Iceland, March 2003

120 km south of the Arctic Circle, a one-lane bridge crosses the narrow gorge of the Munkadveragil river. Steep black walls of columnar basalt rise about 20 m from the river and twice that far apart. If you stand on the bridge and look down, you see a line of bolts snaking up through overhangs, the final one drilled into the bridge itself.

When the war began I was in Siglufjordur, a pretty village at the edge of the northern sea. On the only channel a blond woman read news in Icelandic, against a graphic of missile and jet. My host was anxious; his government had declared solidarity with the US, and would this now make his small country a target for terrorists?

On the afternoon of the equinox, Adam from Nottingham drove me back to the Munkadveragil gorge. In normal times March is snow and ice season in the subarctic, but these are not normal times. It had been the warmest winter in over a hundred years. Even so, the bitter wind robbed our ambition to lead. We settled for toproping three lines on dry, unnervingly slick rock before the sun vanished and snow whipped around, chasing us off to Akureyri and pub.

In my hotel room that night I watched BBC news, explosions lighting the night sky over Baghdad. I couldn't sleep so I went out into the darkness, and watched green cat-tracks of aurora light the night sky over Eyjafjord.

Larry Hamilton, 2003