Everesting – The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8848m.
This ludicrous idea was born when a friend (Liam) proposed the challenge, to which my instant response was you’re an idiot and that’s stupid. However, it began to eat at me and after a week I asked my coach if he thought I could. The conclusion, it would be seriously tough but potentially achievable. So I called Liam to say I was in at which point he confirmed he was out!! I guess I would be flying solo!
To generate some extra motivation I decided to raise money for a cause that is very important to me. I have always thought that seeking sponsorship should be for something you don’t really want to do or something you aren’t sure you can do. This fell in to both categories as it’s both a stupid challenge and even on the morning of the challenge I had no idea if I would succeed. This was so far outside my comfort zone and anything I have ever taken on before.
Choosing the cause was the easiest part of the whole exercise, the West Wight Community and Sports Centre. Growing up on the Isle of Wight I spent a lot of time there and have so many fond memories of weekend swimming lessons and spending my pocket money on 1p sweets. Given the standard of my swimming I should probably have spent more time swimming and less on sweets but c’est la vie. Since then it has developed to become a key establishment providing support to the community in every way possible and was also the location of my first triathlon. Every year they have to raise £10’000’s to provide their services to the community and Covid has only increased these demands. I am so grateful to all my sponsors for helping me raise money for such a great cause.
So what did the challenge involve:
Everesting was defined at the start but for me it would involve 10 loops of Mt Seymour in Vancouver. That’s a 12.5km climb with 900m of elevation (avg gradient 6.9%). I estimated it would take 13 hrs.
Climbing Seymour once is fairly challenging let alone 10 times as you start with the steepest 3km which stays hard till 5km. With that you have broken the worst of it and get an easier km before 6-8km kicks up again. 8-10km is an easier section before a nasty little kick to 11km, it then levels off for the last 1.5km. The 10-11km section is a killer, after nearly an hour of climbing it just finishes you off.
The night before involved a lot of preparation to make sure I was ready with enough to eat and drink. I was unsure how the fueling would work as the longest I had previously exercised was 6-7hrs. I also had no idea what I would want so concluded just get everything!
I woke at 3 25am for breakfast before driving to the base of Mt Seymour where I was meeting Ralf, a member of the Pacific Spirit Tri Club. I hadn’t anticipated how dark it would still be so had to set everything up using a torch. I was just about ready when Ralf messaged me that he was running 30 minutes late. I needed to start on time so let him know we would catch up somewhere on the mountain.
Luckily I had brought my lights (I thought it might be dark when I finished) as it was pitch black!! 5am, everything was set and off I went….
Managing my effort level would be the key to success, slow and steady the whole way. This meant the earlier reps would be comfortable, easing in to it. After the first half an hour I checked how the climbing was going and I had already done 1,000m, this was either going to be very easy or I had my Garmin set to feet!! Ooops! Quick check that Everest is 29,030 feet and I now had my new target. Happy days!
The sun began to rise as I approached the top and I was treated to a beautiful sunrise over Mt Baker and a glorious morning.
The final summit was closed, as it was too early, but I snuck around to complete the climb and get those final m’s elevation! I put my layers on (I’ve been caught out by Seymour before) and despite it being a lovely August morning absolutely froze on the way down. At the bottom I did a quick bottle change and food collection before going straight on to lap 2. The speed was both to get warm again and to get as much done as possible while I was fresh, the road was quiet and it was cool.
Climbing again I quickly warmed up and realised that the first loop would have been the easiest uphill and the worst downhill. They would be going in opposite directions through the day. I saw Ralf but apart from that nothing to report except a chipmunk that tried to commit suicide under my wheel on the decent but changed his mind just in time!
Another quick stop to top up food and water and set off again. The aim was to get 3 loops done before a longer break.
Nothing to report on lap 3 apart from I met a frozen Ralf at the bottom. He hadn’t realised how cold it would be and called it a day. I encountered my first issue, both my knee’s were sore. I tried to walk it off and stretch but it was a concern to have an injury this early. The walking and stretching helped but as I set off again I could feel I wasn’t 100% and would be something I needed to manage.
I wasn’t timing the loops, as time didn’t matter, but I was holding a decent pace despite the temperature starting to rise. The road was getting busier but I found a win win game for my morale. If I passed a cyclist, how embarrassing for them as I was on my 4th loop, if a cyclist passed me then they were pathetic for only doing one loop. Win win! Endurance challenges require positivity and I was going to find it any way I could! As I approached the top some deer came to cheer me on which provided some variation.
While I had been climbing my support crew had been assembling at the bottom and were ready for me. Jim, Diana and Christine all from the Pacific Spirit Tri Club had arrived to ride as well as Club President Jessica who was unable to ride due to being pregnant but had brought snacks (will come back to these later). I took a longer break here as had been going 6hrs even though I knew my estimated finish time was already drifting. Time didn’t matter though, only elevation.
Riding with a group was instantly better. The km’s just drift by with the distraction, just keep the legs turning over. Jim only had time to do half a lap before getting back to the kids but the 3 of us pushed on. Laps 5 and 6 went by without too much drama and I was over half way, downhill from here (not sure how but that’s what I told myself). When the numbers are that big you find ways to count it down and I used all sorts of tricks to stay positive.
The issue I encountered was it was getting very hot and I was slowing. I started to drink two bottles a lap but didn’t feel like eating. This could become a problem so I took to dissolving gels in my water to make sure I was getting the needed nutrition.
Amanda (not a club member but soon to be) was waiting at the bottom as we completed the 6th loop. I had predicted that the 7th and 8th would be the hardest. The 9th is the second last so you can give everything as you know you wont fail on the last one. The last one was wasn’t quite a full rep as each loop was just above 1/10th of the elevation. However, I was definitely in denial about how far from the top the end would be. Anything to stay positive.
My breaks were getting longer and for the first time I sat down while I ate. My pace was slowing but my only concern was would my watch battery last, a rough estimate suggested I would be OK.
At the start of the 7th loop we passed a girl we had seen a few times and it turned out she was on her 3rd. Amanda and Diana knew her and she is doing it next week so was practicing. I decided this was insanity as if I had done 4 before I definitely wouldn’t have come back to do 10!
I was on number 7 though and until this point had been feeling strong, but as we hit the climb I knew straight away I was struggling. My legs were so heavy and I was slow. Amanda and Christine dropped me pretty much straight away and I rode with Diana. Just talking, eating, drinking and spinning the legs, it was all I could do. My lower back was really starting to ache and I knew this was the beginning of the hurt as this was also potentiality my last lap with support. To top it off I was melting in the hottest part of the day and the climb offered very little shelter.
3/4’s of the way up Diana and I caught Amanda and Christine. Christine’s previous ride (and doing more laps than she planned) had caught up with her and I continued on with Amanda to the top. It was a weird feeling not riding in a group and looking after everyone but I just had to keep going at my pace and be thankful that other people were suffering to help me.
We regrouped at the bottom for a long break as I was struggling. Diana was heading off, Christine was also leaving but said she would be back. They had both done 3 laps and helped me through the hardest/hottest part of the day.
Amanda and I started number 8 and straight away I felt so much better. There was a little more shade and being a few degrees cooler was making the world of difference. I was back in the zone and feeling strong despite feeling exhausted. We were tired and so talked less but it was just nice having someone next to me. Then came my first mistake of the day. I lost concentration, as happens when exhausted, and veered left in to Amanda so our handle bars locked together. Luckily we weren’t really moving and sort of formed a catamaran before coming to a standstill and going down. Amanda definitely took the worst of the fall but both we and the bikes were OK!
I refocused as it’s so easy to make mistakes when that tired. 12hrs of cycling and I was physically and mentally exhausted even if my legs now felt good. I just kept my legs turning over as I knew I was closing in.
We summited without further incident and while I was grateful it was cooling down it did mean the descents were getting colder again. Not long to go now though.
At the bottom Christine had returned with pizza and we were joined by Elisa who had popped by to support. What followed was a ridiculous photo moment but the giggles were an excellent morale boost. I also discovered Jessica had brought ready salted Pringles and these disappeared in seconds. It was exactly what I needed.
Christine decided to sit number 9 out but stay and support while Amanda said she was in till the end.
As we climbed the 9th time we saw a coyote which was a bonus as always fun seeing wildlife. Half way up Amanda started to fade (she had also ridden long earlier in the day) but dug in to stay with me. I especially appreciated this effort as she was riding with an injury that is not good for climbing. With 1.5km to go I was feeling great approaching the summit for the last time and pulled away, Amanda made the wise call to head back to the bottom. As I summited for the final time I felt great and knew I was there now. My legs felt as good as I could have hoped after 13hrs riding and now there was less than one lap to go.
It was cold on the way down and with one to go I wasn’t taking a break, it was just time to get on with it. Both Amanda and Christine were feeling it but wanted to be there at the end. They decided to drive to the car park near the finish and Christine would ride down and escort me to the finish.
I could smell the finish and pushed on from the start of the climb and made it half way before I met Christine. The only issue left was would my battery last as I had had a low battery warning. I was pretty confident it would be fine but this gave me an extra incentive to keep the pace up.
We stopped for a quick sunset shot of Mt Baker. I liked the symmetry that my first loop had been sunrise and the last sunset. The two photos are also almost identical.
I was finally counting down the feet, 1500, 1000, 500, 300, 200, 100… This is a good time to mention I am glad it counted in feet not meters as the you feel like you’re making more progress with feet. Obviously you’re not but again anything you can do to trick the mind is great.
Amanda was there as I finally climbed through 29,030ft.
I had done it, Everest had been conquered.
I did a bonus 100ft just to make sure and it was over. It had taken 13hrs 51 minutes of cycling and 15hrs 47 in total, but it was done!!
I was absolutely exhausted to the point that I barely celebrated. It was a weird feeling as I crossed an invisible finish line and then it was time to pack up and go home. I was so grateful to have both Christine and Amanda there to share it with but I just wanted to be in bed.
It was a very different feeling to the end of a race where your body actually cant give any more but afterwards you recover quite fast. Here I was exhausted to my bones but my body actually felt like it could go on even though it would take days to recover.
On the drive down Amanda asked me if I enjoyed it and my answer was instantly no. There are commonly 2 types of fun. Type 1, easy fun (dinner with friends) Type 2, fun that may not fun be during the event but is after (Ironman). I have hypothesised there is a 3rd type, where you think it should be fun but wont enjoy the process and then realise afterwards it wasn’t fun at all. This very much fell in to the last category.
The silver lining to the whole exercise is that we have raised close to £5,500 for such an important cause. I did not enjoy this challenge but it was worthwhile for the money raised. I can’t thank everyone who donated enough, it means the world to me.
Special thanks also need to go out to the members of the Pacific Spirit Tri Club. I am pretty certain I wouldn’t have made it without the support of Jessica, Elisa, Ralf, Christine, Diana, Jim and Amanda. Particular mention has to go Amanda and Christine who joined on the back of a normal ride and then rode themselves in to the ground keeping me going. Christine even rode home from the top of Mt Seymour!!
There is a final reward this challenge brings in that I have been inducted in to the Everesting hall of fame. Under 8000 people have successfully Everested, so I am now part of a fairly exclusive club which is quite cool. It is a club of idiots but I am now one of those idiots!!