Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Iceland 2009: Take One - The Hike / ca. 200 km

(1) The Route 2009; (2) The participants

Off again to Iceland tomorrow for the summer. The plan is to hike for 2 weeks, and then get a rental car (4x4) and explore the West Fjords. I often have friends ask me to “take” them to Iceland, so this year I’ll have two traveling companions – Henning, who will hike with me for the first part of the trip, and Ernesto, who will chauffeur me through the fjords in the luxury of a car.

The hike involved quite a bit of planning again, of course, which I did during the winter. Since Henning is new to Iceland, and to hiking, I was free to plan as I usually do, which I was grateful for. The route was quickly clear. I wanted to finally do the route I had planned in 2007, but had to quit because of an infection in my toe. This was the perfect route this time since it would offer a few opportunities at the start to quit and catch the bus if something went wrong, in addition to a great variety of landscapes and scenery. We would start in Landmannalaugar, hike along the jeep track F208 to the hut Hólaskjól where we could pick up supplies, then cut in west along the Strútstigur route via Álftavötn, leading to the rewarding hotpot Strútslaug and past the hut at Strútur, then cut across the lower foothills of Mælifellssandur to Hvanngil, and finish on the Laugavegur route, passing Álftavatn, Hrafntinnusker and ending up in Landmannalaugar again. Total length of the route is 130 km (81 miles) and we plan to hike it in 8 days. Afterwards, we will either hike Kjalvegur (via Strútur) or a slightly parallel route passing through Karlsdráttur, depending on how much time we have left. That would be roughly another 60 km (37 miles).

In planning, I meticulously compared as many maps as I could get a hold of and read reports of others who have hiked these areas. Using the maps, I pre-recorded tracks in the GPS, especially the tracks starting from Hólaskjól that no longer went alongside a road. In addition, I added a few waypoints based on the travel reports I read. Now that it’s over, have to say that this preparation was fantastic and the tracks I pre-programmed, as well as the maps I used, were highly accurate. In sticky situations, it was nice to be able to rely on the pre-programmed tracks. I will certainly use this method again.