A SUPERFIT trio battled sleep deprivation to climb the equivalent height of Mt Everest (8,848m) in a 24-hour cycle challenge in Bielefeld.
Organiser Sgt Jon Keen, from the Equipment Care Inspection Team in Rochdale Barracks, was joined by SSgt Noel Yates, SSI of 3 RHA, and Jan-Philipp Pruss, from Bunnyhop bike shop in Hameln, in the gruelling fund-raiser for a Nepal charity.
Rests were allowed but sleep was not and Jon had set a target of 24 hours to complete the challenge, which took place on Bielefeld's Jagdweg, also known as 'Snake Hill'.
Noel is the secretary of BA(G) Mountain Biking and Jon is his 2IC and also the lead instructor and administration SNCO for Bielefeld Station Mountain Bike Club.
Starting at 6pm on June 28, things went well for the trio for the first few hours with the weather holding up nicely.
Their second two-hour stint on the bikes saw the rain begin but it was not heavy and didn't impact on the morale, stopping again just before dusk.
The avid cyclists settled into the night and at around 1am the pace slowed a little and they started feeling the tiredness.
Jon said: "Throughout the night, the desire to sleep was more of an issue than the physical tiredness.
"Snake Hill is not an interesting place to ride more than once or twice, so when you're on your 110th climb and can see nothing but a small cone of tarmac illuminated by the bike lights, it is decidedly boring!"
On more than one occasion both soldiers Jon and Noel had to get off their bikes and walk, not because of physical exhaustion but because they were actually falling asleep while riding.
"Twice I opened my eyes to find I was riding on the grass verge and once I almost fell off as I slumped onto the handlebars," said Jon.
"At 7.30am our trusty admin support returned to the tent with a very welcome hot breakfast and we stopped to eat.
"It was then that I realised I had not managed my food intake correctly and had my first big moment – I was unable to eat, feeling horribly sick, I was also shivering badly, despite being warm and was very white." However, after having a protein shake Jon was able to continue for another six hours or so.
Sleep deprivation finally caught up with Jan-Philipp after breakfast, and he was "like a nodding dog" for an hour.
By lunch time there had been lots of visitors to the hill, a great morale boost to the team.
Jon quickly realised that at his current pace, he would not complete the ride in the 24 hours and told the others to press on after lunch.
"I did not last much longer, riding solo while totally exhausted is a killer and I soon stopped again," said Jon.
The 20 climbs before lunch had taken the trio three hours riding together, but after lunch Noel and Jan-Philipp covered the same distance in half that time, leaving them with only 20 climbs to go.
During the last hour of riding Jon got back on the bike and rode a few more climbs. The last climb was watched by the Station Commander, who came to the bottom of the hill with the Station RSM and WO1 Chris Jordan, the chairman of Bielefeld Station Mountain Bike Club.
"With these VIP spectators, we rode the last climb together, shook hands and promptly went for a very well earned shower, meal and sleep," said Jon.
Jon managed to climb a total of 6,975m, covering 168km with a total riding time of 16 hrs 22 mins; Noel climbed a total of 8,883m, covering 213.1km with a total riding time of 18 hrs 36 mins; and Jan-Philipp climbed a total of 8,970m, covering 222.2km with a total riding time of 18 hrs 52 mins.
Both Noel and Jon are experienced mountain bikers and Level 3 Mountain Bike Instructors. Noel is also an SSI in the PT Corps and Jan-Philipp is a very experienced mountain bike marathon endurance racer.
The three agreed it had been the hardest physical challenge they had ever done, but it had been a great success.
Two of the team are now in the Everesting Hall of Fame, which currently has fewer than 610 people in it, and have raised between £1,100 and £1,200 for Community Action Nepal.
Jon would like to thank his sponsors – Bielefeld Station Sergeants and Warrant Officers' Mess (€150), Erdmann und Domke Ford in Bielefeld (€100), and CJ AutomobilService (€100). Cfn Gaz Ellis, of 2 Field Company REME, volunteered his time to run the admin tent, "without which the event would not have happened".