Iceland Day 2: Eyjafjallajökull – “Island Mountain Glacier”

Where Eyjafjallajökull Glacier used to touch.

Thanks for waiting patiently for this post – it’s been a long 19 hour day…

Even though it is against everything I’ve always been taught about writing, I’m going to start this post on a bad note. But don’t worry, it gets good. Really good!

Today was the day that I had scheduled a trip to go up Mt. Eyjafjallajökull which is Icelandic for “Island Mountain Glacier” and is the volcano that erupted last year causing mass flight mayhem throughout Europe. The issue is the weather turned out to be pretty poor, so we didn’t actually get to hike up the mountain at all, nor did we see the top of it because of thick clouds and fog. But, we did get to physically touch Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

Wait, what? That’s right, Mt. Eyjafjallajökull isn’t a mountain at all, (well it is based on the fact that it is taller than the surrounding area), instead, this volcano is one giant glacier. What does that mean when it erupted? Well, picture millions of tons of glacial ice melting instantly and wrecking havoc on the land around the mountain. This photo…

 

 

…depicts a glacial river fed from Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. During the time of the eruption, all of the land you see here, including where I’m standing to take the photograph, and all the way to the mountains in the distance,  was transformed into a raging ice-cold river three feet deep. Roads were flooded and shut down, people were evacuated, but thankfully there aren’t many buildings nearby that could have gotten swept away by the water. Here is one more photograph of the land that would have been completely flooded just one year ago.

 

After navigating the rugged terrain caused by the glacial ice-melt during the time of the eruption, we learned that the terrain was only going to get worse. A warning sign cautioned us of proceeding further due to sink holes of deadly quicksand, sudden bottomless pits dropping into the earth from under our feet, and random pockets of poisonous gases that could erupt from the ground at any given moment. Yet, of course, this sign didn’t deter us from continuing on our journey and we moved on to the front of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier.

 

In the above photograph, way out in the distance and just below the fog, you can see the head to Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, while, at the same time, on the very left of the picture  there is a hill of black rock that seems to lead up to the ridgeline if it wasn’t cut-off by the edge of the photograph. This black mound is where the front of the glacier was, before the lava poured into this valley and melted it all the way back to where you can see it in the distance now. Just imagine how much water would be rushing through where I had to stand in order to take the photo! It’s unbelievable.

Here is the first photo to this post again, the back-side to that black mound, the furthest point that Eyjafjallajökull Glacier used to touch before the lava melted it away. Here, ice still clings to the volcanic rocks and ash.

Where Eyjafjallajökull Glacier used to touch.

 

Normally, we would move forward just a little bit farther, but not much. However, thanks to myself and a man from Sweden that I met on this trip, and the way our adventurous mindsets worked so well together, we convinced the guide to allow us to at least attempt to go all the way to the edge of the glacier.

I know what you’re thinking: “Umm, didn’t you say ‘sink holes of quicksand?’ What did you say about ‘bottomless pits’ earlier? Wait, did you say the words ‘poisonous gasses’?”

Sure did! But it turns out that we had an Icelandic guide with the same adventurous personality as ours, so, despite telling us a story about a jeep that had tried to navigate this environment not too long ago, which ended up being engulfed in a pit when the ground gave way around them and was lost in an underground glacial river, we headed toward the ice front anyways. Just a note, the tourists in that jeep were rescued. This time, that pit was not bottomless.

We headed forward, passing eerily by depressions in the Earth that were covered over by snow in such a way that it was impossible to tell if stepping there would cause you to fall through or not, and around holes in the ground from where the sediment had actually collapsed. (This happens when underground ice melts because of a sudden rise in ground temperature due to the volcanic region. When the ice melts, there is nothing left to hold up the ground above, so the earth suddenly slumps and drops into a hole.)

 

We parked our truck next to this. Good idea? Probably not. But to give you an idea of the size of this, it could have swallowed a whole monster truck if it were parked there when it collapsed.

 

And then there were the larger holes just like the one above, which were only covered with a thin layer of snow, making it impossible to tell where to step. Look closely; see the lines in the snow leading down toward the bottom of the pit? A hole like this could have given away beneath our feet at any moment, or from beneath our truck, which we left parked next to that other one. As we hiked on, I never stopped joking about the possibility of us returning to find our truck swallowed whole, leaving us stuck at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier for a few days.

Yet, despite the dangers, the reward was spectacular (don’t they say good things never come without risk?). I had never been able to physically touch a glacier before. Please enjoy the following photos of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier (volcano) as most people never see it, up-close-and-personal.

Notice the black ash on what used to be a shining blue glacier.

 

 

 

And lastly, as my new friend from Sweden says – I have to prove I didn’t copy these off the internet somehow…

Me at Eyjafjallajökull Glacier and Volcano

 

Hopefully you enjoyed my photos as much as I did capturing them and exploring this region! Thanks for viewing.

– Nate, from Iceland.

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Author: Nathan Bush

Nathan Bush is an avid traveler, adventurer, and professional wedding and landscape photographer. His absolute favorite pastime is hiking all the while lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry in order to capture beautiful images of the wild. He currently lives in Colorado with his soon to be wife, Florence.

22 thoughts on “Iceland Day 2: Eyjafjallajökull – “Island Mountain Glacier””

  1. Hi Nate, How awesome is this? You are definitely more adventurous than I could ever dream of being..and I’m sure, with my luck, I would be at the bottom of a sink-hole by now! I’m really enjoying your updates.. looking forward to the next one already! – Lu

    1. Hi Lu, thanks for the comment; I’m very happy that you’ve been enjoying the posts so far. Nahh I’m sure if you were there you would have jumped right in to follow me right up to the glacier! The sink-holes were pretty eerie though!

    1. Hi Ron,

      My god, they aren’t anything compared to what you have on your site!
      I’m rather happy with the way that image came out as well, the black volcanic rocks and ash against the blue of the glacial ice creates an awesome color contrast. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!
      – Nate

  2. Hi, Nate! When I saw the picture of you sitting by the glacier, it brought tears to my eyes. You are so fortunate! How incredible! Next visit, i will be coming with you! Love you. Mom

    1. Hey Mom,

      Didn’t anyone ever teach you that the over-use of exclamation points really drops the level of professionalism in your writing? lol, joke. Thanks though, I’d very much like to return one spring or summer when all of the black volcanic rocks come to life and flourish with green moss.

  3. Get out of the region of sinkholes, you crazy guy!!! We want you to return to us!!! Great pictures, and even better memories! Looking forward to the next post….

  4. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to traverse that terrain by myself (who walked FIRST?), but it looks like it was well worth the reward! The photos are breathtaking, really. I love your mom’s comment, too – how cool would it be to have a world traveling son?!

    I like the new site theme, too.

    1. Hey Katie, thanks for your praise about my photographs! I have seen glaciers before (as you know, in Alaska) but this one was spectacular all in its self. The terrain certainly added to that as well, and our guide walked first, testing the snow. He had never been that close before either so didn’t know the area (which is unpredictable anyways) and I did make a joke about how fun it would be to have to drive the jeep back in order to get help if he suddenly dropped through the snow. But, of course, this was just a joke haha. My mom says I make her jealous that she never traveled as much when she was younger, but she’s working on doing that now which is awesome!

      Thank you, I used to think my other theme was decent, then became sick of it rather quickly. I like how this one has a featured article and looks more like a professional magazine.

  5. Wow! And wow! What a stunning place to visit. I don’t think I would have been brave enough to push on as far as you did. You’re right about rewards and risks.

    Looking forward to seeing where you’ll go next.

    1. Hey Robin, thanks for viewing and commenting. The combination of the landscape and the semi dangerous terrain made this quite the trip, even though we never got to go to the top of the volcano!

  6. Natey, these pictures are aaaamazing! and very artistic – it really looks like you’ve taken some of my pointers and used them well (yes, I’m giving credit to myself for your photographic skills). I LOVE the picture of the mountain peak that is covered in black ash but the sides have the glacier blue. Sounds like the hike was adventurous enough without climbing up the volcano. What weather conditions prevented you guys from climbing higher (other than fog)?

    Glad your having a great time. Stay safe.
    Love you,
    Jen

    1. Hey Jen! Thanks a lot! I try to use what you’ve taught me haha, I actually take my time lining everything up in the viewfinder nowadays unlike not too long ago when I used to just point and shoot and be relatively happy with what I had. The only problem is, and especially after being part of a photography class, now I feel like I have to return to everywhere we’ve been in order to re-capture the photos!

      It was snowing pretty much all day, and the wind was heavy too (although, not at all compared to today). The biggest problem was that the visibility at any higher elevation was basically non because of the thick fog and cloud cover. With Eyjafjallajökull being a glacier, the last thing you want is to be walking across the ice, and attempting to traverse the crevasses blind. But you’re right, despite missing out on that, the hike we did do was extremely fun and quite intense.

      Thanks for checking out my blog to stay in contact, when I saw a new comment I didn’t expect it’d be you! haha. See you soon Jen,
      Love,
      Nate

  7. WOW! What a trip just to see your photos, I can’t imagine how it felt. Yes, you definitely seem adventurous, because that just sounds like a super-risky undertaking. But as you said, the reward was definitely great. Just amazing to see these photos!

    1. It was beyond worth the risk to get the up close shots of the glacier. And, on a personal note for me, to get to physically touch it. It was an experience I’ll hold on to forever!

  8. Great stuff , I”ve learned alot about you reading this blog. You didn’t have to worry about bottomless holes. If you fell in you’re tall enough, someone would have seen the top of your head.

    1. Thanks for reading, Fady!
      It was an incredible adventure and certainly right up my alley. I hope you get to Iceland sometime soon to experience it for yourself!
      – Nate

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