Chris Burkard Completes Bikepacking Traverse of Iceland’s Interior

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On August 23, 2020, after a cycle 250 miles in the geographical heart of Iceland, Chris Burkard faced the possibility of its first major hurdle in their journey through one of the sections most remote land on Earth .

If he and his fellow four riders stuck to its original route along the north side of the glacier Hofsjökull third largest glacier and the largest active volcano in the country they’d have to cross a deep glacial river was impassable just a week before . They could play it safe and use a solution, but that would add more than 60 miles to a walk that was already mapped out to cover about 560 miles in eight days.

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Burkard decided to take the risk. “The risk is crucial for everything,” he explains. “The risk is what creates uncertainty; uncertainty is what creates growth. I need something to be very dangerous, but you need to have some potential failure so it can grow as a person. ”

Chris Burkard carrying his bike and gear across a river.
Chris Burkard carrying his bike and gear across a river. Courtesy Image

Finding a New Way to Connect to Iceland

Burkard is no stranger to this type of scenario. As recognized abroad, surf and travel photographer who is traveling waves in Iwanai, Japan; Hardman climbed famous Yosemite Offwidth circuit; and scuba dived off the coast of Mallorca, and that’s just scratching the surface of his adventures. This trip was his number 43 to Iceland, and one who decided to make racing last year in a race of 850 miles to circumnavigate the island (which occupies the fastest time known the beltway for cycling 844 miles: 52 hours , 36 minutes and 19 seconds).

“I ride a bike is trying to approach the landscapes I like a lot,” he explains. “It’s an exercise to feel small and connected to a place. All the time he was competing in that race, I was thinking, I know there is another route that takes you through the heart of this country. ”

When he returned home to California, he approached a cartographer who could help trace a route from the easternmost point of Iceland, Dalatangi, the Bjargtangar, the westernmost part of the country. “In my opinion, this is the most diverse geological landscape you could experience,” says Burkard. “It goes from fjords to the temperate rainforests flow to desert sand washes massive rock each type of surface you can think of.”

It would be a first ascent of all kinds; the first time anyone inside bikepacked through Iceland. “What made this so frightening path is that has never been done on the bike,” says Burkard. “There was so much unknown, to the point that could change day to day.”

Chris Burkard, Emily Batty, Adam Morka, and Eric Batty biking with glaciers in the background.

Chris Burkard, Emily Batty, Adam Morka, and Eric Batty biking with glaciers in the background. Courtesy Image

What It Takes to Ride Into the Heart of Europe’s Last Great Wilderness

In addition to the challenge of riding where no one has ridden before, Burkard is committed to completing the entire route without support. “My thought was, how can it really be subjected to this environment? How can we experience all? ” he says. While Iceland is a mecca for adventurers, most activities just dip your toes inside, trusting drive vehicles four wheels to take them to and from the coast.

Burkard; Eric Batty, a cyclist experienced Canadian expedition; his sister Emily, a two-time Olympic mountain bike cross country; Emily and husband Adam, a cyclist experienced mountain, carried all the equipment and food needed to complete the trip without any external support. (A cameraman and photographer of the expedition crew met occasionally to document the experience, but failed to replenish or any of their supplies).

“Iceland is one of the last great wildernesses of Europe, and moves through this landscape in a way that is human-powered shows what is really important,” says Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, while heavy could handle carry all the equipment needed for more than a week in the desert. “These bikes were 80 to 90 pounds, and you’re not just riding them, that is driving through rivers, are hiking up rocks with them, which is pushing through deep sections of sand,” says Burkard .

They were loaded with everything they need: Two chamois, three pairs of socks, jacket a single horse, boots, gloves, bags lightweight sleeping pads camping, and some clothing essential camp for change every day. “There were a lot of things that we use,” says Burkard. “But if I were to return, still bring all of it. Just in case.”

The team also had Swiftwater rescue training to navigate the dangerous currents glacial rivers, especially around Hofsjökull glacier, with its large and tilted so that creates hundreds of rivers meltwaters. “It was just a very complicated scenario; every river was like a chess game, “says Burkard.

Fortunately, on 23 August, the river Burkard feared would end his trip was acceptable fact. And so the quartet was able to hoist their bikes 80 pounds on your back and walk through the icy waters on their bike shoes. “Our feet were wet at 6 a.m. and wet for seven hours straight after that, “he says.

Burkard much they crave risk, such autosoportada expedition takes knowledge and preparation. “There is a matter of luck that goes into it, too,” says Burkard. “Obviously you can not control every element, especially in a landscape like Iceland, so you have to let go of that control a bit, but still be prepared for any scenario that might face.”

Chris Burkard and crew resting for the night before continuing on their traverse of Iceland.
Chris Burkard and crew resting for the night before continuing on their traverse of Iceland. Courtesy Image

Staying Connected While Off the Grid

While everything went as planned on this trip, there is a major drawback in most even their successful expeditions: It is the nature of their work is often Burkhard off and unattainable touch for those who you like best.

Burkard father of two children, however, their work constantly puts you in scenarios that are at best distance and at worst downright dangerous. That it does not make less than an involved parent, though. In fact, the more their appetite for risk has increased, more aware is the fact that their decisions affect more than just your life.

“There is absolutely things I said or not the things that I thought twice because of the potential risk involved,” he says. “I love what I do, but it becomes give people more love the opportunity to be your first priority.”

So much of the life of Burkard is trying to balance the risk of being a responsible parent. “I do not like that word, however: balance. It is impossible. You’re never gonna make it, “he says. “It is better to consider finding rhythm. Life has rhythm. Sometimes that undulates rhythm naturally and sometimes have to work harder to find. ”

It is an issue that has begun to explore in their work. Burkard recently released a documentary, Unnur on an Icelandic photographer, surfer and kayaker who rekindled his former passior for outdoor sharing with her daughter. He has also published a children’s book called The boy who spoke on earth, about a young boy making Earth where you can find happiness.

These projects are proof that even while engaged in travel to the farthest corners of the world, his family is not far from the mind. “They may not be physically with you, but they can be with you in thought,” he says. “I’m constantly looking for things that my children will be fed, and so it becomes a part of who I am.

I’m riding a bike, yes, but I’m also looking for a cold stone or a rock or a photograph of an animal because my son loves it. And when they text, when I have no service, I’m not like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, I saw this and I was thinking of you.’ And that really allows them to feel connected to what you are doing “.

That connection is so important to him, because, as any parent-waiting to instill the love of risk-taking in their children. “Do not try to force your children to think about things in the same way it does, or even to fall in love with surfing or bicycling or outdoors,” he explains. “I know we all have these dreams that we will go skiing off-piste or whatever with our children. I think what is expected of them is desensitized to the fear of these places. So go out is not afraid, not afraid. Of course, it might not work the courage to mount the double diamond black, but as long as they do not have the feeling that the world is a dangerous place, I think it fosters a sense of curiosity that can be worn on many aspects of his life “.

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