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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Iceland 11: to Einhrningur

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Saturday 3rd September 1977

At Krókur, it is the first time I have had to get up in the middle of the night for a pee, awoken by the cold. I should have bought a long ‘mummy’ sleeping bag instead of the one I have. The down-filled ones were only £35. Now, three years later, they are nearly £100.

Outside, the night is still and silent, the sky full of stars. No street lighting here. In the morning, those of us in the stable part of the hut are up ages before those in the posh, wood-panelled part. Our breath has condensed and frozen on the underside of the iron roof. When the sun comes up it warms the roof, melts the ice, and it begins to rain inside. There are a couple of warning drips and then all hell is let loose. I have never seen us get out of our sleeping bags so quickly, especially me and the other ‘Rip van Winkles’ who are all in that part of the hut. Neville, however, gets a soaking because he is wearing his down jacket inside his sleeping bag, jammed in so tight he cannot get out. He wriggles helplessly like a butterfly struggling to get out of its chrysalis, only to find it is still a caterpillar. It must have been really cold to be a ‘duck-suit’ night.

Pat, the youngest of us, wears all his clothes all the time, even his two-pointed, tea-cosy hat. He did not bring anything like enough to wear. He never complains about the cold, he just looks it. “Gloves on in the hut?” queries Paul.

Dick Phillips walking tour, Iceland, 1977

Dick Phillips walking tour, Iceland, 1977

Today’s walk is comparatively easy. The countryside above the Markarfljót gorge is astonishing, but the weather deteriorates as the day progresses and after a wintry downpour we are glad to reach the next hut, Einhrningur. Paul coaches our pronunciation. The trick is to stress the ‘h’ and shorten the second syllable, flicking the ‘r’ off your tongue – Ein-Hr-ningur. It means unicorn. Say it right and you sound like one, or at least like a horse.
 
Einhrningur, Dick Phillips tour, Iceland, 1977
Einhrningur mountain in a wintry downpour

Einhrningur, Dick Phillips tour, Iceland, 1977
Einhrningur hut

Those who have been walking in shorts have chapped legs. James, the landscape architect, is worst. He borrows Debbie’s Nivea skin cream. “How do you use it?” someone asks. “You have to snort it,” James responds sarcastically as he takes off his shorts and begins to rub the ointment up his thighs and high into his crotch. “I thought snorting went up your nose,” someone else says. “He thinks it’s a suppository,” suggests one of the bridge school G.T. boys. “Suppositories are useless,” James responds, “of no benefit whatsoever. They’re too big to swallow, they taste disgusting, and for all the good they do, you might just as well shove ‘em up your arse.”

With only one more day’s walking to go, the evening has a party atmosphere. The hut is the most enormous and luxurious yet, with proper bunks. James produces a bottle of whisky, no wonder his rucksack was so heavy, and we share out our remaining Mars bars and other treats. Someone sets the challenge of swinging the length of the hut hand-over-hand on the overhead beams, and then swinging back underneath the long table. Only four can do it – the bridge school of course – but Gavin tries and fails about two hundred times. I make a decent attempt but cannot do it either.

The food, already here for us, is plentiful. There is dehydrated chicken supreme, sliced spam, peas, Smash potato, Angel Delight, and apple custard. A kind of yoghurt called Skyr is received with great enthusiasm. In the morning there is Sol Gryn porridge and real eggs, and not only sandwiches to take along during the day but also chocolate bars – Old Jamaica, Three Musketeers (American Milky Way) or just chocolate. I could eat it until I’m sick. It is a big improvement on the Marathon bars we had earlier in the walk, which Paul had carried next to the cooking fuel and tainted with the taste of paraffin. Those, we renamed ‘Parathon’.

(next part
Some names and personal details have been changed. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who was there.

32 comments:

  1. It looks so wild and wonderful. The scenery, not the beardy weirdy brigade. The light in the photo of the hut is stunning. The last supper sounds sumptuous but I am surprised you were not all sick after all that chocolate.

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    1. Never to be forgotten, but hey, wait a minute, just exactly who do you mean by the beardy wierdy brigade?

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    2. Ah sorry, I meant those rugged, manly types in woolly jumpers.

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  2. That lonely little hut is certainly located in the midst of magnificent scenery, isn't it!

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    1. It might have been the most luxurious hut yet, but yes it was still isolated with no electricity or running water.

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  3. Loved this - the photographs show just how beautiful the whole place is and your commentary I found very funny and also convinced me that I am better reading it than being there and 'roughing it' - not my kind of 'sport'.

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    1. I can still wake up in the night giggling helplessly over James's take on suppositories, even after forty years. I think it must be one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

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  4. I can see the short biography on the back inside cover of your book:
    *Tasker Dunham divides his time between his home in Yorkshire and his hut in Einhrningur.*

    Haggerty

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    1. I hope you are perfecting its pronunciation. You won't be allowed to visit unless you can say it to an acceptable level of competence.

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    2. Dean Swift could only imagine the speech of the Houyhnhnm:
      Did these equine creatures snort or whicker?

      Ein-Hr-ningur sounds like a unicorn, uttered in Tolkien's Elvish, and if pronounced properly on a night of full moon, may even summon the fabled creature.

      I am reminded of the YouTube vlogs of Wiccan priestess Phyllis Curott, and my hope of converting her to Five Point Calvinism.

      When the play Equus ran in London they had young women cantering downstage, neighing like horses.
      Phyllis looks like a unicorn in a previous life or even a Swiftian Houyhnhnm.

      The winter mountain would make a wonderful Christmas card.
      I am reading Roger Scruton's book on Wagner, The Ring of Truth.
      Einhrningur is very Twilight of the Gods.

      Haggerty

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  5. More beautiful pictures but that water sure does look cold to be walking across. I love your description of Neville caught like a butterfly trying to get out of its chrysalis! The time you all spent in that hut sounds joyful and fun. Have you heard from any of the others since you started these posts?

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    1. The water was cold. You had to compromise between getting across quickly and not falling in.
      No contact with anyone else. I guess it depends on someone googling the right thing.

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  6. That lone hut appears surrounded by magical light, nothing we see here in the lower 48.

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    1. That would have been taken in the morning. There is a clarity to the light at high latitudes.

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  7. Who would have thought that melting frozen condensation could have happened.

    The suppository story is very funny.

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    1. Paul, the leader, went in the other part of the hut with a wooden ceiling. I suspect he'd seen it happen before.
      I'm not sure how original the suppository joke was, but it was the first time I'd heard it.

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  8. I could be wrong but I always thought that suppositories were supposed to be inserted up one's rectum - usually for the relief of constipation. By the way, I travelled on the A629 yesterday through Tasker Territory. Went to see The Tigers lose to The Terriers. I looked out for you but you were nowhere to be seen.

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  9. Love the photos, and the funny stories, the suppository one being a gem.

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  10. I read about War Times when the breath froze on the duvet (doubt if that is the right term: must be palliasse or simple straw sack).
    On one narrowboat trip (the group always went at the end of September) I moaned about the bitter cold in my berth - one of the morally correct suggestions was a part-time mariner's advice: put a beanie on your head when you sleep. I bought one, hand-crafted, in very British pale lavender colour - hahaha, that was a very becoming bed cap - but it did what was promised.
    The more I read your fascinating and very funny tales about Iceland the more I am convinced that the cold and the stress would have taught me quick to stress the ‘h’ and shorten the second syllable, flicking the ‘r’ off my tongue - but I am sure I wouldn't have survived for long - with or without a night cap!

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    1. Before houses had double-glazing there was often a layer of ice on the inside of bedroom windows. We must have been tougher then.
      I had always been told that we lose most heat through our heads, but, in my experience, if there's a cold wind then arms and legs lose a lot if not properly covered.

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  11. Rather you than me - that was the somewhat unkind, first thought in my mind when I read about the icy cold and how the condensed water rained on you inside the hut. I have never been very good with cold and wet weather, and possibly not even that spectacular landscape could have made up for it.
    Chocolate - yes, I could eat it until I‘m sick, too (but I try not to).

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    1. I am fueled by chocolate. I lose weight if I can't have it. I'm annoyed by the way the makers have been shrinking the bar sizes and trying to tell us it's for health reasons. What good is that to keep you going on a walk? Well, I just eat two. Two Mars bars are about the same as one used to be.

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  12. Looks like a mountain troll in the second picture, surveying the scenery. The best traveling companions are always hilarious.

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    1. I'm not sure he'd be too pleased with that, unless you mean the third picture which gives the mountain its name.

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    2. LOL. I need to take remedial counting.

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  13. You all wore a very photogenic set of clothes. I hadn't heard the suppository joke since the Sixties when I worked in a hospital. It still made me laugh. The first photo reminds me of parts of New Zealand and the lasy parts of The Scottish Highlands.

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    1. It was the first time I'd heard it. It still makes me laugh every time, even when I tell it. Sometimes I can't even get to the end.
      I find it astonishing that scenery depends on geological processes, and where they are similar there is similar scenery. As people have commented, this applies on other planets too, which is more than astonishing.

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  14. We love the hut photo, and haha welcome to unclad corrugated iron roofs... Corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) is the commonest roofing/building material in NZ and all our huts seemed to be made of it. Our native parrots (keas) love sliding down the outside of CGI roofs and driving the inhabitants nuts with the noise they make.

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    1. I slept in a loft room with a skylight for several years. The pigeons seemed to like sliding down it early in the morning, especially around 4 a.m. in summer as it began to get light.

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  15. Fabulous photos, Tasker, and the record of your memories - perfect use of a blog!

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