Thórsmörk Trailteam Volunteers, Iceland (Trailteam.is)

About

Iceland’s Forest Service (Skógræktin) established 'Trailteam.is' in Thórsmörk and Goðaland (South Iceland) in 2012. It's role is to manage the area’s network of hiking trails as well as completing a variety of other practical conservation tasks. Living and working in Iceland’s mountains is both a challenge and an adventure.

We recruit our volunteers directly through online applications and Skype interviews. No previous experience of trail work is necessary as all training is provided. Applicants must be over 20 years of age. There is no participation fee.

Iceland’s notoriously changeable weather means that our teams have to be well prepared with good waterproofs and tents. Due to the strenuous nature of our work, participants must be physically fit and many of our work sites are in remote locations so we do a lot of hiking to get to them.

Applications for our 2018 will be open between December 15th and January 31st.

Founded
1920
Headquarters

Iceland Forest Service
Austurvegi 3-5
800 Selfoss
Iceland

Reviews

Default avatar
Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This is an amazing project and probably one of the best things I have ever done.
For a start, as a keen hiker, it is really nice to be able to pay something back and the project really does help to make the trails much easier for users as well as minimising the impacts on the surrounding landscape. The work is hard, and very physical, so I wouldn’t recommend it to those of a softer constitution. There is also a lot of walking, up-hill, as well as carrying heavy objects for long distances; but this only adds to the satisfaction.

At the grand old age of 35 I was one of the oldest participants during my placement, but older volunteers would still be most welcome. I was also one of the slowest participants during my stay but the team were always patient and didn’t make me feel like my contribution to the project was worth less.

You have to be happy camping, constantly moving your tent, only sleeping in your tent during your stay and comfortable using campsite showers and facilities. But in my opinion this is also one of the most rewarding aspects of the placement. The scenery is second to none, it’s simply beautiful; refreshing, breath-taking and exceedingly tranquil. Due to harsh winter conditions wildlife is few and far between, but botanically there some wonderful areas of alpine grasslands and volcanic heathland habitat.

The project is well organised with team leaders and different groups working on different projects, in different locations. All tools and safety training is provided, as well as guidance on how the work should be carried out. There is a great opportunity to learn new practical skills such as carpentry, earthworks and soft landscaping. The work is really rewarding and a real sense of achievement, team work and group satisfaction is achieved.

Outside of work time all food is provided and you certainly never go hungry! Three meals a day, with turns taken to cook and prepare the food. All main chores are shared amongst participants on a rota basis and really aren’t too onerous (much less than I would do at home), as well as being a good chance to get to know your team mates better too.

Camp spirit was always good. I really did make friends for life on this trip and one of things I valued most about the experience was living as a group of people and sharing life as a short lived ‘family’ with such like-minded people. Chas really does do a good job with participant selection, it was so inspiring to spend time with people that are constantly positive and have a very optimistic outlook on life. Weekends were always great fun, with great food and drink, bonfires by the river and great company. Weekend hikes are easy to organise if you have the energy and chilling out in camp can be a real luxury too.

Chas should be very very proud of everything this project achieves. The outcomes are clearly tangible and I think there must be few voluntary projects that are run so successfully. The work achieved is appreciated by all who use the trails, as well as the rangers in the area; but it also offers a unique opportunity for those seeking such an experience. It is a very popular placement for those still studying or just finished, but from a person who is well past this point I can honestly say it is an amazing chance to escape the day job, learn something new and experience a different way of living for a while. I would thoroughly recommend this project, and whilst 2 weeks may be more financially and responsibility achievable for some people I do feel you would slightly miss out on the real experience of the project gained from a longer stay.

Default avatar
Melissa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program is like no other. Volunteers get to spend their days working in one of the most beautiful places in Iceland, with amazing friends from all over the globe. To top that off, volunteers get to end each day with really good food and some unwinding in a river valley nestled between two stunning glaciers as the ice changes colors from the sunset. A truly amazing experience!

The work we do is very rewarding as it's amazing to see the impact you can have, and receive thanks and encouragement from hikers as they pass by. It's also a wonderful experience to be able to look up from the work and be astounded by the stunning landscape around you! Just a warning, the work is rather strenuous as we often carry our own tools and timber up steep mountain trails and do tasks like staircase and drain building, rock work, trail repairs, and invasive species removal. But I can guarantee that every volunteer was in great shape by the end of the six weeks there!

The six week placement is very special because volunteers get to work from three different locations throughout their time in Iceland; Langidalur, Basar, and Hvanngil. Each location is uniquely different and special in it's own way. Volunteers are also rewarded with a holiday week as a thanks for the work put in. If you decide to apply for a six week placement, you'll be given the opportunity to hike the world famous Laugavegur trail as a thanks for five weeks of hard work.

If you love travel, adventure, beautiful landscapes, and great people that this program is 100% for you! I am so thankful that I had to opportunity to participate in such a wonderful program!

Kieren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Whatever you are looking for from a volunteer programme, this has it.

Whether you want a cathartic release from your conventional lifestyle; to meet new people from all over the world; to visit a new landscape; to challenge yourself personally or develop skills and knowledge for your career development you will find it here.

As a team leader I arrived one week prior to all the other volunteers to join a small group of others who had also signed up as leaders. We spent this week getting to know each other and gaining invaluable knowledge through the training provided; which involved learning about group management and the practical aspect of the work we would be doing. Knowledge useful for career development.....check!

We would camp in small secluded areas of the campsite surrounded by trees, wildflowers, glaciers and mountains and spend our free weekend evenings around the campfire. During our spare time we could go hiking with other volunteers in to the mountains or stay on camp and get to know the wardens. Escape from conventional lifestyle and meet new people....check!

The work was challenging but incredible fun, hiking through the mountains carrying tools and materials come rain and shine provides a good test of character. But the sense of achievement you get as an individual and as part of a team is worth any hardship. Everybody that uses the trails is so grateful and it makes you feel that you are really making a difference. Personal challenge and achievement....check!

The hike week is incredible; starting from the hot pools in Landmannalaugar you will hike 55km along the Laugavegur trail through incredible volcanic scenery back to your base camp in Thorsmork. Visit an amazing landscape....check!

The programme is organised well, Chas bends over backwards to keep the project going and to ensure everybody is well looked after. The food is incredible and there's plenty of it!

So if you're looking for a programme that you will never forget; that will challenge and reward you then this is the one for you!

Scott
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hi,
After many years of dreaming of a trip in Iceland I finally got the opportunity through the Trailteam Iceland project. As a team leader the training and support was second to none. We were made to feel secured and empowered to facilitate a positive experience for all of the members of the team. Chas and Tony were a constant support to us.

When you are at Thorsmork, you are immediately immersed in challenging tasks and environmental settings that will take your breath away and change your life. the work can be so physically demanding and logistically challenging, but at the end of the day you feel so alive and proud of what you and your team achieved. I had so many moments of clarity where I had to stop and reflect on the fact that we were doing incredible work in one of the most incredible places on Earth.

I have led and managed people in a number of settings and yet for me, this experience was something beyond. It is hard and tiring, but it brings you so close to your peers. Within the team is fostered a duty to both Thorsmork and the people of Iceland as well as to each other. I could wax lyrical about troll churches, mountain ridges and volcanic craters, but it would never do justice to being part of the trailteam in that otherworldly place. You are unlikely to do anything more challenging and more amazing in your life. Go with a positive head and I promise it will change you. Do it, do it, do ti! But save me a place because I am desperate to go back!

What would you improve about this program?
No suggestions.
Maria
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I applied for the programme I expected to encounter amazing scenery, learn wilderness skills, find out new things amout my strengths and weaknesses, meet like-minded people and just have a good time in a beautiful place. The programme gave me all this and a lot more.
I applied for the position of a team leader, so before the other volunteers arrived, I had a week-long training with the other team leaders improving both soft skills of volunteer management and learning the practical skills of trail work in the Icelandic mountains. When the volunteers arrived we were divided into teams with 1-2 leaders. During the week each team was given their own project, but we gathered all together for Friday night dinner. Arriving at the main camp for Friday night was like coming back home to all the people dear to you. Having a set project for the week enabled you to look back on Friday and see what you have achieved as a team during the week.
It was amazing to see how motivated everyone was, no matter the weather or a colder night. The teams were unstoppable and even when it was time to go, there was always someone who still wanted to give a stob just another whack with a sledgehammer.
It was heart-warming to hear all the positive feedback for our work from the mountain guides, who took tourist groups along the trails we were fixing. After all, they had a perspective of how it used to be versus how it now was.
Generally, the programme is very well organised. The other volunteers were very interesting and varied from chess player to landscape architect to stone wall builder to park ranger to programmer etc. etc. etc. with the oldest during my time being 65 years old. The food was plenty and good, and I've never eaten so many biscuits in my life.

What would you improve about this program?
Frankly, I think Chas, the main organiser, has done an amazing job and I truly applaud.
An "improvement" could be to have an Icelander or two join the programme, just to get even more variety of volunteers.

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