After three days of Icelandic gravel roads, it was finally time to ride on the famous Laugavegur hiking trail. Day 4’s route was almost 30 km long, through colored mountains, snow slogs, and rocky volcano valleys. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t expect to get injured near Landmannalaugar and have to decide whether to push on or turn back. I managed to dredge up a bit of mental toughness and pushed on. And I’m very glad I did.
Author’s note: this is post is included in a series of articles I have written about this trip. To read more, check out the links below or use the “Iceland 2017” category on the sidebar to filter posts:
If you’ve read the summary article for this uni-packing trip, you’ve already hear the story of what happened on Day 4. This is the day that I broke my hand. Or didn’t break my hand. I’ve never really figured out if it was truly broken.
I won’t retell the story here. That would be redundant. It’s enough to say that I’m very thankful I have a bunch of amazing friends who do amazing things, because thinking of them and what they would do in the same scenario is the only thing that convinced me to move forwards, to hike further up, instead of turning around and returning to Landmannalaugar.
Now. I have been trying for hours, but I cannot figure out what to write for Day 4. I mean, 28 km of riding/hiking spread out over 8 hours, there must be something to say, right? Well, yes, of course, but I just can’t figure out how to say it. So, for this post, I’ll let my pictures and videos speak for me. For the route-oriented folks, I put a brief trail description at the end of this post. Enjoy!
The trail can be split into three sections based on the three huts you will pass during the day. Please note that the times listed are the times it took me to complete the section. You will travel faster or slower depending on your condition and hiking style.
Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (12 km, 470 m up, ~3.5 hours). Start off with mostly gently uphill on gravel trails outside of Landmannalaugar through weird lava formations, cool thermal vents, and weirdly colored mountains. Wind upwards until you reach the mountain pass. After a few hundred meters of mostly-ridable gravel, the snow begins. Trudge through the snow and begin to hate that white sh*t until you finally reach Hrafntinnusker. Be wary of visibility.
Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (12 km, 490 m down, ~3 hours): Begin trudging through more snow, but downhill so it sucks less. Eventually drop low enough such that the snow turns to patches and the rust-colored mud/gravel trail peeks through again. Wind downward, hiking down and up over small volcanic-ash ridges as needed. Eventually reach the edge of the elevated mountain pass and commence a steep-ish rocky trail descent into the valley that houses Álftavatn. Enjoy the views. Once you’ve descended, cross a small creek (shin-deep water), then it’s a few short and flat kilometers over a Jeep road to Álftavatn. Camping here is not recommended – there is no shelter at all, and your tent will die if a storm comes.
Álftavatn to Hvanngil (4 km, ~0 m, 0.5 hours): Proceed along a dirt trail carved into the Icelandic moss. Cross a fairly wide river (almost knee deep). Enjoy the views of the mountains. Climb up/down a few small ridges as they come, then a final descent along the edge of a hill into Hvanngil. Get there early to ensure you get a good spot for your tent.