This weekend, British ultra runners Robbie Britton and James Elson set off to run across Iceland from North to South on their #BlackIce adventure. We’ll be updating their progress here on Profeet.
For 38km it looked just like Scotland and then for 35km it looked like we were on the moon, with a tasty headwind. Expedition #BlackIce is well and truly underway and James Elson and myself ran the first 73km with about 2500m of uphill and coped well, which is more than we can say for Helga, our support vehicle. She had a bit of mare.
Starting in Akureyri in the North of Iceland, we kicked off from a inlet where the coast ended and had a good bit of road running to start the day, even getting to run with a local called Meredith whilst being chased by a kitten. The weather was good for running, if not pleasant, with some wind, rain and cloud, but the scenery was fantastic.
Large ridges rose up either side of us as we ran up the glacial valley floor, becoming more and more tempted to divert onto one of these epic looking climbs, but resisting to leave it until the next trip to Iceland, which will inevitably happen.
As the ground beneath our feet changed from tarmac to hard packed trail, we knew we had reached the start of the F821, one of Iceland’s many highland roads and our route up to LaugaFell today. With lots of rocks, fords and actually becoming a river at one point, it was testing for James and myself, but also hard work for Helga.
Born in Japan, Helga is a Suzuki Vitara that we rented upon arrival and we gathered early on that she was an experienced traveller. At 40km she had burned through a quarter of her tank and, although we were packing extra fuel, a mini crisis meeting was held on the side of the road. We did not have enough for the crossing.
We decided to move on and make our decision at the day’s end, Laugafell refuge, which was closed for Winter but would hopefully provide some shelter from the wind. The subject of petrol was now taboo and James and I moved on up the major climb and into the moonscape.
Many people had told us how desolate the Icelandic Highlands are but it still doesn’t prepare for what it is like when you get there. From leaving the last hamlet we saw not one person, only two birds and one Orange Fanta bottle top, the sum of all the litter we came across that day.
The wind had picked up and was heading straight for us, blasting at about 50km/h and, like an angry South Park bear, was coming straight for us. Heads down, we soldiered on, often having to make do with the company of our own heads as the wind made conversation very difficult. Personally I think James was a little relieved for the respite.
Not knowing exactly how far the refuge at LaugaFell was, but sure it was between 70-80km, we eventually got to a sign, a little bit cold and tired but excited to find out our fate. Was it a ten or a four? Delighted to see a 4km to go sign we dropped the hammer and posted some 8 minute miles. Downhill. Super fast.
We got to LaugaFell seeing four buildings and James and I were excited. Even more so when we got there and Ian and Dan were not in the car and nowhere to be seen. The incoming storm could be avoided inside for sure…
They were in the toilet block, the only open door they could find as it had all shut for winter, but a veritable palace for our tired bodies, especially as all the water came from a hot spring so was pleasantly warm. Plenty of room to chuck our inflatable beds on the floor as well.
Helga had decided that after reaching LaugaFell she still had 3/4 of a tank and would in fact go the whole way now that we were off the rough uphill section and on the well packed highland roads. We may have to watch this one though, she’s a bit temperamental.
After ‘Trek and Eat’ freeze dried dinners all round, some fizzy pop and an interesting Goji Berry and Bee Pollen Tribe pack (didn’t the bees steal the pollen from flowers?) we got the maps out to plan for the next day and then hit the hay. A tough but satisfying start to our adventure with plenty more fun to come.