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Iceland: The Laugavegur, September 2008
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Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Iceland: The Laugavegur, September 2008 on 10/20/2008 20:18:21 MDT Print View

In mid-September this year, just slightly off-season, I spent a couple days hiking Laugavegurinn (translates something like "the warm pools way" or "the hot springs route") in south central Iceland. I started at Landmannalaugar and hiked south to Þórsmörk. Immensely helpful in planning my hike (which was sandwiched between some tourist days) were Andrew Skurka's Iceland page, Jonathan Ley's Iceland photos and advice, and Ferðafélag Íslands, a group that maintains some of the very nice huts along the way.

The weather wasn't very extreme, but it did change frequently. Temperatures were mostly in the mid-40s to high 50s F/ 5-10C. Low-hanging clouds mostly--just a few hours of genuine, full sunshine. No terrible rainstorms, but the occasional rain changed to sun changed to mist change to light rain change to fog, etc. Heavy winds were not unusual, as there is essentially no tree cover until the last 30 minutes of hiking.

I've got the full set of photos on the Laugavegur available on Flickr, but here are some highlights:

First morning out, looking back at the hut at Landmannalaugar:
Landmannalaugar valley

The first stretch is over a lava field and into the hills beyond:
First morning of hiking

Unfortunately fog and high winds were the norm on the way to Hrafntinnusker, where the trail skirts a volcanic crater at about 3000 feet:
Limited visibility

I stopped and warmed up at Höskuldsskáli hut for an hour or so. The old season's snow had melted, and the new snow hadn't yet arrived. So the next stretch of small creek valleys was up and down and up and down:
Little waterfalls

Here's a look back where I came from. The hut is a speck about 1/3 of the way in from the right edge of the image:
Rhyolite hills

Then uphill again, where thankfully the weather was fair enough to see those famous rhyolite hills:
The money shot

The trail took a steep drop down to Álftavatn, where I spent the night:
End of the first day

The second morning featured several very cold river crossings. Bláfjallakvísl was easily the widest and deepest I had to cross. Just over knee-deep at the worst. I had a run for a few minutes to warm my frozen legs.

I was glad that the Nyrðri Emstruá had a bridge!
Nyrðri Emstruá

The most of the rest of the day was mostly flat, going through some very cool volcanic wastelands. Only a few little plants could eke out a living there:
A little life

I finished the second day in the early afternoon at Emstrur/Botnar hut, so I spent a few hours trail running and exploring the surroundings, like the Markarfljótsgljúfur. The Markar river canyon is about 500 feet/180m at the deepest point.
Farewell to Markarfljótsgljúfur

The third day was the warmest and best weather--the only day I got to wear shorts. The trail snaked down to cross the river at the bottom of the Syðri-Emstruá canyon (Entujökull glacier in the background), then bent back to head towards the right side of this photo:
Syðri-Emstruá canyon

A walk in Sandar, a glacial wash:
Short walk in Sandar

Then a short hike out of Sandar led to a long trek across the Almenningar plateau:
Doing what I do

One last break to reflect on the trip before the last major river crossing...
Thinking it over

...and then into the more lush environs of Þórsmörk Reserve:

And lastly, I took a quick jaunt up Valahnúkur while waiting for the bus back to Reykjavik.
On Valahnúkur

Thanks for looking. I highly recommend this trail!

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Iceland -Sept. 2008 on 10/20/2008 20:27:40 MDT Print View

Great pictures- What was the temp. range? Stupid questions: What was your shelter and what degree bag did you carry? Thanks - Sound like a very interesting place to go.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Iceland -Sept. 2008 on 10/20/2008 21:15:14 MDT Print View

Temps were fairly steady in the 40-50s F/5-10C. Once around mid-day it got up to the 60s for about an hour.

My primary shelter was the fancy hut system (bunks, mattresses, stove, sink, tables, etc.) which was mostly empty because the main hiking season was just about over. I carried an old REI Minimalist bivy as back-up. Rationale:
1. very short hiking days meant I probably wouldn't need it
2. low wind profile if I did need it--there's very little cover out there
3. packed sufficiently small, no stakes/poles, etc.

The bag was a Marmot Hydrogen that I converted to a quilt. Comfortable to 30s for me with appropriate attire. Of course, I was plenty warm inside the buildings.