Adventures must be done!

Rigidalstock & Brunnistock Via Ferrata Trip (29th July 2007)

We had come up with the idea to go and do a via ferrata in the Swiss Alps. In a free leaflet we identified the Rigidalstock route with a moderate grade of K2. That seemed perfect for a beginners tour as Reto and Thomas had never been on a via ferrata before.
We left Zurich on Sunday, 29th of July 2007, early in the morning by train and got picked up by Reto in Luzern. We then drove to Engelberg and took a gondola and a chairlift up to the Brunnihütte (SAC).

Map showing the Rigidalstock area.

Despite the weather forecast, the temperatures were quite low, combined with a fresh wind made us feel a bit cold. This got better during the ascent to the entry into the via ferrata. Here we had a snack and geared up.

The team ready for action: from left to right: Andy, Anna, Reto, Thomas

The technical difficulty was pretty low apart from some sections of steepish character which I thought to be somewhat interesting. Altogether a straight forward, enjoyable climb with good views; just the right thing to get started.

Thomas climbing near the summit. The via ferrata runs along the ridge visible below.

We beat the time to the summit by half an hour and reached the summit (2593m) right on lunch time. The view was really cool, also geologically speaking as one could observe the layering of the rock.

Me on the summit with some interesting ridge behind me, showing how the rocks were lifted up and tilted by almost 90 degrees.

The happy team on the summit!

The descent was a bit trickier than the ascent, but that came as no surprise.
Back at the hut we had a coffee break and watched some rain drift closer, thus we dislocated into the huts common room. We reckoned that it would be too wet to have a go at the Brunnistock featuring a K4 route, too bad. But the rain was short lived and we got back outdoors the ground was already dry again. The weather seemed not too bad and we decided to have a shot at it.
Thomas decided to do the easier route (K2) while the rest of us went for the hard one as we felt we needed a challenge.
Well, we got one! This via ferrata started on a vertical wall, thus one could only hold onto the iron bars that were glued into the rock face. Having a look at the steel cable running alongside and noticing the rather long gaps between anchor points we realised : "You don't want to fall HERE!!!"
The route also required some twisting, that was something new for me, I was in front and exclaimed one time after another: "Whoa, this is exciting!!!" and "Holy maccaroni!". Anna climbed after me and Reto brought up the end. We were all happy to have attached a further sling and carabiner to our harnesses. This enabled us to get a break once in a while and I got the chance to take some cool shots cause I had fitted another sling and 'biner to by backpack, thus could hang it comfortably next to me to get at the camera.

Anna getting onto the dodgy traverse while Reto is a few metres further down.

A very interesting moment was when we had to traverse along the wall, stepping onto the iron bars and holding on to the cable which was not really taut, thus one had the uncomfortable feeling of being drawn away from the wall while the being clipped into the same line, i.e. no backup whatsoever!
Alpine feelings came up when tackling a slightly overhanging bit of cliff during increasing wind mixed with some rain drops beating down. The pack straps were flapping around and behind us a chopper of the REGA (Swiss Alpine Rescue) was circling in search for a landing spot after having just winched up some climber from the Rigidalstock route.
The finally excitement came on form of a cable bridge!

The cable bridge.

Anna feeling very happy after having been a bit anxious at the start of the bridge.

Thus ended an awesomely cool day!

Hey everyone, live is good and adventures must done!!!


Tramping in Iceland (IN PREPARATION)

I had always planned to visit Iceland at some point, thus when my mate Andreas came up with the idea to do tramping in Iceland, it didn't take much to get me hooked!
We spent an afternoon reading a tramping book on Iceland and identified where we wanted to go. A whole evening was used up by trying to work out a plan: how do we get there, what is the public transport like, is there a ferry on that day, how about shopping in that place, can we get it cheaper and 'we can do it, because it's daylight 24/7!'. Anyhow, we came up with a very ambitious schedule involving inland flights because that was way faster and even cheaper than buses.
But a plan is a working document. This was true for our plan as well as we applied quite some modifications to it (note that by clicking on the pictures you can get bigger versions on your screen).

First Impressions

We took an AirIceland flight from Frankfurt to Kevlavik. The trip was unspectacular in the respect of the view as the earth was hidden under a layer of cloud during most of the leg. This was just good as well because we were somewhat tired after short nights and early wake-ups. We enjoyed a good snooze with a light meal in between.
The weather in Iceland was overcast, windy and not too warm. We took the FlyBus towards Reykjavik and got out in Hafnarfjörður, some sort of suburb of the capital. We put on our beanies and tramped to the hostel, stored our gear and then went shopping for groceries. The food prices were downright shocking! After dinner we had a tea and tried to figure out what was so special about this place.
"Wow, there is nothing going on, mate!" 'Indeed, this is the quietest place I've ever been to, there is not a single human being in sight, and this is the most densely inhabited part of the country!'
And after a few minutes of contemplating that: 'Incredible! There's a dude walking his dog!'

View from our hostel showing the colourful Icelandic houses in the evening sun.

We were pretty tired after all that traveling, shopping and being catapulted into a new, very quite and different country where it just would not get dark for the next three weeks!

Landmannalaugar - Þórsmörk Tramp

The trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk leads through a zone of high volcanic activity where hot springs are plentiful and the smell of sulfur hangs in the air. According to the Lonely Planet this trek is destined to be recognized as one of the great walks of the world, thus falling into the same class as the Milford track in New Zealand. However, no restrictions on tramper numbers have yet been imposed. We got there at the very beginning of the season and the amount of hikers was very low.
From Reykjavik we took a bus for the journey to Landmannlaugar. At first we followed the coast line, then turned inland to reach another coastal stretch near Selfoss. Once every hour or so we would stop at some petrol station that also offered some fast food, like hot dogs with tomato sauce and fried onions. On one of these occasions we bought a packet of dried fish. Andreas was not overly impressed by the fishy taste, but I came to like it quite a lot, especially at the later stages of the tramp when the hunger increased. After a while we turned North and followed a gravel road which was getting less maintained the further we got. I was pleased to see some fords coming up, they were however not too exciting, but then it was a big bus and not my small car I had in New Zealand! The vegetation was getting sparse and by the time we got closer to Landmannalaugar the landscape was very desert like.

Multicoloured mountains above river plains near Landmannalaugar with a dark lava flow in the front.

We got to the start of the trail around half past twelve.
"Hey, dude, you know what time it is?" 'Yeah, reckon must be lunch time, eh?!?'
We were already starting to prepare lunch when an elderly Belgian lady offered us some sausages and buns they had left over. That's a way to start a tramp! Yum!
While munching those hot dogs we examined the surroundings. Some of the colourful mountains were still showing patches of snow that gave them even more contrast and the mountain hut where we stood on the porch was a the edge of a wide river plain with braided streams.
Then we headed off along the trail, but when we had scaled the first little hill there was already the familiar cry to be heard behind me: "Ah, phooootooooo!!!". Indeed a fine view!
Progress was slow because of the many photographic opportunities offered by the bizarre landscape. There were crusty lava streams of the darkest black, mountain sides covered with red and ochre coloured scree. Many little vents were steaming sulfurous jets into the air. Around many of these hot spots some bright green sort of moss was growing, adding some lush patches to the scenery.

Colourful scree and rock outcrops.

Gullies shaped by heavy erosion with some patches of snow drift.

The route lead steadily uphill and we got onto snow. The softness reminded us of our gear test trip in the Swiss Alps, but thanks to that we were well prepared. Some wind picked up and it got cold enough to get out the beanies and gloves. Over a pass we dropped down a hundred metres to the first mountain hut along the route. We chose to stop for a second lunch, reckon must have been around 5pm-ish. Then we cruised on, we had some more kilometres to cover that day. That's what you get from planning such tramps at home in the living room. Daylight 24/7? Yeah, right, but the body can take only so much action before you start to feel tired. Wild camping is actually not allowed along the trail, but we had not known that when planning, so there was little other option and we looked around for a likely spot to put up the tent. We eventually found some good site with a stream and a hot spring close by. Very handy to have warm water for the dishes!

Our first camp on the tramp with a steaming hot spring in the background.

The next day led into lower regions and from the last hill we got an impression of the wild character of this country. No habitations or any kind of road were to be seen; only the next mountain hut that lay a few kilometres along the path near a lake.

Leaving the mountains and descending into the plains.

Some of the lush moss growing near a rivulet.

We had a first lunch at the next hut and admired the lake surrounded by some peaks covered in moss what gave them a greenish hue. The afternoon brought us to a river crossing (more than knee deep) and beyond into a desert, an immense plain of scree and sand that stretched to new hills and mountains far away. For hours we trudged along, drawing closer to edge of this desolate stretch of land. It was however not empty of live; some hardy cushion plant survived in the harsh environment and displayed pink, little flowers.

Lake near the second hut on the trail.

Cushion plant

We eventually reached the end of the desert and came across a little stream.
"That's some good camping spot here!" 'Yeah, dude, you know, I'm buggered!' "Righto, we'll stay here!"

We enjoyed a cuppa tea, then I was drawn to a little hill close to the camp; it offered a good vantage point and I enjoyed the impressive scenery around me. Vast plains with braided streams lined with green vegetation and the higher mountains in the distance. Our camp was a tiny dot in this grand landscape.

Landscape at the end of the second day.

Surroundings of the camp. Our tent is that tiny brightish spot to the left of the stream where it changes direction.

Our third and last day of this tramp did not dawn, it was just there, when we got up at 5am. Around 18 kilometres separated us from the end of this trail including some unknown vertical metres, a fact not that clearly visible on the 1:100'000 scale map that we possessed. The first highlight of the day was the crossing of the Markarfljöt gorge, luckily there was a bridge provided! Greyish water was swiftly flowing at the bottom, the sheer walls were of many colours, some of a deep red hue.

The Markarfljöt gorge.

For the next few kilometres the trail followed the edge of the canyon, then turned away towards Þórsmörk. Some hip high shrubs indicated a change in vegetation. These were followed by real trees which grew up to 2-3 metres. We had a short break in the shade because it was a clear day and the sun was beating down. To sit under trees after crossing desert like terrain for a few days is quite a sensation!
There was another hill to climb, followed by a river crossing where I almost lost one of my poles, but at least we got across without getting our boots too wet; hurray for gaiters! The other side of the stream featured a wonderful cross section showing different layers of soil and at the top started a real forest, at least for Icelandic standards.

The last river crossing of the tramp with a real forest covering the hills beyond.

We felt like having entered a different world. Thick grass and purple flowers covered the ground, the wind rustled in the leaves and it was very, very warm! We got to a crossroad with a map and wondered where to go. Þórsmörk is an area easily encompassing a dozend square kilometres or so, anyhow, this left quite some room for figuring a likely place for the bus to stop at. When presented with a 50-50 chances, chances are more than 50% that you choose the wrong one! So we ended up at the next mountain hut where we saw a bus, however of the wrong company. The driver told us two interesting things: the other bus company stopped the end of the other road, which meant going back over the hill to the crossroad and that the time of departure was one hour later than we had figured out in the internet. No worries, then. We had a bit of a deja-vu as we returned the same way and I was feeling a bit dumb as it had been my idea to go that way. At last we got to the right place and had ample time to enjoy the free hot shower that was provided there, followed by a second lunch.
The bus ride out of Þórsmörk was interesting as some deep streams were forded along the way, the bus weaving about within the maze of meandering river beds.
By the time (around 7pm) we got to Reykjavik we felt bloody buggered. After getting our stored luggage back at the bus station we sat down for a while and had a chat.
"Hey, dude, I'm so f***ing buggered!" 'Yeah, so am I, absolutely wasted!' "Who the hell came up with THAT schedule?!?" 'Yep, and we got a flight to catch tomorrow early in the morning!' "Bugger that!" 'Well, how about taking the flight, but then do some relaxing, like, you know, serious relaxing!!!?!!!' "Sounds good to me! Can't be bothered doing that 24/7 thing any longer, bloody wears you down!"

Having agreed on the subject we took a bus to the youth hostel where we put our gear into the room, then left for some food. The Askur steak house proved to be good value for money when taking that 'Giant Askur' burger, still jolly expensive, and so were the beers, around 800 ISK for a pint, that's about 15 CHF or 20 NZD! Wow! But having a beer after a tramp is somehow a must. Well fed we tramped back to the hostel and got a few hours of sleep in a uncomfortably hot room, probably because of the sun still shining in at 11 o'clock at night!

Serious Relaxing in Reykjahlið

Due to our early flight taking a taxi was the only way getting to the airport. The flight over to Eglisstaðir was pretty dull as clouds covered all of Iceland, the only interesting thing was to see the stewardess wearing black leather gloves. Andreas could not resist imitating Beavis and Butthead: "Yeah, hehe-hehe-he, LEATHER GLOVES!!!".
After waiting around in Eglisstaðir for a few hours and experiencing windy, cold, downright miserable weather a bus took us to Reykjahlið across bleak and barren highlands. It did not rain at our destination but a cold wind was blowing, the surrounding hill tops touching the low, grey clouds. We got our stuff into a backpackers (it was somehow a bit run down but had at least heating!) and prepared ourselves for the relaxing which would involve visiting the Mývatn Nature Bath. I had packed by stuff already and was joking :"Come on, mate, hurry up! We got some relaxing to do!!!"
We took the free mountain bikes offered by the hostel and biked a few kilometres to the bath which was North of the town. Once we got there, things got indeed a bit more relaxing: the water was comfy and from the outdoor pool one had a view across the lake, well, the view wasn't that brilliant due to the weather, but cloudy conditions are better for relaxing anyway, no need to bother with sun glasses! I came up with some silly quotes adapted from Sponge Bob Square Pants:

"Are you relaxing, Mr Crabs?' - What about now, Mr Crabs? - How about now? - And now? Are you relaxing now, Mr Crabs?!?"

followed by further stupid babble like:

'Hey, dude, this is what relaxing is all about!'
- "Yo, mate, this is serious relaxing, man!"

The next day was spent hunting after a geocache up in the hills, having a look at the golf course and doing some packing and planning for the next tramp. We also strolled down to the lake side, spending an interesting time with the dive bombing arctic terns.

Arctic tern (Sterna paridisaea) preparing for another strike!

Most rememberable was however the pizza we made ourselves (including the dough) and the envious Italian group that was cooking boring pasta and wanted to swap it for some delicious pizza, but, nah, we ate it all ourselves! Delicious!

From Dettifoss to Ásbyrgi

We took a bus to Dettifoss next morning, set up camp at an empty camp ground and then spent the afternoon exploring the surroundings. We first visited the mighty Dettifoss with a total height of 44m and a water throughput of 193 cubic metres per second, which is the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe! The sun stood exactly behind us and the light refractions in the water vapour created fantastic rainbows. The water was of a peculiar grey colour and created interesting patterns while tumbling down the fall, when one concentrated on one bit of water it seemed to stand still!

The Dettifoss

Patterns in falling grey water

There at the end of the rainbow lie the treasures ...

What a spectrum!

We spent a long time watching the Dettifoss in awe from all different angles, then we tramped upstream to have a look at the Sellfoss. With only 11 metres height it was not that big but featured some perfect basalt columns nearby.

Basalt columns at the bank of the Jökulsárgljúfur river.

A strangely shaped mountain was to be seen due North. In contrast to most other mountains it was not flat on top but had a little peak in the middle and the steep flanks seemed to prohibit any kind of ascent. I was instantly reminded of Asgard, the home of the Gods according to the Edda.

Is this Asgard, home to the Nordic Gods of old?

The next day we started tramping downstream and after descending down into the canyon aided by a fixed rope we came to Hafragilsfoss. I could not resist to have a closer look and Andreas took some pictures, then I returned to the vantage point and Andreas took off to have some shots taken as well. In astonishment I watched him approach a huge rock pillar right next to the main fall, a place that I had noticed but deemed a bit too dangerous.

"Holy macaroni!",

I muttered while fitting the zoom lens to my camera. I then resolved to get there as well. It required some boulder hopping across some minor waterways, then I approached the pillar and cautiously kept pretty low as I slowly worked my way towards the edge. It was downright frightening! The stream was just a few metres away and rushing past at such a speed that one would have lost any sense of balance when daring to stand. The water was pulsing in a slow, powerful and menacing rhythm, moving towards the pillar by almost a metre, then shrinking back again! One must remember that the volume of this fall was at least the same as up at the Dettifoss: 193 sq metre per second! Awesome!!!

The wild Hafragilsfoss. If you look really closely you can see me sitting on that rock pillar.

Righto, here some closer shot of me at the fall!

With all that exploring and picture taking almost half the day was already gone and we still had a healthy amount of kilometres to cover. Thus it was later in the day that we made it to the camp ground at Vesturdalur, a real oasis with soft grass and trees after the mostly barren gorge section during today's trail.

The last day of this tramp took us first through a most bizarre basalt region, apparently one of the most interesting in Iceland: Hallhöfðaskógur. Just then some fog moved in and it did not need must fantasy to imagine trolls, goblins and other creatures lurking in the shadows.

Basalt structure in the Hallhöf
ðaskógur area.

The sun slowly reappeared some hours later while we followed the rim of the canyon.

Tramping along the edge of the canyon.

The fluffy Cotton grass (Eriophorum) is plentiful in places.

Shortly after lunch we spotted a pair of ravens sitting at the edge of the cliff, the male trying to impress is partner by croaking and puffing up. I got within a few metres and got some good shots of them. I also came to think of them as the two ravens bringing tidings to Odin, the chief god of the old pagan religion.

Are these Hugin and Munin, the messengers of Odin?

We got to Ásbyrgi around mid afternoon and whiled away the time till a bus took us to Húsavík. There was no sun and a cold wind was blowing. We made our way to the camp ground and put up the tent.

Húsavík: Fishing, whale watching and ... the Phallological Museum!

From the many attractions in Húsavík the Phallological Museum is probably the most bizarre. It features a great numbers of, well, penises, originating from whales, seals, cats, hamsters, you name it. Andreas showed great interest in visiting the place, thus I tailed along, got a printout listing all the specimens and toured the hall. Apart from eyeing the bigger exhibits I was most amazed to read the letters of human donors that bestowed their 'best piece' to this museum. However, no donors have died yet and the museum is still one attraction short ...
For all of you wanting to learn some more check out:

Whale watching is the second thing Húsavík is famous for. I had never done any whale watching in my live and it seemed an opportune moment to do so. We got up early, strolled down to the harbour with our beanies on as a cold wind was blowing. Having obtained our tickets from a very good looking girl we retired to a cafe nearby and ordered a hot cup of coffee. Once you had paid you could always go for a refill, which I obviously did.
Then the boat, an old whaling ship with oaken hull was boarded and the captain pulled away from the pier while the guide started to go about explaining the grand plan of this excursion. We were to cruise out of the harbour and head for the sea. It would be very likely to spot some whales in places where there was food, this would be indicated by lots of sea birds feeding in such spots. He furthermore recounted what species they had encountered since the start of this business and showed the different whales and their relative sizes on some charts that were at our disposal. The charts also featured the birds we were about the see, including the cute puffin with his clown like look and the gannets, although the later had already left having ended the breading season. Pity, I had always liked the gannets, shooting out of the sky to dive after some fish. The puffins made up for it in any case. Soon we could see them beating their little wings furiously on their way to and from their nesting sites. It is peculiar to the puffins that their line of flight is never straight but swerves around a fair bit; we had a good laugh about them and their obvious decision and navigation problems.
The first marine mammals to be spotted were some white nosed dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) including a mother with a calf. Interesting to watch but we were after the bigger game. Quite a number of tourists got out their binoculars and were actively scanning the sea. The draughty lookout above the steering cabin was now constantly manned despite the cold wind that was blowing. This activity was rewarded by the discovery of a Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), a younger animal with an approximate length of seven metres. I resisted the temptation to take pictures of either dolphins or whale, mainly because their spatial appearance was hard to foresee and also due to my camera battery being almost at an end. Given the size of our boat the whale seemed somewhat small, I'll bet one would get a different feeling when approaching such a beast with a canoe! Anyhow, the most impressive thing was the sound of the breathing that reminded me of a large steam engine!
Having returned to the harbour we focused on the business of getting fishing gear. Andreas showed an incredible motivation to get into fishing and eagerly bounded along the highway towards a hunting and fishing shop just a bit out of town. I had a splitting head ache that got worse as the day progressed and thus grumpily tailed along.
We got a line, some hooks and lead weights. Thus fitted it seemed only natural to give it a go. On the way to pier lay a fish processing facility, although it might have been any sort of factory the smell left no doubt about the raw material being involved. A great number of sea birds was drawn to the end of a waste water tube that entered its contents into the harbour. Most prominent were the Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis), easily distinguishable from sea gulls by the the little tubes on their beak that are used to segregate salt.

Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) at the harbour.

The rest of the afternoon was spent fishing, although one might argue that fishing would involve fish as well, which was not the case here. Nothing was biting and it was with some grumbling that we watched some youngsters catching a couple of rockfish nearby. Nasty, ugly looking beasts, these rockfish. Not fit for eating, but undoubtedly fish they are.

'Hey, dude, maybe this is the wrong spot for fishing!'
"Hmph ..."
'How about going over there?', Andreas said, pointing over the harbour to some other pier.
"Well, if it must be, but that's a long walk ...", I tried to object faintly, but to no avail.

Off we went, me cursing my headache and the damn fishing idea.
It goes almost without saying that not a single fish was interested in our bait, although I remember that Andreas even put on some salami, which I found alarming as I would rather have eaten it myself, but the argument was unbeatable:

'Dude! You gonna feed salami to the FISH?!?'
"I'm sure it'll work!"
'Eh, why's that? Flippin waste of good food!'
"Nah, you see, what would you rather eat: a bit of slimy shellfish or some delicious salami?"
' Well, the salami,' I said and added: ' ... but that's beside the point, I'm no fish!'
"You need to think like a fish!"
'Yeah, that's right! You gotta look like a fish, you gotta smell like a fish, ', here some mild objections by Andreas, but I continued relentless: 'you gotta BE a fish!!!'

Husavik with blue lupines covering the hill in the background.

Back at the camp site we whipped up some dinner and then were ready to call it a day. I had a free, hot shower at the campground hut, then crawled into my sleeping bag and swallowed a pill against those abominable head pains. Some days are just crap!
But then again, you never know how crappy it can get! At 2'o clock in the morning there was all of a sudden loud music coupled with some really awful karaoke singing close by! I was in some kind of delirium and imagined that the same lyrics were repeated over and over and over again. Maybe it was on full repeat for real, my head was throbbing with a combination of pain and music beats and even stuffing our ears would not really mend the problem.

'For **** sake! Those ******* bastards!'

Back at Lake Myvatn

After wasting some more hours with fishing in morning, needless to say we caught naught, we took a bus back to Lake Myvatn. Quite an interesting drive through green valleys and desert like plains. Here we observed some strangely organized pattern in some sparse vegetation and wondered if the stuff had been planted there.
We felt like home being back at the backpackers and soon set out for the lake,. Andreas had already recovered from the fruitless fishing experiences and looked forward to trying some live bait. Even I was motivated by the thought, especially after the lady driving the bus having commented on the trout one could catch around here. First of all we had to get some worms, not that easy in a dry, rocky landscape, but I managed to get one first.

"Tataaaa, I got one!" 'Bugger!' "Nasty business putting the little fellows on the hooks." 'Yeah, if only we could be sure to catch some fish, real bummer otherwise!"
"Pity, really, ...."

"Here we go, ah, no! Bloody line's tangled up!!!"
'Here goes mine! Stinking sea weed, right into it!'
'Fishin' sucks!'

After a while we got it sorted out and the lines were set.

"Yo, mate, have a seat, we've brought the essential stuff, remember?"
'Yay, hurray for a beer!'


"Now, THAT is what fishin's all about!"
'Have some chips ....'

Dark clouds over Lake Myvatn.

Our last pizza experience had really impressed both of us and we thus decided to do it again. Bad idea. We had run out of yeast and only managed to get baking powder, the only mushrooms available were canned and, as it turned out, absolutely tasteless and we could not find a decent sauce at all. The result was even worse than expected; tough dough, bland, yucky taste and a consistency that whipped away any moisture you had in your mouth! We bravely munched our way through two thirds of the thing and discarded the rest.
Andreas felt like having a walk and took off. When he came back he reported of having been attacked by the terns again and even being picked on the head.

"Uh, mate, reckon this is not our day after all ...."

At least I had managed to plan and pack most of the food we needed for our last, grand adventure.

Being whacked about in Reykjavik

Another bus took us to Eglisstaðir and from where we had a flight back to Reykjavik.
Here we took another bus towards the Youth hostel, but that fellow of a driver was driving in binary mode, hitting the accelerator to the floor, then pressing the brake as hard as he could and we got whacked around in the bus, trying to hold on to our gear and not to fall onto other passengers.
Andreas wanted to visit some outdoor store because his mattress was leaking. When we got there the shop had already closed. We proceeded to the shopping centre to get the food we still missed, but failed miserably as the doors were just closing! We dropped the plan of cooking ourselves and went for tea at the same restaurant as last time. We even had the same meal. It was not nearly as incredible as the first time.

"You know, we just shouldn't do the same thing twice!"
'Hmmm, I get that feeling .....'

Adventurous Landing in ĺsaförður

We made our way to the domestic airport once more. Here we met some Canadian dude who was on his way to Greenland for a whole month of kajaking, mountaineering etc. Cool bloke.
The approach to ĺsaförður started by flying in a fijord level with the table mountains, then hang a curve and flew over the town, now at half the elevation of the mountains, the slope just to our right, I marveled at the closeness of the hill. Another 180 degree turn at the end of the valley got us onto the final approach for ĺsaförður airport. Fantastic bit of flying!
A taxi brought us into town where we set up our quarters in a backpacker.
We spent the rest of the day preparing our food and organizing the boat trip.


Iceland Gear Test Trip (3.- 4.June 2007)

In order to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Iceland expedition we conducted a gear test weekend in the Swiss Alps. What better test can there be than going for a tramp with all the stuff you intend to test? It also gave me the chance to test my new digital camera (Canon EOS 400D) as I had drowned my old one on a canoeing trip during an unplanned swim in a rapid.
A plan how to get there and out again and a possible route was quickly assembled. The gear was packed according to my gearlist 'Tramping with bivvying' and on the Sunday, 3rd June, we left for the region around Erstfeld, that's en route towards the Gotthard pass; the main connection from North to South and vice versa in the Swiss Alps.

Overview over the area around Erstfeld. The Gotthard pass is at the Southern end of this map.

In order to speed things up we took a little gondola up to Schwandi and started tramping towards the Stich (2300m asl), meaning we still had around 1200m ascent to cope with. It was pretty cloudy at the start but it got lighter the higher we got and at around 1700m we broke out of the mist and reached the sun. High, precipitous cliffs and peaks were to be seen all around us and we continued to ascend through stands of alpine coniferous shurbs. It was here that we came upon the first patches of snow.

Andreas surrounded by alpine shrubs in front of the huge limestone cliffs.

The higher we got the more frequent and deeper the snow got, a pretty slush kind of snow to be precise. Thus, leading the way was requiring some energy as with every step one would sink in almost up to the top of the gaiters.

Andreas ascending on alpine pastures with the snow covered opposite side of the valley in the background (top) and beating the trail (bottom).

After a tiring snowbash we turned right shortly before the Stich and found a snow free spot a few hundred metres further on, just big enough to put up our tarp. Then it was time for a cupa and some cookies, but that took a while as we had to melt snow first. Time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Breathtaking!

Our camp with the Grosse Windgällen (3187m) in the background.

A brilliant sunset saw us standing near the edge of the cliff and surveying the cloud covered valley below. This is the feeling of true freedom!

The next day consisted of more snow stomping and some rather hairy downclimb over some ledge on the other side, not the official route, I reckon. I would have quite enjoyed it if Andreas had had more experience in rock climbing, but as things were, we were relieved to get off the darn thing. The rest of the descent led us through alpine pastures and forests, ending at a bus stop in the village of Unterschächen.
A very neat adventure and most of the gear proved to work fine, however, due to the yet unknown climate circumstances in Iceland we will take a real tent and leave the tarp at home. And that new camera just rocks! I got that camera kit that comes with 2 lenses, one a zoom up to 200. Can fully recommend it!