2017 Vatnajökull Expedition

2017 Vatnajökull Expedition (10)

The team arrived back in Reykjavik this afternoon, looking forward to their final celebration dinner.  More showers ("hand sanitizer only goes so far" was overheard from one of the group), drying out clothing and gear, sleeping on a mattress, eating real food... all most appreciated and very well deserved.  Huge congratulations to all team members!!  We'll let them speak for themselves on their accomplishments and wish everyone safe travels home, till their next adventure!  Thanks to all for following along and we look forward to seeing you on another expedition! If you think you might enjoy this expedition for yourself why not join our 2018 team? Read more here

 

The team awoke to hard driving rain which started around 4 AM and did not let up all day.  They broke camp around 8 AM and had an extremely challenging day descending the glacier in the driving rain.  They were only able to ski for the first 200 metres, then had to switch to walking.  The first 2 hours they had snow, then it changed to bare ice for the remainder of the descent.  The conditions were such that their sleds were either sliding ahead of them or hitting them in the ankles.  If they put the brake on the sled, it would get stuck in the ice or cause so much friction that it was nearly impossible to maneuver.  They were able to enjoy some incredible landscape, having a lateral moraine on their right for much of the descent and seeing a number of moulins (a moulin or glacier mill is a roughly circular, vertical to nearly vertical well-like shaft within a glacier or ice sheet which water enters from the surface. The term is derived from the French word for mill, per Wikipedia)  Everything and everyone was soaking wet- whenever the sleds tipped over, water poured out.  Imagine trying to control a water filled sled on solid ice on a steep descent while trying to maintain one's own balance...   Needless to say, when they reached the bottom, everyone was absolutely elated- as well they should be!!  

They were picked up near the bottom of the glacier and had a spectacular 4 wheel drive from the edge of the glacier onto Highway 1.  When they reached their lodging, everyone thoroughly enjoyed a hot shower and a celebratory dinner.  Their rooms are draped with soaking wet clothing on every available surface and hanging area.  The theme for the day was "wet, slippery and exciting"!  They were too tired to call in an audio update for the blog but promise that they will leave a group update tomorrow so be sure to check back.

The forecast for tomorrow is for more rain...  But they'll be getting a protected ride to Reykjavik for their final night of well deserved celebration before heading home.

The last day of our ski trek across Vatnajökull

The photo does not capture the driving sheets of rain but does give a sense of the challenging conditions

Skiing down the last bit of Vatnajokull Glacier

Eric Rutherford's smile definitely captures the sense of accomplishment!

Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.

The team called in from N 64° 08.243, W 016° 27.158.  They are hanging out in their tents, having just finished dinner and a poetry reading session (Robert Service always a favorite on all PolarExplorers expeditions!).  They are around 10 km from the edge of the glacier.  They had a fairly leisurely morning, starting on trail around 10 AM.   Overnight the winds were quite strong as had been forecast but they were comfortable in the protected campsite they had chosen with their wind walls. 

In the morning, the weather was beautiful with bright sun but they could see the weather moving in over the mountains.  They passed some beautiful ice falls and saw some lenticular cloud patterns that were stunning (see photo below) Around mid-day the clouds moved in to fully envelope them, they had 20' visibility at times and the snow became soft and wet as they were going down some steep inclines.  They alternated between skis and boots.  They stayed roped together all day as they were in crevasse territory.  They could see some crevasses in the distance but fortunately did not have any close encounters.  The temperature was around 20° F in the morning, increasing throughout the day to above freezing.  They did find that they had to shed some layers in order avoid over-heating.

They plan to get an early start in the morning and will get picked up around mid-day at the edge of the glacier.  All are looking forward to eating real food tomorrow!  They did express concern that the blog may be making this expedition sound too easy so be sure to listen to (or read the transcription) of Eric's audio update belowLaughing...

Beautiful clouds on our Ski traverse of Vatnajökull

Hello friends, family and followers.  This is Eric calling in from another day on the Vatnajokull Glacier here in Iceland.  It’s our second to last day actually.  We had a beautiful start to the day- bright and sunny as we started to descend down from the top of the glacier.  About halfway down, the clouds moved in and visibility went to almost nothing.  We traveled for about 7 hours, roped up the entire way, covering something like 15 kilometers, and now we are in our tents, and we're close enough to the road where we got a few bars of cell reception and were able to read the blog updates and heard how easy our expedition has been, but I just want to set the record straight.  This has been incredibly challenging and we have each saved each other's lives at least 5 times.  And it's been perhaps the hardest thing that all of us have ever done.  The weather has been trying, and this has just been an epic expedition all around.  So I know it sounds like we've been having fun, but it's really just been brutal and epic and challenging.  And Annie says fun, but for me just epic and brutal and challenging.  So we'll be back in civilization tomorrow if all goes according to plan.  So we will touch base then and thanks for following along.

Does this expedition sound fun to you? Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.

The team just called in from N 64° 07.548, W 016° 40.767.  They woke up to a nice cool morning and had a fairly relaxed start, waking at 7 AM, then snoozing till 7:30.   They had a nice ski and traveled about 19 km.  At the last stop, they put on their harnesses and roped up as they were heading into crevasse territory.  They will remain roped up for the remainder of the expedition.

They found a beautiful spot to camp, looking out across a glacial valley with mountains all around.  They had an outdoor kitchen and dinner again tonight.  There was rather a smorgasbord for dinner tonight with fried bread with butter and cheese and soups for appetizers, entrees ranged from spaghetti to pepper steak to chicken teriyaki.

The forecast is for strong winds tonight but they should be in a protected area and built some good wind walls.  Rob built an absolutely spectacular loo for the night- truly a work of modern art per Annie.  Hoping they may send some pictures...

All are in very good spirits, despite a few sunburned lips.  But that is the extent of the discomfort so all good!  They are looking forward to another good day tomorrow as they continue their descent.

On the way down...

Transcription of audio update for those following on mobile devices:

Hello, this is Annie calling from Vatnajokull where we have a beautiful campsite tonight overlooking a glacial valley with spectacular views.  Everybody's doing really good. We are tired after a really nice day. Everybody else is in bed actually, enjoying the comfort of their sleeping bags. We had a nice outdoor kitchen again tonight where we had dinner looking out over the glacier and over the mountains. We covered some good mileage and the exciting thing is that we put on all of our glacial travel kit, our harnesses and used the ropes and we'll be using those, we’ll be roped up for the rest of the trip. We're looking forward to a good day tomorrow, and we will be reporting in tomorrow night, so I hope you're enjoying following our expedition, and we look forward to talking to you soon. Bye-bye.

Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.

The team enjoyed a well deserved rest day in the hut.  They reviewed crevasse rescue and glacier travel technique.  They ate a lot and swapped stories (with this group of explorers, there are of course many amazing stories!)  They thoroughly enjoyed the sauna.  It was a very restorative day which they so deserved after the first two. 
The weather was very windy, 50 mph at times, and partly cloudy.  The temperatures were below freezing but with the wind it felt a lot colder.
They will be back on the trail tomorrow and are all really looking forward to it.
 

 
Due to the quality of satellite reception and John's marvelous New Zealand accent, we regret that we're not able to provide a quality transcription.  We encourage you to look at this blog update from a PC vs. mobile device and it will come through clearly.

The team successfully reached the Grimsfall Hut today after 10 long hours of travel!  They started at 8:45 AM and arrived at 6:45 PM.  They traveled 28 km in a series of 6 pushes with 15 minute breaks in between each push.  Though a long day, they were on a mission to reach the hut.  Everyone is obviously very pumped and excited that they reached their goal!  (Click on today's blog title to see the full dispatch including audio update)

The team just called in from location N 64° 21.364, W 17° 46.763.
 
They reported that after a strong and wet storm last night, they started very early with an "Alpine start" at 3:30 AM. The plan was to spend the time while the glacier was still hard and compact to find a way across a glacier runoff river. After 5 hours of travel and only 4 km of distance, they were able to cross the running water without getting boots wet. They hit the glacier proper at 10:00 AM and spent the rest of the day covering 17 km. This was when the weather finally broke and they enjoyed a bright, sunny, and calm walk up the glacier. They are now in camp looking forward to a good night's rest with everyone feeling good.  They just finished with appetizers. They might try and reach the hut tomorrow.
 
On the Vatnajokul Glacier ready to ski
 
 
Transcript of audio update for those following on mobile devices:

Hello, this is Annie calling from the Vatnajokull Expedition, calling on behalf of Rob and Eric and Eric Lillstrom and John Gluckman. We're having a good time up on the glacier. We are 17 kilometers onto the glacier. We had a long day today. Got up very early to try to take advantage of the cooler temperatures for a river crossing and it worked and but it took us the first 5 hours of the day just to get to the edge of the glacier, and then we were able to put in about 17 kilometers on to the glacier. It started off with some light mist and sometimes heavy mist, almost rain and some stronger winds, but now, and for the last few hours, it has been calm and sunny.  Every so often a few clouds roll and then sunny again, so we're really blessed by this good weather.  We had a big wind storm last night and our tents were fluttering around and so it makes us appreciate this nice calm weather even more. We're all doing good.  We hope you're enjoying following along, and we will report back in tomorrow. Thanks!  Bye-bye.

Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.

The team was picked up at their hotel in Reykjavik at 5 AM today to drive to the glacier.  They traveled for about 6 hours to Jokulheimar where they ran into a river that they weren't able to cross due to high water levels.  They found a protected spot to camp about 1.5-2 km from the edge of the glacier.  They were glad to find a protected area as the forecast is for gale force winds tonight.  (Click on today's blog title to see the full dispatch including audio update)

The expedition begins!  The team met in Reykjavik and spent the day reviewing their kit, practicing making camp, discussing their daily itinerary and getting to know one another.   When they phoned in, they were getting ready to head out for dinner and their official welcome festivities.  They are excited to be heading out early in the morning for Jokulheimar on the western edge of Vatnajökull.

Stay tuned for updates from the trail.

Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.

Our guide team of Annie and Eric are off to Iceland to prepare for our crossing of the Vatnajökull Icecap.

The team will be on the trail for nine days, giving regular updates along the way. Follow along for stories and pictures from the land of fire and ice!

Camping on Vatnajokull

Want to join our 2018 Vatnajökull Expedition? Read more about it here.


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Toll-Free USA/CAN. 800.732.7328

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