Get Ready for a Wild Ride…Dog Sled Style

I was enjoying the ride as the dogs now were trotting along consistently and the mushers were skijoring effortlessly beside us. I was surprised when all of the sudden the sled dogs took off and ran quickly out of control at full speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop. I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier!

Huskys!

Iceland is a land of unparalleled beauty with rushing waterfalls, active volcanoes and immense glaciers. An exciting way to tour Iceland’s glacial landscape is by taking an adventure dog sled trip. Depending on the time of the year, the tour may be offered on a number of different glaciers both located within a short distance from Reykjavik: Langjökull glacier or Mýrdallsjökull. Both of these glaciers are in close proximity to Eyjafjallajokul; the volcano that spewed a massive ash cloud over Europe in 2010 shutting down air traffic for weeks. Although these glaciers rest on an active volcanic mountain range called Katla, travel to and from the glaciers are relatively safe.

Glacier roads

Tour Arrangements for Dog Sledding in Iceland

Getting to the dogs is an adventure in itself. Only super truck 4×4’s can make it up to the glacier due to the extreme road conditions. For the dog sledding adventure I made arrangements through “Eskimos,” a reputable company that provides extreme adventure tours. At 10 a.m. sharp Halli, our tour guide, picked us up from the hotel in a super truck 4X4 equipped with a snorkel. Are we going underwater? I said jokingly. I had no idea what to expect as I had never been on a glacier or dogsledding, but I figured that underwater submersion wasn’t part of the deal.
 
waterfallAfter about an hour, we made a quick but exciting stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall where we got out and followed a little path that led behind a 200 foot gushing cascade. The scenery is wonderful, but be prepared for an icy cold blast of spray from the waterfall once under the cascades. After the hike, we piled back in the truck and were quickly engrossed in one of Halli’s interesting stories. Fairly soon he announced we were getting close to the dog sled kennel. Suddenly, the truck turned onto the rocky deserted road that leads up to Mýrdallsjökull. As we ascended, the sky seemed to disappear and was replaced by thick dark clouds. We could barely see around the truck. Yet once we reached the top of the glacier the sun was shining brightly.

Dog Sledding Near Reykjavik

There at the top sat a little red house. Two young guys from Dogsledding Iceland, Yann and Markus, the dog mushers came out to greet us. We went inside and they issued us warm, puffy snowsuits. They warned we would need them as the temperature higher up on the glacier is significantly colder than ground level. Soon we all squeezed into another 4×4 for the final ride up the snowy road to the sled dogs’ kennel.

Einstein

Barking and howling greeted our crew as soon as the twelve excited huskies saw the 4×4. These tough but adorable dogs are purebred Greenlandic Huskies, Yann told us. They appear quite larger than their furry cousins the Siberian huskies. The dogs spend a majority of their lives outside and their thick heavy coat helps them to endure the harsh temperatures and prolonged darkness of the Icelandic winter. Despite their tough exteriors these dogs are friendly, affectionate and well cared for. The tours only last about two hours per day making this a fun run for the dogs as opposed to hard work.

Soon we climbed onto the long white wooden sled. We were warned we should sit as far back as possible to leave enough space in the front for them to stop the sled in case of emergency. Though I was not quite sure what that meant, I did as instructed. My dreams of an energetic start failed to materialize as the dogs were off to a slow start. The lead dogs would run a little then stop and look back at the mushers as if waiting for direction.

Markus ran up ahead to lead the dogs so they wouldn’t keep stopping and playing with each other. Yann and Markus skijored (skied) alongside the sled calling out commands to the dogs. “Hike!” they shouted to get them to run, “Haw!” they yelled to turn left and “Gee!” to turn right.

I was enjoying the ride as the dogs now were trotting along consistently and the mushers were skijoring effortlessly beside us. I was surprised when all of the sudden the sled dogs took off and ran quickly out of control at full speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop. I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier! Mush!

One thing the mushers do to slow the sled down is throw a round set of ropes over the front part of the sled. This braking technique was not working fast enough to slow these wild dogs down. The sled was teetering on the brink of tipping over. It was hard to hold on. Yann let go of the rope to avoid skiing wildly into the side of our sled. Worried that we were careening full speed down an icy track, Markus flung himself down on the front of the sled in an effort to slow it down. Finally with his added weight on the front of the sled, the dogs slowed down and stopped. I rolled off the sled laughing but was secretly relieved the ride was over. I’m sure this was just another routine day at work for Yann, Markus and the huskies, but for us it was an exciting adventure. Whoa!

Greenlandic Sled Dogs

The dogs were tired and plopped down to rest in the snow. It was fun to kneel down and pet each dog as Yann and Markus introduced me to every one of them. Each dog has an important position on the team, I learned. The dogs and the mushers really seemed to love what they are doing. One adorable black and white furry dog in particular; Einstein, was howling loudly and jumping around trying to get my attention. Einstein quickly stole the show when he started posing for me to take his picture. After the dogs rested a bit and got some needed attention they started to get restless again, howling and playing. It was time to get back on the sled and finish the ride.

The dogs sledded back to camp at a relaxing pace, until all too soon we were back at the little red house. I rolled off of the sled, bid Einstein and the other dogs a final farewell, and offered my thanks to Yann and Markus.

Adventure Tours in Iceland Near Reykjavik

Dogsledding Iceland is the kennel company that provides the dogsledding adventure. They are located about an hour south of Reykjavik near Vik. They offer year round dog sled tours and expeditions but do not provide transportation to and from the glacier. It is not advisable to rent a car or truck as many rental companies in Iceland have a disclaimer holding the renter responsible for water damage that may occur on the icy back roads. The entire tour including transportation and waterfall stops can be arranged though Reyjavik-based tour operators; Eskimos. Snow suits are provided but it is necessary to wear complete gear such as winter boots, hat, gloves and sweater. An adventure tour to one of the glaciers is an amazing way to check out Iceland’s natural beauty and the friendliness of these beautiful dogs certainly adds to this great experience.

Greenlandic Husky

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One thought on “Get Ready for a Wild Ride…Dog Sled Style

  1. Pingback: The German: Wish Agenda |

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