Our 6-week volunteer placements include a ‘Hiking week’ when the team has the chance to take a break from the trail work and explore the area. This year our volunteers found some good weather days and were able to complete the famous 54km Laugavegur trail.
We would like to say a huge thank you to all the Ferðafélag Íslands Hut Wardens who looked after our team and helped them along the way.
A ‘relaxing’ break from building hiking trails in Thórsmörk…
Preparing to cross Þröngá river (Ondřej Kupka)
Hiking week on Laugavegurinn (Ondřej Kupka)
Although we arrived to an empty valley, a steady stream of international volunteers and summer staff have been joining us since the start of June and the team has been growing steadily each week.
As well as improvements at the Langidalur volunteer camp and ongoing surveys of the trail network, we have been able to return to several of our favourite work sites and get our hand dirty again. Our main focus in recent weeks has been building stone and timber steps on Valahnúkur as well as general maintenance and improved trail marking on the Fimmvörðuháls trail.
Preparations at our Langidalur volunteer camp are now complete and we are very excited to welcome the international volunteers who will be joining us on Sunday. After months of uncertainty, our planned 6-week project is finally about to start.
Our summer staff building log steps on Valahnúkur
Bridge constrction at Langidalur
Maintenance on the Fimmvörðuháls trail
After an extended winter break, we are now back to work preparing for the summer projects in Thórsmörk and Goðaland. As usual, our season has begun at Thjórsárdalur Forestry Station (pictured) where we prepare materials and equipment before returning to our camps to start the practical work.
In these strange times, we will begin the season without groups and the revised work plan for our staff in May includes GIS data collection and work on the new hiking map as well as maintenance and improvements at the Langidalur base camp – so that it’s ready (and even better) for the groups when they can return.
Travel restrictions, safety concerns and ongoing uncertainty mean that many of our international volunteers will not be able to join us this season and have now deferred their placements until next year. We very much look forward to welcoming them to the team in 2021.
These recent pictures from the Langidalur volunteer camp show that there is still plenty of snow in Thórsmörk and the area is still in winter conditions.
We will be heading back to Langidalur to begin preparations for the season in April… just as soon as spring arrives and the snow starts to clear from the hiking trails.
These pictures were taken by our friends at Húsadalur, Volcano Huts, who work in Thórsmörk throughout the winter.
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.