JOURNEYS WITH JOHN FALKINER
Land of contrasts, wild landscapes & unspoiled wilderness…10 weather changes in a day, black basalt cliffs plunging into the crashing swells of the North Atlantic, ridge after ridge of pristine white slopes stretching endlessly, perfect ski descents, a backdrop of dramatic deep blue fjords, the continual daylight of the Arctic sun. The place? The Troll Peninsula, North Iceland, 66 degrees north and only 50km south of the Arctic Circle. Every day a new adventure with endless valleys, slopes & peaks to explore, stunning views, and coupled with the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of its people, this truly is a ski touring paradise.
A typical touring day here usually involves a relaxed start with around 2-4 hours of skinning, sometimes spread over 2 ascents, and beautiful descents through a combination of perfect light powder and classic smooth spring corn snow due to Iceland’s maritime climate. After a scenic smooth skin and a little light refreshment, click your heels back in, cast a last glance over your shoulder at the magnificent views behind and lose yourself in a magical descent. The coastal peaks mostly range from 800m to 1000m in height, and some of the descents take you right down to the volcanic black sand beaches for lunch! The touring season begins in March and can continue well into June. Once off the hill, myriad thermal baths or hot tubs beckon to relax the aching limbs…
Guided by John Falkiner, IFMGA mountain guide, who takes people ski touring all over the world, and particularly loves more unusual mountain areas with interesting cultures, we explored many different areas of this beautiful region. Jökull Bergmann, Iceland’s first IFMGA certified mountain guide, who offers mountaineering, skiing and outdoor adventures throughout the country, organised our logistics and shared his knowledge and insight into this beautiful region that is his home.
We stayed at Brimnes Hotel & Cabins in Ólafsfjörður, run by the wonderful Asta & her team. Known to us as the Laughing Lady, her friendly smile & warmth is infectious. Accommodation is in Finnish style log bungalows, all with a hot tub on the veranda, as well as en-suite double rooms in the hotel. We dined deliciously on lamb, beef, saltfish, gravadlax & salmon, and breakfast is a fantastic smorgasbord with sandwich-making facilities for packed lunches. Asta kindly treated us to the local delicacy hákarl – shark’s flesh that has been buried to rot for some months then cut into strips and hung to dry for a few more! About as unpalatable as it sounds, one cube is probably enough, and is best washed down with a shot of the local spirit, Brennivin (Burning Wine!)
We also stayed a few days at the beautiful, tranquil farmstead of Skeið, inland from Dalvik with the warm, welcoming Myrian and her lovely family in their delightful home. The fresh home-cooking was a joy to return to after a bracing day in the hills, and we felt so welcome that we didn’t want to leave!
According to legend, the last Troll in Iceland was slain in a cave, deep inside the rugged mountains of the Troll Peninsula and this land of elves, fairies and trolls is a magical place to spend time. If the weather proves too unkind to ski, there is much to explore in this area between the sea inlets of Eyjafjörður and Skagafjörður, including the enchanting fishing ports of Siglufjörður and Hofsós, the Herring Era Museum, the turf houses at Glaumbær, and the enchanting sight of Icelandic horses with their intriguing 5-beat gait enabling them to almost fly across the ground!