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Trip Report: Splitboarding Iceland's Troll Peninsula

Words: Mike Handford

Photos: Mark Bridgwater

 

After a gluttonously self indulgent two months in the USA and Canada hitting just about every huge storm perfectly, it was time for a new adventure. Cam McDermid, who I had now shared a camper van with for going on four months, Mark Bridgwater, Solfrid Gillman, and I set out for a exploratory two week trip into the Northern Peninsulas of Iceland. Dreams of endless views, and peak-to-sea lines filled our heads as we flew across the North Atlantic to the remote island. 

 

Arriving at the start of May, we were greeted with the news from locals that it had been one of the mildest winters in recent memory. Those idealistic plans of riding from the snowfields to the ocean seemed to be gone before we hit the skin track. Not to be deterred, we ventured north towards Iceland’s second largest city Akureyri and the Troll Peninsula.

 

Having tried to research the terrain around this area prior to our arrival, I’d come up empty handed. A couple of contacts had put me in touch with Steve at Empire Expeditions. He lived up in Siglufjordhur on the northern tip of the Troll Peninsula. We decided to head up for a cup of tea and a chat. This gave us the opportunity to spend the day driving up endless mountain roads to scope zones we had previously plotted on Google Earth. It turned out to be a very productive day as we left with a plan to ride three areas over the next week, and a drone to use. Thanks Steve!

Troll Peninsula

 

First up was a day strike mission to the mountains north of the tiny hamlet of Dalvik. The peaks ran straight down to the sea offering ridiculous views. This was our first glimpse of the sheer grandeur of splitboarding in Iceland.

 

We found the snow up high as it was beginning to soften making it just 'edgeable' enough to let'r rip a little. While the snow was not plentiful, there was enough to ride, and we were thankful for that. Some clever camera angles may have been used to make it look like there was more snow than there actually was, either way we called our first mission a success.

 

Satisfied with the snow up high, our next goal was to head from the tip of the Hedhinsfordhur into the Masadalur Valley. We had spotted a lone, shark-tooth peak in the distance while driving around the area earlier - naturally we wanted to climb it. When we plotted the route, it looked like a big day. When you combine the distance with river crossings, boulders, icebergs, beaches, more river crossings, and a rapidly warming snowpack, it turned into more of an 11-hour sufferfest.

 

We eventually found good snow at high elevation, but it had taken so long to reach the summit we had little time to splitboard once we got there. Looking out into the Iceland Sea towards the Arctic Circle was a decent consolation prize though. We also stashed a couple of beers in our packs, which tasted damn good after such a long day.

 

After a down day to recover, we had three days left before our drive back to Reykjavik. We decided to head further inland as the snow looked significantly better and the mountains higher than the coastal ranges we'd been hitting. We skinned in and pitched our tent on a plateau just below a few of the lines we had scouted on Google Maps. We ate a late dinner and waited patiently for the Northern Lights to dazzle us...

 

It turns out, and this was news to us, the sun never sets when you’re up that high. We were treated to a 3-hour long sunset followed immediately by a 3-hour long sunrise, which was nice and all, but we were hoping to see the lights! I’d find it difficult to get any sleep for the next 72 hours of constant sun - There was lots of time to ride, but it was pretty exhausting as you might imagine. 

Spending those three days up there was definitely the highlight of the trip (albeit, a little exhausting). We were lucky to score uninterrupted good weather, stable snow, and no wind - a welcome change after being battered for the past week. The long days gave us enough time to take it a little slower than usual, which we did. We still managed a lot of good tours and turns, with our last run each 'day' ending right at our camp site. With the sun rising at 4 a.m. (04:00) and setting at 11 p.m. (23:00) there’s only your own motivation and energy limiting what you can do.

Iceland still seems to have low traffic as far as snowboard and splitboard tourism goes. I can only assume with a combination of location, cost, and lack of information it puts a few people off.  We were truly amazed by the terrain. Being able to drive down a road and look up at 1,500 foot faces, then just take your pick of what to ride is incredible. I can’t imagine what it must be like mid-winter in a good snow year.

 

Although, it may not have been the classic Icelandic lines we had originally hoped for, it was just another reminder that in life, and especially splitboarding, it’s important to play the cards you’re dealt – and enjoy the adventure.

 

Next up, I’ll be heading back over to the USA for some all-time spring shredding in Tahoe before heading back to New Zealand. I’m hoping this winter is going to be a big one down there! Endless winter for me. Fingers crossed.

 

~ MH 

Spark R&D Team Rider

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