Always fancied climbing a glacier? Well, so have we and in September we finally got the opportunity to strap on those crampons and climb the magnificent Sólheimajökull. We took a tour with Tröllaferðir and got our guide, Bjartur Snorrason, to share a few things about the job, shrinking glaciers and what to see when in Iceland.
So Bjartur, how did you get involved with guiding? My dad is a guide and has been since the 80’s. As a child, I traveled a lot with him. Those trips sparked my interest and I knew from an early age that I would work as a guide. During my first jobs as a guide I mainly sat in a bus telling travelers about different locations through a built-in microphone system. I was quick to realize that I needed a bit more action and I got offered the job at Tröllaferðir and soon got my license a glacier guide.
Though this job I have travelled to most of the most talked about locations in Iceland and I think I can safely state that people’s reaction to the glaciers is among the strongest ones you get when guiding. There is just something very magnificent and grand about them.
Yeah, we can imagine. How do the glaciers differ? Is there something special about Sólheimajökull?
I have to admit, this is possibly the coolest office you could have. There is something truly unique about hiking on a glacier and experiencing this massive natural phenomena up-close. Sólheimajökull is special because of the stark contrast of the ice and the remaining black ash from the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. It makes up a unique contrast that you don’t see anywhere else.
In my opinion this is what makes Sólheimajökull one of the more beautiful glaciers to visit. The landscape surrounding it is also beautiful. The valley it lies in was carved by the glacier thousands of years ago; a testimonial on the true power of mother nature and how a phenomenon like a glacier can transform the landscape.
What about climate change – how is that effecting the glaciers?
They are shrinking. Especially glacier outlets like Sólheimajökull. The walk from the parking lot to the glacier keeps getting longer and longer. The area is changing every day, hiking trails that were there the day before are suddenly gone. How long it is until the glacier is unreachable is impossible to say, but vertical melting on the glacier was around 18-20 meters from May 2016 till May 2017.
It is happening fast. The fact that Jökulsárlón only just formed in the 20th century and already has become one of the biggest and deepest lakes in Iceland does tell us that these changes can be traced to more than natural climate fluctuation. I think it is something we all need to be more aware of and start adapting to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Lastly, do you have any recommendations of places to see and/or things to do while in Iceland?
Well, obviously, I’m going to tell people to visit Sólheimajökul. But honestly, the whole country is beautiful. You can find countless blogs and travel guide books that give you ideas about what to see and do. I think it is important that people take the time to go off the beaten path and see more than just the most famous places. There is so much to see here.
For more info on the trip we took with Tröllaferðir click here.