Over The Black Glacier: Trekking Iceland’s Sólheimajökull

We’ve travelled two hours from Reykjavík to Sólheimajökull, an outlet of Iceland’s fourth biggest glacier, Mýrdalsjökull, to take in the views before trying our hand at ice climbing. With unseasonably good weather, we drive through Iceland’s stunning scenery bathed in rare autumn sunshine. Sheer rocky cliffs are decorated with waterfalls that cast spray up into the air. Grassy fields dotted with snoozing horses and grazing sheep morph seamlessly into stretches of lava field edged with towering volcanoes.

“This is better than doing it in the rain,” grins our guide, a quietly confident 30-year-old Spanish guy named Hodei, who says he has only experienced such clear skies around four times throughout his year-and-a-half long stay in Iceland. He points assuredly to the gleaming top of Mýrdalsjökull against the horizon. “That’s where we’re going,” he says.

Once on the glacier, my worries melt away as I take in its sheer natural beauty. We crunch past trickling meltwater streams, frosty blue crevasses and ‘moulins’ (French for “well”), which are rounded shafts that spiral down into the depths below. The cracks in the ice are impressively deep, but are apparently relatively small—some can grow up to 10 metres in width. In the distance, the enduring presence of the surrounding volcanoes contrasts with the transience of the ice.

But the glacier is receding, every year it retreats around 100 years further inland. Everything we walk over today will be gone in the not too distant future. It is being devoured by warming global temperatures. To enjoy its grand beauty means not waiting too long.

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