Hvanndalir from Ólafsfjörður

Distance: 9-10 kilometres. Route: Kleifar in Ólafsfjörður – Fossdalur – Hvanndalabjarg – Sýrdalur – Selskál - Hvanndalir.
Maximum elevation: 650 metres. Hiking time: 6-7 hours.

You walk from Kleifar by Ólafsfjörður, you follow the seafront and on the mountain side of Arnfinnsfjall mountain you follow the sheep trails. Ólafsfjörður inhabitants frequently refer to Arnfinnsfjall mountain as ‘Finnurinn’. In many places, there are canyons on the route but these are easy to negotiate. You walk over land which is grown with shrub and dwarf birch. In some of the canyons it is quite abundant – short but lush. The vegetation has grown considerably following the reduction in sheep farming. After a good one-hour hike, you reach the mouth of Fossdalur valley. There is a lighthouse on the Sauðhólsmelur gravel plain. Fossdalur valley is a small valley surrounded by high rock formations in three directions and the Hvanndalabjarg rock towers over the valley. A river flows along the valley and cascades down from the edge of the rock down into the ocean. The valley takes its name from this waterfall, which is commonly used by seamen as a bearing point at sea when they are positioned in the vicinity of Ólafsfjörður. There is a pedestrian overpass over the river because the river frequently rises when there is heavy snow in the valley during winters. At the overpass you will find a visitors' guestbook. The valley is surrounded by cliff formations and you might think that it is impassable, but this is not the case. You are able to walk to Hvanndalur and there are two routes to choose from. One is called Stuttleið – meaning ‘short route’ – involving walking along the ridge of Hvanndalabjarg mountain, while Langaleið – ‘long route’ – goes along the Vestaravík recess and in through the bottom of the valley.

The short route is very difficult and risky and actually dangerous if you do not proceed with caution. If you choose the short route, you walk up on the Hvanndalabjarg cliff, start from the overpass on the river and set your course up the steep side of the cliff. The elevation is 500 m, the route is not particularly difficult but it is a good precaution to stay well clear of the edge of the cliff. A gradient hill passes over the highest edge of the Bjarg cliff (called Flagið) leading west over to the edge of Sýrdalur valley. The point of origin of the Flagið fissure is at this spot. It extends 600 m down into the sea and it is advisable to stay away from it. There is only one passable route through the cliff cranny from the top of the cliff down into Sýrdal valley. Its point of origin (N66°8,021'-W18°38,402') at the upper end is very close to the tip of the Sýrdalsbrún edge, i.e. near the edge of the highest point of the cliff above sea level. There is a pole marker where one descends. The cranny is very steep for the first 100 metres. The fissure extends approximately 200 m through the cliff-side and it turns slightly inwards. Going down the fissure you have to proceed with caution. When you have entered the Sýrdalur valley, you need to choose the outermost pass in the Hádegisfjall mountain. There is only one location which is passable, through a small pass through the edge (N66°8,538'-W18°39,013'). It is not easy to recognise the correct one when looking from below. There is a man-made rock laid structure in the pass, and a precipitous scree leads from the pass down into the Seldalur valley. The main valley of the Hvanndalir valleys then opens up from the Selskál basin. The long route lies into the bottom of the Fossdalur valley and from there you hike up the hill to a pass that leads down to the Austaravík recess and from there the route goes on to the Hvanndalir valleys.