Since its inception, Everesting has experienced growth far beyond its creators’ wildest dreams. Now considered a worldwide sensation, cycling athletes can choose from almost 20,000 Everesting offerings of different kinds in just about every country, large or small. Learn about this new and seemingly impossible feat of athleticism, and how best to prepare for the journey should you choose to take it.
Birth of Everesting
In 1994, George Mallory, grandson of an avid British mountaineer, cycled up Australia’s Mount Donna Buang 10 times, racking up a total of 8,848m. A group of Australian bikers, known as the HELLS 500 Club and led by founder Andy van Bergen, decided to create an official challenge from Mallory’s success; thus marked the beginning of “Everesting”. Since its inception in 2014, an Everester’s Hall of Fame proudly accepts and highlights individuals worldwide who complete this daunting feat.
Mastering Mount Everest
The significance of 8,848 meters, or 29,029 feet, reflects the elevation (or “snow height”) of Mount Everest, our planet’s highest mountain above sea level. Nestled deep in the Mahalangur Himal range of the Himalayan Mountains, the border between Nepal and China crosses its summit.
Mount Everest attracts many highly experienced climbers, hikers and bikers every year. While the climbing itself may not prove technically difficult, the challenges abound, including altitude sickness, avalanches, high winds and ice falls. Data indicates that as of 2019, over 300 individuals have lost their lives attempting to reach the summit; sadly, many of these bodies remain on Mount Everest to this day.
Rules of Engagement
The rules surrounding the official Everesting challenge seem fairly straightforward — simple but certainly not easy. An athlete must successfully accomplish the following:
- Log a total of 8,848m (29,029ft) in elevation gains
- Select one route on a single hill, reaching the summit of this hill on each ascent
- Descend on this same route
- ONLY break for purposes of eating, drinking, and briefly recharging
- Descend safely and return to starting point/home base
- *** No sleep allowed during the challenge; contestants must complete the challenge in a single stint***
The creators of Everesting did not set any prescribed time limit for completion; however, true champions compete for the fastest time. A typical attempt can take up to 24 hours…again, with NO SLEEP.
The Virtual Climb
Like many other forms of exercise, Everesting found an adaptation to the challenges of COVID-19 by creating a virtual competition. Halfway through 2020, the number of athletes attempting this climb –both in-person and virtual — hit an astonishing 7,000. By then, over 1,100 new members attained Hall of Fame status.
The Lay of the Everesting Land
Ultra-Cyclist and blog writer George Vargas compiled a list of his top suggestions to guide first-timers through a safe and successful Everest event. Consider these if you plan to attempt this challenge, or pass them on to interested clients.
- Believe in yourself
- Prepare thoroughly
- Choose a reasonable location
- Research as much as you can about your chosen hill
- Ensure proper, portable sustenance
- Gather appropriate gear/equipment
- Arm yourself with a reliable support system
- Once again, believe that you can accomplish this
Let’s take a deeper look into some of these topics.
Making the Grade
Without argument, the most significant aspect of this challenge lies in selecting the perfect hill. Consider riding style; some cyclists favor a steep hill, more than an 8% grade and ideally a 10% grade. This ensures a shorter time and distance traveled, reducing wear and tear on the body. An average hill, with a grade of 4-6%, only prolongs the time on the bike. Mr. Vargas writes, “A steeper grade with less repeats and less overall time spent on the bike is easier than a shallow grade and more repeats. Please do yourself a favor and find a good steady 7-8% grade hill.”
Consider how your unique body responds to intense physical fatigue. Most riders report that they prefer to witness a rapid accumulation of total gain during the first 10,000 to 15,000 feet. This makes the last stretch seem much more doable. This also helps fuel the mental fatigue that often overcomes riders toward the end of the challenge.
Assess the Environment
After deciding on an optimal location, take sufficient time to carefully analyze these critical aspects:
- Traffic in the vicinity (includes hikers, cyclists, motor vehicles)
- Presence/absence of a useable bicycle lane or shoulder
- Safe area to park emergency support vehicle
- Can a mobile SAG wagon have access to your riding pattern?
- In which direction does the ascent lie? Consider the position of the sun at the time of day you anticipate riding
- Keep track of wind patterns (presence of forestation/foliage to provide shelter)
- Bathroom facilities
- The week of the Everest, check local weather conditions to better assess/anticipate road hazards (snow, slush, recent avalanche, loose mud/rock)
3. Nutritional Considerations
When undertaking a challenge of such an extreme nature, grant yourself permission to toss all previous diet rules out the window. You will likely need to consume at least 250 calories per hour throughout the event’s entirety. Keeping in mind that you must carry most of this food/hydration with you, plan for lightweight and nutrient-dense fuel.
- Expert George Vargas advocates choosing liquid nutrition for the bulk of the event
- Maintain a constant influx of ample protein
- Carbohydrates, both simple and complex, help maintain energy stores
- Allow yourself some “cheat foods” or guilty pleasures. This event offers the perfect opportunity for such treats.
Points to Ponder
Even the strongest, fastest, and most endurance-trained cyclist will at some point become physically depleted. With perseverance and sheer will, mental strength will help you muscle through to completion. A favorite fitness adage states that “the body gives out long before the mind”, which has proven true regardless of the sport. When pain and utter fatigue threaten to take over, the rider must draw upon reserves of mental fortitude and believe that the end of the event will come eventually…and successfully. Relive the first part of the ride in your mind, review and revel in all that you’ve accomplished to that point, and above all, believe you can finish what you started. Seeing your name, or that of your client, on the Everesters Hall of Fame makes the grueling effort worthwhile!
(Author’s note: My recent article about extended cycling and its possible detrimental effects on male fertility. Any men attempting the Everest conquest may wish to read my article and consider all the facts contained therein prior to the event.)