Goran Kropp: Swedish adventurer called “a role model” and “the most entertaining adventurer on Earth”


Goran Kropp was a Swedish adventurer and world class mountain climber who died at age 35 from head injuries when he fell while rock climbing in the autumn of 2002 six miles north Vantage, Washington in the United States.  He was a 6’3″, 240-pound man known by his nickname “Crazy Swede.”  He successfully climbed Mount Everest two times and was the first Scandinavian to summit K2 (8,611 meters) in 1993.

“He was, thanks to his positive attitude and his radiant warmth, an immensely popular lecturer.  His never ending enthusiasm was highly contagious. . . . To Goran, freedom was the guiding star and he showed that with enthusiasm, coupled with meticulous preparation, will make almost anything possible.  His death is a great loss, not only to his family and friends, but to all mankind.”  (Johan Holmgren and Per Calleberg, Goran Kropp — EverestNews.com.)

Goran was climbing with Erden Eruc of Seattle when he met his death.  Goran and Erden were climbing the Air Guitar route of Sunshine Wall in an area known as Frenchman Coulee on Sept. 30, 2002.



Erden later wrote:

“Goran started climbing, and I belayed him using a Petzi Reverso.  . . . Just before I looked down to my feet while belaying, I saw him near the top, with a piece of protection by his foot.  He had to have been about 20 meters up on the climb. . . . Then I heard a commotion above me.  Goran was falling.  I saw his first piece pull.  His rope went slack. . . . I heard him impact just behind me on the 2-3 meter wide shelf, and then there was silence.  It all happened very quickly. . . . When I descended next to Goran, his helmet had shattered and was not on his head.  . . . I have no doubt that he died on first impact with the shelf. . . . Monday was a sad day for humanity.  I lost a friend.  I lost my hero.”

Erden concluded that Goran’s fall was due to a carabiner failure.

Erden and Goran’s parents later visited the scene of Goran’s death.

“It wasn’t until Eruc returned to Frenchman Coulee for the first time after the accident, accompanied by Kropp’s parents, that his friend’s death took on new meaning. As they visited the site where Goran died, a bald eagle flew off in the distance. As it soared through the air, the three of them stood there silently, watching the majestic bird drift away in peace. Kropp’s mother looked at Eruc with peace in her eyes. “Goran’s mother told me that we would be OK, that he was there,” Eruc said, referring to the eagle. “It felt like Goran was with us.” (Neil Becker, Sea to Summit — Rowing News — May 2005.)

I live about a 30 minute drive from the Sunshine Wall where Goran died. The terrain is beautifully depicted in a video by Paul Sharpe of Seattle. The five minute video, called Ode to Frenchman Coulee, includes some wonderful aerial videography.


An analysis of Goran’s fatal fall stated:

“The accident resulted from a series of combined incidents.  Kropp was relatively inexperienced at placing natural gear and, though a powerful athlete, was at his lead limit.  The fact that the top cam pulled indicates that it was either placed incorrectly or walked to an insecure position, which is possible since he clipped all of his protection with short, stiff quickdraws.  Another scenario is that Kropp dislodged the piece by himself by kicking it with his foot as he climbed past it. . . . Subsequent studies of the broken carabiner revealed that the wire gate was not distressed, in other words the carabiner appears to have fails because its gate was open.  . . . Leading Air Guitar pushed Kropp’s crack-climbing abilities that day.  Air Guitar and other 5.10a basalt column rocks like it are steep and require technical crack-climbing skills.”  (Goran Kropp killed in climbing accident; Swede rode bicycle from Stockholm to Everest and back — MountainZone.com — Oct. 1, 2002.)

During May 1996, Goran made a solo climb to the summit of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen or a Sherpa.  Goran traveled by bicycle from his hometown in Jonkoping, Sweden to Mount Everest and back to Sweden.

“Kropp had departed his hometown of Jonkoping, headed for Everest.  On a bicycle.  Carrying all 240 pounds of his gear.  He rode 8,000 miles, arriving at the foot of the mountain in April [1996].  . . . [H]e made it to the summit on May 23 . . . [and] [t]hen he rode back home to Sweden.  The Herculean feat changed the way many people thought about human endurance.” (Nick Heil, The greatest moments on Everest: 7. Goran Kropp’s It — Outside Online — April 24, 2012.)

“I wanted an adventure that was unprecedented,” Goran was quoted about his bicycle trip to Mount Everest.


In Goran’s 1997 book (with David Lagercrantz, a Swedish freelance journalist) titled Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey, Goran set forth “The Kropp Ultimate Mountain List” of the mountains he climbed up to that time.  They included Mount Everest (29,028 feet), K2 (28,251 feet), Kangchenjunga (28,169 feet), Cho Oyu (26,906 feet), Broad Peak (26,401 feet), Peak Pobeda (24,406 feet) Muztagh Tower (23,862 feet) and Pik Lenin (23,406 feet).

Goran also conquered Mount Everest in 1999.  He was with his girlfriend and later to be fiancee, Renata Chlumska, a woman with Czech parents who was born in Malmo, Sweden. (They climbed without oxygen; Renata was the first Swedish woman to summit Mount Everest.)

After Goran and Renata scaled Mount Everest, they helped haul out 25 spent oxygen canisters that littered a huge, ice-covered area known as the South Col.

“Environmental issues are very important to me,” Goran once said.  “When I go to a peak, I do it in harmony with my surroundings and in a purist way.  It is important for me to do it in an environmentally sensitive way, leaving nothing behind me on a mountain.”

“[B]y the end of the late 1980s, in the Andes, Kropp had soloed five peaks up to 6,300 meters. In 1990 he and Rafael Jensen made the fourth ascent of Muztagh Tower (7,273 meters) in the Karakoram.  He followed that up with a 1992 climb of Cho Oyu (8,201 meters) and was the first Swede to reach the top of K2 in 1993.  By the end of the 1990s Kropp was the only Swede to have climbed five of the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, and the only Swede to have climbed Everest twice.” (Michael Frank, Historical Badass: Goran Kropp — Adventure Journal — June 9, 2016.)

In 2000, Goran attempted to ski to the North Pole with fellow Swede Ola Skinnarmo.  They had to turn back after suffering frostbite. During the attempt they were forced to shoot and kill a polar bear in self-defense.  Jan Guillou, a writer for a Swedish tabloid, accused Goran of being a poacher.  Goran sued for libel but lost.

Goran and Renata moved to Issaquah near Seattle in the early 2000s.  The move was motivated in part due to the bad press that Goran got in Sweden for the shooting of the polar bear and because of a defamation lawsuit against Goran in connection with a book that Goran wrote (along with David Lagercrantz) about climbing Mount Everest: Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey (Discovery Books 1997).

The polar bear incident was reported in the March 1, 2000 issue of Sweden’s Aftonbladet.  Goran and Ola Skinnarmo were on the third day of a hiking journey to the North Pole when two polar bears started to attack them.  Goran said that when the bears were about 20-25 meters away he fired a warning shot but it did not scare the bears away.  “When they were seven meters from us I shot one in the shoulder,” Goran said.  It was only after shooting the bear that they stopped and turned back.

“He lost a libel action in London after confusing the names of two British climbers in his autobiography, accusing the wrong man of liking a drink.  Then, after he shot a polar bear while trekking to the North Pole, the Swedish press turned against him, and he moved to Seattle.”  (Ed Douglas, Goran Kropp: Ebullient Swedish adventurer who climbed Everest alone and trekked to the North Pole — The Guardian — Oct. 5, 2002.)

At age 6, Goran and his father climbed to the top of Norway’s Galdhoppigen, the highest peak Scandinavia at 2,469 meters (8,100 feet).  The next year Goran and his father climbed Kebnekaise, Sweden’s tallest peak.

“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.” Goran wrote in his book. “A year later, we went to the top of Kebneskaise, Sweden’s tallest peak.  Those were big events for a small boy.”

In 1991, Goran was climbing in the Aiguille Verte in Chamonix with Mats Dahlin, a Swede who Goran met during paratrooper school. (“In the barracks, I met a guy who read mountaineering magazines,” Goran wrote about his becoming acquainted with Mats.)  During the climb, a stone fell from the top of a ridge and hit Mats on the head and killed him. Goran had planned to climb Cho Oyu with Mats. Later, when Goran scaled Cho Oyu, he placed Mats’ ice axe at the top of the mountain with an image of Mats directed toward Mount Everestt.

At the time of his death, Goran was planning an adventure for the ages:

“There [in Seattle] Kropp began to plot his ultimate adventure: Sailing from Sweden to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, skiing to the South Pole, then skiing back to McMurdo, and sailing back home.  It would’ve been a miraculous feat, not least for the sailing: Kropp had never sailed a day in his life and in Seattle was taking lessons  Sadly nobody knows if Kropp could’ve become competent enough at sailing to achieve his audacious goal because he died September 30, 2002, on what for Kropp would’ve been a fairly routine 5.10a crack climb in eastern Washington state when his protection zippered out of the rock.”  (Historical Badass by Michael Frank.)

“The irony of his death, falling from a routine, 70 ft rock climb near his home in Seattle, is too much.”  (Ed Douglas in The Guardian.)  And Goran was an experienced rock climber.  In Goran’s book titled Ultimate High he wrote: “Over Christmas 1993, Magnus Nilsson and I went to Kaga Tondo in Mali where we scaled a few vertical rock peaks that rise hundreds of feet above the Sarhara.” (There is a photograph of Kaga Tondo in Goran’s book.)

In May 2002, National Georgraphic’s Adventure Magazine named Goran “the most entertaining adventurer on Earth.”  Outside magazine said that Goran was “a role model for the next 25 years” of adventure.  A 46-minute documentary film titled I Made It: Goran Kropp’s Incredible Journey to the Top of the World was produced about Goran’s solo scale of Everest. (The film was directed and produced by Fredrik Blomqvist and won the Best of Banff Award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 1998.)

Goran was born in Eskilstuna, Sweden on Dec. 11, 1966.  He is survived by his parents, Gerard Kropp and Sigrun Hellmansson, both of Sweden, and his fiancee, Renata (born in 1973 in Malmo, Sweden).  Renata became a motivational speaker and lives at Jonkoping, Sweden. She is also an “adventure athlete” who in 2004 was listed by Outside magazine as one of the world’s top 25 female adventure athletes.  In 2006 she became the first person to circumnavigate the Lower 48 states of the United States by kayaking and bicycling.  The journey covered a distance of 18,200 kilometers (more than 11,300 miles).





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