The First Fat Bike Everest
Let’s start from the beginning. For a while now I was thinking of a unique fat bike challenge to do. I spend so much time on that bike due to the area I call home. I know a lot of people laugh at the idea of fat bikes but it’s honestly been one of my best bikes to own. I think its such a simple piece of equipment similar to a regular hardtail that my expectations are always low so I’m never disappointed on it.
The idea came to me during a local fat bike back country event called the dumb and tough 100. It was a pretty long day on the bike so I had plenty of time to drum up ideas. As soon as I thought of the fat bike Everest it stuck. I’m no stranger to the Everest game. I previously on a whim went for three self-supported Everests in one week that turned into four because I was having a good time. Not to discredit anyone who has done a regular Everest but it seemed like everyone and their mom was doing Everests since the pandemic started. I wanted to do something unique. Yeah, single track and gravel Everests are cool but it’s been done and also got really played out. No one has ever done a fat bike Everest until now. I also wanted to do it on the snow because I felt it was the proper use of the bike and would make it that much more unique.
Logistics were going to be my biggest challenge. Staying true to my previous Everests and my own unwritten rule I wanted to do it on an actual mountain. Yeah, riding up and down a local hill 100 plus times is effective and efficient but its not quite as cool of a story. As time went on and I did some recon I found out that was going to be difficult to pull off. Yeah, I have a few mountains around me but a lot of them are unrideable or have bad access in the winter. Mt Washington was a contender but I shot them several emails and got no response. I had a few others in mind but property restrictions put the brakes on that.
Then I found the perfect gem of a hill and it fit the mountain criteria. It was actually a well-known hill to many locals in Vermont called radar road. I discovered it by doing one of my friends local mixed terrain rides in northern Vermont. The long version of the ride took me up the road that sat on East Mountain. At the top of the mountain there was an abandoned cold war radar base that was decommissioned in the 60s. being that vintage it had a cool dystopian vibe to it. There were several large rusted structures and buildings scattered on the peak. The property actually was actually owned by a large development company out of California. I sent them some emails but like Mt Washington didn’t get a response. I felt as if I tried so I was going to go for it anyway and deal with consequences after the fact if they had a problem with it. As I looked into the location more, tons of eerie stories popped up including UFO sightings back when the base was in operation. It just made it more appealing to me with all history behind this location.
Gears started turning in my head as time went on. Being winter it wasn’t going to be accessible with my van or pretty much any standard truck. This meant no parking a vehicle at the bottom and using it as base camp. I had to get creative and think outside the box but it added to the adventure. I decided to use my Rokon trail groomer and tow a sled out with all my gear. That’s how I would set up a base camp. My mother’s boyfriend offered me a utility tent that I gladly accepted, it was 8x8 so it had enough room to set up a table and cot with no need to sleep in a chair or crawl into a standard tent. It was very similar to modern ice fishing tents. With that same Rokon I planned on grooming the trail as well. Since it was very remote there were no actual snowmobile trails that went to the property. There was not going to be a lot of pre packed trails. The only tracks out there were hunters and the occasional snowshoer. Long story short if you want something done you got to do it yourself and that’s what I did. I wasn’t going to let an ungroomed trail stop me from achieving my goal.
Me, myself, and I again. As the year went on, I traveled across the country racing and asked other riders if they would be interested. I asked the likes of Jerimiah Bishop. Dylan Johnson, Ian Boswell, Ted King, Alexey Vermeulen, and many others. Believe it or not I got a ton of hard no’s! the only person who gave me a maybe was Adam Roberge but I could tell it was a polite way of saying no. I could see how people would be turned off. Obviously, it was going to be a challenging ride to begin with but I think the hardest thing was not knowing a definitive date. Snow conditions had to be manageable and the weather somewhat cooperate. If you have spent time in New England every week is a roll of the dice. There have been weeks where there is two feet of fresh powder, then by the end of the week its 60 degrees and sunny. A week later 30s and raining creating a frozen mud land. I couldn’t just say yup January 22 I’m doing it. It was more of a yeah, this weekend looks good let’s send it. That also meant I really couldn’t train for it. It just had to naturally happen.
Math isn’t my strong suit but I’m good at good old fashion practical bro science. I knew the steeper the hill the better. Unlike other bikes fat bikes don’t carry momentum well due to the large surface area of the tires. This meant there was no holding momentum up shallower pitches so if there was going to be tire drag It needed to be in the direction I wanted to go and that was up. One perk to the added drag was lots of traction so grip wasn’t as big of a concern. Looking at the route my best bet was to start two miles from the top. There the road is blocked off by a large pipeline. The first chunk of this road starts near the Victory town hall and gradually over the course of 5 miles gets to this pipeline. That 5 miles is a very slight incline and wouldn’t be worth spending tons of time on for very little elevation gain. The pipeline is put there to hinder people from going to the radar base. It’s understandable how it could be a huge liability having very old metal structures. Being as respectful as possible to the land owners I wanted to avoid doing anything with the structures like camping or keeping gear in there. I just wanted them as a cool backdrop. I Also wanted to be a decent human and respect the old unwritten rule of leave no trace. Carry in carry out. When I was done riding up and down this hill, I wanted no trace to be left behind except tracks in the snow that eventually would be snowed or washed away in a true New England fashion.
I took Friday off of work with all my gear loaded in my van and finished the three-hour ride right as the sun was coming up. On my drive up I watched the temperature go from -5 at my house to -20 when I was finally at my destination. On the way out to the base camp I had to stop and get off my Rokon several times because the cold air was torturing my knees and toes. Once I made it out base camp didn’t take to long to set up. I had everything packed in the sled in such a way that I could just pull it out quick and it was ready to go. I probably did my first run with the Rokon towing an old quad tire at 10am. I kept doing laps polishing the trail until it was in pristine condition. I stopped grooming around 3pm and then got all my food and gear ready for the next morning and went to bed as soon as the sun went down. Over the course of the night the temp dropped to -25. Anyone who knows how winter camping is knows how much it stinks to crawl out of a warm sleeping bag to change into your clothes and face the day. Also dealing with the condensation from my breath icing up inside my bivvy wasn’t the best thing either.
4:15 Saturday morning my alarm went off. I actually had a good night sleep going to bed when the natural sun went down. By the time I cooked some oatmeal for breakfast and was ready to hit the trail it was slightly after 5:30. I did my first few laps in the dark with a headlamp and watched the sun come up. You could tell it was going to be a frigid day because there were no clouds in the sky and the woods were silent. The Everest was going to take 30 laps. 30 would actually put me over the real Everest height but I wanted to be certain I hit it and who’s only going to do half of a last lap?
I enjoyed a frozen twinkie at 7am. I kept all my food in a large cooler to try and help it from freezing. That slightly worked but sticking snacks in my pockets pre heated them and I would eat the semi thawed snacks at the summit. I had some insulated metal jugs to keep Flow formulas drink mix and regular water in. Those had their own cooler. Drinks in one, food in the other. Eventually those froze and I ran out of water. To make water I boiled snow and poured it into the jugs. It was time consuming and left my drinks with sticks and pine needle flavored trail spice floaties. A really awesome friend of mine Chris came out to see how I was doing. He wanted to do a lap with me and actually boiled some water for me so I was super grateful he showed up to check on me. It was so cold my standard jet boil stove didn’t work so I preheated the snow to water with a standard propane Colman stove. Then finished the job with my MSR white fuel stove. The process was time consuming but worked pretty well.
As the sun went down, I was starting to get tired and felt every lap slowly getting harder than the last. I thought it was due to me starting to get cold and fatigued. Turns out my valve stem was leaking at the rim so as the day went on my tire slowly lost air. I didn’t notice until probably 10 or so laps to go. So, I pumped up the tire and it was a night and day difference. It was almost comical how I just made the difficult ride more difficult by not paying attention to my tire pressure thought the day. If anything, I thought it would go up as the temps rose. The more laps I did the trail conditions actually became better and better from my own traffic. In the dark I could almost descend faster because my light cast shadows on the ideal lines vs during the day the white of the snow all blended together. During the night I kept dreaming while I was awake. It was hard to describe but if I had a thought, it would formulate in front of my eye’s kind of like a half sleep hallucination. Moose kept crossing my trail. I never saw one but the fresh prints would change every now and then so I knew they were probably looking at me from the woods like what is this kid doing. I did find a moose antler that was buried in the snow. On my last few laps, I put it in my coat and brought it to my little base camp. I kept thinking "ok don’t fall and impale yourself on this you are so close to finishing."
Then the sun came up again… not many people can say they watched the sun come up twice in the same ride. I called it double dawn patrol. With the sun my motivation also rose. I didn’t know if it was because my body was used to waking up at this time or what the deal was but I just ran with the good feeling. I also knew I had one more lap to go. Honestly the last few laps were not the hardest. They were very peaceful and in an odd way relaxing. Somewhere around 8 am Sunday morning I finished what was the first ever at bike Everest.
Once I got back down to base camp I was all jacked up. I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I cooked myself some dehydrated eggs and ate some Cheez-Its. Breakfast of champions. I was going to have a Pedialyte to help me recover but that froze solid. After I ate, I decided to pick up my gear and move on with the responsibilities of being self-supported. I broke down all my gear and packed it up. Like most trips it didn’t pack up as neat and organized as it came out. Chris came back out to see if I was still alive. It was awesome seeing someone and he was a perfect dude to chat with as I slowly packed up. Another New Hampshire rider showed up and we had a quick hangout before he went for a lap. With everything packed up I took the Rokon back to my van the same way I came back. Sunday it was closer to 20 degrees so I didn’t have to stop and warm myself up a bunch of times. After I loaded up my van, I sat there waiting for it to warm up and just thought about how epic and awesome of an adventure that was. Given all the circumstances I overcame to achieve something that had never been done before was a great wholesome feeling. Being disconnected from the real world can be so peaceful and really reset yourself over the course of a long weekend. But like all good things it had to come to an end and a three-hour car ride back home so I could make it to work the next day was something I didn’t want to do but had to do. I may have stopped in one of my favorite general stores and got some road waffles though. When I got home, I realized I had been up for an accumulative 48 hours. With that amount of sleep deprivation, I hit my bed and slept the best I think I ever have in my life. Then my alarm went off. Back to reality until the next adventure.
Big shout out to my title sponsor Flow Formulas TransPerfect. They always have my back even though I don’t always do traditional cycling things. They never once doubted what I was doing or have done in the past. The drink mix is my go too diesel fuel for these long rides.
Couldn’t thank Tomten Biketown enough either. They are the ones who originally convinced me to get the Trek Farley I am currently rocking. They always keep it in working order no matter how much I beat on it. All their crew and staff are great people and love watching crazy things like this unfold. Without any of them a lot of my rides wouldn’t be possible
Check out some of the multi surface rides Chris is putting together next year like The Hibernator or The Black Fly bike or run. Who knows maybe you will find a great area you had no clue about like I did. He also supports and includes tons of small local businesses with his events!
Other sponsors worth mentioning were the Black Bibs. Their thermal riding bibs kept me comfortable down below for the whole 28-hour duration. Hand Up gloves for keeping those fingers toasty! Honey stinger for tasty waffle snacks and packs of honey keeping that energy level buzzing! Koo glasses for keeping the snow glare from blinding me and the -20 degree wind off my face! Starlight Apparel for the wind vest and vapor barrier I used to keep the heat in my core. Ridge Supply socks for comfy warm toes during the ride! ESI grips for the extra chunky grips keeping my hands comfortable with no numbness.