For this year’s Big Walk, we’ve decided to go to Iceland. We’re going to take a wander along the Landmannalaugar To Thorsmork trail (Thorsmork is actually spelt Þórsmörk – but I’m going with the Anglicised spelling that seems to be quite commonly used). We’re also going to push past Thorsmork to Skógar on the coast to extend the trip by a couple of easy days, camping high, between two huge glaciers. Four others are joining us this time, two of them also joined us on the Haute Route last summer.
It’s reckoned to be one of the best trails in the world for spectacular scenery. I came across a site describing a trip there a couple of years ago (Edit 25/04/2009: The site is gone but the Wayback Machine has it). By the time I’d read it I knew it was on the list of Big Walks.
The route is quite small with little overall height gain. But the constant up and down of the trail apparently means that’s rather deceptive. Besides, we’re in no rush. We want to spend time on the journey itself and enjoying camping out in a wild landscape wherever nature reserve regulations allow (meaning that we’ll be staying in the Landmannalaugar and Hrafntinnusker huts).
We’ve not been able to get very much information on the trail so far. The best we’ve found is the Lonely Planet Iceland guide. In fact when we originally planned it we thought there was only a hut at each end. So we’re taking tents despite the fact that it is possible to stay in huts all along the main route (albeit a couple are rather small). It’s just something we wanted to do, plus there’s no reliable hut between Thorsmork and Skógar. Though pitching on the hard volcanic landscape looks to be a problem that’s going to take a little working out.
You’re advised to book in to the huts well in advance since it’s such a popular route. It’s easy to do via phone and email since the huts are all run by the Icelandic Touring Association.
But although I’ve done a reasonable amount of wild camping, I’ve never travelled in Iceland before. There sounds to be a lot of broken ground, traversed by many watercourses, some quite large, and one large enough that we may need to wait for a vehicle to hitch across in.
It’s going to be very interesting getting the weight of the packs down as low as we feel comfortable with. We’ll be splitting the pack weight the usual way; 3:2. Three fifths to me and two fifths to LB, our relative body weights.
Because there’s no food available from most of the huts and also because LB and I have a couple of dietary foibles we’ll be carrying a lot of food (LB is allergic to potatoes and I’ve recently worked out that it’s tomatoes, peppers and chillies that have been affecting my sinuses for the last few years. I’m at once very happy, and very, very sad about that). We also need to look into what we can and can’t bring into the country.
We’re initially going to be doing a side trip to Geysir, the place that all geysers are named after. There’s a camp site there that’s quite reasonably priced. Especially when you realise the price even includes use of the hot-tubs and natural geothermal pools!
As usual, we already have next year’s Big Walk destination picked out. For 2009 we are hoping to find enough time to do the GR5 from Lake Geneva to Nice. It’s all Paddy Dillon and Bob Cartwright’s fault. Around five weeks of walking sounds like our kind of honeymoon. The kind where you don’t really spend any of the money on a wedding.