What freedom. What adventure. What fog. The trail between Sandavágur and Gásadalur was very beautiful, soaking wet and eerily mystical at times. Actually, do you even call it a trail when there is no path and no signs of previous travellers? The best part of this hike was that it was as if no one had walked this trail before. Likely just for weeks, maybe months, possibly years, but to me, other than the stone cairns it was as if I was the only person to ever tread the path.
Getting in and where I stayed
The camping patch at Giljanes is small and very exposed so beware of bad weather. Camping costs 100DKK and gives you access to the hostel facilities and common area. It’s all pretty basic, but it suited just fine. I cooked a few meals there later on in the trip.
Pre-planning and Preparation
Not knowing what services would be available around Sandavágur and Midvágur, I brought four days worth of food from Tórshavn. I later found out that there is a Bonus budget supermarket in Midvágur and a small grocery store in Sandavágur, but just be aware everything closes on Sundays except petrol stations.
In the Giljanes hostel entry there is a large topographic map of Vágar on the wall which I found useful for the hike.
I took the time to mark rough GPS positions on Google Maps before the hike, which turned out to be very useful in the numerous foggy whiteouts. Probably a good safety tip given that the trail is not obvious and very lightly walked.
The walk via Slættanes to Gásadalur is advertised as a 10-12 hour day hike in tourism brochures. It shouldn’t be… It’s 30 odd kilometres and very hilly terrain. I planned for two days, but took three in the end.
Heading into the Outfield
In the morning at Giljanes it was raining, so I waited out the rain until about 11am and then packed up and hit the road. I walked past Sandavágur, had a quick look at the church and then continued the 5km walk to the trailhead.
I probably should have hitchhiked, but it seemed silly to cheat so early on the hike. I reached a farm “gate” at the joining of the two rivers which seemed to signify the start. The gate was completely wired together like a fence so I had to jump it. The river was fenced off so I had to jump that too. It seemed a little odd for a publicly advertised hike.
I knew I was at the right river though, given the ravine around it and 90 minutes after leaving Giljanes I reached the first stone cairn marker.
From there I saw very few misty views. Vestmanna was cloaked in the mists like something from Pirates of the Caribbean. The mountain fog swept in and the wind picked up. At first I tried walking below the fog, but it wasn’t much help. The markers stand out surprisingly well. Big unnatural looking triangular shadows in the mist were easy enough to find for the first half of the day.
I crossed a plateau between two mountains. A series of telephone poles crossed in front of me linking two villages. This was the first time I’d seen any signs of a walked track, but it didn’t last long and the mists set in again. The wind grew stronger.
Up the mountain on the other side I lost all sight of the cairns. For the first time in my hiking endeavours I used a compass to figure out where I’d gone and worked out that I was headed down the wrong face of the mountain.
I backtracked to a previous cairn, but I struggled to find the next one along the compass’s bearing. Frustrated, cold and tired, I gave up looking for cairns and used the GPS in my phone. I ran across every second or third cairn after that, but the wind and fog was terrible.
I met a steep gully and found it surprisingly calm underneath. I was roughly 2km from Slættanes where I’d planned to camp, but climbing out of the gully reintroduced me to the strong northerlies. I couldn’t see any viable shelter on the map between Slættanes and I, so in the end I decided to camp in the gully.
I found a patch of grass with acceptably low amounts of sheep shit, kicked the rest aside and camped to wait out the bad weather.
The mist had largely cleared and the winds were much calmer. I set off for Slættanes a little after 9am. Optimistically, I thought 2km would only take half an hour, but it some how took over an hour. The good news though, was that I descended low enough beneath the fog that I could see Slættanes in the distance.
Old power poles led to the village of Slættanes, but nobody was home. The abandoned village filled only with sheep and memories. The houses were all locked, but it seemed that either people maintained them or that they had been well preserved for the last 50 years (Slættanes was abandoned in 1965).
Old household items could be seen through the windows as if they hadn’t changed since people had left. I kept expecting someone to jump out and scare me, but it was empty except for the whistling of the wind and cries of the sheep.
I had lunch and then moved on. The view opened up to dramatic sea cliffs. Gulls were gliding on the updrafts and made life look easy while I tramped up the steep hillsides.
The sea winds brought moisture up the cliffs which again condensed into a thick fog. I didn’t see much until I descended into the Fjallvatn valley another hour or so later. It was a really majestic spot. I considered camping and hoping that the weather would change, but in the end I just stopped for lunch.
The lake was surrounded by marshland and a large river snaked out of the lake and down the valley. Of course, I’d have to cross it, but my boots were already drenched anyway.
As I walked around the edge of the marsh though I found the perfect hideaway for my tent. The protection seemed too good to pass up so I made camp and just went for a walk to the sea cliffs.
Nothing like a refreshing swim to start the day. The river was above knee height, but fairly slow as I made the crossing. Any progress that my boots had made drying overnight was quickly quashed.
As I walked towards the cliffs these huge birds started swooping me. My only comfort was that they had duck feet and not talons like a bird of prey. The buggers followed me repeatedly swooping for about 15 minutes. I swear their wingspan was around 80cm!
I took a detour up to see the little mountain lake by climbing along the waterfall. There were some nice views and you got a little closer to the farm of Víkar (allegedly a village) abandoned in 1910.
The mists continued to play their usual games, but afforded me these beautiful views. The path then went up and up and up over the highest ridge-line of Vágar.
The way down was a sinch though. As I ambled down the soft hillside I took a few more photos and then noticed a day walker in the distance. The first person I’d seen in three days. It was depressing, I kind of wanted to pretend that I hadn’t seen them and leave the perfect record in tact. I could just tell everyone the only thing I saw were these highland cows.