Why just climb Everest when you can climb it without supplemental oxygen? Why just climb it without oxygen when you can climb it alone? And why fly to Nepal to climb Everest when you can bicycle all the way there? Apparently, questions such as these occurred to Göran Kropp
, a Swede with a taste for adventure and a desire for the Ultimate High
. In October 1995, Kropp set out from Sweden with a bicycle, a trailer, and over 200 pounds of equipment. Over the next four months, he cycled some 7,000 miles across Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. By the time he arrived in Kathmandu, Kropp had been shot at, pelted with rocks, and offered the madam's daughter--free of charge--in a Hungarian brothel.
After carrying his own equipment up to Everest Base Camp, Kropp found himself surrounded by other climbers, all waiting for a break in the weather so they could attempt the summit. Many books have been written about that disastrous season on Everest, notably Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb. Kroop adds little of substance to the story, engaging mainly in camp gossip about who was sleeping with whom and "outing" climbers who lied about reaching summits. Even Kropp's account of his own climb is somewhat suspenseless--though some readers will be relieved that he doesn't go into too much detail about his physical breakdown. More tiresome is Kropp's clear disdain for climbers who use supplemental oxygen. ("Mount Everest is not 29,028 feet tall if the mountain is scaled by a climber wearing an oxygen mask.") He also despises climbers who "see Everest and other high peaks reduced to trophies kept in a china cabinet"--though his "Ultimate Mountain List" (he's already climbed 16 of the 22) seems a bit like a trophy room itself.
After he finally reached the summit--on his third attempt in under a month--Kropp spent a few weeks recuperating in Kathmandu and then hopped on his bike for the long and rugged ride home. Not satisfied, Kropp is already planning and training for his next adventure, to take place in 2004: sailing from Sweden to Antarctica, skiing to the South Pole, and returning--all solo. That he is only just learning to sail doesn't dissuade him--"I like to jump headfirst into new projects." Ultimate High is proof that he's determined--and crazy--enough to complete them. --Sunny Delaney
From Publishers Weekly
On Mount Everest, May 1996 was the cruelest monthAthe month eight climbers died on the mountain, the month that has been recounted already in books by Jon Krakauer, David Breshears, Anatoli Boukreev, Matt Dickinson and others. Half a year earlier, in October 1995, Swedish climber KroppAthe second person in the world to reach the summit of K2 without the aid of oxygenAset out from Stockholm on an 8000-mile bicycle trip to Katmandu, with 250 pounds of gear and the intention of scaling Everest without oxygen. Kropp's account, written with journalist Lagercrantz, is straightforward, yet ultimately trifling. Too much space is wasted on self-absorbed anecdotes (e.g., Kropp, during what he calls his "wild period," mounting the stage at a rock concert and shouting "The government is imperialistic!"). The world according to Kropp is filled with too many silly exclamations ("This is totally awesome!") and too little insight. But when Kropp refrains from glib self-absorption, his story is as gripping as the adventures of Indiana Jones. Along the way, Kropp encounters ravenous wild dogs, numerous free lunches, blizzards, stone-throwing youngsters, a hilarious misadventure in a brothel in Hungary, weddings in Romania, gunfire in Turkey. It's an excellent adventure, but very mediocre adventure writing. Color inserts not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.