Hvannadalshn˙kur is the highest point on Iceland, located on the ÍrŠfaj÷kull glacier, a southern spur of the largest glacier in Europe - Vatnaj÷kull. Vatnaj÷kull was recently covered in the international newsroom due to the eruption near GrÝmsv÷tn Dec 18 1998. ÍrŠfaj÷kull connects to Vatnaj÷kull via Hermannaskard at 1350m elevation. Several routes lead up to ÍrŠfaj÷kull and Hvannadalshn˙kur, all from south-southwest.
From the southwest, you can follow the Virkisj÷kull or Sandfellsheidi routes. From the south (a high road takes you up to 700-800m elevation) you can follow the SlÚttubj÷rg ridge up to the glacier. Mountain guides are available at the Visitor Center at Skaftafjell. Another useful source of information is fjallamennska.is. The mountain guides can be reached via email:mountainguide.is or mountainguide.is. Their phone # in Reykjavik is 354 - 587 9999 and their cellphone in Skaftafjell is 354 - 894 2959.
You will find Iceland maps on the web-sites listed below.
Good enough for our usage was the Skaftafell 1:100 000 map.
I am trying to obtain rough maps for use on this web page, but the sources I have checked so far demand annual royalty.
Hvannadalshn˙kur has a primary factor of 2119m being the highest point on Iceland.
Aug 11, Bj°rn and I left Reykjavik and headed eastbound towards Skaftafjell and the main goal for this holiday - Hvannadalshn˙kur 2119m. Along the way, we stopped by a few sites like Seljalandsfoss, Skˇgafoss and Dyrhˇlaey. Pictures from these sites can be found here. We arrived the Skaftafjell area in the evening and rented a cabin at Svinafell. We went to the visitor center to obtain more information about the mountain, but all we ended up with was a 1:100 000 map. We took at the trip to the end of the Svinafellsjˇkull before we called it the night.
We got up 04:00AM in the morning and drove to the Sandfellsheidi trailhead. We left the trailhead 05:00AM just as day was dawning. No need for headlights. The weather was (still) sensational, although the horizon was a bit hazy. The trail was faint, but the direction was quite obvious. The first task was to cross a river, and we tried to cross at the place we reached it. I stepped onto a large rock to determine the sequence of steps and when the rock sunk into the river, I was soaking wet on both feet. Not a good way to start a 2100m ascent.
We found a better place to cross (higher up) and were on our way up the - quite boring - route up to the glacier. Above 700m, only cairns indicated where the general route went. After approx. 5,5Km we arrived the glacier at approx. 1400m elevation (don't remember exactly). By now, we had the summit in view, and the direction was still obvious. The glacier side was not very steep, and blue ice revealed all the crevasses. We pulled out crampons and axes and headed upwards. Steering between the crevasses was quite easy and soon we entered a thin layer of wet snow above the blue ice.
After a while we saw tracks, and quite a large number of them. We decided to follow them, as they were clearly heading the right way. By 09:15Am, we reached the ÍrŠfajˇkull plateau. A long and boring glacier crossing was still ahead of us before we could take on the final 250m vertical meters to the summit. A few crevasses ran across the final hill and called for some focus during the crossing. It was altogether fairly unproblematic and we were standing on top of Iceland by 10:45AM. Haze prevented us from getting a good look at Vatnaj÷kull. There was a noticeable wind on the summit, so we agreed to have lunch a bit further down.
From our lunch-break position, we saw two roped groups and two trailing hikers. We ran into the groups on our way back across the glacier. The mountain guides were not very pleased to meet two extremely stupid hikers who surely had never been to a mountain before. And certainly not a glacier. It is never pleasant when people are yelling in your face, and this unpleasant encounter took away any positive feeling I had about the mountain. We tried to put this encounter aside, because we both felt confident that we were operating within the necessary realm of security. But this was easier thought than done.
We tried to vary the boring route down the mountain side and were back at the trailhead 14:30PM after spending near half an hour by the river, cooling our feet. My feet were quite cool enough as my feet never really dried up after the river encounter on the way up. I can't speak for Bj°rn - who looked pretty fit to me, but to me the trip was far less exhausting as I thought it would be. Looking aside from our long stop down by the river, the trip had taken 9 hours, with 2100m vertical ascent. I was more than ready to get away from this mountain and get onto the next.
Our next target was Hekla. We tried to reach the Hekla area by driving through Landmannalaugar. After approx. 60Km on gravel roads we had to surrender where a river crossed the road. We went back to the highway and checked into a cabin at Vellir on the south coast.
Next stop: Hekla
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