As a sports aficionado (triathlon, mountain biking, etc.) I have always been fascinated with the Guinness Book of World Records. When I was a kid, my mum and dad would always buy me the newest edition of this printed compilation of utterly pointless, but quite exhilarating, achievements.
Reading through the book, I would always think up of possible records to set myself, like "stroking the greatest number of chickens to sleep in one day."
Unfortunately, I never got round to realizing these, for reasons of sanity.
Mental disorder finally made its way into my life in July, 1998 after I had cycled from Lhasa to half between Everest Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp from the Tibetan side. The sight of this great mountain, together with my surprising lack of fatigue, made me decide to try to break the
*world record cycling at high altitude.
A quick check on the Internet told me that the existing world record was 6,960 meters and that it was set on Mt. Aconcagua (Argentina) in 1991. A close friend then told me that the ideal mountain on which to break this record would be Mustagh Ata (Xinjiang Province, China): with its altitude of 7,546 meters and fairly gradual slope, it is considered to be the easiest peak above 7,000 meters in the world.
In October of 1999, I decided to try my luck on the Internet and posted a message looking for climbing partners on the major mountaineering websites in the world, including MountainZone.com.
The response was great: all-in-all, 12 people from all over the planet said they wanted to join. Some of them were dreamers, and others couldn't cough up the cash, so by June of 2000 a small but inspired group of six people was left: Jim, a professor emeritus from the University of Michigan; Stijn and Peter, two students from Holland; Martin, a student and cyclist from Denmark; Luc, a kindergarten teacher and cyclist from Belgium; and myself, trade commissioner and cyclist, also from Belgium.
*Siegfried Verheijke is filing a claimant's report with the © Guinness Book of World Records.