I had only been at work for a few days after my charity ride to Brixham in Devon (Blog to come so make sure you subscribe to RCC) when Simon asked “So what’s the next challenge then Stu”.
An inspirational friend Ian Barrington had just completed an Everesting ride. Tap tap on the keyboard and I was soon reading all about the Hells500 and Everesting.cc
Like all my harebrained plans, several ideas crashed into one another but low and behold a challenge was stuffed into a gauntlet and slapped around my cheeks.
Take a hill. Not any old hill apparently. It must be a suitable hill that can be climbed repeatedly. A hill not too steep. A hill that is not too long. A hill you don’t mind riding up and down for what might be an eternity. Go for a test ride and measure the stats, elevation, distance and time taken. Write it all down and calculate how many repetitions it will take to climb the height of Mt Everest, 8848 meters. Select a suitable date and start time, grab a few friends to tag along, scrounge some energy food from Etixx UK. Oh, I forgot. There was no way I was going to kill myself for no reason so do it for a good cause. This is where it all came together. Oxenhope (Just around the corner from where I live) is the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. Oxenhope also has Cock Hill which was used in the 2014 Tour De France. BRILLIANT. Perfect hill and the perfect charity to raise some funds for.
6am Saturday morning outside the Bay Horse pub in the dark with Nick and Andy. They were both attempting to do a half Everest aboard their single-speed mtbs with nobbly tyres on. Mental.
Jade waved goodbye as we all set off for our 1st ascent of Cock Hill. Thick fog enveloped the hillside and our light cut deep into the mist. Our first climb went quick mainly because we chatted the whole 3kms. We crossed the white line (leftover from the KOM Tour race) and turned round to start the first descent. I soon realised that Cock Hill at 6am on an Autumn morning shrouded in fog was a cold place to be.
OH WELL. ONLY ANOTHER 43 TIMES UP THIS HILL.
Nick & Andy climbed with me for a while before they started to do their own thing. I had to find my groove and gears. Monotony was the name of the game and my 5ps were going to get me to the finish. Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (By midnight it had become the 6ps perfect prep prevents PISS poor performance). Every 75 mins I was going to have a gel or bar to top up the carbs. My bottle would have a weak carbo mix and at the start of every climb I would guzzle down some water from the pit crew. I would climb until I had reached 1000 meters then take a quick break to stretch, twerk and load up the jersey with more gels.
It wasn’t long before the reality of my challenge bit me hard. I had just reached (on the GPS) the 1/4 milestone 2212 meters of total ascent. It had taken me 4 hrs to complete. The realisation that I was going to be spending another 12+ hrs in the saddle bore down on me. The physical challenge had yet to show its face but the mental challenge rose above the parapet and gave me a bloody hard stare. I had to refocus. I suddenly felt tired. My legs and neck started to complain. I was fine just a few minutes ago. Doubts started to flutter into my conscious. I started to question my ability. As my head began to sink, Andy rode past with the biggest smile and whoop whoop no-handed arm-waving giddiness which reminded me why I was here and why I was doing this. YOU guys had donated £1000 for Sue Ryder and what I was going through pales into insignificance to what those guys do every day SO head screwed back on I continued up another rep of Cock Hill.
The sun was now up and trying hard to burn off the low cloud and fog. A gentle climbing tail wind found it hard to blow away the damp mist but by 11am the sky turned blue and we could content ourselves with the beautiful views of the moors. As the hours ticked by so did the company. Riders and friends tagged along for a few repetitions of Cock Hill. It was great to have the company and to have a chat. Before long I was getting close to the halfway mark. One more climb and descent to complete and I was 50% done. Time to celebrate. I parked up the Jones and I tucked into a packet of salt & vinegar crisps. A quick stretch and I was back on the bike. Climb number 22.
Having the GPS in full view meant a continuous reminder of what was to come both in time and elevation. It had taken 4 hours to complete a quarter of the challenge so that equates to a 16 hour Everesting ride. This would be achieved if I went non stop, without a break. This might be possible. Could I continue non stop? I just didn’t know. This was uncharted territory for me. A delve into the unknown. Time would tell.
The sun started to set and the temperature started to fall. The slight tailwind was now becoming a problem. With no cool breeze to evaporate or cool the sweat, I was getting a bit damp under the collar. When I reached the summit and started the 30mph descent the wind cut through me like a knife. The layer of perspiration went ice cold. It stiffened the muscles and legs. The descent was meant to be the fun bit but it was now turning into the most dreaded bit of the ride.
Climb, descend, repeat. Sweat, freeze, repeat.
One by one I ticked off the next climb. I was only using two gears. A sit-down gear and an out-of-the-saddle gear. I cycled on autopilot, selecting the gears when the elevation required them. My appreciated pit crew now needed to keep me in check. Every descent found me shivering in the boot of the car. I felt sick and I could stand the thought of another sugary gel or a now frozen bar. I could no longer look after myself. I needed to be told what to do and not want I wanted to do.
5 ascents to go. Tiredness was kicking in. The sandwich was a mistake. A tasty mistake but a mistake none the less. I was now wasting energy digesting my wonderful beautiful sandwich. My eyes and concentration floundered and as I passed the graveyard I fell asleep whilst riding.
As I slowed and snoozed I swerved right. As I turned I stalled. As I stalled I started to fall into the road. This woke with a fright. I reached out to cushion my fall. My headlight no longer illuminated the road ahead but shone up into the clear sky. I lay still enveloped in darkness “Where the bloody hell am I”. My brain needed a reboot. “Oh yes. I’m climbing Everest”. I picked up the Jones and climber aboard. I was now wide awake.
Last climb. It’s now 1am and I am about to make my last ascent of Cock Hill. The last 3km climb. The last effort was a joy. The guys and girls drove past me in packed cars to meet me on the misty summit. They came alongside and shouted encouragement. Their taillights disappeared into the mist and as I neared the top their headlight now cast light rays across the horizon.
I had reached my target. 8950 meters of climbing. A few extra meters in the bank. I crossed the white line and turned to make my descent back to the warm pub. The team drove behind me as I made my way back to HQ. The Bay Horse pub had remained open and it’s warm fire had kept them warm in-between climbs. I had fought the temptation to pop into the pub to warm myself before I started another climb. I knew the fire would make it hard to climb back onto the Jones. My quick breaks would stretch out to prolonged siestas. 19hrs was long enough.
Fizzy champagne went straight to my head. Pissed after one glass. The cold had bit deep and the shivers were hard to repel. The wood fire was attractive and enticing but mild hypothermia was making me a tad tired, unresponsive and confused. Time to put me in the car and off home. It would have been nice to have spent a bit longer with all the great folk who had stayed with me. To down a few pints and to enjoy a late-night Everest lock-in, but alas.
A big thank you to all who helped, supported and assisted me in my 1st Everest ride. We raised £2000+ for the Sue Ryder and for thank I thank all, you generous contributors. I hope I earned your donations.