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Tech Podcast: Can you trust your GPS elevation data?

Your elevation data could make or break your Everesting attempt. How do you know if your GPS elevation data is accurate?

Editorial director Ben Delaney and senior editor Betsy Welch needed a challenge — much like the rest of us craving races that have been halted during these strange times. Everesting? That seems a bit too intense for mere mortals, so Ben and Betsy settled on 14ering instead, attempting to conquer 14,000 feet of elevation in a single ride.

They did so on Colorado’s Mt. Evans, which is a Fourteener itself — which means its peak reaches over 14,000 feet of elevation above sea level. You can see the video of their experience here.

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Ben used three different GPS head units during the attempt, so it’s pretty clear Ben and Betsy did indeed tally over 14,000 feet of elevation. Lachlan Morton wasn’t so lucky on his first attempt at Everesting, which resulted in his “record” being disallowed. (Fortunately he made a second attempt and shattered the record once again.)

Elevation data
Note how Garmin/Stages are within four feet (!) of total elevation gain in the top line, but disagree more on actual elevation. The Stages/Wahoo are within a single foot (!) of actual elevation, but Wahoo is giving me an extra ~400 feet of gain. Photo: Ben Delaney

Morton’s experience brings up an important question: When it comes to elevation data, can you trust your GPS readout? Ben’s side-by-side-by-side comparison during his climbs up Mt. Evans has given him some lessons on how accurate GPS computers can be, and how you as a consumer can know whether your computer’s readout is true and accurate.

Mt. Evans
Ben rode a Trek Checkpoint up Mt. Evans (twice, and then some!) on his first Fourteener attempt. Photo: Ben Delaney

Ben also talks with tech editor Dan Cavallari about his other gear choices for the ride, which included a gravel bike with road tires, some cold weather gear including arm warmers and a waterproof jacket, and a big ol’ bag of cookies.

And if you’re thinking of attempting your own 14er (or if you’re super-crazy and want to do an Everesting attempt), Ben has a few suggestions to make the day more bearable, with fewer hiccups. Hint: bring tubes, friends, and a sag wagon if you can. Your quest for elevation supremacy will go more smoothly if you can stay sane and well-fed.

If you have questions about this episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast, or if you have suggestions for topics you’d like us to cover on a future episode, you can contact tech editor Dan Cavallari via email, or on Twitter and Instagram.