You can feel like you ascended Everest without going there.
Hundreds of determined walkers and mountain climbers traveled to Vermont’s Stratton Mountain several weeks ago to face a grueling challenge: walk up the 3,875-foot mountain 17 times within 36 hours to replicate a climb of 29,029-foot Everest.
The Oct. 20-23 event, called 29029 and presented by a company of the same name, attracted 215 registrants who each paid $5,000 to participate. Hundreds of spectators watched or cheered the participants on, and 140 of them accomplished the 17 ascents.
“29029 gives people a story to tell and provides an opportunity for them to test themselves in a safe environment,” says Marc Hodulich, the company’s CEO and cofounder. “29029 is a new category of challenge that’s equal parts physical, mental and spiritual. Almost anyone can hike one of our mountains once, but it takes a whole lot of commitment, patience and grit to do it over and over again to earn the right to say you’ve ‘Everested.’”
Beginning in 2017 at Stratton, 29029 has now held 14 of these “Everesting” events for more than 3,000 participants at various U.S. mountains. Next year’s events are scheduled for Sun Valley, Idaho, June 8-11; Jackson Hole, Wyoming July 13-16; Snowbasin, Utah, Aug. 17-20; Whistler, British Columbia, Sept. 21-24, and Stratton, Oct. 19-22.
“There is no podium, no age groups, gender groups or race categories,” Hodulich explains. “It’s just you versus you, and your only goal is to ascend the mountain more times than you thought possible. We repeatedly hear from our community that training for and participating in this event unlocks a more resilient mindset that they’re able to bring to all areas of their lives.”
29029 limits each event to 250 registrants. Besides participating in the event, each registrant receives three nights of lodging, all food and beverages, hydration and nutrition items at aid stations, a training guide, event swag, access to an online platform to communicate with other participants and care from massage therapists in a “recovery lounge.”
A medical staff was on hand at Stratton, and some walkers appeared exhausted mid-climb. 29029 officials say they aren’t able to provide information about medical attention at events. Might the events be too physically demanding for many participants?
“Not every climber comes to the event with a plan to reach 29,029 feet,” Hodulich responds. “For some, simply one ascent of the mountain is more than they thought was possible, and we celebrate these participants’ accomplishments as well. 29029 is a low impact, long duration, aerobic endurance hiking event. The challenge is much more mentally demanding than physical.”
The weather can also add to the challenge. At Stratton in 2019, a storm with more than 80 mph winds struck the night before the event. Organizers were concerned about participants’ safety at a glamping tent village and moved everyone to hotels. The event, “continued otherwise undisturbed,” Hodulich says, and more than 140 climbers completed 17 ascents.
“The conditions on the mountains are constantly evolving,” Hodulich says. “We’ve seen rain, snow, sleet, fog and everything else Mother Nature can dream up over the years. The beauty of this event is that unpredictable conditions only help to create an environment for climbers to go beyond their comfort zones.”
Climbers have told 29029 officials hundreds of stories, Hodulich says, about how the events have changed their lives for the better.
“We aspire to be the best endurance event on the planet,” he says, “and will continue to refine the participant experience to deliver just that.”