The Crystal Cave

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After the fun but disappointing retreat from the “road” to the Crystal Caves, I was more determined than ever that we would somehow make it to the Crystal Cave. With patchy internet reception, google was my friend and after a couple of false starts (most tours had been booked out weeks in advance), I stumbled across Goecco Tours… a quick call to the company and a conversation with the helpful Jonas, I was informed there was in-fact an unscheduled and unadvertised tour with one other the next day and they could take us! With a 1pm departure from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We were so incredibly lucky!! I can not recommend this tour company more highly, we had two awesome guides, Halli & Einar and a fantastic old school land-rover, with the required massively oversized tyres.

Deep under Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull Glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of meltwater. Ice Caves are only found during the wintertime when the glacial rivers retract and the water freezes; cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible. New caves are formed in different locations each year, the few companies that run tours send out scouts to discover the caves each season and share their discoveries between the other guides. In 2008, Vatnajökull glacier and its surroundings were declared a national park. Two existing national parks, Skaftafell in the south and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, as well as several nature reserves, were integrated to establish the Vatnajökull National Park, creating the largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park covers 13% of Iceland – Covering 8100 square kilometres.

For important safety reasons it is not recommended to go into the ice caves without a certified glacier guide.

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Vatnajökull National Park is shown in green.

 

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Two Vikings…. Jon and Halli admiring the Crystal Cave

Halli is a very tall (6 ft 5″), rugged and imposing man, with a strong jaw and fierce eyes and a mop of dark hair, confident with a sense of the mystic about him. Einar by contrast is blonde with a twinkle in his eye, laid back & happy to be entertained by Halli’s antics. You could not ask for better guides… if I ever went back to Iceland… I would love to do another longer tour with these guys…  Our fellow tourist was an entertaining American called Randall, who once relaxed threw himself into the adventure with gusto. There was a lot of hilarity, tales of daring and a strong desire to share their love and knowledge of their wild and dramatic land. Both Halli and Einar had worked with many films that were shot in Iceland, and Halli had a stint as an IceWalker in Game of Thrones!!! The Viking was much more content and happy to be with this group than the other! The boys went above and beyond, taking us down into the Crystal Cave, where we had a fair amount of time to explore and before a larger tour group joined us; and then on to two other structures.

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Halli and the Viking preparing to enter the cave.

 

The Cave was incredible; the blue ice mind-blowingly clear and mesmerising in how far you could see in to it. You climb down a crevasse like path into the first chamber, from there you wind a little way back deeper into the glacier, till you get to a tunnel, where you crawl on your hands and knees for about 50m to enter the large blue ice chamber. It was like being in some sort of Ice Cathederal. The photos below show the entry and exit point for the Crystal Cave…

The Images below are all taken in the first chamber of the Crystal Cave, where there were a couple of large melt holes to the surface letting light flood through and illuminate the glowing blue ice.

This densely packed glacial ice glows bright blue due to the lack of air bubbles which normally scatter colours of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Layers of black volcanic ash are trapped in these ice formations, a remnant from previous eruptions.

The images below are all from the larger chamber, it was vast with a curved ceiling and filled with the strong blue light. You could hear constant cracking sounds inside the cave. It was not because it was going to collapse but because the cave was moving along with the glacier itself. Each time the glacier moved a millimeter loud sounds could be heard.

Once the larger group arrived we decided we had had enough, outside of the cave the weather had deteriorated and the wind was absolutely howling, with snow being blown it was below -15°. The snow stung your face and clung to anything it could, eyelashes, eyebrows and the lovely faux fur trim of my jacket. The boys decided if we were game, they would take us to see a couple of other nearby caves, the first being just a small tunnel, with  sharp icicles clinging to the circular entrance which looked like the carved oesophagus tract of a dinosaur. We clambered about inside for a few photos before heading over to the other cave.

The boys said this hadn’t been scouted for a couple of months so they weren’t sure of its viability. It was tough walking throught the deep snow into the raging wind… visibility was poor, you literally had to just try and walk in the footsteps of the person in-front of you, without looking up or you were swiftly blinded by the stinging snow. This was the coldest I had been in my whole time in Iceland, it was truly cold. We came to a large dark opening with a steep path down. Halli went first, making sure the path down was compacted, I found it really unnerving when the snow just gave away under your feet, leaving you stuck, thigh deep in the snow. The ice in the chamber was not particularly safe to walk on… Halli made this point by breaking off large chunks and being very entertaining. The video shows Halli being a wild Viking….

Hugely satisfied, a little on the cold side we bundled back into the landrover where I pulled out some apricot and white chocolate cookies I had baked before we came south much to everyones delight. I can’t recommend Goecco tours more highly, and the only thing I am disappointed about is that we didn’t get to spend more time with these great people!

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