10 cm of wet snow

Yesterday and today morning it snowed in Skelleftehamn. 10 cm of snow cover my backyard. The snow is wet and heavy but it brightens up the scenery in the dark hours of the day. And there are many dark hours: Sunrise 9:11 , sunset 13:40. Today I worked from home and took a break to take some pictures:

The Baltic Sea is still open. There was an ice cover between the island Storgrundet and mainland some days before, but now there is partly open water, too.

The lake Snesviken however is completely frozen and covered with a fresh, white layer of snow. The trees on the island are mostly free of snow, probably because of the quite warm temperatures.

When I drove to the peninsula Näsgrundet and went to the shore I could spot a dark, blurred object through the falling snow.It was the MTM Gibraltar, a tanker, that was towed into the port – a tow boat ahead, the ice breaker Baus behind. It looked enormous through the falling snow flakes, although it is only 140 m long.

 

“Vargavinter”

Vargavinter – “wolf winter” – that’s an especially cold and harsh winter. And that’s what the newspaper Expressen warned about yesterday:

“Long time forecast · prepare for the wolf winter · cold for several months · snow from arctic.”

As a winter maniac I would love to believe Expressen, but I have my doubts. Let’s the when Expressen warned about vargavinter the last years …

As you can see, especially extreme winters seem to be quite common in Sweden, at least in the headlines of the tabloid press.

 

What a difference four days make …

That’s how my house had looked like on Wednesday, just before I took the car to the airport.

That’s how my house looked like tonight – just four and a half days later – just after I had arrived from the airport.

When I left Skelleftehamn the temperatures were round 0 °C. When I arrived at Skellefteå airport this evening, the temperatures had dropped to -12 °C and my car was covered with 8 cm of snow. The snow was partly frozen and it took me half an hour before I could drive home. Home in Skelleftehamn it was slightly warmer (-8 °C) yet 10 cm of snow covered my backyard, too.

What a nice welcome home after I have been in a town, both beautiful and stressful (at least for my feelings) for some days: Paris!

Side note: Never ever did I see so many warm jackets as on the huge flea markets in the north. Mostly counterfeit products of The North Face, Canada Goose and others. Since I neither believe in a French ice age coming soon nor in million of French people wanting to visit “La Laponie” (French for Lapland) I guess that the Parisians just have another sense for temperature (and fashion, too).

Autumn, meet winter

When I woke up this morning it was still dark outside. It snowed. Big snow flakes fluttered downwards, where most of them melted instantly. They felt however comfortable on my car and started to cover it with a wet layer of snow – the first snow of the season.

It snowed in Skellefteå, too and I took a short stroll along the river before job. Temperatures were slightly above zero, so the falling snow was wet and didn’t last long. Anyhow it managed to cover the leaves, the grass and things made from wood.

I’ve been living in Sweden for more than eight years now. The earliest snowfall in Skellefteå/Skelleftehamn I experienced before was on a 14 October, but normally the first snow comes round the end of October or even later. So this year it’s quite early.

I do not long for the winter yet, because of all the coloured trees and bushes. They are so beautiful. But as soon they will become leafless I’ll be eager for the first cold days and snow that doesn’t melt away instantly.

Ongoing winter

It has been a long winter and it’s continuing. The fence behind my backyard is still mostly snowed under and this night it has started snowing again.

The temperatures however have been gradually rising. While the minimum temperatures have been mostly between -5 °C and -15 °C the last weeks the minimum of the last night was a mere -1.2 °C. And the permanent frost stopped. Day temperatures have been above zero the last ten days and despite the mean temperatures still being below zero the snow has started to melt, especially on and beside the streets.

And if the Swedish weather forecast is right we’re expecting a sunny week with temperatures up to 7 °C. This will cause more snow to melt making the streets especially in town extremely ugly and rubber boots the preferred footwear, but that’s a necessity for the spring to come.

The other years?

April 2017 – the Baltic Sea is mostly open, some snow showers. The first tussilago flowers on 8 April.
April 2016 – open Baltic Sea, some rain and small streams cause local flooding.
April 2015 – kayak tour on the Baltic Sea, whooper swans and again the first tussilago.

Snowmobile tracks

When the sea ice is safe + the weather is calm and sunny + it’s Easter holidays you can bet that many, many people are outside. A zillion times more than in January or February when the locals think it’s too cold.

Some people walk, some even ski but most people use their snowmobiles. And that’s how the snow covered ice on the Baltic Sea looks like: covered with snowmobile tracks. Sometimes only one or two of them, but often it’s many tracks making the ice look like a German autobahn.

What a contrast compared to my hike less than two weeks ago where I was almost alone on the ice.

 

Why travelling in Northern Norway can take time

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 40 of my winter journey 2018

At 11 o’clock we left Kjølnes Fyr and started our car trip to Båtsfjord. First we had to take the road 890 to Kongsfjord and over the Kongsfjordfjellet, then we had to continue on road 891 over the Båtsfjordfjellet to Båtsfjord.

I wasn’t sure if we would manage it due to the severe stormy and snowy weather. Another guest staying at Kjølnes Fyr had a hard time driving the 5 km from Berlevåg with very bad visibility. The roads however were still open though marked with a warning “difficult driving conditions because of snowstorm”.

And yes, it was stormy and it snowed a lot. The sight on the road however was still quite good. While I focussed on the road Annika took some photos of the coast beside of the road:

Some parts however were very hard to drive, since the visibility was extremely bad. It was hard to see whether there were snowdrifts on the road and how deep they were and several times I had to stop completely to find out, where the road continued.

I started to doubt if it was possible to cross the mountain passages but we would make it at least to Kongsfjord where we could stay overnight if continuing became impossible. Annika tried to check the traffic information of Vegvesen – the Norwegian Public Roads Administration – but there was no mobile internet available.

I continued driving along the E 890 and the only other vehicle we met was a snow plough. The street behind it however seemed as snowy as before.

Shortly before Kongsfjord Annika’s smartphone was online again and she informed me about the updated traffic information: The mountain sections of both the 890 and the 891 where restricted to kolonnekjøring which means that you cannot drive alone but have to follow a convoy guided by a snowplough. The kolonnekjøring was scheduled to 14:30. The good thing: Driving in a convoy would be much easier than driving alone.

When we arrived in Kongsfjord it was 12:10, so the 28 km drive from Kjølnes Fyr had taken more than an hour. We were lucky that there is a landhandel – a grocery – in Kungsfjord that is open all year. We entered the landhandel, told about the kolonnekjøring and were invited to coffee and cookies straightaway. A big thank you to the owner for the warm welcome!

While we sipped our coffee and waited we constantly checked the traffic informations. After a short while we learned that the start of the kolonnekjøring was postponed to 17:00. That meant more waiting, but we were not the only ones. Other men in work clothes – mostly fishermen – waited as well. They told stories, laughed out loudly while drinking coffee or eating fast food. Anyway we all were still lucky. While we only had to wait some more hours many other roads were completely closed due to the weather, among others the way to Mehamn, the passage between Kiberg and Vardø and the only way to the North Cape.

Hours later: We said goodbye, cleared the car of snow and drove the short way to the boom gate. Here some other vehicles, mostly trucks waited for the convoy to start. One of the truck drivers attached snow chains to his truck.

Dusk had already been falling when our convoy started some minutes after 5 o’clock. My job for the next time was following the rear lights of the car in front.

Some passages were quite easy to drive, some passages were hard to follow due to the blowing and driving snow. (Sorry, no photos.) After 35 minutes we arrived at the T-junction, where the 890 from Kongsfjord, the 890 from Tana Bru in the south and the 891 from Båtsfjord meet. A long queue of cars coming from Tana Bru already waited. Some minutes later the convoy from Båtsfjord arrived as well. The snowplough leading the convoy to Kongsfjord passed and seconds later our queue of cars started to approach the intersection were we turned left to follow the convoy to Båtsfjord.

This part of the trip was extremely exhausting. It was dark, the convoy was slow and mostly the visibility was really bad. I just tried to follow the red lights in front and it felt like hours and hours until the snowplough turned right and we suddenly arrived in Båtsfjord. Here it seemed to snow as much as in the mountains and I was very relieved when I finally parked the car at our overnight stay. Phew – that was no easy ride and I’m really grateful that convoys led us over the mountains under the snowstorm conditions.

The rest of the day? Buying foodstuff at REMA 1000, eating fast food, falling asleep quite fast while the snow squalls over Båtsfjord continued. According to our host 30 cm of snow already had fallen that day and more was expected.

At least we arrived in Båtsfjord, probably our last overnight stay on land. The next evening we would take the Hurtigruten to Ørnes, were we would drive home to Skelleftehamn and Umeå.

(The first five photos were shot by Annika. I did the editing.)

Kjølnes Fyr

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Days 38 to 40 of my winter journey 2018

Saturday

After our stopover in Kongsfjord we continued the road 890 in direction Berlevåg. The road follows the coastal line of first the fjord Kongsfjorden and then the open Barents Sea. Our destination for today is Kjølnes Fyr where we planned to stay over for one or two nights.

Kjølnes Fyr is located on a small headland called Kjølneset 5 km east from Berlevåg. We had booked a two-bed room at this place because it looked more interesting than the “large” city Berlevåg with its round thousand inhabitants. At half past one we arrived.

I directly fell in love with this place. The lighthouse – some other houses around – a rugged rocky coast, partly covered with snow, partly with seaweed – to the west bare mountains and to all other sides the open Barents Sea.

If you started a boat trip from Kjølnes Fyr heading north, the next land you would approach would be Kongsøya, part of Svalbard.

Viggo who operates the lodging gave us the key to the lighthouse and we took a closer look. The original lighthouse from 1916 was destroyed in World War II, the new lighthouse was built in 1949 and has a very functional and sober appearance. We went up and looked over the Barents Sea watching the high waves breaking at the rocky shore.

Viggo and his wife moved to Kjølnes Fyr in last autumn. He has rented the houses, that are protected as a historic monument. He told us from a winter storm that he experienced in January. Wind speed was up to 70 m/s (~250 km/h) and the upper floor of their house was shaken so violently, that the vibrations moved around the furnitures inside. Compared to that experience we had it quite calm.

The only thing we made over daytime was driving to Berlevåg to buy food. In Norway almost all shops are closed on Sundays and there were things we needed (spaghetti …) and things we wanted (chocolate …).

Later that evening we drove to Berlevåg again to see the Hurtigruten ships coming in.

Sunday

Under the night the wind got a bit stronger and the waves approaching from the north had become higher. Annika and I took a really lazy day. I was outside several times, but only for taking photos of waves. They never broke at the same place twice and gave me a hard time making pictures.

Weather became worse the whole day: The wind increased more and more and it started to snow, which means that snow was thrown into my face vertically when I dared to look into the wind. When it started to get dark, the ice and snow covered rocks in the cold light of the blue hour made the landscape look as what is actually is: arctic.

Already in the afternoon the Norwegian Meteorologisk institute had issued a class one wind warning for the whole area. I started to get a bit nervous. The next day we wanted to continue to Båtsfjord, our last stay on our Varanger trip but I was not sure whether the weather would allow it. Anyway, all roads were still open.

Monday

It had snowed a lot in the night and still was snowing heavily. Due to the stormy wind parts of the ground were completely bare of snow while other parts were covered with knee deep snow. At the same time it was quite warm, hardly below zero. The weather warning was extended to the afternoon but wind should decrease a bit over the day, so we planned to start round 12 o’clock. I was out and took some more photos, but it was really rough weather, especially for the camera.

Right after breakfast Viggo got a call of another guest approaching from Berlevåg by car. She couldn’t find the departure to Kjølnes Fyr due to severe weather conditions and asked for help. He took the car and drove to the main road just to mark the departure visually. When she came in she looked quite exhausted from the short car trip. She advised us not to continue the trip that day and told us, that visibility was partly only 10 meters which would make it impossible to see the next way mark.

We waited some time but despite of the stormy wind the visibility looked really good. Therefore we decided to give it a try and drive at least to Kongsfjord, that we passed two days ago. Here we could either continue our trip or take a room and stay in Kongsfjord overnight.

So we packed the car, said goodbye, removed the snow from the car and started our car trip to Båtsfjord at 11 o’clock.