by Marcus Leach
We live in an age where almost everybody is looking to challenge themselves. For some it might be simply completing a 10km run, for others the desire to push themselves to the limit sees them take on all manner of endurance events.
But the pinnacle is surely Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. A mountain that has, for many years been seen as the ultimate challenge, so much so that it lends its name to other incredible feats as people conquer their own proverbial Everest. And cycling is no different.
For those who cycle the Tour de France has often been seen as the ultimate endurance race, an epic battle that pits the fittest cyclists against each other in a quest to be crowned champion in Paris. There are even several organisations who make it possible for the amateur cyclist to take on the challenge as that desire to push ourselves gets put to the test once again.
However, in recent months a new challenge has slowly emerged and captured the imagination of those wanting to stand out from the crowd, for those who want to belong to an elite club. It is known as 'everesting' and is, in essence, very easy: pick your hill and ride up and down it as many times as it takes to reach the equivalent elevation gain of Everest - 8,848m - in a single ride.
This trend has developed from the efforts of a group of riders in Australia known as the 'Hells 500'. In their own words.....
"It all started with a bunch of guys who liked riding in the hills. Too much. We liked the fact that as hill riders we were on the fringe, so rather than race we would set ourselves goals that no-one else was attempting.
"The pre-requisite for any challenge that we set was that it had to be tough. To qualify, it needed to be too difficult to just go out and ride it. We would spend months training up for each new epic, usually timed with the onset of spring. This meant that the crux of our training every year was undertaken in the cold, dark, and wet winters when everyone else would stay under the doona (duvet)."
It isn't a challenge for the feint-hearted, especially when you consider it can take in excess of twenty-four hours to complete, as was the case for James Wyatt who recently conquered the challenge on Toys Hill in Kent. So how was it?
"I'd wanted to attempt since hearing about it on Twitter in the summer, but never quite got round to it, I knew November was late in the season, but the legs were feeling good after a solid year on the bike (11,000km so far in 2014)," James told Road.cc.
"I'd also just heard that I'd secured a new job after a few months off, so time for messing about on the bike was running out. I checked the forecast and it suggested a chilly but dry day and night, so I went for it.
"I had no idea it was going to take me almost 26 hours, but I did spend a fair bit of time in the pub at the top! The landlord was a bloody legend and helped with copious awesome coffees, Garmin charging, warming up and replacement of calories, I burnt almost 12,000.
"Apart from going up and down the same damp, potholed stretch of tarmac 59 times, mostly in sub zero temperatures, not a great deal happened.
"I set off at about 10:00, and on my first repeat I got cross at some other cyclists. I'd seen them changing a tube on my way down, and on my way back up I saw the old tube draped over a sign, so with fresh legs I sprinted after them and gave them an earful, they promised to pick it up later, but I doubted they would, so said I'd collect it when I finished my reps.
"I saw plenty of other cyclists, some of which were doing multiple reps too. But we were always heading in other directions, so I couldn't discuss my personal challenge with any of them.
"It was basically a case of manning up and grinding out the reps. I stopped every four hours or so for food and a hot drink. Eventually the sun (and the temperature) went down and I still had well over 4,000m to climb.
"The night went pretty quickly, I saw foxes and an awesome barn owl, but not much else happened, just up and down, up and down. I had one puncture, but my hands were so cold I decided to walk to the top of the hill and get my other bike rather then try and change a tube. More up and down, now on an aluminium bike with 34 32 gearing so I could spin up it nicely.
"It was pretty miserable just after dawn and I bonked a tiny bit at about 08:00, and spent a couple of hours thinking it would never end.
"But at about 11:00 (25 hours after I started) I hit 8,848m, I carried on to the top and did one more rep, just in case. I briefly thought about trying to hit 10,000m, but then reminded myself it would have been another three hours, so called it a day. Got in the van and headed back to London. Annoyingly, I was so knackered, I forgot to pick up the inner tube.
"But I completed the strava climbing challenge, and will get a (titanium) badge and mum's getting me the Everesting jersey for Christmas, blood, sweat and tears!"
To find out more about the challenge, as well as compressive rules in case you are thinking of taking on your own Everesting attempt, click here.