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When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier

  • Suomeksi
  • In English

This glacier hike was made possible by VisitSweden and Arctic Guides in September 2015.

There are moments when you truly realize how small you are. How tiny and weak we all are compared to the power of nature.

I had that moment after descending a mountain glacier called Kårsa, located in Björkliden in Swedish Lapland. I had just experienced my first-ever glacier hike and all I was able to do was to stand still, surrounded by the snowy mountain tops, staring up at the glacier that I first thought looked nothing but a big pile of snow. Little did I know what could a short hike at a small, enormous glacier contain.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

We flew over to Kårsa glacier with a helicopter. After landing on the ice field pictured above, I only had one question on my mind: “is THIS really a glacier?” Yes, it was. An unpredictable and treacherous mountain glacier.

Preparing for a glacier hike as a first-timer

A professional guide is invaluable when you are about to face the power of nature as a first-timer. We were lucky to have an experienced arctic guide Anders Bergwall as our instructor. Besides being a qualified guide, Anders has been part of a mountain rescue patrol for 30 years. We were a group of five glacier virgins, but at least we knew we would be in good and trustworthy hands.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Preparing for a glacier hike, lesson one: know where you are heading to. Our guide Anders is showing the map to Teija, one of us first-timers.

Before looking at the map we started from the basics. I mean, very basics. Anders was telling us what glaciers actually are, how are they born and how do they move. He described the bottom layer of a mountain glacier being like a cookie dough; it is flowing down the hill very slowly, following the shape of the ground below it. Kårsa glacier is moving 20–30 meters a year, which is a lot for a glacier.

After studying some theory it’s time to try it in practice. Having a helicopter taking you to a mountain glacier isn’t enough; putting on all the equipment is hard work. Although for us beginners it felt more like being a little child going to kindergarten, waiting for mum to dress you up properly before stepping out of the door. A first-timer isn’t allowed to attach the safety gear alone, and so it should be, as even the tiniest mistake at a glacier could be crucial.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

A helmet, harness, rope, ice axe, crampon… you need a lot of equipment for a glacier hike.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
You can wear hiking shoes, but you need to attach a crampon, an attachment to a shoe with spikes on the bottom. You need to know how to tie the straps properly, so we had to stay still while Anders was doing it for each of us.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Once all the gear is on, the last thing to do is to attach every single group member to the same safety rope. Again we first-timers just stood quietly watching how our guide tied the knots. The knot matters; the leading person, the middle ones and the last person in the line are attached with a different kind of knot.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Nearly ready to go. I am still having a bit mixed feelings; why all this trouble with safety gear for such a small field of snow?

The very first steps on a glacier

Walking with a crampon feels a bit weird to start with, but you will get used to it quickly. Anders instructed us to walk like you had shit in your pants. Sorry about the language, but I’m just repeating the wisdom of our experienced glacier guide.

You need to walk in such way there is no risk of your feet getting together. You also need to lift your feet straight up instead of just dragging them in snow. At the same time, you need to make sure that the rope doesn’t get too tight. You also need to watch it’s not too loose either; stepping on the rope with your ice spikes might end nasty.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

It didn’t take long for us to realise the importance of the safety gear and following instructions. I wouldn’t like to fall in these holes, not even if I was attached to a safety rope.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Every step could be your last one

As small and harmless as Kårsa glacier seemed at the start, soon it showed us its’ true colours. You will understand the meaning of safety equipment once the snow, as firm as it felt, suddenly disappears under your feet. Or under the person walking right in front of you.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Without any warning, the ground just disappeared and Panu fell into a crack covered with snow. Getting back up is not easy, so Anders had to use his ice axe to dig Panu out. The photo is taken by Teea from Curious Feet blog.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

Sometimes you can see the cracks clearly, but as happened with Panu, sometimes they might be hidden under a thin layer of snow. Jumping over the wide cracks of Kårsa glacier was an amazing experience. I recently read that cracks can be up to 50 meters deep. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

The cracks and holes are not the only dangers in a mountain glacier. A rolling stone can easily cause a sudden avalanche.

How does it look like under a glacier?

We were slowly approaching the end of the glacier. We could see small mountain waterfalls, ponds and rivers in front of us. I started to feel a bit melancholic already. Was this all?

No, it wasn’t. We descended from the ice top and stepped into a flowing stream. Anders guided us inside an ice cave, right under Kårsa glacier.

A peek inside a glacier felt absolutely incredible, and for sure it wasn’t the least risky part of our hike. The whole cave could come crushing down any second. The stream was flowing all the way under the glacier, but we couldn’t go any further. It was too dangerous. When you looked up you could see little holes and a bit of foggy sky.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

The views from the mouth of the cave were quite dramatic.

After the glacier hike

For a little while, I could only stand still, surrounded by the snowy mountain tops, staring up at the glacier we had just descended. I could feel the adrenaline running through my blood and I felt awesome. At the same time, I felt so tiny. I felt I barely existed.

There are moments when you truly realize how small you are. How tiny and weak we all are compared to the power of nature.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

This is the mouth of the ice cave where we entered. This is the spot I will always remember. The day I was walking under a glacier.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

After taking off the safety equipment, it was time to rest, have some lunch and share our experiences within the whole group of first-timers.

Would you dare to go for a glacier hike with this one? 😉
Thanks again Teea for another amazing memory.

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog

By the way, did you already read about our first adventure in Sweden, a crawl inside a limestone cave? How about the hike with four seasons or the beautiful waterfalls in Swedish Lapland?

When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier | Live now – dream later travel blog


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Saana

The girl behind the blog is a Finnish travel and outdoor enthusiastic with a huge passion for writing and fulfilling dreams. When I'm not abroad, I'm showing you the best of beautiful Finland. My heart lies in the archipelago of Satakunta and Rauma area in the South-West of Finland.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Oh my goodness! I think the helicopter would have been enough for me! I’ve only been up close to a glacier in NZ but never on one. This sounds like an incredible experience, I think I’d rather read about it than do it however! 😉

    1. The glacier was awesome, you should try it if you ever get a chance. I’ve always wanted to go NZ, haven’t been there yet. But they must have the most fantastic hiking routes and views over there. It’s on my bucket list, so let’s see… 😉 P.S. The helicopter was nice too. I’ll tell you a little bit more about that as well in the near future, let’s see if you change your mind! 😉

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