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At 7:01 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, Jorge Daniel Hinojos clipped into his Specialized Tarmac S-Works road bike and started pedaling up Rist Canyon northeast of Fort Collins. After powering through an approximately 1.1 mile-long climb with an average grade of about 11.2 percent (for non-cyclists: that’s extremely steep), the Denver-based project engineer turned around, whizzed back to the starting point, and repeated the route—47 more times.
By the time Hinojos completed his final lap at 8:45 p.m., he’d biked 100.6 miles and ascended 30,315 total feet, more than the elevation of Mount Everest (29,029 feet). In the process, Hinojos became part of a small but growing contingent of Coloradans who have completed the brutal global challenge known as “Everesting.”
“When I finished, I was like, I want to do this again,” says Hinojos, who Everested to honor his late father and raise money for young cyclists in his hometown of Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Developed several years ago by Australian cycling club Hell’s 500 and billed as “the most difficult climbing challenge in the world,” Everesting is simple in concept: Athletes pick a hill and complete repeats on it—either on bike or on foot—until they’ve climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest in the Mahalangur Himal, a sub-range of the Himalayas.
So far, nearly 6,900 folks around the world have pulled off the extreme feat on bike, and just 154 have done it on foot, according to the Everesting website. In the months since the coronavirus pandemic canceled mass races around the world, a number of new people—including at least 20 in Colorado—have earned a coveted spot in Everesting’s virtual hall of fame. Last month, Australian pro cyclist Lachlan Morton set the world record (since broken) for fastest Everesting on bike, completing 47 repeats on Rist Canyon in a blistering 7 hours, 29 minutes. It was Morton’s second Everesting attempt in a week–just seven days earlier, he’d pedaled 42 laps on Rist only to discover later that his tracking app over-calculated.
“I have always enjoyed things that are really challenging,” says Hannah Shell, a 28-year-old elite cyclist and data analyst who Everested last month with 26 laps on Linden Drive in Boulder. The nearly 117-mile journey, which took 13 hours, 47 minutes and covered an average grade of about 9.3 percent, wasn’t as grueling as Shell expected.
“I was really lucky to have a lot of friends that came out to either ride some laps with me or to stand at the top and cheer me on,” says Shell, who tackled the challenge as part of a COVID-19 relief fundraiser. But there were also several times when exhaustion hit hard, and by the end, soreness settled deep into her core. “When I got in the shower, even just the water hitting [my core] was painful,” Shell remembers.
Her advice for aspiring Everesters is threefold: Be conscientious about your nutrition, extensively research the climb beforehand, and make sure your bike has a solid gear ratio. Hinojos, who ate a small snack after every lap and downed a double espresso shot every three to four laps, echoes similar sentiments. He also suggests choosing a hill with a grade greater than six percent to minimize the total number of miles.
And Justin Simoni, who in 2017 Everested Boulder’s Green Mountain on foot, recommends a hefty dose of determination.
“It’s not about ultimate fitness,” says the 39-year-old outdoor adventure athlete. “It’s going to be your mind that says yes or no—so just make sure it always says yes.”
Last tip: Be prepared to catch the Everesting bug.
Hinojos, an elite road cyclist, is planning to repeat the feat up Rist Canyon in mid-August with the goal of breaking nine hours (his last attempt was slowed by car traffic plus heavy rain and lightning). Shell is considering Everesting again, perhaps at sea level. “Now that I know that I can do it, I’m like, huh, I wonder if I actually tried to do it fast—what that would be like?” she says. And Simoni, who in 2017 summited Colorado’s 100 highest peaks in just 60 days, is hoping to Everest Mount Evans on bike this year. It won’t be for time, he says, but rather for the “pretty wild” idea of climbing the highest paved road in North America eight times in a day.
“Every time you look at the mountain, you’d be like, Oh yeah, I did that.”