When you are a little nervous about something, it always makes you feel better when the sun is shining 🙂
I arrived early at the Borea Adventures dock to catch my boat transfer from Ísafjörður to Veiðileysufjörður and was beginning to think I may have been the only passenger. However, with 5 minutes to go, 2 guys from the US (Sean and Daniel) and a group of about 15 people on a day tour showed up and we set out on the ~1 hour journey to Hornstrandir.
Boat transfer to Veiðileysufjörður
It was a very calm crossing in glorious weather, so I sat on the back deck enjoying the views and chatting with some of the other passengers. We dropped the group of day-hikers off as we entered the Veiðileysufjörður inlet, and then continued on to a triangular structure (which turned out to be a pit toilet) that identifies the locations of campgrounds in Hornstrandir.
The crew launched the small zodiac off the back of the boat to deposit myself, Sean and Daniel on dry land, and then headed back to Ísafjörður. There was no turning back now and I had 8 days to get to my pickup point in Hesteyri.
It turns out Sean is an award-winning professional wildlife photographer (a give-away being the enormous lens that was permanently attached to his camera) who had come to Hornstrandir to photograph a personal project on Arctic Foxes. He and Daniel (also an amazing wildlife photographer) had met the year before in Alaska and were spending the next 5 days in the Hornvík area (my destination for the day) to capture the images. Given we were heading the same direction and had similar interests we decided to hike together.
Although there was a sign pointing in the direction of Hornvík, there was no obvious trail to follow. So we simply set out across country in the general direction of the waterfall that we could see at the end of the inlet – the direction we should head according to the map.
From Veiðileysufjörður to Hafnarskard Pass
After wading through knee-high shrubbery for much of it (very reminiscent of several of the hikes I did in South Greenland last year), we arrived at the waterfall, and found our first marker and the trail.
From there, the route to the Hafnarskard Pass was obvious and marked by large stone cairns stretching off into the distance. It was also clear to us looking ahead that there was going to be snow in our very near future!
As we climbed higher, the views behind us down to the inlet became more and more spectacular
and indeed, we started to hit patches of snow that we had to cross. This wasn’t entirely unexpected given how early it was in the season (the boats had only start running a couple of weeks earlier at the beginning of June), and this was one of the things I’d read about online that was adding to my concerns about hiking alone. However, we weren’t the first people to pass this way and there were boot prints that seemed to be a few days old marking the trail across each of the snowy patches.
The fun really started towards the top of the pass, where we could see we would have to conquer a very steep snow slope to gain our destination.
It was every bit as steep as it looked and, given I was in the lead, I ended up having to kick snow-stairs into the slope with my boots in order to make progress. Good thing that I’d seen Maxime do this last year in East Greenland! It seemed that trekkers coming from the other direction had had much more fun – bum-sliding down the slope rather than hiking it!
But I made it eventually
and watched as the others struggled their way up. I had no idea how Sean was going to manage carrying that enormous lens of his, but he eventually joined us and explained that he basically used it as a trekking pole all the way up!
The view back to Veiðileysufjörður was amazing of course
but it was also very exciting to see what lay ahead of us. No surprises – it was another beautiful vista!
Hafnarskard Pass to Hornvík
We tucked ourselves behind a rocky ridge out of the wind to eat lunch, relax, soak up the sunshine (after all, it’s not often you get weather like this in Iceland!) and admire the views. Then it was time to continue on to Hornvík through the snow that lay on the northern side of the pass.
My guess is that we were walking in snow for about 1/4 of the hike from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík. It wasn’t terribly deep for the most part but it was a little slushy, and again I’m very happy with my Lowa boots that kept my feet blissfully dry and warm 🙂
We stopped for another rest much further down the slope, though really it was just an excuse to get the packs off and lie in the sun for a while.
Not too long after, we reached a steep drop-off that revealed the river valley leading down to Hornvík.
Wow! We were not expecting such a verdantly green reveal, made even more so by the bright sunshine and blue skies! Being photographers, we had a great time here playing with the composition of the river and small lakes as they punctuated this vibrancy.
We could also see our home for the night – the Hornvík campsite – which was located just past the yellow house on the edge of the inlet.
The path became a little boggy as we descended into the valley, but we finally arrived.
Given that Hornvík is the most popular destination in Hornstrandir, the campground is large and really well set up. There is a bright orange emergency shelter (you don’t want to have to go hunting for it in an emergency), a sink, flush toilets, and a permanent Ranger station. When the Icelandic flag is flying, the Ranger is in 🙂
It was here that I met the extremely helpful and lovely Vésteinn Már Rúnarsson and talked him through my hiking plan for the next week. He gave me updates on the status of the trails (especially pertaining to bogginess) and made several suggestions given I was wearing hiking boots and not gumboots 😀 He also had the latest best guess as to what the weather would do tomorrow…
Armed with this information, I found a place to pitch my tent with an awesome view (it wasn’t difficult as there were only 7 people camping here this night), and went for a walk along the beach admiring “The Horn” where I would be heading tomorrow on my hike.
Million thanks to Sean and Daniel for hiking with me today! Loved hanging out with you guys and I hope you have a ton of luck with your Arctic Fox photography!
Distance = 9.9km
Time taken = 7 hours and 20 minutes. But probably 2 hours of that was spent chilling in the sunshine and taking photos 🙂
Download track as .gpx
Read more about my solo trek in Hornstrandir
If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure in Hornstrandir:
- Prelude – leading up to departure
- Day 1 – from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík
- Day 2 – from Hornvík, around Hornbjarg to Hornbjargsviti
- Day 3 – from Hornbjargsviti to Hornvík
- Day 4 – from Hornvík to Hlöðuvík
- Day 5 – from Hlöðuvík to Hesteyri
- Day 6 – around Hesteyri