Day 4: Reykjavík to Amarstapi: Mosfellsbær

Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 25, 2010

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Flag of Iceland  , Capital Region,
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 4: Reykjavík to Amarstapi: Mosfellsbær, Eldborg, and Snæfellsnes July 8, 2010

Activity started a little before 7:00. Again the older crowd proved to be more adept at getting out of bed than the younger crowd. Those who managed to get up on time had a good breakfast. We struck our tents while the day's kitchen crew cleaned up. Then, as they struck their tents, the rest struck the kitchen tent. Þor arrived with the bus a little after 9:00. It was the same bus we had yesterday and would be ours for the rest of the trip. We loaded the kitchen, tables, chairs, and tent on the bus, under Þor’s supervision. Personal gear was used to fill in the spaces between the bulkier equipment. Everything fit in the space of the storage bays underneath and the last row of seats. The bus had ~40 seats so there was plenty of room for everybody.

The sky was overcast with a low, darkish gray ceiling. A constant wind gusted to fiercer velocities. My intention was to climb Mount Esja for an overview of western Iceland but the clouds were well below the summit so that hike was abandoned. Þor suggested a less challenging hike up a long hill just east of Mosfellsbær that is popular with local residents. He let us off at the trailhead and programmed his number into the cell phone that Þorleifur gave me. I agreed to call him when we started back for the bus.

We started out on the trail only to discover that we took a wrong fork. After backtracking a few hundred meters, we found the right trail and started climbing. The base of the trail was unusual in that it went through a young healthy forest. Iceland has few forested areas. Once we got above the forest, we were pounded by the wind. It continued to grow stronger as we climbed. The group spread out over the indistinct trail zone. I was, naturally, toward the rear of the pack. Below us, to the west, we could see Mosfellsbær, the easternmost town in Greater Reykjavík. We had a clear view of the Svið, the large bay to the north of the capital, even though it was beneath a low ceiling. The summit of Mount Esja remained in the clouds. There was an occasional short-lived drizzle but never any real precipitation. Off to the east was wide-open Iceland.

At the cell towers at the top of the climb, we quickly took photos and then started our descent. It was too windy to linger for long. Stan and I were with a group that took a different route back. It descended a steep slope into a wooded ravine. The trees once again suppressed the power of the wind. By the time we arrived at the base, Þor was back and most people had made sandwiches for lunch. We followed suit and devoured the food.

Afterward, we climbed aboard the bus and backtracked a little toward the city before turning north on Route 1. At Saurbær, we took the tunnel under the Hvalfjőrður to Akranes, the small peninsula on the other side. We crossed the Akranes and took the bridge across the Borgarfjőrður to Borgarnes, a sizeable town where Chelsea, Lee, and I did some shopping at the local Samkaup.

From Borgarnes, we left Route 1 and headed northwestward and then headed westward out the Snæfellsnes, the long, ridge-backed peninsula crowned at its western end by Snæfellsjőkull, the beautiful, glacier-capped stratovolcano through which the intrepid explorers descended in Jules Verne’s "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

The wind continued to howl as we passed Eldborg, a classic ~5,000-year old spatter cone and its surrounding lava field, the Eldborghraun. We stopped a little later to photograph a picturesque church. I got some great video of terns trying to fly into the wind but gaining little, if any ground.

The ceiling finally began to lift and clouds began to break up, revealing the ice-covered slopes of Snæfellsjőkull but they never lifted high enough to expose the summit. Eventually, we turned south and drove the short distance to the campground at Amarstapi. Setting up the kitchen tent, is always our first chore on arrival. In a diminishing wind, in the open field bordered by small saplings, the task appeared to pose a challenge. We positioned the bus as a windbreak but by the time we were finished, the wind had slowed to a crisp breeze and the tent went up fairly easily. We are still learning how it is done. Since it was only the second time I had set up my own tent, I decided to do it alone to learn its idiosyncrasies. It went up easily.

The skies cleared completely but Snæfellsjőkull was hidden behind a mountain just northwest of the camp. We had a long view down the peninsula to the east. A late Pleistocene/early Holocene lava flow from Snæfellsjőkull, a few hundred meters to the west, led down to the sea cliffs, 200 m to the south. Several groups spread out to explore the coastline. Since I had never visited this part of Iceland before, I took their advice on where to go for tomorrow’s short hike.

Once the sun set behind the mountain to the northwest, it cooled down considerably but the wind came to a standstill. The cool temperature (~45̊ F) and jet-lag persuaded everyone to turn in early.

Stan came up to me with a bemused look. His new Kelty tent had turned into a total disaster when both main poles snapped. He decided to sleep in the baggage compartment of the bus and unrolled his sleeping pad and sleeping bag on the metal floor.

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