Climbing Kirkjufell in late fall/early winter

So do y’all know about that funny shaped mountain on the Snaefellsnes peninsula in Iceland that literally everyone takes pictures of?  Did you know that you can CLIMB this mountain?!

After we booked another short trip to Iceland at the end of October (courtesy of another WOW air deal), we started researching our itinerary.  The Snaefellsnes peninsula was our new objective; the location of Snaefellsjökull national park and the famous Kirkjufell, aka funny shaped mountain.


Kirkjufell from Kirkjufellsfoss.  AKA that picture that everyone has from Iceland

With a bit of “research” (random googling) I discovered that people do in fact climb Kirkjufell, and there’s even a kind-of path to the top!  This vague website description was all I could find at the time, but IT WAS ENOUGH!  Despite Iceland’s status as a major tourist destination, anecdotally, I’m constantly surprised by how little information I can find about ::insert activities I’m trying to research::.  Probably because those activities require walking, and walking is lameeee!  Anyway, I also wasn’t sure if the hike would be sketchy during the end of October, an awkward in-between time where the weather can do pretty much whatever it wants (What’s that you say?  That’s literally every day in Iceland?  Shhhhh…).  We decided to give it a go, because whatever, someone would probably find the bodies eventually, right?

The weather was blustery and cold, with mini snow squalls drifting by throughout the day. It was non-optimal.

We parked at the Kirkjufellsfoss parking lot and headed up the road towards the start of the GPS tracks (GPS TRACKS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).  There is a small farm and two small cabins at the base of the mountain, and the GPS track pretty much blasts through their front yard.  To be minimally creepy, we swung around to the right of their fences as we headed up the grassy slope.


POONNIESSSSSSS (on Kirkjufell)

Eventually we hit more fences (THIS TIME WITH PONIES!) and an obvious path emerged.  We followed the path while also periodically checking the GPS tracks.  As we got higher up, the ground was frozen and snow-covered and traction was a bit spotty.  This wouldn’t be a problem except the path up Kirkjufell is often quite narrow and following along steep dropoffs.  There would’ve been some mega ouchie times if someone had taken a fall!


MORE POOOOOONNNIESSSS (or same ponies, different angle)

As you scramble your way up the mountain, there are many path-like trails zig zagging around all over the place, so we were very happy to have the GPS tracks.  Also because the snow squalls kept reducing the visibility to a few feet in front of our faces.  Also because it’s hard to see when snow is pelting you in the face.  Yeeeeehaw!


heading up.  not much of a view…


oh hey, so that’s the view

We reached the famed ropes that we were hoping still existed (they did!), and scrambled up the rock face with semi-frozen hands (David was fine).  Slowwwly, slowly, we climbed higher, the trail got more scrambly, more snow and wind pelted us in the face, and I was getting real cold, y’all!  I was also pretty over having to be hyper vigilant with my footing in order to not die.  We deduced from the GPS track that we were pretty near the top, but I was very okay with calling it quits for the day.  David reluctantly turned around too, as he admitted he wasn’t comfortable going to the top alone given the weather/trail conditions.


ROPE ACTION SHOT (from above)


ROPE ACTION SHOT (from below)

Remembering that we weren’t as dumb as we thought we were, we dug out the microspikes from our backpacks and HEY, WOULDN’T YOU KNOW, our traction situation improved markedly!  I also remembered that I was un-dumb enough to pack chemical warmers, and shoved them in my gloves to revive my popsicle fingers.


heading down. more view!

With the addition of the microspikes and chemical warmers, heading down was much more comfortable than going up, and of course I lamented my rash decision to head down prematurely.  Womp womp.


i don’t really know what i’m doing in this picture…

By the time we got back down to the road, the weather had improved again and I snapped some mega-touristy pictures of Kirkjufell.  Also about 500 more pony pictures.


heading back down the road towards kirkjufellsfoss

Final verdict: Would I recommend you do this hike in frosty conditions?  For most people the answer would probably be no.  For those experienced with icy conditions and exposure, who own the proper foot traction, you could surely give this a try.  If there is ANY significant snow or ice on the trail, I’d say you’re progressing into ice axe territory and this would be more of a proper “climb” than a “hike” in the winter.  Proceed at your own risk, y’all!


5 thoughts on “Climbing Kirkjufell in late fall/early winter

  1. Carol Plant says:

    Hiking on its own can be torture and attracts masochists- you guys are way beyond Auntie and Unclie in that category. Damn proud of ya!!


    • Hi. This is 95% a walk up, just a walk up with exposure. There are a few sections, like the rope section, that I suppose could be called class 3 but those sections are very short


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