Iceland being located so close to the Arctic circle and geologically so young presents several unique hazards:
River crossing hazards
Iceland is well known for it’s volcanoes. There are at least 30 active volcanoes on the island. If you are hiking the Laugavegur Trail beware that you are in the direct path of Katla which is predicted to blow soon. If it does, a tidal wave of 20-30 feet of glacier water and snow will come crashing down from the glaciers. While hiking we came aross several signs indicating the danger if she blows. The small town of Vik, Iceland apparently will only get a 20 minute warning to get out of the way of this danger. If you are hiking in the area, your chances of survival are slim.
If you do go visit the currently active volcano Fagradalsfjall, be aware that along with lava danger, there are dangerous gases that are emitted. Be sure to the wind to your back and follow the directions of the SAR team on site.
Weather is extremely variable in Iceland. Fortuanely there are several resources you can use to get weather predictions.
Iceland Weather Service: https://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/areas/
Dial Up: For up-to-date weather information, visit the Icelandic Meteorological Office website or call +354 902-0600 and press ‘1’ to hear the weather forecast in English.
Mountain Forecasts: https://www.mountain-forecast.com/countries/Iceland
Weather Surface Maps: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/maps-and-charts/surface-pressure
Iceland Road Conditions: http://www.road.is/
If hiking, there are several hazards associated with the terrain in Iceland. First, majority of the soil is loose volcanic soil that has very little traction. We watches several people fall repeately on steep descents. Also, in abundance is volcanic rock which is extremely sharp including a section we across that included obsidian rock (see photo on the left). Falling down and slicing yourself on that rock would result in a pretty signifigant wound.
River Crossing Hazards:
Along the trail we crossed several rivers, some deeper than others. The deepest came up to my thighs (I’m 6’5″ for reference). If you are going to cross a river my advice is to look at the banks for shoe prints as that tends to indicate the most popular crossing. Un clip your pack wasit belt and cross facing the upstream. If you have hiking poles, this is a great time to use them. We saw several people going barefoot which is terrible decision. Some people brought dedicated water shoes, we felt it was more trouble than it was worth.
I have made entire blog post about navigation in Iceland. As far hazards, whiteout conditions while hiking can pose major issues. There are cairns or nylon pylons in some of the more remote stretches but even then, depending on the conditions it is possible to get turned around. At a mininum you should bring a map and compass, and ideally a GPS unit whether using your cell phone or a handheld unit.
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