Having decided to try an ‘everest’, the first questions are where and when. The rules (http://www.everesting.cc/hells500/) say I have to choose a hill and simply cycle up and down it as many times as necessary to climb the height of Everest (8,848m). No time limit but no sleeping.
Steepness: That suggests that the hill shouldn’t be too steep (which might simply be too difficult over such a distance) or too shallow (if there were a road with just 1% incline, it would require c. 550 miles of cycling up it).
I guess that something in the order of 5-7% would be a reasonable compromise? At 5% it would mean in the order of 180km of cycling uphill (and the same distance down) for a total of 225 miles (to mix SI and imperial units). At 7% it would be a total distance of over 160 miles.
Length: A hill that’s too short will mean a possibly soul destroying number of ascents. The nearby Dragon Hill Road on the Ridgeway would need nearly 100 reps. That didn’t stop an everest attempt on it last summer that, I hear, failed after about 80 ascents – chapeau whoever made the attempt.
Time: The distance also brings into the equation the time it will take. My triple ascent of Ventoux took about 10 hours (with 6.5 of them cycling uphill) and is about half an everest. Unless I am going to be travelling a lot faster (and I have no grounds for believing that), this means that I’m likely to be cycling in the dark. I usually avoid that but it suggests that I should be making my attempt in the summer – and possibly further south – to maximise the amount of daylight.
To me, all that says that I should be looking at the alps, this summer – which is handy as, in July each year, I go out to the French Alps with friends. Even more handy is the fact that we are based in Les Carroz d’Araches in the Haute Savoie which is on the road to the Col de Pierre Carrée. The whole of the climb is 21km long and has an ascent of about 1350m, at a fairly steady 6.4%.
It’s a climb I’ve done before and would need just under 7 reps for the everest attempt. The main drawback is that the lower part of the climb can get a bit busy, even in the summer. The possible refinement, therefore, would be to do the climb from Les Carroz to the top of the col. That is about half the distance and half the ascent – and, importantly, should be fairly quiet as Flaine (the only place the climb leads to) has almost no summer season to talk of. It’s reasonably attractive too – I ran up 3.6 miles of it (for an altitude gain of 357m) with my younger son earlier in the month while out there skiing. He’s 37 years younger and in training for the Brighton Marathon so I was neither disappointed nor surprised to see him pull away from me on the way up!
So, I think I’ve found my Goldilocks hill. Not too steep, not too shallow; not too long, not too short: just right!
It could be about 13 reps of the road from Les Carroz to the top of the Col de Pierre Carrée in July this year. I think I’ll ask Will in due course – he has a great website about all things cycling in the Alps (and further afield) and who came up with terrific suggestions for climbs some years ago when I first started going out to the mountains to cycle in the summer. His website makes a great read at http://www.cycling-challenge.com
I’ll be 62 – I must be mad.