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Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2

Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2


Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Fri Oct 04, 2019 8:57 pm

Date walked: 20/08/2019

Distance: 55 km

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Day 2 - Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

Continued from Day 1 https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=92761

A tiny day of about 7.5 miles awaited us, which was basically descent, steep and slippery into the gorges of Jökultungur. No idea why the planned day was so short, and if it hadn't been bitterly cold and windy on arrival a couple of us had thought we'd go and have a wander. In the event, we had such a wait for the showers, (which was a wind-blasted, cold, character-building wait which made the shower just luxury!), it wasn't to be.

Image001 Map of descent to Álftavatn by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Our first gentle descent, just below Hraftinnusker, took us across more snow and above some intriguing little ice caves and bridges. I think, under your own steam, at the right time of year (i.e. later than summer), it could be really worth an explore around here, though the ice caves themselves are dangerous because they can collapse at any time :shock:

Image005 Ice caves below Hrafntinnusker by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

After yesterday's amazing spectrum of bright colours, we were now on the other side of the obsidian, and entering basalt/palagonite country. It was darker...

Image007 Cloud and snow on dark palagonite mountains by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

And we had a mini river crossing coming up.

Image010 First river crossing coming up by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Now, there was really no need to take our boots off and put river-crossing shoes on, but our guide insisted! It became clear why later on, when we did have a serious river to cross. She just wanted this to be the trial run, not that, especially since the water temperature was going to be painfully low.

We were very obedient, and after that the next crossings were boots on.

Image011 Beautiful hills of Reykjafjöll by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Soon Álftavatn (Swan Lake, or more specifically maybe, Whooper Swan Lake) appeared, and we descended past bulbous cotton grass, thrift and campion and under a rainbow :wink: to our destination for the night.

Image014 Álftavatn comes into view by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image020 Bog cotton Iceland style by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image022 Sea thrift above Álftavatn by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image026 Rainbow at Álftavatn by Emma Kendon, on Flickr


Day 3 - Álftavatn to Emstrur

This was multi river-crossing day, starting with the Bratthálskvísl river.

Image002 Looking back at the Bratthálskvísl by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

This was also a day of wet and green, but not of views.

Image006 Mini waterfall and moss by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Next was trousers-aff river-crossing. No photos of the crossing cos it was too wet, cold and impractical. But picture river, pants, sticks, red legs... Yep, that's it.

Image011 River crossing lesson coming up by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Across the rivers, we were in the wide black plain of the Sandur where campion was growing looking for all the world as though it had been tastefully placed.

Image012 Clumps of windblown sea campion by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Three days in, the landscape was still extraordinary. But I was noticing how little fauna there was. I asked the guide, and she proudly replied about Iceland's cetaceans and other wonderful marine life. Mmm. I tried again, just curious whether anything rodent-y or amphibious survives out here, but probably not. This is ashy, sandy desert.

At about 4pm we were at the Innrí Emsturá river, which has a bridge; so no pants-displays here.

Image019 That bridge - through mystery flower by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Then we were back to our moonscape...

Image025 Valery on the moon by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

... and an hour or so later...

Image028 There's lots of this by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

...and then Hattfell came into view (and promptly got called Muppet Mountain because of its eyebrows).

Image032 Hattfell 924m high volcano by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

As we made our last descent for the day into Emstrur, the huge gorge came into view - a morning visit there was on the cards...

Image035 Syðri-Emstruá gorge by Emma Kendon, on Flickr



Day 4 - Emstrur to Þórsmörk

After a morning visit to the Markarfljót river gorge, overseen by Mýrdalsjökull to the south, we set off.

Image023 Hattfell over the gorge by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image021 Mýrdalsjökull glacier pano by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

It was another sunny day as we left the Emstrur huts and crossed the bridge.

Image031 Emstrur huts by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Angelica was out in force.

Image033 Angelica by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Wheatear was making itself known too - was this the first bird I'd seen since leaving Reykjavik?

Image010 Wheatear by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

And we came to a sign, which basically told you what you should do if a volcano erupts under the glacier, because they don't really give any warning (and there are about four biggies which are overdue at the moment).

Image034 What to do in a sub-glacier volcanic eruption by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

So what does it say you should do?

Run uphill basically. (Did put me in mind of the Beyond the Fringe Civil Defense 4-minute warning and the brown paper bag...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AobLKuLszXs :wink:)

After a really pleasant walk, towards and around a church-like rock called Unicorn Hill, some slippery descending, and an eyeful of the glacier ahead, we stopped for a lingering lunch.

Image036 Unicorn hill to paramount hill pano by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image039 Unicorn hill above volcanic red ash by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image040 Mýrdalsjökull glacier by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

And there we were treated to a distant arctic fox (and another wheatear).

Image050 Wheatear and fox by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

And then suddenly it was blueberry, heather, crowberry - like home!

Image061 Heather and friends by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image062 Crowberry by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image075 Grass of Parnassus - not mountain aven by Emma Kendon, on Flickr [Thanks to pastmysellbydate for correct ID :D]

Our route took us round Unicorn Hill and then we descended through birch forest to Þórsmörk, surprising a ptarmigan on our way.

Image082 Another Unicorn paramount pano by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image085 Unicorn paramount and red mountain top beyond by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image097 Ptarmigan by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

I was thrilled to see juniper, and there was bearberry and brambleberries which were tasty.

Image103 Juniper and cross-leaved heath heather by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Finally we were at Þórsmörk.

Image113 55km later by Emma Kendon, on Flickr


The next morning...

...we climbed Valahnúkur. Then headed back to Reykjavik, for some snorkelling and other fun and games for our last couple of days. Six weeks later I'm still mindblown by that mad, impetuous, youthful land.I think Paul said, "like Assynt on acid" and yes, some of it really is!

Image007 View north from Valahnúkur by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image010 View east with viewpoint plate by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image014 View south to the sea from Valahnúkur by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

Image018a Mini-us by Emma Kendon, on Flickr
Last edited by EmmaKTunskeen on Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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EmmaKTunskeen
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Re: Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:12 pm

Iceland looks great - love to go there but doubt I ever will - too old. What is the gorge cut through? Volcanic tufa/ash? definitely not Mountain Avens - which has 8 petals (latin dryas octopetalis) looks like grass of Parnassus which you also find here, but I don't think the leaves are right - saxifrage family anyway
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Re: Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:29 pm

This looks like it - found on web but not named :(
Image
Sorry I have a (maybe unhealthy) interest in alpine plants
past my sell by date
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Re: Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:28 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Iceland looks great - love to go there but doubt I ever will - too old. What is the gorge cut through? Volcanic tufa/ash? definitely not Mountain Avens - which has 8 petals (latin dryas octopetalis) looks like grass of Parnassus which you also find here, but I don't think the leaves are right - saxifrage family anyway


[Updated:]
Grass of Parnassus looks right in Francis Rose key :D Thank you!
The gorge was cut through the rock by the glacial river when Katla erupted a couple of thousand years ago. Katla's under the glacier, waiting to blow again, and the Markarfljót has presumably been charging through there with sand and silt carving its course. Exactly what the rock is, I'm not sure, but it certainly looked hard!
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Re: Iceland: Laugavegur Trail part 2 of 2

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:06 pm

More amazing scenes!

The Beyond the Fringe sketch "radiation - jump into a brown paper bag" etc was actually pretty close to the official Protect and Survive films "To save water, do your washing up in sand" and "if someone in your house dies, keep them in a bin liner until it's safe to go outside".

Tim
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