Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Skaftafellsheiđi Loop Trail: Skaftafell – Part Two (8/21/12)

Aharon, me and Brian at the edge of the World

Distance: 16km (10 miles)
Location: Skaftafell National Park, Southeast Iceland
Difficulty: Medium
Sights:  Glaciers, Fosses, Mountains

Upon return from the short hike walk to the tongue of Skaftafellsjökull, we got some coffee, snacks and water.  We headed out on what was a 16k hike that none of us were prepared for as one of the greatest trips we’ve ever taken.

The trip started with a rather easy hike up stair built trails past two waterfalls. One of these was Sarah’s goal of the entire trip – Svartifoss.  (She’s got a thing for basalt.)  The trail wove through bushes that were ALMOST tree-like.

Sarah @ Svarifoss

Once we crossed out of the “tree-line” there was a long stretch on a rocky plain that led into the direction of green lichen and moss covered mountains.  The rocky plain looked like the set of Red Sonja.  (I was ready to fight Bridgette Neilson.)  As we walked across the plain, we realized that everyone else we had seen since leaving the camp was NOT going further.

As we approached the mountains, The scenery changed from Red Sonja to Lord of the Rings.  I stated that we were going over the gap between the mountains and down into the valley in front. 

Andy summed up my statement later: “Usually when I go hiking somebody misreads the contour lines.”  That “somebody” was ME this time. 

Mountains ahead that we would climb towards

Hiking map

Instead of going down into the valley in front, we climbed almost straight up to the Skorabrýr ridge.  Atop the ridge we got amazing views of the Skaftafelljöll as its peaks climbed above the clouds.  And further along we got great views of the main glacier climbing playing “peak”-a-boo as it crept between the peaks.

Andy at the edge

The end of the Glacier

The trail then took us along the side of the higher Kristinartindar (1126 meters).  A more difficult trail spurred off of ours to summit “Christina’s peak.”  Brian decided to take it while the others of us took the “easier” trial that continued along the side and for the next half hour across the Southern face of the peak.

The trail brought us to a huge cliff that overlooked Skaftafellsjökull.  Here we saw our first other person in a couple of hours.  The Italian we met was kind enough to take our picture at the point.

Andy, me, Sarah and Aharon

The spot was also where the difficult trail Brian took rejoined our easier trail we were on.

Me: “Here comes Brian”
Italian guy: “But he is running?”
Sarah: “Yep, that’s Brian”

Brian rejoined us and gave the Italian guy a little recon on the difficult trail:  “It’s fine except one point where you have to hug the cliff.  But, it was probably the most fun thing I have ever done in my life.” 

As we were now at the point where it was just an hour hike back to the campground, I gave the Italian guy our map and sent him up into the mountains.  We hiked along the edge back down. 

We knew we were getting close as the trail went from zero people to passing people every 2 or 3 minutes.  The end took us down the easier loop trail into the campground.

After 4 hours hiking over waterfalls, across slate cliffs, over a cliff he had to hug onto and a foot wide ridge to the top of Kristinartindar, it was on this easy trail with railings and stairs that Brian slipped and almost went down a cliff…

When we got to the Camp the others were packing and we followed suit – headed for Thakgil.


  1. Wow! I have always wanted to make a trip to Iceland. It looks like an incredible experience.

    1. Becky -

      you would not believe the beauty. These pictures actually do not do it justice!