Plans to Open “Via Ferrata” on Esja this Summer

esja mountain reykjavik

In an interview on Dagmál, Icelandic mountaineer Haraldur Örn announced plans to open a “via ferrata” on Esja this summer.

A new path on Esja

A via ferrata, or “iron way” in Italian, is a protected climbing route that combines cables, rails, bridges, chains, steps, and other fixed features to offer a similar experience to rock climbing and mountaineering, without the need for specialised equipment or training. Originating in Italy during the First World War to facilitate troop movement, these climbing paths are now common throughout the Alps.

Haraldur, often known as Haraldur pole-farer, is notable for having climbed the Seven Summits, in addition to have walked to both the North and South poles. He stated on Dagmál that he has recently been hard at work acquiring the permits to open such a path on Esja, the mountain which overlooks the Reykjavík area.

Entirely different experience

The new path will begin by Fálkaklettur, which is about 1 km west from the Esja parking lot where most hikers begin their trip to Steinn, the most popular terminus for Esja day hikers. Haraldur stated that a great emphasis is being placed on safety, so that the general public can enjoy themselves without worrying.

He added that it will be an entirely different experience from going up to Steinn, and that a forty-metre long suspended bridge will be part of the trail.

Haraldur also stated that the project is currently in its final stages, and that if all goes according to plan, the path will open this summer.

 

Unusual Snow on Esja Slopes

esja mountain reykjavik

Reykjavík residents and visitors may have noticed a distinctive stripe on Esja’s slopes in the last few days.

As can be seen, a white band of snow stretches up Esja’s slope for about 300m. Above the 300m mark there is much less snow, and in many places no snow at all, leading to the interesting band of colour.

The Meteorological Office of Iceland claims on social media that they’ve received many questions about the phenomenon and have provided a brief public explanation.

Typically, we see the opposite on mountain slopes: white peaks, with bare sides. This is because the higher the elevation, the lower the average temperature. So precipitation falling at the peak is much more likely to be snow, while precipitation falling on the slopes may simply turn to rain.

The pattern visible on Esja for the last few days, according to the Meteorological Office, can be explained by a cycle of freezing and thawing.

Average temperatures have been very low in Iceland his winter, but data shows brief temperature spikes in low-lying areas. These warming periods, followed by continued cold averages, create a cycle of thawing and re-freezing that compacts the snow, making it denser and icier.

However, because the peaks have remained at freezing temperatures, the snow at higher elevations has remained powdery. Powdery snow is of course more susceptible to wind and is more likely to be blown away in storms. The Meteorological Office pointed out the night of January 8-9 as especially windy, with recorded wind speeds of 20 m/s (45 mph). Sure enough, the next day was when the distinctive snow pattern became visible.

Public Bus No Longer Stops at Esja Mountain

Esja

Access to one of the Reykjavík capital area’s most popular hiking sites by public transit – Esja mountain – has been severely limited since May 22. The bus stop at the mountain’s base has been closed to Route 57, the main route from the capital area that stopped at the site. There are no concrete plans for the service to be reinstated, Strætó public transport service confirmed to Iceland Review.

While the Reykjavík capital area features many fantastic walking and hiking areas, few are easily accessible by public bus. Previously, Reykjavík residents could hop on Route 57 to reach Esja from Ártún bus terminal. The route runs 11 times per day on weekdays and 7-8 times per day on the weekends.

Last May, however, the Road and Coastal Administration, which operates public bus service outside the capital area, decided to close the bus stop at the base of the mountain to Route 57.

“The reason for the closure is that the buses often have difficulty turning around and re-entering the highway after they have driven up to the stop,” a notice on the Strætó website reads.

Those who hope to reach Esja by public transport can now only do so from the suburb of Mosfellsbær, where they must call in advance to order a special taxi service, available only three times a day. From Reykjavík, the entire trip would take around 1.5 hours (it is a 20-minute drive). The earliest possible arrival time is 3:00 PM.

The Road and Coastal Administration has not yet decided whether Route 57 will begin stopping at Esja once more this winter.

Young Man Dead Following Esja Avalanche

fatal accident Iceland

A 23-year-old man who landed in an avalanche yesterday on Esja mountain in the Reykjavík capital area has died, Fréttablaðið reports. The man was named Sigurður Darri Björnsson and lived in Hafnarfjörður.

Police were notified that three people had been caught in the avalanche on Móskarðshnjúkar, part of the Esja mountain range, around 12.30pm yesterday. Sigurður was found around two hours later by search and rescue teams. He was transported to hospital by helicopter, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Rescue Teams Dispatched to Mt. Esja Following Avalanche

Esja Mountain Range

All available rescue teams in the Greater Reykjavík Area, along with other response parties, have been dispatched to Móskarðshnjúkar on the Esja mountain range following an avalanche, RÚV reports. Two individuals are believed to have been hiking on the mountain during the time of the avalanche, according to information from the Reykjavík Police. One man is believed to have been buried beneath the avalanche.

“We’re dispatching all available rescue parties,” Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson with the Reykjavík Police stated in an interview with RÚV.

According to Ásgeir, the Reykjavík Police is working to establish on-location control at the Esja mountain range. The Capital District Fire and Rescue Service has also been dispatched. “We’re also relying heavily on rescue teams,” Ásgeir added.

Davíð Már Bjarnason, public relations officer at ICE-SAR, stated that the avalanche had been relatively small, adding that it was not clear whether the avalanche fell close to hiking trails. The avalanche is believed to have fallen near Móskarðshnjúkar, the easternmost summits of the Esja mountain range.

A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard has also been dispatched.

This article was updated at 2.16 pm.

The Esja mountain range is situated about 10 km north of Reykjavík. Esja is a popular recreation area for hikers and climbers.

Mountaineer John Snorri’s Marathon K2 Preparation Hike Cut Short

Mountaineer John Snorri Sigurjónsson completed 8 of planned 14 trips up and down Esja mountain, Vísir reports. The ambitious hike is a fundraising venture for his planned trip up K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. John Snorri plans to be the first to top the mountain in winter. He had planned to make the 14 trips in 28 hours, but an injury stopped him short. None the less, 8 trips up and down the Esja mountain in 18 hours is no small feat.

The combined length of the 14 Esja climbs is slightly longer than what John Snorri will have to traverse to climb K2, which is 8,611 metres (28,251 feet) high. He invited friends and supporters to join him for one or more of the 14 hikes. Among his company on the first trip up was Dean Carriere, who climbed Manasla with John Snorri this fall: the world’s eighth-highest peak.

John Snorri plans to start his K2 climb in January. When asked why he was setting out on the challenge, Snorri stated “Because I know I can do it and I want to see the Icelandic flag on the top of K2 in the winter. The first flag in the world, for it to be Icelandic. No one can take that away. It will always be the first flag that stood on K2 in wintertime.” John stopped the hike due to an inflammation in his right knee. “It’s no major issue but since there are only two weeks until I leave for Pakistan I thought it was sensible to not risk any further injuries. These sprints up and down the Esjan were mainly thought as both practice and for fundraising, but not to jeopardize the project,” John said in an announcement.

John’s K2 trip is expected to cost between ISK 22-24 million ($180,000-196,000/€161,000-176,000). Locals who would like to support the journey can make a bank transfer to the account 549-26-52, kennitala (social security number) 200673-5499.

Esjan

Esjan is 914 metres high, looking over Reykjavík 10 kilometres from the north. It is a popular pastime to climb the mountain in both summer and wintertime. Esjan is a volcanic range of mountains rather than a single mountain, but is still spoken of as one mountain. John Snorri climbed up towards Steinn rock in the Esjan mountain, which is approximately a 6.6 kilometre hike from the starting point as well a climb of 597 metres.