Deep Freeze Wales

Winter view from Pen Y Fan over a frozen Welsh Landscape, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Dawn view from Pen Y Fan over a frozen Welsh landscape in record setting cold temperatures Sunday, November 28 2010

The Russians have been kind enough to send an express delivery of Siberian wind from the east to the UK.  The results sent temperatures plummeting and brought the earliest widespread winter storms since 1993.  Saturday night saw Wales with the coldest temperature in the UK at -17 degrees Celsius, somewhere towards the left horizon of the above photo, about 20 miles north from Pen Y Fan. However I didn’t know any of this when I thought I would head to the hills for sunrise on Sunday.  All I knew was that clear weather was forecast and hoped for a good sunrise.

So instead of taking shelter in a warm house, I set the alarm for 4:45 am; intent on heading up Pen Y Fan for sunrise.  Waking in the darkness of early Sunday morning I checked the outdoor thermometer, -11.5.  Hmm, better take another jacket today.  I hit the trail a little after 6 am, the dawn glow barely visible above the mountains in the east.  It was eerily silent as I walked through the dark and frozen world, the crunching of snow beneath my feet the only sound.  The wind arrived once I hit the ridge and was exposed to the east.  Brutally cold, and a shock for November in what should normally be the mild weathered UK.  A low bank of clouds in the southeast blocked most the color of the sunrise unfortunately, but the views were still amazing and the air amazingly clear.

Winter view from summit of Pen Y Fan towards Black Mountains in west, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: View from Pen Y Fan across Brecon Beacons national park towards the Black Mountains in the west

Brecon beacons november UK snow

Photo: Hiker on summit of Corn Du overlooking a frozen landscape

Lofoten Islands Hikes – Justadtinden

Justadtind lofoten islands

Photo: Justadtinden rises in the distance

Lofoten Islands Mountain Hikes: Justadtinden

Justadtinden (738 meters) is the highest peak on the eastern side of Vestvågøya.  An easy and well worn trail through a scenic mountain landscape makes reaching the summit of Justadtinden a relatively easy hike and a good first introduction to the Lofoten islands.  While the summit itself is rather flat and slightly anticlimactic, the 360º view is still something impressive.  When the sun is out and the winds are calm, I imagine this would be a nice place for a picnic on a summer afternoon.

Photo: Winter view from Stamsundsheia. Justadtinden (738 meters) is flat summit on left, Kangerurtinden (704 meters) on right

Getting There

By Car: From north or south, take the E10 to Leknes.  From Leknes, take the 815 towards Stamsund.  After approximately 4km the road rises to the pass at Hagskaret (Where the large building is).  There are two parking options here on the left side of the road (before the building), one paved, one dirt.

From the parking area, take the dirt road towards the large antenna visible a couple hundred meters to the north.  Keep following the road straight.  After passing the antenna building on the right (don’t turn here), the road will soon end and turn into a hiking trail.  There are several trails that cross back and forth, keep in the general direction of the right (east).

Photo: Mountain landscape near Justadtinden

The Trail
From the start of the trail, the summit of Justadtind is approximately 6km away, with 600 meters of elevation gain.  The first half of the trail gently gains elevation while wandering through low hills and ridges.  The second half of the trail gradually increases in steepness (though still quite a gentle grade) and passes through a section of rocks shortly before the summit.  The rocky outcropping that appears as the highest point in the top.

Photo: View from summit of Justadtinden towards Henningsvaer


There are numerous suitable places for a tent (mostly dry and mostly flat) along the trail, with access to water generally not too far away.  The summit itself is quite flat and large with plenty of room as well.  Depending on the wind direction, several large rocks could provide some shelter from the weather, but as always, necessary caution should be taking if wishing to camp on an exposed summit.  No water available at the top.

Useful Links

Topo map: Search ‘Justadtinden.’

View from Justadtinden, Vestvagoy, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: View from Justadtinden towards Himmeltindan

Lofoten islands winter

Photo: Justadtinden hidden behind Kangerurtinden in winter

Lofoten Islands Hikes – Reinebringen

Reinebringen Lofoten islands norway

Photo: Scenic view over Lofoten islands from summit of Reinebringen

Lofoten islands Hikes: Reinebringen

At a modest 448 meters high, Reinebringen is far from one of the highest peaks on the Lofoten islands.  Yet this is more than made up for by the spectacular view provided from the summit.  This view, combined with a relatively short hike and easy access from Reine means that Reinebringen is one of the most popular hikes on Lofoten.  It should definitely be near the top of ones travel plans while visiting the islands.  And if possible, saved for one of those elusive sunny days.

• By car:  Drive towards Reine. At the corner of the E10 and the turnoff into Reine is a parking area.  Alternatively, on the Å side of Ramsvikstunnelen are several small pullouts along the E10.

• By Bus: Take the bus to Reine.  You can ask the driver to let you off on the side of the E-10, before heading down into the village.

From Reine: walk west (south) along the E10 in the direction of Å.  Take the paved path along the outside of the tunnel (Ramsvikstunnelen).  Where the path is close to connecting back with the E10 on the far side, look for a small trail emerging from the bushes.  In summer it should be fairly simple to locate.


The Hike

The trail begins as a somewhat muddy path winding its way upwards through low birch forest.  I managed to keep my feet dry wearing only trail runners, but it took a bit of extra care.  Climbing higher up the mountain, the trees begin to thin and and one will come across several short but wet rock steps to negotiate.  Once clear of the forest the trail gradually steepens and alternates between turf (which can be wet/slippery) and rocky sections.  Finally reaching the ridge, many stop here as the view is already quite stunning.  One can continue to the right up the steep rocks and follow the short trail to the last small peak.  Alternatively, one can follow the trail towards the left which continues high up the ridge.  3-4 hours, depending on fitness level, should be adequate for a round trip.

Reineibringen camping lofoten islands


There are several places along the ridge where a tent can be pitched.  All are completely exposed, so be aware of conditions and any incoming weather.  No water is available near the top, so be sure to bring enough.

Tent camping on Reinebringen mountain peak, Reine, Lofoten islands, Norway

Useful Links

Topo Map: enter ‘Reinebrinen’ in the search box

Lofoten Turlag


Jotunheimen National Park Photogallery

Scenic mountain landscape of Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Wild camping in Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Jotunheimen National Park, Norway photogallery: CLICK HERE

I was quite lucky with my timing in Jotunheimen.  The rain cleared after the first night and I had pleasant weather until I was getting on the bus to Trondheim several days later and the rain once again returned.

Lake Gjende and Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Colorful lake Gjende as seen from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Memurudalen – Jotunheimen national park

Memurudalen panoramic landscape, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Memurudalen panoramic, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Memurudalen (say that 10 times) is a scenic alpine valley that ends on the northern side of lake Gjende.  The northern end of the valley rises into glaciers and mountains, from where the fast and cold Muru river flows.

Memurudalen and mountains of Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Surtninssue rises above Memurudalen, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

wild camping Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Wild camp above Memurudalen, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Muru river in Memurudalen, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Photo: Cold glacial melt water of the Muru river flows through Memurudalen, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Norwegian Hiking and Backpacking

Summer Wild Camping and Backpacking, Jotunheimen, Norway

Photo: Camping above lake Bygdin, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Jotunheimen glaciers and mountains, Norway

Photo: Cloudy skies over mountains and glaciers in Jotunheimen national park, Norway.

To put it nicely, Norway is not a ‘sunny’ country.  Don’t be fooled by travel guides and brochures showing photos scenic green meadows, waterfalls, or fjords with calm puffy white clouds and blue skies overhead on every page.  This is a lie.  I can’t count how many times I’ve set my tent up in the rain only to take it down in the rain on the following morning, for days on end.  Even during the height of summer one should always be prepared for cold, wet, and windy conditions.  This applies even more if one is planning on venturing out in the mountains.

Camping Kvalvike beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Camping at Kvalvike beach, Lofoten islands, Norway.

So if the weather sucks so bad, why even go?  Because Norway is an amazingly beautiful and friendly country.  And because when that sunny summer day does come, you will instantly forget that week of rain and cloud that proceeded and will follow it.  And if you are north of the arctic circle and standing on a mountain top at 2 am under a perfectly blue sky, you will already start planning your return trip.

Mountain lunch, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Mountain snack, above Stamsund, Lofoten islands, Norway

Here’s my packing list for a 3 week trip which I start tomorrow.  The first 2 weeks I’ll out on the Lofoten islands, followed by one week hiking around Jotunheimen national park.  Since the main purpose of my trip is photography, I need to keep the weight of my camping equipment and clothing to a minimum to help offset the weight of my camera gear.

Some useful links for traveling around Norway:

Backpacking packlist for Norway

I normally only wear hiking boots in places where I’ll encounter lots of snow and or bog/mud, such as Norway.  However, I’m trying to keep things a bit lighter on this trip so I’m only going to take some trail-runners.  This may be a regrettable decision and lead to constantly wet feet, but I hope not…

Camping Gear:
•Backpack – Golite Odyssey
•Daypack/camera bag – Black Diamond Sphynx 32L
•Tent – MSR Hubba single person
•Sleeping Bag – Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32
•Lightweight foam sleeping pad
•Leki Makalu trekking poles
•Water filter – Katadyn mini
•Petzl Zipka plus headlamp
•first aid kit
•Rain cover for backpack

•Stove – Snow Peak GigaPower
•Cookware – Snow Peak titanium pan & lid
•Spoon Fork combination

•Multipurpose camp soap
•journal & pens
•Hand cleaner
•Plug adapter


•Shell Jacket – Golite
•Shell Pants – Marmot Precip
•Marmot Driclime windshirt
•Lightweight fleece
•MEC lightweight softshell pants
•Lightweight shorts
•3x t-shirts
•3x socks
•3x underwear
•Fleece beanie
•Lightweight camp towel

Lake Gjende in summer, Jotunehimen, Norway

Photo: Scenic summer view of Lake Gjende, Jotunheimen national park, Norway.

Hiking the Kungsleden Trail in Autumn

Hiking the Kungsleden trail in autumn.

wild blueberries, autumn, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

I hiked solo on the northern section of the trail for 10 days from September 16-26 2009.  Here are a few FAQs and bits of info that may be useful to any travelers heading to the area at this time of year.

All the huts/Fjällstations/hostels along the trail are run by the STF (Svenska Turistföreningen) Swedish Tourist Association.

The STF website can be found here.

The Website will have all current info on opening/closing dates of the mountain huts, as well as some maps and other info such as services provided at each hut (ie. show up to Alesjaure a bit early and relax in the sauna)

sign kungsleden trail sweden

The Huts are closed:

The huts close towards the end of September (19/9/2010).  What this means is that there will be no staff on hand, no food can be purchased, and the gas stoves will be turned off.

At least on the northern section of the trail, between Singi and Abiskojaure, all of the huts have an ‘emergency’ room (säkerhetsrum) that can be used.  These rooms vary in size and the number of beds available:

Abiskojaure – 2 beds
Alesjaure – 4 beds
Tjäktja – 2 beds
Sälka – 9 beds (big, pretty much a full size hut)
Singi – 1 bed (enough room for 2 people on floor)

Access to the wood shed, a saw and axe should be available (though I couldn’t find a saw at Alesjaure) and all the shelters have wood burning stoves which provide plenty of heat after a cold, wet day on the trail.  Water buckets for fetching fresh water, cooking and cleaning supplies are also provided.  One or two toilets will also be left unlocked.   There might be a small amount of leftover food available, but don’t depend on it.  Be sure to bring enough for the entire trip.

Axe and wood in Shed at hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

Besides the proper STF huts, there are also several primitive shelters at several points along the trail.  These typically consisted of a single room with wooden benches along one or two walls.  Some have wood burning stoves, yet by the end of the season, there was no more wood available.  Still, if the weather is bad, better to be inside and out of the wind, even if a little cold.


View of rainy window at Salka hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

My experience from September 2009 was of predominately cold weather and strong winds.  Snow fell on several days and rain on the rest, so most of the snow that fell would be gone from the trail by the next day or two.  The temperature dropped down to about -8˚ C  on the coldest morning.  While the average day was about 3-5˚ C.   7˚ C was the warmest day I experienced.  From talking to others I seemed to get the impression that this was an unusually cold September, but one should be prepared for such conditions.  It is the Arctic and any weather is possible.

Kungsleden trail autumn rain storm sweden

Will I be alone?

Though the crowds of summer will be gone, one will not likely be totally alone on the trail.  With the exception of one night at Singi, there was always one or more people at the hut each night and I would cross 1 or 2 groups on the trail each day heading in the opposite direction.


The Kiruna-Nikkaluokta-Kiruna bus to the trailhead of Kebnekaise Fjällstation stopped running when the huts closed, which would be 19th Sept for 2010.  There was a private taxi available, but for quite a fee.  So if one is starting late in the season, it might be better to enter the trail at Nikkaluokta and head north to Abisko as opposed to the other way around – Which is what I did and ended up walking all the way back to Abisko again.

Access into and out of Abisko is not a problem, as the train runs year round. The Abisko Turiststation hostel closes on 26th of Sept, 2010, though there are several other  possibilities for cheap accommodation in Abisko village, or just simply camp a little ways out of town.

The trail:

kungsleden trail Sweden september autumn snow

Even under 10-15cm of snow, the trail was alway easy to follow.  The high point, Tjaktja pass, is rocky on the north side and without a proper ‘path.‘  It could be a bit tricky as the rocks are quite slippery and hard to see under a medium amount snow, though it is not a long distance between the pass and Tjaktja hut.  The trail itself, as long as one has a map and knows how to navigate, would be hard to lose as it basically follows a series of valleys north to south.  And there are a series of markers for the winter trail that are easily visible, though these do not always follow the proper summer route.

kungsleden trail Sweden Tjaktja pass

kungsleden abisko national park sweden

Why go in the autumn and not summer?

No mosquitos.
No crowds.
The color is amazing.
You like the cold.

Kungsleden trail sweden mountain landscape

Mount Whitney Mountaineers Route

Adventure travel stock photography - View from tent to Mount Whitney, California

View from my tent at Iceberg Lake, about 12,600 feet, towards the east face of Mount Whitney (and my smelly socks).

Sort of at the last minute I decided to make a quick trip up Whitney this past weekend before all the snow melted and before I leave California again (somewhat soon).  Weather was sunny the whole time but the winds were quite strong.  I’d estimate it reached 60+ mph on Sunday when I was on the summit.  I didn’t even bother bringing the camera out as there was so much snow flying around.  On the way up, whenever a big gust would come up, I would just have to lean into the mountain as I received a battery of snow and ice and rock for a minute or two, then climb on again. Good fun.

Mountain landscape photography - East face of Mount Whitney sunrise

Mount Whitney Mountaineers Route – Images by Cody Duncan