The last walking day dawned, today we would backtrack over Svartaskarð, then traverse around to Skoravatn, and down the other side to Hrafnfjörður. We decided to have one last swim before we left, and we enjoyed a nice short swim under mixed cloud. Not as blue as the day before, by any means, but far from horrible.
The big group from Ferðafélag Akureyri was leaving this morning as well, so I think the valley was about to get pretty deserted.
Still, all good things come to and end, and we got out of the pool, and headed off up the track, accidentally disturbing a ptarmigan and her chicks, who scattered in various directions. But all along the ground. The mother hen, though perfectly capable of flying, ran back and forth herding her chicks away from us. Some of the chicks had even squatted down, rather than scattering, and it wasn't until we came closer along the track that they suddenly stood up and made a break for it. Curious what the better approach is survival wise.
Shortly afterwards, the wind picked up.
We crossed back over Þaralátursós, which was disgustingly cold and miserable as the first time, but at least we knew what to expect. Rising back up the slope to Svartaskarð, the wind picked up even more, and we rose into the clouds. That was the beginning of the end :) From here on out, we were in wet, grey wind, and no ridge or bay or mountain pass gave us any change or any shelter. It stayed like this until the day after we got back to Ísafjörður, but we weren't to know that then, and we continually hoped for some relief over the next big pass.
Easy going back up to Svartaskarð, it's a much gentler slope on the east side, and we knew the way. Down the other side, the weather was actually worse. This wasn't a problem for the first section, as we were following the monster trail and it's cairns, though we were soon to leave this track, and head off due east. This was a track marked "unmarked" on our map, and I'd not seen the junction on our way up, so perhaps this time we would actually get a wilderness track. (Every other bit of "unmarked" track we'd been on so far had actually been very very well marked)
With the gps for an altimeter, and a rough direction we needed to head, we struck out into the fog, and soldiered on. We occasionally found cairns, but never a track as such, and eventually came around the corner, and back along up to the pass.
Along the way I fell into a swamp up to my thigh, walking on ground that had normally only sunk a few inches, we waded across streams, far too wet through to bother trying to take off shoes first. Still not finding any shelter from the rain or wind, we eventually stopped in a small hollow, and had a quick yet essential and satisfying lunch, before continuing on.
We hit the track again by the lake, which looked lovely, but it really wasn't photography weather :) Continuing downhill, my knee acting up again, we came to a very nice waterfall entering on our side, and then the rather special bridge. Apparently this used to be a fairly rough creek crossing, cold, fast, rocky and deep, but in 1998, some locals from Ísafjörður came along and built a bridge. It's quite a bridge, and because of it's curve, it's actually very steep going up and down. It's also "unfinished" in that it only has handrails on parts of each side, and in windy and wet slippery conditions, it can feel pretty airy. Still, much better than swimming :)
One unexpected surprise coming down into Hrafnfjörður was Gýgjarsporshamar, a huge rock outcrop, looking like one of the most appealingly climbable pieces of rock I'd seen in iceland. Actually solid looking, with very little scree below it, and a decent size. Still, not the most accessible :)
Into Hrafnfjörður itself, we discovered it was low tide, and we were staring at a wide expanse of seaweed and muddy rocks. What a sexy place to stay. We stopped by the emergency hut, which looked like a pretty shit campground, and according to one map, the campground itself was a bit further along. We walked a bit further along, but it sure didn't look like there was ever going to be anywhere remotely flat. Or remotely dry. The entire hillside was just oozing water, and if it wasn't boggy or squishy, it was rocky.
We walked back to the emergency hut, and looked around the "camp site" again, before deciding that perhaps we could just sleep on the floor of the hut. The hut said "Bad weather" was one of the allowable emergencies, and we were definitely feeling a bit like drowned rats by then.
So, we opened up the hut, and proceeded to hang up what we could, in vain attempts to dry, and made us up some soup. The hut actually turned out to be quite cold, as it's much bigger than a tent, and with a couple of holes in it's outer and inner walls, wasn't nearly as well insulated as it perhaps could have been, or had been. Still, it was dry. And that was lovely.
We'd been feeling guilty about how weak we were, sleeping in the emergency hut, when all our gear was still in good working order, we weren't injured, and we were still on schedule, but that all disappeared after reading the log book.
We found lots of entries from people stopping in to make themselves a coffee, reporting 10 days of sunshine, or people even stopping in on their first day after getting off the boat. I'd say barely 5%, if even that many, had had any sort of misfortune at all! We found a group of girls complaining that their makeup was wet, and that they hoped they didn't meet any boys in this state, but that some men would be nice, if they carried their packs for them. We found some americans who had arrived here by ferry on sept 11, and after a solemn little piece, ended by referring to the magical healing energies that would help everyone. Plenty of solo walkers, and all the people who reported any sort of bad weather, had all come in late or early season. (outside the ferry timetables) Some notes from a couple of swedes who'd come the same way as us, but taken about an extra 5 hours. Having the GPS sure helped in the fog, even for just the altimeter.
We ate, slept, and ate, and shivered a bit too, not really getting the best night's sleep either of us had ever had, but the morning came, and we packed up, ate some more, and prepared to head out. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned muddy tidal flats, the boat can't come all that close to the hut, and the windows in the hut didn't face a useful direction either, so we had to go out into the rain and wait it out by the seashore.
This was lots of fun. No walking to keep warm, just all your clothes, and sitting there, waiting. I watched jellyfish, we ate chocolate, we did a lot of staring. Eventually the boat came, and with it, three bits of fresh meat. We welcomed them to our beach party, and quickly hopped aboard. Yay!
The cruise back was not nearly as leisurely as our private ferry out. We had a few frenchmen already aboard, and picked up an entire family of icelanders and their gear on the way back out too. Still, pretty casual, and before long we were back in Ísafjörður. Home sweet home :)
If you want to book a place in Reykjafjörður, or want any details about camping there, the lady to ask, (and to pay) is Sjöfn Guðmundsdóttir. You can reach her on 853-1615 in summer at Reykjafjörður, or the rest of the year on 456-7215 in Bolungarvík.