"Everesting" got its start in the cycling world but is gaining popularity as a pedestrian experience. It's a simple yet challenging concept: Pick any hill (or stairs), anywhere in the world, and climb repeatedly until you reach the equivalent height of Mt. Everest: 29,032 feet.
Randy Whorton, executive director of local nonprofit Wild Trails, offered an Everesting "virtual" challenge for the 31 days of March. To meet the challenge, participants needed to average a little over 936 feet per day, or roughly a single trip up one of most any of Chattanooga's local mountains. Of course, because the event was virtual and could be completed anywhere, it also meant participants could approach the climbs any way that they chose. Stairs in a building or overpasses provided elevation for those with limited access to outdoor altitude.
Skyler Baker, who splits his time between Knoxville and Chattanooga, discovered that he could explore the Smoky Mountains on weekends and incorporate hill repeats into his weeknight runs after work. "I'm not the fastest runner out there," Baker noted, "but I do love my vert, and this challenge seemed to complement my style."
Baker was familiar with Everesting before he signed up for the challenge but said that he might not have attempted to complete it on his own. Having the time constraint of the month allowed him to "thrive on the determination and commitment" implicit in setting a goal and seeing it through. Baker completed many runs with friends and logged over 8,500 feet in a single day climbing Black Mountain Crest in North Carolina.
Chattanoogan Wendy Jensen and her husband Patrick participated in the challenge together. Jensen signed up for the challenge because it was difficult but doable with proper planning. They explored local options, such as the Kiddie Trail to Sunset Rock, which Jensen said was "one of the shortest distances with maximum elevation." Other local favorites were the Gasline Trail, where they could do a couple of repeats on the steepest parts to maximize their daily gain. On weekends, the Jensens traveled to the Smokies to climb Mt. LeConte (just over 6,000 feet in a day) and other peaks to get more elevation and to see unfamiliar sights. Jensen praised the benefits of the challenge, such as time spent together, pushing themselves and plotting and planning.
Whorton, who completed the challenge, was partial to ascending dry creek beds, an activity he calls ZIT-ing (Zero Impact Trail). He completed over 15,000 feet using dry creek beds from his house in south Chattanooga.
Wild Trails will offer the challenge again in November. Local ultrarunner Mason Price was aiming to finish the challenge in March, but it conflicted with his speed training for a long-distance road race (the Strolling Jim 40-miler). Price plans to complete the elevation by the last Friday of November and try to double the elevation the next day. He's drawn to the challenge because of the mental discipline required to complete multiple climbs in succession. Price will use local trails because he's inspired to maximize Chattanooga's natural areas.
Before November rolls around, study your maps. You have plenty of time to consider waterfalls you've thought about visiting and mountaintops you've eyed from afar and dreamed of hiking.
Whorton provided several local options with elevations of 886 feet to 1,398 feet:
- 1,270-foot King of the Mountain: From the corner of 38th St. and St. Elmo Ave. to the top of the steps at Point Park overlook
- 1,056-foot High Voltage: From the Raccoon Mountain boat ramp parking lot to Split Rock trail
- 1,398-foot John Smart: Skyuka Spring to Scenic Highway
- 1,329-foot Kiddie: Reflection Riding dirt lot to Sunset Rock parking lot
- 909-foot Ritchie Hollow: Pot House to Pot Point trail
- 886-foot Sitton's Gulch: Parking lot at the bottom of the trail to West Rim Loop trail, Cloudland Canyon
- Check out the Cumberland Trail for many options
Some suggestions for your Everesting experience:
- STRAVA seems to be the most popular app to record your efforts, but there are many other options.
- Request to join the Wild Trails Everest Challenge STRAVA club to get encouragement from other climbers.
- Join the Wild Trails Everest Challenge Facebook page to post photos and help encourage others.
- Most injuries happen on the way down. This is not a test of speed! Take it easy going down.
- You can make up a lot of ground by doing laps on a weekend day. Take a friend with you or go with a group.