The Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls hiking trails and between Landmannalaugar and Skógar are two of the most traversed trails in Iceland. Our original plan had been to trek from Landmannalaugar to Skógar, however in the lead up to the trip it became apparent that this would not be possible due excessive snow blocking the road to Landmannalaugar. Updates came in the form of the bus company’s facebook page, and we continuously monitored the situation right up until the last minute.
Rob checking the route.
Day 1: Skógar to Baldursskali Hut (8miles)
Skógar would now be our start point, which would mean a long steady climb up between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps. In a way I was relieved as I knew this would be the toughest section of the trip and to hit it with fresh legs would mean we had every chance of getting over, given the uncertain weather conditions. When walking South to North you start by taking the staircase up along the Skógarfoss Waterfall, then follow the river up passing a series of lovely waterfalls.
The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft).
On the way up we came across a chap holding up an anemometer, I asked him what it was reading and he said between 15-18m/s (34-40mph). We hiked on, crossing a small stream and came across 3 guys heading in the opposite direction. I thought they had come over the top and were heading down to Skógar, but one of them said they had gone as far as a bridge and then turned back because of the deteriorating conditions. He said he was poorly prepared with it being his 1st major hike and wished us better luck, commenting that we probably had warmer kit and looked more experienced, though now I was a bit concerned as to what was to come. Further up the trail we stopped for a bit of lunch along with a Finish chap named Joni, who had been travelling on the same coach as us from Reykjavik. To our surprise, we saw a guy pushing a mountain bike up the trail, he later told us that he was hoping to make it over the top of the pass and down to Porsmork the same day.
Crazy Dave and Joni just behind.
The trail soon turned to snow and we came across the bridge we had been warned about earlier. Sure enough we started to get hit by an icy spindrift, hoods up we crossed it as quick as we could and on the other side the spin drift continued for a short while, it was blowing hard now. A couple we had passed just before the bridge also decided to turn back.
Joni bracing himself against the wind and sprindrift.
We briefly caught sight of the mountain hut in the distance, which looked about 15-20 minutes away, but it turned out to be 40 minutes before we reached it. The 1st ones to arrive that day, we foolishly thought we might have it to ourselves for the evening. Over the coming hours the hut filled up, and to the point at which some people got turned away as the hut had reached capacity. The weather outside had deteriorated rapidly, there was now a proper storm kicking up. Just going out to the toilet was met by a certain amount of apprehension, making a fast dash across the icy snow while trying not to get blown over or showered by ice. Fortunately for Dave there was a spare sleeping bag, so he decided to stay put and return back to Skogar the following morning.
Day 2: Baldursskali Hut Þórsmörk (8.15miles)
The A-frame Baldursskali Hut and outdoor toilet.
I was the last one to wake up, the eye mask did its job in keeping out the perpetual daylight and the earplugs drowned out any noise from the 15 odd people getting up that morning. A quick bit of porridge and it was back on the trail. We were still climbing and had about an hour before we reached the top of the Fimmvörðuháls pass at 1043m. The sun was shining, the cloud base had lifted and we were in good spirits.
Rob heading up towards the pass.
A lovely bit of sunshine.
10 minutes later on the other side of the pass, we headed into low cloud, a stiff Easterly wind and rain, Jackets back on, hoods up and with visibility at an all time low, we followed the trail of footsteps in the snow, stopping only a couple of times to check our position using gps.
We headed into low cloud, wind and rain, less than inspiring stuff.
Eventually we broke out of the cloud and started to descend a steep snowy slope, giving way to fabulous views over the Þórsmörk. Rob made good progress downhill, while I kept losing my balance and falling over. (I blame my pack being heavier than his). In the end I just sat down and slid most of the way down to the bottom. Just as the slope started to run out, I was hit with ice being funneled Eastwards across the trail. Ice particles were being picked up from the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier outlet and funnelled across a short section of trail, I tried unsuccessfully to run through it, while Rob looked on in amusement.
The new lava fields created in 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption and the Mýrdalsjökull’s outlet glaciers beyond.
Unknown to us at the time, we had reached the section where the new lava fields were created in the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The original trail had to be diverted because of this and a new headland had been formed. A spiral of rocks has been placed on the ground marking the area.
A fog/ice bow.
The views from here were simply mind blowing. The best I can describe it is like stepping back in time to when the earth was still forming, before glaciers had had a chance to smooth the incredibly rough and rugged landscape before us. This was the Iceland I had come to see. Our original plan had been to reach a large plateau area the day before, which would quite possibly have been the most epic wild camp either of had ever experienced, but the closer we approached, the more we realised that it would’ve been far too windy and exposed. Instead we traversed the trail off the side of the plateau through the last of the snow and found a place to stop for lunch.
Lunch stop overlooking Þórsmörk.
After lunch we carried on and eventually found ourselves on a narrow ridge with roped sections every now and again, by now we had lost a lot of height and eventually descended to the valley floor below. We passed the Basar Hut to our left and kept going until we hit a river crossing, fortunately bridged by a temporary structure.
River crossings and mobile bridges.
We finally arrived into Þórsmörk and checked in at the hut. We had originally booked the hut for a place to stay having trekked 4 days from Landmannalaugar, and use it spend a day there doing some day hikes. As it was we were now staying in a hut for the 2nd night and were starting to feel like we weren’t getting the experience we wanted having carried a tent over the last 2 days. It would be the last time we stayed in a hut and the next 3 nights would be spent camping.
The view up the valley from Þórsmörk