day 2: glacier trekking@solheimajokull

Á þunnum ís allir hafa sama styrk. “on thin ice everybody has the same strength.”
day 2, oct 30 – 2012: reykjavik downtown hostel.

the weather was clear and slightly chilly.

after breakfast, a guide from a local tour agency came to pick us up for our glacier tour. the sun was still not out yet and we were both still in sleepy mode.

it was a 2+ hour drive to the myrdalsjokull ice cap. this glacier is east of  the eyjafjallajökull ice cap. it’s famous for housing the volcano that erupted in 2010 which disrupted most flights in and out of iceland.

the guide informed us on the way up that the weather forecast had predicted some headwinds later on in the day but that the trek was still do-able, subject to the weather.

3 hours later, and we found ourselves all geared up with crampons and ice-picks, making our trek up myrsdalsjokull’s longest glacial snout, the solheimajokull.

i was, however, not prepared mentally or physically for this trek. 10 minutes into the thing and i realised i was out of breath and panting because this tropical girl wasn’t used to the thin air. to make things worse, i also wasn’t getting my footing right on the ice. at that point, i had to stop, take a break and was ready to call it quits. it also didn’t help that the guide and the rest of the group seemed to be covering a helluva lot of ground at breakneck pace either and were breezing their way up the steep slopes. luckily my travelling companion tried to keep my spirits up by encouraging me to keep going.

minutes later, our ‘lovely’ trekking guide realised we had been left behind and came looking for us. when i explained that i needed to quit this trek, he said we couldn’t go back the way we came as this being a glacier and all, the path going up and down wasn’t the same.

in short, he was trying to tell me ‘tough luck kid! you’re trekking this baby no matter what.’ well, talk about being between a rock and a hard place – and a glacier! :S

so, without having much of a choice, i mustered my wit and courage and continued the trek but at my own pace, always keeping the group, who was always ahead of me, in my line of sight.

i was still a bit annoyed at the guide for not slowing down to accommodate my need for a more leisurely pace but i knew i had to get over it and just keep focusing on my next step and the next and the next….

[above] at the end of our glacier trek at base camp, enjoying the view of myrdalsjokull

eventually we got to base camp and boy, was i relieved. at the top, life was good. the group took a 15-minute breather while eagerly snapping pictures of our surroundings, just revelling in the beauty and majesty of the solheimajokull but what came next, i don’t think anyone in the group was ready for.

headwinds.

gusty, gale-like headwinds – endless bouts of them, assaulting us from the north at 50m/s, catching us all unaware.

it lashed at us ferociously as we made our way down south but with our backs turned north, the trek going down felt like someone was constantly shoving us from behind. it was scary trying to keep calm and carry on in a dire situation as this, trying to find a way to not get blown off the glacier or into one of its never ending fissures. *that would suck since your body might only get re-discovered like, what, 50 years later?!

anyway, to counter the headwinds and its effects, i positioned my body diagonally in a southwesterly direction when making my way down.ci found that positioning my body diagonally to the winds helped me to stay more grounded on the ice than if i was to just turn my back fully against it.

and if the winds got too much, i just bent down and plunged my ice-axe into the glacier for support. it probably wasn’t the right way to brave the winds but thankfully, i just followed my survival instincts and it worked. (hey, i’m still here writing this blog, aren’t i? :D)

when the worst was over, our guide, along with another guide and her group had to carve a new path to get us all back down again. it then took us about another 30 minutes to finish our trek and boy, was i glad to be back in the van again, in one piece.

what an adventure it was! i did dread the trek for the most part but there were bits I did enjoy but i don’t think i would do it again unless i am able to do it at my own pace and better prepared physically.

*icelandic people believe that whatever is given to a glacier will be returned by it, somewhere, somehow.

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