Very recently, and after a 2 year wait of often looking (and always with very much longing) towards the seemingly elusive summit of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, a superb team of 4×4 drivers drove me there! It was a completely splendid experience – I was in volcanic/glacial raptures and did indeed feel “on top of the world”… at last. It was to be a 6-7 hour day, heading into the South Highlands. The anticipation was high – would we actually be able to “summit”? What would the weather be like at the top, would we see anything? How close would we get to the crater? Would there still be any “heat evidence”?
I joined a delightful group of university students from Canada for the day; they were budding geologists and earth scientists, some now engaging in their Masters and Doctorate degrees. Their enthusiasm was palpable, thus we were a very good match as none of us could contain our excitement – my own, and very frequent, “wow”s equalling theirs!
There was considerable “sugary” snow on the lower section of the route and much skill was shown by the 4×4 drivers to cross these particularly challenging areas. It was very impressive to see their amazing driving skills in action for such snow conditions; both drivers and clients enjoyed it very much, but for very different reasons! For us it was the sheer thrill and excitement, but for the drivers, well, it was an opportunity to prove that they really were true Icelanders! At one point, however, I definitely thought that no amount of such skill would allow us to proceed to our goal as it was bit late in the season for this particular route, but, with patience and perseverance, and at all times with safety first, we made it!
It had been quite an overcast morning, calm and dry certainly, but it was a matter of fingers crossed for clarity at the top; could we be so lucky? Yes! As we went above about 1,400m (the volcano is about 1,666m), we came above the clouds and there it was, the mighty and still slightly steaming crater of Eyjafjallajökull – the big one, the “Big E”, the volcano that had put on such a splendid show in April/May 2010 (albeit causing much mayhem in many ways too). There too was the head of Gigjökull glacier underneath which a lava flow had extended to produce a great glacial flood in the Markarfljót. All was miraculously seen under blue skies and in full sun – it truly was a magnificent Arctic scene, just wondrous! What a most joyous and exhilarating experience for everyone.
Considerable time was spent at the top just simply gazing around, it was breathtaking in all of its natural beauty. Were we really here? Were we actually viewing the main crater from which 750 tonnes of ash was being ejected at the high point of the eruption (and that caused those magnificent nightly lightning shows)? The huge crater was clear to see, with its new rock deposits of greens, reds and blacks. A little steam too was seen drifting skywards. It is hard to judge how close we were to the crater’s lip – close enough! You have to be very respectful of nature and nature’s forces in such environments and travel with experienced professionals who really know their stuff and who very clearly define the areas where it is wise to be. All was spectacular!
A huge thanks has to be given to the Super Jeep team. They showed great professionalism and provided great security for us all at all times whilst allowing us all to have such a thrilling set of experiences.
So, did I recommend that Rayburn Tours should offer such Super Jeep trips to our clients? Well, I did suggest that I really ought to try out a few more of the Super Jeep routes first to really be able to pass judgement – just joking; overwhelmingly it’s a definite “Yes” from me! You simply have to consider exploring by Super Jeep the magnificent and hugely varied landscapes that are “hidden” from general view in the South of Iceland; it’s simply, stunningly, geographically staggering.
Ian K. Hardie, 14th May, 2012