Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Swelling rivers and strong winds force our brave ultramarathon runners to change course

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Desolate beauty Robbie Britton on the last legs of his run across the Central Highlands. The team made the sensible decision of stopping and thinking, seek advice and then change their plans when they realized that in Iceland the natural elements have little respect for daredevils. Photo/Natalie White - Twitter.

Robbie Britton and James Elson, the English ultramarathon runners who are running across the Central Highlands were forced to back down and change course on Thursday. Swelling rivers and heavy winds convinced the two their original plan would not work out, as some had suspected all along.



Original plan discovered to be unworkable

The run has been an amazing adventure according to Robbie. The natural beauty of the Highlands is breathtaking, even in fog, heavy winds and rain, he assures us. But it can all become a little too much.

The two arrived along with their support team in the highland oasis Landmannalaugar on Thursday, from where they had planned to run south the Laugavegur trail to Þórsmörk, north of Eyjafjallajökull glacier. We at Iceland Magazine have been following the two since they set out in Akureyri, but became more involved in the trek earlier this week when Robbie enlisted us in an effort to figure out how the support team could get into Þórsmörk.

Read more: Interview with English ultramarathon runners on a foolhardy trek over the Central Highlands

The original plan had been for the two to finish their run along Laugavegurinn trail in the highland lodge at Básar in Þórsmörk. This plan involved the support team, which had followed the two runners on a 4x4, driving down to the ring road and then up into Þórsmörk. Which might have worked if they had been driving a large mountain truck or super-jeep, not a Suzuki Vitara. It would also have been a sensible plan earlier in the season, when the weather in the highlands is somewhat hospitable.

A last-minute back-up plan didn't survive the elements either
The solution we had hit upon was for a truck from Volcano Huts in Þórsmörk to pick the support team up at the first impassable river on the road to Þórsmörk, and drive the team with dry clothes to meet up with Robbie and James in Langidalur.

But, the elements pulverized this plan as well, as Robbie tells us:

"The Central Highlands were manageable but the Laugavegur has stopped us in our tracks. Getting to the first hut on the trail was not possible due to high winds pushing us to the floor and incoming cloud reducing our visibility to very little."

When the people at Volcano Huts inspected the rivers in Þórsmörk, which have been swelling due to heavy rains, that part of the plan was also shown to be unworkable.

"River Krossá river was too swollen for even him to make it across to pick us up in his jeep, let alone get Helga, our Suzuki Vitara, anywhere near it. The river crossings on the Laugavegur would also be huge, so getting stopped on the high points at the start was probably a blessing in disguise.“

A less pictoresque or adventurous, but far safer solution is found
Instead of running Laugavegurinn the two are now planning to take a safer, if somewhat longer and less scenit route along Road 26 down from Landmannalaugar to the ring road.

"We now have a monster of a day. 100-110km along Road 26, ending up at Hella, before we then make a break for the coast line. It won't be as pretty as the Laugavegur, but we should be able to make it to the finish without dying this way."

We at Iceland Magazine are pleased the two foolhardy adventurers didn‘t charge ahead, and stopped to assess conditions, seek help and advice and then revise their plans accordingly. This is what all travellers should regularly do in Iceland, especially when travelling in the highlands – or even when driving on the ring road and the weather begins to turn. Travelling in Iceland can be hazardous!

Robbie and James are not yet back to civilization and safety, and we‘ll keep you posted on their progress!



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