|Best laid plans||Continents and Caves||Reykjavikian ambiance||Waterfalls and sunsets||Human wrecks and legacies||Kristinartindar: The Journey is the Reward||The finding of firsts, and birthday peace||The endurance of history in Snæfellsnes||The edge of the Earth||An unexpected discovery||Community, love, betrayal, and sharks||The adventure comes full circle|
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Iceland is home to numerable mountains which are known for hiking trails, climbing excursions, tours, and wondrous views and vistas. One of those such mountains is Kristínartindar, in Vatnajökull Nation Park (or fully named Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður, which translates roughly to 'lake glacier national garden'). That enormous white spot in the lower right middle of Iceland is the mountainous region of the Vatnajökull glacier. It contains numerous mountains, geothermal rivers, volcanoes, and glacial arms of ice stretching down towards the ocean.
One of those arms is at Skaftafell, a peninsula of land extending out from the greater glacial region. This exposed land is designated as part of the national park, with a number of trails of varying difficulties and terrains. Some routes will take you down alongside the tips of icy fingers - such as Skaftafellsjökull to the east with its crisp blue icy hues and the mountain Hafrafell on its far side, and the retreated Morsárjökull to the west with Skaftafellsfjöll, the range of mountain peaks on its far side. The visitor's center has numerous resources, guides, and maps from which you can plan your visit.
One popular place to visit is situated at the end of one of the closer trails. Svartifoss ('black falls') is a medium-sized waterfall, but it's recognized by its black basaltic lava columns over which the stream cascades, which are said to have inspired the architecture of Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran church in Reykjavik.
Central to all these hiking destinations, however, is the peak of Kristínartindar. It's actually two peaks, one slightly taller than the other, separated by what people refer to as the 'saddle' - a brief dip between the two peaks. The summit itself has an altitude of 1126 meters (3700 feet), but is actually in a location where during summer months the entire route can be hiked without a hint of snow, while in winter months the snow line descends to cover a majority of the hiking trail. On the free climbing YDS scale, it would be rated a class 2 (some scrambling, use of hands; but no rope needed).
Amongst the various well-marked hiking routes over this region, the route to Kristínartindar itself breaks away from the marked trails, and begins a more difficult winding climb up increasingly angled slopes, until you reach the peak where sits a VHF relay - home also to a visitor's guestbook that you can sign to mark your accomplishment.
This was the mountain that became my mission for the day, my barrier to overcome, and an experience I will never forget.
It was a rough night, during which Hrunting was unable to provide a warm, comfortable foundation on which to sleep for more than a half hour or so at a time, giving me at most 3-4 hours of sleep after settling down at midnight. We were parked in a lot around the corner from the big hike trailhead, and I woke up groggy and slightly cramped. I was moving at a snail's pace, shifting things around to change and prepare for the 16km round trip hike.