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Operafjellet: Bassen

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Ope­raf­jel­let is a moun­tain with a pla­teau-shaped top east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, on the north side of Advent­da­len. The top pla­teau is about 2 kilo­me­tres wide and 900 metres high.

Ope­raf­jel­let beca­me tra­gi­cal­ly famous on 29 August 1996, when the lar­gest dis­as­ter hap­pen­ed that ever occu­red in Sval­bard on land. The crew of a Rus­si­an pla­ne lost ori­en­ta­ti­on in poor wea­ther con­di­ti­ons during the approach to Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port and col­li­ded with the steep eas­tern slo­pe of Ope­raf­jel­let, abo­ve Kos­lå­da­len. All 141 peop­le on board were immedia­te­ly dead: crew, workers and staff from Bar­ents­burg and Pyra­mi­den, some of them with their fami­lies. A litt­le memo­ri­al site at the foot of Ope­raf­jel­let, near Kos­lå­da­len, is dedi­ca­ted to the com­me­mo­ra­ti­on of the vic­tim of this air­p­lai­ne crash.

As any ope­ra, the „ope­ra moun­tain“ has got several divi­si­ons: The various parts of the moun­tain are named Teno­ren („the tenor“), Diri­gen­ten („the con­duc­tor“), Alten („the alto“) and Bas­sen („the bass“).

Ope­raf­jel­let pan­ora­ma 1: upper Ugle­da­len

I shot the­se pan­ora­mas during a tour in May 2019. The idea was to climb Bas­sen, the lar­gest and hig­hest pla­teau on Ope­raf­jel­let, from the north side, so we fol­lo­wed Ugle­da­len („the owl val­ley“) to its hig­her reaches. The slo­pes are steep, so be awa­re of the avalan­che risk! You can see Lon­gye­ar­by­en while being sur­roun­ded by stun­nin­gly beau­ti­ful sce­ne­ry and, most likely, com­ple­te silence other than the noi­se that you make yourself.

Ope­raf­jel­let pan­ora­ma 2: Bet­ween Alten and Bas­sen

But, alas, to no avail – the ascent that we had envi­sa­ged tur­ned out to be too steep. It was the ridge on the north side of Bas­sen. But in case of a floe avalan­che, it would have been a free flight down eit­her side of the ridge, a risk that we were clear­ly not hap­py to accept. And I have to admit that I was about to call it a day – Bas­sen would still be the­re on a later occa­si­on – but Kris­ti­na was still high­ly moti­va­ted so we went for ano­t­her approach des­pi­te the advan­cing time of day (or, rather, night).

This time, we approa­ched Bas­sen from the west, try­ing the ridge bet­ween Teno­ren and Bas­sen. This ridge is also qui­te steep, but wit­hin rea­son (you may obvious­ly have a dif­fe­rent jud­ge­ment, depend on various fac­tors inclu­ding wea­ther, sur­face con­di­ti­ons and your per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces and abi­li­ties). During the ascent, we were next to the famous „cham­pa­gne glass“, an eye-catching snow field with a very con­spi­cuous shape of – sur­pri­se – a cham­pa­gne glass once the sur­roun­ding snow has disap­peared. Every year, the local news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten announ­ces a com­pe­ti­ti­on: you can guess when the base is bro­ken. This is usual­ly the case in late July, when the thin­nest part of the snow field, the con­nec­tion bet­ween the cup and the foot, is gone.

champagne glass Operafjellet

The “cham­pa­gne glass” on Ope­raf­jel­let (mid July), seen from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Expe­ri­en­ced ski­ers use the cham­pa­gne glass or the sur­roun­ding slo­pes for fast descents from Ope­raf­jel­let!

Ope­raf­jel­let pan­ora­ma 3: Bas­sen – the ice cap

On the top pla­teau of Bas­sen, the hig­hest part of Ope­raf­jel­let, the­re is a small ice cap with the clas­si­cal hour-glass shape. It is not exact­ly an eye-cat­cher most of the year, when the who­le pla­teau is snow-cove­r­ed, as it is then just a gent­le ele­va­ti­on wit­hin the snow sur­face. The hig­hest part of Ope­raf­jel­let, 960 metres abo­ve sea level, is on the nort­hern side of this ice cap. The view from here? Mind­blowing!

Ope­raf­jel­let pan­ora­ma 4: Bas­sen – view over Advent­da­len

Up to here, we had done qui­te a few kilo­me­tres (con­si­de­ring our detour in Ugle­da­len) and we had been out for many hours, but as you are up on Bas­sen, you shouldn’t miss the view from the sou­the­as­tern cor­ner of the pla­teau. You can see all of the migh­ty Advent­da­len and its sur­roun­dings, cen­tral Nor­dens­kiöld Land, and that is defi­ni­te­ly worth the effort!

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last modification: 2019-12-03 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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