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.

Arctic Circle Trail, Greenland

… At just over 100 miles long, and taking 7 to 10 days to complete, the Arctic Circle Trail crosses the largest ice-free patch of West Greenland.

This splendid backpacking route, lying 25-30 miles north of the Arctic Circle runs from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut – both with airport access.

a summer walk, ideally from mid-June to mid-September, when the tundra is bursting with life; during the long winter, snow and ice, short days and bitter cold are the norm …

Cicerone

Bo Normander posted an excellent trip report from 2017:

GUIDE TO THE ARCTIC CIRCLE TRAIL IN GREENLAND

Snowman Trek, Bhutan – Fastest Known Time attempt

Wow. This looks epic.

A team of Ultra-marathon runners (Benjamin Clark, Timothy Olson, Anna Frost, & Matt Trappe) journey to Bhutan to set a speed record on the world’s hardest trek.

But Bhutan’s Himalayan landscape isn’t welcoming to athletes unused to the conditions, and it’s inhabitants must be persuaded to let the runners pursue their dream.

The result is a shared accomplishment and an adventure that constantly teeters on the edge of total failure.

It’s going to be launched in select U.S. theatres May 17, 2018.

Click PLAY or watch a trailer on YouTube.

Hielo Azul circuit, El Bolsón, Argentina

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Click PLAY or get a glimpse of my 3 day circuit on YouTube.

Getting to the trailhead at Camping Hue Nan is the most challenging navigation challenge.

You can road walk from El Bolsón as I did — 3 boring, dusty hours — or ask for bus directions to Camping Hue Nan. That trailhead may be changing. Check before you go. It was open to me February 2018

Look for the Acceso Refugio Hielo Azul sign.

I used the free Maps.me app and it worked perfectly for the entire circuit. On the other hand, I wished I’d hired a taxi or found the bus rather than done 3 hours of road walking.

Alternatively, there’s a way to start and finish a circuit by bus at Warton. The most popular trailhead.

You could reverse my route too, of course

El Bolsón, population 19,000 plus tourists is an excellent hiking town. It’s only 2 hours by bus from Bariloche, the bigger hiking destination in Argentina. Many hike both towns on the same trip.

Free registration is required. You don’t need to stick to your planned itinerary.

There are gear shops with camping fuel and fairly large grocery stores in town.

At the Mountain Information Office I bought a $4 amateur hiking guide partially translated to English. It’s not enough to navigate, but did provide some background information.

I was shocked to see some of the bridges here.

They are slowly being replaced by modern metal alternatives.

It was at least 1000m ascent and 4 hours up to Hielo Azul Refugio. My favourite alpine hut by far.

I was so happy to get there — and felt so warmly welcomed by the woman who greeted me — that I signed up for an 8pm $20 stew meal. My most expensive dinner in Argentina. (I brought my own wine.)

It really is paradise up here just below the glacier.

I paid $5 to tent.

Next morning I first registered at the mountain hut then scrambled the steep, 90 minute route up to the glacier. Beautiful.

I had some lunch on my return. Then set off on the clearly marked trail to Refugio Lago Natacion. An easy add-on.

From Natacion down to the Azul Canyon, however, was surprisingly steep and overgrown. Not many people do the circuit, I suspect, because this one section is quite challenging.

The canyon is impressive once you finally get there.

At one point you can straddle the gap, a long way above the crystal clear water!

I was reminded of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A tiger could easily leap this gorge, but not the one in China.

Tired, I decided to illegally wild camp by the river rather than walk the extra hour down to my designated refugio campground.

The trail out to Warton is a road accessible to motor vehicles. Swimming this river is the attraction, not the trail itself.

If my directions sound too sketchy, consider buying a map for about $10.

Aoneker 1:50,000 El Bolson 
(covers the following refuges: Co.Lindo, Hielo Azul, Natacion, Atillio & El Reramal)

Aoneker 1:120,000 Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42°
(covers all the refuges in the El Bolson region)

related – A Guide to Trekking in El Bolson, Patagonia