Can I Walk on a Glacier?

Glaciers are everchanging and always inspiring.  Maybe it’s even a personal goal of yours to walk on a glacier or many in your lifetime.  Well, Iceland is the perfect country to start your journey in!  As we have many glaciers and countless outlets to fulfill this dream!  But wait, can you or how do you walk on a glacier in Iceland?  Today we will give you an in-depth education on this exciting topic…

Can I Walk on a Glacier in Iceland?

Guess what?!  You can walk on Iceland’s 13 glaciers!  Heck you can even ice climb on some of them or stand up paddle board in front of their lagoons if you’re brave enough!  However, all of our glaciers in Iceland, require you to a local / guide to ensure you stay safe.

What is Your Physical Status

When you think about whether or not you are physically able to hike on a glacier it’s important to consider the following:

  • Need to be able to embark on a 1-2 hour walk (with a helmet, crampons, and sometimes an ice axe in hand).
  • Be ready to face the Icelandic weather conditions.
  • Be a good listener to your guide (glacier quick sand is real).

Types of Glacier Walks

There are many different types of glacier walks.  Firstly, there are short walks that just give you a taste of what it’s like.  You can expect that it run like 1-1.5 hours.  Secondly, medium glacier hikes in Iceland are between 1.5-3 hours.

Likely during this adventure you will hike more around the glacier and look for unique features colorful walls, tunnels, or crevasses, etc.  Thirdly, you can even book a guide all day to really explore the glacier.  Which could mean a commitment of 4-8 hours depending on your skill level.

How to Choose Your Guide

Hiring a local Iceland glacier walk guide has a lot of advantages.  To illustrate, the person is an expert in the area and at the glacier.  Furthermore, they understand how the area can change and warn you about areas that are unsafe ahead of time.

Now let’s talk about the differences in booking a private versus public glacier walk journey… In booking a private tour, you’ll have a day tailored to your individual group and your adventure level or objectives (IE, drone flying, etc).  Meanwhile, in booking an “open tour” with a company, you’re stuck with no customization.  Why can that be a problem?  Because the group may run to fast for you or to slow and you might not feel challenged.

What to Wear

Layers are your best friend on a glacier walk.  Also to keep you from overheating, being too cold, and dry!  So what specific items should be on your glacier walk packing list?  For example, maybe some of these items:

  1. Base layer (think Under Armour) for top and bottom.
  2. Top layer (quick drying hiking pants, wool sweater, etc).
  3. Weather proof shell (Gore-tex) with hood is a bonus.
  4. Wool socks (an extra pair is nice to have too).
  5. Gloves.
  6. Hat.
  7. Hiking boots (not tennis shoes).
  8. Daypack (filled with snacks, water, and anything you might need for your time on the glacier.
  9. Hiking pole (if you require to be more stable).

NOTE: Longer adventures or expeditions may require more, so please consult your local Iceland glacier guide ahead of time.  Checkout Vik Expeditions bespoke expeditions!

What Equipment is Needed?

Well the good news, if you’ve hired a local glacier guide, then there is nothing you need to stress about!  For instance, they will likely provide the following:

  • Helmet
  • Headlamp (if needed)
  • Crampons (either glacier walking or ice climbing ones depending on the terrain).
  • Any ropes, harnesses, ice screws, carabiners etc to use if/as needed.
  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Extra gear if something breaks.

How to Walk on a Glacier

Upon arrival, your guide will gear you up!  First, you’ll put on crampons and your helmet.  Second, you’ll be shown how to hold the ice axe and how to use it, if it’s applicable to the glacier area you are hiking.  Third, you’ll begin your hike.  NOTE: You may need to take between a 10 minute to 60 minute hike to get to the Iceland ice fall access point.

Fourth, listen closely to any directions your guide gives you.  That way you stay safe, out of quick sand and be successful to make some unforgettable memories!  Fifth, be in the moment!  It’s okay to experience the moment in real time versus always having to experience life through your phone.  Live it up!!  Ready to elevate your trip to Iceland?  Please contact us to get that conversation started!

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