Nature & Environment Feb 17, 2017

Czech on Ice: First Glacier Hike

Guest post by Jolana Rumanová

Finally! I have been in Iceland for exactly one week and this is the first morning that the sun tickled my face while getting up. And it could not be better. Today, I am going to explore one of the most characteristic features of Iceland – a glacier. I’m excited not only because it will be the first glacier hike of my life, but also because I will finally see what is the true object of Asgard Beyond, an Icelandic mountain guiding agency I decided to spend my internship with.

One of our guides, Raggi, picks me up at my Reykjavík flat with a company van. This time, customers don’t travel with us and we will instead meet them at Sólheimajökull glacier after a two hour car ride.

On our way, Raggi tells me a lot about the breathtaking south coast we are passing through. We see a power plant, which brings energy and hot water to Reykjavík. On the left horizon, we see Hekla with its sharp silhouette; on the right are the Westman-islands, which seem to form the shape of a crocodile emerging from Atlantic Ocean. Dozens of waterfalls are washing steep slopes of mountains formed from volcanic ash. What a dream landscape!

There aren’t many cars or buses at the parking lot close to the glacier because most other tourist companies tend to come much later in the day. An Israeli family with two children is waiting for us. They have a young daughter, Naama, who is eager to get the journey started. Raggi starts explaining the plan, and everyone receives waterproof boots, crampons, ice axes, helmets and sit harness.

After a short walk to the edge of the glacier, our guide explains to us step by step how to put the crampons on. “You must spread your feet to the width of your shoulders so as not to tangle the crampons together while walking,” Raggi explains and demonstrates while we all imitate him, looking like a penguin family.

After a few more pieces of advice, we finally start to walk up at the glacier. Every few minutes we stop and Raggi tells us more about what a glacier actually is. As an inexperienced girl from the Czech Republic, I could never imagine that a big mound of ice could be so fascinating!

Even though you can’t spot any animals here, omnipresent streams of water make the glacier a very lively place. Sometimes, water digs all the way down to the soil, creating up to 100m-deep “moulins.” Volcanic ash on the other side creates sharp “pyramids” by preventing the ice under it from melting as quickly as the surrounding ice. During the three hour-long sunny walk, we get to see all these formations, drink from a glacier stream and give our hands special treatment with mud combing. “You would pay around 100 euro for this in a tourist shop,” smiles Raggi.

As we get off the glacier and fight with our crampons again pulling them off, Naama evaluates the trip openly: “I will not forget this day for whole my life! Thank you very very very much!” Same as her, I am highly surprised how a day spent at a glacier can be educational and fun at the same time. I hope to come again to this ice paradise!

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