Trying to ski Everest, end up on Denali

When I started my obsession with maximizing vertical, Marty told me about the idea of “Everesting” – climbing the height of Mt. Everest (29,029 ft) in a single day, by accumulating laps on a single hill. As I cranked up vertical over the season, it seemed like this might be feasible on skimo skis- a nice reach goal after my hopes of setting the fastest time on the Skier’s High Route melted away.

I had logged many laps on the Stagecoach run of Heavenly Mountain, and so knew that it would be a perfect grade and length for efficient all-day skinning- at just under 2000 ft per lap, I would be done after 15 laps- with my best time for a full lap at about 40 minutes, I was hoping that I could slowly and steadily finish the full feat in under 15 hours. With lift service on that side of the resort closed for the season, I thought everything was falling into place.

And so on the last day of the season, I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and left the house before dawn to start skinning. Caching a bag of food and water at the bottom, I began the long day of slow laps.

The morning’s ice thawed away, the lifts started turning, the ski patrollers started buzzing uphill on snowmobiles. I kept skinning. The tourists started waking up and driving to the main lodge to celebrate closing day, families came out to build snowmobiles and sled on the run, dogs and hikers ran around, and I kept skinning.

Mid-day Galina joined me for a lap, and I was starting to feel odd. My pace was dropping, my legs tired buy my core hurting more- pain shooting through my back and stomach with each step, enough to make me double over after the steep sections, and slow down to where I had to struggle to keep up. I initially chalked it up to tiredness, but as the afternoon wore on, the culprit became clear: the abdominal pains were coming from my digestive system, not from my core. Battling up laps 9 and 10 through wind and snow flurries, I knew that I couldn’t keep going much longer.

After an hour spent in a nearby hotel bathroom, I knew that my attempt was pretty much over- I was tired, mentally distracted, in gastric discomfort, and incredibly, stupendously, mind-numbingly bored. I tried getting back out, but as the sun was lowering to the west the chewed-up track was becoming more and more difficult to handle on my skinny race skis.

I threw in  the towel after 11 laps and 21,318ft (Strava link)– trading in Everest for slightly more than Denali (20,320ft).

This was my view for most of the day. Not much variety here.

Lessons from the mountain:

  • Make sure your diet and systems are 100% dialed.
  • Avoid the last day of the season: snowmobiles are extremely active, which makes the trail rough to ski on.
  • Snow conditions will be highly variable. Try to go as early in the season as possible and avoid warm temperatures.
  • Boredom is the biggest enemy. I thought that I had books on tape loaded on my phone, but something happened and they wouldn’t play.
  • Have a warm drink handy (hot cocoa)
  • Boredom will make you want to quit.

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