Hike on the former Glacier Ok


You might not believe it, but one of the smallest glaciers in Iceland is called Ok or until 2014 when it seized to be a glacier. Traditionally most Icelanders remember this glacier from their exams in geography, since questions on the name of the Ok glacier kept appearing in the exam papers for decades. But now it has all changed.

The word Ok is usually used to describe “heavy burden” or even “heavy thoughts” in Icelandic but in the old days it also meant “and” or a “nose ring” commonly seen on bulls. It is although not fully understood what our ancestors had in mind when they came up with the name. Anyway, each of these meaning differs greatly from the meaning of Ok in English.

Through global warming the glacier has been shrinking in the last hundred years measuring 16 km2 in 1890 down to 0.7 km2 in 2012. A geologist from the National Energy Authority in Iceland which determines water resources and therefore size of glaciers declared Ok as non glacier in September 2014. Now it is being referred to as Mt. Ok and Icelandic students will not have to remember Ok anymore when they study their geography.

What defines a glacier?

Of course there are complicated studies on glaciers and long definitions on their nature. But the short and simple explanation goes like this: usually the minimal thickness of a glacier is 40-50 meters of dense ice and it has to move under its own gravity and pressure. When it doesn‘t move anymore it is considered dead ice and not a glacier.

The Ok is around 1200 meters at its highest point, but it’s possible to drive up to 700 m height on the road Kaldidalur before starting on foot. It’s a relative simple hike from the road, 10-15 km distance in total with increase in height of about 500 m. The hills are not steep, so it should be comfortable.

Ok is a shield volcano with a crater on top. Shield volcanoes are formed in long lasting eruptions often for years or decades. The lava is fluid and can travel long distance and their hills are never steep.

Standing on top of Ok gives you a splendid view of Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland, and of the mountains in the area. While you are up there you can bear in mind that according to Icelandic folk tales, Ok was the breast of a giantess that turned into stone. Once you are on top you should look southeast to see Skjaldbreidur, the other breast.

I can take you to the Mt. Ok. Let me know.