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The trip of a lifetime - Christian Ferree, Iceland
Wednesday April 8, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

There is only one way to access the backcountry ski areas of Iceland properly; by boat. PlanetSKI reports on a sailing and skiing adventure.

We were skiing off a sailing ship, called Rembrandt Van Rijn.

She was a three-masted schooner, Gaff rigged, a 1928 Danish Lugger, fully converted for passengers and adventurers and we were going to sail the uncharted fjords of north west Iceland. 

We were going to go ski touring around the mostly un-skied mountains of a region called Hornstrandir, an Icelandic nature reserve.

Sound adventurous?

Well, it most certainly was.

We met our ship in a town called Isafjordur. 

It was to be our home and our transport for the next few days.

Once on board, with bags and skis stashed away in our tiny cabins, the crew gave us a briefing and safety talk. We then hoisted anchor and headed out into the Arctic, Norwegian Sea and our first taste of the very bracing wind that took us north into the Icelandic Westfjordlund.

There are no roads in this region so it is only accessible by boat and at this time of year it is especially hostile, as black volcanic cliffs drop into the cold dark sea.

The rocks were smeared with wind-blown snow, which filled in all the cracks and settled scantilly on the ledges.

Then the ever-present wind, pushed the remaining snow up over the ridges to swirl wildly away into the valleys and gulleys behind.

Each morning we clambered down the ladders to the Zodiacs bobbing precariously in the water and headed off to the nearest snow covered black-sand beach to start our daily ski tour.

Off skiing!Off skiing!












Our first climb took about three hours. It was fairly stress free as we methodical hiked up the hill on skis. 

It was a bit difficult in places but well worth it for the awe inspiring descent.

Skining upSkining up




















On this day there was no deep powder but clean, clean fresh crisp white snow and a quiet mountain and not a single soul within a hundred of miles of us.

We skied back down to the beach taking in the breathtaking view.

Once back on board the captain lifted anchor and we headed around the peninsular to approach a different fjord and to meet a very different group of mountains.

These aren't necessarily big hills as they stand at a maximum of 800m to 900m (average 600m), but they rise straight out of the sea, and the effect is dramatic.

Stunning ski sceneryStunning ski scenery












They were snow covered and they behaved like all wintery Arctic mountains.

The conditions were windy, the snow was variable with hard and soft patches of snow, there were cornices with funky snow formations and the ever constant swirling snow. There was a real risk of avalanche. But the views were incredible and some winter wildlife present too.

The mountains gave an awesome sense of scale with magnificent views.

IcelandAlone in Iceland












Our second day exceeded expectations.

We summitted two peaks and managed genuine fresh tracks down the longest pitch. All the while the sun shone and the Seagulls and the Fulmars flew overhead, and the only other sound I was aware of was of my heavy breathing, and thumping heart-beat.

IcelandPowder turns
















Triumphant, we returned to our three-masted schooner for hot chocolate with rum on the fore deck.

After skiing each day our ship headed off to a new fjord to find new peaks to climb and new terrain to ski. However to top off this particular evening we had an unexpected bonus.

The clouds parted and the Northern Lights appeared.

IcelandQuite a sight












The weather though was changeable. The wind had swung round to the south west so we made a longer passage to arrive in Holvik on the north coast where the crew anchored for the night.

We awoke to a major storm - no skiing today.

We were holed down, safely locked into a narrow fjord. It was bitterly cold outside. There was nowhere to go and so the cards come out.

Books were read, journals were written and needless to say a few beers were consumed as we patiently waited for the storm to pass.

IcelandBatten down the hatches












For our remaining days of adventure we summited more peaks, and skied down more fabulous slopes - ski pioneers each and every one of us.

We had some challenging but excellent days getting to know the small thrust of mountains up there.  Life on the boat had its challenges too with the ever changing weather and dealing with the changing skiable aspects as the wind shifted.

It was a genuine adventure. The entire experience was an adventure, from life on the boat, being so remote, literally being the first Brit to ever climb 'such and such' and ski down another virgin peak, to come close to raging Arctic storms, to be standing on the cliff tops, with my skis on and looking across the icy black ocean with Fulmars swooping overhead.

This was a truly unique skiing experience and like all great ski trips, the skiing was the icing on the cake.

It threw us challenges, weather, hard pack, deep snow, avalanche considerations, incredible views and thankfully it was not without its "Whaa Hoo's".

Bring on next year for more......









I must thank Francis at Profeet in Fulham, London, for fitting my new touring boots two days before I left to go on the trip - big risk.  The boots were excellent. I had not a single peep out of them for the six days climbing up and skiing down. I was very relieved (and very impressed).

The expedition trip was put together by and collaboration.

It will be running again next March and is suitable for anyone with a spirit of adventure.

For the spirit of the mountains

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