Friday, 30 March 2018

Tromsø winter - February

February 2018 was characterised by beautiful weather, it was cold but sunny and the days were getting longer quickly. The conditions were often good for the formation of ripe on the trees, creating beautiful large ice crystals on the branches.

The snow conditions were pretty bad for skiing though, very hard and icy, but perfect for hiking with microspikes or crampons. Such a long spell of cold clear weather is quite rare for Tromsø.

In the middle of February I had a short break from the short days and cold weather in Tromsø to attend a 3 day meeting in beautiful Valencia, Spain. The meeting was very useful and busy, but I had a few hours before and after the meeting to see some of both the historic centre of Valencia and the very modern City of Arts and Sciences. More about this in the next blog.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Tromsø winter - January

They say it is spring, but here in Tromsø there is little that reminds of that. It has been snowing nearly continuous for the last 5 days and the snow depth is now over a meter. The heavy snowfall also leads to high avalanche danger and road closures. But after a long spell, 7 weeks or so, of beautiful cold and clear weather, but without fresh snow earlier this winter, the new snow improves skiing conditions and is very welcome.

We arrived back in Tromsø in the middle of January, near the end of the mørketid, the dark winter, and right before the annual Tromsø International Film Festival TIFF. I have enjoyed working as a volunteer for the filmfestival for the last 4 years and wanted to join them again this year. This year my duties included a shift at the outdoor cinema - they show cartoons and short movies on a screen in the main square, very popular for school groups - and in the beautiful old cinema Verdensteatret.


After the filmfestival it was time to start looking for the sun. Soldagen, the first day the sun can be seen again in the centre of Tromsø after mørketid, is on the 21st January. However, it takes a few more days before the sun reaches the northeastern part of the island where our workplaces are, so we had to wait til the next weekend to see it.

A lunar eclipse would be visible from Tromsø on the 31st January and I decided to hike up one of the local mountains to try to get some photos. It was cold and clear with a beautiful sunset and I got some nice pictures of the colours and a partially eclipsed moon. It was unfortunately still too light to see the full eclipse.

Sunset over Malangen

Last glimpse of sun light on the Lyngen Alps

Moon coming back after the eclipse

Looking out over Tromsø from the top of the cable car

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Colorado #2: Hiking around Boulder: Front Range

There are many hiking opportunities close to Boulder; particularly many hiking trails in the first range of hills immediately west of the town that tower up to 900 m over Boulder. The views from these tops are fantastic, you look out over Boulder and the flat country to the east, and can see the high peaks of the Rocky mountains to the west. The terrain is very dry and rocky with pine forests. The trails are very nice for late afternoon hikes, but can get quite busy on the weekends.

The trail up to Mt Sanitas

Dry and warm in summer, perfect for lizards

Smoky view from Mt Sanitas over Boulder. Smoke from forest fires in northern Colorado and other states had blown to the Boulder area.

Smoky sun

Great horned owl (?)

View from the Royal Arch over Boulder on a warm summer day

View through the Royal Arch to some of the flat irons

Tony enjoying the evening sun on Green mountain, watching 2 chipmunks running around the rocks

Evening view from Green mountain to the high peaks in the west

Boulder gets spectacular sunsets in autumn

We did get a bit of snow a couple of times in November-December, but it never stayed for more than a few days.

A little pygmy nuthatch

Start of the trail up to Bear peak

View from Bear peak to the north

View from Bear peak to the west

Monday, 30 October 2017

Colorado #1: Cycling around Boulder

Boulder seems to have a bicycle shop on nearly every street corner and cycling is very popular here. We have been exploring the cycling possibilities around Boulder in the last few weeks and do now understand why. I am not a great fan of cycling along roads with cars speeding by, but there are many other possibilities here: bike paths through town, multi-use trails through nature areas, abandoned railway lines that are now converted into forest/mountain trails, quiet mountain gravel roads, and dedicated mountain bike trails. It really is an eldorado for cycling and we have been enjoying this in the last couple of weeks. Mostly 1.5-3 hour afternoon rides around Boulder, but also a few longer rides.

As you can see on the google aerial photo below, Boulder is at the foot of the Rockies and the areas to the north, south and east of Boulder are fairly flat. It is mostly open farmland with some lakes and reservoirs. West of Boulder are first the foothills, mostly forested hills up to 1100 m higher than Boulder (up to 2800m; Boulder lies at ca 1700m). Further west again are the high alpine mountains that go up to 4300m. Most of the cycling was done from home as can been seen from the web of coloured routes around Boulder in the first photo below. The 2 trips higher in the mountains were mostly along abandoned railway lines, Rollins Pass and the Switserland trail, which make great cycling tracks as the now gravel roads are not very steep.

Google aerial photo with our bike routes

Boulder Valley ranch north of Boulder

Beautiful bike paths in Boulder

Beautiful bike paths in Boulder

Quiet roads in Boulder

Evening ride around Boulder reservoir, north of Boulder

Single track in South Mesa, south of Boulder

Gravel track in South Mesa, south of Boulder

Smooth riding on Chapman Drive in the foothills

Switserland trail, an abandoned railway track in the foothills

Icy and muddy along the Switserland trail

Heading up to Rollins Pass at 3554m, another abandoned railway track high in the mountains

Negotiating a bumpy road up to Rollins Pass

An old railway bridge just down from Rollins Pass

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Wyoming, US, #2: Jedediah Smith Wilderness - Grand Tetons

After the eclipse we drove via Jackson to the west side of the Grand Teton national park. This is a stunning area with fantastic views of the Grand Tetons, but without the crowds. We camped at one of the simple but nice forestry campsites at the end of the road and did 2 long day hikes. The first hike was up to Table mountain, which has a fantastic view of the Grand Tetons. Afternoon thunder storms were threatening to spoil our hike; the last part is quite exposed so we stopped and waited to see how the storm developed. Fortunately, the storm stayed in the valley north from us and eventually dissipated so we decided it was safe to continue to the top, which we now had all for ourselves. Amazing views all around, fascinating landscapes and geology! The second hike was a long round trip to the beautiful Alaska basin. We didn't see any bears, moose or bighorn sheep, but we did see quite a few yellow-belllied marmots, pikas and chipmunks. And lots and lots of flowers!

First view of the Grand Tetons

Table Mountain trail - view towards Alaska Basin

Waiting for the thunderstorm to move on

Our destination - Table Mountain

The amazing view of the Grand Tetons from Table Mountain

Tony on the top of Table Mountain

View from Table Mountain toward Alaska Basin

So many flowers (and marmots, pikas and chipmunks)

Alaska Basin

Alaska Basin trail

Alaska Basin trail - lots of flowers here too

Alaska Basin trail

Bison near Jackson

Horned owl

Dinosaur quarry

Dinosaur quarry

Glenwood canyon along the main highway back to Denver