Riders make a mountain out of a hill climb

Duo climb 2.2-kilometre Observatory Hill 68 times to simulate the height of Mount Everest

Clay Webb and Fabian Merino atop Observatory Hill

Clay Webb and Fabian Merino were still realizing what they had done a few days later.

It’s called ‘Everesting,’ when cyclists turn a local hill climb into an ascent that matches that of Mount Everest.

Last month, 27-year-old Webb and 23-year-old Merino took the Observatory Hill Climb to new heights, conquering the already popular training ride for local cyclists by ascending it 68 times.

The ride took 19 hours and 10 minutes, one of the faster times according to Everesting.cc. (See Webb’s Strava recording from the day.)

The popularity of the local Observatory Hill Climb was already becoming something of a legend before the duo put their permanent mark on it: the GPS documentation of their ride is forever posted beside other attempts made world wide on the Everesting website.

“The response I’ve received from people has definitely been bigger than I thought it would,” Webb said. “We did it without really talking about it beforehand and a lot of people have commented on it who I didn’t realize knew about it: family members and other cyclists, they’re all stoked on it.”

Sixty-eight is the amount of repeats needed to turn the 2.2-kilometre entry road to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory at 5071 West Saanich Rd., which climbs 130 metres in altitude, and make it equal to the 8,848-metre altitude of Mount Everest. It meant a total distance of 149 kilometres up, and down, for a combined ride of nearly 300 kilometres.

It’s an extreme feat that started in Victoria, Australia, a hilly province that is home to the Hells 500, a group of hill climbing cycling Aussie nutters who bear the mark of either climbing 10,000 metres in two days, or Everesting.

Both cyclists race for Broad Street Cycles in Victoria and were there joking about the attempt one day with some other cyclists in early July, recalled Merino, who works at Still Life clothing and lives on the border of Victoria and Saanich near Mayfair shopping centre.

“We looked at all the climbs [nearby] and the observatory was the only one mellow enough, but with enough elevation.”

Little did Merino realize, Webb had been eager to attempt the feat of Everesting. The adventure-seeking curriculum co-ordinator for Power To Be’s wilderness school had wanted to “Everest” since he learned about it during the 2014 cycling season.

And that was it.

By the end of that week they had the logistics together. On July 11, with what they thought was a “ton of food” packed, Merino’s girlfriend dropped them off at the bottom of the observatory at 5:40 a.m.

Within five minutes, they were nearly finished their first loop. The ride took 19 hours and 10 minutes, ending at 1 a.m. on July 12.

“We had a lot of support. Throughout the day people came to do a few climbs with us, it helped mentally and gave us a distraction,” Merino said. “Clay and I are good friends but at times we were just quietly staring at our handle bars.”

Other friends brought pizza and other food, which was welcome as Webb packed about one-third of what he ended up needing.

The climbs weren’t torturous but it was tedious.

They anticipated finishing by nightfall, at least Merino did. Luckily, Webb brought a second light which Merino borrowed.

There was also a lot of time spent descending, which was a challenge as they wanted to save time.

“But there was some off and on rain, which made for some sketchy corners, and obviously we didn’t want to crash, or do something stupid,” Webb said. “So we had to rein it in at the end of the day, making sure we were smart, and weren’t descending at max speed at all.”

After it was over the two were only sore for one day. However, both felt the knock of exhaustion.

“I went full swing back into normal life but it took a few days to feel normal again,” Webb said.

“It was relief at the finish, and it was kind of funny because we were asking ourselves why did we do it,” Merino added.

Friend Nick Kupiak, who rode some of the climbs and also documented it with pictures, brought a bottle of champagne.

The 300-km distance was the most either of them have ever done in a single ride. Both have done the 280-km venture to Tofino.

Merino will continue road racing and, like Webb, will hit the upcoming fall cyclocross season in full swing, staring with the Island-based Cross on the Rock series and hopefully provincials.

See a detailed timeline of the day in photos captured on Stuckylife with pics by Nick Kupiak.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

 

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