Athleta Brand Ambassador and MOJO Active Adventures Founder Molly Mathis recently lead 16 women on a 7-day trek through Iceland. She took our cold-weather Rock Springs Jacket with her to stay warm and cozy through ice climbing, river wading, and waterfall spotting. One of the trip’s participants, Sherri Johnson, captures the excitement of the week-long trek.
Our itinerary was precisely planned, with breath-taking moments wrapped in connection, support and inspiration. Experiencing the Land of Fire and Ice required a deep dive through the back door, guided by locals who’ve lived their lives blazing trails and tying ropes for steep climbs. In a country comprised of 330,000 people, 30 active volcano systems and Europe’s largest glacier, the opportunity to see and do was enhanced through MOJO’s partnership with Iceland-based Midgard Adventure. We spent our week on the south coast, whose ever-changing elements required strategic packing, including the Rock Springs Jacket.
We learned quickly that in Iceland it’s important to layer, and if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. Quick-dry clothes and an open mind were mandatory. Our tribe spent the first day on Reykjanes Peninsula exploring the geothermal areas, which laid the foundation for fully understanding the landscape and its commitment to renewable energy. It felt like we landed on the moon, with moss-covered lava fields making up most of the landscape. Shedding our jet lag and eating typical Icelandic meals helped prepare us for the trip ahead.
On day two we set out for Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. Having never donned a dry suit, I was apprehensive about our planned snorkel trip in 38 degree glacial-fed waters, but once there, I felt the area’s importance. This is the only place on the planet you can snorkel (or dive) between two continents – the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. When you embrace adventure travel and step outside your comfort zone touring becomes trying. My fellow traveler Sharon, a university biology professor, and I both agreed that while nervous, we wouldn’t miss the wonder, and encouraged each other to dive in. The Power of She in action!
On day three, we laced on crampons and set out to experience Sólheimajökull, a large glacial tongue accessible for groups. We walked through ash, pumice, and sand from past storms then leaped over crevasses and peered in moulins that sink hundreds of feet. Using safety ropes and harnesses, and with varying degrees of comfort (go Janet!), we clamped carabiners to climbing ropes, and with pickaxe in hand, each one of us scaled the icy wall one at a time. When I reached the top, I looked back to see 15 women –and the dampened sound of gloves clapping along with the sight of fists pumping. I took a breath and inhaled the beauty of this journey.
Day four was our fullest agenda and the one we knew least about – we were told only to bring river shoes. As women, wives, and mothers – we are often trip planners, task-masters and short-order cooks. Heading out on horseback and not knowing where the day would take us was not only a treat, but we all needed to “refill our tanks,” as my travel pal, Pam, noted.
Stepping across river rocks and navigating flowing waters, we walked up-stream through a cavern while streaks of sunlight set green ferns on fire. Rounding each corner, we could hear rushing water as we gripped the chain bolted to the rock wall and fought to hold our footing. Then, the most magnificent waterfall revealed itself. Spectacular not because it was the tallest or largest we’d seen, but because of the reward of its beauty.
With 17 hours of daylight this time of year, it was still early and the “Valley of Thor” awaited. This is some of Iceland’s most rugged and beautiful terrain. In Super Jeeps, we crossed tire-high rivers to where we would hike over lava fields and see first-hand the aftermath of what the world remembers as the volcano that produced the Ash Cloud of 2010 (also known to those who can pronounce it as Eyjafjallajökul).
Our last day, immersed in the geothermal heated, healing waters of the famous Blue Lagoon, we celebrated connecting through new places and first-time experiences. We told stories of conquering fears and sharing why we all made time and sacrifices to be here, in Iceland. On this lovely island that used to feel foreign, Molly reminded us that active adventures are both a challenge and a reward. She left us feeling inspired to continue to invest in ourselves through travel experiences that combine wellness, adventure and fun. I left this group with a full tank and eager to sign on for my next adventure.