Emiel Pieterse, an endurance athlete and cyclist from Holland, started taking on an epic challenge called "everesting." Everesting means climbing up and down a mountain until your reach the same elevation mark as Mt. Everest. Through these tough goals, Emiel became good friends with Zico Pierie, a famous Italian cyclist. Scroll down for more about their friendship, achievements, and adventures.
Roughly four years ago, the local bartender at my favorite espresso stop in my favorite cycling holiday destination, the Province of Pesaro e Urbino Italia, suggested that I connect with the local cycling legend Zico Piere. He called, we met, and the following evening Zico took me for a ride. Things went very fast from that point. We connected right away, and since then I consider Zico my best friend!
Zico and his wife Manuela visited us in The Netherlands. This is when I first proposed the idea to him; ‘What do you think about doing an everesting together? As a tribute to our friendship!’ Zico has multiple ultra endurance races on his resume, including several Everesting’s. Although ultra endurance sport is not my cup of tea (I’m more the ‘let’s see how fast we can tackle this mountain’ kind of guy), the Everesting challenge is very important to Zico, and thus very important to me!
My alarm goes off at 3:30 in the morning. I meet Zico and Manu at 4:15 in the town square to get ready to head out. Coincidentally, the bartender who introduced us walks out of his bar, looks up at us with surprise and asks, ‘Café?’
We sip down a quick espresso, and off we go!
No sounds besides rising birds, no lights besides our mounted headlights. It's only us, the road, and our goal: climbing Monte Petrano 11 times today to complete an Everesting, but most of all, to celebrate their friendship and life!
The first time we climb all the way to the top it's kind of magic. The sun is coming up, the light's kicking in, and both our wives are waiting for us with extra clothing and some food so we can do the first descent of the day.
Down in the valley, we shed warm clothes, take off our lights, quickly eat a snack and head out for the second round--this time in daylight! Nature has awakened, and so have our muscles. We arrive at the top in good spirits, even though the weather is not as nice as it could be. The light rain and cold temperature don’t temper our spirits. We descend quickly and prepare for climb number three. In the valley the ritual starts again; take off two layers, refill bottles, stuff our faces, and get the wheels rolling again.
After the third climb, we descend into town an take a short break at the best pastecceria for a cappuccino and a piece of crostata (well, maybe two). The warmth is as welcoming as the dry shirt is. We start the fourth round with full bellies and better weather the sun’s coming out!
Although we kept our project quiet, the word got out. After all Cagli is a small town. After climbing for two kilometers, a car pulls up on the mountainside and stops right before us. Zico's friend steps out of the car and presents us with two fresh espressos! During the fifth climb, Zico's cousin pulls up in his car. We're about halfway up the mountain and he stops to say hello and take some pictures. He wishes us good luck and turns around and heads back to work.
The weather has gotten about as Italian as you can get it: sunny and hot! That’s just how we like it! After the sixth climb, we celebrate the fact that we're halfway done with another quick coffee and obligatory crostata at Cafe d’italia.
We eat, change clothes, and begin the seventh climb.
The steady climbing rhythm, the task at hand, the beautiful scenery, and the vibe of a project that is now bigger than just the two of us, puts me in a meditative state where time doesn't matter. It's a huge difference from the way I normally approach sport as I’m a competitive triathlete, always looking at speed, power, heart rate.
Although we're definitely feeling the fatigue after each climb, it’s relative easygoing. The last two kilometers of every climb--’Denti di diabolo’--three stretches at 13-15 percent feel pretty tough at the end of a climb, especially if you’ve already done that climb a couple of times. It's tough, but the reward makes up for it: reaching the top of Monte Petrano with its gorgeous views over province Le Marche!
Right before sunset, we start the last descent. My wife, Marije who represents the best support a man could wish for, and Manuela are waiting for us at the bottom. After arriving, we mount the headlights, share some food, and head out for the last climb. We finish just like we started: in total silence, it's just us and the mountain.
Everesting monte Petrano
9000+ altitude meters
13hrs and 35 minutes cycling time