Adventure filmmakers Taylor Rees and Renan Ozturk thought it would be a mellow working vacation: they’d capture footage of four young Brits as they traversed 250 miles of Iceland’s fissured terrain, starting in December. Aspiring explorers Charlie Smith, Stefan Rijnbeek, Angus Dowie, and Archie Wilson (all either 19 years old or 20) planned to weave a line from the island nation’s northernmost nexus with the Norwegian Sea to its southernmost boundary with the North Atlantic. They branded the expedition as the first continuous, unsupported winter crossing of the island nation (a claim that was later refuted by a veteran of the Icelandic Alpine Club).
They hoped their example would inspire young folks to get outdoors. But the crossing wasn’t as simple as they’d hoped. “The conditions here are far beyond anything we could have expected,” Ozturk wrote on Facebook during the expedition. “And when storms like these blow sleeting wet snow and soak even our outer Gortex [sic] layers, survival becomes so critical that the quality of shooting seems futile.”
Here’s a look at the expedition, and where and when it went wrong.
Photo: December 2: Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) project manager Brandur Örn Arnarson (left) discusses the team’s route with expedition leader Charlie Smith. Brandur spelled out the route’s hazards and suggested a safer path to avoid rivers and glaciers. “Brandur told us that he wouldn’t personally cross Iceland in winter, but that he understood why we’d want to do it,” Smith said.