Not everyone thinks of bicycling as an ideal way to experience Alaska’s backcountry. Bjørn Olson has made an art of wilderness bikepacking. He envisions coastal shorelines, frozen rivers, game trails, and tundra as opportunities to explore ambitious new routes to cycle in all seasons. Combining packrafts with fatbikes, Bjørn and partners have pedaled and paddled their ways through long wilderness adventures with their “go-light, go-far” ethic.
Bjørn is a renaissance Alaskan adventurer. An accomplished sea kayaker, he plays in rock gardens, surfs winter shore break, and has circumnavigated the rugged coast of southcentral Alaska to Kodiak. He embraces mountaineering, back-country snowboarding, and even rough terrain unicycling as ways to experience the Alaskan wilds.
I was born in an abandoned trappers cabin that my parents were squatting. Most of my life I have chopped wood and hauled water. ‘Chop wood, haul water’ is the metaphor of my life.
A life-long Alaskan, Bjørn was born near the village of Slana in the Copper River valley. He has lived in Kennicott, Moose Pass, Seward and many points between. His desire to explore wild country ignited at age 17 while living in Valdez. At age 21 Bjørn fell over 100 feet while ice climbing. This experience confirmed what he already knew, “Life can be fleeting, so it’s best to get a move on things.” Bjørn now lives in Homer. He has worked in construction, as a guide, and as an activist and environmental advocate for nonprofits. He is fiercely loyal to his Alaskan home.
I love our native heritage, our intense seasonal transformations, the micro and macro climates… I have every intention to live and explore here for the rest of my life and hope to be a force for good in long term management of our resources.
Bjørn’s love of Alaskan landscapes, lifestyles and adventures are reflected in his creative pursuits. His primary passion is photography, which he shares through his website Mjölnir Photography. His ventures into filmmaking and writing reveal his storytelling talents and an eye for seeing beyond ordinary experience. Bjørn’s Vimeo channel offers a sampling of his incredible videos. Hunting for Monsters captures the essence of Bjørn’s 2012 fatbike and packraft journey from Cook Inlet to Bristol Bay. The full film premiered at Homer’s Outdoor Film Festival in November 2013. Bjørn is launching his new website, Mjölnir of Bjørn, to showcase his photography, videos, and writing.
I have decided to focus on adventure and a creative life, opposed to the rat race and an endless desire to accumulate wealth. Time in nature helps me come to grips with my role as a human on a distinctly unique planet that we, collectively, are abusing.
Bjørn’s first feature film project, Where the Heck is Donlin?, endeavors to increase public awareness of the massive Donlin mine project in remote Southwest Alaska. It documents a three-part, 1000 mile journey by Bjørn and partner Kim McNett from McGrath to Bethel: their winter bike ride on the historic Iditarod trail, packraft trip down the Kuskokwim River, and return to bike the frozen Kuskokwim. In the spirit of the Ground Truth Trekking model of gathering first-hand knowledge and unique local perspectives, the film tells the story of the Donlin Gold prospect through their own eyes and personal visits with residents, lodge-owners, trail-users, small villages, schools, and fish camps. Through the film, Bjørn and Kim bring to light the complex issues, energy demands, and potentially devastating environmental consequences of this huge proposed mining operation.
All photos on this page copyrighted by Bjørn Olson and used with his permission.