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30 June 2011

Glacier Day

Day 31: Monday, 20 June 2011
It was not easy to wake up. I was massively jet lagged and needed many more hours of sleep when my alarm went off around 7:15. However, we had to be out and at the visitor center by 9am for our glacier hiking tour. So I quickly got ready and scarfed down some leftover pasta for a carb-heavy breakfast. We drove in a chilly mist through a moon-like landscape of barren black volcanic soil, sometimes accented by pockets of moss and lichens. We arrived at the glacier tour center at 8:55 and were quickly outfitted with harnesses, helmets, ice axes, and crampons for our shoes.

An old American school bus drove us to the base of the glacier. Along the way, the four of us were trying to drink a cup of coffee each and spilling it everywhere thanks to the bumpy ride; we were laughing most of the way. The bus dropped us off at the end of the dirt road, a 10-minute hike from the base of the glacier itself. We had two glacier guides, Sivollina (from France) and Danni from Iceland. They led us to the glacier, where we strapped on our crampons and walked (either cowboy-style or Charlie Chaplin-style) onto the glacier itself.

The glacier was actually nearly black, covered with volcanic ash from the recent eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano nearly a month earlier. We walked past many moulins, holes in the glacier through which meltwater flows like a river. We then climbed halfway up the glacier, until we couldn't climb up much further, and here we had a small lunch of sandwiches. It was amazing, despite the weather being misty and drizzly.