Published May 10, 2015
Joining Troll Expeditions At Skaftafell For The Ultimate Glacier Hike
The sun is shining and the birds are chirping for our fated glacier hike in Iceland. Bumping down Highway 1 in Skaftafell, we’re on the way to the Falljökull glacier, where we’re ready to traverse the mountain with Troll Expeditions, with whom we’ll be taking on a 5 hour glacier hike—much longer than the 3 hour hikes you’ll find elsewhere in the country. Clutching our ice pick and crampons, we’re more than excited.
A shining glacier
Falljökull, located in Skaftafell, is the southern leg of the Vatnajökull glacier and contains Hvannadalshnjúkur, the highest mountain in the country. As we tumble out of the bus—which has the license plate “TRÖLL”—it glitters in the distance high above us. Though we won’t be reaching the peak today, we’ll be getting closer than everyone else on the mountain. Such is the benefit of having a long hike.
We’re blessed with good weather in Skaftafell, no doubt the best of the summer so far. Not a cloud in the sky threatens us and it’s so warm that we take off our layers and winter jackets for the expedition. Finally reaching the ice after a short hike, we strap on our crampons and gain our bearings as we practise walking in the spiky shoes.
The first leg of the glacier hike has but a small incline, which allows us to take in the breath-taking scenery. All around us lies a shiny sea of glistening white and blue ice and snow, and in the distance, massive 10 metre tall ice boulders. Eventually, I know, we’ll be climbing these steep hills. For now, though, we have the pleasure of admiring them. Though there are a few other groups scattered about the mountain, we’re more or less alone, which makes the trip feel that much more adventurous.
After an hour or so, the hike gets steeper and the adrenaline starts flowing. Our guide, Röggi, a fun-loving outdoorsman, stops us to carve out fresh steps in the hills with his ice pick and pauses in front of the large crevasses which pepper the mountain, picking the sturdiest route. During breathers, he entertains us with funny mountain picture poses, or enlightens us on the history of the region.
At one point, he teaches us how to climb vertically, which involves a lot of faith in your crampons as you must, more or less, stab the mountain with your toe. I try and find that, though it definitely tests my calf strength, it’s absolutely exhilarating.
Eventually, the incline gets harsher and we’re pushing our ice picks into the ground to keep us balanced as we climb up those ice boulders which previously seemed so far away. They surround us, jagged and beautiful, and as we galavant from one to the next, we climb higher and higher, much higher than I ever thought we’d get. With blood pumping hot through my veins, I push myself onto each peak and am rewarded constantly by the beauty of the region. It’s, without hyperbole, absolutely stunning.
As we reach our top point, I gaze down and realise I can’t even see where we started. The view is astounding, with white blinding us from both up and down. We’re truly in the dusty jagged badlands of the glacier now, and I’m half tempted to try and convince the others to take on Hvannadalshnjúkur as we eat our lunch. For now, though, I’ll just dream about it as I lie down on the ice and take in the sun. Tanning on a glacier hike in Iceland? Only with Troll Expeditions!
The ice palace
When it’s time to descend, Röggi brings us to an overhang in the ice, where we’re allowed to walk in, one at a time, and experience what it’s like to stand surrounded on all sides by glacier. While it’s not for the claustrophobic, it’s a once in a lifetime experience to crouch down surrounded by water that froze long before you were born—it’s something you’ll only find on a glacier hike in Iceland. The walls glow blue, swollen with ice that looks cushy and soft, and we take pictures—naturally—with cracking smiles on our faces.
Though it’s the longest ice hike in the country, we’re having so much fun we could have easily gone five more, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’m a little sad to have reached the bottom. As we walk back to the Troll bus, I stop to gaze back at the mountain and am once again blown away by the vision. I promise myself I’ll return.
So while trolls normally reside under mountains, Troll Expeditions took us on top of one on a jaw-dropping glacier hike up one of Iceland’s most famous glaciers in Skaftafell. It was an unbelievable day, and I can say, without hesitation, that I have joined #TeamTroll.