- Mont Blanc
At 2,109.6 metres (6,921 ft) it is not a complicated peak (rim of the Öræfajökull volcano, to be accurate) but it needs a basic understanding of cramponing, rope work and crevasse training. If you plan your route safely (as far right as possible from the place were ice gently slopes down, in a mellow icefall) you should be fairly safe from the risk of crevasses, but risk is definitely present. Here is the paradox – Hvannadalshnjúkur is typically climbed during the summer months, when crevasse danger is significantly increased. It can get even crowded during summer weekends. Winter, in turn, offers pristine mountain, with virtually no one + improved safety of frozen slopes. The only downside of a winter trip – there is no path to follow. Talk to locals, get map, get GPS, do your homework. Talking to alpine outfitter in Reykjavik is best. With 2100 m (6900 feet) elevation gain and 22 km (14 miles) track you cannot afford to wander around for too long, or you risk to go down in darkness. Round-trip would be around 12 hrs or more, so start before 6:00 a.m.
The track starts from the car parking lot, just a few hundred meters from the sea shore. While it will be full with cars in summer, expect to be alone during winter months. You can’t see the top up until 3/4 of your climb.
Depending on your of experience and on how well you read the map – you may or may not need a guide. A guide would definitely add a peace of mind for winter accent. If you decide to go without – at least inform somebody where you are going and when you plan to come back.
While going up and coming down takes just a day, it is better planned during a longer period of stay in Iceland. The thing is that weather is a determining factor and here it deteriorates rapidly. Especially in the winter. From a walk in a park your trip can turn to fighting for survival in disaster conditions in just a couple of hours. Looking in the sky is not enough; you need to check the long-term trend. Wait for the periods of high-pressure over Iceland that will give you a stable window. If you can’t have a flexible ticket, plan a week in Iceland and decide on your climbing day after checking the latest weather forecast.
Driving from Reykjavik to the beginning of the track takes around 3:00 – 3:30 hrs. (320 km / 200 miles). If you are staying in Reykjavik and do not plan to sleep near the mountain – you are in for a very, very, very long day. We’ve been blessed by having an angel-friend who agreed to drop us off and pick us up. Not only was he driving selflessly, departing at 2:30 am from Reykjavik while we were dozing off in the back of the car, he also met us afterwards with warm tea and hotdogs. Oh, boy, we were happy. If such an angel does not turn up on your way – do yourself a favor, get a sleeping place nearby.
If you are climbing with an outfitter, they will organize the transfer there and back, so you will not need to care about driving. Otherwise – stay over night at the Fosshotel Skaftafell (16 km from the mountain) or the Svínafell cabins (2 km from the Fosshotel Skaftafell). The Skaftafell campsite and the Svínafell campsite are good alternatives for the summer season (May 1 – September 30). If you want to camp outside these dates, contact the Skaftafell campsite before or check accommodation options at the Svinafell. They have limited number of beds available through the winter.
More info and contacts:
The Svinafell campsite and accommodation www.svinafell.com;
The Skaftafell campsite: tel: +354 4708300; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.