We drove a short 30-minute drive from Reykjavik to the supposedly popular Bláfjöll ski resort. Honestly, as die-hard skiers, it doesn’t really look like a destination ski resort. Our guide told us that skiing here is quite hit-or-miss because Bláfjöll, like much of Iceland, is often too windy. But we were there in late August, and between May and October, Bláfjöll serves as the base camp for our tour, “Into the Volcano.”
When we left Reykjavik the sun was shining. But as we approached the parking lot, the skies turned gray, yielding a persistent drizzle. The “Into the Volcano” website urges warm, rainproof clothing. I cannot echo this strongly enough. After checking in for our tour, we went downstairs to gear up. As you can see from the pictures, we wore these glorious ankle length yellow rain slickers over our waterproof pants and jackets. With our waterproof hiking boot and gloves, I thought we were more than adequately prepared.
Þríhnúkagígur is a dormant volcano and, believe it or not, we were going to go to the bottom of it. But, before that, we had to hike two miles to get to the crater. Hiking the two miles from base camp one, across a lava field, to the second base camp, wasn’t inherently difficult and having hiking boots definitely helped with the uneven ground. Really, the wind and heavy rain were the complicating factors.
The second base camp serves as a staging center. Here we were given helmets, harnesses and instructions. Hiking the steep ten-minute climb to the top of Prihnukagigiur’s crater was challenging. Our guides were competent and very reassuring (especially for me—an extremely risk-averse individual) as we approached the “elevator.” Ok, it’s not an elevator. Actually, the elevator was designed by a German company to be a high-rise window-washing platform. Yes, really. Now, way out of my comfort zone, I was harnessed in to the elevator along with five others and our guide. Slowly, we were lowered into the crater. Amazingly, it was way less scary than I expected. And, in case you are wondering (worried), there was lighting all the way down—and, yes, I even opened my eyes.
Once at the bottom of the crater’s core, we were released from our harnesses had 40 minutes to explore. The expected darkness was broken by the lights that illuminating the inside of the magma chamber. Even if you are not an expert in volcanoes or geology, the palette of colors was breathtaking. It seems that every color combination of the spectrum was represented in the walls and rocks dispersed throughout the chamber. We explored the volcano and too soon, it was time to go.
The window washing lift took us back up to the rim where further adventure awaited us. We were greeted by 60 mile/hour winds driving heavy rain into our faces as we hiked down the steep ridge back to the 2nd base camp. Attached to my guide with a short rope, I did not dare to let go of the safety line attached to the mountain for fear of being blown off the ridge.
Once back inside the second base camp, we enjoyed hot soup and an opportunity to warm up. After about twenty minutes, it was time to leave. If you have ever tried walking in the middle of a hurricane then you have a vivid image of our hike back to the first base camp. About half way back, I started sloshing around in my supposedly waterproof boots. Yelling as the wind drowned out our voices, my husband asked “How can your feet be wet? the boots are waterproof!” Well, within a minute, his boots were equally flooded with water. The driving rain was so intense that, in spite of all of our waterproof gear, we were thoroughly drenched.
Back at base camp, we were rewarded with hot chocolate. Hiking to and from the volcano was an adventure in and of itself. But, in spite of being cold and wet, my trip into the volcano was a truly amazing experience—a definite MUST SEE. My only recommendation would be to bring an extra change of clothes and shoes—just in case you too are soaked.
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