Hells 500 are the creators and custodians of the Everesting concept. It’s a fiendishly simple concept, and a fiendishly difficult ride to complete. Pick any climb, anywhere in the world and ride repeat after grinding repeat until you have notched up 8,848m vert. In one ride. Sounds easy!! But in reality is it?
Here is my account of my Everesting Challenge.
October 2014 I think it was when I first heard of The Hells 500 and the Everesting Challenge. The idea stuck with me and slowly consumed my every thought when riding my bike. Could I? Could I complete the Everesting Challenge? 8848m of vertical ascent in one ride? Offt, that is a BIG day! I’d done 5,500m a few times and remembered how I felt after those rides. There was only ever going to be one climb that I would even contemplate doing this challenge on, our local Cat 1 climb from Zahara towards Grazalema, Puerto Las Palomas. 12.5k in length 812m of ascent, meant 11 climbs in one day, how I wished it to be under 10 climbs, sycologically that would be easier, but no, 11 it was, there was no changing that fact! 11 times Las Palomas, the local riders thought I was crazy and that it was impossible! Apparently only a hand full of riders had climbed Palomas multiple times in a day and no-one could recall any rider doing it more than 3 times, little did they know I had already done Las Palomas 5 times in a day a few years back, although this was a circuit of 4ok, a 200k day and only 4800m of ascent.
The date had been set and the preperation began. It’s not hard to find loads of climbing riding here but I wanted to stay away from Las palomas until the BIG day so in the month before my training peaked with the following rides 167k 5132m, 178k 4897m & 155k 3016m (just a week before). I was still guiding on the training camps most days and recall that I was ‘going strong’. But during my prep I learnt a very valuable lesson, in my attempt to ride our Margharita Challenge twice in a day which would have been 200k and 6000m it’s not the best idea to set a PB on the first circuit and then not complete the ride. My valuable lesson was in pacing!
Sunday 8th March, 2.50am, the alarm clock goes and the biggest day in my cycling life has finally arrived! All the preparation and planning has been done I’m eager to get out and get started on my Challenge for 2015. A little apprehensive about the day ahead I don my Andalucian Cycling Experience kit, have breakfast but I’m almost to nervous to eat, I should of eaten a lot more, Bart arrives with the van at 3.20am which is loaded with my two bikes, spare cycling kit and a mountain of food and drink and we set off to the location of my challenge…..Zahara de la Sierra…..Las Palomas was waiting for me.
Jesus Rosado, local bike shop owner/ex-pro/TDF rider had heard about my plan and set up an event on FB, one other rider, Salvador, joined me for the 4am start and the 11 climbs. As Salvador and I set off, the moon was full and the silhouette of Las Palomas loomed above us for the first ascent, Bart and Esther (Salvadors Girlfriend) followed in the van to keep us safe as we reached the summit for the first time where Jesus Rosado was waiting to assist with any mechanical issues. For the first 3 ascents Salvador and I rode up, occassionally exchanging words about the day ahead and only thinking about the next climb. As the day went by more and more riders came out to support, riding up 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 times however many times they could. After 3 climbs I stopped for second breakfast, Jesus has said eat after 3 and then energy bars/gels/bananas to the end. I thought that this was way to long to go without proper food, more about that later. Salvador did one more climb before his breakfast stop so we ended up about 10 minutes apart on the climbs and each time we passed we would say ‘I think I can do one more’. Unfortunately, I can not remember the names of everybody who joined us on the mountain but those who rode with me most of the day Fernando, Juan, Andres and Malcolm I owe a MASSIVE thank you they kept me going when I was in doubt and encouraged me all the way, they would wait when I dropped of the back of the group and chat to me all the time to distract me from my darkest thoughts.
At the top there was an ever growing number of supporters cheering us on, Jesus doing the bike mechanics, Yanai & Bart getting food and drinks and Claire, Sophie & Oliver also there cheering us both on and many many others
I decided after 6 climbs to stop and eat again, on hind sight this was a mistake, on the 7th climb I could have easily been sick all the way up, this was the toughest of the day, feeling sick, 28 degrees and all I wanted to do was stop. I seriously thought that was it, I could not go on but Salvador came past and said ‘Just 1 more” Jesus detected my moment of weakness and jumped on his bike and did the 8th climb with me, forcing me to drink and take on gels and bananas throughout the climb. I had said to Claire on Saturday if I make to the top of Number 9 I would finish. So 8 done and the finish was in touching distance, on climbs 9, 10 & 11 I was joined by the ACE guides, Patch, Malcolm, James & Drew and 9 & 10 seemed relatively easy. At the top of 10, I knew I had done it, only 1 more to go, no need to conserve energy anymore I smashed the last climb, as much as you can smash it after 10 previous efforts, in 57 minutes the fastest of the day!
Below are the times for each climb.
Climb 1 1hr 3m
Climb 2 1hr 5m
Climb 3 1hr 5m
Climb 4 1hr 2m
Climb 5 1h 2m
Climb 6 1hr 4m
Climb 7 1hr 10m
Climb 8 1hr 8m
Climb 9 1hr 6m
Climb 10 1hr
Climb 11 57m
Mission accomplished! 275k 8943m climb. Officially in the Hells 500 Hall of Fame!
In summary, planning is everything! I had told Jesus from the outset it would take 15hrs or riding and 3 hours for stops and that is exactly what it took! I started at 4am and finished bang on 8pm! Set a steady pace, don’t go too hard too early. As you can see from Number 7 onwards I got quicker. Get friends involved, having people ride with you is very important, seeing friends and family at the top of each climb spurred me on. Finally enjoy the day, stop to chat, take pictures and videos, savour the moment. This day was phenominal one I shall never forget, for all the right reasons!
There are 5 Everesting challenges
Standard 8848, Over 10,000m climbed, off road 8848, Urban 8848 and 8848 in under 200k! I’m not planning to do any of the others.
One final thought. Only on completing the day did I realise the actual distance I had ridden 275k (my longest ever ride) all my attention had been on the vertical figure of 8848m.
I shall never ever ever forget the height of Everest!
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