Sólheimajökull glacier
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Ice Climbing on an Icelandic Glacier
Deep in the heart of “Mordor,” an area of the glacier named from one of the Icelandic sagas (they came first; Tolkien merely borrowed), my guide, Ingó, finds a suitable ice wall and proceeds to secure a rope for our ice climbing lesson. It seems simple enough: thrust the ice-climbing ice axes (different from those we carry now) into the ice to gain two points of purchase; slam the crampons on your feet into the slick ice to secure another two points of security. Always have at least three points attached to the ice. As I scramble and claw my way up the ice, wishing for Wolverine’s claws or at least his upper body strength, I appreciate the skill and strength that it took to lead climb the face in order to secure the rope. My crampon slips and suddenly I’m hanging onto the ice axes with my feet dangling, supported only by the harness and Ingó’s grip on the belay rope. I regain my hold, my legs like jelly. I creep farther up the ice, tapping the top of the glacier. The rappel down is much easier than the climb up. I’m exultant—and relieved—when my crampons are once again horizontal instead of vertical.
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