Maelifell - Island's Magic Mountain
Magic is in the air...
There is something magic about this place deep within the Icelandic Highlands. Mount Maelifell rises 200 m/650 ft above the vast black lava sand flats north of the glacier Myrdalsjoekull. This small old volcano covered with vibrant green moss is one of Iceland's iconic landmarks. It is a fascinating sight due to its resemblance to a wizard's hat and also due to its remoteness. Accessible only by driving the adventurous Fjallabak Sydri Road (F210) which requires quite a few rivers crossings along the way - among them the torrent and deep Markarflot, Kaldaklofskvisl and Holmsa. Under perfect conditions (water depths: 50-60 cm) and during a longer period of fine weather they might be passable with care in very good rental 4WDs such as a Toyota Landcruiser or Mitsubishi Pajero. But fording either of these three glacial streams is always risky without a modified SUV equipped with a "snorkel" (raised air intake) to protect the engine from sucking in water. Especially the unpredictable Holmsá is famous for wrecking cars of all types.
The sandy flats surrounding Mount Maelifell are called Maelifellsandur. This part of the F210 is an easy drive during daytime and when the surface is dry. As soon as it starts raining, glacial outlets flow over the flats covering the car tracks and even quicksand (!) might occur. Orientation is very difficult then, also during stronger winds. This is not a good place to be at night and during bad weather. So take care when out there and pay close attention to the weather reports. And always be aware of the rated wading depths of your vehicle. In early summer (snowmelt) and after a rain the water level at Markarflot and Holmsa can rise up to 80 cm or even more.
Image data: 1/10 s at f/16, ISO 100; Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM at 105 mm, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
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