The Mighty Sherpa

Much has been said about the Hells 500 phenomenon, Everesting.  Close to 900 Everests have now been completed worldwide.  

Little has been said about the true heroes of the piece.  Today we talk about the mighty Sherpa.  

Words - Dave Edwards      Images - Brendan Edwards

These are the riders that show up at all times of the day and night to offer support and to roll laps with someone who is attempting to Everest.  The one’s they call the Sherpas.

Completing an Everest is a true feat of endurance.  Riders are required to choose a hill and ride up and down the hill as many times as it takes to complete the equivalent height of Mount Everest, 8,848 metres.  No Everest is easy, and any help you can get on an Everest can easily make the difference between success and failure.

We talk to Dave Edwards, a 4 time Everester from South Australia who has experienced both sides to an Everest.

It’s a Friday night at 2:30am. I get out of bed, and go and ride with a bloke I barely know, who’s Everesting. We ride up and down the same hill for 5 hours. Then I go to work for the day.  I’m tired and head home to have dinner with my wife and kids.  As soon as they’re in bed, I go out and ride with the same bloke, on the same hill, until he has finished. That doesn’t happen until 1:40am the next day. By that time I’ve been awake for almost 24 hours and beyond exhausted.

When I came back out for the second shift, I did not think that he was going to make it. He spent a fair amount of time sitting in his car. When he did ride, he stopped talking altogether, and wanted us to do the same, so we rode in silence.

People would ask “Why was I hurting myslef?” This time, they had a point. I was not there to achieve anything personally, it was not my Everest to ride. I was bloody tired, and a couple of times I had to sit out a lap, as I was getting dizzy just riding along. I didn’t even know the guy that well, only knew him through a mutual friend. So why was I out there, giving him everything I had in support? Hell, I even took him a thermos full of nine shots of espresso and honey when I first rolled up. What makes someone want to do that?

On my first Everest a mate rode the first half dozen laps in the cold and dark with me, then slept at the top of the hill in his Ute until the sun came up. He went home, then came back to ride the last half dozen laps to the finish. Just to support, just to help a mate. He even brought me some beers to celebrate.  Another guy I’d never met before came out and rode the last 10 laps with me, a total stranger, who now I call a friend.

These two guys showed me what it means to other people when you take on a big challenge. They showed that it’s more than just doing something hard on your own. It’s more than racing against someone else in an event. It’s about really extending yourself, pushing the limits of your own possibilities, and seeing what is truly inside of yourself. If you will do that, people will want to help you. People will want to be a part of that.

These were the people that really taught me what it means. They will do it with a smile. They will do it completely selflessly, they will do it, just because you are doing what you are doing.

So why does everyone do it? Sherpa duty is a great way to encourage others to find the depths of their own soul. To guide someone to find out what they are able to do, when every part of their mind is screaming at them that what they are doing is impossible. It’s not about jumping up and down, and screaming like you might see on an American college football movie. It’s about being the mate that turns up, and sits in with you when all else feels lost. We respect the challenge, and we respect the people that complete the challenge.

I thought of my own experience Sherpering.  Playing a part, no matter how small or large, is a very enriching and rewarding experience, and an experience that I will relive every time I can get out to someone else’s Everesting.

So if you hear of someone doing an everesting near to you, go and ride with them. Say hello, ride at their pace, smile a bit, and congratulate them on the challenge. Oh, and absolutely take them coffee. Donuts too if you are really nice. It is a great thing to do, and both you and the Everester will come away stronger for it.

Riding an Everest can become a way to get a lifelong friend.  Whilst your legs may be fresh, theirs are not, and doing a run to pick up some food or drink, help to change a tyre, or by lending some much needed kit can all go towards reaching 8,848 vertical metres.

If you’ve ever Sherpered for an Everest we’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to share your stories in the Comments box below.

La Velocita.

The Weekly Rider.