Iceland Journal – “The High Country Road” – North Iceland

“The High Country Road” - North Iceland

“I like geography best, he said, because your mountains & rivers know the secret. Pay no attention to boundaries.” 
― Brian Andreas

Believe it or not, this is a colour photo. The light is heavily filtered by the snow filled clouds that created a significant driving challenge as I was travelling through the highland which separate North and East Iceland.

The mountains are part of a long actively volcanic ridge that runs from the glaciers of Vatnajökull in the south to Iceland’s most north-eastern point, Kòpasker.

As we departed the town of Egilsstaðir in the east and followed the Hvannà river valley towards the interior, the light dusting of snow we had experienced in Egilsstaðir began to grow heavier and north winds whipped the snow across the barren and seemingly lifeless landscape. On the northern horizon, dark and menacing clouds threatened white-out conditions and the roads soon turned to pure ice.

Fortunately, our rental vehicle was a 4×4 with studded tires, which made the drive a bit safer for us, but the threat of heavy squalls and high winds remained, exaggerated by the altitude and wide open plateaus which we had entered. As snow blew around us, the occasional mountain peak would reveal itself from the maelstrom and then vanish again behind a veil of white fury. I’m fortunate to have grown up in Canadian winters, knowing how to drive these conditions, but still gripping the steering wheel tightly as we ploughed through ever deepening drifts across the road.

We drove this 100km stretch, stopping between squalls for photos, without incident, eventually dropping in elevation through the ridge of mountains that serves as the border between east and north Iceland. It’s that ridge that is pictured above, the steep volcanic cone of Geldingafell rising in the distance, offering us one final view before being obscured by snow once more. This brief, roadside moment lasted, as many things in our Icelandic journey, for mere seconds before disappearing from sight.

The colours, as you can see here, are so heavily muted by the snow that you would think this to be a toned black and white photo. It’s quite the effect and a bit unsettling when you are in it for an extended period. And, as you can see from my camera settings, it was quite dark, with the exception of the muted sun reflecting from the icy road.

At the time, I had no idea exactly where we were, only that we had passed safely through the mountains and onto the broad northern plains of Mývatnsöræfi and further adventures, in this geothermally active region, so different from any terrain we had experienced so far.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70 mm
1/250 sec, f/18.0, ISO 800

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

9 Comments on “Iceland Journal – “The High Country Road” – North Iceland

  1. The light is wonderful in this photograph and I love the subtlety of the mere hints of colour. (It’s just possible to see blues in the shadows and a slight greeny yellow to the grass – unless it’s my imagination!) Love this photograph!

  2. I’m not sure which is more striking – this dark moody photo or your description of the drive to arrive at this spot. Even before I read your commentary, I could see the ice on the road. White-knuckle driving through blowing snow accumulating on the road in drifts is an all too familiar experience {shudder}
    Glad you got through it without incident … and have this stunning photo to show for it!

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