Timber built trails have become one of the main features of our maintenance work in Thórsmörk and Goðaland.
Although we do work with stone when it can be found close to the trails, there are many areas on the trail network where there is little natural building material available. Since our volunteer programme began in 2012, we have been developing trail maintenance techniques using timber produced from the forests of south Iceland and these timber trails are now a common site throughout the Thórsmörk area. During this time, several types of timber have been trialled, but the majority of this work has been done using Icelandic-grown Sitka spruce.
Where possible, new steps are built wider than the existing trail to help prevent erosion and the height of the steps is limited to approximately 15cm to make them comfortable to walk on. Low steps are particularly important for visitors carrying heavy backpacks. Flights of steps are usually built with regular spacing. Long timbers are used to make drains (waterbars) and these are added to each section to divert water from the steps and to help protect them (shown in middle picture).
Timber sides can be added to help secure steps over bedrock areas and these help to prevent material from being washed out of the steps (shown in the picture on the right). On freshly repaired sections, rye grass seed is added to stabilise the areas around the trails. This is fast growing but only grows for one to two seasons, helping to stop loose material being washed away. As the rye grass grows and then dies back, it allows time for the slower growing natural vegetation to re-establish itself beside the trails.
This summer, our trail building with timber continues as our team move to new worksites in Thórsmörk and Goðaland.
In summer 2014, a volunteer camp was established at Básar so that we could host additional teams and improve access to work sites on the hiking trails in Goðaland. Facilities are basic but include a group tent for cooking and eating together as well as a large timber framed tent used for storing food and equipment. Our volunteers usually stay for two weeks and camp in the surrounding forest.
The volunteer work is organised in close cooperation with Útivist travel association who support our teams and provide facilities for them at Básar. Our simple forest camp at Básar is much loved by the volunteers and we look forward to returning to continue our work there in June.
As well as returning to some of our favourite project sites on Réttarfell and the popular trails close to Básar, this season we will also start restoration work on several new sites on remote sections of the Fimmvörðuháls trail. This summer we will also focus on improved trail marking in Goðaland, continuing the trail marker numbering system on more trails in the area.
Moving timber onto the Fimmvörðuháls trail.
Meal time in the tent at Básar camp.
Cooking at Básar camp.
This is the final day of applications for volunteer placements for the 2020 season.
Full details including placement dates and application forms can be found on our website…
Our search for volunteers comes to an end this week, so if you would like to join us in Thórsmörk this summer, please get in touch.
No previous experience of trail construction work is necessary as practical training will be provided. We are looking for participants who have some experience of camping and hill walking, enjoy wilderness landscapes and are ready for a challenge. Iceland’s notoriously changeable weather means that our teams have to be well prepared with warm clothing, good waterproofs and sturdy tents. Due to the strenuous nature of our work, participants must be physically fit and as many of our work sites are in remote locations, we do a lot of hiking to get to them! Our team is chosen from applicants and there is no participation fee.
Full details about the placements including dates and application forms can be found on our website…
Applications close on Friday, January 31st and the final placements will be confirmed by February 15th.
Although we are planning a wide variety of practical conservation tasks this season, including tree planting and GIS mapping, the heart of our volunteer programme remains our maintenance work on the hiking trails in Thórsmörk and Goðaland.
The pictures show the Réttarfell trail in Goðaland, close to its start at Básar. The picture on the left was taken in spring 2006 and the one on the right shows the trail last autumn. As well as changes in the vegetation, the pictures show our developing construction techniques as we have introduced new designs and are now using locally grown timber in the trail network.
We are very excited to be returning to the trails for our eighth season. As well as projects on some of our favourite sites, we have a series of new locations planned for trail improvements this season. They include new work on Valahnúkur, Slyppugilsryggur and Laugavegurinn (south of Þröngá) as well as remote sites on the Fimmvörðuháls trail.
Full details about our 2020 volunteer placements can be found on our website. Applications close on January 31st.
On a cold and rainy January afternoon we needed a little reminder of Icelandic summer.
This short film was made by Johnny Rolt and Ollie Campbell when they joined us 2017. It is a really beautiful film and it captures life at the volunteer camps and our work projects in Thórsmörk, Goðaland and along the Laugavegurinn trail. For anyone joining us for the first time this season, the film gives a good idea of what to expect from our volunteer placements.
We wanted to share this amazing film once again.
Sit back and enjoy a few minutes of summer…