The First Everest Attempt

I left off here on Friday, August 7th with Paul thinking about doing an Everest attempt later the following week. On Saturday he went for a low key ride on Sunshine, enough to get things moving but hopefully not overdo it. On Sunday we woke up and I went for a morning ride. It was a bit smokey out (wildfires) so he opted to take a rest day. When I returned I went casually scrolling through my phone, and took my umpteenth peek at the weather that weekend. And then I stopped. I called over to Paul, “Have you looked at the weather for tonight/tomorrow?”. He came over and we both studied the forecast.

While Monday night/Tuesday and Tuesday night/Wednesday both looked okay, it was clear that Sunday night/Monday had the best weather window. Relatively cool, cloud cover, and no rain forecasted. “Are you ready?” I asked.

And so around noon we started preparing for him to ride his Everest attempt that evening. Trips to Walgreens, the grocery store, and REI (for a couple extra bikes tubes) were carried out in short order. Bottles were filled, snacks pulled, and laundry thrown in.

Prepping the cooler in anticipation of a warm evening and hot day ahead.

Hot (for the evening) and iced (for the day time) coffee was prepared, extra clothes pulled out, lights charged, and headlamps checked. I pulled together my own bike gear in anticipation of joining him for some early morning laps, as well as a blanket and pillow for sleeping in the car.

Around 4PM we both laid down to rest for a bit after an early pasta dinner. And finally, around 6:00 PM we packed up the cars and headed out. I’ve biked up Lee Hill to Jamestown many times but I’d never done the drive. It was 90 out when we left, but as we climbed up into the hills the clouds moved over and the temps dropped. It was warm but not hot in Jamestown when we arrived about 30min later.

Final prep was done (air in the tires, bike gear on, snacks arranged, etc). I set up a camp chair along with my book and some additional snacks.

And then, it was time! Well, almost. Although Paul started right after I snapped this shot, he actually had to stop about 5 seconds later (literally) when he realized he’d forgotten his gloves. Oops.

But then for real, away! It was a nice night to sit and read, but barely 20min later I saw him come back down. I cheered him on as he circled around to head back up, with him yelling “Too fast!”. His first lap was a PR – and apparently he was trying to take it slow but his rested legs were cranking!

Every three laps he’d return to the car and I’d switch out a water bottle for him. A lap took about 25min, so by his first break it had grown dark. I walked up the hill to find a spot to pee in the woods (I didn’t want to use the porta potty 😬), brushed my teeth, and settled into the car with my book.

Starting the third lap just before dark

Another three laps down, and suddenly it was about 10PM. I read for a bit longer and then decided to try and sleep. I quickly learned that the area I’d set up for myself was across a very bumpy part of the car and it was not particularly comfortable. It was also hot but we had a lot of snacks in the car and…well… bears frequent the area. But I so warm that I cracked the windows anyway, crossed my fingers, and closed my eyes.

After spending the better part of 45min trying to get comfy (legs up, legs on widow, legs on ceiling, head on back of chair, head on cooler, etc), I finally dug out Paul’s extra jacket for more of a cushion under my back. But just as I finally settled in he was back again. It was now 11:30 PM and he’d finished 9 laps in about 4:10min, 1/4 of the way done! We chatted for a bit, he took a longer break to fuel up (coffee!), and then headed out again. He said he was feeling good!

I wrestled with my sleeping arrangements again, and was just settling into an awkward position with my head smushed between the back of the seat and one leg up on a window when suddenly he was back at the car. Confused, I sat up. It had only been about 25min. But apparently his front light had died at the top of the climb, mildly terrifying considering we were up in the mountains and the top of his segment is in the middle of absolutely NO WHERE in the pitch black. Thankfully his backlight has a ‘white light’ setting and he was able to use that light to get down. After switching his lights out and charging the dead one (and grabbing his headlamp as a true backup) he headed out again.

Just before 1AM he returned again. That time I’d actually fallen asleep for a bit and I felt super groggy and a bit sore. But far me it for me to complain – I was laying in the car while he was doing laps in the dark. However, his leg had started to bother him, and so he spent some time trying to get it to loosen it up. I wasn’t too worried though. His quad/knee had bothered him a couple days prior, but these things usually relax and loosen up. Plus he took some Tylenol so I figured that would do it. He headed out again for laps 13-15, after asking for his jacket (which I ever go slightly grudgingly removed from under my low back).

I curled back up again (after trying, briefly, to sleep in the passenger seat – a total failure). However, now it was starting to get cold. I knew it was going to be in the high 50s, but somehow it felt a lot colder than that. I wished I’d brought my closed cell sleeping pad and a warmer blanket. Cold at night in the desert? Go figure. I settled in as best I could and figured the sun would be up in a few hours anyway.

However, when he returned just before 3AM things didn’t look good. He was clearly hurting, debating whether to even continue. Even though a small part of me really wanted to go home and sleep in our bed, I really REALLY wanted him to finish. Although he’d stretched his leg at the top of the climb, and at the bottom it wasn’t shaking out. In fact, it was getting worse He adjusted his shoe. He walked around. He had some food. And then there wasn’t much else to do. It was chilly and he needed to get going again.

So, after a couple more minutes he decided to start up again. I was concerned though. I decided to wait to refill his water bottle; I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to keep going. And, unfortunately, about 15min later he returned. He’d cut his 16th lap short and was calling it. 3:07 AM.

Disappointed, we packed up the cars and headed home. Hauled everything into the garage, got some water, and headed to bed around 4:30 AM.

He’d completed 63mi and 13,156ft of elevation. We called it a really hard training ride. I then asked him if, in the future, he could avoid any more ‘training rides’ in the middle of the night 😁

The failure was a bummer, of course. But it’s not so much the failure, it’s the idea of having to try AGAIN. Oof. Daunting.

Nevertheless, stopping was the definite right choice. He ended up taking most of last week off as the leg was cranky. If he’d had 4-5 laps to go I would have encouraged him to finish — just take some more drugs and who cares if you’re off the bike for a couple weeks (as long as permanent damage isn’t being done, of course). But he was still shy of the halfway mark and there was a LOT of miles and climbing to go. Stopping was the right choice.

So now, we keep training. In addition to the heat we are getting bad wildfire smoke from four fires burning around the state. A good window for an Everest attempt is likely at least 2 weeks away for either of us. Ah well, we’ll just keep enjoying the early morning rides and appreciate sleeping in our own bed for now.

If you want to read about the ride from Paul’s perspective, check out his post HERE.

Author: cartwheelsandcake

Cyclist, climber, hiker, trail runner, back country skier, dabbling mountaineer Lover of cake, chocolate, brownies, and sweets. Excellent napper.

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