Video and images: Julen Elorza

We agreed to get up around 7, make coffee, eat breakfast and get out of the house by 8. But of course, the time was somewhat arbitrary. We were on vacation. And the darkest it was going to get was a kind of just-post-sunset/just-pre-dawn glow—dark enough to mark the time of day, maybe a couple hours of crepuscular activity, but never so dark you’d need a headlamp. But we are creatures of habit, and even if our tired bodies could have certainly slept until noon, there were mountains to explore, and we’d do it during the “day.”

Hillary Gerardi and Kyle Richardson scramble up a mountain face in Norway

Over a carefully brewed cup, we pored over maps, identifying where to set our sights. I had a scrap of paper, on which I had scrawled place names, suggestions and off-trail advice, thanks to Liza and Sven’s cartographic knowledge. We knew what we were aiming for, though honestly it would have been impossible to mess up: everywhere you looked, the view was incredible.

I had known that to be true. I raced Tromsø in 2018. And I had ogled the dramatic mountains that made fleeting appearances between breaks in thick fog and clouds before plunging into the fjords. I adored the race, but I was also captivated by the landscape and knew I had to go back and give myself a window of time to explore beyond the racecourse, sore legs be damned. When I met Kyle last spring, I found myself almost immediately trying to describe the setting to him. I knew Kyle was a fearsome competitor, but also guessed right away that he, too, would be drawn to northern Norway’s small but rugged mountains and scrappy enough to compartmentalize post-race aches and pains in favor of adventure.

So, there we found ourselves: it was summer. We were well above the Arctic Circle, but it was dry and clear-skied, and we had a formidable playground stretching out before us. We were wrecked, which, in hindsight was inevitable. Just a day earlier, Kyle and I had both competed in the Tromsø Skyrace, a beautiful, grueling, technical and largely off-trail race across nearly 60km and 16,000 vertical feet of Norwegian mountains. Admittedly, we’d gotten a bit beat up, but we knew that had been a risk, and we also knew that the race was only part of why we were there.

I do love racing, so much that I structure much of my year around events that push me physically and mentally and allow me to test myself against some of our sport’s greatest. But racing is not the only motivation for training hard and honing technical skills. For a true mountain runner, moving quickly through mountain terrain is not just a means to an end, but an end in itself.

--Hillary Gerardi

Hillary Gerardi and Kyle Richardson stand on top of an arch in Norway