Cover image for Ultimate high : my Everest odyssey
Ultimate high : my Everest odyssey
Kropp, Göran.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Göran Kropp. English
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Discovery Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 227 pages : color illustrations, color maps ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library GV199.92.K76 A313 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Goran Kropp, a Swedish adventurer, set out from Stockholm, Sweden on a Crescent Ultima bicycle and traveled 5 months and 8,000 miles carrying 240 lbs. of gear with him. He ascended Mt. Everest in May 1996, unassisted and without the use of supplemental oxygen, days after the tragedy that claimed 8 climbers. He then returned to Stockholm on his bicycle. The entire trip took one year. This is his account of his training, preparation, and accomplishment of the most self-sufficient combined approach and climb of Mt. Everest ever. Kropp has a tremendous zest for life and has been mountain climbing since he was a child. His philosophy is to approach the mountains on their own terms.

Author Notes

David Lagercrantz was born on September 4, 1962 in Solna Municipality, Sweden. He was a crime reporter for Expressen, a national daily paper, where he covered some major crime stories including an infamous triple murder in the cemetery in the northern Swedish town of Amsele in 1988.

His first book, Ultimate High, was published in 1997. His other works include A Swedish Genius, The Sky over Everest, Fall of Man in Wilmslow, and I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A Swedish Genius provided inspiration for the critically acclaimed documentary film Patent 986. In 2013, Lagercrantz was selected to write a new instalment in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. The Girl in the Spider's Web was published in 2015. It was followed by The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, published in 2017.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

"Because it's there" has often been the response when adventurers are asked why they undertake dangerous ventures. Swedish mountain climber Kropp describes his ordeals in his 1996 attempt to scale Everest, alone and without the aid of the supplemental oxygen deemed essential in such high altitudes. Traveling via bicycle from Sweden to the base of the mountain range through some very dangerous territory, Kropp had to endure much--loneliness, illness, hostility--before his quest even began. He exposes the seamy side of mountaineering, with its politics and bureaucracy: the exorbitant expenses, the permits, the competition. His assault on Everest took place at the same time several climbers met their deaths (poignantly depicted), and he shows his disdain for "tourists" who pay tens of thousands for the chance to live out a fantasy at the expense of common sense. Man versus nature has always made for fascinating reading; Kropp's life-and-death struggles could leave the reader almost as exhausted as Kropp. --Ron Kaplan

Publisher's Weekly Review

On Mount Everest, May 1996 was the cruelest monthÄthe 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 KroppÄthe second person in the world to reach the summit of K2 without the aid of oxygenÄset 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Since the late 19th century, climbing mountains has held a certain allure. Expeditions are now reaching all-time highs, as experienced and inexperienced climbers "reach for the top." These two books examine mountaineering on Mt. Everest through different perspectives. Liberally sprinkled with entertaining anecdotes and significant cultural observations, Ultimate High is the story of a determined man with a unique goal. It chronicles both Kropp's ascent of Everest and his 8000 mile journey, on bicycle (with equipment in tow), from Sweden to the Himalayas and back. (To truly conquer the mountain, Kropp believes, one must get there and climb it without artificial assistance.) As it happened, his climb coincided with the much-publicized May l996 disaster (described in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air), so, in addition to detailing his own endeavours, he describes (with riveting clarity) the drama taking place around him. Kropp captures the emotional highs and lows of mountaineering; his astute observations of team dynamics and candid revelations of his mental and physical state provide insight into the climber's world. Taking a more academic and analytic approach, Ortner (anthropology, Columbia Univ.) provides a fascinating examination of the world of the Sherpas. Drawing extensively from autobiographies and her own ethnography, Ortner examines Sherpas both as mountaineers and villagers. In the process, she tackles a variety of subject matter, including sahib/Sherpa relationships and local history, culture, and religion. In doing so, she incorporates quotes from climbers, their chilling tales, and detailed research. Her book is an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at mountaineering. Complementary to any work on the Himalayas, it should be compulsory reading for climbers going to this area. Both books are recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄJo-Anne Mary Benson (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One                             What's driving you, I am often asked. A death wish?     I do not want to die, certainly not yet.     "A zest for life," I answer. Mountaineering gives me the most beautiful things in life: encounters with other cultures, natural beauty, challenges, triumphs.     My climbing interest started early, in Italy where my family lived when I was a kid. My father, Gerard, was a lawyer for the UN agency FAO. Dad went climbing in the Italian Dolomites, and I watched him from the foot of the mountain through my binoculars. Sometimes when I looked at his equipment, his hammer, carabiners, and ropes, I sensed a certain solemn feeling.     People have told me that the first words I uttered were "climb mountain," and at the age of six, I went hiking with Dad to the top of Galdhoppigen, the highest peak in Norway. A year later, we went to the top of Kebnekaise, Sweden's tallest peak. Those were big events for a small boy. Still, my passion for climbing developed only slowly, and when I reached my teens, I forgot all about the mountains. My parents split up in 1976, and for a long time, I lived with my mother, Sigrun, outside Stockholm. I have no sisters or brothers. My mother, a nurse, and I got along well, although our relationship was not entirely devoid of conflict. I played flute in the municipal music school and also belonged to a local band that sometimes paraded through the city.     I was a school champion in cross-country skiing. In my studies, I was especially good at math. I was considered well behaved, but perhaps the most unusual thing about me was that I disliked team sports. I've never fully understood this feeling, but I knew quite early that I wanted to challenge myself and compete, but alone. And also, I wanted to be outside; I missed being in nature. After my parents' divorce, I didn't get to hike much. My father picked up on this. He wanted me to come live with him, and every time we talked, he tempted me with promises of the great outdoors. I was fifteen and restless; finally I packed my bags and left our Stockholm suburb and moved to my father's home. Dad had become manager of the legal department of the National Board of Forestry, located in the town of Jönköping in southern Sweden.     After the divorce, my father had turned into something of a bachelor. He was no longer used to sharing a home, and as for myself, I was on my way to becoming an adult. We collided--a little. This was in the early 1980s, and the punk-rock movement was already well established. There was a clear decadent vein in rock music at that time, but there were also links going back to the progressive movement of the '70s. The Swedish punk-rock band Ebba Grön was a new star in the sky of rock, and at an outdoor venue in Stockholm, a new audience record was set when Bob Marley performed. A year later he died. I did not remain unaffected by his death.     I started high school in Jönköping, and during my first year, I took school pretty seriously. But as time went by, school felt more and more meaningless. I switched to another study program, an easier one, which was also one year shorter. I let my hair grow long. Soon it reached below my shoulders. I wore patched jeans and Rasta-colored skateboard shoes. My father didn't like it. We fought about chores and homework. Finally, when I was sixteen, I moved to a place of my own. I paid the rent by delivering papers. At 3:00 or 4:00 A.M., I forced myself to get up, then I put the local papers in people's mailboxes. When I got back home, I collapsed in bed. Often I didn't make it to school until the afternoon. My attendance was reported as "nonmeasurable."     In my 330-square-foot pad, I had a television and a bed; that was just about it. I put up a poster of Bob Marley on the wall, and I painted the cabinet doors in the kitchen in the Rasta colors. I partied a lot, and in school I received a warning according to the 9th chapter, 57th paragraph of the School Ordinance. "According to concordant witnesses," the warning read, "Göran Kropp has acted in an unsuitable manner toward the women in the class." Perhaps there was some truth in it; I was restless and unruly. Still, I think my improper behavior was mostly a figment of my teacher's imagination. She was very religious and tended to overreact to anything that threatened order in her class. She definitely didn't like me; I had too many wild ideas.     One day we went on an educational visit to a court of appeal. I sat at the back of the courtroom with a friend of mine. We were bored. This DUI case didn't resemble the court cases we'd seen in American movies one bit. We left. Coming out from the courtroom, we noticed a key sitting in the lock in the oak doors. We looked at each other, turned the key, pulled it out, and left.     The next day, the local paper wrote: "The court got a taste of its own medicine--locked up for six hours."     They had to call a locksmith to open the door. Witnesses had seen two young suspects leave the court laughing. We were a bit shaken. We cleaned off the key with gasoline to erase all fingerprints and returned it in an anonymous letter.     Parties were plentiful; so were rock concerts. I went to festivals both in Sweden and in Denmark. During one trip, my friends ended up in either police cells or brothels. At a concert, I jumped up on stage with Joakim Thåström of the rock band Imperiet and shouted, "The government is capitalist!" Thåström was my hero. He signed my shoe. I saw him again many times.     Emma Sjöberg, the future Swedish supermodel, and her sister, Anna-Karin, were both in my class. Anna-Karin called me Body, referring to the meaning of my last name in Swedish--Kropp means body.     "Body," she said. "We're going to an Eva Dahlgren concert in Gislaved. Why don't you come along?"     Eva Dahlgren, who is now arguably the most accomplished pop and rock singer in Sweden, was still very young then. I didn't know much about her. But it sounded like fun, so we drove through the forest in a small VW Golf until we reached the little town of Gislaved with its outdoor venue. There was a lot of confusion trying to get into the concert. People were shouting and swaying, and there was a long line to the ticket booth.     It was late spring or early summer before school was out, and it wasn't dark yet. As I stood in the throng, I decided just to crash the thing. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled past the line. No one seemed to get angry; no one even looked surprised. I guess I wasn't the only one crawling around that night. I don't remember much of the concert. The audience consisted mainly of young girls, and Eva Dahlgren sang songs I had never heard before. But afterward--I won't ever forget this--Anna-Karin came up to me. She looked embarrassed.     "Sorry, Body," she said. "The car is full. You have to get home on your own."     That was a shock. I didn't have any money--I didn't have anything. But after strolling around for a while, thinking the situation through, I went backstage, where I saw Eva Dahlgren, the rising blond star. She was dressed in black pants and a white tank top and sat surrounded by her fans, signing autographs but looking a bit lost. Behind her stood a long line of shy teenage girls.     "Hi," I said, when all the fans had gone. "I have a problem. I need a ride."     Eva Dahlgren looked at me, and there I stood with long unkempt hair, ripped jeans, and a Bob Marley T-shirt. I think we hit it off somehow.     "Sure," she said. "Come on." I got a lift in her bus, but I noticed that one of her musicians, the producer Anders Glenmark, was annoyed. "What is that little brat doing in our bus?" he seemed to be thinking--and I couldn't help but wonder the same thing. I didn't care, though, because Eva Dahlgren was an angel. She got me a hotel room in the next town on their tour, and we drank and had fun together, and I think I fell in love. Nothing happened, I'm sad to say. Perhaps I was just a funny diversion to her, but still she asked me to join them in Oslo, Norway. Sadly, I had to say no. I had to go back home; my absences from school were mounting.     Now, over a decade later, I sometimes look back at those years and I don't regret anything, I'm glad I had all of those experiences. Although I didn't party for a very long period, I did party very hard. Now when I look back at those days, I wonder why I did it. Perhaps I needed to break free, to make a new life for myself away from Gerard, my dad. Nowadays, we are better friends than ever, but in my teenage years I was restless and I wanted things to happen. And, ironically, I couldn't find what I was looking for in my father's life interest: the great outdoors and nature. I found my life in partying and in music.     At a concert in another small town, I played saxophone with a little-known band, Telephåme. Later, someone stole my saxophone, but my love for music never went away. I still have it, and at critical moments up in the mountains, I listen to soul music to recharge myself and to survive, and sometimes when people I've known have died climbing, I've channeled my grief by listening to music. After the Mount Everest tragedy in the spring of 1996, I played Bach's "Air" on my flute at our stupa in Base Camp, the blessing altar where we gathered to pray to the mountain gods. It was soothing, like a ritual--a gesture of reverence to the mountain and to those who never came back. During my last year in high school, my wild period ended. I stopped partying. I wanted more out of life. Or maybe I just switched from one extreme to another. I decided I wanted to be a paratrooper. I was about to be called up for my mandatory national service, and I decided that either I would go for the easiest, most unqualified position there was--or I would go for the toughest. So without anything dramatic happening, one day I started lifting weights. And every day I ran six miles. Later that fall, I was accepted as a paratrooper.     In the barracks, I met a guy who read mountaineering magazines. His name was Mats Dahlin. He was a fair-skinned boy with a crew cut. Although he was taciturn and considered a bit strange, we hit it off, and Mats's love of the mountains rekindled my own childhood interest in climbing. Memories of my early outdoor adventures came rushing back like a surging river. I began reading about the great mountains and the people who first scaled them--and about the discipline that is required if you want to survive on the world's highest peaks. I read about Reinhold Messner, the greatest climber of them all. Often Messner ran up a 3,600-vertical-foot hill near his home in Italy. His wife waited for him in their car at the summit. She drove him back down, then he ran back up--again and again and again. It came as a realization to me, seeing how hard Messner trained. One day, I sent Mats a postcard that said: "I want to get up above 8,000 meters. Will you join me?" And he answered: "Toward 8,000!"     Mats and I made a pact to go climbing together, and we started training hard. Sometimes we set out on an infernal mountain march from the northern Swedish town of Abisko in Lapland to the neighboring village of Nikkaluokta--65 miles. We called it the Willpower March, because that's what it was all about. Having the will to succeed. We carried backpacks so heavy that we had a hard time even picking them up; we pressed ourselves to the pain threshold and beyond. We were obsessed, and I had changed.     How did the reggae guy become a mountaineer? I can't explain it--at least not to people who have never experienced the magic lure and ancient power of the mountains, those who have never dreamed of trekking through an unknown land, and who are not, when seeing a picture of a beautiful mountain, filled with reverence and a sudden longing. But I can tell you about my drive and motivation purely as an athlete. Mats and I wanted to become the stars of our sport. We wanted to do what no one had done before. Our dreams were not about becoming world champions in soccer or marathon running; our dreams were of the Himalaya.     Mountaineering, we also soon learned, was very expensive. The equipment cost money. The expeditions, the porters to carry supplies, and the government climbing permits cost even more. For a long time I didn't know how to support myself. I enjoyed being a paratrooper when I did my military service, and I believed that a career as an officer would give me opportunities to train. I got a job at an infantry regiment in the little town of Eksjö in southern Sweden. The pay was horrible: about $12,000 a year before taxes. I realized that I had to choose between paying rent--and going climbing. The choice was simple. One summer I gave up my apartment and moved to a military training area a quarter mile from the barracks. I lived alone in my two-man tent close to a running track. It was all right for a while, but one night, a group of soldiers on guard duty stumbled over one of my tent ropes.     "Investigate!" I heard the one in charge call out.     "Stop!" I shouted. "It's Second Lieutenant Kropp living here!"     After that incident, I decided to move farther away, to a gravel pit. I lived there for a year. In the daytime, I was a military cadet. In the evenings, I worked out with weights or ran for three hours. Then I would walk the four miles "home" to my gravel pit, a lonely place no one ever visited--except for two policemen who arrived one morning and demanded to know who I was.     "Only me," I answered. "Cadet Kropp."     Earlier, to practice my rock climbing skills, I had scaled the outside of the old stone water tower in Eksjö. It was over a hundred feet tall. The very next day after the policemen investigated my campsite--almost as if to underscore how crazy I was--the local paper published a story about me climbing the water tower. I still wonder what the policemen must have thought when they read that article at their breakfast tables.     "Hey, look--there he is. The crazy guy from the gravel pit!"     Autumn came. I moved again and camped next to my old, worn-out BMW. I strung an electrical cord from the cigarette lighter into the tent so I could plug in my tape recorder. I loved to listen to James Brown, the Pretenders, and Bob Marley. My other possessions were a sleeping bag, a lamp, some clothing, a few books about climbing--and my alarm clock.     As an experiment, I began to set the alarm to go off at night at a random hour. If it went off at 3:00 A.M., I got up, dressed quickly, and walked for thirty kilometers (nineteen miles) with a light backpack. If it went off at six, I marched fast for sixty kilometers (thirty-seven miles). I continued to think about Messner, and I wondered if I could climb like him. Did I have enough willpower yet? In those frugal and spartan years, that's what kept me going: the dream of climbing.     I knew from my reading what high-altitude climbing was like. At an altitude of 26,000 feet, at night it's minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit outside. You lie in your tent, it's hard even to breathe, and you feel groggy and slow, as if you were wading through water, but still, you have to get up before dawn and head for the summit. On a big climb, I didn't want to be the one to have to drop out. So I was obsessive about training.     At this point in my life, in 1988, I had attended a climbing course with the Swedish Climbing Association in the Dolomites. I had scaled mountains in Corsica, and Mats and I ascended Mont Blanc in the Alps. But still I lacked climbing experience above 20,000 feet. To remedy this, next Mats and I chose 23,406-foot Pik Lenin in Kyrgyzstan. It's one of the easiest peaks of that altitude in the world, and many mountaineers pick it for their first high-altitude climb.     Before we left home, we were pretty nervous, wondering how we would cope with the thin air. Different people have different reactions to high altitude. Many climbers get queasy stomachs, feel nauseous, or become apathetic. Others suffer acute headaches. The lack of oxygen also greatly diminishes a person's powers of reason and judgment. Most serious, however, is when body liquid separates from the blood and gathers either in the lungs or between the brain and the skull. These high-altitude illnesses, respectively called pulmonary edema and cerebral edema, often lead to death.     Mats and I had memorized the warning signs; we knew the dangers. On Pik Lenin we might be struck down by high-altitude illness and discover the sad truth that we were not cut out for the goal to which we had devoted our lives.     We had worked hard to prepare ourselves for the climb, and we wanted to show it. We scaled Pik Lenin faster than anyone ever had. In fact, the ascent was almost an anticlimax. Lenin's summit is large and rounded and not at all distinct. We wandered around up there for some time, searching for the famous communist-era plaque of Lenin that marks the top. After a while we noticed some other climbers staring at something, but they were below us! So we descended for a quick visit with Lenin. I thought I'd had it so easy, but once we headed down toward Base Camp, I started throwing up. My head was pounding, and every step felt unreal. I felt like I was traveling through a vacuum, moving in slow motion.     "I'm at 23,000 feet, and I can't possibly feel any worse. How will I ever be able to get higher?" I remember thinking.     What I didn't realize then was that my body was getting acclimatized, or acclimated, to the lack of oxygen, and that next time I went high, I would feel a lot better. Even today after numerous ascents to extreme altitudes, I still experience a feeling up there that I can't quite describe. It's been said that a physically fit person becomes like a seventy-year-old at 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) above sea level, and like an eighty-year-old at 8,000 meters (26,000 feet). For lack of a better comparison, I sometimes compare these lethargic, disembodied sensations to being drunk. But on a mountain, even though your body is groggy and clumsy, you must stay in absolute control and act soberly. The good thing about climbing (unlike drinking) is that afterward the joy stays with you while the pain goes away.     Following our success on Lenin, Mats and I laughed at our ailments and decided that our next mountain should be above 8,000 meters--one of the famous "8,000-ers." We picked Cho Oyu, the eighth-tallest mountain in the world, which was first scaled by the Austrian Herbert Tichy in 1954. The '50s were a glorious decade in mountaineering, when all of the world's fourteen peaks above 8,000 meters were first conquered (at least all but number thirteen on the list, Shisha Pangma). Cho Oyu is situated on the border between Nepal and Chinese-occupied Tibet, and sadly we now experienced yet another reality of high-altitude mountaineering. The political situation and ongoing border problems with regard to Tibetan refugees made it impossible for us to obtain permission to attempt Cho Oyu.     So instead, in 1989 I went climbing by myself in the Andes of South America. And on this expedition I learned much more about the joys and sufferings of mountaineers. Mist, steam, and the stinging smell of sulfur greeted me on the crater rim summit of Cotopaxi in Ecuador, the tallest active volcano in the world. Then, on nearby Chimborazo, an earthquake tore loose the frozen snowfield I was climbing. In desperation to save myself, I ran on top of the sliding floe, riding this giant natural surfboard out of control as it slid down the mountainside, thinking my time had come. Luckily, I stopped fifty feet from a precipice--but that is another story.     After I scaled one last volcano, Illampu, from the summit I chose another, even faster, method of descent--but one I had more control over: by hang glider. In only eight minutes, I flew from the roughly 20,000-foot-elevation summit all the way down to our 13,000-foot Base Camp. I was screaming with joy as I sailed past mountain tops peeking through the carpet of clouds beneath me. And this time I landed on level ground, not next to a cliff face! My French companions eventually rejoined me, but they bolted straight over a mountain pass to the closest village.     I'd been feeling sick with bouts of fever on and off for several weeks, but each time I'd gotten well again. Now my illness chose a poor time to return. Typhoid fever is like that; it comes and goes. In any case, I was too weak to join the Frenchmen, so I staggered downhill, alone now, to a mountain road. Even though the terrain wasn't difficult, I began to stumble; soon I collapsed. Goats and llamas grazed on the hillsides. Fortunately I found a small stream by the roadside, unfurled my sleeping bag next to it, and crawled inside, waiting for help to come. For someone to give me a lift to the nearest town.     Then the fever came on. And the diarrhea. I was too weak to pull myself out of my sleeping bag, so now things had gotten considerably worse. The smell! It was a strange and awful night, and my eyes wouldn't even focus on the stars. In the morning, I had lost so much fluid and was so dehydrated that I forced myself to crawl to the brook and drank and drank. I was groggy, but I still thought: "Sooner or later, a car will come by and take me to the village." But no cars drove by. And that day passed. Then a new day came and passed. Still no cars.     On the afternoon of the third day, a shabby red pickup carrying a load of slaughtered animals came along, headed in the wrong direction. I didn't care where I went as long as it was closer to civilization. The driver helped me up, and I sat amongst dead beasts, suffering from stomach illness and nausea. I mumbled to myself: "It's all right now. I will get help."     But I soon realized how little a human life is worth to some people. I was dumped in a godforsaken farming village called Ancohuma, four miles from where I wanted to go. I sat in my soiled sleeping bag in the middle of the town square behind a stone wall and some clay huts; I could no longer stand up. When I asked to be driven to the hospital in Sorata, the passersby just smiled.     "Gringo," people said, laughing when I tried to stand and collapsed.     For six days, I lay in the village square, drinking only water. I ate no food. Finally, a teacher came, brought me home with him, and gave me an orange, the first thing I'd eaten in nine days. That night I suffered an epileptic-like seizure. Then I felt two men lift me. The people finally understood: The gringo was dying. For thirty dollars, they gave me a ride to Sorata.     When I arrived at the town hospital, a nurse saw me and laughed. She must have thought my misery was comical, and in a way, I fully understood her. I crept through the hospital hallway, pushing my backpack in front of me. I was put in a room where the beds were so small that they had to put three of them next to each other and lay me down across them. My roommate's name was King Lee.     "I'm Bruce Lee's brother," he claimed, which I doubted. "I run the gold mining up here." That I did not doubt. There were gold mines in these mountains. A sign of Lee's importance stood outside of our door: an armed bodyguard cradling a Kalashnikov. Then King Lee fingered the loaded Magnum pistol sitting on his bedside table. King Lee was one macho fellow.     "You cannot turn off the light. You must leave it on," he said. "We have to watch out."     For whom, I barely dared think. So there we lay, all night long, King Lee and I, with the lamps turned on.     "I have to get out of here," I thought. I persuaded the staff to drive me to the capital, La Paz, for $100. Vaguely I remember being dumped on a sidewalk, but then through a lucky quirk of fate, a guy from the small Swedish town of Alingsås walked by, and he took me to a miserable hotel that charged only a dollar a night.     While I lay tossing and turning in my hotel bed, I heard a familiar voice in the hallway.     "It can't be true," I mumbled. "I'm delirious. It's the fever."     But it really did sound like Gabi Bavli, the craziest guy I know. I'd met him on a climbing course in the Dolomites. I staggered to the door, opened it with shaking hands--and there he was. Gabi looked at me as if he'd seen a ghost.     "Göran!" he said. "What on earth has happened to you?"     "Gabi, I'm very sick."     "I can see that. But we have to celebrate! You're here, and I can't believe it!" Then suddenly Gabi stared at me as if he understood what bad shape I was in. Then he disappeared, for help, I hoped.     I went back to bed. I drifted in and out of strange dreams; time passed. An hour? Twelve hours? The sweat-soaked sheets clung to my skin; the outlines of the grayish room blurred. The air in the room was stagnant and still. When someone knocked on the door, I didn't know where I was. I raised my head with difficulty. Gabi entered the room with two giggling women who looked at me, evidently amused, as if I were on exhibit.     "You're hopeless" I told Gabi. Then my head hit the pillow. Two days later, in a hospital in Lima, Peru, I was so dehydrated the doctors had to stick the IV needle between my knuckles. I didn't get well until nine weeks later at an infection clinic in Stockholm. I suppose some climbers might have been put off by the awful experiences that I had in South America. Once I recovered, though, I was still keen on going on another expedition. I guess I really am a hard case! The next year, I wanted to try the Muztagh Tower in Pakistan, 23,917 feet tall--and known as the Impossible Mountain. Only four people had ever scaled it, and when I saw a picture, I understood why. Smooth, Vertical rock walls guarded every flank. Muztagh Tower would require steep climbing at high altitude. It looked like a mountain you ought to leave alone, this impregnable peak, but we went anyway: Ola Hillberg, Magnus Nilsson, Erik Ringius, Anders Rafael Jensen, Anders Nygren, and I.     Before every expedition, you must discuss and calculate how much food and equipment you will need, and how many porters must be hired to carry it all. On Muztagh we needed sixty-two porters, even though the porters' food walked on its own legs: a herd of goats, which were slaughtered one by one on the approach.     "The animals don't feel anything," said the Muslim who performed the job. He took out his hopelessly blunt knife and virtually sawed off the neck of a goat that let out heartrending shrieks as he did so. Killing animals was unusual cruelty, I decided, and I became a vegetarian.     Later I also grew increasingly disenchanted with the whole industry of using porters on mountaineering expeditions. There was no dignity in it for these men, I thought--just danger and a miserable salary. The more Balti porters (the Pakistani equivalent of Sherpas) that we needed to carry our food and equipment, the more unnecessary trash was created. It was this feeling of unnecessary logistics and wastefulness, I think, that became the kernel of my Everest-by-bicycle climb, my solo expedition where I carried everything that I needed to Base Camp by myself.     On Muztagh Tower, snow bridges collapsed under us, we dodged falling stones, and when a rope unexpectedly broke, Magnus Nilsson nearly plummeted 4,000 feet down the South Face. The climb's final stretch ascended a steep, infernal wall. We belayed ourselves with ropes while we struggled up, panting heavily in the thin air. We concentrated on only the section in front of us. We'd been staring into the ice and rocks for such a long time that when I reached the summit plateau and pulled myself up in amazement, it was as if a curtain had been pulled away. The fear fled, and the mountain wall was replaced by a vision of paradise.     In my euphoric dizziness, I could see Broad Peak and the whole range of the Karakoram mountains through the crystal-clear air; and then, unannounced, I saw for the first time K2, perhaps the world's most beautiful mountain. K2 cannot be seen from inhabited areas. It is truly "hidden behind the ranges." But from where I balanced, atop the summit of the Muztagh Tower--a snow lump no larger than an ordinary eight-by-twelve-inch sheet of paper--K2 rose before me, solitary and majestic, a pyramid with six sharp ridges. It was like seeing a newborn baby for the first time; I experienced a profound longing, a love for that mountain. I knew I had to climb it one day. But I also had to pay attention to where I was standing! With a 10,000-foot drop-off on one side, and an 11,500-foot void on the other, I felt better than ever.     "This is life! This is totally awesome!" I shouted into my tape recorder. I was screaming and howling, and I never wanted these feelings to stop. I was supercharged, lost in a kind of high-altitude, getting-to-the-top ecstasy. And today, when I listen to that tape, the feeling returns. But it also must be said quite clearly and honestly that in climbing there are many other things that I don't like to remember. I'm thirty today, and many of the people I've met along the way never returned from the mountains.     The year following our expedition to Muztagh Tower was tragic. On Broad Peak, a Czech climber ran up to Base Camp and died of altitude sickness. It was a crazy idea he had, running up there like that, ignoring the need to properly acclimatize. But people who die in the mountains often do something unwise, or they are ill prepared. And a few are just plain unlucky. When I see accidents happen in the mountains, and they do happen, it strengthens my resolve to climb carefully.     Yet accidents can strike even the most scrupulously safe climber. My friend Mats Dahlin was never at all careless when we climbed. If my crampons needed to be sharpened when we were up in the mountains, and I didn't have a file, Mats had one. He never forgot anything; he was always well prepared.     We had hoped to scale Cho Oyu in Tibet, but we couldn't get a climbing permit until 1992. In December of 1991, we practiced alpine climbing in Chamonix, France. At Christmastime, there was lots of snow and a hard wind was blowing. From the mountainside, we could see the giant skiing resorts below us. Mats, Svante Yngrot, Petter Johansson, and I climbed simultaneously, swinging our ice axes, kicking in our crampons. The wall was steep. Then a small rock fell from high above. Mats, who was beneath me, was hit by the stone on his temple, just below the rim of his climbing helmet.     At first, I didn't think it was that serious. Then Mats went pale and collapsed. We shook him and shouted at him, but he didn't answer. We decided Svante and Petter should stay with him while I hurried down for help. I descended, then stretched up my arms so that my body formed the letter Y--the international signal for emergency. A helicopter rose into sight and I said a prayer. But the mountain face was too steep and the wind was too strong; the helicopter couldn't reach us.     And Mats left us. He died up there.     The time that followed was horrible. I considered giving up mountaineering, but then I thought, like many climbers before me who have lost a friend in the mountains: "Mats would not have wanted me to stop." Six months later, I went to Nepal and scaled Cho Oyu, my first 8,000-meter peak.     On the flat summit, I took Mats's ice axe from my backpack. A mountaineer's ice axe resembles the Christian cross, and I had attached a picture of Mats and his obituary to it. I stuck the axe in the snow so that it faced the mountain that I could see in the distance. Mount Everest, Chomolungma. The Goddess Mother of the World. The Mountain so high no bird can fly over it. Copyright © 1997 Göran Kropp and David Lagercrantz. All rights reserved.

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