In Slovenia, while grieving the unexpected loss of my close friend Jure, I felt lost and empty. However, I wanted to honor his legacy, support his family, and find closure. Thus, I came up with the idea of climbing six mountains in one day, each one representing one of Jure's documentaries. Rožle, who had worked with Jure on a documentary previously, and a team of Icelanders, introduced me to Aleš Česen, and we embarked on the project together. The experience of honoring our friend's memory and supporting his family created a strong bond between us. Years later, I proposed an adventure in Iceland to Aleš and Rožle. Together, we explored a new side of Iceland, engaging in outdoor activities along the way, and strengthening our precious friendship.
We planned our trip with simplicity, despite its complexity, agreeing on an itinerary and necessary equipment, and allowing our moods and the weather to guide us. Though the weather was unpromising, we were determined to begin our adventure exploring the East Fjords, a region I had never visited in winter. In "The Fjord Town" of Borgafjörður Eystri, we soaked in the beauty of the surrounding mountains. We continued our drive along the south coast, stopping to explore a glacier lagoon and ice cave before reaching Hofn for the night. A mountain pass was closed due to a storm, so we took our time exploring the East Fjords, encountering reindeer and visiting lighthouses. Once the pass to Borgafjordur Eystri was cleared, we crossed it in my Jeep Rubicon 4x4 and arrived at our home for the next few days, the Blábjörg Guesthouse.
Freedom and solitude
The Blábjörg Guesthouse, with its breathtaking surroundings, was the perfect base for our adventure. Our apartment had ample space to organize our equipment and work on trip content. We gathered to assess the weather conditions and spotted a narrow window of good weather the next day in one part of the fjord. Utilizing our knowledge of Iceland's microclimates, we began to explore the remote fjord early the following day.
We set out on our skis, feeling free and alone in the remote parts of Iceland. Our close bond strengthened as we journeyed together, not just in search of perfect skiing conditions, but for the pure joy of being present in the moment. During our tour, we observed the terrain and noticed the effects of the storm, gathering valuable information for our plans. As we skinned up gentle slopes, scrambled over ridges, and skied down into the valleys, we relished in the raw beauty of our surroundings. Seven hours flew by and we returned to our guesthouse, fulfilled and satisfied. Despite the approaching storm, we were content with our incredible day on the slopes.
In the evening, as we headed out to explore in the midst of the storm, the fresh snow energized us. We ventured down a mountain road to experience the changing conditions at the blue hour, just after sunset. The winds had loaded 30cm of fresh powder, creating the perfect conditions for skiing. We toured around mellow terrain, skiing while we still had light.
As we drove back to the guesthouse, we reminisced about our magical day and how amazing these conditions were. Suddenly, I remembered a technique I was taught for skiing - being towed behind a vehicle with skis on. Aleš and Rožle were on the rope, and I drove and plowed through the fresh snow. We had another hour of unforgettable skiing in Borgarfjörður Eystri.
Towards the north
We fueled up, got some groceries, and said goodbye to Blábjörg Guesthouse for now. The storm was forecasted to get calmer in the north of Iceland towards the evening, and we wanted to take advantage of it and use the car as a base, as it is fitted with a four-person roof tent.
During our journey north, we quickly realized that the storm had closed off all roads connecting the two parts of Iceland. However, we held out hope that the roads would open once the storm subsided. After waiting at the base of the road closure for a few hours, we were given the green light to continue our journey north.
Due to bitter cold and poor skiing conditions, we opted for ice climbing the next day at a dramatic location with views over the bay of Húsavík. The 15 kilometer snowy drive was challenging, but we made it to the base by the ocean for a memorable campsite. The following morning was calm and perfect for climbing, and we had an unforgettable experience climbing over breaking waves. After capturing amazing shots and completing some good climbs, we met up with friends for an off-road adventure.
Change of plan
Since conditions weren't in our favor in the north, we decided to attempt to cross the Icelandic highlands from north to south with our friends, stopping by the beautiful mountain range called Kerlingafjöll to ski there. It took us the whole day to cross the mountain road called Kjölur, but we were rewarded with remote, beautiful landscapes and perfect driving conditions. We arrived at Kerlingafjöll just before sunset and found an amazing camp location to set up for our skiing adventure the following day. We were greeted with an incredible display of the northern lights, despite the severe cold (-20C) and strong winds that made camp life challenging.
Waking up the following day with a clear sky made it all worth it. It was a beautiful day to go exploring. With skis on our backs and crampons on our boots, we set off for the highest peak of Kerlingafjöll. The mountains are geothermal areas and a volcano system located in the central highlands. Steam was coming out of the ground in valleys surrounding us. It was a surreal experience to witness the contrasts of heat and cold all around. Topping out provided us with a view of the central highlands, and more importantly, we got a view of the conditions for our dream plan to traverse further east in the highlands and get to my family mountain hut. The conditions looked great, and the cold temperatures were creating ice bridges over the rivers on our path towards the hut.
After summiting and taking a moment of silence to meditate, we were ready to enjoy our rewards from the climb and enjoy skiing. As we removed our skins, clipped in our boots, and started skiing, we felt the speed, turns, and crusty snow under our skis. Geothermal steam, sun, views, the wind on our faces, smiles, and laughter. It was an exhilarating experience and felt like skiing on the edge of the world. Although it wasn't a long slope or the best skiing conditions, we were together, experiencing this magical world called Iceland, and it needed to be celebrated.
As a child, I learned the tradition of having a lamb BBQ during mountain trips from my grandparents. We made sure to leave no trace in the untouched wilderness while cooking the lamb, and sharing the experience with friends brought us closer. During dinner, we joked that seeing the Northern Lights would make our perfect day even more perfect. To our surprise, we witnessed an incredible display of the Aurora Borealis right after finishing our meal. We were left in awe of nature's beauty and realized that embracing it with an open heart is the only way to truly appreciate it.
Grandfather's mountain hut
We still had a long way to go before finishing our Infinite Circle expedition in remote parts of Iceland. But we were drawn to my family's mountain hut to take a break and reflect on our experiences. The weather was calm, but heavy snowfall and zero visibility made driving on the frozen terrain a unique and challenging experience. With the help of GPS tracks from a previous trip, we took our time and made it safely to the hut.
The hut, built by my grandfather and his brothers 40 years ago, is a simple place with just a fireplace for warmth, water from a nearby spring, and electricity from a small solar panel. But it's my absolute favorite place in the world, and the perfect spot for us to reflect on our journey together. We talked about how unique our friendship is, and how even during tough times, the world has a way of helping us heal. We embraced the memory of Jure and how he connected us in a way made this experience happen years later. By respecting each other and nature, we find true fulfillment and happiness. The time we spent in the hut was the perfect ending to our Infinite Circle adventure.