Solo walk across Iceland - Bernie Theron's extraordinary trek
In a nutshell: A self-sufficient trek from the most northerly to the most southerly point of Iceland.
Category: Solo, unsupported and unassisted.
Adventurer: Bernie Theron, 20 years old.
Profession: Student at the University of Pretoria.
Previous big adventures: A solo hike down the east coast of South Africa (2013).
Length of expedition: Approximately 600km.
Duration of expedition: 27 Days.
Completion date of expedition: 27 July 2014.
Continuous or a series of adventures: Continuous.
Highlights: Deep isolation in a country with mindboggling landscapes. Fixing my MSR stove after three days of cold food!
Social Media: facebook.com/RunoutsInAfricaPhotography
Iceland is a magical country with great volcanoes, glaciers, lava fields and snowcapped peaks. Hiking though its interior, where there are no towns, few roads, and even fewer people was not an easy undertaking. To experience this beautiful country in isolation I had to carry everything that I need to survive for a month on my back, around 45kg of gear.
The interior had a multitude of challenges. I knew I’d have to endure icy cold glacial river crossings, jagged lava fields and extensive plains of mud sucking at my boots. But that was the reason I wanted to hike there.
To cross Iceland and prove that solo “old-school” adventures are still possible for any age group.
A Swiss crew successfully completed this journey in 2013, and I’m sure that there have been other attempts in the past. But, to the best of my knowledge no South Africans have done it.
I started my planning and training about 5 months before the start.
Being washed away during glacial river crossings, hypothermia, dehydration and the chance of falling in the odd crevasse.
My back-up was that if I failed to notify my contacts in South Africa within 30 days then they would start looking for me on my designated route. As it turned out my route changed on a daily basis so it wasn’t a great emergency plan! My emergency phone to the outside world was my old Blackberry phone, which was not ideal, but was all that I could afford at the time.
Self-funded but with the help of the Mountain Club of South Africa’s Supertramp Award – a dedicated award for young adventurers between the ages of 18 and 25.
MCSA Supertramp Award.
Photographs and hours of video footage.
I was always looking for an adventure. One day I watched a video about Iceland and was smitten by the hiking opportunities there. Months later I decided to motivate a traverse of Iceland as my proposal for the Supertramp award.
What technical skills were needed
Good navigational skills are essential on long cross-country treks. And it’s important not to dwell too much on the fact that you are alone in the middle of nowhere, so you need a strong will.
Getting lost late in the afternoon in blizzard conditions high up in the mountains - with a broken tent and in a bad mood.
Lowest point on the adventure
When I got sick of my daily allowance of cookies!
Being attacked by two ‘wild’ and extremely dangerous sheep.
What was the biggest lesson
Anything is possible if you have the right attitude.
What would you do/have done differently
I would not have followed the advice of the Icelandic mountain wardens, who advised against most of my plans and told me that various sections of my planned route were impassable. Fortunately for me, they weren’t. And I would have taken better quality food and less clothing and gear such as ropes for river crossings, small gadgets and repair tools for my wagon (which broke early in the trek and was not repairable). All that unnecessary weight made my pack almost too much to bear.
Best piece of gear
My La Sportiva Vajolet hiking boots and my Deuter backpack; solid gear.
Piece of gear you wish you’d taken along
A better rain jacket that could have kept me dry through days of bad weather, as mine did not do its job at all.
Any amazing person that you met on the trip
I met a Frenchman called Stephan while on my trek. He was a lightweight backpacker doing his own hike in Iceland. He had some amazing adventures under his belt and gave me great advice.
What did you eat on the trip
My daily food consisted of 8 cookies, 100g of couscous, 200g of pasta, 4 blocks of melted chocolate, 3 (50g) breakfast bars and 3 chocolate bars (also 50g each). I am still planning on selling this diet to a weight loss guru since I lost about 10kg on the trek!
What was the worst thing that bit you
An Arctic tern.
What hurt most
My shoulders from carrying so much gear.
I am planning to hike across Lesotho this winter. A 6-month kayaking trip in the Patagonia area of southern Chile is on my long-term horizon. Time to get some cash…
Tips for other adventurers
Don’t let age, gender, disabilities, fitness or lack of money stop you from going on your own adventure. Just commit to your idea and make it happen.