What is Everesting?
So first of all I should probably clarify what ‘Everesting’ is and secondly I will move onto why an earth anyone, including me, would think this was a good idea.
Straight from the Official Everesting website comes this quote:
“The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. Complete the challenge on a bike, on foot, or online, and you’ll find your name in the Hall Of Fame, alongside the best climbers in the world.”
I would have explained it myself but the concept is pretty simple and my definition wouldn’t have been much different.
There we have it. Sounds simple, dare I say ‘not too hard’… Fool! I had never heard of this Everesting thing but my friend Mr P told me about it and so it went on my list of cycling goals. Surely after a year or so of cycling I would have the fitness for this? I had worked pretty hard on the bike, my first ever road bike I should add, and I felt that if I paced it properly then no matter how long it took I could do it. Just keep pedalling right?
What Hill to Choose?
This was a bit of a problem for me because there are rules around the hill you pick. Such as it can’t be a loop, there can’t be any ‘kinetic gain’ which is where there are ascent metres on your descent. These are seen as ‘free metres’ and that’s not allowed! I had a hill in mind and in the end it was the hill I chose.
It was out in the middle of nowhere, hardly any vehicular traffic used it, the surface was in an ok condition, and I knew it well. I would drive out there, all of my supplies would be in the car, and I that would be that – game time!
The Everesting website has a clever calculator to help you work out how many repetitions you will need and what distance that will be. When I popped the climb I had chosen into the calculator it told me this:
- 51.9 repetitions of the climb.
- 265.8km total distance.
- 6.8% average gradient.
- If I climbed at a steady 10kmph and descended at 30kmph it would take me 17 hours 43 minutes not including breaks.
What an earth was I thinking?! Too late now, I had told myself it was happening. Better start preparing.
If I was going to be riding my bike for that long I was going to need plenty of food, plenty of liquids, and my bike to be in tip top shape. Oh, and good strong legs coupled with a positive mindset. Now those of you who know me will know I’m relatively tall with a slender frame (I prefer athletic frame but didn’t want to sound vain). Since I started cycling I lost a bit of muscle mass and now clock in at 74kgs. With that being said, nutrition before and during was going to be very important for me. If I don’t eat on big rides it’s game over. The energy goes and it’s a struggle to make it home.
The research I had done told me that as important as it was to have the right type of foods to fuel you it was equally important that you liked those foods and that you would look forward to those foods. When you’re climbing up the same hill for that long you want a nice little treat when you do decide to stop. These treats are then both fuel for your body and your mental wellbeing. It’s a win win!
I had some sandwiches (tuna and sweetcorn to be precise), plenty of energy bars and gels, bananas, haribo (obviously), water and electrolyte tablets, and some chocolate brioche buns. The haribo and brioche were the big treats, the ones that put a smile on my face when I knew they were coming.
When it came to what cycling gear I was taking I wanted to make sure I was ready for anything. Mechanically speaking I took plenty of spares such as inner tubes, a puncture repair kit, tyre levers, hand pump, and a decent multitool. I knew I would be starting at night time so I needed my lights (front and rear) fully charged. I needed my Wahoo Bolt bike computer fully charged and not only that but I would need some sort of power bank as well. The battery life on my computer wouldn’t last upwards of 18 hours so it would need charging on the go. A top tube bag would house the power bank whilst it charged my computer and lights as needed.
As for clothing I went with a 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of bib shorts, 2 base layers, 2 long and 2 short sleeve jerseys, a rain jacket, gloves, a gilet, and my helmet. I was covered for warm and cooler weather and if I wanted to freshen up I had spares.
Now this could be deemed as oversharing but there was also a toilet roll and some chamois cream in the car. You just never know…
I had chosen a day in July for fairly obvious reasons: longer daylight hours and warmer / calmer weather. I was ready!
- Hill chosen? – Check!
- Date picked? – Check!
- Bike ready? – Check!
- Nutrition supplies sorted? – Check!
- Clothing options? – Check!
- Electrical equipment charged? – Check!
- Fresh legs and confidence? -Check!
The Big Day
It started early! I had gone to bed about 5pm and my alarm was set for midnight. My plan was to be out at the hill and on my bike for 1:30am. If all went to plan this would have me finishing around bedtime the same day. As I sat there drinking a coffee and eating a decent size bowl of porridge a little bit of me wondered whether I had chosen the right day. I could hear the wind whipping around outside. It could be a blessing if it was blowing the right way I told myself.
I put the bike on the car, loaded the coolbox full of supplies into the back seat, patted all of my pockets – because we all know that is how you check for the phone, and threw my backpack of various cycling clothes, electronics, and helmet onto the passenger seat next to me. Into the darkness I drove. Thirty minutes later I was reversing into a slim fitting gravel area at the top of the hill where my car would watch over me for the next however many hours.
I opened the door and stepped out in to the pitch black, there was an unavoidable chill in the air that confirmed my worst fears – that whipping wind I heard whilst I ate my porridge earlier was definitely not blowing in a direction that was going to help me. I stood there for what felt like 5 minutes weighing up whether or not I should just go home and pick another day. No! I was here now, I was going to have a go. After all – those tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches were waiting for me. I had to earn them.
The bike was off the car and ready to go, lights attached front and rear, cycling clothing on with a gilet for some extra warmth on the descents, pockets contained gels and snacks, and the water bottle was in the cage. A quick photo to document the start and away I rolled down the hill into the blackness of a Scottish summer night / early morning. I had started.
Knowing what I know now, and having learned from other long rides, I was definitely too cold for the first few hours. The wind slapped me in the face for the first 2km of the climb (every time) and the descent was really chilly. I should have went for the big gloves and an extra layer up top. It’s amazing how much energy you burn trying to keep yourself warm. Not the ideal situation when you’re taking on a climbing endurance challenge…
However, after 4 hours or so the sun started to poke its head over the rolling hills and the front light wasn’t required anymore. What a positive lift to my mood it was. The little warmth it gave was much appreciated by my body and I found the descents a little easier now I could see beyond the beam of my front light. I had stopped a couple of times for a hot drink and some food, the clock still running as that is one of the rules of Everesting. I was just plodding my way up and down the hill, trying not to keep count of repetitions and average speeds. By this point I knew it was going to be a battle but I wanted to stay as strong as I could mentally.
When 6am came around I saw my first person. I had been riding up and down the same hill for 4 and a half hours in a world of my own and it was easy to forget that soon the world around me would start to wake up. The local farmer came trundling towards me on a quad bike and we said good morning as I passed him in the opposite direction. He was clearly out feeding the animals and this took numerous trips. By the time we had passed each other 5 or 6 times these ‘good mornings’ had turned into a nod and a look of confusion on his part. I couldn’t blame him I guess.
Speaking of the animals I should probably give them a little mention here. This hill I had chosen was rural, I mean really rural. The road was single track with the odd passing place, the sheep slept on the road, and the occasional cow would moo encouragement at me from time to time. There was a farmhouse towards the bottom of the climb where on numerous occasions I had to apply the brakes to dodge one of the many cats darting across the road in front of me. All in all they definitely played a part in the experience and by the end of it I may have given a couple of the braver, road using sheep, names… Bill and Ben – if you’re reading this I hope you are well!
It was about 9am when I started having real problems on the climb. I had been eating and drinking pretty well but I had never fully warmed up and the legs were paying the price. Even in my easiest gear the climb was starting to grind me down. The wind was battering into my face by this point and as excuses go it was a pretty valid one. I took a short video at exactly 6:38am, once it was light, because I knew if I didn’t make it I would want some sort of evidence to watch back to make myself feel a little bit better if I had failed. Have a look below. Listen and keep your eyes on the bush on the right. Blustery!
A friend of mine came out to see me about 10:30am to see how I was getting on. The fact he greeted me with the phrase ‘you looked knackered’ said it all. I felt it as well. My legs were just about turning, the wind was unrelenting, and I was still a few hundred metres short of the halfway point. Once he left and went back to work I remember sitting there on the side of the road eating a sandwich and wondering if I needed to reassess my current goal. I was still cold, legs were in a bad way, the weather had not been a friend of mine today, and at current pace it would be many many hours more than anticipated until I finished. I hate being beaten, but I had been.
What could I try and take away from this? When your head is down in a situation like this you don’t think of all the things you have already achieved. You think of the failure, the distance you were away from your goal. It’s only on reflection that you think of the good things like the improvement of your fitness, all those metres you did climb, and how long you sat in the saddle for. So with my head bowed and a mouthful of chocolate chip brioche I told myself the minimum I would leave this hill with was a half Everesting – 4424m.
That left me with about 4 more repetitions, 5 to be on the safe side. Considering I had already done 20+ hill repeats these last few really took it out of me. I had struggled on bike rides before but I was nearly at the point of not moving. The descents were slow just to buy me some recovery time. When the elevation reading on my Wahoo read ’4424’ I was both happy and sad all at the same time. Happy to have made my readjusted goal of getting the half Everesting but sad that I was so far away from the full 8848m required. Bittersweet.
When I pedalled my way over to my car for the final time I was happy to be packing up and going home. This challenge would have to wait for another day.
The final stats for my ride were as follows:
- Total Time: 9 Hours, 59 Minutes, 25 Seconds (Clock runs the whole time including breaks, moving time 8:12:42)
- Distance Covered: 141.8km (88.11 miles)
- Average Speed: A steady 14.2kmph
- Metres Climbed: 4539m
So I definitely have unfinished business with the whole Everesting challenge and I can see a plan getting made for Spring / Summer next year to find another hill to take on. A lot of time has passed since this effort and as a cyclist I have definitely improved my fitness level and knowledge about how my body reacts to certain conditions. I write this in the hope that my next attempt will see me complete the full 8848m!
Would I recommend giving this challenge a go? Yes, but be honest and realistic with yourself. This is hard. You’ll need a good level of fitness, a strong mental game, a good preparation plan, and a little bit of luck from the weather! I would recommend picking a hill you know and head out there one day and do a few repetitions of it at a steady pace. Find out what you’re getting yourself into.
For a long time after this challenge I struggled to look back at the ride, the pictures, or talk to people about it. The ‘failure’ side of it annoyed me greatly. However, they say time is a healer and so here I am writing a post about it in the hope it can give you a good read and a little insight into another little adventure I have had on my cycling journey!
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