In july I went to Iceland for three weeks with Elien. I have (too) little time to write a full trip report these days, but will post some pictures in a series of three blog entries.
We left for Reykjavik the day after I came back from my rainy IML course in the Jura Mountains. Unfortunately, while Scandinavia enjoyed it’s best summer in many years, the weather in Iceland was dull and rainy; we spend many hours in our tent, and the sun only shines a handful of hours during the first 8 days of our trip.
After arranging our food drops in the cozy capital, we leave for Skógafoss by bus to start our hike all the way towards Landmannalaugar.
In Skógafoss we quickly climb away from the beautiful yet crowded waterfull, and start heading up the slopes of the infamous Eyjafallajökull volcano along a beautiful ravine. We camp at the highest spot we can find before the landscape transforms into a mineral wilderness of snow and ash.
It starts raining heavily during the evening hours, rain which lasts for almost 36 hours. We spend a full day in our spacious Trailstar, and continue hiking the day after. We cross the Fimmvorduhals saddle through fog and drizzle. The weather improves as we descend towards beautiful Porsmork, with massive views through deep gorges, down to braided rivers snaking down to the lowlands, and all the way to the glaciers of Mýrdalsjoküll.
I climb the panoramic Valahnúk hill the next morning, and we explore the beautiful, wooded Slyppugil valley after that before dropping down towards the Prönga river and joining the famous Laugavegur trail.
The first bit of the trail is rather monotonous. We cross a lot of guided groups – this is the most crowded bit of the entire 4-day trail, by far the most reknown and popular on Iceland The next few days we will see about 40-80 people a day. The landscape starts to change dramatically as we reach the Markarfljót canyon, and drop down towards the wild Fremri-Emstrua river soon after, with the Myrdalsjökull as a massive backdrop. We camp in a hidden side valley, and during the evening hours I hike up the slopes of Stóra Mófell for a better view towards the ice sheet.
The Laugavegur is crowded, but it is so for a reason. It is by far the most remarkably varied 4-day walk I have done in the Nordics so far. The next day is a windy walk through lunar ash plains, interlaced by massive glacial rivers draining the Myrdalsjökull ice cap.
Another long, rainy episode keeps us tentbound almost the entire next day, and things don’t improve too much as we climb through the Kaldaklofsfjöll mountains and cross the plateaus towards Landmannalaugar in thick fog. We finally descend below the cloud base while approaching the crowded campsite of ‘the tourist capital of the Highlands’, and plunge into the wonderful natural hot springs in the evening.
Low clouds thwart our plans to make a long dayhike through the hearth of Landmannalaugar’s colourful rhyolite hills the next day, and we turn back towards the hot springs after a quick climb of Bláhnúkur and a nameless hill above the beautiful, braided Jökulgilskvisl river (looks like a packrafter’s dream!).
I cannot deny I am a little frustrated we have not seen the unique Landmannalaugar wilderness in sunshine. But while we wait for the bus the next day, the clouds suddenly start to break for the first time in many days. We sprint up exactly the same hills as the day before, but this time the landscape is full of warmth and colour. Aaah, mission accomplished!