Jagged mountain peaks break through the ground as if they want to torture the landscape. Sharp rocks and boulders are interspersed with snow and ice. It’s the Hamperokken mountain range and the most exposed and technical section of the Tromso SkyRace – an extreme category race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner Extreme Series.
The race is the inspiration of mountain and Skyrunning icons, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet. It does not need a creative mind to understand that any course or race organised by this duo will be challenging, tough, dramatic and memorable! The Tromso SkyRace does not disappoint. It’s a race that harks back to the early days of Marino Giacometti, the creator of Skyrunning.
Back in the late 80’s, Giacometti pioneered a sport of fast-and-light, a sea-to-summit or town-to-summit project – it’s about going fast to the summit and returning as quickly as possible. Monte Rosa, Mt Blanc, Kinabalu – yes, Fabio Meraldi, Bruno Brunod and Giacometti laid the foundations for the modern-day sport that is now called Skyrunning.
The Tromso SkyRace is a personification of those early formative years and Jornet is the modern-day exponent of the original ethos of fast and light. The Catalan needs no introduction. His five-year project called ‘Summits of my Life’ was very much a personal extension of racing as a Skyrunner; this journey culminated in his final summit, Everest.
In Skyrunning and mountain running, Jornet is a rock star. He’s a modest star and one who shuns the spotlight and attention his incredible ability attracts. He is one of the most gifted and natural runners of our time – no doubt. His partner, Forsberg, is equally an inspiring role model for the sport and the duo are the dynamic duo of the sport.
Imagine turning up to a local tennis match to find Nadal and Williams running around helping, organising, setting things up and manning a registration desk… yes, it’s hard to imagine! But, the Tromso SkyRace is exactly this. Forsberg and Jornet, along with a dedicated team of helpers, run one of the most incredible Skyrunning events on the calendar.
Jornet runs in the mountains placing flags, setting up the routes and Forsberg is back in Tromso making sure that all logistics are in place. It’s amazing to see and it really does make one realise what a great community this sport is.
Now in its fourth edition, the race has grown as one of the pinnacle races of Skyrunning. It’s not a race any runner can undertake. The course is 57km in length and a whopping 4600m of vertical gain – but this is only a small part of the story. Featuring two peaks, the Tromso SkyRace is by any standards – extreme! The Hamperokken ridge which is a key feature of the race is at the midpoint of the race and features an exposed, technical and at time knife edged arête that will require even the most experienced Skyrunner to use four-points of contact to traverse the ridge and its summit. Followed by snow fields, challenging terrain and a steep climb – this race is the ultimate challenge.
It’s a bucket list race!
The 2017 edition of the race saw a return of the 2016 champion Jon Albon. Albon was the 2016 Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion and recently won the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. In addition to his exploits in Skyrunning, he is a multiple world champion at Obstacle Racing. Competition for the Brit was going to come from Nepalese sensation Bhim Gurung, Lavaredo Ultra winner, Fabian Antolinos, Michel Lanne, Zaid Ait Malek, Hector Haines, Cody Lind and a host world-class talent.
In the ladies’ race, 2016 champion Jasmin Paris was unable to race leaving the door open for an in-form Maite Maiora who is in incredible form in 2017. Equally, Ragna Debats would toe the line along with Megan Kimmel, Hillary Allen, Nuria Picas and Marlene Bikken Haukoy.
Known for inclement weather, for once, the sun gods shone on Norway allowing everyone a dry and relatively clear day to enjoy the mountains, fjords and incredible views that this part of the world offers.
Darkness does not come to Norway at this time of the year, the race therefore started 0800 with no pressures on the arrival of darkness. With the race underway, the early miles were dominated by Maiora and Albon as they dictated the pace.
Albon was followed by a strong group including Gurung and Lanne. Maiora by contrast was out on her own followed by Debats and Picas.
The Hamperokken ridge coming midway into the race is a significant marker and it was here that Albon and Maiora extended their leads. For the ladies though, Debats was going through a tough time and on the descent from the summit she was passed by Picas – the race was on.
Gurung made his move in the men’s race leaving Lanne and Antolinos and went off in pursuit of Albon. For the ladies, Debats did not give in, her stomach issues eased and she re-caught Picas and passed her. She then chased Maiora using her natural run speed to close-in on the leader.
Maiora was too strong though, she took victory just 4-minutes ahead of Debats, both runners going under the old course record set by Jasmin Paris. Picas placed 3rd.
Albon lead from the front and looked relaxed, he once again took an incredible victory 8-minutes ahead of Gurung. Lanne placed 3rd over 20-minutes later with a beaming smile, content with an incredible day in the mountains.
Just one race is now left in the Extreme Series of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. Maiora cannot be beat with two victories. However, for the men, Gurung and Albon have one victory each – it will all come down to the last race. It’s a nail biter!
Information on the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series HERE
Extreme Series Races:
Royal Ultra SkyMarathon Gran Paradiso HERE
Tromso SkyRace HERE
Glencoe Skyline HERE