Friday, July 04, 2008
Part III - Landmannalaugar
Leaving the Golden Circle we headed out towards Landmannalaugar. This area is known for its multi-colored mountains and the vast lava fields. If I had to name one favorite spot during this trip, this probably would be it.
To get there we would have to take the F208 mountain road, which approaches the area from the north. Up until we left for Iceland we had been a bit apprehensive, because the road was closed just two days before. Apparently this season it snowed more than the previous years, and mountain roads in general opened later than usual. Even with the jeep, I have to say that it was a really bumpy ride. The scenery, however, was quite worth it ...
We had to cross a few rivers, but they were quite shallow, except maybe for the last one, just before arriving at the Landmannalaugar site. After watching some videos out there I had been somewhat worried, but the actual experience wasn't so scary.
Arriving at the camp site, it was almost empty. The site has some good facilities, including a nice café (still closed at the time). A. had planned for us to hike the Bláhnjúkur (Blue peak), so we asked for directions and went our way. Now, had I known how hard this hike was going to be, I probably would've thought twice before going. First of all, the climb up is really, really steep. I mean, really, really steep (you get the idea, right ?).
And although there was a sort of path, it was narrow and quite slippery (lots of rocks and fine gravel which made it even more difficult). Also, if you suffer from vertigo, this hike is definitely not a good idea.
going up ...
and up ...
I didn't keep track of time but I think we made it to the first summit in about an hour or so. Two nice German ladies were in front of us, and along with another two people we saw when we were already making our way back, that was the whole sum of people we met during that afternoon.
We rested a bit after the first climb and started hiking up to the summit (where you can see the disk in some of the photos). Again, very steep, and it helps not to look down. Not sure how long that took but when we arrived at the top I was tired and very relieved.
The views, of course, are outstanding. It was worth all that effort just to be able to look at this ...
The hike down was another challenge, added to the fact that we had to cross several patches of snow and icy bits. We crossed down from the other side of the mountain, going in the direction of the lava fields. We almost turned around at one point, not sure what the right path was, but eventually we figured it out and continued down. Also, the prospect of going back the way we came was not very appealing, I have to say. At one point, we had to cross the river to reach the lava fields. I forgot to mention that we also had to cross this same river just before we started the hike up the mountain. Usually there's a small bridge you can use, but because it was so early in the season the bridge was damaged and hadn't been repaired yet. We went ahead anyway, taking off our boots and looking for the shallowest section to cross. Now that is one experience I hope I won't have to repeat. The water was freezing and I could feel the icy cold in every nerve of my body. When we crossed it that second time there was a bonus, at least. Next to it were the hot springs so we could warm our feet afterwards.
The hike through the lava fields was more relaxed. A. went to check the hot springs but the rest of us were so tired we just rested for a while. There was a lot of snow on the ground still, so we had to be careful, but eventually we made it to the river side and followed the path back to the camp site again.
Thank god for the midnight sun, because when we got back it was already past 8 o'clock but the sun was still shining strong. The duration of the whole hike was probably around 5 hours, with a couple of small breaks in between.
I wish we had planned more time for this special place, but unfortunately it was time to return.
Back to Reykjavik we drove through a different road. We decided to take the F225, which passes right next to the Hekla volcano (the one that is supposed to be erupting anytime now).
It's a much better ride than the F208, and more scenic as well. Of course by the time we rejoined the Ring Road it was past the opening hours of most restaurants, so we drove until Selfoss, where the latest earthquake happened. Icelandic houses must really be built to sustain earthquakes quite well, because I hardly saw any signs of damage in the streets. We didn't find any restaurants or cafés opened at 11 PM, but there was the hot dog stand and some sandwiches at the gas station, which was enough. We were so exhausted, but it had been an amazing day. On our next visit to Iceland we will surely make the 4 day hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork (our destination for the next day), a popular hike and probably one of the most beautiful.
From Gullfoss, roads 35,31,32, F26 and F208 to Landmannalaugar
From Landmannalaugar, road F225, and then 26 (part gravel) to the Ring Road
Ring road back to Reykjavik, with a brief stop in Selfoss
More photos at Flickr here