This was a 10-day trip on mostly flat glacier, so cross-country skis were the most comfortable and useful and we just needed to walk for sections too steep for these skis. We mostly camped on the glacier, but 2 nights were spent in unmanned basic huts. The route was carefully chosen to have a gradual ascent and 3 summits (Kverkf...
Day 1 (May 24, 2012): drive to climbing area near Skálafellsjökull and camp at climbing area.
Day 2: Leave 8 am to be driven to Jöklasel (starting ski point). Begin skiing closer to noon. Ski until 18:00, covering 15 km and raising elevation roughly 800 m. Conditions were wet snow and very little visibility (clouds / fog), but the...
Day 1 (May 24, 2012): drive to climbing area near Skálafellsjökull and camp at climbing area.
Day 2: Leave 8 am to be driven to Jöklasel (starting ski point). Begin skiing closer to noon. Ski until 18:00, covering 15 km and raising elevation roughly 800 m. Conditions were wet snow and very little visibility (clouds / fog), but the sky cleared by the time we were done cooking dinner around 10:00. Camp 1.
Day 3: Ski ~25 km to Camp 2. Wet snow, warm wind (~10 - 15 m/s) from the S but not the usual rain that accompanies it. Because the wind was roughly in our direction, we were able to use the sails that we made (2.5 x 1 m fabric with sleeves for ski poles at each end; 1 person holds onto the ski pole on each end of the sail). This was REALLY useful because the snow was otherwise sticky enough to slow our skiing a lot. So sticky that we decided to camp early and get up early the next morning for some harder snow. Camp 2
Day 4: Left ~ 7:30 to cover 35 km and sleep at the small emergency hut at Kverkfjöll (Camp 3). It was a long hard day as the ascent to Kverkfjöll was long and hot, but gorgeous conditions so we made the most of it. The hut is tucked next to some hills with geothermal springs and a lake. We could see all the mountains in the highland deserts to the north and ash was stirred by some winds from the E, leaving the air hazy in that direction.
Day 5: We had an easy short day starting around noon. Little wind and lots of sun - at this point we really began to fry. Gorgeous weather and little wind, and most of the way was downhill, leaving us ~20 km toward Grimsvötn. Camp 4.
Day 6: Got up early to make sure we arrived at the cabins at Grimsvötn volcano (Camp 5). Most of the way was easy and flat, except for a steeper ascent to the top of the mountain, where the cabins were located. These cabins were NICE! Great kitchen, chilly but good shower, sauna (!!!) and lots of bunk space. This is a tricky time to reserve a space at the cabin - we weren´t sure if a load of 25 scientists were going to show up at some point that evening. In that case, they would have had priority and we would have camped outside. That would have been chilly as the cabins were relatively high in elevation.
Day 7: Regretfully left Grimsvötn but enjoyed the long day of gradual downhill (in addition to riding our sleds), so we managed a quick 35 km to Hermannaskarð (Camp 6) . Gorgeous weather and little wind once again. REALLY hot, but needed to keep layers on to avoid frying.
Day 8: Began our ascent up into Öræfajökull. This was slightly tricky as we entered clouds and more crevassed terrain as we gained elevation. We needed to change route a few times as traversing hillsides would cause our sleds to roll over. We ended up going straight over the top of Snæbreið (gorgeous conical peak only 100 m shorter than Hvannadalshnjúkur, and only ~ 1/2 km away). We then needed to cross a snow bridge across a large crevasse (on belay) on our way down Snæbreið. and into the crater of Öræfajökull. There we camped just below Hvannadalshnjúkur (Camp 7). Today was a bit more windy (12 m/s ?), nothing problematic but enough to secure our camp better.
Day 9: We left at 9 am, skied 1 km to the climbing starting point around the side fo the peak, and left our sleds. From here, we alpine climbed to the peak (~200 m), had gorgeous views and weather, and then began our long descent off the glacier. Climbed down to our sleds, lunch, then ~ 3 km across the crater to the Hnappar picks that mark the beginning of Hnappaleið. From here down was a difficult descent as the oddly shaped volcanic peaks has caused crevasses to develop in every direction, crossing each other. It was steep, so we took off our skis. Our guide needed to do some expert pathfinding to get us down. He did a GREAT job. We tied both ropes together to make 1 long rope with all 6 of us and our sleds prusiked to the line behind us so that the person behind us could (try to) control our sleds to prevent them from running us over. This worked, but needed constant readjustment so the going was slow. The route is not easily described except that the goal was to arrive as close to the end of a barely recognizable road. One really needs a GPS to find the road in the end. From the main highwya, this road begins as a maintenance road for a cell phone tower, but then becomes basically a jeep track after passing the tower. After exiting the glacier, we rode our sleds down the rest of the snow, then carried them ~100 m to the road, where we were picked up after ~30 minutes. We had been calling and texting our ride throughout the day whenever there was the slightest bit of phone contact. From that contact, our ride was able to guess our arrival time very well and find us despite the lack of reception at this end point. We got a ride down with the same guide service (highly competent and recommended!), picked up our cars, and camped at Skaftafell National Park campground that night.
Getting thereOur route started at Skálafellsjökull. This is about a 1 hour drive beyond the national park Skaftafell. We drove there in our own cars and then left them at a local climbing area. From there we got a ride from a local guiding company in a large modified Range Rover. to our ski starting point. There is a dirt road that leads up to the restaurant / snow-mobile rental house Jöklasel. This is one of the easiest approaches because the glacier has a gradual ascent and the road leads up to the snow, so we did not have to carry our sleds any distance. The road, however, is not in the best condition and would be challenging even for normal 4-wheel drive drive vehicles.
ParkingAt a little-known climbing area where no one would mind.
Public transitWe paid the guiding service Öræfaferðir to drive us up to the glacier and pick us up at the end point.
DirectionsMost of the days were straight lines from Skálafellsjökull to Kverkfjöll to Grimsvötn to Hvannadalshnjúkur. These straight lines were modified to go around many steep crevassed areas. When entering Kverkfjöll, we followed the high route to the east side of the bowl. When entering Öræfajökull again we followed the high route. We have been warned that these two areas are especially difficult under bad visibility due to relatively narrow regions of crevasse avoidance.
teamleader, 35 years
I am a U.S. citizen living half-time in the U.S. and half-time in Iceland as a PhD student enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, USA, and at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, Iceland. I study fish biology in Icelandic and Alaskan lakes, so I spend a lot of my time outdoors, both professionally and for fun. I joined the Mountaineers Club in Seattle a couple years ago, and since then have been squeezing in as many trips into the mountains as possible between studies. I plan to celebrate my graduation with this adventure. Hopefully another PhD student and friend (also with Mammut mountain in Iceland) will be joining so we have a double graduation adventure!
Member, 47 years
I love being outdoors--I need some sun on my face every day! As an oceanographer I do sometimes get to work outside, but more often I'm in a lab or at a computer, so after work I like to play! I love beach volleyball, kayaking, tennis, scuba, boating/fishing, skiing and snowboarding, though on a daily basis I most often run or bike. I am a camera bug so I enjoy hikes through interesting landscapes and travel to experience different cultures.
Member, 31 years
I enjoy anything with a challenge, especially in learning new sports and training. I love to meet new people, travel, and have adventures. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice, but always with a good attitude. Sometimes it takes having a foreign girlfriend to realize that I haven't explored my own country enough though...
Member, 42 years
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Member, 33 years
I am a young scientist, originally from France but working in Iceland since a few years. I am enjoying the beautiful Nature of Iceland and I have been dreaming about hiking on the mythic Vatnajokull glacier for a while! With the Mammut project this dream could turn reality with the insurance of having the right guide and an awesome team of friends!
I am a beginner in mountaineering but I am a pretty outdoory person. I have been a free- lance and full-time rafting guide for the last four years in North Iceland (check it out: www.adventures.is). So I have more experience with water than ice :) and after all water and ice maybe not be that different, right ? I did some trekking in Iceland including the Laugavegur Trail (Þórsmörk - Landmannalaugar with Wendy and Pamela our team leader), glacier hiking on one of the glacier tongue of Vatnajokull! Last winter I went up Maelifell (highest point of North Iceland) using crampons and ice peak for the first time!
My next expedition is scheduled for November 2011: a white water expedition on the Tamur River, Nepal, in full autonomy for 12 days including 3 days trekking and 5 days class 4-5 rafting.
Overall I will simply say that I am a good team player and I am always looking forward to new adventure and sport challenges. I will be a nice addition to the team by bringing sense of humor, knowledge about Iceland and wilderness. Finally I can also do some french cooking to motivate the group :)
Member, 34 years
I was born in Himalaya but white water sport fascinated me before alpine sport. But for last 11 years, after hanging around with lots of climbers and monkeys, it dragged me in. Today I am into it but long way to go. As I say "we are never perfect when it comes to deal with Mother NATURE"