Bláhnúkur – Alternative Laugavegur – Fimmvörðuháls – Skógar

Loop hike Bláhnúkur
Walking hours: 2h
Photo moments: 1h
Distance: 7.5km
Altitude: 445m ascent, 445m descent

After a day of rest in Landmannalaugar, we get up later than usual. We have breakfast with Christopher and Élodie, it is their last day in Landmannalaugar. This afternoon they return to Reykjavik. When we are finished with our breakfast, we take a nice group photo. Then they begin to pack their backpacks.

David is on his way to Landmannalaugar with the bus. Around noon the bus is arriving at the campsite. When we see David, David seems to be ready for the next adventure. 🙂 He also has our food package for the next days, and he also has a pair of Sealskinz socks for us. Wet trail runners are perfect when we are hiking, but during the night when we want to photograph the Northern lights, it’s just too cold with trail runners. 🙂 On the bus, David met two Belgians, while they are repackaging their backpack, they find out that they have forgotten their burner in Reykjavik. But they are lucky that we have a spare burner with us. 🙂 Before we start with the hike towards the top of Bláhnúkur. David places his MLD Trailstar next to us.

The hike to the top of the Bláhnúkur is one of the most popular hikes for the day visitors. Mainly because it’s short enough so that they definitely have enough time to take their bus back to Reykjavik. First, we walk along the giant lava field Laugahraun. When the lava field stops, we cross the Grænagil river via some stepping stones. After that, we start with the steep climb to the top. After an hour we are at the top, on the way we have stopped a lot because the scenery is phenomenal! At the top, we take a break to make a panorama of course. 🙂

Now we start with the descent, compared to the ascent it’s very smooth. It’s more like we are gliding down instead of walking. 🙂 But we have to be careful because some parts are steeper and have a lot of loose sand. When we are back down in the valley we have to cross the river Grønagil again. This time we can not keep our feet dry. 🙂 Via the trail through the lava field Laugahraun we walk back to the campsite. On our way, we pass another beautiful viewpoint with a view of the mountain Háalda. Tomorrow we will walk to the top of this mountain. When we arrive at the campsite, David suddenly sees two comrades. They are travelling around the world with a kind of bicycle. In the evening we will drink a few pints, and we will meet with some Americans. After a lovely evening, we crawl into our sleeping bag, it will be early when we wake up tomorrow. And it will be a long hiking day. 🙂

Day 1: Landmannalaugar – mountain flank Jökultungur
Walking hours: 7h0
Photo moments: 4h45
Distance: 27.5km
Altitude: 1125m ascent, 1025m descent

It’s still early when we wake up. In the beginning, it’s still too dark to pack the backpack without a headlamp. I’m starting to pack the backpacks while Charlotte is preparing the breakfast. David is already finished with packing his backpack, when we are almost ready with ours. Just when most people start to open their tent, we are ready to leave. We start with an alternative route via the mountain tops Suðurnamur and Háalda. We follow the road F224 for about a kilometre before we begin the climb to the first peak. On our way, we have a beautiful view of the Jöklgilskvísl. Soon we are at the first summit and we have a beautiful view of Landmannalaugar. We can also see the campsite from here.

We are now on our way to the second summit. At the second summit, we get a view of the Námskvísl and the lava field Laugahraun. The view from the Suðurnamur remains spectacular, even though it is the third time that we stand here. 🙂 Last year we made some beautiful panoramas here.

Not much later we are already on the third summit, now the descent begins. We descend until the intersection with Landmannahellir, Landmannalaugar and Háalda. From there we start with the climb towards the top Háalda. The view from this top should be phenomenal.

After the first climb we arrive on a plateau, the view from here is already magnificent. So I take a moment to take a panorama. It seems to be, that we will be hiking in the fog when we are on top of the Háalda. Or the fog should disappear soon.

As we were thinking, we are hiking straight into a tight mist bench, coupled with a strong wind that blows right in our face. When we get to the top, the sight is still nihil. We have just begun the descent when we encounter a group of tourists. They only wear a blazer, skinny jeans pants and sneakers. In fact, irresponsible in these circumstances, you should always keep in mind that the weather can get worse, when you are hiking in Iceland. When we’re down we look for a shelter against the wind. Here we have our lunch break.

After the break, we continue through a hilly landscape towards Stórihver. Along our way, we pass a beautiful valley, so I have to stop for a moment, to capture this beautiful place.

Soon we see and smell the first fumaroles, a rotten egg smell is typical for a geothermal area. Once we have passed the noisy fumarole Stórihver, we are back on the official Laugavegur route. What we also notice right away, because there are more hikers than this morning. The route towards Hrafntinnusker is indicated with large yellow poles. When we are almost at the hut, we are confronted with the fact that you always have to be careful when you are hiking in the mountains. A young man died during a storm in the summer of 2004. This means that you always have to pay attention to weather conditions in Iceland. We have to cross another big snowfield before we finally reach the hut. At the hut, we have a short break to eat something.

At the campground of Hrafntinnusker we meet some guys from Belgium, tomorrow they have to walk to Landmannalaugar. But we are not going to camp here. We still want to get beyond the boundary of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. We remind us the next part of the track, it goes up and down, up and down, …… Along our way we pass another plaque, this one is new, an Icelandic man died during a hike. When we have reached the last hill, there is another tricky passage over a really thin snowfield. Once we have crossed it, there follows a short but steep climb. It’s quite difficult because the surface is loose lava sand. 🙂 Last time we had a beautiful view over the plain, unfortunately, now there is a dense fog.

We have been hiking through a dense fog for some time when we see two hikers setting up their tent, in one of the most irresponsible places ever. Straight in the trench which guarantees becomes a river when it starts to rain heavily. They are still in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, so it’s not allowed to camp here. A half hour later we finally get some more sight, we get the Kaldaklofsjökull glacier in sight. Here are also some hikers camping, but it’s still in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. They put their tent on an island in a warm stream and brush their teeth with the hot water. Not much later, we cross the Jökulgil River with some stepping stones. We have to be careful, the surface is slippery! 🙂

It starts to twilight when we get Álftavatn in sight. We are almost at the bivouac place that, I had in mind. But I still want to set up my tripod to capture the beautiful sunset. Now we can start with the descent of the Jökultungur towards the bivouac place. This is located almost at the end of the descent. Last time we had a beautiful view of Álftavatn here. We quickly set up the tent before it is completely dark. Before we crawl into our sleeping bag we prepare a hot meal. 🙂 Tonight I can sleep the whole night, it’s too cloudy to see the Northern lights. 🙂 And that’s just perfect because it was a long day. 🙂

Day 2: mountain flank Jökultungur – Álftavatn
Walking hours: 3h30
Photo moments: 1h30
Distance: 15km
Altitude: 310m ascent, 460m descent

In the morning, David met some people that were on the same plane. They warn us that we can’t walk further than Álftavatn or Hvanngil, due to an upcoming storm. They were advised that if they wanted to go to Hrafntinnusker they had to arrive before 3 PM. Otherwise, they might be in trouble. We have breakfast and then we start with the descent to Álftavatn. The first we have to cross the river Grashagakvisl, we reach the other side with the use of some big rocks. Now it’s not so far to the hut, when we arrive at the hut we ask for an update of the weather. And indeed we can still walk to Hvanngil, but certainly not further. We decide to stay in Álftavatn. We even get an upgrade and we sleep in the cabin tonight. For the sake of certainty, they still provide high wind speeds, and a broken tent costs more than a night in the cabin. It will soon be very cosy in the hut, some Belgians, Dutch, Americans.

David and I find that the weather is good enough to take a walk around the lake Álftavatn. Getting lost can be difficult as long as we continue to follow the shore. 🙂 When we are just halfway, we pass Charlotte with the other Belgians. When we are finally back at the hut, it’s completely full. In the entrance, there are some French men, one of them has fallen in the river with his backpack. As a result, everything is completely soaked. Fortunately, he finds a place in the cabin to sleep the rest of the group sleeps on the couches in the seating/cooking area.

Day 3: Álftavatn – Sandar ( Emstrur )
Walking hours: 5h
Photo moments: 3h30
Distance: 22km
Altitude: 390m ascent, 590m descent

In the morning you wouldn’t say that there was a storm yesterday, okay I wouldn’t call it a storm yesterday either. 🙂 We had worse weather during previous hikes. We are rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. Before I start packing our backpacks, I’ll take a moment to make some pictures. 🙂

Before we pack our backpacks, we are still having breakfast. Two Dutch guys are giving us some oranges. 🙂 We are just on our way and we have to cross a river. The Bratthálskvísl is too deep to pass with stepping stones. After a while, we pass a beautiful picturesque valley with the mountain Stórasúla in the background, beautiful! 🙂 Not much later, we begin to descend slightly to the valley Hvanngil. Here we keep a sanitary stop before we move on, the next few hours it will not be that simple to make a stop. At least not if you want some privacy, we need to cross a giant lava sand plain.

Just before the desert plain, we have to cross two rivers, the first river Kaldaklofskvísl has a sturdy wooden bridge. We have to ford the second river Bláfjallakvísl, we find him simple. But when we are eating our orange on the other side of the river bank. It seems that some other hikers find it difficult to ford a river. 🙂 We leave before a large group has crossed the river too. Now the part through the desert plain follows because the route runs straight ahead, the track seems to be endless. 🙂 On our way, we have a beautiful view of the mountains of Storkonufell, Smáfjöllen Hattfell. At the river Innri Emstruá, we have our lunch break. There is a bridge over this river. 🙂

After our lunch break, we are almost at the hillside Utigönghöfðar, once we cross this hill, the landscape changes completely. 🙂 From now on we have a beautiful view of the plain Emstrur. In the distance, we see the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, the last one covers the volcano Katla. It’s showing some activity in the last days. When we are walking along the mountain Hattfell, we have to cross two rivers. Now it is not far to the hut Botnar. When we approach the hut we have a beautiful view of the glacier tongue Entujökull. At the hut, we have a sanitary stop. 🙂 David asks the park ranger for a status update of the Katla, but at the moment we do not have to worry. He also tells us that when there is an eruption we will be notified about fifteen minutes in advance. If your smartphone obviously has connection. 🙂

The cabin is just out of sight and we start descending to the river Fremri-Emstrué. There is a bridge over this roaring glacier river. When we are across the river, we have a coffee break. The view of the glacier tongue Entujokull is phenomenal! As I make some pictures, Charlotte makes a delicious coffee ready for us. Now there follows a short stage over the Sandar plain towards the bivouac place that I had in mind. The place is located on the edge of the Markarfljót canyon. It takes a while, but we find a suitable place to set up our tents. We make a time lapse when we are setting up our tents.

[vimeo 198726040 w=750 h=422]

When we are ready with the tent, I’m going to photograph the different layers of basalt at the edge of the canyon, they look impressive! Also, the view of the canyon itself is beautiful! When the sunset begins, the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and the Mýrdalsjökull get a beautiful red glow over them. When the sun is under we crawl into our sleeping bag, during the night I check the sky for Northern lights. But unfortunately, it’s too cloudy.

Day 4: Sandar ( Emstrur ) – Þörsmork and Valahnúkur
Walking hours: 4h
Photo moments: 3h
Distance: 16.5km
Altitude: 435m ascent, 570m descent

In the morning, a loud noise makes us awake. It sounds like thunder. Strange in Iceland, we have never had thunder in Iceland. We are not sure what it might have been, maybe an earthquake? Charlotte and I have already felt a shock in Landmannalaugar. We have just left and the typical Mountain Einhymingur is already on the horizon, Einhyrningur means unicorn in Icelandic.

We are now descending towards the valley Bjórgil. The valley in combination with the Einhymingur is just beautiful! Once we have passed the valley we follow the dry plain Fauskatorfur for a while to the next river Ljósá. With a bridge, we reach the other side of the gorge, where the river Lyssá flows. Here we have a short break, I spot some lovely blue blueberries. there are not so much of them, but they are reminding us to two years ago in Sarek.

After the break, there is a short climb and immediately we have to descend towards the river Þröngá. In most cases, this river is the most difficult river to ford during the Laugavegur hike. When we arrive at the river, we notice that it will be easy. We have already suffered heavier cases during this trip. 🙂 Here you can see the difference between experienced hikers and beginners right away. We immediately see a good line to ford the river, others have turned around for at least fifteen minutes before they dare to go one step in the river. But yes, so we have probably started also. 🙂 Now it’s not that far until we reach Langidalur. When we arrive at hut Langidalur, we first buy something in the shop to eat. Later in the day, we meet some British in the shop. They would like to walk to the Eyjafjalljökull eruption craters tomorrow. We hope to cross the Fimmvörðuháls pass tomorrow and arrive in Skógar the next day. If the weather conditions allow us to start our hike.

In the afternoon, I’ll take a short walk to the peak Valahnúkur. The weather is far from perfect but I hope to get a better picture than last time. When I had the bad luck that I had a lot of backlight through the sunrise. About twenty minutes later I’m on top, the view is magnificent. The view of the valley, the meandering Krossá and the Eyjafjalljökull together is just sublime! So I’ll stay on top for almost two hours before I’m going to the descent. Meanwhile, they hear the same noise as this morning, the ranger tells us that it’s likely to be an earthquake. Never knew you could hear them so good.

Day 5: Þörsmork – along the river Skóga
Walking hours: 5h30
Photo moments: 4h
Distance: 20.5km
Altitude: 1170m ascent, 825m descent

In the morning, when we get up, we’ll check the weather forecast again with the ranger. It does not look very good right away but she gives us green light. So we leave as soon as we have loaded our backpacks. We can cross the glacier river Krossá via the bridge. Now we follow the shore to the hut of Básar. From then on we start to climb gradually. Too bad that the rain makes the visibly almost nihil, it’s difficult to make some photos. The only advantage of this is that we keep a good pace, around one and a half hour we are at Heiðarhorn. Through a steep climb, we reach the Morinsheiði plateau. The last time we had a wide view over here, unfortunately, the visibility is not so good this time. During the passage Heljarkambur, I try to take some pictures.

When we have passed Heljarkambur, it starts to snow. In the beginning, it’s all right. But soon the flakes become thicker and thicker. Visibility is at times nihil. Suddenly we notice we have reached the lava field. Due to the snow storm, we get rid of the yellow poles, via the GPS we get back on the track. We apparently walked straight through the lava field Goðahraun, which was caused by the volcano eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull. The craters and the lava fields are completely covered with snow, last time it looked like this. Now we almost reached the mountain pass Fimmvörðuháls, once we have crossed it. We have to cross a difficult passage, a kind of ice field. The top layer is just frozen, underneath there flows water. When we passed the ice field safely, we can see the emergency shelter Baldvinsskali in the distance. This has recently been renovated. We are happy when we have reached the shelter, it’s cold and wet outside. Our hardshell has not been able to keep us dry. We hope to get it a little bit warmer inside the cabin. But It’s cold inside, there is just one little fire to heat the whole hut. But good that we are warmly welcomed by the ranger, She offers us a large plate of fresh pasta. This gives us a little bit of warmth. She asks us who let us start in Þörsmork, because of the bad weather conditions over here. During a whiteout, you quickly get lost. After two hours we decide to go further. Before we leave she tells us that the weather will be better when we reached the river Skóga. We thank her for her hospitality before we go further.

We follow the jeep track towards the river Skóga. Once we reached the river, the visibility becomes better. We cross the Skóga with a bridge. From here we can finally leave the Jeep track. We pass another impressive waterfall, I call it the mini Skógafoss. 🙂 From this waterfall, it’s just 10 minutes towards the bivouac place. I remember me that there is a perfect place to camp near the waterfalls Neðstifoss and Miðfoss. It’s almost completely dark when we are with the tent. Before I go to sleep I try to make some photos of the waterfall. 🙂 It’s already dark when I crawl into my sleeping bag, it takes quite a while before we get it warmer.

Day 6: near the river Skóga – Skógar
Walking hours: 2h15
Photo moments: 1h
Distance: 8.5km
Altitude: 25m ascent, 580m descent

In the morning, David makes us awake because of the cold he couldn’t sleep. He has already loaded his backpack so that he can start the descent. Hoping he gets it warmer. When I look outside, I’m glad that I went to the waterfalls Neðstifoss and Miðfoss last night to photograph them. We can hear them but they are not visible, there is a thick fog in the valley. 🙂 We eat a snack bar for breakfast so that we can also start loading our backpacks.

During the descent, we pass dozens of beautiful waterfalls. One is hidden in a gap. This is personally one of my favourites. We notice that when we begin to approach the Skógafoss waterfall, it becomes busier and busier with the minute. Once we arrive in Skógar, we find David pretty fast at the local restaurant/hotel. Now we want to eat some real food, a tasty hamburger! 🙂 With a bus from Sterna, we drive back to Reykjavik around 3 pm. In Reykjavik, we spend two nights at the KEX Hostel, a very nice location. But if you want to sleep, you can better choose another option. 🙂

Here you can find the gps track.

Gps log Bláhnúkur

Gps log Alternatieve Laugavegur

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