The burnt orange rays of the sun’s morning fury glisten on the summit’s ragged edge.
Which is technically true, though that was 2am last night. Good morning, Longyearbyen! Let’s hike.
This should be an easier one. Just a long trek on a flat surface.
We walk straight from Longyearbyen.
Towards the mountains across the (unfrozen) fjord.
Up into the foothills, with a view into the river-carved valley.
It’s not so steep, but I’m learning that I’m not the world’s best hiker.
There are many relics of past mining expeditions in these hills.
And this thing. Ice Station Zebra.
Ice Station Zebra has a remarkable view across to the “big city”.
And a remarkable view of the bizarre, out-of-place airport.
But goodbye, Ice Station, we’re headed up.
Up there? Isn’t that a bit… steep?
“Keep back 10 meters from the one in front of you. It could avalanche if we are too close together.”
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.
After an absolutely gruelling climb, and almost surrendering twice, I catch up to the group at the top.
“Sorry, that was a lot steeper than it looked,” says the guide.
But the view is spectacular!
I don’t regret it.
The guide tells us not to slide down, as it is too dangerous. We slide down.
Some of the group doesn’t trust us, and try walking down.
Still up there… 20 minutes later.
We’re getting bored waiting.
Finally, they start making progress.
And eventually we’re all down.
It’s an easy, leisurely walk back down the foothills.
But the flat section is feeling pretty tough at this point.
Oh, how I wish we could walk straight across this fjord.
Eventually we make it back to town. Total time: about 7 hours.
The trip would have been much faster with a snowmobile. Maybe with a gun attached.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to beat any Arctic Terns with sticks.
I spend a bit of time in the town while the others rest.
There is a university. They teach Arctic Biology, Arctic Geology, and Arctic Other-ologies.
There is a statue of a driller drilling a drill.
There are colorful houses.
There is a half pipe.
There is a statue of a miner.
There is a steel polar bear.
There is a single store that sells all things.
Some things have probably been on the shelves since 1994.
And then it’s time to meet the others at Svalbar, for more Nøgne Ø!
A full half-liter of Kriek is nothing to be ashamed of.
I skip the Lamb Skank, and opt for a burger.
The crew socializes.
Next up: the only good Italian beer.
Then out into the streets, where we steal trash from a dumpster.
And we steal an axe from a box, a fire extinguisher from a snow pile, and wood from a scrap heap.
I am the axe man.
As I axe, Pontus and José move our trash pile to a more suitable place.
A suitable place for burning!
Axing is hard. José takes a turn.
And Pontus takes charge as the firemaster.
Not too bad.
But we have a LOT more wood.
More wood means more fire!
Ultimately, she gets pretty big.
But it’s after midnight, we need to get back to the pub, and the fire has to go.
You realize the sun doesn’t go down; it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ‘round.
In the pub, a crazy miner tells us crazy stories and sings joiks.
And buys us a round of drinks. Caipirinha for Pontus, beer for me.
Then we meet some local university students.
And a Swedish nature documentary film maker.
Pontus also takes their pictures.
And then Svalbard is over. In the morning, we go back to Earth. It is without incident.