Iceland Traverse

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Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sat 28 Feb, 2015 5:46 pm

Hi folk, it's about that time again and I'm planning my mid-year adventure.

I'll be in Finland for family stuff at the start of July, which gives me about a month prior to explore. Due to it's proximity (relatively cheap flights from Helsinki - Reykjivik) and general awesomeness I'd like to go to Iceland. I've read a few accounts of people undertaking a full traverse in about three weeks, and I was wondering if anyone around here had experience with either a full traverse, or with some of the longer (off track) routes?

Here's the kinda thing I'm looking at:
North - south: http://www.phlumf.com/travels/iceland/index.shtml
West - east: http://andrewskurka.com/adventures/icel ... -traverse/

Thanks in advance :)

Cheers, Nick
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Sat 11 Apr, 2015 2:29 am

I was in Iceland for September/October last year. I want to go back!

No traverse though - I did the southern part of that north-south trek from your link above.

I did hut walking in the southern highlands to Landsmannalauger, (recommend a few days here to do some side day walks like the Ljotipollor crater lake, as well as relaxing in the thermal pool there), then on the Laugavegur to Thorsmork then on to Skógar on the Fimmvorduhals which goes between the Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull glaciers. The last leg to Skogar is spectacular with lots of waterfalls, and shepherds and their flocks.

There are a few river crossings, and after Thorsmork on the way to the hut at Basar, there is the Krossa glacial river which can get too wide to cross. They have this moving bridge on wheels, and the location changes but the hut rangers can let you know where it roughly is.

Do you have a Garmin GPS? I used these topo maps http://www.ourfootprints.de/gps/mapsource-island_e.html German user made maps and haven't been updated since last year, but it was pretty good. It didn't have some of the huts and a couple weren't quite where they were meant to be, but I have a list of a few of the huts and their Long/Lat locations somewhere.

For Southern Highlands, if you go in Summer to mid Sept, you can get a bus, but depending on your timing the bus might not run. You probably know, but there is no right of camping like there is in other Scandanavian countries, and if you go the hut option, you have to book http://www.fi.is/en/huts/booking/ but if you camp you don't have to book, you can still use the toilet/rubbish disposal facilities - for the southern highlands, at least, I think you could only camp near the huts.

The tip on one of your links about leaving a small bag at a hostel in Reykjavik is what I did - even though I didn't stay in that hostel on return. Some were cool with leaving a bag of gear that you didn't need, and I used my backpack transit bag cover thing that can zip and lock up and left gear that I didn't want to carry.

I met a funny Canadian guy and we planned to hire a jeep and head to the east coast after reaching Skogar and do some walks there, but he got really sick after a midnight jump in the freezing lake at Aftavan. The next few days he was a right-off. When we got back to Reykjavik, he wasn't in condition to go anywhere, and the doctors don't like prescribing drugs.

Here's one of the bus companies that will drop off close to start of trails https://www.re.is/iceland-on-your-own/. There's another called Trex but I didn't use them.
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Mon 20 Apr, 2015 7:38 pm

Thanks a million for the info! Good stuff to mull over.

I'll be going via Helsinki where I can leave extra gear with my brother, so I'll only have walking gear once I'm in Iceland.
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Tue 21 Apr, 2015 5:55 pm

I just responded to someone else via PM about Iceland and I thought I'd copy and paste here as it might interest you as well:

The side walks from Landsmannalaugar I did were the climb to the summit of Blahnukur - short trip about 4km south of the hut at Landsmannalaugar. Then the same day did the Brennisteinsalda. The Skalli circuit is about 15kms or so, and you can go either clockwise or anticlockwise. You could probably do the summit of Blahnukur on the same day as it is south of the huts. And then the hike north to the Ljottipollur crater lake is about 15km return. I did this in the clockwise direction. I think you could walk around the lake as well, but I didn't. I walked maybe around the southern side of the lake for around 4-5km, and came back on the southern road to the huts. On the walk check out the volcanic rock formations (rock trolls) on the crest of hils. There was one that from the right angle was the Batman's cowl.

The ranger station is pretty big at Landsmannalaugar so they can point you in the right direction. They let you charge devices for a fee as well if you need.

There was another 20km trip to Sudurnamur and Haalda peaks to Storihver but I didn't do that. You pass throgh Storihver on the way to Aftavan but the side trip leads you west of Landsmannalaugar huts if you had time.

From Aftavan, there is about a short 5km trip to Torfahlaup gorge which is pretty nice (about 3 hours round trip from the hut).

From Emstrur huts (Botnaaskali) you have to go to the Markafljotsglijufur canyon. It is a mouthful and I can't pronounce it correctly but really pretty. There is a rock formation that looks like a rhino you have to look out for on the horizon. but if it is a clear day, the views of the surrounding glaciers are really nice. The lady warden at the Emstrur hut has a nice black labradour that came for the walk to the canyon. I lost the dog when we got to the canyon, but he scooted back to the hut on his own. It was a short trip to the canyon from the hut - about 4km loop - but you can make it a bit longer if you go up.

Some other tips:

The icelandic huts were pretty nice. I didn't need a sleeping mat as they had mattresses and had full kitchens with everything you need. You had to bring your own food, but some people left "free food" as extras from their trip, like pasta, oats and tea/coffee which was nice.

Camping wise, I think for some of the southern routes (Fallaback and Thorsmork) you were restricted to specific campsites but check with the link I posted. Camping fees for near the huts meant you could use their facilities. There's no power to these sites though. So you need a solar charger or battery pack for your kit.

There's a few stores in Reykjavik to get supplies like food and gas (they have the pierced cannisters that aren't compatible with my stoves, but some had the screw-in variety as well). There is a shopping centre Kringlan south east of Reykjavik that you can get to by bus and it has a few camping stores (nothing really cheap in Iceland though - you are better off getting it here or from the US before you go), and there are some stores in Reykjavik that hire out camping gear. One I recall reasonably priced was north east of the main shopping street, near the water.

Alcohol is ridiculously priced - bring some Duty free if you want to go down that route. I bought some overpriced icelandic moss vodka but boy that was a horrible decision.

A prepaid sim is relatively cheap. I got a Vodafone one with 3gb data. Reception was good for most of the city areas and on the Ring road. Less so in the mountains. The hut wardens were good for weather updates when the data didn't work. I bought my sim from the Kringlan shopping centre as I didn't find an outlet with the prepaid data sim in town.

Map wise, if you have a Garmin GPS, grab that topo map I mentioned. It is user generated, but pretty good. I had a 1:50000 map with an overview of the route, and shared a 1:25000 topo map. Most of the route was reasonably well signed, but parts when you get into the volcanic rock and across the glacier it can be hard to see where to go. Be careful crossing glaciers (with really slippery black ice) and ice bridges (over and under), and the river crossings were all ok, but cold in September. Another source for Icelandic Garmin maps is http://www.gpsmap.is. Their IMG file is donation ware, the mapsource version is USD $25 or so. YOu need to register on the site to download. I've downloaded the IMG file but haven't had time to compare it against the other topo I used.

Oh, a water tip, there are usually tanks that you can use from the huts, but if you fill up from lakes, it might be nice to use a filter. I ran out of water on one of the legs, and filled up directly from a river and my bottle was full of really annoying black volcanic grit. I was told in summer some of the rivers I crossed were pretty low.

If you like the hot springs, I thought the Reykjavik Blue Lagoon was a ripoff. I went to the swimming pool at Laugardalur which has thermal spas and mainly Icelanders were here, not many tourists. Another option is the Geothermal Beach at Nautholsvik. The change rooms were closed in as it was off season when I went, and the tide had come in, so the water around the pool was *&%$#! freezing.

Around Hveragerdi about 40-50kms east of Reykjavik there are a few hot spring hikes close to town that leads to rivers and hotsprings. The one I went on started at the end of the road north of this place http://dalakaffi.is/ Found a nice junction of a river meeting a hot spring that wasn't too hot . It was around 37C, but further upstream, closer to the hot spring it was over 40C. About 7km round trip but the weather was really crap that day. Had on full wet weather mountain gear and it was down under 10C and drizzling so when stripped off to jump in the springs I had to cover the pack and clothes up.

Other things I did that you might not have time for are like glacier walk and ice climbing which was fun, but relatively crappy day when I did it. Oragnised from the hostel out of Reykjavik

Also did the diving at Silfra. Some people I met at the hostel did the flights over the exploding Bardabunga volcano, but I couldn't justify the cost so skipped it. they did take some nice pics of the volcano eruptions though. Some girls I met also did the Icelandic horse riding thing but it is slow trail riding. If you go to the Hveragerdi, I passed a group on the trail to the hot springs doing this.

Batman Troll Rock.jpg
It reallly looked like Batman
Batman Troll Rock.jpg (150.19 KiB) Viewed 27118 times

Emstrur Warden.jpg
Warden and her dog
Emstrur Warden.jpg (211.99 KiB) Viewed 27118 times

Hill on the way to Ljotipollur.jpg
Can't remember the name of this peak on the way to the lake
Hill on the way to Ljotipollur.jpg (182.34 KiB) Viewed 27118 times

Ljotipollor lake.jpg
Ljotipollor lake.jpg (164.86 KiB) Viewed 27118 times

Markafljotsglijufur Canyon.jpg
Markafljotsglijufur Canyon.jpg (201.25 KiB) Viewed 27118 times
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Wed 22 Apr, 2015 4:39 pm

keithy wrote:I just responded to someone else via PM about Iceland and I thought I'd copy and paste here as it might interest you as well


Thanks for the info Keithy!
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Mon 27 Apr, 2015 12:06 am

If you are interested, I had a chance to compare the two Garmin topo maps from links above:

http://www.ourfootprints.de/gps/mapsource-island_e.html
http://www.gpsmap.is

IcelandTopoCompare.jpg
IcelandTopoCompare.jpg (272.41 KiB) Viewed 27041 times


The ourfootprints.de one shows more waypoint and POI icons (like huts, waterfalls, etc) as well as more trails and 4x4 roads, although some trails on gpsmap.is were not on outfootprints.de maps. But the gpsmap.is one is nicer to look at and the gpsmaps.is topo appears to have more places named on the map.

But I confirm that both will work being on the same GPS (you just have to enable/disable the maps so that only one is showing at the one time).
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby wobbly » Fri 01 May, 2015 9:15 pm

Hi Nic
I also did the walk from Landmannlauger to Skogar a few years back. I would recommend that when going over the pass between Thormsok and Skogar that you take the Red Route, rather than the main track. It was recommended to me by the hut warden at Fimmvorduhais and it was a lot quieter ( I saw no one actually) than the main track but most importantly it takes you close to lots off amazing waterfalls- not that you don't still see plenty after it rejoins the main track.

The red route is shown on the map boards in the area but it wasn't on my maps. There are sections of it either side of the pass but I only took the section from Fimmvorduhais towards Skogar. One warning though is that on the section I completed there are a few snow bridges over creeks that apparently can get washed out or collapse/melt so best check with the hut warden.

Cheers Pete

PS ENVY ENVY ENVY ;-)
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Fri 01 May, 2015 11:54 pm

wobbly wrote:The red route is shown on the map boards in the area but it wasn't on my maps. There are sections of it either side of the pass but I only took the section from Fimmvorduhais towards Skogar. One warning though is that on the section I completed there are a few snow bridges over creeks that apparently can get washed out or collapse/melt so best check with the hut warden.

Pete - That's the route I took as well, although I detoured and walked up to the Baldvinsskali hut for a looksee. The hut was closed but the toilets were open. Here is a cropped photo of the signboard with the red (secondary route) after the Magni/Modi scoria cones on the way to Skogar.
Fimmvörðuhálstrailsigncropped.jpg

But the route is on a few maps now. Like this one https://www.rother.de/pdf/3763348026_tour.pdf for example.

At point where it joins up with the main trail again, the current is strong, so they built a bridge.

I took the main north eastern route rather than the secondary red south eastern route between Thorsmork and Morinsheidi as I stayed at the Basar huts (which was pretty much the route shown in the Rother map link above).
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Fri 08 May, 2015 1:27 pm

Quick question for the folk that have been - is it possible to get screw-in gas canisters in Reykjivik? I've heard mixed reports regarding whether they use screw or clip-on...
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby RonK » Fri 08 May, 2015 5:44 pm

nickthetasmaniac wrote:Quick question for the folk that have been - is it possible to get screw-in gas canisters in Reykjivik? I've heard mixed reports regarding whether they use screw or clip-on...

For certainty, take a gas canister adapter - readily available on eBay for a just few bucks.
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Sat 09 May, 2015 2:31 pm

Nick I previously posted above I saw the screw in variety canisters at petrol stations as well.
Image not my pic but gas bottles available at petrol stations in Iceland.

An option if you don't want to carry a stove is to hire one. The camping rental place I mentioned above is on Baronsstiggur 5 in Reykjavik.
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Wed 01 Jul, 2015 9:39 pm

Just a quick update (proper trip report to come) - I finished the traverse at Skogáfoss on the south coast a couple of days ago (after running into a certain Nick Stacey of Launceston having lunch under a rock in Porsmörk).

Overall I think I did about 450-500km, although honestly I have no idea... All up it took 18 days, and of that 10 or so had significant snow cover which made it much harder than expected. I ended up leaving the re supply in Reykjahlid/Myvatn with 16 days food as all of the highland roads, including Landmannalaugar were closed. Epic experience overall and thanks again for the help provided here!
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby keithy » Wed 01 Jul, 2015 11:35 pm

nickthetasmaniac wrote:Just a quick update (proper trip report to come) - I finished the traverse at Skogáfoss on the south coast a couple of days ago (after running into a certain Nick Stacey of Launceston having lunch under a rock in Porsmörk).

Overall I think I did about 450-500km, although honestly I have no idea... All up it took 18 days, and of that 10 or so had significant snow cover which made it much harder than expected. I ended up leaving the re supply in Reykjahlid/Myvatn with 16 days food as all of the highland roads, including Landmannalaugar were closed. Epic experience overall and thanks again for the help provided here!

Sounds like a great trip. Look forward to the trip report!

Did you go past the Bárðarbunga lava fields? The eruptions are all quiet now, but are the lava fields safe to cross yet? So you didn't make it to Lanmannalaugar?
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Thu 02 Jul, 2015 1:52 am

keithy wrote:Did you go past the Bárðarbunga lava fields? The eruptions are all quiet now, but are the lava fields safe to cross yet? So you didn't make it to Lanmannalaugar?


Ended up having to go west of Trölladyngja and Tungnafellsjöjull due to the snow, so I didn't end up going anywhere near Vatnajökull or Bárðarbunga, although there were still signs up for most of the highland 4x4 tracks warning of floods due to eruptions...

I made it to Landmannalaugar but When I got there it was on,y accessible by foot. The day I got there they had just (like an hour before I arrived) finished clearing the road in, although they were only allowing the commercial 4x4 groups. Apparently the tour groups where loosing so much money due to the late snow that the Mountain Guides Association paid for the road to be cleared... There we wardens there prepping the huts but no food available yet.
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Re: Iceland Traverse

Postby Petew » Sat 24 Aug, 2019 2:35 pm

Tis sounds awesome, was there a trip report?
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