On Saturday, May 15, 10-year-old Jett Stokes of Sydney, Australia became the youngest known cyclist to accomplish an Everesting Basecamp: 4,424 meters of climbing in one ride. Jett rode 66 repeats of the Taronga Zoo hill and he was able to finish the 162km ride in 10 hours and 38 minutes. His father, Russell Stokes, says that from the start he knew his son could do it, but he was impressed with his determination.
Planning the big day
Jett comes from a family of cyclists, “I’ve been riding a bike since I can remember,” he says. “When I was 2 I got a balance bike, then a mountain bike at age 4 and then I got my first road bike at 8. Now I also have a track bike, BMX and even a unicycle.”
The Everesting inspiration came naturally to him.” I’d seen my dad do an Everest and about a year ago,” says Jett. “I even joined in to help one of dad’s friends complete an Everest. That got me wondering, who is the youngest ever to do a full Everest?” The current Everesting age record is held by a 12-year-old. “I had a feeling I could break that record,” says Jett.
To get a sense of the Everesting experience, Jett and his parents first attempted a quarter Everest. “I found it pretty easy,” says Jett. For his Basecamp attempt, they chose Taronga Zoo, a well-known 1.2km local segment that runs from a ferry terminal up to the Taronga Zoo main entrance. The segment has a smooth turnaround at the bottom and a good average gradient: 6.2 per cent.
Jett’s parents joined him on his ride. His mother, Emma, rode 2,500m of elevation and his dad completed the full half-Everest—adding a second Basecamp to his Everesting.cc profile.
Having done a full and half Everest before, Russell was able to give Jett some tips before they set out. “I knew it would be a mental challenge,” he says, “so I just warned him where I thought the really challenging parts would occur so he was ready for it.” He wasn’t too apprehensive about Jett’s fitness being put to the test. “I knew from having done a quarter Everest with him on the same course that he would physically be able to do it ok—and he wanted to do it. There was a bend in each descent that I was a little nervous about him having to navigate 66 times at speed, but he’s pretty good at risk assessment and he just did it at his own speed without any problems.”
Of course, the ride was still hard. Jett says it was “100 per cent harder” than he expected. “In total, we did 66 hills so to break it up we did sets of one,” he says. His dad helped him occupy the time: “I kept trying to talk about other things to just make the time go by,” says Russell. “After each rep in each set I’d call out the number, otherwise, it was easy to forget, and we’d make a little saying like ‘number 6 watch out for sticks.’ That sort of thing kept us occupied to forget about the monotony.”
“He was finding it pretty tough when he was at halfway,” says Russell. “I mean, it was already his longest ride ever at that point, but he said to us ‘after another 11, I’m going to have that pizza from last night and then, after the next 11, I’m going to have that tuna and rice.’ It kinda blew me away that he came up with his own little plan and mapped out how he was going to get through it.”
The second to last set was the hardest point, according to Jett, but he says he’s pretty sure the pain was mostly mental. After getting through that penultimate effort, Jett caught his dad off guard by spriting the last 200m to the top of the final climb. “I only just managed to catch him at the top,” says Russell. “I think he did this because about 20 reps earlier he said to me ‘I wonder if I’d be able to sprint after all this climbing.'”
Jett got some well-deserved treats after the ride: “we stopped at a 7/11 and got lollies, Krispy Kreme, a chocolate croissant and an ice cream,” he says. Just an hour after he got home, the 10-year-old cyclist had a birthday party to attend, where, he says he ate a similar amount of food.
Jett isn’t sure if he’d do another ride like this, but isn’t opposed to the idea when he’s a little bit older. As for now, he’s just glad he was able to accomplish his goal. “I feel extremely happy and proud of myself,” he says. “I’ve always wanted a world record of some sorts and now I’ve got that.”