From Iceland — Stumbling Around Glaciers

Stumbling Around Glaciers

Published May 9, 2008

“Please be extremely careful when crossing the crevasses. They can be 20 metres deep. If you fall down I’ll have troubles getting you up again,” our guide, an experienced mountaineer, warned the group before leading us to the margin of Sólheimajökull glacier. Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier, extending from Mýrdalsjökull ice-cap on the south coast of Iceland. It’s eight kilometres long but like most glaciers, Sólheimajökull is retreating and the movement creates crevasses and ice-caves, beautiful but a little dangerous to explore.
The glacier is a popular destination for first-timers as examining its surface is usually an easy hike. We left Reykjavík in a calm weather but typical with Iceland’s unpredictability, the breeze had changed into a storm after the two-hour drive. All geared up with crampons on our feet and ice axes in our hands, we walked slowly up the icetongue with the wind beating us harshly. The storm grew with each step until it became almost impossible to stand still. I asked the guide if they ever took groups up in worse weather. “No, the limit is 16m/s” he replied. By now, it was more than 20m/s in the worst blows. Needless to say, we had a hard time standing on two feet. The wind literally lifted one girl only minutes after her mother had stepped one foot through a thin snow-bridge covering a crevasse. Luckily she didn’t fall down but both were pretty shaken after the incidents.
For me, battling Mother Nature while exploring ice-crystals and sculptures shaped by the moving glacier, made the hike much more fun. The storm had calmed down when we stopped near our starting point to admire an ice-cave, carved by the water melting from the glacier. The ice looked like shining marble and I asked if it was possible to go down and take a closer look. “Of course not”, was the answer I was expecting but not hoping for. The ice could easily collapse, the guide explained, leading to a certain disaster.
A group of tourists had now arrived on a bus, photographing the glacier and the cave. Little did they know about the troubles we’d been through for the past three hours. Although a bit exhausting, it was though definitely a much richer experience.
Tour provided by Reykjavík Excursions:
BSI Bus Terminal
101 Reykjavík
Tel.: +354 562 1011

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