With the death of the Crazy Swede, adventure loses its cheerful
master of the impossible
He didn't call himself the Crazy Swede for nothing. The more
ridiculous an adventure sounded, the more you expected Goran
Kropp, the 6'4", 205-pound dreamer from the town of Jonkoping,
to be behind it. Ride a bike 7,000 miles from Stockholm to
Nepal, summit Everest completely self-supported (no oxygen, no
porters, no prefixed ropes) and pedal home? Did it, in 1996, on
his third try at the mountain. (His first and second ascents had
been cut short by bad weather and the Into Thin Air tragedy.)
Ski from the Mys Arkticheskiy, an island off the northeast coast
of Russia, to the North Pole and back? Tried it, in 2000, only
to abandon the mission after a run-in with a polar bear left him
with frostbitten fingers. (In the middle of the night, with the
temperature at 70[degrees] below zero, Kropp didn't have time to
put on gloves before picking up the rifle and rushing from his
tent to face the bear, which was stalking the campsite. Kropp
shot the beast dead.)
Next up on his to-do list: a 10,850-mile circumnavigation of the
U.S. by foot and foldable double kayak with his fiancee, Renata
Chlumska. That trek was to have begun with a paddle down the
Pacific Coast next July. "They seemed like crazy ideas," says
renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs, who summited Everest the same
day as Kropp in 1996, "but he was so determined and meticulous,
he figured out how to make them work." So thorough was Kropp that
in the back of his book Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey he
listed the precise weight of every item he carried to Nepal and
back (e.g., "Visa card: .2 ounces").
Ironically, Kropp died on Sept. 30, at age 35, not on an epic
adventure but on a simple rock climb. As he ascended Air Guitar,
a 5.10a route near Frenchman's Coulee in Vantage, Wash., his
climbing hardware failed. He fell 75 feet and died on impact. "I
considered him indomitable," says IMAX filmmaker David
Breashears, who was also on Everest with Kropp in 1996. "It's a
loss not just for the mountaineering community but for everybody
who ever met him."
While Kropp's ability to prove the seemingly impossible possible
will ensure his place in the annals of adventure, it was his
infectious enthusiasm ("So strong, so strong!" he would bellow
to porters as they passed him on Kilimanjaro), his sense of
humor (his description of a successful summit: "Kropp on top")
and his avalanche laugh that made him unforgettable. His levity
even in the gravest situations--he listened to samba music while
stranded in a storm at 26,248 feet on K2--was most welcome in
the stoic climbing community. "He always gave me a bear hug when
we met," says Breashears. "Lifted me off the ground every time."
There is Survivor, and then there are survivors such as Richard
Van Pham and Terry Watson, both of whom spent more than two
months lost at sea before being rescued within three weeks of
each other. In the middle of last spring Van Pham, 62, set off
from Long Beach, Calif., for a 22-mile jaunt to Catalina Island.
A storm wrecked his mast, motor and radio on his 26-foot craft,
marooning him in the Pacific, where he drifted 2,500 miles south.
On Sept. 17 he was finally discovered off Costa Rica, having
survived on a diet of rainwater, tuna and sea turtles. On Oct. 3
Watson, whose 23-foot sailboat had been reported missing on July
23, was recovered 40 miles off Charleston, S.C. Upon being pulled
to safety, the dehydrated and disoriented 43-year-old Floridian
told his Coast Guard rescuers, "I died a month ago."
Miles that the inaugural Tour d'Afrique will cover. The 100-day
cycling event will begin on Jan. 18 at Egypt's Great Pyramid of
Giza and end on May 18 in Cape Town, South Africa. The entry fee:
a cool $7,000--and don't forget the lost wages that come from
asking the boss for 14 weeks off.
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
--Flashback: Past SI coverage of the Ironman Triathlon
--Links to transworldmatrix.com, your extreme sports source
--In-depth profiles of Vail and 800 other ski resorts
WHAT IT TAKES
Josiah Middaugh, a 24-year-old personal trainer from Vail, Colo.,
is one of the country's top amateur triathletes. Last month he
won the amateur division at the off-road Xterra National
Championships in Lake Tahoe, Nev., for his sixth victory in seven
triathlons this year. On Oct. 19 the 6'2", 165-pound former
steeplechase and cross-country standout at Central Michigan will
compete in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship (2.4-mile
ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run) in Kona,
Hawaii. A week later he will try to complete a rare double by
finishing the Xterra World Championships (1.5-km rough-water
swim, 30-km off-road bike and 11-km trail run) on Maui. "It's
definitely uncharted territory for me," says Middaugh, who also
won the U.S. snowshoe title last February in Traverse City, Mich.
"Most people who do the double are professional triathletes. I'm
anxious, but my training should prepare me. I'm ready to go."
Here's a look at that training. --Mark Beech
"The way that I break up my year, the months of January through
April are for base building. This is when I do most of my work in
the weight room and lay the foundation for the increasing
distance work I'll do as the year progresses. From May to July, I
scale back the strength training and do faster, longer workouts.
August is my peak month, and at that time I'm doing almost no
strength training. The key for me is consistency. I'm usually out
the door before six every morning to either swim, bike or run."
RUNNING "In a peak period I try to run about 45 miles a week. I
began the year doing a weekly long run of about 10 miles at a
little slower than marathon pace [just under seven minutes per
mile]. Lately I've been going 20 miles one week, 12 to 15 the
next. I try to do my long runs on dirt, which produces less
impact, with plenty of hills. I consider them speed work in
SWIMMING "I'm fairly new to swimming, so it's my least favorite
routine. I'm learning to like it, though. I do three one-hour
sessions a week, with at least one open-water workout, in which I
practice sighting. In a pool you guide yourself by looking
underwater at the floor. In open water you've got to lift your
head to pick a point--like a buoy--so you can set your line."
BIKING "At my peak I do 180 to 200 miles of road and mountain
work a week. My long ride is anywhere from 80 to 115 miles in
four to six hours. Most Wednesdays, I try to have a brick
session, in which I go straight from my ride into a run, to
simulate a triathlon. Usually a person's running stride is short
for the first half mile or so after the bike ride. I'm just
trying to make that transition faster."
WEIGHT TRAINING "Since I train in the weight room only twice a
week, I do a full-body workout, following a balanced program with
about 10 different exercises. I use free weights and I balance on
a stability ball for most of the exercises, which helps me work
all the major muscle groups." Push-ups "I'm working my chest and
triceps here, as well as my core-strength muscle group
[abdominals, obliques, lower back, etc.]." Lat Pullover "I use a
30-pound weight for this exercise, which I spread out over two to
three sets, with 15 reps each. It works the same muscle groups as
swimming." Oblique Rotation "This uses a lot of your
core-strength muscles and helps you maintain your posture and
form in long races. If you're not in an athletic posture on the
bike or on a run, a lot of your effort is dissipated."
DIET "The biggest thing with diet when you train as much as I do
is getting adequate nutritional intake. I eat often and I eat a
lot, but most of my food sources are wholesome: vegetables,
fruit, grains, some chicken and fish, and carbs. I eat a lot of
tofu, rice, beans, breads and cereals. The staples of my diet,
though, are peanut butter, salsa and ice cream. My metabolism is
just cranking all the time."
RECOVERY "Between the Ironman and the Xterra I'll lie low for a
couple of days and do a lot of stretching. I'll probably test
myself on Wednesday with a 40-minute run, get in the water by
Thursday and go out for a half-hour bike ride on Friday."
Sample Day during peak training
--5:20 A.M.: Wake and stretch
--5:30 A.M.: Breakfast I
--6 A.M.: Swim workout (4,000 yards, about 90 minutes)
--8 A.M.: Snack
--9 A.M.: Breakfast II
--9:30 A.M.: Work (with snack)
--3 P.M.: Bike workout (40 miles at about 20 miles per hour)
--5 P.M.: Run workout (eight miles at close to six-minute pace)
--6 P.M.: Work
--7:30 P.M.: Dinner
--10 P.M.: Ice cream
--10:30 P.M.: TV and family
--11 P.M.: Bedtime
Hans Florine lived up to his vow to reclaim a coveted speed
Hans Florine, the self-proclaimed King of Speed Climbing, has
never been one for subtlety. On Sept. 29, after obliterating Dean
Potter and Tim O'Neill's speed record on El Capitan's Nose by
more than a half hour, Florine scoured the Yosemite Valley for
O'Neill's red Toyota pickup, found it and left this note on the
windshield: IT WAS SUPER FUN! 2:48!
Florine's sub-three-hour mark is the latest blow in his bitter
battle with Potter and O'Neill for the fastest ascent of the
2,900-foot Nose (SI, Aug. 5). In the fall of 2001 the trio turned
the massive granite wall into a high-stakes vertical racetrack,
breaking the record three times in a two-week span, the last mark
being 3:24 by Potter and O'Neill in November.
For his Sept. 29 climb Florine partnered with Yuji Hirayama, a
two-time World Cup champion on the European pro climbing
circuit. "Yuji's one of the best crack climbers in the world,"
says Florine. As for the likelihood that Potter and O'Neill will
answer with an attempt of their own, Florine is unfazed. "This
was like breaking the four-minute mile," he says, "and I'll go
on record that no one will ever chop off a half hour again."
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
by Tony Horwitz
Henry Holt, 444 pages, $26
Follow in the wake of any immortal seafarer, and you've got a
story to tell. Follow Capt. James Cook, who is believed to have
explored more of the earth than anyone else (in the 1700s he
sailed some 200,000 miles, mostly in the Pacific), and you've got
the makings of a classic. Horwitz, whose rollicking best-seller
Confederates in the Attic took readers through the Civil War,
spins a dual narrative--his journey and Cook's--with humor and a
keen sense of irony. He tells us, for example, that Cook knew
things were rough in Tahiti when "a despairing marine threw
himself overboard and drowned. The wine ran out. Banks felt his
gums swell and 'pimples' form in his mouth: early signs of
scurvy." The wine ran out?
Even without loss of life or spirits, there's a measure of
hardship in a voyage like Horwitz's: He and his Falstaffian
sidekick, Roger, brave pitching seas from Tonga to Alaska. Yet
Horwitz hardly frets. When a monstrous gale engulfs his boat off
the coast of Kodiak Island, he observes, "I felt as though I was
trying to sleep through the rinse-and-spin cycle at the
Laundromat." In sum, the book yields the multilayered experience
for which Horwitz, who in 1995 won a Pulitzer Prize in national
reporting with The Wall Street Journal, is becoming famous: a
fresh adventure, a superbly reported history and, best of all, a
damn good read. --Kostya Kennedy
COLOR PHOTO: GORAN KROPP MEMORABLE SMILE The ebullient Kropp, here atop Everest in '99, lit up climbing.
COLOR PHOTO: RICH CRUSE/XTERRA DOUBLE DIP On tap for Middaugh: an Ironman-Xterra double.
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: JAMES LOZEAU (4)
COLOR PHOTO: COREY RICH TOP THIS Florine is the first to go sub-three hours up the Nose.
COLOR PHOTO: HENRY HOLT
COLOR PHOTO: GRANT ELLIS/AFP WIPEOUT Pour de France Kelly Slater's world turned upside down during the second round of last week's Quiksilver Pro in Hossegor, France. The six-time world champion rebounded to win the heat and advance to the semis of the event, which was won by Neco Padaratz of Brazil.