It is always a good idea to get up for sunrise … even when it occurs at 3am!
It is also a good idea to go back to bed afterwards, and when we finally crawled out for our 8am breakfast, we were greeted with bright blue skies and loads of sunshine.
We helped ourselves to a spread of muesli, crackers, jam, peanut butter, nutella, tea and coffee to fuel our day, and then made our lunches with the same ingredients plus Icelandic Flatbrauð (rye flat bread), other long-lasting breads, cheese (Brie, Gouda), capsicum cream cheese, and a variety of processed meats – including hangikjöt, Icelandic smoked lamb. Plus a couple of chocolate bars for energy 😉
After cleaning the hut, returning unused supplies to the “store”, closing the wooden shutters over the windows to protect against wild weather, and locking the door behind us, we headed off across country for Day 2 of our trek in the shadow of Vatnajökull.
The awesome weather meant that we could take the route closest to the glacier, so this would be a long day of hiking. There were no tracks at all, and we spent the whole day walking across ankle-turning shaley rock, or ankle-turning pumicey rock. Ankle-turning either way, and I highly recommend you wear really good waterproof hiking boots with ankle support for this trek!
For the first hour or so we had a perfect view of Mt Snæfell, if we looked behind us. It often pays to turn around while you are hiking 🙂
Apparently our driver yesterday mentioned to Þorbjörg that he’d never seen the mountain this cloud-free for so many days during a Summer. Apparently, while Reykjavik has been struggling under the cloudiest Summer in 100 years, the weather in the East of Iceland has been the opposite!
We hiked beside a series of lakes and through pockets of snow, before spying the next glacier tongue coming down from the Icefield.
Our lunch-stop was on a high perch looking down onto the face of the glacier (does it look like the head of a fish to you too?) and the deep valley that its meltwater was carving out of the East Iceland landscape.
Given the sunshine and lack of wind, we had a very relaxed lunch while admiring the view, before setting off again in the direction of the mountains we could see in the distance.
We were able to cross most of the streams/rivers by stone hopping (I’m so glad I’ve started using trekking poles)
but eventually came to one that defeated us. Þorbjörg wasn’t sure how deep it was and whether we would be able to cross or whether we would have to walk around. So she told us to hold off on changing our shoes while she “tested the waters” as it were. I love guided treks 🙂
In the end, she decided we would cross the river, as it only came up to lower-thigh on her (at least mid-thigh for myself, Melinda and Maria). She suggested that we take off our hiking pants and wade across in our undies, putting our waterproof pants on if we really felt the cold badly.
My second river crossing in my underwear since arriving in Iceland!
Obstacle overcome, we put our pants back on, dried our feet, re-shoed, and continued our journey over the rocky terrain in the direction of our next hut. BTW it turns out Martin and Wolf walked a little further around and crossed the river on a snow bridge. But I reckon you haven’t really hiked in Iceland until you can say you’ve stripped to your underwear to ford a river 🙂
I was completely mesmerised by the colours and patterns in the cliff face on the opposite side of the valley, once again wishing I was hiking with a geologist. And although Þorbjörg was great at explaining the basics of how the geology of the region formed, I’m absolutely fascinated by rocks and really want to dive more into the details.
Eventually, Egilssel Hut appeared in the distance as a white spec overlooking a lake.
We passed some woolly locals and, unfortunately, the Icelandic flies also found us! Not quite as bad as the flies I encountered in Greenland, but still annoying – especially after not having had to endure them for a long time.
Egilssel Hut is much larger than Geldingafell, and it turned out we were to share it with 3 Icelandic ladies this night.
While our Icelandic companions finished preparing their evening meal and some of our group went for a quick and cold wash in the lake, I wandered around taking photos of an amazing basaltic outcrop with columnar jointing (I remember that much from 1st year Geology). I love these structures! The last one I went to see was at Los Tercios near Suchitoto in El Salvador.
Dinner was a thick, delicious cauliflower soup followed by couscous and canned ham. This latter brought back all sorts of memories from when I was a little girl and my family would buy ham in this way since it was cheap and would last in the cupboard. I don’t know how cheap it is in Iceland (is anything cheap in Iceland?) but the fact it will last in the food cache at the hut is the important thing for Icelandic Mountain Guides.
We finished our meal with a dessert of chocolate biscuits and then sat around chatting and drinking tea, coffee and hot chocolate until bed.
I did wait up again for sunset … but unfortunately it was disappointing this night 🙁 Ah well, maybe tomorrow!
Distance = 17.13km
Time taken = 8 hours 25 minutes
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