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Ice climbing on the Solheimajjokull Glacier is definitely one of the hardest yet exhilarating things we did in Iceland. If you love adventure as much as we do, you definitely need to try it!
Left, right, ice sticks in; left, right, feet up. Forceful arm strides followed by small, heavy steps. It sounded easy enough. But once I got on that vertiginous wall of ice, it was clearly not the case. The chunky ice cliff stood at a humble height of approximately 8 meters, but getting up there was no easy feat.
“Find pockets of ice for support,” Our guide, Røbert Halldorsson, advised. I had no clue what a pocket of ice meant, but I plummeted my ice axes into a patch of greyish ice anyway and pushed my body upwards with all my strength. On the glazed ice, my feet could barely find their bearings and I slipped and fell, away from the ice wall. Thank goodness for the harness – I ended up hanging mid-air, in the safe hands of Røbert.
My Virgin Ice-Climbing Experience
Just this morning, I was on the Sólheimajökull Glacier in Southwestern Iceland, trying my hands at ice-climbing. My first attempt and it was a complete failure; at least I overcame the rush of pounding nerves and got myself mid-way up the wall. I can’t really be blamed for the mediocre performance though (excuses, excuses..), we’d been only been given a quick 5-minute briefing on walking with crampons and ice sticks before hiking up to the glacier and taking the plunge on an ice-cliff. Along with a group of hikers from Netherlands, my husband and I were here to seek out some fun on ice and this was proving to be one hell of an adventure.
No Man’s Land
Our journey had started with a two-hour drive from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, weaving through green craggy cliffs, rugged tundra terrain and tumbling waterfalls. Leaving civilization behind, we felt like we’d also entered a different planet and time. Having just returned from an amazing trip in the Arctic, I missed its raw wilderness, untouched nature and the lack of human presence; Iceland was my antidote: a no man’s land blessed with striking, awe-inspiring landscapes and a rich, intriguing history, but easy-to-reach corners and creature comforts.
Back on the glacier, we continued to explore the giant cauldrons, ridges, waterways and deep crevasses scattered along the slopes of the glacier. This Sólheimajökull is one of the many glacier tongues that extend out from the Mýrdalsjókull icecap. Fringed by coats of black volcanic sand, the bluish-white chunks of ice lie above Volcano Katla, which was formed thousands of years ago. The glacier was as grey and bleak as the rainy skies, but the artful assemblage looked all the more haunting.
As we stood on the top of the glacier, we took in a fantastic panorama of the surrounding ice, valley and ocean. “This glacier didn’t used to look the same, it has been retreating over the past few years. In the 1900s, it stretched as far as the ocean, which is a few kilometers away. As recent as the year 2000, the glacier reached where the car park is, a good few hundred meters of where it lies today.” The sad truth is disheartening; while I wonder how much time this glacier has left, I hope there will still be a few more generations after us who’ll get to enjoy its beauty before it’s gone forever…
My self-drive trip in Iceland and this Blue Ice Glacial Hike was hosted by Discover the World. All opinions expressed above are my own. Check out what I’ll be doing in Iceland, and read more about my adventures in Iceland here or follow my updates on Facebook and Twitter.