Crossing Iceland: A Photo Essay

It’s been just six short weeks since we had the pleasure of crossing Iceland. The 420 km journey took us 14 days. Trekking a distance of average of a marathon a day including 3 days of rest for injury prevention. As we continue to sort through our media we captured along our journey, I thought I might share some of my favourite moments in this photo essay.

In total, we carried around 7kg of camera equipment, portable chargers, and accessories to capture these images. Capturing these images while exerting maximum physical effort was incredibly challenging. We hope the effort was worth it.

Female hiker walks along country road.
The journey from the coast to the highlands was a long one. We trekked nearly 60 km over the course of a day and a half on paved and gravel roads to eventually ascend out of farm land and into the highlands.
Hiking couple prepares camp next to river.
Just like that, we left the security of civilization and found ourselves in inhospitable, and elevated terrain. We would now be in the highlands for the next 11 days.
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The highlands of Iceland as seen by air.
To paint a picture of how inhospitable these lands were, here’s an image of an aerial we took while flying over the highlands on the way to our starting point in Akureyri. We would later walk alongside the glacier for nearly 150 km of our trek.
A tent in the highlands of Iceland.
Alone and isolated. Hundreds of km from the nearest shelter or man-made structure.
Hiker crossing a glacial river.
Our journey had many obstacles, one of the most common was wading through sometimes waist deep glacial rivers. The river crossings were time consuming and sometimes demoralizing when it was also cold and raining. In the heat though, occasionally refreshing.
Crossing Iceland: Previsions, Revisions, and Decisions
Hiker walking away from a mountain hut.
We would eventually make it to the most remote and isolated mountain hut in the entire country. Nyidalur sits nearby Vatnajökull glacier where its’ glacial rivers form this mossy oasis in the middle of a otherwise desert-like landscape.
A hiker in a large beautiful landscape.
Hailey and I both enjoyed some of the most remarkable scenes we had ever experienced. Earning them under such strenuous conditions helped us enjoy the beauty of these places more than we otherwise could have.
Hiker in rain jacket enduring storm.
The deadliest wilderness conditions aren’t what you might think they are. Cold rain is far deadlier than any other natural element found in the wild. Being exposed to freezing temperatures and precipitation is the most infamous killer in the outdoors.
Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail Hiking Guide
Hiker trekking along gravel road in desert.
When it wasn’t raining though, it was brutally hot. We suffered from sun burns and blisters from sun exposure. The extremes in Iceland are enough to drive somebody to insanity.
Hiker on glacier.
After days of suffering from increased sun exposure we eventually found ourselves trekking on glaciers in whiteout conditions. There would be no easy days on this expedition.
Hiker walking in desert.
It felt as though we were walking alongside this glacier for ever. The scale of our surroundings was impossible to grasp.
Hiker in Iceland.
Once in a while the beauty and the fragility of the highlands would expose itself to us. Hailey, pictured here walking among hot steam spouts in an orange mountain-scape.
Hiker next to hydro pylons on paved road.
At last, we would walk into a scene I’ll never forget. After so much untouched wilderness, a scarred landscape full of paved roads and hundred foot hydro pylons as far as the eye can see. This is Iceland’s future if the country fails to protect it.
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Hydro dam and hydro plant.
We would eventually see more hydro dams and electrical outposts like this on along our journey. The unfortunate fate of the world’s few remaining wilderness areas.
An aerial of the highlands.
Most people believe that wilderness can always be found somewhere out there. Unfortunately, there are very few places still left untouched by human development.
Hiker suffering on trail.
The scarred landscapes littered with the gigantic footprint of industry and development did little to motivate us on the rest of our journey to the coast. Feeling defeated and completely drained, we pressed on. Hoping out stories, images, and videos might shine a light on what’s at risk of being lost, and motivate those who might be better equipped to affect change, do so.
Hiker in tent.
After over 10 days of solitary walks, we joined other backpackers who would enjoy the southern highlands and its’ remarkable landscapes.
Hiker walking into beautiful valley.
After our most difficult trials and tribulations ever, we would finally begin our descent into the valleys leading us to the south coast where we would finally finish our 14 day, 420 km trek.
Two people discussing at cafe table.
I sat down with the Arni Finnsson, co-founder of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association and the founder of the Highlands National Park Initiative aiming to protect all 40.000 sq. km. of the highlands from hydro development and all other forms of land exploitation. If Arni and his support team is successful, they will create Europes largest ever national park. If they fail, even fewer wilderness areas will exist on our planet.

for more information please visit http://halendid.is/#thjodgardur-1 and subscribe to our newsletter for updates on this effort, as well as our upcoming film, North of Boundaries.

Written by Ryan Richardson

Photographer - Filmmaker - Writer Co-Founder of Life Outside Studio

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