Friday 26 September 2014

If at first you don't succeed.... Have another go.

Second time lucky for Matt Barnes, after 113 repeats he triumphs on Condor Bottoms. 

By Matthew Barnes,

Everesting attempt #1

On 19th July, 2014, I had an attempt at Everesting. The concept
is very simple, you find a hill and cycle up and down it continuously
until you have climbed the equivalent of Everest, 8 848 m or
29 000 ft. There is a website where you can post your acheivement,
but only the first person to climb a specific hill gets on the hall of
fame. It also has to be the complete hill, you can’t just pick the
steepest section.

The profile and segment map for my ride on Strava
I picked a fairly local climb that went up to some wind turbines
along a dead end, so there shouldn’t be too much trafic. It had an
average gradient of 7%, which would mean that if I completed the
challenge I would have to climb it 39 times, a distance of 260 km.
I knew that it would be a very long day, so I packed a rucksack
with food and water which I would lock to a tree half way up the
climb as i didn’t have a support crew with me. I had also only told
a few people about my attempt, so I wasn’t expected much, if any,
company. In hindsight, a big mistake.

The hill was almost 10 km, so I set off at 4:30 am, and started
my first assent at 5 am. I took it nice and easy, trying not to get
out of the saddle too much. I had recently changed my cassette so
I now had a 27 at the back with a compact chain-set. Hopefully
this would be low enough once I started to get tired.
After about 3 or 4 assents it started to rain, and a bit later
it started to rain much harder. The wind also picked up, with
a strong headwind for the last km of the climb. There was also
2 cattle grids, one was fine and could be taken at speed on the
descent, but the other one was all twisted and had to be taken
slowly. There was also numerous suicidal sheep near the top, who
would jump out in front of me on every descent. The road was also
very narrow so I couldn’t let go on the descent, just in case there
was a car coming up. Again, in hindsight not the best hill to have
Selfie with Matt, and Jack on his own

I had completed about 13 assents when I heard someone shout
my name. A good friend, Matt, had cycled out to give me a boost.
He had initially cycled up the wrong side of the hill, but his company
was now most welcome. He stayed with me for 3 assents,
although we both nearly got taken out by a sheep. Matt took a
selfie with me at the top of the climb and uploaded it to Facebook
telling people to join me if they could as I needed some support.

My Garmin had also started to play up because of the weather.
It was humid, wet and change-able. My Garmin wasn’t recording
elevation, so I knew that I would have to use the correct elevation
function on Strava when I finished. The problem with this is that
you tend to lose some elevation, so I might have to do an extra
assent. I also didn’t really have a clue about how much I had
actually done, although I was using the lap function on my Garmin.
After 20 laps I had an extended rest as I was now over half
way, although the wind and rain were still relentless. I completed
another 2 assents before I called it quits. I had worked out that at
my current speed I wouldn’t finish until after dark.

I picked up my bag and set off for home. I had cycled 145.5 km
with 4 844 m of elevation. I was exhausted and also disappointed,
especially when I found out that Jack had cycled out to give me
some more support, and had also brought some butties. I did manage
to complete over 50% of the Rapha Rising challenge on strava,
so not a complete failure.

I took a few days to consider my options, but friends on Strava
started to look for suitable climbs as well as offering to support me
if or when I had another attempt. I will have another attempt which
will hopefully be in a couple of weeks. I will look at a hill closer to
Lancaster and I will also tell more people about my attempt, so that
I might have plenty of support, especially towards the end.
I later found out that the next day someone had Everested Hardknott.
It took 30 assents of that monster, which is seriously hardcore.

Everesting attempt #2

After my previous failed attempt at Everesting I prepared myself
for another go at it, although on a different hill. Friends had given
me plenty of suggested climbs, but I opted for a smaller hill close to
Lancaster. Condor Bottoms isn’t very long but it is quite steep and
is used by the local cycling club for a hill climb every September

Sunrise - By this time I had climbed almost 2,000m but it was slightly warmer

Condor Bottoms has an average gradient of about 7%, but as it
is quite short I would have climb it over 100 times. I had a practice

ride a few days earlier where I did 8 repeats, so I knew the hill well.
I intended to Everest on the August bank holiday Monday, but the
weather forecast was for rain, so I went for the Sunday. The night
before I packed up a small rucksack with extra water and plenty of
food and then at 4 am I jumped on my bike and cycled to the top
of the climb.
I dropped my bag behind a gate at the top of the climb, pressed
start on my Garmin and at 4:20 am rolled down the hill for the first
rep of the day. It was cold, very cold. I had worn a long sleeved
thermal top beneath my cycling jersey, but I hadn’t expected it to
be this cold. Before I’d even finished one rep my hands were frozen,
but I didn’t have any gloves so all I could do was man-up and wait
for sunrise.
The first couple of hours was OK, apart from the cold, and I
had my first break as the sun rose when I had climbed almost
2 000 m. It wasn’t long after this when I saw my first cyclist, another
guy from COLT out on an early morning training ride. He
waved, wished me luck and headed off. A bit later Mark turned up
and ended up cycling with me for over ten reps. The Prof, Teacake
and Sue, all from Garstang cycling club also soon arrived, although
they all had plans for the day and only rode one rep with me, but
it was a real lift to see other people.
Mentally one of the hardest points was after I had climbed 3 000 m.
On a regular ride this would be a fair amount of climbing, but today
it was only just a third. I really wasn’t sure when I set off if
I would be able to complete the ride, but I was determined to get
further than the failed attempt, and to at least climb more than I
had ever climbed in one ride, which was 5 200 m during last years
Bowland Badass.
There isn’t much to add about the cycling, rep after rep after
rep. By mid morning I knew every bump on that hill, and could
descend it like a pro. I had got myself into a nice rhythm and
was slowly ticking off the reps. What made it manageable was the
amount of supporters who turned out from COLT. Jack and Niamh
turned up with some cake and then stayed almost the whole day.
Howard probably cycled at least 25 reps over the day, keeping me
company. Bob from the Lancaster cycling club drove up and took a
few photos. Stu arrived in his AA van, and stayed for a few hours.
Podge turned up to chat with Jack and again stayed until the very
end. Brett and his wife drove up also to give me cake. Can’t have
too much cake.
Kev took some very professional photos as I continued to climb up and down like a grinning fool.

Big Kev turned up to ride with me for a few reps and then returned
later in his car, blasting out The Eye of the Tiger as he
drove in front of me. Ian came a bit later straight from completing
a very tough undulating time trial. He was then knocked off his
bike on his way home. That wasn’t going to stop Ian and he returned
towards the end along with his lovely wife. Louise arrived a
bit later with a homemade fruit smoothy, which was much appreciated.
Matt, who had ridden with me on my failed attempt came
out to shout abuse at me. Jim rode a few reps with me and gave
me some OTE gels, which taste nice and are easy on the stomach
(I’ve run out, can I have some more?).

It was about the middle of the afternoon when I started to feel
rough. I’d done just over 6 000 m of climbing, but I was now
 cycling on my own and was struggling. Podge, the only person still
standing at the top, put a call out on Facebook to other COLT’s
to come and join me as I needed the support. Non-COLT member
Richard was the first to turn up, soon followed by Kev and Ian, who
all cycled with me to the end. Niamh and Jack turned up at the top
again, all smart as they were going out. Howard returned with his
wife, as did Julie, Ian’s wife, who brought out a full chicken roast
dinner and homemade crumble.
With that to come there was no way I couldn’t finish, and slowly
I neared the magic number of 8848 m. By this time it was getting
dark again so for the last couple of reps Howard drove behind the
four of us, until I realised that I only had one more rep to do.

All finished - It was dark when I set off and it was dark when I finished.

When I finished I had to helped off my bike and struggled to
smile as I was so completely spent. I had completed 113 reps of
Condor Bottoms. After a couple of photos, where I look terrible,
Ian and Julie loaded me and my bike into their van and drove me
home, along with my roast dinner. Very appreciated.
Obviously the first thing I did when I got home was to upload the
ride to Strava, just to make sure that I hadn’t miscalculated. 150
miles and over 16 hours is a long day on a bike, and I am proud of my

 achievement, but I can guarantee that I won’t be doing it again. If friends
 want to have a go then I’ll come out and support,
but once was enough for me. A few days later and my name was
added to the Hall of Fame on the official Everesting website and
then a few weeks later Laurie contacted me to write a report as
he had created a blog for any UK Everesting attempts. It’s taken
me almost a month to write this report and I’ll end it to say that I
couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone who turned
up to ride with me, hand me food or drink or cheer me on. A big

thank you to you all and sorry if I’ve missed anyone.


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