Do you dream of endless climbing on your bike? Add ‘Everesting‘ to your to do list.
Although I naively believe I have a modest grip on the latest cycling trends, I completely missed ‘Everesting.’ ‘Everesting’ is doing 29,029ft (8,848m) of hill repeats all in one effort. Fun? Yes, for some, and there are enthusiasts here in the Pacific Northwest.
A group in Melbourne, Australia named Hells 500 claims to have originated ‘Everesting,’ but the concept of audacious climbing objectives is not new. Consider these recent variations on the theme by Seattle-area riders:
The Everest Challenge 2-day Stage Race periodically happens in the Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, and was the basis for a week-long ride High Performance Cycling co-manager Tom Meloy and I did in 2010.
In 2013, Bellingham’s Brian Ecker climbed 1,000,000′.
Also in 2013, Paul Krebsbach pedaled 18,216.4 miles, over 1,117 hours, climbed 811,112′, in 297 days on the bike, and burned 1,095,210 calories (which according to Paul was equivalent to 7,300 beers).
Not to mention the Seattle International Randonneurs who knock out serious mileage and climbing in ho-hum fashion almost every weekend.
The current formalized ‘Everesting’ cult apparently began in 1994 when George Mallory (grandson of the British mountaineer who died during his 1924 Everest attempt) did 10 repeats of Mt. Donna Buang and reached the 29,029ft goal. ‘Everest’ number two was completed in Canada by Lawrence Silcox, and the third in 2006 by Italian Carlo Gironi. History.
By the end of 2012 four more riders had successful ‘Everest’ attempts, then six more in 2013. During first six months of 2014, 84 people completed the challenge worldwide. Successful attempts appear on the Hall of Fame. Strava noticed the trend back in 2014.
Of course, there are rules.
Hells 500 has extended the ‘Everest’ concept to include a High Rouleur’s Society which requires cycling any route, loop, or combination of roads until you reach 10,000 vertical metres (32,809 feet). Folks who register successful Everesting or High Rouleur’s attempts with Hells 500 are eligible to buy a jersey with a characteristic grey stripe.
The names of two local Everesting activists keep popping up in my social feeds: 32 year old Daniel Perry and 53 year old Larry Beck. I’ve touched base with both, and they have mutual respect for their Everesting accomplishments.
Daniel is relatively new to cycling. He started in July 2015 shortly after relocating to Bellevue in order to be closer to work. Daniel drives a Lincoln Towncar (wow!) which was very difficult to park at work because of its size. He shared his concerns with his new landlord who suggested it might be easier to ride a bike, something he had never considered. He did have Scwhinn Le Tour a friend had given him years before, and was about to donate it as part of his move. But, he instead decided to resuscitate the bike. He researched bike laws, and set out on a terrifying 1.5 mile bike commute. Daniel quickly discovered he only had one speed around cars: as fast as he could pedal.
“I loved it! I felt a new sense of freedom, and loved the workout. I began to run errands outside of my commute. I rode to watch the Blue Angels on I-90 and didn’t need to find parking. I rode to the Jose Rizal bridge in Seattle and found out the hard way you need a headlight after dark. I was hooked. I also joined Strava within two weeks and began to see what was possible. I thought it would be amazing to make it into the top 200 riders on local segments.”
“I rode a mountain bike for fun when I was a kid and swore I always would. Unfortunately, when I got my drivers license I forgot about cycling for 15 years. Now I wish I never gotten off the bike. Cycling fits me so well. I was surprised to find I could push my limits quite far. I’ve always been “okay” athletically, but never good at anything in particular and I never did anything beyond recreational running and hiking. Now I feel like I’m “good” at cycling, but I also have this unfounded fantasy that I could have been “great” if only I had been coached at an early age. But, we’ll never know, so don’t burst my bubble!”
He spent the first 6 months on a bike riding by himself, but he was quickly motivated to connect with other cyclists.
“I learned some of the benefits of group riding from the Global Cycling Network YouTube channel. I went looking for other riders and found the Cascade Bicycle Club. I was so nervous about my first Wednesday night group ride! I spent almost two hours trying to decide what pace to join because the internet had taught me what it meant to be ‘dropped.’ Cascade doesn’t drop. I was welcomed immediately, had a great time, and was invited to a hill climbing series that weekend. Just what I was after! Eventually I went through the process of becoming a ride leader with Cascade to help fill in gaps in the schedule for the regular groups I joined. Cascade helped me learn to ride with others in a safe way, explore new areas, and is an incredibly welcoming community.”
“Through Cascade I met Thomas Sumter who invited me to join rides hosted by Native Planet Cycling. These guys are into BIG hills and especially gravel riding. I couldn’t resist, and acquired a gravel bike in August 2016. This pushed my limits in new ways, on new hills, with less support, and I was blown away by what was possible on a bike off pavement.”
“Through Native Planet I met many people who also raced their bikes in various formats, including Mariko Wei of the Egencia Racing Team. Through her encouragement I tried cyclocross racing for the first time in Autumn 2016, and eventually joined the team. Through Egencia and ‘cross I learned what it meant to spend 45 minutes at threshold heart rate, which was completely new to me. I have since tried road racing with the team and loved it. With their help and camaraderie at races I quickly learned what it takes to be competitive and am applying their advice one race/learning experience at a time.”
“I am now also part of the Hells 500 cycling club after completing the Zoo Hill Everesting attempt in November. To me, acceptance to that group represents an important milestone in my progression as a cyclist. The stories and cyclists I’ve encountered as part of the progression have enabled me to further stretch the boundaries of what I considered possible on a bike.”
A resume of Daniel’s recent adventures:
June 2016: First accidental gravel epic
“This was my longest day on a bike. I planned a ride in Oregon with very little research and hit the “begin adventure” button without looking back. My road bike frame had been warrantied and this would be my first ride on the bike; I had been using the Schwinn for a month and was very excited to have my “fast” bike back. Within 10 miles my route turned gravel and I learned a valuable lesson about myself; I have a dangerous aversion to backing down from a goal. I completed the route even though I should have turned back immediately. It became my greatest distance ever at 120 miles, my tallest day ever at 11,000ft elevation gain, and my longest ride ever at about 17 hours. This was on a Cannondale CAAD12 with 28mm road tires, little food and water, underdressed, and a dinky daytime LED headlight. It included a stream crossing because of a washed out road, ultra harsh gravel which eventually ate through the tire sidewalls causing 6 punctures and I could barely keep the tubes inside, wet and cold riding for 6 hours after dark, and nobody knew I had even gone to Oregon. Oops.”
November 2016: Successful Zoo Hill Everest attempt. “Everesting Zoo Hill in was my first real exploration into longer efforts.”
Later this summer: Mission Ridge.
“This year I currently plan to do as much road racing as my calendar will allow. There are many local events over the next year I plan to attend including Cascade’s High Pass Challenge and Vicious Cycles Winthrop gran fondo.”
“I have been invited to climb Mauna Kea in Hawaii with a group in September and also spend 8 days in the French alps with a group in August; although I don’t think my budget will support either of these if I’m honest with myself.”
“As far as endurance events, there is at least one person who is serious about making an attempt at a double Everesting (over 58,000ft elevation gain with no sleep) with me, although no date in the calendar. The group I joined in April to Everest Cherry Valley Rd would like to do my Festive 500 route around the peninsula together, only this time in good weather and with a support vehicle. I want to try bike camping this summer to begin learning/discovering the skills which will eventually lead me to participate in things like Troy Hopwood’s cross Washington MTB ride, Tour Divide, and someday the Trans Am Bike race.”
Daniel thinks the Seattle-area Everesting scene is in the verge of dramatic growth.
“It’s about to grow. A lot. One of the reasons I chose Zoo Hill for my first attempt was because I knew people could relate to it. Every time I rode that hill it beat me up. It has a reputation. Once I knew I could complete the Everest, which I think I realized about halfway through the attempt, my goal became to show people it could be done and encourage others to try. That success made me the 8th person in WA state to complete an Everesting and at the time I was the only person to push on to the 10,000 meter High Rouleur Society. Now that we have completed Cherry Valley Rd, there are 4 more Everesters and 3 more HRS riders in WA state. What is exciting to me is how many more plans I have heard because of the exposure to the idea! I’m just a guy who likes to ride his bike, and hills in particular. If I can do it almost anyone can! For example, Aharon Elston who was part of the Cherry Valley Rd. group has only been on a bike since October 2016! Everesting should be the new STP or RAMROD for WA state.”
“Between Larry Beck and myself the two of us will help or at least encourage another 15-20 Everestings this year!”
Since Everesting sounds like hill repeats on steroids, and has zero appeal to the likes of me, I asked Daniel about his motivations.
“Everesting appeals to me as a way to explore my personal physical limits and my thoughts. If it isn’t too ethereal a description, rides of this length bring me to the end of myself. There is a lot of peace in it.”
“I want to show others what can be done. It’s one thing to read an article about an Everesting somewhere in Australia or the U.K. on Facebook. It’s another thing when someone can go ‘wow I know that guy, I’ve ridden with him before, he’s human, maybe I can do that too!'”
“As a result of these Everesting attempts, I’ve become aware that my personal potential is much greater than I previously thought. I’ve been in an excited rush to keep progressing. I have always been enthralled by the physical challenges attempted mankind, from the Olympics to climbing Mt. Everest (for real) to martial arts. To be able to participate in that world for myself was something I didn’t really consider possible until now.”
“People need to ride their bikes more. I understand time and priorities and I’ll be the first to point out I haven’t faced much challenge in this area. But it blows my mind how few people truly push themselves, in particular on bicycles. I learned about the concept of Everesting in 2016 and read the details of a local rider named Larry Beck. He completed the 7th successful Everesting in Washington State. I couldn’t believe there were so few!! I had met so many talented, fast, driven, whatever adjective cyclists and no one did that stuff! It doesn’t take someone special to open the minds of people to possibility.”
“As an introvert, I REALLY enjoy the time alone to reflect, and enjoy nature. I come to the end of myself during a longer effort (over 24 hours). The human body is incredible, and outside of injury and genetics you can really train it to do incredible things.”