Getting strong in Iceland

I departed for the isle of fire and ice on 18 July, laden with 18kg of tent, clothes and work boots set for a six week volunteering stint in Thórsmörk and Goaland, Southern Iceland.

I decided to volunteer with the trail team before I had signed up for the Arctic expedition. I did wonder if I should and could do both trips but was swayed due to the chief scientist for the expedition being in Reykjavik and thought living in a tent for six weeks would be good practice for the Arctic as I was not a fan of camping.

So what have I been doing out here? For the past four weeks I have been working Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm helping to maintain the hiking trails. My job includes re-routing paths, widening footpaths, making drains on the mountain top to limit erosion, putting in stone steps (including traipsing the mountains for the stones), GPS mapping and re-turfing erosion scars. My daily tools have been a rock bar, a spade, a rake, a sledgehammer, a rock hammer and a bucket… All of which have to be carried up the mountain side. This is somewhat different to my usual tools of a PC, pen and paper!

My volunteering stint has given me a good base fitness and a good amount of arm strength. I now have notable arm muscles …. And a solid foundation to work on in the run up to the Arctic expedition in February 2015 when I’ll be dragging my own body weight across the Arctic sea ice. I’ve also started to love the tent which has been an added bonus.

The Icelandic weather has been great preparation too; I’ve been working in sunshine, fog, pouring rain, howling winds and have slept in conditions between -2’c and 14’c. The weather is erratic here, one day I saw 5 rainbows.

I’ve two weeks left before I go back to my desk and start my London life again. I’ll miss Iceland when I am gone but for now I sit in the rain, on my day off wondering when my clothes are going to dry. There is a lot to be said for a simple life :-).

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