Chris Burkard Completes Bikepacking Traverse of Iceland’s Inside


On August 23, 2020, after biking 250 miles into the geographical coronary heart of Iceland, Chris Burkard confronted the potential for his first main impediment in his traverse throughout one of the crucial distant stretches of land on Earth.

If he and his 4 fellow riders caught to their unique route across the north aspect of Hofsjökull glacier—the third largest glacier and the most important lively volcano within the nation—they’d need to cross a deep glacial river that was impassable only a week earlier. They might play it secure and use a workaround, however that might add over 60 miles to a journey that was already mapped out to cowl round 560 miles in eight days.

Burkard determined to take the danger. “Danger is essential to all the things,” he explains. “Danger is what creates uncertainty; uncertainty is what creates progress. I don’t want one thing to be tremendous harmful, however I do want it to have some potential for failure in order that I can develop as an individual.”

Chris Burkard Carrying His Bike And Gear Across A River.
Chris Burkard carrying his bike and kit throughout a river. Burkard Studio

Discovering a New Method to Hook up with Iceland

Burkard is not any stranger to those sorts of eventualities. As a famend out of doors, surf, and journey photographer, he’s ridden waves in Iwanai, Japan; scaled Yosemite’s famed Hardman Offwidth Circuit; and scuba dived off the coast of Mallorca—and that’s barely skimming the floor of his adventures. This journey was his 43rd to Iceland, and one he determined to make whereas competing the earlier yr in an 850-mile race that circumnavigated the island (he really holds the quickest recognized time for biking the 844-mile ring street: 52 hours, 36 minutes, and 19 seconds).

“Me driving bikes is simply attempting to get nearer to the landscapes I actually get pleasure from,” he explains. “It’s an train in feeling small and linked to a spot. The entire time I used to be competing in that race, I saved considering, I do know there’s one other route on the market that takes you thru the guts of this nation.”

When he returned residence to California, he reached out to a cartographer who might assist map a route from the eastern-most level of Iceland, in Dalatangi, to the Bjargtangar, the western-most a part of the nation. “In my thoughts, that is essentially the most numerous geological panorama you might ever expertise,” says Burkard. “You progress from fjords to temperate rainforests to desert-like large lava flows to sand to rock—each kind of floor you might think about.”

It might be a primary ascent, of types; the primary time anybody bikepacked throughout Iceland’s inside. “What made this route so terrifying is that it’s by no means been carried out on bike,” says Burkard. “There was a lot unknown, a lot that would change day after 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 within the background. Burkard Studio

What It Takes to Trip Into the Coronary heart of Europe’s Final Nice Wilderness

Along with the problem of driving the place nobody has ridden earlier than, Burkard was commited to finishing all the route unsupported. “My thought was, how can we actually be subjected to this surroundings? How can we expertise all the things?” he says. Whereas Iceland is a mecca for adventurers, most actions merely dip their toes into the inside, counting on four-wheel drive autos to deliver them to and from the coast.

Burkard; Eric Batty, a Canadian bicycle owner with expedition expertise; his sister Emily, a two-time Olympic cross-country mountain biker; and Emily’s husband Adam, an skilled mountain biker, carried all the gear and meals they wanted to finish the journey with none exterior assist. (A videographer and expedition photographer did meet up with the crew infrequently to doc the expertise, however they didn’t carry or replenish any of their provides).

“Iceland is one in all Europe’s final nice wildernesses, and shifting by this panorama in a means that’s human-powered exhibits you what’s actually essential,” says Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, which—whereas heavy—might deal with carrying all of the gear they wanted for greater than per week within the wilderness. “These bikes had been 80 to 90 kilos, and also you’re not simply driving them, you’re carrying them throughout rivers, you’re mountain climbing up rocks with them, you’re pushing them throughout deep sections of sand,” says Burkard.

They usually had been loaded down with all the things they may want: two chamois, three pairs of socks, one driving jacket, booties, gloves, light-weight sleeping baggage, tenting pads, and a few important camp clothes to vary into every day. “There have been numerous issues we didn’t use,” says Burkard. “But when I had been going again, I’d nonetheless deliver all of it. Simply in case.”

The workforce additionally had swiftwater rescue coaching to navigate the damaging currents within the glacial rivers, particularly round Hofsjökull glacier, with its giant, sloping form that creates tons of of rivers of meltwaters. “It was only a actually sophisticated state of affairs; each river was like a chess sport,” says Burkard.

Happily, on August 23, the river Burkard feared may finish their journey was certainly satisfactory. And so the quartet was in a position to hoist their 80-pound bikes onto their again and wade by the frigid waters of their bike footwear. “Our toes had been moist by 6 a.m., and moist for seven hours straight after that,” he says.

As a lot as Burkard craves threat, this sort of self-supported expedition takes data and preparation. “There’s a matter of luck that goes into it, too,” says Burkard. “You clearly can’t management each factor, particularly in a panorama like Iceland, so it’s important to let go of that management slightly bit however nonetheless be ready for each form of state of affairs you may face.”

Chris Burkard And Crew Resting For The Night Before Continuing On Their Traverse Of Iceland.
Chris Burkard and crew resting for the night time earlier than persevering with on their traverse of Iceland. Burkard Studio

Staying Related Whereas Off the Grid

Whereas all the things went in line with plan on this journey, there’s one main disadvantage to even his most profitable expeditions: It’s the character of his job that Burkhard is commonly out of contact and unreachable to these he loves most.

Burkard is a father of two, but his job always places him in eventualities which can be at finest distant and at worst downright harmful. That doesn’t make him any much less of an concerned dad or mum, although. In reality, the extra his urge for food for threat has elevated, the extra cognizant he’s of the truth that his selections have an effect on extra than simply his life.

“There are completely issues I’ve stated no to or issues that I’ve thought twice about due to the potential threat concerned,” he says. “I really like what I do, but it surely turns into about giving the folks you’re keen on most the chance to be your first precedence.”

So an enormous a part of Burkard’s life is attempting to steadiness threat with being a accountable dad or mum. “I hate that phrase, although: steadiness. It’s unimaginable. You’re by no means going to realize it,” he says. “It’s higher to contemplate discovering rhythm. Life has rhythm. Generally that rhythm undulates naturally, and typically it’s important to work more durable to seek out it.”

It’s a subject he’s began exploring in his work. Burkard just lately launched a documentary movie, Unnur, about an Icelandic photographer, surfer, and former kayaker who reignited his passior for the outside by sharing it together with his daughter. He’s additionally revealed a kids’s ebook known as The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth, a few younger boy who asks the Earth the place he can discover happiness.

These initiatives are proof that even whereas he’s touring to the farthest corners of the world, his household isn’t removed from thoughts. “They might not be bodily with you, however they are often with you in thought,” he says. “I’m in search of issues always that my youngsters are going to be stoked on, and in order that turns into part of who I’m. I’m driving my bike, sure, however I’m additionally in search of a cool stone or a rock or {a photograph} of an animal as a result of my child loves that stuff. And once I textual content them, once I do have service, I’m not identical to, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, I noticed this and I used to be desirous about you.’ And that basically permits them to really feel linked to what you’re doing.”

That connection is so essential to him, as a result of—like several dad or mum—he hopes to instill the love of taking dangers in his youngsters. “It’s not about forcing your youngsters to consider issues the identical means you do, and even to fall in love with browsing or biking or the outside,” he explains. “I do know all of us have these goals that we’re going to go backcountry snowboarding or no matter with our children. I believe that what we hope for is to desensitize them to the worry of those locations. In order that going outdoors will not be fearful and never scary. Granted, they won’t work up the braveness to journey the double black diamond, however so long as they don’t have that feeling that the world is a scary place, I believe that fosters a way of curiosity that may be carried into so many elements of their life.”

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