Our final day on the trail… How’d we get here so soon! I guess that’s one of the problems with moving fast and light. Covering more terrain, more effienctly means you get to the end of your journey faster.
Well, this final day of hiking was one of the most spectacular. The trail we hiked is called Fimmvorduhals. It’s ~25km long and travels from Thorsmork up and over a pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. If you remember, Eyjafjallajökull is the volcano that blew its top in 2010 shutting down air traffic in Europe, and today the trail will take us through the remenants of the lava field that was created during that eruption.
Our day started on the early side as we were planning to catch a bus in Skogar back to Reykjavik at the end of our hike. Not knowing exactly how long it was going to take us to cover the 25km between here and there we decided to get an early start so we had plenty of time.
The trail starts off pretty tame, but quickly starts climbing. Up and up we went climbing out of the valley and towards the glaciers. The climbing was never very steep, but it was constant. Also, the route was incredibly beautiful. Eventually we reached the pass. From here there’s a bit of snow to deal with, but nothing too bad, then you start heading down.
Just as you start the descent there is a hut. It was not free to use, and there was a charge to fill waterbottles, so we didn’t stick around too long. It was super windy and we still had some ground to cover. The first part of the descent into Skogar is pretty uninspiring. You find yourself hiking on a 4×4 road, and the terrain is less featured. However, as you descend you eventually move off the road and onto a hiking trail. About this time the terrain starts to get quite a bit more intersting. There is water flowing out of the glacier and down the mountain and it’s slowly converging in bigger and bigger streams… and it’s around this time when you encounter the first large waterfall!
This final portion of the trail is well worth all of the work. As the rivers and streams converge more and more water is available to throw off cliffs, and as you descend you encounter waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall. The only bad thing about this is that by the end you might find yourself all waterfall’d out. But, that won’t stop them from being beautiful.
As we desended and got closer and closer to Skogar we started to encounter more and more people. Skogar is home to Skogafoss which is one of the most iconic waterfalls in all of iceland and is located directly off the ring road meaning it is easily accessible by car and tour bus. This means that to reach the trail’s terminus you have to make your way through the hordes of people exploring the trails from the safety of their vehicles. It’s not all bad though. All the people mean that once you reach the end of the trail there are a couple of restaurants where you can grab a burger and use the wifi to check in with people back home, let them know you’re ok, and entertain yourself while you wait for the bus back to the city.
Enjoy the pictures… I sure enjoyed making them!
Fimmvorduhals Hiking Route – Google Earth (.kml)
This is what the elevation profile looks like from Thorsmork to Skogar. We climbed a little more than 3000 feet, and then descended a touch over 4000 feet. Total moving time was just a few minutes beyond 5 hours.
The crew getting ready for the final day of hiking after a great night at the Basar hut. This hut was by far the nicest accomodations we experienced while on the trail.
After leaving the Basar hut we headed towards the Fimmvorduals trail. I’m not exactly sure when the trail officially started, but the first little bit of hiking took us through a lightly forested landscape before starting to climb.
I suppose this could be considered the start of the trail..? Here you can see a map of our route up and over the pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.
Taking a moment to look behind us, back down into the Thorsmork Valley, just after starting the climb up. This is just the start. For the next little bit every step will be a little higher than the last.
Justin and John skirting under some volcanic cliffs on the way to gaining a narrow ridge which continues up.
Looking back again… Here you can see another group working their way up the trail behind us, while the sun starts to crest the mountains and paint the valley with light.
Another look back… Typically the best views are from above. That means when hiking uphill you have to make a conscious effort to stop every once in a while and turn around. Here you can see another group stopping to take in the view on a narrow outcrop jutting out into the valley.
Just because the best views are typically behind you when moving uphill, doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s in front of you. Here John and Eric follow the trail along a narrow spine as we continue to ascend out of the valley.
Another view… The Fimmvorduhals trail is easily one of the most beatiful trails I’ve ever had the privilege to experience.
Eric taking a minute to stop and enjoy the moment, and appreciate where we are and how far we’ve come.
I mean look at this place! If dragons don’t live in these mountains I don’t know where they live.
Eventually the climbing pauses for a bit once you gain a large, perfectly flat plateau. it’s a wild spot with amazing views, and in a later image you can see just how flat it is.
Justin, John, and Eric crossing yet another spine. Beyond this we start the final climb which will take us up to our first bits of glacier.
Justin and John grunting it up the first part of the climb. The trail here is well defined and marked, but it is quite loose. Trekking poles were definitely appreciated.
John crusing past a couple of spires with the plateau in the background. At any moment, you could look in any direction and see something amazing!
Still going up… This day, our last day, had the most climbing of all the days.
Justin continuing the grind up. Behind him you can see the flat plateau and the trail bisecting it.
You start out in the forested valley of Thorsmork… Climb up and through volcanic cliffs, ridges, and spines… And eventually you find yourself hiking across a persistent snowfield.
The snow doesn’t provide any significant trouble, and the sections are often short lived before you’re back on the black volcanic sands and gravel that make up the majority of the trail.
So many good pictures to take… Eric making his way down a volcanic ridge with a glacier in the background.
John and Eric making their way across the lava field left over from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull.
Wild colored hills, snow, and lava… This is Iceland.
Just before starting the descent to Skogar, at about the halfway point, the trail takes you across this huge, totally flat volcanic plain.
This can’t be a good omen…
Eric crossing a little piece of glacier on our way down to Skogar.
We did encounter a hut after crossing over the pass, but they wanted money to use it and there was even a charge to fill your water bottles, so we just kept on walking.
The first part of the descent followed a 4×4 track for quite a while. It’s not the most exciting piece of trail, but it does eventually get better. Also, it was windy as shit up here.
Eventually, after following the 4×4 track for a while, you do break off on a hiking trail which closely follows the flowing water.
This is when things started to get more interesting! This was the first waterfall we encountered on the descent to Skogar, and it was just the first of many.
At first the waterfalls appeared slowly… But over time they started appearing faster and faster, until it seemed like we were seeing a new fall every few steps!
Another waterfall with Eric and Justin cruising through the incredible greenery.
As we got closer and closer to Skogar and viewed waterfall after waterfall the valley also got deeper and deeper. Here you can see Eric and John in the distance with the North Atlantic Ocean behind them.
More ocean, and more people… As we got closer to Skogar the number of people on the trail started to increase.
Waterfall… Or Foss in Icelandic. My wife would say that Iceland is a multi-foss-ited landscape!
Justin waiting in line to use a short ladder up and over a fence on the trail. This intersection is right at the top of Skogafoss, the huge iconic waterfall located in Skogar.
Success! These guys were psyched to be done hiking. I think everyone’s feet were pretty sore at this point and it was nice to take a load off. Eventually we gathered our stuff, headed over to a nearby restaurant, grabbed a burger, and waiting for the bus.
Skogafoss is super impressive, but so are the crowds.
John upping his #selfie game by crawling out on a rock to get the perfect shot of himself with Skogafoss in the background 😉