Everestingis a worldwide phenomenon that offers the ultimate challenge to climbers. It started here in Melbourne, with a rider by the name of George Mallory. Who in 1994 when in training to climb the real Mount Everest. Devised a plan to climb Mount Donna Buang the equivalent amount of times. Given the enormity of the challenge, George needed several attempts before he was successful, Eventually climbing Mount Donna Buang 10 times in the one ride. This ride became legend, and the legend spread ever since.
Everesting came about due to a man named Andy Van Bergen. Andy has created a club that he named Hells 500, who are all about testing the boundaries of what is possible. Each year, Hells 500 do an Annual epic ride, and each year have challenged themselves to find harder & harder rides to achieve. In 2013 Andy was trying to come up with something special for next years epic, when he remembered the story of George Mallory and his ride up Mount Donna Buang. An idea came to life, and Everesting was born. Late 2013 Andy announced via social media that any rider was welcome to join the 2014 Hells 500 epic. To qualify for a ticket you would need to do a ride which had a minimum of 5,000 vertical metres.
Those that were brave enough to join this epic. Climbed over 5,000 vertical and received an email from Andy which basically said:
To complete an Everest you need to have incredibly physical fitness, tough mental strength and be very, very determined (stubborn). Climb choice was imperative. The shallower the hill you choose the longer the distance and more time that your climb will take. If you choose a steeper hill which will reduce the distance. Then you need a lot more strength to be able to get up and down the climb enough to Everest it.
The Lilyroo Foundation
The Lilyroo foundation was established in March 2014 by Kristie and Pete Lockyer. To celebrate the short but perfect life of their daughter Lily. By raising funds for the Royal Women’s Hospital (Melbourne), NISC unit and raising awareness of premature birth. The Lilyroo foundation has worked towards organizing a group ride from Adelaide to Melbourne. And for those riding in this epic ride, pushes the limitations of the riders, and helps to raise awareness and funds for the Lilyroo Foundation. An idea was bounced around and it was suggested to do another event directly after this ride. One which pushes the boundaries of what is and what isn’t possible. Eversting!
Here is where I come in. I’m a hill junkie, and had fallen in love with the whole Everesting concept. The Lilyroo foundation approached me to assist them with choosing a climb. I love the concept of Everests, and have joined a number of Everests over the last year. Not only did I offered to help find a climb for the Lilyroo foundation. But offered to join in on their group Everest. The challenge was to come up with one that had not been Everested before and that was considered iconic. I remembered that there’s a climb in Warburton called Little Joe. This was used in one of Hells 500 Events called “Donna Done Dirty”. The part of the climb we would attempt was 1.5 km’s long and had an average gradient of 7.4%. In order to Everest it we would be looking at 79 laps which is around 235 km’s in length.
The climb offered many challenges:
- It was narrow, and we had to keep an eye on cars who would cut the corners
- We experienced cars reversing out from their driveways in front of us
- Quite a few animals decided to run across the road
- Early on the roads were slippery
- There was debris on the hardest corner near the corner of La La Falls
- In the morning there was fog which limited visibility
- The cold was constant throughout the ride.
The 7% average is deceptive as 2/3rd’s of this climb were well in excess of 9%. There were two particularly nasty pinches around the corner of Sylvan Avenue. And the turn-off for La La Falls which averaged near 13%. Thankfully the climb is windy enough that you couldn’t see much of the climb in front of you. Which makes it easier to break up. Most of the climb is residential. However most houses have beautiful gardens, and most of the time you’ll feel like your surrounded by nature.
There were a couple of sections where there is a break in the trees and you were able to see Mount Donna Buang from afar. It was Autumn in Melbourne, and it was a beautiful time of the year to do an Everest on Little Joe.
The last 500 metres of the climb was rough. The surface was bumpy as all hell. There was no line that you could take that could stop you shaking like a leaf every time you descended. In the early part of the ride I knew the body would cope with absorbing the shock. But later in the ride this would really wear us down.
Robin hails from NSW & drove down from Sydney the day before. After an exhausting drive, Robin managed only several hours of sleep before our Everest. Robin’s a former competitive swimmer who started cycling as a means of getting to and from his training. His passion for cycling grew and started riding further and further on the weekends. Robin has competed in numerous 4 hour, 7 hour and 24 hour Mountain Bike races, criteriums and road races. This was to be his third Everest attempt, but given how tired he was at the start was unsure of how he would go throughout the day.
Christian is a commuter who is more accustomed to riding bike tracks than hills. Christian hoped to complete his first Everest. What Christian lacked in climbing ability. He makes up for with a strong positive will and incredibly endurance. Given that Christian would have to double the most vertical he’s ever done on a single ride. He knew that he’d have to pull the ride of his life to Everest Little Joe. Christian had been introduced to the Everesting concept last September when he joined myself & Stryder on our Colby Drive Everest. Knocking out his first ever double century, and climbed 4,400 metres. That day Christian vowed to do an Everest himself, but shortly after had a crash and broke his wrist. He had complications with the recovery, and has only been able to return to normal training since earlier this year.
I’ve completed 5 Everests before today. On my Everest attempts, I’ve fought off injury & viruses. I’ve ridden in freezing temperatures. Tried battling 80 km + head winds, was rained on for over 8 hours on one attempt. Almost had my derailer snap off on another and was forced to ride only in the small chainring for most of the ride. I came down with a throat infection the morning of another. Having to ride 12 hours in sub 6 degree temperatures which subsequently made me very sick for the following three weeks. I don’t see myself as someone who is mega fit. I just know how to hurt.
John Van Seters
John is the ultimate Everesting legend. He went and Everested the 1:20 before Hells 500 started up the Everesting craze, and is one of the pioneers that made this all happen. John has successfully finished 6 Everests. Having completed ones which are some of the most steepest and longest Everests ever completed.
With a mix of nervousness & excitement a group of four lined up to begin our Everest attempt on “Little Joe”. We all shook hands. There was going to be a bond over the next day as we encouraged one another to find the strength to climb the equivalent height of Mount Everest in the one ride. “Little Joe” isn’t so little. At 4:00 am it was difficult not to have doubts creep in. We were lucky as the forecast was for morning drizzle. It looked like it rained overnight. The roads were quite slippery, but we’d take that over rain any day of the week.
It was quite cold, and it was tough conditions to ride in, but we were here to promote the Lilyroo Foundation and all that it stands for, and that’s all that mattered.
The laps flowed, and we made good time.
The roads were slippery and had to take the descents really slowly. We often encountered thick patches of fog. Sometimes visibility would be limited to metres in front of you. It was really cold, but that was the story of the day. I kept an eye on the thermometer, but it was highly deceptive. With a very high chill factor on the descents. There was idle chit chat, but we soon found that this climb was a real lung buster. For most of the ride needed to concentrate on breathing as much as we could.
|Grimace or a smile?|
Dawn of a new day
As the sun rose, as expected it grew colder, and we had to wait until well after 9 am before the day got less cold. For a fleeting few minutes, we enjoyed the sun rising in the East. It was a great time to be on the bike. It was short lived, as the clouds came out and it remained overcast for much of the day.
More and more riders showed up and pulled laps with us. It was amazing to see the comradery that the Lilyroo Foundation has inspired. I was proud that our blood, sweat and tears had inspired others to come down and test themselves.
The pace we kept was relentless. After climbing a few thousand vertical I noticed more and more that Christian was dropping off the back. He was fighting to hang on. I went and had a chat with him, and asked how he was, and he said o.k. I suggested that even if we’re going half a kilometer too fast may unhinge his Everest plans. If he feels that we’re going too fast to drop of and ride at his own pace. Shortly after Christian dropped off and started riding on his own. With 6,000 vertical left to ride he had one mighty ride ahead of him. If he had been pushing too hard to stick with the group, then he had his work ahead of him. I remembered that before the Everest Christian said that he liked to be the underdog, and wanted to succeed. I was quietly confident that he would do it.
And now after 2,700 vertical it was me, Robin & John up the front. The kilometres ticked down and we started ticking off achievements. 3,000 vertical, 4,000 vertical. Robin and I were nearing that magical halfway point.
On the path to Everest
Robin & I exchanged stories of our Everests, and the pain that we have gone through before. One great thing about Everesting is there is no such thing as an easy Everest. If you complete one its badass! Period!
To feel confident on an Everests, you really need to feel fresh at 5,000 vertical, and that’s when I started to waver. I had a crash the week before. I had mainly recovered, but I was feeling aches where this guy crashed into me the week before. It didn’t effect my pace, and I was able to knock lap after lap out. I did go quiet, and what was fun before, was becoming a chore.
We had great support throughout the day. Christian’s family came down to support him, and he had his own cheer squad. Robin’s cousins came down as well, and we had the odd rider pop in to liven up the show.
There is such a great spirit that a challenge like this brings. Every now & again I would think about the awareness that we were trying to bring for the Lilyroo Foundation.
Once we passed 5,000 vertical I noticed a change in Christian. In the morning he seemed really stressed, and seemed to be fighting the bike. With his family coming he started to smile & cheer & every time we’d pass him he would scream out. I had confidence that he was getting his mojo back, and 8,848 was now doable. He’d still need to pull out the ride of his life, but I knew he was capable to do so.
Do it, do it, do it!
We had a cheer quad to the side of the road. With Christian & Robin’s family at times they really got into it, and as we’d fly past they’d all yell out a cheer. What a special day this was for us. The ride wouldn’t have been possible without all the hard work that Reese who helped put together this ride. Reese is the social director at the StKilda Cycling Club, and a great organiser. She was there for most of the day offering taking a number of photos you see on this blog. And support such as bringing us food from the Bakery & cooked us dinner. Brought us hot drinks which went down a treat on such a cold day.
Time for the sun to set
As the afternoon drew to a close, we had 6,000 done and the sun came out to tease us. John Van Seters had to leave us. Words could not describe the appreciation that we had for the effort that he put in. He admitted that he hasn’t been riding much over the past month only riding about 100 km’s per week. So to pull out a 170 km ride with just over 6,000 vertical is staggering. Here is a link to his Strava Activity. Please give him some Kudos:
Being the gentleman he is, there was a patch of gravel over a tight corner near the top. Which forced us to take a line which left only about a foot if any cars were coming the other way. This only happened to me once. It wasn’t pleasant trying to weave in between gravel & a 4 WD with a couple of feet in between at 40 km/h. Johnny went and spent awhile making sure that it was in great shape for our night stint.
From here, we had one hour of perfect weather, albeit cold. The weatherman was mocking us, showing us what we would have had if we Everested the following day. It was pure joy to ride up Little Joe, and it was refreshing to see all the beauty of that area as its meant to be.
Robin said that we should break soon, but I was keen to get as much riding in during the daylight. Especially as I knew it was going to get a lot colder. It was soon forecast to drop down to 5 degrees overnight. I had apprehensions, and hoped that I’d choose the right gear.
We took a break for dinner, and had 6,200 vertical in the bag. Having only 1,600 vertical remaining and were optimistic of a 10:00 pm finish. We were famished, and we were ever so fortunate that Reese, our wonderful Everesting coordinator cooked us up a Chicken Pasta dish which was delicious. After riding in cold weather for 15 hours, hot food never tasted so good. While we were eating, the sun was setting and you could already feel it getting colder. I was freezing and had to put on another two layers of clothing before I felt warm.
A ride into the darkness
The lap after the break went smoothly, and I felt warm, and on the next lap I was exerting a bit, but still felt o.k. The third lap I broke into a heavy sweat, and really felt bad. We were nearing 7,000 vertical and it was in the bag. But I needed to ask Robin if we could slow up a fraction as I wasn’t feeling good. On the ascents I was sweating badly, and on the descents I was shaking from the cold. I was having a difficult time adjusting to the heavy drop in the temperatures as it dropped 7 degrees over that hour. I kept battling hot then cold, but I kept the wheels turning. Knowing that every lap we were knocking off was one lap closer to the end.
I found a better rhythm, and I’ve been down this path before, and knew how to get through with it. My wrist that I had hurt the week before in a crash started to ache. Getting pins and needles in it. I had Jens Voight screaming in my ear “shut up legs and just climb!“. That I did. I remembered all the great people who came down to ride today.
I owed it to them to succeed.
Throughout the day we had some great support from the locals. None more than this couple who lived about 5 doors down. They asked us what was going down and we told them about the Lilyroo Foundation and what we were doing. We chatted for awhile and was a nice couple. They walked into town and waved and said high as we passed them, and went in & bought us all some Beers. These Belgium White Strawberry Beers called Fruli. You can get chocked up by the kindness of strangers.
The Magical Mystery Tour
I was going a bit blotto right about then. People were talking to me, but I just couldn’t respond. I couldn’t focus on anything, and all I was thinking about was getting up and down this hill. We were due for a break at around 7,900 vertical, but Robin suggested to do that one extra lap to hit the 8,000. So I was feeling like crap, but under normal circumstances I would have wanted that extra lap. Toughing it up the climb, and we descended and as soon as we got back to the car.
I was hit for six.
Over the past couple of hours I had been battling feeling too hot on the ascents, and freezing on the descents. had to keep shaking my hand to get some blood flow. To ease the pain, and I could feel aches on my aches in my legs. When I was stripping off some of my gear. When I took off my skull cap I was shocked at how soaked my hair was. I sat down and started to hyperventilate, and started coughing a bit & was fighting back nausea. Unable to stop sweating, and felt like my head was on fire even though it was only about 5 degrees outside. All I could do was lie down, and collapse. I was completely spent and done.
My fever lasted about 15 minutes passed, but I was screwed. My legs were really sore, and I had no petrol left in the tank. Not daring to eat anything as may throw it up. I wanted to stay & support but I know I would take awhile to recover and I suggested that Robin just head off.
My ride was done. I was only 8 laps short of success, and I was done.
I remembered that one of the ladies at my office donated. She told me how her nephew was born severely prematurely & that it was something that had effected their lives. She is someone who for a better word is very careful with her money. For her to donate was something special. She told me that if she was putting money in for this I had to do it. There was no me getting myself right. All I had to do was get back on the bike and ride. I knew I had to do it, but just didn’t know how to do it. Just keep turning the pedals I said to myself.
Hells 500 and back
Each peddle stroke was a struggle, but I got up there. I was really cold on the descent so stopped in at the car and picked up some extra clothing. Then I managed to get up that lap. Only 6 laps to go. I needed a top up of water, and used it as an excuse to have a break half way up the hill, but I was getting there. I knew that it may take me hours to finish this last little bit but I was going to do it. The next lap I needed a fresh battery, and just started hitting lap after lap.
On the second last lap I was beyond dead. I don’t think I had a clue of what was going on around me. I needed a break, and stopped off at the car on my final lap. All I had ahead was 900 metres to Everest. Robin had finished his Everest & I congratulated him. What a mighty effort to drive all the way down from Sydney, and with little sleep go and nail his third Everest.
I really enjoyed riding with Robin, and it was a shame that I crashed when I did. It was good that I was able to keep up such a high tempo for most of the ride.
I headed off for my last lap. There was nothing glorious about it. It was freezing cold. It was nearing midnight and I was fighting tooth and nail to crawl up this damn hill. This wasn’t about me, this was about doing something for someone else, and doing it for the Lilyroo Foundation. I wasn’t 100% right coming into today. This probably led to this hell the last 8 laps brought, but I had to do it. And with Christian still churning out lap after lap I wasn’t going to let him be the only one to have fun.
Another home run
I reached the top, and alas there was no fanfare. There was no ticket parade. I was all by myself. I switched off my light and it was pitch black, and the silence was golden, and I felt awash with emotion. It was over, and I had just completed my 6th Everest.
Christian has only done a handful of epic rides, and this is easily the mightiest ride he’s ever done. Especially under the conditions. Christian had a hard time of it up until the halfway point. With the support of his family. Christian hit the on switch and had the time of his life over the second half. he was solid knocking out lap after lap. At 11:45 pm Christian was jumping for joy relieved and ecstatic to now be a Hells 500 member. No matter how tired he was all throughout the ride He offered tremendous encouragement to myself & Robin every time we passed. Certainly was the heart & soul of the ride.
That was hard
This was easily the hardest finish I’ve had to an Everest. There is a sense of pride when you find yourself pushing past the barriers. Achieving the unachievable. I find it funny when someone will comment on a ride like this saying “you’re making this look easy!”. I can quite assure you that the of all the Everests I’ve done I’ve paid for in blood sweat & tears.
The best part of this ride has been to help raise funds for the Lilyroo Fund. To raise awareness of the wonderful work being done each day at the Royal Women’s NISC Unit. Giving hope to sick and premature babies, and with assisting the Lilyroo Foundation. We were able to raise close to $1,400 and many thanks to all those who supported us on our Everest and for all those that donated. Any further donations are greatly appreciated.
Here are a link to our Strava Activities here:
|Nick Burke showing up. I’m too tired to even get up & say hello|
Driving close to 900 km’s down from Sydney to Warburton in Victoria to Everest a hill meant that I’d be on the bike for about the same time as I’d be in my car for the weekend. So I was a little bit worried about how my legs would feel after spending Friday doing nothing more strenuous than applying a little light pressure to the accelerator pedal. But joining Brendan and Christian to help raise money for the Lilyroo fund and the experience I would have was more than worth it.
We had a 4am start time planned and I rocked up around 3:45am ready and excited to get started. I found Brendan at the base of the climb, bike and body all set to go. Christain and John turned up a few minutes later and after a few photo’s we set off into the darkness with lights blazing and reflective strips glowing on our cycling kits. While the first half of the climb was lit by street lights, the second half had no lighting at all so there wasn’t much to see as our bike lights revealed only small portions of the world we’d be living in for the next 18 hours.
And visibility wasn’t helped at all after the first couple of descents as a fog rolled in and completely blinded us for several seconds on part of the descent, and added a little extra chill to what was already a cold morning. Going down first meant not being able to see anything on the steepest part of the descent. My headlight would just white everything out more than a meter away from my bike. And traveling blind downhill at over 40km/hr, on an descent I didn’t know very well yet, was very very unnerving. It turned out that following a rider down was far less terrifying as you at least have comfort of being able to chase their rear light while trusting it stayed on the bitumen.
To spice things up, the one and only sharp corner on the descent was made up of nothing but loose gravel on the inside of the bend. A small rideable line about 20cm wide on the outside provided at way through, but if missed meant crossing over to the wrong side of the road on a blind corner. So surving the descents became the main focus for the predawn ride.
After around 3 hours the sun started to turn the blackness overhead a lighter shade of grey and silhouettes of the trees began appearing. And as we completed the next few laps we watched as the beauty of our surroundings slowly unfolded as the sun came up over the hills pushing away the darkness. Not being from Victoria and never having seen this area, it was a magical sight. If nothing else, at least this was a scenic Everest!!
The first 3000m passed and went without incident. Then at around 9am our Everesting support personal in the form of Reese, turned up with sausage rolls! After nearly 5 hours of riding in the cold, dark and fog they were a very welcome breakfast! Reese stayed the whole day and night with us, cheering us on, taking photos around the course, running to and from Warburton for food and drinks to feed us, herding ducks and educating the locals on the finer points of Everesting.
By now the climbing weather was what I would call perfect. Slighlty overcast, around 12 – 14 degrees with no wind, no rain and no humidity. I knew the temperature would drop when the sun went down in the evening, but for now we where all determined to put as many kilometers behind us as we could while conditions were good.
We all had a few close calls with cats, cars, ducks and their families. Mine came shortly after lunch. I’d come around a small bend just before the supporters area only to be confronted by a 4×4 driving uphill on the wrong side of the road and heading straight for me. He’d had crossed onto my side to overtake some pedestrains walking uphill on his side. Needless to say he got a big shock to seeing me coming downhill right toward him! He veered quite violently back onto his side of the road and I made it through the 30cm gap he’d left me on my side. Luckily nothing got soiled and no change of kit was required, but it was a close call and certainly spiked my heart rate on the Garmin.
It was great to have my cousins Simon and Lousia and their kids turn up and support me for most of the afternoon. As well as some of my Melbourne cycling friends Mark, Warren (WAK) and Lian. WAK and Lian in their Lampre Merida cycling kit, looking pretty awesome, did some laps with us and took some great photos!
After 5000m done, the first half of the climb, which varied from around 8 -12% started to feel a little steeper. By this time Christian had dropped off deciding, on Brendan’s advice, not to push too hard but to ride at his own pace instead. Brendan, John and I stayed together and kept about the same pace as we started with earlier that morning. I was feeling a little tired at this point, but I still felt strong which was a good sign. So I felt pretty comfortable about finishing and I was happy to be on a good day. Brendan on the other hand warned me that he wasn’t feeling as good, but said he’d push through no matter what. I didn’t know how true both of these statements would be.
Christian continued to grind away lap after lap behind us. I’d pass him on the descents and each time he’d give me a fist pump! He must have been absolutely exhausted during the later stages, but every lap I still got the fist pump. I’d only met Christian a few hours earlier, but I think that those fist pumps and hollers everytime I passed him helped keep his spirits up. I know how powerful positive thought can be when you are confronted with challenges like this and Christian demonstrated that he could ride with a great attitude. I’m sure there was doubt and pain there, but it was burried under a layer of confidence and smiles. And it put a smile on my face too as we passed each other each lap.
At 6000m John called it a day as he had other commitments. But before he left he did an stellar job of sweeping all the gravel from the inside of the sharp bend so that our night laps would be safer. And it made a huge different to being able to corner smoothly and safely.
Once more, with her now impecable timing, just as we hit about 7000m at around 7pm, and just when I think we were all getting ready to eat the tires on our own bikes, Reese turned up with a home made Chicken pasta dish that I would have paid good money for in any restraunt!
This is the way to do an Everst folks! She did forget the silverware, candles and wine, but was forgiven because of how great the pasta tasted! I got back on the bike and felt so much fresher after that feed.
So, with Christian still grinding away at his own pace, Brendan and I rode off after dinner to complete the remaining 1800m or so of our ride. Unfortunately, this is where Brendan really started hitting the wall.
With less than 10 laps to go, we stopped at the summit of the climb and I looked at his face. His hair and face were saturated with sweat, his skin was a pale grey and his movements were very slow. But as sick as he looked and as tired as I’m sure he felt, he didn’t look defeated. There was still strength in his eyes and he didn’t look like he was interested in quitting. Of all my experiance in cycling I’ve never seen anything as incredible as the mental strengh he showed to finish. At one moment he sat in his car nearly vomiting, the next he was back on his bike riding a 12% gradient. But now, stopped at the summit, I could see him working out in his head how he was going to finish. We agreed to split up at that point so that he was free to do what he needed to do to recover and finish.
Doing a ride like this is difficult enough when you’re feeling good, but to do it under the circumstance Brendan found his body in is nothing short of amazing. So after 12 bottles of Power Aid, 5 bottles of a Protien shakes, a half dozen muffins, 3 bananas, half dozen bars, two quick hot noodle meals, one home cooked Chicken Pasta meal…I finished my ride! I then waited and watched Brendan and Christian both finish. They both earned it! What an awesome day with two great guys who really inspired me in two very different ways. Kudos to you both and thanks to all the other riders who turned up and rode with us on the day!
Here are a link to my Strava Activity here:
And those of: