Expedition News
June 2004 – Volume Eleven, Number Six –

EXPEDITION NEWS is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online and by mail to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.

The following are highlights of our June issue, but this is only part of the story. For a year’s subscription, send $36 to the below address or e-mail us for a free sample copy. – The Editors, editor@ExpeditionNews.com


Erden Eruç, 42, is planning the Six Summits Project – an effort to reach the highest summits on six different continents during a circumnavigation of the globe by human power. The mode of travel between continents would be by rowing the oceans, and on land he will approach the respective summits by bicycle.

So far, Eruc, a former project manager for a software technology-consulting firm in Seattle, has summited Alaska's Denali (Mt. McKinley) in 2003, reaching its base by bicycling north from Seattle - a roundtrip distance of 5,546 miles. This fall, he plans to bicycle to Florida from Seattle to set the stage for the ocean rowing phases to follow. He will row solo from Florida in early 2005 aboard his yet-to-be-purchased ocean-going craft toward the Panama Canal and Ecuador. The design of the $40,000 boat will be sanctioned by the Ocean Rowing Society. A climb up Argentina's Aconcagua is scheduled for January 2006.

Eruç was close friends of well-known Swedish adventurer Göran Kropp, and was belaying in September 2002 when Kropp fell to his death only five feet from the top of Air Guitar, a crack climb on Sunshine Wall, a popular rock-climbing area in central Washington. An elite climber, skier and cyclist, Kropp, 35, was most famous for an unusual adventure in 1996, when he rode a bicycle 7,440 miles from his home in Jönköping, Sweden, to Kathmandu in Nepal, to climb Mount Everest. (See EN, September 2001).

"In the brief time that I met Göran, he validated my dream and always asked affirming questions like: when are you leaving, do you have sponsors, how about kayaking the Siberian Coast together... He was a kindred spirit, a friend and a mentor," Eruc tells EN.

"After I lost Göran in our rock climbing accident, I decided to reach the highest summits on six different continents, excluding Vinson in Antarctica, and to dedicate the summits to him as a tribute. I would approach the summits over land a la Göran Kropp, towing the gear behind me by bicycle.

"When I drew the map I had a slight problem: getting to those continents was going to be tricky, hence the ocean rowing became more prominent. The result is the Six Summits Project," said Eruc, president of Around-n-Over, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to provide education and inspiration to children.

Primary sponsor for the effort is Eruc's wife, Nancy Board. Although he has yet to sign cash sponsors, sponsors that have donated gear and in-kind services include Invicta Law, Planet at Work Films, BOB Trailers, OrtliebUSA, REI, Outdoor Research and Vertical World. (For more information: (+1) 206-322-8323, erden_eruc@around-n-over.org, www.Around-N-Over.org).


News out of the Himalayas has been relatively quiet during the spring climbing season on Mt. Everest. Usually, mainstream media is all agog with the latest news of disabled, blind, and oldest/youngest summiteers. Perhaps they're just saving ink for the 10th anniversary of the 1996 Everest disaster two years hence. Or the theatrical release of the new Everest film by British theater director Stephen (Billy Elliot) Daldry now set for 2006. (The film will focus on four individuals who were part of the three expeditions caught in the treacherous blizzard).

Still, there were some notable accomplishments on Everest this season. After a spell of clear skies and a frenzied climbing binge beginning on May 15, at least 170 climbers have tagged the summit by the end of May, according to a May 30 story by Greg Child in the New York Times. More contenders waited for the last chance at the summit as the season wound down. Some highlights by press time:

  • Back on Top – A Nepalese professional mountaineer and Sherpa guide scaled Mt. Everest for the 14th time on May 17, bettering his own world record for the number of ascents.

    In a related story, on May 17, American climber Ed Viesturs became one of only two non-Sherpa to summit Everest for the sixth time.

  • Tragedy Strikes – On May 20, Shiroko Ota, a 63-year-old physician from Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, died after becoming the second-oldest woman to climb to the 29,035-foot summit. She slipped not long after she began her descent, about 1,000 feet below the summit.

  • Fastest Ascent – Pemba Dorje Sherpa, a Nepalese professional mountaineer, scaled Everest on May 21 in 8 hours and 10 minutes, setting a new record for the fastest climb, the Nepalese Tourism Ministry said.

  • Most Ascents by a Woman – On May 19, a Nepalese woman climber, Lhakpa Sherpa, climbed Mount Everest for the fourth time from the Tibetan route, becoming the first woman to climb the mountain more than three times.

    There were 264 successful ascents in 2003 alone. In a single day 118 people reached the top. By press time, a total of 1,373 people have climbed Everest from the Nepali and the Chinese sides. During the half-century since the Hillary-Norgay first ascent in 1953, 178 people have died on the mountain - a mortality rate of 13 percent.


    Baby, You Can Fly My Car – Last month we recalled how the media in the 1950's and 60's promised we'd all be in flying cars by around now. Well, you can park that idea for a while. Inventor, adventurer, photographer and writer Robert Fulton, Jr., who created a flying automobile - the 1949 Airphibian - died last month in Newton, Conn. at the age of 95. Fulton developed his flying car in 1946 and despite logging more than 100,000 miles in the air and garnering favorable press in national magazines, the Airphibian never got off the ground commercially. One complete model still exists as part of the collection of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian.


    On the Threshold – "For many members of the Explorers Club, facing and finessing unexpected challenges are almost de rigueur," writes Mary Voboril in the May 10 issue of Long Island Newsday (New York). "Over the decades, members of the Manhattan-based club have been buried alive on digs and lost in caverns. They've weathered gales at sea and, at least once, an encounter with an angry polar bear. One member had an emergency descent while hang-gliding over Pakistan's K-2, the world's second-highest peak.

    "Still, skeptics may wonder whether an organization so closely associated with exploratory glories of the distant past can be relevant in 2004 -- - whether the mapping of unknown regions, the quest for dizzying heights and dizzying depths actually is the stuff of a golden, pre-millennial era. In short, isn't exploration so ... last century?

    "The Explorers Club has a ready response: 'It's so not,'" the Newsday story continues. Up to 97 percent of our planet, specifically the Deep Sea, remains largely unexplored. In its centennial year, in fact, "we find ourselves at the threshold of a new era of scientific and geographic discovery, equal to the heroic age of exploration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, partly due to sweeping advances in technology."

    Membership numbers also tell the tale. The club counts 3,056 members in 29 chapters within 60 nations on seven continents. A committee for the group vets potential members carefully. "They don't want travelers. ... They want explorers," communications director Jeff Stolzer tells Newsday's staff writer. "Travelers go to interesting places; explorers go to interesting places and bring back new information."

    Cityscapes – There are over 9 million urban climbers, with 790,000 new young urban devotees joining the sport each year. Now along comes a magazine for these metro climbers more at home at the neighborhood Y than the Himalayas. A magazine for those of us - truth be told - who like to hit the local climbing gym, but aren't about to buy a complete set of camming devices just yet. Urban Climber Magazine, coming out in October, bills itself as the first magazine to focus on the information, community and entertainment needs of the new breed of climbers who enjoy urban bouldering, sport and competition climbing, and gym climbing.

    "I'm a product of the gym," says editor Matt Burbach. "I may complain about there not being enough rock around (Washington) D.C., but would I drop everything and move to Montana in a heartbeat? Probably not. I like my urban culture." (For more information: www.UrbanClimberMag.com).


    Blind Climber Has Vision – It isn't often you will find Erik Weihenmayer in a city, but lately he's been towering over New York's Times Square. In early March, thousands of billboards with the message, "Climbed Everest. Blind. Vision. Pass it on." went up around the country - on highways, in airports, in movie theaters and over Times Square. The message from The Foundation for a Better Life is promoting the combined values of courage, persistence, compassion, strength…and vision.

    Erik is featured in an Emmy nominated film, "Farther than the Eye Can See," about his historic climb of Everest in 2001. The film, directed and filmed by Michael Brown and co-produced by Erik and his father, Ed Weihenmayer, continues to successfully raise thousands of dollars for numerous charities. It has already won "best of festival" awards at Taos and Montreal last October, and special awards at Banff and Whistler in November.

    The National Television Academy has nominated "Farther Than the Eye Can See" for two Emmys, one for Outstanding Sports Documentary and the other for Outstanding Camera Work. It has also played at New York's Lincoln Center, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Geographic Theater in Washington DC. (See www.SeracFilms.com for information of future showings).


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