Mt. Arnarfell (1143m) is almost engulfed by the southeastern part of Glacier Hofsjokull, but very prominent. Its upper part is precipitous and the lower part has steep screes. The southern slopes are unbelievably well vegetated for this elevation, 700-800 m above sea level. Above the 800 m level, a blanket of moss covers the slopes, but below plants such as willow, wood crane’s bill, angelica, roseroot, grass and bog whortleberry thrive extremely well. Altogether 97 species of plants have been discovered there. The view from the top of Mt. Arnarfell is excellent on a fine day. The Mt. Arnarfell Smaller (1140m) is situated a bit further west. Arnarfellsalda is a prominent mound in the bogs of Thjorsarver, close to the Arnarfellsmular moraines. Ruins of a small hut by the mound remind us of the last two outlaws of the country. Two labourers of a farm in the Southwest, who had been sentenced to servitude for theft, decided to try to escape the punishment and fled into the interior.
There they built a small shelter to wait for the chance to escape permanently, but were caught four days later and sent to Denmark to serve their sentences. One of them later went to the USA, became a Mormon, and returned to Iceland as a missionary. There are still clear tracks of the ancient Arnarfell Route just north of the mound. It was a part of the much-travelled Sprengisandur Route, but only used in cases when the ford Soleyjarhofdavad was impassable.
Arnarfellsmular are a row of moraines at the edge of the large glacier tongue Mulajokull, which has been busy creating them during the millenniums, and has retreated considerably since then. The moraines closest to the glacier are almost barren, but the ones farthest east are well vegetated.
Farther away are areas even more vegetated than the Arnarfell Slope. It is amazing how large and wide spread the roseroot gets there. According to documents from 1762, some men travelling there discovered a dugout, which most probably belonged to the famous outlaw Mountain-Eyvind. It was stocked with provisions for the winter, mutton, and horsemeat. They found traces of the sudden departure of the inhabitants and followed the tracks of five horses leading to the glacier. The hut was demolished and the provisions were confiscated.
Highland Saga Sprenigisandur Route
Photo Credit: Jóna Þórunn