Saturday, 10th March 2018
In our infinite wisdom we booked a Snowmobiling and Ice Cave tour for the morning after our late night Northern Lights tour. Getting to bed at 3am and then having to get up for a 7:30 pick up was an interesting test of our ability to get ready and not forget anything while half asleep.
Since snowmobiling requires snow we had to get to Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland, which was a couple of hours drive away North East of Reykjavik. The “minibus” we were picked up in was a souped up beast perched upon 4 massive wheels and equipped with some very nicely padded seats with wings to protect your head when bouncing around.
Our guide was a young blonde guy with medium length messy hair - he looked every bit the kind of guy to take you on a thrill seeking, snowmobiling adventure. He was also really funny and gave a running commentary of where we were, and told (hopefully made up) stories of getting stuck on the glacier.
It was very impressive the way he knew where to weave through the rocks, ice and snow so that we wouldn't get stuck and would eventually arrive at a basecamp with 2 large wooden huts and a menagerie of snowmobiles waiting outside.
The first thing we needed to do was suit up in a bright orange warm jumpsuit, gloves, balaclava and helmet. I wish I wore the gloves I had brought with me because the ones they supplied were way too big for my tiny child hands. I assumed the bright orange was so it would be easier to find us if we got lost.
After a brief safety talk we split into our pairs, picked a snowmobile and the guides checked we were all sitting comfortably.
Ben and I were the last to set off and within 30 seconds of moving we saw one of the guides crash spectacularly. This made us even more cautious than we already were since it looked like it hurt... a lot. We stopped to ask if she was OK, but she got up quickly and waved us on.
It was terrifying and I spent the majority of the trip to the ice cave screaming at Ben to slow down, not knowing that he couldn't hear a thing I was saying. When we got off, he told me he'd been driving slowly since he saw the instructor crash!
Inside the Ice Cave
Our destination was an ice cave at the bottom of a steep hill, a rectangular hole in the ground was cut deep into the snow, wide enough for us to descend single file into the cave. It was hard getting down since the steps were made from compacted snow until near the bottom they were made of wood. The wood was worse as it was wet and slippy but we all made it down in one piece.
The ice cave is a natural cave that moves every year as the glacier expands and pushes it along with the ice. Looking up at the (quite low down) ceiling, it is a thick layer of clear ice.
The cave gradually sloped downwards towards one end, and the ceiling was pretty low at the top of the cave. We all sat on the floor whilst the guides told us about what we could see and how the cave formed.
You couldn't explore too far in the cave before the ceiling got too low, but we were allowed to crawl around and investigate a bit.
You could clearly see the layers in the ice produced over the years.
A carefully-placed spotlight lit up this ice column very nicely.
Once we were out of the cave, everyone mounted up and headed back up the hill.
From where we stood next to the cave entrance, everything was blindingly white; the ground just merged with the sky.
For the trip back to base camp, Ben and I switched places so I could drive the snowmobile. This was much more fun than being a passenger but still a bit scary when going over solid ruts in the snow. We were still the last ones to get back even though Ben thought I was going far too fast - I think this is a side effect of being a passenger.
We posed for some photos before heading inside the hut to give back helmets, gloves and the jumpsuits.
Then it was back into the vans with massive wheels for the trip back to Reykjavik