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Snow-filled gullies and the encroach of winter

An escape from the city through storms and into blizzards

We were struggling to work in the city—perhaps it’s the fact that suddenly everyone is working from home, and peace and quiet just became impossible to find, or maybe it’s just the darkness, ever-increasing at this time of year. I managed to find a wee cabin out in the sticks, just before the highlands begin and since yesterday when we arrived I can already feel my mind beginning to calm. I can't believe how lucky I was, managing to find something in our price range, and it’s better than had dared hope for.

The winds were whipping as we left Reykjavík and threatened to blow us sideways as we crossed Hellisheiði (the high heath between Reykjavík and the south). Bands of rain came in from the sea at Selfoss but we made it, fastening gates with numb fingers in the wind and rain.

It was a wild and windy night, and like two weary travellers, we sought refuge from the storm. We woke up this morning to see our surroundings for the first time, covered in a thin layer of fresh snow. Ravens tumble around the house, and more thick flakes descend diagonal and (with any luck) make safe the plan to prevent our escape.

We sit at the table and work, continually sipping from tea and coffee and looking out of the window. The view changes on average about once a minute, from eerie dark blue clouds against a sun-speckled mountain, to gentle dog-paw flakes of snow, to full-on sideways blizzard. We’ve had all this in the space of a few hours. One moment it looks benign and calm, the next, positively inhospitable.

It's eerily beautiful. We even have our own mountain. The luxury of big windows and sitting in the warmth watching the storms go by is just fantastic. The mountain, Bjarnarfell, is increasingly snow-covered as the day goes on, its runnels and gils, filling with snow drifts and glinting periodically in the low sun. Sometimes the whole fell is there, its summit silhouetted against the sky, sometimes only half, its top obscured by cloud, and pretty often we can't see it at all, our view totally obstructed by the sudden encroach of blizzard.

Looking west at sunset across the Almenningsá to Bjarnarfell, the 724 metre mountain sitting above Geysir and Haukadalur. The Almenningsá takes its name from a small parcel of land called Almenningur, due southwest from this viewpoint. The river soon joins the clear-water Tungufljót, which runs parallel to the glacial Hvítá for some 15km before joining it. "Almenningur" is one of those interesting names that refers to the division of land and its use. Almenningur names occur frequently in Iceland and refer to common land, either for grazing or harvesting of trees or other resources.

Copyright © Jack Threlfall Hartley 2020

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