Hong Kong to Mt. Everest: Ride to the top of the world

Like adventurer Goran Kropp (pictured), these mountain bikers are going to make a run at Mt. Everest  Credit: Anders Rafael Jensen
Real mountain bikers ride Everest.

That's where Ron Hill, Eathan Harrison and Rod Graybeal are heading, via Hong Kong, Bangkok and Katmandu. Their titanium bikes with fat, knobby tires and exaggerated suspension systems are neatly tucked in boxes among the cargo.

When they arrive in Lhasa, Tibet, the three men will take off on a grueling, 600-mile mountain bike trek that will take them over six mountain passes, above 17,000 feet and to Mount Everest's northside base camp.

"They'll either come back so burned out and disgusted, they won't touch their bikes all summer or they'll be in very good shape and races will be more fun," says Mark Beattie, owner of Coeur d'Alene's Vertical Earth and sponsor of the mountain bike team for which the three men race.

Eathan, 29, found the Tibet adventure that's offered through a private travel company. He's raced for six years, bumping his bike over boulders, across creeks and down mountainsides. He and fellow racer Rod, 38, decided last fall to go.

Ron, 63, heard his friends talk about the trip in December. The sudden death of one of his best friends earlier that year had heightened Ron's awareness of the fleeting nature of health. He told his wife, Bobbie, he wanted to bike Tibet while he knew he could.

"It's hard to say no to him," Bobbie says. "He's in good condition now at 63, but it could go down anytime."

Eathan, a semi-pro racer, and Rod, a racing step lower but a champ in his age group, had no worries about Ron's fortitude. Ron wins the state championship for his age group repeatedly.

Still, Ron prepared with zeal. He rode daily for nearly three weeks in Sacramento, Calif., while snow covered the hills near his North Idaho home.

"The course isn't supposed to be scary," Rod said as he added new cables and brakes to his bike before leaving. "I guess high altitude sickness is the biggest threat."

Eathan and Rod stuck to indoor workouts through winter.

"I'm lucky I'm young and healthy," Eathan said the day before he left. "I feel really ill-prepared."

The three athletes will join nine mountain bikers from Great Britain in Lhasa. They'll camp and sleep in monasteries during the rugged 25-day trip. The tour additionally requires they have insurance that covers evacuation by helicopter.

The wives and kids will stay home. Kari Harrison will ride horses. Bobbie Hill will knit. Tammy Graybeal will worry. And Rod's 12-year-old daughter, Justine, will imagine.

"The hardest change ahead isn't the altitude," Rod said, as he packed his gear. "It's going from husband and father to world adventurer."

Discuss This Article