Chris Burkard on the First Bike Traverse of Iceland’s Inside

On August 23, 2020, after biking 250 miles into the geographical coronary heart of Iceland, Chris Burkard confronted the opportunity of his first main impediment in his traverse throughout probably the most remote stretches of land on Earth.

If he and his 4 fellow riders caught to their authentic route across the north aspect of Hofsjökull glacier—the third largest glacier and the most important energetic volcano within the nation—they’d should cross a deep glacial river that was impassable only a week earlier. They might play it secure and use a workaround, however that may 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 chance. “Threat is essential to all the pieces,” he explains. “Threat 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. Courtesy Picture

Discovering a New Approach to Hook up with Iceland

Burkard isn’t any stranger to those sorts of situations. 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 highway: 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 related to a spot. The entire time I used to be competing in that race, I stored pondering, I do know there’s one other route on the market that takes you thru the guts of this nation.”

When he returned house to California, he reached out to a cartographer who may 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 various geological panorama you would ever expertise,” says Burkard. “You progress from fjords to temperate rainforests to desert-like huge lava flows to sand to rock—each sort of floor you would 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 completed on bike,” says Burkard. “There was a lot unknown, a lot that would change each 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. Courtesy Picture

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 setting? How can we expertise all the pieces?” 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 the entire gear and meals they wanted to finish the journey with none exterior help. (A videographer and expedition photographer did meet up with the crew occasionally 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 vital,” says Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, which—whereas heavy—may deal with carrying all of the gear they wanted for greater than every 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 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 pieces 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 quite a lot of issues we didn’t use,” says Burkard. “But when I had been going again, I might nonetheless deliver all of it. Simply in case.”

The crew 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 a whole bunch of rivers of meltwaters. “It was only a actually sophisticated state of affairs; each river was like a chess sport,” says Burkard.

Luckily, on August 23, the river Burkard feared would possibly 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 sneakers. “Our ft had been moist by 6 a.m., and moist for seven hours straight after that,” he says.

As a lot as Burkard craves danger, 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 a must to let go of that management slightly bit however nonetheless be ready for each sort of state of affairs you would possibly 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. Courtesy Picture

Staying Linked Whereas Off the Grid

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

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

“There are completely issues I’ve mentioned no to or issues that I’ve thought twice about due to the potential danger concerned,” he says. “I like what I do, nevertheless it 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 danger with being a accountable mum or dad. “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 a must to work tougher to seek out it.”

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

These tasks 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 searching for 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 searching for a cool stone or a rock or {a photograph} of an animal as a result of my child loves that stuff. And after I textual content them, after I do have service, I’m not similar to, ‘Hey, how are you?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, I noticed this and I used to be fascinated about you.’ And that basically permits them to really feel related to what you’re doing.”

That connection is so vital to him, as a result of—like several mum or dad—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 youngsters. I feel that what we hope for is to desensitize them to the concern of those locations. In order that going exterior shouldn’t 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 feel that fosters a way of curiosity that may be carried into so many elements of their life.”


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