The Ice in Iceland
from mid June 2009:
My fourth day on the road in Iceland was spent in the southern part of Skaftafell National Park. For most of this trip I was on my own, but on a couple of days I booked tours to see things I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, and this was the first of those occasions. First thing in the morning I headed out to the Main Headquarters of the park in Skaftafell, and booked a glacier walking tour up Svinafellsjökull, one of the small lobes of Vatnajökull. They gave us harnesses and crampons, we bundled up and hopped in a bus and we were on our way. After a short hike fromt he bus with a couple of small easy downclimbs we reached the lateral moraine where the guide service had carved steps to get up the side of the glacier. A quick course in walking on ice in crampons and then we headed up the glacier. I was hoping to see one of those big blue ice caves, but I was disappointed in this hope. The tour was very cool nevertheless. We walked up over endless ice ridges, around crevasses, drank fresh glacier water from runoff streams and generally had a great time.
After the glacier hike I continued east along the Ring highway. A little further along the road I stopped at Jökullsárlón, a big glacial lagoon. This large lake is of very recent origin and is filled with icebergs. It was a gorgeous sunny day by that point and the blue of the glacial ice was particularly vivid. I took an hour or so just to sit on the rocks by the side of the lake and soak up the warm sun, while I took pictures of the drifting cracking icebergs and of the many birds and seals that swam there.
After relaxing for a while with the icebergs I drove to my next guesthouse at Skálafell. This guest house is named for the glacier, Skálafellsjökull, which is a relatively short hike away. Since I arrived fairly early I headed out to do the 7 mile hike. The rocky ridges and valleys there are verdant, and the mosses, grasses and flowers covering the valley floors came in greens which were sometimes so bright they looked fake. I headed up over the peak of the intervening ridges and dropped down to the glacier side. I tried to follow the glacier down its end, but the lateral moraine was too much of a pain in the neck, so I circled back to my original path and followed the large cairns marking the route back to the guesthouse.
Anyhow, here are the pictures from my day on the ice: