My husband and I hiked the Eyjafallajökull volcano and it ended in a Coast Guard helicopter rescue, which could have easily been prevented. A number of things contributed to this issue:
It seems that the tour we went on is usually done in the summer and our guide (Petur), although he had 30 years of experience, was unfamiliar with the terrain in winter. We questioned the starting point for the hike, he seemed to just pick a spot at random to start. During the hike he talked about the condition of the trail in the summer and kept changing the route because it had different terrain than in the summer. Our guide thought we would summit in 5 hours, but it took us 7. Later, the rescue crew said it was an 8 hour hike.
The first 2 hours of the hike were very technical. Although we knew the hike would be long and some of it would be in the dark, the website mentioned that there are no technical parts of the hike.
Extreme Iceland did not provide crampons as communications indicated they would. This was much too technical a hike without the proper equipment, especially in the dark. After having a tough time slipping on the ice, the guide put his crampons on. When we asked if we should have them, he said yes, that there must have been a miscommunication with Bjorn. We continued on because he said they weren’t required. Later, the rescue team was very surprised that we even attempted it without them and said we should not have done that hike without them.
By the time we reached the beginning of the final descent, it was dark, snowing and the wind had picked up. The rescue crew said the wind gusts were 96kph and the temperature was -10 degrees. We knew we would be finishing in the dark, and that weather conditions are unpredictable, however our guide couldn’t find the same route down even with a GPS and even if he did, we could not have done it without crampons. After about an hour of trying to find a way down, we told our guide that we were getting nervous that there might be an accident, as we had been outside for over 10 hours, and although we are in good shape, we are not expert hikers and expected to be off the mountain at that point. We finally convinced him to try to get in contact with someone. At first, he couldn’t get through to the emergency rescue number, but he did get through to a co-worker, who I believe made a call to the rescue number for him. He said that the rescue would be dispatched, but that we should keep trying to get down. We kept trying for about an hour, but it was pretty clear by this point that we were not going to be able to find a suitable path down. The Coast Guard wasn’t sure if they would be able to conduct the rescue due to the weather, but we were very lucky.
The rescue team that night was very impressive and we cannot thank them enough. The conditions were extremely difficult and we appreciated them speaking with us afterwards, they treated us very well.
We consider ourselves very lucky - we were not hurt aside from some minor frostbite which is healing well. However, this whole thing could have easily been avoided with the proper equipment and a knowledgeable guide. The worst part of all this is that in the 2 months since this happened we have not heard from Extreme Iceland and never even received an apology.
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