Looking for the next hill
From time to time I had been looking at other hills to do an Everest on. I knew I would do another one sometime, but had no fixed plans. It is not that easy to find good options. Safety is the biggest concern. You are going to be riding during the day and the night. You don’t want to be hijacked and the route must be safe – particularly the turns at the top and the bottom. That eliminates many climbs.
I had been looking at Bantam road. It is very close – just across Delta Park from my home. It is a cul-de-sac at the bottom and is fairly straight with two slight turns. It topped my list of climbs close to home.
The decision to ride
Louise was on her road trip through the family farms and down to Grahamstown with her sister Jane, who was visiting from Australia. I had planned a two day bike trip to Witbank with Colleen and Graham for Sunday and Monday. On Thursday I got the news that, due to the rain and the load shedding, Graham needed to catch up on work and they would not be able to make the trip. We cancelled the accommodation booking.
On Friday, I was wondering what I could do alone. It is not really safe to go off and do long rides solo, so I thought what about an Everesting.
I got out the Eversting calculator, put in the Strava segment and found out that I would need 138 laps to get to 8848m – the height of Mt Everest.
On Friday evening, I made the decision – I was going to start at midnight on Sunday morning.
I started with the normal ICG Cradle ride on Saturday – probably not the best preparation, but I really love that ride. After the ride we stopped for coffee and I rode home with Marek, coincidently up Bantam road. On the way up Marek asked me what I thought of Bantam as an option for an Everest. I told him I thought it was excellent and that I was riding it in the morning and he was welcome to join me. He replied that he wanted to do his first Everesting with his son Ollie who was away on camp. I also sent a message to Reinhard, who had helped so much with my Northcliff Everesting. He had said afterwards that he regretted not doing the full Everest with us. I invited him to join me, but he had a family lunch function on.
Reinhard was very keen to post a message on the ICG group and get a crew of people to come and support me. For some reason, I wanted to do this without all the support. The Northcliff Everest with Jarrod had been packed with supporters. I wanted to experience an Everest like most people do – with little support.
I also told Colleen, Graham, Louise and Kerry. In total I told 6 people and told them all that I didn’t want lots of support.
I went and bought supplies – coke, sweets, nougat, chicken pieces, nuts, nut butter, chips, still water and sparkling water. I oiled my chain, packed some spares, changed some settings on my GPS, made a spreadsheet of laps and climbing at the end of each lap. I was ready.
I set the alarm for 11:30 and climbed into bed at 7pm.
The first half
I woke at 11:30 and made sure that I emptied my bowels, as I had no toilet arrangements on the route! I drove and parked Louise’s car in the middle of the segment, where I could keep an eye out on it twice a lap. I free wheeled down to the bottom and started my GPS, the workout app on my Apple Watch and Polar Beats on my phone and I set off.
The plan was simple. Ride at a steady pace, stop every 1000m of climbing and keep the stops short. Each lap is 66 metres of climbing and around 2km in length (1km up and 1km down). I was keeping my mind busy by calculating how many metres I should have climbed at the end of each lap and comparing it to my GPS. The 66 metres per lap was proving quite accurate and most of the time I was just a few meters off either way.
My first stops were very short – unlock the car while still riding, down a coke, fill up my water bottle and get going again – less than 3 minutes. 1000m was taking under 2 hours.
On my third stop the sun was up so I had a longer stop to eat some nougat and apply suntan lotion. I use the very thick, greasy Island Tribe. This proved a bad move as the miggies came out in clouds and I would get to the bottom of each descent with miggies covering my face, arms and legs. I had to pull them off on the way back up.
During the morning Reinhard cycled over, after his 21km run, and joined me for a while before heading out to his family lunch.
Stops 4 and 5 were also sub 3 minute affairs. I was more than half way, doing well and feeling great.
Other than the miggies, the only real problem I had in the first half was getting stung by a wasp on my arm.
The second half
That is where the wheels started coming off. I suddenly felt weak and was slowing down. At 6000m, I had a longer stop. I ate half a packet of sweets and headed on again, initially feeling better.
I soon started to feel nauseous and the Everest became much more difficult. Kerry walked over from our house. She brought iced water, nut butter and chocolate. We had a chat, I had some water and gave her my Apple Watch to charge, as I had run it out of battery, but my Discovery points were sorted.
I had given up on the mental arithmetic of calculating the distance at the end of each lap. Near the top, I would take out my phone move once cell down on the spreadsheet and check the corresponding climb distance. I was no longer up to adding 66 to larger numbers!
My friend Marek and his wife Sue drove past. We had a quick chat and Marek said he would come back on his bike. He rode many laps with me, matching my pace which had slowed considerably.
My bike started making a strange clicking sound near the top of a lap. It sped up considerably on the freewheel down the hill, so I knew it was something related to the wheel. Near the bottom the noise stopped. At the bottom, we stopped and checked the bike, but could find nothing wrong. Near the top of the following lap, I noticed my back tyre was getting flat. We had to stop and change the tube.
Although I was freewheeling downhill, they are very fast. With only the two slight turns I was getting to 60km/h. After his first, Marek referred to it as a thrilling (by which I think he meant terrifying) descent. By then I knew every bump and the best line down. I had a marker near the bottom where I applied the brakes hard for the turn. On the lap after changing the tube, I pulled the brakes at the marker and the back brake made the most awful sound. I managed to stop using mainly the front brake and we checked everything, but could find nothing wrong. For a few laps, I was far more cautious on the downhill, applying very little rear brake, which gradually improved. In retrospect, I think I must have got suntan lotion on the braking surface while changing the tube, which took a few laps to wear off.
It had got very hot. I need to stop more frequently to fill up my water bottle. Each time, I would look at all the provisions in my boot and feel that I couldn’t eat any of them. I had a few toffees and some crisps, but they made me feel worse, not better. I could not face the cokes either. I was on water. The choice was between still and sparkling – until the still water ran out!
Marek was doing a long ride out to Suikerbosrand the next morning. I kept telling him that he needed to stop riding hills with me. Eventually he relented and went home.
Kerry came back a little later on one of our e-bikes. She rode a lap with me, saw that I looked ok and headed back home, leaving me with a charged watch.
A little later Marek returned with Sue, this time in the car. They parked in the middle of the lap and encouraged me each time I passed, taking photos and videos.
I took a last stop with about 400m to go. I thanked Marek and Sue very much and told them that I was good to get to the end. Once they could see that I was going to be ok, they left.
Only 6 laps to go. I watched the metres climbed on my GPS move up towards the magical 8848m. It got there just as I passed the car. You always want to get a few extra metres – just in case – so I carried on to the top, freewheeled down and collapsed in the front seat of the car for a few minutes, before packing up and heading home.