Trekking towards the Torfajökull icecap, Iceland #1

These pictures of Iceland come from my trek around and over the Torfajökull icecap in August 1996, a period blessed with several unprecedented days of sunshine, and no rain at all while we were out in the wild; well, there was a bit of drizzle on day 6, but nothing too serious. It was certainly windy, and in true Icelandic fashion it would change from gale force to nothing and back again in minutes.

Torfajökull [Torfajokull] is a relatively small icecap some 10km north of the northern edge of Myrdalsjökull [Myrdalsjokull], at the centre of the southern area of Iceland.

Vatnajökull [Vatnajokull] is the big one, in the south-east corner of the island – the largest icecap in Europe and the third largest in the world. Extensive damage was caused two months after our trek when part of it melted due to hidden volcanic activity, and a large part of the main road around Iceland was washed away.

Photo Notes: Most of these photos were taken on Kodak Ektachrome film using a Nikon 601 fitted with a 28-85mm zoom lens. For a few I used a 135mm lens on the 601, and colour negative film in a Minox 35ML. All were hand-held.

This diary is now organized as four pages: page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4

Icelandic landscape photo Our trek started after a night at the Fljótsdalur Youth Hostel, a traditional Icelandic building with grass on the roof for insulation. Warm and very welcoming inside, with the relative luxury of a variable electricity supply from a generator fed by the stream higher up the hill. Fortunately we'd been transported to the hostel by 4-wheel-drive vehicle, as the nearest bus stop is 26km away.
Icelandic landscape photo The hostel looks out across the Markarfljótsaurer valley, and we had a misty view of Myrdalsjökull in the distance as we set off loaded with as much fresh food as we could carry, to supplement the supplies left the previous autumn in the huts we would be using for the next 10 days. As always, my camera equipment added significantly to the the weight and size of it all, despite my efforts to minimise it – glass is heavy!
Icelandic landscape photo The weather was dull for our first day of walking, but as we arrived at the Einhyrningur hut for our overnight stop a slim shaft of evening sun lit the cliffs below Myrdalsjökull. The second half of August – the time of our trek – marks the beginning of the change from long Icelandic days to long Icelandic nights.
Icelandic landscape photo At 6:00 a.m. the next morning I am barefoot in the frosty grass taking photos under a perfect blue sky. My fellow trekkers thought I was crazy. The hut is one of many in Iceland built by the local farmers for use as a base during the sheep round-up each Autumn.
Icelandic landscape photo Icelandic landscape photo I liked the shapes and contrasts in the early morning sun, and especially this view across to the Myrdalsjökull icecap from the Einhyrningur hut, taken with a 135mm lens.
Icelandic landscape photo Icelandic landscape photo 'Rhinocerous Mountain' I called it. Its distinctive shape was visible for miles, and eventually we reach it and walk round it. It's actually a volcanic core – the centre of a volcano from which the outer material has eroded.
Icelandic landscape photo Icelandic landscape photo After walking some distance across dark grey volcanic soil, this brilliant yellow-green vegetation along a small stream was a surprising and welcome splash of colour. Myrdalsjökull is always in the background, and the wind that blows across it is cold, despite the strong sun.
Icelandic landscape photo Icelandic landscape photo A perfect rainbow over a waterfall in the Markarfljót [Markarfljot] Gorge. A heck of a lot of water is crashing down there. Two of the group stay just out of reach of the spray.
Icelandic landscape photo Looking across the meandering Hvítmaga river towards our second night's hut at Krokur, the landscape covered in a dull green velvety vegetation. The end of a perfect day of walking. It'll rain tomorrow...
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