In a country that counts more than 1,600 glaciers within its borders, visitors to Norway have many opportunities to get up close to one during their vacation. In the Norwegian fjords, the Blue Ice Glacier Hike at Nigardsbreen Glacier was a highlight of my 10-day Norway family vacation. This is an especially good activity with tweens and teens, though less strenuous hikes are available with children as young as 6.
The Nigardsbreen Glacier is a glacial arm of Jostedalsbreen, mainland Europe’s largest glacier, with mostly uphill, moderate-to-strenuous hiking. The adventure begins on the drive to the glacier through the beautiful waterfall country, lined with glacial-fed streams and rivers running alongside the road. Most visitors do the hike as a day trip from a nearby town, which might be Skjolden, Sogndal or even as far away as Balestrand.
After choosing the appropriate glacier tour (always go with a guide, as this not a simple or flat hike and surface conditions change daily), hikers boat or kayak to the glacier with crampons and ice picks in hand. From the shore landing, there is another 30- to 40-minute hike across the rocks and hanging bridge to the start of the glacier. After everyone dons crampons and all hikers are attached to a safety line, the hike begins with a set of ice stairs.
Guides stress safety, as the hike requires full attention and stepping over and around crevices. Photography is challenging; it’s not possible to stop on a whim when attached to a line with other hikers.
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The hike varies depending on the glacier conditions, but climbing ice stairs with crampons and stepping over crevasses is part of every hike. The ice stairs on our hike were quite steep and required full concentration to climb, though the group will always hold up if someone needs more time. The crevasses were never more than a foot wide and I was grateful for the helpful gentlemen in front of my son who offered a hand. The guides try to find an ice cave on each hike; ours was tame in comparison to some of the photos on the website, but kids will still think it’s very cool.
The Short Blue Ice Hike is four hours total, with two tiring hours of glacier hiking, for ages 12 and older. The hike requires that kids have a certain maturity to join the group, as everyone is attached to a line and there are short breaks but no long rests or bathrooms. If that creates questions or if kids are at least 8 years old, families can choose a private hike option that covers the same area. Those with children ages 6 and up have the option of a 1-hour family walk on the glacier.
Our group of 20 was accompanied by two Himalayan guides who consider Nigardsbreen a vacation compared to the terrain in the Himalayas. They are experienced, skilled and familiar with visitors who aren’t used to the physical activity required to climb.
While the descent sounds easier, more climbers slipped here than on the ascent. The terrain changes from snow and ice to gravel and rocks, which caused falls. The views, however, are stunning, and when the sun appears, the lake is a brilliant sea green color.
The weather varies considerably in Norway, and especially at the glacier. Our hike was on a cloudy and cold day in June, but even on a sunny day you’ll need warm layers, including long pants, gloves, sturdy shoes and sunglasses. The location of the glacier is not near a town, though the Breheimsenteret Glacier Center, a 10-minute drive from the glacier, has some clothing for sale if needed.
Editor’s Note: The Blue Ice Hike was part of a media package that Ciao Bambino received from Visit Norway and Fjord Norway to review Norway for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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