On the last day of the In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek with Icelandic Mountain Guides, we awoke to a cloudy morning with low fog hanging over the tops of the mountains. Quite a contrast to the brilliant finish to yesterday!
We made our final lunches out on the deck
before heading across the river (thankfully with a footbridge!) and up the ropes at the start of our last day of trekking.
Although the colours were muted by the clouds, the mountains were impressive,
and the steep climb made for some fantastic views back over the river.
Once we’d climbed out of the river valley, our trail took us on an undulating route across green flats and down into rocky gullies with small streams at the bottom.
As we took a break at one of these gully crossings, Þorbjörg decided she’d teach us a simple Icelandic song. I didn’t do too badly remembering the lyrics actually, but it helps that the word for Sun in Icelandic sounds the same as does in Spanish 🙂
The lyrics, translated into English are:
Sun in the heart, Sun in the mind
Nothing but Sun
Love it! And how interesting the focus on the Sun 🙂 Perhaps because they see relatively little of it here in Iceland? This was the first time anyone had sang on this hike, and it occurred to me that I’d been missing the singing that had been so much a part of my other hikes with Icelandic Mountain Guides.
The trail continued through numerous gullies and took us boulder-hopping along a stream
before descending into the biggest gully of them all! I waited on one side of the gully for the others to have a 20 minute rest at the bottom, so I could get this shot of them walking up the steep slope on the other side.
And it was actually very steep! Especially when I was so far behind and “sprint-hiking” to catch up with them again 🙂
A little further along, we came to an amazing lookout over the delta of the river that would lead us to the ocean
and for the remainder of the hike we basically followed the river along the moss-lined trail.
Þorbjörg had told us at the start of the day that we would have one final river crossing right at the end of the hike. But what she didn’t tell us was that this one had a suspension bridge over it 🙂 .
Ironically, less than 1km from the end of the trek, 4 of us (me, Eric, Melinda and Martin) managed to lose the group in the small Icelandic forest on the other side of the bridge.
We were not far behind the others, but by the time we’d finished taking photos and crossed the bridge they were nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, there was also a fork in the path. The obvious way forward was to keep following the yellow poles, which also went in the direction that Þorbjörg had indicated we were going. So this we did. But as we kept walking and failing to see the group (we even tried yelling and blowing the emergency whistle and still nothing), our confidence eroded to the point where we ended up turning back and waiting at the bridge.
Not a minute after arriving back at the bridge, Þorbjörg comes running along that same trail to find us. Doh! It turns out we were only about 100m shy of the group when we turned around!
Yes – it is possible to get lost in an Icelandic forest 🙁
Reunited with the group, it was only another 200m of hiking to reach the edge of the stony river delta where our “super-jeeps” were waiting to transfer us to Höfn.
It was very slow going until we reached the main road (they basically drive up the river bed for several kilometres), and then it was all over far too quickly as we dropped people off at the hostel and said our goodbyes.
In the Shadow of Vatnajökull is a beautiful, remote hike in East Iceland. It is not particularly difficult, but you must be prepared for walking across stony ground without trails, wading across cold rivers, basic food and accommodation, weather of all kinds, and some short but moderately steep uphills and downhills. All the while carrying a ~10kg backpack.
I particularly loved the variety of the landscapes that we hiked through in only 4 days, and hope that the other hikes I’m doing in Iceland have a similar diversity.
Million thanks to Þorbjörg and my trekking companions for a wonderful trip!
Distance = 14.25km
Time taken = 7 hours
Read more about hiking In the Shadow of Vatnajökull
- Day 1 – to Geldingafell Hut
- Day 2 – from Geldingafell Hut to Egilssel Hut
- Day 3 – from Egilssel Hut to Múlaskáli Hut
- Day 4 – from Múlaskáli Hut to Höfn