Rainbow at Sunrise over mountains from Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten Islands Summer 2013 – Part 1 – Arrival

Bunes beach as viewed from Helvetestinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Bunes beach as seen from the summit of Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

[This is part 1 of a multi-part series on my summer 2013 travels to Norway’s Lofoten Islands]

Perhaps sometime in the future the trip from California to Lofoten will be shortened, but for now it remains a nearly two day journey.  I can’t help but feel that  there’s something slightly masochistic about walking out the door on a Tuesday morning and not finally laying flat and properly closing your eyes until Thursday afternoon.  But until I can move somewhere more convenient, this is my fate.  Or maybe I just need to earn enough to fly business class, that would reduce the burden somewhat.  But like any place that draws you, the journey is worth it…

The main delay in my travels is often the ferry connection from Bodø to Moskenes.  For some reason I always arrive in Bodø in early evening, usually just missing a ferry and having to wait until the next.  Though this time, knowing there is nothing in Moskenes at 04:00, I actually skipped the midnight sailing out of Bodø, choosing to wait until the 04:30 boat, which arrives at a more civilized 08:00.  Really, unless you actually have a place to be at 04:30 or are with a car, it is more comfortable to wait in Bodø than in Moskenes.  A lesson I have learned, more than once, the hard way.

In my normal fashion of travel to Lofoten, my plan was to ‘get there and see.’  I had several options in my head, all of which where dependent on the weather.  The lazy person, and tired traveler in me, sometimes wishes for rain so I can conveniently hide away on a soft bed in Stamsund for a couple days to catch up on sleep.  The photographer in me wants some dramatic light, while the hiker in me wants sunny blue skies.  Blue skies with nice puffy white clouds I got.

Departing the ferry in Moskenes in perfect weather I now was down to two options from my to-do list: Hermannsdalstinden or Helvetestinden and Bunes and Horseid beaches.  With my backpack feeling a bit on the heavy side, along with my head, I contented myself with the easier option of Helvetestinden.  I managed to unusually quickly hitch a ride with a group of Polish and was soon in Reine.  Now all I had to do was sit around for a couple hours for the next ferry boat Vindstad, my attention fixated on my watch and how many hours it had been since I actually got any sleep; somewhere around 38 hours by this point in the morning.

Summer crowds of tourists filled the boat on the wonderful day.  Departing the boat in Vindstad, I was the first one making my way through the small village before finally leaving them further behind as I veered from the main trail and began the steep hike towards Helvetestind.

You can find the hiking route info for Helvetestinden – HERE

View towards Kjerkfjorden and mountains of Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Kjerfjord seen from the hike up Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

Sweating under the strain of my 25kg backpack in the hot sun, not something I get to complain about very often in Lofoten, I did my best to conserve the little water I carried, knowing I would have no chance to refill on the summit.  To my surprise, there were a couple other groups of hikers heading up the mountain this day, including two british and even a fellow American, often a rare sight on Lofoten for some reason.

Not exactly sure of where to camp, I carried my backpack nearly to the summit before dropping it off as I reached a few steep rock steps that I wasn’t too sure I’d like to go back down with a heavy bag.  I spent some time on the top and thought about camping up there, but the more sheltered spot lower down on the saddle of the ridge I had seen earlier seemed a safer option.  And only a 15-20 minute hike back up, it wouldn’t be too bad the following morning for sunrise.  Leaving with the others after 30-40 minutes at the top, I set up camp and pretty much fell asleep by two o’clock in the afternoon.  Exhausted.

Bunes beach as viewed from Helvetestinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Evening twilight over Bunes beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

I headed back up the mountain in the evening, but the puffy white clouds of the afternoon had disappeared and a layer of sun-eating haze hung low on the northwestern horizon.  And so it was back to my tent for some more sleep until my wakeup alarm at 04:00.

Morning brought blue skies once again.  Sunrise wasn’t too spectacular from my camping spot as the surrounding mountains blocked the first hour’s worth of sunlight, with the mostly east – west running fjord remaining deep in shadow until the sun rose higher in the sky, by which point all color was gone.

Morning light on Merrastitinden from near summit of Helvetestinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: First rays of morning light from Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

Sunrise behind Rostadtindan from near Helvetestinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Rays of light shine over Kjerkfjord, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

Even though I took my time packing up camp, I found myself heading down the mountain before 07:00.  I was, however, in the complete opposite of a rush, my destination being Bunes beach, at a whole 45 minute – 1 hour hike away.  Call me lazy!  Though by this time I was more or less completely out of water, only having carried 2.5 liters up the mountain with me and some 24 hours since my last refill.

The morning also brought wind.  Upon reaching the beach I first proceeded on with the nearly 20 minute walk to the far left side of the beach to look for a place to camp out on the point beyond the lone cabin.  But seeing several campers struggling in the blowing wind to take down their tents, and unable to find a suitably sheltered stop, I returned to the grassy dunes at the back of the beach.  Even here though, it was windier than I would have liked, and my poor, lightweight Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum tent was doing it’s best to remain upright.  Thankfully, though the tent nearly completely flattened out at times, the poles held.

Still short on sleep, I slept away the morning and afternoon amid the flapping of my tent.  Finally rising in early evening I noticed a layer of grey cloud had filled the sky.  I made two rewarding trips out to the water’s edge: once for sunset and a few hours later at twilight.  A little after midnight I was once again cozied up in my sleeping bag.

Sunset at Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Summer twilight at Bunes beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

The morning came all to early.  At the sounding of my first alarm, I peaked my head out the tent to see what looked like a dull gray sky in the dim twilight.  Closing my eyes for a few more minutes, I tried to pretend I was somewhere else so I could at least enjoy a few more hours sleep.  But somewhere in the back of my mind found the energy to fight off my laziness and got myself dressed. I was here to take photos after all, not sleep!

As I reached the water, the sky was glowing bright pink from behind the mountain.  It was some of the best light I’ve seen in Lofoten for a while.  I would have been content with what I photographed there with the waves breaking across my feet.  Wet shoes again!  An odd sense of intuition filled my mind and I left the beautiful scene to continue on around the point to see what was on the other side.  Normally, this is where I end up missing the light all together, having gambled on something better than light I should already have been content with.  But when the rainbow and glowing orange clouds came into sight, I nearly panicked in a rush to find a good position and not miss what I was seeing.  I wanted to shoot stills, I wanted to shoot video, I wanted to shoot a time-lapse sequence or two.  I needed another one of me, each with 4 arms to help do everything at once!

I was saved by the north.  With the low angle of the moving sun against the horizon when compared to lower latitudes, light ‘lasts longer’ on Lofoten.  That is to say, sunrise will last 2-3 times longer than you are used to back home.  And thus I had nearly 20 minutes of light as the rainbow emerged from behind the mountain until it finally faded away in the growing daylight.  So glad I got out of bed!

As I walked back to my tent I contemplated that I had not even been on the islands two full days and I’d already had better light than I’ve often waited weeks for.  I thought about catching a few more hours sleep, but the now darkening sky of cloud foretold of rain – as did my text forecast that I try and receive on a daily basis.  I packed up camp and began walking back towards to ferry pier in Vindstad.  A light mist began to fall.

Normally, the 24 hour weather forecasts are pretty accurate for Lofoten.  But there are however often some micro-climates in particular fjords or valleys that buck the trend.  With the forecast saying that rain should only last until 1-2pm, I made the decision to continue on with the ferry to Kjerkfjord and hike to  Horsied beach for the night.  But in the back of my mind, knowing that it was a southwest wind, I thought I was perhaps being a bit overly optimistic.  And I was.

Departing the ferry in Kjerkfjord, the sky was a solid gray, clouds hanging low over the pass with a proper rain beginning to fall.  Proper in that I put on my waterproof pants.  This was my second time hiking to Horseid beach, and my second time hiking to Horseid beach in the rain.  Such is how it goes on Lofoten.

…Continued – PART 2

Colorful sunrise over mountains at Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Pink sunrise over Bunes beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

Rainbow at Sunrise over mountains from Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Rainbow sunrise at Bunes beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

When A Camera Goes Swimming

Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Photo: Evening twilight on lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden Trail, Lapland, Sweden.  September 2013

It was at 9:00 am on a crisp September morning that I learned a valuable, no, expensive, lesson: camera’s can’t swim.

The journey from Germany to the north of Sweden was a long one.  A flight from Berlin to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.  An afternoon sitting around the airport.  A night train north of the arctic circle to Gällivare – top bunk in a 6 bed cabin, no open windows,  the Italian family I shared the cabin with was not too keen on fresh air.  I tossed, turned, and sweated through the night with dreams of cold mountain air and colder autumn nights.  Come morning it was a couple hours by bus followed by a short boat ride the the STF mountain hut Saltoluokta.  The beginning of my journey into the mountains.

Morning rain cleared and the birch forests shined in the brilliant colors of fall. The sky filled with blue and the arctic sun floated above the southern horizon.  All was perfect.  I could feel my excitement growing at the promise of the days ahead and the simple task of putting foot before foot, mile upon mile, day after day.  After waiting around for the shop to open so I could purchase fuel for my stove, I began my journey southward, the 24kg of my backpack my only burden.

Before me was 20 kilometers of trail to the shores of lake Sitojaure and the next hut.  After a short time wandering through the forest the trail soon ascended to a barren mountain plateau.  Warmed by the sun I was down to a t-shirt by this time and I witnessed a new phenomenon I’ve never seen in Sweden before, dust.  So dry the summer and autumn had been in the north.

Having slightly sprained my ankle while hiking in Lofoten at the end of September, I was slightly worried that this would perhaps cause me to have to cancel the trip.  I wasn’t sure if I would travel all the way to Sitojaure and left the option open of finding a nice campsite for the night if I so desired.  Luckily the hours passed by and as long as I was careful with my steps, all remained well as I headed deeper into the mountains.  The sun shining bright I soon realized that I had come all the way to Sweden to get a sunburn.  Perhaps I should not have left the sunblock at home after all.  Though I guess getting a sunburn in Sweden is not something to complain about, given the alternatives I’ve experienced in previous years. I had more sun this afternoon than in the entire 10 days of my hike in 2009.

Soon enough I found myself descending back into forest towards lake Sitojaure.

There were only four of us in the cabin that night.  Myself, and Austrian, and two Dutch.  At least I had a room to myself and wouldn’t have to worry about any snoring, though tiredness would likely keep me in an undisturbed sleep anyhow.

At some point I filled out my name in the guest book.  Some moments later one of the Dutch guys asked, ‘Have you filled out the book?  Is Cody here?’

Somewhat surprised, ‘Ya, that’s me. Why?’ I reply.

‘Oh, cool!  We have read your website.’

Sometimes, by the lack of comments I get on my posts I figure no one reads my words or sees my photos.  But for the second year in a row now, I’ve unexpectedly met people on the trail who have read my guides for the Kungsleden.  Feels good to know that I can be a bit of help or inspiration for people heading up to these beautiful, yet somewhat udocumented, parts of the world.

As twilight arrived I wandered down to the shores of the lake to make a few images.  Little did I know, these would be my camera’s final moments of life.  Perhaps I would have put in a little more effort otherwise.  When the sky was finally black I returned to the hut and curled up in my sleeping bag for the night.  Thoughts now turned to my boat journey in the morning and hoping the lake would not be too foggy for me to navigate the 4km I would have to row to the other side.

Now, normally during this season, there is a water taxi, for the steep fee of 200 SEK, that can take you across the lake; typically running twice a day.  In a change from my normal cheapness, I figured it would be nice to take it so as to save some effort.  And perhaps I could get some cool footage as well.  But upon my inquiring with the hut warden, I was informed that the boat driver man would be off early in the morning to help with the autumn reindeer herding, and thus there would be no boat.

The alternative to the water taxi are the row boats.  Each lake, which can’t be hiked around, along the Kungsleden trail has 3 row boats.  The system is that there must always be 1 boat on each side of the lake.  If you are lucky and there are 2 boats on your side of the lake, you will only have to make the journey once.  If you arrive and find only 1 boat, it means you will have to row to the other side, pickup the 2nd boat and tow it back to where you came from, leave it there, then row back again.  Crossing the lake 3 times in total.  Fortunately for me, I had the 2 row boats on my side of the lake, meaning I only had to make the journey once.  The thought of 12km of rowing on fresh arms was something I didn’t want to think about, and thankfully didn’t have to.

I rose with arrival of the sun to a frozen autumn day, but also a cloudless blue sky and hardly a hint of wind.  The lake was like a mirror, perfectly reflecting the surrounding landscape.  I took my time with breakfast, giving the land a bit of time to thaw out before I would begin my journey.  And so finally, shortly before 9:00am I said my goodbyes and made my way to the boats.  I would be the only one heading south this day.

Now in my brilliance, and in an effort to document my journey along the trail, I figured I would shoot a time-lapse sequence of me rowing across the lake.  So I setup my camera and tripod towards the back of the boat and began shooting the sequence.  Only the boat was still somewhat pulled up on the shore, so as I returned to the front of the boat, I had to lean out the side a bit to push myself off and out into the water.

As the boat inched it’s way into the water, it suddenly slipped from a rock that was underneath and lurched towards the right as it became fully afloat.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught my tripod (and camera) lean towards the right, balance against the edge of the boat for a split second, and then topple over, upside down into the water.  The water was shallow and my reaction was fast as I grabbed hold of one of the tripod legs, which was left sticking up out of the water, and pulled my camera out.  I quickly grabbed my fleece and tried to dry it off, but I could tell I was likely too late as water distorted the view finder and fogged the lens.

For several moment, I sat there in silence, contemplating what I had done.  I could have cried, where I not so angry with myself.

I went back to the hut and started the fire in the kitchen and did my best to take the camera apart with what screws could be loosened with the my pocket knife – pretty much only the viewfinder cover, if you’re wondering.  I alternated between the fire and some time outside in the sun for the next hour, but I could tell it wasn’t likely to come back to life, especially not out there.

And so I made the decision to call off the hike.  What would I do out there if I couldn’t take photos?  Not to mention the now dead weight of all my camera gear.

I left behind a bit of food, which I now no longer needed, so as to at least lighten my backpack by a few kilos and began retracing my all too fresh steps back north again.  My frustration and the desire to hopefully catch the afternoon ferry from Saltoluokta fueled a frantic pace.  In just over 3 hours I was descending into the forest and towards the shores of the lake.  Though I was not fast enough and missed the ferry by 20 minutes.  One more night in the mountains for me.

That night bright auroras filled the sky for hours.  I couldn’t watch.  I should have been in my tent, camped above Rapadalen.  Yet there I was, a camera-less photographer.  Helpless.

It took me two full days of travel, including a rainy night in Narvik, for me to get back to Stamsund on the Lofoten Islands, where I knew I would have a comfortable place and good company to wait out the days until I received a new camera.  All and all it took two weeks before I had a camera in my hands again.  Thankfully, the weather gods must have felt some sympathy for me.  Once reunited with a camera the weather remained calm and clear.  I headed into the mountains day after day in a furious pace to make up for lost time, now with only six days left in the north.  And I did my best to make the most of them…


Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Photo: Lone tree in autumn, lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden Trail, Lapland, Sweden.  September 2013

Kungsleden Row boat

Photo: Image #19,521, the last my Nikon D800 would ever take. Lake Sitojaure, Sweden.  September 2013

Evening light over mountain landscape from rocky summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten Mountain Hikes


Evening light over mountain landscape from rocky summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: View across Lofoten from the summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, here are some links to the new mountain pages I’ve added in the last weeks over at 68 North.

Hermannsdalstind – 1029m – Moskenesøy

Helvetestind – 602m – Moskenesøy

Holandsmelen – 434m – Vestvågøy

If you want to see the complete list of mountain hiking and beach guides, you can do so HERE.

Of all the hikes I’ve completed on Lofoten now (only a small percentage of what the islands have to offer), Hermannsdalstinden is by far the highlight.  I’m not sure any other peak on the islands can have equal views.  Of course this is also somewhat dependent on weather, and I happened to have near perfect timing for Hermannsdalstinden.  But what a fantastic mountain!

I don’t know why it took me so many years to finally get up there.  Though I think in previous years I have been a bit more focused on getting a variety of shots, so spending a whole day or two on one mountain didn’t make as much sense to me.  But now that I have pretty much photographed all the low hanging fruit the islands have to offer, the only way I can get new work out of the islands is to head up into the hills, which seems to be paying off thus far.  My ‘to do’ list grows ever larger…

Holandsmelen Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Vik and Haukland beaches from the summit of Holandsmelen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  September 2013

Bunes Beach from Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Bunes beach from the summit of Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway


Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Backpacking Gear 2013

Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Hiking the Kungsleden Trail, Sweden. September 2012

Backpacking and hiking gear list for my Autumn 2013 Travels: Aug/Sept – Lofoten Islands, Norway. Sept – Sarek national park, Sweden. Sept – Lofoten Islands, Norway. Plus a weekend at a music festival in Germany.

Backpack: You’ll notice a few difference from my 2012 gear list. Most importantly is a new backpack, the Osprey Xenith 88. My old Golite Odyssey started to blow a few seams, so I decided it needed replacement. It was a long and hard search for a new bag with a good combination of both volume and weight. I originally tried to go with an Osprey Aether 85, but the volume was not enough for my need of carrying camera gear, so I went with the Xenith 88. While the pack is definitely heavier than I would like, it carries amazingly well, much better than my Golite Odyssey. So despite the extra weight, I am more comfortable on long days (and weeks)

Camera Bag: Again, I’m looking for a good combination of volume and weight. I seem to change this back almost years, as I’ve never been completely happy. While I like the Mountain Hardwear Summit Rocket on paper, in practice, it leaves a few things to be desired. It is probably the base upon which I would design a better bag at only a a slight addition in weight. First, I wish it hat outside stretchy pockets for my tripod legs to go into and a water bottle on the other side. The webbing used for the shoulder straps is too thin/slick, so the straps constantly lenghten themselves over time and need readjustment. I like the top loading zipper design, I just wish there was a little more structure to the sides of the back so it doesn’t always collapse on itself when I have a lot of weight in the top pocket, makes reaching inside and pulling out a lens a little difficult sometimes.

You might wonder why I don’t carry a dedicated camera bag like the F-Stop or something else. The short answer is, I don’t need all the padding, and therefore, extra weight. I need the bag to be flexible enough to fit inside my main backpack while hiking. So far, none of the camera bags, even the ‘adventure’ style ones, fit my needs. I’m actually half tempted to try and build something myself, or possibly modify another bag.

Footwear: I’m still staying with a lightweight Goretex lines trail runner. This time it will be the Inov-8 Terrafly 313 Gtx. There seems to be something of a negative opinion on Goretex trail runners these days, the opinion being that nothing is really waterproof, so without Goretex, your feet will be able to dry faster once wet. While this may be true overall. I still prefer to have a bit of protection if I’m just walking through a bit of wet grass or a step or two through some bog. I don’t want to get wet feet every time I encounter a bit of moisture. If my feet get too wet, I’ll build a fire and dry them out.

last year while hiking 10 days on the northern section of the Kungsleden trail, and despite some evil sections of bog, the only time my feet became properly wet was from a 24 hour period of rain where I had overnighted in a tent. From the trail itself, I managed to keep my feet dry for the most part, with maybe a bit of moisture creeping in by the end of the day.

Heading into Sarek this year, I expect conditions to be worse, but with a hut every day or two, I’ll have a chance to dry my shoes out.

Shell Layers: To make a long story short, the only reason I have replaced my jacket is because I accidentally forgot my Mountain Hardwear jacket on the bed at home as I traveled to Lofoten in February. Thus I had to purchase a new jacket immediately upon my arrival in Bodø. I could have bought something cheap that I would never use again, but ‘cheap’ by Norwegian standards is actually quite expensive, so I figured I might as well buy something I would use again. Luckily enough, I found a Norrøna Falketind Dri3 jacket on sale (1500 NOK) in my size. It is a beautiful jacket and perhaps my new favorite, and I own a lot of jackets. And because I liked it so much, I went on to purchase a pair of the Falketind Dri3 pants before I returned to Lofoten in April this year. While the pants are a bit heavier than what I carried last year, they have a 3/4 lenth leg zipper, making them super flexible to wear every day; and they look quite stylish too. Normally wearing shell pants, I over heat way too much. So last year on the Kunsleden I found myself having to change pants on the side of the trail on several occasions when a big storm approached. With the Norrøna pants, I can pretty much wear them every day and just zip down the legs when the weather is fine to keep cool enough, then zip them back up when the rain arrives.

Tent: While I love the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum thanks to its light weight, it is definitely a bit of a compromise. For much of this trip I will be solo, so this is a perfect tent for me and my gear: super lightweight and enough room to fit all my stuff inside. But for 2 people, it’s a snuggle. I would more likely call it a 1.5 person tent. 2 people cannot change clothes or prepare for bed inside, so one person will have to stand outside, in the rain, while the other moves about to get in their sleeping bag. Cooking while its raining is pretty much impossible, and don’t even think about keeping 2 backpacks inside. But it is light and so I will carry it.

Gear for 2013

Osprey – Xenith 88 2380g – 48oz
Mountain Hardwear – Summit Rocket 30 (camera bag/daypack) 440 g – 15.5oz
Rain Cover

Inov-8 Terrafly 313 Gtx 313g – 11oz

Shell Jacket – Norrøna Falketind Dri3 393g – 13.8oz
Shell Pant – Norrøna Falketind Dri3 408g – 14.3oz
Insulation Jacket – Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Hoody 28 g – 10oz
Insulation Fleece – Patagonia R2 fleece 371g – 13.1oz
Pants – Mountain Hardwear Nima pant 607g – 21.4oz
T-shirt – 2 cotton, 1 synth
Socks – 3 pair
Underwear – 3 pair
Sandals (for hostel showers)

Tent – Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum 992g – 35oz
Sleeping Bag – REI Sub Kilo -7˚C/20˚F 820g – 29oz
Pad – Thermarest NeoAir 397g – 14oz (old version)

Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Ultra Distance 297g – 10.5oz

Hygiene -Safety
First aid kit
Camp soap (multi-use)
Camp towel
Hand cleaner
Deodorant (for if I haven’t bathed in a few days and need to sit on a bus/train/airplane)

Spring Hiking on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Finding Winter in Spring

Spring Hiking on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Photo: Spring 2013 conditions on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaten national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013

It has been a running joke among a few friends of mine for the last several years that I have an uncanny ability to attract abnormally bad weather.  I actually used to boast that the California sun followed me wherever I headed, but for the last 5+ years I’ve seemed to have lost that power.  Now I travel in my own personal rain, or snow, cloud wherever I seem to end up.

The Germans had a long, dark winter this year.  And that is nothing due to me.  But as I landed in Munich in mid May after a previous two weeks on the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, the temperatures felt absolutely tropical.  Walking the streets of Munich to my hostel as the midnight hour neared, I was in a full on sweat under the heavy load of my backpack, without wearing a jacket.  And so it was with a fairly optimistic outlook that my friend Till and I set our sights on some easy hiking in the Alps.

As we passed Chiemsee on our way to Berchtesgaden on a Monday afternoon, passing rain showers clogging up the normally fast moving autobahn, it was apparent that maybe our glasses were at bit too rosy.  Or plans had been for Watzmann, the second highest peak in Germany, but as we neared Königssee, it became apparent that this would be an unlikely objective.  Not to mention that I only had some light hiking boots, as I hadn’t left California planning on full on Winter mountaineering.

With clouds concealing all the high peaks, we caught the one of the last cars on the Jennerbahn up the mountain, entering into snow and blasting winds as we left the station at 1,800 meters.  If it was truly bad, I knew we could stay at Carl. V. Stahl Haus at Sneibstein pass on the German/Austrian border.  But it was only pretty bad, so we reached the hut, we decided to continue on up into the mountains in the direction of Schneibstein, 2276 Meters.  I was here last October, in a brilliant t-shirt weather week of indian summer so I more of less knew where I was going.  But as we ascended a bit further, into the whiteout of the clouds, the trail became near impossible to follow.  Finding a fairly decent flat area in the snow, we decided to set up camp for the night and see what morning would bring.

The night was cold and windy, not to mention that I only had a 0˚C sleeping bag with me.  Perhaps not the most comfortable night of my life, but still a ways off from the worst.

Morning arrived with passing moments of sunlight and raised clouds, at least high enough for me to see Schneibstein’s summit at set my bearings.  We continued up the mountain, probably the only ones having made this journey since the storm arrived several days previously with a fresh dumping of snow.  At times we struggled through drifts up to waist deep, as we watched the cloud layer begin to lower.

I knew more or less the correct way to go, or we would not have continued once we entered the whiteout, with visibility to each other limited to about 10 meters or so.  And with a 500 meter cliff near vertical cliff near the summit, it wasn’t exactly a mountain to get lost on.

I could feel the way as we got higher.  If the weather got too shit, we still had enough time to follow our footprints back down the mountain.  Had I been alone, perhaps I would have turned around, but the hubris or companionship kept us going.  As the mountain began to flatten, I kew we must be close.  But it wasn’t until I was only 4-5 meters away from the summit cross that I could actually see it in the cloud, so covered in hoar frost it was, it was rendered near invisible.

Quickly chilled by the wind, we didn’t sit long on the summit before making our way back down the mountain.  The descent proved to be much quicker, me bum-sliding most the way down the snowy slopes.  Camp was quickly taken town and then we set of for the leisurely walk back down to the valley floor.

Spring Hiking on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Photo: Deep snow while heading into the clouds, Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013


Spring Hiking on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Photo: Ascending into the clouds, Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013

Spring Hiking on Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Photo: Nearing the summit in full whiteout, Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013

Whiteout on Schneibstein Summit, Berchtesgaten national park, Germany

Photo: Schneibstein summit, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013

Schneibstein Summit, May 2013, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany

Photo: Mandatory summit selfies, Schneibstein, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany – Austria.  May 2013


Person stands under rainbow near summit of Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Europe Travel Plans

Person stands under rainbow near summit of Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Rainbow watching on Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2012

Only 1 week left for me in California.  Still a few tickets to buy and details to workout, but here’s the rough schedule of my travels for the next few months.  As much as was interested in going to some new/warmer places, it looks like I’ll be sticking with my favorite areas.  I can’t avoid being pulled north.

Norway – Lofoten Islands

Next week I’m making the long journey back to Lofoten.  I leave California on Tuesday morning and reach the islands Thursday morning.  Hopefully I find some time for a bit of sleep, but like normal, that will probably have to wait for the 3 hour ferry crossing at 01:00 am Thursday.

Like normal, if the weather is good I’ll most likely head out to Bunes beach.  If the weather is crap, I’ll probably head to Stamsund and wait things out for a few days.  I have somewhat ambitious plans for this trip, so wish me luck that the weather cooperates!

Originally I planned to be on the islands about two weeks, and then head down to Jotunheimen national park for a few days before continuing on to Germany.  But this proved to eat up too much time just getting between locations, so I’ve decided to stay the whole time on Lofeten.  So I’ll be on the islands until September 4th.

If any of you are around the islands, look for someone in an bright blue jacket and probably a tripod.  Come say hello!

Germany – Festival Mediaval

Like last year, I’m heading down to Selb, Germany for the Festival Mediaval.  Hopefully I don’t get my wallet stolen this time!  I’m bringing a small padlock for my tent.  One of my favorite bands of the last 10+ years, the Swedish group Garmarna, is playing their first show in years, so I’m super excited to see them finally.  And then of course there’s the food and beer to enjoy after a puritan three weeks in Norway.

Sweden – Sarek National Park

I really had it in mind to maybe head down to the Alps for a week or so and then maybe to Croatia, where I’ve been wanting to go.  But logistically, Packing for both Norway and Croatia would have been a bit difficult.  So I’ve decided to stick with the cold conditions and head back north to Sweden, the area around Sarek national park to be exact.

I don’t have exact plans at the moment, but it will be a long journey from Berlin any way I go about it and most likely involve a night train and a bus or two.  It looks like it will be best to enter from the north at Saltoluokta and hike south over the next week, ending in Kvikkjokk.  I’ll probably spend a few days in the area of the beautiful Rapadalen, and with luck, have some decent light and good timing with the Autumn color.  And I wouldn’t complain about a light dusting of snow on the surrounding mountain peaks.  But it is the Arctic in September, so anything can happen, err, anything having to do with cold and bad weather can happen.

Norway – Lofoten Islands Part 2

Following Sarek, I’ll be heading back to Lofoten for another week to 10 days.  If the weather stays like last year, this should mean I’ll be finding myself up a few more mountains.  But I’m sure I’ll spend most my time sitting around the warm fire in Stamsund watching the rain fall against the windows.

Ireland – Dublin

In a change from my normal hermitude (I don’t thinks that’s a word, but it is now), I’m going to try and change things up a bit and attend the TBEX travel blogger conference on October 3-4.  I’ve never really thought of myself as a travel blogger, but seeing as I’ve now had this blog going since 2005, maybe it’s time for a little change in mindset and perhaps I can open a few new doors.  I have to admit that I’m a little jealous of all these 22 year old blond chicks that seem to get all these free ‘press’ trips all over the place 6 months after getting the first stamp in their passport.  Maybe there’s one more spot for an unshaven, probably slightly smelly, with sink washed clothes, dude with too much camera gear.

Ring of Brodgar standing stones, Orkney, Scotland

Photo: Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones, Orkney, Scotland.  December 2009

Scotland – Orkney

I have this weird relationship with Scotland in that I think every visit will be my last.  Yet alas, another year comes around and I seem to find myself doing my best to avoid hitting sheep standing in the middle of some small winding road in the middle of nowhere.  And after my last two New Years on the Outer Hebrides, which were pretty grim weather wise, to put it nicely, I think I’m finally due for something a little better.

It’s too far off to make plans at this point, but as I pretty much have near every road in the Highlands memorized, there doesn’t need to be one.  My inclination is to go to Orkney, but that will be a little expensive with the car, and that is if I even have any money left after more than a month in Norway and Sweden, so it might be to the familiar glens and Bens of the Isle of Skye for a week cruising around the Cuillins.


For the remainder of my time in the UK, it’s back in Wales until I fly home to California in mid November, for my first holiday season in the US since 2007.  I’ll admit that I purposely try and be away during the holidays for the sole reason of avoiding Christmas shopping.


I have yet to start packing, but within the next week I’ll be posting up my gear list for both my hiking and camera equipment.  But for the most part, as these travels are pretty similar to last year, my gear list should be looking pretty similar to 2012.

Wild Welsh Mountain Pony near Hay Bluff, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Brecon Beacons Summer Evenings

Wild Welsh Mountain Pony near Hay Bluff, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Welsh Mountain Pony, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  June 2013

Taking advantage of the long summer days, along with the occasional days when it wasn’t raining, we would often head up to the Black Mountains for a bit of post-dinner exercise.  Most people outside of the UK have probably never heard of Brecon Beacons national park, but it is home to the highest mountains in the south of the UK.  While tame and gentle compared to their Snowdonian cousins in the north, the Brecon Beacons are formed by a series of soft, grassy mountains carved out during the last ice age.  A nice place to have in the backyard for summer evenings…

Female hiker on trail to Twmpa, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Hiking towards Twmpa with Hay Bluff in the background, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  June 2013

Female hiker on trail to Twmpa, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Hiking towards Twmpa, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  June 2013

Female hiker on summit of Twmpa, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Summit of Twmpa, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  June 2013

sunset over mountains from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

A Night Camping In Snowdonia

sunset over mountains from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Sunset from the summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

A couple weeks back the alignment of two rare conditions occurred here in Wales: the weekend and good weather.  Really, it is a rare treat in this part of the world.  Or to quote a climber we passed on the way down from the mountains on Sunday morning, ‘Come back here 10 times and you’ll never have weather as good as this!’

We took to the road early on a Saturday morning for the 3+ hour drive north to Snowdonia national park.  Although only a couple weeks before midsummer and with plans to bivy somewhere in the mountains, we weren’t all that worried about time. After a slightly long lunch in Betws-Y-Coed, we were at the trailhead for the north ridge of Tryfan a little after noon.

The north ridge of Tryfan is supposed to be one of the classic ridge scrambles in Wales, and thus in the fantastic weather I was expecting to be hiking among huge crowds.  But luckily with our afternoon start, most of the people must’ve gone ahead of us and we enjoyed the ridge mostly to ourselves much of the way.

The sun was beating down and I was a bit worried about or water consumption on the way up, trying to conserve as much as possible of the 3 litters I was carrying which would need to last me the next 24 hours.  Luckily I had a sun hat with me here for some reason otherwise I would have ended up more sunburnt than I did.  Not that I’m complaining!

Sometime later we reached the summit of Tryfan, sat around for a bit, then headed down the south side to Bwlch Tryfan.  From here we headed along the trail leading east of the summit of Glyder Fach.  There were some nice tarns in the grassy flats here and I thought it could be a nice place to make camp, but maybe in poorer weather.  In these conditions, it would be a shame not to camp on the summit of one of the peaks, and so we headed up the easy trail to Glyder Fach.

Once on the summit, I found a decent place to set up the tent; we had been prepared to bivy in the open, but a steady wind was blowing so being inside a tent would be a more comfortable night.  With 5+ hours until sunset I started to think that maybe I should have brought a book to kill a little time.  Though finally the summer sun sank low on the horizon, but not before a dark band of haze had formed out over the sea, dashing any hopes of a spectacular sunset.  I think I more enjoyed the mild conditions in the mountains that I don’t think I’ll come across again for some time.  And despite the weather, we were the only ones staying on the mountain this night.

For some reason I though sunrise was at 3:50, not 4:50, so I woke up a bit early on Sunday.  The light was fairly dull anyhow, so after an hour or so of wandering around in the somewhat fresh breeze I found myself back in my sleeping back for a couple more hours when the sun finally lit up the tent too much.

After an easy walk to the slightly higher summit of Glyder Fawr we headed down out of the mountains along Llyn Idwal and finally back to the carpark by late morning.

Female hiker on Cantilever stone, Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Blue skies over Snowdonia, Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Female hiker on Cantilever stone, Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Cantilever Stone on Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Silhouette of lone hiker on rocky summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Rocky summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Rocky summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Sunset over Tryfan from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Tryfan from the summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Silhouette as female hiker balances on rock viewing mountain sunset from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Sunset from Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Castell y Gwynt - Castle of the wind with Snowdon in the background from summit of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales

Photo: Castell y Gwynt – Castle of the wind with Snowdon in the background,Glyder Fach, Snowdonia national park, Wales.  June 2013

Brecon Beacons – Pen Y Fan Winter Sunrise

Brecon Beacons Pen Y Fan winter hiking

Photo: Winter sunrise from summit of Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2013

With clear skies forecasted for Saturday morning, and in need of a bit more exercise before heading off to the Lofoten Islands next week, I decided that catching one last sunrise on Pen Y Fan would be a good idea.  So I set the alarm for 5:00 am and promised myself not to be lazy.

We left the car park just after 6:00 am for the short hike up the trail, and found ourselves to be the 2nd people on the mountain on Saturday morning.  It had been fairly warm all week with lots of rain so I was surprised to find the summits still covered in snow.  Wasn’t the most brilliant sunrise, but was still good to get in a short hike before breakfast…

Pen Y Fan Brecon Beacons winter sunrise

Photo: Winter sunrise from summit of Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2013

Brecon Beacons Corn Du winter hiking

Photo: Cold morning on the summit of Corn Du, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2013

Pen Y Fan Brecon Beacons winter sunrise

Photo: Dawn approaches on Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2013

Winter Walking Brecon Beacons

Photo: Hiking across Corn Du in the morning light, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2013

Kungsleden Trail Sweden – Part 4 – Alesjaure to Abisko

Hiking kungsleden trail Sweden

Photo: Long shadows in late afternoon at lake Radujavri, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Alesjaure to Abiskojaure: 20km – Abiskojaure to Abisko 15km

[This is part 3 of my hike along the northern section of the Kungsleden trail, Sweden from Sept 11 – 20, 2012.  Part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE. You can find a complete photo gallery of the hike HERE. For a general overview of hiking the trail in autumn, CLICK HERE ]

Even after a full day of rest at Alesjaure, our colds were still taking a toll on energy an motivation levels.  The original plan had been to leave the Kungsleden trail proper and head west to Unna Allakas at the Norwegian border, but this would also add another 24km to our journey, something my stuffed up head and runny nose weren’t very excited for at the moment.  Even the thought of staying another night at Alesjaure was discussed, but quickly dismissed.  Best to get a move on, even if not all the way to Abiskojaure.  After a bland breakfast, we were once again on the trail, heading north towards our final destination, which now sat only 35km away.

Overnight rains turned the trail into a boggy, slippery mess, and it was slow going around the lakes.  We had heard that the forecast promised clear skies, but as noon neared, heavy clouds still guarded us against any possibility of getting a sunburn.  The winds were calm however, giving the day a much more relaxed feeling than what most of the previous week had been.

Sometime around noon, we ended up at the small shelter near lake Radujavri.  Taking a slow lunch, I began to notice the the clouds seemed to be quickly clearing.  I then mulled the decision, to stay or not to stay.  We had not even reached the halfway point to Abiskojaure, but on the other hand, we still had some extra days, and I didn’t mind laziness.  Not to mention, I was hiking to trail to enjoy myself and hopefully get some nice photos; I was carrying too much camera gear to miss the possibility of a good photo opportunity just because I was in a hurry.  The reason I purposely scheduled a few extra days than necessary for the trail.

I also knew that if the weather did clear, it would be better to remain up in the high country rather then head down into the forests which surround Abiskojaure.  I’d also heard some mentions of a moth infestation which had stripped many of the birches barren.  And so at that, the decision was made. We would stay at the small hut.  And luckily enough, there was even one last log of firewood that had thus far survived the season.  Though the saws and axes were in a bit of over-used state and it required a little creativity to get the log into a burnable state – no need to mention that it was also pretty wet.

As as the afternoon hours passed the sun finally emerged from the clouds.  As dusk arrived the sky was now almost completely clear and my excitement grew at the possibilities of something that had thus far eluded us, Northern Lights.  The night grew clear and crisp and dark.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars!  It was a struggle to choose between remaining outside in the cold, or the warmth of the hut.

I soon settled into a restless sleep.  No doubt because I set my alarm to go off over 30 minutes so I could check for Auroras.  The hours passed and passed but the sky remained quite.  Sometime around 03:00 am I gave up hope, knowing that if anything were to happen, it likely would’ve by then.  I didn’t wake again until the light of dawn was creeping through the tiny window.

The morning arrived with a chill and not a single cloud in the sky.  A good decision had been made to stay up in the high country.  An added benefit was that the previous day’s boggy trail was now frozen solid, making for much easier going.  Or at least most parts of the trail.  The wooden plank sections were covered in a layer of ice and slippery as hell, needing much extra caution at times.

We made quick progress towards Abiskojaure and arrived by late morning.  The stories of the moth infestation was true and we near suffocated as we had to hike though clouds of them that hung over the trail at times.  And indeed, much of the forest was nothing more than brown twigs, the leaves not failed, but eaten.

Abiskojaure turned out to be a pretty crowded place as it seems many people make just a single overnight trip there from Abisko.  A lazy afternoon followed and thoughts of our last night in the wilderness.  The morning would see us back to civilisation, at least as much as Abisko can be called as such.  We turned in for an early night.

the final 15km to Abisko went by quickly and we arrived before noon.  We checked into the hostel for a couple nights and then quickly headed to town for something that had been on our minds a lot in the last days, food!  I generally know better than to go shopping while hungry.  I should have definitely known better than to go shopping in a Swedish supermarket after 10 days in the mountains.  To say we overbought for the next two days would be a fairly large understatement.

The hostel in Abisko was a much more popular place than I was expecting and we had the unfortunate benefit of a school group of teenagers from Kiruna who pretty much ran uncontrolled about the place.  It took some harsh words by a middle aged German dude before that at least quitted down somewhat.  I guess the Swedes are a little more relaxed in their supervision of youngsters, though I don’t think the teacher were much pleased when they heard the Sauna had been left littered with empty beer cans.  Kids will be kids…

Abisko markets itself as a ‘Northern Lights watching destination,’ and it appeared many of the guests at the hostel where there for this.  Our first night passed uneventful, mostly thanks to the clouds.  But finally, on the second night some Aurora’s finally decided to make an appearance, though still mostly hidden by clouds.  The photographer in me wished I could have been back at the hut on the shores of lake Radujavri as I don’t actually find Abisko to be that scenic of a place.  I don’t quite know why it is such a popular destination, other than perhaps ease of access and the fact that the weather is often better than over in Norway, where there seems to sit a perpetual wall of cloud quite literally at the border to Sweden.  Quite funny actually.

In the morning came the train back to Kiruna where our journey had begun 10 days and 130km earlier.  All in all, it was a brilliant week in the Sweden’s mountains with some excellent days and a much greater variety of weather than my first trip.  No doubt I’ll be back again.  [As I type these words I’m working out the possibility of a winter tour on skis for the coming months, but will more likely have to wait until Spring 2014]

Kungsleden trail hiker autumn

Photo: A rare photo of me.  Practicing my rock jumping skills, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail Sweden

Photo: A more balanced approach to standing on a rock, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Kungsleden trail Autumn Landscape, Sweden

Photo: Yellow grasses of Autumn, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Snow covered mountain peaks in Autumn, Kunglseden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Mountain sunset, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Mountain landscape, near lake Radujavri, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Twilight comes to the mountains, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Snow covered mountain rise above lake Radujavri along Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Blue hour on the shores of lake Radujavri, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn

Photo: Keron rises in the north, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn

Photo: Descending back into the trees near Abiskojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail in Autumn

Photo: Autumn hiking under bluebird skies, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Abiskojaure hut Kungsleden trail Sweden

Photo: Enjoying some afternoon sun outside Abiskojaure hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Lake Abiskojaure - Abeskojavri with overcast sky, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Final morning on the trail, Abiskojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking through autumn birch forest near Abisko at northern end of Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Hiking under a golden birch canopy in the final kilometers to Abisko, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Abisko Sweden

Photo: Wandering the shores of lake Torneträsk, Abisko, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Northern Lights Abisko Sweden

Photo: Northern Lights shine from behind clouds, Abisko, Sweden.  Sept 2012