Iceland 2021 – Landmannalaugar Trail Hike

Landmannalaugar Trail has been a dream of mine for years, and was the main reason for my 2021 trip to Iceland. The trail is 55km long and starts in Landmannalaugar and ending in Thorsmork. The trail typically is completed in 4 days, however I completed it in 2 days. I was actually going to tack on the Thorsmork to Skogar hike called the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, however the weather deteriorated to the point where my safety was compromised so I pulled the plug early, more on that later.

My first day started early at 530am, as I had to catch a 630am bus to Landmannalaugar. I woke up, had a quick sandwich that I had bought the previous day and stored in my fridge, grabbed some coffee from the downstairs lobby, and caught a scooter to the Reykjavik Bus Terminal. At the terminal I grabbed my hiking bag and waited for the bus that I had pre-booked. It’s important to note that you should book the Highland Bus (Reykjavik Excursions) well in advance, as these seats can fill up days or weeks in advance since this hike is so popular. I paid about $60 CDN for a return trip.

The bus was on time and took about 4 hours, with a 45 minute break halfway along the journey at Hella (Kjarval Verslun) for a bathroom break, where you could also buy coffee and baked goods. I picked up a coffee and used the bathroom. The bus arrived in Landmannalaugar early at about 10:45am (scheduled time was 11:15am). Upon arrival I cooked one of my dehydrated meals for lunch with my JetBoil stove and talked with this lovely couple from Toulouse, France.

The hike starts off with a moderately steep bunch of switchbacks. Don’t forget to look back at the Landmannalaugar hut and campsite! After the switchback you head straight through a lava field from an eruption that occurred in 1477 from the Brennisteinsalda volcano. This area is one of the most unique areas I’ve seen because there’s a combination of regular basalt lava blended with numerous shining black obsidian rocks.

After passing through the lava field you’re presented with a breathtaking view of a field and the magnificent Vondugil (Bad Ravines) valley. The surrounding colourful rhyolite mountains are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and look like something out of a painting.

The trail continues climbing elevation towards the Brennisteinsalda volcano. You can see all sorts of steam coming from the mountainside, and tons of small sulfur rocks and hot springs. This part of the hike is a bit strenuous so make sure to take your time while enjoying the views.

The hike continues in a general upwards direction towards Hrafntinnusker Hut, with ever changing geography, most of which looks like its something from an imaginary painting.

Below you’ll see a picture of me at the highest point of the hike. From here on in the geography changes significantly and I start to run into some snow. Yes that’s right… snow in August!

The snow continues for quite some time, until I emerge on another geothermally active area, before continuing onto another snowy area. In this snowy area there was a memorial for a young person named Ido Keinan, who passed away in a blizzard in June 27th 2004. It’s a somber reminder that no matter what time of the year you’re in that you should be prepared for anything. This hit home later on in this hike when the weather deteriorated significantly to the point where I wasn’t able to maintain my body heat. I decided to pull the plug, but more on that later on.

This is probably a good time to mention that there is generally cellphone coverage on more than 50% of the hike with atleast 3G coverage, and sometimes LTE. There’s a few cellphone towers along the way, and some unique solutions at some of the remote huts, which include CB radio’s and repeaters.

I eventually descended towards Hrafntinnusker Hut, the first hut of the hike after Landmannalaugar. I filled up my water bottles with fresh water here, and was able to use the washroom. Something to note on the hiking trail is that most huts have an outhouse which you can use for free, or you can use proper toilets for about $4 CDN. The outhouses were generally acceptable, so I had no issue using them, however there was not hut warden to check the usage of the toilets at Hrafntinnusker Hut, so you might be able to use the nice toilets for free there.

The trail starts to lose some significant elevation after Hrafntinnusker Hut, and the geography changes again to rolling hills with even more snow, before turning back into mountains with some more elevation gain. Make sure to take tons of photos, as this was again another amazing part of the hike.

As the trail continues towards Alfavatn hut the geography changes again, but this time becomes much greener. The green mossy areas show up wherever there is water runoff from geothermally active areas. Apparently the sulfur and other minerals is very desired by the moss.

The descent towards Alfavatn hut is very steep, and while I’m not a huge proponent of poles, I would recommend them in this scenario.

Eventually you’ll come across your first river crossing, which conveniently has a rope in place, which I suspect is required earlier on in the season, however I didn’t really need to use it in late August. I always recommend water shoes as it make river crossings much more enjoyable than stepping on sharp rocks.

Finally you can see Alfavatn hut in the distance. This is usually where most people stop for the night, howver I opted to go a bit further to Hvangill, a much small hut, just a few kilometres away. The reason for my choice, was to make a 4 kilometer shorter day on the second day. It’ll turn out that I was very glad I made that decision the following morning, but more on that later. I stopped for dinner in Alfavatn to have a dehydrated meal for dinner, and I purchased a beer at the “bar” there for about $10 CDN. I felt it was a worthy reward for a days hard work.

Continuing on from Alfavatn there’s a few river crossings, luckily the first few are small enough that there are some wooden bridges to cross, so you don’t have to take off your boots.

About 4 kilometers of minor elevation gain and descent you’ll emerge on Hvangill hut and campsite. The campsites all have stacked rocks around them to block wind. I was thankful for this as the following morning I was woken up around 5am by howling wind. When I arrived at Hvangill I paid the warden $5 CDN to use the shower, and $20 CDN for the camping fee, setup my tent, had a shower, and went to bed.

I struggled throughout the evening to maintain warmth, as I wasn’t prepared for 0° C weather. The weather should have been 8-17° C however a weather front rolled in and caught me by surprised. I wore 4 shirts, and two pairs of pants, and still wasn’t warm enough. I eventually fell asleep and was woken up at 5am by an intense wind. I peered out of my tent and was greeted by some heavy fog. Visibility was probably about 300 metres.

I got ready, packed up my tent and started my journey towards Thorsmork. At this point in time I had decided that I will terminate my hike in Thorsmork, rather than continuing along to Skogar, as the weather was forecasted to get worse throughout the day. The day started out with a large river crossing over a bridge, followed shortly by a significant river crossing without a bridge. The current was fairly strong, so I can’t even imagine what it would have been a month or two prior.

Following the river crossing I walked plenty kilometers over a lava field, before descending into the next camp called Emstrur, where I ate lunch quickly before continuing on. The visibility at Emstrur was less than 100 metres.

The hike after Emstrur started to get geographically interesting with much more green being present as I descended towards Thorsmork. At times the visibility improved, but in general it was quite poor, and quite cold. There were quite a few river crossings that had to be navigated, but most didn’t require me to take my shoes off.

About 4 kilometres away the geography changed again significantly to what resembled farmland, and I saw the occasional sheep. In fact I even scared a sheep that was grazing.

Finally I arrived in Thorsmork, where I caught a 3:15pm bus back to Reykjavik. On the bus ride I met a really nice guy Kyle, his sister named Kaitlynn, and their friend Courtney, who are all from the Boston area. It made for a very enjoyable bus ride back. The buses have to drive through rivers up to 1 metre deep, so they’re specially equipped Mercedes Benz high clearance vehicles, with locking differentials. You can checkout my YouTube video of a river crossing here.

After arriving back in Reykjavik I checked into “Room With a View” hotel, a self service hotel. It’s kind of like an Airbnb place. It was very well appointed for about $200/night. I’ll be here the next two nights.

After checking in I went and picked up my other bag from the Reykjavik Bus Terminal storage lockers, dropped it off at my hotel, and went for dinner at Lebourski Bar next door. I had a Donni Burger and a beer. While I was there a guy spun the wheel on the wall and won ten free beers, which he shared with his friends at the bar.

After dinner I had a shower and got ready for bed. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series.

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Carthew Alderson Trail Hike

Last Sunday I hiked the Carthew Alderson Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park. The hike starts below Cameron Falls in the town center and climbs up the left side of Cameron Falls before continuing down the river valley that is left completely burned from the 2017 Kenow Wildfire. New vegetation is already starting to grow, which is a great sign, and it looked quite beautiful with the new vegetation growing amongst the burned trees.

The first lake is Alderson Lake, which is about 8km along the trail. To get to this lake it is a slow steady elevation gain, and not too strenuous. Towards the lake the old vegetation starts to emerge, as the entire river valley wasn’t destroyed from the fire. I found Alderson Lake to be the most beautiful of the three lakes, with its deep vivid blue colour.

The second lake is Lower Carthew Lake, which is quite the steady 3km grind to get to.

Continuing along another 1km or so is Upper Carthew Lake. This lake is quite beautiful and if you look bardwards towards the Lower Lake you get quite the spectacular view.

The hike took me about 4.75 hours to complete the 20km, 997 metres of elevation gain.

Stay tuned as next week I’ll be going to Kelowna with Julie to soak up some sun, drink some delicious wine, and eat some delicious food!

Before I go; I thought i’d share the beautiful picture of a double rainbow that we were blessed with in the evening after my hike.

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Headwall Lakes Hike

Last weekend I hiked two hikes; Headwall Lakes and Iceberg Lake, which were my 20th and 21st hikes of the year if you count all the walk/hikes I completed with Julie in Wells Gray Provincial Park. The first hike I completed was Headwall Lakes. Headwall Lakes is a moderate difficulty 16km hike that has 652 metres of elevation gain.

The hike starts in the same parking lot as Chester Lake, a hike which I completed a few weeks ago and you can view here. The start of the hike is an easy 3km saunter along an access road, before venturing into the forest. The forest trail was quite tight in some areas so I decided to put on my pantlegs on my Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants (which I highly recommend by the way).

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About 5.5 km into the hike I was about to emerge onto the rock scree when I heard the roar of a bear!!! It made all the hair on the back of neck stand up, and I cautiously turned back to head towards the parking lot, while announcing my presence loudly.

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About 10 minutes on my journey back I ran into a group of 7 male geologists and told them about my experience. They said that with a group of 8 the bear wouldn’t be scared of us and asked if I wanted to tag along. In the group there were 2 Rob’s, 3 Ian’s, and a cool old Romanian guy who I chatted with for a bit. I learned a bit about the different rock formations and had a great time with them. After about an hour I split apart from the group and blazed my own trail towards the first lake.

The wind started to pickup towards the first lake, and at times I was actually starting to get a bit cold, so I decided to put on my hoodie. Emerging at the first lake I was completely awe-struck at the sheer beauty of the scenery around me!

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At the first lake I took a break for some water and a sandwich before venturing up towards the second lake. The climb up towards the second lake was beside a beautiful waterfall with alpine flowers growing up alongside the waterfall edge.

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Gazing backwards towards the first lake I was presented with such an astounding view that I couldn’t help myself from continuously looking back at.

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Finally, I arrived at the second lake, which was quite the different perspective. It wasn’t as beautiful as the first lake, but was still pretty in its own accord.

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After taking a rest at the top I ventured back towards the car, without any more bear drama! The total time on the hike was 4.25 hours, but if it were not for my encounter with the bear it probably would have been closer to 3.5 hours.

Stay tuned for the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Lillian Lake & Galatea Lakes Hike

Last weekend my father and I completed the Lillian Lake & Galatea Lakes Hike located in Kananaskis Provincial Park, Alberta. We started the hike rather late in the day (12:30pm) because I was hanging out at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in the morning with my friend Brenda.

The total hike is 16.9km and has 870 metres of elevation gain. The trail to Lillian Lake (the first lake) was fairly easy to moderate, with a good mix of level ground or just a slight include in the first 75% of the trail. The trail got steeper towards the lake.

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My dad and I parted ways here and I proceeded to go up to Lower Galatea Lake, which was quite the steep incline up some shale. I ran into a co-worker on the way up. Once reaching Lower Galatea Lake my breath was completely taken away by the raw beautiful of this beautiful turquoise lake. It was absolutely amazing! I ended up chatting with a few people at the lake while eating lunch, and asked them to take my photo since I don’t really do selfies.

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I didn’t really feel like proceeding further to the Upper Galatea Lake so I head back town towards the car, where my dad was waiting. Total hiking time to the Lower Galatea Lake was 3.25 hours from the parking lot. The return time was about half of that (1.5 hours). Total time was 4.75 hours. If you decide to go to the Upper Galatea Lake the round trip time is about 5.5 hours.

Check back shortly when I post about the best photo’s I’ve taken at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary this year.

 

Plains of Six Glaciers Hike

Yesterday my dad and I completed the Plains of Six Glaciers Hike, which is considered to be one of the top twenty hikes to do in Alberta. My dad picked me up at my house at 6:00am and after a 2 hour drive we had arrived at Lake Louise. We thought by getting there early that we would find parking… we were wrong. We circled the parking lot a few times, and lucked out and grabbed the last available spot.

The Government of Canada starting running a massive promotion of the Canadian Parks back at the 150th Anniversary of Canada back in 2017, and ever since then tourism has kicked off. They figured by running buses to Lake Louise and Moraine lake that it would help ease congestion, but it actually made the problem worse because people park at the Lake Louise lot, instead of the overflow lot to catch the bus to Morraine Lake, leaving not many parking spaces available for people actually wanting to visit Lake Louise.

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The 14km and 587 metres of elevation gain trail starts at Lake Louise, then hugs the east side of the lake, before starting a gradual 500-or-so metre elevation gain through the trees towards the Plains of Six Glaciers Tea House. When we were nearing the Tea House we heard a rumble, and you could see a small avalanche that was occurring; luckily I had my camera in hand and ready to shoot and was able to snap a great shot of the avalanche in action. At the Tea House we stopped for some beverages and food. Dad had a delicious sandwich, some lemonade, and some tea, while I had some coffee, as well as some chips and salsa.

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The Tea House was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1927 as an enjoyable spot to hike to have a cup of tea and overlook the amazing scenery. In 1959 Joy Kimball purchased the Tea House and it has been run by her family ever since. The Tea House still has no electricity, and all food is prepared on a propane stove. Non perishable food items are helicoptered in once at the beginning of the season, and workers bring in the rest up with them in backpacks or by horse every 5 days, when there is a shift change.

I continued the last 1.5km and 100 metres of elevation gain of the hike to the end, while dad started to head back towards the car. The view at the end of the hike was out of this world amazing!

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It was time for me to head back towards the car too. I ended up catching up with my dad towards the beginning of the hike along the east side of Lake Louise. Total time for the hike was roughly 3.75 hours, which is actually slightly faster than the sticker time for the hike.

On the way home from the hike we stopped in Canmore for some well earned coffee and cola.

What hike is in store next? We’re not quite sure as we both have a busy July, but I do have the following hikes on my personal list that I’d like to complete this year: Galatea Lake & Lilian Lakes, Valley of 10 Peaks: Wenkchemna Pass, Geraldine Lakes, Crypt Lake.

The next blog post will be a continuation of my Vietnam. In the next post I’ll be travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay to check back tomorrow!

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