When you imagine the definition of frigidity, what comes to mind?
Snow? Blue ice? Whistling wind across a flat, white plain? Frozen bodies of water? An aching face?
Combine all of those together, add in a set of crampons, and you’ve got Sólheimajökull.
Located near Skogar in the south of Iceland, Sólheimajökull is perhaps one of the easiest glaciers to approach and experience. No surprise, then, that tons of tour companies offer glacier walks and experiences on and around the glacier. Despite loving adventure, we decided for forgo the glacier walk, itself – after a week hunched against the cold in a foreign country, we correctly assumed that we’d be a little too tired to scale a glacier 😉
The Boyfriend Perspective: I still kind of wish we had, though. Scale the glacier, guys. I bet you won’t regret it.
Instead, we opted for a tour that brought us to the foot of the glacier and back. Honestly, neither of us regrets the choice. The scenery, alone, was nothing short of astounding, ESPECIALLY for a Florida girl and a Virginia boy!
By the time we arrived at the Sólheimajökull site, we’d already gotten an idea of just how brutally windy the South Coast could be. Just spend a little time atop Skogafoss, and you’ll know what we mean! (I had also eaten a tad too much gluten the night before – blame the delicious bread! – and had spent the entire morning wondering when I might finally toss cookies).
When the bus pulled up, our guide encouraged us to put our crampons back on, and we soon figured out why – the parking lot was almost a solid sheet of ice. Our group cautiously made it up to the prefabbed base camp, at which point our guide turned us loose in the direction of the glacier.
Thankfully, the snow was only a few inches deep, so the walk was fairly easy – unless you hit an uneven spot and ended up up to your knee on one leg!
Looking around, you feel completely hemmed in on both sides by mountains and snow and lava rock, and a glacial lake stretches out in front of you.
The Boyfriend Perspective: I could have spent hours here. It felt impossible to take photos that actually did this place justice.
After just under a mile of hiking, you’ll pass by the lake (stopping for pictures, duh) and finally approach Sólheimajökull.
The Boyfriend Perspective: The walk up to the glacier is actually more memorable than the glacier, itself. Though, it was cool to see the teams of hikers at the base of the glacier with their neon harnesses, helmets, and industrial crampons. Being a climber, you definitely recognize some of the safety practices. And, being climber, it makes you really want to try ice climbing!
If you can ignore all the shouting and action, you’ll see your first hint that this is no ordinary hill: blue, snow-covered ice. Being from the Mid-Atlantic, neither of us has ever seen ice that thick in our lives. You can walk right up to it and touch it, if you want. It’s also fascinating to photograph all the ways the ice has fractured and been shaped by its many shifts and melts. One of the folks in our group swore that black and white would be the best way to capture the glacier ice – so take that as you will.
We stood around for awhile, enjoying the views and the experience, before heading back to the base camp for snacks and bio breaks. The best part of the hike back was that we had the option to take a different, albeit less safe route.
This alternate path was higher along the side of our previous route, rather than taking advantage of the flat plain in front of the glacier. It included more rocks, icy spots, and was significantly narrower. If you ever have any doubts, WEAR YOUR CRAMPONS 🙂
The Boyfriend Perspective: Meagan’s a little over-cautious sometimes. Were the crampons useful? Yes. But I ended up doing this walk in tennis shoes and crampons and I had no trouble. So.
While we might not do a full tour of the South Coast again, I think we’d definitely be game to go toe-to-toe with another glacier. Maybe this time we’ll actually scale it!
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Also published on Medium.