I’ve just got home to a rather rainy and grey London, finding myself going through the inevitable re-acclimatisation and come down after you’ve been away on a a mind-blowing week’s adventure!
So for the last 8 days, myself and twenty other challengers took part in a very unique event. We were totally immersed in the stunning and wild Norwegian mountains, taking part in the annual IGO N60 Norwegian Challenge – a four day, four discipline, expedition challenge.
I am sat at my computer with a slightly tanned face (please note from windburn not sunburn!) cracked lips, a tired body, blistered feet to name but a few physical aliments, but feeling so invigorated and uplifted for the week I have just had. This has to be the adventure-expedition-holiday to end them all!!
After arriving out in Norway, we had two days in the resort of Hemsedal for training, kit prep and generally getting our minds in the right place for the gruelling challenge ahead. The event started and day 1 of N60 was underway with a merciless ski touring stage and a near 1,000m straight ascent right off the bat!
As we followed the well marked route – with IGO flags placed in the ground every 100m or so – just when we thought we were breaking the back of this stage, the freezing gale force wind kicked in, which was so strong you were almost blown back up the hill on trying to ski down it! After numerous more skin removals / applications, climbs / descents, completion of the course and our camp for the next two days came, welcomingly, into view. I was very relieved to get out of the freezing wind and take shelter, make a hot chocolate and warm up in the Lavvu, a teepee style native tent.
As the other entrants completed the stage one by one over the coming hours – with the weather worsening and closing in by the minute – we would all throw our jackets and gloves on, emerge from the benches and warmth of the camp fires, and welcome them with cheers and hi-fives all round. Even on day one, this collective team spirit was clearly building, and the beginnings of great friendships and mutual support was underway.
Over the coming three days, we were put through our paces with fat biking, x-country skiing and snowrun stages, with countless stories of personal endurance, perseverance, and pushing on despite the odds. Even with the exceptionally harsh conditions we faced, with the tireless support of the IGO crew, each one of us completed the race and crossed the finish line in Geilo to claim their medal.
For some entrants, this whole experience was completely out of their comfort zone and quite unlike anything they have ever done before – from camping out in the wild, to the freeze dried rations, to the distances we were covering, to the freezing weather and winds, to the disciplines – it was a first for many of us in many ways. But this is when the IGO concept is so brilliant and exactly where it excels, as it brings together such a broad cross section of abilities and ages of competitor who all muck in and take part together. The all important infrastructure and support system is there with guides, medics, physios and full support crew, and if you find yourself in trouble any point on the day’s route you’ll have assistance within minutes.
This was such a fantastic trip on so many fronts, and I will take away many things from it, but mostly the following. Firstly, the sheer dogged determination shown by the less experienced and physically strong competitors – it was so inspirational how they would keep on and on, despite being on the day’s route for twice as long as I was in worse weather. I didn’t want to be out on the course for one more minute, never mind another 4 hours (yes, on the x-country ski stage this took me around 4 hours with the last guy crossing the line in 8 hours, and let me tell you it was very very cold and bitter!). Secondly the friends I made – it was so wonderful to sit around the communal open camp fire each evening, and share stories and experiences with people from all walks of life, and of different ages. To welcome each other over the finish line each day, more and more bedraggled as the week went on.
I managed to complete the route first in this year’s N60, with a total time of just over 12 hours. The last member of our ‘team’ (because by this stage, it very much felt like we were one big unit) was participating in the challenge for around 24 hours in total – big respect to them! I did particularly enjoy spraying an entire Jeroboam of G.H.Mumm champagne with the podium celebration – that was a first for me!
It was such a fantastic week, and one which I can’t recommend enough. You’ll have a great adventure for sure. There are also two other IGO Challenges this year, one in Montana in August, and one in Morocco in October, and I’m seriously tempted to take on all three if I can .. watch this space!!!
Check out the full kit list I used for the IGO N60 here
IGO N60 – Norwegian Challenge. 2018 dates TBC
IGO W114 – Montana Challenge. Dates: 12-20th August 2017. Disciplines: Swim Run, Mountain Bike, Kayak, Plains Run. Price: 3,895usd (excl flights)
IGO NW05 – Moroccan Challenge. Dates: 1st – 8th October 2017. Disciplines: Desert Bike, Kayak, Mountain Bike, Atlas Scramble. Price: 3,495gbp (excl flights)