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July 18, 2013 / Jim Fenton

Iceland Day 4: Glacier Walk

July 4, 2013

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Today our planned activity was a glacier walk scheduled for noon. After a classic European-style breakfast, we stopped by two waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Seljalandsfoss has enough space under it that there is a trail allowing one to walk behind the waterfall. It is a popular tourist stop;  several tour buses were there but fortunately it was not too crowded. Skógafoss was a very high but more conventional waterfall with a trail and many steps allowing us to hike up to the top.

At 11:30 we arrived for our glacier walk. We were each fitted for a climbing belt (to be used in case we needed to be rescued), crampons, and a helmet. Five of us were on the tour: the three in our family, plus a couple from Minnesota. We were accompanied by our tour leader, Thomas, and his assistant.

On the glacier

On the glacier

The walk was fun and very informative. We learned a lot about how much the glacier has receded and how quickly it changes. Black conical formations on the glacier actually start as holes that fill up with dirt, which then protects the ice underneath from melting while all of the surrounding ice does melt, leaving a conical shape made of ice but covered in dirt.  The glacier is very close to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that disrupted air traffic with Europe in 2010. As a result, there is both glacial dirt (scraped from the canyon the glacier occupies) and ash on the glacier.

Thomas also gave us a sampling of the legends about this and other nearby glaciers and volcanoes.  It was fun sorting out where the facts end and the legend begins. Overall, the glacier walk was a great experience, marred only by the intermittent rain.

Following a quick lunch at the cafe at the base of the glacier, we resumed our drive, over somewhat desolate terrain from old lava fields. We stopped briefly near Vík at a bird sanctuary, but it was interesting mostly from a geological point of view as it was raining and the birds seem to have taken cover.

We arrived a little earlier at our lodging this evening, the Hotel Laki just outside of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. This is a friendly family-run hotel, perhaps less luxurious than the previous nights’ lodgings but every bit as comfortable. We enjoyed sitting in their lounge before having a buffet-style dinner.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Iceland. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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