Not sure why I do it to myself, but after not racing for some time the desire to challenge myself and complete an Everest attempt become an apparent, ‘good idea’. I first through about it a while ago, but had checked the maths for what it’d take on our local mountain and left it there thinking... ahh hell no.
However, I guess after not racing for a while things change and motivation for a new challenge grows. During lockdown I’ve been doing a lot of chilled adventure rides which has been fun but missed the gritty feeling of pushing the body that you get from racing.
So, the thought kept growing and the Everest calculator estimated that to make the 8848m climbing required I’d need to climb Mount Alexander 38 times with an altitude gain of 237m per rep.
I decided to dip the toes and one morning drove out and did 13 reps, climbing 3200m in elevation in 3.5hrs. This trial helped me to decide, and I convinced myself it was a feat I needed to achieve. I estimated that with a couple of short breaks it would take under 10hrs total. My biggest fear was being on the mountain for a long time, with 10hrs being a huge challenge mentally. I think I’m silly, determined and naïve enough to complete such a challenge and to be honest I was more worried about what sort of state I’d have to put myself in just to finish and less worried about actually finishing. I spoke to Mind Matters Coach Justin Morris about Everesting as he has completed it and in his words, “you’ll be fine, although I did ended up at the hospital on the drip after it”.
The Set Up
My Scultura gearing would need to be modified, provided I wanted my knees to function after Everesting. The climbs average gradient was 8.9% with step pinches of 16%. In order to adapt my gearing, I took the Shimano GRX long cage derailleur and cassette off my Merida Mission CX and put it onto the road bike. Leaving my Scultura with a business 53/39 front chainring up the front and party out the back with a 11/36 cassette (40T locked out). This gave me the ability to go no lower than 70rpm and importantly had a bailout gear for when things got more strenuous later on in the attempt. Ready to go my Scultura weighted in at 7.2kg.
With the Strava segment triple checked, car packed with food and a brain that was aiming to be naïve with the next 10hrs it was time to get started. I’d picked a good morning for it, -3 and one of our coldest winter mornings. To help me get through it brother Russ Nankervis was in support, firstly to see how far he could make it with me and then to help out as a feeder. To give you an idea of how cold it was, Russ completed the first rep with a Kathmandu puffer jacket on.
Started at 7:45am: First rep, I dropped my chain U turning and Russ the patient man he is thought I’d bridge the gap no worries. Two reps later, I caught back up and it became a social affair once more. Sitting on around 280 watts was the aim and with the gradient how it was, this felt like a sustainable effort. Nothing particularity exciting to report for the morning section, it was cold, pretty foggy and my only job was to remind myself to keep eating and drinking. One thing I noticed was how hypersensitive you become to how your body is feeling for the first portion of the attempt. Every muscle strain and tingle is like ahh shit, are they the feelings of cramps, becoming dehydrated or running low on glycogen? It defiantly keeps you on your toes, to do all the right things.
By lunch time Russ was over riding with me and was looking pretty cooked, he took a few reps break then joined up with me later on only to be zig zag up the hill behind me. He hadn’t exactly come into this with the greatest legs and from then on, he become bottle man mouthing off at each rep for reverse psychology motivation.
About halfway through I had the realisation that I’m terrible at maths. I’d done 4,400m and elapsed time was 5hrs 45mins, meaning I’d severely underestimated time and done myself in for what’s now going to be a very long day.
My mate and work manager John Davis then came to join me for a few reps which was a welcomed distraction. Whilst riding with John my front derailleur stopped working and looking at the red flash on my DI2 suggested I had remembered to charge everything but my gearing. So, with no cable on me mum brought out my CX bike which fortunately runs the same seat post (where the battery is located) and did a 7hrs deep seat post swap. Big Kudos to Mum, I was able to continue in the meantime as front chainring access isn’t particularly important in mountain climbing. My biggest worry was that she would bring out the wrong bike!
I’d say the 8-10hr mark was probably the hardest period. The taste of food wears off and the novelty of climbing a stupid mountain on repeat starts to kick in. You kind of start to think, ‘boy should’ve just gone to work today’.
The 7000m mark (10hrs) hit and It was good because I knew I couldn’t not finish it now. It was getting dark and I had to remount lights. It got bloody cold again, but I also now had a good support crew with John coming back out with partner Courtney, my parents and old faithful Russ.
Knowing I was going to make it made the last part feel remarkably easy, even feeling as though I could somewhat light it up a little. On my second last rep I had a nice surprise, a graffitied ‘TAS 8848m 2020’ on the road. This numbed the pain and boosted the moral, riding my fastest rep and feeling like Pantani dancing on the pedals. For the last rep at 11hrs 30mins in, I was handed a beer and just cruised my way up, thankful it was the last and finishing at 7:27pm with an elapsed time of 11hrs 42mins.
On reflexion If I wanted to go for a faster time, I should’ve chosen a more gradient efficient climb. Although in saying that there’s something cool about doing it on the local training climb. Plus, now each time I’m busting my arse up the northside of Mount Alexander, I’ll be able to read ‘TAS 8848m 2020’ and have a chuckle and smile.
How were the feels post? Well, I rode to the coffee part of the bunch ride the next day, then didn’t touch the bike again for 5 days. I was defiantly tired and overall, it probably took close to two weeks to feel normal on the bike again. Comparing it to racing, mentally it was challenging but physically being able to ride within my own limits the whole time meant it honestly wasn’t crazy hard, not when I compare it to some of my hardest road or mountain bike racing. This would be a whole different story had I been racing for a time and full credit to those who have done it because that is a crazy amount of suffering. Would I do it again? Honestly probably not but I’m certainly happy to have done it.
Thanks for reading and check some stats below,
Everesting Hall of fame
- 530 TSS
- 11hrs 42mins
- 248 watts ave
- 134bpm ave HR
- TSB – 40, ATL 148
What I ate for 11hrs 42mins
- 4 x Peanut butter/ honey sandwiches
- 3 x Ham/ vegemite sandwiches
- 4 x Woolies Choc Chip Cookies (the big ones)
- 6 x Uncle Tobies Bars
- 4 x Hammer Bars
- 1 x Chocolate Croissant
- ½ Pack Salted Rice Cakes
- 12 Gels
- 1 x Redbull
- 16 bottles 750ml (Water/Electrolytes / Carb mix)