Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


German "adventurers" rescued in highlands: Too many travelers ignore advice, common sense

By Staff

  • Failed adventure The German hikers were planning to cross the Central Highlands on skis. Photo/

The Coast Guard had to send a helicopter into the Central Highlands to rescue two German hikers yesterday afternoon. The men were in distress near Hofsjökull glacier and were unable to either continue their hike or return safely from the highlands. A severe weather alert was in effect for the Central Highlands, and numerous weather alerts have been issued for the Central Highlands in recent weeks.

Police says it is far too common to see foreign travellers ignore advice by police and locals and embark upon trips which are dangerous and defy common sense. This is the second time this winter that the Coast Guard has to rescue hikers in the same region. In both cases the hikers in question had received numerous warnings from locals that they should abandon their trip.

Thought common sense, warnings didn't apply to them
The two German hikers had intended to walk across the Central Highlands on skis. According to the National Broadcasting Service the men had been told by locals that the trip was dangerous and that it was unlikely they would make it. Police in the town of Akureyri in North Iceland had also told the men they should scrap their plan. A weather warning had been issued for the Central Highlands.

Read more: Poorly equipped hiker rescued after getting lost attempting to cross Fimmvörðuháls pass

A spokesman for the Coast Guard told RÚV that it should be possible to avoid needless emergencies like this one:

"At this time of year, and based on the weather forecast it should have been obvious that conditions did not permit a trip like this. It is not good people are attempting these sorts of hikes, and we have far too often had to rescue hikers who are embarking on these sorts of trips, despite warnings. This sort of behavior makes you wonder."

Despite having been warned by both locals and the Police the men nevertheless decided to go ahead with their "adventure".

Gave up less than 2 days into the hike
The men made it deep into the highlands before they finally admitted they had bitten off more than they could chew. They were about 20 km (12.4 mi) from Laugafell, Near Hofsjökull glacier when they finally called for rescue. They had retreated into their tent, but the storm and wet snow had battered the tent, which was dripping wet. According to the local news site Vísir the men "feared the storm would blow the tent away." 

The Coast Guard sent a rescue helicopter to fetch the men, but due to the extreme conditions in the area the pilots were unable to get a visual on the hikers. Members of ICE-SAR companies in North Iceland were therefore also called out to approach the men on foot. More than 100 ICE-SAR members participated in the rescue. 

According to the local newspaper Morgunblaðið it took the Coast Guard four hours to reach the men. Visibility in the area was extremely limited due to blizzard and blowing snow. After the helicopter had managed to locate the men the ICE-SAR units were called off.

The men were unharmed and were taken to the hospital in Akureyri. The local newspaper Morgunblaðið reports that it two men were extremely grateful for their rescue.

Icelandic conditions are difficult and dangerous
While we at Iceland Magazine are relieved nobody was seriously injured in the operation, we also hope that the two "adventurers" have learned their lesson, and that others who might be tempted to follow in their footsteps stop and think about what they are doing. The members of ICE-SAR are all volunteers, and the operations of ICE-SAR are fully funded with donations by locals.

Read more: Attempt by group of British adventurers to cross the Central Highlands unassisted ends with rescue by Coast Guard helicopter

If you embark upon a reckless trip despite warnings and common sense, you are not only endagering your own life. You are also wasting resources and the time of volunteers who could either be spending time with their families or responding to other emergencies. 

This is not the first time foreign "adventurers" have to be rescued in the winter in Iceland, and it should serve as a reminder that Icelandic conditions can easily overwhelm people with some experience in hiking. 


Related content

Editor's Picks