As entrees to the official ‘Hall of Fame’ continue to rise, it seems the word ‘Everesting’ is here to stay. A new climbing craze that’s grabbed the attention of cyclists all over the globe, myself included. When I attempted my first (Great Dun Fell) it was out of curiosity, the second (Hardknott Pass) was more to see if it was possible. But by the third (Off-Road Chapel House Wood) it was about working towards something…
After claiming Great Dun Fell, I received an email outlining plans of a new Elite category of ‘Everesting’ named SSSS. As if riding the height of Mt. Everest in one ride wasn’t enough, this new category would raise the bar even higher. The challenge would comprise of completing four separate ‘Everests’ of a specific type. SSSS stands for - Significant (An iconic climb)- Soil (An Off-Road climb)- Short (Under 200km/124miles) and Suburban (An Urban/Metro climb) One of these four rides must also be over 10,000m/32,808ft of elevation. This was a challenge on top of what was already a big undertaking, however, if someone dangles a carrot, its only human nature to try and take a bite.
When I tackled Hardknott Pass it was because I wanted too, and I would have done it regardless of any ‘SSSS Category’ as 30x up that hill was a challenge in itself. I did however know that by doing so I’d already have the ‘Significant’ and ‘Short’ rides ticked off my list. It was at this point I really started thinking about the SSSS, I needed an ‘Off-Road’ and ‘Suburban’ and one would have to be at least 10,000m. It seemed a big ask but I started sussing out climbs anyway, and after another three weeks I’d tackled my off road ride of Chapel House Woods in the Lake District. With three now under my belt, I had my eyes on completing the challenge before winter arrived. Up until this point I hadn’t really considered who else might be trying to tick off all four rides, I knew no one had completed it yet, but needed to find out if anyone was close. With a bit of investigation, I found that an Australian man named Jon Van Seters was almost there. Jon already had his Significant, Short and Suburban rides, and was only in need of an Off-Road effort to make him the first to complete the challenge.
As Australia’s spring time was just around the corner, our days here in the UK were beginning to shorten. I knew Jon was planning his next ride but didn’t know exactly when it would be, I did however know that if I left mine until the following spring, he would undoubtedly beat me to it. With this in mind, I finalise the location for what will be the fourth and final ride.
It’s 4.30am on September 2nd, less than ten weeks since first setting out to attempt the challenge and I’m on my way over to try number four. Not such a long drive this time as I head towards Hexham, only a 30 minute drive from my home village of Nenthead. It’s still dark as I get parked up at the top of the climb, I get kitted up and set off riding at 5:30am. I’m soon at the bottom and starting my first ascent, the climb I’ve chosen is ‘Causey Way Hill’ perfect for a Suburban showdown. Starting in the heart of Hexham I climb straight passed a school and then up through a housing estate, before eventually reaching the top right by a Caravan Park. It’s an average 9% climb that reaches 16% in places, this is all over a distance of 0.9 miles with a total ascent of 453ft. Usually this would mean climbing the hill 64 times, but due to one of the four rides needing to total 10k (32,808ft) it would need tackling 73 times.
By now I’m starting to get the hang of these all day epics, so soon settle down in to a steady rhythm. A full rep takes around 11 minutes, this means 5 reps an hour including 5 minutes for grabbing water etc. on my way past the car. The sky is beginning to brighten but it’s still early, most people are tucked up in bed so it’s nice and quiet, but it won’t be for long. As I listen to breakfast radio and the first 3 hours soon tick by, it’s now 8:30am but no longer quiet. Cars, Busses, kids walking to school, people heading to work, runners, dog walkers and more, Hexham has awakened. To be honest I didn’t mind the extra hustle a bustle, as it was all a good distraction from the job in hand.
By now the sun had risen on what was turning out to be a beautiful, crisp and clear day. As it approached 10am and I climbed the hill for my 23rd time, I was joined by Mike Jones my first support rider. I’d first met Mike only a couple of weeks earlier, this was during the annual Beacon Wheelers club hill climb event on Great Dun Fell. I’d had a decent ride and thought I’d bagged the quickest time with a respectable 26:45, this was until Mike came storming up the climb over a minute quicker leaving me to settle for second. It was nice to catch up and we chatted about all things cycling, including the upcoming National Hill Climb he’d set his sights on later in the year. Dave rode with me for about an hour before having to head off, he seemed keen on staying the whole day if he could have and was definitely up for attempting the challenge himself at some point.
Whist riding with Mike I’d passed 11,000ft (3,350m) and so one third was done, I was back to riding on my own with just my radio for company. It was a beautiful day so I just enjoyed it, and at just over 7 hours I passed half way. I was feeling ok and doing pretty well on time, another hour passed passed, and then another. After 9 hours in the saddle it was 2:30pm and I’d just pasted 20,000ft (6,000m) I’d not had to many breaks but I allowed myself 10 minutes to stuff my face with the usual ‘Everesting’ goodies. I was sticking with the same old fuel of bananas/rice pudding/sandwiches/energy bars/gels etc. all of which seemed to be going down ok. It’s probably fair to say that at around this point things started to get harder, and after another 3 hours of riding they were defiantly getting harder. It was 5pm and I’d been riding for not far off 12 hours, I’d not had any support riders since my encounter with Dave in the morning. It was a bit of a mental battle that was becoming more physical by the minute, my reps had slowed and I couldn’t help keep trying to work out what time I might get finished.
Not long after 5pm I get a phone call off my girlfriend Mairi, she’s heading over and should be with me about 6pm. This is welcome news indeed and spurs me on to keep clocking up the reps, as I finish my 57th she’s waiting at the top, armed with extra supplies and a friendly smile. After checking a have everything I need she heads in to town to grab batteries for my garmins backup, by now I’ve realised it’s going to be a longer ride than originally hoped. I keep on grinding out the reps all be it a little slower than earlier in the day, and by the time Mairi returns I’m approaching my 64th. I’d essentially completed an ‘Everest’ with 29,029ft (8,848m) but to claim the SSSS I had to hit 32,808ft (10,000m) By now my Garming was getting low, I hooked up the battery backup I’d bought after nearly losing my last ‘Everest’ data during my Off-Road attempt.
After another few more reps I was joined by Jamie, he’d come over to ride the last couple of hours with me and I was more than glad he’d made it. Jamie was also from Nenthead and had ridden a couple of reps of Great Dun Fell during my first effort. With 6 reps remaining the sun had dropped and darkness was back, it was quiet again as people hid in their cosy houses, in front of their TV’s. I could hardly blame them, as I quite fancied putting my feet up on the sofa instead of riding up this bloody hill.
As we rode to the top I completed my 8th and
needed a break, I sat in the car a cracked open a flask of coffee. I’d been on the go for 15hrs30mins and it was 9pm, Mairi had work in the morning so a said that she best get back and Jamie offered to stay until the end. She wished me luck and left Jamie and I to finish the final 5 reps, normally this would have only taken and hour but I’d slowed right down now and each rep was a little mini battle of its own.
Jamie kept me chatting with random conversations that would help distract me, until eventually we were climbing the hill for the final time. As we reached the top it was 10.30pm, I’d clocked up 137 miles over 17 hours and climbed 33,140ft (10,101m) It was a great feeling to have ticked the fourth and final ride off the list. I’d managed to be the first to complete the SSSS Elite Category although Mr Jon Van Seters had certainly made it a sprint for the line.
View Ride On Strava.