We all know of the mountain called Everest but have you heard of Everesting in a cycling context? Coined in Melbourne and growing in cult status, this pits rider against mountain. The task is climbing 8,848 vertical metres in a single ride.
How did it start?
In 1994 George Mallory decided that he would cycle up Mt Donna Buang as many times as it took to reach the same height as Everest. This was part of his actual Everest expedition training. There were several attempts before he succeeded in completing his goal, and following his successful attempt he said, "The 272 kilometre, 8,900 metre training session ended 17 hours after it had begun.”
Mum’s the word
In Melbourne, the Hells 500 Crew has taken up the mantle of Everesting, complete with a hall of fame. Presently there are 345 riders who are listed in the hall of fame. Some of these riders have completed their attempt on previously conquered climbs but many are different parts of the globe.
However, the real key to Everesting is to be the first to conquer a particular hill, much like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did in 1953 when they became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
The route is usually shrouded in secrecy until the last possible moment in order to be the FIRST to Everest a particular climb… and if successful, take a rightful place in the Hells 500 hall of fame. One famed Tenax rider, Kevin Goodall, has a slight obsession with Everesting and has had a couple of attempts so far. Having not quite hit the magic number, being tripped up in the famed death zone, the goal still burns bright in his subconscious...
What’s at stake?
Your body and your mind. There is no amount of preparation to build the mental steel that is required to complete this feat, which involves repetitions of the chosen mountain, hill or elevation to notch a minimum ascent of 8,848 vertical metres, all in one continuous cycling effort.
Why would you do it?
Like George Mallery you want to head into uncharted territory. The hills are there begging to be conquered and we all like to challenge ourselves. Hillary’s ascent of Everest in 1953 started a race to claim more difficult routes and harder mountains, a ripple that has spread worldwide and set minds racing.
It boils down to being first to Everest a climb by riding repeats until the magical 8,848m mark is reached.
What sort of climb?
The hills all vary with Mt Donna Buang in Victoria one of the longer climbs from the top to the bottom, it is 16.8km and you will sit with an average gradient of 6.4% and climb 1,069m each lap. This is a tough climb and it has a pinch right at the top.
However, other riders have tackled more modest climbs, such as Anderson Street which runs alongside Melbourne’s ‘The Tan’ and is short. Rather than the eight laps it takes on Mt Donna Buang it took 352 laps to reach Everest on Anderson Street.
The point is to find a climb that no one else has done and make sure you tell no one until you are about to start.
However, support is crucial
Like ascending Everest you need your support crew as there is power in numbers. Having people to help keep your head in the game is important and you will need support with food, water and clothing etc as the day heads toward night.
Words from the wise
Generally it is said that the first 3,000m of climbing was the warm-up. From 4,000m you will start to notice aches and pains that will come back to say hello later. Heading towards 5,000-7,000m is where the mental toughness starts to be required and is where a lot of riders do indeed stop. But the ‘death zone’ (not literally) is from 7,000m onwards. Mentally the main approach used is breaking the climbs down into smaller goals.
Like any good cycle there are a few rules that need to be stuck to in order to have an attempt recognised and added to the hall of fame. The Hells 500 riders maintain the rules and they include doozies such as:
• It does not matter how long the ride takes, but it must be ridden in one attempt (i.e. no sleeping in between). Breaks for meals etc. are fine. You can break for as long or as little as you like. Bear in mind break times add up quickly, and can add significantly to your elapsed time.
• Each repeat must be ridden up and down (i.e. you can’t get driven down each time). You also need to keep your device recording the whole time.
• The ride does not have to be ridden on sealed roads. In fact you get bonus kudos and cafe-respect for hitting the vitamin G.
If you'd like to find out more and see the full set of rules, check out everesting.cc.