Recently but not forgotten, one of our club members, put a very interesting piece together relating to a charity event he had taken part in, within the grounds of Stormont in Belfast. Tim Dodds tells us more below of his involvement and of the challenge known as “Everesting” and its purpose;
What is it?
Started by a group of riders in Australia called the Hells 500, Everesting is, in their own words, “a fiendishly simple concept, and a fiendishly difficult ride to complete. Pick any climb, anywhere in the world and ride repeat after grinding repeat until you have notched up 29,028ft (8,848m) vert. In one ride.”
I first learnt of Everesting when a work colleague took on and completed the challenge in late 2015. I had joined him for an hour of his 23-hour ride doing repeats of a long climb near Cairncastle, Co Antrim. At the time I would never have contemplated, or considered myself capable of taking on and completing the challenge.
How I got involved?
I was nothing more than a reluctant bystander when the idea to take on an Everesting attempt was punted out amongst work colleagues in mid-February of this year. In a matter of days, a climb and weekend had been picked and my name was included on the application to get security clearance for an overnighter within Stormont Estate.
A couple of my work colleagues are also members of Phoenix CC, and with a few of their club members joining us, our numbers were up to nine.
Training: the hastily arranged attempt did not offer much scope for getting in the metres and miles that I would have liked. I tried to cram as many hilly miles in as I could on Sundays and on the occasional mid-week run I was able to get out in the five weeks available. A recce of the climb at Stormont two weeks before the planned date offered some comfort that I would be able to make some sort of fist of an attempt, but I felt very underprepared.
We started out a 3pm on Saturday in warm sunshine. Fuelled by a mix of adrenaline and a desire to get some miles and feet notched up, I set off at a higher pace than planned. After a while, I eased off and got into a rhythm with which I was comfortable.
A couple of hours in, it became obvious that the mix of GPS units between the nine riders were recording very different tallies of vertical climbing. My Wahoo Element had recorded 600ft less than another rider who had completed an identical number of repeats. Even the same model of Garmin would record very different elevations. On upload, my unit missed out the last 17 miles. Battery life was also a significant issue for everyone and riders adopted their own strategy for measuring what would hopefully be a 24-hour ride.
In a matter of hours, the sun began to set and temperatures started to drop steadily downwards.
Around eight hours in, and despite regular coffee and caffeine from my electrolyte tablets, I found myself fighting heavy eyelids. I was struggling to stay alert on the downhill runs to Carson’s monument and on one occasion overshot the give way line, nearly colliding with the statue’s granite plinth.
I got through the fatigue and around 1am was starting to feel alert and happy with the pace and progress. As the hours went by I found myself starting to slow. The temperature had dropped from the high of 15 degrees when we started, to a low of about 2 degrees. At 3am, the lights around Stormont went out, and we were relying entirely on the lights of our bikes to guide us up and down the climb.
The climbing pace had been moderate, but as the cold bit, I was struggling to catch my breath, even on the downhill run. At this stage, we were stopping for a break about every 90 minutes. At both the 3am break and the 4.30am break, I had been shivering and unable to get warmth into my body. In hindsight, better layering could have helped stave off the cold. But it wasn’t to be. Shortly before 5am, having done 371 repeats, covering 102 miles, and climbing 15,578ft, I got off the bike and got into the sleeping bag in the back of my car.
Those coldest, darkest hours took their toll and only four of the nine starters continued beyond sunrise . They completed the challenge around 3pm that day, amassing the 29,028 ft.
Collectively, we have raised over £3,500 to place defibrillators in parks throughout Belfast.
I had gone into the challenge not knowing how far I could go. But having come out the other side, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete it. I definitely would not rule out another go and will be on the lookout for suitable strava segments for any future attempt.