OMG! The Ice Caves are AMAZING!
This is one of the main reasons we came to Iceland in the winter. This and Northern Lights, which have been elusive so far.
We booked a 6 hour tour with Glacier Adventures. We met at their office in Hali, got our gear, harness, ropes, mini crampons for packed snow and large crampons for solid ice, then loaded in the Super Jeep and headed for the Vatnajökull Glacier, largest in Iceland, second largest in Europe.
After off-roading on a very bumpy snow-track road for about 30 minutes, we arrived at the car park - known to us as the parking lot. There were a few other vehicles but enough trails that we barely saw others for our entire day. Our group consisted of us, plus a guy from Germany who came over on a 3 day ferry! He had been here exploring for 3 weeks so far and didn't know how long he was staying because of the Coronavirus. The ferry home had been canceled. He said he had too much **it to fly home and by sh**, he meant too much camera gear and electronics. We also had 2 ladies from Spain. They arrived a few days ago and also didn't know their return trip status.
Here we go - onto the glacier.
Following our fearless leader. One wrong step, and we could wind up in a hole!
When he's not leading tour groups, he's creating calendar photos at very scenic locations around Iceland. He's from the Czech Republic and has been here for 6 years. He met his girlfriend after she bought one of his famous calendars.
I bought 8! One for every room?
He was very grateful and autographed them all. He printed 350 to start with and asked local business owners to sell them for him. After those sold quickly, a friend talked him into printing another 400 and nearly all of them have sold.
The only person he knows who doesn't approve of his calendar is his dad, which I can understand.
Well back to the tour. Our first stop was just a small hole in the snow. First of all, Iceland usually doesn't have this much snow in March. We were still wearing our mini crampons because we were walking mainly on fresh wet snow. We could occasionally see some ice under our footprints but so far we haven't needed to use heavy duty crampons. Usually this tour is done completely on ice.
It was so cool! We slid on our bums down into a narrow passage that started out a little larger than a manhole and then found ourselves about 20 feet deep into an ice cave. How Awesome!
Abby went first, then me.
The cave has both blue and black ice.
Then Al. Here's me taking a picture of you taking a picture of me.
You can stand in part of the cave, but we just sat relaxing for a few minutes enjoying the scenery. Now I understand why Eskimos live in igloos. It was warm inside.
Up and out of the tunnel. It was a steep climb back up. Notice who doesn't even wear gloves on the journey!
Just killing time while we wait for everyone to explore the tunnel. Debbie, here is your requested snow angel.
The snow was so hard and crunchy, it was much more difficult than it should have been.
A guide drawing a diagram of the entire glacier and volcano area and explaining to us how they form and melt. Often the melting causes floods in the towns below. This area is made up of 1 large glacier, several glacier tongues, and 3 volcanoes, two that have erupted as recently as 2015.
Very cool tunnel. We're IN the glacier. Look how thick the ice is just to this point and we are standing on even thicker ice!
Abby practicing her ice pick skills.
Larger than life icicles.
I'm not even sure what to call this area within the glacier. We walked through a tunnel which opened to a large circular opening maybe 40 feet in diameter. It was really a cave and just an amazing place to see.
SMILE! We're in an ice cave!!!
Look up, look down, look around......ICE everywhere. It's so COOL!
We loved the tunnels.
So tall we could easily walk through.
We got to spend plenty of time at this location and take all the photos we wanted. Then we were onto another adventure.
Into an arch to look down into a deep hole - not going there!
After everyone left, Abby stayed behind to get this image.
We had been walking for about 2 hours by now. It wasn't terribly cold or windy. Our guide said this day was a near perfect day in Iceland. We were so grateful. Our next tunnel was quite steep and we slid down again on our bums.
We had to climb up to slide down.
What a fun experience - in case you can't tell by the smiles.
It was quite fun. It's amazing to think about how old this ice might be....hundreds or even thousands of years old.
Some of the ice is crystal clear or brilliant blue while other sections are a deep glossy black - all of it is just magnificent!
Surprisingly, the ice wasn't really all that cold to the touch.
These formations were so cool!
With 2 cameras and 2 phones shooting, we have way too many pictures, but I'm glad we do.
Each area was different than the last. We were so thankful to get to visit all these caves/tunnels/passages/etc.
Watch out! They're pointy!
This is quite the opposite - very smooth and layered with multiple colors forming this thick wall of ice.
Time for a quick selfie.
I remember when I was a kid and even a young adult, my dad would always take selfies. They didn't have a fancy name back then, and there was no place to post them in hopes of likes, but when I would develop a roll of film, there his close-up face would be. I remember thinking.....how annoying. As I got older, and film got cheaper (digital), I would still occasionally find these selfie pictures of my dad. Just thinking about this memory makes me smile.
If March hadn't been so snowy here, all of the glacier would have looked like this - pure ice.
For this part of the journey, we would use our ropes to descend down a steep slippery slope to reach the actual ice cave. We hooked on one by one and stayed clipped in all the way to the bottom, re-clipping after each anchor.
I spent all day fighting with my helmet. I couldn't figure out why it felt 'off'. I kept shifting it, adjusting it, tightening it, but it never felt right. You might think that your family would help you or at least let you know that you're crooked, but now we were at least 3 hours into wearing these helmets and not one word had been spoken about me being tilted. Thanks guys!
Once we reached the bottom of the slope we could see the cave.
Finally a first up close glimpse of the ice cave entrance. It's WOW!
This image really gives you a feel for what it looks like. Huge icicles border the entrance giving it a very dramatic feeling. The next section, the blue ice 'roof' that we walked under stretches about 20 feet before opening up to the sky above. The center opening that you can see was maybe 12 to 15 feet wide by 30 feet long. There was plenty of room for everyone to walk around and move freely. We all posed for pictures here and even sampled the dripping water.
More got on us than in us.
But it was fun trying.
This is the melting ice that we drank from. I think there are pictures, somewhere. We were shooting with 2 cameras and 2 phones, so you never know where you'll find an image you remember taking.
I should also mention, if I haven't already, that all the pictures posted in this blog were taken by all 3 of us, and a few that I borrowed, but tried to give credit.
My friend, Florida Debbie (I have a lot of Debbie friends, so this is how my husband keeps them all straight), suggested that we bring York peppermint patties and FEEL THE SENSATION so we did. We even shared with our group. They did not know about York or the Sensation but they enjoyed the treat.
From the bottom looking up.
We noticed a couple of openings high above our heads.
One even looked like a heart.
The back part of the cave required us of do a sort of duck walk under about 15 feet of ice that is less than 3 feet off the ground. Would have been a piece of cake a few years ago, but my bad back and hips made it a little challenging, but we all made it with no problem.
It is definitely worth the effort. We walked back as far as possible before we would have to crawl again. It's so dark that we needed flashlights just to see what was right in front of us.
Who knew ice could be so fascinating?
Love the depth of this tall photo. Not really sure how she got this, but this is an Abby creation.
She took this one too. It shows just how much or little light comes into the cave.
Just look at the depth of that ice! It doesn't touch the ground here. Abby had to duck a little to walk under.
This is my glove behind a wall of ice that is about 8 to 10 inches thick and crystal clear. I love my new wool mittens. My hands stayed toasty all day, and even when I pull my fingers out for camera adjustments, they warm back up pretty quickly.
The blue really was this brilliant!
One final picture before we leave this cave forever.
Abby took this one to show perspective.
It's hard to leave knowing that I will most likely never do this again and will definitely never be here again. Each cave is only used for one season (October through March) then they melt away during the summer months and the glacier recedes a little more and new caves are formed. Guides start going out in search of the new caves for next season during the fall.
It's finally time to head back to our Super Jeep for the bumpy ride out of the Vatnajökull area. When we started this tour, it was -11 C and when we finished it was -2 C - that's 12 and 28 degrees F to most of us. It definitely didn't feel that cold. I guess our layers are working!
It's been a terrific day!