Walking the Glaciers of Iceland

When the opportunity to hike on a glacier while carrying an ice axe presents itself, I am a definite YES. You see, I think of myself as an adventurous person. Now, I don’t downhill ski (too fast), I don’t scuba dive (because sharks), and I don’t bungee jump, rock climb, or parachute either (too barfy, too hard and too high). But in my mind, I am really adventurous. IMG_5983

So when Bob suggested we take a glacier hiking tour in Iceland, I knew it was right up my alley. It sounded simply like adventurous walking to me, and I am a champion walker. When we arrived at the Sólheimajökull glacier, about 2 ½ hours outside of Reykjavík, the first thing we did was don disaster prevention equipment, including helmets, crampons, and safety harnesses. We also picked out our ice axes. Adventurous, right? We then started our walk to the glacier, where we saw first hand how glaciers form, and sadly how they melt. Side note – the Sólheimajökull glacier is currently melting at about the size of an Olympic swimming pool every year.

We learned why glaciers look blue and how crevasses are formed. We walked on stairs carved out of the ice, IMG_5941and we looked totally bad ass in our helmets, crampons and harnesses, while carrying our ice axes. We never needed our harnesses, except when our guide let us hang (slightly) over the edge of a deep crevasse while she held us with rope tied to our harness. And we never needed our ice axes either, as our guide made sure we stayed on thick and solid enough ice that we were never in danger of falling through. I did use my axe as a walking stick a couple of times, because even with crampons, there were times that the ice was a little slippery, and it was great to have the ice axe to help with balance.

Our tour group was just Bob and me, one other couple, and our sweet Icelandic tour guide. We saw a few groups on the glacier that day, all with 15+ people in their hiking tour. I’m glad ours was small, and that our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable too.

This was the perfect tour for me. It could have been a little longer, and perhaps a little more adventurous, but it started snowing after we had been on the glacier for about two hours, and one thing I don’t like in my super adventurous life is to be cold, so I think it worked out perfectly.

Notes:

• Our glacier hike tour was booked through Icelandic Mountain Guides. It included stops at two waterfalls and a “secret” hot spring, the Secret Lagoon geothermal pool in Fludir. No food was included on the tour, but we did stop at a Traveler’s Gas Station/Rest Stop/Grocery Store, where we picked up some expensive sandwiches, chips and drinks. Most things in Iceland are expensive though, so we were prepared.

• Our guide did all the driving, and let me tell you, on our way back to Reykjavík, she drove through a significant blizzard, in the dark. I was glad she was the driver, instead of Bob or I.

• A glacier hike is not for everyone. There is a fair amount of rugged hiking involved, and if balance is a challenge, the ice can be a little slippery, even with crampons.

• We were gone a full day, from 8am to 9pm. The cost of the tour was $330 each. 

• There are many other tour options with Icelandic Mountain Guides, and of course, other guide operators as well. One could tour ice caves (but I’m a little claustrophobic), kayak around glaciers (but motion sickness), and even ice climb (which just sounds hard). I’m certain it’s very obvious to you that glacier walking/hiking was just the right speed for this adventurous gal. 

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