Leifur Orn Svavarsson

Leifur Orn Svavarsson

Polar Mountain Guide

A polar specialist and a guide since his teenage years, Leifur is one of the founding members of Icelandic Mountain Guides and one of the country’s most experienced mountain professionals. Leifur loves nothing more than sharing the mountain environment with interesting climbers from around the world or speeding down fast technical tracks in his local mountains.

  • Bio

    Leifur photoLeifur splits his time between Reykjavik & Skaftafell National Park, Iceland, and is lead guide on many of our polar expeditions. He is one of Iceland's most experienced mountain guides. 

    Born and raised in Iceland, Leifur started climbing in 1981 at age 15. He started guiding four years later in 1985 and in 1994 together with three other guides founded Icelandic Mountain Guides.

    Leifur enjoys being outdoors, "with the wind in my hair where I can concentrate on one thing and nothing else clouds my mind." When guiding, he loves sharing his special outdoor world with interesting people from around the globe.

    Leifur's most memorable climbing expedition, of the many he's been on, is an expedition to Mt Forel in 2000, where he travelled by dog sled up to the Greenland Ice Cap and skied the North Glacier. After climbing Mt Forel, the team travelled 150km on skis over difficult mountain terrain before reaching an isolated village on the east coast of Greenland.

    In addition to his guiding in Iceland and Greenland, Leifur has extensive guiding experience across the globe.

    When not guiding... "I like to take my family skiing in Northern Iceland or on a climbing holiday to Kalymnos or Thailand. I also enjoy fast technical tracks with friends in the colourful Icelandic mountains."

    Leifur has a university degree in geology with a focus on avalanches. He holds a Level II Canadian Avalanche Association certification and worked as a director for avalanche warnings for the Icelandic Metrological Office from 2002 to 2010.

  • Notable Ascents

    • Everest (8,850m/29,035ft) - 2013, 2019 - In 2013 Leifur became the first Icelander to reach the top of Everest via the North Col route
    • North Pole
    • South Pole
    • Cho Oyu (8,188m/26,863ft)
    • Peak Lenin, Kyrgyzstan (7,134m/23,406ft)
  • International Expeditions

    Seven Summits

    Everest (8,850m/29,035ft)

    • Guide 2013, 2019

    Aconcagua (6,962m/22,841ft)

    • Lead guide, several expeditions

    Denali (6,190m/23,308ft)

    Elbrus (5,642m/18,510ft)

    • Lead Guide

    Vinson Massif (4,892m/16,050ft)

    • Lead Guide


    Cho Oyu (8,188m/26,863ft)

    • Guide

    Jebel Toubkal, Morocco (4,167m/13,671ft)

    • Lead Guide

    Mt Gunnbjörn, Greenland (3,694m/12,119ft)

    • Lead Guide

    North Pole

    • Ski the Last Degree

    South Pole

    • Ski the Last Degree


    • Numerous first ascents

    Greenland Crossing

    • Numerous trips


    • Numerous first ascents

    Vatnajokull Glacier

    • Iceland, Lead Guide, including full winter traverse