#EnduroEverest at Highland Mountain
On Tuesday, September 17th, Highland Trail Builder and Coach Justin Lagassey mounted his bike with one goal in mind. He’d been plotting and preparing for weeks, and the day was finally here. Over the next twenty-four hours, on the strength of maple syrup and grit, he planned to ride the vertical equivalent of climbing Mount Everest from sea level to summit.
Back in January, Justin had read a story on Pinkbike from Henry Quinney about ‘Everesting’ Skyline Bike Park in Queenstown, New Zealand. (Read that story here.) The idea took hold. How fun would it be to take on that same challenge at Highland, with a few Justin-style twists? So fun!
Is he crazy? you might be wondering. Sure. We all are. Next question.
- Climb 29,029 vertical feet in a single ride
- No changing
- No sleeping
- No shuttles
- No whining
- No cheating
The original challenge at Skyline relied on a repeated loop, utilizing what seemed like a pretty gnarly access road for the climb followed by a single track for the descent. While that sounded fun enough, Justin was hoping for a little more variety. The previous Wednesduro, he had set out to hit every trail on Highland’s map, resulting in a casual post-work adventure that totaled sixteen laps, 9,900 feet of elevation gain, and about forty miles of travel. By coordinating his #enduroeverest with Wednesduro, he was able to secure uphill access on Freedom Trail, downhill access on everything else, and plenty of friends to get rowdy with on the descents. This allowed for a new layer in his challenge: making it another trail perfect ride.
The hardest part, he says, was convincing himself that it was doable. But the moment someone told him he couldn’t, it simply had to be done. The planning took off in earnest. Justin teamed up with Team Granite member and Highland local Tucker Nugent for company and expertise. Together they estimated that it would take forty-eight laps up Freedom Trail to approximate a 29,029-foot climb. If they started at five o’clock on Tuesday night and rode for twenty-four hours, they should be able to make their final descent in the midst of Wednesduro, hopefully with a crowd of other riders game to take those last few laps alongside them.
Justin’s Bike Setup:
- Frame: Pivot Firebird 29
- Suspension: 170mm front travel, 162mm rear travel
- Front tire: Maxxis Assegai DoubleDown 29″x2.5″
- Rear tire: Specialized Butcher BLCK DMND 29”x2.6”
- Grips: RevGrips
- Fork: Fox 36 GRIP2 170mm, 85 PSI, no tokens from open, 8 HSC, 2 LSC, 6 HSR, 6 LSR
- Shock: Fox Float X2, 215 PSI, all the tokens, set all the clickers to 11 (except LSR, which is set to 7 for luck)
- Brakes: Shimano XT M8020 brakes with Jagwire Organic pads up front; XT M8000 with Shimano J04C metal pads in the back
- Drivetrain: Stock (Shimano XT/XTR) with 32-tooth chainring and 11-46 cassette
- Pedals: Crankbrothers Mallet E
NiteRider 1100 lights fixed to his helmet and bars stayed bright through the night, a Garmin 830 GPS computer recorded the whole ride, and O’Neal apparel kept him “pants on.”
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Tucker did the whole thing on a home-built steel bike and a 160 travel 29er, single-speed hardtail. (So however good you think you are…go ahead and dwell on that.)
Brushing aside the obvious physical exhaustion, how do you keep your mind entertained while riding your bike up Mount Everest? If you’re Justin, you listen to The Epic of Gilgamesh, widely credited as the earliest surviving piece of literature. Because as he says, “if you’re gonna have a long time to listen to audiobooks, might as well start at the beginning.” It might even be brutal enough to keep your mind off the climb. When your literary energy runs out, he recommends lots of Ellie Goulding.
Really though, his strongest recommendation is to ride with someone like Tucker, who he credits as being an all-around good person and an excellent conversation partner, especially in the genre of Highland stories. One of the best things about Highland is how much history is here, having served as a sort of mountain biking mecca for more than a decade. Faced with nearly fifty opportunities to descend, Justin and Tucker had plenty of room to unearth retired trails like Old Maiden, and ride tracks they wouldn’t normally ride.
Justin holds tight to the conviction that the most important reason to ride your bike is to have fun—and as anyone who knows him can attest, he exemplifies that belief whenever he’s on the mountain. Once he’d set the goal of making #enduroeverest another trail perfect challenge, Justin decided to take it even further. (At this point, why not, right?) If he was going to be on his bike for twenty-four hours, covering 29,029 feet of distance, and hitting every trail at Highland, he might as well also hit every feature. After working and riding here almost daily since the beginning of June he’d already managed to hit nearly everything at least once, progressing his way through the smaller jumps and drops in the woods and eventually making full runs down the slopestyle course. Still, one feature would have to be hit for the first time during the #enduroeverest to be feature perfect: the infamous Robert’s View. “That was the closest it came to not happening,” Justin says, admitting to making a poor judgment call. “There’s GoPro footage of that, but…you don’t want to see it.”
Between the two of them, Justin and Tucker consumed:
- At least 20oz of maple syrup
- 2 bags of chocolate
- 6 boxes of CLIF Z Bars
- Plenty of Sunbelt bars (because they’re cheap)
- 12 cans of Red Bull
- A lot of water
Throughout the twenty-four-hour challenge, various people stopped by the base to check in with Justin and Tucker between laps, and cheer them on for the next one. A special shoutout is due to fellow riders Amy Ricci and Shelley Temple, who were ready first thing Wednesday morning with cider donuts and coffee cake muffins. “It was good to make it through dawn and see that.” Justin’s resident van cat, known locally as Miss Pretty and/or Fluffy Goldstein, kept watch from the backyard, where Justin and Tucker had made a temporary home base.
The last lap was the hardest: after the agreed-upon forty-eight, they checked their stats and found out they had come up short. Luckily, Wednesduro was still running, and they were able to jump in with a supportive crowd—including many of Tucker’s friends from Team Granite—to complete the challenge with one final push. When they reached the bottom, Tucker’s Strava showed that he still hadn’t reached the required 29,029 feet. Always a good sport, he immediately took off for a quick lap up and down Ski Hill Drive to earn that lingering distance to the summit.
To celebrate, Justin and Tucker headed into the Highland Pub for pizzas and popped a celebratory bottle of champagne. (This also marked the end of a sober season for Justin, who had ditched alcohol for the month preceding #enduroeverest. Again, someone told him it couldn’t be done, and again, he proved them wrong. “You can see a pattern with the motivation here.”)
- Time Elapsed: 24 hours, 55 minutes
- Distance Traveled: 29,147 feet
- Trailforks Ridelog: here
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Did it! Celebrations to ensue. #enduroeverest #eatpedalshred #allthetrails #everyfeature #nowarmup #champangecooldown #bigbirdcanclimb #jokes #americasbikepark #loamliberationfront #rookiepro #justinitforfun #bikesbikesbikes #onealriders #aftonshoes @busytown_bikes @highland_mtn
Would he do it again? The answer is yes, but more. He’d like to try it again and make the twenty-four hour cutoff, with shorter stops to rest in between laps. A 10,000-meter ride is his next big goal, but there’s also an argument to be made for pedaling the equivalent depth of the Mariana trench: about 36,069 feet. For Justin, all of these challenges are about following his life philosophy: “Be passionate about what you want to do, and persevere.”
And now Justin, you must rest.