For months some of the Tempo Team have been preparing, training, and acquiring the necessary skills and equipment for our mountain mission. We decided to tackle one of Iceland’s highest peaks, Hrútfjallstindar, which is at an elevation of 1,875 m (6,151 ft) and the total gain is 2,100 m (6,880 ft) and 22 km (13.66 m) long. To put that in perspective, Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur is 2,110 m (6,922 ft).
We chose this particular hike due to it’s impressive views and, of course, to push ourselves to summit one of the most demanding hikes in the country - rated 5/5 for difficulty.
[callout class="user"]Naturally this is not something to attempt on your own, so we enlisted the expertise from This is Iceland, who we highly recommend. [/callout]
3am wake-up call
Perhaps the hardest part of the day was the brutal 3 am wake-up call after a long drive to the Svínafell (literally translated as pig mountain) huts where we attempted to sleep amidst the bright Icelandic summer night, the snores of our colleagues, and the nerves for the challenge ahead passing through our minds.
Nevertheless, we all managed to get up, pack our bags, and meet our trusty guides, Siggi, Árni, and Bjartur at 4am to start our adventure. We were graced by perfect weather conditions, with clear skies, sunshine, and no wind. This is something that rarely happens here in Iceland. Maybe it’s because one of our guides names means bright (Bjartur).
The hike begins with a very steep 5km stretch of loose rocks, making us forget about the little sleep and kicking in the endorphins for the day. Despite the difficulty, at the top we were rewarded with an amazing view over Skaftafellsjökull and a small glacier lagoon at the bottom.
We then continued for another few kilometers up yet another steep hill, although less rocky now.
Time for the crampons
At this point, we reached a section on the dark side of the mountain covered in icy snow where we needed to put on our crampons and use our ice axes to pass safely.
[callout class="tip"]On a hike like this it's important to be prepared and bring along enough food and water. You can never have too many Snickers bars.[/callout]
Along the ridge
The next task was to cross the snowy ridge up to the base of the peak where we descended a little bit before climbing yet another massive hill.
At this point we began to occasionally hear the glacier moving from deep beneath the mountain as if growling at us menacingly. That sound, among the deep silence of wilderness is beautiful, ominous, and scary - making you truly feel small.
Walking on the snow covered glacier
Once we reached the top of the ridge it was time for a short break and to get into our rope lines to walk across the glacier. It’s important to be roped together for this section of the hike just in case someone falls into a crevice.
[callout class="user"] Our guides encouraged us to enjoy the experience should we fall into one, and sit back, enjoy the ice formations, and take an epic Facebook profile picture. Luckily that wasn't necessary.[/callout]
Here we were grouped into 3 rope lines for the rest of the ascent. My group, the loose crampons, had a bit of a situation with, you guessed it, a loose crampon and made it to the top about 15 minutes after the other two speedy groups. Better late than never, right?
The Hrútfjallstindar summit
Despite the exhaustion, reaching the summit was one of the most rewarding experiences and it literally feels like you’re on top of the world. At least on top of this island. We were also lucky enough to have a clear view of both Hvannadalshnúkur and Svínafellsjökull. We managed to reach the peak in a little over 7 hours, which was way ahead of our estimation of anywhere between 8.5 and 10 hours. Afterall, we’re all about efficiency here at Tempo.
Grueling trip back down
Many would argue that the trip back down is the hardest part when the legs are wobbly, the knees all rusty, and the excitement of getting to the top is over. Luckily we had an amazing group of people and awesome guides to get us back down safe and sound. The unbelievable weather and conditions also didn’t hurt.
[callout class="tip"]We learned that the trip back down is much better with a pair of hiking poles. At this point it's also good to have another Snickers bar.[/callout]
We managed the entire trip in 12 hours and 56 minutes. According to our guides, this is the fastest they’ve ever taken a group up and down this mountain. Go Tempo!
Wishing you happy adventures.
P.S. Stay tuned to next Monday's post where we apply our lessons learned from hiking to working in teams.