Exploring Glaciers in Iceland

Glacier hiking in Iceland is an adventurous and fun way to see this unusual country.

Throughout the tour, Helga shared out an endless array of facts and cultural information. As our tour bus drove past flat fields of frozen tundra and Icelandic ponies charging through the snow, she spouted more facts than I could possibly remember.

As we pulled up to the glacier, she let us know that Iceland as a whole is growing larger. In recent years, sea temperatures have risen, causing ice to melt, allowing Iceland to emerge further out of the sea. The road to Sólheimajökull is lengthened every year or two to accommodate the shrinking glacier and growing land mass.

Upon arrival to Sólheimajökull, our group of 30 split up into smaller groups of 10 as we prepared for our voyage. I stuck with Helga.

We suited into warm pants and parkas, strapped crampons to the bottom of our shoes, and held tight to the ice pick axe that would serve as a stabilizer in the event of a misstep. We wouldn’t need rope or harnesses as the area of glacier we were walking on didn’t require them.

Blue ice and volcanic ash mix on the Sólheimajökull glacier. Photo by Gina Kremer
Blue ice and volcanic ash mix on the Sólheimajökull glacier. Photo by Gina Kremer

The black volcanic pebbles below our feet quickly changed to crisp, clear ice tinted blue. Our crampons crunched heartily into the glacier beneath us, securing our footing.

The glacier was nothing like what I had imagined prior to my trip.

It was better.

Nature’s paintbrush is unparalleled to any other. The resulting grandeur before me was breathtaking and exhilarating.

In places, clear ice afforded a shallow view below. Dark volcanic ash swirled with white and blue ice, shaped majestically by sunlight and wind.

Ice patterns looked like mini moguls combined with upward sloping walls of ice sliced with sharp crevasses.

Glacial cauldrons, known to commoners as “hungry cauldrons,” dotted our path. Deceptive when filled with snow, glacial cauldrons can go anywhere from five feet to 500 feet deep. Helga cautiously steered us away from any missteps that could end in a potential cauldron feeding.

We climbed up, down, around and over Sólheimajökull, our faces smiling the entire way.

As we descended the glacier, Helga told us to turn around and take another look.

Easily overlooked at first glance, she pointed out what looked like small black peaks rising out of the glacier like horns.

These strange formations were know to the locals as “ice monsters,” and some locals got the heebeejeebies from what appeared to be eerie blue eyes glowing underneath devilish black horns.

In a country like Iceland, where elves, trolls and other mythical creatures are a staple of cultural folklore, this wasn’t surprising. Iceland was founded by Vikings, after all. For a country name that conjures icy spine-tingling shivers, Iceland makes up for its chilly image with a cast of colorful characters.

Continued on next page