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Nátthagi - Caving near Herdísarvík, Reykjanes

Pictures are at the bottom...

Nátthagi, one of the caves in Hvammahraun, near Herdísavík, (Stakkavíkurhraun is probably more accurate, but if you're following along in "Hellahandbókin, by Björn Hróarsson, he calls it Hvammahraun) is one of the first caves I saw in the book that I really wanted to go to. There's a picture in the book of some green lava flowing over some red flowing over some yellow, and for some reason I somehow decided it was in Nátthagi. (I'm sure I had a reason for it, I can't find it now, the picture is uncredited) Still, it had credited pictures that also looked cool.

Kata wanted to come too, she was quite excited, so I put it on the shelf to do some time she was in the country. We'd been turned back by snow while trying to visit Langihellir earlier, so we weren't entirely sure if we'd actually make it anywhere, but we were at least going for a walk.

Or should we say climb! Turned out Nátthagi, (and it's neighbours, Annar í Aðventu and Hallur) are both up on the top of the scarp of Herdísarvíkurfjall. Only about 250m up, but the slope was covered in snow, and we are all lazy city kids, so it was a rude awakening. (even if it was 2:30pm) Still, a nice view, with very interesting light playing out over the sea through patches in the clouds. Wandering along the plateau following the gps we found some nice tracks, first bird tracks, that appeared to be dragging something, possibly just their tails, but later fox tracks. (according to some google image searches to compare with mink tracks, I reckon fox tracks) And then, we even found a fox burrow! Two holes in the snow, and piss marks in the snow, and plenty of tracks in and out. Not real photogenic I have to say, but cool to see nonetheless.

We eventually came up to the cave itself, which, predictably, was pretty full of snow. We actually got lucky here, and because of our luck here, I don't think I'll be doing any more winter caving. All the snow on the side we'd approached from was pretty hard packed, and it basically straight forward to clamber down into the cave with a light and see if the entrances were completely choked up or not. However, on the opposite side of the entrance pit was a layer of snow about 20cm thick, suspended in air above a 2-3m fall down into the cave. If we'd come up Mosaskarð to the plateau, instead of Nátthagaskarð, it's quite likely that one of us would have had a trip to hospital, and the rest of us a very arduous afternoon effecting a self rescue.

Still, we didn't. And we were in now, and pretty confident in the pile of snow we had come down in. There was one passage that looked to risky to try and get into given the snow and ice and rocks, but that still left another tunnel to have a look in, so we headed over and in.

It's worth pointing out that there were phenomenal amounts of icicles in the entrance way here, very very pretty. Of course, it also meant that the breakdown leading into the tube we were heading into was completely ice coated too, which was a bit more bad juju for slipping and causing some damage to someone. But, skillful navigators of icy roads and icy footpaths and beer luubricated nightclubs, we negotiated the icy entrance without mishap, and proceeded in to enjoy the lovely cave.

I didn't really get many pictures here, we were moving a little faster than I'd like, and our breath was fogging it up a lot, particularly anywhere near the entrance. There's some very nice jet black flow goop though, pahoehoe if you're feeling hawaiian and technical. We came across two forks quite early, one of which we came back to later on, which had probably the best black ooze. It had flowed out onto a yellow/ochre coloured floor, like it had been squirted out of a giant icing tube. At the second fork was another nice black blob, though this one had more foot traffic damage. Like in a lot of these caves, some of the exterior surface is quite hard, but rather brittle and thin, so the surface detail sometimes gets crushed underfoot. When it covers the whole tube though, it's rather hard to avoid some of this at times. We didn't explore the constricting fork, and followed the tube downhill, along the flow of black ooze. At times the black had cracked exposing purple and yellow inside, but again we were moving a little quickly.

And so, rather by surprise, we ended up facing a wall of snow again. Not as much ice on the entrance rocks, and another passage leading onwards past the snow, so we headed up to the snow and around into the "next" tunnel.

Which was actually exactly where we'd started :) We hadn't even noticed this extra passage tucked away in the corner. So we headed back into the first fork, and signed the guestbook, and had a cup of tea and some chocolate, and then headed for home. We were hoping to have a little bit of light left for returning across the plateau and down the hill, and it worked out just about right. The days are rapidly getting longer here already, and we only had to have headlights on right near the end.

A nice trip, but I'd say the last caving trip until the thaw. It's just too risky to walk up onto a hole in the ground and fall through the snow.

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