THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
The Land of Fire and Ice - Travelling in Iceland
Jake Thompsett about his favourite place to travel
Iceland, the land of fire and ice, a place where volcanoes meet glaciers and summer is the same as winter, just with less snow! With next to no darkness during the summer, and almost no light during the winter it’s a little different to the rest of the world and it just happens to be my favorite place to travel to at the moment!
As you land into Keflavik airport and begin the walk to baggage collection, the walls are lined with images of ice climbers, mountaineers and dog sled racers. I remember the first time I saw those images in Keflavik airport and thinking to myself “this is my kind of place!” The towns are full of people wearing big down jackets and fur lined parkas as they get into their all-terrain equipped 4x4’s and trucks. Everything just screams the mountains and outdoors and it’s a brilliant environment to be in and on top of that the fish and chips are incredible!
Heading away from the towns and towards the Pingvellier National Park you’re surrounded by huge open plains where distant mountains pop out of the ground, the roads are straight and travel as far as you can see, You really are surrounded by vastness.
I spent plenty of hours sat in Geography lessons at school hearing about the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but never had I appreciated how incredible it really is, and also that you didn’t have to dive deep in the Atlantic Ocean to see it! In the Pingvellier National Park you can stand right next to it and the water is as clear as it could possibly be. Regular tours take people diving and snorkeling, but I wasn’t there for the diving, I was here for the mountains!
The journey into the Porsmork National Park is pretty surreal, driving up a glacial outwash plane, crossing braided rivers in rugged buses and looking up at the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano that caused the cancellation of all the commercial flights during 2010. As you get off the bus at the campsite and take a panoramic sweep around you, there’s so much to take in; huge glaciers carving their way down into the valleys, lime green terrain and thick coniferous forests, braided glacial rivers running along the outwash valley like the capillaries in your arm and then the odd public bus driving in and out of the valley and crossing rivers as easily as we cross a bridge in the UK! Iceland during the summer definitely isn’t a place for the light sleeper, with nearly 24 hours daylight it’s a pretty weird feeling lying in your tent in bright daylight as if you were trying to get to sleep at 6am
The thing that I love most about Iceland is that the mountain walking never gets boring, the trails are so varied, there’s always new terrain to walk over, or different views to look at as you’re slogging your way uphill. The walk up to Brattafon Peak is one of the most exciting within the area around the campsite, with its narrow ridges and steep scrambles, it’s no easy feat, but when you reach the high volcanic landscape you have views of the huge glacier and the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano and it’s totally worth it. As we descended, Iceland really bared it’s teeth and showed us that it’s not all sunshine and great views, we could physically see the weather front chasing us down the trail and when it hit, it was time to ‘batten down the hatches’! When we got back to the campsite we all retreated to one of the many small huts, ditched our wet kit and got a brew on, awesome!
So why do I love Iceland? It’s rugged, mountainous, gnarly and everything screams “get outdoors”, adventure is therapy in Iceland, and to me that’s what life is about!
I’m lucky enough to be heading to Iceland twice this year to race in a two day mountain marathon in May, and take a group along the famous Laugavegur trail in the summer, but there’ll be more on that later in the year!