Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How to climb Esjan.

I finally got the chance to climb Esjan this year! After being immersed in cosplay hell for a few months it's now time to take back everything I missed because of it, starting with one of my favourite places in Iceland: the mountain Esja that dominates the view from Reykjavík.

I can easily recommend the place to anyone interested, as long as you've got good knees and back. There are several routes up and around the mountain ranging from easy to challenging, marked on the map above. I climbed the easy route because that's my favourite for both the scenery and the varying terrain, marked with light blue and turning to the right at Brú.

Between stages 1 and 2, nice and tidy path, some steep-ish parts, small trees.

Stage 2, easy climb part. After a small "forest" of dwarf birch and other little trees you get meadows on both sides. From 1-3 there are some steep parts with stones set in for stairs so although the path is well-kept it's not recommendable if you have bad knees or back.

Path between 2 and 3, mostly gravel.

Stage 3, or Brú, up ahead at the two signs! The path you see snaking up the mountain is the more difficult one, for the easy one you go right and cross a bridge. Difficult one is a short-cut and the views are amazing, easy is less trouble and still amazing views but notably longer.

From here on the path turns less kept with occasional steep parts but I wouldn't say it's anything too bad. If you climb earlier in the summer you get more water in the brooks running down the mountain, by August the snow on top has melted so the route is dryer.

Here's my least favourite parts of the climb: steep parts covered in gravel. Loose, tiny rocks, somewhat slippery. The meadows are left behind and in their stead comes a low, mossy part.

One of the many brooks.

Stage 4, this is the end of the easy climb.

People who climb with children in tow often turn back here because the easy to walk path disappears once you cross the brook, and instead you get -

- a steep, rocky climb. Moss area is left behind, it's just rocks from here on. The little path almost disappears here but you should try to stay on it to your best attempt to avoid damaging the mountain.

Uugh all that loose, slippery gravel, the picture does no credit to the steepness either. It was only worse on the way back down as you can imagine, I went up tapping to the power of mild annoyance and came back down on the power of VITTUPERKELE...

Once you get over the steepest part the view is pretty amazing! Straight ahead is Mosfellsbær, Reykjavík in the distance to the right.

Up here it's just... rocks. That have fallen from on top of the mountain, most likely. Good to keep in mind that it's a thing that happens here, rocks falling that is.

A view to Reykjavík again... those white patches on the mountain are clumps of tiny, white flowers!

Last part before stage 5 and Steinn - sand and rocks and little else. Good place for raven-spotting, I saw two.

I am arriving! That's Steinn up there, once you reach it you can say you've climbed Esjan. Since this was my first time this year my legs were protesting the climb higher, so I wrote my name in the book here, ate lunch and turned back.

A closer look at Steinn.

If you go further you're entering the hardest part of the climb. The book can be found in this box below the sign.

The view from Steinn. It's a lot colder after stage 4, which you probably won't notice until you get here, take a break and suddenly all the sweat you worked up turns chilly. :D Best to keep a sweater with you unless you plan on turning back right after you get here, if you want to either stop here for a bit or go further I suggest warm clothes and gloves. My usual attire up the mountain is a light shirt and coat, topped here with a wool sweater.

By the way, it turned out that even trying to climb to the top would have been a bit useless anyway - this is the cloud that flopped on top of the mountain some minutes after I had dug out my sandwiches. Photo taken on the way down between 5 and 4.

A panorama view of that cloud because as a Finn I'm not used to having clouds so close I could walk into them! Floppy cloud most exotic, but a bit of a killjoy if you actually go all the way up.

On the way down I had plenty more chances at cursing all that sand and gravel. I somehow even managed to get some in my shoes, no idea how...

That said, I have two favourite parts of the climb: every time I turn to look back or at the view on the way up, and greeting people on my way down the mountain. Both feel like huge accomplishments! :D

After I got back home and taking a shower I accidentally slept for hours. Might be I'm a liiittle bit out of shape (but naturally I'm not admitting to it so shoo), but all in all it was a great day and I'm already planning my next trip.

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