Reykjavík and Unimogs

•January 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The Iceland Expedition Stage 1 {Reykjavík and Unimogs}

Its been several months since I returned exhausted, muddy and smiling from the land of ice and fire.

So…Are we sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin….

Remi and I arrived in Iceland on the 5th of June to meet our Icelandic contact, the Yeos. Although we had never met we were warmly welcomed with true Icelandic hospitality. No sooner had Richard and his two young boys finished giving us the tour of “the big city” was I contently drinking tea in their warm living room.

Full to bursting point with delicious roast lamb Remi and I and enjoyed tales of Inga and Richard’s past adventures until long after the sun should have faded. It was indeed late on our first night, when under the midnight sun Remi and I wearily stumbled to our bunks. Our beds were set in cabin of what can only be describable as Iceland’s answer to the mobile home.

A small heater was delicately wafting silky waves of warmth through the bitter morning air, it shimmered in the golden light of the small hours. I gazed intently to the pastel skys behind cobwebbed windows bolted to the rusting doors of Richard’s faithful Unimog.

Dazzled in untimely sunshine I was surprised upon checking my watch to see it was only 4am. Surprisingly over the night neither elf nor troll had crept upon our bunk, there had been no volcanic apocalypse nor arctic storm to engulf us in our sleep. The “night” had been for lack of a better word, blissfully comfortable.

And so began the first full day in Iceland. A gentle stroll down a quiet riverside path later, Remi and I found myself bumbling around the bright and vibrant town of Reykjavik. Between intermittent snow showers I enjoyed the cold crisp air, air so cold that even the trees wore jumpers. A recent movement of guerrilla knitters whom it seems are too cool for spray paint had taken to graffiti by needle and thread. I even spotted an occasional wooly bike, spokes and all.

Months of planning behind a desk (probably when I should have been revising for exams) had prepared both Remi and I for a tedious day of organisation. Last minute shopping, a meeting with ICESAR (Icelandic Search and Rescue) and ration parcels required immediate attention.

Somehow, within a single afternoon Remi and I managed to contact ICESAR, locate, purchase and pack the remainder of the food rations, and with help from Richard deliver six cardboard/duct-tape frankenboxes to the PostIS and BSI bus terminals.

It was in unexpectedly good time and spirit that we had organised all the support drops to be delivered. They were now destined to scatter across Iceland’s barren interior with deliveries to Landmannalaugar, Askja and Myvatn. That evening I couldn’t help  wondering to myself, “what if  the rest of our journey is so easy?”  The hike would be a simple walk in the park, all be it a large one.

This was not to be the case, even before leaving the Yeos Iceland upped the game. Unbeknown until our arrival, the already famously harsh Icelandic climate was experiencing its coldest June for 59 years.

Moments before sending our food rations Richard had asked “are you absolutely sure you don’t want to wait a month?”

But our minds were set and with a gun-hoe attitude of “No worries an extra jacket will do, we’ll be fine” we made the choice to continue as planned.

It was with with youthful naivety that we chose to ignore the chances of delayed glacial melt and remaining permafrost leaving an endlessly hard ashen bog.

In hindsight we perhaps should have listened to the advice given. Just a few days into our route we encountered the first of many rivers to come. A river which in June normally represented a small stream but this year remained a colossal raging torrent. The power of the water immense volume rendered the valley ahead uncrossable even by jeep.

Spurred by snowmelt to reconsider Richard’s words of wisdom we returned to the road having learned some important lessons in expedition planning.

Lesson 1: Listen to the Locals – especially if they are very experienced in the area and conditions

Lesson 2: Do not be afraid to re-arrange intended plans to better suit to the conditions.

Lesson 3: Never have a plan B, it makes the plan seem less exiting/desirable. Instead simply make a Second Plan A.

With a refreshed plan to allow the melt water to subsite until july before staging a second attempt at the crossing, we turned our concentration on a new goal.

The circumnavigation of Iceland’s west-fjords and ring road by hitch hike.

The following series of blogs will document the secondary attempt at Crossing Iceland

This will be concluded with a blog on the adventures of Icelandic Hitch-hiking

“Stay tuned folks” _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


“Tea Off” Iceland Expedition 2011

•May 13, 2011 • 10 Comments

Somewhere, far north of Scotland, on an unassuming ridge deep beneath the cold abyss of the atlantic ocean, an eruption began. There was no smoke, no ash and because these volcanos formed about 20 Million years ago, there were no disrupted flights. As magma poured relentlessly from a great rupture in the Mid-Atlantic ridge an island was formed. This island grew to become an oval over 300miles long and 200 miles wide, it still grows today.  Millennia later, sometime in the 9th century a hardy bunch of Scandinavians became the first humans to tread the untouched shores of this still steaming land.

They named the land Ísland or to us Iceland.

Despite housing Europe’s largest glacier which is around a half mile deep and 3000 square km in mass, the name Iceland is misleading. The terrain is predominantly volcanic ash. Despite housing Europe’s largest cold desert, Iceland is a very wet and windy place. Perhaps “ashland” or “driechland” didn’t give such an appealing name, but in reality Iceland appears more akin to the moon in a west highland gale than an Icy wonderland.

As Scandinavian legend dictates “a magician once swam to Iceland in the form of a whale, hoping to bring the isolated North Atlantic island under his spell. But when he reached Iceland’s rocky shores, he abandoned his dream upon discovering that it was already inhabited by spirits who fiercely defended their lush green meadows, frigid ice sheets, and soaring volcanic mountains.”

In just three short weeks from today, myself and my team-mate Remi intend to brave these “spirits” (or as we call it in Scotland, “weather”) and cross Iceland from South to north as well as some other smaller hikes around its jagged coastlines. We nervously await our departure from Glasgow on the 5th of June with an exited trepidation. Luckily the onset of University exams will provide a very effective distraction until said date.

For this reason and in the nobel art of revision procrastination, I have decided to enter this as the first of hopefully many blogs.

Some readers may recognise our plans from our brief posters where we offered to serve warm cups of tea and coffee atop the hill Dumyat in Stirling where we have been occasionally fundraising for the past few months. Id like to extend a massive thank you to all those who supported us, with your aid we managed to raise over £200, $1, and a crossword puzzle.

A great thanks also to everyone else from Stirling, Ullapool and Beyond for their help and contributions.

Also a huge thank you to ICELANDAIR who have agreed to waive our excess baggage and to EXPEDITION FOODS who helped us out with a huge discount on their wonderful food, its far better than cous cous!

We have also been working with a local charity “Made In Ullapool” to help them raise some funds towards their new premises. Made in Ullapool is a small social enterprise aimed at providing a place for vulnerable adults to contribute towards society and help give a sense of purpose. At the moment Made in Ullapool produces wonderfully scented and beautifully crafted candles.

For more information on “Made in Ullapool” click here  MADE IN ULLAPOOL

If you would like to donate towards “Made in Ullapool” and our Expedition Budget

Contributions can be made through Paypal by clicking the Button Below, any proceeds are greatly appreciated

50% of all the money that we raise will be donated towards “Made In Ullapool” whereas the other 50% will help support our food and fuel budget.

Apart from food and fuel both Remi and I have at long last attained all of our gear and packed our bags for the first time, despite the food weight being missing we were both rather pleasantly surprised at the overall pack weight which was lower than expected.

I am currently up north in Ullapool but today Remi has informed me that an enormous parcel containing 90 packs of “expedition food” freeze dry meals has finally arrived and been unpacked and is currently “filling the entire flat hallway”. This begs the question, if thats just dinner what will breakfast and lunch look like. Maybe we will need a bigger hallway.

Hopefully it won’t weigh too much more than we have already, but we expect to carry somewhere between 20-25kg over our route.

Our route itself can be summed up into three separate stages which are as follows;

Stage 1: The Crossing

Our first and primary aim is to walk diagonally across Iceland. The route we have chosen starts on the far South Western corner at kotlutangi and finishes at the North Eastern tip at Rif near the township of Raufarhöfn. The journey is about 600km and we estimate that it will take us between 30 and 35 days.

This route links well known routes such as the Laugavegur trail from Bórsmörk to Landmannalaugar with extensive sections of off trail routes where we rely upon our own navigational skills and abilities. This includes the crossing of a mountain that is only 6 months old, red magma is still visible within its cracks.

We have the appropriate maps and have planned provisioning stops near Landmannalaugar, Askja and Mývatn. The route follows the watersheds in order to avoid crossing large glacial fed rivers, or if unavoidable will aim for some of the very few bridges. The main challenge will be the cold desert in the central North East where we will have to carry four days supply of water in addition to our supplies.

Stage 2: The Northern Coast and West Fjords 

After crossing we will hitch hike west along the Route 1 ring road toward the North Western Fjords. The speed of hitch hiking is unknown, but we have spoken to several other people who have traveled in Iceland who assure us that this mode of transport is fairly reliable.

Within the north western fjords we will explore as much of the area as possible; as conditions permit choosing between summits and coastal hikes. Although much of this will be down to adventurous spontaneity, our main goal in this area is to include a hike around the Hornstrandir Peninsula which being approximately 180km will take 12-14 days to complete. Further west we also aim to summit Mt.Kirkjufell on the Snefellsjokull peninsula.

Stage 3; The Highest Point and Southern Coastline 

Continuing to hitch anti-clockwise along Route 1 we will briefly detour into Reykjavik to collect our winter mountaineering equipment, we will then hitch south with the intention of summiting Iceland’s tallest peak Havannadalshnukur (2110m/6921ft). To do this we will establish a base camp before summiting and return from the relatively easily ascendable peak in a 13-15 hour day.
With whatever time we have remaining we will explore the southern fjords and peaks before returning (allowing a minimum of 5 days to hitch) back to Reykjavik and our flight.

Click on the map for full scale to see our route;

Of course being so remote and based in tents blogging will no doubt be far from our minds, Both Remi and I will be writing travel diaries and taking hundreds of photos and will try and update this blog whenever possible or upon our return.

In the meantime if you wish to contact me please use the email address below;

My current photography can be viewed using the link below;

Will Copestake Photography

In the meantime feel free to hunt my daily GPS location (after june 5th) using the link below; (satellite view is best)


I would like to wish you all the best of summers

In the departing words of Bilbo Baggins “I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell..”