You know you guys can always count on me for a crazy travel story, right? YUP! I’m always here to shine a good light into the travel world. However, I’m also always honest with you guys about my travel experiences and the behind the scenes of the crazy and madness that no one ever likes to share as a travel blogger.
So let me fill you in on a few important facts leading up to my near death experience. A night I thought 1000% I was going to die in Iceland on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Think of the movie Everest, Into the Wild, The Revenant (with Leo) and The Mountain Between Us, only in real life and starring me! Writing this will never fully express how bad it was and how cold I was but I can try…
I also don’t have too many photos from that night but I have a few.
A Trip to Iceland!
I went to Iceland on a press trip for bloggers and influencers. If you don’t know this by now, Iceland is my favorite country in the world. I visited Iceland 3 years ago and was amazed and couldn’t wait to go back and do all the things I didn’t get to do my first time there.
We all signed up to different excursions we wanted and then got assigned to them. I finally got a chance to mark a few more check marks on my worldly bucket list. I went horseback riding on Icelandic Horses, I saw the stunning south coast of Iceland full of waterfalls and black sand beaches. I also went ice climbing on top of a glacier which was epic and if you haven’t seen that video, it’s time you do! (Ice Climbing & Glacier Hiking Video). On top of that, I walked through ice caves inside of a glacier, I saw the northern lights 5 times, double rainbows and more!
The Craziest Trip I Ever Went On
My trip was amazing but definitely super intense! It was definitely the craziest trip I have ever taken in my life! PERIOD. It was long days, some of which were 18hr excursions others 12hrs. The cold was also a factor that no matter how much you think you’re prepared for it, you never really are. At some points I was wearing 4 layers of pants, (wool thermal, warm leggings, sweatpants and waterproof pants), 4 layers on top and my jacket, beanie, gloves, scarf, wool socks, heat packs and still I was freezing my butt off! On most days it was 8’F-0’F, I mean it was FREEZING YOU GUYS! It was way below negative in Celsius.
The High On Life Boys
So on one of my very first days in Iceland, I was signed up to do a tour with Reykjavik Sightseeing to walk into Langjökull glacier ice cave, see waterfalls and go into the Víðgelmir lava cave. Later we also added a visit to a beer brewery and a northern lights tour to our tour, which ended up making the tour 18hrs long! After spending that many hours with the same group of people you normally tend to make some friends along the way.
So early that morning I got on a bus and probably met the coolest group of boys — Parker, Alexey, Ryker and Dan and we clicked instantly. Many of you might know them as the High On Life boys, who have an amazing travel YouTube channel and millions of followers on their social media platforms. Go follow them, if you aren’t already, they are super entertaining. We hung out the entire day together exploring a side of Iceland I’ve never been to before. The next few days we had a few more tours together and a bloggers conference.
Our Not So Brilliant Idea
On my last night in Iceland, after the conference was over early, we decided it would be a good idea to check out some of the natural geothermal hot springs, Iceland has to offer. Iceland has over 100 different ones since the island is made up of volcanos, but we went with the closest one to Reykjavik which was called Reykjadalur. Probably a 45min drive from the capital. We saw a beautiful photo on Instagram and decided we were headed out there to take cool photos and film good footage.
Well guys, I’ll be the first to say, a photo is worth a thousand words and that not everything you see in photos is as magical as it may seem. Especially NOT in the dark! Now when I look at photos of the place, during the day, it looks like a completely different place but at night, a totally different story!
We all went to change our clothes, pick up our bathing suits, towels and head over to the hot springs. I wore my bikini, leggings, a tank top, a thin long sleeve shirt and my jacket.
While waiting for the boys outside to pick me up, I was freezing, so I quickly ran upstairs to pickup sweatpants just in case I’d be cold. Probably the smartest decision I made that night. I mean ideally, I thought we would drive to this place, walk for about 10-20mins, end up in hot springs that are probably over 100’F, take cool photos, have fun and head back home. Clearly, nothing as I imagined.
We initially planned to get there during the sunset but got a late start because of traffic. So once we got there it was getting dark which was probably at 5pm.
So it was Parker, Alexey, Ryker, our other friend Dan, a couple we met a few minutes before the conference was over and ME!
We were told that it would be a 15-20min walk. So we figured it wouldn’t be so bad. We didn’t have a map but figured we would follow the trail. Well guys, this wasn’t just your normal “walk”, this was a hike, in the dark, on top of a mountain, a few mountains actually which completely seemed weird to me that there would be a hot spring on top of a mountain, but turns out, things like that totally exist in Iceland.
We started the hike, with the boys leading, then somewhere in the middle me, and then Dan and the couple. I was really trying to keep up but it was HARD. I’d also like to mention that everything around us had snow. So ideally, the path wasn’t as clear at one point. As we kept walking, it was getting harder and harder to keep up. Especially after such a long day, a long week and not having water.
Definitely a Bad Idea…We Lost The Boys!
After 20mins of hiking, I started to feel like this was a bad idea. I couldn’t see where I was going, it was pitch dark, I was freezing and the mountain seemed to never end. At this point, I wasn’t in the middle anymore but at the end, struggling to hike this mountain with snow. At this point, we had also lost sight of the boys. They completely disappeared on us.
Here Comes A Snow Storm
Then as luck would have it, it started snowing, at first slowly and then becoming stronger and stronger. I started panicking inside and told the people I was left with that this is a bad idea and that we should go back. No one seemed to have been freaking out at this point but me. However, at the same time, no one has been to Iceland before and have been stuck in blizzards like I have in the past. No one really understood how dramatically fast the weather in Iceland can change in literally 5mins.
The couple we were with just landed in Iceland, the night before. Dan has never been to Iceland before or experiences the crazy weather like I have in the past. They all wanted to get to the hot springs and kept saying “Kim, relax, we are almost there, it’s probably just 5mins away”. BUT IT WASN’T!! As it turns out, it was actually 3 miles away!! and we literally had no clue!
We kept on walking as my fear levels started to rise higher and higher and the weather kept getting worse and worse. None of us were prepared for the weather or clearly a 3-mile hike! We had no food, no water, no one had proper clothes, I was wearing a freakin bikini underneath my clothes!
At this point, the clouds started rolling in faster and so did the fog and winds. I stood at the top of the mountain looking back at how far we walked. I saw just how small the cars were on the freeway and how fast they were fading away from the snow, fog and winds.
A few days before I took this hike, I was stuck in traffic for 3hrs, parked on that very same freeway I was looking at. There was a crazy snow storm. It was the day I went Ice Climbing and Glacier hiking. There were a few car accidents and we had no choice but to park our car on the freeway with everyone else, as cops were trying to clear the road and getting trucks to clear the snow out of the way. That night it snowed like crazy! I remember how I was amazed and shocked as to how fast everything became white, how fast the snow was flying and how much snow was coming down. This all brought me back to where we were, stuck on the very same mountain where it all happened. I know how bad things could get and I knew that we could literally die on this mountain.
Are We Gonna Die Here?
I was literally begging them to go back and that this is a terrible idea! We can literally die on this mountain!
Once things started getting worse and worse by the second, I think everyone started to worry. I kept telling them to give me their car keys and that I’ll wait for them in the car. They said if I go back alone, I could possibly die without a flashlight and we don’t know how terrible things might get from here. This freaked me out even more.
At this point, I was FREEZING! You know what, freezing is an understatement. My sweatpants that I brought and wore on top of my leggings, were soaking wet from the snow, my hair was literally frozen with ice, like in Titanic when Rose and Jack were in the water and I couldn’t think properly because I was so freakin cold. I was trying to pray and ask G*d to save us and I couldn’t even make up a sentence in my head.
We tried walking some more and we couldn’t see anything in front of us, literally nothing — as snow is flying in our eyes. I was like “PLEASEEEEE!!!!! LET’S GO BACK!!! PLEASE! I’M BEGGING YOU! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! WE ARE GOING TO DIE HERE AND NO ONE WILL EVER FIND US!”. I was having a full-blown anxiety and panic attack. I started crying and freaking out, trying to get words out of my mouth while shaking from coldness.
Gosh, seriously re-reading this story is bringing me back to that mountain and that same feeling in my body as if I was over there right now, scared for my life.
I thought for sure for sure, THIS WAS IT! I am going to die here on this mountain in Iceland. This is it. This is what my whole life has been leading up to, me and my stupid travel adventures. Dying in my favorite country in the world and thinking how probably the 2 worse ways of dying is burning to death or freezing to death. My biggest fear in life has always been death and here I am literally facing it in the middle of nowhere, like a crazy person trying to climb Mount Everest. By the way, you should totally watch that movie, Everest, I swear it was the same story only with me in it.
OK so now I have Dan and the couple freaking out with me but no one to my extent. Maybe it’s because Dan has known the boys (High on Life) for a while now and well the couple have been together for 8 years and I’m here with no one that would save me if I died. That’s what my brain was telling me. So my panic got worse.
Parker to the Rescue
All of our phones were dying which was also another fear of mine. When you’re in a very cold place, most phones just turn off no matter how much battery you have. Dan quickly called Parker before that happened and told him that we are scared and want to go back. We stood in the same place frozen and not moving an inch. Meanwhile, Parker, my now hero, was running back to save us or more like me lol.
The boys were about 15mins ahead of us and Parker left them and ran back to us. When he finally got there, I think he saw the look of death in my eyes. So he immediately took off his jacket and put it on me, while he stayed in a t-shirt!!! I was like “No Parker! No! You are going to get super sick! Take your jacket back!” and he said, “No, I’ll be fine” and literally put his jacket on me and then the ultimate superhero move, he CARRIED ME ON HIS BACK and started walking!!! Talk about a lifesaver! I was shocked! I kept telling him to put me down and that I feel bad and I’m heavy and he said NO!
Parker literally saved my life that night! No questions asked. I’m not sure where I would be right now if it wasn’t for him or any of us. I am incredibly grateful to him for the rest of my life. I don’t know anyone who would do that under those circumstances. To stay in a freakin t-shirt in a snowstorm to keep me warm and carry me on his back!?! Who does that?! Turns out men like that really do exist.
After Parker came and saved us or me more so, everything got a little bit better, not completely but it did. Somehow he convinced me to actually continue the hike and kept saying “we are almost there”. But we weren’t! It ended up taking us almost 2hrs to get to the hot springs and find Alexey and Ryker. The hike up wasn’t easy at all. We ended up hiking a few mountains with one cellphone flashlight.
Arriving at the Safe Zone – Hot Springs
When we finally got to the hot springs, we stripped into our bathing suits in negative degrees, running on snow barefoot to get into the water. It took all of our bodies a while to get used to the hot water because we were so cold. It was still snowing on us.
Slowly after 15mins on being in the water, the sky started to clear up and the stars became visible and then BOOM, the northern lights above our heads. We all had a good laugh in the water and my nerves started to chill out from my anxiety and panic attack, but they were still there.
I couldn’t believe that it was only 8pm! It felt like it was 3am! Like the longest night of my life and it definitely was the longest night of my life.
The weather kept going in and out on us. The northern lights and stars would show up as the sky became clearer and 10mins later it would start snowing on us like crazy and then back to the northern lights and so on. It was all a confusing and overwhelming experience. We also would get so hot from the water that we would stand with our feet in the water and our bodies out of the water during the snowstorms.
At around 9pm we decided it was time to leave. The sky wasn’t clearing up and we couldn’t take anymore cool northern lights photo, so we got out of the water and got dressed. Now, this was a mission on its own. We had to strip off of our wet bathing suit, outside, in the snow and change into our clothes. Did I mention that all of our clothes were wet because it snowed so much while we were in the water? Yaaaa…about that. My snow boots were packed with snow inside of them even though I left them under a bench. Our towels were wet from the snow that landed on our backpacks and turned into water inside our bags. This was a complete disaster and kind of funny and a bit stressfully freezing.
When I finally got my clothes back on, I was shivering and clenching my teeth. It took about 10mins to get my entire body temperature to somewhat normal but I was way warmer than I was at the beginning of the hike. Now from being the last one in our hike line, I was right in the front with Parker basically power walking back because I couldn’t wait to get back to the car and let my heart beat go back to normal since it’s been on pause for the last few hours. If I could, I would have ran back to the car but I was happy we were all together as a group going back.
The hike back took about an hour as we were all together, walking faster, a bit warmer and it was mostly downhill but still snowing. The northern lights guided us for the better half of the hike back but for some reason, I can never look at them the same, probably because I’m full on traumatized.
We finally made it back to the car. ALIVE. Breathing. All of us! Excited to drink water like I never have in my entire life. In totally we hiked a little over 6 miles.
Was it Worth?
Personally, HELL NO!!!!! Like never again. Never. Although, the boys might have a different opinion on it lol.
No one ever thought it would be that complicated to get there, no one ever thought about all the snowstorm and the danger we possibly were in except for me, probably.
I have since thanked Parker a thousand times for saving my life and he thinks it wasn’t a big deal, but it was! It was incredibly selfless. It was superhero instincts. I think that at times of danger and panic you get to see peoples true sides, some for worse and others for better. This was one of those moments that makes you definitely appreciate your life and have faith in mankind.
In reality, all of this could have ended up being a lot worse and I’m so thankful it didn’t go that route, although very close.
I honestly couldn’t wait to go home after that. I love Iceland alot, but this was beyond my comfort zone. This was just plain insane.
Lesson learned for sure. Please be safe out there and don’t ever attempt to do this and especially NOT alone.
I’m grateful to be alive and safe. I love you guys. xoxo
Follow me on Instagram for all my magical photos from Iceland! @hofitkimcohen
and if you liked this post also check out a few of my other crazy travel stories: