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Monday, 8 November 2021

Iceland 13: A Last Walk

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Monday 5th September 1977

Our last day at the Fljotsdalur hostel is a free one. I suppose the tour needs spare days in case of problems or delays. It wouldn’t do to miss the flight home. 

Debbie, Dennis and Ed decide to stay nearby while the rest of us head north up the mountain towards the small Tindfjallajökull glacier. It is a long way, possibly ten miles there and ten back, but at least today we can walk without rucksacks.

Dick Phillips tour, Fljotsdalur, Iceland, 1977

Walking uphill usually makes you too warm, but today the icy wind blows straight though the sleeves of my woolly jumper almost putting my arms out of action. Wool is very effective at keeping you warm under a cagoule, but my cagoule is in Mike’s daysack and he has shot off ahead. I get colder and colder, and it begins to feel quite serious. Just in time, we reach a mountain chalet, which, like all the huts, is unlocked. It provides shelter to eat our sandwiches. I resolve never again to allow anyone else to carry my food or equipment unless I trust them absolutely to stay nearby, and never to get too far away from anyone else whose things I am carrying, a resolution I have kept ever since. It is basic mountaincraft.

Dick Phillips tour, Fljotsdalur, Iceland, 1977

Dick Phillips tour, Fljotsdalur, Iceland, 1977

Despite being reunited with cagoule, I am not keen to go much further. After a while I turn back along with Neville, James and Tony. The others, the four bridge school G.T. boys and Gavin, who they make an honorary member, do reach the glacier and are late back for tea. Some of them are very fit indeed. They take part in International Mountain Marathons sponsored by the Karrimor outdoor equipment manufacturer. One might have expected such mountain supermen to have the sense not to go off ahead with someone else’s warm clothing.

On the way down, the view over the Markarfljótsaurar and out to sea, with the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) in the distance, is simply breathtaking.

Markarfljot, Dick Phillips tour, Iceland, 1977

There are around fifteen Vestmannaeyjar, all formed from undersea volcanic eruptions during the past 10,000 to 12,000 years: not at all long in geological terms. The most recent, Surtsey, is only ten years old, having formed during a four-year eruption that began in 1963. The largest, Heimaey, grew by 10% during 1973.

In the evening, Dick Phillips chairs a debriefing session (likes / dislikes / suggestions) and then insists on showing us a slide show of other parts of Iceland followed by a recorder recital played by him and Jenny. Exhausted, we struggle to keep awake.

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

20 comments:

  1. When I was an age that I used to attend parties I quickly learnt to take my own drinks, in spite of the host assuring there will be plenty to drink. Rather similar to not allowing a super athlete to carry your warm clothing.
    Luscious photos, especially the second last at full size.

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    1. I've been caught out like that too, with a punch enhanced with pure alcohol by chemistry students.
      It's disappointing that the pictures came out a little dark on this day. I don't want to photoshop them too much.

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  2. Your resolution will have served you well. I always carry spare clothing and nutrition after similar incidents to one you describe - my rule is always to return with food in my sack. But what a place for a mountain hut - and what fantastic memories it must hold.

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    1. People can be thoughtless, especially if inexperienced in the countryside, but there was no inexperience here. All the mountain huts on the walks were amazing, but the one on this mountain was very well appointed and thankfully not locked.

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  3. After wandering in the Icelandic wilderness for two weeks, what could have been better to mark the end of the adventure than a recorder recital? How thoughtful of Dick and Jenny. The recorder is such an evocative instrument which may remind us of Christmas concerts in primary school halls.

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    1. The standard was a little better if I remember right. What else was there in the wilderness for Dick and Jenny to do than learning to play the recorder?

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    2. They could have photographed lichens.

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    3. And presented slide shows of them to their captive audiences at the hostel.

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  4. I can just about imagine how cold you must have been without your extra layers.
    A salutary lesson.

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    1. You know it's serious when you begin to lose the use of your arms.

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  5. I have enjoyed your tour - to a place on my bucket list but now out of reach because of mobility issues. But your tour, plus flying ovr it several times, plus seeing glaciers when they meet the sea - I feel I know it a little without cxperiencing the cold.

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad I went when I did. Most of the Iceland travel programmes on television now seem to be all about tourist experiences, whereas our trip at worst was only semi-tourist.

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  6. Would say that you learned almost as much about human nature (e.g. individual's perverseness) as you did about Iceland on this trip. Good that the landscape provided you with breathtaking remembrances.

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    1. Hadn't really thought of it like that, but I suppose it's true. I did learn a lot about my own persistence. And certainly remember the landscape.

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  7. A land still forming sounds exciting but what difficult names to get your tongue around.

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    1. Paul the leader also said that the grammar of the language is impossibly complex and pronunciation varies quite a lot.

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  8. Thrilling post, perceptive comments.

    Glaciers meeting the sea, as Weaver said, raise many questions, now that we know the science of Climate Change. Iceland at COP26? Glaciers?

    Your reply to Thelma, on Icelandic grammar, had me thinking of Elvish.
    I never did read Lord of the Rings but I liked Tolkien's essays, *Beowulf - The Monster and the Critics*.
    He writes about Welsh which had held him spellbound since boyhood.
    I am reading a book by David J Peterson, *The Art of Language Invention* (Penguin) by a writer who, like Tolkien, created his own languages.
    Peterson worked on Game of Thrones about which I know zilch.

    Walking uphill and hyperthermia: how many walkers have come to grief that way? You were not properly advised by your leaders.
    A young woman, in the north of England, died just walking home, her raincoat too thin a garment to withstand the bitter night wind.

    The photos belong in the pages of National Geographic.
    A recorder recital was a good way to end as Neil said.
    I was not a fan of the recorder until I heard Lucie Horsch (YouTube) from the Netherlands.
    Haggerty

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    1. Good way to end or not, we were exhausted and being forced to listen to a recorder concert so as not to be impolite did not go down too well.
      Recorders are sometimes regarded as toy instruments, but when they are played by good musicians - wooden recorders not plastic ones - they're clearly not. They also come in soprano, alto, tenor and bass varieties so you can have recorder ensembles. We had a friend who made himself a contra-bass.

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  9. These pictures are absolutely stunning! This trip was truly the trip of a lifetime for you. You should turn these posts into a travel book or at the least a special diary to pass down in your family.

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. I had something like that in mind when I started the blog, but there's rather a lot of it now.

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