In Iceland, you can do Glacier Ice climbing even in the Summer.
Although Ice climbing tends to be associated with wintertime, snow, ice and cold, in Iceland is different. Here, we are lucky, and we can do ice climbing even in the summertime. Glaciers and Icecaps form a big part of the Icelandic landscape, and its outlets grant us a privilege of glacier walks and ice climbing adventures all year round.
Typically, the outlet glaciers in the summer are free of snow, and the glacier travelling is easy, no need to rope up. Furthermore, ice climbing in the Summertime is extremely enjoyable thanks to mild temperatures, standing around and belaying a climber results in an easy task. In the winter, on the other hand, you might be freezing.
We can find climbing spots on every and each glacier. The only inconvenience is the accessibility to the outlet glacier. That is why there are a few of the glaciers which are more popular than others. You will meet more people on Solheimajökull, an outlet glacier of Myrdalsjökull icecap in the South of Iceland. Falljökull, Svinafelljökull and Skaftafelljökull, and other outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull icecap in South-East Iceland. But even with these outlet glaciers, we might face difficulties of accessibility due to the glacier rivers, collapsing ice or weather conditions.
Glaciers offer spectacular landscapes; they make you feel great emotions and print in your unforgettable memories. These are like huge giants alive and beautiful at the same time. Different features like crevasses, moulins, ice caves and dirt cones decorate glacier´s surface.
You can do a Glacier hike and/or Ice climbing. For both, you will need a specific glacier gear which consists of stiff boots, crampons, ice axes, a harness, a helmet, crevasse rescue kit, rope and gloves.
You will make sure to step on a glacier with someone that knows how to perform crevasse rescue, is able to set all kinds of systems or has the skill of reading the terrain and assess the risk level.
A glacier hike can be of different levels; it will significantly depend on the terrain and your “cramponing” skills, basically, how comfortable you feel walking with crampons. You can choose an easy terrain, relatively flat where you will have to be aware of not catching your crampons together and not to trip over on the front spikes by lifting your feet a little bit higher than you usually do while walking.
Navigating through crevassed areas will require more advanced crampon walking techniques and a “sure feet”, and sometimes even use of your walking ice axe. With very challenging terrain you might want to use a rope, ice crews and carbines. Always, make sure that you will venture yourself on a terrain that you are comfortable to tackle yourself. Assess a priori your skills and possibilities.
For ice climbing, you will want to find a nice climbing wall, a beautiful glacier moulin or a spectacular crevasse. There are two styles: you could find your climbing spots with easy access to set an anchor or if you are skilled enough you could lead the climb using ice crews and quickdraws to place them as a safety; something similar to bolts and quickdraws in rock climbing.
Let´s talk about the first option of setting our system in an easily accessible place. Of course, the more skilled is the person in the crampon walking technique the more options. We can set the system above from the climbing start or at the same level we are standing, and from there, to belay down and climb back up.
During your first ice climbing experience, you will wear crampons, harness and helmet, and use climbing ice axes. You will be attached to a rope and your fellow will secure you/belay you on the rope. You will follow a basic technique of triangle to climb up. You will have to use both your legs + crampons and hands + ice axes. The ice axes are an extension of your arms.
In the beginning, it might feel intimidating to be suspended on a rope and trust the other person to belay you. It is a normal feeling and you should make sure from the beginning on that the person you are going with, knows what they are doing.
Also, before starting your climb you want to know:
- The rope is in good condition and not damaged, not older than 5 years old unless differently indicated by the manufacturer).
- The gear-like carbines, ice crews aren´t damaged and in good conditions.
- The anchor is placed properly.
- Your belayer is experienced in belaying and pays attention to the securing of the climber.
Once you have checked all this you are ready to ice climb! Use the basic techniques and focus on climbing and enjoying. Once you get to the top and reached the edge of the anchor you will be overwhelmed by joy and self-satisfaction and want more.
If you want to know more about glacier ice climbing in Iceland, get more training, get to know places, glaciers and good guides, drop us a line and we will be happy to put you in contact with the best ones!