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Quest for Snow

One of our goals for Tuesday of our second week was to find snow. We started out by driving west from camp along the gravel road towards the spectacular mountains that we discovered on the way to camp. We heard from the people at the camp that there was still snow on some of those peaks and that there are a lot of trails around there. As we drove across the valley towards the mountains, we spotted a number of white snow fields up on the peaks that had not yet melted during the Summer. After driving along the roads up into the mountains, we finally came to a spot that had a small parking area. It seemed like it would be the closest place we could get with the cars to the snow fields up on the peaks. If you look closely in this first picture, you can see the snow field that we were targeting as a small white spot near the top peaks just right of center in the image. This picture was taken at about a third the way up. You can see this same snow field in two of the other pictures below.

We parked, got out, and put on our rain gear. There was a misty rain in the winds that were blowing about 15+ mph. We started out with six scouts. We were mostly jumping from sheep trail to sheep trail making our way in the general direction of our target snow field. At about a third the way, we took stock of how everyone was doing on the hike and if they wanted to continue. Two of the scouts turned back. The other four scouts ended up making the full hike to the snow field and back - even though we stopped twice more on the way up to decide whether we should all turn back or not.

This video was taken while walking along a trail well over a thousand feet up from the valley. The persepective gives you a good feel for how high up we are into the mountain. Our best guess is that the altitude of our target snow field must have been around 2000 feet up from the valley.

The hike up was through a series of ridges and ravines. We were constantly assessing where we were in relation to the snow and whether moving up along that ridge or over there along the other side was going to be easier. Also, we kept an eye looking backwards to make sure that we could identify landmarks for our hike back down. It would be all too easy to hike down the wrong ravine and end up on a different part of the mountain than where we parked the cars.

We generally tried to keep on slopes that were walkable. Any vertical climbing was out of the question. This little bit was really the steepest bit on the whole hike. Up over that ridge it leveled out and actually sloped down a bit towards a ravine. As we walked towards the ravine, the snow field came into view less than a quarter mile up the slope. We let out a yell and quickened our pace now that the goal was in sight.

The snow field that we were targeting can be seen in the top right of this picture. It feeds the small gacier that you can see sweeping around a turn in the ravine on the left. The base of the glacier was made up of the same the hard, blue ice that encountered on our glacier hike the other day.

The boys had a snow fight with the easily packable snow. They rejoiced in achieving their objective and took a well earned break before the hike back down.


Exploring Little Girl Cave

Little Girl cave is what is left of a lava tube from about 9000 years ago. It is about a quarter mile long from end to end. Viewed from the air, it traverses diagonally underneath the road that we drove in on and comes out at a point where the tube ceiling collapsed. Looking further along the same line, a ditch can be seen continuing on dotted with areas of the tube that may not be fully collapsed.

When we arrived at the site, our guide fitted each of us with a helmet that had a battery powered light mounted to it. He then lead us down a trail about fifty yards to the entrance of the cave. We were cautioned about loose rocks under foot and not to touch the ceiling since that might break away some loose rock from above. We turned on our helmet lights and were then lead down single file into the cave.

The cave entrance was strewn with large boulders from the ancient cave-in that exposed the entrance. In fact, most of the cave was a continuous climb over boulders. The ceiling had obvious chunks broken out all along the way. However, at no point was there any light shining through from holes in the ceiling. Our guide told us that we were about 15 to 20 meters below ground. At one point the ceiling opened up into a much taller chamber. Looking backward, it appeared that the lava tube had two additional tubes or layers above the one that we were traversing. Our guide told us that another name for the cave was Canyon Cave due to the vertical nature of the space.

At about the mid-point of the cave, our guide had us all sit still and listen to the sounds of the cave. We heard absolute silence aside from the occasional water droplets. He then had us all turn our helmet lights off. We were plunged into complete darkness. The twists and elevation changes along the way long ago cut off any light from outside. We could not see a thing. It was absolutely dark.

When asked why the cave was called "Little Girl", our guide told us a story of a little girl who had been lost in the absolute darkness of the cave. Apparently, there was a search for the girl - but, she was not found in the cave. However, weeks later, the story has it, she emerged from a cave near the airport! The validity of this story is suspect, however, since the airport is about 80 miles away.


Ice Climbing on Sólheimajökull Glacier

The Sólheimajökull glacier is a magestic frozen river of ice. We met our guides and hiked almost a half mile to the base of the glacier. They reviewed with us the exciting opportunities and the dangers involved. They gave us all a helmet, ice axe, a climbing harness, and crampons. The crampons are metal teeth that you attach to your boots which dig into the ice giving you good traction. We walked just under 5 miles across the glacier and through its crevices.

Our guides took us on a tour across the glacier and through its crevices that traversed just under 5 miles. This might sound like a long way. But, when you consider that much of this traversal was vertical and every step was a slight stomp to set the teeth of the crampons, it felt far, far longer than 5 miles.

At the halfway point, our guides setup a couple anchor points in the ice above a vertical wall. They setup belaying lines and asked for the first volunteers that wanted to try to climb the wall. They had a couple extra pairs of "climbing axes" for us to use in our accents. After some brief instruction, the first pair started their way up.

Almost everyone rose to the challenge and tried to climb the ice wall. A few hardy souls made the climb multiple times. As with all activities, some were more successful than others.

Tyler and Alec approached the challenge with gusto. They hooked into their harnesses and approached the wall at the same time. It wasn't a race though. They each were totally focussed on keeping 3 points of contact with the ice wall at all times. First, you kick in the toe teeth at the front of the crampons. Then you swing and set your ice axes into the ice one at a time. Pull youself up and then do it all again.

Of course, a little preparation ahead of time can go a long way. For instance, it is probably a good idea to tie your boots on tightly and all the way to the top. Notice that both boys almost have their heels coming out of their boots in this picture.

A simple twist of the foot, and suddenly Tyler's boot is dangling from his toes. Both of Alec's heels are edging out of his boots at this point. Alec is so close to the top - he's gotta go for it!

Alec made it! All credit goes to his advance one-shoe climbing skills! Not even our guides could have done that. Here you'll notice that Alec's second shoe is only hanging on by his toes. Tyler has completely lost his one shoe and is doing his best to pull both climbing axes out so that he can repel back down.

Tyler's got both axes in hand now and is managing a one-shoe repel back down. He was VERY careful not to step with his right foot too close to his left.

Owing to Tyler's 'never-give-up' attitude, he gave it another go. This time, he deftly climbed the taller steeper run on the right. He made it to the top like a pro! On the way down, he decided to demonstrate an advanced inverted repelling techique that he came up with all on his own...

Our guide scrambled up in no time and helped turn tyler back around onto his feet. Tyler finished repelling using a more conventional technique and was back down safe and sound.


þórufoss Falls

þórufoss Falls was recommended to us by Jacob (the man who runs the camp). He said that it is a local treasure that none of the tours really know about.b. He said that they filmed scenes for Game of Thrones at these falls. This sounded great to us, so we put it on the schedule for the next day.

Jacob's verbal instructions lead us to a general area. He said that if we drive down this road then we will see the falls and know when to turn in. Unfortunately, we drove way down that road and saw nothing. We though perhaps we had poor instructions or that we were on the wrong road.

On the way back, we decided to stop and see if this little 5 car lot along the side of the road was a trail head or something that might lead back to the falls. Little parking lots like this are pretty common. There are endless vistas and sites that people like to stop their cars and take pictures of. So, we figured that this was another one of those - although much smaller.

When we got there a few of us walked out down this path that sortof just disappeared. We kept going until suddenly off to the right hidden from the road was this amazing waterfall. Everyone ran over and took a look. But, the driving wind and misty rain drove almost everyone back into the cars - ready to head back.

Somebody spotted a small foot trail down on the flood plane below. Dan figured that it was accessible from a little ravine. He managed to make his way down to the path and then followed it. It turned out that the path lead all the way to the foot of the falls! He ran back and gathered the whole gang to go back down and check them out.

Down on the flood plane, we were protected from most of the rain and wind. It was much, much nicer down there. Everyone had a lot of fun. You could actually touch the edge of the falls. Chris washed his hair in it.