Hvannadalshnúkur, Iceland

There’s really no “starting in the dark” when it’s spring in Iceland… Case in point.

So we started in the light at 3 AM from Vik, Iceland with the goal of crushing the country’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur.  Side note: please don’t ask me how to pronounce this or literally any other Icelandic word.

We got to the trailhead of the standard route (Sandfell) at around 5AM.  The trail starts low at ~100 feet above sea level, i.e. Bainbridge Island hiking. It is easy to find the trailhead, and it starts off with glitz and glamour as it winds its way up a little waterfall and into the first valley. The trail was bare, loose gravel up until ~1500 feet when we rose above the first valley and onto the snowfield where we saw some casual, minor wind.

Minor Wind

Luckily the wind died down for us at the exact moment I took that picture and we headed up the first snowfield.  We were the only skiers/splitboarders on the mountain that day as it was filled with a variety of walking, guided groups.   One of the guides even asked if he could buy my board off of me later in the week… apparently there is a shortage of splitboards in Iceland?  #raiseawareness #icelandsplitboardshortage

From there it was one long, straightforward slog all the way up to the volcano crater, with the Kotarjokull glacier on the right and the Falljokull glacier on the left.  No rope is needed on this section but I have a pro tip: if you’re getting tired of carrying the rope, take it out of your backpack and tell the group “I think it’s about to get sketchy.”  After 5 hours of uphill, we reached the crater and steered left toward the summit.  Akin to the volcanoes in the PNW, the crater here is huge!  It took an hour just to cross it… then you still have to go up.


The true summit only took 30 minutes up to complete.  We had the whole thing to ourselves after smokeshowing the other parties and setting the line for the day. Congrats team (Calvin & Clay).

Summit #2

The way down was marred by a broken telemark binding (yes, I’m told it is still a sport) and some white out conditions.  But don’t get it confused, this is DEFINITELY a mountain you want to bring skis/snowboards.

We finished with two Icelandic beers… each.  Nailed it. Check out Einstok and Vífilfell for a tasty beverage next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Final measurables were: 17 miles, 7,000 feet gain, 11.5 hours, lucky weather.


Mt. Rainier Central Cascades

Mt. Ruth, Mt. Rainier

I think the objective for the day changed at least 4 times before we finally reached a decision. We decided on Mt Ruth about 200 ft from the summit. It seemed like the right choice, for the time.

We left the White River Campground at a casual 9:45, taking the Glacier Basin Trail up to about 5500 ft where we hit continuos snow. Dropped the shoes, took the trail for another 1/4 mi before we cut left, and crossed the creek just past the turn off for the trail up Burroughs Mountain.

Micah crossing the Inter Fork

From Glacier Basin we headed more or less due south up to the ridge, stopping for lunch at about 7000 ft then following the ridge line up to the top at almost 8700 ft. The snow was soft and offered good traction on a day when the highs were in the low 60s and the wind was nonexistent.

Little Tahoma and the Emmons Glacier from Mt Ruth

We dropped around 4 and skied the north/northeast face in about 4 in of new snow from a couple days prior that took the form of hot pow. Around 7200 ft the new snow had moved in a wet slide abut 8 ft across making the skiing through the chute less fun through the choke point. Below 6500 ft it got pretty sloppy but still fun for pushing around.

A split back to where we had ditched our hiking boots and then a little bit further before we switched back over and finally hiked out.

I knew we wanted to ski something on Friday but I wasn’t sure where. Mt Ruth provided the answer to that question.