When it comes to climbing hills most American would have a hard time hanging with the average Norwegian, whose home country’s elevation map glows like a bowl of rainbow Sherbert. Ten peaks in Norway — a country about one and half times the state of Oregon —surpass 7,700 feet (Mount Ashland is 7,533); close to 300 top 6,500 feet.
But not even Runar Hjelle and Kjetil Nilsen, who hail from the coastal city of Alesund in western Norway, have faced a climbing challenge as steep and as daunting as the one they’ll be tackling today starting at 7:30 a.m. at Lithia Park.
Both visitors have ran half-marathons and climbed mountains, but neither has done both of those things simultaneously, which is why they decided to swing through Ashland on a scheduled 4,700-mile business trip and take part in the 40th annual Mount Ashland Hill Climb Run.
It was a former colleague of Hjelle and Nilsen, Will Roberts, who directed the duo here. The three worked together for Rolls-Royce in Norway and Roberts knew Hjelle and Nilsen liked to run and enjoyed challenges. Roberts, who now lives in Seattle, has family ties in Ashland and had run the Hill Climb. Try it, he said, and good luck. Today, they will.
“He challenged us to run this one,” said Hjelle, 45. “We have some similar races in Norway but we don’t try them too much. We decided to try this one.”
The Hill Climb begins at 7:30 a.m. on Winburn Way in front of Sesame Asian Kitchen. From there, runners will head up to the reservoir and take Ashland Loop Road for about four miles before hitting the Bull Gap trail head. That’s where runners will enjoy a brief flat/downhill section before the long, excruciating charge up, up, up to the Mount Ashland parking lot, where the collapsing begin.
All told, the 13.3-mile rout includes 5,600 feet of climbing, more than a vertical mile. According to promoters, that represents the second-most elevation gain of any…