Chris Burkard Completes Bikepacking Traverse of Iceland’s Interior

On August 23, 2020, right after biking 250 miles into the geographical heart of Iceland, Chris Burkard confronted the probability of his initial key impediment in his traverse across a person of the most distant stretches of land on Earth.

If he and his 4 fellow riders caught to their unique route all around the north aspect of Hofsjökull glacier—the 3rd largest glacier and the largest active volcano in the country—they’d have to cross a deep glacial river that was impassable just a 7 days before. They could play it safe and use a workaround, but that would increase over sixty miles to a trip that was previously mapped out to cover all around 560 miles in eight times.

Burkard determined to get the chance. “Risk is very important to almost everything,” he explains. “Risk is what creates uncertainty uncertainty is what creates progress. I never need to have a little something to be super unsafe, but I do need to have it to have some likely for failure so that I can grow as a human being.”

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

Finding a New Way to Hook up to Iceland

Burkard is no stranger to these varieties of eventualities. As a renowned outside, surf, and vacation photographer, he’s ridden waves in Iwanai, Japan scaled Yosemite’s famed Hardman Offwidth Circuit and scuba dived off the coast of Mallorca—and that is scarcely skimming the surface area of his adventures. This trip was his forty third to Iceland, and a person he determined to make though competing the previous yr in an 850-mile race that circumnavigated the island (he essentially holds the speediest recognised time for biking the 844-mile ring street: 52 hrs, 36 minutes, and 19 seconds).

“Me using bikes is just attempting to get nearer to the landscapes I genuinely get pleasure from,” he explains. “It’s an physical exercise in emotion smaller and related to a location. The full time I was competing in that race, I saved imagining, I know there’s a further route out there that normally takes you as a result of the heart of this region.”

When he returned dwelling to California, he attained out to a cartographer who could aid map a route from the eastern-most stage of Iceland, in Dalatangi, to the Bjargtangar, the western-most part of the region. “In my thoughts, this is the most assorted geological landscape you could ever working experience,” suggests Burkard. “You shift from fjords to temperate rainforests to desert-like substantial lava flows to sand to rock—every type of surface area you could think about.”

It would be a initial ascent, of sorts the initial time anyone bikepacked across Iceland’s inside. “What created this route so terrifying is that it’s never been finished on bike,” suggests Burkard. “There was so a lot mysterious, so a lot that could transform 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 Graphic

What It Will take to Ride Into the Heart of Europe’s Final Fantastic Wilderness

In addition to the problem of using where no a person has ridden just before, Burkard was commited to finishing the total route unsupported. “My considered was, how can we genuinely be subjected to this setting? How can we working experience almost everything?” he suggests. Though Iceland is a mecca for adventurers, most activities merely dip their toes into the inside, relying on 4-wheel push vehicles to convey them to and from the coast.

Burkard Eric Batty, a Canadian bicycle owner with expedition working experience his sister Emily, a two-time Olympic cross-region mountain biker and Emily’s husband Adam, an knowledgeable mountain biker, carried all of the gear and food they necessary to finish the trip with out any exterior aid. (A videographer and expedition photographer did meet up with the crew from time to time to document the working experience, but they didn’t have or replenish any of their materials).

“Iceland is a person of Europe’s very last great wildernesses, and relocating as a result of this landscape in a way that is human-run shows you what’s genuinely crucial,” suggests Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, which—while heavy—could take care of carrying all the gear they necessary for extra than a 7 days in the wilderness. “These bikes had been 80 to 90 pounds, and you’re not just using them, you’re carrying them across rivers, you’re climbing up rocks with them, you’re pushing them across deep sections of sand,” suggests Burkard.

And they had been loaded down with almost everything they may well need to have: two chamois, a few pairs of socks, a person using jacket, booties, gloves, light-weight sleeping luggage, camping pads, and some essential camp apparel to transform into each and every day. “There had been a large amount of matters we didn’t use,” suggests Burkard. “But if I had been likely again, I would still convey all of it. Just in circumstance.”

The workforce also experienced swiftwater rescue schooling to navigate the unsafe currents in the glacial rivers, in particular all around Hofsjökull glacier, with its significant, sloping condition that creates hundreds of rivers of meltwaters. “It was just a genuinely difficult circumstance each river was like a chess match,” suggests Burkard.

Fortunately, on August 23, the river Burkard feared may well conclusion their trip was in fact passable. And so the quartet was equipped to hoist their 80-pound bikes on to their again and wade as a result of the frigid waters in their bike sneakers. “Our feet had been damp by 6 a.m., and damp for seven hrs straight right after that,” he suggests.

As a lot as Burkard craves chance, this kind of self-supported expedition normally takes information and preparation. “There’s a issue of luck that goes into it, too,” suggests Burkard. “You clearly can’t manage each aspect, in particular in a landscape like Iceland, so you have to let go of that manage a minor bit but still be ready for each kind of circumstance you may well facial area.”

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

Keeping Linked Though Off the Grid

Though almost everything went in accordance to approach on this trip, there’s a person key drawback to even his most prosperous expeditions: It’s the mother nature of his occupation that Burkhard is normally out of contact and unreachable to those he loves most.

Burkard is a father of two, but his occupation continuously puts him in eventualities that are at greatest distant and at worst downright unsafe. That doesn’t make him any significantly less of an concerned parent, however. In point, the extra his appetite for chance has increased, the extra cognizant he is of the point that his conclusions have an affect on extra than just his daily life.

“There are definitely matters I have explained no to or matters that I have considered 2 times about because of the likely chance concerned,” he suggests. “I enjoy what I do, but it turns into about supplying the individuals you enjoy most the prospect to be your initial priority.”

So a large part of Burkard’s daily life is attempting to equilibrium chance with being a liable parent. “I hate that word, however: equilibrium. It’s unattainable. You’re never likely to reach it,” he suggests. “It’s improved to contemplate getting rhythm. Daily life has rhythm. At times that rhythm undulates normally, and sometimes you have to perform more difficult to locate it.”

It’s a matter he’s started out checking out in his perform. Burkard not too long ago unveiled a documentary film, Unnur, about an Icelandic photographer, surfer, and previous kayaker who reignited his passior for the outdoors by sharing it with his daughter. He’s also published a children’s reserve termed The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth, about a young boy who asks the Earth where he can locate happiness.

People assignments are evidence that even though he’s touring to the farthest corners of the globe, his family isn’t much from thoughts. “They may possibly not be bodily with you, but they can be with you in considered,” he suggests. “I’m seeking for matters continuously that my kids are likely to be stoked on, and so that turns into a part of who I am. I’m using my bike, certainly, but I’m also seeking for a neat stone or a rock or a photograph of an animal because my child loves that things. And when I textual content them, when I do have support, I’m not just like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, I saw this and I was imagining about you.’ And that genuinely will allow them to truly feel related to what you’re executing.”

That link is so crucial to him, because—like any parent—he hopes to instill the enjoy of taking pitfalls in his kids. “It’s not about forcing your kids to think about matters the very same way you do, or even to fall in enjoy with surfing or biking or the outdoors,” he explains. “I know we all have these goals that we are likely to go backcountry skiing or what ever with our kids. I think that what we hope for is to desensitize them to the worry of these destinations. So that likely outdoors is not fearful and not scary. Granted, they may well not perform up the braveness to trip the double black diamond, but as very long as they never have that emotion that the globe is a scary location, I think that fosters a perception of curiosity that can be carried into so numerous features of their daily life.”


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