The Arctic Circle: A hike from Lloyds Hotel to Lilliehöökbreen

Here is our trip log from Sunday, October 7:

Sunday 07.10 – Day 7

Lloyds Hotel – Lilliehöökbreen – North

-3/4°C Celsius, almost no wind in the morning, clear sky, beautiful sunrise. More wind in the evening going from WNW 2, to N 2-3 and later NW 4.

09:30 – Morning landing Lloyds hotel – Hike to Lilliehöökbreen.

11:15 – Anchor up Lloyds Hotel.

13:30 – Anchor down Lilliehöökbreen.

14:30 – Hikers back on board (Piet still smiling).

16:30 – Afternoon zodiac cruises Lilliehöökbreen.

19:00 – Going North.

Our leader, Sarah Gerats, kept this log for us throughout the trip… And October 7 was one of my favorite days. I woke that morning and, as happened most mornings, came out on deck to a view I’d never seen before.

If you take a close look at the middle of this picture — maybe click on it to make it bigger and more detailed — you might see an orange rectangle. This is a hut that’s been decorated and painted orange. It’s called Lloyds Hotel, and it is definitely the fanciest hut on Spitsbergen — though maybe more of a tourist destination then a destination for any anyone actually seeking shelter. You can read more about its history here.

We climbed aboard the zodiacs and crossed onto land to visit it.

I, for one, was less interested in the evidence of human activity inside the hut, and more interested in the COMPLETELY GINORMOUS polar bear prints outside the hut. They were fresh, for this was new snow.

This sight — evidence of a polar bear (or three or four) recently shuffling through — was quite common on our journey.

This time we got a special treat: evidence that it had lain down and rolled around :o)

I think it’s time to introduce you to our wonderful, kickass guides, who always knew how to read the prints in the snow. Emma, Sarah, Åshild, and Kristin were our guides and guards, our organizers, our friends, our helpers, and our protectors. Any time we went on land, they were there with rifles, ensuring our safety in the land of polar bears.They had so much to share about the landscape, the environment, the animals, the history. They were wonderful storytellers and guides! And of course, Nemo was very, um, helpful as well. :o)

After exploring Lloyd’s Hotel, we split into two groups. Some stayed put, working or enjoying the scenery, then returning to the ship. The rest of us set off on an 8km (5 mi) hike across the base of the fjord where we’d landed. See the little arrow I drew on the map below? That shows where we hiked, in this northwestern section of Spitsbergen.

Click here to check this out on Google Maps and see more details about where we were.

As we moved away from shore, we saw the Antigua sail off — abandoning us! Not really. The ship was circling the fjord to pick us up on the other side. Even knowing that, though, it was strange to see her go.

We hiked through spectacular terrain. Click on any of these to make them bigger and more focused.

The snow was pretty deep, but also very, very dry. It made for easier hiking than a snow-free terrain, for we were on a rocky moraine of loose stones much of the time. The snow evened out the terrain for us.

The sun was low behind us for the entire hike. If you see the sun in a picture, I’m looking back.

Our way was mostly flat, but every once in a while, we climbed a steep hill. The light was brilliant, everything white and blue! And lavender, pink, gray, if you looked closer.

At one point, Nemo was sorely tempted by this duck, who taunted him as he tried to walk out onto the thin ice and grab it. Sarah, Nemo’s person, could not get him to desist. So we all took a little break and enjoyed resting, eating snacks, and watching the show :o). (The duck was fine. The duck was in charge the whole time really.)

Our path skirted the frozen edges of two beautiful lakes, this one crossed with the tracks of an Arctic fox.

I included the picture below because in the foreground, you can see what I mean about the terrain of loose stones. It’s exactly the same backdrop as above, actually, but I’m standing at a higher point, so the sun is more visible.

Near the end of our hike, we climbed a steep ridge…

And there below us was another fjord, a glacier, and, waiting for us, the Antigua. Such a beautiful sight on a freezing day, after a long walk. I stood and stared, breathing fresh air, for a long time. As I watched, I heard her anchor fall — a familiar metallic clicking that was SO much louder on our ridge, echoing around the fjord, than it ever was from inside the ship.

And that was our hike from Lloyds Hotel to Lilliehöökbreen! If you’re curious about the place in the log where it says “Piet still smiling,” well, you may remember from a previous post that Piet was our chef. And we got home very late for lunch :o). But he fed us a delicious feast anyway.

I’ll post another adventure soon! Maybe those zodiac cruises mentioned in the log, or maybe an explanation of some of our exciting activities on deck.