Climbers from various universities and climbing clubs took part in TuksExploratio’s annual Everest Challenge on 9 and 10 September. The event pitted teams of at least 12 climbers against one another, with the goal being to see which group could climb the equivalent height of Mount Everest (8803 metres) within a 24-hour period.
Going into the event, it was the TuksExploratio team who were looking to defend their title having won the 2016 challenge in a record 12 hours and 14 minutes. However, this year, they faced a tough challenge from the likes of Never Again, a team comprised of Wits alumni, Boulder Cave (a local bouldering club), as well as the team from NWU-Pukke.
Upon arrival, participants were notified that university security would unfortunately not allow the event to continue for the full 24-hours, and they instead would have to make do with just 12 hours of climbing time. This meant that any team hoping to reach Everest’s “summit” would need to do it in record time.
In spite of the added pressure of a halved time limit, the mood at the start of the challenge was positive as climbers readied their various team and individual gear required for such a testing challenge. Proceedings kicked of just after noon on the Saturday, with teams getting off to a frantic start with the reduced time cap in mind.
With the event taking place at UP’s iconic climbing wall (the highest in the country), teams were each given a section on which their climbers were required to make their ascent. Some sections of the wall were more challenging than others and therefore required teams to alternate between routes every hour to even out the contest.
The changed time cap had an effect on various aspects of the event, with the organisers being forced to start almost two hours earlier than scheduled, meaning more time would be spent climbing in direct sunlight. This made the climbers’ task more difficult, as the afternoon’s temperatures ranged from 30 degrees upwards.
Despite the unfavourable conditions, the majority of the teams managed to make significant progress, and by the 7-hour mark all five teams had covered at least 3000 metres. TuksExploratio was in the lead at that point having covered over 5000 metres, with team Never Again close behind having climbed over 4800 metres. As the clock ticked down to the midnight deadline, most teams fell behind the blistering pace set during the afternoon.
In the end, it was Never Again who managed to overcome the bout of fatigue that had beset the rest of the field as they maintained the consistency they had shown throughout the day to take the lead going into the climb’s final hours. Their consistency paid off as they reached the summit in a record 11 hours and 8 minutes to take the 2017 title of Everest Challenge champions amid cheers from the other competing teams and spectators.
As Never Again celebrated their victory, those left in the competition pushed desperately to finish before the deadline. Ultimately, only ousted champions Exploratio finished in time with Never Again, reaching the summit with less than one minute left on the clock. Exploratio Chairman Patrick O’Neill praised the climbers efforts as well as the success of the event overall. “We started off thinking no one would finish on time, now two teams have finished, and both in record breaking times. I am really happy with the event and hoping for even more record breaking times next year”. Exploratio Marketing Head, Graeme Ford, added that he hoped to continue to grow the event in 2018. “Hopefully we will be able to run more teams next year and spread the love of climbing” said Ford, prior to the end of the event.