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Kyle Miller Makes a Nordic Splitboard Stopover in Iceland
Posted on April 25, 2014

Sunset Descent

When Kyle Miller first pitched us on funding his airfare for a split-and-boat biathlon of a traverse in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, it sounded like a very epic-worthy expedition. What we didn’t predict was that our favorite splitboard vagabond would use a free, seven-day Icelandair stopover on that international ticket to explore the small volcanic island nation, where steep Icelandic lines rise from isolated fishing villages and Arctic Circle fjords such as Ólafsfjör∂ur and Siglufjör∂ur on its rugged northern and western coasts. But we often underestimate Kyle Miller’s combination of grassroots resourcefulness and hunger for adventure in a new mountain range. We have come to expect that the result is always a compelling tale, and this one—from a land that honors epics and sagas—is a fitting first chapter to Kyle Miller’s tour through the Nordic countries.—LYA Editor

Wait......This is Iceland_

Words by Kyle Miller, Images by Kyle Miller and Ben Starkey

As someone whose life is dictated by weather, when I made the plan to head to Iceland, it was decided not to have an actual plan—instead, we focused on goals. All I knew is that I wanted to spend some time in some Icelandic fjords, take a snowboard run all the way down to the ocean, and attempt to stomach some traditional food.

Why Iceland, you ask? Well…it wasn’t really the plan to head to such a remote country, but with a free seven-day layover, to not take advantage of that just seemed morally wrong. So with a plane ticket to the northern stretch of Norway, it just so happened that…I got to spend a week in Iceland as a little bit of a bonus.

Getting friends to join me was as simple as asking if they had any interest in an adventure abroad riding couloirs to the ocean and hopefully finding hot springs, while we blasted Björk through the speakers of our rental car. With a proposal like that, we had a group of four Americans on their way to the land of fire and ice.

The moment we got off the plane, people looked at us like we were crazy. We broke both the weight and size limits for baggage and dragged hundreds of pounds of ice axes, sleeping bags and enough dehydrated meals to feed the Icelandic army…that is, if they had one. The rental car company laughed as they gave us their biggest car, forced us to get insurance, and made us promise not to go off-road, so we smiled, crossed our fingers, and said “of course,” and were on the road after playing a game of “Can we fit all the gear in the car?” versions 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Due to the power of Facebook, we were invited to stay in a ghost town in the West Fjords that once was a fishing village, but now you couldn’t even call it a village. But the endless lines were more than enough to make up for it. For the next three days, we rode to the base of lines, put on our climbing gear, and climbed up what looked like 500 vertical feet but kept on turning out to be four times higher.  We came to find that we were fortunate to be there at the tail end of a three-month-long storm that had delivered the best snow in 20 years, making new lines possible. So we climbed and rode whatever dramatic line grabbed our attention before moving on to the north of Iceland.

Once again, I had no clue what to expect when we drove into Akureyri, but was pleasantly surprised at the endless options for mountains. It looked just like what I imagined AK would be, made better by the access provided by a new tunnel built three years ago, turning what were once sleepy towns into thriving tourist communities with numerous options for mountains. With only one day to ride in the zone, we finally got blue skies and were able to make one lap on each end of the tunnel in the towns of Ólafsfjör∂ur and Siglufjör∂ur on huge, wide-open mountains. It was an unreal experience, cut short by the fact that we would have to do an all-nighter driving to Reykjavik for a 7 A.M. flight to Norway.

The west and north fjords of Iceland are a stark contrast. The west holds endless ridges and couloirs, while the north contains big mountains and open faces. The west welcomed us in sleepy fishing villages, while the north seemed more like renovated, recovering tourist towns. Iceland was an absolutely amazing way to start my trip, even though we only scratched the surface in the land of fire, ice and snow.


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Author: - Friday, April 25th, 2014

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