So here we are again. I’ve completed an everesting, I’m tired, I’m alone, it’s dark, and I still have more climbing to do. That’s three now, and I’m the first South Australian to achieve that feat. But I want more. There’s something about just sliding in across the line, panting, exhausted and ready to collapse. It doesn’t feel like victory.
George Foreman said that the best punch he ever landed was on Mohammed Ali. He belted Ali, and he went down to the canvas hard. Now Ali could have taken a long count, enjoying the rest that comes with it, and slowly got back to his feet to continue. But he didn’t. He got straight back up, and though it hurt like all hell, he looked straight at Foreman and said “Is that all you’ve got?” And that’s what I was doing now. I was staring at one very steep hill that had been smacking my legs up all damn day, and I was asking it for more…
I’d been planning this everesting since April, pretty much since I finished my first one. I was keen to do one with friends this time, and get a cool group atmosphere happening. Plus I’d heard about a new challenge called the “High Rouleurs Society” which was for those that could go to 10,000m, and I wanted to give it a nudge. I was initially interested in doing a double everest – 17,696 of climbing, but some American fella knocked over a triple plus a few weeks before, so that put paid to that ambition, for now anyway. Quite a few guys jumped on board to the event, and as time went, the group grew larger and ever larger. Ultimately we got to nine riders. Including me, five riders going in again, and four virgins to the club. A cool mix of gents, and we exchanged A LOT of banter in our planning.
Midnight, August 22nd. The weather called for ‘mostly’ clear, which is such a great forecast if you are a weatherman. It can mean whatever the hell you want it to mean. BUCKET DOWN for 7 hours, but it’s overcastish for the next 8, well it’s mostly sunny sir!
We all rolled up at around 11:30pm, and set about getting ready. Ryan somehow turned up with his bike locked to the roof of his car and no key, so he flew home. Everything else was good. We had food, coffee, donuts, chairs and a shelter. There was some nervous jokes in the darkness as the lads got dressed at the top of the climb. Ryan was back again, key in hand, so we took off to roll down to the start. On the first pedal stroke, I snapped the bolt holding my cranks together. I had two pedals sitting side by side… Not awesome. Really not awesome. I swore, A LOT. Nothing for it, but to drive home to grab the tool I had to fix the problem. Drive back, I’m an hour late, everyone’s started, but no bother, I have the tool. Only the bike is proper broken, and the tool is useless. The bike is useless. My everesting is dead before it started. FUUUUCK. Fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck. But fuck that. That’s not how I wanted the story to end, I will not take this shit lying down. So I drove home again. Got my shitty spare bike off of the trainer, put the biggest cassette I could find on it, put my good saddle on it, and took off back up the hill to the start.
I started two and a half hours behind my crew. They were roughly 1500m up already, which was great for them, depressing for me. It was 2:30am, I hadn’t slept at all, and had been driving around in a panic to get my bike sorted. Thankfully the sweet, dulcit tones of Rage Against the Machine had calmed me down. So calm that when I started riding I rode my 2nd best ever climb up the hill. Too fast? Your face is too fast. I was pissed off, and ready to sink my teeth in.
And so we were all on the hill, up and down and up and down. 2.6km for one of those up and downs, giving us approximately 127m of gain per lap. It would take 72 odd laps for an everesting.
This is where the ‘mostly clear’ comes into play. It was the thickest fog I have ridden in. Big, old fatty fog, so thick that it stings your eyeballs on the descent. Glasses are useless, as they fog over in seconds, so you just squint and hope for the best on the way down. That fog made it very, very greasy, so cornering became as much an act of prayer as it did one of skill and confidence. All prayers were heard, but only JUST. Some of the guys like Mikael and Sam would descend like a runaway train, flying down the hill. Some of the other guys would roll a little more comfortably. It didn’t matter, the clock didn’t matter. As long as you get the required amount of up, then that’s it.
Lap after lap went. Coffees, donuts, pizza and bananas went. More laps. More food. Everyone had a good rhythm, and just rode and ate to that. The early stages really aren’t exciting. You don’t have much of a score on he board, it’s dark, there aren’t any sherpas out, and in this case the weather was foul. So you just ride. We at least kept up our spirits by screaming out to each other on the descent. All damn day. You could always count on someone flying past you with a loud ‘YEEEEOOOOOWWWWWWW!’ and a big grin if ever you were stuck in a rut. Hard to be stuck in the negative trap of your own doubts when a mate is riding with you, going through the same thing, and smiling and yelling at you as he flashes past on a spectacularly fun descent.
It got light. THANK FUCK. That is the truest expression of what it feels like. You can’t help but laugh when you can actually see further than the glow of your own headlight. It’s why we start at midnight. When you just start getting a bit tired, then sun pops out, and away you go again, feeling as fresh as a daisy. A daisy that’s been in a vase for way too long, but a daisy none-the-less.
And now the sherpas have turned up. Dozens of them. People have come from all parts just to come and ride with us and cheer us on. Everesting is great like this. People will pop past, and it truly doesn’t matter for how long. One lap, ten laps. It makes you feel tops, even when they are there for someone else. It’s great just to have people there. Even better when they can’t climb as fast as you, that’s the everester’s holy nirvana – dropping a sherpa. Nothing will make you feel fitter and stronger, than riding your umpteenth lap of a hill, and riding away from someone on their first. It’s a bit cruel, but bloody hell does it give you a boost!
It’s getting a bit hard now. The other guys are getting to around 6000m. I’m at 4500, and we have been out here for 12 odd hours. There’s a lot less banter going on, and more of guys just drudging. Our legs are filthy. The wet roads are throwing up a lot of gunk which is sticking to our legs, turning them black. The air is under 10 degrees, and most of us are pretty wet through. It’s not exciting, it’s not glamorous, it’s hard damn work. The hill is bloody steep. The 11% average doesn’t tell you that it touches 18%, and that vast sections of climbing are over 13%. The sections at 7-8 feel positively flat. For each climb, more than a third is so steep, you need to be out of the saddle to keep driving your bike up the hill.
Then Mikael said he wanted to pull out. That sucked. That suck-diggety-suck-sucked. Mikael and I had started the whole idea. He chose the hill to climb. He designed the beautiful kits we had custom-made, Mikael and I were THE guys. Poor bastard. He rode to over 6000m, and just couldn’t breathe anymore. He’d had a respiratory infection the week beforehand, and it just hadn’t come good in time. I felt really bad for him, as Mikael is one of my close personal mates. We share so many common bonds, and get along like a house on fire. It reminded me of when Rich pulled out of the ride in Melbourne. IT BLOODY SUCKS when your mates can’t go on. It really does. My least favourite part of this whole caper is when people are forced to say ‘no more’. Luckily the fog was still heavy, as on the decent squinting with a wet face didn’t look any different…
Ride some more, talk even less. People came and people went. Sarah my wife came up with my beautiful little kiddies, and I lifted big time. How can you not? My ratbags are gorgeous little creatures, and they love cheering for their daddy. Their mummy is a bloody top chick whom supports me no end as well. Don’t think I could do all of this caper without them.
Now Ryan has pulled out. Ryan had been smiling for ages, but his smiles had reduced a lot over the last little period. Finally he said no. Poor bugger. He hasn’t even been riding that long, so to get as far as he did is a huge credit to him. It puts a dint in everyone’s morale when someone withdraws. It’s funny how much solace you take out of suffering with others around. Even though really they just flash by in a blink on a descent. Just knowing they were there, suffering too, was enough.
Now James finished. James is a LEGEND. His mother was a greyhound and his father was a mountain goat. He owns half of the KOM’s on Strava in Adelaide. Kid. Can. Climb. He’s 183cm and all of 67 kg. Bastard. He’s so damn positive too, I hate people like that. This was his second everesting, and he just took my title for the fastest South Australian everesting, by 15 minutes. Cracking job. Not only that, he then proceeded to hang about encouraging everyone, taking some winning photos, and just being an all round top bloke. I take back some of the really, really nasty jokes I made about him. Some. Not all. Some of that was champagne comedy. For another time perhaps… Also, James does an AWESOME series on youtube, documenting all of the hardest climbs in Adelaide, check it out. The link to the video he did for our climb on Cleland Access Road is here – Adelaide Hardest Climbs – Cleland
Now Sam rolls in to finish. He is a new member of the Hells 500 club, and did it with panache. Panache and a sweet beard. He descended even in the wet like a rocket, and climbed with strength all day. He too truly captured what it was all about, with yells, cheers, encouragement and enthusiasm. It didn’t stop with Sam, he stayed positive and chirpy all day. A great bloke to ride with. A great bloke just to have met even once.
It is drudgery at it’s very finest now. The ‘clear’ part of the ‘mostly’ discussion has arrived, so at least the descent is bullet fast and incredibly fun. The way back up is not so much. It is getting very, very hard. To the point that the doubts are beginning to enter my mind, and making themselves comfortable. I know I’ve done it before, but again? Have I tried to dip into the well too many times, and is this time going to run dry? It did for the other guys, what makes me any different? I am on my spare bike, it doesn’t ride that well, I am cold and I am tired.
Boo bloody hoo. Shut up loser. You’ve ridden a shittier bike than this to an everest before. You’ve been colder than this before. You’ve been more tired than this before. You didn’t stop any of those times, and you aren’t about to now. Finish two more laps and you can stop.
So it was stand up to get out of the car park. Sit down over the crest, and ride to the fattest tree on my left. Stand up and ride for a couple of hundred metres until the line on the road by the white post. Sit down and ride until the squiggly line by the rangers shed. Stand up and ride another couple of hundred metres past the steepest part of the hill, and sit down out front of the house. Ride until the white post leaning on an angle, then stand until you can see the tent at the top of the hill. Then sit and ride to the tent. That was how the laps got broken down. Sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit. Turn around. Descend. Repeat. Whatever your mind can do to break it apart. I can remember each of those marks on the hill as clear as a bell. If you are truly tired, then pick a tree in front of you and ride to it. Then the next one, then the next. Think nothing of what’s left, only to the task at hand. Think to the end and it seems too big to finish. Just think to the next tree and you’ll make it.
Now Mark has pulled out. Bugger, he was going so well. He got to 7000m and had nothing more to give. He still had a smile on his face, even at the end though. A real gentleman, it was a pleasure to ride with Mark. He even had the decency to leave his big blue chair behind for me to finish my ride. I had grown to deeply love sinking my backside into that chair every few laps. Too deep. I feel that if we had less comfy chairs, I may well have finished A LOT earlier…
At around the same time the three amigos all finished, to record their second everesting. Nathan, Dirk and Alex spent the entire night and day within 5 metres of each other, and I ain’t kidding. Lap after lap, up and down, all three of those lads rode in a tight group. They did their last everesting together, and they sure as hell did this one together, it was cool to see. They looked ragged, like really ragged half way through, and I genuinely doubted that they would finish. Somehow they rallied, and as a unit, finished very strong. It was bloody great to see their smiles as they got changed to go home.
My boy Dan was the only cat left now. I’d sherpa’d a lot for him on his everesting in June, and he was repaying the favour in spades. He been out with us for many hours, just up and down, riding calmly with the group. He’d take some sweet photos, and just in general be a top bloke. Did it on a titanium Baum whilst wearing street shorts and a hoodie too – SWAGGER.
I’d commit to four laps at a time. Up and down and repeat. Repeat again, and repeat again. Then I could stop. 4 laps would take forty five odd minutes, and then I’d have coffee, and something to eat. The chocolate eclairs with cherries that Teddles made were R.I.D.C.U.L.O.U.S. Oh my god was that a taste sensation. Worth climbing for an entire day just to eat. I had two. Back on the bike and ride. four laps equalled close enough to five hundred metres. Every four laps, I could tick myself half a kilometres closer to the goal.
Then I made it. I got to 9000m. Everesting done. All finished, like a boss I had done it again. I was tired, I was filthy, and it was now dark again. That’s always depressing. After the sun sets, you just do not go as fast anymore. The descents become super slow, as I was scared of hitting a kangaroo or drop bear. The climbs were even worse. I was done, and wanted to go home. Dan had gone home. He had to leave for a dinner appointment. I was all on my lonesome, in the dark, in a forest. I lose nothing if I leave now, I am a triple everester, and there are less than thirty of those in the entire world. Imagine that? I’d done something that only a very select few people on this earth have ever done.
But I wasn’t done. It was Foreman knocking Ali to the ground. It was close to the most tired I’ve been, but I still had legs, and I was going to use them. I was freezing cold, so I put on some knee warmers, and a hoodie over the top of all of my cycling clothes. It wasn’t pretty, but my street cred style points were probably somewhat limited, as no-one was there to see it. Back on the bike Dave, we’ve got eight laps to go.
Eight laps. Eight. How the fuck do you ride Eight laps when even your pain is in pain? Shifting gears hurt, so I just left it in the bottom gear. Braking hurt, but I didn’t have a choice, so grab the levers on the way down, grin and bear it. Climbing fucking hurt, but there ain’t much choice – get off and claim defeat, or find a place in your mind to deal with it. That’s what it comes down to in the end, you find a place in your mind that can allow the pain and suffering to be controlled. You can manage the discomfort, no matter how bad it gets, if you have the mental tools to process it. Breaking the efforts down helps. I’d look for my markers for where to stand up and where to sit, and just kept riding to those. My mind became so dulled by this, that with five laps to go I started furiously looking for the marker for me to stand up and climb, only to realise that it was behind me, and that I was already standing up and climbing… I was out of the saddle, and hadn’t even realised.
Sarah showed up, and we discovered that the key to the gate had been lost. Panic set in, as I wasn’t going to be able to walk the stuff from our campsite the five hundred metres to the car, and Sarah couldn’t do it on here own. We put out an SOS on facebook for help, and Sam’s wife and daughter came straight away. Legends, thank you. But then Bobby turned up. I have had several solid stouches with Bobby through work. We do not see eye to eye on many things. I have told him to his face what I think, and have not said nice things about him to others. But he drove from home, up a mountain, and helped my wife pack up our whole campsite. Fuck. Now I feel like a dick. He then stayed until I finished. I rode another four laps. I drudged up and down the hill for four laps. I pushed my mind and body into a place it is starting to become quite familiar with for four more laps.
This time it took about an hour. Bobby played music in his car to support, and he, Sarah and Katie (whom had also turned up) all said motivational things. It pissed me off, I was enjoying the quiet. I was enjoying the battle I was waging inside of my own mind. Consciousness and reality were becoming very blurred with what I was able to manufacture to control my own suffering, and their cheering and music were pulling me away from that control. But they were out purely to wish me well, no agenda, just wanting a bloke to conquer his suffering. So I never asked them to be quiet, I gave a smile that probably looked more like a grimace, and kept riding. Now in the quiet calm of my own house, I can reflect and really appreciate what they did for me. I even went and bought Bobby a bottle of rum. I’ll not speak so poorly about him from now on…
That lap was finally an easy one. The fog in my mind still existed, but all the pain was numb. Just push hard, and ride to the end. Push with everything you’ve got. I am stronger than pain, I am stronger than this hill, I am stronger than any hill, I am finishing what I set out to do. I will not surrender to fear, my legs and my mind will carry me wherever I need to go. I didn’t have a lot to give, but I gave it everything. That last lap I went all in, and I did it. I summited, I was done. I sat in the big blue chair (it was all that was left, everything else had been packed), and I looked up at the sky. The stars were moving. I asked if that was true, and apparently not. But they were, I could see that they were. I’d been gagging for Beef Stroganov or Pizza, but Sarah had brought some Salmon Mornay instead… OK, well that’ll do. I sat, I ate, I tried to stop the stars from spinning, I pondered.
80 laps. 10,097 metres climbed. 208km ridden.
I’ll be back, and I’ll do it again on another hill. The empowerment of completing the unachievable is an incredibly rewarding and soul enriching experience. I stared enormous adversity in the face, right after it belted me in the jaw, and knocked me flat. I stood straight on and asked “Is that all you’ve got?” It did have more, but so did I, and I gave it every time. That was my victory.
Thanks for reading. Please comment, I’d love to hear from you. Also have a look at each of the riders rides, via the links to Strava below.