Iceland: Glacier Hiking on Sólheimajökull Glacier & Skógafoss waterfall
“Take a journey through a frozen maze of towering ice formations, jagged ridges, and deep blue crevasses!”
Probably one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had. It is truly remarkable and something not everyone has experienced, it is simply breathtaking.
We booked a full day tour from Reykjavik, Iceland with Arctic Adventures. This was a must do on our trip to Iceland, as it gives you the opportunity to hike the incredible Sólheimajökull Glacier with an option to do some ice climbing as well. On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped off at Skógafoss waterfall, which was also impressive.
Our prep before the hike
The day we did our glacier hike was typical Icelandic weather, overcast with drizzly rain! It is important to have the correct clothing and footwear for this tour. We hired crampons and ice cleats which is a must for your footwear, as well as waterproof pants to ensure we were well equipped for the day. I am so glad we did!
Arrival at Sólheimajökull Glacier
We arrived at the base of the Glacier and you can’t help but notice the incredible blue glacier ahead of us. Despite the overcast conditions, it still looked beautiful, something out of a movie even.
To put it into perspective, the Glacier is about 8km long and 1-2 km wide. What shocked us is that around 20 years ago, the glacier covered the car park we were standing in… It is so sad to see the glacier receding like it is. Both Jenna and I felt extremely privileged to be able to climb the glacier, thinking that one day it won’t exist anymore…
It is here we start to get prepared for the hike ahead. We were each given our crampons as well as an ice axe, which as you will read further down, comes in very handy for ice climbing! We then started our walk towards the tip of the glacier tongue. It was here, we were shown how to wear the crampons correctly and some techniques on how to walk over the glacier, as well as the ice axe so you don’t accidentally swing it into your fellow hikers.
We were then off!
The Glacier Hike
Not as simple as it might seem. It is very important to follow your guide and listen to them very carefully. Hiking over a glacier can be extremely dangerous, and the ice can be forever changing and crevasses can be hidden by a thin layer of snow. What was even more scary is when we came across a moulin. This is basically when surface water flows down the glacier and if you take a wrong step, you could go down hundreds of meters. So listen to your guide when they say to walk in single file and be guided on where you can and can’t walk.
The Glacier is covered in black volcanic ash, from a distance it looks dirty but when you’re up close you can see it is black volcanic ash. It’s pretty impressive.
All of a sudden, the climb on the glacier was getting a little more steep! Time to practice our crampon technique to get up safely. Coming down is a different story, this is when the ice axe comes in handy as you put the axe behind you, bend your knees a little bit and lean backwards and walk down slowly. Sounds simple, right? Ha!
It was a fairly calm process getting to the summit of the glacier. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard work and despite the temperatures being around 0 degrees Celsius, we worked up a bit of a sweat, but this didn’t last long. The moment you stop, the chill factor sets in!
The view however, makes it all worth it. It was breathtaking.
Take a look at our video covering the glacier hike and our final stop at Skógafoss waterfall.
Then the fun really kicks in. It was time for Ice Climbing and of course I was the first to volunteer to go up.
We watched Sarah, our guide set everything up for the climb, ensuring the ropes and everything were tied down correctly.
I was ready to get climbing, but we had a little bit of time to kill so we enjoyed exploring around the blue ice. It really is spectacular.
It looks easy when you’re watching someone else, but let me tell you it was quite hard work! This is why you have to wear the right shoes… you need to kick your shoes, with the crampons attached, until they stick into the ice, you then do the other foot and also use your ice axe to secure your spot… However, to get the ice axe in, you have to hit around 3 – 6 times (depending on your aim and strength) in the same spot to secure your axe. This isn’t that easy! Once you’re up, you continue to do this until you’re at the top.
Take a look at our short video of my ice climbing!
When it came to Jenna’s turn, she got about half way before retiring and coming back down. The thing that got Jenna was the burning sensation in her forearms from having to hold the axes (they aren’t that light), trying to secure them in the ice, bracing yourself and then pulling yourself up for the next step is a decent workout!
It was the most amazing fun and if we had time, I would have loved to have climb up again!
On our way back down to the base of the glacier, we came across an ice cave! It was so cool to see, so we each took turns (only 2 people at a time could fit) to head down to see what it was like. The ice caves are formed from flowing melted glacier water and they surprisingly can go quite deep into the ice.
We continued back down to the base of the glacier, where we took off our crampons and continued back to the carpark.
On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped in at the Skógafoss. It was such a spectacular waterfall! It is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, spanning 25m wide and a drop of 60m… just incredible. I have been told that if you visit on a sunny day, because of the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, you can see a single or a double rainbow!
The whole day was incredible, from start to finish. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and always happy to answer any questions we had.
“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro