My visits to the Thórsmörk have mainly been during the winter with one very special trip soon after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 when the valley was coated in a thick layer of unpleasant grey ash that was in the air too. Amazingly, rain and meltwater has washed all of this away and apart from the loss of the beautiful glacial lake at Gigjökull where the lava poured into the valley, nature has returned the beauty of this place to us. Taking a summer hike like this has been on the list for a long time!
The Thórsmörk valley is wide and deep with an immense gorge and numerous meltwater streams feeding into it from the surrounding glaciers. The river braids as it flows out to the sea with huge areas of black sand exposed between the streams. In the valley bottom, huge boulders like giant Lego litter the floor making this area largely inaccessible and therefore perfect to experience on foot or horseback (we are doing it this way in 2020). The vegetation of the valley changes from mouth to source, and there is a beautiful wooded area quite a long way into Thórsmörk that is unusual in itself, since so much of Iceland is devoid of anything beyond rough grass and low scrubby shrubs. Here the trees, grass and flowers are accompanied by various types of bird, quite an oasis in such a rocky, mossy location.
Leading from the valley are hiking trails that slope upwards towards the various peaks that edge the highland region of Iceland, and it’s some of these that we will be climbing. These are manageable climbs and they are not a race to the top. As we learnt last year, it’s the terrain underfoot that is really the major challenge and the steepness and instability of the ascents and descents that adds to the sense of achievement at the end of the day. It goes without saying that the landscapes we walk through, the views from high up and the sense of remoteness that we will feel just have to be experienced, it’s not something that is easy to describe!
The mountain huts are warm, cosy and clean and are an important gathering place for hikers. We’ll be able to relax, rest and eat and meet others with their own hiking and travel tales to tell. We’ll be walking with the kit and food that we need for each day but won’t have to carry our food supplies and bedding. We’ll also be able to leave our other belongings safely at our hiking base while we are away for these days in the Thórsmörk.
In August, like any other time of year in Iceland, we should expect every weather in a day. Temperatures should be above freezing and could be much higher. The days are still long, but who knows, it could be possible to get an early season sighting of the Aurora. Whatever we get, these days spent in the valley of Thor will definitely be an extremely memorable and authentic experience of Iceland.