Friday, August 24, 2012

RVK (Reykjavík) - Höfn

RVK is short for writing Reykjavík in Icelandic.
The capital of Iceland.
To be honest...not the most interesting place in Iceland.

Seltjarnarnes a land tongue at Reykjavik
But maybe thats because the contrast is so big. (And yes you can find good culture in Reykjavik, the small old Opera house is beautiful, the musea are nice, some good art can be found on the streets...)
It could have been any Danish average town: cinema, coffeehouses, shopping centres, and a blend of Irish, Scottish, Scandinavian, Russian and some tiny amount of Dutch, French, German and other Europeans. In Iceland they're called Icelanders :)

Iceland originally wasn't inhabited, Irish monks were the first to find quietness and piece in the wilderness of the island. Later Scandinavians inhabited the island, with 'Graenland' (later they changed the name to Iceland, and Greenland was actually called Iceland, but they needed more people to live on the ice-land, so they swapped names) being part of Norway and later Denmark.
It's been part of Denmark until just after WW2. And since June 17. 1944 Iceland is an independent republic.

So a lot of Danish influences here and, American...
Iceland was (and I guess still is) a very strategic location for defending the States form Russia (Cold war issues, not to confuse with Cod war) and having a good lookout over the whole of Europe.
So the US Army had a base on Iceland, actually during and after the war they 'occupied' the island brining all kinds of food, cars, machines and habits to Iceland.
This (food)habits are still part of common Icelandic culture.
For example, Icelanders tend to drive enormous jeeps and only use them to shop for groceries, you can buy 'pylsu' (hot dog) on the streets, it's common to go to the cinema, if you do you'll buy a 'popp og kók' (popcorn and cola) and afterwards you drive useless circles in the city center with your car. (The only real trafficjams to be found here are the ones caused by rows of cars driving around in the city center curing the night)

Pamela, one of the big jeeps, 'she' even has a Facebook page

Puffins, lovely to see, nice to eat

Another typical Icelandic thing to eat: boiled lab-head

Skyr, an Icelandic diary product
But there are old, classic things left as well.
Knitting for example.
Almost every woman here knows how to knit. Mainly hats and sweaters and the more advanced know to knit socks, gloves, dresses and more.
When I started living in Iceland I noticed the knitting thing. And I asked my mum to teach me the skill.
She learned me to knit socks, hats, sweaters and more. And right now I'm knitting a sweater again and even found it fun!
Maybe I'll find myself a 'prjónaklubb' somewhere in the Netherlands. Chat a bit in Iceland and knit sweaters together with other woman :)
Interesting fact: Icelandic girls will form a 'knitting club' at primary school and for their whole life they often stay part of that same group. They won't just knit together but organise meals, go swimming, hiking or just meet up once a month for a cup of tea.

The start of my sweater, 3 weeks later almost finished

And oh, yes, jewellery, Reykjavik has quite a lot of Goldsmiths.
As memory of my time in Iceland I wanted to have a piece of Iceland with me. A necklace made by an Iceland with a piece of an Icelandic stone.
In the small shop 'Eureka' I found the one I wanted.
Dennis, how romantic gave it to me.
For the first time a boyfriend gave me jewellery as present. So sweet :)

At Eureka, feeling like a real tourist...

So. Enough about Icelanders.
You can probably find it all on WIKI. 

Time for climbing news :)

It started raining in the Oraefisveit area. (Skaftafell, Hnappavellir...) so we decided to visit a couple of pillars not far from Reykjavik.
In Reykjavik it was raining as well. Great...
We made a small travelling plan for the upcoming week: Reykjavik - Gerduberg - Landmannalaugar - Thorsmork - Skaftafell.

The low stripe on the horizon in front of the mountains is the climbing area Gerduberg

So Gerðuberg (as you write it in Icelandic) is at about 2 hrs driving North-East driving through the Hvalfjordurgong tunnel, pass Borgafjordur and drive the road 54. Just after the tiny vulcano 'Eldborg' you can already see the wall on your right hand.
Turn in at the sign that says 'Gerduberg' and park under the cliff.
There are some topo's of the area. Although not all (possible) routes are in this one, I find it gives the best view on the area. (Credits to Siggi. Use Google Translate to get it into a more understandable language)
More info on where to find the location of the area here.
Note: it's forbidden to bolt the cliffs, as it's a nature area that is visited by loads of tourists because of it's rare basalt formation. 

We found Gerduberg a perfect area to start your trad career. The routes vary in difficulty from French 4c/5a up to 7a/b. The cliff isn't too tall so it's easy to get instructions, and at the top there are several bolts to hang in topropes. (Use long slings or static rope to avoid ropedrag and wear of your rope)
You can learn finger, hand, fist and even off-width climbing :)

We spent 2 days in the area, then it started raining again, so we decided to start our inland offroad driving adventure to Landmannalaugar.

I'd love to show you our route on Google Maps, but following Maps, our route doesn't exist :)
We bought a detailed map in Borgafjordur (forgot mine at home...) and went off.
We drove passed a lake and wanted to know if our Syncro was able to drive the smallest Icelandic roads called 'Slóðir'. We passed a driver in a high Gold coloured Toyota Landcruiser on a small road. The man in stopped, tried to explain in sign-language that the road was closed.
I smiled on answered him in Icelandic. You saw the relief on his face.
He explained the road was on his land and he closed it off with fences. It was extremely hard to drive, so he was quite sure we couldn't go on.
I told him the road was marked as ongoing path on my brand new map and that the car was a proper 4x4. He hardly believed me, but after a bit of chatting he gave us permission to try it and drive over his land. As long as we would close the fences again.
We smiled, and he probably expected us to be back on the main road again in less then 15 minutes. But...we made it all the way. We had to lock the tires, drove in the lowest gear, thought the car would go on it's side but we made it perfectly all the way.
Totally proud that our Syncro made it.
We drove on for a bit more, passing signs that said only 'real' 4x4 vehicles were allowed here and stopped on the top of a hill in the dark. Tired of the exciting driving we slept well.

Driving in Africa :)

The next morning we would drive over another tiny road, crossing rivers and enormous amounts of lava and black sand. Ending close to the 'Golden Circle' route that tourists with small rental cars drive.
On the other side of the river stood a small Suzuki rental, man hands on his hips, looking at the small river he wasn't sure about how to cross.

A sign about crossing rivers

I walked over (it was that small) and Dennis crossed with the van. The man was still confused and we told him if he'd just drive sure, steady in the same line as we drove he'd easily make it.
And so he did.
We stopped for lunch at Gullfoss and drove to hit the 'Landmannaleid' in the inlands to Landmannalaugar.

Gullfoss (golden waterfall)

That road was actually worse to drive then the 'hardest and smallest' as it was one long 'waffleboard' bumping us on to Landmannalaugar. You know, in some fitness centres they have this plate that shakes, you have to hold it and they claim it's a perfect way to burn fat. I think it works...
We arrived, tired again, this time because of the bumping around and all the dust.
The next day I'd run my epic run.


Landmannalaugar - Thorsmork
The classic walk to attend in Iceland is the Laugavegur(inn). You walk from Landmannalaugar to Hraftinnusker, Alftavatn, Emstrur and end in Thorsmork (or add another day or 2 and end in Skogar at the sea)
You really walk from no-mans land between the lava, Rhyolite, Obscidian, steaming hot soil, snow and green mosses to the flourishing forestry greenlands of Thorsmork.
It's a beautiful walk.
But I'm a climber not a mountain walker.
The mountains in the area are not really 'climbing mountains'. So I doubted, should I walk it...? I'd done it already, years ago with my parents. 
Suddenly, at one of my funny thoughts (sometimes I keep on thinking and thinking) I decided it would be possible to run it.
I Googled the walk and figured theres even a competition in running the Laguavegurinn. 'Ultra Marathon' they call it, following the site it's 55km.
That means it's possible.
At home in the Netherlands I sometimes had 'funny' escapades in my running. I'd run to Gouda (47km or something) and back, to the other side of Rotterdam, or just 5km in the morning to stay fit.
So I sort of was in shape, but running 55km with a small backpack in the mountains and also navigating and stuff is something different.
I decided to just try. If else I'd never know if it was possible.

A roadsign I found on my way to Thorsmork

At the start of my run

The view from the mountains between Hraftinnusker and Alftavatn

That morning around 10-ish I left, Dennis took some pictures at the start and I'd text him on the way when I'd arrive at a hut with telephone reception on the way.
Dennis would be my personal back-up team. He had his own adventure. Driving the 'slodir' to the different huts in case I'd fall dead (or just sprain my ankle) as back-up.
The roads were steep, vague and bumpy. Quite something to drive on your own.
He'd meet me at Alftavatn, at about 24km after Landmannalaugar. I was so fast that I already had my break and went on for Emstrur before Dennis reached the hut. We both had no phone reception, so no way to communicate (should have had a radio in the van).
After I crossed another big river (barefoot to spare my runningshoes) I suddenly met 'the man with the iceaxe'...I got passed by a white van. Dennis!
I was happy to meet him.
We were for a couple of k's on the same road so he drove with me for a while, telling the story about his hard core epic offroad driving adventure.

The white dust dot in the distance is Dennis in his van, this is where the road turn into a sandpath...

And then I turned into the soft black sands.
Really hard to run that bit although it was all flat.
Emstrur seemed really far away. Sometimes I walked soaking away in the sand with my feet.
Happy to reach the hut I took a long break to eat my pasta meal.
At every stop I wrote my name in the travel book. The book is a safety back up that can be used if people get lost.
Some Dutch travelers noticed my Dutch name. A peeky woman asked me what I was doing. I told her I was running the Laguavegurinn. She felt a bit intimidated by my answer and first didn't believe me.
After a while she wanted to have my picture and asked me when I'd be on the Olympics. (Which made the story even more complicated because I told her Iceclimbing wasn't Olympic yet)
I decided it was time to go on, before I was stuck on that woman for any longer.
The last bit was the longest (as always, the 'man with the hammer' comes at a certain moment...when you don't want it and don't expect it.)
The loose lava stones kept on moving under my feet, making it hard to run fast. I was probably faster walking then running the bit.
The weather started to turn, some fog came in, making it harder to find the poles marking the route.
Too late I turned on my GPS, I'd already missed a left turn. So I hard to run back...
Later the poles were visible again, but I wasn't sure which ones to follow. The whole route was marked with first white, then yellow, then red then blue poles, so I decided to follow the blue ones. It turned out I had to follow the red ones...Running back again, not for too long though, as my GPS told me the right way. I was happy I didn't had to stop and take out my map.
Making the 55km into 60 I was glad to suddenly see the hut in the green grass of Thorsmork. Almost 5000 kcal, 3L of water, at about 7 hours of running (including 2x20min rest), a bit of walking, over 60km later... I made it, I actually made it. All the way.
I sat down for a while, scrolled through all the pictures I took on the way and called my mum and dad.
My dad had his birthday that day. And he just made his epic 'run'. My parents cycled to Rome and arrived. Read here all about their story.

I still had to cross the big river where Dennis was waiting for me.
He texted he'd already cooked dinner.
I almost lost my phone when I changed into my rain jacket and when I walked back I got a hitch by the guards of the hut in a huge jeep over the big river.
Tired but satisfied I was just in time for dinner.

It rained even more and we were done with all the offroad bumping. Dennis had to fix his rear shock absorber (thanks to the bolt he got from a Quad driver he met on the way). We're still not sure if the trembling sound of the whishbones in the front is bad or good-enough-to-drive-on-with.

Oops, Dennis lost the bolt of his shockabsober

So we headed for Skaftafell taking some hitch hikers with us on the way and decided we needed two restdays.

At Svinafellsjokull

Japanese tourists on Virkisjokull, they apparently aren't wearing RAB rainjackets



Cool soling at Virkisjokull

In the rain, after 1,5 days we found we should do something.
And as we're sponsored by a brand that says 'for the most extreme conditions' we decided that the rain and wind was just enough to test our rainjackets. Glacier climbing it was.
We were actually looking for big caves with steep overhanging ice. But soloing in the crevasses was fun as well.

The next day we drove to Hnappavellir. To get the musclesoreness our of our bodies we wanted to climb 'Loddudrangur'. A lone standing cliff in the sands at Hnappavallir.
Half way it got a huge old Eagle nest. Just climbing to the nest would be fun already. We wanted to climb the whole route.


The 50 year old Eagle nest, note the horseshoe!

Graded as 5.10 (in fact a really classic 5.10, so more like hard 5.11 in real life) and all trad.
No bolts at the top as it is believed that elves live on this cliff (you shouldn't disturb elves, it gives you a bad karma).

At the Eaglenest
It took us a while to climb it actually. But it was fun to reach the top and see we weren't the first. It was full of sheep shit. (Yes we were sure it was sheep shit)
How the F* could a sheep ever end up there?! On the back it was easier to climb up, but still at least 8m of 5.9-5.10 90 degree rockclimbing!
The sheep was gone (carried up and down by Trolls?) and we figured a way to get down: fix a rope on one side of the cliff (or onto the back of your car) and abseil on the other side.


Later we met local Valdi with his dog (and my ex boyfriend). Good to see him again and chat along about the climbing, the area and more.
But it was time to head on.
Fjallastakkanof was still on our list.


We passed all the glaciers in the rain and arrived in the dark again.
Still too cloudy to see any Northernlights...
We wanted to have a re-go at Hangikjöt, the old AID route by Gummi and Gummi (why are all Icelanders called Gummi?! Gudmunder Tomasson and Gudmunder Helgi Christensen)
The first pitch is a hanging pillar.
Dennis only wanted to go up if I'd do the first pitch.
I got up, after millions of tries.

The first pitch in Hangikjot

The higher I got the wider the crack. It started with a weird chimney, to knee locking whilst chimneying to tight fingers chimney climbing until it was just too big to get your fist in.
The higher I got the stranger it became to place the cams. When I hung under the cam it was hard to get the right size cam in, then above it they suddenly seems to fit perfectly. At the top of the pillar I could finally get a cam in on the more stable right pillar.
I made a belay and Dennis could second it.

Dennis seconding the loose pillar

He did a really good job climbing it in once straight away! Though it looked hard for him too.
He climbed on. I had a belay sitting on a loose block having one foot inside the crack to keep balance just above it I had a cam size BD4. for Dennis to continue the climb.
Suddenly Dennis moved a bit too much on the pillar. The cam got stuck and so did my foot. The wide crack where I had my foot loosely placed just to keep balance was suddenly so narrow that my foot got stuck!
"Holy shit" or something similar, I said softly not to disturb Dennis' climbing.
Just a bit later I asked him to place a bolt on the more stable non-hnaging pillar.
When hammering the pillar that I'd just climbed bounced softly in the rythm.

Not much later it was time to abseil.
We reckon the climb is around 7a, maybe 7b, 3 pitches, but better to climb it in 4 to avoid rope dragging in the crack.
Oh, yes, Hangikjöt, because it's AID. Literary it means hanging meat. I heard they climbed it with bad weather, had it as a training for real big wall climbing in Yosemite and even hung their portaledge in the second (or third) belay. Hangikjot is typical Icelandic sheep meat, hung to smoke and dry for preservation reasons. A classic way to store meat and still a delicacy.

Breakfast! With Crow berries :)

That evening we took a good bath at Hoffell close to Höfn in a semi-natural hot-tub (drill holes) enjoying the last bit of sunlight and rain clouds above the mountains.

The bath at Hoffell

And today we're in Höfn, enjoying the internet :)

My sweater in progress


Petri said...

Does puffin taste good? I´ve got a Puffin-Cat - we have a deal that we can eat each other if necessarry. Never tasted cat either. I´m not sure whether she eats people when I sleep..

Petri said...

Better give her now some sardines - she´s lurking me in a very dangerous way...