Everesting: Noun. An endurance challenge performed on a bicycle, where a cyclist repeatedly climbs a single hill until the combined elevation gain reaches 8,848m, the height of Mount Everest.
Earlier this year, I reported an interesting story about a group of cyclists from Australia who tried to complete the first ever Everesting – where a cyclist repeatedly climbs the same hill until they’ve biked the height of Everest – on the side of Everest itself.
The cyclists in question – Andy van Bergen, Matilda Raynolds and Shannon Bufton – trained intensively in an altitude chamber in Australia prior to starting their trip. They flew to Lhasa and cycled across the Tibetan plateau to the north side of Everest, where they attempted an Everesting up the steep hairpins of the Pang La.
You can read more about it on the Cycling Tips website, and they even made a very professional 20-minute video.
So what happened? Well, they had a great adventure and learned a lot from the experience. But they quickly learned that cycling in freezing temperatures in the thin air at 5,000m presents a whole new set of problems for something that is already an extreme challenge. Only one of the three, Matilda, completed more than half the distance. She pulled out soon after dawn when the support crew calculated that she would need to keep pedalling for over 50 hours to be successful.
All three of them were experienced, talented cyclists who had several Everestings under their belts, but they had very little high-altitude experience, and this proved to be their downfall. It didn’t surprise me that they didn’t succeed at the first attempt, but I predicted that an Everesting of Everest would be achieved one day.
We didn’t have long to wait.
A few months later, Serk Cycling, a Chinese cycle-tour operator co-owned by Shannon Bufton who took part in the first attempt, returned to Everest with another group. Their aim was to complete what Shannon had started with his friends a few months earlier.
One of their participants, the Chinese cyclist JJ Zhou, successfully completed the challenge. I don’t know if you can actually call it an ‘Everesting of Everest’, any more than you can describe a trek to Everest Base Camp as ‘climbing Everest’ (as some headline-writers do). An Everesting of Everest certainly sounds cooler, but perhaps they should just call it an altitude record for an Everesting. Either way, it’s a phenomenal achievement.
Serk appear to have made a key change from their first experience. Instead of cycling up the steep hairpins of the Pang La, they took the long road up the Rongbuk Valley. While not exactly flat, this section rose just 50m in the space of 2km. This meant JJ had to cycle a much greater distance (he pedalled the course 176 times to rack up 8,848m, cycling 354km in the process). But it would have been much easier to cycle both up and down. It was also more scenic, with Everest in view with every turn of the pedals uphill.
They went in the warmest month of August, and gave themselves a three-day window for the attempt. There was also a lot of resting. JJ took 41 hours to complete the challenge, but spent only 26½ of them actually cycling. A good move.
In my first article, I suggested that you would be wise to spend a couple of months acclimatising in Tibet before attempting the challenge. Of course, that was erring on the side of caution. JJ proved to be a surprisingly quick acclimatiser. He rested at 3,600m for four days before ascending to 5,000m. He was feeling fully acclimatised and completed the challenge after just eight days.
Congratulations to everyone involved, not only JJ and Serk, but also Andy and Matilda, who were the necessary trailblazers for such a feat.
You can read the Cycling Tips report of the achievement and see a short video of their adventure here.
As you will see, he even finished with a sprint.