Iceland 2008

From July 20th till August 2nd I did a hiking trip on Iceland with HT Wandelreizen.

The main trek would be from Hekla vulcano to Hrafntinusker to Landmannalaugat to Eldgja.

Day 1: Home to Reykjavik.

On Sunday the 20th of July we (12 in total) flew from Schiphol Airport to Keflavik. Right after we landed we were taken by bus to the Blue Lagoon. This is a outdoor swimming pool which is heated by waste water from the nearby geothermal power plant. A nice way to relax after several hours in a train, plane and bus.

It's a weird experience though, sitting in hot water outside with rain and hail falling with a pool attendant wearing gloves and raingear.....

Day 2: The Golden Circle.

The following day was a easy one as we were driven around by bus to three "must see"'s in the Reykjavik area: þingvellir, Geysir and Gulfoss. Unfortunately the weather wasn't too good. Many rainshowers and stong wind.

þingvellir (Assembly Plains) is not only the place where the old Icelandic Parliament (Alþing) was estblished in 930, it is also the place where the rift between North American and Eurasian plates is most visible.

Although Geysir itself has stopped erupting (after tourists have thrown in tons of rocks to get is to erupt on command), it's little sister Strokkur erupts every 6 minutes or so to a height of 20m.

 

After Geysir/Strokkur we were taken to Gulfoss waterfall, where the river Hvitá drops 32m in to a deep gorge. Although the view is absolutely spectacular, this day the weather gods weren't cooperating. It was impossible not to get raindrops in the photos.

Day 3: Reykjavik to Hekla.

The next day was the first day of our trek from Hekla to Hrafntinnusker to Landmannalaugar to Eldgja. We took the regular bus service from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar. At first the weather looked a bit better than the previous day, but as we got closer to Hekla (and gaining altitude) the rain showers reappeared.

The bus dropped us off at where a 4WD track leaves the main road (the main road is a dirt track, but can be done with a regular car) towards the base of Hekla. As we were prparing out packs for the fist short walk to our first campsite it started to rain. It looked like it was going to be just a short, light rainshower, so several of the group (me included) didn't bother putting on our waterproof pants. 10 Minutes later we were completely soaked so putting the waterproof pants on wouldn't make much of a difference.

After crossing the lava field left over from the 1970 eruption we arrived at our campsite. A recess in the lava field close to Saudafellsvatn lake provided some shelter from the elements but not much. We had to put up our tens in the rain an had lunch huddled together under a tent fly tied to the rocks and supported by wlaking poles.

 

As the lava was very porous we had to get our water from the lake about a kilometer from our campsite on the other side of small ridge. Later in the afternoon the weather improved a little and we could dry up a little. We continued to suffer from occasional rainshowers but (now with waterproof trousers) it was much better as we could now see a little of the surroundings.

Day 4: Hekla to Slettafell.

The weather had improved even more but there were still a lot of clouds. As the summit of Hekla was in the clouds all the time, we decided not to climb up but use the extra day for later. In stead we walked across the different lava fields to the foot of Raudaskal were one of our group had to give up because he had gotten blisters. As this was the last spot were he could easily return to civilisation (there was a taxi at the end of the 4WD track waiting for customers !!!) he decided not to try and go on. After a steep-ish climb up the slope the wind picked up and right after lunch it started to rain a little. Most of the afternoon we walked over relatively flat terrain to Slettafell were we put up our tents. During the evening (it doen't really get dark after all) we got to see some nice rainbows, but during the night we had some pretty strong wind, so at I didn't sleep too well.

Day 5: Slettafell to Reykjadalir.

More rain. Not very hard, but continuously during the morning and because of the wind, flying horizontally. I'm sure this part can be bautiful if the sun is shining, when it's raining from very low clouds, it's just various shades of grey. We were supposed to take a shotcut by walking over a ridge we followed a 4WD track on the valley floor to be proteted from most of the wind.

Late in the morning we had to wade across our first creek. As it wasn't too wide or deep (about knee deep in the middle) I decided to put my gaiters on over my boots and waterproof trousers and get across as quickly as possible. Sometime after lunch the rain stopped and we even got a bit of sunshine every now and then.

We now got to an area where there was actually some vegetation. Just grass and moss, but a lot greener than the grey and black lava so far. We got to see our first fumarole/mudpot and a nice little ice cave we could walk/crawl through. We arrived at camp quite ealy on so I decided to do some exploring in the same vally where we were camped and saw some pretty hot springs and fumaroles

Day 6: Reykjadalir to Hrafntinnusker.

We walked past more fumaroles, hot springs and mudpots towards our second river crossing. This one had two channels: I got across the first one with my gaiters ut the second channel was too wide and deep, so I had to take off my boots and put on my surf shoes to get across. In the afternoon when we were walking across fields of obsidian, we were 'intercepted' by a park ranger who told us there was a big storm heading our way and that we had to camp near one of the huts in the area an report to the warden so they could be certain that everyone in the area was in a 'safe' spot. We could see the dark clouds approaching as we were climbing the snowfield on the slope of Hrafntinnusker and the clouds really closed in just after we put up the tents inside prepared stone semi-circles. After a little while you couldn't see the hut from the tents, 20m away.

Day 7: Hrafntinnusker to Landmannalaugar.

After a reasonably good night's sleep (the storm didn't sound as bad as what we had on Slettafell) we went on to Landmannalaugar. The first part was through the grey-black rocks of Hrafntinnusker but pretty soon we got to the yellow/red/brown/grey rocks of Landmannalaugar. Mid-morning the sun came through every now and then which made for some pretty good vistas. As we had plenty of time (and couldn't get lost along the well marked and well used þorsmjork - Landmannalaugar trail) the group split up so everyone could walk and see in their own pace. Still, we arrived at Lanmannalaugar campsite quite early and treated ourselves with a cup of coffee/thea/chocolate at the cafe-bus.

 

Day 8: Landmannalaugar.

Rain.

We still had a spare day (since we didn't climb Hekla) and decided to spend it now, in the bad weather at lanmannalaugar, because we already had our tents up and we could use some luxuries, like hot showers, hot springs and the cafe. The group split up, some doing a short walk this way and others some other walk. My group followed the road for a few km to Frostastadvatn lake and across a ridge back to the campsite.

Day 9: Landmannalaugar to Muggudalir Eldgja.

Even more rain.

The plan for today was to walk from Landmannalaugar through the Jokulgil valley to Muggudalir. As this river meanders through we would have to cross it at least three times to get to the other side were we wanted to go. The itinerary said we would have to go cross-country first and cross once, but the previous group couldn't find the trail down (we got hold of a new map which showed that the trail had been 'moved' and was listed as dangerous) and had had to go through Jokulgil a day later. Unfortunately the rain had caused the river to swell. We got through the first time but the water was just too deep and flowed too fast later on. We had to go back. By that time we were all pretty well soaked from continuous rain.

When we got back to the campsite tree of the group decided they don't want to wait for an improvement in the weather (which might not come anyway) and decided to to take the bus back to Reykjavik, where the weather had been good for the last few days.

The rest discussed what to do the following day. Try again though the valley or try the original plan cross-country. If we couldn't do it we could still take the bus to Eldgja an walk the last part of the track in the other direction. Someone came up with the brilliant idea: "why don't we check if today's bus to Eldgja is stil here, and if so: go today". The bus was only just still there so we had to grab our gear in a hurry and get on the bus. The bus dropped us off and we walked a few km to our campsite were we went to sleep hoping tomorrow would bring an end to the rain.

Day 10: Muggudalir Eldgja to Strutslaug.

Finaly. Sunshine!

Early in the moring the clouds disappeared and the sun started to shine. We decided to take advantage of this to dry our gear and start walking an hour or so later. Because of the sun my cameralens started to heat up a little and vapour formed not just one the front and rear lenses, but also inside. It took two hours in the sun to dry them!

After a late start we walked to Strutslaug. For the first time we could see long distances all day and could really enjoy the landscape.

 

When we got to the campsite we were surprised by a very flat campsite with a great view aver the Holmsarbotnar next to a prepared pool of hot water. The only problem was that the water was too warm to get into. So we blocked the hot stream and let the pool cool down overnight.

Day 11: Strutslaug.

A day walk to the summit of hill 1192 for a great view over the surrounding terrain. We could see accross Torfajokull towards Hrafntinnusker and the distinct colours of Landmannalaugar. Looking south we had a fantastic view across the Myrdalsjokull and Northeast we could barely see a massive ice sheet. Vatnajokull?

We went back down via a different route. The others decided to have a bath in the now-cooled hot pool, but I decided to walk up a vally near camp and explore a little.

 

Day 12: Strutslaug to Eldgja.

Same route back to Eldgja.

 

 

Day 13: Eldgja to Reykjavik.

First a short walk to the busstop. We dropped our packs and went for a walk towards the waterfall. Then all the way back to Reykjavik by bus were we met up with the three who left us at Landmannalaugar. As it turned out they had a great time too walking, cycling and boating around Reykjavik.

Day 14: Reykjavik to home.

We had to get up at 04:00 so we could pack up and take te 05:00 bus to the airport. Checking in took quite some time as it was very busy (all planes leave for all destinations at about the smae time). The plane left on time at anout 8 o'clock and we were back at Schiphol on time. I was back home at 4.

The end of another great hinking trip.

For a lot more pictures, see my gallery. It might take some time to load....