In 2019, Gareth and Richard embarked on an expedition that traversed Iceland from south to north via the Vatnajokull glacier.
This marked the first packraft descent of the mighty Skjalfandafljot River from the source to the sea and the first unsupported ski and raft traverse of Iceland.
The expedition took 18 months of meticulous planning and a lot of ingenuity as this was basically two expeditions in one.
Gareth says. “We were doing a mountain/polar expedition, for the first part, because Vatnajökull is an expedition in itself. Then, we have to take all our river stuff with us: all our boats, and dry suits; and so to be able to do that unsupported, the logistical side of things was a nightmare!”
The fact the duo had to lug everything with them meant weight was going to be key, and thus using gear that could do double-duty for both legs of the journey, plus having just enough food – but not too much, meant plenty of research.
And then, once the kit and food had all been sorted, they had to be fit enough to carry it all.
“It was a massive effort physically to get in the right shape for the expedition,” Gareth affirms.
“It’s the type of expedition where if you didn’t train for it, you just wouldn’t be able to stand it. Just carrying those packs – our packs ended up being around about 53 kilograms each – that’s just a massive weight to carry for any significant distance”
In the end, they carried those packs about 70 kms.
That’s a massive physical undertaking.
It took a lot of strength training and a lot of fitness to get ready.
Add to this the bitter cold, relentless northerly winds, driving ice and snow and a thunderous river that took delight in treating their rafts like matchsticks, sweeping them from one escarpment to the next.
When cold, hunger and fatigue became their close friends, Gareth and Richard dug deep and relied on true grit to finish the expedition.
Mother Nature threw everything she could at these adventurers, begrudgingly allowing them the successful finish they rightfully deserved.
A truly multidisciplinary expedition that involved pulling sleds, rafting wild glacial rivers and carrying huge 50kg packs for many kilometers.
The success of Iceland 2019 was a testament to toughness, adaptability and sheer grit and determination.