Hestskarð pass

Distance: approx. 8 kilometres. Route: Skútudalur – Skútustaðabrúnir - Hestskarð – Hestskarðsdalur – Héðinsfjarðarvatn – Vík.
Maximum elevation 580 m. Hiking time: 4-5 hours.

You start the hike in the middle of Skútudalur valley and you walk along marker posts on the hillside north of a group of small waterfalls falling down from the Skútustaðabrúnir edge. At that point, you arrive at Hestskarðsskál basin and then walk along the basin until you see a distinctive trail that goes along an uneven gravel plain and screes without vegetation into the bottom of the basin. This terrain is succeeded by steep screes where a cleared path winds along up to the high pass. There in the uppermost indentation area above the precipitous scree, the trail is narrow and treacherous and frequently brisk, and sudden winds stream past the edge of the pass. To the north of the pass is the Hestskarðhnjúkur peak rising up to a height of 855 metres and to the south the Pallahnjúkur peak rises up majestically seen from this angle. To the west, the Skarðsdalur valley in Siglufjörður lays before you and above it is the Illviðrishnjúkur peak (895 m). Nearer, on the right hand the Hólshyrna mountain stands tall. When looking towards the east from the pass, one can see the northern part of lake Héðinsfjarðarvatn and the Víkurhyrnan mountain above it. Down from the pass, the hike continues down screes that are as steep and treacherous as those on the west side. To begin with, we follow a cleared trail but down at the bottom of the Hestskraðsdalur vally we follow paths between maker posts. A prominent feature in this ancient pre-glacial concavity are odd rocky areas with large boulders and hyper-green moss in the stream gullies. When passing the edge of the valley, you enter the relatively steep hillsides of Brúnakotsfjall mountain covered with shrub and brushwood all the way down to lake Héðinsfjarðarvatn. On the way northwards to the ocean, you follow ancient moss-covered coastal ridges that form curved lines, as can be easily seen from the mountain side above.

To the west, is the massive mount Hestur, where the largest aircraft accident in Iceland occurred in 1947. A Flugfélag Íslands Dakota aircraft flying in fog flew into mount Hestfjall, which is located at the opening of the fjord on its west side, and 25 people lost their lives. Across mount Hestur there is a passage through Pútuskörð pass and Nesdalur valley to the point of Siglunes. When you walk towards Vík the course is set for the mouth of the river from lake Héðinsfjarðarvatn and one must ford the mouth. From the mouth of the river there is a short walk to Vík. There is an emergency shelter at Vík managed by the Strákar search and rescue team.