Hiking

There are no marked trails on this mountain, but we provide here the GPS tracks for two routes that will bring you to the most important sites on this volcano.


[sgpx gpx=”http://www.eldfjallasafn.is/v/wp-content/uploads/Kerlingarfjall.GPX”]

Kerlingarfjall trail
Turn off route 54 and drive up hill on the old and deteriorating asphalt road leading to the south. This used to be the main highway across the Snæfellsnes peninsula but is now officially abandoned. Continue up this road until you come to the area marked “Trailhead” on the map. You are now at the southwestern base of Kerlingarfjall mountain. Start your hike up along the south side of the gully, following the trail (figure 10). When you get up to the level area, turn right and approach the “wall” marked on the map. This is a cliff of basaltic tuff. Note the amazing pattern or joints and cracks in the tuff wall. Then continue along the wall until you come to the place marked “canyon” on the map. Climb up the canyon, which follows a basaltic dike in the tuff formation. When you get higher you will notice a near-vertical wall of tuff on the right hand side, but the wall is unusual for the great abundance of tuff balls, about head-size. This is a unique locality, and tuff balls of this sort are only known in tow other places in Iceland. You will note that the stratigrphy of the tuff passes through the tuff balls. This means that they are formed after the tuff was deposited. They are therefore diagenetic structures, formed analogous to concretions in sediments. Continue up the hill and you will come to the great 20 m high pinnacle known as the Kerling (the old witch). This is a famous mythological figure on Snæfellsnes and it gives the mountain its name.


Grímshellir cave
(distance ca. 8.9 km, hiking time ca. 3.5 hrs., climb elevation ca. 452 m). See map in figure x for orientation and the GPS file for coordiantes of the hike. Turn off highway 54 at road to Gríshóll farm. Enter through gate on the right. Remember to close gate! You are now on private property of the farm of Gríshóll. Drive gravel road to near the brige on Bakkaá river and park here (Bakkaá on map, figure 11). Cross river on damaged bridge and follow trail to left on other side of river. Continue across sandy plains and heather until you get to the base of Kerlingarfjall mountain. Continue upslope. This is a basaltic tuff or hyaloclastite mountain with a pillow lava base. It is erupted during the last glacial of the ice age. At locality marked Pillowlava on map (140 m) you can view the top of the pillow lava succession, with hyaloclastite tuff on top. Continue up steep slope of hyaloclastite until you come to a broad gully. Follow trail to 11 Grímshellir cave (hellir on map). Legends record the use of this well hidden cave by outlaws dating back to the early middel ages. Note numerous old initials carved into the soft hyaloclastite tuff. Deeper in the cave you will find another chamber with a bunk in it. Bones are scattered about, presumably of sheep. Outlaws were notorious sheep thieves in Iceland. Do not disturb any remains in the cave. Note huge tuff balls in the outcrops arpound the cave. There is a second entrance to the cave, facing in the direction of Stykkishólmur. Here there is a partial wall to obscure the opening.

Continue up slope above the cave. Here you will see number of very thin basalt dikes cutting the hyaloclastite. Continue on trail to base of high cliff at locality marked Hurð (the door) on the map. In the vertical tuff wall there is a structure that resembles a huge door into the mountain. Is this the entrance to the residence of the old witch or Kerling, that stands at the west summit of the mountain? Note several other interesting tuff natural sculptures here, such as the big beak and the sculpture with the holes in it. Return off the mountain along the same route. Remember to close the gate!

Information

Kerlingarfjall trail

Distance: 3.5 km

Elevation: 504 m

Duration: About 2 Hrs 30 Min.

Starting point: Road 54

GPS track (qpx file)

Information

Grímshellir (Grims Cave) Trail

Distance: 8.9 km

Elevation: 452 m

Duration: About 3 Hrs 30 Min.

GPS track (qpx file)

Entrance to the Grímshellir cave. (Figure 12)

 

An installation of Skriðu-Fúsi, at the site where he perished in a snowstorm in Kerlingarskarð, by Fúsaskurðir. The installation was designed and constructed by students of the school in Grundarfjörður. It has since been destroyed by the forces of nature. (Figure 13)

Tragedies in Kerlingarskarð
Until the 20th century, the mountain pass immediately to the west of Kerlingarfjall mountain was the most common way to travel between southern and northern parts of Snæfellsnes, as far back as the settlement of Iceland. This pass is known as Kerlingarskarð and it is notorious among travellers. It was generally a three-hour trip with a team of packhorses over the mountains, when conditions were good. The first motor car came through here in 1928 and a driveable road was laid in 1945. There is much natural beauty in Kerlingarskarð but the 311 meter high mountain pass could be very dangerous in wintertime. In the eighteenth century a wanderer by the name of Vigfús or Fúsi lost his life nearby, at a place named Fúsaskurðir. He had been sentenced for some minor crimes or offenses and had been sentenced to crawl on knees and hands whenever he met or was in the company of other humans. As a result, he was named Skriðu-Fúsi, but skríða mens to crawl in Icelandic. It is said that Skriðu-Fúsi had a habit of accosting women and his sentence was as a result of his fondness for the ladies. He was a perpetual wanderer and was often found on the main trails in western Iceland. Here he had the habit of moaning and wailing to attract attention, and when women approached he attacked. In one of his trips over the mountain pass Kerlingarskarð he was caught in a blizzard and lost his life near Fúsaskurðir. His ghost has been often seen here since.

The most recent loss of life during travel through Kerlingarskarð took place on 30. January 1906. The mailman of Snæfellsnes, Marís Guðmundsson, was travelling from south to Stykkishólmur. With him was his assistant Erlendur Erlendsson, farmer of Hjarðarfell to the south of the pass. They were initially carrying the mail in bags on their packhorses. Half way through the pass they encontered a severe blizzard and were forced to leave the horses behind. Taking the mailbags on their back, they fought against the storm over the pass, until they reached the banks of the river Bakkaá on the north side. Here they stopped by the ford of the river, exhausted, and both fell asleep in the snowstorm. Their remains were found here three days later, frozen solid. The river was swollen and they delayed crossing it, with the fatal result. At that time the mail was delivered once a month from Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur. The mailman received the mail in Borgarnes by boat, and then walked or rode with the mail to the west. An elderly man, Jón Þorgeirsson, called Tergi, also lost his life in this storm. He was travelling alone, but froze to death outdoors, near the farm Skjöldur. In the year 1868 a mother Guðrún Jónsdóttir (51 years) and her daughter Jakobína Jakobsdóttir (14 yrs) lost their lives in Gæshólamýri, about one kilometer to the south of Kerlingarskarð. In the year 1900, the farmer Jón Þórðarson lost his life in middle of the Kerlingarskarð pass in a severe snowstorm.