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Iceland Day Seven – Skaftafell to Vik

Although it’s summer in Iceland, there are still parts of the country that are frozen solid. Today we explored the Breidamerkurjokull glacier with Iceland’s Glacier Guides outdoor school.

We woke up at the Skaftafell campground to a light mist in the air, and after packing up our huge tent and getting the car ready to roll, went over to the Glacier Guides hut to check in.

Our trip with Glacier Guides started with getting fitted for harnesses, crampons, and helmets at the hut, and then we all took a short drive over to the base of the glacier.

The Breidamerkurjokull Glacier comes down from the top of the 742 meter high Breidamerkurfjall mountain It spills down the mountain in a dramatic icefall onto the gigantic, flat Breidamerkursandur, which runs all the way out to the southern Icelandic coast. Our hike on the glacier took about four hours.

Hiking up the feet of the glacier was a great way to get the blood flowing in the morning, and we made quick time from the car pull-off to the base of the ice. The initial hike across the terminal moraine field actually took quite some time – in recent years, the glacier has been retreating, so each trip that visits the glacier must walk across more and more rocks to catch up with the retreating ice.

Once on the ice, we began the crampon’d hike up to the ice fall. We passed by large groups of moss-covered rocks, and a science monitoring station for them. Apparently, this is the only place in the world where this kind of moss grows on rocks that are being rolled slowly down the glacier, leaving perfectly round moss balls everywhere. Otherworldly.

As we made our way up the glacier, we eventually got to the steep icefalls, where huge chunks of ice loomed over us, and waterfalls of glacial melt streamed down. We went about half way up the ice fall, and then broke for lunch before turning back.

On the hike down, we learned about the massive flooding that occurred in the 70’s when the volcano erupted under the glacier, melting huge portions of it and sending a torrent of water out on the sandur. From our vantage point on the glacier, we could see way out onto the sandur, and could see how far out the flooding had gone.

After the hike, we hopped back in the car and cruised on to Vik.

In Vik, we hit up the info center, and then had a good meal at the attached cafe. Vik is in Southwest Iceland, and is one of the towns that was affected by the heavy ash fallout from the recent Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruptuon. Walking around town, there’s still thick layers of ask in the gutters and fields. However, most of the roads and stores are ash-free, after a major cleanup effort by the town.

From there, we drove out to the Reynisdrangur sea stacks, which rise out of the water just off the coast. The highest stack is 66 meters tall, and we got a great view of it from the Reynisfjall cliffs just down the road. Also notable was the black sand beach, closed in by a wall of basalt colums at the eastern end.

Finally, we took a dip in the hot pot at the local swimming pool, and then checked in to our accomodations for the night.

Tonight we’re staying out by the beach, at a hotel that’s made of about 8 white shipping containers. It’s quite strange to drive out on the sandur through farm country, and see emerge out of the fog a geometric collection of new, white shipping containers. Inside, they’re very clean and new, and furnished exclusively by Ikea. Sitting here writing this, I feel like I can look around and see Ikea pricetags float in the air, much like in Fight Club.

Tomorrow we’re looking forward to an early morning drive back to Reykjavik, and then an full day of exploring the sights of the famous Golden Circle.

2 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi – Can you provide more details regarding your accomodations near Skaftafell or how I can get in contact with them? Thanks!

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