For mountaineers there is one achievement looked to by the world as the ultimate challenge: conquering Mount Everest. Thanks to technology, the same now holds true for cyclists. A trend called “Everesting” is taking the two-wheeled community by storm with riders attempting to bike the equivalent of the highest peak in the world in a single trip.
Soaring at a height of 29,028-feet, it’s impossible to actually bike the famous mountain, but cyclists are choosing a hill and riding it repeatedly from sea level until their total ascent equals that of Everest. The first person to accomplish the task was George Mallory, whose grandfather attempted to actually climb Everest in 1924. In 1995, after several attempts, George successfully biked up and down the 3,556-foot high Mount Donna in Australia multiple times until hit the same elevation.
No one knowingly accomplished the same feat again until 2012, when it was first recorded with Strava, an online cycling and running network. Now 1,405 cyclists have made the Everesting Hall of Fame, with most riders taking close to 24 hours straight to complete the feat. Some even go over a full day.
“The average time to complete an Everesting is between 18–22 hours,” says Andy van Bergen, who has completed the challenge several times. “Generally it requires months of training to attempt.”
To make it on the list, you have to follow a few simple (yet physically hard) rules. It must be an up-and-back along the same road on a single ride, and you cannot ride different routes on the same mountain. But 29,028-feet is the total elevation gain, so if your descent includes a bit of climbing, this still counts toward your total.
“It does not matter how long the ride takes, but it must be ridden in one attempt (i.e., no sleeping in between),” reads the rules website. “Breaks for meals, etc., are fine. You can break for as long or as little as you like.” You can’t walk part of the challenge (it’s about cycling after all), and you’re not allowed to be driven down on the descent. They also recommend you have medical insurance and get a check-up before taking the plunge.
Why? “Many riders say it's the hardest physical activity they've ever attempted,” says van Bergen. “It’s considered harder than an Ironman. Just like on the mountain, that 1,000m stretch between 7,000–8,000 vertical is affectionately referred to as the 'death zone.' Physical and mental fatigue has truly set in by this point. Everything aches, from the obvious joints and muscles to weird things like toes and fingers.”
If for some reason the Everest challenge isn’t enough for you, there’s another exclusive club you can attempt to get into by biking the equivalent of 32,808 feet (10,000 meters). Accomplishing that qualifies you for inclusion in the High Rouleurs Society, of which there are 1,000 members currently. Did we mention there’s a 36-hour cut-off time for this one?