Trails: Fimmvörðuháls

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Suðurland
Fimmvörðuháls

Description

The route across Fimmvörðuháls lies between two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, and connects Skógar to Þórsmörk.

This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland, but possibly also one of the most dangerous due to the rapid changes in the weather that may occur during any season. While it can be calm and sunny in the low lands of Skógar and Þórsmörk the weather at the peak of the trail (approx. 1000m above sea level) can be totally different. Brute force winds, rain, fog and even a snow storm with almost no visibility are not uncommon. It is therefore recommended that hikers have extra warm clothes in their backpack.

The largest part of the route is marked with stakes and the trail itself is mostly obvious except at the top where it is covered with snow and can be unclear. All who hike across Fimmvörðuháls should be equipped with a good map, compass and a GPS device.

From Skógá and down to Þórsmörk on the other side there is little to no water.

Huts on the trail

Two huts are on the route. One is Baldvinsskáli which is at the top of the main trail. It is owned by Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association, FÍ). The hut has sleeping bag accommodation for 20 persons.

The other hut sits north west of the main route. It is owned by the Útivist touring club and is called Fimmvörðuskáli.

In which direction?

Most hikers choose to walk from Skógar to Þórsmörk but it is of course also possible to take the opposite direction. The experience is however a bit dependent on which direction one chooses.

Generally, the way from Skógar is said to be easier, because the ascent is more gradual. Additionally, all the beautiful waterfalls in the river Skógá are in front of the hiker all the way. Going downhill, the view over Þórsmörk is indescribable, something you need to see with your own eyes.

Most mountain runners however choose to start in Þórsmörk where the way up is much steeper in the beginning. Then it becomes possible to run up a good speed along the river Skógá down to Skógar.

Skógar-Þórsmörk

The hike starts by heading up the stairs on the left side of the waterfall Skógafoss. It is strongly recommended that hikes pace themself at the beginning because there is a pretty long hike ahead. Coming up the first hill, the trail is very obvious and lies on the east side of the river Skógá. Be sure not to miss all the spectacular waterfalls you have in front of you on the way up. When you reach the bridge over river Skógá you have walked approximately eight kilometres. Here it is recommended to fill your water bottles otherwise you risk getting no water until you are down to Þórsmörk.

From the bridge, most hikers choose to walk along the gravel road up to Baldvinsskáli hut, a little more than four kilometres. Alternatively, you could hike along a staked trail west (to the left) of the gravel road (Landnorðurstungur) up to the other hut, Fimmvörðuskáli, a distance which is little less than seven kilometres.

In Baldvinsskáli you can find an outhouse/privy and facilities to eat your provisions. There is no spring water. From Baldvinsskáli the trail is mostly covered with snow across the Fimmvörðuháls itself but it is marked with stakes. The trail gets clearer and more obvious during late summer when more people have hiked through. After about three kilometres walk you have reached the lava field (Goðahraun) which was formed during the volcanic eruption in spring 2010. During the same eruptions, the mountains Magni and Móði were formed. It is strongly recommended to hike up to their peaks. Beside the mountains there is an information sign regarding the eruption.

Shortly after the lava field you pass a cairn with three names. It is a memorial of the people who died there from exposure in the year 1970. Now there is a short way to Brattafönn hill (fönn = snow), which contradictory to its name and due to recent climate changes, is usually clear of snow in the summertime. It is anyhow necessary to walk carefully because the tuff underneath the snow can be very slippery and poses a risk for falling. Next Heljarkambur is crossed, a short ridge which connects Fimmvörðuháls and Morinsheiði (morins means a rust red sheep). To make the trail over Heljarkambur safer, a support chain has been put up for support.

The flat Morinsheiði is next. The view from the east edge of Morinsheiði is very scenic. From there you see over glacier Mýrdalsjökull with the volcano Katla on the top. The view from the northern part of Morinsheiði called Heiðarhorn is also very beautiful. There are at least two alternative routes down from Morinsheiði. One route is to go down the ravine Hvannárgil which is only recommended for experienced people in a relatively good hiking form. It is also possible to go via the peak of Útigönguhöfði mountain.

The traditional trail however lies straight ahead with stakes and an obvious path. Shortly you will reach Kattarhryggir which people with vertigo might find a bit difficult to cross. The path has been improved thus making it safer but take good care, nevertheless. The last part of the path is partly steep and in some places a line has been fastened to the cliffs for safety. Now we are down to Strákagil with trees and flowers leading us down to Goðaland where the Touring Club Útivist has a hut. To reach the hut in Langidalur, belonging to Ferðafélag Íslands, you need walk two kilometres further down and cross a hiking bridge across river Krossá.

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