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Horace Dall’s Bicycle Adventure in Iceland Circa 1933

In the summer of 1933, British photographer and adventure seeker Horace Dall packed up his three-speed Raleigh Roadster bicycle, a camera, and a minimal amount of gear and set off to cross one of the most barren and undeveloped landscapes in the world. His crossing of Iceland’s Sprengisandur wilderness was the first of its kind by any wheeled vehicle. Fueled only by 1.7 lbs of glucose and pemican, he only carried with him a small stove and sleeping bag. Navigating with a poorly detailed map and following a few rough tracks and cairns, his week-long journey included seemingly insurmountable challenges. Deep river crossings, gaping canyons, and muddy terrain conspired to make his ride more of a walk, but he managed to complete the distance.  His images from the journey, each accompanied by a small description of the scene, are a fascinating glimpse into the life of adventure in the 1930s. Even today, cyclists from around the world flock to Iceland each summer to retrace this historic ride.

I took this photo at the memorable moment when two white specks—unmistakably farmhouses—came into sight after topping a hill. Still 8 miles away and several bad rivers and gullies to cross, but I was in great spirits, and very touched at the success of my navigation across the wilderness.

The two Icelanders whom I persuaded to get me across the Tungaá River are resting here a few moments on a small gravel plain under the northern slopes of Hekla. These were the last human beings I saw until reaching Myri farm in the north five days later.

The beautiful ponies have crossed an overgrown lava field and the crater is only 1/4 mile away.

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.

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