Hiking Iceland – In the Shadow of Vatnajökull – Day 2

It is always a good idea to get up for sunrise … even when it occurs at 3am!  

Sunrise at Geldingafell Hut - Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Sunrise at Geldingafell Hut

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.

Geldingafell Hut and its surroundings - East Iceland

Geldingafell Hut with its pyramid-shaped outhouse, and the snow-capped Mt Snæfell on the left.

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 😉

Making breakfast on an Icelandic Mountain Guides trek

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.

Leaving Geldingafell Hut on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Leaving Geldingafell Hut for Day 2 of our hike

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!

Different types of rocks on the In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Shale (top) and pumice (bottom)

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 🙂

View of Mt Snæfell on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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.

Lakes and snow on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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.

Glacier views on Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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.

Scenery on day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

We were able to cross most of the streams/rivers by stone hopping (I’m so glad I’ve started using trekking poles)

Rock hopping across another stream on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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 🙂

Testing the depth of the water on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Þorbjörg finding a route across the river

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.

Wading across the river in underwear on Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Eric and Maria making their way across the river

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.

Patterned geology of East Iceland on Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek

Eventually, Egilssel Hut appeared in the distance as a white spec overlooking a lake. 

Approaching Egilssel Hut on Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Can you see Egilssel Hut?

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.

Icelandic Sheep along our path

Icelandic sheep roam free in East Iceland

Egilssel Hut is much larger than Geldingafell, and it turned out we were to share it with 3 Icelandic ladies this night. 

Inside Egilssel Hut - Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

Inside Egilssel Hut

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.

Columnar Jointing along the river at Egilssel Hut - Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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.  

Eating dinner at Egilssel Hut - Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek - East Iceland

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!

Trekking Information

Distance = 17.13km

Time taken = 8 hours 25 minutes


Basic Map of Day 2 of In the Shadow of Vatnajokull - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of Day 2 of Shadow of Vatnajokull from Strava

Read more about hiking In the Shadow of Vatnajökull

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of the 4-day trek “In the Shadow of Vatnajökull” with Icelandic Mountain Guides

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Iceland and around the world.


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