Trekking for Charity - 31 Aug 2018
In July of this year, the CEO and Directors of Hartford Care undertook a mammoth challenge to trek the Remote Highlands of Iceland in aid of the Care Workers Charity. They have raised almost £13,000 so far and we caught up with them shortly after their return to find out how it went!
So, what is it like to fly to at Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík and trek across vibrant coloured mountains, wade through glacial rivers, camp under the moon and stars and encounter stunning glaciers and raging rivers? The team of trekkers describe their experience and what motivated them to complete the task in aid of The Care Workers Charity.
Day One: snow fields and glacier waters
The day started nicely with stunning scenery and the first few hours included a lot of climbing for around 600 to 1100 metres. We would stop and look back at the amazing views every so often, but we kept a steady pace throughout the first day. This route led us to a snow field with slow, gradual descents. At one point, we walked through a snow storm and the visibility was very poor, you couldn’t see where to walk, and it was hard to look around and take it all in. It was very windy, our hands, feet and bodies felt freezing cold and it was hard to focus because you couldn’t see anything in front of you. I really struggled but there was no choice as there was no turning back – you just had to keep going! That first day took us 10 hours.
Towards the end of the first day, we had to cross our first river and when you put your foot in to this rocky river of melted glacier water, it was painfully cold, and it certainly woke you up and made you feel alive! We would do it in pairs to ensure the current didn’t overwhelm us, and someone came up with the idea of singing as we crossed to try and distract us from the cold conditions. There was certainly a sense of camaraderie amongst the group with everyone looking out for each other.
Day Two: rainbows and river buddies
The day started around 8am with cold, drizzly rain and we had a river crossing pretty much straight away and then several more throughout the day. Jo was my ‘river buddy’ and we steadied each other as we gradually walked through the strong currents. The second day was very different to the first in terms of the terrain, but still absolutely breath taking and beautiful. It was much flatter, and the temperatures increased as the day went on until it was actually very hot and the sun cream, shorts and sunglasses came out!
The scenery was very stark and contrasting at times, and we walked through volcanic ash and lava fields, black barren desert-type terrain and through some Rocky Mountains – it really reminded me of a moonscape at times. In some ways, the desert-type terrain was hard as it went on for long stretches – at least with the mountains, when you are climbing up and you can see the top! We also walked down into a valley where one of the rangers lives during the summer season and were told of some old ghost stories attached to the area. We later stopped for lunch by a waterfall and were lucky enough to see a beautiful rainbow.
We saw fields, snow and mountains, luminous green of the lichens (a type of moss) and I was struck by the beauty and rawness of the country - it was stunning. At some points we could look down and see lava fields and when you look at the landscapes you can see how the lava has flowed through the land and left its mark. Incredible!
Day Three: Staying ahead of the storm and the finish line
We got up early because the weather forecast predicted very heavy rain and strong winds in the afternoon, so we needed to travel as far and as quick as possible to avoid the storm. So, it was an early rise at 6am to leave at 7am and we walked for around 8 hours at quite a fast pace to keep ahead of the storm you could see coming in. The terrain on the third day was harder than the second day with quite a lot more ascents and descents, but we also walked through beautiful greenery, across gorges, through canyons and had our final river crossing. We walked across a wooden bridge at one point that went across one of the canyons with the river below, before winding along the cliff edge and up the mountain. That wasn’t for the faint hearted!
Sugary snacks kept us going too; we were giving out Haribo and Kendal mint cake to each other to keep our energy levels up which was very needed at times! To get to the final camp we trekked along a dirt road that had a steep ascent, and it kept going up and up with a lot of steps. As we edged closer and closer to the finish it was emotional to lookback to see how far you’ve walked. Everyone clapped each other as we went across the finish line – it was a triumphant moment to know we had finished the trek. We felt like we had achieved a remarkable achievement and there was a big wave of relief that swept across the group.
We then walked to the bus (it looked like a monster truck with large wheels for crossing the rivers) which drove for 4 hours to a hotel in Reykjavík, It was a treat to sleep in an actual bed and enjoy a nice hot shower. We all enjoyed a group celebratory meal at a traditional Icelandic restaurant which was delicious. The next day we visited the blue lagoon and hot springs which was a nice treat and soothing after an exhausting few days!
For anyone wanting to do a trek like this the advice is simple from Will:
Don’t forget to stop and look back to realise how far you’ve come because the views are incredible - also do some stretching after each day to make sure your muscles stay strong and supple. Make sure you train, prepare and take the right kit.Thermal clothing helps you to keep warm and Gortex waterproof trousers and a wind breaker fleece helps to shelter you from the wind and rain. I had a self-inflating mattress that took a while to inflate and deflate but it was worthwhile for a comfortable night’s sleep. The positive thing about the trek was that we were able to inform people about the charity and share information about The Care Workers Charity and all the positive work they do. We felt we were spreading the word!
Trek team: Sean, Jo, Leah, Will and Matt
Despite the tough weather conditions and physically exhausting days, the motivation to complete the task was clear:
To complete the final day I had to say to myself ‘remember why we’re doing this’. Focusing on the charity gave us a real purpose and focus. We have to remember that carers work long hours to care for others and this motivated us to keep going! We knew people were supporting us with sponsorship and wanted to do everyone proud. We recognise the value, dedication, commitment and love shown by our staff and others in the care sector. We believe that in undertaking this challenge, we will be able to shine a light on the valuable work of those working in care, as well as raise funds to support anyone who working in the care sector who may run into hardship. We feel really proud that we were able to participate in this task that was challenging but certainly worthwhile.