Thórsmörk marked the end of the Laugavegur Trek and the beginning of the Fimmvörðuháls Trek over the so named mountain pass. At he pass you are between the Myrdalsjökull and Eyfjallajökull glaciers. Today involved a some day hiking and then up, up, up and out of the valley to the bizarre landscape of lava, snow, ice and volcanoes at Fimmvörðuháls. It literally means ‘eruption’.
Given my photographer fail the night before, I woke at 3.40am in the hopes of seeing sunrise. As luck would have it, the clouds to the northeast had cleared allowing the sun to peer through.
I grabbed my camera and tripod and rushed up Valahnúkur. Fortunately this time I was there in time, but I’m convinced that the sunset would have been better given that I had seen the red glow so low on the glacier last night. Oh well.
Again I climbed out onto an outcrop only to find my remote didn’t have the range. I really need to bring a radio remote trigger or one of those drinking birds to hit the button for me. That or I just need some crazier friends to come with me!
By about 5am I decided it was time for breakfast. So would you believe went down the mountain again, to grab breakfast and climb it again for a 4th time in less than 24 hours. The benefit of going back down though meant that the sun was a little higher and warmer when I got back.
After what was already a long morning, I enjoyed some hot museli on the mountain top. These gas cylinders never seem to run out and the best part was I got them for free from the recycling shelf at the campsite.
As the weather was still so good, I figured I should make the most of the camp’s facilities and chilled out there again until 3.30pm.
Then I decided it was time for one last resupply at Langidalur and then I headed for Fimmvörðuháls. I crossed the foot bridges over the Krossá river to the other side of the valley. Then climbed an alternative route from Básar campsite (another nearby campsite run by Útvist) to Útingönguhöfthi (813m) which is pretty much equal to the Morinsheði plateau (834m), but with a slightly more central perspective.
The climb down Útingönguhöfthi (the ‘U’ mountain as I called it) and then back up to the Morinsheði plateau was easily the most dangerous descent of both treks. Super steep at the beginning and all you are climbing down is a series of landslides. I’m glad no one else was with me getting showered by debris. I’ve never slipped so many times.
On the incline I decided to take a bit of a break and leave a note for a friend I’ve never met. A friend of a friend was doing the hike a few days after me so to leave a message in a bottle (or in the snow rather) I tried to carve a message into an obvious snow drift.
Sadly, bad weather meant it wasn’t seen, but at least I’ve learnt some of the basic techniques of 3D writing in snow. Lesson 1 – exaggerate the vertical more!
The path just kept going up and up and up from Morinsheði. I was hoping it would cross the pass a little lower.. I think I must have done more than 1,500 vertical metres that day and my calves certainly noticed.
At this point, we were back in volcanic territory. The ground was red, brown and like a thick gooey pancake mix. As I went higher, it became black scoria lava rocks and you could see the glaciers at eye level now. Pretty spectacular!
At a point I followed an obvious trail up a scoria mound. I assumed this was the way because there was a marker and the zig zags were so neatly carved into the mound, but on the other side no more markers were to be found. I thought maybe the markers were buried, and continued on, but I guess it was just a lookout.
At this point it was about 9pm and I was feeling pretty knackered. Not knowing how far there was to go I had some double choc power cookies for some energy to push on. I’m glad I did because it was another hour from here.
I spotted some foot prints heading around a hillside so I headed towards the high point. I had to cross a field of hraun, the biggest lava chunks I’d seen before. The rubble was unstable and sharp so it was a little dodgy, but it looked like a fun shortcut.
There were lots of soft sandy spots and I seriously considered camping there in the hope of another sunset, but I figured that should be my backup plan if the hut wardens didn’t allow camping. I hadn’t actually considered that possibility until I saw the landscape. I thought the huts were further below Fimmvörðuháls.
The hill I had targeted must have been Misðker (1093m) as I later found out. From the top I could finally see Útvist hut. I found this useful map of the area the next day on a signpost.
From the top of Misðker I also found the real trail again. After much trudging, I arrived at Útvist hut at about 10pm and received a warm welcome from the warden Bjërk (totally guessing on the spelling and would you believe it’s a girl’s name?). She had never heard of anyone paying for camping, but she charged me the 400ISK facility day use fee and gave me some boiled snow.
I really wanted to set up my tent right next to the hut where there was a view, but the winds started to shake the tent a lot and I thought better. Reluctantly, I descended a bit to a more sheltered spot. I was too lazy to pull down the tent and just walked with it flying like a kite, set up camp alone and tucked into a much needed hot dinner!