Esja is a very popular mountain area just north of Reykjavik. The mountain has a spectacular large, wide and (near) flat summit plateau. The high point is Habunga, 914m. On older maps, you will only see the Hátindur (909m) point. The 914m point was later "discovered". You will find trails leading to all sides of the plateau. This page will describe south access from highway 1 by Mogilsa.
Esja connects to the Móskardahnúkur peaks, further east. The narrow crossing is quite dangerous due to loose sand and loose rock.
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.
Hábunga (914m) has a primary factor of 684m towards the higher Botnsúlur. The saddle is found near lake Mjoavatn. You do not cross the 220m contours on the high route, and the saddle height is interpolated to 230m.
This was a hike a bit out of the ordinary. It was my first day on Iceland. I had a couple of days all to myself while waiting for my friend Bjřrn. The main idea of going to Iceland was to climb Hvannadalshnukur, the following week. Bjřrn had driven me to the Oslo airport earlier this Sunday, and I took the 14:45PM direct flight to Reykjavik. I picked up the rental car at Keflavik and headed towards Reykjavik with the steering wheel in my left hand and the touring map in my right.
I checked in to the hotel and asked the receptionist for the nearest high mountain. He pointed me to a wall map and said I could go to Esja. The time was 17:00PM. 17:05PM, I was on my way. After a bit back and forth, trying to understand the main road system in Reykjavik, I finally was on my way northbound on highway 1. I drove until I saw the Esja trailsign, approx. 18,5Km from the Kringlamyrabraut/Miklabraut intersection in Reykjavik, and parked the car 17:50PM. This was a proper parking area with information boards. I had nothing to eat and nothing to drink, but figured that a 900m ascent would only take 90 minutes, and the descent only half that. I would do just fine.
5 minutes later, 17:55PM, I was on my way. It was raining light, and it was definitely not warm. I was wearing gore-tex pants with long underwear beneath. A bit too warm for the lowlands, but I had a feeling this would be benefitial in the long run. Countless hikers came down from the mountain. I got the feeling of being on the way to Ben Nevis. This was obviously a popular mountain. I felt some odd looks through being the only one heading up the mountain at this hour. I could drink from a stream coming down the mountain, which solved the thirst that was developing from the warm clothing.
I could enjoy some scrambling on the Tverrfell southwest ridge before I was on the plateau. This scrambling was class 2+ (YDS), bordering to class 3 with some (local) exposure. Kambshorn, up to my left, seemed a lot higher, and I wondered where the summit would be. From a map at the trailhead, I could see that Kambshorn was not the highest point. When I reached Tverrfjell summit, my spirit dropped when I realized that the high point was still far away. An "endless" field of rock was between me and the summit, even if the vertical drop was less than 100m.
The wind on the plateau was very strong, and it was raining more. I was glad I had chosen the warm underwear. I tried some light jogging towards the summit, but the slick rock suggested I should walk instead. I reached the top of the Esja massif 19:35PM. From my viewpoint, Kambshorn looked much higher. Infact, even the lower tops further east looked higher. If I didn't already know that the high point was 914m, and that I was on it, I would have gone insane.
I noticed some higher mountains further north. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I ended up there the very next day. After the quick round of pictures, it was time to head home. I took a more direct route back to Tverrfellhorn, scrambled the same route down, and jogged back to the trailhead. I was back at the car 20:40PM, soaking wet. A Subway store on the way back to Reykjavik took care of the food for the evening, and one hour later, I was back at the hotel. A good, warm shower ended quite a hectic afternoon.
Next stop: Skardsheidi
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