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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Exploring the Mysteries of Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge: Uncovering the History of Bárður Snæfellsás

Updated: Mar 21


Rauðfeldsgjá gorge Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Rauðfeldsgjá gorge Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep, high and narrow gorge in the cliffs south of the glacier Snæfellsjökull with a dramatic story and family tragedy attached to its name. The location is near the tiny hamlet of Arnarstapi. Seen from the road, it looks like a small crack in the berg that slid just a bit, enough for people to enter and observe. There is a parking lot by the road and a five to ten minutes walk to the entrance of the gorge. Rauðfeldsgjá is part of the Snæfellsnes Road Trip, which is described in more detail in a separate article.


Snæfellsnes and west region on map of Iceland
Snæfellsnes and west region on map of Iceland


A narrow path for those who dare


Rauðfeldsgjá entrance
Rauðfeldsgjá entrance

Although entering the gorge Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance. It is almost like a small and wonderful temple. For those who dare, a further clamber into the narrow crack following the water is possible. It will lead you to a rope where you can pull yourself up a small waterfall, and even go further into the gorge. A very narrow path with cliffs all around you and a view high up to the open air. Those who take this challenge will possibly sense the spirits of the brothers Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, who met their fate in this place about twelve hundred years ago as is documented in a true story the Icelandic Sagas.


A dramatic event that had tremendous consequences

Climbing into the crack at Rauðfeldsgjá gorge
Climbing into the crack at Rauðfeldsgjá gorge

Rauðfeldur and Sölvi came with their father Þorkell, the half-brother of Bárður Snæfellsás, who was half man, half-troll to Iceland as children and lived at Arnarstapi. They often played with Bárðurs many beautiful daughters. One day, they lured one of the girls, Helga, out to an iceberg in an innocent game and pushed her on the iceberg out to the open Ocean. Unfortunately, high winds blew the iceberg quickly from shore and out to the open sea, and she disappeared. The news of her fate and journey on the ice never reached her father, as communication was different at that time. In everyone's mind, she was lost and deceased. Apparently, as the story in the Saga Bárðar Saga Snæfellsás, she reached Greenland seven days later and lived a good life with the family of Erik the Red, father of Leif the Lucky, for many years. In a poem she wrote and had been preserved in the Sagas, one can sense that she missed her father, family, and country.


A life-changing event for Bárður Snæfellsás, the half-troll half man

When Bárður Snæfellsás learned of the disappearance of his daughter he completely blew up in anger, to put it mildly. He grabbed the two brothers, one at the age of eleven and the other twelve, and climbed to the cliff above the gorge. In his uncontrollable anger, he threw Rauðfeldur into the gorge and to enhance the madness he threw the other brother Sölvi of the cliff. Needless to say, both boys lost their lives, but their names have lived as the gorge, and the cliff bears their names; Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvahamar. After this incident, Bárður lost his mind and eventually walked up to the glacier where he built an ice cave where he has lived for many centuries and according to popular believe, still does to this very day.


 
 




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