Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Iceland Traverse Team Seeks Shelter From Storm Desmond

If you've been following the news over the past couple of days you probably already know about the powerful storm Desmond that has been ripping through the U.K. and the North Atlantic. That storm is now impacting Iceland as well, where a team of young adventurers is attempting to make an unsupported traverse of country in conditions that would have already been described as difficult.

The team, which consists of 19-year old explorers Charlie Smith, Angus Dowie, and Archie Wilson, as well as their 20-year old friend Stefan Rijnbeek, set out on their journey at the end of last week. They are calling their expedition The Coldest Crossing, which seems fitting considering they expect to routinely face temperatures of -25ºC (-13ºF). Their plan was to trek for 250 miles (402 km) in just 18 days, first crossing through Iceland's relatively flat interior before proceeding into a mountain range that rings the southern portion of the country. At that point, they expect to be crossing through a portion of Iceland that may not have ever been explored completely before.

In the early stages of the journey, the team will pull 40 kg (88 pound) pulks loaded with their gear and supplies. But once they reach the mountain stage, they'll switch to backpacks for the final push to the end. If they are able to complete the journey, they will be the youngest – and possibly the first – to have traversed Iceland along this route.

For a time, their expedition looked to be in serious jeopardy due to the storm named Desmond. The four young men were exposed to the elements, and the high winds and rain were bearing down on their position quickly. But, they found a place that could serve as a shelter from the storm, although they did have to complete a 14km (8.6 mile) trek to reach that point. According to the squad's Facebook page, Charlie, Angus, Archie, and Stefan have now reached the relative safety of the village of Kópasker, where they will wait out the storm. They expect to resume the expedition sometime tomorrow, provided Desmond has completely passed on at that point.

On a sad note, one member of the team – it has not been announced exactly who yet – will not continue once the storm abates. One of the lads is suffering from what is described as a pre-existing lung infection which was not brought on by the expedition, but was exasperated by the physical exertion in cold conditions. This team member will remain in Kópasker while the other resume the adventure when they can.

Since they're losing precious time while they wait out the storm, the three remaining members are also looking at alternate routes. Their three-week expedition was always on a tight schedule, but not it is even more so. The boys plan to announce any changes in the next couple of days.

So, just how bad have the weather conditions been for the Coldest Crossing Team? Reportedly it is a "Storm of the Century" type situation in Iceland right now, with hurricane force winds, heavy snows, and extreme temperatures. There have been reports from locals who describe it as the worst weather they have ever seen, making the remote areas of the country very dangerous. The boys on this expedition are currently safe however, and will resume their traverse once they can.

Thanks to my friend Louis-Philippe Loncke for keeping me updated on this situation.


Gary Goldenberg said...

I don't want to take away from the enormous challenge they've set for themselves, but I question some of their claims. I'm pretty sure an unsupported crossing in Winter has been done before, though they may well be they youngest. Also, I doubt there's any area of Iceland left to be "explored." It's a relatively small country and people been crossing the interior for more than a millennia. FYI, I backpacked roughly the same route in the summer of 2009 (supported with food drops).

Kraig Becker said...

Yeah, they do have some unusual claims on their site. I'd be curious to see more details about their route, and where exactly they plan to go. It all might be moot at this point, but definitely some questionable wording for sure.

Louis-Philippe LONCKE said...

Indeed sea to sea crossings have been done before in the winter. The 2 things here are:
* unsupported = depends on what it exactly means.
* from where to where ?

One can cross Iceland on a 100mile trek or attempt one of the 3 routes that I consider full crossings : Top North to Top South (continental), Far East to Far West and longest diagonal or line between 2 points as the crow flies. In this case it's the same as East-West.

From my knowledge and based on veteran adventurers from Iceland. No one has succeeded yet in an unsupported FULL crossing of Iceland. It is nearly impossible so it's possible; it is just very hard.

West-East 20 years ago: http://www.seanchapple.co.uk/NOT.htm
I've read the book. It was supported (use of huts, meet the film crew, resupplied) and it was in March-April so not really in the winter. 47 days!
Imagine this in December-January with no resupplies? I guess it requires 80 days.