Three Blizzard-Stricken Tourists Cross Iceland Skip to content

Three Blizzard-Stricken Tourists Cross Iceland

Three foreign tourists completed their journey across the country on Thursday night last week when they arrived at Hrauneyjar in south Iceland. It took them 12 days to hike to Hrauneyjar from Eyjafjördur—they walked 52 kilometers in a blizzard on the last day.


Eyjafjördur. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

This is their second attempt at such a journey. Last year they had to give up because of the weather, Morgunbladid reports.

“I used to run but after I completed my seventh marathon I didn’t think it was enough of a challenge anymore,” commented Richard Neocleous from the UK. “So I figured it could be exciting to walk across Iceland in January.”

Neocleous recruited two of his friends, Jake Ormsby from New Zealand and Brett Flack from Zimbabwe. They started out in Eyjafjördur in the north, hiked across Sprengisandur in the highlands, to the east of Hofsjökull glacier and down to Hrauneyjar in the south.

“We came to Iceland four times to practice and went, among other locations, to Mýrdalsjökull and Landmannalaugar where we practiced walking on skis. We also hiked a lot in uninhabited areas in Britain and went to the gym for strength training,” Neocleous said.

“We towed a 90-kilo sledge, carrying two tents, a main tent and an emergency tent, skis—which we only used for two days; the other days we walked on snowshoes—supplies for 20 days, primuses and heaters, a satellite phone, ice picks, shovels and all the equipment you could think of,” Neocleous said.

“We tried it last year but then the search and rescue team assisted us when we encountered a storm with winds gusting 56 meters per second,” he said of their last attempt.

This year’s journey was much more successful. “It was really cold to start with, temperatures reaching minus 20 degrees [Celsius; -4°F], but it was clam so we got very beautiful and clear days which resulted in long days of walking.”

However, the hikers were delayed by four days at Laugarfell because of a raging blizzard and no visibility. “Other days we had excellent weather, for example, we crossed Sprengisandur in two days under a clear sky and with a fantastic view,” Neocleous added.

The weather worsened again in the south and the last day was the hardest day, he said. “Then we walked 52 kilometers. Our sledges were ruined the day before because there was so little snow on the path. So we had to carry our luggage on our backs and leave a lot of equipment behind because we had to finish the walk that day. It proved extremely difficult because the weather was crazy and it snowed in our faces the entire time.”

Also, one of the hikers had already gotten large blisters on the first day. “They worsened as our journey progressed and the skin on the back of his heels had rubbed off. He must have suffered while we were walking,” Neocleous said.

“We had started worrying that we wouldn’t make it and it took us 24 hours before we felt joy in having reached our goal. But we managed to celebrate on Saturday,” Neocleous said.

He added that he and his co-trekkers are thankful for the help they received from the inhabitants of the farm Halldórsstadir in Eyjafjördur at the beginning of their journey and from search and rescue team member Ingi in Ártún.

With the trip, the hikers raised funds for a children’s hospital in London and Umhyggja, an organization for chronically ill children in Iceland.

When asked whether they would consider another challenge like this, Neocleous commented, “I think we had enough by the last day. But you never know—you never say never.”

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