This week, we're going spelunking in the tiny island country of Iceland ("Eess-land" in the native tongue). Raufarholshellir is located about 20 minutes from the capital, Reyjkavik, and is the second longest Lava Tube System in Iceland. To get there, just follow Route 39 from the capital to the harbor (ferry) town of Thorlakshofn. Just as your coming down the mountain, right before the town, it will be on your left, as you come down the first main curve, in a little gravel pull off. If you pass a large black hole in the lava field, you need to turn around!
As you enter the cave, you'll notice giant "holes" in the ceiling...as the lava left the tube, it created a "vacuum", and sucked the "undried lava" out, leaving a giant hole in the earth...hence the cave! Notice the mounds of rock under the holes...yep, you have to maneuver over what once was the ceiling!
"Me, posing at the second hole...notice the pile of boulders behind me!"
After you pass under the third hole, you'll start to notice the total blackness...hope you came prepared...check out my "Gear List" at the end of this post! Then the descent begins...note...although July/August is the best time to go, there's always ice in the cave, so watch your footing!!! As you start, the real beauty of the caves begins to show itself...Ice Formations (not really icicles, as the ones here are formed on the floor...upside down icicles if you will....ranging from 6 inches to 6 feet!!!
"Journey To The Center Of The Earth"
The first part can be pretty ruff, with 8-12 ft boulders to maneuver, through narrow openings. After that, you enter the first of three(?) of the bigger chambers, where you'll have to go around or over enormous piles of boulders, ranging from 6 inches to 5-6 feet, and if you shine your light on the ceiling, you can see how they got here...don't worry though...most of these fell when the cave was rather young, and the lava was cooling off and cracking. Make sure you go around at least one of them...if you look on the bottom, on the side, of the cave, you'll see all this glittering stuff...you may think it's just dew that accumulated on the moist rocks...it's actually a silver "dust" that stuck to the top layer of the lava when the cave was forming, and has a BEAUTIFUL, glittering appearance!
"Shimmering Walls of Lava..."
Then comes the best, though be it those most confusing, part. This is where my Invoa 24/7 came in handy...after my first trip here, I realized the back of the cave split into three LARGE caverns...and after being in the dark for three hours, you begin to lose your sense of direction....so I set this up on "Strobe: mode, at the "entrance" to the leg that led out of the cave...and believe me, it saved me wandering around for thirty minutes the second time, trying to figure out which way to go!!! The tunnel to the right is by far the neatest, as you have a "Lava waterfall", "frozen in time" at the back, with glimmering wall, and lava drippings hanging from the ceiling.
"The Lava Water Fall"
The middle and left leg actually connect, through a small split in the rock...however, using the far left is a little more risky...as you approach, you'll notice the only "graffiti" in the cave...a yellow arrow and the words "atchung" spray painted on a 10 ton slab "dangling" from the ceiling, about half-way through the left leg. And to the back, you'll get to see how lava really comes out of the ground...it's kinda weird....it's almost like mother nature beat herself...as powerful as lava is, and the tectonic plates, it seems it wasn't enough to beat off the harsh cold, and the lava monster was defeated, frozen in time, for us to get a glimpse, or an idea, of her power, from birth!
"Lava, creeping from the earth, frozen in time..."
Going to Iceland was a wonderful experience...everybody knows about it, but everybody decides to go to to Mainland Europe instead...your missing a "diamond in the rough"!!! I've been to six European countries, including Italy, Austria, England, and Turkey...Iceland, by-far, is the most beautiful!!!
The lava tubes of Iceland isn't where my caving started, but it's definite;y where it took on a whole nother meaning for me...I've been looking for bigger and better caves since, with an unmatched passion for the beauty of going into the belly of the earth, and possibly where no person has stepped before!!!
Here's some of the gear I used on this "expedition" (my choices were a little more limited then)
-Carharrt Jacket (although I had to take it off half way through, due to the strenuous climbing, once inside the cave)
-Foxfury Signature Outdoors; 24 LED Headlamp...stadium lights you can wear on your head!!!
-Road flares (for the larger caverns)
-Flight Gloves (I have to keep my dexterity)
-Inova 24/7 to find my way, and my gear, in the cave
-Rayovac Outdoorsman Headlamp (great for a general purpose light)
-And of course, my Surefire G2 Nitrolon...when I really needed to see something, this was my "go to light"
"The road to Civilization"
Length: 4,350 ft. (.82 mile)
Lat: +63° 55' 58.80",
Long: -21° 24' 0.00"