A Hike on Ice

Today we took a walk.

Waking up before 7 AM, we were whisked away from the city into the dark countryside. As the sun slowly rises we are able to peak at our surroundings. Mountains pop up around the otherwise, generally flat landscape. Two hours later we arrived at our  destination, Mýrdalsjökull. Located in the south of Iceland, Mýrdalsjökull is Icelandic for “(the) mire valley glacier”. According to Wikipedia, the icecap of the glacier covers an active volcano called Katla, which usually erupts every 40-80 years. It is east of ice cap Eyjafjallajökull, which is famous for the trouble it caused in 2010, closing the airspace in many parts of Europe.

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When planning this trip to Iceland my mom gave me a list of possible day trips we could take. After reading the brief description, I chose the glacier walk and thought nothing more of it. When we arrived I was naive to the adventure ahead.

After exiting the bus, our tour guides handed us a rock climbing harness, ice axe, and crampons. Looking at the ice axe, I realized I had no idea how intense this hike was going to be. Once everyone had their equipment we set out for the glacier. About a 15 minute walk from the parking lot over rocky hills.

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As we walk the glacier appears, growing bigger and bigger as we advance. I am realizing that this hike is truly going to be a hike. Just before stepping on the ice we put on the crampons, learn how to walk on the glacier, and the guides explain that the ice axe is nothing more than a glorified walking stick and prop. Then away we go!

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Hike to the glacier
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Our first upclose view of the glacier

The glacier’s ice appears blue due to the light reflecting off it. This is also known as winter ice. The name is due to the fact that the ice only appears blue in the winter months while in summer it appears white. The color and clarity of the ice also varies depending on the amount of bubbles trapped within. The clearer areas are appear blue and allow a peak deeper into the glacier. The black sooty rocks are volcanic rocks as old as the ice. Carried down with the ice it is exposed when the ice melts. The rocks are partially responsible for the unique shapes and caverns of the glacier.

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We hiked up the glacier to the plateau on the top. The wind and rain pelting us on and off as we hiked. Looking back at where we had just hiked we had a breath taking view. The sun popped out and we could see all the way out to the ocean in the distance.

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View from the plateau

Farther up the plateau the guides had a surprise to show us. A natural archway formed due to the wind blowing. We were unable to go under it due to two huge fractures on the arch. The keystone piece could drop at any time which would cause the whole left side to collapse.

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After viewing the archway we started the hike back down. Walking down we had to make sure to stay in a single file line, following the guide down as not to step into a covered cavern. We walked past some huge caverns are deep as 60 meters. Once we reached the bottom we realized how tired we were. We had been hiking for almost three hours. Both my mom and I thoroughly enjoyed the hike and would highly recommend it to anyone.

On the way back to Reykjavík, as the sun was setting, we stopped at two beautiful water falls. First we visited the Skógafoss waterfall, one of the biggest in the country with a width of 15 meters and a drop of 60 meters. There is a stair case with 500 steps that leads to a viewing platform. The second waterfall we visited was Seljalandsfoss. The water comes from the Seljalands River, which has its origin in the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap. At night the water fall is lite up. Visitors are able to walk behind the waterfall if they don’t mind being showered with freezing mist. We opted out of this as we had been soaked though on/off rain fall during the hike on the glacier.

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Skógafoss Waterfall

After a cold ride home we both took hot showers (fun fact: all the water is heated using geothermal tech) Feeling warmed and refreshed we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at a highly recommended restaurant called Kol.

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Homemade Raspberry and Lemon Sorbet Dessert

The lesson learned from this experience is that as someone who is normally very Type A and on top of things, sometimes it is nice to try something with no knowledge or expectations of what is going to happen. I still can’t believe I hiked so high and for three hours straight. This will definitely be a highlight of the trip.

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