In the early hours on Saturday, April 25, 2015 a massive earthquake registering 7.8 in magnitude rocked Nepal. This was followed on Tuesday May 12th by another earthquake, measuring 7.3 magnitude, compounding the already fragile state of the country and its people as they struggled to recover from the initial devastation.
The true toll will never be known, but to date more than 8,000 people have died with over 13,000 injured. The fate of thousands more in many remote areas is still unclear and the government has warned that the death toll could reach 10,000.
Straddling the border of China and Nepal, it was the world’s highest peak that inspired the concept of Everesting, the act of climbing the equivalent height (8,848m) in a single ride, on any hill in the world. The concept of Everesting has had a massive impact on the cycling communities of more than 30 countries around the world, so it’s no surprise that these communities rallied behind Nepal in this time of need.
If you don't know what Everesting is, it's a simple, if somewhat loopy concept. The idea is to pick a hill, any hill, and ride up and down it enough times to climb the equivalent of the height of Everest, 8848m. It has to be done in one ride, although you are allowed to crawl under a bush and have a little cry at any point.
Everesting, eh? Did I learn anything from the first time I could use this time around? Hmm. Well, I knew what to expect, I just couldn't really do much to change it!
The original post of my Everesting of Mt Macedon described the preparation I had gone through. With this in mind, it was only a week after I had declared to my riding buddies that "I hadn't ridden a 4000m+ day for over 6 months" that the concept of 5MAW was born and the date locked in - a very short sounding 4 weeks away!
Training became cramming with the plans for a 6000m day followed by a 4000m two weeks out from 5MAW. That soon became a 4000m day followed by a 6000m day as I came home somewhat demoralised from "only" managing 4000m on the first go at 6000m - you see what this Everesting lark does to you? A ride with 4000m of climbing would normally qualify as a pretty decent day out but instead I returned home with my confidence shot and wondering where the hell my climbing legs and head had gone. In the modern world, it's easy to put yourself under pressure (yes, performance anxiety on a bike) when you under-perform (in your mind). You suddenly become sensitive to your own and your peers' expectations. The only way to move forward is to focus on what you are trying to achieve and the opportunities ahead, downplaying any expectations and not getting self critical.
The following weekend's 6000m success certainly got that zip going but by the end of that one I was ignoring the fact that I was dumping water to save weight for the last climb of the day and would still be 3000m short of Everesting...
It was a treacherous week on the Mount in the lead up to 5MAW - snow, wind, rain but with an improving forecast for the weekend.
When the alarm rang out at 1am for the 2am start, I did not wake to a balmy and inviting night. I used to say never trust a real estate agent or a car salesman or a banker. I guess I need to add a weather forecaster to that list now? The weather headlines were a high of 5C, wet feet after 30 mins and for the next 17 hours, 20m visibility on the north side of the Mount for the first 8 hours and general miserable conditions all day - it didn't really start to dry out until well over 14 hours into the ride. The idea of 5MAW is to ride the four ways up the Mount (the MAW bit) in order, five times. With the conditions, that plan went out the window. All four climbs would still be ridden five times each, but with the complete lack of visibility on the north side, I concentrated early on other climbs, picking up the north side later in the day. The fact that it is the easiest of the climbs wasn't really a factor in this decision since, ironically, Alton Rd, the toughest climb, was the one I felt most comfortable on all day.
The conditions of the day made our Command Central in Marty's garage, near the base of Alton Rd, an essential piece of the puzzle. Hot drinks, plenty of food and a place to sit in relative warmth were life savers!
Marty was being Marty - effortlessly taping out the climbs, although he had switched to the mudguard equipped Boardman and its 32 rear cog, offset somewhat by the 14kg he would now be lugging up each climb. Daylight came, the climbing continued, the fog continued, the drizzle continued and soon daylight was disappearing again.
I had felt comfortable up until about climb 10 or 11. Then I got into a bad place. The south side, the site of my first Everesting, was giving me bother and I couldn't get comfortable on her slopes. I was tiring and wet and I had to dig deep to get through these tough places. Pete dropped by to offer encouragement and take a few happy snaps. That definitely helped but it was going slowly. I tried the old "you've just done what you did 2 weeks ago, only what you did the week before that to go" but the legs weren't buying it. Still, they slowly turned over but it was not an effortless, thought free, almost meditative time that I remembered from before. This was mentally a tougher proposition and I'm not sure if it was the my fitness, the weather or the constant change in gradient as a result of the four different climbs?
I'm not a numbers man, but when you are Everesting, and you are well into the death zone, that vertical metres number becomes your world. Who cares about distance or speed or cadence or temperature? The only thing that matters is the vertical metres. 8700m. 8800m. 8810m....8848m. It was there. For the second time, I had breached the magical number and it felt every bit of a relief as the first time, perhaps more so. Up, up a bit more and then it was the plunge back down the Mount one last time.
I stopped at the pub for a victory shot and got talking to a few lads having a jar outside. "Are you on peptides, mate?", they asked, before thrusting a beer in my direction, "You need it more than we do". In my shot mental and physical state, it went right to my head. I gingerly dropped back to Command Central just as the family pulled up and big hugs and kisses were shared around. Shortly before heading home in the team bus, we grabbed a pizza and another beer from the outstanding Ida Red to keep me alive before we got home.
It was an amazing day. Thanks to Mark, Marty, Peter and Blair for support on the day, to my family for the everlasting tolerance of these adventure and to everyone who has donated so far. There's still time to chip in, so if you are inspired to help us please head over to More Than Sport to contribute what you can.
Total distance: 278km
Elevation climbed: 8914m
Ride time: 15hrs 14mins (over 18 hours)
Ride data: https://www.strava.com/activities/320165490