Trekking Iceland – Hornbjargsviti to Hornvík – Hornstrandir

The wind kept up for most of the night but had died down significantly by morning.  The drizzle had also mostly stopped so I headed out to explore more of the area around the lighthouse at Hornbjargsviti

View looking North from Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse - Hornstrandir -Iceland
View looking North from Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse

I don’t know if it was because I had it all to myself, but this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  I could easily have stayed a week, relaxing and drinking in the views.  But I had told Vésteinn that I would be back in Hornvík tonight, and figured that if I didn’t show he might send out the rescue service!  Especially after the crazy winds last night.

So after taking some images of the driftwood sculptures in the backyard of the lighthouse (no, I have no idea why),

One of the driftwood sculptures at Hornbjargsviti lighthouse
One of the driftwood sculptures at Hornbjargsviti lighthouse

The trail from Hornbjargsviti to the pass

I set off towards the ridge to the South of the lighthouse that would ultimately lead me to the pass I would take over to Hornvík.

Bridge over a river leading from Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse towards Hornvik - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Bridge over the river near Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse

Wow!  And I thought the views from the Northern side of the lighthouse were incredible!

View over Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse from the south - Hornstrandir -Iceland
View over Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse from the south

As I climbed the ridge, the vista over the lighthouse revealed the two large waterfalls, and the cliffs and pinnacles of rock to the North plunging into the ocean. 

View over Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse from the south at slightly higher elevation - Hornstrandir -Iceland
View over Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse from the south at a slightly higher elevation

The brightly painted lighthouse sitting in the middle of this scene adds to its picturesque beauty rather than detracting from it, and it took a great deal of effort to distract myself enough to look South and then leave the cliff edges to start the hike towards the pass.

View to the south of the ridge on the southern side of Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse - Hornstrandir -Iceland
View to the South of the ridge on the southern side of Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse

I felt this even more keenly because the trail itself is not terribly interesting.  The muddy path comes and goes depending on whether you are hiking on moss or rock, but a line of skinny, natural wood poles keeps you moving forward.

I definitely wouldn’t want to be doing this trail without a GPS if there was fog, as more often than not you must follow the poles rather than a track, and they can be quite difficult to spot against the background of rocks which is almost the same colour.

Trail towards the pass from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvik - Hornstrandir -Iceland
The trail towards the pass from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvík. In this case, you can see a clear trail, but often this disappeared

This was the first day where I was truly alone as I hiked – just me in a wide-open landscape with not another soul to be seen.  It was completely silent, apart from the calls of alarm from unseen birds, and I found myself falling into a steady stroll, rather than racing against some unseen clock.  I can definitely get into this!

As always, there were plenty of streams to negotiate (there is a lot of water in Hornstrandir!),

A stream on the way from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvik - Hornstrandir - Iceland
A stream on the trail from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvík

and a very steep, rocky ascent to the pass.

Final climb to the pass between Hornbjargsviti and Hornvik - Hornstrandir -Iceland
The final climb to the pass between Hornbjargsviti and Hornvík

The trail from the pass to Hornvík

But eventually, the familiar view of Hornvík came into sight, with yet another snowdrift between me and where I needed to go.

View towards Horvik on top of the pass from Hornbjargsviti - Hornstrandir -Iceland
View towards Hornvík on top of the pass from Hornbjargsviti

This time I was heading down the almost vertical slope, so ended up having to stamp snow steps in with the heel of my boot while supporting myself on my trekking poles to make sure I didn’t just slide the whole way.

Steep Snowdrift - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Can you see my bootprints?

Once off the snow, the trail didn’t get any less steep for quite a while, and some rock climbing prowess also came to the fore as I negotiated my way down with my backpack.

Steep sections descending from the pass from Hornbjargsviti to Horvik  - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Rock scrambling skills required

The great thing was that the weather had vastly improved (even though the sun was still not out) and so I took my time descending, stopping at several places to sit and eat and admire the views.

Waterfall and view on the descent from the pass from Hornbjargsviti to Horvik  - Hornstrandir -Iceland
A nice place to stop for lunch

Crossing the river at Hornvík

Eventually, I had to confront the thing I’d pushed to the back of my mind … re-crossing the freezing river.  This was made even more daunting because it was high tide, and when I finally got a good look at it – boy was it ever wide!

I arrived at its shores and wandered up and down trying to ascertain whether the tide influenced the depth this far upstream, and exactly where it was that I was supposed to cross.  I decided to shelter behind a rock and eat some more snacks as I pondered my situation.

Stopped for lunch on the way to Horvik  - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Stopped for snacks as I ponder the river that lies between me and Hornvík

Eventually, it got too cold to sit there and so I wandered back up to the point where I first hit the river … to find a marker clearly indicating the crossing point!  The problem is that it faces away from the approach when coming over the pass, it is designed to help people coming from downstream.

River crossing near Horvik  - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Marker for the river crossing. It’s obvious from this angle! Note the sandstorm on the other side of the river

I could see that it was reasonably shallow at this crossing point, but it wasn’t clear to me just how far the water might reach up to on my short legs.  So I stripped down to my underpants and, this time, decided to try out my new neoprene socks – the BPS Storm ‘Smart Sock’.

Preparing for river crossing near Horvik  with neoprene socks - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Getting ready to brave the river in my untested neoprene socks

It took all my willpower to take that first step into the frigid water, only to find … NEOPRENE SOCKS ARE MAGIC!!!  Truly!  Yes, the water was still cold, but it was nothing approaching the almost unbearable, tear-inducing frozen-ness of crossing a river in the arctic with bare feet!  WTF??!! 

And even though the neoprene socks only came to my ankles but at its deepest, the river reached my upper thighs, I was not cold!   I was so impressed that I finished crossing the river, fished my camera out of my backpack, and waded back into the middle of the river to take some pictures!  I would NEVER have done that with bare feet!

View down the river at the crossing near Horvik - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Standing in the middle of the river for several minutes taking pictures. Impossible without neoprene socks!

Seriously.  If you are hiking in the Arctic – bring neoprene socks!  I’ll never cross another river without them!

At home in Hornvík campground

The rest of the hike back to the campground was an uneventful slog along the river and then along the beach.  I checked in with Vésteinn who asked how I fared last night in the wind. Apparently, 2 tents (including Sean’s) were destroyed at Hornvík.  I said that I suspected mine would have made a third, except that I had found the perfect sheltered spot at the lighthouse.  He agreed that Hornbjargsviti is an extremely beautiful spot.

After chatting a little more about my hiking plans for the coming days, it was time to set up camp again.  I chose the same spot as last time, made myself dinner, chatted with a few of the other campers, and made it another relatively early night.

Campsite at Hornvik - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Amazing sunset from my campsite at Hornvík

Trekking Information

Distance = 9.8 km

Time taken = 7 hours and 13 minutes.  At least 1.5 hours of this was spent chilling and taking photos.

Map

Basic map of the route I took from H The Horn in Hornstrandir from Movescount

Altitude Profile

Basic map of the route I took from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvik from Movescount

Download track as .gpx

Read more about my solo trek in Hornstrandir

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure in Hornstrandir:

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

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