By Nicholas Montgomery
There are several things that take a long time. The train to Uni, a week of property readings, a flight to the USA. Now imagine all those things one after the other, don’t allow yourself to sleep, and imagine you have to walk the whole time: all night, and almost all of the next day. Now make the walk entirely up and downhill. And 108km long.
This ridiculous challenge, called Neverest, held in late March near Melbourne, was my way of testing my limits. It is the third year of the event, which was started by an equally-crazy friend of mine, and in those three years over $110 000 has been raised for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, as they help with Nepal’s recovery after the 2015 earthquake, and fund locally-delivered education programs for the poorest Nepalese. Because of the crowded field of charity fundraising, you have to do something large and hard to get attention.
The idea of the challenge is to climb and descendt the height of Mt Everest, in one session. ‘Everesting’, originally a concept for cyclists, requires going up and down the same hill, until one has climbed over 9000 vertical metres [insert DragonballZ joke here]. For me and two other finishers, this was 35 laps of the Lyrebird Track in Upper Ferntree Gully, next to the famous Thousand Steps.
So, what does it feel like? It’s hard to answer this succinctly, so here are a few vignettes.
8pm, lap 2: I have a feeling of impending doom as I put on my head torch and get ready for 11 hours of slogging up and down the same track in the dark. Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t bed and sleep have been a good option? How will I get my property reading done by Monday?
11:30pm, lap 9: At least all the niggles in my legs have gone away, and have been replaced by a general soreness that covers just about all my muscles, so there is no longer any specific pain to concentrate on.
1am, lap 12: I feel like every podcast is about the same topic: how badly America treats its very poor people. It’s a sobering thought, especially because I get to stop working hard in about 16 hours, while the poor in America are often condemned to it for years. Surely it’s worse for poor Nepalese people? I am too tired to pursue this thought deeply, so I switch over to music, and manage to listen to the whole of Bizet’s opera Carmen. I think how Don José should have just married the village girl Micaëla, it would have saved so much hassle! Unfortunately this is only 2 hours 40 minutes long, or a little over 10% of this absurd activity.
5am, lap 18: The halfway point was about now, but I can offer none of my thoughts from this period: amnesia is now protecting me from the strange thoughts I likely had. I do remember looking forward to sunrise though.
7:30am, lap 21: The sun is up, I can walk without light, there are people on the track, and I have *only* 15 laps, or 46km, to go! I can do this!
2pm, start of lap 30: 5 laps to go! Suddenly this thing seems quite achievable; I have only 15km to go and my legs are holding up well. I take more frequent breaks, but realise the laps are definitely counting down. I am able to jog slightly more of the downhill, as I get a bit of confidence that I will finish.
6:21pm: I slump deep into a camping chair set up at the bottom, shove food into my mouth, and let my muscles start to stiffen up, knowing I won’t be able to walk properly for another three days. It’s fine, I don’t need my legs anyway now. I swear that I won’t do it again next year; it is just way too much to contemplate doing again. After 22 hours 21 minutes, 108.7km of walking, approximately 200000 steps and 12000 calories burned, I am done. I try to lock in the thought of ‘not doing this again’, knowing that my ego will swell over the next year and I will convince myself that the pain wasn’t that bad anyway. Maybe this article will help me stick to my resolution?
[donations can still be made at http://bit.ly/2oLTNZp%5D