Monday, October 1, 2012

Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk

While researching our trip for Iceland, I came across the Laugavegur trek in the Icelandic Highlands.  The trek is described as one of the most popular treks in Iceland starting in Landmannalaugar and ending approximately 50 km south in Þórsmörk (pr. Thorsmork).  We decided if we couldn't pronounce the names of our hiking destinations, it might be safer to sign up with a guide.  Most tour groups will do the trek over 5 days.  We signed up with 
Icelandic Mountain Guides.  They made reservations for us in the mountain huts, but because we brought our tent, we had the option of sleeping outside as well on the nicer nights.  They also super-jeeped our stuff from hut to hut, so we were spoiled in that all we had to carry on the hike was a day pack.  Here are some a lot of pictures of our trip.

Day 1
We had made arrangements to be picked up at our hotel and taxied to the central bus station.  I had expected that the tour company would have their own tour bus, but they didn't.  We took regular public transport out to Landmannalaugar with one bus change.  That wasn't a problem, except it's hard to know how many people will end up showing up so we had to be quick in grabbing a seat. 

We made one stop at Hekla, where the wind and driving rain allowed us only a quick stop.  

A scratch on the window from passing another vehicle in very tight quarters!

A quick lunch before heading out.

Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker.
Most of these photos were taken by Roger's little point and shoot waterproof camera.  It rained the whole day, so my camera remained mostly in the case.
Some of the photos are obscured by water drops on the lens.
When it rains in Iceland, it really rains.

That steam from geothermal vents.

The Hrafntinnusker Hut.
Initially I was happy to see this hut until I met the warden. 
If you arrive at this hut in the rain, be forewarned that you will be required to remove all wet clothes in the boot room before entering.  Makes sense right?
Except, the boot room is about 10 feet by 10 feet and when you have cold, wet hikers standing out in the blowing wind and rain for 30 minutes waiting for people to remove their clothes it's not ideal.  I can only really complain, but I don't have any better suggestions for trying to keep the hut dry when it's raining outside except build a bigger boot room.

Anyway, the hut usually has running water, but I guess a few days before we arrived, the pipes busted so we were left without.  There's pit toilets at this hut, and a loft upstairs for sleeping.  Downstairs is the kitchen and divided rooms with eating tables and bunks.  When the weather is as bad as we had, not many people want to tent, so the hut was at maximum capacity.
In these conditions, we were literally crawling over people whenever we had to leave the room.  Privacy?? No such thing.
Dinner was delicious though!  White asparagus soup, catfish with creamy leek sauce on rice and cake for dessert.

Day 2
Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (Swan Lake)
When we woke up the next day this is what we saw.

This is where the guides came in handy.  If Roger and I had been on our own, we would have woken up, looked outside, and hiked right back down to where we came from.

Thor, our super-jeep driver.  We all loved loved LOVED this man!

Thor letting air out of the tires.

This morning, we waited until 10 am for the weather to improve before we started hiking.  

Good bye Hrafntinnusker Hut, and good riddance!

I hated that green sign above.  It banged all night against the hut in the wind.

What's this?? Is the weather improving?

The Álftavatn Hut.
After our horrible experience at Hrafntinnusker.  This was the 4 seasons!
We started the day in blowing snow, and ended the day in glorious sunshine!

Drying out.

This hut had running water, flush toilets and coin operated showers!
Our fearless guides Tomas and Inga.  
Dinner was delicious again.  Pasta bolognese, salad and skyr for dessert 

It was nice enough that Roger and I decided to set up our tent for the night.

Day 3
Álftavatn to Emstur.
Rain again. Boo

Black sand "desert".  
The novelty of walking on black sand wore off pretty quick.  Especially in wet boots in driving rain.

A standing lunch break.

Troll bread

Finally!  The Emstur Hut

The weather was so bad on this day, that we hiked in record time and arrived at the hut super early.  It also helped that our guides took us on a "short cut".  We ended up hunkering down for about 8 hours in this hut reading, eating, playing games and trying to burn down the hut with the electric stove.  There's multiple huts here, and we managed to score a hut all to ourselves.  Twenty one of us squeezed into that tiny space--it's remarkable no fights broke out.
This hut also had running water, flush toilets and showers.  I don't think anyone showered on this day-the thought of being wet again was not appealing.
Smoked lamb appetizers and the Black Death.

Boiled salmon with potatoes

Inga making salmon salad with the left overs.

Day 4
Emstur to Þórsmörk
My absolute favourite day of hiking!  
Lots of C'est beau and Oh lala's

One of the very few sitting lunches we had.

Wild blueberries and crow berries


Take off your pants, it's a river crossing.

Jackpot!  Edible forest mushrooms.

Þórsmörk Hut
This hut is huge.  Two kitchens, upstairs and downstairs sleeping areas, big boot room and running water with showers.
Þórsmörk is also a day use area, so in the height of summer, it's likely crawling with visitors picnicking and hiking.

Nice enough to set up our tent.

Cooking up the forest mushrooms

Meat soup and chocolate pudding

Day 5
Day hike and back to Reykjavik

Singing Cave

Ram Berries

Learning about Snorri and his cave.


Eyjafjallajökull.  The volcano that caused air traffic havoc in 2010.

Sweet pandas

Sad bus ride home.

Last look at Eyjafjallajökull

Some more pictures taken from the bus.

The trail isn't really difficult, and the distances between huts are reasonable, but many many times we were thankful for having gone with a guided tour.  They made sure we didn't get lost when everything was covered in snow, took away the worry over having to find a warm dry place to sleep each night and took us on short cuts when the weather got bad.  They also vastly added to our experience by pointing out and picking edible berries and mushrooms.  Boiling us tea from arctic thyme and icelandic moss found on our hike and telling us bedtime stories about magical cows named Bukolla.  
We would do it all over again in a heartbeat...even the Hrafntinnusker Hut!

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