Location: North 63.98877, West 016.68477 (GPS on the summit)
Difficulty: YDS class 2
Climbed May 15. 2016.
How to get there:
From Reykjavik, drive Hwy. 1, the road that circles around all of Iceland, south-east.
The distance from the center of Reykjavik is 328 kilometer.
You will see the mountain from the
road across a large, flat area, quite some time before arriving. The trailhead is at the end of a short
side road going left, there is a sign at this exit saying Sandfell. The location of the
trailhead and parking is at N63.94462, W016.79299, with an elevation of about 100 meter.
From the parking area, the trail heads left if you face the closest hillside. The trail becomes quite distinct
and clear very soon. It climbs the hillside, sometimes with a few zig-zag turns. It is never steep and always
good to walk/hike. Higher up, as it crosses off the main hillside, the trail touches a nice stream where
one should drink/catch some water for the remainder of the trip. Next, the trail climbs along a ridgeline, eventually
and slightly steeper, gaining what has been the horizon for some time, a rocky buttress, the trail is still very
easy to follow. Above here, the terrain is much less steep as one now gets closer to the lower parts of the glacier.
Depending on the time of year and on the amount of snow in the last winter, one will find snow and can start
skiing in this vicinity. We started skiing at location, N63.96010, W016.75714, elevation about 775 meter.
Next, the route proceeds uphill and crosses a horizon ridge that appears to be left when seen from below. Above here,
one will finally enter the lower part of the glacier. The next part of the route, up the lower glacier, is a broad,
large slope with a very easy angle. Note that this is a glacier and there are crevasses. Some may be visible while
others are hidden under snow, caution is definitely needed.
This long uphill finally tops out at location N63.98877, W016.68477, elevation near 1800 meter. There is normally
a somewhat larger crevasse running perpendicular to the direction of travel, in this area where the glacier breaks
across this edge. The peak itself
becomes visible, a pretty flat and good size plateau must be crossed to get to
Finally, one ascends a slope that steepens up to another crevasse that runs across, above this one continues
uphill on a more gentle slope heading towards some seracs. Next, turn right and follow the easiest slope uphill
with a final turn more left to approach the main crest. All that remains is to ski on easy terrain to the final
summit hump, ascend this and celebrate the top of Iceland.
A long weekend in May, we decided to visit Iceland for the first time. I had
been to Iceland 6 times before, but each time only staying one night in tranist to
or from East Greenland. My son Pål Jørgen wanted to come along as well
as my friend Greg Slayden from Seattle. Pål and I flew in early Saturday morning on
May 14th. while Greg would arrive on Sunday morning. Our first priority summit was
the Iceland HP, Hvannadalshnukur.
We picked up Greg as planned, except that it took a full hour for him to clear out
of the airport. We told him that the weather looked good in the very beginning of our
week long trip and that the Iceland HP therfore would be our first goal. "Tomorrow?" asked
Greg, "Today!" was our immediate reply. Without further delays, we therefore drove to the
trailhead, arriving there a bit after noon. We all realized that this would be a tough day for
Greg, non-stop Seattle to Hvannadalshnukur. People generally start this climb very early in the
morning and a few concerned visitors asked if we really intended to start this late. My reply would
be that since it would not get dark, this really did not matter a whole lot. I expected that we would
be back down by midnight - at the latest.
We got going at 1245, quite a long hike along
a nice trail before we could put
our skis on around 1420. The broad hill climbing about 1000 vertical
meter, seemed to never end, but we finally reached the flat plateau around 1700.
Nice to finally see the mountain with impressive
ice formations just below the summit.
From here, the remaining
climb was quite easy and we arrived at the summit at 1830. Greg slowed down with his randonnee skis when
crossing the plateau, however Pål Jørgen needed a small supply of food around the same
time, so everything worked out very nicely. The steeper section of the final climb involved skiing around
a small corner in order to cross a pretty horizontal crevasse. Care was needed here, but there was no real
difficulty. Just keep in mind that this section needed slow skiing when descending. The final summit hump
had very icy snow, difficult to ski, but short enough that we basically side-stepped going both up and down.
and I arrived slightly ahead of Greg, but
soon enough we could all celebrate a very
our most important goal obtained on our first day in Iceland.
The view was nice and the weather stayed good. This summit is
directly connected to Vatnajøkul, the largest
glacier on Iceland and much bigger than any glacier in Europe.
A slight breeze did not encourage an extended summit stay,
we headed back down around 1900. Skiing back down was pretty straightforward, we waited for Greg at the
end of the plateau. Subsequently, he and Pål waited for me as I skied a bit slower down the
big hill with my quite narrow mountaineering skis. A single, minor incident, I skied my right ski
directly into a small crevasse, it was completely covered, but I should have guessed its presence.
I immediately fell over onto safe ground and blamed myself a bit for not being a bit more alert. This
crevasse was fairly far downslope and happened to have the same direction as I was skiing, sort of
We next changed back into walking mode and
arrived back down at our car at 2215. It had been a very nice climb indeed. Lots of credit to
Greg for doing this peak non-stop from his home in Seattle. We pitched our tents and stayed
overnight at the trailhead.
Here is a quick summary of peaks climbed in our trip to Iceland.