Challenge ‘hardest achievement’

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Kath Kelly mountain-biked more than the equivalent of the height of Mt Everest in nearly 18 hours last week, and it was the hardest thing the Teviot endurance athlete had ever done.

Despite bitterly cold, wet and muddy conditions she biked up and down Ettrick’s Mt Benger track nine times, starting at 11.50pm on January 3 and finished about 6.30pm the following day for her Everesting Challenge.

She completed 181.6km, over a combined elevation of 9235m (Mt Everest is 8848.86m), taking 17 hours, 37 minutes and 44 seconds to do it, with only short meal breaks.

Ms Kelly intended to raise about $2000 for the Teviot Valley Breast Cancer Fund 2020, but the final total was $6055.

The money will go towards helping women in the valley with the disease.

During her descent on the first lap she felt the challenge was a ‘‘really bad idea’’, she said.

‘‘I felt sick coming down the hill because I was nervous I had made the wrong decision with the weather and track conditions.

‘‘The weather up top was heinous, making it a lot harder to ride than during training.

‘‘It was probably one of the hardest achievements I have conquered and more to do with the mental challenge, as opposed to the physical challenge.’’

She said the 2km stretch near the top was brutal because it was a 17% gradient and rough terrain in places.

‘‘It is now called the ‘Kelly Step’ (as in the Hillary step on Mt Everest).’’

Her fastest lap was 1h 47m and the slowest 2h 14m, which was her final lap.

She spent a few minutes at the top of the track on the final lap, helping support crew member Mary Affleck, of Millers Flat, take down a tent and tidy up the site.

Mrs Affleck remained at the top for the 18 hours.

Other support came from her mother Rosemary Kelly, brother Tom Kelly, and cousin Kevin Kilkelly, of Omakau, while friends brought food.

Sponsors each had one of the eight gates on the track decorated in their honour.

Others who cycled one or more laps with her included Tapanui doctor, Dr Fons Captijn, Sarah Davidson, of Roxburgh, Tony Dons, Mike Tan, and Jimmy Affleck (13), of Millers Flat, Tracey Pringle and Michael Wright, of Ettrick, Sarah Macdougall and Jake Coy, of Teviot.

Support crew member Tiaan McKinnel, of Ettrick, completed three, and he called the track ‘‘sticky and energy-sapping.’’

Once Ms Kelly finished she got lots of hugs and opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

She spent the following day resting and was grateful to sponsors, her family, the support crew and the farmers who shifted stock.

Her next challenge, the Te WaiPounamu, is a 1350km, 22,000m elevation mountain biking, hiking and bike packing event, which starts on February 14.

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