A view to kill for in Iceland
On the whole Icelanders follow the herd whenever they get the chance. Which is normally not something to brag about much for direct descendents of adventure-seeking vikings. But in the case of climbing Hvannadalshnukur, the highest peak in Iceland, it is certainly something lots of locals can be proud about.
It is a place you should seriously contemplate visiting if ever in the country for while the going is pretty tough and pretty dangerous too it will leave you with a view to die for and memories to match.
Hvannadalshnukur is Iceland´s highest peak at 2,109 metres (6.923 feet). It is located, very majestically, on Vatnajokull glacier and the peak can be seen for miles around. Indeed, driving eastbound to Skaftafell on a clear day the peak, as well as the glacier itself, will leave you breathless.
Make no mistake, the climb is physically demanding and should never be attempted on your own. To get to the top you will have to cross numerous almost bottomless crevasses and caution here and focus at all times will be needed. Just the fact that the trek takes 12 to 15 hours in the very best conditions should tell you something about how hard it is.
Then again, no one making it to the top has ever regretted the long dangerous trek for the view and the experience will be with you for the rest of your life. But only during a nice clear summer´s day.
A few companies offer guided trips up Hvannadalshnuk. One very well regarded is Icelandic Mountain Guides. The Iceland Touring Association, Ferdafelag Islands, also offers trips to the peak once in awhile. The latter one comes highly recommended by team Total Iceland.
From Reykjavik you can hitchhike, take a bus or rent a car to get to Skaftafell National Park. Better yet some companies offer pick-up as well as the climb. Straight driving will get you here in five to six hours but that is not recommended since there is lot to see on the way. The Skaftafell National Park itself is one of the gems of Iceland where white glacial tongues extend from Vatnajokull glacier down to the flatland. Few things are better reminders of how inconsequential we humans are.