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Trip Report – The Laugevegar Trek

By: Graham Turner & Astrid Stevenson

Source: Australis (Australia Section) Newsletter (Nov 2017)

PRE – TREK

Day 1 – Fly in: Keflavik airport.  Uber/Taxi/Bus – Accommodation @ Rejkavik (City Centre) or nearby

Day 2 – Uber/Taxi/Bus to ‘’Harpa or Reyjkavik campsite’ for Bus transport (Sterna) to Landmannelauger

TREK OVERVIEW

The trek begins at Landmannelauger & ends in Thorsmork (or Porsmork…it’s the same place!). The entire route crosses incredible volcanic terrain that is a photographer’s paradise. The landscape is truly unique & this trek should be on every serious hiker’s bucket list!

TOTAL DURATION: 4 days, 4 nights

For an even more amazing trek, add another 2 days & traverse the Fimmvorduhals Pass, with a night at altitude between 2 of icelands volcanic glaciers. You can exit at Thorsmork or Skogar (if doing Fimmvorduhals Pass option) via bus to Reyjkavik.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: Fimmvorduhals Pass – 2 days

TOTAL – 6 days, 6 nights.

 

STAGES

  1. LANDMANNELAUGER – HRAFFTINUSKER 12km
  2. HRAFFTINUSKER – ALFTAVATEN 12km
  3. ALFTAVATEN – EMSTRUR 16km
  4. EMSTRUR – THORSMORK 15km

Optional Addition

  1. THORSMORK – FIMMVORDUHALS 11km
  2. FIMMVORDUHALS – SKOGAR 11km

 

AUTHORS HINT: Stay an extra night at Thorsmork (Langid alur Hut), walk 2kms to Thorsmork & indulge in a buffet meal at the Volcano Hut Restaurant.

 

Tent or Hut?

HUTS: are not cheap (approx. AU$ p/p per night), but the advantages are you get a fuss free, heated, ‘roof over your head’. If the weather turns bad, the extra dollars are well worth it!

HINT: Book well in advance to secure huts along the way, otherw ise you WILL miss out!

TENTS: provide better ventilation & privacy, as well as being much cheaper.

AUTHORS HINT: Our trip was spontaneous, so we booked huts but missed out on one, therefore, we had to carry a tent the entire trek. If staying in huts – choose a bed close to a window or door for oxygen.

If tenting it – ENSURE your tent is STRONG with no leaks. It can get very windy & wet . Have a wet weather plan & TEST IT!

 

Bookings

Hut bookings – email: fi@fi.is

Tent bookings – pay the hut warden on arrival

AUTHORS HINT (at the time of writing this article) : The booking process is not quick, requiring a ‘back & forth’ exchange of emails & international time differences to juggle. It’s not immediate. Allow a few days to complete the process.

 

When to go

Late July to September. (weather dependent)

 

General statistics

Difficulty Moderate (assuming good weather)

Distance 54km

Ascent +700m

Descent – 1060m

Duration 4 days

Lowest Point 240m

Highest Point 1100m

(NB: these stats do not include the Fimmvorduhals Pass option)

 

Our Story

When we were hiking the notorious Dusky Trail in NZ earlier this year, after an ‘unfortunate twist of fate’, we decided to play a game one evening at Lake Roe Hut to ‘lighten the mood’. The winner named their choice of prize pre-game… whoever got to the score of 30 points or over won that prize.

Grahams choice: 3 course meal cooked by me

Astrids choice: an all expenses paid trip to Vanuatu

Outcome of game: 31 points each. Dead Heat. We were both winners! My mind was dreaming up a tropical escape, suntan here we come!

Two weeks later, Graham had a ‘proposition’ for me… how about a trip to Iceland instead? Iceland did sound far more exciting, so of course the answer was YES! It had been on Graham’s bucket list, the rest was planning, logistics, budget, & time off work. Get researching!

We have a huge whiteboard that is our brainstorming space, which evolves into our itinerary & other details. It’s a fantastic tool we both love to use.

Planning is time consuming, but key to a great trip. Tourist Information in any country is a definite ‘go to’ for assistance & weblinks. Blogs are also very helpful. Be sure to have options that include wet weather, & don’t forget rest days or flexy time! They are essential!

 

The Laugevegar Hike

Getting there: If you want a bus ride to rattle your back teeth and test out your bum cheeks then put your hand up for this one! The road to Landmannelauger is not for your Grandma or your Princess friend! Hang on to your hats I say, cos there’s some serious road bumps & creek crossings that the 4WD fans out there would drool over. Not so great if you bump your head on the bus roof! (HINT: pick the aisle seat!) You will be transported to a destination forged by “Fire & Ice” that is your world of pleasure & pain for the duration of your hike.

Let’s start with pleasure (always a favourite!). There’s a natural Hot Spring at Landmannelauger, it’s a ‘must do’ before you go. Sit & soak in the mineral rich waters, taking the time to just absorb the environment. An hour of this will set you up for a great start! We met fellow hikers in that pool & felt totally luxuriated – total cost $0!

Then down to business (the pain bit). We put on ‘The Beasts’ (backpacks) & started the days trudging! Our first & second days were filled with snapshots of a palate of emerald greens, chocolate browns, volcanics greys, & glacial whites… a vast landscape forged by the power of nature, unique to Iceland. The snow patterns reminded me of an Ocelots coat.

As we walked, in front of us were windows of blue skies, behind us loomed rain filled low cloud. The terrain itself was not too difficult, lots of ups & downs (as usual), with a well worn track. HOWEVER…if you are travelling with rain & wind, you are quite exposed. There are zero trees on the first 3 days.

At altitude the cloud hovered, at times threatening rain, or enshrouding us in mist … then lifting to reveal the landscape beyond. We were very lucky – the weather was good for 6 days. There are many stories or horizontal rain & gale force winds … take the weather seriously & pack for bad conditions. Hypothermia is a very real risk. Be thorough with your research!

Blissfully spared from that, we were more focused on who had most interesting food (by crikey we sure ate a lot), & snapshot moments (face plants, scenery, funny bits).

It did amaze me to think we were willingly walking between active glacial volcanos (Katyla was certainly active at the time)!

We had visited The Lava Centre (recommended) pre-hike & which had given us a very interesting education on Icelands’ Volcanos & associated earthquakes. There was very real evidence surrounding us – sulphur gas vapourising, as well as an earth hole the size of a dinner plate with rapid boil water/steam pumping out right in front of our feet! At times the ground felt hollow under the earth crust we were walking on. You can only imagine what lies beneath!

Hrafftinusker was our tent night. We had a broken pole which needed some innovative repairing, & Grahams tent mattress had been sent to a wrong location. Lucky for him, the hut warden happened to have a spare. Electric tape, cable ties, & some good fortune saved the day. Volcanic rock used for the walls that protect you from the wind can be sharp so take care when navigating your tent site.

Alfatavaten hut & camping overlooks a big lake. You are now at a lower altitude on a very open plain. To our surprise (& delight) there was a (very) small cabin restaurant there complete with wine, beer & credit card facilities. Expensive but what a bonus. Comfortable, good sized hut.

Emstrur hut was a welcome sight after a day of endurance. A long stretch of flat ‘nothingness’ felt like it went forever, but was unique in its own way. Beautiful clumps of white flowers sat atop mounds of volcanic dirt & were quite interesting to photograph. Save your favourite treats for this stretch! Chocolate fixes everything. Definitely take the sidewalk to the canyon here. It’s worth the effort!

Thorsmork has 3 huts. Ours was Langidalur & we really recommend staying here. It’s a perfect launchpad if you’re going over the Fimmvorduhals Pass to Skogar & was our favourite. The most amusing part of the days walk to get here was the river crossing. Graham had his boots in one hand and hiking poles in the other. The river flow was fairly strong, causing Graham to ALMOST face plant, slipping & tripping the last couple of metres in a very ungracious manner.  Obviously unhurt, I got a good laugh out of it… if there’s no injury you’re fair game for a heckling! If only I had filmed it!

Baldvinsskali/Fimmvorduhals are the huts on The Pass. Some people do this entire section in a day & it’s good to consider that option. However, it would be a big day & if you don’t want to rush it, stay the night on The Pass, weather permitting. Our preference was Baldvinskali Hut as it was fresher & a bit roomier. (NB: internet browsing describes this hut as an emergency shelter. It’s a modern, fully functional accommodation).

Our exit day hike to Skogar was a day of waterfalls & cascades finishing with the incredible Skogafoss. There were numerous waterfalls & cascades all the way down providing more photo opportunities. There’s a restaurant & campsite here as well as flocks of tourist buses. Leave early enough to ensure time to catch your bus out if you’ve booked a ticket back to Reyjkavic.

Useful Weblinks

Tourism Iceland

Other Things to see: https://guidetoiceland.is/

Hut Bookings: https://www.fi.is

Track description: https://www.f i.is/en/hiking-trails/laugavegur

Hikers Buspass: http://sternatravel.com/tour/hikers-bus-passport/

Gear List: http://andrewskurka.com/adventures/iceland-traverse/gear-list/

Flight in: http://wowair.com

Posted: 22/03/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland