An extraordinary evening with Her Majesty.
No mountain in Iceland inspires as much awe and affection as Herðubreið, set in the desolate expanse of the Ódáðahraun (“Lava of Evil Deeds”) lava field in the northern Highlands. The table mountain (1682 m) took shape in a subglacial eruption around 20,000 years ago. To the natives it is indisputably the “Queen of the Icelandic Mountains.”
Herðubreið is commonly translated as “broad shouldered” but the name may also derive from the shape of an axe head.
Access to the Queen doesn’t come easy, exacting a long plod on a rough track cutting through lava, punctuated by fords across glacial rivers. The purlieus of Herðubreið resemble a sci-fi version of an alien world with a cast of actors given to periodic fulminations. The feared Askja caldera is within sight as is the massive shield volcano Kollóttadyngja.
The sequence captured in the following images almost didn’t happen. An impenetrable band of clouds on the horizon had smothered the setting sun and we were on the verge of calling it a day. But then we noticed a flicker at the base of the mountain. Before long the fire had worked its way up and the drama was on. Our deus ex machina was a slit that had opened up in the clouds, draping the Queen in the sweetest light imaginable. Words cannot adequately describe the frisson experienced in these moments. Capping our luck was the absence of the notorious Icelandic wind.
At the end of the sequence a short video is offered.