Iceland’s West Fjords region is one of the country’s most remote areas and offers endless outdoor pursuits in its mountains, sheltered fjords and bays. The West Fjords is geologically the oldest part of Iceland—around 16 million years old—but still very young compared to most parts of the world. Aurora´s favourite area in the West Fjords is the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, with its rich history and unspoiled landscapes. The area is virtually inaccessible. There are no roads in the nature reserve—the only way to venture there is by boat. Due to its remote location it is very possible to stay there for days without meeting a single soul. Doing so, you will discover the essence of remote Iceland. The fjords are deep and dramatic with marine and aviary life abound, and an abundance of silence and unexplored landscapes for the curious and adventurous explorer.
This trip is a true Arctic Expedition to the beautiful Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the West Fjords of Iceland—only a few miles from the Arctic Circle. We focus on backcountry skiing between the remote fjords, anchoring in a different harbour each night. Many of the mountains and ridges have never been skied before and our guides are always looking for nice first descents. There is a diversity of slope grades, and we will plan our routes to fit people of all backcountry touring abilities and interests. Most people use AT (randonnée) or Telemark skis, but snowboards, cross-country skis or snowshoes can be used as well. While we usually spend about 6-8 hours in the mountains each day, for those who prefer shorter days, individuals can simply ski down to the anchored boat when they so choose. While the season is prime time for skiing, we may carry a few kayaks on the sailboat for those eager or interested in taking a break from skiing and doing some kayaking as well (please enquire about the kayaks). The expedition yacht Aurora is our movable ‘backcountry hut’ and awaits us at the end of every day with gourmet meals, warm and comfortable bunks, and friendly conversation.
Even though we may not be far from “home,” this is still true exploration and the final itinerary will only be decided upon when we leave Ísafjörður harbour. Below is the most likely itinerary, but we will take into account weather and snow-conditions and always look for the best possible option.
Depart from Ísafjörður at 14:00, with 2-4 hours of sailing to Hesteyri in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. We will relax at anchor and maybe explore on the Zodiac and take a look at the old whaling station that once was the driving force in this now abandoned settlement. Since it will still bright in the evening during the latter part of the season, we will then have an option to do a short ski run.
We’ll begin the day with safety briefing, avalanche search exercise, and an explanation of what to do in case of emergency. We will then ski from Hesteyrarfjörður to Veiðileysufjörður. The climb up Hesteyrarfjörður is easy and the ski slopes on the other side offer many possibilities. We may end the day by skiing the steepest slope of the trip, 45°-50° in steepness (of course this is optional—you can head down to the boat if you prefer!). Dinner will be at anchor in Veiðileysufjörður.
Today we will ski to Lónafjörður (Lagoon fjord). We begin the day by climbing up to one of the cols to take a look at the bays on the north side. We then ski down to the first valley in Lónafjörður and climb at least two more mountains before meeting Aurora again in the afternoon.
Here, we normally spend an extra day at the beautiful Rangali anchorage. Here are endless opportunities for skiing. From steep couloirs to rolling hills. One route will take us to the Snókur mountain with a good view of the coastal mountains on the east side of Hornstrandir. Often there is an opportunity to pick mussels for an après ski snack!
Today we skin up from the Sópandi inlet and over to Hrafnfjörður (Raven Fjord). The mountain cirque at the head of the fjord is very beautiful and the anchorage is a perfect spot to spend the night.
We will have a morning ski session before sailing back to Ísafjörður, with arrival around 16:00 in the afternoon. You can catch the last flight from Ísafjörður that night, though we suggest staying at least one night in Ísafjörður to relax and get to know this old and beautiful town.
Iceland is a land of very mixed weather. As they say, if you don´t like the weather, wait for ten minutes! Usually the spring brings higher pressure and settled weather, but be prepared for everything from dead calm and sunny days to blowing blizzards.
The wildlife is surprisingly rich in the Hornstrandir reserve. There are over 50 birds that breed in the Westfjords, two species of seals are very common and 12 species of whales can be spotted off the coast of North Iceland. Few land mammals can be found in Iceland but the beautiful Arctic Fox can easily be spotted in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve where it is protected.