GRAND TOURS EVERESTING PROJECT - A BRIEF SNAPSHOT

16/08/2019

“Jack completed all three of his Everest’s in less time than it took Richie Porte and Cam Wurf (a world tour and former would tour professional) to complete just one…”

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Three Everests, three countries, three days. It rolls off the tongue so easily, yet it’s so mind blowingly insane when you dig a little deeper. Born out of this, ‘The Grand Tours Everesting Project.’ 

Jack Thompson has always been motivated by the extreme, the ridiculous and the challenging. This particular challenge was perhaps the one that encompassed those motivators most yet. Not only was the riding itself going to be an enormous undertaking, there was the not so small detail of driving through the night, to the subsequent mountains in each country, cramped in a van with little to eat . If anything was to go wrong, the whole challenge would likely be de-railed, we had to be on the ball. 

The challenge started on the infamous climb of the Passo Stelvio. 

PASSO STELVIO

Country: Italy

Length: 24.3km. 

Average grade: 7.6%

Elevation gain: 1808m

Height: 2758m. 

What sets it apart: Highest pass in Italy, 48 switchbacks. 

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The Stelvio pushed Jack more than he’d imagined. It was far steeper than expected and the 48 switchbacks meant that it was difficult to find a rhythm while climbing. Completing the 5.6 ascents and 8,848m of elevation in 13 hours and 30 minutes make this feat all the more impressive. Not only was he 1 and a half hours ahead of schedule, he had done it on a climb that was pushing him to his mental limits. The first of three climbs, with two still left to ride, we set off at 8pm bound for France and climb number 2, The Col de la Bonette. 

COL DE LA BONETTE

Country: France

Length: 24km

Average grade: 6.6%

Elevation gain: 1589m

Height: 2802m

What sets it apart: Exposed top 4km open to the elements, highest pass in France.

After a long drive through the night and a less than ideal sleeping situation for Jack (picture him trying to get some shut eye in the fold out bed at the top of the support van – while moving!) he set off at 8am to start his Everest of the Bonette. 

A distinct lack of switchbacks in comparison to the Stelvio greeted Jack, much to his delight and he set about ticking off the kilometres in his typically determined fashion.

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The Bonette was made harder by the exposed top section of the climb. Remote and desolate, the final 4 kilometres were open to a biting wind that had set in late in the day, cutting through jack as he rose to his final summit of the climb. Requiring only one final ¾ repeat of the climb to claim the required 8848m of vertical gain needed for this Everest, Jack buckled down, switched off his mind and set off into the night. Jack finished in the dark, after 15 hours of riding, fatigued, hungry but determined to get this done. With one climb left to Everest, we set off South towards Spain.

PORT D’ENVALIRA

Country: Andorra

Length: 27.5km

Average grade: 5%

Elevation gain: 1345m

Height: 2408m

What sets it apart: Highest pass in the Pyrenees, heat, length, completing the majority of the climb in the dark. 

We had made the call midway through the Bonette Everest, that driving to the Pico Veletta in the far South of Spain as originally planned was out of the question. The support crew had managed just 1hr of sleep in 48hours, and our main concern, as always, was the safety of the team and giving Jack the best opportunity to complete this challenge in the three days he had planned. 

As a result, we chose the Port d’Envalira climb in Andorra to complete the third and final Everest. Jack set off at midday in searing 42-degree heat. Riding up the steep slopes of the lower part of the climb through Andorra La Vella, Jack dug in for the first few hours of what was to be the most challenging climb yet.

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Port d’Envalira was the longest climb of the three, meaning it was the least steep. What it lacked in steep grades, was made up for by fatigue, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures. Long into the night – at around 2am Jack started to bonk. Palette fatigue set in and he wasn’t eating the calories required to complete the ride.

The hallucinations begun as did extreme anger as Jack continued to push hard on the pedals with little output.  As time ticked and the 3 day deadline neared ever closer, the support crew convinced him to consume a series of gels and a bars. Somewhat refuelled and still in a state of hallucination, he set off into his final repeat of the climb to finish the challenge. 

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Jack reached the summit of the Port d’Envalira for the 6th and final time at 5.58AM. With 1 hour and 2 minutes to spare. Completing the incredible feat of 3 Everest’s in 3 Countries in 3 Days.  

Buckled from the three days that had been, Jack shook the hand of each of the team, thanking them for their efforts over the previous days. A true gentleman in (almost) every regard, Jack boarded the van as we descended back down the mountain to our hotel and our first real opportunity to sleep.

With a total of 26,768m of elevation gain across 41 hours and having covered 810km throughout three countries, I was adamant that he’d sleep like a baby. I was wrong, Jack remained awake for a further 18hrs, exploring the streets of Andorra, by foot. I was convinced Jack may find his limit here as part of the Grand Tours Everesting Project…but in hindsight, I was wrong…I think this crazy bastard is only just getting started.

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Before we wrap up, let’s things into perspective. On the same day Jack completed his third Everest, Richie Porte and Cam Wurf completed their maiden Everest on the Col de la Madone. It took them 16hours. Jack completed all three of his Everest’s in less time than it took Richie Porte and Cam Wurf (a world tour and former would tour professional) to complete just one. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is…Oh, did I mention that Jack didn’t listen to any music until his final ascent? Insanity…

Stay tuned for the release of our second documentary film shortly!

Author: Zac Williams
Photography: @z_w_photography