Mad Dogs and Guinness

Reykjavik Travel Blog

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It's up there somewhere!

“Mount Esja ........... You are going to walk it?” asked the bus driver, when I enquired if he could inform me when the bus reached the base of the mountain. When I affirmed my intention to do just this, he replied “You’re mad!”

When I had woken up this morning it was a dreary day, grey, with constant drizzle driven by a gusting wind. It wasn’t the kind of day I had been hoping for on my little stroll up Mount Esja! However I decided to get ready and head into town for something to eat, and see if things improved at all.

I had a bowl of chilli tomato soup, with cheese and some filling bread the food of champions at my favourite little coffee house, so I was feeling pretty good despite the weather. I went in search of a more detailed map, as I hoped to have a wander along the summit ridge to the high point if the weather permitted. Suitably nourished and equipped I decided to take a trip to the base and have a ‘look see’ anyway, as I was determined not to spend another day dawdling around the City.

 I was required to take two buses to get to the base and it was on the second bus that I had my little conversation with my bus driver. I asked him if he was aware of the Noel Coward quotation “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” and informed him it was obviously also true of foul Icelandic weather, which if anything seemed to be getting worse. When he dropped me off he informed me the wind would be gusting at least 30m/second which is the method of measurement they use here, and I’m not totally sure how it equates to miles or knots per hour. I assumed though he meant it would be pretty strong.

I sorted myself out in to full waterproofs and warm clothing at the bus stop and set off, the guidebook describes the first summit Pennhorn as taking around an hour and a half, but I doubt if the author had this kind of conditions in mind. However I made pretty good progress, as expected there did not seem to be anybody else out having a midday stroll. Wait a minute, what was that I could see just coming over the distant rise, a couple making their way down. I reached them in a few minutes and surprise, surprise they turned out to be English, from Buckinghamshire, I rest my case Milord! They had turned back around two thirds of the way up due to the strong winds and because they were worried about the clag that was closing in around the top.

A more benign Mount Esja.
   ........ very sensible people.

The route up is a well-trodden path and is very well marked; it even has numbered marker posts from top to bottom, six in all. The intrepid English couple had turned back between four and five. The path takes splits into a few different paths above marker four and route finding is a tiny bit trickier, but still no great problems. The wind however was becoming a real problem, I have been out in some severe mountain weather, but this was probably the strongest wind I have experienced. It was difficult to stand as the wind swept up towards the col, picking up speed as it did, I was blown backwards several times and every step required a herculean effort and immense concentration. I had made exceedingly good time to this point, reaching it in less than forty minutes, it took me a further forty to walk the remaining few hundred feet, and I’m really not exaggerating just how severe the wind was

I managed to get into the leeward side of the slope and out of the wind for a short time but had to move back into the wind to make my way onto the summit. There was not of course any view to enjoy, the top was completely under cloud cover, the only reason I was really stood on top of this ‘hill’ was sheer bloody-minded stubbornness! I had intended to explore the ridge somewhat further, but in these conditions there wasn’t any point and it would probably have been a folly to do so. I actually prefer going up to down, and in these conditions it was not going to be any fun descending. I had to once again walk into the teeth of the wind and I made my way down as quickly as possible, pausing only once to take a couple of photographs. The more detailed map I had searched high and low for, as Iceland doesn’t seem to have any great need for maps with a scale of less than 1:75,000 had been an extravagant I hadn’t needed after all.

I arrived back at the bus stop pretty wet as the wind had driven the rain through my waterproofs. It doesn’t really matter how good the material of waterproof clothing is, if you are out in wet windy conditions long enough you will eventually get wet! The English couple, Mike and Pat were waiting, they had been there for over an hour now and there was still thirty minutes or more before the bus arrived. We chatted and I got out of some of my wet stuff, and put on some dry things to make myself more comfortable. They found it pretty amusing when I took off my approach shoes and wrung out my socks, but I had the last laugh........... my feet weren’t cold, unlike theirs.

The bus eventually arrived and I got dropped off at the bus station. While I was there I double checked that I could just turn up for the bus to Akureyi tomorrow and would be able to get a place without booking. This was confirmed and in fact I was informed it wasn’t even possible to book anyway. I also decided to book a ticket for the Golden Circle (I know you’re dying to know, but I’ll tell you later) tour on Monday.

So serene today.

 There was plenty enough time to head into town for something to eat and then back to the Aurora. I had a shower, packed my backpack for tomorrow and then a few of us headed downtown to discover if the stories about the legendary Reykjavik nightlife were true, purely for informative purposes of course. It was a pretty lively scene, although we went out around 11.45pm it was really just beginning to kick into full gear. We sampled the scene in a few lively little bars including of course ‘The English Pub’ which seemed the most popular, with a big wheel which you could pay fifteen hundred krono to have it spun with the chance to win up to eight beers. It was almost constantly spinning as people tried their luck, including our increasingly merry and boisterous little group. I had to be up pretty early in the morning so I left around 2.30am with Jonus, to catch a few hours sleep, rather than risk catching forty winks in a Reykjavik gutter!

Real_PeaceWarrior says:
It has been said before!
Posted on: Sep 09, 2008
TYoungTX says:
What an adventure! You are rather stubborn!
Posted on: Sep 09, 2008
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Its up there somewhere!
It's up there somewhere!
A view towards Reykjavik .........…
A view towards Reykjavik ........…
A more benign Mount Esja.
A more benign Mount Esja.
So serene today.
So serene today.
Who wants it easy anyway?
Who wants it easy anyway?
Reykjavik
photo by: MadeleineGL