April weather

It snowed, dark clouds sped past the coast, the sun illuminated the fresh snow and the gusty wind blew it around. The weather changed constantly this morning. The wind squalls made the temperatures of -3 °C appear much colder and I regretted that I went outside without windproof trousers and warm gloves. That’s the post-wintry release of Norrlands April weather.

The easter days shall be wintry as well with temperatures between -8 °C and 0 °C, at least here in Skelleftehamn. In the mountains however they’ll probably drop to -20 °C or even below.

 

Ice fishing in Skelleftehamn

When it’s as warm and sunny as today many ice fishers enjoy sitting on their little folding stools on the ice, that still covers a small part of the bay Kallholmsfjärden in Skelleftehamn. I guess it’s both the glorious springlike weather as well as the knowledge that there may not be many opportunities left to set foot on the ice and do “pimpelfiske” this season. The open water in the background is quite near.

Some hours earlier: I stand at the very edge of the peninsula Näsgrundet and look at the Baltic Sea, which is partly ice covered and partly open. As it looks, I could both walk and paddle to the island Gåsören. I do neither nor. I don’t dare walking since the ice may be weak and I’m just too lazy to take the kayak today.

The Sunmountain

I have stopped counting the times I was in Solberget, the beautiful wilderness retreat in Swedish Lapland. This time I was asked if I want to join a three day first aid course in Solberget. Since my last one was long ago I accepted gladly.

The course, arranged by the German Outdoorschule Süd, was both intense and fantastic and I’m glad that I was able to participate. I stayed another day after the course to make a ski tour. It has snowed quite a lot in Lapland in November and round about 60 cm of snow covered the forest soil. I started the tour at 8:30 – an hour before sun rise. The air was crisp and cold with temperatures round -15 °C. I borrowed a pair of wooden Tegsnäs skis. They are long and broad and fit to every boot which makes them ideal for the powdery snow in the Northern forests. I crossed the street and entered the narrow forest path that leads to the hill which bears the same name as the wilderness retreat: Solberget – the Sunmountain. I crossed the Solbergsvägen, which was covered with a half metre of snow and soon went slightly uphill through the old forest with its mighty spruce and pine trees.

Even though I didn’t take the smoothest way up it didn’t take long until I arrived at the top of the Solberget, which is 459 meters above sea level. I ignored the cozy mountain hut and went straight to the old fire lookout tower which provides a unique 360 degree view over the landscape.

As fastly as I arrived at the tower as slowly I climbed it, since the handrails and the steps of the three ladders were covered with a thick layer of hard and crusty snow. Finally I was on the top of the tower, just in time to see the sun rising above the hilly horizon.

I stayed on the tower for more than an hour, happy to see the snow covered trees in the warm and ever-changing light of the low hanging winter sun. First the sun got free of the clouds and started to illuminate more and more of the scenery. The colours changed from a pale pink to shades of orange and many other colours I don’t have any name for. After a while a cloud layer approached from the north changing the mood of the landscape again. At the end almost the whole landscape was shadowy beside of the fog that still hung above the swampy areas in the southwest.

Finally the sun vanished behind the cloud layer. I climbed down the three ladders of the tower and continued my ski tour. First I headed southeast, then I turned more and more to the right while I descended the hill. After a while (and a bit of squeezing through the pathless thickets) I reached the Solbergsvägen again, however more in the south. This part of the path was completely untouched beside of a track of a hare that you still could guess under the fresh snow of the last day.

After a while I came to the turn-off to the swamp Solmyran which I followed a bit. The sun was low again and illuminated the snow in bright orange colours, while the snow in the shadows looked more blueish. There are many colours in winter, you just have to go out to spot them.

The photographer and his studio:

Links

I can highly recommend both a stay at Solberget and the first aid courses of the Outdoorschule Süd. In February you can combine the two, if you can speak and understand German.

Summer solstice – “night shot” in Skelleftehamn

Summer solstice– the longest day – the shortest night, that’s today.

I was out at the coast to take a photo at 0:37 – in the darkest minute of the brightest night 2016. The sun is hardly 2° below the horizon and so it looks more like an evening sunset or an early morning sunrise than a real “dead of night” shot.

The summer solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical summer, but it’s also the day, where nights will get longer and longer. And one day in August it will be dark enough for the first star shining through the pale nightly sky.

Colourful sunset

After a really warm day (+12 °C!) we got a colourful sunset. Unfortunately I was too late to catch the most colourful period.

The ice on the Baltic Sea is still thick, but the snow melted and left many ice water puddles between the snowmobile tracks.

The light, the light, the amazing light

More and more it’s not the snow and ice that fascinates me by winter, or the coldness that tickles in my nose. It’s the light, the amazing light! It’s incredibly beautiful, but – at least for me – hardly photographable. Too delicate and subtle are the colours and shades.

I tried it anyway, when Annika’s and I made our ski tour to the island Bredskär today.

After a snow fall of 12 cm last night the sea ice was partly covered with snow and skiing was nice and easy. However, we changed our plan to go round the whole island Bredskär, since the ice on the outer side was much too soft and weak. I don’t want to get wet feet or legs, when it’s -17 °C. However a wonderful little ski tour because of the light, the amazing light!

Hunting the cold – day #1

This article is part of the series “2016-01: Hunting the cold”.

Two days ago it looked like that it could by quite cold in Northern Sweden yesterday and today. I checked several places and their weather forecasts and Pajala with a forecasted temperature of -40.4 °C won. That’s good news, since Pajala is only 350 km away. Nikkaluokta for example is one of the coldest places in Sweden, is 537 km away and it will take more than 6 hours to travel to (when conditions are good).

Yesterday – 6 Jan, 2016 – I packed kamera, very warm clothes and all you need for ski tours into my Saab and started the trip. In Skelleftehamn it was -17 °C, but already 20 km away the temperature dropped to -20 °C.

I made a stop in Jävre. I’ve passed this place several times and every time I planned a future stop. Well, future was yesterday. Jävre -23.3 °C.

I continued the trip and the temperature continued dropping. Round half past ten I could see the sun – it was bright red (the camera couldn’t catch this) and because of the higher latitude it was even lower above the horizon. -27 °C.

Now I continued driving to avoid arriving too late. Right after Svartbyn (E10) the thermometer dropped below -30 °C the first time. Round 40 km later I turned right. Here temperatures dropped below -33 °C. Near Pentäsjärvi – 25 km before Pajala – it got even colder: -36.9 °C. I probably experienced colder temperatures, but never saw such low numbers on a thermometer.

I found a quite low-priced room in the Hotell Smedjan but I continued driving around looking for nice (and cold!) places.

One of the most fascinating things in my opinion is the light in wintertime. Twilight may last hours or even the whole short morning, day, and evening and there are always soft pink colours in the sky. Just beautiful, but cold to take pictures of if you don’t have warm clothes. But when I have one thing, it’s cold weather equipment.

I looked for the airport, which is a bit out of town and quite tiny. It was closed. It’s the first airport I saw with an own parking place for reindeers. Good to know!

On my way back to Pajala I found a side road that headed to a small national park. I parked the car and walked the 700 meters to the cabin and the grill place in darkness. Of course it wasn’t pitch black, the snow and some thin clouds reflected the light of the city, giving enough light to see and walk. (The selfie is made with the iPhone which can take two photos until it will shut down because of the cold.

On the way back it was even colder: -38.8 °C. Now I got really hungry, drove back to the hotel and walked to the pizza restaurant. (Pizza and burger bars rule the Scandinavian north). Pajala by night:

Then I went home. I was glad that I have all I need for such a trip: A camera, food and a warm winter parka.

After a while I considered if I could catch the -40 °C now. It was warmer than expected, but let’s give it a try.

This time I took the road to Käymäjärvi (the name proofs, that Finland is not far away). Yes, here it was quite cold – below -39 °C. Between a swamp and the lake I stopped, since these low lands can be cold traps. I didn’t get lower temperatures but a view on the village and northern light (quite strong until I was ready to take pictures …)

On the way back to the main road I got my new personal cold record: -39.6 °C (sorry, no -40 °C)! When it’s really cold in Northern Sweden people take pictures of thermometers and show them in the internet. I will join this tradition. Voilà:

>>> read about day 2 of the journey >>>