Iceland Days 1&2

Its been a blur. Not sure where I am, but heres the gist. Camped by some unknown lake on the wild north east coast of Iceland 3 days in. Names here are incredibly hard to pronounce. an unfamiliar alphabet and a kaleidoscope of sounds for the mouth to process most makes most towns / farming villages a bit of the unknown…but then again thats their charm. Anyhow, lets rewind a few days.

I think it was two, but might have been 3…times a blur in this place where the nights are filled with lights and the days are endless drives over vistas that the dictionary doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe. I was in Edmonton airport…the only thing that can be said for that place is that its better than Calgary.. god forbid you ever have to spend h0ur layover there…let alone a 8 hour one. Despite my love for the country the Canadians really don’t know style or substance (beyond good old Timmy H) a short 5 hour flight from there after the dreadful wait, touch down on the rainy outskirts of reykjavik at Kelflavic airport. This pace is fucking hip – more so than most cities and we haven’t left the airport yet. Baggage claim, customs check, get the hire care – a small Renault french mad apiece of ass drop[pings (pardon the french) that looks top be cosy enough. Small, tight, but cosy enough. If only the guy gave us some basic instructions on how to operate as 300m after leaving the parking lot, i try a smooth fast 3 point turn to end up t-bared across the road unable to get the fucker in to reverse. Tension builds, cars re incoming. Panic alarm. Sound the alert…a helpful local helps push us out the way and shows us how to put the thing in reverse: lift the column up…(WTF – who builds cars like this.)

Downtown Reykjavik is smaller than expected. An age old fishing village where the relocated the harbour 200m further out a few hundred years back breathes life in to the quaint coloured roof tops in the centre of town – the main square and a few side streets lead in to the main walkway up the hill thats lined with shops, cafes, tourist bazaars and is the main thoroughfare up to the flight hill where a magnificent church lies overlooking the city like it’d arch angel. We make our way slowly up the street to this oddest – its built like agent organ – apparently inspired  by one of the rock formations in a nearby mountain. Inside the church is the most grand magnificent instrument I have ever witnessed – a mighty organ 3 stories tall with a hundred or more pipes and outlets. A man sits playing this monstrous instrument from the inside of the church. He reeks of an old math teacher, or crazy primary school science teacher, with a old Icelandic patterned sweater with patches on his elbows, though don’t be fooled, the sheet music in front of him is as complex as it comes and ew in the world must have the same mastery of this instrument. There are almost 50 footpads alone and 4 rows of keys his fingers dance across in a slightly delay.

We’re tired…exhausted from 48 hours since we left Banff and a comfy bed. We sort plans over one of the famous hotdogs from a downtown stall (they suck and are little more than a cheap bun, cheap faux meat sausage with some crispy opinions and some unidentifiable brown sauce that applied to be mustard. Tourist trap anyone?

We heave for a near by campground to catch a nap. its closed but we can still stay there amongst the grass fields. just no toilets. 3 hours later and some hot springs / swimming pools are in order.

Iceland being the geothermic  / volcanic island that it is is filled with hotsprings that a made into heated swimming pools – to the Icelandic these are like the local pub. A place to relax and mingle.

We decide to leg town. theres nothing else for us here…for now. Lets get out in to the wilderness asap. The rain has slightly cleared and patches of blue sky shine intermittently above as we head for the a night at the first stop – Pingvellir national park.

It’s a wild night of wind and rain after a short hour drive out from the city past rolling farms and small grassy hills. We jump out of our cosy camper to brush our pegs and HOLY FUCK.

The heavens are rent above us by a pulsating laser beam of light of the aurora borealis. We have seen this phenomena before in Banff, but not like this. There is one straight beam of green light that PULSates with energy across  the dark and cloudy sky – the movement, the shimmering energy of this entity is indescribable. We sit in awe until it fades into blackness and another storm rolls over us.

We wake up after a long night rain and wind to a bleak and dreary landscape. Its frigidly cold and wet out thats only amplified by the wind. We haul ass down the road to Pingvellir National park – a rent between the european and North American tectonic plates where they are pulling apart leaving a chasm and tears across the landscape between them. Oxararfoss waterfall is our first stop and is…well wonderful however seeing what I have after feels like barely a footnote.

A lonely church and an old graveyard where dead poets lay to rest from the years gone by grace the entrances of the of the rift that sits just beyond a lake. We see it all and once again haul ass out of there to warmer climates.

Warmer climates elude though however we manage to complete the tour of the golden circle in islands south east – the geysers (spurting jets of 30ms in to the air of superheated water  & gas) and Gullfoss waterfall – both positively enjoyable sights, however nothing for adventures of our ilk, or to write home about.

Lake Ohara Pt 2 – Abbot’s Pass

Towards the end of our time in Canada we had one last adventure to tick off the lists. To head as high up into the big mountains as possible. I remember looking at a map, and then again on the trail of six glaciers walk at Lake Louise and seeing the hut, perch ominously high atop the Victoria glacier in another realm and thinking….I need to get there.

The weather forecast was foul, but we were going regardless. Lake Ohara involves a 10km bus ride in by the national parks to limit numbers and we eagerly jumped on amongst the midst of hikers. There was 7 our party, Laurel & Riggs, Laurels brother Alex, Rosie, Cat and myself. All venturing to the hut for the first time. The previous week had made conditions sceptical at best with a lot of snow on the ground in the lower valleys and more in spots around the higher valley where we got off the bus.

We took a round about route up beyond Opabins prospect and to Moors lakes to see the last of the larches in the winter haze. Glorious golden sentinels saturated in a frosty mist, with a view back down the long valley 15km out. A pause for a snack and to indulge the serenity before marching on across the hioghline trail of yukness ledges to the bitter cold and damp shore of Lake Oesa. Lunch time as we looked upon the daunting 600m scree slope straight up to the hut on and angle of about 45-60 degrees.

High avalanche and rock slide danger, and when I say high, it is essentially a avalanche shoot with the visibility disappearing around half way up. Well lucky we packed the helmets and poles eh?

We rug up and power up the lower levels, making our way further round beyond the left hand shore of the lake and up over the far point of the huber ledges. We march up the scree slope quick. snow is up to our thighs in some places and there are no clear paths or tracks. We loose ascend into a blizzard with around 100m of vertical to go. Visibility is down to 30m and the wind is ferocious. We have split into two groups and plow on fast. We can’t stay here! heads down and charge. Its steep and slippery, rocks giving way at every second hand hold and ice laced wind pelting out faces but shortly we crest the cliff after an almost vertical final 20m. We see others in the hut and bust the door in to a cheer!

All safe, fire wood is turned out along with a few drinks, and some delicious yet mysteriously flavoured cookies (thanks Laurel!) and we settle in for the night while the blizzard howls on.

It doesn’t let up all night and we go to the bathroom peeing down into the dark of the cliff of the glacier. No stars and no sunset which is a shame, but it adds and eriesness to our current location that I’m almost content with…like its better not to see or know whats beyond the cloud layer?

6 hours of hiking with about 850 of vertical. worth every moment.


Elk Lakes Alpine Hut

May 7, 2015

Hiked into Elk Lakes cabin on the 5th with Cat and Adrian. Took longer than expected due to snows still in the pass. Two wrong turns and shoes fill with ice. Also lots of bear sign.

Lovely hut once in here and smoked and drank until hearts content on first night. Second day explored the lake shore. Stunning vistas too big for a camera lens to capture. No wild life spotted beyond a rabbit on the second night.

Took some drawings of the mountains to further refine my understanding of them for structure and form to render in paint. Hopefully one day produce something worthy of the scenery.