fimmtudagur, mars 23, 2006

keilir

Keilir is an old volcano that lies on Reykjanes, the peninsula to the south and west of Reykjavík. I took the day off of work yesterday to spend time with my brother who's in town from Boston, and we decided to climb the old volcano.

It was a cold day, somewhere in the 20s with a wind on top of that (and just on Sunday I was crowing about the summer!) and there was a dusting of snow on the mountains that ring the Reykjavík area. We headed south on Reykjanesbraut and then off on the dirt road that crosses a vast lava field and leads to the base of the mountain.

We couldn't find a way to drive to the base of Keilir, and then a couple phone calls confirmed that indeed there was no road to the base. It was going to involve a long trek across the lava from the gravel parking area. So we suited up and set out. Crossing the lava is no picnic: it involves climbing up and back down a lot of rocky hillocks and always looking out for hidden crevasses under the snow. After following another hiker's tracks up and down the rocky outcroppings for an hour, my GPS showed that we had come less than half a mile from the car.

But then it got easier as we came to a fairly flat plain and crossed all of that at a good clip. I was glad for every bit of gear we had. My brother had come with a face mask and balaclava and we each put on one of those to cut the biting wind on our faces. We had plenty of water and a couple of Þykkmjólks for sustenance and a good amount of layers each.

Then we were at the base of the great volcano, the rocky slope of the side towering above us. We started up, avoiding snow drifts and slippery rocks. About halfway up, we ran into the hiker whose trail we had been following, coming down the mountain. In my imagination, following those footprints for a few hours, I had been following a stoic Icelandic hiking master, but in reality it was a young kid from Nebraska with headphones on, wearing a camouflage jacket and jeans, on a day's leave from the American base at Keflavík. We chatted for a bit, then with a parting "Watch out you don't fall on your ass!" he headed on down the mountain. Moving up, we came to the toughest part of the hike. It was loose gravel, under snow, and got increasingly steep as we neared the top of the volcano.

But we did it, made it to the top and popped open our Þykkmjólk and stared out in all directions. Reykjavík was a tiny village on a peninsula below the towering Esja and Akrafjall mountains. Keflavík was a powdery couple of houses on another peninsula. And all around us were the original inhabitants of Iceland, towering white mountains gleaming in the sun.

6 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer said...

Could you see inside the volcano or is it capped? I have often seen that one on the way to the Blue Lagoon and wondered if it was, in fact, a volcano...

23.3.06  
Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Keilir is in fact a volcano that erupted beneath a glacier during the last ice age and does therefore not have a visible crater on the top.
It offers a pretty good view over the surrounding terrain despite the fact that it is only 379 meters high.

23.3.06  
Blogger tsduff said...

Wow, a landmark I recognize! I remember that volcano as it was one of my first glimpses of the amazing Rock which is Iceland. I enjoyed reading your adventure as you explored the volcano. Now I know its name. I never saw the snow which is on the lava field - it was bare when I was there. I'm not fond of hiking in snow...

23.3.06  
Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

The name Keilir refers to the shape
Keila=cone
bowling=keila (because of the shape of the cones you're supposed to hit)

I saw it one summer when I was young, I think I prefer summertime visits.

Hey J, ever thought of going skiing on the glacier in the summertime. It's a lot of fun, skiing in shorts and t-shirts :D


Oh, and thank you for my Erro and your little note. I'm REALLY impressed by your Icelandic skills, but then again you really have the desire and energy, not to mention the brain power to learn the language. If I didn't know it already, it'd sound like Marsian to me :D
Big applaud for you J!

24.3.06  
Anonymous carmen said...

damn, those americans are
e v e r y w h e r e....

24.3.06  
Anonymous Jessica said...

This is exactly what keeps me reading. You made me all chilly and thrilled - thank you very much for writing this.

29.3.06  

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