper passages I realise that both my fitness and my strength could be better. So at the pass I have to take small breaks to catch my breath. The next photo is taken by Annika and long before the steep passage where we were too occupied to take any pictures.

Each of us climbs up in his/her own pace.

But then we are on the edge of a platform where I just must look back. 19 years ago on my very first ski tour I stood there and was completely flabbergasted when I looked into this valley Tjäktjavagge. And so it still is today. We stand there for a while before we continue skiing further up the pass.

Whew, that was exhausting, but now we are on 1100 m, the highest altitude on our tour. Time to take a rest at the shelter. No photos, just some tea and nuts before we continue. Now it only goes down, down, down and we remove our climbing skins. Soon Tjäktja comes into view. It is smaller then the other cabins on the Kungsleden. To our surprise we are the only guests tonight.

Day 6 – 3 March – Tjäktja

The weather on this tour has been extraordinary well and today we have another sunny day with blue sky. We are staying at Tjäktja and after breakfast we start our “duties”. The stugvärd (warden) is sawing logs, I am chopping wood. And then Annika and I take two empty canisters to fetch water. This means we have to go down to the frozen river where there is a hole and some tools to crush the ice. We have heard that the ice was very slippery and so we put on our spikes. Good choice.

The first container I pull up the snowy slope. Yes, it works but it is pretty exhausting. The other container Annika drags over the ice. I fetch the first container and we pull both back to the cabin. Well – pull … . It is a bit like walking puppy dogs. Twenty kilo puppy dogs. The containers stay behind, hurry ahead, bump into each other and then leave the path again. But finally we “walked” them home and have 40 litres of fresh and ice cold water from the river Čeavččanjira.

I go down to the river again to take some photos. I like the bridge and the icy area beneath.

But what I really love is the huge snow drift hanging there near the now frozen and invisible waterfall. I crawl in more and more until I can make the last of the three photos from my private “snow cave”.

Resting days are made for – well – resting. We are reading and taking a nap while other guests arrive. Slowly the sun is setting and the colours on the mountains go pink.

Time to cook and eat something. Right after dinner a beautiful polar lights have formed, although the sky is still kind of blue and not black yet. What a luxury to see it so early.

The northern lights are lasting for hours and are everywhere. Annika and I are standing there for a long time together with two people from Switzerland. Every now and then I leave to take photos. And more photos. It is an incredible experience to see the aurora far away from the light pollution of the cities. This is an extremely beautiful moment and this evening which marks the first half of our ski tour is a perfect end of the day.

Yes. The northern light continues, but the photographer has to catch some sleep. God natt. Good night.

Wind and weather

Friday, 26 January

I took this photo at two o’clock in the afternoon just after I had walked home from work. I enjoyed my new apartment and the view from the balcony.

But I knew, that this beautiful weather wouldn’t last. The forecast predicted rain and storm.

Saturday, 27 January

In the evening the weather already had changed. It good warmer, rain clouds covered the moon and the speed of the hardest gust was wind was 24 m/s¹.

28 January

On Sunday the wind calmed down a bit but the forecast for the next day showed wind gusts of 36 m/s in the afternoon. That’s Beaufort 12 – “hurricane-force”. I wasn’t the only one who decided to work from home the next day.

29 January

And the weather became really nasty, although not as bad as expected. I was glad to be able to stay inside anyhow.

Let’s not forget, that Tromsø lies sheltered on the island Tromsøya surrounded by mountain chains. There are other places that are much more exposed to the elements. For example Torsvåg lies on a small island west of Vannøya. There the strongest wind gusts were round 41 m/s².

1 February

After two calmer yet warmer and very rainy days another storm had arrived, this time with gusts up to 30.8 m/s in Tromsø³.

Laughable the people in Kvaløyfjellet på Sømna probably would say. There the average wind speed between 1 and 2 in the night was 54.4 m/s (196 km/h)! That’s a new wind record for whole Norway⁴. And the gusts exceeded 60 m/s.

The nice thing: After all that rain in Tromsø it snowed again. When I arrived home the wind has already calmed down but the entry of my flat was caked in snow.

2 February

And the next morning it still snowed.

When I walked home today I crossed the cemetery. And there everything was snowed in and many tombstones were completely hidden under the snow. As if rain and storm never happened.

___
¹ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/1-305409/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8?q=2024-01-27
² https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90800/Norge/Troms/Karls%C3%B8y/Torsv%C3%A5g%20fyr?q=2024-01-29
³ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90490/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8%20LH?q=2024-02-01
https://www.nrk.no/nyheter/ny-vindrekord-i-norge-1.16744736

The sun returns in Tromsø

While I got a lot of sun in Obbola (320 km south of the polar circle) between the years, Tromsø (340 km north of the polar circle) had to wait to see the sun again.

Last Sunday was the last day of the mørketid – the polar night. Monday at lunchtime the sun was above the horizon but not above the mountains. Anyhow everything has become much brighter compared to mid-December.

Yesterday I took a promenade from my new apartment. While Tromsø lay in the shadow – at least were I walked – I saw the snowy mountains of Kvaløya having pink tops. There the sun was already visible.

Today I was at Telegrafbukta round noon. I was not alone – round 200 other people waited for the sun, were barbecuing, taking selfies or a winter bath. On the sea a flock of eider ducks occasionally wa diving for food. And then it appeared from behind a mountain – the sun!

Welcome sun! The polar night is over, the winter will continue for at least three months. But every day the sun will rise a bit higher.

An icy yet colourful art exhibition

While we had temperatures below -30 °C last week the air became much warmer on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday morning the temperature had risen to -3 °C and today to +5 °C.

Yesterday – running on the ice

Yesterday I used the opportunity to something that I rarely have done before: running on the ice of the Baltic Sea. First round the small islet Lillskär and then to the beach Vitskärsudden. All the ice was covered with ice feathers and the running felt a bit fluffy. I had a mobile phone with me and took some photos.

Well – that was fun – and beautiful. The next day it should become warm and the ice feathers probably won’t survive.

Today morning – checking the ice

What a difference a day makes! The dew made all the ice by the coast blank and a lot of melt water covered it. I walked around the island Lillskär and everything looked so different!

You see the gaps between the ice floes in the first image above? It is thick ice as well and you can easily walk on it. The whiter ice is just older and contains more bubbles while the darker, newer one was built in the days of strong frost and is much clearer and more translucent.

Today afternoon – an extraordinary ice exhibition

At one o’clock I decided to go onto the ice again. Since I wanted to go further I used a dry suit and a life vest beside my ice spikes that I always have round my neck on the ice.

I went along Lillskär and headed south. The sun was already low and partially covered behind a thin layer of clouds. As some hours ago the ice looked endless like you could walk to Finland (which you couldn’t).

Ice, water, air, sun – these were the ingredients of the art expedition exhibition that took place on this sea ice today. “A picture is worth a thousand words” – so let the photos speak (although they need some more editing due to the extreme contrasts):

I could have stayed for hours, so beautiful it was going on the ice from object to object being alone on the ice and taking pictures with my small Sony camera that I carried in a waterproof bag. Anyhow the sun was going down and I had to continue working so I headed back to our house.

So, this was my photo studio today. Thank you, sun, thank you, air, thank you, water, thank you, ice!

The year 2024 starts cold

1. January

It’s midnight. Clear sky, -13 °C. Annika and I stand in the snow outside of our house with a drink to toast with and some sparklers to set alight. Farewell 2023, welcome 2024! Happy new year!

The next morning Annika and I stand outdoors again. No sparklers needed, the sun rises over the frozen Baltic Sea and turns the sky orange.

When we start a little cross country ski tour at lunch time the temperatures already have dropped to -18 °C. Before we drive home we take a small detour to our favourite beach Vitskärsudden where we watch the sunset over the sea. Sunrise and sunset on the same day – that was long ago.

2. January (yesterday)

In the night it has become colder. -25 °C shows the thermometer in the morning. I bring Annika to the bus station by car but first I have to scrape ice on the windshield. Yes, I am a bit overdressed in my down suit ;-)

On this day I am outdoors twice. First to catch the colours before sunrise …

… then to take a lunch promenade to Vitskärsudden. Despite the sun it is still round -22, -23 °C. The Baltic Sea is frozen as far as I can see and the low hanging sun is accompanied by colourful parhelions.

I thought the down jacket would be too warm but I gladly put the hood on when it started to get a bit windy.

In the evening it gets colder. -26.9 °C, the coldest temperature I experienced here in our home in Obbola since we moved there in May 2020. While I worked from home Annika took the bicycle back from the bus station. Brrr!

3. January (today)

Another cold day with temperatures between -22 and -26 °C. Although I have to work I go out several times. First shortly after sunrise. The sun is damped by clouds and looks like a very mysterious eye.

Then I take another tour at 11:00, this time with back country skis. What a beautiful day!

I go out a third time to watch the sunset, but clouds cover the horizon. At least I take a photo of the large, wooden barrel of unknown origin that stands in the water – now frozen – of our shallow bay.

… oh I forgot, I was out a fourth time, this time by car to get some things done. Luckily I had camera and tripod on the back seat, because the frosted trees in the cold artificial light looked really special.

I really love this cold weather. Only taking photos can be a bit of a hassle because sometimes you have to take off your gloves and then the fingers can get cold very fast. Beside from that: great!

 

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

Cottage holiday

Last Saturday Annika came from Sweden. On Sunday we took the car to the cottage that the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute for Marine Research share. We got it from Sunday till today afternoon (which is Thursday).

Monday

The sun won’t rise again before January and daylight is limited, especially when it is snowing. We took the car to the peninsula Sommarøya, bought some groceries in the local store and took some snowy photos in the small harbour.

The rest of the day – taking a nap, firing the oven and preparing dinner.

Tuesday

The sky was clear and the temperature had dropped. Perfect conditions for taking a ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. The light was beautiful and we were lucky to find some kind of track that we could follow. But who made this track? It was too narrow for a snow mobile and too wide for a pulka sledge. Later we realised that this was a track for a dog sledding. Several times we let the dog sleds pass before we continued to follow the track by ourselves. I was glad about my warm, woollen mittens with temperatures between -10 and -15 °C.

Later at home I let my drone fly to make some photos of the cabin. Look! It is in the middle of nowhere!

Well – not really. The cottage is quite near the road although the way up through the snow is pretty steep.

The time of the polar night is a lot about colours. First the incredible orange and pink colours of sky and mountains and then the polar lights if you are lucky. We were!

Wednesday

We took a small tour to Brensholmen and Hillesøy, places that are quite near by car. It was chilly and windy. A small boat approached, heading to the small harbour of Brensholmen. From here goes the ferry to the island Senja and from here you can see the bridge to Sommarøya with the island Tussøya in the background.

We continued the road, saw some reindeers and the sky that became more and more orange. No drone photos, it was too windy.

When we were home again we spend a part of the evening (and some part of the night) in front of the house, because the polar lights were amazing. They covered more or less the whole sky and were constantly moving in ribbons, garlands and swirls. I took some photos, but mostly Annika and I just watched this celestial spectacle.

So you see that in Northern Norway the time of the polar night (the mørketid) is not as dark as many believe and quite colourful. The days are just pretty short, but this time of the year is so beautiful!