Over eight days this March, together with twenty other participants, I took part in the IGO N60 Norwegian Challenge – a four-day, four-discipline expedition adventure set in the stunning and wild Norwegian mountains.
Having arrived in Hemsedal, a resort town in central southern Norway, we had two days to train, organise our kit and acclimatise before we were off on a merciless ski touring stage with an almost 1,000m straight ascent.
We were following a well-marked route, with IGO flags placed every 100m, but just when I thought I was breaking the back of the stage, a freezing, gale-force wind blew up. It was so strong that you were almost forced back up the hill that you were trying to ski down. Yet, after numerous clothing changes and numerous climbs and descents, our camp for the next two nights came into view. It was a relief to get out of the freezing wind, take shelter and warm up with a hot chocolate in the Lavvu, a native, teepee-style tent.
Despite the weather taking a turn for the worse, over the coming hours, as the other participants completed the stage, we’d all throw on our jackets and gloves and withdraw from the warmth of the camp fires to welcome them with cheers and high-fives.
Over the coming days we were put through our paces with fat biking, cross-country skiing and snowrun stages, which passed with countless stories of personal endurance, perseverance and pushing on despite all the odds. Despite the exceptionally harsh conditions we faced, with the tireless support of the IGO crew every competitor completed the adventure and crossed the finish line in Geilo to claim their medal.
For some of the entrants, the whole experience was completely out of their comfort zone and quite unlike anything they have ever done before – from the camping in the wild and freeze dried rations, to the distances we were covering and the freezing weather and winds – in one way or another it was a first for everyone. This is where the IGO concept excels, bringing together such a broad cross section of abilities and ages of individual who all muck in and take part together. The all-important infrastructure and support system is there with guides, medics, physios and crew, and if you find yourself in trouble any point on the journey, you’d 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 sheer dogged determination shown by the less experienced and physically fit – it was so inspirational how they would keep on and on, despite being on the course for twice as long as I was in worse weather. I also made some great friends – it was so wonderful to sit around the communal open campfire each evening, and share stories and experiences with people of different ages and from all walks of life.
IGO N60 – Norwegian Challenge 2018: Dates: 10th – 18th, March 2018. Disciplines: X-Country Ski, Ski Tour, Fat Bike, Marathon. Price: starts at £4,750 (excluding flights)
IGO W114 – Montana Challenge. Dates: 12-20th August, 2017. Disciplines: Swim Run, Mountain Bike, Kayak, Plains Run. Price: $3,495 (excluding flights)
IGO NW05 – Moroccan Challenge. Dates: 1st – 8th October, 2017. Disciplines: Desert Bike, Kayak, Mountain Bike, Atlas Scramble. Price: £3,495 (excluding flights)