Northern lights and Snæfellsjökull volcano

We’ve had an exhausting day, firstly because we were up a bit late because, I’m very excited to say, the Northern lights finally showed up 👍 Secondly, our hike up the 1446m Snæfellsjökull volcano was far tougher than we expected because of deep snow, and took all day.

Last night, after taking the essential pictures of Kirkjufell mountain and waterfall, and packing our kit for today, we watched an episode of Vikings before bed by the picture window in our little green box Airbnb. We had the blinds open and the lights off, just in case the Northern lights turned up. As the programme finished I noticed a whitish glow over Kirkjufell mountain and wondered if it was the lights, even though it wasn’t really green. Then John said the same thing, so I grabbed my jacket, camera and tripod and went outside, knowing the lights often show up better through the camera.

I fiddled with my camera settings and, sure enough, it was the lights, lighting the mountain up green! I was so excited! I’d really resigned myself to not seeing them, and catching them above Kirkjufell was fantastic! As they became visible to the eye, John got excited too, managing to capture them on his phone. I sat outside in my slippers, wrapped in blankets, taking lots of pictures until after midnight. then the lights became less obvious and we decided we’d better get to bed as we had a long hike with a mountain guide today.

The hike we’d booked was up Snæfellsjökull, which is one and a half times the height of Snowdon. It’s covered in a glacier so we’d packed our ice axes and crampons and, when we met him in a small town near the mountain, the guide, Robbie, lent us harnesses. He then drove us up the track towards the mountain in his big 4 wheel drive Landcruiser with huge wheels. The road was so snowy we couldn’t get very far and had to get out and walk most of the way up the track.

After a while the track disappeared and the ground became rougher, partly in snow, and partly on mossy lava rock. The moss was thick and soft and was just like carpet! The views of the Snaefellsnes peninsula were already looking good but we had a long way to go.

Walking became really difficult as we sank up to our knees in the snow with every step. Robbie went first to break the trail, then John went next to try and make it easier for me by treading down between Robbie’s footprints. I still found it really tiring though, like hour after hour of step ups in the gym. Our thighs were burning and we were also hot in the sunshine. For once there was no wind! After a couple of hours of this, we’d only got about half way up the mountain and I was worried that I wasn’t going to get the top, but we plodded on.

When we got to the base of the glacier, Robbie roped us up in case one of us fell into a crevasse. We kept trudging through the deep snow for a couple more hours, slowly getting higher. The rugged, rocks of the top of the mountain were just peeping over the ridge of the glacier, very gradually getting nearer.

John was struggling now, while I’d got a second wind, realising I was actually going to get to the top. It did make me feel a bit better to know it wasn’t just me who was hurting though.

Finally, after over 5 hours climbing, we made it! It was freezing at the top… Robbie said minus 11. We pulled our thick coast hats and gloves on while we had something to eat, but we still had painful fingers and toes within about 10 minutes so we didn’t hang around too long.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy getting back down, because we still had to get back through all that snow. It was a struggle. John was much better now he’d had something to eat and was going downhill but I felt progressively more and more tired. Dragging my feet out of deep holes in the snow really took it out of me. Robbie took us back by a slightly different route, I assume so it would be faster, but when I was faced with a steep long slope, I burst into tears! I really didn’t think I could get down it. He took my arm and tucked it into his and walked me down so when I slipped I stayed upright. This also happened on a second slope, which wasn’t quite as scary.

Gradually we got lower and lower, and finally we were back on the mossy rocks. John was really helpful, trying to break the trail for me, giving me a hand when it was icy and slippery, and waiting for me when I was getting left behind.

I think we were all glad to get back on the track to the car. 8 hours it took. The guide had predicted 6 before he realised how difficult the conditions were. We didn’t need our ice axes and crampons at all and carried them, and our helmets, to Iceland for nothing! Never mind, in spite of all the struggles and tears, we did it! Now I can forget the bits I didn’t enjoy and reflect on what I enjoyed… A great achievement and great views 😊

When Robbie dropped us back at our car, we found a cafe and got a drink and something to eat… we were very hungry and thirsty. Now we’re back at the Airbnb, showered and in our comfy clothes, wondering if the Northern lights will put on another display for us. Fingers crossed.

2 thoughts on “Northern lights and Snæfellsjökull volcano

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  1. Your trip looks amazing – I am super inspired to try to get to that neck of the woods, although being in South Africa – that’s long way from home! Love these updates!

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