keskiviikko 28. elokuuta 2013

Walking from Hveravellir to Skógar (part IV)

Days 11-13


Day 11.

It was once again rainy morning, but the weather was expected to turn better and since we had only 13 km's ahead, we could spend the morning idling at the muddy camp. Originally we were supposed to spend a free day in Langmannalaugar, but the decision to spend it in Hólaskógur hut was better.

We retreated into the hot pool to wait the rain to end. In the afternoon the rain ceased. We had quick coffee at the mountain mall -van and packed our stuff. We chose the route at the edge of the black lava field. From that trail we shifted on the famous Laugavegur trail that took us up the mountains, over a plateau and finally to the hut at Hrafntinnusker.


 
If you can see the sign stick, tell me

The route went up the hill and every time we looked back, we discovered even greater view down to the Landmannalaugar valley. The sun was shining and we prepared mentally to have sunburns, but were amazed of how people walking past us seemed so shivering. Soon we understood the reason. When we got up on the plateau, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and wind started blowing. We had to pull extra clothing from our bags. Luckily the clouds were up and there was no fog and we walked briskly till Stórihver where we had a short stop. The last 3,5 km's were snowy. The goddamn white stuff was slippery and most annoying and walking uphill didn't help.

Clouds came and sat at the top of Hrafntinnusker and the neighbouring mountains, soon we would walk in a cloud. Suddenly we saw a memorial in the middle of the plateau. An 25-year-old man had died in a blizzard on this spot in June. It was like a warning. We knew we were the last to cross from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker on that day and it was already evening. Frightened we continued hastily before it would start to snow.

It, however, didn't start either raining or snowing before we reached the hut. At the hut we had delicious mountain dinner out of our own stuff: dried elk meat and smashed potatoes with Víking beer. All this with a good view to the snowy plains (could have had the mountain tops too, but the clouds were still there). Like Landmannalaugar, Hrafntinnusker wasn't a real camping place and the tents were put up around the house. We decided to stay in a tent and put it up on a free space next to the hut like the rest. We had no idea how the next morning would be like.

Walked distance: 12 km                                                                        Camping price: 1200 ISK each

Day 12.

The night was cold and in the morning it started to snow. According to the wardens in the hut it would probably snow the rest of the day, so we packed and left along the other hikers. The visibility was getting worse. The horizon 20 metres ahead was all white. We tramped slowly on the snow following the marks and reading the map. It really felt like February!

 
The weather wasn't cold, though. I had my lopi sweater and I almost sweated. There were snow and at times also mud. In the end we got very frustrated and had already stopped hoping for better weather when we suddenly reached the top and saw the most beautiful scenery in the world. Below us opened fertile green and sunny valley with cone shaped hills and a blue lake and beside the lake our hut. We were standing on the cliff, at the edge of winter hell and in front of us spread the paradise valley. The most horrible scenery in the world, however, was that there were some storm clouds hovering above the lake, coming from the south they were dark and furious and running fast just to get to cover the beauty and wet everything and everyone.

Descending was hard and at the bottom of the slope there was a river which, according to its name, could have been straight from Mordor. There was a natural snow bridge and seemingly someone had already crossed it many times. Ilkka didn't want to try the bridge so we searched a place where the river ran narrow and jumped over using rocks.

The sun was still shining. We left the malevolent mountains behind and hurried to the Álftavatn hut where we had lunch. We had travelled the route from Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn faster than expected and decided to carry on till Hvanngil. On the way to Hvanngil hut, we waded cross a river, found a beautiful cave with a waterfall in it and inadvertently scared a rock ptarmigan out of its hiding place.

We reached the hut in light rain. On this hike we had broken almost everything that can be broken: Ilkka had snapped his shoe laces twice, there were holes in our tent (since I had stepped on it with my crampons), my shoes were leaking slightly, my trousers were leaking, Ilkka's jacket was leaking and my backpack's rain cover had holes.

It rained the whole evening and through night and we sat in the tent annoyed by the weather.

Walked distance: 17 km                                                                     Camping price: 1200 ISK each

Day 13.

Rain, rain, rain, wet, wet, wet. However, we cheered up when Laugavegshlaup ran past us. Laugavegshlaup is an ultra marathon competition held in Landmannalaugar. Competitors run via Laugavegur from Landmannalaugar till Þórsmörk, altogether about 55 km's. There were many kinds of runners with their colourful clothes that shined against the grey lava.

 
We walked along the runners to the hut in Botnar cheering to the people running past us. It was only 3 o'clock when we arrived at Emstrur. All the huts were full and we were completely wet. I asked the wardens to call the huts in Þórsmörk and they reserved a place in a hut for us in Langidalur. So we continued marching now the trail we were supposed to take the next day.
 
 
 
When you are in the wilderness at the mercy of weather, you start to forget how it is to live in a city. You stop thinking about it and soon you can't recall it at all and all the memories start to fade. Sometimes you don't think about the future either. In the end the only one that is left, is the present moment. Nothing else matters but this moment. Walking there riverside felt unreal. The reality didn't touch us until the first break when our feet started to protest. When we came closer Þórsmörk it stopped raining and the wind dried our clothes. We had also company when a small group of Germans reached us and asked for directions.

After 30 km's we reached beautiful Þórsmörk. Suddenly all the hurrying stopped and we strolled along the path that lead through green birch forests. After two treeless weeks we were in ecstasy. The last ford and the last hill. We walked slowly stopping once in a while just to sniff the vegetation or touch the leaves in the trees. Compared to this the ash desert felt sterile and scentless emptiness. The forest looked and felt and smelled wonderful! A perfect reward for walking crazy long distance.

Ilkka: "Nothing after that ford has felt real."



 
A bonfire awaited us in the camp. We had already seen the smoke few kilometres away. The group in the hut was in merry spirits and offered us food, games and songs by the fire. We were, however, too tired to stay up long and climbed into bed.

Sini: "They have an accordion."
Ilkka: "An accordion... Is there anything you can't find in this dream valley?"

Walked distance: 32 km                                                                         Hut price: 5500 ISK each



























To be continued...

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