Adventure Islands Hiking Iceland MicroAdventures Why Adventure?

Climbing waterfalls – the mighty Hengifoss

Hengifoss Waterfall Iceland
Written by Stuart Wickes

Climbing waterfalls – the mighty Hengifoss

While biking around the Lagarfljot in search of a worm, there are many natural attractions which make for excellent side trips and micro adventures. Not everyone wanted to go to the foot of the mighty Hengifoss waterfall, but those who did shared in a little surprise…

Hengifoss, East Iceland

Hengifoss waterfall, East Iceland

Climbing waterfalls

We are damp, wet and slimy by the time we approach the foot of Hengifoss. The sun left the canyon long ago taking with it any chance of rainbows and leaving Cameron and I in the deep shadows of cliffs that resemble a basalt and iron sandwich. We crawl up the final boulder field towards the head of the canyon, like tiny crabs scuttling this way and that to try to find a sure footing across slippery rock and loose scree.

Hengifoss, East Iceland

The path up towards the lower view of Hengifoss, East Iceland

Cameron leaps on ahead; he’s so light, nimble and sure of himself. Every now and again he stops, turns, and waits for me; looking out for his ‘old’ Dad coming up behind. It touches me the way he stops to check I’m alright, and reminds me how our powers will cross currents in the years ahead. Not that I feel old or lacking in power, not yet. In fact I’m really quite enjoying this little micro adventure. It’s nice to be out with just one of the kids, one that wants to get to the top. It gets tiresome after a while persuading others to come on my mini missions against their will or better judgment. I suspect it’s tiresome for them to come too.

Litlanesfoss, East Iceland

Litlanesfoss, East Iceland. Is this not spectacular enough?

Part of me is glad the others stopped off further down. Getting up to the main falls is proving a bit more of a challenge than I thought. The early steps and path were steep but easy enough and the approach to Litlanesfoss was fine. But beyond that interest waned as difficulty increased; perhaps the little fall, halfway up, was big enough, a giant ribbon between towering basalt columns. Anywhere else it would have been the main attraction, but not here, not in Iceland, where even giant waterfalls come on a buy one get one free basis.

Hengifoss, East Iceland

Up towards the upper canyon of Hengifoss, East Iceland

I know the others would have been cursing me if I’d cajoled them to continue to the top. They’d have been swearing the first time we had to leap across the river, shouting at me when we had to scramble over the scree and giving me the silent treatment by the time we were picking our way up the river bed to the final boulder field. A willing victim is always better.

“Dad! Look. What’s that?” shouts Cameron above the roar of the fall, now some 30 metres away .

We stand in awe under a giant block of ice that sits sheltering in deep shadows at the top of the canyon.

“Is it an iceberg Dad?”

I have no idea. I am as surprised as he is to find it hiding there.

Hengifoss, East Iceland

Underneath the ‘iceberg’ beneath Hengifoss, East Iceland

We perch on slimy boulders and touch this tower of ice, its’ dirty chill burning our hands. We look up at the 120m spout of water pounding the canyon floor beside us and breathe in the spray of the second highest waterfall in Iceland. We smile at each other and share a moment we know we’ll both remember.

Hengifoss, East Iceland

Hengifoss, East Iceland

This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We spent summer 2012 visiting Iceland and The Faroes, exploring the wilder parts of these adventure islands to research and report on what’s on offer to adventure seeking families. We’re grateful to DFDS Seaways and Smyril Line for their support in getting us there, enabling us to bring you this season of posts. 

You can follow our progress LIVE on The Family Adventure Project Punkt and get some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of our journey.


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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