Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.

Deep water!The four day walk from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk is one of the world's greatest treks and ranks alongside the Milford Track (in NZ) and the Inca Trail (in Peru). This early in the year (July) you may need ice axes and crampons. (Naturally we did not actually walk it, but we did drive to both ends. Marked in blue on the Iceland map.)

The road to Þórsmörk (the F249) from the ring road (Route 1) is beautiful, wild and instructive. The map shows six major river crossings (V) in the 50km length of the F249 and several camping areas (Huts) at or near the end of the road.

For no particular reason we chose to follow the southern route first and camped, not at Þórsmörk itself, but at Rettarfell.

On the drive to Rettarfell we traveled with Stephen, William and Karen (two Belgians and a German) in a red Land-Rover Defender. They wisely let us cross the more interesting rivers first. Of the four rivers you need to cross to get to Rettarfell all had crossing places where the water was no more than 300mm deep (although in one case our first choice of crossing point turned out to be considerably deeper). This was well within the capability of a Land-Rover Defender.

Water at 300mm.The following morning we retraced our route westward and noted the river crossing to a camp site on the northern bank. The crossing looked no deeper than the four we crossed the previous day. There were no additional warning signs. We did note that the only vehicle on the northern bank was a very large tractor.

We continued back to the road to Þórsmörk itself and another river crossing, where we were faced by dozens of different routes across the river, all apparently used in the last few days. Picking one that looked shallow we started across only to find the water considerably deeper than expected (700mm). No problem for Mog but it would certainly have been very uncomfortable for the Defender had they attempted it.

(We have since been told that the river crossing we did not attempt has a sudden drop to 1500mm deep!)

The drive to Landmannalaugar on the F225 was tame compared to the drive to Þórsmörk and although the road was restricted to 4x4s there were several ordinary cars just outside the Landmannalaugar camp site when we got there (the reason why they were outside the camp site is that the edge of the camp site is delineated by a river that is too deep for an ordinary car!). The scenery around Landmannalaugar is truly spectacular, combining glaciers, lakes, black ash, fluorescent green lava mountains and red and orange thermal rocks.

In the tent area of the camp site there are wooden boxes full of large rocks for you to use in place of tent pegs (the ground is too hard). The campsite has a small shop and café housed in two (immobile) USA school busses painted green and a "swimming pool" fed by a mixture of hot ground water (70°C) and glacier melt water (2°C). Thermal regulation by position is a skillful and competitive sport.

Stephen Stewart.

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