Iceland a Geological Dream part 1
I will start this by saying if you get a chance to go to Iceland, GO! It is amazing. Being from NJ, I have have never experienced a place without trees. Iceland has very few after the Vikings had cut them down. There are also very few people as in 280,000 on the entire island. It is a nature lovers paradise but geologically, it is an exceptionally intense place. Why? The Mid Atlantic Ridge runs through it and it is a hot spot.
Iceland is heated and a lot of their electricity comes from geothermic energy. This is not surprising as nearly a third of the lava activity spews from the more than 200 volcanoes. There are hot springs and puddles of boiling water and mud everywhere. We were actually told if you step off the path, you can easily get burned or die because of all of this activity.
I can rattle on about the science behind the country but I really wanted to tell you about a specific experiences I had there, a glacier climb.
I was "lucky" enough to climb a glacier with my 23 students. Now, let me start by saying, I am not the most fit person on the planet, something I struggled with since I got sick, so scaling a mountain for me is a feat in itself, let alone on a slick surface.
We drove up to the beautiful ice mountain in our city bus, seeing clear signs of global warming as the it had clearly receded back about a quarter mile in the last 10 years. The last thing the guide said as we were stepping off is that a volcano nearby was due to erupt, well, past due about 20 years which geologically isn't extremely significant. The scent of sulfur was strong and he noted it with a chuckle, "If it goes off, nice knowing you". This was a bit of a rocky start for me.
The guides were delightful. They had us strap metal shoes of certain death or crampons for short, to our feet. These metal cleat-like monstrosities come with two enormous straps that must be weaved in a very specific way around your feet and are made to bite into the ice and stop you from slipping.
We trudged forward. One chaperone and I asked how far up we were going. The guide responded with, " Oh not far, see those tiny specks up there? That's the group before you." Well, one chaperone turned on a dime with a nope attitude. I, now feeling a bit nervous with my heart, looked at the what seemed like 75 degree slope we would be climbing to get to the top. Let's call it nerves but I felt sick. You really should not exercise in the cold when you have heart issues and now, it was raining.
We trudged forward. The stream along the glacier was clear and beautiful and you could see the volcanic rock creating walls of beautiful, intricate, structures around us, the sulfur scent increasing. I stepped onto the ice, the very bottom of the glacier where it met the stone and slid forward. I knew I was going to fall off this to my death. It was a good run.
We trudged upward. Climbing a glacier is kind of like getting the mail in NJ after a long storm. Actually, those crampon, death, traps would be very helpful for that. You kind of just take baby steps up the ice, uncertain of any footing. You really have to stomp the crampons in and you can definitely feel them locking in as you step forward. Ok, well, I walked in baby steps, everyone else seemed find happily racing ahead as I was crying inside. Then it happened, of course I had to drop something.
We were listening to the guides talk about how the volcano was melting the glacier and it was a sign of increase in geothermal activity, thus, an eruption was coming sooner or later. As she was talking pop my bracelet flew off my hand right into a crevice. Great, now I am littering in one of the most pristine places on Earth. I was going to hell and I was pretty sure, it would be like climbing a glacier. The guide got it for me, smiled as I gingerly crept forward and grabbed my arm.
He dragged me upward. At the top of the glacier, my heart now having some trouble with the temperature and exertions, we stopped for some water. It was delightful, purer than anything I could ever dream of, so pure, it would kill you if you tried to live on it from the lack of minerals. The guides had the kids do push up (not kidding) to drink from the little stream "like a Viking". My bearded guide who had now dragged me a fifth of the way looked at me. I smiled back with a "You must be crazy if you think I am going to do push ups at this point."
We all took pictures, smiling, looking out over the world. It was gorgeous. It was frozen it was epic. Wait, we had to climb down. Oh my dear God, how am I getting down? I was sure that death was certain and am pretty sure I texted my husband a good-bye message. I would now be living like Luke Skywalker on the top of a glacier, secluded, waiting for any crazy bastard who dared climb up.
My bearded guide looked at me.
Yes, step here!
I will die!
No, you must step here to go back.
I can't I am living right here from this point.
It gets very cold!
Where do I step?
I was going to fall to my death. Better than freezing. Now walking down a hill here, on the rocky hills of NJ, you turn your foot sideways right? Yea well there, you will die doing that as the crampon doesn't work anymore.
I slid down, latching onto my guide thinking maybe this was a mistake. He got me about halfway down and had to help others. I had silica on my face by this point having been told it was good for my skin. Everyone had Viking markings I had a star and happy face. Tip toeing further. I finally reached the bottom. I felt very accomplished and very sure this was a one and done.
I am pretty sure the site that the other climbers saw was a bunch of high school students with war-type paint across their faces laughing and enjoying themselves. Followed by me clack, clack clack, baby stepping my way back whimpering with my little gray happy faces smearing in the rain. It must have been funny to them.
So you know the volcano went off the following week.