He climbed Mount Everest on a bike (sort of)

Triathlete Blake Peiffer met the challenge of biking up an Arizona mountain more than five times in a single effort to equal climbing world’s highest mountain

Blake Peiffer was photographed on Port Washington’s Jackson Street hill, a far cry from the mountain he climbed with his bike. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Blake Peiffer doesn’t have an interest in actually climbing Mount Everest.

But the 2020 Port Washington High School graduate was willing to give the equivalent a shot on two wheels through a little-known fitness challenge.

On Dec. 14, Peiffer completed something called Everesting. Its website bills it as “the most difficult climbing challenge in the world.” Peiffer said it became popular during the pandemic when all kinds of other races were canceled.

In Everesting, he said, competitors choose an actual hill or mountain and climb it as many times as it takes to equal 29,029 feet — the height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

Participants may walk or bike.

The catch is that only the distance going up the hill counts toward the total.

Peiffer knew what hill he wanted to conquer. While attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, he lives near Mount Lemmon, which runs from 2,500 feet above sea level to a peak of 9,100.

Peiffer started at 2,800 feet and reached 8,200.

He had to go up and down the 4.95% graded hill five and a half times, taking the same exact route, per Everesting requirements, to reach Everest’s peak. He had biked on Mount Lemmon before and conventional wisdom says he would have trained on it.

“Ah, no,” he said with a laugh.

But Peiffer is a sculpted athlete plenty familiar with gruelling physical and mental training. He wrestled in high school and his mother Danielle, an accomplished triathlete, got him interested in triathlons. He is on the University of Arizona team, which competes at a club level against other schools.

A typical week for Peiffer has him swimming for one to two hours at a time six or seven days, running for 40 minutes to two hours for four days and cycling for at least 90 minutes four to five days.

“I’ll go up to six or eight hours,” Peiffer said.

His runs and bike rides are usually in the morning. He swims in the afternoon and weight lifts or does yoga in the evening as he manages to study accounting.

“You just have to have good time management skills,” he said.

Competitions are Olympic triathlons, which entail a 1,500-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10K run. His fastest time is around two hours and 10 minutes.

“I’d like to get under two hours in a year or two,” Peiffer said.

Everesting is much longer than that.

Peiffer started at 3 a.m. in the dark. The temperature at the base of the hill is typically 70 degrees while the warmest it gets on top is 45. The hill has seven different climate zones.

On Dec. 14 when he started, it was 35 degrees with freezing rain.

He typically ascended at 8 mph and descended at around 35 mph, but during that first trip down in the slick conditions he only traveled at 20 mph.

“The first time going down was the toughest,” Peiffer said.

A high wind advisory made climbs more difficult. “It was so bad. It was gusting over 30 mph and was steady at 20,” Peiffer said, but added, “Going down when it’s behind you, you’re going really fast. That was kind of fun.”

It was a 20-mile ride each way, with his bike computer calculating the feet per mile. By the end of his ride at 11 p.m. — also in the dark — Peiffer had climbed 111 miles and descended 111 miles.

Peiffer had friends with him the entire time, either riding or available in a car. He talked with them to remain distracted and listened to his “huge playlist” of “all types of music.”

Peiffer chose chatty friends, but also ones who didn’t get offended when he told them to be quiet for an hour here and there so he could concentrate.

Peiffer didn’t look at his bike computer that tracked his progress.

“That would have been mind numbing,” he said. “The worst thing you can do is look at the numbers.”

Starting early in the morning allowed Peiffer to get a head start before traffic got in the way. The hill has a ski resort in the high elevation where it snows, the popular Cookie Cabin with plate-sized cookies that his mother Danielle loves, other touristy shops and an observatory that draws students interested in astronomy to attend the University of Arizona.

His pattern was to reach the top of the hill, change clothes, then descend. At the bottom, he would eat and drink and change clothes again before starting his next ascent.

Peiffer’s nourishment included gels, 1.5 liters of electrolyte mix per hour, s’mores flavored Pop Tarts, a few Costco muffins  and pickle juice.

“It’s the best thing you can ever drink. It supposedly helps cramps,” he said, adding he loves the taste.

His biggest fear, oddly enough, was one motorists face 1,800 miles away in Wisconsin.

“The thing I was worried most about was hitting a deer,” Peiffer said.

“I knew I was going to finish barring any major accidents,” Peiffer said.

He didn’t have cell reception, so Danielle was texting her son’s friends for updates. Peiffer became a little delirious by the end but he was surprisingly still chatty, she said.

Peiffer registered on the exercise app Strava, which tracks workouts. It’s recommended that Everesting participants travel at least 100 feet past the requirement just to be safe. Peiffer went 600 feet extra.

At the end, 20 hours after he started and in the dark again, he stopped and registered the workout with the app, which was verified by the Everesting website.

“I was looking forward to hitting the button for a while,” Peffier said.

All he received was a message saying “You’ve been verified.” No certificate or anything else. But everyone who completes Everesting is listed on the Hall of Fame on the website.

Strava tracks other health data, and said Peiffer burned more than 10,000 calories on the ride.

After he was done, “I just laid down,” he said.

A friend drove Peiffer home. He tried to choke down a burger, but that didn’t work, so he had some chocolate milk and went to bed.

Peiffer was tired and sore the next day but was able to eat a decent meal. It took two to three days to feel normal again.

The experience was grueling but manageable. “It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. It’s a matter of eating and pacing myself,” Peiffer said.

He timed the ride just before a two-week break his triathlon coach is demanding he take to let his body rest. All Peiffer can do is walk for one hour at a time, which is killing the workout freak.

Peiffer said he may try Everesting again if he finds a hill he likes, but he would rather ride across Wisconsin and do a bike lap around Lake Michigan, which totals 920 miles. He may try ultra cycling, which entails rides of 125 miles or six hours at a time.

 

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