Everesting attempt #2

After my previous failed attempt at Everesting (read about it here) I prepared myself for another go at it, although on a different hill. Friends had given me plenty of suggested climbs, but I opted for a smaller hill close to Lancaster. Condor Bottoms isn’t very long but it is quite steep and is used by the local cycling club for a hill climb every September.

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Condor Bottoms has an average gradient of about 7%, but as it is quite short I would have climb it over 100 times. I had a practice ride a few days earlier where I did 8 repeats, so I knew the hill well. I intended to Everest on the August bank holiday Monday, but the weather forecast was for rain, so I went for the Sunday. The night before I packed up a small rucksack with extra water and plenty of food and then at 4 am I jumped on my bike and cycled to the top of the climb.

I dropped my bag behind a gate at the top of the climb, pressed start on my Garmin and at 4:20 am rolled down the hill for the first rep of the day. It was cold, very cold. I had worn a long sleeved thermal top beneath my cycling jersey, but I hadn’t expected it to be this cold. Before I’d even finished one rep my hands were frozen, but I didn’t have any gloves so all I could do was man-up and wait for sunrise.

The first couple of hours was OK, apart from the cold, and I had my first break as the sun rose when I had climbed almost 2000 m. It wasn’t long after this when I saw my first cyclist, another guy from COLT out on an early morning training ride. He waved, wished me luck and headed off. A bit later Mark turned up and ended up cycling with me for over ten reps. The Prof, Teacake and Sue, all from Garstang cycling club also soon arrived, although they all had plans for the day and only rode one rep with me, but it was a real lift to see other people.

Mentally one of the hardest points was after I had climbed 3000 m. On a regular ride this would be a fair amount of climbing, but today it was only just a third. I really wasn’t sure when I set off if I would be able to complete the ride, but I was determined to get further than the failed attempt, and to at least climb more than I had ever climbed in one ride, which was 5200 m during last years Bowland Badass.

There isn’t much to add about the cycling, rep after rep after rep. By mid morning I knew every bump on that hill, and could descend it like a pro. I had got myself into a nice rhythm and was slowly ticking off the reps. What made it manageable was the amount of supporters who turned out from COLT. Jack and Niamh turned up with some cake and then stayed almost the whole day. Howard probably cycled at least 25 reps over the day, keeping me company. Bob from the Lancaster cycling club drove up and took a few photos. Stu arrived in his AA van, and stayed for a few hours. Podge turned up to chat with Jack and again stayed until the very end. Brett and his wife drove up also to give me cake. Can’t have too much cake.

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Big Kev turned up to ride with me for a few reps and then returned later in his car, blasting out The Eye of the Tiger as he drove in front of me. Ian came a bit later straight from completing a very tough undulating time trial. He was then knocked off his bike on his way home. That wasn’t going to stop Ian and he returned towards the end along with his lovely wife. Louise arrived a bit later with a homemade fruit smoothy, which was much appreciated. Matt, who had ridden with me on my failed attempt came out to shout abuse at me. Jim rode a few reps with me and gave me some OTE gels, which taste nice and are easy on the stomach (I’ve run out, can I have some more?).

It was about the middle of the afternoon when I started to feel rough. I’d done just over 6000 m of climbing, but I was now cycling on my own and was struggling. Podge, the only person still standing at the top, put a call out on Facebook to other COLT’s to come and join me as I needed the support. Non-COLT member Richard was the first to turn up, soon followed by Kev and Ian, who all cycled with me to the end. Niamh and Jack turned up at the top again, all smart as they were going out. Howard returned with his wife, as did Julie, Ian’s wife, who brought out a full chicken roast dinner and homemade crumble.

With that to come there was no way I couldn’t finish, and slowly I neared the magic number of 8848 m. By this time it was getting dark again so for the last couple of reps Howard drove behind the four of us, until I realised that I only had one more rep to do.

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When I finished I had to helped off my bike and struggled to smile as I was so completely spent. I had completed 113 reps of Condor Bottoms. After a couple of photos, where I look terrible, Ian and Julie loaded me and my bike into their van and drove me home, along with my roast dinner. Very appreciated.

Obviously the first thing I did when I got home was to upload the ride to Strava, just to make sure that I hadn’t miscalculated. 150 miles and over 16 hours is a long day on a bike, and I am proud of my achievement, but I can guarantee that I won’t be doing it again. If friends want to have a go then I’ll come out and support, but once was enough for me. A few days later and my name was added to the Hall of Fame on the official Everesting website and then a few weeks later Laurie contacted me to write a report as he had created a blog for any UK Everesting attempts. It’s taken me almost a month to write this report and I’ll end it to say that I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone who turned up to ride with me, hand me food or drink or cheer me on. A big thank you to you all and sorry if I’ve missed anyone.

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Everesting attempt #1

On 19th July, 2014, I had an attempt at Everesting. The concept is very simple, you find a hill and cycle up and down it continuously until you have climbed the equivalent of Everest, 8,848 m or 29,000 ft. There is a website where you can post your achievement, but only the first person to climb a specific hill gets on the hall of fame. It also has to be the complete hill, you can’t just pick the steepest section.

I picked a fairly local climb that went up to some wind turbines along a dead end, so there shouldn’t be too much traffic. It had an average gradient of 7%, which would mean that if I completed the challenge I would have to climb it 39 times, a distance of 260 km.

I knew that it would be a very long day, so I packed a rucksack with food and water which I would lock to a tree half way up the climb as I didn’t have a support crew with me. I had also only told a few people about my attempt, so I wasn’t expected much, if any, company. In hindsight, a big mistake.

The hill was almost 10 km away, so I set off at 4:30 am, and started my first assent at 5 am. I took it nice and easy, trying not to get out of the saddle too much. I had recently changed my cassette so I now had a 27 at the back with a compact chain-set. Hopefully this would be low enough once I started to get tired.

After about 3 or 4 assents it started to rain, and a bit later it started to rain much harder. The wind also picked up, with a strong headwind for the last km of the climb. There was also 2 cattle grids, one was fine and could be taken at speed on the descent, but the other one was all twisted and had to be taken slowly. Photo not taken on the day.

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There were numerous suicidal sheep near the top, who would jump out in front of me on every descent. The road was also very narrow so I couldn’t let go on the descent, just in case there was a car coming up. Again, in hindsight not the best hill to have picked.

I had completed about 13 assents when I heard someone shout my name. A good friend, Matt, had cycled out to give me a boost. He had initially cycled up the wrong side of the hill, but his company was now most welcome. He stayed with me for 3 assents, although we both nearly got taken out by a sheep. Matt took a selfie with me at the top of the climb and uploaded it to Facebook telling people to join me if they could as I needed some support.

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My Garmin had also started to play up because of the weather. It was humid, wet and change-able. My Garmin wasn’t recording elevation, so I knew that I would have to use the ‘correct elevation’ function on Strava when I finished. The problem with this is that you tend to lose some elevation, so I might have to do an extra assent or two. I also didn’t really have a clue about how much I had actually done, although I was using the lap function on my Garmin.

After 20 laps I had an extended rest as I was now over half way, although the wind and rain were still relentless. I completed another 2 assents before I called it quits. I had worked out that at my current speed I wouldn’t finish until after dark and probably near to midnight.

I picked up my bag and set off for home. I had cycled 145.5 km with 4,844 m of elevation. I was exhausted and also disappointed, especially when I found out that Jack (Photo below) had cycled out to give me some more support, and had also brought some butties.

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I did manage to complete over 50% of the Rapha Rising challenge on Strava, so not a complete failure. Below is the Strava profile of my attempt, after I had corrected the elevation.

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I took a few days to consider my options, but friends on Strava started to look for suitable climbs as well as offering to support me if or when I had another attempt. I will have another attempt which will hopefully be in a couple of weeks. I will look at a hill closer to Lancaster and I will also tell more people about my attempt, so that I might have plenty of support, especially towards the end.

I later found out that the next day someone had Everested Hardknott. It took 30 assents of that monster, which is seriously hardcore.