Iceland: Carving turns under the Midnight sun
Here’s a little splitboard fairytale to start of the season. Once upon a time, in a powdery Japanese land, two Czechs and two Aussies decided that they didn’t feel like saying bye to winter just yet. Once there was no more japow to be played in and spring definitely took over, they quite randomly booked their flights to Iceland for a little over three weeks in May/June. Huge thanks go to the wonderful Gara splitboards for helping us out by setting Justine, a splitboard newbie, with an awesome board, and off we went.
Justine’s toy for Iceland – Ranger 152
It might come as little surprise that it is a challenge to get organized and plan ahead while high in the Japanese Alps with all the amazing terrain, onsens and plum wine & so the four of us - Jerry, Justine, Shaun and I - found ourselves freshly off the plane with a rented car, a couple maps and a rough idea that we first want to explore the rarely visited Western Fjords, and eventually make our way to North West Iceland to the Dalvik area.
First idea to climb Snæfellsjökull soon proved to be too optimistic – where Jules Verne saw the entrance to the center of the earth, we found a dormant volcano happily oblivious to the driving winds that nearly lifted us off our feet. The growing whiteout promising the views of a ping pong ball and looming black clouds coming from the Arctic Ocean swiftly taught us our first Icelandic weather lesson. Laughing at the promise of clear skies from just the previous day, we started to accept that forecast is anyone’s guess; you often get to experience anything from sweet (and rare!) sunshine and gentle snow fall to torrential rain and violent windstorms all within one day anyway, generally with a couple rainbows on top.
Since it seemed like the trolls made their mind and the mountain wouldn’t stop being slammed by storms coming from the ocean any time soon, we quickly dropped our slightly naïve plans of multiday trips up in the fjords and started looking for terrain that was readily available here and now -- and so the never ending cycle of scoping lines began.
While we only planned to quickly check out the Snæfellsnes peninsula on our way North, we were soon sucked into its surprisingly fantastic alpine once we moved a little more “inland” from Snæfellsjökull.
Long days weren’t a problem since the eerie light of the Midnight sun allowed for late touring, more into the wee early hours the further North we went. And so our days soon got the easy rhythm of breaking camp, picking a distant line from the road, hiking/bushwhacking/skinning our way up & carving turns in as eclectic snow as Icelandic weather.
Get safely back to car, pick a camp spot, and repeat. Life was good.
Our delay in Japanese pow meant this spring trip was definitely not of the powder hounding kind, especially once further North. Second half of the trip in the Western Fjords and Dalvik brought a wave of warm wet weather and fog, so the highest peak around, Kaldbakur, escaped us again and our objectives changed to either playing in the plentiful short shoots all around or touring to soak in as much of the Icelandic bliss as possible.
No matter what the snow conditions, prepare to be mesmerized everywhere you go if you do decide to venture into the land of the sagas. Iceland’s colorful landscape is what dreams are made of—the fjords at the edge of the Arctic offer endless unique possibilities with their chutes leasing down to the ocean and the vats glaciers promise days of exploration without meeting another soul. You get to camp where artic foxes bid goodnight and the sound of tidal waves lulls you to sleep, usually after a sweet soak in one of the natural geothermal fed pools, the hidden gems of the area.
Any future trips will definitely happen earlier in the spring, will likely be mostly spent in Tröllaskagi (the Troll Peninsula) and will involve a boat drop off at Eyjafjörður. Not so surprisingly, Iceland is a country where you can’t pronounce even the name of the spot you currently find yourself, but where even a cleaner at a Subway speaks better English than most travellers. Final words of wisdom – beware of wild horses, they are friendly bastards whose hoof on your car won’t make your rental company happy. Bless!
Also, extra dry clothes comes in handy. Iceland decided to treat us to first truly sunny day before we left so that our bags wouldn’t be dripping wet at the airport.