Going to the US this summer

This just in.

Next August I will be holding a presentation for american ostomates – on the national UOAA conference, which will be held in Reno. My presentation will be about my adventurous life with ileostomy and view on life where I hope I can continue to spread the word about fun and adventurous life with ostomy. It will be a great experience to meet up to 700 people with similar experience and I am greatly honored to be a part of this.

If interested, you can see information abut the conference here.

I am hoping to make an adventure out of this as well as the Yosemite National Park is the mekka of rockclimbing in the US – with up to 1000 meter (3.300 feet) vertical cliffs. I will probably not have time to do any real climbing but just the sight will probably be amazing. Below is a video from this place, and you will hopefully see that this place is a natural wonder. (the big cliff in the beginning is Half Dome, a famous climb)

Regarding other plans for this year it is unlikely that I will do any extreme challenges like last year. I will however probably travel to France with my family where I hope to learn to surf, along with “typical” touristic stuff. I also plan on climbing a ~400 meter (1300 feet) vertical cliff in the north of Iceland, which about only 10 teams (20-30 people) have climbed so far. If I do that, I will have to prepare well.

Other adventures will hopefully appear randomly and if they will – I will embrace them and enjoy them.

This year has however started with a very tight work schedule leaving little time for activities. Hopefully that will change soon.

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An Adventurous Life with Ileostomy

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I did a presentation for the Icelandic Ostomy Association yesterday where I showed pics from my trip to the Alps along with other (hopefully) interesting stuff. At the end of my presentation, I played this video which showed what I’ve been up to for the last +2 years. That is, showing all the amazing things I’ve been able to do, thanks to the freedom and improved health I got after surgery.

The video is in a “timely order” that is, starts with pics from hikes that I started taking 2 months after surgery and ending with pics from a hike I took just a week ago. In between there are all kinds of adventurous stuff, pics and videos, that I hope can be inspiring for other people with stoma.

After these two years of adventures I truly believe that having a ileostomy does not have to limit ones life, it only takes a strong desire to enjoy life and maybe a childish optimism. 😉

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Page Update and Publicity

Page Update: After I finished documenting my trip to the Alps and publishing it here I somehow needed to take a break from the webpage. Now, almost two months later, I’m back and plan on continuing telling tales of my adventures, big and small. Also, I will continue writing about my thougts and experience related to my life with ileostoma. I don’t know how frequently I will post something here but hopefully something new will arrive every other week.

I also rearranged the webpage so that you can have better access to everything I’ve already put in. For example, all my videos are now accessible below on the right.

Publicity: I have gotten some publicity in Iceland recently, in TV and press. It was part of a publicity campaign that the Icelandic Ostomi Association. was doing. The campaign was made to increase peoples awareness of ileostomy and show them that life can actually be quite good with ileostoma. The TV interview was in a swimming pool and therefore showed more than before and seems to have gotten peoples attention, along with the other interviews.

Also, there will be an interview in Coloplast’s next magazine, in danish, and there is a possibility of more foreign publicity, more on that later.

Below is the video and the press article is here.

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Days Seven to Eleven– July 23rd to 28th 2010

(I appologize for the low quality of the video, I’m trying to improve it)

After leaving Zermatt we took off to Italy. On day eight we took a train to Milan where we stayed for one night. On day nine we went to Lecco where we stayed for four days which gave us three days of climbing near Lake Como. We got amazing weather and various types of climbing; some were just ok while others were absolutely amazing.  The last day of climbing turned out to be the best as we stumbled on amazing  rocks which included great climbing, twelve meter high cliff diving and… wait for it.. Deep water soloing! (Deep water soloing means climbing where you have no safety line and if you fall, you fall into the water)

Our last day was one of the highlights of our trip, second to the Lyskamm ridge. The fact that I took dives from twelve meter height, with a ileostoma on my stomach, without any real protection and not having any real problems with it is, I believe, incredible. It showed me once more that the limits that I thought I had were actually only in my mind…

Or maybe I was just stupid and lucky…  But I really had a blast and that’s what counts.

On day twelve I ended the “hyper adventure” part of my trip as I met my wife and daughter in Milan and we started the “family adventure” part which included staying in Milan and the Italian Riviera, visiting Monaco and Nice in France, and ending in London, UK. I was travelling for a total of almost four weeks but it truly felt like two months as it was so incredibly eventful and fun.

My quest for “going up”, which started the day I went to surgery, partly ended on the 11th of August when I got back to Iceland. During this time I did incredible things that I could have never dreamed about before I went to surgery and even after surgery. I sincerely believe that my desire to have fun and determination to not let my limits stop me are the sole reason I got to do all of these things, which have truly improved my life. Therefore I like to end my final post about the trip with this little message: 

Have fun in life and do things that scare you, or you believe you cannot do. You’ll be surprised what can happen.


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Day Five – July 22nd 2010

Day five was different from the other four. Simply because we did not have any peaks to climb. Our original plan was to go up on Dufourspitze, which is the second highest peak of the European Alps but, due to bad weather, our only option was to hike down. Other teams had also planned on going on Dufourspitze and other peaks but also needed to change their plans. Therefore there were a lot of people hiking down the same trail, back to civilization in Zermatt.

The hike down was pretty long, around 13km through glaciers, crevasses (ísl:sprungur), big rocks and trails.I think it took about 8 hours. It was undeniably beautiful walking down, looking back at the mountains we had previously climbed and just enjoying the magnificent surroundings.

The day was somewhat uneventful, but there were a couple of highlights during the day:

  1. When we got of the glacier we could take of the crampons (ísl: broddar)which had been stuck on our feet for five days. That simple change was surprisingly liberating (ísl. frelsandi)
  2. When we arrived in a hut half way down we found out that two guys had died on the Lyskamm ridge the day before we were there. That was shocking news and changed my view of the past days – i.e. it’s serious business being up there…
  3. When we got in the train (that would take us to Zermatt) and sat down with “normal” people we were suddenly very aware of the fact that we had not showered in five days… The girl who sat next to me seemed to be very aware of it to 😉
  4. When we got to Zermatt, we sat down at the first restaurant we saw and got a pizza, soda and the guys had beer. It was great.
  5. We went to a luxury spa where we relaxed and enjoyed different types of saunas, rest areas and showers. Doing nothing was nice for a change and the three hours we spent in the spa really re-energized us.

Our five-day warm up had ended and we were all ready to attack Matterhorn within days. But, after waiting for three days it was evident that the weather was not going to get better. Therefore, we decided to get out of Zermatt, out of Switzerland and go rock climbing in Italy. It turned out to be a great decision as we found some great climbing near Lago di Como, among other great things.

More on that in my next post, which will probably be the last post about the trip.

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Day Four – July 21st 2010

Day four started early for me, just over midnight after about 2 hour sleep. I felt like there were fireworks in my stomach and really didn’t feel good. My stomabag was also full and for the next hours I just laid in my bed trying to be comfortable along with going a couple of times to the bathroom. I finally managed to fall asleep and in total slept for about 3-4 hours. I realized that the energy gel that I took in twice the day before was something that I really, really could not handle. I even got soars in my mouth because of it.

And so, day four didn’t start well and as I woke up I was having diarrhea. In short that means it is really difficult for me to get in energy as the food only stops for 1-2 hours in my body. In addition to that, I needed a lot more fluid and food than usual. Regretfully I didn’t realize this when we took off.

Thankfully day four was always planned to be relatively easy as we would go up on two easy, nontechnical, peaks and would not have to return down as the hut we would sleep in was on top of the later peak. The hike up was however estimated to take up to 8 hours.

When we got near the first peak, Parrotspitze (4.432 meters), I said I didn’t want to go up, as I was too weak and tired.  Everybody somewhat agreed, as we were all tired after a demanding Lyskamm ridge  the day before. Gummi and Maggi however decided to try out some version of ice climbing on the side of the peak and I offered to take pictures with Gummi’s big high quality camera.

As we were taking the pictures me and Jón went higher and higher to get better pics and before I knew it, I was climbing up the ridge (ísl: hryggur) of Parrotspitze. Suddenly, on the ridge, I lost every ounce of energy in my body. My feet were shaky and I felt a bit dizzy. Stopping on the narrow ridge wasn’t an option so my only option was to get through it as quickly as possible, which took about 20 minutes, and quite dangerous as I felt like could just as well faint. Therefore I was quite alert for the danger of the situation and was also extremely frustrated that I had managed to put myself in this situation. On top of all of this, I still had the big camera that was dangling on front of me, weighting too much for this type of situation and thereby not making things better.

“Ágúst!!!  Picture!!!” . It was Maggi calling behind, It sounded like he wanted me to take pics… I was too afraid to turn in their direction to take pics so I just aimed the camera backwards and took a bunch of pictures, cursing them in my mind at the same time.

It turned out later that Gummi wanted to get the camera so that HE could take pics. But that was after a lot of screaming in the wind and even a finger signal made by me as I had lost all tolerance for the “serious camera problem” they were so focused on while I was dealing with my dilemma.

As soon as I got through the ridge I sat down and swallowed down on chocolate bar and drank a lot. That was all I needed to get energized and comfortable with this narrow ridge. Soon thereafter we stopped and I ate and drank a lot more.

The funny thing is that now I cherish the pictures I took and really don’t regret hiking the peak, which was kind of the most dangerous thing I did, as silly as that sounds. The picture, which is below and turned out great, reminds me how my limits can really stop me but at the same time how far I can still go despite all of that.

The rest of the hike was mostly uneventful except when we were reaching the hut on top of Signalkuppe  4,554 meters. There we saw a helicopter pick up a climber that seemed to have gotten severe height altitude sickness, and had to get down to civilization.

The Margherita hut, situated on top of Signalkuppe, is the highest hut in Europe and is about 1000 meters higher that the hut we were in the night before. This is a lot in terms of height altitude sickness problems. We felt it when we arrived but got used to it quickly. I was also getting better in my stomach so our overall health was good in the end of the day. Were were however getting tired after four days in the mountains and started to look forward to getting back to Zermatt the next day.

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Day three – July 20th 2010

We started the day at 4:30, finally on time and somewhat fully rested… That is… Me, Maggi and Jón were fully rested but Gummi didn’t sleep at all the entire night, mainly due to excitement for the day to come, I think. I admit I was skeptical that he could do a 10 hour demanding hike on that day and I guess we all were.

I guess we all also agreed silently that we were a bit afraid of the days project as we were going to hike and climb the Lyskamm ridge (ísl: hryggur) which is 5 km long and very narrow with 600-1000 meter freefall in both direction. The ridge included two peaks, Lyskamm West (4,467 m) and Lyskamm East (4,527 m) and therefore this would be our longest, most demanding hike as well as most dangerous.

We didn’t know at the time but the day before two climbers fell to their death climbing the ridge. We also found out later that the mountain is known as the man-eater, as climbers have fallen through cornices (ísl.: hengjur) that had formed on the top of the ridge and climbers didn’t know they were actually walking on air.

In short… we were going to hike and climb a 5 km ridge and there was little room for error. One failed step of thousands could cost us our lives. (I guess this sounds overly dramatic but this was actually just a fact.) The Lyskamm also had the same difficulty / danger grade as the Matterhorn. We did know that and I guess that was the reason we all approached Lyskamm with full respect.

And so… with a knot in our belly we took off. For me the scariest part was hiking up on Lyskamm west as it was very steep and very very icy. One failed move would have taken both me and Maggi down without the slightest chance of stopping us with our ice axes. After we got up on the peak and started traversing the ridge (ísl: að þræða hrygginn) I went from alert to stupid and forgot about all the dangers and just enjoyed the experience.

It was incredible, pretty much the most incredible mountain experience I’ve had . The weather was perfect, sun and no wind which made everything a lot easier, and less dangerous.

After finishing threading the most exposed part of the ridge we hiked up on Lyskamm east to find out that there was a lot left to get down and rather demanding. The worst thing was that the snow had melted quite a lot, due to the sun, which made our decent (ísl: gangan niður) a lot more difficult.

After getting on safe ground we hiked down to the Gnifetti Hut and after 11 hours of pure pleasure we were relieved to get some rest and gain some energy for the next day.

I had no problems with the stoma except I ran out of food and water (I always needed more than the guys). Due to lack of food I took in energy gel which I had never taken before. This turned out to be a very bad decision as my stomach didn’t agree with my food of choice, which had effect on the days to come. More about that in my next post.

The Gnifetti hut was great. We had a private room, with bunkers, and the view from the toilet window was amazing – With Lyskamm East gnawing above us and a fierce looking glacier below us. We ate a lot, prepared our gear and went to bed filled with wonderful memories from the last days.  At this point I felt unstoppable and was full of confidence for the next days.

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Day Two – July 19th 2010

Our day started at around 7 am, we had decided to sleep a little longer as we were still trying to make up for the lack of sleep from the nights before. We were therefore the last team out of the hut and took off with a stomach full of old „toast crackers“, nutella chocolate, butter, marmalade, tea and coffee.

Our original plan of the day was to go up on two peaks, Castor and Pollux. But, as we had decided to “sleep in”, we could only go up on one peak and Castor, the higher one, was our peak of choice. Castor is 4.228 meter high and is a relatively simple peak with snow and ice in somewhat steep slopes. On the top was a somewhat narrow ridge and then there was a long hike down to the next hut. The height increase was around 800 meters and we crossed around 6-8 kilometers from the hut, to the peak and to the second hut. It probably sounds short but in this high altitude it is quite a lot and was just right for our second day in the Alps.

The day went great, it was actually kind of perfect. Me and Maggi were tied together and went quite quickly up the peak and found out that our training had really paid off. The view from the top was great as we could see the challenge of tomorrow and got really excited, and alarmed at the same time. We arrived in the hut at around 16:00 and got our first break in our trip.

After a short break we prepared our gear for the next day, ate our dinner and went to sleep around 21:00 so that we could make an early start in the morning.

I had no problems with my stoma on day two, as I was careful to empty my bag regularly and ate on a regular basis. I had a so-called “astronaut-meal” (elemental diet) which really helped me get extra nutrition between meals (something the guys didn’t have to worry about). I also had to drink a lot more fluid than the guys and I put in a carbohydrate mix into it, to ensure I got enough salts and minerals. It worked great.

In the hut I did get into two “minor” problems. I had to change my stoma plate and found out that I forgot my razor (the one I use to shave of body hair on my belly). One staff member of the hut gave me his razor when I told him about my problem. I actually don’t know what would have happened if I he wouldn’t have helped me as I really needed to change everything… Problem number two was that I changed my plate and bag right before dinner and therefore I had to stand during the entire meal – as I cannot sit right afterwards. People were really surprised and really didn’t understand why on earth I was standing there… I just told them I was special…

[Note: I apologize for the delay. I was busy planning and celebrating my 30 year old birthday last week and therefore didn‘t have time to work on the webpage.]

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Day One – July 18th 2010

We started the day behind schedule as we managed to set our alarms on Icelandic time, 2 hours behind schedule. On top of that, we were so tired the evening before, after travelling to Zermatt, that we had not prepared our gear in advance. On top of all of that, we found out that there were almost no stores open on Sunday which made it quite difficult to get food as well as getting money from the bank.

Long story short… Gummi and I barely managed to check us out of the hostel and get most of our excess gear in storage while Maggi and Jón ran around town trying to find a store and ATM (electronic bank/hraðbanka). This lead to us being 3-4 hours behind schedule and we started our hike at around 14:00, really tired after about 6-8 hour sleep in two days.

Not the best way to start 😉

But then the magic began. We went up to Klein Matterhorn with a lift and entered our playground for the next five days. It was incredible.

We hiked up Breithorn and it took us around 2-3 hours to get up. The hike was short and easy but at the same time demanding as we were adapting to the high altitude and carrying +15 kg on our back. I had to breathe fast and deep and my heart was pumping like it had hardly ever done before. It was a new and strange experience.

We were on the top of Breithorn, 4.164 meters, at around 17:00. The view was breathtaking; we could see Matterhorn and saw some of the peaks we would hike in the following days, along with hundreds of other peaks of the Alps, including Mont Blanc in the west.  After a short celebration and pictures we headed down as we still had to walk down to our hut, Val d’Ayas hut, in 3.425 meters.

Walking from the peak, on a relatively narrow ridge, I suddenly realized how incredible all of this was, that I was actually doing this. For a couple of minutes I was filled with gratitude and joy where I was thinking about everybody that had made this possible – that is, helping me getting from cancer, ulcerative colitis and stoma limitations… to this incredible adventure. (The list turned out to be long in my mind and I plan on posting it on this page, as these people have really made a difference.)

The walk down was in bad snow condition as the snow had melted in the sun which made everything a bit more difficult and dangerous. There were a couple of big crevasses (sprungur) that we had to jump over along with a lot of “smaller” ones that we had to walk and thread through.

We arrived in our hut around 20:00, quite exhausted and hungry, due to lack of sleep and after the hike of the day. An hour or two later, we were in our bunkers falling asleep. Our stomacs were full as we got a big three course meal (pasta, meat and dessert)… which was a nice surprise as we didn’t think it would be this good.

The first day was very promising for the next days and we were all excited for the days to come. The weather had been extremely good and the weather forecast was promising. The following days showed us that the first day was just a warm up.

I had a couple of problems with my stoma on that day, some which continued the following days, they were:

  • Due to our problems in the beginning of the day I didn’t pack up as much food as I needed, which made me a little bit “low on fuel” during the day.
  • I made the mistake of not emptying my bag before starting the difficult part of the peak. This made my walk down a steep icy part a bit difficult, as my stoma bag was full and in the way. Maggi, my teammate, helped me out by belaying me down the worst part. (Hjálpaði mér að síga niður) As soon as I got on good ground I emptied the bag and everything was ok.
  • Eating late in the evening meant I had to empty the bag in the middle of the night, which meant waking up, going to the toilet (which was far away) and trying to go to fall asleep again. This usually meant I lost an hour of sleep every night of our five-day trip.

Here is a video compilation that I made from pics and videos, I hope you enjoy 😉

(Note: It took me a while to do all of this and therefore it is possible that there will be a couple of days until I will post day two.)

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Back in Iceland

I’m back, and finally have access to a computer to tell tales of our travels and challenges.

The past 24 days have been incredible where one adventure followed the other. I feel like I’ve been travelling for 2 months and hardly remember the regular life that awaits… Work… what is that?

I have so many amazing memories and thankfully documented it well with pictures and videos. I plan on picking out the best pieces and show and tell anyone interested here on this page. I will write one post for each day on the mountains, about 8 posts in total, including videos and pics. This will take me some time, to go through everything and write it down, but hopefully my first post/day will be posted within few days. Following that, I will probably continue with some of my thoughts that I had already started writing, about my view on life and healing after surgery.

This means that this little webpage of mine is still alive and kicking, despite a short brake, and I guess the best is yet to come… hopefully.

I end this with a little sneak preview: The picture below was taken by Gummi Stóri where we were approaching the Lyskamm Ridge, which was the highlight of our trip. More on that later but the two Lyskamm peaks and the ridge between them turned out to be a far bigger experience than we expected, with the same difficulty rating as the Matterhorn.

Three words describes it best – Very, very exposed.

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