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