On Sunday, the alert for Katla volcano, just 30km away, was raised to yellow, an imminent. The earthquakes we had been feeling we’re getting more regular, the smell of sulphur often present. Reactions were mixed, speculations high and I think it played on our minds as we mapped the tents in an attempt to ensure a quick round up should word come.
That being said, Monday morning came around as usual and we carried way marker posts up to Utigonguhofdi, the mountain affectionately known as Uti. It was a steep old climb with wood and sledgehammers, but endlessly scenic as the mountains split into steep canyons, the low vegetation hanging on to rocks. From above the rippled mountains gave away their volcanic nature, looking violent and craggy. The last section, to reach 797 metres was a steep scramble, onto a plateau which looked out onto a panoramic horizon, one that could be very shortly covered in ash.
Rob kept us all entertained with his low level disruptions. He insisted on calling me Chairman Mao and the work as ‘the long march.’ He chased a rock down the mountain to adopt it as his pet dog and after tiring from walking it on a lead, unbeknownst to me, he put it in my bag. It wasn’t until the bottom he asked me if he wanted me to take a turn walking the dog, that I realised the unnecessary weight of my pack. In response to this, James taught us a new card game, the only rule being that he was the only one who knew the rules, and he dished us out penalty cards for ‘failing to comply with the rules,’ speaking out of turn, and touching Mao’s cards, having us in fits of giggles as we learnt to play to please the dictator.
With danger alerts high, I raised tensions further by introducing a game of Live Cleudo. Each person got a murder objective over dinner of a place, person and thing. Most people quickly disappeared off to bed, however two murders took place that first night, and it was the two team leaders to go first…
Gemma killed me with a saucepan, on the bridge as I calmly walked to the bathroom. It was her second attempt after Rob foiled her first casual pan of lining up the frying pan on the bridge whilst washing up, and calling me over to retrieve her carelessly dropped sponge from the stream.
Brad’s death was even more ruthless. Rob got him whilst he was on the toilet, sticking a plate under the stool door to indicate he had met his fate.
The next morning was equally as tragic. Rob was washing up when he was killed by stream algae by Richard, ‘yer dead mate!’
The scene was quiet until after work when a double murder occurred in the wardens hut. I facilitated Sophie taking on James, getting him to carry the murder weapon, a pan lid, to the hut under the facade of a task to help me out. Working as a double agent from beyond the grave, I then tipped Jade off to Sophie’s whereabouts allowing her to finish the job with a drill.
Attempted murders came in thick and fast, but the next to meet their fate was Gemma at the morning meeting, as Penny took to her with the rock bar. As you killed, you took on the victims objective, so Penny then took out Richard at the compost bin, with 1500 kroner worth of shower coins, my original objective which had been handed over twice since my passing.
Plots and double crossings came in thick and fast. It was as much as we could do to break up suspicious gatherings as we awaited the final showdown with only 4 players left. Nowhere was safe.
At work, we got the satisfaction of maintaining the trails, adding very little in terms of construction, but lopping, clearing and widening several of the trails, the result being seeing a lot of the area. We worked on Rettafell for two days, clamouring down chains, sorting scree and building with earth. Our mountain sat across the valley from Valahnukur where the Langidalur based team were working, and in our work issued ‘oranges’ they were very visable to us, as we were to them, 2km away. On our lunch break, on an open section of hillside, we used 8 of us to spell ‘HI’ and then phoned them to gauge their reaction.
The volcano warning was lowered to Green, but drama continued, with a search and rescue helicopter coming over camp to search for missing hikers who were later found safe and well at the next hut.
We rounded off the week with a large amount of landscaping work, resculpting the banks by undercutting the precious turf. Finally, we tacked a patch of Lupin, ready to reseed, in the continued battle against invasive species.
Friday had snuck up on us, and with Brennevin spirit on offer it could only mean one thing, goodbye to our two weekers, and the start of hike week.