Over 11% of Iceland is covered in glaciers. What exactly is a glacier? “A slowly moving mass or river of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains or near the poles.” So basically it has to be moving, otherwise it’s just an ice field which I heard are more prevalent in Canada.
Another fun fact… Iceland has no mountains, just valleys carved out by glaciers and volcanoes. The biggest glacier is Vatnajökull; however, that was on the other side of the country so we didn’t get to see it. =(. However, only two hours from Reykjavík you find the Eyjafjallajökull massif (6th largest glacier), and just a little further east the Sólheimajökull glacier, a tongue extends down from its mother glacier, Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest. This is also the same area that caused all traffic control disruptions and chaos due to volcanic ash. The icecap of Mýrdalsjökull is an active cranky volcano called Katla that tends to erupt whenever nearby siblings erupt. Volcanologists are continuing to monitor Katla, aware that any eruption from Katla following an eruption from Eyjafjallajökull has historically occurred within months of the latter and she is way overdue. How scary!
What I think we hiked was the Sólheimajökull glacier and the dark dirt you use is actually volcanic ash. However, our guide told us that due to recent rainstorms what we were seeing is the cleanest this glacier has been in decades.
We started by learning how to put on crampons and getting an ice axe. We learned how to walk with crampons, like a cowboy of course. And as you can tell in the photo I am literally wearing everything I brought with me because I heard these hikes are cold and windy and cold.
We started by hiking up the glacier, where I started to get terribly over heated. Of course with my luck the one day I was dressed in preparation it was relatively warm and sunny!
Our hike group was relatively huge with over 20 people so there was a lot of waiting and chilling involved.
We learned to avoid walking on any snow because what lies beneath might be….
well deep deep hole.
In some places where the snow melted, you could see what fate could await you.
Then we did some more walking with our overly large group.
Glacier water is some of the freshest and tastiest you could drink. Tony and I both took a taste, although I think he’s also secretly practicing his downward dog.
Then there was more waiting and slow slow walking so I amused myself with some modeling
Then the more interesting part of the hike started up. We walked into one of the glacier’s crevices I have a short attention span of an adrenaline junky so just standing was making me impatient.
Which was followed by a crawl into a glacier cave
Good thing Tony and I are small because that cave had a lot of small and tight places we crawled through.
I looked pretty happy in this photo right? Yea that was before Tony pushed me into the puddle in front of me. As I mentioned before we had a large group and I had 5 people in front and like 10 people behind me blocking my exit which suddenly made me claustrophobic and I had to get out
One of the many beautiful views I had in the glacier. The blue tint of the ice is more visible in the winter than summer I think due to the cold.
Me looking slightly less excited after taking a swim in the ice cave pool. Also walking like a cowboy isn’t pleasant when you’ve been wanting to pee for the past 4 hours. If only us ladies had it as easy as men.
Our hike was with Iceland Mountain Guides and I’m not sure if I would recommend them. The guides were wonderful but what our hike lacked was actual hiking. I would have liked if our 4 hours included some more walking around instead of standing. I’m not sure if it was because our group was so huge (20 people of various age and fitness level is a lot) or the short hours of sunlight but I feel like I could have handled something more challenging. To be fair, the hike was marked as easy and I’m not sure if anything more challenging is available during the winter and within proximity to Reykjavik.
None the less when asked what my favorite part of Iceland was, I would say the glacier hike. Despite the lack of a challenge, there is something beautiful and amazing about being on a glacier covered in volcanic ash surrounded by valleys and snow-capped volcanoes.