They were waiting for us at the airport with our car… STOP! A normal car for European standards is something unusual in Iceland. People here drive around in XXL American pick-up trucks, including oversized tires. Our 6,7 Liter Hemi Dodge was a good set of wheels and we soon were to realize that we couldn’t have done without this monster of a vehicle.
The next day, we headed off towards the high north with the rest of the crew from Reykjavik, to Iceland’s second “capital city” Akureyri! The trip was beyond all our expectations due to the frenzy of fast changing conditions: from a dry road to ice; from a wet road to a meter high snow drift, we had a bit of everything! After a 7-hour drive, we finally arrived at midnight and we went straight to bed.
The original idea was to film a freeride film, and in the end we even accomplished it, but everything we lived in the making was nothing short from incredible! After an abundant breakfast, we drove to Akureyris Skiresort Hlidarfjall to speak to local lifties and ski patrol and fill in about the snow conditions of the season up to then. After a few cups of coffee and crucial info, we went straight for a little tour around the highest part of the resort.
Despite the 100 km/h wind on the way up, icy slopes and wind packed snow –not exactly dream-like conditions- our first run in Iceland was good fun! In the evening we returned to our base, Akureyri Backpackers Hostel, where, by the way, we were looked after at best. After checking the weather for the following day, we decided that our best plan for the downday we had ahead was a sightseeing tour. We bagged some fabulous shots and mind-blowing impressions watching the mystic Myvatn landscapes and the biggest waterfalls in the island.
“The moment we had our boards strapped to our feet and looked at the ocean, we realized for the first time where we actually were”
The view of the ocean, the snow-covered mountains towering the horizon were so overwhelming that the whole crew fell immediately in love with this land despite the gale force winds, which more often than not blow in this North Atlantic land. We enjoyed a whole sunny day and a run on perfect spring conditions around 5ºC. On the way back, we made a quick stop at the Viking Heliskiing base, or at least, that was what we had in mind.
Back at the hostel, Björgvin and Johann treated us with a huge diner and an invitation we could by no means refuse: we spent the next 4 days in one of their lodges, including a hot tub and a fridge packed with beer! Who cared if we hardly got some sleep over those three nights, busy as we were, processing the dancing northern lights above our heads!
We felt so inspired that after some awesome splitboard touring with our guide Stefan and a snowcat accessed day, it was only natural that we hired some heli time.
Day 8 – Flying time! We made the most of two and a half hours of heli time to fly to the most extreme peaks, shred them down and score some good footage, during a whole day! Our first flight was at 6am and our last at 10pm! It was a perfect blue bird day and we shredded our steepest runs on perpetual snow!
“We had a rad time with Viking! This –still very- new company offers an extremely mellow but at the same time professional experience” explains Flo Orley in our Freeride Roadmovie “Sidustu Jadar – The last frontier“!
The film was rolled and edited by Benni’s long time friend Florian Albert, from Nauders, who at the time was still a student –an outstanding talent who captured the most determinant moments with his camera. Really well rigged and moving around swiftly on his touring skis, Florian was a priceless addition to the team, together with Chris, Flo O., Sebi and Benni.
“We would have never dreamed of being welcome with such warm hospitality, such natural support in a cold land like this!”
Back in Akureyri, we needed a chilled evening with pasta to plan our next days and right there we met two French freeriders who told us about a mountain near Uhdir , which would end up being our last project in the northern part of the island.
A huge pillar rising up to the peak splits this mountain in two halves, offering a few meter-wide shoot right underneath the summit. The last pitch was unreachable that day without crampons, even for freeriding pros like Chris Schnabel and Flo O. 20 Meter below the summit was as far as they could climb, and Flo dropped in the shoot first, shredding some turns on the 50º steep couloir – Chris followed him afterwards. More than happy with the outcome, Benni und Sebi joined them at the safety spot the two FWT riders and snowboard school owners had pointed out in case of emergency.
Once the mission had been accomplished, we headed south; we were an exciting six hour-drive away form our next lodging in Hveragerdi.
We stayed at a rural Hostel in the middle of nowhere, where we found out that the surf forecast was announcing a perfect swell for the following day.
It wasn’t the first time in this trip that we used our connections and when Ingo from Arctic Surfing found out that we were shooting a film, he immediately provided us with surfing equipment and guiding to the local surf scene!
Ingo pointed out: “I never surf in water above 4° C!“
The next day, Chris and Flo O. not only scored perfect double over head waves, but also a well deserved bath in a hot spring after the super Session in more than rough conditions!
“We came to a point where everywhere we looked it only went uphill, it had to be the summit!” Chris said grinning form ear to ear!”
Directly in the background of the surf session we could spot Mount Hekla, the second most active volcano in the island. The following day, that was the scene of our last splitboard tour with 2 local riders. But to make it there, we had to drive a long distance with our super Jeep into no man’s land, before finally arriving in the massive ice of the glacier. There were no roads whatsoever.
The day had started with strong winds and changing conditions, and after a three-hour ascent, we crammed on the mist shrouded summit ready to drop. The wind-pressed snow, similar to the one we often find at home in Wildspitze, made this tour an experience rather than a pleasure ride!
Visibly exhausted after making the most of our trip till the very last minute, we still had to drive back to Reykjavik, where we shared a last solid and boosting meal with our new friends.
“Nightlife in the island is totally awesome!” raves Sebi still these days, although unfortunately he had a plain to catch Saturday early in the morning. On the last day, the rest of the crew got together with Iceland’s “Woman of the Year 2015” Anita Margrét Aradóttir. She left us in a barn because she wanted us to take some shots of her with the horses she takes care of, and we let the rein run away free! Of course, this trip was bound to have a graceful ending!
Benni, the trip initiator, stayed two more weeks in this mystic and legendary island. Amongst other things, he managed to ride down Eyjafjallajökull volcano on his snowboard, watched humpback whales, visited the geysers, and felt tiny on Europe’s biggest glacier, which violently drops into the ocean.