Chris Burkard Completes Bikepacking Traverse of Iceland’s Interior

On August 23, 2020, after biking 250 miles into the geographical coronary heart of Iceland,

On August 23, 2020, after biking 250 miles into the geographical coronary heart of Iceland, Chris Burkard confronted the possibility of his initially significant impediment in his traverse across a single of the most distant stretches of land on Earth.

If he and his 4 fellow riders caught to their primary route all around the north side of Hofsjökull glacier—the 3rd premier glacier and the premier energetic volcano in the country—they’d have to cross a deep glacial river that was impassable just a week before. They could engage in it harmless and use a workaround, but that would insert above 60 miles to a ride that was by now mapped out to go over all around 560 miles in 8 times.

Burkard resolved to acquire the danger. “Risk is vital to all the things,” he explains. “Risk is what generates uncertainty uncertainty is what generates advancement. I really do not need to have a thing to be tremendous unsafe, but I do need to have it to have some probable for failure so that I can improve as a particular person.”

Chris Burkard carrying his bike and gear across a river.
Chris Burkard carrying his bicycle and gear across a river. Courtesy Picture

Finding a New Way to Link to Iceland

Burkard is no stranger to these forms of situations. As a renowned outside, surf, and journey photographer, he’s ridden waves in Iwanai, Japan scaled Yosemite’s famed Hardman Offwidth Circuit and scuba dived off the coastline of Mallorca—and that is barely skimming the floor of his adventures. This journey was his forty third to Iceland, and a single he resolved to make when competing the past year in an 850-mile race that circumnavigated the island (he actually holds the quickest recognized time for biking the 844-mile ring street: 52 several hours, 36 minutes, and 19 seconds).

“Me driving bikes is just striving to get closer to the landscapes I definitely delight in,” he explains. “It’s an workout in feeling modest and linked to a place. The full time I was competing in that race, I retained thinking, I know there is an additional route out there that can take you by way of the coronary heart of this place.”

When he returned household to California, he attained out to a cartographer who could assist map a route from the japanese-most point of Iceland, in Dalatangi, to the Bjargtangar, the western-most component of the place. “In my thoughts, this is the most various geological landscape you could ever experience,” states Burkard. “You transfer from fjords to temperate rainforests to desert-like large lava flows to sand to rock—every kind of floor you could visualize.”

It would be a initially ascent, of kinds the initially time any individual bikepacked across Iceland’s interior. “What manufactured this route so terrifying is that it’s under no circumstances been completed on bicycle,” states Burkard. “There was so significantly not known, so significantly that could adjust working day to working day.”

Chris Burkard, Emily Batty, Adam Morka, and Eric Batty biking with glaciers in the background.
Chris Burkard, Emily Batty, Adam Morka, and Eric Batty biking with glaciers in the qualifications. Courtesy Picture

What It Can take to Experience Into the Heart of Europe’s Final Good Wilderness

In addition to the challenge of driving where no a single has ridden before, Burkard was commited to finishing the complete route unsupported. “My assumed was, how can we definitely be subjected to this setting? How can we experience all the things?” he states. Whilst Iceland is a mecca for adventurers, most pursuits basically dip their toes into the interior, relying on 4-wheel push autos to bring them to and from the coastline.

Burkard Eric Batty, a Canadian cyclist with expedition experience his sister Emily, a two-time Olympic cross-place mountain biker and Emily’s partner Adam, an skilled mountain biker, carried all of the gear and meals they required to full the journey without having any exterior help. (A videographer and expedition photographer did satisfy up with the crew from time to time to doc the experience, but they didn’t carry or replenish any of their materials).

“Iceland is a single of Europe’s previous good wildernesses, and going by way of this landscape in a way that is human-run reveals you what’s definitely important,” states Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, which—while heavy—could take care of carrying all the gear they required for far more than a week in the wilderness. “These bikes have been eighty to ninety lbs, and you are not just driving them, you are carrying them across rivers, you are climbing up rocks with them, you are pushing them across deep sections of sand,” states Burkard.

And they have been loaded down with all the things they may need to have: two chamois, three pairs of socks, a single driving jacket, booties, gloves, light-weight sleeping bags, tenting pads, and some necessary camp clothes to adjust into every single working day. “There have been a lot of items we didn’t use,” states Burkard. “But if I have been likely again, I would even now bring all of it. Just in situation.”

The group also had swiftwater rescue coaching to navigate the unsafe currents in the glacial rivers, particularly all around Hofsjökull glacier, with its big, sloping form that generates hundreds of rivers of meltwaters. “It was just a definitely challenging situation each and every river was like a chess activity,” states Burkard.

Thankfully, on August 23, the river Burkard feared may conclusion their journey was without a doubt passable. And so the quartet was in a position to hoist their eighty-pound bikes on to their again and wade by way of the frigid waters in their bicycle footwear. “Our feet have been moist by 6 a.m., and moist for 7 several hours straight after that,” he states.

As significantly as Burkard craves danger, this kind of self-supported expedition can take expertise and planning. “There’s a make a difference of luck that goes into it, too,” states Burkard. “You certainly just can’t handle each and every ingredient, particularly in a landscape like Iceland, so you have to allow go of that handle a small little bit but even now be ready for each and every kind of situation you may experience.”

Chris Burkard and crew resting for the night before continuing on their traverse of Iceland.
Chris Burkard and crew resting for the night before continuing on their traverse of Iceland. Courtesy Picture

Remaining Linked Whilst Off the Grid

Whilst all the things went according to system on this journey, there is a single significant downside to even his most successful expeditions: It is the mother nature of his job that Burkhard is typically out of touch and unreachable to these he loves most.

Burkard is a father of two, still his job consistently places him in situations that are at ideal distant and at worst downright unsafe. That doesn’t make him any less of an involved parent, although. In fact, the far more his urge for food for danger has increased, the far more cognizant he is of the fact that his conclusions impact far more than just his lifetime.

“There are unquestionably items I’ve claimed no to or items that I’ve assumed twice about for the reason that of the probable danger involved,” he states. “I really like what I do, but it will become about offering the people you really like most the chance to be your initially precedence.”

So a huge component of Burkard’s lifetime is striving to stability danger with remaining a liable parent. “I detest that word, although: stability. It is impossible. You’re under no circumstances likely to reach it,” he states. “It’s far better to think about acquiring rhythm. Everyday living has rhythm. In some cases that rhythm undulates obviously, and often you have to operate harder to obtain it.”

It is a matter he’s started off checking out in his operate. Burkard not too long ago launched a documentary film, Unnur, about an Icelandic photographer, surfer, and previous kayaker who reignited his passior for the outdoor by sharing it with his daughter. He’s also published a children’s e book named The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth, about a youthful boy who asks the Earth where he can obtain happiness.

Those people initiatives are evidence that even when he’s touring to the farthest corners of the environment, his household is not much from thoughts. “They may perhaps not be bodily with you, but they can be with you in assumed,” he states. “I’m looking for items consistently that my young ones are likely to be stoked on, and so that will become a component of who I am. I’m driving my bicycle, indeed, but I’m also looking for a amazing stone or a rock or a photograph of an animal for the reason that my child loves that things. And when I textual content them, when I do have services, I’m not just like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, I saw this and I was thinking about you.’ And that definitely will allow them to sense linked to what you are executing.”

That relationship is so important to him, because—like any parent—he hopes to instill the really like of using risks in his young ones. “It’s not about forcing your young ones to believe about items the similar way you do, or even to slide in really like with surfing or biking or the outdoor,” he explains. “I know we all have these desires that we are likely to go backcountry skiing or whatever with our young ones. I believe that what we hope for is to desensitize them to the worry of these areas. So that likely outside is not fearful and not frightening. Granted, they may not operate up the braveness to ride the double black diamond, but as extensive as they really do not have that feeling that the environment is a frightening place, I believe that fosters a sense of curiosity that can be carried into so numerous features of their lifetime.”


For accessibility to exclusive gear videos, movie star interviews, and far more, subscribe on YouTube!