Longyearbreen glacier walk...
Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
15Trip End Jul 07, 2006
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Where I stayed
I checked in at Tromso's airport a good 6 hours before my 11.50pm flight in order to ensure that I got a window seat. The Lonely Planet describes the descent to Longyearbyen, the main settlement in Svalbard, as "otherworldly" provided the weather's clear. Unfortunately it was quite cloudy for me, but there were enough gaps to get an idea that the scenery was unbelievable, and my first glimpse of the archipelago left me open mouthed as the mountains were covered in snow, and there was a huge amount of ice in the sea.
Sometimes I can be a bit obsessive about checking the weather forecast, and I was a little disheartened when I saw that clouds and light rain were predicted for the entire duration of my stay
I actually slept through my alarm but luckily woke up at 8am, enough time to get some breakfast before departing on my first organised trip. The first thing I noticed was that the weather was indeed better, so I ate my cereals/toast/fruit/yogurt in good spirits, then waited outside to be picked up ready for my guided walk.
In Svalbard, there are more polar bears than humans, so it is a requirement that you carry a rifle outside of Longyearbyen. At this time of year, the risk is relatively small because the bears have followed the ice and are much more likely to be seen in the north. However, there had been recent sightings in the area, so it was much safer to do organised trips where the guide has the gun, and you can enjoy the scenery...
The first walk I'd booked was a trek up to the top of a local mountain, before returning to town vai the Longyearbreen glacier
It is predicted that the polar bear population is between 3000-5000 on Svalbard, which sounds a lot, but when you consider we're talking about land that roughly covers the same area as Ireland, it certainly puts the mind at ease...
The walk to the summit (550m) only took about an hour and a half, but it was quite steep to begin with and I got my feet wet whilst crossing a river! We walked by the side of the Lars glacier on the ascent before a short but steep climb in the snow, followed by an easy section that led us to the tip and a superb view out over Longyearbyen and the surrounding mountains. Here we stopped for a drink and biscuits, and of course I had my photograph taken with the gun, though I must say I'd hate to have had to use it.
As ever, the descent was more difficult because the snow was slippy and again it was steep, as we made our way towards the Longyearbreen glacier
We spent some time looking at the fossils at the bottom of the glacier which was interesting, and we all managed to find one small enough to fit in the hand luggage, before we completed the last stretch back towards town. As an added bonus, I saw a couple of reindeer up close for the first time after returning to the guesthouse, and I enjoyed watching them mooch around for a good 20 minutes.
It had been a nice start to my trip, and there was more to come on what was a really busy first day in Svalbard...