Vatnajökull 2012

– hiihtäen halki Euroopan suurimman jäätikön

Briefly in English

This page contains a brief info in english about the Vatnajökull 2012 expedition, the plan the Vatnajökull glacier itself. Dispatches from the ice will be sent in Finnish but we try to get them translated into English and available at Jaakko Heikka’s personal blog. There will be also some information about the preparations in Jaakko’s blog.

The Expedition

The expedition consists of four Finns with somewhat differing backgrounds but with a shared interest towards the Arctic regions and traveling in remote areas. In addition to the four skiers the expedition has a small support team in Finland and corporate partners packing up the project.

Ski team

Jaakko Heikka
Expedition leader

Jouni Tanninen
Expedition vice leader

Nina Teirasvuo

Heini Koivuniemi

Support team

Matias Utriainen – communications
Eero Oura – expedition doctor

Partners – tools for the work
– flight logistics
Yellowbrick Tracking – satellite communications

The Plan

The objects of the expedition:

1. Ski unsupported across the Vatnajökull glacier from West to East.
2. Climb Iceland’s highest peak Hvannadalshnúkur (2109,6m).
3. Have good time and enjoy the life.

To reach the objects we plan to:

– Fly to Reaykjavik on Friday 23.3.2012.
– Take a super-jeep ride to Jökulheimar at the Western edge of the glacier on Saturday 24.3.
– Start skiing up to the glacier from Jökulheimar.
– Ski to East up to Grimsvötn, an active volcano at the middle of the glacier.
– Ski South to Hvannadalshnúkur (2019,6m) and climb to the summit (weather and schedule permitting).
– Ski someway back to North and then turn East and ski to Lambatungajökull, one of the Easternmost outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull.
– Descent the Lambatungajökull and walk from there to the village of Hoffel
– Fly back to Finland from Reykjavik on Monday 9.4.2012.

This comes down to over 250km of skiing and about 15 days on the glacier.


Vatnajökull is located in South-East Iceland. It is the largest glacier in Europe (measured with volume of the ice, Austfonna in Svalbard having slightly larger surface area) and it covers over 8 % of the surface of Iceland. It’s claimed that during specific atmospheric conditions the Vatnajökull glacier is visible to Faroa Islands over 550km away! The glacier and it’s surroundings are part of the Vatnajökull National Park which is the largest national park in Europe covering over 36000 km²

Here are few facts about the Vatnajökull:

– surface area: 8100 km²
– volume: 3100 km³
– average thickness: 400-600 m
– maximum thickness 950 m
– lowest point: 300 m below sea level
– highest point: 2109,6 m
– distance from the Western edge to the Easternmost point: 200 km
– There are things like active volcanoes (e.g. the Grimsvötn that erupted in 2011) and the Iceland’s highest peak Hvannadalshnúkur (2109 m) on the glacier.

Map of the Vatnajökull National Park. Click to larger image!

The weather at Vatnajökull can be very challenging as the effects of the large glacier and altitude mix with the typical Icelandic maritime climate. The average precipitation on the ice cap is 4000-5000 mm per year and most of it comes down as snow. On good year the depth of snow on Öræfajökult (the area surrounding Hvannadalshnúkur) can be up to 10-15 meters! During the winter temperatures are usually below 0 C and on the coldest days of the winter the temperatures can drop down to -20…-30 C but temperatures above freezing and rain are also possible, even likely. High winds and stormy weather is also very likely as Vatnajökull is a high glacier plateau in the middle of the huge Atlantic Ocean. In storms the wind speed can reach over 30 m/s.

Remoteness, unpredictable and harsh weather and crevasse fields make Vatnajökull very challenging destination.

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