Details and Picutres (mostly pictures) recounting our completion of the Fimmvörðuháls hike on June 20, 2016.
The journey starts on Sunday, June 19th, where Mark, Lisa, Ellen and Dickey wait at the airport for Badger's flight from the German Tough Mudder he had run the day before. The flight is delayed, but we don't mind; we're enjoying our coffees and bumping to the EDM at Joe and the Juice. Finally Badger arrives, but well after he should have joined us in the coffee shop, there's no sign of him. Then we get the dreaded text: "They can't find my bag....". In no time, we've got the backup plan figured: Dickey will sleep in Mark & Lisa's tent since it sleeps three, and Badger and Ellen will sleep in Dickey's tent. Badger is probably wearing his hiking clothes, so we're good there. He and Ellen can share a sleeping pad but he probably has to buy a new sleeping bag (he was going to anyway!) I really hope he's wearing his hiking boots, we'll never find 12 EEE off the rack in Iceland... when mercifully, Badger arrives with his giant duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He may or may not have entered several doors that probably said "DO NOT ENTER" in Icelandic on them in order to track the bag down, but who can say for sure?
After swinging by Nupshestar to see Svenni and Elwira and grabbing a quick bite at Gallery Pizza, we arrive at Skogafoss around 9:45 PM. Dickey, Badger and Lisa set up camp while Mark and Ellen drive back to Seljalandsfoss, where they meet up with a taxi driver named Jon who doesn't really speak English and whom we were only about 80% sure would be meeting us at the right place and time. Thankfully he did, Mark & Ellen leave our car (Tuesday's bus from Þórsmörk will be dropping us here), and soon we were all together again at Skogafoss, ready for a good night's sleep before our big hike.
While a 75 meter tall waterfall does make an excellent white noise machine, jet lag, intermittent rain and occasional strong wind gusts (more on this later) made for less than a good night's sleep. And soon it was 6:45 AM, time to get up and break camp.
The forecast called for rain all day, but the weather we woke up to was pretty nice; not a lot of wind and no rain. We decide to skip the hot breakfast we had planned and get moving ASAP to take advantage of the good weather while we have it. We could stop and have our nice dehydrated eggs and hash meals in a few hours, when we had made some good progress and earned ourselves a break. As we set off at 8 AM we had no idea we wouldn't be eating those eggs until 2 PM.
The first mile or two of the hike go according to plan. The weather is holding off, the views are beautiful, and there's a new waterfall around every bend in the river. Occasionally we see glimpses of Eyjafjallajokull high above us. My feet are dry. Eventually, the rain starts to fall, and we take a quick break in a sheltered canyon to don our rain gear.
The weather turns. The higher we climb, the stronger the winds get. We meet a pair of hikers who have turned around, and one on his way down from a night spent in the cabin up top. They do not have good things to report about the weather up ahead. Still, the Skogar continues to deliver stunning waterfalls, canyons, and views. As we climb, grassy fields give way to rocky ground and larger snow patches.
Finally, we reach the rickety bridge over the river. The weather is terrible and we are drenched. We can only guess about the wind speed... feels like 70 MPH sustained with gusts well above that; a real arctic hurricane. We cross the bridge; turning back after this milestone would be pointless, although we're not quite halfway there. It's after noon and we still haven't had "breakfast."
Mark, Ellen, Lisa & Dickey crossing the bridge.
The weather only gets worse after the bridge, so we put our heads down, lean into the wind, and think about the dry cabin that's hopefully waiting for us a few miles up the trail. We stop to put our gaiters on as rock gives way to snow. An hour later, we think we can see the Baldvinskali Hut on the next ridge. It's painted white, sitting in a field of snow, and right at cloud level. I utter the phrase "I swear it was just there a second ago" several times before I start to question whether or not I actually saw anything at all.
Ellen and Mark trudging through the snow. The scenery is quite a bit different up here.
Baldvinskali! We all strip down to our underwear and put on any dry clothes we have in our bags. It's warm and dry and there is no wind in the hut, which is nice. We hang up our wet clothes and put some smaller items by the radiator. Lisa melts one of her gloves. My "waterproof" boots are completely soaked through. We have our eggs, or more lunchy type food for some, since it's now after 2 PM. We meet three guys from Chicago, another American couple, two other guys who didn't have much to say (and maybe didn't speak English) and a couple from the Czech Republic. Later, a Belgian marathoner shows up at the cabin; he's RUNNING the trail and it's only taken him two and a half hours to do the Thorsmork half of the hike (it's taken us 6 hours to get here). He only sticks around long enough for a quick snack and a break from the wind and he's off again. It appears the fifteen of us will be the only ones to complete the trail today. Apparently 200 people did it on a particularly nice day last week.
After an hour and a half break, we set off again. The weather has improved; it's still windy as all hell, but it's not raining anymore! Patches of blue sky in the distance give us hope that maybe the worst is behind us. Also, wet clothes dry really fast in 70 MPH winds; I think that's called a silver lining. The next few miles we'll be hiking almost exclusively through the snow; we're almost at 1000 meters elevation and don't have too much more climbing to do.
Crossing the Fimmvörðuháls ridge. Baldvinskali can be seen in the distance (it's the white thing that's not snow) while a sign points the way to the other hut on the trail.
Summit of Fimmvörðuháls ridge with Eyjafjallajokull behind.
A beautiful blue melt-water lake in the pass. They say there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it's much more difficult to get to the top of one.The things you find here are more valuable than gold.
Beautiful, but still windy...
After traversing the two cinder cones formed in the 2010 eruption, we reach the steep and treacherous decent into Þórsmörk. But the views aren't bad, and descending provides new options for getting past the snow...
Sledding in June.
The only picture of the five of us, thanks to Badger's little tripod.
Lisa on the Heljarkambur Ridge. We think this is where she lost her marbles. She's marble-less now.
As we made our way down, the sun came out, the temps went up, and the wind died out. The last few miles were a joy. We handled the Cat's Spine without issue, and finally, around 9 PM, we found ourselves at Basar. After setting camp, we enjoyed a lovely dinner of dehydrated lasagna with some nice dehydrated cheesecake for dessert. And then we were off to bed, as we had a 7 AM bus to catch the next morning.
The Kattarhyggir or "Cat's Spine."
Almost there, you can see Basar in the distance.