THE FOX PLATEAU
Words: Ana Gomes
Photography: Aniruddha Satam
17 June 2017
The Arctic Fox. Elusive and mysterious, it can be incredibly hard to spot. Perfectly adapted to life in the Arctic, its paws are covered in fur to prevent freezing and as winter fades into spring, its fur changes from white to brown, allowing it to blend seamlessly into its surroundings.
Seeing the Arctic Fox was one of the things we wanted the most during our time in Iceland. The main reason we decided to stay in this remote part of the country was the fact that Arctic Foxes are known to inhabit the plateau at the top of the mountains towering above our tiny cabin.
At around 520 metres high, the Fox plateau was a mere 400 metres hike from the cabin. But for inexperienced hikers like ourselves, this was not to be underestimated. We had learnt this the hard way earlier in the trip when we climbed Hverfjall, a volcanic crater in northern Iceland.
As we set off that morning, our boots sank deep into the brown moss carpeting the mountain slopes. Despite the freezing cold, the occasional spell of sunshine provided us with much-needed comfort.
Half way up, the ascent became increasingly hard and treacherous, the black volcanic rocks tumbling down the sides of the mountain, a reminder of the drop below. From that point on, the distance to the summit seemed to stretch endlessly, with a new layer materialising as soon as we made it over the last. Patches of icy snow, coupled with steeper inclines, meant we had to consider our every move.
But we were determined to reach the plateau. We could not possibly leave without having done all we could to try and see these mysterious creatures.
So we pushed ourselves, until breathless and aching, we made it to the summit. And it felt good. Suddenly we had forgotten all about the strenuous climb and we stood there, frozen in time, taking it all in.
The wind swept plateau stretched in front of us, green moss emerging from under the nearly thawed snow.
From up there, the landscape stretched for miles and miles all around, snow capped mountain ranges dramatically converging into magnificent valleys.
With dawn long gone, we decide it's time to make our way down, this time opting for a different path.
Not long into our descent, the sound of dripping water peaks our interest and stops us in our tracks.
The remaining ice sheets are melting fast under the spring's sun and streams of water trickle down the mountain slopes towards the valleys below.
And that is when we see it. On the ice patch right in front of us - a stream of tiny little paw prints, the ice preserving them just a little longer from the harsh mid-afternoon sun, providing us with the only proof that, indeed, the mysterious Arctic Fox does call this beautiful plateau, home.