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‘The Trailteam Tackle the Laugavegur!’

Our Trailteam leader, Nick Munro Turner writes about his group’s adventures on Laugavegurinn this summer…

As we approach our last two weeks of work on the trails, us volunteers take some time away from our now familiar surroundings to embark on a three day hike along the Laugavegur!

Covering some 54km from the Highland basecamp of Landmannalaugar to our trailteam home base at Langidalur, the route took us through some spectacular scenery that really showcase the natural geological wonder that is Iceland.

Setting up at Landmannalaugar
Having been used to the lush, verdant soils of Thórsmörk and Gođaland, setting up in Landmannalaugar was quite the test of our equipment and hardiness. We were met with harsh winds, the occasional snow storm and seemingly impenetrable ground for tent pegs. However, the team were able to pull together and we used our ingenuity to make the harsh conditions work for us, and the spectacular views of the red, black and sandy coloured mountains enjoyed whilst relaxing and unwinding in the hot springs more than made up for it.

Day 1 on the Trail: Landmannalaugar – Alftavatn
After a day of exploring the area, we headed off southwards on the Laugavegur, passing through lava fields and past steaming geothermal vents, climbing the magnificent technicolour mountains we’d been admiring from the basecamp. After some ascent, we came out on top of the mountain range and continued over rolling mounds of black rock; some wreathed in geothermal steam, others filled with snow and ice and even the odd ice cave to catch a quick rest stop in!

At lunch time, we found we literally had friends in high places as we were able to stop at the Warden’s hut at Hrafntinnusker in return for hosting them in Thórsmörk whilst they were visiting!

After a welcome rest, we decided to get up and continue our journey before we got too comfortable. This stretch had so many different land features; from glaciers, to black sand dunes, waterfalls cascading down rainbow rocks and bright green moss, that we wondered if we had wandered onto some kind of surreal film set! Finally, we reached an overlook which gave us a glimpse of the far-off glaciers of Eyjafjallajökull – a white shiny beacon showing us the way ahead to Thórsmörk. As we climbed down off the mountain ridge towards the campsite of Alftavatn, the ground almost instantly became more green and verdant, and the tent pegs went in much easier as camp was set up!

Day 2 on the Trail: Alftavatn – Emstrur
Our journey today took us east and then southwards as we passed through and across lush, green valleys under towering peaks that yesterday had seemed so small! Our path was intersected by many gushing rivers being fed by thundering waterfalls. There were some hefty bridges we used to cross some of the faster flowing ones, but the others required us to change into our river shoes and put our feet in some glacial flow in order to traverse.

We crossed a huge expanse of flat lava field to suddenly have our sense of scale blown wide open as we entered giant gorge country! Having made camp at Emstrur, we decided to use our evening to visit the top of some of the steeper gorges and just be awed by the giant rock faces, the depth below us and the changing colour of surrounding mountains as the sun set across from them.

Final Day on the Trail: Emstrur – Langidalur
Whilst no gorge we encountered was as grand as the one we had visited yesterday, we continued to be humbled by the many gorges we passed and crossed on our final approach to Thórsmörk. The views were becoming much more familiar now, with many land features we’d seen or visited prior now viewable from a different perspective, as if we were now behind the film set looking at the audience space we used to inhabit. As we clambered up and down over green mounds, we noticed that there were now trees cropping up here and there and we realised just how much we’d missed being among them! Once we traversed our final river crossing; the Markarfljót, we found ourselves on the edge of a grand forest, which made us really feel like we were coming home to Thórsmörk. Before too long, we were on old familiar trails that we had walked and worked on, thoughts of our cosy volunteer hut filled with cakes and blankets spurring our tired bodies on.

Our Laugavegur adventure allowed us to journey through some awe-inspiring locations and give us a taste of Iceland’s geologically vibrant Highlands, but it has also strengthened our appreciation for the beautiful, lush region that with live and work and it’s brilliantly maintained trails!

Photographs by Anousa Parkin.

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A short film from Thórsmörk

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…

 

Pre-departure meetings for our volunteers – planned for April

Following their success last season, we are organising pre-departure Skype meetings for our volunteers before we head back to Thórsmörk.

The meetings are planned for April and all volunteers who are joining us this season will be invited. Their aim is to provide an opportunity to discuss preparations for the placements, including the chance to talk about the conditions at the camps, required equipment and travel to the meeting point at the start. It is the perfect opportunity to make contact and for us to answer any last minute questions that the team may have.

The meetings will take place over about two weeks and details of available times will be emailed shortly. We would like to complete the meetings before we move to the Thórsmörk to begin setting up the camps and where Skype contact is limited.

Our Highland Trailteams

This summer our volunteer teams will return to worksites on the famous Laugavegur hiking trail and once again we will be organising a programme of trail maintenance projects in partnership with The Iceland Touring Association (Ferðafélag Íslands). FÍ have been providing facilities and material support for our volunteer teams since we arrive in Thórsmörk in 2012. The valuable support that our teams receive from the hut wardens is hugely appreciated.

Planned project sites around Emstrur will be accessed by teams hiking from Langidalur and staying at wilderness camps close to the trail there but activity further north is coordinated from a volunteer camp that has been established at Hvanngil. Last season the teams focused their work on a 5km section of the trail between Hvanngil and Álftavatn where the main tasks included improving drainage, repairing damaged sections and adding about 200 new way-markers to encourage hikers to stay on the trail. Working at Hvanngil is particularly challenging due to exposed worksites and changeable weather. Our teams normally walk the 28km trail from Langidalur to Hvanngil in a day.

Despite the challenges, these long-range Highland projects are extremely popular with our teams. We change the groups between the projects each week so that participants experience a variety of locations and work tasks during their placements. Volunteers joining us for 2 weeks this season will hopefully have the opportunity to take part in the Highland projects in the second week of their placement but as always, the final decision will be made by the weather.

Throughout the main season (June-August) our volunteers will be divided into four teams working on project sites throughout the area from Monday – Friday. On Friday evenings the teams will gather at the Langidalur base camp for a meal together, a campfire and the chance to catch up with weekend plans.

We plan to open the camp at Langidalur on May 1st.

 

Trailteams ready for the summer…

Applications for the 2017 programme closed at the end of January and we have been busy putting the summer teams together.

Our request for volunteers received a huge response with hundreds of applications from over 50 countries. A (not so) shortlist was made and the Skype interviews have been completed. Most of the places are now allocated and we have waiting-lists ready to finalise any remaining placements within the next couple of weeks.

This season, the programme has received a lot of interest and allocations have taken longer than expected due to the large number of applicants. We wanted to give all the applications carefully consideration. There were many more good applications than places available and unfortunately it was not possible to accept everyone though we have added some extra places to the programme so that we can include as many as possible.

Now that we have our team, final preparations for the summer can begin!

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