The trail between Landmannalaugar and Ţórsmörk is the most famous hiking trail in Iceland and it was one of the major reasons I was returning to Iceland. I timed it so that I would be walking the trail at the start of September to avoid the worst of the crowds.
The journey begins at Landmannalaugar, which is famous for its hot spring and colourful mountains. My plan was to spend a day at Landmannalaugar exploring the area before starting the Laugavegur trail the next day.
While waiting for the bus in Reykjavik, the whole country was preparing for a severe snowstorm, with public service announcements being broadcast in the bus terminal. Hikers were not being permitted to walk the Laugavegur trail, so I was unsure how that would impact my plans tomorrow.
In any case, when I arrived at Landmannalaugar in the afternoon, it was still sunny so I set off immediately to explore the area before the storm hit.
The hot spring at Landmannalaugar is brilliant. Basically two hot streams intersect, one slightly hotter than the other, so you just move around between them until you find the perfect spot that hits your desired temperature. It's a 200m boardwalk between the hot spring and the change rooms though, so this can be a cold sprint!
Sure enough, the storm hit before too long. This just made the hot spring that much better!
With the lingering effects of the snowstorm from the previous night, there was some uncertainty about whether anyone would be allowed to walk the Laugavegur trail at all. However, we were told it would be doable but we should be prepared for some rough weather and at least 20 m/s winds in the mountains.
This part of the hike supposedly has lots of colourful and interesting active volcanic features. Sadly I didn't have a chance to see much of it or linger long, because the snow and winds at the higher elevations were too fierce. At one point the wind blew my tuque straight off my head! Thankfully it landed in my hood so I was able to retrieve it, otherwise I might have had to turn back.
This is how they track who is on the trail. You sign in on the sheet and then sign out when you leave the hut. If you don't arrive at the next hut, they'll send a search party after you. According to Ferđafélag's website, every second year someone dies on the trail.
Following my usual philosophy, I woke up early to check the weather. This morning it looked alright although the visibility was not great. Nevertheless, this was an improvement on yesterday, so I set off on the trail immediately.
Although I wasn't able to get too many great views today due to the weather, I should count myself as lucky: I made it to the next hut before the worst of the weather hit. One other guy arrived shortly after me, but everyone else who arrived later got caught in a downpour, which is never fun when it's so cold and windy. By the end of the night there was a mountain of boots piled up around the heaters, all hoping to be dried out. One young eastern European guy who showed up at the hut quite late actually hiked two legs today, all the way from Landmannalaugar (in this weather!). In his broken English he told me "I think I'm going to die today" and laughed.
It was so windy that night. The hut was connected to the washrooms by a boardwalk, and once you stepped out of the shadow of the building, the wind just attacked you. For the life of me I couldn't stop myself from being blown off the boardwalk even though I was preparing for it after the first time. I snapped this photo just before I went to bed.
Third day in a row of bad weather. In fact this was the worst day of the whole trip. The wind, the rain, the snow, and the horizontal hail all made this 3 hour walk unbearable. Especially because there were 3 glacial streams that had to be crossed, which involved taking off your boots, rolling up your pant legs, and wading through ice cold water, making you even colder and wetter. Thankfully I had some company on this stage of the trip, as I caught up to an American girl and we decided to continue together, and we were both caught by an older American gentleman who had hiked this trail many times before. Together the three of us made it safely to the next hut, our faces red and stinging from the hail. By the end, my hands were so cold I couldn't open my bag to give the warden my hut voucher. She told me I could come back to her office after I had warmed up.
I even got some sun too - a whole 15 minutes worth! Those brief moments can make you forget about all the hardships.
After the string of bad weather culminating in the brutal hike yesterday, I was prepared to once again summon up my willpower to put on my damp hiking gear and face the elements again today. Fortunately, that wasn't needed as it was a warm, sunny day, at last! What a relief!
This is the biggest river that had to be crossed on the trail. Since I was walking in September, the water levels were much lower than earlier in the summer (since the snow was no longer melting as much). This meant the river became braided, which helps to pick the easiest way to cross. Myself and a few other hikers were able to find a route that only went knee-deep.
Photos from around Ţórsmörk hut
Continue to Days 5 and 6