A valuable lesson on top of an Icelandic glacier

Iceland is full of beautiful, stunning surprises. You can see the northern light, spot whales, go on hundreds of hikes, do a jeep tour and so much more. In this article, I want to share my experience about how I took on a glacier with my brother and my parents when we were on holiday to celebrate my mother’s birthday (can I get a “#aaahhw”?). This experience made such a huge impact on me, that I needed to share this. Especially the story my guide told me, which I’ll get into later.

The bus passes the grey shorelines on our right, while on our left huge mountains cover our sight. We’ve all been up since about 5.00 a.m., going from hike to hike on this magical island that is Iceland. The bus rides in between have been a pleasure alone, for the landscape seems more diverse than anything I’ve ever seen before: it shifts between parks full of geysers to snowy mountain tops, volcanic scenery and black beaches.

Suddenly, a valley seems to catch my eye on my left. A snowy mountain is up ahead. Someone on the bus tells me it’s the glacier and indeed, the driver makes a turn and is now headed towards it. The glacier is still a long way from here, it seems. But at least it’s visible and we are approaching our target.

When we get there, we are strapped in snow boots, we have to put on a helmet and we are given a pick axe. Now, to give two brothers in their early twenties a pick axe each, makes it very obvious that somehow, boys never seem to grow up and quite quickly, we start to hammer every little piece of ice we see. Until we get bored, that is. That also always happens.

We walk up to the glacier and we are now at the base of it. The climb seems long, but exciting as well. We have to hold the ropes that were placed there already and our guide tells us very explicitly to be careful and not go too fast. At a certain point, he stops. He takes a rock out of his bag that he took from down below. “You know why I want you to be careful? Listen to this.” He drops the rock into a hole, not much bigger in size than maybe a plate. It stays silent for five whole seconds, until it hits something, taking it out of its course, but still falling. The sound fades and I can’t remember if I actually heard the rock fall down completely to the ground, but this just comes to show how far down this goes at certain places.

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No but seriously…

Up top, we drink the water that flows into little streams from the top of the glacier. It’s supposed to be the cleanest water on earth, our guide tells us. “If nobody is peeing up top, that is,” he adds.

But when I ask him about global warming – because I’ve seen a lot of videos on tv and on the internet of glaciers breaking down – his playful way of guiding us over the glacier turns into a short, but quite serious episode. “The ice used to stretch all the way to the water over there,” he points into the distance where I see the lake we just passed a little further from the base of the glacier. “The pond, you mean?” I ask him. “No, the sea.” I’m stunned when I hear this. The valley stretches out for at least an entire kilometer (if not more) before it reaches the sea. I ask him how long ago it was. “I was about 13 or 14,” says the – I presume – 26-year old. As he says this, I’m not only stunned; I’m paralyzed. In my lifetime, all this ice has disappeared. I was growing up; just a kid and maybe too naive to know all this, but here it was: I saw that not only I’d been naive, but we all were. And we didn’t do a damn thing.

He then continues his playful style of walking us over the glacier, but to me, this felt like a confrontational moment. I tried to imagine what it looked like before, but that was ungraspable for me right then and there. A valuable lesson, indeed, which I will always remember.

As we all walked back down, it made me wonder: would world leaders change their minds if they went up here? If they saw what I saw, heard the guide’s story that I heard? I cannot imagine anyone who would not be affected by such an experience.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is: get Trump up there, for the love of God, and hope that this experience will change his mind forever.

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