Everesting Challenge

Climb more than 8,800 meters in one day: Everesting, the challenge for cyclists in confinement

For several weeks, the Everesting challenge has gripped mainly the American cycling community. The goal? At the end of the day, climb a positive elevation as important as the altitude of Everest: 8,848 meters.

Knowing that a big mountain stage on the Tour de France or the Tour of Italy has between 4,000 and 5,000 meters of vertical drop, you can imagine that this challenge is made for the strong. If the records fall over the weeks, mainly due to the absence of professional races since mid-March, amateurs must be careful if they want to pursue this type of record, accessible to a certain cycling elite.

everesting challenge mount everest cycling

A first attempt in 1994

Some have therefore set themselves the goal of climbing in a minimum time a equivalent to the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. That is 8,848 meters, almost twice as big as a mountain stage qualified as difficult on a Grand Tour. Obviously, the cyclists will not chain the kilometers uphill, downhill and on the plain as on a stage of the Tour de France, but rather choose a steep hill on which they can chain the climbs and the descents, stopping as little as possible, whether to refuel or for a break. Here are the basic principles of Everesting. However, the discipline does not date from this confinement.

The bravest are thus entitled to a list of athletes who have succeeded in this challenge on everesting.cc. The site reports more than 4,800 people who have already reached this famous height difference, including the first of them, at least documented: George Mallory. In 1994, this Australian is considered the first to have attempted such an adventure, on the slopes of Mount Donna Buang, less than a hundred kilometers from Melbourne, in the mountains of the province of Victoria. George Mallory, grandson of of the British mountaineer George Mallory, who died on the slopes of Everest, recounts his adventure in pursuit of this challenge which he wondered if “a world record existed for this type of stupidity”. The 34-year-old amateur cyclist at the time tackled Mount Donna Buang, wondering about the possibility to reach more than 8,800 vertical meters in one day. He recounts his training, going from two to four then to six before considering, therefore, eight climbs which represented the difference in altitude to be achieved.

The next goal: 10,000 meters

In particular, he talks about the logistical challenge, the need to take enough food and drink to maintain good fuel throughout the day. The good music to listen to during those long hours of cycling, the parking space for his car to avoid having to walk for long hours in the event of a flat tire, etc. Because George Mallory carried out this challenge alone, without anyone else to support him in his ride or to help him refuel or get back in the saddle in the event of a hard blow. The cyclist imagined doing almost two hours per lap (a climb and a descent), and therefore left just before dawn to obtain more light for the first descent. But this first test carried out in March was not conclusive. The man therefore tried to climb these kilometers of elevation again, to finally get there after 17 hours of effort and 272 kilometers. Not stopping there, George Mallory tried the experience again by trying ten climbs of Mount Donna Buang, which he achieved in November 1994: in 22 hours and 45 minutes, for a total of 10,840 meters.

Since then, the initiator of this sporting challenge has achieved another goal of his life as an adventurer: to climb Mount Everest as a mountaineer, in 1995, which he achieved. Again, twenty years later, he tried Everesting again by bike. In July 2014, he managed to climb 8,989 meters in 10h12 on a very short climb on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand. George Mallory climbed this 700-metre ascent 101 times at 14% average to achieve this record at the age of 54.

For the good cause

And since then, many have realized the same dream as George Mallory, and tried their luck in the four corners of the world. And in recent weeks, the discipline has regained vigor in the cycling community, following the forced rest of many professionals, with no race on the horizon. In the United States, especially, Everesting has been given new life thanks to the mobilization of cyclists eager to conquer new objectives for a good cause. The American Emma Grant thus proposed in mid-April to climb an equivalent to Everest on Mount Lemmon, Arizona. And she did it! That was four climbs, in just over 15 hours, intended to raise money for the No Kid Hungry association, an organization that wants to allow all American children to get a meal every day. Katie Hall, who set the women's record in 10:01:42 thanks to 28 climbs on the Bonny Doon climb in California (3.7 kilometers at 9% average), also did it for the good cause, and more specifically for the “Giddy Up for Good” challenge, launched by American mountain bike and gravel specialist Rebecca Rusch, and intended to raise money for good cause.

Choose the right road

Is a hunt for records now on the international slopes? The challenge seems in any case to have taken on a new dimension with confinement. It remains to be found how to put in place all the elements necessary to pursue a new record. It is indeed necessary to find the right supply to ride several hours on the bike, to take the right tempo on the slope (how many watts on average are they necessary? What is the right heart rate to maintain? How then to best recover in the downhill?) but also choosing the right climb.

As George Mallory's experience has shown, climbing a shorter and steeper climb (thus with a very significant drop in altitude over a short distance) ultimately saves time. But a climb that is too short does not necessarily allow you to recover very long between ascents. It is therefore necessary to find a straight route of an average distance to recover well. Many parameters still come into play to achieve a good Everesting, at least to approach the best times.

Amateurs must realize the physical challenge that such a succession of climbs represents. Katie Hall thus recalls that she continued her pro training from January until May, before attempting his Everesting, while she confides for her part that even if she was not 100% to achieve her record. She has benefited from professional preparation since the start of the season, even in the face of confinement. Such a challenge is therefore not decided overnight and requires careful preparation. The Everesting.cc site also offers guides to help you prepare as well as possible and then recover well from this intense challenge. Ideal to avoid climbing into the unknown.