Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 1

Landmannalaugar to Alftavatn (Hvannagil)

24km + 4km to Hvannagil, 8-10hrs

Sharing a room in a hut with dozens of strangers, I snuck out early for coffee. And to kind of organize my pack out of the rain.

Somehow I left behind my river shoes. And a jar of peanut butter. ☹️

The weather was no better but I certainly wasn’t going to wait another day at Landmannalaugar. It was go … or catch the bus out.

UP past the fumaroles and quite quickly on to snowfields.

The trail is well marked … IF you have visibility.

In 2004 Ido Keinan, a 25-year-old hiker from Israel, got caught in a late June storm and died of exposure only 1km away from the hut in Hrafntinnusker. Wardens at Landmannalaugar warned him it was too dangerous.

He needed a GPS.

Glaciers cover 11% of Iceland. Lava fields and deserts about 60%. It’s easy to get lost.

Here’s that hut. The Alaskan cyclists were just leaving as I arrived.

It only sleeps 36 so best bring a tent if you want to stop here. If the weather is cooperating, push on and over to Álftavatn as I did.

Happily and surprisingly the sky cleared. It was windy. But gorgeous.

Iceland is a dream destination for photographers. There are so many weird things to see. And the light is unusual.

Of many bizarre and wonderful volcanic features, I liked the glassy black obsidian best. Many hikers add pieces to their backpack as souvenirs.

Of the plants, I liked tundra cotton best.

You cross the Torfajokull caldera, about 15km in diameter. It last erupted 1480. There’s a wide distribution of hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.

In good weather you can see Álftavatn (“Swan Lake”) from quite a distance

Here’s the hut.

New in 2017 was the addition of this restaurant. Lamb dinner costs about $30.

And the Álftavatn camping area.

Word on the trail was that tenting here can be very wet if it rains. Advice I got was to push on to Hvannagil if you have the energy. I did.

As I’d somehow left my river shoes behind, I had to do the river crossings barefoot. That was not fun.

I was first to arrive Hvannagil. The hut offers sleeping bag accommodations for 70 people in 4 rooms.

Without question mine was the best tent site. Totally out of the wind. A picnic table. And some sort of cairn of protection overhead.

Two Irish brothers joined me for dinner. Everyone else envious of the only picnic table.

I went walkabout after dinner. It never gets dark in July. You could hike all night if you wanted.

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0 AGAIN

Stuck in Landmannalaugar

Though it had rained all night off and on, it hadn’t rained hard. I was optimistic poking my head outside the tent in the morning.

No go. 

Recommendation from the information office was that we should stay in camp another night. Forecast for the following day was “improving“.

Sigh …

A hiker recently died on this section during a big storm.

I did grab a cancellation for a spot in the 110 bed tourist hut operated by Ferdafelag Islands. (Others had booked at least 6 months in advance.)

In fact, I got in early and had my pick. Farthest from the door, against the wall. It cost $90 – no meals. The most expensive bunkbed of my life. Tenting is $20 / person.

Landmannalaugar tent city was packed.

Many — including me — heeded the advice that we should stay. As day hikers rolled in it got more and more crowded.

At the time I trusted the advice. They know a lot about alpine rescue here.

So … a lazy day to read my book. Take a nap. And, of course, do the rest of the local day hikes.

I made my own routes including parts of the Sulphur Wave trail (towards Brennisteinsalda). Wandered the Laugahraun lava fields. I climbed part way up Blue Peak (Bláhnjúkur).

The weather never really got any worse.

In fact, this was some of my best hiking of the trip.

I enjoyed another hot springs soak, of course.

And hung out in the cook tent as late as possible. Before climbing into my warm, comfortable bunkbed. Those out in tents were getting soaked.

If you want to know more, check out HOW TO VISIT AND WHERE TO HIKE IN LANDMANNALAUGAR, ICELAND.

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar

Years ago I tried and failed to do this hike. Roads and rivers were impassable in June of that season.

Since then it’s been near the top of my bucket list.

Click PLAY or watch on YouTube to see why.

I bought my fuel at Iceland Camping Equipment in Reykjavík. It’s VERY expensive.

Later I learned that every hostel and campsite has plenty of free fuel canisters left behind by foreign hikers who will soon fly out.

I enjoyed my last restaurant meal – traditional Icelandic meat soup.

There are a number of ways to get to Landmannalaugar. Reykavik Expeditions and TREX are the two biggest bus services.

I went early to catch the 4pm bus. … Last bus leaves at 1pm. Never believe anything you read on the internet.

click for bigger map

click for bigger map

Next morning I was surprised to see young people from Alaska loading bikes. I’d not heard of people cycling Laugevagur. Turns out it’s a bad idea.

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar is about 4 hours … if you don’t get stuck.

It would be FUN to drive your own rental monster truck.

Landmannalaugar is a sprawling mess of a campsite.

While the rest of the world was suffering a heat wave, Iceland has had the worst summer weather in recorded history (100 years).

Forecast was not good. We worried whether or not we’d be able to attempt the hike.

I put my Hubba up on a platform in case of flood during the night.

At the information office you can buy a crappy day hiking map for about $3.

Most recommended is the Suournamur loop (about 9km). I first took a detour up the Ljiotipollur ‘Ugly Puddle’ trail and found myself this lookout for lunch. Ljiotipollur is an explosion crater lake.

If you find any trail crowded in Iceland, you only need walk a few minutes on any side trail to feel like you have the island to yourself.

Suournamur trail is gorgeous. It climbs up above the campsite.

I left a Summit Stone atop one of the cairns.

Not much can live up here.

I really liked this ridge walk section.

I got my feet wet on the river crossing after coming down. Situation normal hiking Iceland.

The highlight of Landmannalaugar for many are the natural hot springs.

FIRST you need to get there down a long boardwalk without freezing.

Having had hernia surgery just a week prior, I wasn’t suppose to soak the wound … but couldn’t resist.

When weather is bad, everyone crowds into the warm, bright cook tent.

After having dinner with a lovely couple from Austria, I hit the tent early hoping for good weather next morning. Forecast was for a BIG STORM. ☹️

hiking Reflection Canyon, Utah

… The route is long, rough and remote — the trailhead from Escalante, Utah takes 2 to 3 hours to get to during periods of good weather — and you still have to navigate 8-9 miles off-trail through fully-exposed sand and sage brush, across slickrock, and up and down rutted desert ravines.

Don’t be fooled by the name either. This long, exposed hike is not really through a canyon …

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 16-18 miles out-and-back (26-29 km)
  • Days Needed: 2 days
  • Peak Elevation: 4,466 ft.
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,234 ft.
  • Best Travel Time: Late March to May and September to October
  • Permits: Required (see below)
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Highlights

  • A stunning final vista
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  • Fabulous photo opps
  • Solitude, expect to see few other backpackers
  • Star-studded night sky
  • You can take your dog

Clever Hiker 

We’ve added Reflection Canyon to our list of best hikes in North America.

Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 3

trip report by editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page | video

Up early again. Coffee as the sun rises.

Rather than doing any more hiking I enjoyed a lazy morning at camp. Toying with my electronics. Listening to my Spanish lessons. The sun was HOT.

There are all sorts of characters coming and going. Some carry huge backpacks.

The craziest of the crazy are trying to summit Aconcagua independently and unsupported. Somehow transporting 70kg of gear or so up the mountain with multiple shuttles.

Around 11am I finally packed up the tent.

I figured it would be an easy walkout. No rush to catch the 5pm bus.

On a rest stop I laid out my basic gear to dry.

I’d expected a quick 2 hour 400m descent, but the walk felt long. Full pack. I was tired.

It was nice to finally reach vegetation.

If there’s something green here, there’s plenty of water.

Laguna de Horcones (2950m)

I checked out at the park entrance. Turned in my permit. Handed over my trash bag.

My Aconcagua trek was a success.

With a couple of hours before the bus arrived, I walked the highway …

… down to Puente del Inca (2740m).

…a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Vacas River, a tributary of the Mendoza River. … 

In March 1835, Charles Darwin visited the site, and made some drawings of the bridge …

In the old days people would walk across the bridge to reach the stone church.
It’s a tourist trap with overpriced junk and yappy dogs.

I decided to wait to eat in Mendoza.

There are a couple of hostels and a campground, however. A good emergency stop. Or hikers could sleep here one night before heading up towards Aconcagua.

I slept well on the bus. Then got myself a big chunk of Argentinian beef to celebrate back at the hostel.