Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Epic 8-day Landmannalaugar Trek in Iceland (17-24 July 2018)

My 1st continuous multiple-day hike that was demanding and challenging but absolutely mind-blowing and rewarding.

Relentless hikes across varying landscapes; from steep ascent, treacherous descent on scree, vast expanse of slush-like soft snow field, dusty and crusty black volcanic desert soil to lush greenery and spectacular panoramic sights

Crater riddled Mars landscape

Awesome sight to behold as we plodded carefully on treacherous descent

Multi-layered crater lakes of The Ugly Puddle/Ljotipollur which is anything but ugly

Never dreamt that I would actually one day trek on glacier and snow field



1st day of trudging across 6km of undulating soft snow field

Glad that we had ample time to stop and soak in the fabulous sights

After conquering scree and soft snow, it's a contrasting day of trampling on dusty and crusty black desert soil (10km)

We struggled on foot but there were others who wheeled past us on challenging terrain

Wading across icy-cold, bone chilling glacial stream. It's impossible for me to do it without my river shoes as the river bed is strewn with small but sharp pebbles

It took us almost 4 hours to reach this plateau which offers jaw-dropping view of the surrounding valley and glacier


It is not surprising why our guide loves his job

Ascending the mountain ridge ahead

Such a bliss to soak in natural hot spring. Just remember to wear your river shoes while wading to the steaming river as the river bed is full of sharp-pointed rocks

Alfresco breakfast.  All our meals were prepared by our guide. We helped with the preparation and the cleaning up

Delicious grilled spring lamb

What a joy to see our accommodation on the right after a looong day of trekking across snow field. Bravo to backpackers who camped in tents out in the open opposite our hut.  We shared the same shower and toilet facilities though


Overall great food thanks to our multi-talented guide

I had never done any serious continuous trekking over multiple days and was really glad that I had diligently trained very hard for this challenging albeit thoroughly fabulous trekking holiday up in the highlands of Iceland.
This was to me a very expensive trip but no complaints as I truly enjoyed both the sights and the company.  There's only a brief window of about 3 months in Summer to trek in the upper regions of Iceland for obvious reasons.  Though it's Summer time, the average temperature we experienced was around 12-15 degrees Celcius in the day while it plunged to 6-8 degrees Celcius at night and early in the morning. We were blessed with great weather experiencing only a very light drizzle but spared of snow-storm, blizzard, gale and torrential rain.
Everyday we were awed by bewildering sights. While I was prepared for the tough hike, I did not expect to be wowed by the awesome sights.  God's creation is truly amazing and mind-boggling. 
If you were to attempt this trek, be very mindful in following instructions, especially pre-trip packing notes.  If you are young and fit, this will be an easy trek for you but for senior like me who only does leisurely scenic walks, this was tough but manageable with diligent and ample training. 
Important notes to beware:
1) Bring 2 trekking poles.  They are like your arm extension which are absolutely important for the steep descents in particular.
2) Be suitably attired; goretex shell (wind and waterproof), gloves (fingerless ones will be good if not too cold, for ease of photography if using smartphone), many pairs of socks, hat with elastic strap and a beanie - mind U that U would need to either change or remove your hats often, depending on the ever changing weather,  bandana (very useful for covering your nose and ears from gnats which fluttered around you on the desert trail), sunglasses, sunblock, gaiters (to prevent the elements from getting inside your shoes), sleeping bag and sandals for getting outdoors to the shower and toilet facilities.
3) River shoes for numerous river crossings.  It is better to cross the shallow rivers (which vary with the weather) with socks in your river shoes for protection against sharp-pointed rocks in the river bed.  Quite a hassle to change in and out of your river shoes but absolutely necessary
3) Layering.  It is not necessary to bring thick and bulky fleece ,etc if U are properly layered in your attire. Depending on your personal threshold level, I did not bring any thermal wear except 2 light vests, one filled with down and the other synthetic. I only wore skin-tight quick dry long sleeve top with a vest and a soft shell throughout the 8-day hike. So do bring the relevant layered clothings according to your personal threshold
4) U do need a soft, preferably at least water resistant, duffel bag as your main luggage which will be transferred on wheels daily while U only carry a day pack for the daily trek.  Invest in a good, lightweight but sturdy backpack like Osprey.  It's so comfortable U don't really feel the weight on your back
5) I personally find the camel bag very useful for long and tedious hikes.  It's so easy to drink from and its weight is well balanced in your backpack.  Best of all, you don't have to swing your bag around to reach out for your water bottle each time you need to drink.  Just tuck the mouth piece into your mouth and suck if you have left the valve open all the time.  Otherwise, just lightly twist the valve before sucking
6) Waterproof all your valuables (use individual ziplock bag for each item) such as your passport, wallet, handphone, battery, etc
7) The guide will carry some snacks but you may wish to carry your own preferred snacks
8) If you are proned to developing blisters, pre-tape your hot spots/areas on your toes and sole most susceptible to blisters or wear 5-finger socks.
9) If U must do some light laundry during the multi-day trek, bring along some S hooks, pegs and a light hanger
10) My personal preference nowadays is to dip in quick dry fitting outfit instead of swimming costume.  It's so much more convenient to soak in the hot spring with your existing outfit than having to change twice (into and out of the swim gear). And it's very easy to wash and quick to dry
11) A tip from me is to wear to sleep the outfit you intend to wear the next day.  This will save you time if you need to start the day early.  Besides, in view of the location of the changing room outdoors quite a distance from the sleeping room, it is obviously not so convenient to change your clothes  so reducing the number of times you need to change attire is helpful.
12) Lastly, bring lots of plastic bags to keep your wet stuff during the hike, from your wet river shoes to dirty or wet socks, towels, etc.