Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Whiteouts and blue sky in northern Norway

Our shelter was located on the Kvaløya Island just a 10 minutes drive to downtown Tromsø.
From our understanding, the conditions and the snowpack were much better around Tromsø than at the Lyngen Alps. With countless options on the mountain surrounding Norway’s northern capital, we figure it would be a nice basecamp. We used Ski Touring in Troms by Espen Nordahl as our bible, for the weather forecast and for the avalanche forecast.

For our first day out we chose to go to Little Blammanen which was just a few kilometers from our new home. The weather was really unsure and warm, to that was a nice option to check the local snowpack without too much risk.
The snow was really not the greatest one over changing from hard windpack at the top to quite mushy at the bottom. Nevertheless, it was nice to stretch our legs after such a long drive!
Overall weather at our base camp stayed pretty much the same with temperature ranging around 0Celcius (even if we were above the arctic circle) with wet snow changing to rain some times.
It was really nice to use this unused day lodge to get a bit of a shelter from the shitty weather.

We drove a bit north to the island of Ringvassøya to give a try at Soltinden (also call Rema1000). The skin up started nicely through some sparse bush. 
We eventually reach the alpine.... just as the weather got cloudy and snowy. Visibility dropped fairly fast and we eventually got ourselves into a nice whiteout. Since we weren’t able to distinguish sky from earth, we pulled the skins off and head down. Quite a shame we had to turn back since the snow (even if only 10cm), was really nice and smooth!
We were pretty bummed after getting ourselves skunk twice in two days by the weather.
I guess Ullr (Norwegian god of skiing) heard our curses and he sended us a nice bluebird day!

We jumped on this nice day to head to Slettinden.
This mountain is located on the island of Malangen just southwest of Tromsø.
There was an approach a bit longer that what I usually like (I’m pretty lazy!) but since both the skiing and the view were both supposed to be stunning, we headed out.

Skinning up was made around the looker’s right shoulder of the mountain and the ski down was made straight down from the summit on the main open face. We were all pretty stoke to finally have the nice open view of the white mountains plunging down into the blue fjords were fish farms and boats were to be seen here and there.
Skiing down the main face was as good as the view with nice open turns on some nice and steady snow! This was quite a picture-perfect day!
Everything was so different and so much better that the previous days! Since you usually don't expect deep snow for a spring trip in Norway the view is pretty nice to have!
The crappy weather got back the following day...
With not much visibility, we headed to probably the most popular option near Tromsø, Buren. Since it has been snowing littly overnight with some steady lite wind. This was pretty similar from our first day out as we got a nice whiteout as we were getting close from the top.
We waited again a bit for the weather to clear out, but since it was just getting worse and worse, we headed down where we eventually got a bit of a window...
One thing for sure, Norway is certainly pretty nice when you have nice weather (here is Etienne enjoying a nice curve on Slettinden)!
Hope we get more days like those in the coming week! 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Distances are not always that small in Europe: From Geneva to Tromsø

This winter snowchasing season wasn’t like any previous one.
My girlfriend having a training period that was supposed to start in march in Grenoble, I ended up working way more than any winter in the past 9 years...

We were welcome by some friends in France from where we started to shop around for car, apartment and to sort things out to settle down.

French administration is certainly not the most straight forward and some administrative paper work delay the start of my girlfriend training period. Since I had already planned to leave to go to Norway with one of my friend with our common car, we figured she would be better to join us rather than to stay and cry on the couch!

As north americans, I've always figure that everything is close in Europe...
Well Tromsø was about 4000km from Grenoble.
Since Etienne didn't want to join for the full car ride from France, I settled down for a plan that would need to pick him up half way up in Stockholm (that’s about 2000km from Grenoble). We eventually struggled to find a car that suited us and finally bought one only 2 days before the agreed date that I was supposed to pick him up!

After a bit of maintenance and regular check up, I started to build a bed in the car.
Not being the most talented carpenter, it took me a little longer to make everything works out! As I was working on it, Amelie went grocery shopping and pack most of the stuff.
We eventually took off at 9Pm only 18 hours before Etienne was supposed to land.
We took turn at the wheel to drive non-stop.
Germany went by pretty fast. With most of the highway not having any speed limit, we certainly enjoyed settling the cruise control at 140km/h! Driving at night is pretty neat since we were able to see quite in advance the Porsches and Mercedes that were coming at 200km/h!
We were thinking about maybe jumping on a ferry to save some driving in Denmark, but the timing wasn’t right and we ended up driving through it...
Even if stopped only twice in 18 hours, we kept getting delayed by detours, accidents and traffic jam.
We made it to Sweden about the same time as Etienne was landing but we were still about 600km from Stockholm... We tried to get some wifi on the way to let him know that we would be late but since we didn’t want to waist to much time looking around, we left him not knowing what was happening with us!
When we eventually rolled to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, he was a pretty happy camper! He was starting to try to look for a cheap hotel (which are nearly non-existent) after his most expensive spaghetti ever at the airport restaurant!
We got him to a not so much expensive room at the back of the car and keep driving since we were nothing but close from our final destination.
I’ve always hated the second night of a non-stop roadtrip. Everyone was a bit tired (Etienne was jetlag and Amelie and I haven’t properly slept in 24 hours). We took shorter lap driving and tried to only have one driving at a time to keep the driver entertained.
Everything got easier when the sun eventually rose.
Good thing since the highway changed to a more twisting road that started to ice up.

I’m quite use to big open wilderness so, I can’t really say that I was that excited about the northern scenery we passed...
Of course we saw a few reindeers here and there, some frozen lake and some snowy hills, but we just kept driving since we were all stoke to get to our final destination!
We eventually rolled in Tromsø around 5-6PM after a grueling 45 hours marathon!
From what we saw on the side of the road, it looks like we got here just after a warm period that triggered a lot of natural wet slide activity...
After all that driving, I can’t wait to ride the fjords!