Monday, the start of the second week in Norway and we headed an hour and a half away from camp. Our aim was a nearby valley, going as high as possible to reach a flat plateau in which we were able to use the skis over relatively flat terrain. After a few hours, we found some slopes to practice and improve our downhill skills; although not so important for Antarctica, it certainly is useful in training for here in Europe. As any cross-country skier will tell you, the snow plough is pretty tough in cross-country skis, but improvement was made every day and we are now taking this all in our stride. Towards the end of the day, we came across a piste track, made the going easier, but we were only to find that we had actually inadvertently stumbled onto the training ground of the Norwegian cross-country ski team! These guys are the best when it comes to cross-country skiing, having won countless Gold Medals at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi. Who knew we were going to share tracks with the likes of Ole Einer Bjoerndalen (the most medalled sportsman in Winter Olympics history!) before the trip was out?
After the excitement of the Olympians the day before, our thoughts turned to the next two days in which we planned to embark on an overnight, self-supported expedition. Our aim was to cover a long distance in order to really get to grips with living, whilst skiing. The possibility of summiting Lodaskapa, the highest peak in the Jostedalen National Park was in our minds, but unfortunately, due to worse weather rolling in than forecast, the team were forced to drop down and find camp elsewhere. Descending the ridge we had spent hours getting onto was a little disappointing. However, we set up camp in a rocky lull to shelter from the elements, had a nice warm meal and got some well-deserved rest.
At this time of year, the light never completely disappears on this part of Norway and this night in particular really affected the team. The sun didn’t set until midnight and was only dark until 3am, which certainly made for an interesting, if not intermittent night’s sleep. This is one of those psychological factors we’ll have to get used to before being able to attempt the pole; the body does not function for long without any sleep and the team will need to be in tip-top condition in order to survive. We descended the same route we came up, but the difference was easy to see. With a full expedition pack, the weight had changed our speed, stopping distance and turning. This gave us all a bit of a hard time as we had not practised descending with a heavy weight on so were all sufficiently bruised and battered by the end. It was clear that we had learnt the hard way why pulks are used when skiing in Antarctica.
Thursday, and our last day in Jostedalen National park before the mammoth trip home. The bright sunshine that greeted us in the first week was now gone, replaced with grey skies in the South East. The forecast said rain (helping to remind us that Britain was only just over the horizon) but we set off back to the first valley that our guide had taken us to. We felt confident that we knew the area well and that the snow conditions hadn’t changed much, however the reality couldn’t have been more different. Much of the snow had melted in our 10 day absence, leaving large areas of heather and rock exposed, meaning the long runs we were able to make weren’t possible anymore. To add to this, the overcast skies soon turned to rain and the snow conditions worsened. It seemed like our stay in Norway had come to an end; we called for an early pick-up and got to camp to begin preparations for home, cheered up by the fact that the trip had been a success and that we would see Norway again before too long.