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What if you didn’t have to travel to the ends of the earth for big thrills? Writer and adventure hunter Ben Clatworthy reveals five adrenaline-packed experiences that are a two-hour drive (or less) from city centres
Get your own back on Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that paralysed flights in Northern Europe in 2010, by scaling it. But this is no walk in the country. The trek starts by negotiating huge, craggy lava rock formations, before ascending to the glacier boundary. Here, it’s time to gear up with crampons and start the slow, final climb to the crater. On cold days, you’ll see steam billowing from the ground.
Gear: A local guide is essential, as is a down jacket for warmth and a thinner shell jacket. Add crampons, ice axes and a telescopic hiking pole.
Thrill rating: 4/5
City limits: A two-hour drive from Reykjavik
Norway’s fjords, with their lush greenery, waterfalls and cute little cabins, are best explored by boat. But crank up the adventure by opting to kayak down the Nærøyfjord, a couple of hours’ drive from Bergen, and camp in the wilderness overnight.
Gear: A waterproof bag, or drum, for your belongings, firelighter and tent – unless you’re the next Ray Mears.
Thrill factor: 4.5/5
City limits: A two-hour drive from Bergen
It’s the ultimate backcountry ski adventure: an epic ride that crosses the peaks between Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. On the Haute Route there are no lifts, which means you make it uphill under your own steam using ‘skins’ (material that sticks to the bottom of your skis, with fibres pointing rearwards to prevent you slipping). It’s tough going, but you certainly earn your turns on the way down. It takes about a week to complete, and overnights are spent in basic mountain huts, where you’ll be fed and watered.
Gear: Plenty of layers (prepare to be constantly putting on and taking off clothes as you go). A big water bottle, touring skis – with heel release – and plenty of sun cream.
Thrill factor: 4.5/5
City limits: A one-hour drive from Geneva
Home to more than 100 miles of rapids, some of which are classified five on a scale of six for ferocity, the Arkansas River consistently ranks as one of the best whitewater spots. There are plenty of adventure companies to choose from, some offering tours as short as half a day. However, true adventurers should opt for an overnight tour, which includes a camp stay by the river.
Gear: Get ready for a soaking – pack plenty of waterproofs and spare clothes, plus energy bars.
Thrill factor: 5/5
City limits: A one- to two-hour drive from Denver
Croatia’s terrain is rugged. On a bike, you notice it more – the climbs are long, sweaty and punishing on the legs. A cycling and sail tour exploring the country’s myriad islands is a great way to see more than just Split. Visit the island of Vis, where evidence of its chequered past is visible everywhere: there are abandoned villages, a decommissioned military base, and roadside signs warning of undetonated landmines.
Gear: Padded cycling shorts, helmet and sun cream.
Thrill factor: 4/5
City limits: 30 minutes from Split