One man’s personal challenge to conquer the climbing elevation of Mt Everest - 8848 vertical metres!
Cycle Everesting was started approximately 20 years ago by the Grandson of George Mallory the heralded English climber. George Mallory’s body was found on Everest in 1999, some 75 years after he went missing whilst trying to conquer Mt Everest in 1924.
The Grandson also named George Mallory lived in Melbourne Victoria, decided to set himself a challenge of Cycle Everesting in the Victorian High Country, in honour of his Grandfather. George went off and completed this challenge and became recognised as a hero and inspiration to countless cyclists, whom understood the enormity of his accomplishment.
In March of this year, Andy van Bergen a keen hill climbing cyclist began a website called Everesting. The Everesting website records the achievement of cyclists around the world that have individually Everested. Andy’s website was promoted via Strava, a fitness website/app that records athlete’s rides and runs amongst other sports. Strava has over 7 million users worldwide.
The rules are simple, pick a mountain, hill or bump and ride it up and down until you reach the elevation of Everest 8848 metres (29,029 ft). But simple it is not, it typically involves riding in excess of 24 hours and over 300 kilometres. If this achievement was measured in ‘Ironman’ terms, it would be the equivalent of back to back Ironman’s, for how tough it is!!! To date there have been approximately 300 riders around the world that have completed an Everest attempt, countless others have tried and failed.
Enter Adam Cobain. Adam is a former resident of Cairns and a great mate to many. Adam is a cyclist that loves a challenge and enjoys pushing the limits. He now lives in Japan where he runs a lodge catering for cyclists. Upon learning of Cycle Everesting, Adam immediately knew that this was a personal challenge that he had to fulfil. He knew this was going to be the hardest one day challenge he had ever done, covering the longest distance and climbing the highest elevation.
Adam decided that he wanted to complete this challenge in Cairns and on his favourite hill, affectionally known as Copperlode (Lake Morris Rd) to Cairns Cyclists. Copperlode is part of the Lamb Range and is truly a spectacular mountain range with views overlooking Cairns City and the Great Barrier Reef. Adams Cycle Everest Challenge was to run from Base Camp Lake Morris Road (Intersection of McFarlane Street) to the Summit being the 8.5 km mark (A popular climbing section for all Cairns Cyclists). This truly unique 8.5 km climb through pristine rainforest provides amazing scenery of tropical foliage and rainforest aroma. Copperlode has an average grade of 5% with several pitchy climbs, one of which is known as ‘Devils Ball Sack’, which has a 19% kicker at the top. The reward for cresting DBS is the stunning view across Cairns to the Coral Sea.
With the help of a few mates it was decided that this epic challenge was to be attempted on Friday 19 December 2014. So on Tuesday 17 December, Adam packed his bags and left behind his wife Ruth to keep doors open to The Blue Monkey Lounge and Lodge and caught the Bullet train to Narita Airport and then a direct flight to Cairns. Adam knew his body would be in for a shock when he arrived in the hot humidity of Cairns; especially as he had just left near to sub zero temps in Japan, where the lodge was one metre deep in snow. This weather variance and extremity just added to the challenge ahead.
On arrival in Cairns a support crew was formed and word was passed around via social media that Adam was in town and that he was planning to Everest Copperlode. This stirred a lot of chatter amongst the local cyclists, with countless giving support and many others expressing their opinion of how crazy his ambitions were.
At 6.00 pm Friday, after two days of acclimatizing (not enough), Adam started the first of 21 ascents up Copperlode. It was estimated prior, that with Adams climbing ability he was likely to finish this challenge in 16 hours, ending at 10 am the following morning. Little did he know that he needed to add an extra 8 hours to his finishing time!
At 2.00 am the following morning after completing 8 ascents the wheels started to fall off, figuratively speaking. Adam suffered gastrointestinal issues, unable to digest any more water and food. For a skinny bloke he had a very obvious pot belly from all the fluid and food undigested in his stomach. At this stage of the challenge he had consumed 6 litres of hydration, 4 bananas, 3 slices of pizza and one sandwich. Luckily (planned) Fiona Yard a friend of Adams and a nurse with the RFDS was on hand to give some advice. It was a fine balance whether he could keep going in his current state. A planned was hatched that would take each lap at a time, back off his nutrition and slow down the pace to see if his stomach could settle and for his issues to pass. Due to the nature of an extreme endurance challenge like this, his hydration and nutritional needs are paramount if he was going to make it for the long haul.
Adam soldiered on and the support crew discussed the prospect that due to Adams gut problems, the finishing time was going to blow out considerably. Adam would have been aware of this as well, although it wasn’t discussed for fear of busting his diminishing spirit.
At 4 am after completing the 10th ascent, some fresh support riders arrived which helped to lift his spirits. And then by 5.00 am daylight started to flood Copperlode, which also raised spirits for both Adam and the support crew, which had been with him throughout the night. At 5.30 am, a bunch of early morning riders arrived at Copperlode to wish Adam luck. Many stayed on to ride multiple ascents alongside Adam. This ‘Peloton of Mates’ grew to at one point there were in excess of 20 Cairns cyclists riding alongside Adam as he toughed it out. As the sun rose higher in the sky the mercury got hotter. Hydration was now a greater issue due to increased fluid loss in the heat of the day. Adams body started to show signs of fatigue, his shoulders slumping as he rode, complaints of cramping in muscles most people don’t know exist. Word got back to local cyclist and Body Mechanic and Muscle Technician Gavin Butler and within half an hour a make shift clinic was erected at Base Camp, where both Gavin and apprentice Jade worked their magic on Adams weary body. Gavin then stayed on for the rest of the day and became one of the ‘Peloton of Mates’, riding with Adam and providing rolling aid and support.
The ascent repeats kept ticking over one by one, until he got into single digits, it felt like the ride would never end. As each ascent was completed, more and more new cyclists arrived to give some support. Of note were the junior riders in Cairns, whom came from far and wide to ride with Adam. They didn’t say a word, just kept to themselves riding with the group up and down the hill, clearly inspired by Adams persistence. A couple of standouts were two lads, whom came to support Adam around 11 pm, then rode off to collect a mate in Gordonvale before returning 2 hours later to ride a couple more ascents with Adam.
At 5.58 pm on lap 21, Adam raised his arm and told the ‘Peloton of Mates’ to stop. He then said, ‘I’ve done it’. The group then gathered around Adams GPS device, which showed he had climbed 8849 metres after riding 348 kilometres over 23 hours and 58 minutes! Adam was clearly overwhelmed with what he had achieved, but also from the support he received from the Cairns Cycling Community! A decision was made to ride a few more kilometres to ensure there were no GPS glitches, before the peloton returned to Base Camp to celebrate Adams victory.
Everesting Copperlode wasn’t done for a prize or money, like actual Everesting it was done because Mountains are there to be conquered!
Words by Brad Kellas
Photos by William Bird