One day I found myself about to go downhill an icy, rocky trail to the foot of the Sólheimajökull Glacier in South Iceland. Walking on ice is not something my feet and legs are used to.
My knees want to buckle, but the adrenaline inside me is pushing me to just do it – discover what it feels like to be on top of a mountain of ice. Iceland is a country that truly exhibits Earth’s natural beauty in its rugged form.
My husband and I were privileged to visit Iceland and witness its magnificence and jaw-dropping natural landscape.
To celebrate my milestone, we’ve decided to join a tour group on a day glacier hiking to the Sólheimajökull glacier. This is one of the best things to do in Iceland. We started our journey in Reykjavik, the capital and most inhabited place in Iceland. We drove for three hours along a scenic route to the glacier near Reykjavik in South Iceland to meet with our guide.
Along the way, we passed two stunning waterfalls – the Seljandafoss and Skogafoss
Our drive took us to our meeting place just at the foot of the glacier, where we met with the guides and crew together with our fellow hikers. At first, I thought glacier hiking was simply just a challenge for me – a trek to conquer a glacier. Little did I know that the activity would serve as an eye-opener for everyone in our little tour group, and teach us to be more aware of a very controversial topic – Global Warming.
Upon arriving at the meeting place just at the foot of the glacier, we were warmly welcomed by our guide. Next came the crampons fitting, a safety briefing about our hike, and what to expect along the way. After that, we were all excited to start our trek!
The Glacier Lagoon
We had to do a 30-minute roundabout walk along the side of the Sólheimajökull to get to the starting point of our hike.
Our guide said there used to be direct access to the glacier from the meeting point, but because of the ice meltdown, there is now a huge glacier lagoon separating the two points, making the extra 30-minute walk necessary. Along the way, we saw sights that are out of this world – volcanic landscapes that were just unbelievable!
The black volcanic soil and the huge boulders covered with green moss looked so strange to me that I felt like I was on another planet! But then, the Atlantic Ocean in the distance kissing the black South Iceland shores took me and my overactive imagination back to Earth. It was such a beautiful backdrop to our trek.
At the end of the 30-minute walk, we were rewarded by our first clear view of the Sólheimajökull glacier.
Nerves (and Knees) of Steel
Safety is of the utmost importance, so our guide gave us another safety briefing and made sure that our crampons were on properly before we started our descent to the foot of the glacier. For someone who spent most of her life in a tropical country, walking on ice took some getting used to.
Add the crampons – which I was using for the first time – and the odds of falling flat on my face just went up a notch. But raise the stakes some more by going downhill and you’ve almost got a recipe for disaster.
Alas, my nerves of steel, a whole lot of prayers and pumping adrenaline got me to the foot of the glacier without any mishaps, despite it being cold, wet, and slippery on the uneven trail.
Next, it was then time to climb the Sólheimajökull glacier. On our way up, we saw hundreds of cylindrical holes filled with water on the glacial surface. These are called cryoconite holes. Over time, these holes fill up with black soot and other dust particles – from both volcanic and man-made sources.
These dust particles collect within the cryoconite holes and increase heat absorption, which, in turn, become a catalyst for glacial melt. We also saw a few glacial crevasses (deep cracks on the ice sheet) and a moulin or glacier mill (a circular shaft that punches deep into the glacier) along the way.
From the surface where we were standing, we couldn’t even see the bottom of the moulin! But we really couldn’t look too far into the moulin, as the surface was very wet and slippery. Every step had to be calculated and taken with care.
Even as I gawked at the magnificent glacial landscape in front of me, I knew I would never see it the exact same way again. Just like the desert, the glacial landscape is an ever-changing one. The ice constantly melts and recedes, eventually contributing to the vastness of the glacier lagoon separating the Sólheimajökull glacier and the hike’s starting point.
Our guide shared very important information about Global Warming and its effect on the Sólheimajökull glacier. The massive glacier lagoon that now separates the meeting place and the starting point of the trek – which necessitated our initial 30-minute walk – was the result of glacial melt of just three short years!
This rate of Sólheimajökull glacier melting is truly alarming.
Is Global Warming Real?
There are different opinions on this subject. There are those who believe that it’s real and should be taken seriously by enforcing strict environmental laws. On the other hand, there are those who think that Global Warming is just a hoax or propaganda drummed up by conspiracy theorists for whatever reason.
I didn’t write this article to sway anybody either way. I can only speak for myself, but I think Global Warming is real. Based on the effects I’ve seen on the Sólheimajökull glacier, the rapidly expanding lake and the moulins along the way, it’s too easy to believe that it’s real.
It is serious, it is rapidly escalating, and it needs to be dealt with. Now!
At the risk of coming across as geeky, I must point out that carbon dioxide emission is on the rise, despite existing environmental laws. Increased carbon dioxide emission causes the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which traps heat, causing the rise in temperature that melts the glaciers and the polar ice caps. That’s just one of the effects of Global Warming.
All over the world, climate change is felt – the seasons confuse us as it behaves like a temperamental child. Typhoons during summer, draughts when it’s supposed to be raining, super typhoons, flash floods, and tsunamis have become normal fare in the news because of the frequency with which they occur all over the world.
Our trek of the Sólheimajökull glacier has encouraged me to be a better advocate for the protection of our environment. If we do nothing to combat Global Warming right now, the Sólheimajökull glacier will be gone in 10 years or less!
We Can Contribute!
One doesn’t have to be a scientist or a devoted environmentalist to do something about Global Warming. Every little good thing we do for the environment will help save this little blue planet we call home.
Live the words “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”
Participate in greening and tree-planting activities, to help absorb the carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. Go green whenever you can.
- Use renewable energy such as solar.
- Teach the next generation about the importance of saving the environment.
- Reduce water and food waste.
- Save on electricity – unplug appliances you’re not using. Buy energy-saving appliances.
- Choose fuel-saving cars.
- Better yet, don’t drive when you can walk or use a bike.
- Do not litter! The list of things you can do to contribute is endless.