Snow and ice
Icicles from a barn roof in Funen, Denmark, are bent inwards by repeated thawing and freezing (top). Melted snow from these icicles has frozen on a cotoneaster below. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the 1980s and 1990s, I spent several winters on the island of Vorsø, a nature reserve in Horsens Fjord, Denmark. During these stays, I could enjoy a number of very beautiful impressions. Below, a collection of winter pictures from this interesting reserve is presented. Others are shown on the page Vorsø on my mind, where a number of winter experiences are related.
In severe winters, each falling tide leaves a thin layer of frozen saltwater on emerging stones. The following rising tide will press this layer outwards, leaving a new thin layer of ice inside the previous layer. In this way, several rising and falling tides create a ’flower’ with delicate ice petals. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Other ice sculptures, created around stones in Horsens Fjord. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leaves of dewberry (Rubus caesius), covered in rime. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The sun sets in an orgy of red and orange over Horsens Fjord, adorning the sea ice with gorgeous patterns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These catkins of common hazel (Corylus avellana) were formed already in late autumn, and now they are covered in rime, ready to burst with the first sign of spring. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ice flakes, pushed up along a crack in the sea ice. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fruits of great burdock (Arctium lappa), covered in rime. – Read more about this species on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Today, the common male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) has taken over huge areas of the former fields on Vorsø. This partly withered plant is almost covered by snow. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wind-made patterns in a compact layer of snow around a coastal stone on the southern shore of the island. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hips of dog rose (Rosa canina), covered in snow. This plant is extremely common on Vorsø. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is one of the first harbingers of spring, often appearing before the winter snow has disappeared. In former days, this species was cultivated on Vorsø, and today it has escaped many places around the farm house. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fruit spike of common bulrush (Typha latifolia), covered in rime. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
If you walk around the Annapurna Range, central Nepal, you must cross over the pass Thorung La (5415 m). People in this area are mainly Buddhists, and the peak of this pass is marked by a chorten (a Tibetan variety of the stupa) and vividly coloured prayer flags. Below, five winter pictures from this area are shown.
Elsewhere you may read about chortens and prayer flags, see Religion: Buddhism.
Rays from the rising sun illuminate the snow-clad peak of Annapurna II (7,937 m), seen from the Upper Marsyangdi Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yaks, grazing in a snow-covered landscape, Jarsang Khola Valley. The pointed mountain is Khatung Kang (6,488 m). – The domestication of the yak is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
One morning, we found these partly melted pugmarks in the snow in the Jarsang Khola Valley, signifying that a snow leopard (Uncia uncia) had passed here the previous night. These large and elusive cats live in mountains of Central Asia, but have been hunted to extinction in many areas because of their rich and beautiful fur. In Buddhist areas of the Himalaya, hunting is banned, and in these areas this rare cat has safe havens, where it can prey on species like bharal (Pseudois nayaur), urial (Ovis vignei), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), and Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning sun, illuminating snow-covered mountains around the Thorung La Pass. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Eroded gullies near Thorung La. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The black Eurasian coot (Fulica atra) is a member of the large family Rallidae, comprising coots, gallinules, rails, crakes, and many others. As a breeding bird, it is widely distributed across Temperate Eurasia, eastwards to Japan, and in north-western Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, New Guinea, and Australia. Siberian populations are migratory, while African, Indian, Australian, and most European birds are resident. Very similar species are found in the Iberian Peninsula, Africa, the Americas, and Hawaii.
Coots, walking on the ice-covered Lake Hornborgasjön, Västergötland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In January 1999, I spent some days in and around Portland, Maine, United States – days of freezing temperatures and heavy wind. It was indeed a cold, but also very beautiful experience, as the following pictures show.
Frozen pond, surrounded by trees, covered in frozen rain, Cape Elizabeth. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Frozen rain on a paper birch (Betula papyrifera), Freeport. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Branches, covered in frozen rain, shining like silver under a Full Moon, Portland. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This snowman in Portland partly melted in the sunshine, causing it to tilt. However, during the night it froze again, assuming an unusual position. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium fontanum), of the campion family (Caryophyllaceae), is common in grassy areas and in fields in the major part of Europe, and it has also been introduced elsewhere.
Rime-covered leaves of common mouse-ear chickweed, central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In 2011, I participated in an expedition to the Chukotka Peninsula, north-eastern Siberia. Read about our adventures on this trip elsewhere, see Travel episodes – Siberia 2011: Caterpillar trip across Chukotka.
Our transportation in Chukotka took place in an old army caterpillar. In this picture, it is crossing a stream, bordered by snow walls. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Spring in Chukotka: Meltwater and snow walls along a stream. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the summer 1999, I joined a group of Scandinavians on a hike in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The following four pictures show impressions from this trip.
Glacier with patterns, created by deposited moraine, Yrdyk Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mountains, snow, and fog, Kaska Su Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Horse riders in a snow-covered landscape, Arashan Valley. – The domestication of the horse is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) has been covered in snow during the night, Kaska Su Valley. – Read about the medicinal usage of lady’s mantle on the page Traditional medicine. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This sign in the Lammartal Valley, Austria, says ‘Honey for sale’. Presumably, it was placed here in the summertime, but maybe there is still a few jars left? (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Barun Valley is an alpine valley, situated in Makalu-Barun National Park, which covers an area of c. 1,500 km2 in northern Nepal. To the west, this park borders Sagarmatha National Park, covering 1148 km2, to the north the huge Qomolangma Nature Preserve in Tibet, covering c. 35,000 km2, and to the south a buffer zone, covering 830 km2. Thus, the valley is situated in the heart of a very large protected area.
In spring 1991, together with Lars Nørgaard Hansen, I undertook a very interesting hike to this valley, related on the page Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: The rhododendron valley.
Below, four winter impressions from this trip are presented.
When huge hailstones suddenly began falling in the Arun Valley, we hurriedly sought shelter. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Our porters, struggling through snow and fog near the Shipton La Pass (4,216 m). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
On our way across this pass, we met another group of porters, heading the opposite way. Note that the woman is bare-footed. If she had been one of our porters, we would have bought her a pair of sneakers! Unfortunately, we did not have a spare pair to give her. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Frozen meltwater lakes and deposited moraine gravel on the Lower Barun Glacier, Barun Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The snow goose (Anser caerulescens) comes in two colour morphs, a snow-white phase, which has given this species its common name, and a bluish-grey phase, referred to as ‘blue goose’, which has given it the specific name caerulescens, meaning ‘bluish’.
The snow goose is a bird of the New World, breeding mainly in northern Canada and Alaska, with small populations in Greenland and north-eastern Siberia. It spends the winter along the Pacific coast, from southern British Columbia southwards, and also in southern United States and Mexico.
Snow goose, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
View from inside an ice cave in the Sierra Nevada, Parque Nacional Conguillio, Chile. The taller trees with white trunks are the national tree of Chile, pehuén (Araucaria araucana), in English called ‘monkey-puzzle tree’. This species is presented in detail on the page Travel episodes – Chile 2011: The white forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Poplars (Populus), covered in rime, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During a snowstorm below the Rohtang Pass (3,978 m), Himachal Pradesh, India, this roadside vendor continues roasting corn cobs, while his partner seeks shelter under a huge umbrella. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The snowy egret (Egretta thula) is named after its snow-white plumage. This small heron, which is very similar to the Old World little egret (E. garzetta), is found in South and Central America, and also in parts of North America, where some populations are migratory, wintering further south.
The generic name is from a French word, aigrette, meaning ‘little heron’. In 1782, the specific name, thula, was given to this bird by a mistake by Chilean Jesuit priest and naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina (1740-1829), who didn’t realize that in fact thula was the local Mapuduncun name for the black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus).
Snowy egret, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tombstones, partly covered by snow, in a Jewish cemetery in Copenhagen, Denmark. – More pictures of tombstones are presented on the page Culture: Graves. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rime-covered fence, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The snow bunting (Calcarius nivalis) is aptly named, as it breeds in the High Arctic, spending the winter in snowy fields and coastal meadows further south. Its plumage is also predominantly snow-white. This species has a northern circumpolar distribution, with isolated populations in northern Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Previously, the snow bunting, under the name Plectrophenax nivalis, was placed in the bunting family (Emberizidae), but recent DNA research has shown that it is in fact a species of longspur, which, together with the other longspurs, forms a distinct clade, now constituting a family of their own, Calcariidae.
Male snow bunting, taking off from a rusty pipe, Chukotka, Siberia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Beauty bush (Kolwitzia amabilis), covered in rime, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Tibetan snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus) is a large gamebird, which is rather common in drier areas of the High Himalaya. These birds are feeding near Tughla, Sagarmatha National Park, Khumbu, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pack ice, pushed ashore, eastern Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Early in spring 2009, I paid a visit to the Wumeng Shan Mountains, Guizhou Province, China. You may read more about this trip on the page Travel episodes – China 2009: Among black-necked cranes. – Below, four impressions from these mountains are presented.
Village and terraced fields in the Wumeng Shan Mountains, covered by a thin layer of newly fallen snow. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rime-covered needles and flower buds of a pine (Pinus), Wumeng Shan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rhododendron flowers, covered in rime, Wumeng Shan. – Many species of rhododendron are presented on the page Plants: Rhododendrons. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cracked sea ice in evening light, Mill Neck Creek, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snow wall, covering a mountain near Chhukung, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Avalanche, roaring down the Bethartoli Glacier, Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand, India. – Read about our adventures in this park on the page Travel episodes – India 1982: Pleasures of Nanda Devi. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In 1984, the mute swan (Cygnus olor) was elected the national bird of Denmark – an appropriate choice, as it is very common. This was not always the case. In the 1800s, swans were hunted in Denmark, and by 1920, only three or four pairs were breeding in the vicinity of Copenhagen. Swans were protected in 1926, and the mute swan soon began spreading across the country.
The winter is a hard time for these birds, and in severe weather conditions, many succumb to cold and starvation.
These mute swans are resting on the ice-covered Roskilde Fjord, Zealand, waiting for milder weather. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In these pictures, numerous mute swans are gathered around a crack in the sea ice, near the island of Møn. Some have already succumbed, while others are dying. The dark spots on the ice are excreta from the birds. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common mare’s tail (Hippuris vulgaris) is a striking plant, growing in shallow freshwater. It is distributed in northern Eurasia, south to the Himalaya, northern China, and Japan, in Greenland, and in northern and western North America, south to California, New Mexico, Illinois, and New England.
The generic name is from the Greek hippos (‘horse’) and oura (‘tail’), thus horsetail. In English, it is also sometimes called horsetail, although this name is usually reserved for species of the genus Equisetum. Previously, Hippuris was the only genus in the family Hippuridaceae, but has now been moved to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae).
Common mare’s tail is utilized in herbal medicine for treatment of wounds, stomach ulcers, and internal and external bleeding.
Rime on common mare’s tail, growing in an ice-covered pond, near Akureyri, northern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Drying socks, covered in rime, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snowfinches (Montifringilla) are a small genus of eight high-altitude passerines, mainly distributed in Central Asia. A single species, the white-winged snowfinch (M. nivalis), is found further west, through the Middle East to the Alps and the Pyrenees. Despite their name, snowfinches are not finches, but sparrows, of the family Passeridae.
This Tibetan, or black-winged, snowfinch (Montifringilla adamsi) is feeding on seeds, Nagarze, Tibet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During a hike in the Upper Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal, we were camping at Lhonak. In the morning, we woke up to a snow-covered landscape. – Read about my rather hair-raising experience in this valley on the page Travel episodes – Nepal 1994: A close call. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Frozen waterfall, Taglang La Pass (5,328 m), Ladakh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) is a parasitic member of the heath family (Ericaceae), which derives its nutrients from underground fungi. It is distributed from the Cascade Range of Oregon, south through montane areas of California to northern Baja California, Mexico.
American botanist, chemist, and physician John Torrey (1796-1873) found the colour of this plant so striking that he named it Sarcodes sanguinea, from the Greek sarkos (‘flesh’) and the Latin sanguis (‘blood’), thus ‘the blood-coloured fleshy one’. The common name refers to the early flowering of this species, which often appears, when snow is still covering the ground.
Snow plant, photographed in the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The large-flowered viburnum (Viburnum grandiflorum) is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, growing at altitudes between 2,700 and 3,700 m. This species is among the few high-altitude Himalayan trees, which bloom in winter and early spring.
The inflorescence of this large-flowered viburnum is covered in ice, which fell as snow the previous night, partly melted, and then froze. – Dodi Tal, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A snow-clad Salzburg, Austria, as of 1969, seen from the city’s great castle, Hohen Salzburg. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Evening sun on grass, covered in rime, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Freezing rain has left these catkins of goat willow (Salix caprea) inside an armour of ice, Ruda, Kalmar County, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As its name implies, the snow pigeon (Columba leuconota) lives in cold regions. This species is very common in higher mountains, from Afghanistan east to the Yunnan Province, China, and from the Himalaya north to the Qinghai Province, China.
In winter, snow pigeons gather in large flocks, as here in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snow pigeon, taking off from a rock, Namche Bazaar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In 1976, an area of 1,710 km2 in central Nepal, comprising the Langtang Valley, the Gosainkund Lakes, and the area north of these lakes, to the Tibetan border, was declared a national park, named Langtang National Park. Altitudinal variation in the park is tremendous, from 792 m above sea level along the Trisuli River, to the peak of the highest mountain of the area, Langtang Lirung (7245 m).
No less than five vegetation zones are represented in this park: subtropical, lower temperate, upper temperate, subalpine, and alpine, containing large tracts of forest, comprising species of oak (Quercus), maple (Acer), Rhododendron, Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), Himalayan silver fir (Abies spectabilis), Himalayan hemlock (Tsuga dumosa), blue pine (Pinus wallichiana), and others. These forests are home to several threatened animals, including snow leopard (Uncia uncia), red panda (Ailurus fulgens), and a gorgeous pheasant, the satyr tragopan (Tragopan satyra).
The Gosainkund Lakes, comprising altogether 54 lakes, are all sacred to Hindus. Every year, during Full Moon in July or August, thousands of devout pilgrims undertake the demanding hike to these lakes to have a cleansing bath in their icy waters. Orthodox Hindus wish to bathe in all 54 lakes.
Read about my adventures in this area on the pages Travel episodes – Nepal 2009: Across a snow-covered pass, and Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: Around sacred lakes of Shiva. Hinduism is dealt with in detail on the page Religion: Hinduism.
Morning light on Langtang Lirung (7245 m), the highest mountain in Langtang National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snow-covered mountains around Kyanjin Gompa, Upper Langtang Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Newly fallen snow partly covers a dwarf bamboo (top), and branches of a Himalayan silver fir (Abies spectabilis), Langtang National Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
My guide Tanka Bahadur Pantha enjoys a brief lull in a snow storm below the Laurebina La Pass (4609 m). The lake in the background is one of the sacred Gosainkund Lakes, Surya Kund. In the Hindu pantheon, Surya is the Sun God. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) is a native of North America, but has been introduced as an ornamental to many other parts of the world. Formerly, indigenous American tribes utilized the leaves as a poultice on cuts and other wounds. A mild extract of the bark was used in cases of coated tongue in children.
Snowberry was named after its snow-white berries. In this picture from Funen, Denmark, the tiny pink flowers of this species are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Forest walk with a pram, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Primroses (Primula) are ubiquitous in the Himalaya. Two winter pictures are shown below, and a number of other Himalayan species are presented on the page Plants – Mountain plants: Himalayan flora. Primroses from other parts of the world may be seen on the page Plants: Primroses.
Snow, falling the previous night, has partly buried these flowers of Primula irregularis, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This flower of Primula sessilis, encountered in the Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand, India, is partly covered in ice that fell the previous night as snow, which partly melted, and then froze. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This iceberg, partly covered in moraine, is stranded in a glacial lake, called Jökulsárlon, beneath the Vatnajökul Glacier, southern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Growth of red algae on ice, covering Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier, Washington, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Due to their floating, heart-shaped leaves, a group of plants of the genus Nymphoides, which belong to the bog-bean family (Menyanthaceae), are called floating hearts. One species, N. indica, is named Indian snowflake after its fringed flowers, which resemble snowflakes.
Indian snowflake, photographed in Lake Phewa Tal, Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snow, falling on poplar trees (Populus), Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tourists, visiting the glacier beneath Grossglockner (3798 m), the highest mountain in Austria. During the last fifty years, this glacier has been melting at an alarming rate. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The snow lion is a mythical creature of Central Asia, which, according to local belief, ranges over mountains and glaciers. It symbolizes strength, fearlessness, and joy.
The base of this chorten (Tibetan style Buddhist stupa) at Tharke Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal, is adorned with reliefs, depicting snow lions. – Read more about chortens on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This wall painting, depicting a snow lion, was observed in the Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet. – Read more about this temple on the page Travel episodes – Tibet 1987: Tibetan summer. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snow-covered mountains in morning sun, Isafjördur, northern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria issaea), sitting on newly fallen snow, Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common eider (Somateria mollissima) has an almost circumpolar distribution, found along Arctic coasts in Europe, eastern Siberia, and North America. It also breeds in some northern temperate areas.
Eiders in Jökulsárlon, a glacial lake with melting icebergs, which have broken off the Vatnajökul Glacier, southern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snowbells, of the genus Soldanella, comprising about 15 species, are found in montane areas of southern Europe, from the Pyrenees east to the Balkans. The common name snowbell refers to the early flowering of these plants, which often appear in depressions, shortly after the snow has melted. The generic name Soldanella is a diminutive of the Italian word soldo (‘coin’), thus ‘little coins’, referring to the leaf shape of most species of this genus.
Dwarf snowbell (Soldanella pusilla) is found in the Alps, the Carpathians, the Apennines, and in mountains of the Balkans. – A picture of alpine snowbell (S. alpina) may be seen on the page Travel episodes – Asia & Europe 1975: Long journey home.
An abundance of dwarf snowbell, growing in a depression near Hochtor, Grossglockner, Austria. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The rosebay willow-herb (Chamerion angustifolium) is a colonizer of disturbed areas, readily invading forests clearings and abandoned fields. An excellent example of its ability to completely take over newly abandoned fields can be studied on the page Vorsø on my mind: Expanding wilderness.
The stem of this rosebay willow-herb is covered in rime, bending it to the ground. – Nature reserve Vorsø, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded October 2017)
(Latest update February 2019)