So thats how that thing looks in winter…

IMG_3874 A couple of weekends ago we went on a mini-expedition. The goal? To see how Treriksröset looks in winter. Treriksröset is a giant lump of yellow concrete marking the place where the borders of Norway, Sweden and Finland meet. We previously visited it in summer ’14, when it stood proud in the middle of a lake, guarded by a ferocious army of midges, mosquitoes and those horrible stripy flies that bite really hard the second they land on you.

To visit in winter is actually easier than to visit in summer. To go in summer one must take a boat, or walk up and over a hill. In winter the lake freezes solid and one can ski across from Kilpisjärvi, a really flat, easy, 9km ski. So we did that. We were really lucky with the weather, it was calm and clear, sunny, minus 20 something degrees C. It didn’t feel that cold though, because its nice and dry inland. Dry cold does not get in your bones the way wet cold can.

IMG_3896We had intended to pass Treriksröset and stay the night at one of the DNT huts a couple of km further on. But when we passed Kuohkimajärvi autiotupa, an open hut on the Finnish side of the border, it was so cozy (still warm because the previous group only left that morning), that we decided to stop there instead. Husbeast has some problems with his ski boots destroying his feet so he was glad to cut a couple of km off each day!

They say man who must chop wood gets warm twice! Well we proved the truth of this one, as the previous people had written very proudly in the book about having burnt all the wood that was chopped small enough to fit in the stove, and sure enough, there were only giant lumps left in the shed. Fortunately having stopped early we had plenty of time to devote to wood chopping. Unfortunately the axe handle was broken in two, and it was horribly blunt, so the chopping process was quite frustrating!IMG_3865

There were lots of fat, fluffy, little birds around the hut that were very entertaining to watch, they didn’t seem to mind the cold at all. We got the fire lit, got the indoor temperature up to 15 degrees, melted some snow for the all important cup of tea, and had a very relaxing evening. Finnish huts are not as luxurious as the DNT ones (also not as expensive, being free, so that’s fair enough!) there are no beds/mattresses provided, but this was no problem because we had brought all the camping stuff along in case of I’m-not-sure what kind of disaster (can’t be too careful in winter?). Some hilarity ensured when we cooked dinner, because the one thing I hadn’t brought along was spoons (doh!) and the only spoon in the hut was a HUGE thing. So we took turns with that one! Romantic dinner for two?

We were a little surprised that no-one else showed up, as I would have expected such a place to be popular on a Saturday, but it was lovely and peaceful to have the place to ourselves. At nice the sky remained clear and we saw so many bright, sparkly, stars, & the milky way. There is no light pollution there.
IMG_3902We slept well, waking only to zip sleeping bags all the way up at the stove went out and the temperature crept downwards. By 7am the temperature indoors dropped just below zero, and outdoors was -25. Brrrrrrr. We lit the stove again to take the chill out of the air while we ate breakfast, but used a bare minimum of wood so as to leave some for the next people without doing any more chopping with the crappy axe, so it didn’t really get warm warm.

We first went to see Treriksröset, then turned for home. It was another clear day and we had an uneventful trip back to Kilpisjärvi. Must remember to pack emergency spoons next trip!

A tale of two summers…

Well, it seems I’ve not felt much like blogging recently! This is certainly not for lack of interesting things happening to me in the past year or so; f.ex, last spring I spent 3 months on fieldwork in the Arctic Ocean, during which time I had dinner with Norwegian royalty, was featured in a BBC documentary, and encountered a couple of Polar Bears rather more closely than I would like!
Actually, its not so much that I’ve not felt like blogging, but rather that I fell into a horrible rut of thinking that I should post things in chronological order. So I have a lot of half written blog posts and needing-to-be-edited photographs, and the more ‘old’ news piled up the more I felt paralysed by this feeling that I couldn’t skip over stuff and just start in with the most recent thing! A kind of extremely neurotic form of writers block. I get this in my working life too, that feeling that I can’t start writing until a long long list of other stuff is done, and then of course the urgent gets in the way of the important & I end up with no papers published. Which is bad.

So; a new beginning. I am going to try and post something on this blog every other day for a while. I’m hoping that regularly writing about something, anything, even complete drivel, will help me get into a writing mindset which in turn will help me make progress with writing those academic papers. I’ll let you know in a month or so if its helping!

Lets start with something easy: a tale of two summers in Tromsø. Summer in Tromsø is a shortish season, it can be snowy in the mountains well into June, and start freezing up or snowing again in late September. I see that my last post here was about Spring, on 8th June 2014. Shortly after that we had some lovely sunshine, deluding us into believing summer had arrived, all our things arrived from the UK in a giant packing crate, and my Aunt arrived for a weeks visit. Since the house was in chaos with boxes everywhere and no furniture; we took her to Senja.

Where it snowed sideways. Some summer holiday! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This was our first trip to Senja, which we found to be absolutely beautiful, if a little plagued by crazy weather! We stayed in Senjabu one night, then rented a cabin at Senja camping for two more nights because the rain put us off actually camping!
In July it was the turn of my folks to visit. They really lucked out with the weather, getting blue skies and over 20 °C for almost all of their 10 day stay. Since then I’ve had to endure endless jokes about the tropical Arctic paradise anytime I dare say anything negative about the weather here. We first took them on a 5 day hike from Kilpisjärvi around the place where the borders of 3 countries meet.

Then we rented a ‘luxury’ holiday apartment in Lyngen for a couple of nights (where we found the only foggy weather in the area) & did some day hiking there.IMG_0917
Then we had a couple of days around Tromsø, where Richard kept suggesting museums and my folks just wanted to go hiking! 

Now he has some idea why I am how I am with regards to wanting to be outdoors all the time! In the middle of all this our furniture delivery arrived from Ikea so we also put our guests to work assembling furniture.

The good weather continued well into August, allowing for mountain trips on weekends and after work in the evenings, a couple of the most noteworthy being Store Blåmann (1044m, a Kvaløya classic), Vengsøy traverse one Sunday with the gang from Fjellsportgruppa,
and Hamperokken (1404m, another classic) on a weekday evening, finishing in a rain storm at 1am.
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Summer 2015 was very different. It rained constantly in June and July, so I had plenty of opportunity to say negative things about the weather. We escaped to the south of France for a little sun as soon as I was done with fieldwork in late May, and I escaped again to join a riding tour on Sicily in mid June. Meanwhile in Tromsø it kept on raining, or being grey and windy. Daniel came to visit. It rained. We went to Senja. It was grey & windy to begin with but did eventually brighten up. Phew! I wouldn’t have wanted to send Daniel home not even having seen the fjords!

Richard wanted to do Tromsdalstinden and Hamperokken, (I’d done both previously) so we did that. Somehow ended up doing Hamperokken on a weekday evening again so I’ve had the dubious honour of being up there in the middle of the night twice! No rainstorm on the descent this time around thank goodness! IMG_2369IMG_2373

I took a week off mid August when it was forecast good weather and went to Senja to hike ‘Senja på langs’, solo, a really relaxing trip. The following week Richards parents arrived in Tromsø, fortunately the weather held for them to see the sights (and unlike my crazy lot Richards folks do like museums). We also took them to Senja for the spectacular scenery (2015 became a bit ‘the summer of Senja!’).

It’ll be interesting to see how summer 2016 turns out. We had a lot of plans to explore the climbing around here that never really came to fruition last year, so it would be nice to do that. We also had plans for a cycle tour in Lofoten that we called off due to the weather. We definitely need to visit Lofoten once before we leave Norway, having heard so much about it!