Reply To: World First unsupported WINTER Full Crossing

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A bit more info. I’ve been interested and had this concept of crossing Iceland in the Winter since 2009. I started doing my research by then. I’m 100% confident I have covered the expeditions done by „English“ speaking people. So what’s left is Icelandic/Scandinavian. (The chance someone from Africa, South America or Asia came to Iceland to cross it in the winter is zero. It’s arrogant to say it this way but we all know rather „poorer“ countries on the planet have less adventurers and „cold/polar/ski-type expeditions are expensive.
I have an Icelandic friend, ex-president of ISALP. He told me in 2010 when I came to Iceland for the summer crossing he was confident no one did it (see above again for requirements of the „record“)

My opinion why no one did it is simple:
* The big adventurer countries like the UK, France, Poland, USA, Canada, Norway ==> focus on polar expeditions to the classic: Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland. Iceland is „so“ small they don’t think about crossing it and believe it is easy to cross, so it must have been done before.
* Icelanders: You are in your backyard and most of you find the pleasure, like Scandinavians, in going outdoors and ski trips for the fun. If someone wants something very hard, you go to the SP, NP or the Himalayas…
* The definitions: You and I and all of Icelanders know that Iceland has been crossed many times. But from coast to coast, then it’s perhaps 5-10% of the crossings or less. Why, because the ring road is rather a little inland several kms away from the coast (logistics) and of course it’s not interesting to finish skiing and then walk several kms on the ash or beach. Rather pointless as we all know you can do it.

Since the 80ties arrived the more sportive expeditions (especially in climbing) with the new parameter of beating records: new harder ascents, more technically difficult, free solo, and all speed records… and especially after 2000, the records starts everywhere in other disciplines: faster to row an Ocean, faster to climb on the Everest,… as you know there are so many „invented“ records done every year on the Everest: 1st from each country, 1st with a disease, first in couple, father and son, twins…it has it all.

In +8000m mountaineering, only a few of the 14 summits have been reached during the winter time. This means the adventurers are looking for „the hardest“ challenge possible. The challenge must have some meaning of course and be widely „accepted“ by the public/press/other adventurers.
Example of stupid hard challenge : climbing Everest in Tennis shoes. (Yes someone tried this)

So What would be „the“ hardest challenge possible in Iceland that would be perceived as „the hardest“ and with a meaning.
A meaning for me and other adventurers (like the 4 Brits) is a full crossing, coast to coast when the start and end are VERY WELL defined. There are millions of ways to cross Iceland coast to coast.

* AKUREYI to HUSAVIK is of course a coast to coast by not a major meaningful crossing. Why? It’s possible to find way longer and harder.
==> This is why the concept of doing the longest possible crossing (flying distance between start and end) adds to the challenge.
If I take Italy, well I can cycle across Italy in 1 day…if done East-West…but if done North-South it’s another story. If done between the furthest point North in the Alps, to the furthest points South, then we have la longest crossing of Italy.

For Iceland, I see 3 MAJOR MEANINGFUL crossings (and the Brits too)
1) Between the extreme latitudes (N-S), 2) between the longitudes (done by Brits in 1994 with support, not winter even if they claim so as they did it in March-April), and 3) the diagonal, which in the case of Iceland is the same as (2) // For Belgium, my home country, well we have a possibility to have 3 crossings depending on there geographical border-to-border crossings.

To REPLY to your question of winter.
Indeed, there are many different definitions on what is winter on the planet. Even the year start is different (Chinese new year not the same as the Western world).
The question is: What definition (dates) of the WINTER would „qualify“ to most people (the public) on the planet, the press and the general adventure community to be considered the hardest ?

I had the debate by email with Charlie (Brit team leader) in May 2015 (he had not announced the FULL N-S crossing at that time, he mentioned a start from Akureyi).
What I learnt from school was winter = 21 dec to 21 March.
He told me the Brits Alpinism consider winter 1 dec to 1 March. And I agreed it was a better definition as „harder“ especially more darkness in December.

==> I had NO CLUE the 4 Brits would then attempt what I still believe (99,99% confident) is a world first. The full crossing, in the winter. And on top of that unsupported and of course by human power only (no kites, no cars).

WilL I made an attempt one day? I hope so. Solo ? I’ve done a lot solo when it’s hard and it’s the way I do things.
Why didn’t I do it yet ? Like the Brits, I could just buy skis and find a few sponsors to get gear and make an attempt.
But I was made aware in 2010 of the 2 big problems of the Icelandic weather conditions in the winter : a) storms frequent = destroy the tent + b) warm weather = precipitations =rain, not snow.

Of course it is possible to succeed the way the 4 Brits started, but preparations and training won’t replace the LUCK to have NO STORMS and SUPER EASY and NICE snow and weather conditions.
So, I’m still not ready as I have an idea to stay safe when I have problem a and b. But it costs money as the idea is to build a liveable sled (named Is-Snigill) that would resist 250km/h winds and perhaps several hundreds of kg of snow. My way would be a SLOW but SAFE crossing attempt. Perhaps it would take 45-60 days.
It is a complete different approach. And this prototype will need testing. So I’m not there yet 🙂

PS: And I need also to test crossing Jokulsa a Fjollum swimming! as I don’t want to use bridges to make the purest/hardest crossing of Iceland, with a simple purpose: LEARN how long it is possible to stay in there while progressing. Using huts = fail = start again. FAIL is OK if I stay alive and do not need to ask for a rescue.
I failed already a few mountain climbs or a desert crossing. I just like the challenge and want to learn.

And of course, I do not need to mention I ready to take the risks, adventurers and the Navigators 500 years ago and the polar explorers 125 years ago took deadly risks with no back-up and non-existing rescue. The modern days has me one advantage, rescue is usually possible and depends on money/insurance and decreasing the risk of the rescuers.