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Fiona Cockburn sets new Scottish Everesting record

Written by Fiona

July 17 2020

A 49-year-old cyclist has set a new Scottish Everesting record. Cyclist Fiona Cockburn, of Jordanhill, Glasgow, ascended the same hill near Garelochhead non-stop 63 times in 12 hours and 48 minutes to reach the height of Mt Everest at 8848m. In fact, she reached 8946 metres in total. She cycled 221km on the Cat 4 (average gradient more than 7.8%) hill.

She beat the previous male and female records. In July 2018, Robert Lindsay cycled Cairn o’Mount to Everest height in 14 hours and 38 minutes, while Gemma Gilvear took 18 hours and 52 minutes in June 2014 on the Crow Road.

I wrote an article about Gemma becoming only the second female in the world to enter the Everesting Hall of Fame in 2015.

What is Everesting?

Everesting was invented by Australian Andy van Bergen, who completed his initial challenge on Mount Buller in Victoria in February 2014. A month later, the first UK hill, Edgehill, in Warwickshire, was conquered by cyclist Pierre Guern.

In June 2014, the first Scottish Everesting took place on the Crow Road, Lennoxtown, near Glasgow.

See Everesting.

The donated Giro winner jersey.

A time for: New World Everesting records

Last week, former world time trial champion Emma Pooley set a new Everesting female record, finishing the 8,848m of ascent in a time of eight hours and 53 minutes. She rode the Haggenegg in Switzerland, summiting the 13 per cent average gradient climb 10 times.

In the same week, Alberto Contador set a new Everesting record of 7:27:20. The Spanish ex-pro rider completed the feat on the Navapelegrín climb near Segovia, north of Madrid.

Fiona Cockburn from Jordanhill, Glasgow.

Fiona’s Scottish Everesting record

Fiona, who started cycling around eight years ago, had been looking for motivation in lockdown for training. With races and events cancelled she decided to focus on the Scottish Everesting record.

The mum of three children also had a goal to raise funds for two charities, the Scottish Association for Children with Heart Disorders and the Somerville Foundation. Her son Archie, 17, was born with a congenital heart problem and he recently faced life-saving open heart surgery to replace a valve. She also has a 15-year-old daughter Anna and a 19-year-old son Alex.

You can donate to her charity link: Everesting for Young Hearts.

Baby Archie.
Archie with his sister Anna.

Fiona said: “After Archie was born and he had his first life-saving heart operation, I did some fund-raising for charity. I wanted to do the same again after his latest surgery. The Everesting target seemed like the ideal target both for training and for raising funds for two important charities.”

So far, Fiona, who is Head of Tax for Edrington, has raised more than £5500 and hopes to reach £8848. Edrington double matches funds raised by employees so the charities will hopefully benefit by £20,000. The Glasgow bike shop Billy Bilsland has kindly donated a signed Giro winner’s jersey for auction towards the fundraising.

She chose Coulport Hill because of its “relatively constant gradient” and “good elevation gain”. It is a wide road so Fiona decided it would be quite safe for her challenge. She added: “I am also not the bravest descender and this hill has a nice descent so it suited me.”

Fiona’s partner set up a hilltop station.
Anna, mum Fiona and Archie.

Each ascent of the 1.75km hill with an average gradient of more than 7.8% gave 142m of elevation (the elevation was confirmed in advance by Everesting using OS data). This meant Fiona needed to ride up and down 63 times. Her total distance was 221km.

She said: “I did the whole ride staying in my comfort zone. I didn’t want to be pushing so hard that it felt horrible. I just wanted to have a nice day on the bike and to do it with grace and composure.

“In training, I had cycled it five times on one go and that was fine. I then tried 20 times but it was on a very hot day and it was absolutely hideous. It was like childbirth though because, although it was hard, I forgot about the pain and I wanted to try again.

“When I did it 40 times in training I knew then I could do it.”

Support from Fiona’s parents.
Cheers with Fiona’s partner Brian.

For each training ride in lockdown, Fiona, who is volunteer director of Scottish Cycling, had to cycle the hour and 40 minutes each way from her home to the hill. On the day, she was able to arrive by motorised transport.

She had a great support crew, including her partner Brian Rowan, who set up a hill top camp and supplied food, water and motivation. Friends and her children accompanied her on their bikes and others cheered her on.

Fiona said: “The Everesting was Brian’s idea and his support was beyond wonderful. He did so much prep and made sure I kept eating and drinking. I needed about 7000 calories, I think.

Everesting record breaker.

“In the end, I had such a great day on the bike. Cycling long distances really suits me and I have done quite a few endurance rides so I knew I would be fine. I kept a very even pace.

“I hoped I might beat the Scottish female Everesting record but I didn’t expect to be faster than the male record. It feels amazing to have achieved this. I am delighted by my time.”

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