With my racing season in Europe cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic, I needed a new goal. So why not ‘Everesting’? It is advertised as:
“Fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard. Everesting is the most difficult climbing challenge in the world”
There are about 4,500 people who have Everested, and a much smaller number who have done the Everesting 10k (less than seven my age (60+) or older) where you continue on to do 10,000 m of climbing. The rules are simple.
- We can pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until we climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.
- Has to be a single activity which means we can rest, stop for nutrition, but no sleep.
- Has to be a single climb—no loops, multiple ascents on the same mountain, etc.
- You have to record continuously on an approved device, and upload to Strava.
After 118 ups and downs of Tata Beach Hill’s 85 m climb, I managed an Everesting 10k. This is what the ride looked like:
I still had my residual fitness from the Kopiko Aotearoa ride, so figured I didn’t need any special training. Just get on my bike and ride. My first attempt on Takaka Hill failed spectacularly when after only some 3,500 metres of climbing my post-concussion syndrome kicked in and my head ‘fell off a cliff’, so I learned from that. It was the heavy traffic on Takaka Hill which was problematic for me: my post-concussion syndrome’s main triggers are visual and noise stimulation, and it was the traffic noise got to me.
So I also chose a hill which had low traffic levels: Tata Beach Hill. It is towards the east of Golden Bay and outside of tourist season mainly locals. With an elevation of 85 m above sea level there would be LOTS of repetitions, but its 6.1% grade made it a nice steady 1.38 km climb so I wouldn’t exert myself too much. Here is a 3D model of the hill courtesy of Veloviewer. The ‘Start’ is for a Strava Segment, but I started from the very bottom of the hill.
I used my Specialized S-Works gravel bike for the ride. It’s a super comfortable ride, and the 1 x 11-46 gear range was perfect for the attempt. It has an Absolute Black 34 tooth oval chainring on the front which really takes the load off my 60 year old heavily used knees. I put on Continental 5000 TL tyres with latex tubes to minimize the rolling resistance. I had a Sinewave Beacon light on the front, powered by a 10,000 mAh power bank, and Niterider light for the rear. Both were tested to last the 10 h of darkness that I expected. I also had an Outdoor Research Buckshot Pro speaker to keep me entertained.
To ensure that I didn’t ‘cheat’ I ran two GPS to independently record the elevation. I would only complete the ride when the lowest reading was met. My trusty Garmin 1000 was the main GPS, and I zip tied my Garmin 935 Forerunner watch to the stem. It was mounted into one of the ‘puck’ rechargers, and both were connected to the power bank in a gas tank bag on the top tube. The photo below shows my setup, with a closeup of the GPS’s.
For nutrition I had a range of sweet and savouries since I knew at times my body would have different cravings. I made sure to have things like yogurt, custard and rice pudding as there would be times when I would not want anything solid. My nutrition plan was simple: after every 1000 m of climbing (about 2+ h of riding) stop at my car parked at the bottom of the hill and have some food, with some nibbles for in between on the bike. Our cat Max who photobombed me below stayed home.
I had 12 litres of fluids which were a mixture of water, electrolytes, and hot chocolate for during the cold night. As with the food, I alternated depending on how I was feeling but my goal was to take in about 0.5 L/hour. Even though it wasn’t hot, I underestimated this need, but it wasn’t a major issue.
I planned for a very early start so packed the car the night before and was out of the house before 04:00. It was a perfect morning with a clear sky and I just hopped on the bike and started riding the 1.38 km from the bottom to the top of the hill. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat … After sunrise a friend Willim was running up the hill and he grabbed the photo of me at the top. The second photo is of sunrise towards the west, with Tata Beach in the foreground. Not too shabby a place for a ride!
As the day progressed I followed my ride plan of keeping a steady pace and stopping for nutrition every 1000 m. There were quite a few people who were out walking and riding the hill so I had company, including other friends/ acquaintances. It’s one the advantages of living in a small community, you tend to know a lot of people! I was joined by Rob Dawson and Elaine for a time, and then we had some food together before I headed off again.
Rob came back later and got some drone footage. He’s still getting used to flying it, but here is a live action clip.
The day was brilliant weather wise and I was treated to a lovely sunset over the western ranges. I could not have asked for better weather: not too hot in the day, nor too cold at night.
Lis came by at 18:00 with a huge serving of scrambled eggs on toast and other sustenance. Was a luxury to sit in her comfortable car for the few minutes it took me to hoover down the food. Even more of a luxury to enjoy her company. But then it was back on the bike …
I kept on riding and at 04:11 after 19:37 of riding I hit the magic number of 8,847 m so Everested! It had taken 280 km to get there. I still felt very good and so decided to keep riding. After all, Lis was sound asleep so why disturb her? Around 06:30 there was a local woman out for a walk who I had seen the previous day. “You are out early” she said. When I told her that I had actually not stopped since she had seen me the previous morning she said that I was mad. Probably!
It took just under three hours and I cracked the 10,000 m mark on the Garmin 1000. The Garmin 935 had me at under 10,000 so I kept climbing to ensure that both of them were over 10,000 m. This gave me a total climb of 10,059 m in 320 km according to Strava.
To do a ride like this I think there are a few success factors:
- Pace yourself carefully.
- Be physically comfortable spending many hours continuously on your bike.
- Plan the ride carefully from a nutrition and pacing point of view.
- Have the right mental ‘game plan’ for how to deal with the potential monotony of riding alone on the same route over and over again.
I was very successful with my pacing. The figure below (which includes descents) shows how consistent I was with the uphill (slow!) speeds. I averaged 9.4 km/h, with 77% of my runs +/- 0.5 km/h of this speed. My goal was to keep my heart rate around 120 bpm (70% of my maximum rate) and I averaged 122, with my average highest rate 131. I averaged 160 watts of power, 70% of my threshold.
It is the mental as opposed to physical preparation which is most important, and for this reason I think that ultra-endurance cyclists have a huge advantage over most others.
For many of us, riding 300+ km or spending over 24 h riding in a single push is no big deal. The first time I ever did more than 24 h was on the last day of the Tour Divide. This made it clear to me that our barriers are often mental as we just can’t comprehend doing it.
Compared to other pushes I’ve done—like 473 km with 40 C weather in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, this was comparatively easy. I was very sleepy by the end of it (I don’t drink coffee and didn’t take caffeine pills), but physically I could have kept on riding. So I’d encourage everyone to give it a go. With the right bike, proper planning, and good conditions you may find it easier than you expect.
What’s next? Hmmm … I’ve seen that they have this thing called double Everesting. Lis is not impressed!