Icelandic Language Blog

Looking over Reykjavík. Posted by on Jun 20, 2012 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs

Now for that final leg of the climb to the very top of Esjan!

The day we began our climb was a sunny one and even though we started out during the early hours of the morning we were feeling a little bit uncomfortable in our warm clothes for most of the time. This quickly changed sometime after the fourth stage when the air suddenly turned a lot colder than it had been before. At Steininn a coat was not only good to have, it was necessary. I regretted deeply I had not brought gloves with me.

Icelanders call climbing Esjan fjallagöng, a mountain walk. For most of the route it indeed is just that save the small stretch of rocks after stage four, but after Steininn it turns into a nearly on all fours climbing, at least for unfit people like me. The seasoned Esja-climbers seemed to not share this problem though – they kept walking upright like it was no big deal and I kept fighting back my urge to severely hate them for it. 😀

Like mentioned in a previous post, we took a wrong turn and ended up far too much to the right side. There’s a route there up the mountain as well but it’s much more difficult. There are no helpful chains there to grab at, for example. Luckily Esjan has an almost endless amount of visitors, many of them experienced hikers who know the area and can help you out. The right route was quickly pointed out to us.

The last leg of the climb. Compare the size of that hiker on the left side of the photo to the rocks (that is, if you can find him) for an idea of just how difficult the hard route is.

My fingers were giving me some serious trouble by now. I couldn’t feel them or get a good grip at anything, so I ended up turning back from stage six. My climbing companion made it to the top and the next three photos I’m posting, with his permission, are taken by him.

I hear the top of Esjan is not always quite this cold but it can be, and at worst times it’s also icy which adds a whole new interesting and nerve-racking aspect to the climb. It’s not too bad on the way up but returning to Steininn was an experience I’d rather not repeat… except that I probably will because I want to return to Esjan. I fell in love with this route a little bit and now I really, really, really want to reach the top myself as well.

Besides which I’m slightly masochistic like that.

 That’s Reykjavík right there in front of you in the distance. On top the air is very cold and it’s apparently nearly always windy, which I gathered from a chat I had with some local hikers at Steininn.

The ground is rocky. It’s good to keep in mind that these rocks sometimes get dislodged and can roll down the side of the mountain. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially so after stage four where the climb turns steep and goes along the mountain’s side. All those rocks lying around there once came from on top of the mountain.

The text says: “Bautastein þennan reisti Ferðafélag Íslands í minningu Jóns J. Víðis, landmælingamanns. 31. maí 1894 – 6. janúar 1975 á aldarafmæli hans 31. maí 1994.” There are also directions and distances to known landmarks engraved in the plate: here you learn, for example, which direction Eyjafjallajökull  (= island mountains glacier) is and that it’s 124 km from Esjan.

Our return was uneventful but tell you what, it feels pretty good to walk downhill for a change! The day was warmer and the good weather had lured out even more people than usual, and even though we hardly saw anyone on our way up, on our way down we were constantly running into groups, pairs and solitary climbers slowly making their way up.

On Esjan it’s customary to greet everyone you meet. The joke goes that when you begin your climb you’re greeting everyone with a “góðan daginn“, midway up the mountain it turns into “daginn“, at Steininn it’s “nnhhh” and on top of Esjan barely a breathless nod. I would say this was actually very accurate. 😀

An airplane passing over the mountain. On such a clear weather I remember wondering whether the people on the plane would be looking at Esjan and what they would see. Soon afterwards, of course, I learned this myself as the day when we took off was another such good weather day. I would still say that even though the view from the plane was probably better it cannot rival the view from Esjan in simple beauty.

A big thank you to everyone who followed my posts about this hiking route! I warmly recommend climbing Esjan if you ever get the chance. It’s easy enough for anyone, I did see several dogs climb all the way up so it’s likely not quite as hard as it seems like when you’re looking at it from stage five (not because dogs were bad at climbing up but because they’re not quite as good at coming down a steep, slippery path). Just remember to be smarter than me and bring those gloves. We’re now planning more such hiking trips and in the future I may be able to show other routes as well although possibly in little less detail. However, I felt that Esjan was spectacular enough to be worth a very thorough blogging. To end with the words of a poet:

Esjan er yndisfögur
utanúr Reykjavík.
Hún ljómar sem litfríð stúlka
í ljósgrænni sumarflík.

~Þórbergur Þórðarson

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!