The aim of this Adventure Academy expedition is to learn and to practice hill and mountain skills in a truly expeditionary setting: the iconic, world-class hiking destination that is Iceland. The course will equip you with the skills, knowledge and practical experience needed if you’re considering hill walking on your own or even planning and preparing for your own solo or group expedition.
This Adventure Academy expedition to trek Iceland’s trails will also be hugely rewarding for anyone with existing experience in this field. If that’s you and you’re keen to get a bit more out of your annual leave, join this team and learn from the expedition experts in Iceland: the world’s ultimate geothermal playground.
- Trek epic long-distance trails through Iceland’s stunning and unique volcanic scenery.
- Acquire and develop mountain and hill skills in an expedition environment.
- Get professional advice and tips towards planning your own expedition.
- Learn from a highly-qualified and experienced Secret Compass expedition leader.
- Pitch yourself against Iceland’s rugged landscape – negotiate river crossings and tough terrain along with Iceland’s famously volatile weather.
Iceland’s iconic trails
Walking is the perfect pace from which to take in mind-blowing landscapes. Multi-coloured rocks, swathes of green lining high-tempered rivers, geothermal pools, lava fields and mountains are the real highlight for anyone seeking a real sense of adventure in Iceland.
Mountain and expedition skills
Although principally a guided trek, this expedition will provide team mates with an excellent grasp on the skills necessary to maximise and enjoy time in the mountains safely. From the basics of navigation to first aid, team management, risk assessment, planning, camp craft and weather, this Adventure Academy expedition will equip you with the knowledge to step out on the trails and negotiate tough terrain with confidence.
Your Secret Compass leader will be your team’s personal fountain of knowledge for the week, capable of answering all sorts of questions that may crop up over the course of the trek. Last year’s team soaked up fascinating facts on the geographical features and geology of Iceland, whilst learning how to minimise human impact on the environment.
Iceland: adventure capital
Iceland was nominated the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s adventure travel destination of the year in 2016, and with good reason. Although just a short flight from most destinations in Western Europe, Iceland feels like stepping into another world with its unique landscape that include volcanoes, waterfalls, geysers, hot springs and glaciers. It’s the ultimate outdoor classroom and the perfect setting for this Adventure Academy expedition.
Utilising Iceland’s unique environment and dramatic setting, this Adventure Academy expedition will use a framework of set training objectives. Although this course is not a certified qualification, it is loosely based on the Joint Services Summer Mountaineering Foundation, and the Mountain Training Mountain Skills Course.
Lessons will take the form of open discussions and practical demonstrations, to give you the skills you need to be competent, confident and safe in expedition environments and on your own trekking adventures. Dependent on the skill level of the team members and what they would like to get out of the course, the training objectives are below and also provided in the Iceland Expedition Handbook itinerary.
- Introduction to mountain skills
- Trip planning – introduction to planning treks and expeditions to include route cards
- Introduction to risk assessment both formalised and dynamic
- Kit and equipment – talk about various options for different conditions
- Navigation – Talk through different types of maps, navigational aids such as GPS and smartphones with app such as viewranger. Navigational exercises, such as circumnavigation, use of compass, walking on bearings, timing and pacing.
- Health & Hygiene on expeditions.
- Intro to first aid, including kit. Exercise scenario to include stretcher carry.
- Intro to tropical illnesses such as malaria and prevention.
- Intro to moving on steep ground, with use of rope and slings
- Campcraft including different types of tent, setting up of tents, use of stoves and safety around these.
- Team management and leadership styles
- Intro to mountain weather
- Intro to expedition planning such as logistics, transport and budgeting
- Intro to geology and geography
- Human impact on mountain environment
Secret Compass runs expeditions with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about our Approach here. The following is the outline plan for this Adventure Academy expedition to Iceland – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. At present, we are still in the process of planning our chosen route for the expedition. A fuller itinerary will be provided in the Expedition Handbook which is available on request or upon application to join the team.
All teammates fly into the international airport of Keflavik. There are regular shuttle busses to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, which is a short drive away and this transfer is each teammate’s responsibility. Once at the nominated hotel (named nearer departure), there will be an expedition briefing and welcome meal with your expedition leaders.
Setting off from Reykjavik in a 4WD mountain bus, the team will drive past lava fields and colourful rhyolite mountains. Details of where the expedition proper will start will be revealed on confirmation of the route plan. For the most part you’ll be self-sufficient, carrying everything needed to support the trek including food, tents, camping and personal equipment and a share of group kit. The pace will be reasonably slow in order for the expedition leaders to teach lessons that will cover subjects such as navigation, river crossings, expedition planning, medical scenarios, kit and equipment and managing risk. A full kit list will be supplied in the expedition kit list.
After coming to the end of the trek, a bus will wait to whisk you away and back to Reykjavik to hot showers and a celebratory team meal. The expedition officially ends after breakfast on 8 July although teammates can arrange onwards travel at any time on this date (including flights during the early hours). Airport transfers are teammates’ responsibility. Full inclusions and exclusions are outlined in the Included tab on this page.
Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. The biggest challenge on this Adventure Academy expedition to Iceland could be carrying full expedition kit on your back in a rucksack, for those less used to such exertions. Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go.
No previous experience of mountainous conditions is necessary to join this expedition but team members would benefit from trekking or hill-walking practice and being used to carrying 10 – 20kg for multiple days. This expedition will teach mountain and expedition skills on the assumption that team members have no previous knowledge and will provide a platform for those with previous hill walking experience to further develop their skills in a challenging expedition environment.Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: up to a maximum distance of 25km per day.
- Daily activity: up to eight hours per day for six consecutive days.
- Carry: up to 20kg per person.
- Terrain: varied and uneven underfoot. Expect some steep, loose, lava-strewn and mountainous terrain.
- Climate: temps from 8 to 15 degrees C. Rain for consecutive days possible. Night temps down to freezing levels. With wind, temps can feel below zero.
- Swim: not required at all though opportunities to swim likely.
- Age: 21+
You’ll stay in a comfortable hotel in Reykjavik at the start and end of the expedition. Rooms will be on a twin-share basis and the hotel will be able to store any luggage not needed on expedition. Nights outside of the Secret Compass itinerary can be booked directly with the hotel (hotel will be named nearer departure). On the trek you’ll camp in technical mountain tents provided by Secret Compass. These will be shared between two people and carried by team members in addition to personal equipment, food, cooking equipment and share of group kit.
In Reykjavik, you’ll eat well in local restaurants. On the trek, dehydrated expedition rations will be used – high-calorie and tastier than they look! Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.
Keflavik airport is 40 minutes from Reykjavik. Team members are responsible for their own transfers between the airport and the accommodation at the start and end of the expedition. Transfers are available by bus or taxi depending on your arrival time. A 4WD mountain bus will take you to the start of the trek. From then, the rest of this Adventure Academy expedition will be on foot.
The Iceland Expedition Handbook contains a recommended kit list. This online Handbook is provided to all potential teammates upon application to join the team. Consider kit in good time in case buying, hiring or shipping is required. Some expeditions (like this one) require teammates to also carry food/ ration packs and some shared expedition kit, from fuel bottles to water carriers or med kit. Read your Handbook and factor into your packing (and training schedule) any additional space or weight as necessary. As a Secret Compass team member you get discounts at a number of specialist stores, the details of which are provided upon booking.
- Professional Secret Compass expedition leader(s) with full communications and medical kits.
- Specialist guides and instructors.
- All accommodation from the night of the 30 June to the morning of the 8 July
- All meals and soft drinks from arrival dinner on the 30 June to breakfast on the 8 July.
- Internal transport as outlined in itinerary.
- Special permits and permissions within Iceland.
- International flights/ travel to and from Reykjavik.
- Travel insurance (obligatory).
- Visa if required.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary).
- Alcohol unless provided by hosts with meals.
- Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
On application to join this Adventure Academy to Iceland, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Here are some expedition-specific questions and our general FAQ will answer many other questions. Get in touch if your question remains unanswered.
Can I arrive a day late?
As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates out to the start of the trek so start and end dates are not flexible.
Can I charge all my electricals?
This will be very challenging with limited access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
Will my camera work in the cold?
Battery life can be a challenge in cold climates. If camera or phone battery life is of paramount importance, research the best ways to protect and keep your batteries warm and come equipped accordingly.
What if I’m new to all this?
This trip is designed to teach skills and knowledge to someone who has never been on a multi-day trek or expedition before. The only essentials are that you are willing to work as a team, and fulfil the requirements under the fitness section, although previous hill-walking or camping experience is also beneficial. If you do have multi-day trekking or expedition experience already, unless you have been on a specific Mountain Skills course before then many of the lessons on this course will still be new and even experienced team members will benefit from refreshers in navigation, team management and other topics.
Alongside the useful mountain and hill skills taught and practised, Iceland offers some of the most impressive scenery in the world, and anyone is welcome to join the team to experience this.
Can I get porters to carry my bag?
There is no local support for this trek, so you will have to be completely self-sustaining. This means carrying personal and camping equipment, a share of the group equipment such as medical kit and stoves, and enough food for the duration. You should train in preparation for this expedition by meeting the requirements in the fitness section.
I’m a vegetarian, can I join?
Vegetarian ration packs are available, so yes, not a problem at all! Outline all dietary and allergy requirements on your Application Form, link below.
How can I find out more?
Apply for this expedition team using the button on this page to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer any questions or to firm up your place on the team. The Handbook contains a kit list for this expedition.