Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Trek Part 3: Attack of the Hornets, Climbing, and More Waterfalls

We got up on Day 6, packed up, and waited for a vehicle delivering both a new supply of food and an additional hiker.  Originally, three new hikers were supposed to join us, but two of them dropped out.  The food had already been packed, however, so we spent some time sorting through it and sending back the extra provisions.  No one wanted to carry unnecessary weight (but we were happy to see more smoked salmon in the bags).

It was just before noon when we got started hiking up the river valley.  Waterfalls lined both sides of the huge valley.  Most of the time, we were able to just walk in the dry riverbed (where the river was up against the other side of the valley).  When it was on our side of the valley, we had to follow a trail  (yes, an actual trail!) which climbed uphill a bit to avoid the water.  One one of the climbs, all of a sudden, I heard buzzing and then hornets stung me a couple of times.  I was so surprised that I didn't really react except to keep moving.  Michael got stung, too, but everyone else was able to avoid them.  Apparently, the hornets don't like people from Silver Spring.  The trail led us to a basalt wall with a chain.  Our guide climbed up first and set up a belay for us.  I climbed up second, just as it began to drizzle.  Almost everyone (including me) sent their packs up on the rope separately, but a couple of people made the climb with their full packs.  It took a long time for everyone to get up the wall, but the reward was worth it.  Shortly after everyone was up and we started hiking again, we took a quick side trip to an overlook of two of the most beautiful, spectacular waterfalls of the trip.  It was cold and we had a long, uphill afternoon ahead of us, so we couldn't stay long, but I'm glad we got to see them.

Later in the afternoon, still hiking along the same river, we came to a point where there were two canyons in front of us.  Our guide said that we would be climbing a scree slope to get up onto the plateau above one of them.  It started out kind of normal and then just got steeper and steeper.  And it seemed to go on forever.  There wasn't really an opportunity to stop and rest or take pictures because the footing was pretty bad on most of it.  We all made it up, though, and were rewarded with a view of another impressive canyon.  That evening, we camped in the same place we did on the fourth day.

After a night of rain, we woke up to more clouds and it kind of seemed like it was going to be another gray misty day.  We retrieved some gear that we stowed (e.g. crampons) and started climbing.  By the time we were up to the top of the first big hill, the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds.  Before long, the sun was fully out, providing a wonderful morale boost.  We took a break on a rock field that had been scoured smooth by glaciers and then left bare after they retreated.  We had a beautiful view of two glaciers and the remnants of the lagoon, Grænalón.

After lunch, we had our last large river crossing of the trip.  The water was moving impressively fast and was the color of chocolate milk.  While we were changing into water shoes, we noticed that the water was actually moving fast enough to roll bowling-ball sized rocks quickly downstream.  It was a long, cold crossing, but the sun made it better.  Fortunately, it was only about knee deep and we only had to wait for one bowling ball to go by as we pushed through the water.  We actually saw another hiking party of three while we were crossing.  They were way downstream and crossing the other direction, so we never got a chance to talk to them.  They were the only hikers we would see over the course of the entire nine days, once we left the summit of Laki.

We camped that night on a bench overlooking the whole valley.  It was one of the most impressive campsites that I've ever had the luck to use.  The sun stayed out, so the moment we arrived in camp, everyone dumped their packs and spread out all of their gear to dry.  It looked like a gear store exploded on the side of the mountain.  The valley below us, with the two glaciers and the river was so stunning that I think I took 150 pictures of it.

Pictures (click to enlarge):

Day 6:   Looking down the river valley back towards where we camped.
Day 6:  Michael "hiding" in and Icelandic Birch forest
Day 6:  The door to a shepherd's hut built into the hillside above the river.  The door is about four feet tall.
Day 6:  Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted Orchid)
Day 6: Climbing the basalt wall.
Day 6:  Michael climbing the wall (he is on the rope near the center of the photo).
Day 6: The spectacular waterfalls.  The one on the right is fed by a glacier, which is why the water is a different color than the one on the left.
Day 6: Hiking into the canyon with the crazy scree slope we had to climb
Day 7:  Hiking in the sun through beds of moss and black volcanic ash.
Day 7:  Looking for a safe river crossing in front of the glacier.
Day 7:  Little mud formations.  These looked like a little mud army lined up on the river bank.  The wind blew the drier material out from around them.
Day 7:  The view of the river and one of the glaciers from our campsite.
Day 7:  Our campsite with everyone's gear drying in the sun.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these treks Silver Spring Wanderer! I'm already planning Annapolis Rocks and others. The Iceland pics are great. Those waterfalls are spectacular!