Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hike: Hvanngil --> Langisjór, 17.5 km

Photos: (1) Morning at Hvanngil; (2) Rain; (3) Southern tip of Langisjór (sign: “no fishing”); (4) Looking over the lake in the fog

I make tea at 6:45 but don’t feel like peeking outside yet. The wind has stopped at least. First I take assessment of my body. My back feels fine but my shins are hurting pretty badly. That’s from going downhill way too fast yesterday (this shin pain will plague me for several days). I rub some soothing gel on them, which is only a psychological help. I’ve tried so many of these pain gels through all my sporting aches and have never found one that truly eases the pain. At least I don’s seem to have any blisters yet.

Next I take assessment of my clothes. Many have dried overnight in my sleeping bag. I had put them inside the silk liner to avoid getting my down sleeping bag wet. The synthetic clothes are completely dry, but not the wool top I was wearing. At least wool will still keep me warm when it’s wet, as opposed to synthetics. Now I at least have a dry base layer to wear today, but my boots are still soggy and my rain jacket and pants are still wet too.

I need to get water from the stream for breakfast, so I finally wager a look outside. The weather is mild, even warm, and it’s drizzling a bit. The sun is trying to poke through the clouds, but it won’t succeed all day, and the rain will eventually win the struggle again. But for now I can at least pack up comfortably, and I’m motivated and in good spirits. I set off at around 9:30 am, optimistically not wearing my rain pants, but I change back into them after just less than half an hour. The road is black again, bleak, but I can sense fuzzy green mountains at times when the rain lifts briefly. I pass a few signs along the way, pointing to Uxatindar, Hellnafjall, Grænifjallagarður and finally Breiðbakur. I pause for a few minutes to take a good look at the Breiðbakur route, which is the track I need to take to meet Sigrid, who is hiking alone from the other direction. We had agreed to meet at a certain GPS point on the upper Breiðbakur route sometime this afternoon or evening, hoping to pick a spot with a nice view over Langisjór from above. But it’s early in the day, and I’d like to take a short lunch break and have a look at the southern tip of Langisjór first. After all, seeing Langisjór is the scheduled highlight of this trek and I’d like to make the most of it, rain or shine.

A few minutes later, I can see the lake. I guess I expected to at least see a car here, considering all the pictures available of it on the internet, but there is no one; I’m alone, as I have been all along. I set down my pack and start taking pictures when I hear a whistle in the distance. A lone figure with a backpack, whistling and waving – Sigrid! How strange to be at such a breathtakingly beautiful, remote place after having been alone through storm and rain, physical pain, and emotional ups and downs – and then meet a person who has just been through the exact same thing. Up until this moment, Sigrid and I have been mere virtual friends, communicating on the internet or by telephone, but we had never met in person. I think meeting for the first time in a situation like this (and sharing memorable experiences the next two days) will create a bond that is sure to run deep. Luckily the rain takes a short break and we are able to have a bite to eat and chat about the last few days. But there’s just so much to say and it’s getting cold and wet again, so we decide to hike up the northwestern shore of the lake until we find a nice spot to camp. A bit later, we realize the sun is shining! What a warm welcome to this special place. We stop for a longer break, for food and water, and to dry out some of our things (a totally pointless task since it would start raining hard again shortly and not let up until the next day). But soon the clouds roll back in and we decide to get going again. The clouds soon burst and it rains a steady downpour. The sky is thick with clouds and it doesn’t look like it will let up soon. In fact, it rains even harder and harder, but we’re getting tired and need to find a campsite. We reject a couple that might have been fine, but thinking it would stop raining, we keep pursuing the perfect spot.

Exhaustion and cold eventually make us stop at the next nice spot, about 8 km upshore from the southern tip. We wait what seems like an eternity for the rain to let up at least a little, but the skies have no mercy. I’m soaked and freezing and just have to put up my tent and get warm, so I go about the task as quickly as possible. The work at least gets my blood flowing again and keeps me warm, but when my tent is standing, there’s a large puddle on the inside. I do my best to mop it up before spreading out my sleeping bag and air mattress. Sigrid has better luck with her tent in the rain and can crawl into a dry little home. We’ve made sure our tent flaps face each other so we can chat even when we’re inside. And I have an amazing view of the lake and mountains while lying in my sleeping bag.

It rains on an off all evening. During the short dry spells, we dash outside to fetch water, wash clothes or dishes or snap a picture. Sigrid bathes in the lake and I admire her brave spirit to endure that freezing water. Mostly we sit in our respective tents and chat while doing some chore or another. Once Sigrid moans from out of her tent and when I ask what’s up she says: “Oh nothing in particular, it’s just nice to have someone around to listen”. I entirely agree, and content with the day, our beautiful camping spot and this amazing lake, I drift into a pleasant sleep.