“I think my mental toughness will hide what my legs don’t have”: Three women reach new heights in the Climb for Nepal challenge

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Finding a way to ascend 8,848 metres in a month is no easy feat for most, but thousands of women around the globe are taking on the Strava Climb for Nepal challenge. A collaboration between Everesting.cc, Strava and More Than Sport the challenge motivates people to head for the hills while raising funds for the earthquake-ravaged Nepal.

We talked to three women about their different approaches to ascending the height of Mt Everest this month. Whether they are using all of June or just one day to try and complete the challenge, one thing they have in common is that are drawing on their supportive cycling communities to help spur them on to new heights.

Tracy Walker, Melbourne, Australia


Tracy Walker, taken by Chris Walker -0

Tracy Walker, a 32-year-old currently in the process of starting up her own women’s cycling business, started out on the bike five years ago when she got roped into being part of a 24 hour mountain bike race team. “I was on the worst bike in the world and it poured for 24 hours straight and I was so unfit, but I had so much fun,” Walker recalled. Since then she has continued racing mountain bikes, ridden 11,500km across Africa and started racing on the road as well.

Why Climb for Nepal?

Walker is no stranger to pushing her limits. Before she took the trip to Africa in 2013, the longest ride she had done was around 80 kilometres. “Africa was a ridiculous goal that I had even before I owned a bike. Since then I have been itching for a new challenge,” she said.

The concept of Everesting, ascending the height of Mt Everest in one continuous effort by repeating the same climb, was just the challenge Walker had been looking for. The 20 women who completed an Everesting on Mt Donna Buang in Victoria earlier this year helped inspire her and she was bound to take it on sooner or later.

“The Climb for Nepal was the call to action that made me do it now,” said Walker. “I probably would have waited a while, but I thought if I raise some money and even only do half of it I have lost nothing and I have made a difference in somebody else’s life.”

How do you keep going and ride 8,848 metres in one session?

Three-time Everester Sarah Hammond has organised a female group Everesting for Saturday, July 20, on the, at times very steep, ascent of Bonds Road in the quiet Melbourne suburb of Lower Plenty. Riders will have to take on the climb more than 50 times. The group aspect is part of what Walker hopes will help get her through this distance, and at the same time add to the satisfaction.


“It is so nice to share those experiences with other people; to share the pain and share the accomplishment. I think there is just something really awesome about supporting each other through that experience,” said Walker.

She has taken on endurance running challenges before. This has given her confidence that she can push through on no sleep and surge through the inevitable discomfort that will come with being on the bike for around 20 hours, or more.

“My goal is to ride for 24 hours …then when I get to 24 hours I will reassess and see how far I am off my mark, if I haven’t already reached it by then,” said Walker.

There hasn’t been much time to prepare, as the Climb for Nepal challenge was only announced in late May.

“The one thing I feel that I have as an advantage is that mentally I think I can do it. I think my mental toughness will hide what my legs don’t have,” said Walker. “Sometimes when you push yourself hard you find something within yourself that you didn’t know that you had.”

Support Tracy in her fundraising efforts here.

Lucy Sturgess, Leicester, United Kingdom

Lucy Sturgess, photo by Katie Sturgess

A 28-year-old fashion merchandiser, Lucy Sturgess started cycling just over a year ago when a friend convinced her to join a charity ride. Sturgess quickly embraced bike riding, invested in a new bike, joined groups and rapidly built the kilometres up to around 150 a week.

“It has taken over my life, but I just really enjoy it,” said Sturgess, who also started writing about cycling on her Love Velo Lucy blog.

Why the Climb for Nepal month-long challenge?

“I tend to enter a lot of the Strava challenges. I think it is a good way to give you a bit more of a push to get out there and ride more,” said Sturgess. “I can see where everybody else is that I am following and how they are going with the challenge as well.”

The charity aspect also appealed and she donated to the cause through More Than Sport.

How will you achieve the ascent when there are no big climbs around?

“Where I am based, we have got a lot of rolling hills … we don’t really have any hills around here that are over 300 feet (91 metres), so I am just doing lots and lots of little climbs.”

“I usually do quite a lot of climbing but what I am finding hard at the moment is that I have entered into some time trials with my cycling club. I have been trying to keep myself fresh for that, while doing this as well. Climbing hills and doing time trials is not really the best combination,” said Sturgess, who is part of the Leicester Forest cycling club.

Still she has managed to steadily accumulate thousands of metres of climbing with her regular efforts.

“When I entered I was not really sure if I was going to be able to achieve this one,” said Sturgess, but at around the halfway mark ‘I am on target.’

Susan Crowe, Cairns, Australia

Susan Crowe (center) is doing both, the Climb for Nepal cycle and run challenge.
Susan Crowe (center) is doing both, the Climb for Nepal cycle and run challenge.

Susan Crowe is a 44-year-old caravan park and café proprietor based in Cairns. She is planning to not only accumulate 8,848 metres of climbing on the bike, but will also attempt to reach the 2,212 metre Climb for Nepal running target in the month of June.

A mother of two teenage daughters, Crowe has won her age category in triathlons, reached the podium at mountain bike races and taken on the Great Pyramid running race, a local icon which includes over 800 metres of ascent.

She is also planning to take part in a group Everesting in Cairns in July, which will add to the fundraising being done by the local cycling community.

Why do the Climb for Nepal cycle and run challenge?

Crowe was first approached about helping to raise money for Climb for Nepal through her café. It attracts lots of riders because it is at the base of the Copperlode climb, which delivers over 400 metres of ascent over 8.4 kilometres. The café is donating money from coffee purchases by riders and giving away prizes of food and coffee for those who amass leading totals in the Cairns riding challenge Strava group. It made sense for Crowe to get out there herself and take part, using the monthly run and ride challenges as training for her July Everesting and the August Great Pyramid race.

“Having a goal is probably not a bad thing, as it gets me out of the office and it is my sanity. The hill is so close to where I live so I always ride up and down it anyway,” said Crowe. “The fundraising side of it is very important for me as well. Rather than just training for my personal gain, it is nice to do something for others as well.”

How do you squeeze in the time?

For Crowe, life is usually hectic, squeezing in early morning training requirements of her two swimming daughters alongside the demands of her businesses.  And on top of the Climb for Nepal challenges, she’s got a half marathon in the middle of June.

“It is the timeframe of it that makes it a challenge,” said Crowe. “It will spur me on to train a bit harder, so it is all beneficial.”

One advantage Crowe has is her base near Copperlode, which is not only the hub for Cairns cyclists taking on the Climb for Nepal but also the venue of the mass Everesting next month.

“The hill is just up the road so any riding I do is up that hill, but I just don’t have time to do laps and laps and laps all together. Plus the actual running training for the pyramid is all uphill and it’s a local icon, so it’s a race that I really like to win,” said Crowe.

“Completing the challenges will be a push, but I will give it a go.”

The Cairns riding community has embraced the Climb for Nepal, with 44 riders signing up to the local Strava Cycle Everest Challenge group, despite it already being an event heavy month in the area. The planned mass Everesting will extend the fundraising into July.

How is your progress on the Climb for Nepal challenge and what are you finding is the best way to accumulate the climbing metres?

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