The British ex-SAS soldier Daniel Hughes’ most widely publicized achievement was the live broadcast he made from the summit of Mt Everest, in an effort to raise £1m for Comic Relief. In 2013, he was the first person to complete a video call from the top of the highest mountain on Earth, in the form of a short interview with the BBC.
As one might expect, Hughes’ career as an explorer and adventurer didn’t end there. After conquering Mt Everest, he set his sights on another great feat: creating a photographic collection of the world’s most incredible cycling climbs.
Named Epic Cols, the entire collection is available online. It features dozens of climbs from all over the world, which Hughes personally completed, recording the views and vistas along the way.
“For years, like many, I’ve watched the Tour de France and seen the epic climbs which the riders have done battle with,” says Hughes. “But it was when I got to ride the Valle Nevado climb in Chile that I realised I had to start the Epic Cols collection. I thought ‘How can such a brutal and beautiful climb not be ranked amongst the world’s greats?’ In a game of climbing Top Trumps it beats every climb in Europe.”
Featuring breath-taking images and breath-taking videos, Epic Cols is the most significant cycling collection ever created. Collaborating with some of the best-known brands in the cycling industry – most notably Shimano – Hughes has been travelling the world not only to cycle its best climbs, but to share their beauty with a global audience.
Valle Nevado, the scenic climb that inspired Hughes to create Epic Cols, involves a 29 km (18 mi) route and is considered a double black diamond trail – which puts it among the most difficult cycling climbs in the world. “It was this climb which made me want to go ride the greats and to scour the world for other climbs like the Valle Nevado,” says Hughes. “I want to be their spokesperson, to capture them, and to share them.”
The website for Epic Cols features each of the climbs conquered and captured by Hughes, complete with impressive photographs, factual information, and Hughes’s comments. The manner in which the page for each of the climbs is presented makes the viewer feel as if they really are accompanying Hughes on the journey. The images are arranged in a chronological order, from setting out to arriving, and Hughes’ comments make it easy to imagine what being there might actually feel like.
Hughes also includes maps and helpful directions with each climb, so that other cyclists can easily follow in his footsteps and navigate the same trails.
Thanks to Hughes’ incredible photography skills, however, the Epic Cols gallery has equal appeal even to non-cyclists. It’s well worth browsing the collection just to marvel at the sights.