Winter is here, but summer is approaching. Combining reality with Game of Thrones is what I am gonna do for the next 6 weeks. I mean, isn’t this what we are all going to do? And what other country is more inspiring if not Iceland? I used to live in that stunning country and *spoiler alert* I actually lived in Winterfell for few months. *wink* *wink*
Summer is the best season in Iceland, especially for all the hikers living or thinking to visit the country this year. And since planning should be something they all do before arriving, I am long overdue with the story of one of the best but the most challenging treks I ever tried, Laugavegur Trail. Before moving to Iceland I have never hiked by myself. Or at least not real hikes, more like 20 minutes walks in a harmless forest. Like everyone else, I’ve started with easy hikes. Solo hitchhiking and hiking became soon enough my way of exploring the country I was deeply falling for. So I had to move to Iceland to learn that I am way stronger than I thought. And the challenges in front of me were just there to understand and accept what my limits are.
I was never planning on solo-hiking in the highland of the country, but circumstances made it that way. July 2017 was when I trekked Laugavegur trail all alone in 4 crazy-scarry-life-threatening-stunning days. Even though my challenge started in May of the same year (I will get back to that in a future video), I didn’t know what to expect. I prepared as well as I could, but looking back at that, I can honestly say I didn’t do a very good job. Back then I was still trying to vlog for a bit so I have short videos of the four days of hiking that you can check out on the video tab of my blog. If you are interested in more insights of this trek, I highly suggest to check out the videos, since as you can imagine I do not remember it well enough to write about it in details. The vast majority of the people walk this trail from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork but I have done it the other way around, which some say it is more difficult. I used a trail booklet the whole time but it was written for the regular itinerary, you can easily imagine this added to my confusion during the trek. And I didn’t know how the elevation would be, and as it turns out, for the most part, I was constantly gaining in altitude.
Day 1 | Thorsmork and the surroundings | 5 km
I arrived at the Langidalur Hut around 8 pm and my plan was to go as further as I could, then camp in the wild and get ready for a very long walk the following day. I had to cross a river, you will see in the video how excited I got after, thinking it is the only one. I found a sweet place surrounded by small trees and around midnight, after I pitched my tent, ate and got ready for the next day, I fell asleep.
Day 2 | Thorsmork – Hvangil Huts | 23 km
I remember when I woke up the following day and got surprised as to how the sky was clear and the sun was shining, like a legit summer day. I started the day rather late, I think around 8 am, and that actually proved to be one of the biggest mistakes. I knew there is a long day ahead but my spirits were still very high up. At that time my plans were still to do this whole trek in just 3 days. But they got crushed pretty bad later in the day.
I stopped at Emstrur-Botnar Hut just for lunch, so around 20 minutes but I had to continue. There were way too many people around so I didn’t snap any pictures of the actual hut.
Around 5pm I was already tired, the wind was strong and the sun was burning my face. I thought I will stop, camp and try to sleep a few hours and continue my trip very early in the morning. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong I tried for one hour to pitch my tent and I just couldn’t. So I had to pack it back and keep on going. I was mad at myself because I lost time, mostly because I was exhausted and I was in the most mundane part of the trail, also I was approaching the most dangerous river, the powerful Nyrdri-Emstrua. I knew the river crossings were best done in the morning, because of the low water levels, and so I was considering once again to stop and camp, this time by the river. I was sure that if I put my backpack down I won’t be able to lift it again or at least with no help. And like always, there were no more people around since it was getting really late.
Exactly like in the movies, the moment when I wanted to put my backpack down, three French guys showed up and, after asking them for help, they agreed for all of us to cross the river together. I remember how scared I was, one of the guys was holding my hand and keep telling me it is going to be alright. Not only that the river was strong and the water was all the way to my butt, but it was also extremely cold. It took me so long to get back on my feet and keep going. I’ve reached Hvanngil Huts around 10 pm, pitched my tent and went straight to sleep. I was way too tired to think about snapping pictures, even though the sky was quite clear.
Day 3 | Hvangil Huts – Hrafntinnusker | 16 km
Once again I started the day late. It was almost 9 am when I left and the nice weather was all gone. I was surrounded by fog, but that changed quite fast. Little I knew, the weather was to become my biggest enemy that day. I had to deal with another river crossing, but being early in the morning, there were no problems. I easily made it to the Alftavatn Volcano Hut, where I stopped only for 15 minutes. The difficult part was just approaching.
Since most of the people do this trail the other way around, they hike the mountain down. While I had to go all the way up. I felt invincible when I looked back and saw where I came from. And it was still a long way ahead.
The weather got worse and worse. I was passing one of the most beautiful areas from the whole trek, and still, I could barely see in front of me. I was in the middle of a snowstorm, the wind was so strong it was really pushing me off the track, and most of the hiking trail signs were blown away. For at least two hours I had to simply follow the other people’s steps. And it was a non-stop up and down and up and down walk. I remember I couldn’t see anything with the glasses because they were soaking wet and I can’t see well without them. It was then when I got close to glacier cavities, and the bad thing was I couldn’t know for sure what is the correct direction. At some point, there was a couple coming from the opposite direction and when I asked them where did they come from, their answer made me laugh so much. The man said from the cabin. And since I was confused he said, “Oh.. from Switzerland”. And after I explained I only wanted to know the actual path they took because I felt I was getting lost, he started laughing as well.
Hrafntinnusker was actually a surprise. It was so foggy I didn’t know I made it up until I was five minutes away from it. It took me one hour to pitch my tent, even with the help of a kind man, the wind was that bad. I didn’t manage to sleep that night. Mostly because most of my stuff was wet, included my sleeping bag. I was shaking a lot and I kept trying to warm up by rubbing my hands all over my body. It didn’t work out.
Day 4 | Hrafntinnusker – Landmannalaugar | 12 km
I woke up the following day feeling exhausted and, rather depressed. The weather forecast was looking way better after midday, so I decided to take it slow. I didn’t want to miss more amazing spots since I was sure this might be the only time when I am there. And finally, the weather didn’t disappoint.
I passed by Brennisteinsalda Volcano and the colourful Mountains of Bláhnjúkur like it’s nobody’s business. I loved the Grænagil Canyon more than a lot, and I even decided to add an extra hike just to get a nice last view of all the wonders of this trail.
I ended up arriving at Landmannalaugar just in time for the bus. I didn’t plan it like that, but when the bus driver told me he will leave for Reykjavik in 10 minutes, I wanted to hug him.
Hiking Laugavegur Trail by myself and doing it without getting hurt, lost or in trouble, shaped my solo South American trip in a way I couldn’t describe at the time. The following days, my feet were sore as you can imagine, but I had no blisters and not even bruises. I lost a glove and my tripod got destroyed, but how funny it is that the only downside was my red burnt nose?