Holiday story #4 – Snow time

This is what I look forward to every autumn – wake up see the landscape covered with the first snow. Somehow I wasn’t all that happy now though to see the white stuff coming down heavy because I was not prepared at all for winter conditions. The visibility improved a little bit during my generous breakfast, but even the lower mountains were in and out of the snow clouds.It was fairly obvious that Sylarna would not be visible today, so I took yet another direction from the station and headed up towards Getryggen. It was snowing constantly and the snow on the wooden planks that crossed over the marshy places made it slippery going – my boots have excellent grip during 3 seasons but they are equally bad in snow. I managed without accidents and stopped to take photographs of the snowy scenery. When I was packing the camera back in again, a family of three showed up and I was consoled by the company. I can’t deny that I’m always just a little bit worried being out there alone, and it gets worse with the deteriorating weather conditions. But thus reassured, I decided to continue further up although initially I had thought that I’d just go a small bit and then turn back to take the originally planned route towards Sylarna (even if I had given up on seeing them today).

Snow wind and cloudsAs I got out from the protection of the forest, the snow got more intense. Every once in a while I would stop for a breather, look at the scenery (what was visible of it as the snow clouds kept covering part or all of the valley below) and also check if the family was still following behind me. Still a bit more up, I noticed that there was a group of 5 people coming up as well, so now it started feeling decidly crowded! This was not a bad thing though, instead it encouraged me to continue up the mountain in hopes of reaching the top. If they’re gonna do it, so was I. Unfortunately the snowfall just got worse further up, as did the wind. There were some gusts whipping off loose snow in whirlwinds, if you got into one of them it was just a matter of standing your ground, or even crouch down. The wind was however not as bad as it had been yesterday, thank you for that.

SnowNaturally, the higher up I got, the more snow there was. The trail was not very well marked to start with and at times it just simply disappeared, but the general direction it took was pretty obvious (towards the top, of course). At around 1200m I started to get a bit worried though – none of the people coming behind me were actually coming behind me. The trail was really hard to find by now and I had to keep looking back for landmarks (that is, big rocks) and in the end I took a compass reading to make sure I could find the right way back even in zero visibility. Following my own footsteps was not an option as the snow gusts wiped my tracks off just as soon as I had made them – scary. Visibility was very low at times so it was a few anxious moments every time my marker disappeared out of sight. But then I saw the group of 5 finally – only to see them make a turn and head for the nearest “fake” peak (you know, those low peaks that at first make you think that it’s the actual peak of the mountain but when you get there, you find that the mountain still continues). Gulp. So now I really was alone and a big snow front closed in on me so that the group disappeared out of sight. But by this time I was very close to 1300m and I desperately wanted to cross that. Every time the snow would hide my marker, I would stop. Then when it cleared enough, I would run up as much as I could before I ran out of breath, or another snow gust hit me. It was soooo stupid I can’t believe it! I was thinking it was stupid as I was doing it, but I still did it. How stupid is that? Then the altimeter showed 1315m and I didn’t stop to admire it but just jumped back down, keeping my eye on the landmarks and trying not to trip over, which was more than close a few times. It’s really slippery as the wind and snow gusts try to throw you off balance and then the fallen snow was hiding rocks, bumps and holes and in some places, mud that slid off under your foot. I was relieved to say the least when the trail once again became clearly visible.

And then the miracle happened. The snowfall cleared enough to see the valley below, the sun showed itself a little bit and the lower peaks were free from the clouds. Serious photography time and indeed I stayed there until the snow moved back in.

Incidentally, I lost the rain cover for my 70-200mm lens. My fingers were clumsy with cold so when I tried to remove the cover, the wind just tore it off my hand. Running after it down the mountain was never an option, so regrettably I had to watch it fly away. If you ever come across it, I’m sorry – I really don’t intentionally spoil the nature. I’ll be even more sorry if a lemming suffocates in it.

So I made it back to the station, gave up on the weather and drove back to Ånn via Handöl to take a look at the waterfalls there. Excuse me while I’m not being impressed. I don’t mean to sound blasé but medium sized waterfalls just don’t work for me. They are big enough to dominate the landscape, but too small to overwhelm by sheer size. I’ve seen some very big waterfalls in my time (Niagara, Victoria Falls) and these are the ones that demand your attention and will keep it. I think this is one thing that photography has ruined for me. While I always respect the show of power inherent in waterfalls, I prefer the small ones for my photographs. I like it when the waterfall is part of the scenery, not the central point of it.

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