This was the hike that I feared most. I do not like hiking up the hills, since I get tired very fast. So I honestly tried to avoid it. However, it looked like most people in the group wanted to go, including Alex. So I had to go too.
Our guide promised me that he would let me set the pace so I would not feel left out. He even offered me to go ahead of the whole group, but I felt uncomfortable to slow down the whole group. I just asked him to try to go as slowly as possible. Which he did, and that made a big difference — I was able to complete the hike at a reasonable pace and without a whole lot of discomfort.
That day we completed about a third of the Fimmvörðuháls (five-cairn trail) hiking trail including a 1000 meter climb. We started at the trail head near Thórsmörk (63°40’36” N 19°28’7″ W). Just before the ascent, the guide told us to take off all the extra clothes, especially nonbreathable jackets and pants. Even though it was cool and windy, he said, going up will make you hot and sweaty. We appreciated his tip a lot. The trail goes up the hill immediately and keeps going up for a while.
The trail itself is not difficult, but all that constant climbing gets on your nerves. 🙂 Finally, at the first plateau, I had some time to look around, and indeed, the views were dramatic.
But not just the views, the area itself is rich in various vegetation. The flower meadows are pretty and inviting. You just want to sit there and enjoy the nature.
And the further we went the better the views got. At some point we were at a narrowish ridge with the steep slopes on either sides. It was not very scary but rather added to the exciting nature of the hike. It is called the Cat’s Spine, and it sort of looks like one.
After we crossed a black sand plateau, we stopped for a rest before another chunk of uphill climbing. We were high enough up the mountains that the weather was not very mild anymore and I personally started to freeze a little. I looked around for a shelter from the wind and found a lady hiding among boulders on the slope. She turned out not to speak any English, but we figured out that she was not a lost tourist, just waiting for someone. I think one of the definite indicators of tourists who are lost in Iceland is a lack of smile. She was still smiling…
The views continued not to disappoint, but at one of the rest stops we were told the last tragic story about the tourists who died on this trek. Two young Icelandic girls went on this hike and, as usual, got into a little bit of bad weather and probably got lost, too. One of the girls collapsed and could not continue. The other girl was still OK but decided to stay with her friend. They both died. The father of one of the girls started a campaign to install trail markers along the trail, so other tourists could find their way home.
However, the most fun part of the whole day hike was going back, because we took advantage of the snowy hills and slid down on our behinds. I never had so much fun in the snow since my childhood.
By the way, look at that plateau in the background. It was huge and very flat, and we crossed it all on our way to the craters and back. It almost looked as if an ancient city was built upon it in one of those fantasy movies, only one day a wizard up and erased it, or moved it into a different movie, perhaps. 🙂 Anyway, back to sliding in the snow.
And just like that, our 5-day hiking trip was over, all the way from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk (50 km) and up to Magni & Modi craters and back (17 km). We saw these pretty horses on our way back to Reykjavik. It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately it was not easy to capture from the road.