I walk to work

Back in Tromsø I decided to walk to work this week. 2½ km to the Norwegian Polar Institute in the Framsenteret and 2½ km back home. So I get at least a bit of motion each day. And a bit of outdoor feeling, too.

Monday, 17 January

It has snowed quite a bit the night and is still snowing. It’s -4 °C and the wind is calm. It’s fun to trudge through the powder snow.

Lunch time. We get the table by the panoramic window. Some boat owners clear the landing of the marina from snow.

Tuesday, 18 January

-3 °C and snow fall again but now the wind is stronger and squally. Luckily I have it in the back.

It gets warmer the whole day and it starts to rain. Wet ice and deep puddles on my way back.

Wednesday, 19 January

+2 °C, a bit of rain. Rubber boots, slush, ice, water puddles.

Thursday, 20 January

-1 °C and fresh snow.

I don’t trust the snow. I know that ice and slush lurk beneath the surface. Therefore I wear rubber boots again with attached spikes to avoid slipping on the wet ice. The gloves protect against the wind, the reflective wristbands with the blinking LEDs and the high visibility vest against not being seen by car drivers. No cyclists the last days.

Friday, 21 January

-6 °C, almost like winter. The canteen invites to “sun buns” and cacao because it is “soldagen”, the day where the sun is finally visible in Tromsø again after 8 weeks. Unfortunately clouds block the low hanging sun.

This weekend I won’t see the sun neither. We got warm weather and storm and unfortunately a lot of rain. So I’ll probably keep myself mostly inside.

 

A winter journey from home to work

Last Saturday I travelled to work. ObbolaTromsø, that’s round 1000 km – the reason why I do not commute weekly.  This time it is a bit suspenseful, because there are two obstacles on my way.

One obstacle is easy: taking a covid test at the test center. The other is much bigger: The road over the Bjørnfjell – the only road – has been closed for many hours due to stow storm conditions. Well, I start my journey anyhow. We’ll see.

At 5:30 in the morning Annika takes me to the train station in Umeå. The first 9½ hours were just a “normal” train journey beside of the train being mostly ahead of time. One change in Boden – nothing special, just long and a bit boring.

I leave the train in Abisko Turiststation where I parked my car. My car – will I find it or is it submerged under a pile of snow? To my relief hardly any snow covers my car. I already hoped so, because Abisko is known for its low precipitation because mountains in the west protect it from bad weather. Much more snow and rain fall on the other side of the mountain range and that’s exactly where I have to go through. Some minutes after leaving Abisko behind it starts snowing. Snowfall increased more and more but isn’t severe and the Swedish mountain road is open. Soon I cross the Norwegian border and …

… have to stop because of a lowered tollgate with a red blinking light. Beside of two trucks I am alone. I am relaxed because I know that the road has been opened for driving in convoy one hour ago (thanks internet!). I just have to wait for the large snowplough to fetch us.

After twenty minutes the tollgate went up and the red light goes out. That’s all that happens. I hesitate. And now? Do I have to wait? Or may I drive? I don’t dare and ask one of the Norwegian truck drivers. He answers I should just go ahead and so I do. The drive is snowy but not bad and soon I arrive at Bjørnfjell brøytestasjonen where the snowploughs are located and now also the Covid19 registration. I register myself, get a covid test and start taking photos while waiting for the result.

I take an image of a snowed in car. The snow plough driver goes to me and asks for what purposes I take photos. “Just for my blog.” “Ah ok, just curious.” Good to talk to him, because so I learn that beside of the mountain passage behind Bjerkvik road conditions are good. Here they got a lot of snow the last 24 hours and one of the cars looks like this:

After round 20 minutes I get a ping ♪. It’s an SMS with a link to my test result. Negative :-). 260 km to go, that’s four hours when conditions were good.

The first 100 km the road conditions are good and weather is ok. The next photo shows how driving looks like.

The next hour it snows a lot. Sight is still good. To my left and right everything is covered with snow, from the largest church to the smallest branch of a tree. Winter wonderland.

Then it starts to get nasty. Snowfall intensifies more and more and the snow has the consistence of superglue. My windscreen wipers hardly manage to push away the gluey snow and finally I have to turn into a side road and de-ice the wipers. Scratch, scratch … . I’m not alone. In front of me a car with a driver doing the same. Behind me another car stops. Am I in the way? No, just another scratch, scratch. On the other side of the side road another one.

I still have some holes to peek through but it is extremely tiring to drive car through the night like that. Alas, after two hours I drive over the large concrete bridge Tromsøbrua and am on the island Tromsøya. Apparently Tromsø’s snow removal has given up. The minor roads are covered with 20 cm of snow with deep tyre tracks. I understand more and more why most Norwegians have cars with all-wheel drive (and so have I).

22:45. I make a last stop at the supermarket nearby that is open until 23:00. I’m lucky because Norwegian supermarkets close on Sundays. By the way: the supermarket’s parking place is in much better condition than the roads.

One other minute driving and I arrive at my flat in Tromsø after 17½ hours travelling. I’m tired but it takes another hour until I’m relaxed enough to sleep. Next week I’ll walk …

Fresh snow in Tromsø

Since yesterday evening I am back in my “work town” Tromsø. How I got here after 17 hours of travelling is another story. I only mention that it among others had to do with snow.

And snow we got in Tromsø as well. Round 30 cm of fresh, clean snow cover the ground, the houses, the trees and build fields of slush in the shallow parts of the sea.

These photos are from a short promenade from Telegrafbukta and Sydspissen.

A cabin named Fredly

Let me take you to my favorite place
Just a five hour drive from the city
Just follow the road until it stops
And then keep walking for another forty minutes
Then – out of nowhere – there it is
My cabin!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

I was lucky to get the my employer’s cabin for the Christmas week this year. The cabin of the Norwegian Polar Institute lies on a mountain slope by the fjord Kattfjorden. Two days ago Annika and I packed my car with a a lot of food and winter equipment and drove to the cabin, which is 40 km away from where I live in Tromsø. It lies by the road to Sommarøya (the summer island) which is a funny name when you drive through intense snow fall.

We did not have an address, but a small map and a description and so we found the parking place where the cabin supposed to be. And there it was, up on the hill in seemingly pathless terrain.

But under the snow there was a path up the hill and we found it. It took some efforts to bear everything up.

A Norwegian cabin can be everything from a wooden box to a luxury retreat. Our cabin has running water (cold and hot), electricity, underfloor heating, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, a wood-burning stove, a sauna, internet and more.

We followed the manual and turned the underfloor heating to the maximum, but even after some hours the cabin was as chilly as before. We failed to fire the wood-burning stove because there were only large logs of wood and no axe.

At one o’clock in the night we woke up. Whether it was because of the gusty and stormy wind or of the cold I cannot say. 8 °C in the cabin, the same as hours before.

I put on clothes and went down the hill to look for an axe in the woodshed by the road. I didn’t find one but I found bags with smaller pieces of wood. I hefted one up (exhausting!) and finally was able to make a fire. We were awake for an hour, sitting by the oven, gladly watching the thermometer showing the rising temperature.

Right now it’s icy cold
But in sixteen hours, it’s gonna be hot!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

The next day I slept until 10 o’clock. It was still dark and Annika and I took breakfast. One hour later it was bright enough to see the falling snow. We put on our clothes and went to the fjord Kattfjorden, which is less than 100 metres away from the cabin – and 20 metres in altitude.

We looked at the rocky coast and the seaweed covered stones and decided not to winter bath here today. Soon we trudged uphills through the snow back to the cabin and took it easy for the rest of the day. I can say, that the short days in the time of the polar night can be really relaxing.

At 13:00 the sky started to clear up and the snowy mountain ranges glowed colourfully. Polar night does not mean that it is pitch black 24 hours a day.

How lucky we are, we who may be here and stay for Christmas. In the cabin named Fredly (peaceful shelter).

Tønsnesvarden

On Tuesday we got some snow in Tromsø. On Wednesday it already has melted away. But last night a bit of snow arrived.

Today I chose a shorter tour from my book “På tur in Tromsø” (On tour in Tromsø) because I just wanted an easy hike, not a full-grown mountain tour. The weather agreed with me.

By the sea only a bit of wet snow and sleet covered the ground but already 50 meter higher the gravel path was covered with 10 cm of snow. Deep tyre tracks were carved in the snow. This part of the tour was very easy. Just follow the road up until you reach the radio unit on the Tønsnesvarden (281 m) and try not to slip, because under the snow there are some icy patches.

This summit has a big radio station on its top. Even in the increasing snow fall is was quite visible. Now I walked through 20 cm of snow. After an hour I arrived at the radio station, where I met the creator of the deep tyre tracks: A six-wheeled ATV.

It wasn’t cold but a windy. It snowed more and more and the wet snow glued itself to my jacket. On my way back I left the main road and followed a small path on my digital map on my iPhone. I stopped in a forest of birches with thin and long stems. I loved the motive, but my Nikon camera gave up in this wet weather. The lens was fogged up in the inside and in the dense and wet snowfall I didn’t dare to change lens. One photo worked out ok anyhow:

Soon I realised that some of the paths drawn on the map did not exist in reality (at least not in winter) while others that exist were not part of the map. So I went cross-county through pathless terrain, partly dens forest, partly wetlands with many small streams to cross. It took only 15 minutes until I reached the other gravel road leading down again. Now the iPhone was in charge for making pictures.

I followed the path down. With each metre altitude I lost there was less snow on the ground and the snow fall became more and more sleet. When I arrived at my car my anorak was soaking wet. Having seat warmers in a car is a great feature after such a tour.

For the records: 6.5 km, round 300 metres in altitude. Temperature round 0°C.

Appendix 1:

When I show pictures of mountain tours and hilly hikes it is easy to forgot, that Norway has not only mountains but the sea, too. This is an iPhone snapshot I took from some metres from my parked car. What you cannot see is the mountains of the island Kvaløya, 3.8 km away. They are hidden in the snow clouds.

Appendix 2:

What do you do with photos taken with a fogged up lens? You start to experiment. I mean, the photo is spoiled anyhow. But the result of today’s experimentation turned out nice in my opinion.

After autumn comes winter?

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

Two days ago I took a promenade to take some autumn photos. I soon broke of the walk because the asphalt was partly frozen and slippery as hell. It was a mistake to leave my spikes home.

On my mountain tour yesterday I both experienced autumnal and wintry conditions. And I had spikes for my boots with me. While I had been writing the blog article yesterday it had started snowing and that’s how it looked today.

My first snow in Tromsø this season. Yay! 8–10 cm had fallen and while I walked to work it started to snow again. Temperature was below zero and the snow was fluffy. It was fun to walk in the snow.

Looks like winter, doesn’t it? But if the forecast is right it will get warmer again already tomorrow afternoon and rain a lot in the night. A short pleasure.

Travelling from Tromsø to Obbola

Live from the journey …

Part 1 – written in Hotell Sørreisa.

Saturday 16 October at 12:17 my train to Umeå will depart. Not from Tromsø (no train station), but from Abisko Östra. From there the train to Umeå will take nine hours. Then it’s only twenty more kilometres to our home in Obbola.

From Tromsø to Abisko I’ve planned to take the car. And this was the forecast for the Swedish mountains four days ago:

Half a metre snow! Holy moly! Luckily you can rely on the fact, that these forecasts are unreliable. Now only some centimetres of snow are forecasted for tomorrow.

Wednesday

While some trees in town shed there coloured leaves the mountains are already clad in snow. The first photo is taken in the centre of Tromsø, the other one near where I live.

Thursday

I change to winter tyres, a must have for crossing the Norwegian/Swedish mountains. Due to unsure weather conditions I decide to start my car trip already on Friday and book a room with breakfast in Sørreisa.

Friday

Half past three I have packed my stuff (why is the large suitcase so heavy again?) and start my car trip TromsøSørreisaAbisko. The first fifteen minutes stop and go in town, then over the bridge and onto the E6 that I follow for round 130 km south. The temperature slowly drops from +3 °C to -2 °C and gradually snow is not something far on the mountain slopes but lies left and right from the road E6.

It starts getting dark quite early. Sun down here in is already at 17:20. Here, that is Sørreisa Hotell, where I’ll stay overnight. This hotel does not only provided affordable rooms but really good Thai food as well.

Part 2 – written in Kiruna, sitting in the train to Boden.

Saturday

The next morning my car windows were covered with frost and the temperatures were slightly sub-zero. I had enough time to avoid the main road and instead took road 84 that has both mountain and coastal stages. I can warmly recommend this detour.

The smaller lakes in the mountains were mostly frozen. To my surprise even parts of the fjord Sagfjorden near Sjøvegan  were covered with thin ice. I thought it would take longer to make the saltwater freeze.

After I joined the main road E6 I left it again to follow the E10 to Sweden. There was some snow on the ground, but it wasn’t snowing.

45 minutes later I arrived in Abisko Östra. Here’s a cozy cabin, where I had stayed several times to explore Abisko. The owners generously allowed me to park my car here for free, while I am in Sweden. Thank you, Anneli and Thomas! It was nice meeting you again!

In Abisko it started snowing. I bought some lemonade and then waited for the train to come. It came in time. I got into the train. Now it’s only round nine hours to Umeå. With the car it is 700 km to Umeå so taking the train is not only more ecological and comfortable but also faster.

Part 3 – written in the train between Kiruna and Gällivare

When the train arrived in Kiruna it was winter. Everything was covered with snow, it was windy and constantly snowing. We had a stay of half an hour and I went out to take some photos. My anorak was warm enough, the summer barefoot shoes weren’t. No problem, since the train was overheated I quickly got  warm again.

After we left Kiruna more and more snow sticked to the slightly warmer train windows until I could hardly see through the window anymore.

Part 4 – written in the connection train somewhere between Älvsbyn and Jörn.

In Gällivare and Nattavaara there was more snow, but then the train approached the coastal region where it uses to be slightly warmer. The ground was also snow covered but the snow looked wet and probably won’t last long.

Meanwhile it had started to get dark. We were late but the connection train in Boden was supposed to wait for us. And so it did.

In Älvsbyn I took the last out-of-the-train photo today. It was dark and mostly I took photos from my own reflections, not from the outside.

I’m glad when I can leave the train. First of all I’m tired and want to arrive home. Then the train compartment is strongly overheated, too. I’ve been in saunas colder than this!

Part 5 – written from home on Sunday.

There’s not much more to tell. Leaving the town Vindeln behind I could see less and less snow until soon no more snow covered the ground. At 21:09 the train arrived in Umeå where Annika already waited on the platform. Half an hour I finally was home.

Today, after a rich breakfast:

I’m so glad to be here. At more than two weeks I’ll spend home in Obbola until I’ll take the same way back to Tromsø in early November.

Another April winter day

Yesterday round 8 o’clock it began to snow. Wind increased and it snowed twelve hours nonstop. The violet coloured crocus, that Annika found some days before was gradually snowed in.

After work I took a winter bath at Vitskärsudden.

The water was as cold as usual, but the gusty wind and temperature round freezing point cooled me down in the short time period between leaving the sea and being dry and dressed with parka and boots. A good opportunity to make a fire in the oven of our uterum –the unisnsulated room beside the living room – and take the dinner there with a wintry view.

This morning is calmer but still round 0 °C. The next snow is expected on Tuesday … .Then it’s only three more days to the first of May, where again some centimetres of snow are expected. Warm spring seems to be postponed for the moment.

Change of subject. What’s this?

Some of you might know, so a question to the others: What’s this? Write your guesses in the comment section. But that’s an easy one, isn’t it?

 

April weather – kayaking through the snow

Yesterday the whole day was sunny. The sun was warm enough that we could take breakfast on the terrace. At lunch time we took a bath at Vitskärtsudden. Of course the water temperature is hardly above zero, but it felt springlike to go barefoot over the sand of the beach. Yes – sand, no more ice or snow!

Today however:

In the morning it has started snowing and since then it has been constantly snowing at temperatures round 0.3 °C. A good opportunity for …

… kayaking! Although wind had become stronger the Baltic Sea still was calm. Maybe it was the snow, that created a wet blanket of slush and made parts of the surface slow and doughy, but that I don’t know.

I just took a tour round Lillskär, but took some photos with my Nikon. That took time, because each time I took photos the wind blew me back 50 to 100 metres again. But as I said, the water was calm and it didn’t took long to round the island, cross a field of floating slush, disturb some geese and return home.

Short experiences can be great and memorable experiences!

A photo from the afternoon – still snowing. The original photo looked almost black-and-white and so I made this composition completely black-and-white with a slide blueish tone.

The background: a line of trees, dimmed by the intense snow fall. The middle layer: A line of rocks in the sea, covered with snow. The foreground: The sea, covered with a layer of slush.