Glacier Base Nordenskiöld Glacier - Adolfbukta, Spitsbergen

Overview (larger image: click map).
Surroundings (click on map for larger image). Yellow: Glacier Cabin. Green: Glacier Camp. Red: Pyramiden settlement (left margin). Light blue: typical transfer boat route from/to Longyearbyen (ca. 60 km).
Sun breaking through the clouds.
Glacier Cabin seen from west against Nordenskiöld Glacier.


Spectacular Wilderness Camp at Glacier Front

Hardly any other touristic base in Spitsbergen is situated more spectacularly: just a few hundred metres from the impressive ice face of the Nordenskiöld Glacier, sheltered between ice-polished rock formations.

Glacier Camp: Since 2001, Spitsbergen Tours runs here the Glacier Camp with its spacious tents during summers (details further down) .

Glacier Cabin: In 2008, the glacier cabin project, initiated by Andreas Umbreit, won the tough competition for one of the very few licenses for a touristic cabin, which was finished in 2010 about 200 m south of the Glacier Camp - the only touristic cabin which is licensed and easy to reach also for summer use. At the same time, its location on the north side of the Nordenskiöld glacier is the only place all over central Spitsbergen, where such a cabin is legally possible so close to a glacier front (all other glacier fronts here are in national parks). The Glacier Cabin is typically used for special arrangements and can be booked only complete, long in advance and with guide. Individual travellers not interested in paying the whole cabin, should look into the Glacier Camp possibilities. Details regarding the cabin: further down.

 

See the detail informations on this page (scroll down):
• Possibilities around the Glacier Base
• Seasons, access, communication
• Description Glacier Cabin
• Description Glacier Camp
• Programs including the Glacier Base
• FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Possibilities around the Glacier Base

Clear main attraction is the nearby Nordenskiöld Glacier with its ice shapes and colours and the thunder of original calvings and icebergs drifting away. Both as an overwhelming icefront panorama from the cabin or at close range during excursions right onto the ice.
But the neighbourhood offers also a number of other interesting hikes, mountain accesses and ski tours. Great scenic view over the fjord branches and mountains from the ascent to Wordiekammen or DeGeerfjellet or the inland ice panorama with few higher peaks seen from McCabefjellet (990m) or Flemmingfjellet (1125m) as longer day tours, a very varied and more damanding 1-2 days circular tour via neighbouring Ebbadalen. Fortet in contrast is a fairly easy beach hike with a final ascent to the top (265m) - not very high, but great view and spectacular rock erosion sculptures.
For interesting details, you don´t have to go far: the multitude of rock and ice formations next to the camp invite to repeated small strolls just for looking and seeing and taking pictures, also for details: the moraine is full of a remarkably wide range of different rocks in lots of colours (some even with small garnets or fossils) and thousands of years of scrapping by ice has created polished rock surfaces, inviting also for having a picnic next to the glacier front, hoping for a sudden calving. Even overcast weather has its plusses: then, the bluish green of the ice is at its best.

The russian ghost town of Öffnet einen internen Link im aktuellen Fenster Pyramiden can be reached in a long day hike from the Glacier Base (22 km, very limited altitude differences, but two major river crossings, passing also the Öffnet einen internen Link im aktuellen Fenster Petunia Camp of Spitsbergen Tours). To the north and east, the partly heavily glaciated inland regions of Ny Friesland (with the two highest peaks: Newtontoppen 1713m and Perriertoppen 1712m), Olav V Land, Andree Land and northern Dickson Land invite to more demanding and advanced multi-day trekkings or skiing tours. The remoteness of these areas and the physical demands of exploring them keeps visitor numbers down in a natural way.

Geologically and geomorphologically,  the area right around the Glacier Base offers a lot - easily visible already by the striking variety of rocks (colours, type, age) in the surrounding moraine deposits, including also some fossils and garnets, as they originate from proterozoic to permian times, thus covering hundreds of millions of years. Also esthetically appealing ice-polished rock shapes, a wide variety of features of young moraines, an active glacier front, attractive rock erosion structures - the area is a great introduction into arctic geosciences (and therefore also popular for scientific studies). 

Flora and Fauna: Near the glacier, plants are just about to conquer sparsely the fresh moraines with some pioneer species like the iconic polar poppy or some saxifrages, while a bit further west, denser and more varied tundra vegetation covers the lower slopes.
While polar bears are a more unusual sight in summer (nevertheless requiring safety procedures to be followed), seals (often curiously coming close to the shore) are a more common sight and often, also polar foxes pay an inquisitive visit (no feeding - even if tempting !). Right in front of the glacier, swarms of seabirds (typically kittiwakes and fulmars, plus some glaucous gulls, guillemots) look for food and on land, one meets occasionally ptarmigans, ivory gulls, snow buntings and waders.

 

Season, Access, Communications:

The area around the Glacier Base offers exciting activity possibilities throughout most of the year and the cabin itself is suitable and licensed for use at any time - but for parts of the year, accessibility is the issue.
During the main snow melt, usually mid-May to mid-June, excursions might be limited or harsh due to terrain conditions (melting snow, meltwater, unsecure ice). On the lower part of Nordenskiöld Glacier, the winter snow melts gradually away in the course of July - accordingly, longer hikes on the glacier ice as one of the main attractions, seeing its shapes and colours and also possible crevasses, are more likely from end of July onwards. On the other hand, July is the warmest month, with still very high midnight sun and maximal birdlife in front of the glacier. August and September are the best months for hikes in the area, including also  the higher peaks with less snow also further up. October is good for light - including also moon and northern light. For the late summer and autumn, see additional information paragraph further down. 

Access: Often, the main limitation for using the Glacier Cabin is accessibility.
The easiest way is by boat, which is easiest possible from early July (when the fjord ice usually has just disappeared) to late September. To a more limited extent, boat transport is also still possible in October.
For early November into late winter (mostly polar night or very short days), transport can be a problem, both regarding available licensed boats and increasing ice cover on parts of the fjord.
In spring, the cabin becomes accessible again by dog sledge (a several days tour in each direction with tent nights) or snowmobile (day tour), though depending on the ice development on the fjords, which varies considerably from year to year. Usually, access is possible at least from March to early May. Spring is the peak season of the whole year in Spitsbergen - accordingly, the cabin is requested for group arrangements and should be booked very early in advance (recommendation: more than a year ahead).
Touristic use of aircraft is forbidden.

Spare time: Due to the remoteness and transfers depending on the actual conditions set by nature, transfers may have to be altered. Accordingly, programs including the Glacier Base should have 1, preferrably 2 spare days to balance possible program changes.

The Glacier Camp is offered only for the summer season (regular: July, August - special arrangements: also possible with the tent camp in September).

The Glacier Cabin is constructionwise suitable for use at any time of the year. As outlined above, utilisation depends mainly on accessibility. So in practice, the typical periods are late March to early May and July to late September. October also being still possible.t baulich für ganzjährige Nutzung geeignet. Die tatsächliche Nutzung hängt jedoch von den oben genannten Zugangsverhältnissen ab. In der Praxis sind die gängigsten Nutzungsperioden daher Ende März bis Anfang Mai, sowie Juli bis Ende September. For the traditional peak seasons in Spitsbergen (late March to early May, July) the cabin is mostly reserved already fairly long in advance, mainly for smaller special groups, so booking more than a year ahead is not uncommon.
One of the most attractive periods especially at the Glacier Cabin is late summer and autumn - see next section.

Communications: inspite of the long distance to the few repeater stations in Spitsbergen, there are several terrain positions in a perimeter of 200 m around the Glacier Base, from which cellphone (GSM) contact is possible with the rest of the world.

 

The Glacier Camp (one of the sleeping tents in the low right corner) is situated about 150 m east of the Glacier Cabin, more towards the glacier. in the background mount Pyramid above Pyramiden, about 10 km distance. Click on images for enlarged versions !
On the fine sand and gravel of the widened stream bed, the tents stand flat and dry. Depending on group size, the number of set up tents will vary - here 2 base tents fro a small group.
Great, windstill weather: breakfast is moved spontaneously onto the polished rocks above the camp, with close and direct view into the near glacier front, hoping for a spectacular calving.

The Glacier Camp

Vis-a-vis the Glacier Cabin on the east side of the glacier stream, 150m from the cabin and thereby even closer to the glacier front, and about 150 m from the landing beach, the summer Glacier Camp is set up with its tents in a widened part of the stream bed on sandy ground, partly surrounded and sheltered by ice-polished rock formations. Until about 1975, this location was still hidden under the ice of the big Nordenskiöld glacier, while today, its ice front rises some 400 m further east. 

Seasonal camp: The Glacier Camp is usually installed with the first group around July 7th, when the fjord ice normally has just disappeared, making the site accessible by boat. For safety reasons (storm, polar bears), the camp is taken down by each group leaving, and set up again by each group arriving. Normally, the camp is in use over July and August, but can be continued into September for special arrangements.
Climate in this place is fairly mild, with no frost (also at "night") from early July to after middle of August. The first groups in July may still have some old snow on the glaciers and more water in the terrain, but high midnight sun. August (and September are best for longer hikes and also more extended excursions onto the glacier, which is then free of old snow in its lower part. Later August is great also with its more varied light, as the sun is setting then briefly at night, and light frost has to be expected by then during nights, but normally well into September not deeper than -5 C.

Equipment, camp life: Spacious cotton tents (conic shape, middle height 2.6m, ground diameter 4-5m) are used, which provide good space inside even with 4 persons in a tent and the natural fabric lets humidity pass through easily without much condensation problems, even when cooking inside. The number of tents will be adapted to the number of persons staying in the camp at a time - for a small special arrangement (example: couple with guide), maybe only 2 tents will be set up. Also provided are foam insulation mats (taken by participants to the camp and back again to Longyearbyen) and on request also low foldable beds (stretch type, ca. 60cm wide), plus a foldable seat per person. For cooking, normally red spirit stoves (Trangia storm kitchen) are used, which are extremely easy to handle and most reliable. Meals are simple, but ample. Washing at the stream near the camp. Participants bring along their own cutlery and camping dishes (plastic better than metal).
All camp chores are shared (cooking, washing up, setting up and taking down the camp, loading/unloading the boat, etc.).
Polar bear safety: during nighths, the preferred safety procedure is night watch in shifts with all participants joining in (gun stays with the guide). For groups with less than 5 persons (including guide), a tripwire alarm can be an alternative. Participants stay near an armed guide at any time.

 

 

.

The Glacier Cabin - twice from ...
... west with Nordenskiöld Glacier.
From northeast, depicted from the glacier stream bed ...
... and from east, ice-polished rocks in the foreground.
Landing at the cabin beach.
Building site between neighbouring rocks.
View from cabin entrance.
Panorama window to the east and the glacier.
Spacious main room and kitchen.
Second floor with the sleeping ...
... rooms under the roof.
Einfach-praktische Sanitäranlagen.

The Glacier Cabin

Attention: for group arrangements only, which book the complete cabin. Travellers interested in joining a program at the Glacier Base without reserving the complete cabin for themselves, should look into the possibilities of the Glacier Camp.

The cabin is laying well hidden and integrated between ice-polished rocks in the northen side moraine of the mighty Nordenskiöld Glacier, only about 500-600 m away from the current glacier calving front into the bay. Only by 1970, the glacier ice retreated from the location of the cabin and the effects of the ice are visible all around: ice-polished rock surfaces, left behind boulders, a colourful mix of most different stones in the young moraine material. Normal access to the cabin from the beach over the pebbles of a glacier stream bed - about 200 m from the landing place to the entrance door.

Based on the restrictions for commercial tourism cabins in Spitsbergen, the cabin has a size of about 70 m² with full height on the ground floor, plus the the lower second floor with most of the sleeping rooms under the roof (standing height only in parts of each sleeping room). The heart of the cabin is the main room with wood-fired oven and kitchen: here, everybody sits together, meals are prepared and eaten - with panoramic windows to near ice front of the glacier.
All in all, there are 6 sleeping rooms, mostly with 2 beds (bunk or separate), one is a triple (double bed plus upper bed), one has a queen size double bed, mostly in the upper floor. Furthermore: one toilet (separate containers for faeces and urine collection) and two small washing rooms (water has to be taken from the kitchen).
Illumination with paraffine lamps when needed (most of the season permanent natural light). A limited electricity supply can be arranged on extra agreement.
Terraces to East and West allow a sunny rest both in the morning and evening.
Within a perimeter of 200m from the cabin, GSM cellphone connection is usually possible from some positions in the terrain.

Polar bear safety: Contrary to the tent camps, no night watch or tripwire alarm is needed for groups based in the Glacier Cabin during nights. Outside the cabin, participants have to stay with an armed guide at any time.

Booking: Only for groups who book the complete cabin (10 places + guides), very early booking (10-12 months in advance) recommended.

 

Construction

Due to the remote location and the strict conservation regulations, the construction of the cabin had to be done without any big machinery: no trucks, excavators, cranes could be used. Except of an electricity generator for circular hand saws, etc., all work had to be done by hand: excavation for the foundations in September 2008, and in 2009 the unloading of the transport boats. A complicated layout with 5 corners had to be chosen to integrate and partly hide the cabin in a gap between two rocks. All this caused the cabin construction to be a demanding and costly job at norwegian price levels - but now, the reward is a unique place for the guests.

Images:
Enlarge most pictures on www.terrapolaris.com by clicking on them.

Most of the pictures show the cabin still unpainted to make it recognizable. In the meantine, it has received a colour disguising it even more in the terrain to minimize also its optical impact.

 

 

Late Summer and Autumn - special Light:
Utilizing the phantastic light and the glacier ice free of old snow as a highly attractive period also for photographers. The mix of glacier, ice and rock formations, mountains and fjord, ever new in the changing light provides an endless flow of new impressions to be absorbed and maybe depicted. Remember, by the way: never is the ice more strikingly greenish-blue than under an overcast sky - so from a photographer´s point of view, not only the sunny days count. From late August onwards, the sun will set under the horizon increasingly for some hours at night, adding sunsets, sunrises and hours of increasing and decreasing dawn as further light variations. With increasing darkness during the short night hours, moonlight over glacier, fjord and mountains becomes an additional feature and from mid-September onwards, there are chances also for northern light (aurora borealis) on a clear sky. This is a chance to see Spitsbergen in a new way, different to the masses of images from the peak seasons.
And, quite simply, this is a charming period, full of natural, authentic romance, far away from the crowd.

.

 

Programs including the Glacier Base:

Please observe: some links may lead to pages or documents not available in English, yet. You can try an automatic translation (for instance with the Google translation function) of these pages to English. Gradually, they will become available in English, too.

Summer 2012:

Longyearbyen and Glacier Base 
(8 days - as N+A version from NOK 9900, as N+C version from NOK 13500)
Initiates file downloadDetail program Settlements and Glacier Base 2012 (PDF, 12 pages, ca. 2,6 MB)

Longyearbyen, Pyramiden, Glacier Base 
(11 days - ass N+A version from NOK 14600, ass N+C version from NOK 19900)
Initiates file downloadDetail program Settlements and Glacier Base 2012 (PDF, 12 pages, ca. 2,6 MB)

Billefjord Trekking
(10 days - Longyearbyen, Pyramiden, Glacier Base)
Opens internal link in current windowDescription Billefjord Trekking 2012 (Variety A)

Billefjord Trekking and Birdcliff (17 days - Longyearbyen, Pyramiden, Glacier Base, Birdcliff Camp)
Opens internal link in current windowDescription Billefjord Trekking 2012 (Variety B)

Billefjord Trekking and PointedPeaks Camp
(17 days - Longyearbyen, Pyramiden, Glacier Base, PointedPeaks Camp)
Opens internal link in current windowDescription Billefjord Trekking 2012 (Variety C)

Inland Crossing to Wijdefjord
Demanding 18-days trekking tour with final stay in Glacier Base.
Opens internal link in current windowShort description

Glacier Cabin Spitsbergen
3-8 days as supplementary program. With our local tour operator part Spitsbergen Tours, we are able to offer exciting supplementary arrangements for cruises, etc. in Spitsbergen.
Öffnet einen internen Link im aktuellen Fenster Description in the Excursions program of Spitsbergen Tours

Special arrangements on request
Within the frame of official regulations for the utilisation of the Glacier Base, Spitsbergen Tours makes individually curtailed special arrangements possible. For the Glacier Cabin, arrangments using the complete cabin or just parts of its capacity, are possible from the turn July/August to late September or even October. The program has to be led and accompanied by a guide of Spitsbergen Tours. Change of user groups in the cabin is usually on Saturdays or Tuesday/Wednesday, allowing stays of half or full weeks.
Please address your specified wishes to us: info@terrapolaris.com

 

Spring 2013:

Due to high interest, it is advisable to contact us already now if you are interested in a Glacier Cabin special arrangement for the spring season 2013

Summer 2013:

Regular 2013 programs not finalized, yet. For special arrangements in 2013, it is advisable to contact us preferrably about a year in advance.

 

FAQ - frequently asked questions:

  • Is it possible to rent just the cabin - without program and guide provided by a local tour operator ?  No - this is explicitly forbidden in the official regulations for commercial tourism cabins in Spitsbergen.
  • Can a tour operator not based in Spitsbergen rent the glacier cabin for programs without a local partner ? Again - no. Activities connected to the Glacier Cabins have to be organised and run by a local company and its guides, but a cooperation with non-local companies is possible.
  • Can the Glacier Cabin be used for motorized programs ? No - a precondition for the permission for this cabin was that it will not increase motorized traffic into the areas north of it. Access by boat and snowmobile is OK, also to and from Pyramiden, but no cabin-based motorized activities to the areas further northwest, north and east..



Last Modification: 04.03.2014