Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Laugavegurinn, Iceland

Fimmvörðuháls Pass, Iceland

Hiker: Jennifer Pharr Davis, long-distance hiker and author

Executive summary by darmansjah

the area between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull in southern Iceland. The route between Skógar and Thórsmörk goes through this pass and is one of the most popular walking routes in Iceland, despite being 22 km long and involving 1,000 m of climbing. At Fimmvörðuháls, there is a comfortable, modern mountain hut owned by Útivist, one of the Icelandic hiking associations. Also nearby is an older, less well-equipped hut called Baldvinsskáli. The route from Skógar is particularly beautiful, as numerous waterfalls are passed along the way. The route is only accessible between mid-June and late-August. On the night of 16 May 1970, three travellers died in the mountain pass in a snowstorm.

It is also possible to combine the Fimmvörðuháls route with the Laugavegur trek between Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk to make a trip of 4–6 days in length. 

I am trying not to daydream too much about un-hiked trails with a six-month-old at home. But the one trail I have done that I put at the top of my list is Laugavegurinn in Iceland. This 50-mile trail is stunning in every respect and packs in more variety in 50 miles than most trails offer in 500. By starting at Skógar and hiking north, you pass 20 cascading waterfalls in the first seven miles. After reaching a barren mountain pass between two glaciers—one of which sits on top of the notorious Eyjafjallajökull volcano that stopped flights between the U.S. and Europe in 2010—you will descend into the valley of Thórsmörk. Translated as "the woods of Thor," this breathtaking valley was visited by J.R.R. Tolkien before he penned The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The landscape is believed to have inspired many of Tolkien's descriptions of Middle Earth. —Jennifer Pharr Davis

Length: 34 miles (50 miles with Skógar extension)

The Details: This four-day hike runs between the Landmannalaugar hut in the north and Thórsmörk park in the south, with an option to start or end at the stunning 200-foot-high Skógafoss waterfall (this 15-mile add-on is well worth it).

Few hikes offer the pure wilderness experience of Laugavegurinn, which wanders through otherworldly volcanic landscapes, paired with stays at comfy huts each night. In between, there are steaming fumaroles, expanses of lichen-covered volcanic rocks, and stunning views of copper-colored rhyolite peaks.

Be sure to book bunks ahead of time though, because they fill up fast, though you can still tent camp outside the huts. Before you head to the trail, whether from Reykjavik or other locations, pay close attention to the bus schedule as the buses only run once or twice a day to/from Skógar and Landmannalaugar.

When to Go: Summer. The hut system opens in late June and closes in early September.

About Pharr Davis: Asheville, North Carolina-based Jennifer Pharr Davis covers a lot of ground in a hurry. The long-distance hiking champ walked all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, setting a record for the fastest supported time for anyone to ever complete the famed trail. A 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, she also holds speed records on Vermont’s Long Trail and Australia’s Bibbulmun Track. Pharr Davis has thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Colorado Trail, Corsica’s GR20, and Scotland’s West Highland Way, among others. She is the author of the hiking memoirs Becoming Odyssa (Beaufort Books, 2011) and Called Again (Beaufort Books, 2013), which tells the story of her record-setting AT hike. She has slowed down just a bit this year to look after her new baby girl.

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