Reply To: The Coldest Crossing – a few thoughts

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Hi, First of all, if anyone wants the locations of the SPOT of TCC, email me. I have taken screenshots of their route.

Many thanks to the author to have put sound knowledge and provide all this information.
I will not discuss the expedition. Most of Icelanders (and myself) would agree they were badly prepared. An Icelander friend told me even before they started they would fail. I was more optimistic on their progress as they mentioned they had experience. Perhaps in ski or mountaineering but Iceland is something unique in the world and it seems the people who try and fail still do the same mistakes.

I want to discuss the CROSSING of ICELAND.
I completely agree the country has been crossed many times over the past 200 years and more adventurously during the past 60 years.

What I want to know is if someone (team, solo -certainly not yet-) has crossed Iceland in what I would call:

1) What is winter?
I had this debate with the Brits in May 2015 when I found out about their idea and shorter route.
Winter for me (Belgium) = 21 dec to 21 March
Winter for the UK & Alpinism = 1 dec to 1 March ==> I agreed this is the most suitable definition and the hardest (coldest, darkest)
To satisfy all definitions: Winter would be 21 dec to 1 March.

We all agree, a crossing would be from COAST TO COAST. It’s the same for rowing crossing an Ocean, start on land finish on land rowing.
What is FULL then ?
To me, for any geographical location there are 3 FULL CROSSINGS possible:
a) longest distance possible or diagonal between 2 points
b) between extreme longitudes (far east to far west or reverse)
c) between extreme longitudes (top north to bottom south or reverse): Full North-South = Rifstangi +-66°32’15.90″N, 16°11’47.61″W to +- 63°23’38.28″N, 18°44’5.13″W
In the case of Iceland a) = b)

A route North-South can be like the one I did in 2010:
Route b) has been done in 1994(?) led by S. Chapple:
(They claim First winter crossing but to me: Not in winter as started in March, ended April. They also had resupplies, used huts, encounters by film crew and other curious Icelanders)

This word is being used by many adventurers, explorers and starting adventurers and each have (sadly) different definitions. But let’s put it simple to define and explain the fact/rules of my definition: Un-supported means NO support at all.

Fully Unsupported=
* no use of huts (even entering it or going let’s say 25m from it would be support even if you don’t sleep, cook or rearrange your stuff in it)
* no kite/sail or wind assistance = all travel by human power
* no food resupplies (all with you), no pre-placed food caches
* in one shot= means that if you stop for a few days and re-start at the same point after an injury or disease and had to enter hospital or rest=
support ==> So the unsupported status must be ALL THE WAY DURING the ENTIRE EXPEDITION.

To give an idea, let’s say that you are 2000 years ago, Iceland is empty of humanity and human constructions, and you have to cross it asif no one can help you. Like the early explorers. That is unsupported. You rely only on yourself, what you find on the land etc… This means hunting, finding water (in a desert) is OK.

* If you are let’s say 2 people in the expedition, one has to leave and the last remaining finishes the expeditions = consider as the solo person has had the help of the second person during a certain amount of time (they shared weight of tent, gas …) = support ==> unsupported = the team starts with 2, 3, 4 or more and end together with no one exiting and coming back later and fresh during the expedition.
* GPS, Satphone, beacons = allowed. (some consider it is support, to me it is a modern tool like skis have evolved, pulkas are plastic/fiber/carbon and not wood anymore)
* In Iceland there are sealed roads and 4WD tracks: using them is making the expedition easier, so the use of any roads = support. But of course sometimes it is hard to avoid roads. In a narrow canyon between 2 cliffs for example, you might have to walk on the existing road. Also you might have to go around private land and then you are perhaps on a road around the property for a bit. The idea is that the adventurers don’t do a longer distance to make use of a faster/easier road. The idea of adventure and the outdoor is to by nature to avoid easy, to take risks and be „remote“ or away enough from civilization. Other reason is ecology and respect. If you must follow a route by law, regulation, rule or if outside of the route you might harm a fragile protected ecosystem, stay on the road.
* What about the use of communications to ask for weather reports ? To me, I never required this. If I have to face a storm, I’ll see it or I’ll have to face it anyway. My Satphone is for emergency. But in the case of Iceland, I’d be OK to receive an SMS to tell me: ESCAPE WEST, VOLCANO ABC ERUPTED, LAVA, LANDSLIDE coming your way, helicopter on standby if needed. So receiving weather info to me = support
* What about other „human constructions“ like bridges ? Well if I wanna be pure: bridge = support. But I could say it is part of „nature“ as it is there. People climbing Everest do the approach walk to base camp and use bridges. They don’t start from Kathmandu anymore.
To be pure, the unsupported crossing of Iceland should be done without using bridges and rivers must be crossed swimming or wading. What about the Jokulsa a Fjollum? Well. It’s possible to avoid it by going around it or swimming across it where it is the least dangerous.

In 2010, I did the first full crossing of iceland completely unsupported. With the fact I used bridges so if a super purist, you could tell no one has crossed yet iceland unsupported. Not in the winter, nor in the summer. PS: For the summer I believe no one has done it, and if so, of course the expedition has used the bridge over the Jokulsa.

So now, the question is: has someone done a FULL N-S or E-W crossing, completely unsupported inside the dates of the winter time?
I believe the answer is NO. I believe in the next 10 years or earlier someone will do it. Then people will go solo, then people will try to go as fast as possible and people will die, like on the Everest. It’s part of the „EGO“ and challenges people set themselves into.
I want to be the first N-S solo in the winter. Why? I like the fear of the elements thrown at me. I like sometimes to have nature reminding me how small I am, I am the challenge of the world first as I need to think, to prepare and find the solutions to all the problems possible and then with a bit of luck (You provoke luck by preparation) it is rewarding to be able to pass and succeed doing something (very) hard. And then you learn so much that your experience can benefit to the others.
That’s part of what adventurers and explorers do when achieving human propelled (no oil-fuelled) expeditions. It’s just a limit to push a bit further. Just like an athlete who wants to run the fastest or jump the highest. We believe it is possible and we want to work hard to succeed. And YES there is some EGO behind it. Acknowledgement of it is the first step of success. I do it for myself but I’m somehow proud when someone congratulates me on a successful expedition.

I’d like to end with this sentence that the ambassador of Iceland in Brussels told me back in 2011:
„If you do this winter expedition, be prepared to have 80% of the population of Iceland against you. If you succeed with no drama, you’ll have 100% of the poulation with you“. My best reward is to be proud of this: Can I go in this extreme place, extreme weather and find all solutions to all problems (some unexpected) and make a successful crossing. For sure I’m not ready yet.