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Hike On A Glacier

I am Bear Grylls Danny Rivera and I’m going to show you what it takes to get out alive in some of the most dangerous places on earth. I got to make it through a week an afternoon of challenges in the sort of places that you wouldn’t last a day without the right survival skills. I’m on the frozen wasteland of Solheimajokull Glacier, where I will be battling some of the most extreme conditions on the planet, pitting my wits against nature and showing you how to survive in a constant struggle against the elements. I have a few basic survival tools and my film crew Kit is coming with me.

Plagiarism aside Man vs. Wild has inspired a fair share of my list, almost as much as The Karate Kid. When I watched the episode when Bear spends a week hiking through the Patagonian steppe, I knew that hiking on a glacier was something I wanted to do.

From the warm comfort of our futon, Kit and I planed our loose itinerary for our upcoming Iceland trip. Glaciers cover over 11% of Iceland, whereas Greenland is covered by over 80% ice. So yes, for all the Mighty Ducks fans out there Greenland is covered by ice and Iceland is not. But in no way do I consider Iceland green, even the areas of land not covered by ice are barren. Iceland has few trees and even fewer green rolling hills. The biggest glacier in Iceland is Vatnajokull followed by Langokull, Hofsjokull and Myrdasjokull. The last being the smallest out of the bunch. Solheimajokull (rolls right of the tongue doesn’t it?) is an outlet glacier, at certain points 60 to 80 meters deep.

Our trusty little 2wd rental car handled itself gracefully down the pothole filled and flooding road. After what seemed like forever we reached the parking area at the foot of the glacier and met our guide and the rest of the group.

With crampons strapped to our feet, ice axes in hand and adorable wool hats on our heads we took our first wary steps on the giant ice sheet. Walking with heavy exaggerated steps we reached the first of the many features of the glacier. A moulin, basically a gigantic hole craved in the ice. Our guide explained how these holes were formed and lead us to a few more.

We crossed a few crevasses, which had my inner Bear Grylls very excited. The only problem was that my inner Bear Grylls doesn’t quite have the English accent down so the word crevasses wasn’t sounding as cool or dangerous when I said it to myself. Nonetheless we crossed them safely and after a few hours of walking and our guide answering all the stupid questions an English tourist had. We reached as high on the glacier as we were going to get for the day. We might have been able to get up higher if it wasn’t for the predominantly English group lagging behind.

The views of the mother glacier were incredible. When the sun finally peaked over a hill the glacier sheen a beautiful blue. The black volcanic ash was a stark contrast to the perfectly clear ice.

The glacier also tasted as good as it looked. I foolishly carried the extra weight of two water bottles not realizing that the glacier is a giant ice-cube and you can drink straight from it. All you need is the margarita mix and a blender and you got yourself a frosty drink.

The guide’s radio squawked and he was told to start us on our decent. But a tour is never over just because you’re on your way back.

We found a few small ice caves and tried ice climbing on a very formidable ice wall. Looking up from the bottom of the wall you can just barely make out the crampons of the rest of the group who had already ascended the steep wall. The summit of the wall taunted us below. Daring us to take the first few steps. If you stood quietly enough you could hear the glacier laughing at those foolish enough to attempt such a dangerous climb. The wall must have been an easy 40 to 50 meters high, but with the conversion rate and a dose of reality it calculated to about 6 to 8 feet tall.

I rammed my axe into the ice, kicked my foot in and established my first hold. I can see over the ledge now, I knew I had to dig deep inside myself to conquer this wall. I mustered all the courage and adrenaline I could and I kept kicking into the ice until I was a mere two steps away from joining the group at the summit. Then I slipped but the sturdy axe held in place. I dangled on the brink of death or at least minor injury, dug my foot in and recovered. Step after step my determination grew stronger until I was just about over the ledge. At this point I was ready to dig my teeth into the ice to get over the wall but I just had to pull myself up. Kit started her climb next and within a few seconds she was standing next to me. Show off.

The descent off the glacier was harder than the ascent, everyone was constantly tripping over their own feet as we cautiously marched back down. After the third time I almost twisted my ankle I started thinking to myself snapping an ankle now would be such a pain in the ass. Fortunately we made it back on the soft volcanic sand safely and with a new found respect for the awesomeness of nature and it’s ability to create huge mountains out of snow.

Some say within 10 years the glaciers of Iceland might be all but melted away in the sea. I’m incredibly glad I was able to stand on one when I could. Much to my surprise the smile on Kit’s face suggested that she too enjoyed completing this task on my list.

The full gallery of pictures is on flickr, here is the link.

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