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 potential of his first main impediment in his traverse throughout one of the crucial 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 biggest lively volcano within the nation—they’d must cross a deep glacial river that was impassable only a week earlier. They may 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 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 equipment throughout a river. Courtesy Picture

Discovering a New Approach to Connect with Iceland

Burkard isn’t any stranger to those sorts of eventualities. As a famend outside, 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 forty third to Iceland, and one he determined to make whereas competing the earlier yr in an 850-mile race that circumnavigated the island (he truly holds the quickest identified time for biking the 844-mile ring highway: 52 hours, 36 minutes, and 19 seconds).

“Me driving bikes is simply making an attempt to get nearer to the landscapes I actually take pleasure in,” 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 saved considering, I do know there’s one other route on the market that takes you thru the center of this nation.”

When he returned dwelling 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 various geological panorama you can ever expertise,” says Burkard. “You progress from fjords to temperate rainforests to desert-like huge lava flows to sand to rock—each kind of floor you can think about.”

It will 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 might change daily.”

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 Journey 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 the whole route unsupported. “My thought was, how can we actually be subjected to this atmosphere? 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 assist. (A videographer and expedition photographer did meet up with the crew every now and then to doc the expertise, however they didn’t carry or replenish any of their provides).

“Iceland is certainly one of Europe’s final nice wildernesses, and transferring by way of this panorama in a approach that’s human-powered reveals you what’s actually necessary,” says Burkard.

The quartet opted for mountain bikes, which—whereas heavy—might 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 mountaineering 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 could 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 might nonetheless deliver all of it. Simply in case.”

The staff additionally had swiftwater rescue coaching to navigate the harmful currents within the glacial rivers, particularly round Hofsjökull glacier, with its massive, sloping form that creates a whole bunch of rivers of meltwaters. “It was only a actually difficult state of affairs; each river was like a chess recreation,” 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 way of the frigid waters of their bike footwear. “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 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 a bit bit however nonetheless be ready for each form 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 evening earlier than persevering with on their traverse of Iceland. Courtesy Picture

Staying Linked Whereas Off the Grid

Whereas all the pieces went in response to 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 consistently places him in eventualities which are at finest distant and at worst downright harmful. That doesn’t make him any much less of an concerned mother or father, although. In truth, 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 mentioned no to or issues that I’ve thought twice about due to the potential threat concerned,” he says. “I like what I do, however it turns into about giving the folks you like most the chance to be your first precedence.”

So an enormous a part of Burkard’s life is making an attempt to stability threat with being a accountable mother or father. “I hate that phrase, although: stability. It’s inconceivable. You’re by no means going to attain it,” he says. “It’s higher to contemplate discovering rhythm. Life has rhythm. Generally that rhythm undulates naturally, and generally it’s important to work tougher to search out it.”

It’s a subject he’s began exploring in his work. Burkard not too long ago 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 kids’s e-book referred to 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 consistently 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 eager about you.’ And that actually permits them to really feel related to what you’re doing.”

That connection is so necessary to him, as a result of—like several mother or father—he hopes to instill the love of taking dangers in his youngsters. “It’s not about forcing your youngsters to consider issues the identical approach 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 desires 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 will not be fearful and never scary. Granted, they may not 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 points of their life.”

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