From Stockholm to Nepal by bike and then the fun starts

Credit: Frederik Blomqvist
When the worlds highest mountain has already been climbed, what does an adventurer do to top it? He tacks on a bike ride a 7,000-mile ride to make the approach more challenging.

In 1996, Swedish mountaineer Gran Kropp, 29, pedaled 7,155-miles from Stockholm to Kathmandu, and then climbed Mount Everest.

But thats not all. Kropp also carried every piece of his gear from food to cycling to climbing equipment all the way from his home to the top of the mountain. And to make the climb truly memorable, he didnt use bottled oxygen the standard for climbing high-altitude peaks.

Then he rode home.

In doing so, he earned a place in the record books for the most self-contained combined approach and climb of Mount Everest ever accomplished.

The main idea in my dreams about climbing Everest was to do everything in the most natural way possible and to use only my own power, Kropp says in his book, Ultimate High: My Everest Dreams (Discovery Books). Gasoline powered engines were out of the question. But riding a horse ... ? Or how about walking ... ? I decided to bike to Everest.

If you havent heard about Kropp, its likely because he completed his remarkable some call it incredible, others call it just plain crazy journey to Mount Everests summit during a busy news week. A few days earlier, a furious storm killed eight climbers, burying his story in the ensuing media fury.

Climbing Everest was only half of Kropps adventure. Why someone would decide to ride his bike all the way to Everest is where this story begins.

Kropps mountaineering career began in earnest after high school; in 1988 he made his first high-altitude climb. Several trips to South American and the Himalayas followed, but on each climb Kropp saw an endless trail of garbage and empty oxygen bottles left behind by large expeditions.

Disgusted by the growing lack of respect that climbers many of them paying up to $60,000 on guided expeditions showed for the mountains, he likened their behavior to a rape of nature.

Influenced heavily by Reinhold Messner, the first Westerner to climb Everest without the aid of oxygen (many Nepalese sherpas have topped Everest without oxygen), Kropps climbing goals shifted from conquering a summit to experiencing the mountains in the most natural means possible.

In 1993, Kropp attempted K2 without supplemental oxygen. The climb up K2 went easily, and standing atop the mountain, he thought to himself: What a star I am! Ive climbed the hardest peak in the world without any problems. But the capricious K2 weather wasnt about to give Kropp an easy walk down.

By the time he had tripped and slid out of storms way, all the time wondering if he would become another statistic in K2s long history a tragic history that included 13 climbers deaths in 1986 Kropps respect for high mountains had increased by volumes.

When he reached the bottom, Kropp learned that a group of inexperienced Czech climbers he had passed on the climb claimed they made the summit. The lie was particularly offensive to Kropp because he had spent the night in a tent with them, helping them warm up and get down alive.

The summit lie was an affront to Kropps sense of justice, and the honesty that is so important in the mountaineering community.

Once youre on a mountain, each climber has a responsibility for other peoples lives, and if he lies about his conquests, he might lie about other essential things on the mountain, too and bring on disaster. Thats how I see it, Kropp wrote about the incident.

For Kropp, the K2 climb had proved that he could climb to high altitude without oxygen, and it strengthened his resolve to approach mountaineering fairly and honestly. There was only one mountain higher than K2.

Climbing Everest in a natural way meant none of the standards most climbers relied on: no porters, no airplane ride to Kathmandu, no food from a base-camp mess hall and no oxygen.

But that wasnt all. Kropp decided to do make the entire trip without help from doorstep to summit. He would ride to and then climb Everest carrying all of his gear.

Next: A long, long ride to Nepal

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