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Thread: Iceland

  1. #1
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Between last summer and this summer I've spent 150 days exploring Iceland... in all kinds of weather... all kinds of places... from sea level to the highest mountain... along several marked and unmarked backpacking trails... easy walks... hard walks... mountain climbs... etc.

    So... if anyone is thinking of going there and wants to get the low-down, just ask, as I've probably been there and done it at this stage, and I have plenty of pointers for off-beat stuff.

  2. #2
    Initiate Robin's Avatar
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    You and Julia Bradbury

  3. #3
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Someone pointed me to her trek (truck ride) on iPlayer. Looks like she plumped for the same-old-same-old, in lousy weather, when she could have gone and done some good stuff!

  4. #4
    Mini Goon
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    Did you do the Laugavegurinn? Best hike I have ever done!

  5. #5
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Yes... but I had to wait for them to open the road to Landmannalaugar first. They had the worst spring since 1947, so all the highland roads were still blocked with snow long after they should have been open. Normally, the first bus goes out there on June 15th, but this year they didn't get a bus up the road until 22nd June, and the Sprengisandur road didn't open until the middle of July!

    The Laugavegur is a great hike, but I certainly wouldn't want to walk it when it was busy. As the season started so late this year, there were loads of cancellations in the huts, and in any case most of the huts had either no water, no showers, no heating... no nothing. Mind you, that didn't stop three Americans digging a snow platform for their tents at over 1000m. So... last year I was on the last bus to Landmannalaugar, and this year I was on the first bus... so for me it's never had more than 10-12 people per day on the trail.

    Anyhow, some of the other trails I walked were just as memorable as the Laugavegur, but it's very hard to compare and contrast trails when they're all so different.

  6. #6
    Mini Goon
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    well we did it at the start of August, which must have been peak time, but we never saw people except at the rivers crossings and when we set up camp. Pretty glad I wasnt in a hut to be honest, they were pretty jam packed! Hraftnusker was brutal when we were there though. Some people had broken tents in the morning.

  7. #7
    Initiate Robin's Avatar
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    Even the "same old, same old" looked brilliant!

  8. #8
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Don't get me wrong... it IS brilliant... but there's just so much more available around the country, and rather than picking a place and ending up there in lousy weather, it's actually far better to do what the Icelanders do... and chase the good weather round the country!

  9. #9
    Initiate Robin's Avatar
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    I presume you are publishing a guide. Look forward to it.

  10. #10
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    As ever... give the wheels of the publication process about a year to grind out the finished product... and I'll offer a copy on here for free. My biggest problem, after spending 150 days exploring the country, is not what to include, but what I must regrettably leave out!

  11. #11
    Mini Goon
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    Here's a question then. What are the most spectacular views that you witnessed? I camp and hike for photography which I do semi professionally. I plan to repeat the laugavegurinn next year but is there something else I should be doing?

  12. #12
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Depends entirely on the weather Alexander! That's why you never meet many Icelanders wandering around in the rain and mist. They hang on every word of the weather forecast, then make a dash for the sunny bits, because they really do enjoy good summer weather.

    I walked the Laugarvegur last September in truly lousy weather, and to be quite honest, I really couldn't recommend it to anyone in those conditions. My time was squeezed at the very end of last year's explorations, so I didn't have any time to wait for good weather. This year, I decided that I would walk the route just as soon as I got a decent forecast, and it was absolutely stunning. The fact that the snow was lying so late on the mountains made the higher parts seem like it was winter, but the sunshine, and the fact that it never got dark at nights in June, made it quite plain that it was summer.

    One thing I was unable to do last year was climb the highest mountain - Hvannadalshnukur. A massive crevasse opened up during the summer and got so big that no-one could find a way around it for ordinary walkers, so the number of people who reached the summit was tiny. After a good dump of snow filled it up in the winter, it was possible to climb it this summer. I picked the perfect day, and one of the guides on the mountain said that after climbing it 30 times, he'd only seen it so good on 5 occasions. So... truly memorable, with astounding scenery, but only because the weather was so good.

    Quite honestly, you could go almost anywhere in Iceland and get stunning pictures so long as the weather was good. On the other hand, you could go to all the well-known scenic waterfalls in lousy weather and get lots of lousy pictures!

  13. #13
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Free food... free fuel... free stoves... free sleeping bags... even free tents...

    I had to admit I was surprised at the amount of stuff people left behind at the Reykjavik City Campsite (behind the Youth Hostel). There are specific places available for you to 'dump' stuff you don't need, where it is in plain view of needier travellers. Not so sure all those gas canisters should have been stacked in the full glare of the sun, but there you go!

    So, before you make an expensive shopping trip, and it can cost as much as £10 for a gas canister or a litre of meths, be sure to check out the 'free' stuff. If you ever trash your tent in Iceland, chances are that you'd retreat to Reykjavik in search of a replacement anyway, so you might as well check if anyone has left one behind at the campsite.

  14. #14
    Mini Goon
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    We are looking to do theLandmannalaugar trail in Iceland next year

    We are looking to go Iceland next year in June/July for two weeks for our honeymoon. Really fancied doing the walk (after researching things to do in Iceland then coming across the Julia Bradbury BBC programme) in the first week, then hiring a car for the second to see more of the Island.

    Would be looking to do the walk without a guide as it seems well signed and marked on the ground and using the mountain huts.

    I have found some information but it most seems to be based around going through a company/guide, there does seem to be a daily bus service from Reykjavik to the start but not sure about the finish?

    Would like some advice from anybody who has done it, any info or links to any info, experiences etc would be hugely appreciated.

    Hopefully thinking we will be able to leave our not walking gear for the second week either at a hotel (we will be staying in Reykjavik before catching the bus to the start) or at Left Luggage etc.

    Thanks in advance for any comments

  15. #15
    ‹bermensch Stephen's Avatar
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    Hi Paddy,

    I am moving to the US in the New Year so will take the opportunity to visit Iceland on the dog leg of my some of trips home to Ireland, you never know we might even get an OM meet of the gound their

    Cheers for the offer of the information and advice,

    Stephen

  16. #16
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Ads... there are lots of options to consider...

    The Laugarvegur is generally walked as a four-day trek from Landmannalaugar to √?√≥rsm√∂rk, although the speed record is a mere 4 hours 20 minutes for the whole thing! In recent years it's become common to add a couple more days by walking the Sk√≥gar Trail from √?√≥rsm√∂rk to Sk√≥gar. Less well-known is a recently-marked three-day trail allowing you to walk from Rj√ļpnavellir to Landmannalaugar, so that the whole thing can now be covered as a nine-day trek.

    In the summer, generally from mid-June to early September, Reykjav√*k Excursions buses operate a daily service to Landmannalaugar (with the option of getting off early at Rj√ļpnavellir), as well as daily buses from √?√≥rsm√∂rk back to Reykjav√*k. The Trex bus company also does this, slightly cheaper, but only through July and August. If you continue to Sk√≥gar, then Sterna buses run daily along the south coast between Reykjav√*k and H√∂fn, both ways. This summer, the road to Landmannalaugar didn't open until 22nd June, and the highest parts of the trail were completely buried in snow. This year, for the first time, there was a bus running on alternate days that linked the Laugarvegur huts at Alftavatn, Hvanngil and Emstrur (and also the youth hostel at Flj√≥tsdalur) in a circuit from Reykjav√*k, but there's no guarantee the service will operate next summer. I gather it wasn't particularly well-used.

    If you're capable of using a map and compass, following waymark posts and a reasonably well-trodden trail, then you can walk the Laugarvegur and Skógar Trail without a guide, but if you want someone to transfer all your stuff from hut to hut, then it's best to sign up with a company that's offering a guided trek with this option. If you want to stay in the huts during July and August, then book them NOW, because they do get filled to capacity in the peak season. If you want to camp, then there's no need to book. Bear in mind that if you book and are tied to set dates, then you'll have to take the weather as it comes, and it can get really nasty. If you don't book, but camp, then you can choose to walk in a spell of good weather if you give yourself enough days to be flexible while you're in Iceland. Honestly... walking ANY Icelandic trail in lousy weather is fairly pointless... it's all about views and stunning scenery.

    When you're through with the trek and want to hire a car, you'll find it's pretty expensive. The usual trick is to find another couple to share costs with. If you get the cheapest possible deal, the car won't be allowed on any dirt roads, which will basically limit you to the ring road around Iceland, and a few roads branching off it. If you damage the car on a dirt road, or crossing a river, you have to pay for it. You'll be able to see some nice waterfalls and do some short strolls, but lots of exciting walks will be out of bounds to you while you're motoring.

    I met THREE honeymoon couples on the Laugarvegur this summer... so don't imagine you'll be the only ones!

  17. #17
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Stephen... you'd be amazed at the amount of walking you could do on foot from the airport. I went to Iceland for ten days in May this year and walked out of the the airport to Keflav√*k, then crossed rugged lava fields to Grindav√*k, climbed into what looked like incredibly rugged mountains that rarely exceeded 300m, visited hot springs and huge bubbling mudpots, and followed massive cairns that marched through incredibly wild places, marking centuries-old trails. If you take the stop-over options on your flight, there's no need to waste precious days travelling to Reykjav√*k and out the other side, as there's plenty of interest on the doorstep of the airport.

  18. #18
    ‹bermensch Stephen's Avatar
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    Hi Paddy,

    Thats sounds great, one cannot beat a bit local knowledge.

    I will eagerly await you book

    I am looking forward to moving to the US but unfortunatley its to Michigan which full of bloody forestry as is all the hills in the Eastern part of the country up to 1800m

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  19. #19
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    You just have to alter your mindset Stephen... in those parts of the USA, it's all about 'communing with wilderness', rather than 'going for a walk with nice views'.

  20. #20
    ‹bermensch Stephen's Avatar
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    I hear you Paddy,

    Hiking in Ireland and the Uk has me spoilt

    I will travel to the Rockies and and the high East coast Mountains also, i am lucky I retian my Belgian holidays so I will have loads of oppurtunity to travel. I am really looking forward to Winter their.

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