Skiing Icland's Troll Paninsula
By John Sidik
My first ski trip to Iceland started much like most of my other trips. I woke up to Al kicking me gently, coaxing me off a pile of ski bags on the floor of the Keflavik airport. I look at it in two ways: either I’m really bad at traveling, or I’m really good at traveling poorly. Either way, I was probably the only one of us to sleep at all in the first 36 hours of our trip.
Our group consisted of two ski guides, Al and Dick; Kaj, a hardened East Coast backcountry skier; and me, a mix of all aspects, and, somehow, the trip photographer.
“Come on, rental car’s across the street,” Al said, very ambitious to get skiing. “I packed my kayak straps because no one has a rental with ski racks ...” We were on our way.
I was 7 years old the last time I was in Iceland, staying for a night in Reykjavik with my family while changing planes. Dick had been once before, but on the east side of the island. Our goal was basically to drive as far North as our little car would get us, put our skis on, and go for it.
The drive to Akureyri was simple. Dick gave some directions to follow, the expert beta from his last trip: “Ocean on the left, land on the right.” I took over driving from Akureyri to Ólafsfjörður, which took an interesting turn. The towns in Northern Iceland use these archaic-looking one-lane tunnels to get through mountains. They work on an honor system, using intermittent pull-offs to allow two way traffic. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of traffic.
We eventually figured out the tunnel system with the help of a few Icelandic road signs and a little bit of blind faith. The skies had cleared by the time we got out of the tunnel, and we decided to do what we do best: hit the BJOR KÆlIR (beer cooler) and go ski!
Our first long day of skiing brought us from our front porch right into one of the thousands of glacial valleys that make up the Troll Peninsula. We had a pretty relaxed skin into the head of the valley. Most of the peninsula’s terrain is pretty easy-access with the help of skins and ski crampons. Most valleys end in some sort of moderate ascent to gain the ridge that connects them to the next valley. It took us a few hours to gain the ridge and start looking at our ski descent. Once we gained the ridge, we noticed we really hadn’t lost much daylight; in fact, we hadn’t lost any. Figuring there was no real need for the headlamps that we usually bring, and that there were ample opportunities to melt snow or collect runoff water, we decided to ski into the next valley and take a few laps before skiing out the adjacent valley. As anticipated, this left us about 20 miles down the road (which involved a tunnel) from our house. Now, I would be lying if I said any of us actually thought hitchhiking would be easy in northern Iceland, but that was our plan, and we made quick work of it.
We saw another group of skiers exiting the valley and met up with them to chat. They were “Man, it just does not get dark here,” Al exclaimed as I said good morning on our fourth day. I’d spent summers fishing in Alaska, so the midnight sun was nothing new to me. But this was different. This was full daylight, straight through the night. The night before didn’t have a freeze, so we decided to take the day off from skiing and do a little exploring. We drove back through the tunnels and past Akureyri to Skútustaðahreppur to check out some waterfalls and the volcanic landscape and to hop in one of the larger hot springs. The hot springs were a little pricey, but after spending three days in a little car with three other dudes, I was not about to pass it up. We had arranged for a heli drop on our fifth day in hopes of getting a better view into some of the deeper terrain. Our instructions were minimal: “Drop us on something that’ll ski well.” It was another warm day with a lot of loose, wet snow. We had been working our way around a lot of loose wet avalanche problems, but by this point it was basically second nature to predict and avoid them. We were dropped on top of a large plateau that overlooked Ólafsfjörður and the surrounding mountain range. We took a few minutes to look around at what we had been skiing for the last four days, and what looked to be enough terrain to hold a lifetime of first descents. We had a nice mellow 3000’ line that dropped us right back on the road, and we rode back to the house to grab another quick ski tour before packing up to move to Siglufjörður. The Siglufjörður ski area consists of four short Poma lifts that you link to get into the head of the town’s glacial valley. The terrain surrounding the ski area is immense, consisting of high peaks, ridge lines, and couloirs that cater to any ability level. I was quite convinced that I could have skied out of the resort for the entire week and not crossed tracks once. And to top it off, the lift ticket was around $18 US.
As the week wrapped up, we scrounged through the last of our food, mixing hot chocolate mix with the pancake mix to make it last as long as we could — again, really bad at travel, or really good at traveling poorly... I said goodbye to our space-age shower, equipped with 100 buttons, a radio and I’m pretty sure some kind of teleportation device that drops you on top of your favorite peak right as the corn alarm is going off, and packed my bags to head back to the airport. Although the trip was over, I was excited to get a week of rest before it was time to pack up again and head west for the summer climbing season.
Interview With Fit Maine
By Shannon Bryan
“Trust your feet,” Noah called out from above.
If I’d looked up, I’d see his helmeted head peeking out over a rock ledge, his hands on a long lime green rope that fed through a belay device at his waist. The other end of that rope was attached me, and I was clinging to a rock face, 70 or so feet off the ground and nervous as all get-out.
I couldn’t look up. Or move. My legs shook under me (and I don’t mean some slight little tremor, I mean SHOOK. Wildly, as though they were possessed. It would have been comical if I wasn’t seriously contemplating the reality that I might end up living the rest of my days clutching this spot on the rock).
“Trust your feet,” Noah said in his easy-going way. “You’ve got this.”
Climbing Charlotte’s Crack in Camden with Equinox Guiding Service I was nervous as all get-out at some points, but also having a grand time. Photo by Noah Kleiner
Trusting my feet meant ignoring my natural tendency to trip, slip and stumble. It meant trusting my climbing shoes, which are made specifically for the sport and feature a sticky rubber sole that sticks to the rock with impressive tenacity. It meant trusting that Noah knew his stuff (he does) and that if he thought I could climb this rock, then, well, he was probably right.
“Are you breathing?” Noah asked. It was a question he asked a few times already – a reminder to breathe, clam down, relax. (He also asked, “Are you smiling?” It’s both a reminder that you’re here doing something that’s really thrilling and fun, and also, something happens physiologically when you smile. Your body follows suit and you chill out a bit.)
I took a deep breathe and let it out slowly. Then I placed my foot on what seemed like the smallest rocky nub, shifted my weight and stood up on it. My hand padded around the rock, seeking something to grab. My fingers cinched on a hold. I placed my other foot and stood again. And just like that, I made my way up.
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By Kim Lincoln
August 03, 2017
CAMDEN — Realizing there is a niche for rock climbing in the Camden Hills area, two local men have turned their love for the outdoors into a new guide service.
This summer, John Sidik, of Camden, and Noah Kleiner, of Lincolnville, opened Equinox Guiding Service. The business currently focuses mainly on climbing trips, but the two plan to include other guided outings, such as hikes, snowshoeing, navigation skills and team-building events.
Sidik, who grew up in Lincolnville, studied professional ski and snowboard guiding in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Following school, Sidik said, he ended up moving home during the summer and spends the winter in New Hampshire subcontracting with various companies to teach avalanche education.
Kleiner, who grew up in Union, went to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and spent some time following college doing bike tours in various places around the country, including Vermont, New York City and Fort Collins, Colo. Kleiner now works for Atlantic Climbing School in Acadia.
"Most guides go 10 different directions all at once," Sidik joked of their varied guiding experiences, but he noted that right now it's mostly rock climbing, which is both men's passion.
After the two realized the Midcoast would be a great place for such a business, they decided to open Equinox Guiding Service. Both are professionally trained guides, each holding a Single Pitch Instructor certificate, and Kleiner also is a Registered Maine Guide and Rock Guide.
This summer, Sidik ran a two-day climbing camp for children ages 8 and older, during which they climbed Barrett's Cliff, located off Route 52, and climbing in a spot off the carriage trail, where the children rappelled down into a cave to put all the skills they had learned to the test.
Sidik said anytime they do a trip or camp that involves a large group of children, parents are always invited along to chaperone and join in the fun.
The climbing services are tailored to the customer's needs and welcome climbers of any level — from those who want to brush up on their skills to those simply looking for a fun outing with their family.