The next morning we ate just-add-hot-water eggs rancheros out of a bag, which tasted about as good as they sound. Bailey enjoyed her coffee by the river with a book. We smelled our boots with dismay - they were still soaked. Looks like we'd be walking on the glacier with wet feet.
Photos from before and after the glacier adventure..
At 11 we entered the visitor center where we gleefully found WiFi, made some calls, and paid for the glacier walking and kayaking tour through ICETROLL Hiking and Kayaking. Our tour consisted of a mother-daughter pair, four Portuguese dudes in their 20s, a Belgian/Dutch couple, and a Bulgarian couple. Upon arriving at the small glacial lake (I could see it would be a very short kayaking trip to the glacier), Bailey and I loaded into our double kayak and were the first on the water. The wind was whipping up small waves on the frigid glacial blue water. Next was the mother daughter pair. They promptly found themselves blown downwind and into the side of the lake, swearing and squealing at each other. After making a couple attempts to tow them, the guide booted them from the kayaking portion of the tour.
We paddled to the base of the glacier, which had receded a lot, leaving sculpted rock behind. The view was fantastic, but the trip was disappointingly short. Thinking we were going for a short glacier walk, we left our lunch in the kayak. During the walk I approached the Dutch speaking couple to ask where they were from. Before I knew it, I was discussing a potential 2-bedroom apartment in Antwerp that was available to rent close to my future job! The Belgian guy and I swapped contact info and hr promised to send photos and more info soon. Sweet! "How did you find this awesome apartment?" "On a glacier in Norway."
The New Zealand guide led us on a walk up the rocks toward the glacier, during which we perilously hopped from wet rock to rock across the raging glacial river and learned that 3 people had died on this tour in the past. First, he pointed to a cave formed under the massive glacier tail and encouraged us to enter and take photos ("be careful in the cave, a guy died here last year"). Bailey and I did this in record time. At any moment the glacier might make its next movement and squish us like ants. From inside a set of blue plastic tubs, the guide retrieved crampons, ice axes, and harnesses and explained how to wear them. Bailey and I glanced at each other in angst: we had been under the impression that this was just going to be a short walk on the glacier. Before we knew it, we were strapped to 8 other people who would be responsible for our lives. Though we crashed into the guide twice with our kayak, he still deemed us the most competent members of the group and put us at the end of the rope. He told us a funny story: "These four confident British guys were on the tour yesterday - it was so funny, I took them across an ice bridge and they all fell into a crevasse ahahhaha."
We began the ascent up the glacier. We kept a distance between each other so the rope would be relatively taut. That way, if someone fell into a crevasse, they would not pick up too much speed before yanking on the people next to them. One of the Portuguese guys seemed to be lacking half a brain and repeatedly ignored the guides advice (leaving the specified route and stepping on the rope with sharp crampons) and eventually the guide was using dog commands to control him: "STAY!"
We hopped and skipped across crevasses that were nearly as wide as our short legs can span. By the end of the trip 5 people had partially or fully fallen into a crevasse (not us!!). The Portuguese guys took selfies with their gopros every 3 steps of the trek, forcing all of us to wait on the rope. I did make one mistake and dropped my phone down on the glacier. It skidded across the ice and landed in a small hole. I had to ask everyone to pause while I retrieved it, almost smashing it with the ice ax in the process. Some of us had bleeding hands from the sharp ice. In the distance we saw and heard mini avalanches and rock falls.
We did learn some fun facts about the glacier. The Jostedal ice field is the largest in continental Europe, at 480/square kilometers. It feeds 27 glacier arms. The glacier we were on is 500 meters at its deepest point (where we stood was 100). The glacier was in the Netherlands 8000 years ago but has since receded, except in the 1600s when it grew and destroyed 9 farms in its wake, gaining it the name "Nigardsbreen" (9 farm glacier). Crevices can only grow up to about 40 meters deep, at which point the weight of the ice above pushes the two sides together.
We continued climbing up until we reached a high point, where we paused to have some hot cocoa before heading back down along the same path. 4 hours later, we were back at the kayaks, ravenous and thirsty. We scarfed down our quinoa salad before paddling back. The 750 NOK tour (~$94) had been more than we ever expected.
Photos from kayaking and hiking at Nigardsbreen Glacier!
Distance: 3.8 miles combined hike and paddle
Duration: 6 hours total
Weather: Sunny and warm and breezy