Trekking in Iceland when the weather is so good is pure pleasure. The third, and the most stunning day of trekking in the Vatnajökull National Park is about to begin when, yet again, I wake up to the sound of loud “PORRIDGE” shouts.
Other posts from Iceland are here.
Table of Contents
- 1 Pros and cons of wild camping in Iceland
- 2 Scrambling a nearly vertical canyon wall to kick-start the third trekking day in Iceland
- 3 The best thing about off-path trekking Iceland? Stunning landscapes within my reach.
- 4 Trekking Iceland in a sandstorm and I’m loving it!
- 5 Surrealistically beautiful Iceland – how can a place be THAT STUNNING?
- 6 Crossing a snow bridge – yet another outdoor adventure in Iceland
- 7 Private hot pool in the middle of the Vatnajökull National Park. I’m in heaven.
- 8 One more benefit of off-path trekking in Iceland – golden hour in stunning landscapes
Pros and cons of wild camping in Iceland
I have slept very well tonight as well. The thick moss is more comfortable than many of the hostel beds I used and the sound of a small river floating near our tent put me to sleep within minutes. Also, the warmers I stuck to my body for the night kept me warm.
Like yesterday, we all start with eating breakfast. Contrary to yesterday, I don’t feel the urge to throw up, mostly because I shovel the porridge into my mouth with the speed of light and immediately go to brush my teeth.
Have I told you what it’s like to brush your teeth and wash your face in a ice-cold water? 😀 There are two ways I can approach this experience. On the one hand, it’s a very refreshing way to quickly wake up in the morning and feel energised. On the other hand, it’s an awesome way to freeze your hands to the point you can’t move your fingers. 😀 Both are true. 😉
This time, packing our backpacks and putting down tents goes way faster than the previous morning and we’re ready shortly after 7am. We have around 12-15 kilometres to cover today.
Scrambling a nearly vertical canyon wall to kick-start the third trekking day in Iceland
We start with crossing a river floating at the bottom of the canyon where we spent the night. Needles to say, water is extremely cold but it actually feels really good on my feet. The worst moment is shortly after crossing the river when wet feet hit the ground and cold air almost freezes the blood.
The biggest obstacle is right after the river. Yesterday, we walked down the steep wall to pitch our tents in the canyon. Now we have to get out. The only problem is that the walls on our way are not overgrown with moss or grass and the hill is good 30 meters high. It’s pure gravel and ash, which means way less support for the feet. Bryn is first in the line, Rob and Ben are just behind him and I’m fourth in the line.
The hill is steep but the first few meters are easy. I initially support myself with the hiking poles. However, as the incline increases, I find the hiking poles become more of an additional obstacle than a help. I stick them to my side and get down on all my four limbs. As much as it looks ridiculous, I instantly feel I have more balance and grip on the surface when walking more like a dog than a human.
As we slowly move up, the level of difficulty rises as well. The terrain at the bottom was more stable and solid. Now, the gravel and ash is not hardened at all and I feel how my legs sink deep into the surface and I start sliding down a little bit.
Bryn is nearly at the top when he stops to look back and check how the group is doing. This ascent is a challenge for all of us, but part of the group is still somewhere in the middle of the hill and there are large distances between the team members. This is not safe because the gravel is movable and as it falls down, it gathers more and more momentum making climbing for the next person even more difficult.
Shortly before I reach the top, little troubles begin. It’s so slippery here, that I basically move my legs and still stay in exactly the same place. I only push more and more gravel down but can’t move at all. Giving up or asking for help is out of question – I want to conquer this hill myself. To do it, I put even more force into my legs and move my feet in a more horizontal manner. I also use the “footsteps” the guys ahead of me did and with full force push forward. Minutes later, I am standing on top of the hill shaking the ash off my hands.
Guys are helping the others as much as possible and it takes another few minutes for the rest of the group to climb the hill. Having rested a little bit, we continue the walk.
The best thing about off-path trekking Iceland? Stunning landscapes within my reach.
The view that emerges in front of us is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. Again, it’s this Icelandic vastness that I love the most. We are trekking above a canyon with a river floating at the bottom. The glacier is ahead of us. Weather is so good that I can hardly believe we have SO MUCH luck. No rain, no wind (as yet!), and it’s quite warm, I am having type one fun all the time. It’s a perfect day for trekking Iceland and even cooler things are about to come.
This part of the trek takes slightly more than an hour. We then leave the comfortable, green valley behind and the landscape changes. We are entering something what looks like a very wide hall – a huge area unobstructed by any natural elements. We are basically completely exposed and there’s enough space for the winds to gather a lot of speed. How do I know?
Trekking Iceland in a sandstorm and I’m loving it!
There’s something like a sandstorm happening all around us. I see clouds of brownish ash rushing along and against us. The howling of the wind is deafening and I have to walk bent down to keep my balance. I also put my sunglasses on, because the amount of ash that is furiously clashing against my eyes makes me nearly blind. Thank god my camera is weather sealed, otherwise it would be completely destroyed.
Not sure what’s wrong with my brain, but I am LOVING IT. The adventure is in the air and I must admit I was hoping to finally say hello to the legendary Icelandic wind and it didn’t disappoint me. As we continue trekking through this barren land, the initially small rocks are getting bigger and bigger. At one point, I look around and am genuinely convinced that I could just as well be trekking Mars. There’s not a green spot anywhere I look, only the brown and black and it’s so bizarre.
I feel ash getting into my ears, my nose, between my teeth and I couldn’t care less. This is such an extraordinary experience that if you asked me NOW if I want to go to Iceland and do this day again, I would say yes within seconds.
Surrealistically beautiful Iceland – how can a place be THAT STUNNING?
Sadly, all the good things come to an end and we leave the windy corridor behind only to enter an even more beautiful and amazing area. Iceland is absolutely incredible with the magnitude of different landscapes scattered so close to one another. The brown and black behind, we are again seeing green around us. Green and white since we are walking toward Hvannadalshnúkur – the highest peak in Iceland.
When we reach a small spring, we decide to take a small break. As for me, I could just sit here for the next few hours, it’s so beautiful everywhere I look. Bryn is also pretty clever with distributing breaks. The fact that it takes more than 10 minutes means only one thing. The next few minutes will be tough. 😀
The next obstacle on our way is basically another high hill. It’s easy, although it’s steep, but large rocks everywhere make it easy to walk. I am afraid this post might get boring when I once again write that what we see from the top of the hill is even more beautiful, but this is actually true.
Gosh, I am loving every minute of this trekking day. What lies ahead of us is a black ash desert. I have never before walked on a black beach (it looks like a vertical beach basically) and am overly excited about what I see. The black desert is scattered with large yellowish rocks which make the whole area look absolutely surrealistic. We are trekking the moon!
Crossing a snow bridge – yet another outdoor adventure in Iceland
What comes next is also exciting although has a little taste of danger. We need to cross a glacier river which, to our misfortune, is deep and has a very strong current. Luckily, not all the snow is gone in the Vatnajökull even though it’s the peak of summer. This means, that if we’re lucky to find a stable snow bridge, we will be able to save good few hours that we would need to waste for looking for a good place to cross the river.
The snow bridge that we find looks pretty decent, but the tricky part is that there is no way to actually check how thick the snow is without walking on it. Bryn and Ben go first. Bryn is checking the quality of snow, Ben is supporting him in case of an accident. As they safely walk to the other shore, the rest of us follow. I have to admit that I was excited and scared at the same time because what we did was potentially dangerous. On the other hand, I am absolutely sure that Bryn would not take us there if he wasn’t sure it’s safe to walk on such a snow bridge.
After this final obstacle, we walk for maybe half an hour before we reach a really cute place which is our camp site for the night. It looks like a fairy tale. A little island surrounded by streams and a small waterfall. Vatnajökull glacier to the right, Sidujökull to the left. And a surprise that Bryn prepared for us!
Private hot pool in the middle of the Vatnajökull National Park. I’m in heaven.
The hot spring! Who would expect that off-path trekking in Iceland would include such a luxury? 😀 We quickly pitch our tents and get ready to take the first hot bath after three days. The hot spring forms a little stone circle, thanks to which we seem to be sitting in a Jacuzzi. I have not had anything that warm on myself for the past few days so when I walk into the hot pool, it initially BURNS me. The water is around 40 degrees hot and I literally can’t put my hands into the water because I feel as if I was putting them into fire. Anyway, I love the experience, it’s like a perfect prize for all the obstacles and challenges we had to go through today. And it’s finally so warm. It’s also a very funny experience to be sitting in a hot water while looking at a glacier and also listening to howling winds that were slowly gathering force.
Kim takes that bath into a different level by jumping into another river, close to our pool, which has ice cold water. As much as I admire that, I don’t feel like doing the same. In the late afternoon, I take a walk with Andrea and we somehow end up by the pool again. This is the time when I decide to first warm my legs in the hot pool and get to the ice cold water for a few seconds. I hope this is what you do to be healthy and have good blood circulation. If it’s a myth, please don’t tell me. 😛
One more benefit of off-path trekking in Iceland – golden hour in stunning landscapes
As it’s getting later, the sun is yet again getting this golden colours and I am just so happy I could explode. I take my camera and go on a solo walk to the hill near our camp site. It’s so quiet! Not a bird, not even a fly is present except from me. The hill is made of volcanic rocks and my favourite black volcanic ash. Once I reach the top of the hill, the Sidujökull glacier emerges in front of me in its grandness.
As effusive as it may sound, I am experiencing one of the most perfect moments in my life here. Everything is just in place. I have long not felt such a calm harmony in my life as in this moment when I am standing alone on top of this volcanic hill looking at a glacier that is so close that I can almost touch it. This moment is also so important for me because I have been working hard in the past months to make it happen and I feel proud for all the efforts, but that’s a story for the next month.
Similar to the previous night, I do a series of squats to warm up and jump into my sleeping bag absolutely happy. It’s yet another night when I go to sleep when it’s still sun outside and I feel like people a few hundred years ago. Not that I would mind it. 😉
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Trek Iceland. 🙂
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