I’ll be home for Christmas ♫

Like last Saturday I had a handover meeting at the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday. And like last Saturday I walked there, taking a longer detour. In contrary to last time 15–20 cm of fresh, fluffy snow had fallen making the landscape look quite different than one week ago. Some photos:

This meeting was a bit special. We should actually have been working from home the last two weeks due to the new corona regulations. I however have just a tiny room with shaky internet in Tromsø and therefore was allowed to work in the office. The handover meeting was in the office, too. And that by the way was the last time for me being there this year.

No, I didn’t quit my job. I will just work from “home home” and that’s Obbola/Umeå. With the approval of my manager I’ll work from Obbola for the rest of the year.

Today is travel day. Since there are no trains from Narvik in Norway to Umeå (guess, why) I was forced to take the airplane. Right now I’m already at Oslo Airport, the first stopover.

Flight 1: Tromsø airport, Langnes – Oslo Airport, Gardermoen

At half past eight I stood at the bus station Sydspissen (southern tip) waiting for the bus. I felt quite warm, because I wore a huge down parka for my six-week stay home. Today I definitely won’t need it – it’s 0 °C in Tromsø – but you never know how winter is like at home.

I don’t write anything about airports. Most of them are equally boring and it’s a lot about waiting, buying high-priced snacks and such. You know that. The only airport photo I show is of the departure schedule in Tromsø. Two flights to Oslo, one to Bodø (via Andenes) and the next to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement of Svalbard. Oh, I have to fly there one time! And from Tromsø it’s nearer to Longyearbyen (960 km) than to Oslo Gardermoen (1110 km).

We got into the air late, because we had to wait for the de-icing of our plane. I sat in row 30 in the back. It was quite cold and I was freezing. That reminded me on my down parka, that I definitely wouldn’t need today. Well …

But soon we were in the air and there was an incredible view about the blue fjords and snow covers mountains surrounding Tromsø. When we were above the clouds I took a nap. The parka made a good sleeping bag, too. Shortly before Oslo the landscape was still white and most of the minor lakes were frozen. Some of the lower lands however were brown and free of snow.

This part I wrote in Gardermoen, where I’ve had a four hour stopover.

Flight 2: Oslo Airport, Gardermoen – Stockholm Arlanda Airport

When I went to the gate I spotted it: a grand piano. May I play it? I first saw the tape that taped the piano shut, then the paper: “Do not play the piano!”. Of course – corona. But I have to keep it in mind that if I’ll be really bored in Gardermoen in the future I maybe can play piano. Would be nice.

I went to the international departure. Here all restaurants and a lot of stores were closed as well as the waiting room for our gate.

But finally I sat in the airplane that connected Norway and Sweden. The crew talked Swedish, the pilot one of the zillion Norwegian dialects. The airplane was almost empty with round about 20–25 passengers.

Annika messaged me: “… kp 5”, which means a faint chance of polar lights even in Oslo or Stockholm. I saw the lights of the airport, when we started. I saw the colours of the sundown. I saw the illuminated towns, villages and streets below and some stars above. Finally even the half moon. But I didn’t see any polar lights.

But maybe my iPhone camera did. You see this cloud-like thing above the horizon on the last photo? It is slightly greenish. Of course it could be a reflection or a malfunction of the iPhone that is not made for available light photography. But maybe it was really a northern light. Well. I hope for more in the next weeks.

This part in I wrote in Arlanda where I’ve had another three and a half hour stopover. Two more hours to wait, one hour to fly, then I’m finally home.

Flight 3: Stockholm Arlanda Airport – UmeåAirport

Now it’s Monday and I sit home in my computer room. Two laptops are placed on the table and it smells burned dust, because I switched on the radiator. I have a look at the bay – sea level is 50 cm above normal and it’s 30 minutes before sunrise (which is two hours earlier than in Tromsø).

The last flight to Umeå was as eventless as the other flights. Anything went well and according to plan.

The only thing to mention: this time we definitely had polar lights. I could see them from my window. I tried to take pictures with my camera which was a bit tricky because I had to use anything I had to cover the rest of the window to avoid reflections. Here is the result where it worked best:

It’s an awful photo, but part of my journey. Now I’m home. Over and out.

Sea kayaking in the dark

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

It’s 2 °C air temperature, a cloudless sky and sunset at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A good day to end working at 14:30 and do some kayaking.

The reason for that I kayaked today is that I want to join a kayak course the weekend after next but I do not have all the required skills. So Tim, the course leader I’ve been in contact with gave me private lessons today.

I came to the meeting place right before sunset, where I met Tim. We changed clothes in the club house of the “Trulle” sea kayaking association, put on our dry suits, sprayskirts and life jackets and finally chose two kayaks from a large selection.

Then I stopped making photos. First of all I had to focus on everything that Tim showed and taught me. I learned a lot because Tim is an excellent teacher. The first half was mostly about paddle techniques, the second half more about rescue manoeuvres, which literally means capsizing by purpose. Into quite cold water in the dark.

Was it dark? Not really. Although the moon was too low to illuminate the sea there were street lights nearby, some light of the near airport, the lights attached to the stern of the kayaks and our head lights. What a wonderful atmosphere! And as the icing on the cake we got a stunning aurora, that covered half the sky – swirling and moving in green, red, and violet colours.

Tim managed to take pictures from the scenery. So I’m not the photographer of the next photo, I’m the motive.

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

I have to admit that I was quite nervous before the private lessons today but now I’m really looking forward to the technique seakayaking course.

Thank you Tim for giving me private lessons today. I can warmly recommend his company True North Adventures.

Luxury laziness

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

It’s only a small room in a shared flat I have here in Tromsø, with just a fraction of the space home in Obbola. But there are advantages of tiny rooms, especially when they are under the roof. And in Tromsø.

You can take lazy photos:

For example of the sunset over some mountain range far away:

17:50, kitchen window | 280mm · ƒ/8.0 · 1/40 sec – I laid the camera just onto the horizontally opened window.

Or some hours, when my roommate knocked at the door: Aurora!

21:50, my room’s window | 24mm · ƒ/8.0 · 10 sec – Again I put the camera on top of the window.

Of course the photos are no good, but I consider it as a luxury laziness to take such pictures without leaving the flat or even my room. Anyhow I promise, the next aurora photos will be taken outside.

Solstice paddling

A kajak tour through the darkest hour of the shortest night

This night is summer solstice. So it is the shortest night of the year. That means that tonight is one of those nights where there is a sunset and a sunrise but it doesn’t get dark.

The weather was calm and warm, a good opportunity for a short midnight kayak tour. When the clock showed 23:30 I felt actually too tired to paddle, but I was able to pull myself together. And I am glad, that I did. It’s always pleasant to be outdoors and the colours of the first half of the tour were incredible.

When I started to circle the island Bredskär the light of sky and clouds became magic. Yes, I do like polar lights but the beauty of the translucent clouds lit by the invisible sun was at least of the same value.

I moored my kayak at a tiny beach on Bredskär and took a photo in the darkest minutes of the night.

Then I continued to circle the island. Now I had to concentrate on the waves and didn’t take any photos until I reached the sound between island and mainland where the sea was calm again. I moored my kayak another time – same island, but the other side. A nice place, but the magic of the light has vanished.

After some photos I entered the kayak and continued my short trip. The small promontory that is visible from our house was already in view and soon I arrived in the tiny, shallow nameless bay.

Home again!

 

A skitour from cabin to cabin – part 2

This article is part of the series “2020-03: Ski tour Jämtland II”.

6 March – GåsenVålåstugan

What a beautiful morning: blue sky, -8 °C, hardly any wind. I take my tripod and make some photos of the mountains around us.

After two cozy days at Gåsen Annika and I are eager to continue our ski tour and already at 8:15 we say farewell. Next stop: Vålåstugan, 16 km away.

The first kilometre the way leads up. The snow is grippy and soon we are on the top of the saddle. Cirrus cloud have risen and there’s a halo with sun dogs around the sun. We look back and spot Gåsen in the distance. Just some dark spots in an apparently endless expanse of snow, but there you get all you need, from shelter to food.

One and a half hour later we see the emergency hut Härjångsdalen. At the same time a helicopter is coming from north. It lowers fast, turns a lap and then lands directly by the hut. Shortly after we arrive, too. Two people climb out of the helicopter. They inspect the emergency phone in the hut. I would love to have a job that includes flying helicopters to see the mountains from above.

We continue our trip through the kalfjäll – the bare mountains above the timberline.

Slowly we descend and the first birch trees come into view. We take a break on a small hill where the wind has blown away the snow. Normally this could be a rather bad place to rest, because it is exposed to the wind from all directions but today it’s calm and sunny. Soon after the break I take off the jacket and ski without. The woollen shirt is warm enough in the sun.

At 13:50 we arrive at Vålådalen. We are the first guests today. A lot of people are expected today, among others a group of fourteen, guided by the Swedish Tourist Association STF. We have the choice, where to stay and choose room 1 in the new cabin, where we’ll share the 4-bed-room with the two STF tour guides.

Gradually other skiers come, from single skiers to larger groups. Some have pulkas, most only backpacks. Some stay in the old cabin, most in the larger new one. Here the kitchen is quite large and all people find place.

7 March – Vålåstugan

Another beautiful morning. -10 °C.

As we did in Gåsen we do not continue to the next cabin but stay here for a day. Today we are lucky, because the weather is so beautiful. We do a small ski tour to the other side of the valley. It’s always fun to ski without a heavy backpack or pulka. And on the slope leading up to the mountain Gruvsmällen we even have mobile internet. I use the opportunity to check the weather for tomorrow. Oops, that doesn’t look promising.

On the way back we pass the water source. It is protected by a wooden hut which lies deeply under the snow. A stair leading down to the hut is cut into the snow. I wonder how the stugvärdarna – the wardens – knew where to start digging, then I spot an orange plastic bar. Maybe that bar marks the entrance to the hut. Inside you can see, that the hut is built directly over a small stream. Here you can refill the water buckets from the kitchens.

And water we need. Already before our ski tour Annika has started to water the dried food: potatoes, onions, vegetables, feta cheese. In the evening we wait until the larger groups have completed cooking. Then Annika starts to make another frittata. Ingredients: the dried food mentioned above, butter, egg powder, milk powder, salt, herbs and spices. And again it tastes great.

Olle, one of the wardens comes with a weather update. That’s important for the guest of Gåsen because here is no mobile reception. He confirms what I already know: Tomorrow it will snow and be very windy with average wind round 19 m/s.

People start discussing: shall they continue to the next destination tomorrow or stay at the cabin? We decide to stay another day and get a thumbs up from Olle. Others plan to ski back to Vålådalen tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s Sunday and many have to work again on Monday.

Continue with part 3 >

Skiing and tenting in Jämtland – part 4

This article is part of the series “2020-02: Ski tour Jämtland I”.

Tuesday, 25 February – calming down

Midnight has passed. Arne, Jonas and I are sleeping in the tent, somewhere between the mountain cabins Gåsenstugan and Vålåstugan in the mountains of Jämtland. After ten tour days and nights with very stormy weather it finally seems to have calmed down.

Half past one – BANG! BANG!! Three people wake up, red lights from three headlamps appear. What was that? The tent was just hit by two storm squalls. A new storm again? An unpredicted one? We leave the tent and Arne and Jonas tighten the tent lines. Back in our sleeping bags we carefully listen a while, but it has calmed down again.

Interruption from the blog author: I apologise. Until now I used the word “storm” 38 times in this tour report. You may call it bad style but we had a lot of weather with high Beaufort levels. Until now. Spoiler: the rest of the tour was calm and I won’t mentioned the s-word in this article again. And now back to the 25 February!

When I wake up at 7 o’clock the sky is blue and the air is crisp and clear. -10 °C. Soon the sun rises and illuminates the snow covered mountain tops.

We have a lot of time. We have three more days to ski and it’s only 25 km to my car. So we take a detour. Although it’s -10 °C the sun is so warm that we take of our jackets.

We approach Vålåstugan where we have been a week ago. Now the main building is shovelled free and we can take a sun bath on the terrace.

After our break we continue north until the way forks. We decide to take the detour over Stensdalen but to continue tenting. And another tent night it is, between some trees and with the view over the beautiful fjäll. The sun goes down, followed by the new moon. And there are more lights to see: stars, planes, the planet Venus, satellites and in the distance the lights of Vålådalen – the gate to civilisation. -15 °C.

Wednesday, 26 February – into the forest

Another beautiful morning. Sun and blue sky. -16 °C. So calm that we can eat outside of the tent. And brush our teeth as well.

We take a break at the Stendalsstugan. We are welcomed with hot berry juice, the traditional welcome on the STF cabins. The old building burned down in 2010, so a new one was built and inaugurated 2014. It’s huge and very modern. It looks very practical but less cozy and we are not sure whether we like it or not.

We continue the way down to Vålådalen. Single birches become birch forests, spruce trees become spruce forests. Moorland appears and huge pine trees. With the snowy mountains in the back this land looks Canadian to me. (I’m an expert, I’ve never been to Canada.)

We find a nice place to camp with the hope for sun in the morning. The temperature has dropped to -21 °C, the coldest temperature yet. This will be our last tent night. Tomorrow it’s only 10 km to go the parking and then we have booked rooms in the near hostel Vålågården. I’m always sad to bid the fjäll farewell but I’m looking forward to a hot shower and fresh clothes. I guess I smell like a wet fox.

Two course dinner: the main dish is couscous and for dessert chocolate creme.

Thursday, 27 February – back to civilisation

Blue sky again. Our sleeping hang or lie outside for drying. Yes, it is possible to dry a sleeping bag in -16 °C. The ice round the opening sublimes.

The last day is a day of last time activities. Melting snow the last time. Dissolve milk powder the last time. Dismantling the tent the last time. Packing the pulkas a last time. And starting a day on skis the last time.

Relaxed we ski back. Today we meet more skiers than the 12 days before. Some start a longer tour, many are doing day trips. A fallen tree invites both for a rest and a tour photo of all us three (there aren’t so many).

And that’s the last of more than 120 tour photos I published in this four-part tour report.

Dear readers, thanks for reading. You are very welcome to comment the articles. (Or pay me a winter holiday in Canada)

Dear Arne and Jonas – tack för turen! Thanks for the tour. I’m looking forward to the next one!

P.S.: Here’s a link to a map with our overnight stays and some of the breaks: Google Maps – Skitour Jämtland 2020.

 

Skiing and tenting in Jämtland – part 1

This article is part of the series “2020-02: Ski tour Jämtland I”.

This year I’m lucky. I did two ski tours in a row, that’s spending more than three weeks in the beautiful mountains of Jämtland. Let’s start with the ski tour number one.

We are three people: Jonas, with whom I already did three ski tours before, Arne, who is doing his first ski tour and me.

Saturday, 15 February – shelter from the storm

Jonas and Arne live in Northern Germany. They arrive in Östersund by train at 6:37 in the morning. 23 minutes later we enter the large shop ICA Maxi to buy food for eleven days. It takes an hour to decide what to choose and find these items in the large shop. After we have managed to stuff the shopping bags into the packed car we drive to Vålådalen. There’s a parking place that we use as the starting point for our tour in the fjäll. It takes some time until we have packed our pulka sleds with all our stuff and they are quite heavy loaded.

At 13:15 we leave the parking behind and start our ski tour. It starts with a challenge. Although we have a tent we need to reach Lunndörren, the first mountain cabin tonight. Just now the weather is calm but according to the Swedish weather service a storm will approach tonight with gusts of wind up to 30 m/s. That’s more than 100 km/h or wind force 11 (violent storm)! Definitely not the night to spend in a tent, if you have the choice. Although it’s only 14 km to the cabin, it takes us more than 5 hours. There’s the heavy pulka sleds, some short but steep slopes to climb, pinching boots and much more that slows us down. Exhausting or not – it’s great to be outside in the winter again.

Sun down is round 17:00. For the last part we use our head lamps. In darkness we arrive at Lunndörren at 18:30. As usual, one cabin is opened for out-of-season hikers as us. Here you have all you need. There’s a table and stools, bunk beds and most important: a wood stove. Firewood is found in the vedbod, the woodshed. The water? Probably there’s a place to get water from the lake. We however go outside with a bucket and fetch snow to melt on the wood stove.

The sky is still clear and the night is starry but it already has started to blow more and more.

Sunday, 16 February – camping by the river

It’s 5:30 in the morning. Storm gusts howl around the house. Violently they blow snow from here to there and I have to pee. Not my favourite combination. I manage to open the door but have to crawl over the icy patch to prevent being blown away. Every mountain hut has it’s outhouse but I prefer the nearest tree. That spares me 20 meters to brace myself against the storm. I have to hold tight on the tree to avoid being blown over. Back in the cabin I can hear the storm but a mountain cabin is a great shelter and soon I fall asleep again.

Fortunately the storm has weakened, when we get up.

Today we don’t want to go far and look for a nice place to tent. So we take it really easy in the morning and it’s already 11:45 when we start our second tour day. Slowly we gain height and there are less and less trees.

Hardly three hours later we have found a nice tenting place. It’s in the forest to be protected against storm and wind and by the small river Lunndörrsån. Jonas tests crossing the river to fetch water – it works. Fresh water is a luxury in winter. It takes less energy to warm up than snow and it tastes much better!

You see the orange shovel? We have two snow shovels with us and we use them both to dig a large hole for a camp fire. The dead wood that we find is soaking wet and it takes Arne some time until it burns.

Where there is a fire there is no boredom.

Later Jonas, how is the tour cook is preparing food. Today it’s köttbullar with mashed potatoes and chanterelle sauce. Tasty! Already a quarter to eight we lie in our warm sleeping bags and soon we fall asleep.

Monday, 17 February – warm weather in the forest

Of course I did not sleep well. I always need two or three days until I got used to sleeping in a sleeping bag in winter time. One of the reasons is the reduced freedom of movement, one other the VBL.

A vapour barrier liner (VBL) is used to prevent moisture getting into the down filling of the sleeping bag. There the moisture would freeze and so reduce the isolating effect of the down feathers. So far so good. In practise it has the same comfort as sleeping in a huge plastic trash bag and although there are good reasons to use a VBL I dislike them.

But I shouldn’t complain. I had it warm and I got enough sleep. Some storm gusts have shaken the tent but all in all it was a quite night. And so is the morning by the river. Even the sun tries to peek through the clouds.

At 10:40 we move on. First we have to cross a small plateau called Finnångelflätet. It is quite exposed to the wind and hardly covered by snow.

One hour later the view is completely different. The ground is white again. The wind has intensified and gets stormy. At the same time it’s warm – slightly above zero – which makes the snow very sticky. Sometimes it feels like half the hill sticks under my skis.

The good thing with tenting is that you are flexible. We do not have to get to a cabin or hut, we just need a sufficient campsite. Right after crossing the river Tronnan (we ignore the bridge and cross the ice) Arne and Jonas start looking for a good place to camp. And find it. The snow is loose and we trample on the snow to harden it. At some places we sink knee deep in the snow. It has started snowing and when we look out of the tent we see the snow covering the skis used as huge tent pegs and the pulkas.

Tuesday, 18 February – arrival at the Vålåstugan

Phew – my sleeping has been much too warm. It is made for -25 °C, not for 0 °C. My wool underwear is wet but still does it’s job anyway: keeping me warm.

As the day before we move on at 10:40. The tent has become quite heavy due to the wet snow and the warm temperatures. Now it’s both wet and frozen. We have decided to reach the mountain cabin Vålåstugan today. I find it exhausting to ski. I have to take tiny breaks to catch my breath on every slope. Perhaps it’s because it’s the third tour day but I may be wrong.

Luckily Vålåstugan is not far away and we arrive already at 13:30. There are several buildings. The main cabin, surrounded by huge snow drifts won’t be opened before 21 February but the other cabin is open. Again we are alone, we haven’t seen a single person the last days.

This cabin is of a well known type. It’s a Fjällstuga 65, also known as Abrahamssonstugan. A corridor, one room to the left, one to the right with ten beds each. It works quite well with up to eight people, then it starts to get a bit crowed. We use the whole space to dry our sleeping bags, jackets, boots, gloves and other clothes. As I mentioned we are alone.

Wrrrr—wroooom—wrooooom! Not anymore. Snowmobiles are approaching with people dressed in bright colours. They park in front of our house. Who are they? It’s an official party of the mountain rescue (probably training), the police (checking the emergency phones), way markers and later two snowmobiles with people from the Swedish Tourist Association STF. They pull trailers in which people sit. It turns out that they are the wardens of Vålåstugan and Gåsen Fjällstuga, that will open these cabins in three days. The wardens of Vålåstugan directly start to dig out the main house (that will take some time), the others leave a bit later.

I haven’t had internet access for two days. So I’m glad to ask the police for a weather update: wind this night, sunny round -10 °C the next day, then wind in the night again. Looks like this tour is a stormy one.

It’s cloudy but the sun manages to peek though from time to time. The birch branches are bent by the wind.

And later that evening we even get a bit of polar lights. The only ones I’ll see the next weeks.

Continue with part 2 >

And suddenly I am in Lapland

Just 300 km from home – bright sky and temperatures round -25 °C – finally a winter as it should be in Northern Sweden.

I shot theses photos in Solberget tonight. Here I will stay some days and visit the winter market in Jokkmokk.