Hornstrandir Solo Backpack

(Summer 2019)

My third week in Iceland was spent on a solo backpack trip to the remote nature preserve of Hornstrandir. The entire Hornstrandir peninsula has been without permanent residents since the local fish population hit a significant decline in the 1950s. There are no roads, no stores, no permanent settlements, and only a few sparsely located historical buildings that are still maintained for use in the summer months. To get there requires first traveling to Ísafjörður, in the remote north of the Westfjords, and then chartering a 1hr ferry to bring you out to the peninsula. Once on the peninsula there is no returning until the ferry is scheduled to pick you up, and even then bad luck and rough seas can prevent it from making the trip. And unless you are standing on top any of the tallest peaks in the area, no cell reception. A true out there experience.

I originally had grand plans to write up an extensive trip report for this hike, but 1.5 years later I still haven’t gotten around to it so I think it will stay as this bullet-point summary edition.

My friend Tony had originally planned to join me, but unfortunate circumstances at the last minute prevented him from joining for this trip.

Day 1

  • Bianca left from Keflavik airport early morning
  • Drove rental car back into Reykjavik, bought some assorted gear, dropped off rental car
  • Flight Reykjavik -> Ísafjörður
  • Shuttle bus kindly dropped me off at Tungudalur campground instead of having to walk 2 km down dirt road

Day 2

  • Was originally supposed to get ferried to Hornstrandir, but inclement weather pushed back plans by one day
  • Walked into Ísafjörður town center via assorted trails across the hills outside town
  • Did some food & booze shopping and poked my nose around town a bit
  • Walked back to camp, organized gear, drank some beer, started reading ‘The Three Body Problem’ (good book, finished it during the backpack)

Day 3 (Hesteyri -> Hloduvik)

  • Woke up early, breakfast, then packed up and walked into town to meet ferry
  • Shuttle from Ísafjörður to nearby village to meet ferry
  • Weather was gray but not too harsh
  • Ferry was medium sized ~10 man boat
  • ~ 1hr ferry ride from mainland over to Hornstrandir peninsula
  • Rough & choppy ocean, strong wind, mega seasick – just barely managed to not puke
  • Ferry dropped me off at Hesteyri, halfway up the Hesteyrifjordur
  • Hesteyri is old settlement location, few remaining fully furnished buildings that are occupied as B&B type accommodation for hikers in the summer
  • Wind & rain rather bracing, cold, still sick from ferry, not *ideal* conditions to start a hike
  • Took shelter in the house with other ferry passengers to warm up a bit before hiking
  • Saw them getting tasty food, tried to get some myself, but turns out you have to order it days in advance because it is so hard to get supplies out here
  • Had some tea and crackers instead
  • Had nice chat with older solo hiker, think he was slightly concerned I did not have a working GPS
  • After recovering ~45 min, started hike towards Hloduvik campsite ~1pm (15 km)
  • Slow elevation gain along shelf of land parallel to fjord for several miles, up to Kjaransvikurskard pass
  • Low visibility, intermittent rain, strong wind
  • Wind steals my pack cover twice before I lash it down with cord
  • Wind gusts make progress difficult, consider turning back several times, but still see cairns, temperature is above freezing and my core is warm
  • Weather begins to lift once I start descending the far side of the pass
  • Arrive at Hloduvik under gray skies, but no rain and with several hours of daylight left
  • Set up tent just in time before next rain comes through
  • Spend evening in tent cooking dinner, reading, and listening to strong rain & wind

Day 4 (Hloduvik -> Hornvik)

  • Sleep in until ~7-8, I’m on vacation & only have 10km to go today
  • Strong buzzing noise overhead disturbs my morning reading
  • Turns out that two other hikers came in during the rainstorm last night and stayed in the nearby emergency shelter
  • They have a drone
  • Exchange pleasantries with them, learn they have been out for the past 3 (rainy) nights and are using emergency shelters now b/c their gear is wet (seems kind of weak excuse to me)
  • Morning is sunny, bright, & clear
  • Pack gear & start hiking west across marshy plain inside of Hloduvik bay
  • Several small streams require fording, but day is warm and I don’t mind getting wet
  • Hike up from plain through large bowl cut into side of small peak (Skalarkambur)
  • From pass below peak have two options – follow normal & short path directly towards Hornvik bay (boring), or circumnavigate Haelavik peninsula cross country (exciting)
  • Detour would end in descent down a steep ~400m bowl on the far side of a pass through the next small mountain range, or else retrace entire path back to start
  • Descent looks steep, contours are close together, difficult to count
  • But map shows a dotted line, there must be a trail there
  • I leave main trail for the detour and immediately lose the faint use trail I started off on
  • I do not find the trail again (there are no trees, land shapes are all unique and map is good so navigating is still easy)
  • Do my best to stay on bare areas, rocks, and faint animal trails so as to not disturb too much nature around me
  • Enjoyed a long walk across another marshy plain before starting up into the hills again
  • Weather turns overcast
  • Side-hilled along below several peaks trying to gauge my elevation correctly so as to arrive at the correct pass without being cliffed out
  • Somehow manage to arrive exactly where I planned
  • Concerned that I just used up all my luck I hike over to look at the descent waiting on the other side of the pass
  • Descent is very steep, there is no trail
  • Hike down, carefully
  • Base of the bowl levels out into nice walk towards the sea on the far side of the peninsula from which I started, now headed along the coast into the Hornvik bay
  • Soon pick up a use trail along the bay and eventually make my way to Hornvik campsite
  • Hornvik is used as a staging area for at least one guiding company, several semi-permanent tarpaulin structures are set up but no people
  • There is a dark brown arctic fox hanging out around the structures, clearly accustomed to people & looking for scraps
  • Set up camp, there are two other tents nearby and the two guys from last night are in the emergency shelter again
  • Cook dinner & read before going to sleep

Day 5 (Hornbjarg Cliffs dayhike)

  • Leisurely morning & breakfast
  • Start off for day hike around Hornbjarg bird cliffs
  • Weather is overcast but without precipitation
  • The protected side of Hornbjarg peninsula rises slowly from Hornvik bay through rolling hills, while the far side drops 500m sharply down to the open sea
  • Hike begins with long walk along the beach of Hornvik bay, forded a small river, then slowly started up the hills into the peninsula
  • Eventually rise all the way to the cliffs on the far side & follow path contouring the edge of peninsula along these cliffs
  • Looking out to sea from the lip of these cliffs it feels like you are standing on the edge of the world
  • Lots of birds soaring all around cliffs
  • Pleasant hike around the nose of peninsula and back along Hornvik bay to campsite

Day 6 (Hornvik -> Veidileysufjordur)

  • Pack up camp & start hiking SE inland away from the bay, across the Hornstrandir peninsula back to the other side where the ferry will pick me up that afternoon
  • Clear & sunny for my last day on Hornstrandir
  • Gentle continual elevation rise up to the Hafnarskard pass, high point for this trip (519m)
  • Patches of snow up to & around the pass, but nothing serious
  • Smooth descent from the pass down to the fjord, crossing mountain streams and gentle pastures
  • Arrived at the fjord midday with several hours to spare before the ferry would arrive in the late afternoon
  • Lounged in the sun & waited for the ferry while reading and relaxing
  • Ferry ride back to mainland was much smoother than the ride out, sea was calm and I had no motion sickness
  • Arrived back in Ísafjörður just before dark, got a big burger, and then walked out of town 4 km back to campsite

Day 7/8

  • Relaxed in camp for the morning
  • Afternoon flight from Ísafjörður back to Reykjavik
  • Ate some kebab & went to sleep early
  • Early flight the next morning back to Belgium

One thought on “Hornstrandir Solo Backpack

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.