Hekla is the most famous volcano on Iceland. No other volcano erupts more frequently. The story tells that Hekla was feared in old times, and the mountain wasn't climbed until 1750. Per 2004, the last eruption happened in the year 2000. The eruption lasted for 11 days but caused little damage. Since the settlement of Iceland, eruptions has been recorded since 1104.
The summit of Hekla is a summit, and not a crater. You will find smaller craters on the sides. Steam coming up from the ground tells you this is an active volcano. In summer, you will see small craters with snow covered by lava on top. Hekla is a very popular hike, and except for a lava field crossing, the trail is straightforward. The average hiker should be able to reach the top within 3 hours.
There are two trailheads. In summer, you can drive with a small car to the lower trailhead (approx. 500m elev.) without crossing any rivers. If you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive to the upper trailhead (approx. 900m elev.) Don't attempt the upper trailhead with a small car. The trail from the lower trailhead is well marked with sticks nearly all the way to the upper trailhead. Turn right and head up the mountain before you reach the upper trailhead and follow a visible path to the summit. You will see several paths, but they all go the same way.
You will find Iceland maps on the web-sites listed below.
I am trying to obtain rough maps for use on this web page, but the sources I have checked so far demand annual royalty.
The primary factor needs further investigation. For now, I have defined the parent mountain to be Eyjafjallajókull. A myriad of streams makes it a bit difficult to easily spot the obvious high route, but the low pass on the high route seem to be at 590m elev. between Torfajókull and Myrdalsjókull. As such, the primary factor is for the time being estimated to 901m.
After our hike to Hvannadalshnúkur the day before, we tried to reach Hekla via the road to Landmannalaugur from the east. A river made us abort this effort, and we spent the night at Vellir down south. In the evening, fog covered the south of Iceland, literally within minutes. We were thinking we would have to spend the day in the car, but the next morning we had the feeling that Hekla could very well rise above the fog. We decided to give it a shot.
We followed highway 26 (paved) and exited onto F225 (gravel) which we followed for approx. 6,7Km. We turned right at the Hekla roadsign and drove approx. 8Km to the Hekla trailhead. We had left the fog soon after turning onto highway 26, the weather was simply brilliant and there was Hekla, just ahead of us. We tried to follow the 4WD road towards the upper trailhead, but gave up in the first hill.
We left the lower trailhead 11:50AM. There were only two cars at the trailhead, but we could see the sun reflecting in car windows at the upper trailhead. I don't think I've ever seen a trail marked as good as this one. Surprisingly, the marking seased just before the upper trailhead. At this point, we were at the foot of the mountain, and tracks up to our right indicated that there was no point in going all the way to the upper trailhead. Bjørn's cell phone was ringing constantly. We were on the way to the most famous volcano in Iceland, and here was Bjørn, talking shop. My mind was more focused on the mountain. I was expecting to find a big crater on top, but through a couple of hikers on the way down, I learned that this wasn't the case. We met a couple of Danes who had been at the foot of the mountain, and then turned around. They told us it they had a tremendous experience on this mountain. We were a bit puzzled about why they hadn't walked *up* the mountain, but we concluded that if one wasn't used to mountains, ascending one could seem like a tremendous challenge.
The hikers who killed my illusion of a big crater told us about false summits. This was true. Even if I could read the altitude from my GPS, at one point I thought the summit was close. Only to find that the summit was still "way ahead" of us. The top of Hekla consists of two humps, almost the same height. The one furthest to the southwest (the last one) is the highest. Steam was coming out of the first hump, and the ground was warm. I prayed silently that the volcano wouldn't erupt while we were on it. I was in doubt whether I could run down fast enough...
We reached the summit 11:25PM, 2,5 hours after leaving the trailhead. We had met a number of hikers on the final hill. They had obviously come from the upper trailhead. But Bjørn and I had the summit all to ourselves, and of course, Bjørn's cell phone continued to ring. We only stayed for 10 minutes. The horizon was quite hazy, and the best views were left to the imagination. Bjørn took a small detour while I went back to the first hump to determine which of the two humps was the highest. We met again after 10 minutes and headed back down. We (soon) caught up with all the hikers we had passed on the way up. We reached the car 13:00PM.
Next stop: Bláfell
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On the way to Hekla
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