Last week, I went through the same emotional states. Everesting a climb, what is that? The concept is simple. Repeat a climb (any climb) as many times as required to achieve the same elevation gain as the height of Everest, 8848m see http://www.everesting.cc/. You like loops and epic journeys. So do I but Everesting isn't one of those days! I had chosen to Everest a climb as part of the Hells 500 crew, who had all selected a climb that was to be attempted solo over a 4 day period. We would all be out there in our own world of pain, while the crew followed and encouraged each other through Instagram and other channels of choice. In the end, 65 different riders stood in the dark at the bottom of 65 different climbs across Australia, nervously anticipating the day ahead. 33 would ultimately be successful.
I had chosen Mt Macedon South. There really had been no doubt that I would be Everesting on Macedon, my home and adopted mountain. The question was which climb? In the end I decided on the south side, a steep, pinchy little climb that had a decent elevation gain (almost 500m) over a relatively short distance (6.5km). The north side's friendlier gradient would have resulted in almost 50% more distance to ride, Straws a substantial number of repeats and Alton? Well Alton is Alton! In the end, my co-conspirator of most things epic on two wheels, Mark Rigby, put in an beyond epic ride on Alton to Everest that particular ride - see http://www.strava.com/activities/117023951.
I was the first rider out of the starting gates. I was attempting to Everest less than a week out from relocating overseas, with final packing, cleaning and a party to put together - as Lisa would say, "Apparently moving countries was not enough of a challenge". I was heading out there on the Thursday with the rest of the crew on deck from Friday and over the weekend. The spotlight was on me for the day and I need to get the series off to a successful start!
The weather forecast was good. A coolish day with a southerly and no rain on the radar. I arrived at the bottom of the climb at a little after 5am, pretty much on plan and started the first repeat of the day - the food drop had been planted at the top the previous night. The early slopes were tough. The body was adapting to the rhythm of the climb and the darkness allowed the mind to wander. As with any challenge, it's all about breaking it down to manageable chunks and I was working in cycles of three climbs, with the plan to have 5 mins off the bike at the end of each cycle. In those early 2 climbs, the mind was almost feeling overwhelmed by the fact this was the first of 19 repeats and I couldn't concentrate on the individual climb. Still, the times were ok and as the daylight started to filter through and the noises in the bushes subsided (and THAT kangaroo that just stood at the side of the road and looked at me on the first two descents - I swear it was the same one! - had hopped away), I started to settle in. Halfway up climb 3, I had the urge for a call of nature. Damn it, I'm not interrupting my rhythm now and had visions of finding a friendly bush at the top but managed to make it up and back down to the toilet block without incident!
I met Mark at the bottom of climb 10. I was well through halfway, in fact almost at 5000m by this point, and I now knew that 18 repeats, not 19, were required, When I had realised this, it had been a real shot of encouragement, like someone was pushing up the next climb. Mark had bought me a pie and custard tart - my favourite - and a can of the black doctor. All was well in the realm of Everesting.
And then it got hard. Real hard. Psychologically, the middle section was always going to be the hard part. Fatigue was started to be felt but there was a fair way to go yet. Lunch did not sit well in the stomach and the next few climbs were tough. I never felt like I was going to see lunch again, but my stomach had made it clear that no more food was crossing its boundary! Climbing through 6000 and then 7000m were a real plod. "Only" 4 more, became "still' 4 more.
I had three climbs to go, at that point and I was rejuvenated. The legs and head were good, the climbs enjoyable. I met Mitch near the top on climb 16 - he was out for a ride and thought he might "come and see the madness". Marty also made an appearance on the way home from work and we stopped and had a chat at the bottom. He said I looked relaxed and happy. With 2 to go, I knew it was in the bag. This was the final approach. The Dhaba van had opened its doors by the time I dropped past coming down from climb 17 and the delicious smells wafting up the mountain had me contemplating stopping and stuffing a roti in the pocket but with the last climb of the day, I just wanted to be home. The last repeat was a cracker. At one point, the head amusingly said to the legs "this is the last effort of the day, put everything on the road" and the legs replying "this is all we've got, I cannie give ya any more" (in a somewhat suspect Scottish accent no doubt)!
The last climb was the only one where I avidly scanned the elevation gain, knowing it would be close. As I turned the corner onto Cameron Drive, it ticked through 8820m. I was there and I rolled to the Hump for the Garmin to register a nose bleeding 8849m. Done. It took me a few minutes of just standing there to register what I had done. 8849m in a little over 14 hours (of which 12 and a half hours were riding time). I zipped up, turned the bike around and rolled down the north side and home to Woodend. The house was quiet and empty (with the move less than a week away, this was literally true) but the order of the day was an 8 egg serve scrambled eggs and a beer.
Hells 500 Everesting was off to a perfect start!
So what does it take to Everest a climb? It takes planning. Know your climb, know how many repeats you need (no nasty surprises). Work out a sustainable climb time, something that can pretty much be maintained all day without blowing out badly later in the day. Work out your food and remember that as the day goes on you will want simpler and simpler food. You need to be physically prepared for a very long day in the hills. A couple of laps of the Frankston Alps isn't going to cut it. Understand and accept that you will transition through a whole bunch of emotional states and have some strategies in place to deal with them - the middle third will hurt and particularly as you approach the death zone around 7000m.
Thanks to Mark, Mitch, Marty and the family for their support, encouragement, food and rescue. Hot sugary tea. Magic!
Total distance: 241km
Elevation climbed: 8910m
Elapsed time: 14hrs 17mins
Ride data: http://www.strava.com/activities/116446335