Orienteering in Iceland – or an alternative to Lockdown


It may have been Lockdown in the UK but there was Orienteering in Iceland, so part of family Marsden decided to sample the delights of orienteering there.

This is the annual Ice-O festival held in August – this year 9-11th August, organised by Rathlaupafélagið Hekla (commonly known as Hekla) since 2010.  The format is a training day followed by two competitive days, both middle distance races.  All three days were to be close to the capital Reykjavik so travel to the events was not going to take long.

But first on landing at Reykjavik all visitors must undergo COVID screening. 24 hrs later they return to the airport and only then can their holiday – and orienteering begin.

However as is usual in Iceland the weather is very variable even in August and the training day showed the worst of Icelandic weather with a stiff breeze and heavy rain showers . Training was close to Reykjavik on Rauðhólar to the east of the capital.  The day did illustrate what to expect terrain wise. The event details said ‘The terrain is fascinating with layers of sediment exposed to the air in varying color, interspersed with craters and small lakes. Running is generally very fast, and navigation simple’.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it running through lava fields varies from running on a hard rocky surface to running through soft sand – and the colours in the lava can be very varied from grey to black, with bright oranges and reds.

The weather improved for the competition days with less rain but a continuing wind blowing the lava around.  There were 13 courses catering for age classes from 10 to 70.  On Day 2, they ranged from 2km to 4.8km in length and on Day 3 they were from 2.0 km to 7.2km in length.

Day 2, a Middle distance race, was at Rauðavatn, again to the east of Reykjavik. The terrain description was ‘Small thick forests, some lava fields, some open terrain, steep hills and a lot of variation make this area exciting for runners as well as tricky to navigate’.

The final day was held on Vífilsstaðahlíð, south of the capital, with a description of ‘Many hills (HD 70 m), many paths, a lot of rocky details (cliffs, boulders, bare rock). 50 % open terrain with very good runnability, 50 % forested area (mainly dense pine forest) and in some slopes thick lupina areas. And from almost every corner of the map you can see Reykjavik and the sea just below you’.

Probably because of COVID this year’s field was only around 20 with a lot of the usual Danish competitors not attending but there were a few competitors from Norway. Usually the field is nearer to 60.

Family Marsden all had successful runs which resulted in first places all round. Congratulations to Theo, Helen and Ian.

After that, they could sample the delights of Iceland; the hot springs, water spouts, glaciers and volcanoes amongst many other things to see and do.

If you want to see more of the maps go to: https://orienteering.is/2018/12/19/ice-o-2019/

Enjoying the sunshine…
The terrain..
and the rocks..