Trekking Iceland – Hornvík to Hlöðuvík – Hornstrandir

I’ve said it before … it’s not a bad thing to need to get up and attend to a call of nature in the middle of the night during an Arctic summer.

Sunset at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Beautiful

These are the views that greeted me at 1 am as I took a 1.5-hour stroll along the beach.  And I wasn’t the only photographer out and about 🙂  I found Sean walking back to camp, having spent all evening on The Horn shooting pictures.  Unfortunately, the cloud eventually killed the light and there wasn’t much point staying up any longer, so back to bed I went.

After midnight sunset at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Hornvík is a stunning location

When I next awoke, it was overcast again.  Vésteinn convinced me that it was worthwhile taking the detour out to Kirfi and, after watching an Arctic Fox scamper through the campsite

Arctic fox visiting the  Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
A visitor!

I was on the trail to Hlöðuvík.

Leaving Hornvík

The first part of this skirted around the edge of a cliff, requiring careful footing on the smooth stones, and some rope-work to get up and over a particular section.

The first obstacle on the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The first obstacle on the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík

There were plenty of views of bird-filled rocky outcrops

beautiful scenery on the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
So beautiful, even when cloudy

before a conveniently placed log allowed for a dry river crossing just before reaching Rekavík, and the patio of a summer home that had been blown away in a storm several years ago.  

Helpful log along the trail in Hornstrandir - Iceland
Perfect!

Vésteinn had told me to leave my backpack here and head out to Kirfi with just the minimum of equipment.  I have to say, it was such a joy to be hiking without all that weight! 

Platform where you can leave your pack if hiking to Kirfi - Hornstrandir - Iceland
This house would have had a lovely view of the Hornbjarg

A detour to Kirfi

The first part of the trail passed through quite boggy ground before rising up to a very narrow path cut into the side of the cliff, with a long and steep drop straight down to the ocean below.

Trail to Kirfi - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Trail to Kirfi

The views were OK but I was wondering what was so special about this detour when I finally rounded the corner and understood.  The final viewpoint has you standing in front of but below more of the vertical cliffs that drop hundreds of metres into the ocean below.

Bird cliffs at Kirfi near Hornvik - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Bird cliffs at Kirfi

This is quite a different view from the one you get up on The Horn, and I had to admit that Vésteinn was right – it did rival the view from above.  Especially since you could walk out onto a couple of promontories to get a great view back into the sheer rock wall covered in birds.

Thousands of birds nesting in the cliffs at Kirfi near Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
All those white spots on the cliffs are birds

I spent ages here taking pictures, then made my way back to my pack … just as the clouds started spitting rain at me again.  Bummer 🙁

The trail to Atlaskarð pass

From there, there was a pretty obvious track that climbed to the Atlaskarð pass

The trail to the Atlaskarð from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The trail to the Atlaskarð pass

and my biggest excitement was having an Arctic Fox with a mouthful of feathers run across the track not even 20 metres in front of me.   No, I have no idea how he could see where he was going, but he sure was moving quickly!

Successful Arctic Fox on the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Lucky sighting!

It was steadily drizzling by the time I reached the top of the pass and the view of the wide bowl I had to walk around to get to the Skálarkambur ridge.

The first pass on trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
View from the first pass on the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík. I’m heading over to the left

River mishap

The trail actually descended into the bowl, at the bottom of which was a fairly wide river that I needed to cross.  I walked up and down a bit looking for a suitable crossing point where I didn’t have to take my shoes off and found one that certainly looked doable.

A fairly major river to cross on trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The river. Totally doable without taking off my shoes, right?

I was doing really well and only 2 rocks away from the other side when disaster struck! 

Although hiking poles are critical for negotiating these types of obstacles, they can bring you unstuck if the lugs that extend them happen to catch on something and open unexpectedly.  This is exactly what happened to me here.  I positioned my poles either side of the rock I was wanted to step on, but when I placed my weight on them to make the move, the right-hand one collapsed underneath me.  I couldn’t catch myself so into the river I went 🙁

Fortunately, I was able to right myself very quickly, but it required me to put my feet and hands in the river to do so.  My Lowa boots are good … by they aren’t that good!  No amount of GoreTex will keep your feet dry if the water runs in through the top of a fully submerged boot!

Crap!

I finished the crossing and could feel my feet squelching, so sat down to try to wring as much water as possible out of my wool socks before continuing.  My waterproof gloves were also not so waterproof after having been submerged, but I know that one of the best ways to dry something is to wear it so on I marched, following the rocky cairns that marked the trail through the snowdrifts up the other side of the bowl.  I wasn’t too cold if I kept moving…

Rocky cairns mark the trail from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Follow the rocky cairns

The trail to Hlöðuvík

I eventually reached the final pass over the lower reaches of Skál and had my first view of Hlöðuvík, Búðir farm and the “heart” of Hornstrandir.

Looking down to Hlöðuvík from the last pass coming from Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Looking down at Hlöðuvík from the last pass

All that stood between me and my warm sleeping bag now, was a 100m vertical drop from where I was standing!

Descent down to Hlöðuvík from the last pass coming from Hornvík is very steep - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The descent down to Hlöðuvík is very steep

I forced myself to take it slowly to avoid any other mishaps and then chose my own adventure through the marshy ground that led to the farmhouses.

There I met Ludvig, the owner, who was on site preparing the cottages for the Summer.  He explained that the farm had been in his family for a couple of generations and that each year members of the family come to spend time there.  He also explained that when no family is visiting, he rents it out to others who are craving peace and solitude.  He had come early to make sure that everything was in order in preparation for these visits.

Hlöðuvík farm - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Hlöðuvík farm

We stood out in the drizzle for about 25 minutes chatting about the farm (he is collecting and documenting stories of the history of the Hlöðuvík area), what on Earth I was doing hiking alone in Hornstrandir, and this amazing life I’m now leading.  It was a fun conversation and I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I was rapidly cooling down (wet feet really don’t help) and I wanted to set up camp before the rain became heavier.  So with a promise to look him up on Facebook, I bid my leave and hiked the remaining 15 minutes to the campsite.

Campsite at Hlöðuvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
My campsite at Hlöðuvík. The pyramid is the toilet.

Well, actually, there was one last obstacle between me and my dry sleeping bag.  Yet another river.  Even though the campsite was literally 20 metres the other side of it, there was no question about the need to change into my neoprene socks to make this crossing.  I really have no fear of these rivers now I’m armed with neoprene 🙂

Trekking Information

Distance = 14.8 km

Time taken = 8 hours and 30 minutes. 

Map

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

Altitude Profile

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.