Esja (Habunga)

  • Esja (Habunga)
  • 914 m
  • Primary factor 684 m
  • Location North 64.24480, West 021.65643 (GPS on the summit)
  • Iceland
  • Difficulty: YDS class 2
  • Climbed May 14, 2016.


How to get there:
From Reykjavik, continue north along Hwy. 1. The sign to follow is Mosfellsbår, a small center just north of Reykjavik. Continue on Hwy 1 past this place, soon the road will run in an arc along the sea in order to get around a small fjord. Just as the Hwy, is heading more west (left), watch for a small turn-off road on your right with a sign containing the word Esja. You should see a parking area as well as a nearby building (which is a restaurant). Turn right here and park at the parking, there is more parking at another lot just slightly further onwards. This location is N64.20864 W021.71305, elevation about 10 meter.
Route description:
Take the obvious trail uphill to the left of the restaurant. It will cross a small bridge and join a bigger trail (small dirt road). Follow this big trail uphill. Keep left at a fork, following the biggest trail. Higher up, there is a new fork, the right fork crossing the creek on a fairly big, wooden bridge. These alternatives will merge again up near the final, steep slope. Take the left branch uphill, then consider doing the alternative when coming back down.
The two trails merge below location N64.23151 W021.71542, elevation about 670 meter. From here, an ascending traverse (left) will complete the steepest section of the ascent. The slope abruptly ends and the terrain becomes almost flat at location N64.23215 W021.71247, elevation 760 meter. This last part of the climb may be on a snow slope in the spring / early summer.
Once up, what remains is a 3 kilometer walk across fairly level landscape, gaining the last 150 vertical meter in a very gradual way. The summit is on a pretty large and very flat plateau. In summer, there should be a cairn.
Pål Jørgen and I arrived in Iceland with a morning flight from Bergen. Thanks to the time difference, we still had at least a half day and a smaller warm-up hike would be ideal. My friend Greg Slayden would arrive directly from Seattle on Sunday morning (tomorrow), the plan would then be to take advantage of the good forecast and climb Hvannadalshnukur.
It was overcast as we left the trailhead at 1340, lots of people on the trail. This was certainly a popular place for a Saturday walk. We gained elevation quite efficiently, a snow traverse got us up to the flat summit plateau about one hour after our start. Nobody seemed to go as far as this. We were in fog and there was not a single footprint anywhere in the direction of the summit. We had no map, but the summit coordinates in my GPS. The summit should be about 3 kilometer onwards into the fog. Snow everywhere and not ideal, we made pretty deep steps in the snow. We set out and after a second hour, this one entirely in a white-out, we arrived at what should be the highest point. A small bit of evidence, we spotted several faint tracks that seemed to converge here. We left after about 10 minutes and hiked back to the car. The descent via an alternate trail (more left when looking downslope), to reach the car by 1745.
A very nice start on our week of exploring the mountains of Iceland. This trip report continues with Hvannadalshnukur.
Here is a quick reference and summary of all climbs on this trip.