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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.

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