I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.
Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:
As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50” cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:
The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:
My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.
On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallaj?kull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:
and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:
On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):
A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.
More in my next post.Follow @paulnakroshis
It’s a little early in the season for proper trail running in the White Mountains,
but I decided to try for a Presidential Traverse this past weekend.
(The Fastest Known Time (FKT) was set last September by Ben Nephew in a crazy time of
4h 34min; a time I have no hope of achieving)
In any case, I started at 5 am with a breakfast of 4 eggs, sour cream, bacon, and a coffee with heavy cream.
I then ran to the dock to catch the 6:15 ferry off the island.
Then, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Pinkham Notch, and after a quick talk with the AMC about weather and trail conditions, I headed off to the Appalachia trailhead. On the way, there was a nice view of the Presidential range from the Mt. Washington Auto Road:
Finally, I started from the Appalachia Trailhead at 9:40 am. That’s really too late a start (IMHO) for a Presi-traverse, but here I was, finally ready to go:
The first 3 km were pretty straightforward running—okay, that’s really not quite true, because the average grade from the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Madison is 20% (about double that of the UTMB). But there was good footing and no snow. However, around 3km, the trail turned to serious amount of snow and ice which continued until Madison Hut. To top it off, every other step would involve post-holing, and it was plain slow going. There were even a few frozen waterfall sections (which would have been impossible without my Yaktrax)—just to make things more fun. I made it to Madison Hut in about 2 h 17m:
Now it was much easier going (snow-wise anyway) and I made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in 2h 49m.
From the summit of Mt. Madison, it was clear that the weather was changing for the worse (as predicted), and I didn’t want to summit Mt. Adams with the potential of a thunderstorm. I therefore headed south along the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction, at which point I could re-assess the weather and either summit Adams and continue, or bail down the Spur Trail with a stop at Crag Camp.
Unfortunately, as soon as I descended Mt. Madison and arrived back at Madison Hut, I began having cramps in my quads that forced me to stop and stretch. This happened to me back in November on a 35 km run, and it eventually went away. But this time, the combination of iffy weather (forecast to definitely get worse) and persistent cramps made the decision to abandon the traverse pretty easy.
Well, at least the decision was straightforward. The descent on the spur trail was a blast through a snowfield by Thunderstorm Junction, but then turned into a slow post-holing and icy descent on a super steep ice covered Spur Trail down to Crag Camp. By the time I arrived hail had begun in earnest, and I was psyched to have a respite from the weather. You can see the sleet/hail beginning to fall on the porch of Crag Camp:
After taking a rest and getting out my pack cover and proper raincoat, I headed out down the Spur Trail. I figured I had about 300-400 meters of ice and snow, and eked my way down another long steep icy-snowy-ending-on-slushy trail. Finally, after making it to the Amphibranch, I could run the rest of the way to the trailhead. This last section was super fun, and was in fact the best running of the whole day. Strangely, the cramping was really not bothering me anymore.
By the way, there’s a
great excellent article about cramping over at iRunFar. You should read it. Seriously, it’s quite interesting. I especially like the part about how apparently the taste of pickle juice on the tongue somehow convinces the brain to stop the cramping in your leg. See. I told you that you need to read the article.
So, now it’s two days later and my quads are still sore. Funny though, I can tell they’ll be fine in a day or so, and I’m already psyched to get out for another run. Next time maybe I’ll try something more runnable until all the snow is gone.
Three images from a short ski in Acadia National Park. Great skiing can be had on the carriage roads on Mount Desert Island.
I passed by Peter’s Cove again today, this time with a tripod? (and a plowed spot to safely pull off the road).
And this here is Peter’s Brook on the opposite side of the road before spilling into Blue Hill Bay.
Finally the snow and ice are almost gone. Only piles of snow remain along roadways and next to houses. This picture is of melting snow and ice along the roadside in Brunswick, Maine.
Taking my dog for a walk, I came across these cedar posts in my neighbor’s field. I liked the patterns of the posts in the snow and the shadow detail around each post in the image below. Another 30-40 cm of snow on the way tonight…
Just when I fell into the trap of thinking winter might be fading, we get another 50 cm of snow—this time heavy, wet snow that snapped tree limbs and knocked out power. Here are some of our neighborhood children on top of a 2 meter high snow pile that has accumulated this winter.
Had a brief opportunity to make a few pictures this weekend in the Great Gulf:
Garry Winnogrand?said that “photographs do not tell stories; they tell you what something looks like to a camera”. While I think that many times he is?correct on this statement (at least in its most literal interpretation) I think the following picture DOES tell a story:
The question is: what is the story?