Cyclist inspired to great heights

By Vicki Woolley

Phil Walter entered cycling’s Everest Hall of Fame after riding up and down the Ohakune Mountain Road for 20 hours, climbing 9200m — higher than Mt Everest.  Picture / Phil Walter, Getty Images
Phil Walter entered cycling’s Everest Hall of Fame after riding up and down the Ohakune Mountain Road for 20 hours, climbing 9200m — higher than Mt Everest. Picture / Phil Walter, Getty Images

On Christmas Day 2015, Phil Walter mentioned to friends that he was contemplating riding the height of Mt Everest on the Ohakune Mountain Road.

Everesting - The Search For Up is an online cycle challenge created by Melbourne's Hell500. Cyclists worldwide are encouraged to choose a hill or mountain to conquer, riding continuous repeats until they have accumulated the requisite 8848m of elevation gain in a single period. The first person to complete the challenge 'claims' the route and enters the Everest Hall of Fame.

Walter's friends advised him to act quickly. Murmurs had been heard in the cycling community about other attempts on that route.

The Auckland photographer made a snap decision. Wearing a full complement of winter cycling kit as a buffer against the cold, Walter mounted his bike - a vintage steel frame Eddy Merckx - in Ohakune at 3am on December 28. He headed up the Ohakune Mountain Road towards Turoa Skifield.

"I chose this piece of road because it suits my style of riding - I'm better at the longer climbs. Riding a short, sharp hill 30 times over would do my head in. Instead, I had a beautiful mountain to look at as I climbed and a stunning view on the descent.

"I felt pretty confident until about 1pm. It was super-hot and the tar melted. The road had recently been resealed. The sticky tar picked up loose chip and kept jamming my rear wheel. I had to get off every 2km and use a stick to free it up.

"I thought I might have to pull the pin but on the next repeat, the sun had moved. There was a small strip of seal that was in shade and I was able to ride on that."

At 11pm, Walter dismounted back in Ohakune - nine summits, 334km and 9200m of climb had cemented his place in the Everest Hall of Fame.

"Initially I wanted to do 10 repeats to hit 10,000m of vert but on the last repeat, my lights ran out. It was bitterly cold - I was wearing every layer I had and was still freezing. It wouldn't have been smart to go back up there as fatigued as I was. And I didn't need to," he says.

This weekend, Walter is on his bike again, tackling the WEMBO 24 Hour Solo Mountainbike Championships in Rotorua.


Event details

Everest Cycle Challenge
What: 8848m of vertical climb cycle challenge

For more information: www.everesting.cc

- NZ Herald

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