Sunday, 6 January 2019

Happy New Year!

I wish you all the very best for 2019!

We celebrated New Year in Tromsø this year. The weather was good, so we decided to walk up towards Fløya again to watch the mountain fireworks and the view over Tromsø. It is a great place to watch the official fireworks and we have done this several times in the last 15 years. This year, however, it was really discovered by the masses, which made the walk up and down less enjoyable than previous years, as it was basically a queue all the way up and down and not everyone is equally considerate. It was our own fault as well though: normally we take a different and less known route up, but this year we were running late and had to take the direct route to get there in time. But once up above the top station of the cablecar, there is a lot of space, people spread out and it was no problem to find a good location. As always, the fireworks were excellent and this was a great place to watch it. Below a small selection of the photos I took.

View over Tromsø while waiting for the fireworks to start

Christmas in the dark north

We decided to stay in the dark north for the Christmas and New Year break and rented a nice cabin in the Lyngen Alps for a few days before Christmas. It is very dark here this time of the year, with not more than about 4 hours of sort of daylight if the weather is good and hardy anything when it is overcast or snowing/raining. We had stayed in Silje's cabin before and knew that it was cosy and comfortable, with good possibilities for hikes directly from the cabin, so when I noticed it was available we decided to book it. It is about 2 hours drive + ferry from Tromsø. The best weather was on the first day, cold and clear, and we stopped along the way the enjoy the 'daylight' and walk up to the beautiful lake Blåisvatnet on the western side of Lyngen. It is a well known and popular short walk in summer when the lake is bright blue, but even in winter without sunlight the water appeared quite blue under the thick ice. 

It had been quite cold, so the surface is covered with large snow crystals.

Little snow and thick ice, perfect conditions to visit Blåisvatnet. I should have brought my skates!

There is a whole string of lakes further into the valley, Strupskardet, we will have to come back for a longer trip when there is more daylight.

Close-up of Lenangstindene.

The weather was more overcast the remaining 3 days. We did a couple of shorter hikes to frozen waterfalls and view points on the eastern side of Lyngen. Very nice to be out for a couple of hours everyday, but the light was a bit too dim for good photographs.

Snowshoeing to and around Rottenvikfossen

View into Kvalvikdalen from close to the viewpoint Oksen

View back towards our cabin and Kvalvikneset

Dalfossen in Kvalvikdalen

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Pyrenees 2018: Ordesa

While most of Europe, including the southern half of Norway, was baking in the sun all of June, Tromsø broke the record for the June with the least sunshine and the most rain. In the end we booked a ticket to Madrid and rented a car for 2 weeks in the hope to get some sunshine. I had hoped to go to the north coast of Spain, to the Picos de Europa, where I have never been, but the weather forecast wasn't the greatest in that region and we were looking for sun, not more rain. So when we arrived in Madrid we decided to drive to the Pyrenees, first 4 days hiking in and around national park Ordesa and Mt Perdido, followed by 5 days hiking in and around national park Aigües Tortes. A short, but very nice trip. We particularly enjoyed the abundant wildflowers and wildlife, quite a difference from northern Norway! And the excellent food in this region. Fortunately eating out was quite cheap compared to Norway, so we quickly gave up the idea of cooking and enjoyed many local dishes in mostly very good restaurants.

Ordesa is characterised by very impressive limestone cliffs. The main trails near the entrances of the national park were very busy, but the steeper trails were quiet and just outside the park we walked for hours without meeting anyone. We stayed near Torla on the western side of the park. 

View from the hotel in Torla where we stayed the first night

Map of the area around Torla and western part of Ordesa

The first walk was straight from Torla in the mountains west of the national park with good views to the massive limestone cliffs of Ordesa. The highest point was called Collada del Cebollar. A mixture of forests and alpine meadows with lots of flowers, and we enjoyed eating wild strawberries along the way. We saw a couple of marmots in the meadows, but met only a handful of other hikers.  

The second day we drove to the end of the road to a large and busy parking area at Bujaruelo, from where we walked up a steep track to Lago Bernatuara at the border with France. Thunder clouds were hanging around all day but it stayed dry. Slopes full of yellow flowering gorse bushes and good views to the south. A couple of vultures were flying around near the top.

The third day we made a round trip through the valley around the campsite, mostly staying in the forest out of the sun. First along the river, back along some small forest trails several hundred meters higher. The higher trail crossed several more open areas that were used for grazing horses and cattle.

The last day in this area we took one of the many busses to the main entrance in the national park. We wanted to try to walk part of the impressive cliff walk Faja de las Flores. This starts with a very steep climb straight up the side of the valley and getting right into the main limestone cliffs. The cliff walk itself is pretty amazing, a narrow trail halfway up a cliff, but not recommended for those with vertigo. We saw several marmots and mountain goats and the first and only edelweiss.

The line 3/4 way up the cliff is where the cliff walk is, difficult to believe from here that it is possible to walk there.

This narrow ledge continues all the way along the cliff and is walkable

Looking back where I came from

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Farewell to the sun

The sun has disappeared from Tromsø for the year. Mørketid hasn't started officially yet, not until 27th November, but the mountains in the south block the sun from town. It is also called fargetid, colour season, and this is true. We do get beautiful Arctic light, amazing 'sunsets' and northern lights, if the weather is clear. Right now, however, it is dark, wet and there is no snow on the ground, making it feel even darker.

We did get a brief taste of winter in late October, nice while it lasted. The last weekend of October we did a short walk in the hills around Tromsø while it was snowing, and walked up Lavangstinden, 35 km south of Tromsø, the day after in beautiful weather.

Great views over Balsfjorden towards Nordkjosbotn, with Henriktinden and Piggtinden behind the cairn and Store Russetinden near the end of the fjord.  

From left to right: Svartnestinden, Snømannen and Anderdalstinden

A rather wet and muddy walk to Steinhytta above Tromsø

Early November the weather warmed up again and much of the snow washed away again, unfortunately. We just have to hope it comes back soon. With these short days we have at the moment, it is convenient to hike in the hills immediately around Tromsø. The next 2 photos are from Rødtinden, probably the most popular and accessible skihill straight up from the suburbs of Tromsø, and the ridge behind.

View to Ersfjorden from Rødtinden

Coming down from Rødtindfjellet with view towards Balsfjorden, south of Tromsø

Fortunately, we did manage to catch a last glimpse of the sun for the year last Sunday. We hadn't chosen the best location for sunshine, Kvitbergfjellet and Gråtinden south on Kvaløya: it was a south-facing walk but we had forgotten that the mountains to the south were actually quite high and close enough to block the very low sun. But once we got onto the flat ridge towards Gråtinden, the sun came out from behind the mountains and we got some beautiful light and sunset.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Short trip to Valencia and Cuenca, Spain

In February I had the opportunity to join a 3-day networking meeting in Valencia, Spain. It turned out to be a very useful meeting which will hopefully lead to future new collaborations. Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, is a beautiful and friendly city with a historic centre surrounded by green parks with hiking and cycling tracks (this used to be a river, which was diverted after severe flooding in the 1960's and made into a recreational park), and some very modern suburbs. It is generally warm and sunny and for me it was therefore also a nice break from the cold and still very short days in Tromsø.

Tower of Serranos; one of the old city gates

Valencia cathedral

Valencia cathedral

Palace of the Marquéz de Dos Aguas

The old Turia river, now Turia gardens

After the meeting I spent a an hour or 2 walking around the very futuristic and fascinating City of Arts and Sciences with one of my new friends from the meeting before taking the train to Cuenca. The buildings are all designed by the local architect Santiago Calatrava.


Science museum, resembling the skeleton of a whale

Hemisphèric, representing a human eye, contains an IMAX cinema.

Hemisphèric and Reina Sofía Palace of Arts

Reina Sofía Palace of Arts

View from the Turia gardens

The old walled city of Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also located halfway between Valencia and Madrid along the railway line and therefore a convenient place to visit since it was easier for me to fly to Madrid than directly to Valencia. The old town is built on a steep spur between the rivers Huéca and Júcar; it has a long history, starting with a Muslim fortress in the 8th century. I spent a day and a half exploring the town and hiking around the area in beautiful sunny weather before continuing to Madrid for my flight back home.


Looking down on the old town on the spur in the front and the new town of Cuenca behind it in the plains.

Back of the cathedral

Front of Cuenca cathedral, the first gothic cathedral in Spain, completed in 1257

Beautiful modern art from the 1990's in the cathedral's stained-glass windows

Looking down onto Plaza Mayor in front of the cathedral

The famous Casas Colgadas, hanging houses

Bridge of Saint Paul over the river Huéca, to connect the convent of Saint Paul with the old town of Cuenca

Cuenca cathedral by night

Bridge of Saint Paul to the old town of Cuenca by night

The Júcar river gorge forms the northern boundary of Cuenca

The cliffs are popular with climbers

I came across long lines of processionary caterpillars on my hike in the hills around Cuenca