Day Hike in Skaftafell National Park

Trip Start Aug 05, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Skaftafell Campground

Flag of Iceland  , Skaftafell National Park,
Wednesday, August 8, 2012

After a good night sleep, it was time to get ready for the first day hike of the trip: hot shower for 400 ISK, shaving, and a filling breakfast were just perfect. 
We left from the camp (alt: 80m) with the whole group around 9:30. It was a bit cloudy but nothing to be worry about. 



Alex and Pierre had prepared a wonderful day hike, starting on a trail dominating Skaftafelljökull, a large glacier tongue of Vatnajökull glacier, then crossing Skaftafellsheidi from east to west to reach Morsardalur valley and enjoy a spectacular view on Morsarjökull, an other glacier tongue of gigantic Vatnajökull. On the way back, we planned to stop and enjoy Svartifoss.


During the first part of the hike, the trail led us through a dense vegetation made of trees and bushes, and finally enabled us to reach the edge of the mountain and dominate Skaftafelljökull glacier tongue. The trail continued its way through a rocky and dry landscape, with almost no vegetation anymore, until we reached an amazing promontoire (alt: 700m) dominating the whole glacier tongue. 




In the meantime, clouds had disappeared and the sun was illuminating this awesome landscape where we decided to stop for lunch. Temperature in the sun: 39°C !! One of the most gorgeous place where we'll ever have had picnic ! The sky was so clear that we could admire the highest peak of Vatnajökull, which is also Iceland's apex: Hvannadalshnukur, culminating at 2119 m. 



Since we climbed 700 meters in roughly 2 hours which is quite a good pace, Alex proposed a "bonus" to anyone interested. We could either take the initial route which gets around a large mountain to reach a natural spring, or take a more challenging route up to the top of the mountain ! This last option meant 400 more meters to climb, but the point of view was supposed to be worthwhile. 
The group split into two and O. and I decided to go for the bonus with Alex and other courageous guys ;-) 
The meeting point was the spring on the other side of the mountain.

The trail was now steeper and the more we climbed, the more stones on the trail. In the last part of the ascent, the whole terrain was nothing but stones, making it very unstable, and slippery. My walking sticks were definitely very helpful. But it was too difficult for S. who prefered to skip the last climb and decided to go and meet the rest of the group at the spring. 
As for us, we finally reached the top of the mountain which looked more like a rocky ridge (alt: 1120m). The 360° panorama was breathtaking and we could enjoy in a same glance Skaftafelljökull and Morsarjökull. We even witnessed a serac fall which broke from Morsarjökull with great thunder.


We enjoyed this scenery for a while and then made our way downhill. O. decided to run on the rocky trail in order to save his knees. A bit risky but quite effective in the end. 
When we finally reached the spring, we joined the rest of the group, but S. was not there.... We did not know what to think: did she miss the spring ? Did she stop farther ont the trail ? The whole group was a bit stressed for a couple hours until Alex received a phone call from a guide telling him S. reached he camp and was waiting for us there! What a relief! 

Hence we could enjoy the end of the walk, and make several stops, the first of them being on a point of view embracing whole Morsardalur valley. 
We then walked for quite a long time on a grassy heath, and made a quick stop near a beautiful and quiet pond nested in the middle of a cotton-grass field. So peaceful.

Coton-grass is a herbaceous perennial plant with slender, grass-like leaves. It is found throughout the temperate northern hemisphere in acid bog habitats, being particularly abundant in arctic tundra regions, and thus in Iceland. The seed heads are covered in a fluffy mass of cotton which are carried on the wind to aid dispersal. These masses of translucent fibres also serveas "down", increasing the temperature of the reproductive organs during the arctic summer by trapping solar radiation. 

We finally reached Svartifoss (Black Fall). It is one of the most popular sights in Skaftafell National Park. It is surrounded by dark lava columns which gave rise to its name. The base of this waterfall is noteworthy for its sharp rocks. New hexagonal column sections break off faster than the falling water wears down the edges. 


The trail from Svartifoss to the campground was very easy and we arrived there around 18:30. We stretched our legs for quite a long time to recover from this 9 hour hike, and then we took a cold soft drink on the terrace of the information center facing the glacier. 
After dinner (soup and awesome fish), we met Marco! Such a long time since our kayak trip in Musandam last November !! It was all the more satisfying to meet him in Iceland than he's in part responsible of our presence here. The way he talked to us about this country during our stay in Oman was so motivating! Thank you Marco for your friendly advice and your generosity. 


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