Tag Archives: trek

Iceland Trekking Pösmork to Landmannalaugar

It is summer 2016 and I am fortunate to be leading a school DofE group to Iceland. We are heading to the Pösmork (Thorsmork) valley and will walk the Laugavegur trail from Pösmork to Landmannalaugar.

This is the third time I have done this trek, but the first time to have walked in this direction. The first time I was on this trek was 2003 then again in 2010 and over the years it has seen more and more traffic. There has also been the internet explosion and you can now get a WiFi signal at most of the huts  and certainly phone reception all the way along the route. The first time I visited Iceland I took a satellite phone with me in case I needed assistance (or my wife who was very pregnant at the time was letting me know that my son was born!) however in 2016 a regular mobile phone will suffice- just be aware that there are limited places that you can charge your device up if you camp rather than stay in the huts.

Our first day saw us fly from the UK to Keflavik. A large delay at the airport where we worked out what had happened to our coach and driver saw us heading over the barren landscape past the Blue Lagoon (overpriced if you ask me) towards Reykjavik and our home for the night- the camp site virtually in the centre of the capital city. It is the London equivalent of being able to camp in Battersea park. From the camp site you can walk into the centre of town in about half an hour and right next door to the site is a huge open air geothermic swimming pool with slides and chutes to zoom down.

The next day we transferred to Pösmork via various interesting sights- it takes a few hours and being able to stop and look at the waterfalls breaks up the journey.

The bus wound its way up the Pösmork valley and makes some interesting river (stream?) crossings before finally stopping at the Volcano huts next to the River and to our right is the huge Eyjafjallajökull Volcano (the one that exploded in Easter 2010). We are welcomed by some lovely hosts and made to feel very welcome. Sitting inside whilst it rains outside is great and we can cook our food (the first of many imported freeze dried meals)  in one of the kitchens. A warm fire means that we can sit read/ chat/ play the guitar and get excited about our walk ahead.

Trek Day 1 Pösmork to Botnar

We depart from the camp group having weighed, re-weighed our ruck sacks. Wondered about what we can leave behind, what the heaviest food is that we can eat on day one and we are off. We head north and shortly are taking shoes and socks off for the first time to cross a stream. It is not big but would be calf deep in places and taking our shoes off means that we can have dry feet on the other side of the river.

We pass through a variety of scenery and steadily walk up hill through the dense birch forests. We have moved from the Thorsmork valley and head into more expansive vistas.

I enjoy passing the mountain Einhyrningur. I think it looks very much like a Rhino, according to Icelandic translation it is a “unicorn”. Maybe my school should put a photo of it up to match the unicorn that is next to the entrance I pass every day.

We arrive late in the day and there are many people camping at Botnar. We manage to find a space and have a small valley to ourselves near to the hut. All of the huts have toilets which are fairly clean considering the use they get. As the trail is so popular, using the hut facilities is important unless you are going to properly bury your waste.

Day distance 15Km +300m ascent approx 7 hours

the camp site at Botnar

Trek Day 2 Botnar to Alftavatn

We leave in the sunshine and walk past all the other tents closer to the hut. This day involves a number of river crossings and I am glad that the water levels are not very high. They are still high enough to mean that we have taken our shoes off and some of the cars turn around on the track rather than continuing along the F210.

After about 13Km we reach the group of huts at Hvanngil. The weather forecast is published in the window of the hut and rather than heed the warning about the weather we decide to continue onto Alftavatn. Slight mistake! The hut at Alftavatn is on a wide plane and there is no shelter at all. As we arrive at about 5pm there are many tents already pitched. We find a slot and spend the next hour or so picking up more rocks from nearby to build protective walls around our tents and rest on top of tent pegs.

Day distance 15Km Time about 7 hours

Trek Day 3 – the storm day!

We were woken regularly during the night with shouts/ screams from the pupils about the fact that their tent had blown away…! Having re-organised the group at 2am and squished students into each others tents for the night I survey the scene at about 8am. The storm is due to continue for the next 12 hours so we stay put. The decision was difficult but I knew that we would be ascending to 1600m and we had just met a group coming the other way who had complained about the depth of snow at their hut – and this is July!

Well you can’t say we were not warned

Trek Day 4 Alftavatn to Landmannalaugar

We happily set off early in the morning knowing that we have a 20+Km  walk to complete today. This is the most beautiful section in my opinion. We pass huge Rhiolitic valleys, steaming caves, boiling mud pools and the views are amazing. The bad weather has passed and we are blessed with stunning views. It is not cold but there is a brisk wind still blowing through.

After passing the hut at Hrafntinnusker we descend down to Landmannalaugar and start to see lots more people out for their day hikes from the valley. I feel as though I’m walking through middle earth, it’s steaming and there is the constant smell of Sulphur in the air, finally we make it to the camp site at Landmannalaugar and try to find a place for the tents.

The camp site is very busy by comparison to other sections of the trail. The floor is stony and tent pegs do not go very easily into the ground. However, on the plus side we are able to bath in the pool and recover- it is very cold walking down there in shorts and flip flops but lying down looking up at the evening sky trying to find warm spots in the water rather than boiling areas is a very enjoyable activity. We are also all able to chat about the walk, our recovery from the storm and plan the next phase of our trip- White water rafting and sightseeing around the Golden circle.

The huge array of tents at the Landmannalaguar campsite

Day distance: 24Km + 700m ascent

Overall the trip is 55Km long and can relatively easily be covered in 4 days- we did it in 3 because of the storm and one of the joys of going from South towards the North is that you finish up with one of the best features of the route- the natural geothermic lagoon at the end of your route. Also, going South to North means that you have the prevailing winds and sun behind you. There are pros and cons either way!

Tips for trekking in Iceland

  • shop around for coach transfers and get the cheapest- the price will vary considerably.
  • People are very pleased to see you and will probably help you
  • It will probably rain at some stage and when it does it really rains hard
  • The Landmannalaguar to Posmork trek is very popular and you will follow a trail of people doing the same trek. If you want to get away from the crowds then choose somewhere else!

Morocco High Atlas Trekking around Jebel Toubkal

It’s July and we are off on a Gold DofE adventure to Morocco.The group have planned the trek and we are using Imlil as our base camp. A 4 day loop around Jebel Toubkal crossing a number of high passes.


A 3 hour flight from Gatwick airport to Marakesh with EasyJet was great apart from the fact that I managed to book us on the first flight of the day (oh why I ask myself?) so we flew out at 0600- having to check in 2 hours before and therefore waking in the middle of the night to depart… Hey ho!
We were met at the airport by my taxi driver who took us all the way to our guest house at Imlil about 1 1/2 hours away. Our arrival at the end of the morning meant that we were encouraged to have some fresh tea- a delicacy that is uniquely Moroccan. It was incredible to be sitting in a Moroccan garden drinking tea at 11am when we had been in the UK earlier that morning.

We were given a choice of accommodation options and the team chose to sleep on the roof- again uniquely Moroccan. The stars and milky way were something else as we looked up at the skies later in the evening. Amazing.

Roof top camping at Imlil

Imlil Acclimatise day

The next day was spent sorting out food and discussing our route over the next 4 days. Imlil lies at 1700m and virtually everywhere is up so it was useful to spend a day sorting out things and pottering around. The hotel owner couldn’t believe that we didn’t want a mule to carry our back packs- trying to communicate the 20 conditions for the DofE scheme in pigeon French to an Arab was quite difficult.

Tacheddirt to Azib Likemt

A slight change in plan meant that we hopped into a taxi which took us about half an hour East from Imlil to the start of our trek.The tarmac (?) road finishes in Tacheddirt and a series of paths zig zag their way up the hillside.

We certainly noticed the altitude having just come from sea level in the UK. Tacheddirt is at 2314m and we needed to cross the Tizi Likemt col at 3625. The only way was up! A steady plod was called for and in a couple of hours I was at the col- the group however, found it a bit more tiresome and after several rest stops they too crossed the col.

Wild camp near Azib Likemt

Azib Likemt to Lago de Ifni

The next day we woke early to drop further down towards AzibTamenzift and then south towards Tizi n’Ououraine 3120m the high point of our day. The group decided that it was a good idea to follow the stream rather than the path which was fine until they ended up below a waterfall and we looked down on them from about 100 foot above!
Rather than turn around they then spent about 2 hours playing in the waterfall and enjoying being cooled by the water. This meant that we were not at the col until late in the day and not down to Amzouzart (1740m) until late in the afternoon. The trek up from Amzouzart to Lago do Ifni (2312m) was a slog. Hard hard work and it was a long day- 15 hours in total for the group.

Well there are worse places to make a camp and we managed to swim, play cards, sleep, swim, play cards…. oh and eat too. It’s a magnificent place and there is a little community of Berber tribes-people who live up there and can offer simple food and the occasional coke too!

Well what else is there to do when you have time on your hands?

Lago de Ifni to Refugio de Toubkal

We set off in the dark, eager to get as much climbing done before the temperatures rose again. Out of the back of the lake a path took us steadily to the col at Tizi n’Ouanoums at 3680m and we could see the summit of Jebel Toubkal at 4167m to our right.

We descended down to the CAF refuge at 3200m and civilisation! People, noise, donkeys, it was all happening around the refuge, including a large number of European travellers, something we had not seen for a few days.

CAF Refugio de Toubkal to Imlil

There was the option of heading back up and bagging the Jebel Toubkal summit (a 3 hour trek/ slog) but the group decided that they had had enough and wanted to head back to Imlil that morning.  We passed a number of groups heading up on their way to the refuge and also a large number of dukkas/ shops/ trading stations where you could get fresh orange juice and omelettes. Such a refreshing change from boil in the bag food that we had been eating for the past 3 days.

It was a long descent down the valley to Imlil and took most of the day, on the way we headed past Sidi (Saint) Charmharouch at 2350m which is a collection of Berber shops and where some people make a pilgrimage and sacrifice animals.

The valley becomes wider and we passed through the town of Aremd (1945m) before finally descending into Imlil. What a trip!

We spent the night (again on the roof because the group wanted the view) resting at our gite before being taken down into Marrakesh by our taxi. The day was spent cleaning up and being a tourist looking at the various leather, herb/ spices and carpet shops as well as enjoying the coffee.

I would love to say that we all then returned smoothly back to the UK, however, a bug that was shared from food we took at one of the restaurants in the square meant that most of the group were up all night being ill. The following day a delay on our flight meant that rather than arriving back at 2pm we actually returned at 2am the following day. What a mess and slightly took the edge off our return. However, we all made it back and could then recover in the UK.

Things to think about for next time

  • The first flight out at 6am  is not the best one to catch because it means you are very tired by the time you arrive, even if you sleep on the plane
  • You need to be able to speak French to communicate. Most of the locals do not speak English so your option is French, Berbese or Arabic.
  • You can buy meths (alcool à brûler) in Imlil. You can also buy petrol for a multi fuel stove further down the valley at a petrol station.
  • Mobile phones work everywhere
  • Taking a group of teenagers to trek over passes at 3500m or more is hard work and they can do it but it takes ages- forget Naismith’s rule by a mile for timings!

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