Apologies for the lack of photos - the rain didn't lend itself to lots of camera time!
Today was long and wet.
I'm still not ready to call the Landmannalaugar trail extreme, but today was definitely the toughest by far as the elements conspired against us. The weather, glacial rivers and monotony began to crack me today.
After a short climb over a ridge into the pouring rain and howling gail we reached our first river crossing. Desperate to avoid the icy glacial meltwater we wandered upstream to look for an easier crossing point. But it was to no avail.
We changed into river shoes with the rain still pouring and waded across. The pain was indescribable. Sharp, stabbing pains followed by a dull hotness. As we stepped out it was like walking across hot coals as the blood began to rush bag to our feet.
We then walked over a couple more hills before, to our disappointment, spotting another river crossing. Our hearts sank. With memories still fresh of the intense pain we had suffered less than an hour prior and the rain still beating down, the thought of sitting down and changing into river shoes was bad enough, never mind crossing a river below freezing temperature.
We wandered to our right, praying for an easier crossing downstream, but instead found a large, 60 foot waterfall. No crossing here then. We really were too cold and miserable to fully appreciate what a beautiful waterfall this was.
As we walked back to the main river crossing we saw a 6foot man struggling to stand up in the current, nearly washed away, saved only by the daisy chain of people their large tour group had created. We also later learned that two women had nearly been washed away that day and it was only for another groups guide stepping in that saved them from a no doubt deadly fate, there were no guides present as we prepared to cross. Retrospectively this made our decision to walk upstream to find somewhere safer to cross a very sensible idea.
So walk upstream we did. We were walking for at least an hour, crossing slippy rocky traverses and ice walls on the narrow river bank. After 45 minutes of walking the river had only been getting deeper and faster. I was dehydrated, frustrated and didn't know what to do. If we turned back now we'd wasted an hour and a half for nothing and would still have to cross the incredibly deep river alone. But if we carried on we could be walking for miles and miles before finding a safe crossing point.
Alex stayed calm, despite being cold and no doubt questioning my judgement herself. But followed without hesitation which really helped. Eventually I decided to run up ahead to not waste any more of her energy. To my relief, another 400m up the river it split into 4 smaller, manageable rivers. After running back to collect Alex, we foolishly crossed in our boots and socks, too tired and cold to change into river shoes. The water flooded in and we now had wet (albeit warm) feet.
Once on the other side, we trekked back to the trail, happy to be across the river cold and wet, but safe.
The next 4 hours went by uneventfully. We walked across huge, almost lunar landscapes. Massive, flat valleys with steep high sided mountains, the floor covered in black sand. The rain and wind were still howling, forcing our eyes to the ground. We'd been going for hours. We knew today was a long day, but after 2 hours in one of the moon-like valleys we were convinced that the hut must be just over the crest of the next hill. It wasn't. Just another huge, flat valley spanning as far as the eye could see.
We did this at least another 5 times, coming to the top of the hill, praying to see the hut, but just seeing another massive valley with the trail stretched out in a straight line ahead of us as far as we could see.
Eventually, inevitably, the hut did come. The feeling was of total relief. The hut was small, cramped and full of mud, but at least it was warm and dry. It was the most crowded hut yet with the bed, living quarters and kitchen all together but we managed to get most things dry before collapsing on the bed.
The third day was the hardest day by far and we were just praying for sun tomorrow to lift our spirits and finish drying our soaking we clothes.