Reflections on a Solstice Everest - The Longest Long Day

Feb 9, 2022 at 14:02
by Simon Noble  

The feeling of pain, exhaustion and a truck load of fatigue rolled up into the big ball of a completed fully off road Everest up the Queenstown bike park access road.

11:38pm 22nd of December 2021. It's done, finished, completed.

Everesting has become quite popular with more and more people taking on the task, what is Everesting you may ask? To put it simply, it's climbing the height of Mt Everest (8,848m/29029ft) from sea level to the peak, one activity, no sleep, and repeating the same climb and descent. Simple in theory, hard in practice. For those that don’t know the Queenstown Bike Park access road, it’s a 16.4% grade gravel road in varying surfaces of hard pack to loose rocky pinches. Some people call it gross others thrive in the pain.

Looking back I think I was either cocky or naive in predicting the enormity of the task, I knew it was going to be hard but not as hard as it was. Maybe I ate too much food, maybe not enough calories. Next time I might try more liquid or extremely calorie dense foods, but that’s a journey for the future. (That future task is very much TBC.)

I'll wind back the clock to where this idea all started. June 2021, winter is starting to set in here in Queenstown, NZ. Days are short, temperatures dropping, not overly conducive to most people enjoying riding their mountain bikes. With a strong riding community year round here and following a bunch of friends on socials and Strava participating in the monthly 7,500m vertical challenge, while doing some big vertical numbers far exceeding the challenge. I wanted a piece of that. Besides, riding up means you get to ride down and that’s where it becomes really fun. June saw a total vertical amount of 14,762m of vertical gain, my biggest ever in a month. I was rather stoked on that, especially for an Australian coming from the rural area of Maffra, Vic. Best known for its dairy farming, it's far from the mountain town that is Queenstown in more ways than one.

July comes around and I set the goal of 20,000m but within the first few days of the month banking ''extra" vert at 1,000m+ a day I decide that 30,000m or 1k a day is a better goal. It’s a pretty big shock to the system. The legs hurt, the stomach needs filling more, and bike maintenance increases drastically. But somehow, I get somewhat used to it and the goal raises to 40,000m. It was around this time that I decided an Everest was a "great idea" and what better time to do it than this summer. The July goal then raised 45,678m, you may already notice that I have a problem with just setting a goal and sticking to it. The final week of July I realize that if I ride the minimum 1k a day I will go over 45,678m. I devise a plan for the last 7 days something like this, 1,500m, 2,000m, 2,000m 2,500m, 2,500, 1,000m and the final day go until I can't go anymore. As you can probably expect, that’s a big week on the bike and you would be right. That week I went 18,081m up and down. During the early laps on the final day, I bumped into the Vertical Meter Eater A.K.A Ben Hildred. He asked what the vertical goal for the day was with as much as I can get the reply. A suggestion that only a handful of people have done 10 laps up the access road, job was on and that’s what was going to happen. The final day of the month with a big effort was 4,627m, 10 and a bit laps in the bag and bringing the monthly total to 51,929m in 31 days.

I locked in a date for the Everest, 22nd of Dec, the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. The longest daylight day to minimize riding with lights, The Longest Long Day was the name I came up with. For me to stick to something I need to put it out there and make it known, so for extra motivation or accountability I decided I would make it into a fundraiser. I quickly decided that a charity to do with adaptive bikes and making bikes accessible to all was the kind of charity I wanted to support, and to my delight Makingtrax Foundation does exactly that but not just limited to bikes but rafting, skydiving, and paragliding to name a few.

I figured that I would go hard month on, month off in the lead up to the big day, wrongly or rightly that’s what I decided with basically zero knowledge about this kind of fitness and endurance efforts. September rolls around and 1.5k a day is the goal, roughly 3 hours a day on the bike. September is still very wintery in Queenstown, luckily the winter was reasonably dry and cold for the most parts that the access road would freeze overnight making for a near concrete road until the sunlight hits, then it's like peanut butter. Dry frozen trails are a ball to ride in the trees but sheet ice on trails with natural springs are exciting for other reasons, especially when you make it to the end intact and upright. September total vertical gain was 51,425m in 30 days.

Early stages of October I take a spill in the Nelson region on the Wakamarina trail, and tweak a previously broken and plated collarbone. At first it wasn’t that bad and I was able to ride for the remaining days of the trip without too much pain. Once the trip was over and I was back home the pain really set in, a trip to get an X-Ray with inconclusive results but suspect minor fracture around a screw or stressing the bone/plate causing the pain. 2 weeks off the bike and in a sling. I was stressed about losing fitness by not being able to ride, in came a smart trainer. Boy, do they suck!! Sitting still putting in effort makes for a sweaty mess! The 18th of October I decide to ride to work and test out how things are progressing, I make it almost all the way to work before any discomfort, mind you the ride to work isn't long. Sub 15 minutes.

From the 18th onwards it's back on riding everyday getting ready for another big month. I decide to raise the bar yet again this time no daily minimum but an average to keep, that average was 1,893m a day to total 56,789m. It’s a daunting number in anyone's book I'm sure, starting a month knowing there's a huge wall of vert in front of you and that if you have an off day or injure yourself the days after will be even harder. A few days with a gnarly toothache requiring strong painkillers to get to sleep and subsequent tooth extraction, the pain killers and lack of sleep weren't on my side that’s for sure. I managed to bank 1,000m before work and the dentist appointment. With orders to rest for at least the evening, begrudgingly I listened. 6 am the next morning I was back into it. November was a very different feeling month as far as my vertical assaults go. Listening to my body more, putting in bigger days on my days off work and managing fatigue. The vertical gain ranged from 884m to 3,294m on the final day of the month.

No resting up just yet, I carry on riding every day and bank a 5,327m day to test out nutrition and hydration. It almost felt easy, riding a possible route down the hill consisting of steep singletrack, flowing singletrack into bike park flow, rough tech, a couple of jumps then to a small rut track to link me back to the access road. I put in 11 laps, the descent felt great and the climbing good. I had given myself a bit too much self confidence but I guess you need to tell yourself you’ve got it prior to such an effort. I start to back things off to taper on the 8th of December but continue to ride everyday up until the 16th. 53 days straight riding my bike, how good!!

Tapering is weird and boring, after doing so much for so long it felt wrong to take things back and not push for a daily vertical total. If it was raining, I decided I could have a rest day. The feeling of guilt of not pushing was a real mental struggle along with my body not knowing what was going on and being sorer than I was expecting. I really had to reassure myself that it was good to be resting and backing off so I can push on the big day and have the extra in the tank when it really hurt. Throughout the tapering weeks I was going to bed and waking earlier and earlier so I could get a decent sleep before the big effort. Waking up 2:30am before work and pottering around home being quiet to not wake up my housemates and sometimes just going to work at 6:30am because I was bored and making a start on the day's jobs. Doing a complete ride wrap whilst the bike shop is closed with no interruptions makes life much easier. Two days before D Day I went into work around 3:30am to prep my bike. A full strip down check the frame bearings, hub bearings, clean the drivetrain and some fresh Maxxis tyres from the legends at Marleen Wholesalers. I got myself all finished up just after the shop opened and moved onto making my check list smaller. In the days leading up to the Everest it rained several times and got me worried about how soft and slow the access road was going to run, and also my proposed route had a steep rooty trail to start my descent. The day before I went up for a check how the road was running and also clear any debris. Down the first section of trail the decision was made that it wasn’t sustainable with traffic pulling mud onto the roots. I finished clearing the rest of the way down the hill and head home to finish packing. A minor alteration to my route was needed.

Time really got away from me in the afternoon and I had to skip out on a visit to Pete at Remarkable Physios in favor of a bit more sleep. I finished loading all the supplies, food, spare parts and pit tent into the van got it up to the midway junction in the bike park and cruised on down the lower half of my route. Back home a good feed and shower and I was in bed around 7pm, much later than I was really hoping with my alarm set for 12am...

12am rolls around and I'm woken by my alarm. Bam I'm awake, A decent cooked breakfast and final check of my bike, tyre pressures, another quick chain lube. It's go time! Out the door with my housemate and chef for the day Marcus Johnson and picking up Paul Foley the Photographer. We pull up at the bottom of the access road, connect the riding lights and get ready to go. Pete Robinson arrived just in time for the morning shift of laps with me and we set off. 1:02am and it's started. The first few laps go well, too well and too fast, Pete tried to get me to calm down to conserve a bit of energy early to help me later but I wasn’t having any of it. Stopping at mid way on the way down on each lap for a water bottle change and snack, to keep the calories coming in as they were going out. 6 laps in and roughly 2,500m in just over 6 hours I thought it was in the bag for an early finish. Boy was I wrong! The pace stayed around an hour per lap until lap 9 when it stretched to 77 minutes, after having a thumb thickness stick go in and out my sock without a single scratch on me it was time for a full clothes change. Feeling refreshed and ready to carry on. Throughout the morning so many people joined for a lap or multiple laps. I did a total of 3 laps solo of the 21.5 laps, I was thinking I would be doing way more laps solo.

Things got pretty grim for motivation around lap 13 onwards over 5,000m in the bag, more than half way and the remaining vert "only” starting with a 3. I had realized that 21 laps were not going to be enough to get to 8,848m. I was trying to tell myself I was sweet but internally I was far from it. I remember sitting down to have a snack and thinking “I can't do this” I couldn’t picture myself finishing it and a sense of failure was setting in. What had I set out to do and now I wasn’t going to finish. With the help of many without knowing it at the time Ben Hildred and Charlotte Frost joining around lap 15, Ben's shit chat, jokes and random facts certainly took my mind off the pain that was starting to really build up in my left knee. Charlotte sat relatively quietly on my back wheel which I didn’t notice at the time subconsciously helped keep me feeling in the pack not lagging behind in pain. I think this created a turning point in the grim laps, only realized in retrospect.

Mr Skyline Jimi Ramsey now joined for a lap or two, or so he thought/said. I think he saw how dark and deep in the hole I was on the climbs that he had to stick around a bit longer. Consistent but not condescending words of encouragement throughout the climbs really helped a lot with 3 or 4 laps to go I got into my head that it's just an afternoon ride to get it done. The climbs were getting slower and more painful but the support was getting stronger with many people getting off work and joining in and helping out. Some light consistent rain set in and slowed the descending pace down in places with roots or slick spots.

Darkness was now becoming a thing and it was time for the lights to come back out. In my haste to go too fast in the early stages I completely disregarded the thought that I should have the batteries recharged. I was heading up with a small commuter light and saving the battery of my head lamp for the descent only. Jimi and Sandy McPhee both didn’t pack lights but wanted to hang around and a few others had some average lights so it made it pretty comical on the way down, it definitely helped to bring my mood up.

Lap 20 was the first full dark lap with Sandy and Jimi using the light from others to try and see their way with some success. Lap 21 and I gave Jimi my commuter light as it wasn’t needed anymore so he could at least see something. Mid way down on lap 21 I checked the Everesting rules, much to my joy once you reach the total height you can abandon a full climb. The rest of that descent was so close to done and everyone joined for the descent to be there when it ticked over. 3 corners up the road and 8,848m displayed on the Garmin. Holy shit I thought to myself, I've bloody done it! I shed a couple of tears as the enormity and emotion of it all over flowed. A quick photo and a cheer from everyone. “Righto, then let's finish f**king this off” I blabbed out. The remaining half lap felt like one of the easiest, it wasn’t overly faster but the weight was off my shoulders and I was finished.

Done, Finished. The Crew at the end

I can't describe the feeling of being finished, I was just damn tired and very tender in the nether region!!

22:36:30 in total time, 9,007m elevation gained, almost 11,000 calories burnt.

Why did I do it? Why not?! Perhaps I like being in the pain cave, the feeling of hurting and trying to better yourself, doing something hard, way harder than I thought. I don’t really know why, but it was a whole heap of type 2 fun and I don’t think it'll be the last time I do something this stupid.

View the stats here

A special thanks to everyone involved, in no particular order

Marcus, your food, water and just everything prep kept me going and thoughts on the task at hand.

Paul for the photos throughout the whole event.

Paul Jones for laps and servicing my EXT suspension and keeping me running.

Pete for 8 of the first 10 laps

Jimi Ramsey

Allen Sparks

Ben Hildred

Charlotte Frost

Liam Gains

Alex Hed

Sandy Mcphee

Michael Sims

Mike Marsh and Walter

Rob Lyons

Justin, Ezra and Kylie Worth

Jarna Macenzie

Dan Hellyer

Hermine Mauvenay

Antoine Gondouin, Riding in a cast!!

Sarah Buch

KC Till

Max Barlow

Erin Greene and Baby Ella

Laretta Mitchell

Jimmy Pollard

Kevin Triboulat

And the countless others asking about progress throughout the day

The tools for the job Transition Spire. 170mm travel front and rear. 16.5kg

Wearing Ext Era forks and Ext Storia LOK v3 keeping traction high and fatigue low! Who says coils can't climb!

Enve M730 wheels wrapped with Maxxis Assegai Maxx Grip DD and Maxxis DHR 2 Maxx Terra DD when grip and reliability are the focus.

Shimano XT full group set, reliable and performs great

Deity Cockpit, Black Label 38mm rise 31.8m clamp at 790mm, Knuckle duster grips and copperhead stem at 35mm

SDG Bel-air 3 saddle atop a OneUp Components 210mm dropper.

HT T1 pedals and unparallel Up Link shoes kept my feet comfortable and secure all day.

Mons Royale Clothing, even dripping in sweat (I'm a heavy sweater) I stayed warm thanks to the merino materials used.

Closing thought, plan for unexpected toilet stops better than me. Sitting behind a bush on a portable camp toilet as a group of female riders stopped at midway made for an amusing time.


  • 46 2
 Another everest on an enduro bike! Good stuff.

Who says coils can't climb
Somebody who hasn't ridden a coil!
  • 30 0
 No! you can't Everest without an Everest spesific bike with Everesting geometry how dare you!!!
  • 1 0
 @inside-plus: heh heh heh lol haha
  • 26 3
 This is certainly more than I could do ever. Anyone follow Logan Kasper on Strava? On January 22, 2022 he completed a Fatbike Everest. After hauling out his gear 6 miles out in -20°F, he groomed his own trail. Slept that night in -25°F temps and had to boil his own water for hydration and was self supported. He completed the 115 mile ride with over 32,000 ft elev gain in 22 hours 41 minutes. He posted pics on Facebook a couple days later. Props to both of you though.
  • 13 0
 The question what's the temperature of th boiling water at this elevation ? In square toe per arm please.
  • 2 0
 He set up a basecamp haha thats hilarious. Legend.
  • 14 0
 Hell of a moustache and ride too.
  • 7 1
 Meanwhile roadies everesting on a 10kg lighter bike, with no physically draining descents, and with wayyyyy less rolling resistance... ANd its still insanely hard. Incredible achievement on a 17kg bike with maxxgrip rubber lol
  • 7 0
 Congratulations and what an incredible place to pull off such a feat. I just love Queenstown.
  • 4 0
 I had a right laugh out loud moment when u say you thought you where on for a early finish, because when I did my everest I thought exactly the same thing, and then bam, the laps start getting alot harder very quickly!! You can't describe the feeling of achievement when it's done tho, can only feel it when you join that club. Well done dude!
  • 5 0
 That's a beast of a bike set up to do it on. Holey shit. Nothing but respect for this champ.
  • 3 0
 Massive respect! Love the fact that the spec choice was never compromised. When i was reading I assumed it exo 2 ply tyres for the weight saving! Full respect for sticking on the DD's and getting it done!
  • 5 0
 Got tired just reading and thinking about it.
  • 3 1
 Got tired after a few lines of reading it so stopped but well done.
  • 6 1
 I really need a Transition Spire in my life...
  • 1 0
 Det är bara att höra av sig Wink
  • 3 0
 @Lantz75: Snarast > > "Lyxfällan"
  • 1 0
 Awesome mate!!! Good job on doing this one!! I like the way you prepared yourself mentally and also physically.... impressive work leading to it!
And yeah "why not" is the first answer that comes to mind aha. And it's only the beginning..
  • 3 0
 Truly an epic accomplishment. Certainly chose the right suspension for the job though! Wink
  • 4 0
 Solid effort!
  • 2 0
 awesome! ima do it on my eeb, but over 5 days, just to be well rested and drink it all in.
  • 2 0
 I found over 5k meters of vert on a similar bike savage enough, and you nearly doubled it. Beast.
  • 3 1
 My legs cramped reading this. I also cried a little bit.
  • 2 0
 Kudos man. This is awesome
  • 2 0
 where is the kudos button
  • 1 0
 On a 170mm bike with a coil. Mad respect! I bitch about 1000ft of climbing on my 150.
  • 2 0
 just wild
  • 1 0
 pinkbike didn’t show any love when dialed health did it…
  • 1 0
 Bonkers mate... in a very good way Smile
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 one hell of a day!
  • 1 0
 Errrr... EPIC !
  • 1 0
 Impressive! Motivating..
  • 1 0
 I would actually die
  • 3 3

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