Looking from the north toward the Skessuhorn peak — our destination of the day — it did not seem to be a viable target. I have it for truth that even for expert climbers, an approach from the north is unfeasible due to loose rocks not providing enough grip, even for the best of equipment.
Skessuhorn (975m) is an elegant peak on the north western corner of Mt. Skarðsheiði in western Iceland. For years I have admired the peak from the family vacation home in Skorradalur, wondering how much fun it would be to conquer the summit.
We started the hike following a rocky road to the west, before heading south through grass and bog, past the Skessuhorn peak. Fairly early on, we crossed the stream that runs at the bottom of the small valley below the mountain and walked along the slopes of the mountain. In retrospect this was perhaps a bit premature move since the slopes of Mt. Skarðsheiði contain plenty of gullies, making the hike unnecessary tiresome.
After an hour and 45 minutes of hiking we arrived at the foot of a mountain pass that runs to the south from the Skessuhorn peak. This is as far as I know the most reasonable approach to this part of the mountain. That said, it is not an easy approach. It involves hiking up a steep slope of loose rocks where every five steps upward are offset by sliding one step down. The ascent is both physically and technically challenging.
After a half an hour of uphill struggle, against gravity and loose rocks, we arrived at the top of the mountain pass. Leaving us only a 20 minute hike northward along the mountain range toward the Skessuhorn peak.
Once on the summit, we sat down in the moss, enjoyed our lunch and the spectacular 360 degrees view of the surroundings. In the south we could see Heiðarhorn and the rest of Mt. Skarðsheiði. Far in the west we could eye, elegant as ever, the Snæfellsjökull glacier — the entrance to the passage leading to the center of the Earth, according to the Jules Verne novel. To the north we overlooked the flatland of Borgarfjörður — a view not to be overlooked. In the east we could see the frontier of the Icelandic Highlands, featuring the glaciers Ok and Eiríksjökull.
After a half an hour on the top, it was time to head down again. As the ascent to the mountain pass was both technically and physically challenging, the descent was even more technically challenging but less physical. On the way down we had to choose our steps very carefully in order not to loose our footing in miniature rock slides. It was tempting to be fooled by big rocks that looked to be well grounded. It seemed however that just about anything in the slope could start sliding down. It is safe to say that this hike is only recommended for those who have a stomach (feet and toes) for steep hills with loose rock.
We made our way slowly but safely down from the mountain. With the steepest slope behind us, we followed the stream down the valley. This time we took a more western route in order to stay away from the gullies.
We arrived safe and sound at the car after five and a half hours of hiking. We headed straight for the local swimming pool, Hreppslaug, where we submerged our bodies into the rather disappointingly luke-warm hot-tub. Later in the day we enjoyed a delicious barbecue at the family vacation home in Skorradalur, where I could look toward Skessuhorn and congratulate myself on the fact that I could stop wondering how much fun it would be to conquer the peak. From that point I could wonder how much fun it was conquering the peak.