A trip over three days in early May to Billefjord and Pyramiden. Billefjord is, in my opinion, amongst the most scenic parts of Spitsbergen; the mountains there have character, you will recognize them on any photo. And Nordenskiöldbreen is a very impressive glacier. An evening walk in beautiful weather over the fast ice near the ice cliff of this glacier is something that you just can’t beat.
But have a look at the images and panoramas. What do you think?
spitsbergen pyramiden (gallery)
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
The wide, beautiful Gipsdalen is part of the usual winter route from Longyearbyen to the north, that is to Pyramiden or to Wijdefjord or to northeastern Spitsbergen: Newtontoppen, Atomfjella or Verlegenhuken.
Urmstonfjellet is towering high above its icy surroundings south of upper Nordenskiöldbreen. This is the amazing view from its northeastern corner. In the west, you can see Billefjord and, if you look carefully, the Russian settlement Pyramiden. The huge glacier Nordenskiöldbreen is dominating much of the scenery. In the east, it leads up to the ice cap Lomonossovfonna.
The impressive calving cliff of Nordenskiöldbreen in early May.
As so many of its kind, Nordenskiöldbreen has retreated in recent years and thus some small, rocky islets came out under the ice – again, as they had been ice-free before and were covered by the glacier during an advance. The rocks are amongst the oldest known in Spitsbergen.
This area in central Pyramiden was a meadow of grasses from Siberia, where only children and reindeer were allowed to roam until the settlement was abandoned in 1998. The sign of the mining company and of course Lenin are amongst Pyramiden’s most popular photo objects. The Lenin bust is probably the northernmost one of its kind, unless there is another one somewhere in those few parts of the Russian arctic which are even further north. I have been to the old station on Rudolf Island in northern Franz Josef Land and I haven’t seen any Lenin there. Let me know if you know of any Lenin further north.
The entrance hall of the culture house behind the Lenin statue.
The sports hall is also part of this sovjet-style culture house.
One of several rooms on the second floor of the culture house.
The swimming hall is in a separate building not far from the culture house, next to the open air sports arena “Gagarin”.
Large room on the second floor of a house between hotel and culture house.
A large building with accommodation for miners. Today, it is only inhabitated by Kittywakes that nest in the window frames, making a lot of noise. You can also see hotel Tulipan (tulip).
Bar and restaurant of Hotel Tulipan, not long after the re-opening of the hotel in spring 2013. Not a bad place to spend some time: the service was surprisingly good and the food rich, but Russian style: don’t be surprised about chicken and rice for breakfast. The prices remind, however, of western capitalism, Longyearbyen-style.
Room in hotel Tulipan. Every room has its own toilet. But the shower is somewhere else and costs 50 NOK extra.
Frozen lake between Ragnarbreen and its moraine.
Hørbyebreen northwest of Petuniabukta. The mountains there are amongst the most beautiful ones in Spitsbergen, including the ciant stone spider Tarantellen. Geologically, the area is also very interesting: the Billefjorden Fault Zone, an important set of now inactive geological „cracks“, is well visible there. Hørbyebreen is in winter part of the route to Pyramiden, in summer it is a possible trekking route to Ålandsvatnet and Austfjord.
The increasingly strong spring sun has melted, or rather vaporized, much of the snow here in lower Ebbadalen on the east side of Petuniabukta, giving way to a desert-like impression of spring in the arctic.
A unique bit of scenery in inner Ebbadalen, where a waterfall is frozen solid in winter. Wide areas of mirror-like ice cover the valley floor between moraine hills and glacier-polished rock slopes.
Something you can’t beat either is the charme of the Russian former mining settlement of Pyramiden, which was abandoned in 1998! The recently re-opened hotel Tulipan is surprisingly comfortable, at least if you bring enough cash – Lenin is not far and he keeps a watchful eye on everything, but he couldn’t stop the introduction of capitalism in the Russian settlements in Spitsbergen any better than in mainland Russia.
And we couldn’t have imagined a more friendly farewell from Billefjord than with the Bearded seal near Brucebyen. Just if anyone is wondering: Bearded seals are often not afraid of people, as long as you are calm and avoid sudden movements and noise. In the end, we were just a few metres from the seal, but it was by no means annoyed or disturbed. It was still lying peacefully next to its water hole when we were already far away again.