British mountaineer George Mallory famously said he wanted to climb Mount Everest "because it's there."

Three buddies from the Twin Cities area decided to climb a hill at Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington nearly 100 times in a single day because it's what's here.

While lots of people use the ski hill in Bloomington to train for climbing a real mountain, Todd Millenacker, Peter Davich and Casey Black decided to turn the suburban slope into their own Mount Everest.

Their goal was to make a mountain out of a ski hill by hiking it enough times to duplicate the 11,473-foot rise in elevation from base camp to the summit of the world's highest mountain.

They calculated that their "virtual" Mount Everest climb would mean they would have to go up the hill, called Mount Gilboa, 96 times.

"It's one of those stupid things that people don't think you're going to follow through on," said Millenacker, a Savage resident, who came up with the idea.

On Aug. 3, the three men, all age 39, took the day off and showed up at Hyland Hills when the park gates opened at 5 a.m. They started hiking up and down the hill — again and again and again. As often is the case in real Everest summit attempts, weather was a problem. A thunderstorm with hail hit early in the climb, forcing the trio to take shelter.

"Like brilliant thinkers we are, we were standing under a metal ski lift when the lightning was happening," Millenacker said.

To keep track of their laps, the three brought to the top of the hill a bucket filled with 96 pennies. They removed a penny each time they reached the top.

There are no restaurants on Mount Everest, but the Mount Gilboa climbers took a lunch break to get burritos at a nearby grill. At dinnertime, their spouses brought them pizza from Domino's.

"They thought we were pretty ridiculous," Davich said.

About 40 friends and family members came by during the day to cheer them on.

"My dad came out to the hill like seven times to check on us," Millenacker said. "It turned into more of an event than I expected."

As the day wore on, Millenacker, an experienced ultramarathoner, began to pull away from his friends.

Just after 8 p.m., after about 15 hours and nearly 50 miles of hiking, Millenacker finished his 96th trip up the hill.

Davich and Black both finished about 70 laps on that day and came back two days later to finish the climb.

The three men said their next challenge might involve a swimming pool.

"He's already talking about doing a virtual English Channel swim next year," Davich said of Millenacker.

Richard Chin