The Tromso Skyrace attracted a lot of attention from the very first edition, due to the fact that the race directors are renowned international trail superstars Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet.

Based inside the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway, this was a race I was keen to do as soon as I heard about it.

I subsequently completed its first three editions, the only event I have done three times, which just shows how much I enjoyed it!

The 1st edition was a trial race and very low key. Kilian ran the race himself and was chatting to competitors as he went past them! Since then the event has grown and been adapted to now include the Blamann vertical kilometer, which I completed in my second year; the shorter Bonntuva and Tromsdalstinden races; and the original Hamperokken race.

From the first edition the Hamperokken route has changed slightly. Originally it was shorter, starting at a cable car station a few hundred meters up from Tromso itself, and involved an out and back along the technical Hamperokken ridge. There were very limited paths, with whole sections devoid of any trails as this was not a walked route. This has now altered following the race, and by the third edition there was an established trail, which has made some sections slightly easier.

Two other key differences are that the start has moved to Tromso town itself (at sea level) making it longer and with more elevation change, as well as a different route back from Hamperokken summit, avoiding returning along a technical ridge, but down an equally technical descent.

The timing has also moved to earlier in the year, a wise decision given that the first edition had ice and snow on the summit of Hamperokken.

My three years at the race varied significantly. The first edition I was going into the unknown. My choice of trail shoes was incorrect, with nowhere near enough grip, and with large snow fields to cross at times I was using rocks in my hands as temporary ice axes just to climb them.

Years 2 and 3 (despite the slightly new route in places) were far more ‘relaxed’ races and I was confident in my choice of footwear and knew what to expect from the route.

Training Approach

In very simplistic terms the race involves 3 large climbs of around 1200m ascent each, 3 technical descents, and a technical ridge, with a mix of rocks, muddy trails with roots and fallen trees as obstacles, and a few river crossings.

After the first year, where I had done a lot of trail running, but not technical running, I adapted my training to focus on long climbs and descents on technical rocky terrain.

This would involve trips to Snowdonia and climbing mountains such as Tryfan and Crib Goch - routes with large elements of scrambling and reasonably long ascents and descents.

This was not only to get the body in condition, but also to test equipment, in particularly shoes and their respective grip on rocks. Having confidence in footwear on such a technical route is a massive benefit and can save a lot of time as one can move faster with less effort on the technical parts of the race.

I also introduced some rock climbing in to my training for all over conditioning, and again to help with confidence and technique on the more challenging sections. I had found on the first edition of the race that I was using my hands a lot, even on some of the steeper climbs, so introducing more upper body work into my training gave a massive benefit.

 The Races

I feel very honored to have completed the Hamperokken Skyrace on three occasions, as the drop out rate is high, especially in the earlier editions when there was less knowledge of the route, and cut-off times were not as well established.

Across the three events I steadily improved (with course variations and conditions they are not directly comparable races) but I do feel like I have some unfinished business as not had a ‘perfect’ race there yet.
The atmosphere has changed massively from a low-key event with a briefing in the low skiing club hut to a series of races, with a large corporate hotel as a base. However, this has not detracted from the challenge and charm of the event.

Training Points and Lessons Learned

If you are doing the race here are my 5 key points to build into your training plan:

  • Get Technical - this is one of the most technical races around, especially the descents - they are steep and rocky, often wet, and not on well established trails, so practice on this type of terrain frequently.
  • Incorporate Long Climbs and Descents - Ideally if you can find climbs and descents with 1200m of elevation changes this will be great as in particular the distance of the downhills really impacts your quads.
  • Shoe Choice is Key - find shoes with grip you are comfortable with. I would recommend fell shoes over trail shoes, as like I mentioned, the descents are steep and technical so grip is essential.
  • The kit list is minimal - but the weather changes quickly and can get cold. In the first edition it snowed, and I wore full waterproofs, hat and gloves. That year the kit required as a windproof jacket. So make sure you take kit for the terrain, not just the essentials. In the first year I also had to provide another competitor with items from my first aid kit as they hadn’t carried one themselves.
  • Aid Stations are far apart, and you may take longer getting to them than you originally planned, so ensure you carry enough food and water. In the second edition I gave some spare food to other competitors who had hit the wall and still had a large amount of climbing and distance to the next aid station

If you would like more advice or training plans on the race please get in touch.

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