11. December 2021

The international Mountain Day

Today is the International Mountain Day and we at Katla Geopark therefore wanted to share with you some information about one of our favourite mountains within Katla Geopark, Mt. Hatta in the municipality of Mýrdalshreppur. On the International Mountain Day last year, we wrote about Mt. Lómagnúpur and the year before that Mt. Steinafjall.

Mt. Hatta, or just Hatta, is a beautiful palagonite/tuff mountain, or rather a peak, rising from the high plateau of Víkurheiði. Hatta is about 504-512 m.a.s.l. and is the highest mountain around the town of Vík and offers spectacular views. It often falls in the shadow of its smaller brother, Mt. Reynisfjall, when it comes to the discussion about beautiful and scenic mountains in the area and the geopark would like to correct that a little bit here.

Hatta is, like most if not all mountains within the municipality of Mýrdalshreppur, part of the Icelandic móberg (palagonite) formation and was formed in an eruption from the Katla volcanic system. The móberg formation is the volcanic strata created by subglacial and submarine eruptions during the latter part of the ice age (about 0,78-0,01 million years ago) and forms large part of the bedrock within the geopark. The Icelandic móberg formation covers about 11.200 km2 and is distributed over the active volcanic belts in Iceland. The strata in the formation is, as the name suggests, mostly palagonite and tuff, but pillow basalt, intrusions and lavas are also common. The age of Hatta is not known, but the mountain is probably relatively young on the geological timescale, having most likely been formed during either the last or the second to last interglacial periods of the ice age, or about 120 thousand or 200 thousand years ago. It is too bad that Hatta has not been thoroughly studied, and that is true about many volcanic formations from that time within the geopark. At the top of Hatta, beautiful stratified palagonite can be seen as well as some palagonite breccia, while the lower part is covered by a scree (talus) and vegetation. Most things indicate that Hatta has been eroded by glaciers and it is also a possibility that Hatta was a nunatak, piercing through the retreating ice age glacier. It is certain that the west side of Hatta was eroded by glaciers and shaped the peak of Hatta, giving it the thin and pointy look as the glacier flowed past the mountain on its way to the sea. The northern and eastern sides of Hatta are not as steep as the west side and quickly joins the plateau of Víkurheiði and levels out. Hatta has not only been shaped by mountains, as the palagonite has been wind eroded and it is a possibility that wave erosion occurred near the base of Hatta at the end of the last glaciation about 11 thousand years ago, when the relative sea level was much higher than it is today. Regardless of the processes that shaped Hatta, Hatta is one of the more beautiful peaks within the geopark, especially when there is a little bit of snow on it as then the stratification of the palagonite can be seen even better and is a magnificent sight.

Hiking Mt. Hatta is a lot of fun and should be accessible for most people, but people with fear of heights might struggle a bit as the way is quite steep in parts. There is a marked hiking path, starting at the church in Vík, that leads up to the peak and further east to the rock face of Víkurhamrar. We do however not recommend people to hike Hatta after heavy rainfall or during spring thawing, as the soil up on the mountain is thick and gets easily muddy. It is worth mentioning that there are several beautiful mountains within Katla Geopark and many of them have hiking trails. You can access hiking trails for Mt. Hatta and other mountains here: http://www.katlageopark.com/about-katla/maps/hiking-maps/ and here: https://wapp.is/

 

References:

EDS og SSt. „Hvernig og hvenær myndaðist Hjörleifshöfði?“ Vísindavefurinn, 6. mars 2008. Sótt 8. desember 2021. http://visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=7186.

Einar H. Einarsson, 1970. Um hugsanleg íslaus svæði í Mýrdal. Náttúrufræðingurinn, 39(3-4);251-257

Einar H. Einarsson, 1984. Sjávarstaða við Mið-Suðurland, Náttúrufræðingurinn, 53(1-2);61-68

Sveinn P. Jakobsson og Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, 2012. Móbergsmyndunin og gos undir jöklum. Náttúrufræðingurinn 82(1-4);113-125 https://notendur.hi.is/mtg/pdf/2012_NF82_SPJ_MTG_Moberg.pdf

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