Continuing on, the grade of the trail was now nearly flat. The wide section of ridge we were on soon narrowed dramatically, down to a metre-wide knife edge. The trail traces along the top of this narrow ridge, with steeply sloping grades on either side. I had read about this section of trail in various guidebooks and online descriptions, and recalled the varying descriptions of it: some described a hair-raising white-knuckled passage; others weren't so dramatic.
No one in our group found it particularly hard or scary, a finding no doubt helped by the happily sunny day and lack of any significant wind. I'm sure it feels less friendly when the rain is coming in sideways and the wind is howling. Still, as knife-edges go, it's (in my humble opinion) not all that bad.
The knife-edge section of Kattarhryggur ridge isn't really all that long. After a perhaps a hundred metres or so, the trail drops off the ridgecrest and traverses below its crest, a while on the left-hand side, then for a while on the right-hand side, crossing back across through a little notch. There are some excellent views along this section looking up Strákagil - the aforementioned craggy side-valley that the trail courts for much of its lower stretch.
Looking back towards knife-edge
As well as offering great views up to the beginnings of the snow fields at the head of the Strákagil valley, the southwestern (and in the afternoon, sun-facing) slopes of the ridge were a warm and calm place for a mid-afternoon snack break.
Craggy green Strákagil valley
The trail soon surmounted another short craggy slope (again with an assist cable that is not needed in good conditions) to reach another flatter section where the sharp ridge broadened away into a wide, curved crest. The vegetation cover was steadily decreasing as we ascended, and at this point all that was left on the ground below us were mosses, grasses and a few scrubby brushes, and the occasional mountain wildflower.
This is where we also got our first look at the big glaciers spilling off of the Mýrdalsjökull Icecap, which had been until this point hidden by intervening ridges.
Hiking the Icelandic wildlands
The still well-defined trail meandered its way up smooth slopes, mostly at an easy grade. In places it appeared as if the trail had been recently re-routed.
The already spectacular views of the surrounding landscape kept improving as we made our way up along a broad crest. Our views of the nearby icecap grew more extensive. The view back down to Þorsmörk became more all-encompassing. And we began to get more far-ranging views, to lands off in the northern distance, in the direction of Landmannalaugar - a well-known attractive backcountry destination.
Brian and Tungnakvislarjökull
Up above us, we could see the next 'ascent stage' of our hike - a climb up the steep slopes of what we knew to be the edge of a large plateau. We could see the faint line of the trail diagonally traversing up the slopes to the rim.
We decided to push on up the steep bit of trail to the edge of the plateau above, and take our next rest break at that point.
The Boys and the Glaciers