Hiking

Alpinistes crossing the Glacier de La Girose

At the Glacier de La Girose

First the téléphérique ride up to the glacial wastelands at 3211 m. The ride is pretty special, carried across the forested glacial valley with the river Romanche 500 m. below the cabine. There’s a change at 2416 m. to another lift which carries higher still, now over rocky wasteland wrecked by the glacier and too high for trees. The end of the second ride is the start of the hike. You need crampons, ropes and poles to continue very much higher - and skills which I don’t have - but it’s possible to get a bit further on cleared paths.
The views from 3300 m. are panoramic to the north. A multitude of peaks, sadly too many are dry, no snow. Clouds fluffing in some of the valleys, Mt Blanc and the Belladonne far away, also Mt Thabor (which I hiked to the top of in 2014) and the spiky Aiguilles d'Arves much closer.

Read more: La Meije: Glacier de La Girose

Styhead Gill in Borrowdale
Seathwaite in Borrowdale
Above Seathwite, Borrowdale

Day hike with Terry up to Styhead Tarn (437 m.) from Seathwaite in Borrowdale. This area is the heart of the Lake District fells: Sty Head (488 m.) is a crossing of major routes to Great Gable and Scafell Pikes. A hike revisiting a place from our past: Terry knows this country better than I: he introduced me to this area when we camped in his tent on the banks of Styhead Tarn back in the early 1990’s as an overnight on our way to Scafell Pike; he already knew the area as mountain marathon runner. Today there was plenty of water down Styhead Gill after recent rainfall but high pressure is controlling our weather so sunshine and clear views over Borrowdale to Hellvellyn.

Snæfellsjökull in the clouds
Sheep on the lower slopes of Snæfellsjökull

Weather looked clear out the window at 0530 AM in Ólafsvik, good news after yesterday’s deluges and mist. Checked seismic forecast, all quiet. So off for a pre-breakfast hike on the sunny side of the local stratovolcano, Snæfellsjökull (1446 m.), which inspired Jules Verne’s “Journey to the centre of the earth”.
Getting out of the car on to volcanic gravel where the blacktop road ended reminded me more of the moon or maybe Mars. Crunchy volcano debris underfoot and all around, minor cones and fissures in various stages of erosion. Both compasses useless... lots of magnetic rock about. At least we have GPS. Only me around... plus the birds, midges and eventually a trio of sheep.
Not so far away at Hellissandur the vertical monopole antenna of Iceland’s long wave transmitter, 189 kHz broadcasting RÚV Rás 1 service. At 412 m height it’s visually unmissable, one of Europe's tallest structures: The Shard in London is just 306 m. high.

Read more: Snæfellsjökull

Borrowdale path

Green is good! A short hike in Borrowdale to enjoy the green colours of summer and savour the contrast of the textures of the round rocks with the straight trees in this glacier-shaped valley in the Lake District National Park. Could this exceptional greenness be because Seathwaite in Borrowdale is the wettest place in England where there is a rain gauge?

 

Gullfoss waterfall, Icleand
Strokkur, Geysir, Iceland

The biggest waterfall I have seen for many years, the Hvítá river thunders over the twin falls of Gullfoss before scuttling through a narrow gorge. Plenty of spray but no rainbows on my visit. It was worth hiking a little way from the tourist paths to get a wider view.
A few kilometres further down the river's course is the settlement around Geysir, which gave its name to geysers everywhere. Geysir is the biggest geyser here but Strokkur is the tourists’ friend, erupting or less reliably every ten minutes or so to a height of tens of metres.
Gullfoss and Geysir are highlights on the Golden Circle tour out from Reykavik. However, I’ve been based in Laugarvatn which has been very peaceful indeed. There’s a lake with a hydrothermal spa. The birds all sound exotic, like an omnibus edition of “Tweet of the Day”, as the countryside is green with lots of trees. Food good. A small party of Danish hikers in this hotel and a German PhD student with his Icelandic supervisor, I think they’re botanists. And a solo biker from Germany on a muddy GS1200 with knobbly tyres and full metal baggage.