A few weeks ago now i was away on a training camp with the national team at sognefjell in Norway. I should be at a testing camp with them now in Stirling but obviously this cough is keeping me from that.
Anyway i had a guest blogger who wrote something about the camp. Mainly because there was so much blog worthy stuff happening and couldnt be arsed to recall it all and would have ended up writing a blog that only covered half the exciting stuff and dipped and dived into the camp. However, Sarah wanted a shot at writing a blog, and seeing as she has done and excellent job i will leave it to her to tell you about the week.
The Sognefjell camp was worthwhile for the scenery alone. In terms of the rather clichéd breath-taking scale, I’d have to say I stopped breathing roughly the minute I spotted the first island off the cost of Bergen from the plane window. As for jaw-dropping, my chin is still raw from being dragged along the ground for the entirety of the 6 hour, 300km road trip, which culminated in a 1403m ascent in the last 30km. One good thing about the near permanent daylight in Norway, despite an ETA of 0100, there was plenty of light to appreciate the succession of equally stunning vistas. On the other hand, the constant brightness is marginally disorientating, with 5pm feeling like midday, the cunning creation of make-shift blackouts in the thin-curtained bedrooms is a pre-requisite of sleep.
This was our second trip to Sognefjell for summer training on what, I believe, to be a permanent snowbed as opposed to a glacier. Fun fact from my dissertation research (be warned, there may be a few more of these); snowbeds occur in areas where snow accumulation exceeds five meters in depth. They protect plants from sever winter conditions, maintain a soil temperature of around 0oC and are an important source of water and nutrients late into the growing season. The main difference between the snowbeds I encountered in Scotland and Sognefjell is that Sognefjell is large enough to support at least 8km of ski trails.
A quick note on the sorts of people who go skiing on permanent snowbeds in the middle of June, most of them are quite good. Most are of a world class standard. Also hardly any of them appear to wear many clothes. On the whole, this is quite an agreeable situation, Sognefjell should be known for its tasteful display of toned and tanned bodies, but there were some exceptions. You know who you are, Mr. Day Two. This particular gentleman appeared to be sporting less and less clothing with every subsequent lap, unfortunately he also appeared to be sporting a physique which was rather more generously proportioned than the average. He was however very tanned.
I personally tackled the clothing issue as a balance between my desire for a glorious suntan and the risk of shreading all my skin with ice burn. Falling on the salted snow of the Sognefjell track is very similar to falling on tarmac. High speed falls leave shallow stinging grazes, akin to road rash that (apparently) hurt far worse that the look and sting like a TCP bath. Being a bit of a woose (OK, a huge woose) by nature, I only had to hear others bemoaning earlier crashes to have me tucking the shorts in the bottom of the bag. Then there was the girl with the large white bandage on her leg, which was somehow far more daunting than the actual wound it concealed. The final straw in my decision to spend the week swaddled from head-to-toe was the memory from three years ago of Fiona’s rather nasty disagreement with the track. Twice. Then the misguided attempt to clean and cool the grazes with the chemically polluted snow off the track.
Pleased to report that I didn’t have any tumbles, although I maintain that the risk was still high as every single downhill was coupled with a sharp corner where the snow quickly turned into a sugary-soup of ski snagging potential. Luckily there were no casualties among the rest of the team either, despite far less cautious dressing. Fi scraped her knee at low speed the first day, Alex had to pull out of the relay due to a small fall despite a valiant effort and Callum embarrassingly scraped his chin in front of a pretty girl.
Apart from the afore-mentioned corners, the snow conditions were pretty good, as was the weather, the exception being the two sessions in the clouds, which limited visibility to within a couple of meters. I didn’t mind too much, as by that point I had learnt the track pretty well by this time. Not that knowing the track was always a good thing as it was apt to change as patches became too soggy or rocks became visible. On the last day I managed to pluck up enough courage to actually attack one of the downhills only to find that the corner had an extra 60o than was there previously. Still, the fog wasn’t too bad, it meant I could snow plough down all the hills without feeling like a pansy as everyone else was too.
Then there was the afternoon it tanked it down with rain while we did circuits on the balcony. There were four stations, three of which fitted under the eaves, the fourth didn’t. The poor pair on that station got drenched while balancing one legged on little jelly wobble cushions (affectionately termed “hedgehogs”) whilst wielding sledgehammers, in the absence of weights, and looking all the world like drunk Vikings.
We stayed track-side at the Sognefjellshytta for the first four days, which although a little pricey did have certain benefits. Firstly, there is no travel for sessions, which substantially increases rest time and reduces the risk of getting intolerably cold/ hungry and therefore increasing overall mood. The second is Sognefjellshytta is full board and they are used to catering for athletes. This means there aren’t just three meals provided a day, but five. We then moved down to a campsite in Skjolden, the town at the end of the fjord, where we stayed in a very nice bunkhouse, which compensated for the half an hour drive to training by having a massive waterfall, towering, only a bit oppressively above it. The owner was exceedingly helpful, although caught unawares by the extent of our appetites and obligingly took a shot at cooking porridge despite a previous 25 year hiatus from the breakfast speciality.
Taking stock of the week’s mementos now that we are home; I am marginally less pasty than if I had decided to spend last weekend at Rockness after all. I have a memory card full of momentously awful photographs of rather magnificent scenery. I also am able to cherish the memory of what a rotten egg tastes like… so will the rest of the team as I perhaps a little melodramatically spat the offending mouthful out and then dashed across the room to refill my glass. However these potentially weren’t the highlights of the week. Skiing in the sun; kayaking in the fjord; afternoon naps and the strawberry sorbet and the taco on the last night!
I hope you enjoyed reading. If you want to write a guest blog about something xcskiing or sport relevant then you are welcome to, just get in touch.