southeast iceland: fláajökull glacier tongue hike

Sunday, August 21: Backtracking to the east, where we will stay another night in Höfn, we take a detour to a walking trail that goes to the Fláajökull glacier tongue, one of many glacier tongues flowing south from Vatnajökull glacier.

We have to take a gravel access road for 8km to a small car park.  It’s a long, bumpy and slow drive but manageable enough in our 2WD car.

A sign at the entrance warns of quicksand and dangerously cold water, sometimes covered with a thin layer of ice.  There is also a high risk of falling rocks and rock slides in steep hillsides next to retreating glaciers. The sign also warns that “fatal accidents have occurred due to collapsing blocks of ice, falls into crevasses and hypothermia.  Some have never returned from a glacier visit, their fate still unknown.”

The glacier tongue doesn’t look like it’s that far away, but, as we find every time we walk to a glacier, appearances are deceiving.

Fláajökull glacier tongue
Fláajökull glacier tongue

It is an awfully gray day, and quite dark and uninviting.

Fláajökull glacier tongue
Fláajökull glacier tongue
Mike at Fláajökull glacier tongue
Mike at Fláajökull glacier tongue

We cross a suspension bridge that leads to the trail.  It’s a wobbly bridge and we can’t help bouncing around on it like a couple of kids as we cross.

suspension bridge at Fláajökull glacier tongue
suspension bridge at Fláajökull glacier tongue
Mike on the suspension bridge
Mike on the suspension bridge
the wobbly suspension bridge at Fláajökull
the wobbly suspension bridge at Fláajökull

We cross paths with a man and woman walking across the rocky field in the picture below.  The woman tells us she thought it would be a shortcut, but because the ground is sandy and rocky, it was not a shortcut after all.  She advises us to stay on the trail.

Fláajökull glacier tongue
Fláajökull glacier tongue

It takes us a while to get to the lagoon at the edge of the glacier tongue.

Fláajökull glacier tongue and lagoon
Fláajökull glacier tongue and lagoon

Apparently, Fláajökull has retreated more than two kilometers (1 mile) over the last century.

Fláajökull glacier tongue
Fláajökull glacier tongue
Fláajökull
Fláajökull
Fláajökull
Fláajökull

There are a few spots of color, little tufts of wildflowers that manage to eke out a living in this rocky terrain.

wildflowers eking out a living on the rocks
wildflowers eking out a living on the rocks

The path winds along the edge of the lagoon over rocky terrain with often poor footing.  Sometimes it’s a little close to the edge and, as some of the ground on the edge of the lagoon looks muddy, I can’t help but wonder if it’s quicksand, especially after reading the warning sign.

the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull
the barren landscape around Fláajökull

The path, covered in loose rocks, rounds a precarious point on a narrow ledge.  I’m leery about proceeding around this point as I don’t want to fall into the icy water or sink into quicksand! Mike goes to the point while I linger behind, refusing to go any further.

Mike at Fláajökull
Mike at Fláajökull

From this point, Mike can see some hardy souls who have walked around the point up to the edge of the glacier, but I’m not willing to be one of those hardy souls.  The path is just too narrow and I’m too much of a klutz.

We slowly make our way back along the path, where I find more colorful wildflower tufts tucked in around the rocks, the only splashes of color in this barren place.

We continue picking our way among the rocks along the glacier tongue’s lagoon.  Several times we lose the path and come to a dead-end where it’s impossible to proceed.  We have to backtrack and gingerly find our way to the path again.  It’s not well-marked at all.

Fláajökull's lagoon
Fláajökull’s lagoon
Fláajökull's lagoon
Fláajökull’s lagoon
Fláajökull
Fláajökull

Finally, we make it back to the car park.  From there, we drive slowly back along the 8km gravel road, passing some sheep along the way.

Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep
the 8km gravel road back to the Ring Road
the 8km gravel road back to the Ring Road
Icelandic sheep at Fláajökull
Icelandic sheep at Fláajökull

We head back to Höfn, where we will check into our second hotel there, eat some dinner, and take a walk on a marshy path on the promontory Ósland, along Hornafjörður.

5 thoughts on “southeast iceland: fláajökull glacier tongue hike

    1. It was quite awesome to see a glacier up close, although it was much blacker and dirtier than I imagined. And you’re right, the gray skies didn’t help one bit. But oh well, at least we got out walking.🙂

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