From the 16th May until the 22nd May, endurance cyclist Chris Hall attempted to cycle 7 Everests, one every day of the week to raise awareness and funds for the incredible work Movember carry out in supporting mental health. The concept of Everesting is simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.
We caught up with Chris following the challenge…
How did you come up with the idea of the 7 Everests?
Back in 2020 I completed a Trenching challenge on Box Hill which encompassed cycling up and down the hill 91 times. The significance of this is that sadly, 91 men a week in the UK take their own lives. There was some synergy to me with the idea of spiraling out of control downwards but also being able to climb your way back out. It's tough but there's a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone. The 7 Everests project felt like a natural progression from this. I wanted to show that people who struggle, can struggle every day of the week at any time. That uphill battle and descent can happen every day. Mental health is not a simple thing. It's incredibly complex knowing how best to look after your own health and there's so much power in showing vulnerability and weakness. Opening yourself up and showing how powerful and strong you are to say 'I'm not ok.' Or to reach out to your friends and family for support.
Why did you choose this particular hill in Wales?
I chose Stwlan Dam mainly for one reason. It's a closed road. When I did the Trenching challenge I had a lot of issues with dangerous and bad drivers, especially at night and I was keen to remove something that was entirely out of my control. I knew it was a big risk still to take it on here. The climb is still relatively steep, averaging just under 10% but there's some tight turns and hairpins which ramp up much steeper and also that part of Wales is notorious for bad weather. But to remove one of those elements out of my control was a big pull. The other option would have been Great Dun Fell but it's even steeper.
How did this challenge compare to others you’ve done previously?
This was hands down the hardest challenge I have ever done. Both physically and mentally. I gave myself over completely to the challenge, both physically and mentally and I really do think that was clear towards the end too. I still get very emotional when I think about it, which really shows how much it actually meant to me too. I think one of the big problems with Everesting is that it's almost become weirdly normalised because of the amount of people who have done them during the pandemic. But one is a MASSIVE achievement. So anyone who has done one shouldn't feel that they have not done something incredibly hard and challenging. I guess it's similar to Marathons in a way. But people often go back and do it again. I don't know many people who do more than one Everest!
What were you doing the 7 Everests in aid of?
I was firstly doing it to raise the importance of looking after your mental health and also fundraising for Movember and the incredible support and resources they provide people to help best understand how to reach out to someone in need. They are an incredible charity and have helped me personally several times with advice and counselling over the years when I or friends have struggled.
What was the hardest point in the challenge?
To be honest there really was no easy point. We (me and the support team) were really up against it from the start battling awful conditions. Storms, hail, rain. Pretty much from the first day. One point that does stick out a lot to me was the first time descending the hairpins at the top in the rain. The top part of the climb has been resurfaced, so when it's try it's incredible. So fast and flowey but when it's wet, it's like an ice rink. The bike literally slides around the corners with the brakes locking out.
Who did you have as your support team?
My support team were absolutely incredible but they are not the only people who I need to give a shout out to. My main support team were Jimmi from Attacus. He's supported me in so many challenges over the years and knows me better than I know myself. He's the boss when I do challenges and ultimately he has my best interest at heart. My health and safety is paramount and I can always trust Jimmi to make the right calls even if they aren't the ones I want to hear. Next I had Jack and Andy who were photographing and filming the challenge. This was the first time Jack had joined me on a challenge. He's such an incredibly talented photographer and Also very much became 'mum' through the week, making sure I always had food and water. There for hugs and the one who continually kept the air bnb we stayed in tidy too. Lastly, Andy who has joined me on several challenges over the last few years. Andy is such a positive person which is incredible to have around you in tough times. He has an infectious laugh which would just make me laugh and is an incredibly talented videographer/film man. The challenge wouldn't have happened without these three. I feel a huge level of debt to them.
Then leading on from that we met Dion, a local man who sadly lost his son to suicide. He is the person who I was doing this challenge from. Dion and his family have had such heartache losing Josh but have tried to make their loss into as much of a positive as they can, setting up a charity in Josh's memory called Josh's Lighthouse Project. Please go and check them out if you can. They are doing amazing things supporting people with providing counseling to those who may not easily be able to get it. Emily from Attacus was also always messaging and checking in. Always being a voice of reason and showing the challenge over Attacus' social media better than anyone else I know. My mates Francis and Daisy came for a few days to keep me company and look after me giving the support crew a bit of a break too. Francis also made some incredible videos of the challenge and Louise from The Internationelles who dropped her kids off at school, joined me late into the night, was up the next day to go again and then drove home to get her kids from school! Lastly I have to mention my partner, Fee and dog Marshall who have always been there supporting me and all my quite frankly stupid ideas. I'm incredibly lucky to have this support team I can truly give myself over to and know they have my back. I was joined by several people on the challenge who joined on the road or on their turbos. To mention a few. Thank you, Laura, Adam, Josh, Kevin, Toby, Nathan, Sean, and many others (Sorry if I have forgotten your name, I've tried to remember as many as I could!)
How much did the weather play a part in making it even tougher throughout the week?
The weather completely changed the challenge. Once we knew that we were in for a week of very volatile and changing conditions, safety became so much more important. It became much more of a case of surviving each day the best I could and getting through it as safely as possible. I still did the hours but it meant at times we had to adjust the plan and rack up elevation cycling up Alpe Du Zwift on the turbo too.
Which Parcours wheels did you use for the challenge?
My Cervélo R5 was fitted out with a set of Ronde wheels. I chose these as they are a lightweight but also wide option which meant that I could fit some wider tyres on and still get a bit of an aero benefit. I chose these also because they are shallower, meaning even less of a concern when the gales were blustering away too.They performed fantastically!
What does the rest of the year look like for you? Do you have some exciting plans?
This year to be honest it still looks manic. I think I have basically got 4 ultra races in 5 months which is pretty insane. Next up for me though will be Grinduro in Wales which I'm looking forward to just having a bit of a laugh there. Following that I'll be heading back to go and enjoy Badlands, followed by The Trans Pyrenees, a bikepacking trip I've organised with Cold Dark North and Steezy Collective called 'Not A Thing', Granguanche and then Atlas Mountains in February. Lots of event cancellations over the last few years has just meant that I've ended up with a slammed later part of the year, but more than anything I just am aiming to have fun riding my bike in incredible places. I'm unbelievably lucky to get to do what I do.
What ride is top of your bucket list?
My bucket list is huge to be honest but the trips I enjoy the most are chilled ones with mates where we can really explore a place and just enjoy the journey. Hopefully some more of those are on the cards too.