Desember 11 | International Mountain Day
Today is the international mountain day, so we here at Katla Geopark wanted to share with you some information on one of our favourite mountains, which is called Steinafjall. The mountain is part of the Eyjafjöll mountain range in the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic system. That system has been active for at least the last 700.000 years and has built up the mountain range. Steinafjall was therefore mostly formed during the last glaciation in Iceland where palagonite tuff and blocky lavas were formed during glacial periods and lava fields during interglacial periods. The different layers alternate in the mountain and are somewhat representative for the geology of the south part of Iceland. The stratigraphy of the mountain can be seen well on the rock face on the south side, due to marine erosion at the end of the last glaciation, when the relative sea level was much higher than today. The rockface is about 400-500 m above sea level, but the highest point of the mountain is the peak Leynir at 809 m. Glacial erosion is evident as well and glacier have almost separated the mountain from the mountain range, as it is only connected by a small ridge on the north side which is called Kolbeinsskarð.
The mountain is flanked by two valleys, by Holtsdalur valley on the west side and Núpakotsdalur valley on the east side. The danger of rock collapses and landslides is quite high on the south side of the mountain, and many slides have occurred in recent past, along with mudflows after the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. The debris from the slides and rock collapses has built up thick deposits at the base of the rockface where it reaches up to about 160-200 m in height. The slides have also caused considerable damage to agricultural land and fences, and in 1997 a 50-70-ton boulder landed on road 1 blocking the road for some time. The rockface and the landslides have an upside though, as the rockface gives relief to the nearby farms from the often-strong northern winds and material from the landslides and rock collapses has been used in buildings and fences for centuries.
Many place names are associated with Steinafjall mountain and a panoramic place name plate is on a car park at the farm Steinar I, off road 1. The most famous place name of Steinafjall is probably “Ingimundur”. Ingimundur is a large and noticeable rock on the rock face, standing higher than the surroundings. The name comes from a story about a man called Rútur who lived on the nearby farm of Rútafelli. He was not a well-liked man, and his slaves (or his sons) were paid to kill him by some of the farms in the area. Rútur however discovered the plan and as the slaves were fleeing, he killed them one by one. One of his slaves was called Ingimundur and Rútur killed him near the rock and after that the rock has been called Ingimundur.
The rock was first climbed in 1988 by Haraldur Örn Ólafsson and Guðmundur Eyjólfsson and has been somewhat popular climbing route since. It is possible to do some hikes on Steinafjall mountain, but it is not recommended to try to go up the south side as it is very steep and very hard to find the right way up the side. The rock face is also an international important nesting area for seabirds, as a large population of northern fulmar resides on the cliff and they can be ill tempered and should be left alone.
The south-east side of Steinafjall. The rock Ingimundur can be seen on the left hand side, a little bit higher than the surroundings. The alternating layers can also
be seen, where the thick dark layers are lavas and the thin brown ones are palagonite tuff layers. The debris layer can be seen as well and is mostly vegetated by now.
Jón Kristinn Helgason og Esther Hlíðar Jensen (2011). Eðjuflóð, aurskriður og framburður gosefna niður á láglendi með vatnsföllum vorið 2011 vegna gjósku úr Eyjafjallajökulsgosinu. Veðurstofa Íslands, skýrsla VÍ 2011-001.
Ólafur Ragnar Helgason (2002). Lítill leiðarvísir um Ingimund. Sótt af: https://rafhladan.is/handle/10802/7891
Páll Einarsson og Ásta Rut Hjartardóttir 2015. Structure and tectonic position of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, S-Iceland. Jökull 65, 1-16
Þorsteinn Sæmundsson (1997). Grjóthrun úr Steinafjalli í austanverðum Eyjafjöllum, 2. September 1997. Veðurstofa Íslands, greinarg. 97029. Sótt af: https://rafhladan.is/handle/10802/7891