When I visited Iceland I was booked to do a glacier walk but the weather refused to cooperate and my trip was cancelled. The disappointment is still bothering me. Iceland is the perfect destination for a mountain glacier walking experience, whether you are a mountaineer or not.
I have walked across a glacier before several times. In my homeland of New Zealand the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on New Zealand’s west coast are highly accessible on foot or by helicopter. But New Zealand is a long expensive flight away whereas Iceland is only a few hours by plane.
The world of a glacier is like nowhere you’ve ever imagined. Huge seracs gleam white with blue hearts. Bottomless crevasses plunge away between them. It is a beautiful world of ice sculpted by nature.
Nothing prepares you for the sound of the creaking, groaning ice as the glacier slowly, slowly moves. It is getting up close to one of the most awesome forces on earth.
I haven’t done any mountaineering for awhile now, thanks to something that came along called motherhood. Breastfeeding, toilet training, nursery and school don’t leave much opportunity for grand outdoors adventures.
But my time is coming again. Last summer I did my first big hiking trip in years – walking the Tour du Mt Blanc circuit. That trip just gave me a taste of what it is like to be in the mountains again.
Hiking is great but I want to rediscover the thrill of trekking across icefields and summiting peaks. And when I do my hiking holiday in Iceland, glacier trekking will be a big part of the plan.
Probably the easiest glacier walk in Iceland is on the Solheimajokul Glacier. This was where I was supposed to go on my ill-fated trip. It’s only a couple of hours drive from Rejkjavik and is an outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, which is one of the biggest in Iceland. At Solheimajokul you can go on a safe and easy exploration of this ice giant.
Photo: Iceland Tourism
Further west in the Skaftafell National Park the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue is part of the massive Vatnajökull Glacier and a great place for some more ambitious glacier walking. Time to break out the crampons! In between the Hvannadalshnukur and Hrutsfjall mountains there are some incredible ice formations to be explored.
The hard core option is a six-day trek from the Snæfellsjökull Glacier to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, via the Gullfoss Waterfall, the lava fields of Landmannalaugar, the summits of Mt Brennisteinsalda, Hekla and Hvannadalshnúkur (Iceland’s highest).
Snæfellsjökull Glacier Walk Iceland Photo by Margret Adamsdottir under the creative commons license
What do you need for a glacier walk? For an easy glacier walk all you need is warm clothing, rainproof clothing, hiking boots, food and water. Crampons and ice axes can usually be hired and sometimes guiding companies provide special glacier walking boots with sprigs or mini spikes already attached to the sole of the boot. For more difficult glacier walking you will need ropes and other safety equipment, as well as skills and experience – or a qualified mountain guide (Iceland has a number of excellent guiding companies).
It’s going to happen. And then this will be me, again:
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you ever done a glacier hike?