That damn snow again

During last year’s field trip to Sweden, at the very end of August, an early autumn snowstorm threw us of the mountain. You can (re)read the account of that humbling hike here. We were beaten. Defeated. Nature’s powers were too strong. We managed to hike up, yes, but trying to identify plants under a growing pile of snow turned out close to impossible.

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Last year’s snow storm covering the landscape in grey and white.

This year we came earlier to that damned valley, determined to win and find back the sensors we had hidden there when days were better and slopes uncovered.  But again, the valley would only reluctantly reveal its secrets. Oh yes, the weather was great, we made sure we waited for the best day of our whole trip. But there was snow. Again. Tons of it.

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Turned out the valley was holding on to every inch of snow it accumulated over that surprisingly long Arctic winter. And thus, even now, the 20th of July, two weeks later than we usually manage to reach the top, we found massive snowpacks on our path.

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Low in the valley, the shadowy sides of the river were still covered with snow.

Too early for spring!? Yes, this is the subarctic, where spring has to hurry up as soon as winter finally releases it, before autumn catches up with it again only a few weeks later. This is the subarctic, where the summer suns are plentifull, yet life is living on the edge.

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Early spring at the edge of a snowpack gives for beautiful flowers of Arctic willows

The snow started low enough to make us worry about getting anywhere at all, as we had to rely on a ‘summer bridge’, which only gets installed when snow is melted. Yet we were lucky in that regard, and we could continue our conquest of this amazingly wild valley.

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Tiny flowers of Rhododendron lapponicum at the edge of a snowpatch

Unlike last year, luck now stayed at our side for most of the hike. While a few plots were buried under a thick pack of white softness, most of our plots balanced on the edge of the snowpacks. A bit of digging, a bit of luck, and in all but one plots at least one of the two sensors could be dug up.

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The trail marks appearing above the snow pack, helping us finding back our plots

That damn snow, yes, but it ensured the most beautiful views ever. We felt like true explorers, fighting the rough elements, and being rewarded with the best what nature has to offer.

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Reindeers enjoying the snow, and reluctantly accepting us in the tough world of their Arctic valley
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Reindeer in the middle of a frozen world
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