Ryan Atkins on the difficulties and the rewards of climbing the world’s highest peaks, virtually
In February, Ryan Atkins took on his Seven Summits challenge. For seven days, he climbed, virtually that is, the highest peaks on each of the world’s continents. The place where he actually gained all that elevation was in and around his home in Sutton, Que., a little more than 100 km east of Montreal. The way he climbed was on a fat bike one day, on a virtual riding platform another and on a gravel bike as well. He also ran and skied his way to the high elevations he needed to reach.
You might remember hearing Atkins on this podcast more than a year ago. He and two other riders took on the Wapusk Trail, the world’s longest winter road that runs from Northern Ontario to Manitoba. He’s also been part of bike-based expeditions along James Bay and in Northern Quebec.
About 10 years ago, Atkins raced mountain bikes in Canada Cups and a few World Cups, such as Bromont and Mont-Sainte-Anne. He was a world unicycle trials champion, in 2006 and 2008. More recently, he’s been focused on obstacle course racing. He’s been the World's Toughest Mudder six times, the Spartan Ultra world champion twice and the OCR world champion. He likes to push and challenge himself.
Atkins’s Seven Summits challenge is, well, bonkers, especially the day he gained 6,961 m on a treadmill. That’s the height of Argentina’s Aconcagua. What attracted Atkins to this challenge with its jaw-dropping difficulty, both physically and mentally? The athlete seems to have a superhuman enthusiasm for daunting, repetitive tasks. Still, he found very cool moments throughout the challenge. They were more than just silver linings, but insights he would have never gotten otherwise. He also ate a lot of cookies and gummy bears.
If you think you might want to try climbing Seven Summits yourself, you’ll hear some tips that will help you with your own bonkers challenge.