A North Vancouver woman can lay claim to a very niche, and seemingly quite painful, bit of Canadian history after setting the national record for “Everesting” on a bike.
Esta Bovill accomplished the impressive feat this summer just down the street from her Edgemont area home, cycling a loop from the Cleveland Dam parking lot to Grouse Mountain Resort’s parking lot and back again an exhausting 72 times in a row over a span of 11 hours and six minutes. By the end of climb No. 72 she had ridden 195 kilometres, which included 8,856 metres of elevation gain, about seven metres more than the height of Mount Everest.
“It was not too awful,” she said with a laugh. “The worst bit was the buses, trying to make sure they didn't kill me. But at least there’s a bike lane going up, so you are a little bit protected.”
The feat has since been confirmed in the Hall of Fame section of the Everesting website as the fastest climb ever for a Canadian female, beating the previous best time by about 21 minutes. The concept of “Everesting” has been around for a while – it is essentially travelling by foot or bike on any route that results in an elevation gain of 8,849 metres, the height of Mount Everest – but it really took off during the COVID-19 pandemic as something for endurance athletes to strive for while unable to enter typical races due to the ongoing health crisis.
Bovill, 45, has competed as an elite cyclist since 2017, racing on local professional cycling teams and representing Canada in international masters events. And, like many high-level athletes, she went looking for a new challenge when the pandemic put racing on hold.
“I'm quite a competitive person,” she said. “I work full time and I’m a full-time mom, and it's just complete, pure escapism just to go up and down Grouse Mountain 72 times. You can't really think about work or anything else – it was just a good challenge, something else to think about, something to focus on.”
There was perfect weather when Bovill set off on the climb, and early in the day she kept her mind occupied by listening to a “very, very boring” podcast. She needed stay sharp all day, however, as the route kept her constantly in traffic heading up and down Capilano Road as she was “dodging buses and cars as safely as possible.”
The toughest part of the climb, aside from dancing through traffic, came about halfway through the 11-hour ordeal, said Bovill.
“You've already been on your bike for like five hours or more and you’ve got to do the whole lot all over again,” she said. “I'd say I had about 10 or 15 really dark laps there.”
The presence of her coach, who rode with her for several laps, as well as her husband cheering her on helped keep her going, as did the thought of her kids, who have been very supportive of her cycling career, she said. But possibly the biggest driving factor for her on the day of her climb was the thought of her ailing father.
“My dad is quite sick, and so I just thought of him quite a lot,” she said. “He’s always thought I was completely mad to do any of these things, so I just decided to do something extra ridiculous, just to entertain him.”
It was a little ridiculous, riding up the same steep stretch of busy road 72 times in a row, but she kept going all day, and by the end of it had scaled Mount Everest, sort of. And she had a new Canadian record in a weird new event. And how did she feel the next day?
“Hungry,” she said with a laugh.