Earlier this summer, emergency services in Iceland were kept busy helping tourists who ran into trouble. In a span of less than a week, travelers drove their rental car into a pit on a highland road that had yet to be opened, hikers were trapped by bad weather on a mountain ridge, and 250 volunteers spent 24 hours searching for a young woman who had failed to return from a short walk. This is her story.
Published in the 2013 August-September issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.13. By Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos by Páll Stefánsson.
At 10 am on Friday, May 31, Maylis Lasserre, a 24-year-old woman from France working at Heydalur, a farm guesthouse and tour operator in the eponymous valley in the fjord Mjóifjörður in the West Fjords, decided to go for a short walk.
“I wanted to hike up to the mountain and just be away for two hours. There wasn’t too much snow and I’m used to hiking,” she says. Overjoyed with the first signs of summer after a harsh spring and overwhelmed by the vastness of nature, Lasserre kept walking, in spite of not being dressed warmly or wearing proper boots. “I guess I didn’t think clearly. It was a lovely day and I just kept going. At 3 pm I could see that the fjord wasn’t far away but I was too high up [to return the same way] and couldn’t walk anymore because of the shoes. They kept filling with snow and falling off at every step, so I had to walk back and put them back on. My socks were soaked and my feet were wet. I had to take the shoes off and just left them there.” Lasserre continued walking barefoot. “It’s hard to admit that I was being stupid, but I was, leaving with bad shoes and no equipment. I had no phone and was only wearing jeans, a fleece jacket and a big scarf. I hadn’t brought any food because I only expected to be away for two hours.” Eventually, Lasserre couldn’t carry on because her feet were too sore.
“It’s strange to feel blocked. What should I do now? I decided to stop and warm up my feet by wrapping my scarf around them. I made a shelter for my head and feet as I realized that the rain was coming. Then I just had to wait. I put my hands inside my jacket but I was trembling.”
Meanwhile, the alarm had been raised at Heydalur. Lasserre, who had worked there since April, had been expected to take travelers on a horseback tour at 2 pm. She had told a colleague that she was going for a walk but not where exactly. There were indications that Lasserre had taken a different route, a frequented hiking path up the mountain Galtarhryggur on the opposite side of the valley, so that’s where the people at Heydalur went looking. However, the search proved fruitless and the emergency services had to be contacted.
You can read the remainder of this article in the August-September issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson’s latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.