Friday, 20 December 2013

Satmap Active 12

I have just received the latest beta version of the Satmap Active 12, which comes with hi-res 1:50k OS GB mapping.  I think the unit is due for general release in the spring of 2014.  

Receiving the unit has proved timely as I have just had a complete layoff from the hills for several weeks due to ongoing back problems and have only started getting back into the swing of things during the last few days.  

 It was a bit wintry on Hardberry Hill in Teesdale today
Once the Beta Programme ends and the official release date is announced, it should have had plenty of use by then and I will post a review.

Monday, 9 December 2013


It is odd how a single pic can instantly take you back. A snapshot in time that means little to anybody else perhaps, but in that millisecond produces the same feeling of excitement, fear and adventure. Being limited to light duties as it were until I get my back sorted again, I have just been sorting through some old pics and found this one of me looking somewhat focussed on the Camino del Rey (Kings Way), El Chorro, Spain. It instantly made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I felt that familiar buzz of adrenaline.

© Alan Best

You might wonder why it invokes such feelings but this video shot by another climber (Copyright Daniel Ahnen) years later shows the walk in full. Sometimes I shudder at some of the things I did when I was younger, but more worryingly I would happily do it again. 

CLICK link for video

So here's a question - Do you stop doing things because you get old, or do you get old because you stop?

Incidentally if you have ever watched the WW2 film Von Ryans Express.  This is the place where the train is attacked by the fighter planes, one of which crashes into the walkway.

Sadly Daniel who shot the video died on 11th May 2011 in the Himalayas.  He was 35 years old. RIP Daniel

Friday, 29 November 2013

Iceland - Post Trek Walks & the Skaftafell Area

After our trek the plan was to spend a couple of days peak bagging around Landmannalaugar before returning to Reykjavik to hire a car and then heading east to explore the area around Skaftafell for a few of days.

27th July 2013
Today was deemed a rest day - although "rest day" in reality simply meant a bit of a lie in and a shorter walk.

After a leisurely start we decided on an easy walk up a mountain called Kjaftalda. The walk starts on the broad flood plain that drains the rivers Jokulgil, Brandsgil and Grenagil, which is marked Jokulgilskvsl on the map.

06D-1396 Landmannalaugar and the Laugahraun Lava Field Surrounded by the Colourful Rhyolite Mountains Fjallabak Area of Iceland
Making our way towards the summit we had good views back towards Landmannalaugar

It was nice to head out with a light rucsac and we had an enjoyable walk up to its rocky summit. This gave good views of tomorrow's mountain Blahnukur as well as views of the Barmur Mountain Ridge which dwarfed our little peak.

06D-1403 Hikers Taking a Break on Kjaftalder with Mountain of Blahnukur Behind Landmannalaugar Iceland.
Blahnukur from the summit

06D-1398 Temp Barmur Mountain Ridge from Kjaftalda Landmannalaugar Iceland
Barmur mountain ridge

This route incidentally can be made into a full day walk, taking in Skalli (1027m) and then following a choice of routes back to the campsite. Being a rest day we only had a wander along the ridge a bit further before turning back at the next high point. It was then back down to do a spot of clothes washing, map studying and general dossing around.

28th July 2013
From the campsite the black ash mountain of Blahnukur looked like a good objective for another day walk.

06D-0622 Temp Blahnukur from the Campsite at Landmannalaugar Iceland
Blahnukur from the tent

At first glance I expected it to be a bit of a slog, but was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the ascent was. Climbing up the ridge the views opened out with every step and lots of stops were made to take in the views and to attempt to identify each group of mountains as they appeared.

06D-1540 Walker Ascending the Mountain of Blahnukur via the North Ridge with the Laugahraun Lava Field Below Landmannalaugar Iceland.
The ridge is easy but you can find the odd place to enjoy a bit of exposure

The summit when it came was fairly narrow with steep slopes on either side. A brass orientation table at its south end gave us an opportunity to confirm the identity of several mountains not marked on the map.

06D-1607 Temp The Summit of Blahnukur Near Landmannalaugar in the Fjallabak Area of Iceland.
Clear 360 degree views today

It was a bit of a windy spot and after the obligatory summit pics Graham and Sanda decided to head lower down ridge to have their lunch in a more sheltered spot. Not wanting to head down so soon we spent a happy if rather breezy half hour on the summit chatting to another group who came up behind us.

06D-0667 Hiker on the Mountain of Blahnukur Enjoying the View of the Colourful Rhyolite Mountains Near Landmannalaugar Iceland
Summit ridge

06D-1640 Hikers Decending the West Ridge of Blahnukur with the Colourful Slopes Brennisteinsalda Volcano Behind Landmannalaugar Iceland.
Graham and Sandra descending with the colourful slopes of the Brennisteinsalda volcano behind

We caught up with G&S where the ridge split into two decent routes.

06D-1672 Hiker on the Mountain of Blahnukur Looking Towards the Colourful Brennisteinsalda Volcano Near Landmannalaugar Iceland
Graham where the ridge splits and drops steeply away

We chose the shorter of the two ridges and were soon at the base of the mountain. We then returned via Grenagill to meet our outward route.

Skaftafell Area 30th July - 2nd August
For the last few days we hired a car and headed along the south coast towards Skaftafell and Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, stopping off to stay on the campsite at Vik.

01M-0757 Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Near Hvolsvollur Iceland
First we stopped off at the impressive Seljalandsfoss waterfall near Hvolsvollur

01M-0770 Temp Campsite at Vik Iceland.
Campsite in Vik.

Despite the damp weather the campsite was ok, although the showers rarely had any hot water due to the hot spring being a bit unreliable. We were however told this before booking in. I did try to shower in the cold water but soon wimped out. The lack of shower was in part made up for by having a room set aside for cooking and socialising in, which incidentally also had some charging points for camera, phone batteries etc.

Next morning was cold, grey and misty with a few showers. That said the sun did its best to break through, creating a wonderfully atmospheric scene.

Cliffs at Vik Iceland
Ciffs at Vik

The weather remained changeable with heavy showers sweeping across the mountains towards the coast.

01M-0891 Temp Weather Closing in Skaftafell National Park Viewed from the Road over the Skeioararsandur Flood Plain Below the Skrioararjokull Glacier Iceland
Skaftafell National Park Viewed from the Road over the Skeioararsandur Flood Plain Below the Skrioararjokull Glacier.

After setting the tents up at the Skaftafell campsite we headed up to the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. Despite being busy it was still a wonderful place to visit. The photographic opportunities here were immense and I wish we had more time to spend waiting for the light to improve.

06D-2155Split Rock and Icebergs in the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon Vatnajokull National Park Iceland
The power of nature

01M-1015a Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon Vatnajokull National Park Iceland.

06D-2284 Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon Vatnajokull National Park Iceland.

On the way back we stopped off at the remains of a bridge destroyed when one of the surprisingly regular (geologically speaking) flash floods caused by volcanic activity under the icecap hit this part of the flood plain.

01M-1257 Twisted Metal Girder from the Gigjukvisl Bridge which was Hit by a Jokulhlaup (Flood) Released from the Vatnajokull Ice Cap During a Volcanic Eruption in November 1996 Skaftafell Iceland
Twisted Metal Girder from the Gigjukvisl Bridge which was Hit by a Jokulhlaup (Flood) Released from the Vatnajokull Ice Cap During a Volcanic Eruption in November 1996.

A video in the national park visitor centre shows this flood and the damage it caused. The damage was repaired within weeks.

Kristínartindar from the campsite.
This was our final day before we had to head back to Reykjavik so we climbed the mountain of Kristínartindar.

The way up led us past several waterfalls, the most impressive of which was Svartifoss (Black Fall)

01M-2406 Svartifoss (Black Fall) is a waterfall in Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

We then climbed up to an area marked Skerholl on the map which gave good views towards the retreating Morsarjokull glacier.

01M-1123 temp Morsarjokull From the Plataux on the Way up the Mountain of Kristínartindar Skaftafell Iceland
Sandra and the Morsarjokull glacier from Skerholl

Eventually we climbed up to a col before making our way more steeply onto the summit.

01M-1184 Temp The Summit of Kristínartindar Skaftafell Iceland
Moira on the summit of Kristínartindar.

01M-1212 The Skaftafellsjokull Glacier from Skaftafell Vantnajokull National Park Iceland.
Skaftafellsjokull Glacier from the descent path

The road home
Next day in improving weather we headed back to Reykjavik via Skogar.

06D-2516 The Mountain of Lomagnupur From the Western Side of Skeioararsandur Flood Plain Skaftafell Area Iceland
The Mountain of Lomagnupur From the Western Side of Skeioararsandur Flood Plain Skaftafell Area Iceland

06D-2483  Vatnajokull Icecap and Skaftafell National Park Viewed from the Skeioararsandur Flood Plain Below the Skrioararjokull Glacier Iceland.
A final look back towards the Vatnajokull icecap and the Skaftafell National Park. Viewed from the Skeioararsandur Flood Plain.

That's it for the Iceland blog reports. I will add more pics to the over the next few weeks though.

Text/images copyright David Forster

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Autumn Roundup

I have been a bit too busy to post much so thought I would tag a few days together.

Lake District - Blencathra
A walk in the dark saw me on the summit of Blencathra just before sunrise. Low cloud occasionally affected the view, but fortunately a strong wind, which was both a blessing and a curse, soon tore holes in any clouds that tried to cling to the summit itself.

01M-6080 The View South from the Mountain of Blencathra Lake District Cumbria UK
The view south

Despite cloud to the southeast, the sun still managed to put on a show, but timing shots between gusts became a somewhat frustrating game when both cloud and light refused to cooperate.

01M-6116 Scales Fell Ridge on Blencathra with Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell in the Distance Lake District Cumbria UK
The view along the ridge to Scales Fell and beyond towards Great Mell Fell

01M-6143 The View South From Scales Fell Ridge Blencathra Lake District Cumbria UK
The view southwest

Engrossed in the moment I soon ended up with frozen fingers, but these were ignored in favour of the illusive combination of light, shadow and calm. Unfortunately it never truly came together and the price of ignoring the cold was paid in full with the intense pain of the hot aches as my fingers warmed up.

01M-6166 The Summit of Blencathra from the Scales Fell Ridge Path Lake District Cumbria UK
Looking back towards the summit. Just the odd patch of snow left.

I have spent a fair amount of time shooting both video and stills in Teesdale and was fortunate to spot a pair of Otter along the Tees one morning just before sunrise. I managed to grab some short and rather shaky footage and while it is no use for my film, it was still a wonderful encounter.

The Tees itself has been in spate regularly and I did manage to get some shots of High Force in flood conditions surrounded by autumn colours.

01M-5541 Autumn Trees with High Force in Flood Conditions Teesdale County Durham UK
High Force

Yorkshire Dales - Kisdon Force Swaledale
Day after day of grey weather did result in a few opportunities to capture other rivers in spate as well.   Below are a couple of shots from a rather dull wet morning on the river Swale.

01M-5991 The River Swale at Kisdon Force Near Keld Swaledale Yorkshire Dales UK
Kisdon Force

01M-6014 The River Swale at Kisdon Force Near Keld Swaledale Yorkshire Dales UK
Kisdon Force, autumn colours are still hanging on, but continuing strong winds and heavy rain will soon strip the leaves

I have also spent a bit of time wildlife watching.

06D-5084 Young Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis Eating Sycamore Seed.
Grey Squirrels are the bad guys when it comes to the Red Squirrel, but it appears they are here to stay.

There is a lot of pressure on the poor little Red Squirrel which is out competed by the Grey and also picks up the squirrel pox virus from them. Add to this the pressure of habitat loss and the future of the red squirrel is not looking good. There is a glimmer of hope in a squirrel pox vaccine, but ultimately that alone is unlikely to save them without significant effort to maintain and expand their preferred habitat.

It was a wonderful experience spending time with them and with luck hope to be able to get some more shots over the winter.

01M-5217 Temp Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris Copyright David Forster.
Red Squirrel

06D-5334 Temp Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris Copyright David Forster
Looking worried

Friday, 18 October 2013

Iceland Video

This is a quick edit of a trip to Iceland. Trekking wise this trip was everything we had hoped for and occasionally a bit more than we bargained for.

We walked from Halaskjol to Alftavatn then followed the Laugavegur Hiking Trail to Landmannalaugar where we spent a few days hill bagging. Next we headed up to the Skaftafell area to climb a few hills there.

Thanks for watching

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review - Walking and Trekking in Iceland by Paddy Dillon

Review - Walking and Trekking in Iceland by Paddy Dillon

Cicerone Press

ISBN: 978-1852846473

Price £17.95 (cheaper on places such as Amazon now)

01M-2633 Guidebook map and notebook used to plan a trip to Iceland.
Lots of info and useful for pre trip planning

There is a lot of information crammed into this guide, which runs to some 352 pages, covering 12 areas, 49 day walks and 10 multi-day treks. All in all something like 100 days worth of walking.

I used the book to help with planning for my recent trip to Iceland and found the descriptions to be concise, clear and accurate for the areas I have visited. The photography is good and the illustrations and maps are clear and easy to understand.

Walking guidebooks of course are not just about the walks and I found the historical, geological and wildlife information both useful and informative. The historical timeline was particularly interesting and really does highlight just how young Iceland as a country is.

For impoverished outdoor folk like me, information on public transport and things like budget accommodation and food were useful. I also found the section listing further sources of web based information handy during the planning stages

The section on river crossings is definitely also worth a read if you lack experience in this area, however you do need to recognise the limitations of the information provided.

When it comes to using guidebooks I am a definitely a visual person and in particular I do like to use overview maps with the different walking areas marked on them. Paddy helpfully does this however one element I certainly feel could be improved is the labelling on the overview map itself (Pages 10 &11.

There are a lot of numbered walks in the guide and at times I ended up flicking back and forth when I confused area 3 with trek 3, or trek 3 with stage 3.

For folk like me placing the relevant page numbers for each section in the actual section box of the overview map would have been ideal. For example in the box of " Area 2 - Fjallabak and Thorsmork". By adding "Pages 94 -133" in the box itself I could then have flicked straight to the start of that chapter without hunting. As I say it 's a personal thing and not a major issue.

The usual warning about the accuracy of route descriptions as they may change is an important point to remember and you really do need to take this seriously and recognise that the landscape is in constant flux, with paths and even tarns appearing and disappearing. For example on the Lagavegur trail there were several short sections that certainly varied on the route we took a couple of years ago. With this in mind the guide alone is not a substitute for a map. That said even the maps end up out of date quite quickly as we found out when the two large tarns the trail was supposed to pass between had actually disappeared.

You may of course think no one would simply rely on a guidebook, but in Iceland I was stopped by two guys and asked if the lake we were looking at was Alftavatn and how long would it take them to get there. All they had was some pages photocopied from a guidebook.

Talking of navigation. I do feel that the maps/walks descriptions would have benefited from having some key GPS information linked to them. For example hut locations. Nowadays the GPS does seem to be the norm for a lot of people, even if it is only as a backup. Perhaps this is one for consideration in a future edition?

As I said before guidebooks are not just about the walks and one minor inaccuracy I did note was the statement "Alcohol of any strength has to be bought from state liquor stores, rather than supermarkets". I found it possible to purchase cans of beer of up to 2.8% strength in several small supermarkets, including the mountain Mall bus at Landmannalaugar. Whether this rule has changed or some supermarkets are now licensed I cannot say, but if you enjoy a celebratory (if rather weak) beer or two at the end a long trek it's worth knowing.


· At £17.95 the guide is on the expensive side.

· Lacks GPS information.

· The overview map would benefit from having the page numbers in the area boxes to make finding sections quicker and easier.

· Photography is good and map illustrations are clear and accurate

· Descriptions are concise and easy to follow and were certainly accurate enough for the walks I did.

· There is some interesting background information relating to history, wildlife and geology. Getting around on a budget without a car, accommodation and personal safety were also useful sections.

· To help with planning there is an appendix containing useful web addresses

4.5 out of 5. I would be happy to recommend to a friend.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Autumn - the shortest season

Autumn starts in the north east of Scotland and over two to three weeks works it way to the southwest of England. By the time the trees of Cornwall are bejewelled with gold, those in northeastern Scotland are shedding them like tears.

01M-1690 Autumn Leaf on Fungi UK.

I always feel autumn is our shortest season and somehow between the vagaries of the weather, the patchy nature of local conditions and the need to be in the right place at the right time, I always try to manage at least a few days photography in our native woodlands. If the light is good I photograph the colours and the wider landscape, if poor I focus on the smaller details, if lucky I even get to photograph wildlife.

When George Eliot (Mary-Anne Evans) wrote:

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

I always like to think she was actually sitting in a woodland glade looking up at golden leaves trembling in the breeze when she wrote it.

Earlier this week sitting on a rock, camera cast aside, such were my idle thoughts. Photography done for the day, coffee in hand, I tried to find a form of words to describe the sights, sounds and smells of the first flush of autumn. The only trouble was I became preoccupied by the very things I was seeking to describe - the colour of leaves as the sun broke through, the sound of the river sliding by like silk at my feet, even the damp earthy smell of fallen leaves - all of them distractions which thankfully conspired against too much thinking. In the end just two words, ephemeral and spiritual, seemed the most appropriate.

01M-4639 Catrake Force Lower Falls Meeting the River Swale in Autumn Yorkshire Dales UK.
Catrake Force and the River Swale

01M-4344 Autumn Colours at Wain Wath Force on the River Swale Swaledale Yorkshire Dales UK
Wain Wath Force

The changing seasons also mark the start of another autumnal event and across the UK some woodlands, valleys and high mountain glens will reverberate with the roar of deer and the clash of antler as the annual rut begins.
03D-8783 Fallow Deer Stag Dama Dama Surrounded by Bracken in Autumn
Keep your eyes open you never know who is watching you.

Autumn really is a truly transient time and the next few weeks will be the last opportunity to experience the beauty of our woodlands before the trees return to their skeletal forms and winter winds roar through their tops.

Don't leave it too long before you head to the woods this autumn.

Text images copyright David Forster

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Iceland Trek Day 3 and 4 Alftavatn via Hoskuldsskali to Landmannalaugar

Before turning in last night I noticed a heavy mist forming across the far side of the lake, so when I woke to a muffled world and a wet tent, I knew before I stuck my head out of the door the clag was down

Fortunately by the time we had grabbed something to eat and taken down the still wet tents the cloud had rolled back across the lake revealing a blue sky. It looked like we were in for another hot day.

06D-0929 Camping Area at Alftavatn

06D-0953 Tent at Alftavatn with the Mountain of Bratthals Behind Laugavegur Hiking Trail Iceland.

Today we would be going against the flow of trekkers as we headed to the Hoskuldsskali hut, a bleak place of volcanic ash set below a small col.

After a short while we had an easy stream crossing on a rickety plank bridge that sagged into the water as we crossed, or at least it did when I stood on it.

01M-0461 Temp Crossing the Grashagakvisl River Iceland

This was followed by a gentle uphill stroll to the base of Jokultungur. Next it was a bit of a steep pull onto the top via a loose scree covered path. Going up here my sciatica began to cause problems. Having had three separate slipped discs and surgery to remove one of the discs years ago I knew this was a warning I was overdoing it. One of the problems with a heavy pack on steep loose ground is that I tend to lean forward and for me this means that scar tissue begins to limit blood flow to the nerves. After lengthening my poles to help adjust my posture and tightening the waist belt on my rucksack to make sure it sat on my hips fully, I moved cautiously on.

Despite feeling a bit sorry for myself the views opened up with every step and soon we could see down to last nights camp at Alftavantn and way beyond to the Myrdasjokull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers.

01M-0466 The Lake of Alftavatn Viewed From the Upper Slopes of Jokultungur on the Laugavegur Hiking Trail Iceland.
Last nights camp was next to the lake

Since the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 people have been waiting for the much bigger Katla volcano to wake up. This sits under several hundred meters of ice and will be spectacular when it does so. Historically Katla has always erupted shortly after Eyjafjallajökull, but so far has only rumbled quietly under its icy blanket, sending out the odd flash flood to remind folk it's there.

Part way up I stopped to chat to a couple of guys coming down who asked if the big lake down there was Alftavatn and how long had it taken us to get here. I was surprised to see they were navigating with a few pages copied from a guidebook.

Once on top I dosed myself with painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets and had a bit of a moan. The others, well used to my bleating, ignored me and went on about their various aches, pains and blisters instead.

Setting off again it was relatively easy going with much more gentle ups and downs until we came to some steam vents. This was followed by a series of ridges and hollows to where the trail eventually makes its way along the top of a cliff giving extensive views all the way to the hut. This was declared a good spot for lunch. As everyone was suffering from transient deafness when it came to placing someone in frame to give a sense of scale, I made do with a passer by who just happened to sit down for a break.

01M-0484 Temp View Towards the Hut
The hut sits just below the dip on the horizon

06D-1102 Temp Crossing below Haskeroingur Mountains Iceland
The view behind. These hills incidentally could be bagged as day walks from the Hoskuldsskali hut

Sometimes I find it hard to get my head around the actual colours these mountains are made up of. Some were made up of layer upon layer of pastel greens, blues and lighter browns. These contrasted sharply with the dark browns, jet-black ash and the white of snowfields.

01M-1094 Temp Colourful Hills Iceland

The last part of the walk to the camping area next to the hut was a fairly miserable experience for me. Hot, footsore and with serious backache the last couple of kilometres really seemed to drag. This was made worse by the fact the snow bridges where the path went were clearly too weak and we had to detour steeply up and down the sides of several gullies in order to reach the hut. They were really only minor detours but frustrating given how close we were.

01M-1107 Temp Snow Gullies and Bridges to Cross Iceland
You were never quite sure just how thick the snow was underfoot

Moira went off to pay the warden while I downed yet more painkillers and fretted about whether I would be ok to keep going. Once the tents were up we had some food and a couple of brews and chilled until around 8.30pm.

01M-0528 Temp Tents at the Hoskuldsskali Camping Area Iceland
Graham's Vango Force Ten Nitro 200+ Loads of room and only around 1.8kg

Despite being a bit of a bleak place of obsidian boulders and ash blackened snow patches the views were magnificent. Eventually G&S headed to their tent, but we hung around for an hour hoping to catch a sunset.

01M-0539 Temp Obsidian Boulder
Volcanic glass (Obsidian) boulders lay all around

Despite looking promising a couple of times we weren't treated to a colourful sky and as a grey veil of high cloud moved in and the temperature fell we also headed for the comfort of our sleeping bags.

01M-0547 Temp Camping Area Below Hut

01M-0540 TEMP The View South from the hut over this afternoons route at 9.30pm.
No sunset, but just being here was enough

Day 4 Hoskuldsskali Hut to Landmannalaugar
Despite being woken several times during the night with backache I did not feel too bad. In fact in contrast to yesterday afternoon, I was fair skipping along once I got going. Mind you I only had to manage 12k today and most of that was gentle.

Taking one last look at the Hoskuldsskali Mountain Hut and the view beyond to the the Myrdasjokull icecap we were soon crossing the snowfields of the Sooull plateaux area. In 2011 when we came this way it was cold and windy, but today under a warm sun with far reaching views, it really was an absolute pleasure.

01M-0557 temp The Hoskuldsskali Mountain Hut Iceland

06D-1194 temp Crossing the Snowfields of Sooull just after leaving the hut Iceland

Yet again we were treated to some wonderful rock colouration where volcanic deposits had leached out of the earth, staining the ground turquoise and giving the landscape a strangely industrial appearance.
01M-0563 Temp Colourful Hills Near the Storihver Geothermal Area Iceland

After a while we reached the Storihver geothermal area and left the path to have a look at the hot springs. These turquoise pools appear to be a wonderful place to soak away a few aches and pains, but as you get closer and the heat and sulphurous smell hits, you soon realise you would cook like a lobster in seconds. These are certainly not the friendly welcoming pools experienced in Landmannalaugar, instead these springs combine beauty with menace, as they hiss sulphurous gas, gurgle angrily and spit boiling water.

06D-1266 Temp The Storihver Geothermal Area Iceland

06D-1272 temp The Storihver Geothermal Area Iceland.

06D-1283 Temp The Storihver Geothermal Area Iceland.

Moving on, the trail initially cut across the grain of the land and we were forced up and down a series of short steep ravines with broad ridge like tops. In the heat of the sun they could have become hard work, but fortunately they petered out in a small plateaux that marked a change from an east west watershed to a northerly one in which the streams drained towards Landmannalaugar. In this area there was no vegetation to speak of and I was again struck by how quickly the landscape of Iceland can go from lush green to completely barren.

The going was now easy as we made our way along series of ridges that were now aligned with our direction of travel. Ahead lay the colourful and still active Stratovolcano Brennisteinsalda with its distinctive finger like pinnacle of lava. When it erupted in around 1480 it produced the lava wall that sits above the campsite at Landmannalaugar, some forty five minutes walk away. It also provides some nice hot springs for the weary trekker to relax and soak away a few aches and pains.

01M-0584 temp Walking Towards the Lava Outflow of the Brennisteinsalda Volcano (left) and the Ash Mountain of Blahnukur (right) Laugarvegur Hiking Trail Iceland
Brennisteinsalda on the left. The dark mountain on the right is Blahnuker

06D-1333 The Brennisteinsalda Volcano Viewed from the Laugavegur Hiking Trail Near Landmannalaugar Iceland.
Looking back to Brennisteinsalda. Its name means "Sulphur Wave" in English

Once past Brennisteinsalda the trail takes you towards the mountain of Blahnuker, the blackened ash slopes of which dominate the view east.

06D-1309 Temp Walking in Front of the Mountain of Blahnukur on the Laugavegur Trail Fjallabak National Park Iceland
Sandra heading towards Blahnuker

Half an hour later we were among the obsidian boulders and tortured lava shapes of Brennisteinsalda's old lava field and in meeting increasing numbers of day trippers we knew the campsite would soon come into view.

01M-0608 Temp Landmannalaugar Iceland
Landmannalaugar from the lava field

The campsite here is not the nicest of places to be as it's pretty crowded and noisy, but as wild camping is discouraged in the Fjallabak nature reserve there is little choice. Fortunately the setting makes up for this and it does have a small shop, toilets, showers and hot springs to bathe in. The plan was to spend a couple of days here peak bagging before heading back to Reykjavik, hiring a car and heading up to Skaftafell to explore that area a little.

01M-0611 temp Camping at Landmannalaugar Iceland.j
Boots off, a beer and RELAX