Slept, slept, ate, slept, wished the rain would stop.
Got our wish. It got replaced by strong winds. We knew we were in a fairly exposed location, and with the rain gone, it was time to go and scout the scene. Turned out we were pretty much exactly where we thought we were. about 2km south of Grænalón (or Graenalon, for the keyboard challenged web searchers) I had gone for a walk, seen how close to the glacier we were, and that we could see clear across it with high clouds, and driving wind pushing the rain away, with even a small patch of blue that stayed in sight all day.
Quick powwow, cross the glacier in the weather window we'd waited for, or abort now, and spend two days backtracking and then hitching back to Skaftafell. Two days forward still seemed like a much better idea, but we scrapped Grænalón. The big destination of the hike was off, we had a weather window and we were taking it. Yet more broken ridges and saddles in our currently least favourite part of iceland was not selling itself well.
Down and onto the Skeiðarárjökull (Skeidararjokull). Smooth easy walking. Small crevasses, sinkholes with creeks dissappearing suddenly into the depths of the ice, piles of tephra (volcanic ash) Which actually aren't piles either. For some reason I can't work out, the way the glacier melts leaves this cones and ridges of ice, with the tephra covering them, and no tephra nearby. What looks like a pile of tephra sitting on the ice turns out to be a thin layer of tephra covering a mound of ice. Quite unusual. I'd seen them on Hrafntinnuskur as well, but so many more here.
About where we reckoned halfway was we came across a couple of lines of tephra cones running down the glacier. Dead straight, running as far as we could see. Neat.
Just after a lunch stop, we ran into a crevasse field. Gave us some excitement again, yet another different landscape the glacier offered up. Saw quite a few rotten snow bridges, and as we zigzagged around the crevasses we peered somewhat nervously at the rotten looking snow bridges that filled some of the crevasses. Hopefully we would never have to resort to crossing one of them. (We didn't, stuck to good solid ice all the way)
Broke out of the field and back onto more open glacier, much like the morning on the west side. Easy walking, Færnes getting closer, and by now the wind had even stopped. Quite pleasant really, end in sight, almost starting to congratulate ourselves on extricating ourselves nicely from the wet sodden mess we were in the day before.
But, as we really should have known, it was not to be. The glacier had been far to kind so far. We'd only been going about 7 hours or so. Too short.
We knew we wanted to avoid the corner of the glacier where it meets Færnes, the contours got too close as it bent around the mountain, and we expected rough country. We still got too close. Massive broken ice blocks separated by gaping chasms. We zigged and zagged our way through it for a while, hoping to break though again as we had last time, but it just got worse, and we decided that retreat was a better option.
Back out was almost as much fun, zigging and zagging, and more zigging and zagging, then trying to head down the glacier, and push over east again when we could.
Never really worked out though. The entire eastern edge was just much more broken up. Very slow going. Not particularly hard, just deadends, and very slow trying to scout the way forward.
And the night dragged on. Just as well we were in iceland, and it was the summer solstice. Nerida was a fountain of optimism here. I was getting quite concerned about fatigue and a slip in the wrong place sending someone into the icy depths. But it was all good. The ice actually gave pretty decent traction, it was quite crusty and crunchy on top, barely any snow in sight, except hiding in some of the crevasses. Of course, it was pretty sharp. Jared and Nerida both slipped once each, and both times ended up with bloody hands, cut open by the ice.
Further down the glacier the landscape continued to change. Wider, v-shaped gullies replacing some of the crevasses, dirtier, crusts of ice laying on top of each other, less water on the surface.
We pretty much gave up on ever getting off the eastern side and just decided to try and get down and off the south east edge. And eventually we did. At 4am, after about 15hours on the glacier.
Beautiful dawn light, calm, high cloud, flat soft dried mud beside a lake at the toe of the glacier. A great place for a good night's sleep. Feeling pretty much like winners, having beat the glacier and with just the walk across the sand to skaftafell the next day we were pretty contented. A nice big dinner of tortellini, salami, and some 10 year old port and it was time to crash out. A day ahead of schedule too!