Today I needed to peel the boy away from his tablet and Minecraft, so I tossed on some boots and a light jacket and we went to explore the mountain behind our apartment, Helgafell.
Helgafell means “Holy Mountain” and is pronounced like Helga-Fel-tlch, where that last sound happens in the back corner of your mouth. His school is named after the mountain: Helgafellsskóli or Holy Mountain School.
The mountain isn’t very big, and the hike is supposedly quite easy, but we weren’t planning on actually going for the summit today. I knew the trail-head from the northern side of the mountain was up a road near the apartment and I wanted to find it for a future hike. Wit thought that was a nice idea too, “but maybe we can go up it a little bit to see what it’s like.”
The roads to get there weren’t quite as finished as we’d expected. As I mentioned before, our neighborhood is still under a lot of construction. In fact, Leah looked at Google Maps from just a couple years ago and the entire area is undeveloped. This town basically doubled in size over the last 3 years. And so, the street we were traveling down was no different. We had to do a bit of climbing through a road being constructed to make it to the main gravel road that goes past the mountain.
Wit entertained himself by collecting white rocks on the way, and before we knew it we had found the trail-head. I wasn’t completely sure it was the right spot at first because although I could see a path clearly on the mountain itself, there wasn’t a clear way to it from the road. We did about 50 meters overland, avoiding the sensitive moss, and made our way anyway.
The next worry was the trail disappearing halfway up the northern face. I suspected that we’d probably hit a switchback that we couldn’t see from our angle, but I also wasn’t planning on going that high. The energetic boy had different plans though. “This is easy, dad,” became the battle-cry from the little one as I huffed and puffed my way along.
I actually had to stop for a few minutes at the first false-summit to let my heart calm down. It’s sad since the path was so short and easy, but I’m not letting pride get to me. I sat and looked out over the valley of Mosfellsbær and Wit joined me to comment on the cars looking like ants. Eventually I was ready to finish the trek to the top. From there we had fun on the super-squishy moss covered rocks, like little mattresses. The space was beautiful, even on an overcast day. Wit was really enjoying himself.
We’d talked on the way about how to travel on a trail safely and how to avoid hurting the mountain. I’d told him what my dad always taught me, “you only get one chance.” It was a phrase he’d use whenever we talked about something that could prove fatal if something went wrong. And so in those terms I explained why it’s important to stay away from edges, even if they look secure. He listened well and took heed, and learned how to identify trail warnings.
The path we took had a few steep inclines, including one that ran along with a small creek filled with tiny pebbles. I gave it a sour face on the way up knowing what a pain it was going to be coming back down. It didn’t disappoint either.
But first we had one errand to run. We often look out our back window at home and watch the animal life on the mountain. We have our birding field guide there and a pair of binoculars. And so, with a little careful plodding, we made our way to the western ledge that looks down on our street.
I called Leah and told her to come outside so we could wave to her. She grabbed the binoculars and saw us up top and we saw her way down below.
After that it was time to head back home. The way down was pretty rough. The trail was extremely slippery, especially the wet part, and steep. There was no vegetation to hold for assistance, so we just did our best. I led the way in case Wit slid, so I could catch him. He learned the lesson that when you slide it’s easiest just to sit down.
When we reached the bottom my knees and thighs were aflame and the boy was covered in mud, as is only proper. He was smiling all the way home, though. It was his first real hike and his first mountain and he loved it.