Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra decided to see just how much she loves climbing by taking on Everesting-The ultimate cycling challenge. 8848m effort on one climb.
Everesting-the ultimate cycling challenge. Cycling the height of Mt. Everest at 8,848m on one single climb, in one ride. It’s a challenge that has been pushing cyclists to the limit for years after it was started up by the Hells 500 club. But due to lockdown and local restrictions, 2020 was the year of Everesting. Here cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra details her first Everesting.
Everesting is something I had my sights on for around 4 years, but other trips and challenges always took priority. So I decided in July, this was the year to do it. My coach, Mark, gave me some specific training. I then added a fair few gruelling endurance rides into my event calendar such as Manchester to Paris, and some 200km/300km/400km rides. To be fair just the one 400km was enough.
The climb. If I was ever going to Everest it was always going to be my all-time favourite climb. The A635 in Saddleworth or what I affectionately call, Dovestones or ‘Doveys’ as it runs parallel to Dovestone Reservoir.
Oooh, it’s a corker of a climb too! It’s around 5km and a very steady gradient of around 6%. It starts in a village and heads up into moorland at the top.
This was the perfect climb for an Everesting attempt. Every ascent was around 300m so after some quick maths, we worked out it would take just over 27 repeats of the climb to reach that all-important 8,848m target. I opted for 28 just to be on the safe side. This was also the first climb I had ever really done as a new cyclist five years ago. You can see more about my journey with this climb HERE.
It had to be my beloved and trusty climbing machine of the Endurance SL. That’s the bike I have racked up all my long rides on this year and absolutely love it. Stiff, responsive and incredibly comfortable. The gearing was made for climbing, with a compact on the front, a 50/34 and a whopper of a 40 cassette on the back. To be fair I never used the 40 and was in the 31 sprocket, 90% of the time.
I decided to start early so that the night riding would be at the start when I was feeling most fresh. Rather than at the end with more than 8,000m in the legs. So I set the alarm for 2am but I was too excited (or nervous!) and got up around 1am. Some serious faffing went on and I ended up starting at 3am anyways. The first lap was stunning.
The sky was clear and there were so many stars over Dovestones. I was just trying to enjoy the climb. But as this was going to be the most climbing I had ever done – I did around 5,000m in the Swiss Alps a few years back. I was just fearful of what my body and my mind was going to go through. But I parked that and just told myself to enjoy the ride.
The first lap.
The first ascent took around 25 minutes, and this would be the general pace for most of the day. Those two hours just flew by. The moonlight was reflecting off the reservoir on the right as I climbed. It was a cracking view on the descent as well. The only problem at 5AM is that it was still cold. The temperature was 1°C to be precise and my first stop came about 3 hours in when I needed extra socks. I snaffled some Romney’s Kendall Mint Cake (my chosen fuel source on long rides) and off I went for another rep of the climb.
Luckily there are a fair few lay-bys on this road and we opted to park up around two-thirds of the way up. This meant I could stop for food on the way up if needed to or on the way down. I fuelled mainly on Romney’s Kendall Mint Cake (which I have on all my endurance rides) and the small Warburtons bagels for something savory. I was aiming for around 85g of carbs per hour and this was easily done with just those two foods. That is what I eat on endurance rides and it’s something my body is very used to so I stuck with what worked for me.
Also, having the car parked partway up the climb, mentally, it was great to see my support crew twice. In the car we had loads of water, food and much-needed extra layers. And there was, of course, a track pump just in case I got a flat. Luckily, I didn’t.
Half way and beyond.
At around 4,500m I stopped for my first proper rest. This consisted of eating, drinking and ten minutes of just staring into space, haha. Everything was going really well and I was around 90 minutes ahead of the time I approximated I would be at. I should add I never had a set finish time, my goal was just to finish comfortably.
My coach Mark also came to ride some laps with me which really helped morale. He was also there when I ticked over 5000m, into the unknown of ‘I’ve never climbed this much before’. I was starting to worry that somehow my legs – which were still feeling strong – might just pack in. But he was sensible – as ever – and reassured me I was more than capable of smashing this challenge. Cheers for the pep talk, Mark!
I think so much of challenges like this are mental ones and to remind me of this I took a postcard with me that said ‘your body is capable of almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince’. It was just a case of reminding myself of that.
As the metres climbed went up, 6,000m… 7,000m… even to 8,000m… I was getting anxious that all of a sudden I was going to hit a wall or just not be able to pedal anymore. But actually, that never came. The laps got slightly slower but only by around a couple of minutes and I did start to take a few more five minute breaks.
But I think because my body is used to doing big days on the bike, and because of the steady gradient and multiple snack stops, I was able to just keep going.
I had been meticulously been checking the weather for a good two weeks before to ensure the wind was gentle. And all the planning paid off as I got a light tailwind up the climb. If you have ridden this climb, there is generally a stonking head or crosswind. But thanks to planning, it made the effort a lot easier.
For 8,000m of climbing the weather had been very kind. But with only three laps to go it started raining and got dark. There was also a really thick fog on the top of the climb, too. At this point, I still felt strong but I just wanted to get it done. It was cold and I was head to toe in waterproof clothing. But I felt that was my test, to see how much I wanted to complete it, and there was no way I was stopping with only three reps to go. If I can do 25 in good weather, 3 in less than ideal would be a piece of cake.
So off I went into the rain and fog. I had super bright Exposure lights and a reflective gilet on so was like a glowworm on wheels at this point. I just remembered why I wanted to do the challenge.
I didn’t talk about this to anyone before or even during the Everesting. But I kept it in my mind the whole day. My close friend Stace had planned to climb Everest base camp to raise money for Calm – the Campaign Against Living Miserably. Her nephew, Dan, took his own life when he was just 24 years old.
Ever since then, Stace had wanted to do everything she could to raise awareness of the charity and for people to know there was always someone to talk to if anyone needed it. But due to COVID, her trip got cancelled.
So I decided I would do this for her, for Dan. He was in my mind each repetition. I didn’t even tell Stace or Dan’s family until after I had completed it. I just wanted them to know Dan had been in my thoughts. If you can spare £1, you can donate below. Speaking to Stace, she said it wasn’t about the money or fundraising, but more about people knowing they have someone to talk to if needed.
If you would like to donate click HERE.
Riding my bike is what I do when I need to clear my head and escape everyday life for a few hours. But I know not everybody has that. So let’s stay connected with our family and friends, even more in times like these.
Tips for Everesting.
I’ve only done one, so I’m no expert but here are a few tips if you want to give Everesting a go…
- Pick the climb wisely. Steeper and shorter I felt for me would wear my legs out way too fast. So a more shallow gradient worked better for me. You do clock up more distance but it’s worth it for less gruelling leg pain.
- Have support. Get your friends to ride laps and if you can, have someone sorting your water bottles. That definitely helps things run a lot more smoothly. Massive thanks to my mate Richard who did this for me.
- Make sure you check the elevation needed and the number of laps BEFORE the day itself. Oh and use Strava stats, not your bike computer. This is something I didn’t realise until the day. But just divide the segment elevation by 8,848m and do that many laps. I was going by the bike computer which was showing slightly more for each lap. But the validation is via Strava, so go by that many laps. Most people do an extra partial or full lap too just to make sure.
- Eat. Simple as that. I was mainly eating Romney’s Kendall Mint Cake (one 85g bar every 60-90 mins) and then plain bagels for something savoury. I eat this on long rides anyway, and didn’t want to start adding other things into the mix and getting a dodgy stomach. So I went for simple foods I know my body loves.
- Enjoy it. It is a challenge for sure, but why are we riding if we don’t enjoy it. Podcasts and music were lined up for the long day in the saddle but I never listened to any of it because I was genuinely enjoying it. It’s great to have your mates there to support you, and to be on a climb that you love. So get on a bike you love with some low gearing and get up that climb. Well get up it multiple times I guess. I can honestly say it’s been one of my favourite days on a bike. And I never ventured more than 6km away from the start point.
To see more about the Endurance SL click HERE.
Read about Katie’s 330km bikepacking adventure wildcamping in Dartmoor HERE.
Watch how Katie got on here:
If you would like to read about more of Katie’s adventures check out her 330km bikepacking adventure, Wildcamping in Dartmoor HERE.
Click here to see if Katie finally conquered her nemesis climb, the infamous Hardknott Pass on her 4th attempt!