We have made many snow mobile tours to Tempelfjord over the years. The one where I took the photos below followed the “classic” route, starting in Adventdalen and then to Sassendalen. Both are amongst Spitsbergen’s largest ice-free valleys. Difficult terrain in the summer, with wide and often wet tundra areas and big rivers, but mostly easy terrain in the winter, when it is a frequently-used route for snow mobile tours to Tempelfjord and possibly beyond (Pyramiden or, for locals, further north) or to the east coast. The density of motorised traffic is indeed impressive on days in high season (late March to early May), especially on weekends, but it is and remains a huge wilderness and you will still find you silent spots if you are flexible and know your way around a little bit. There is also a huge area south of Adventdalen from which snow mobile traffic is banned in March and April to give non-motorised outdoor lovers a big, wild, beautiful and silent playground. You have to know the rules, the boundary is not marked in the field.
Tempelfjord is stunningly beautiful. The fjord ice is not as reliable anymore as it used to be in the past (climate change, maybe you have heard about it before). The ice was good and solid in 2013 in Tempelfjord (and elsewhere). In 2014, there was hardly any nice and it was also mixed at best in following years. 2018 was, however, a good ice season again in the fjords, but the Sysselmannen decided to ban motorised traffic largely from the fjord ice in Tempelfjord (and Billefjord and Rindersbukta) from mid-April to late May to make sure Ringed seals and Polar bears are not disturbed from traffic during this time of years, which is important for both species for different reasons (the seals give birth on the fjord ice and Polar bears are hunting to gain reserves).
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
Back to our tour in 2013. So, we followed the “classical” route, starting in Longyearbyen, where the Trappers Trail dog sled race happened at the same time. There were plenty of seals on the ice in Tempelfjord! Mainly ringed seals. Chances to see a polar bear are certainly good under such conditions, but we didn’t see one that day (we saw them on other occasions – click here for a blog entry with a stunning encounter).
In 2013, the sailing boat Noorderlicht used to be frozen in the ice in Tempelfjord, the famous “ship in the ice”. They don’t do that anymore, as the ice conditions have simply not been reliable enough in subsequent years.
The glacier front of Tunabreen at the end of Tempelfjord is the scenic highlight of the tour, and a stop at Fredheim, the famous hut of the legendary trapper Hilmar Nøis, is a pleasant little pilgrimage of local history. There are very interesting options for little excursions here and there to add even more flavour, for example up to the little mountain Fjordnibba for the stunning view, the canyon-like valley of Brattlidalen and the waterfall Eskerfossen, which is obviously frozen during the winter. We did not do these excursions on that day in April 2013, but during other trips, so the links will open pages with panoramic images from those places.