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?
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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.
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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!
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Spring has Sprung

Well, time has flown by, spring has sprung with an explosion of green & we are now into full on Tromsø summer (in that it is currently raining, but it was 20 degrees last week!). I had an extremely hectic spring:

Richard arrived in Tromsø for good the same week that I got back from Australia. This was a pretty big adjustment for him to some of the things I’d already had time to get used to – climate, language, Norwegian supermarkets etc etc; and for me to having him underfoot in the tiny tiny flat I’d got used to being alone in! We spent some time apartment hunting & eventually lucked out, finding a nice flat through word of mouth. Its it little ways out of town in a nice quite area with easy access to the mountains, but on the correct bus route for my work, perfect!

We had some fun in the snow together, visiting the ski hill at Målselv with a whole gang of my mates, where Richard rented a snowboard & we tried to lose him in the trees, and making a handful of local cross country ski trips on our fjellski before the snow at low levels all melted away.
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At easter we took a ‘hyttetur’ with a couple of friends to Gaskashytte, reached by skiing across Altevatnet. We had some ‘interesting’ weather on the Saturday, necessitating a mostly indoor day, but glorious sunshine for the ski back on the Sunday.
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When the snow started to melt we also had our first taste of climbing on Kvaløya granite, which was fantastic. Can’t wait for further climbing opportunities (& for the bulk of our climbing gear to catch up with us, we’re still waiting for our shipment of belongings from the UK to arrive).
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Richards belief that there was no real point him investing in randonee skis & skiing lessons because the snow was nearly done when he arrived was proved entirely wrong when I was still heading out on ‘topptur’ without him right up until the 1st June. I’ve been really lucky in meeting some really great people who are happy for me to participate in skiing trips despite still not understanding 90% of what is said to me. Three trips that really stick in mind are:

Durmålstind in perfect sunshine with FSG on April 13th:
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Styrmannstind May 7th – an evening tour with some friends:
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…and the king of them all: Jiehkkevarri (1834m) in the Lyngen alps, the highest mountain in Troms county. We made a traverse via Holmbukttind (1666m) and Kveita (1751m) ~25km, 14 hours, 2300m total height gain. This was a very long but utterly fantastic day out.
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My ski season ended with Store Russetind on June 1st, in very grey weather. Very slushy skiing which was lovely actually as the slush is really forgiving and makes even the steeps easy, which I needed as my legs were still jelly from the Jiehkkevarri traverse!
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Australia! March 2014

I was visiting Hobart for a conference, the IGS symposium on sea ice in a changing environment. This trip had a lot of firsts for me: first time in Australia, first visit to the southern hemisphere, longest flight I’ve even taken; so of course I took the opportunity to take a holiday while I was there.

I spent a day exploring Melbourne on the way out. The first shock was the heat, I’d not only come down from Tromsø where it was quite firmly still winter, but come straight off the back of a cruise in the Arctic Ocean where we experienced temperatures down to -28, so +28 was something of a surprise. The next shock was how large Melbourne is & how busy a large city can be, I’ve become very used to small town life! I had an enjoyable day walking around, I walked down to the beach and back admiring the wide tree lined streets and old style houses, then ambled along the river. Melbourne is full of sculpture, and on a saturday lots of street artists & musicians, so it felt very vibrant, very alive.
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Hobart itself was lovely. Really hot, and it felt really humid (this may be another Tromsø effect – the air up here is super dry). I had a few days holiday either side of the conference to explore but I didn’t get so far out of the city. I had explored Mt Wellington quite throughly by the end of the week, walking, running & cycling. Mt Wellington is beautiful & the trails there are well set out & signposted. As a bonus there was a really tame platypus living near the conference centre!
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I also visited Mona, the museum of modern art, which was quite overwhelming – I think the end of an intense conference week might not have been the optimum timing for this! The ferry ride down to Mona & back is really refreshing.

The only out of town excursion I went on was an organized coach & boat tour to Bruny Island. I don’t often shell out for these things, but I found the public transport made doing anything independently pretty difficult – you probably can get to most places in Tasmania independently IF you have an infinite amount of time to allow for the fact that buses might only run twice a week or whatever but in the time I had available I couldn’t make anything work. Anyway I had a really good day & would totally recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see a bunch of nice cliffs & lots of seals. We also encountered a huge flock of Albatross, & had pretty great weather, only a couple of showers.
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I spent four days in Adelaide on the way back, catching up with a good friend from my Reading days who emigrated quite some time ago. Stuart & Katrina did an amazing job of showing me everything thats great about Adelaide & surrounds in three short days: we went to a wildlife park, we went for a great walk in the wilderness, we saw the town & the coast line & went wine tasting. I was even included in a family birthday party which was just lovely, they are such a nice clan to hang out with!
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The whirlwind life of a scientist…

Life is pretty hectic this month. I’m writing this on the second of 2 days in Tromsø in between two very different trips. I returned on Monday from a cruise to the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard & head out again tomorrow to a conference in Hobart, Aus… no rest for the wicked eh?
The cruise was a test for a ‘freeze in’ study planned for next year. We basically took the ship as far north as we could get & froze her in next to large ice floe so we could test all sorts of equipment (some new equipment & some, including the ship, that was quite well known but not often used in really cold conditions) & routines prior to the real thing.

The major test project was the setting up of a remote camp on the ice ~200m from the ship. This camp comprised a small hut (towed out by skidoo) a tent in which there was a hole in the ice through which instruments & divers could be inserted into the sea, and various instruments installed on, within, & under the ice.

Our large floe began to break apart when the wind direction changed on the Wednesday so there was a very busy evening retrieving equipment from the ice. Somehow what had taken the best part of two days to set out took 2 hours to bring in! Thursday morning things had stabilised & we were able to do a bit more science before we left the site. The weather & visibility did improve on the final day & we saw the sun rolling along the horizon:IMG_3138

Prior to the cruise I went away to Lyngen with Fjellsportgruppa. Lyngen is beautiful (see below). We had a great ski on the Saturday & terrible weather Sunday morning sent us back to the mainland to look for shelter!
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Pic spam from Gappohytta

Yup, I’ve been on another trip! Gappohytta is in inner Troms, its 11km ski from the trail-head at Rognli and it is GORGEOUS. It was also freezing, ~ -20C plus windchill. Brrrrrrrr! Hard to convey the sense of freezing cold emptiness up there with nothing but mountains & snow for miles… but here are some piccies:

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Life in the Lap of Luxury!

So for something a little different a colleague & I rented the work ‘hytte’. Our employers have arranged subsidized rental of a very nice hut in Malangen, I mean a seriously luxury hut with a proper kitchen (inc dishwasher), hot tub, sauna, log fire, super cheap. We had a couple of days topptur in that part of the world, tackling Fugltinden and Kvannfjellet, and reaching the top of neither. Both days we opted to turn around at ~650m when the really wind sculpted ice began. Conditions havn’t been great for topptur for a while, we’ve not had any new snow snow since before Christmas & around Christmas we had a lot of warm weather melting & refreezing & turning everything to ice. The weather on this trip was absolutely beautiful tho, clear & cold. Because it’s been wonderfully cold, there was sea fog, so all of the trees along the coast wear this beautiful coat of ice crystals. At night those same icy trees sparkle in the headlights, like driving through a forest made of diamonds. Beautiful clear days (above the fog) so we could see mountains for miles, & all the sunset colours in the sky all day, yellow & orange & pink (the sun is still below the horizon at this time of year). It’s just stunning! The end of the descent on Saturday in the dark with headtorches was like skiing on a carpet of diamonds.

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New Year at Jœgervasshytta

Another celebration, another hut trip, this time to Jœgervasshytta in the Lyngen Alps, my current favorite of the Troms Turlag huts, partly because its beautiful and partly because it was the first I visited & that trip was the start of a series of good things & new friends for me.
How many people can say they saw the northern lights at the turn of the year & went skiing on a frozen lake on new years day? We now can! And we were treated to an even more amazing northern lights display on the evening of the 1st… pink and ‘dancing’ lights. Heres some piccies from the trip:

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Birthday Topptur

Topptur is a very Norwegian thing… its the act of going up a mountain on skis, then skiing down again, hopefully making some nice turns on the way. Topptur is a misnomer in a couple of ways… for one thing you often don’t reach the top, for another I think a tour ought to go from a to b, but these mostly go out & back the same way…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anyhow,  having got myself some quite lovely skis I was determined that there should be a topptur on my birthday! A gentle topptur, given my husbands somewhat limited skiing experience, but a topptur nonetheless.
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We skied up to Nonsbu, one of the TT huts, on Dec 25th with a friend & her dog, bringing with us an enormous pot of curry, a giant fruit cake that doubled as Christmas & Birthday cake (the icing suffered slightly on the trip up!), several tons of chocolate/sweets & crisps, and some Jule-Øl (thats christmas beer).
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Unfortunately the weather was not in favour of my toppturing plans, being windy & cloudy and disgustingly warm! We took a trip up to the 653 spot height on Blånova in some terrible visibility on the 26th – heres the summit shot!

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Of course Richard is a superhero for coping with all of this (especially the descent back from Nonsbu to the car in super icy conditons) on the cross country skis we rented him & not resorting to the snowshows we brought along just in case. Sometimes I wonder why the man puts up with me & my crazy escapades! Best husbeast ever!

EVEN MORE SNOW

Well, until today we still had snow – beautiful and wonderful and exciting! It is now raining.

Ive been out to Skulsfjord again, this time with my skis, and proved just how much quicker it is to travel in snow on ski than on foot, as we reached the same point up the track in half the time. Ok, so this may be partly due to the skiing being husky assisted; apparently the only thing that make a husky happier than pulling one person around is pulling two!

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I am pleased to report all falling down on skis so far this season has been dog related, none under my own steam 🙂

Last weekend I was at the Fjellsportgruppa Julebord (thats a Christmas party), which was held in one of the TT huts, Trollvassbu. We had the most amazing weather for the ski in on Friday night, around -12, completely calm, no wind at all. It was so bright with the snow sparkling in the moonlight, northern lights & so many stars that we didn’t need our head-torches turned on to ski.

Lovely weekend.

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Snow, snow & more snow (early november)

ooops, entirely forgot to post this at the time.

Tromsø is having a record autumn where snow is concerned, we’ve had loads! Its so pretty:
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I’ve had a stinking cold for a couple of weeks & been very busy househunting. Ive moved into a basement flat of my own (basement flats are such a Tromsø thing, everyone has one). This is until May so I still have to deal with Tromsø’s ridiculous housing market all over again, but at least I have respite for now.

Richard visited again mid November, we went out to Skulsfjord, a village on the western side of Kvaløya (Kvaløya is the much larger island that lies to the north west of Tromsø) to stay with a friend & went for a very snowy walk into the hills there ‘discovering’ a cabin.IMG_2753