My #1 to-do item for Iceland was a 50k hike called the Laugavegurin Trail. I chose this hike for a few reasons but primarily because all the resources I looked at spoke of how diverse the landscapes of the hike would be. So, while it would have been cool to do some touristy things in Reykjavik or try scuba diving under the ice, I had set my sights on Laugavegurin since day one.
Now many of you know from my previous post about how the start to my trip was a bit more rough than I had originally planned. I was realizing the immensity of what I was doing and quite frankly was questioning some of the choices I had made. Laugavegurin changed all of that.
On Thursday, August 21 I woke up in a Reykjavik park, broke down camp, and caught the 7am bus to the trail head. I was using a ‘hikers pass’ offered by Trex that would take me the 4 hours to the trail head in Lanmannalauger and pick me up at the end in Borsmork. It was perfect for me because I could take as much or little time as I needed on the trail and was a quick and easy way for me to get to and from the area.
I slept for most of the bus ride there but towards the end the sight of the mountains, glaciers, and lakes kept my attention. I was immediately reminded of New Zealand and some of the landscape I had seen there, but was particularly in awe at the sheer massiveness of the landscape. If there wasn’t a jagged mountain or looming glacier blocking it the horizon stretched for miles and miles around.
When we arrived at Lanmannalauger it was around 11am. I knew I needed to eat before I started out so I ate lunch at the campsite, filled up the water bottle and camelback, bought a map of the hike and area, and signed into the trail.
I had butterflies in my stomach when I set out on the trail. This was it! I was on cloud nine as I climbed up over a ridge that separated the campsite from the rest of the valley. The path navigated towards through a maze of rocks and ridges that I later found had been formed by volcanic activity.
Then I climbed. I had read that the first day was the hardest physically but was not prepared for it to be because of hiking straight up the entire time. It was definitely a shock to my system to get used to the pack and climbing all at once. But I relished in the challenge of it all. Plus, it was nice to have the, “Oh my look at how beautiful everything around me is in this exact location,” excuse whenever I needed to catch my breath halfway up an ascent. Or a quarter of the way. Whatever. Shut up.
It was one of these stops that helped me cross the path of Lucy, a solo hiker from Lyon, France. We went at about the same pace and served as unspoken motivation for the other to press on. We ended up spending the rest of the hike talking and this helped to distract from my hips and shoulders screaming from breaking in the pack. Should have gone for one more long walk through Louisville with it.
One of the coolest parts was when we had to walk across what I thought then was a glacier but now realize was more likely just a bunch of unmelted snow. There was a ridge that had been carved out by the feet in front of us, but on either side was this wide, sloping mass of snow. It was hard to fight the urge to not ride my pack all the way down. Whenever you could use a sled there’s never any around.
Another memorable moment for me was stopping at the memorial for an Israeli who had died on the trail some years ago due to hypothermia. While a terrible thing to happen, I thought it was very special that this stone memorial could be seen for what seemed like kilometers before you actually got to it.
It took me all of 3 hours, 46 minutes to do the first 12k section of the hike.
Camp was incredible that first night. We were at 1,100 meters with one side of camp being the ridge we had just climbed all day and the rest opening up into this rolling valley of hills criss crossed by glacial melt rivers. On the far side of this valley stretched one of the major fiaofntnejskgb-kull (as in, it has a really complicated official name that I dont know except for the -kull ending because thats what all glacier names end in) glaciers.
I set up my tent in one of the stone rings that dotted the campsite. The rings had been put up by previous campers to keep the wind out. Pretty brilliant. It reminded me of penguin nests and that hilarious clip of a penguin that just steals all the other penguin’s rocks instead of going out and looking for his own. To my knowledge, no one stole any of my rocks.
Dinner was a major failure that first night because I didnt realize the rice I had bought was boil-in-bag style. Take note readers, if you put boil-in-bag rice in hot water out of the bag it came in it will not cook. At all. Thankfully everyone around me had made way too much food for that night so I scavenged and enjoyed an orange and salami out of my own stores.
I turned in early and took time to read and write a little before I felt exhaustion grab hold of me. It felt good to not set an alarm or have to catch something the next morning. Just me, my tent, and 12k to Alflavatn tomorrow.
All my love.