Too many of those who attempt to hike the Icelandic highlands are not prepared for the conditions they will face along the way, say representatives of the Icelandic Touring Association (ITA).
The association’s wardens, in particular those stationed at Hrafntinnusker, one of the stops on the Laugavegur trail in the Southern Icelandic Highlands, have recently rescued several underdressed and ill-prepared hikers.
In some cases wardens have even had to carry travelers to shelter, says Páll Guðmundsson, director of ITA.
According to Páll, many foreign tourists are poorly-dressed; carrying damaged or inferior tents; and packing inadequate supplies for the length of their journey.
“They buy a trip into the highlands but are in no way conscious of Icelandic conditions. The temperature can go below freezing. When people become wet, cold and lost they get scared and start crying,” he says of these tourists, emphasizing the responsibility of both wardens and other hikers to help those in trouble.
He is then critical of those tour companies that sell trips into the highlands both in June and late into the fall.
“For the past 20 years the highlands have on average been open in July and August. Marketing Iceland as a tourist destination has been very successful, but its nonetheless necessary to recognize and be aware of conditions in the highlands. People must be responsible and inform tourists of the conditions that they might encounter if they are traveling either early or late in the season.”
Several highland roads remained closed unusually late into the summer this year due to heavy snowfall and a late spring. Some are not yet open, and travelers are encouraged to be particularly cautious when traversing those that are.