Visiting an ITA Hut: Comfort in the Backcountry
On June 26, after the IAT AGM in Reykjavik, Iceland, Iceland Touring Association Manager Palli Gudmundsson took IAT Chair Paul Wylezol and IATNL Vice Chair Arne Helgeland on a day-long tour of Thorsmork (named after the Viking God of Thunder) and one of the ITA's most popular backcountry huts.
The day began with a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik to the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, at the off-road entrance to the valley and the ITA's Laugavegur Trail, the most popular hiking trail in Iceland.
Not far from the waterfalls, on a dirt road best-suited to Iceland's mega-wheeled SUVs on steroids, is the now dormant Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which in 2010 blew its top - and the back-end out of a one-time glacier-fed lake.
The landscape here is other-worldly, a convoluted mix of grays and browns from rock and lava, to lush green hues of grasses and mosses; all bisected here and there with deep chasms of meltwater waterfalls.
Before long driver Palli plunges his SUV into a fast moving and milky river, unable to see the holes and rocks on the bottom, but hopeful of making it to the other side. This is repeated another 2 or 3 times, until the vehicle finally - and safely - crosses the Krossa River. To the suprise of Paul and Arne, tour buses full of eager hikers follow the same route to the far side of the river, where the popular Thorsmork Hut is located.
The hut is located on a gentle slope adjacent to the river, at the mouth of the Langidalur Valley. The area is named Landmannalaugar, and is one end of the Laugavegur Trail. The other end is a 4-day trek away at Thorsmork Mountain.
The groundfloor of the hut has a spacious entrance with double stairwell, two small kitchens, a large dining hall, and two sleeping rooms with bunks.
In the loft are two more sleeping rooms, one at each gable-end.
Bathroom facilities are in a separate structure not far from the hut, which in total can accommodate 75 people.
In addition to the main hut and washroom facilities, there is also a picnic house for day visitors, a small shop, sleeping quarters for 2-4 people, and a wardens' hut.
Approximately 2 miles (3kms) to the west is another cluster of ITA huts where the group was catered to a backcountry gourmet meal of barbecued lamb, breads, vegetables, and dessert.
(L-R) ITA's Palli Gudmundsson, facilities manager, and IATNL's Arne Helgeland
Paul and Arne would like to thank Palli and the ITA for the terrific tour of their Thorsmork facilities, and the delicious meal "on the trail." Other huts along the Laugavegur Trail include Emstrur, Lake Alftavatn and Mt Hrafntinnusker.
For more information on IAT partner Icelandic Touring Association and their trails and huts, go to their website www.fi.is/en.