He would kayak with his girlfriend from
the northwest down the Pacific coast, then fold up the 32-pound
craft and hike across the U.S.-Mexican border in the winter. They
would kayak through the Gulf of Mexico, up the eastern seaboard to
Maine, then hike and kayak west across wilderness and the many
waterways dividing the U.S. and Canada.
Eruç and Kropp were building chemistry and making good progress when they approached Air Guitar, the only accessible climb from their ledge. Kropp and Eruç stopped to survey the scene. The weather report had forecast possible rain. There were à few clouds, but nothing too menacing. To the right, they could see Murphy and Hysert working their way up the same slope.
It was mid-afternoon, and there was
ample time for another climb. Eruç and Kropp looked at each other,
smiled, and got on with it. Kropp had never climbed Air Guitar, so
Eruç insisted that the Swede go first. As Kropp began the climb,
Eruç belayed him from the bottom. Kropp secured protection pieces as
he climbed, working his way up the face. As he neared the top,
something went terribly wrong."
|Though he's smiling now, Eruç's ocean crossing could be the most perilous part of his Global Triathlon|
Eruç's left arm suffered à full-circle
rope burn, but he didn't care. There was no time to lose. Despite
his effort, Eruç ñîuldn’t brace Kropp's fall. "I heard him impact
just behind me, and then there was silence," Eruç said.
It all happened quickly. Eruç looked up and saw only one protection piece remaining. All other gear had been stripped in sequence as Kropp fell. Eruç turned and saw Goran lying motionless on the climber's trail below the ledge. Numb with shock, he staggered toward Kropp's body. "His helmet had shattered and was not on his head," Eruç said. "Given the amount of blood on the talus and the severity of the injuries, I have no doubt that he died on first impact with the shelf."
Eruç was horror-stricken, and in his mind he was praying that what had just happened was just à dream. That he would look up and still see Kropp perched high above the ground, nearing the top, the three protection pieces driven firmly into the slope as stable precautions should the Swede lose his grip. Reality revealed à different scene. Marcus was calling for an emergency ñråw, and Richard was in Eruç's face, trying to calm him down. Eruç was hyperventilating and slipping into shock. He had idolized Kropp. Most mountain climbers did. But now, Kropp, the mountain climbing legend who had urged Eruç to pursue his dreams, was dead after pursuing his own.
No one will ever know what Kropp felt in his last moments of life, falling from the face of the slope 20 meters above the ledge. But what Eruç felt is well-documented. Helpless and hopeless, Eruç was urged to fill out an accident report that night with Íålló Hansen, Kropp's sponsor. "Goran was à famous man," Eruç said. "There was à lot of attention. I had to provide accurate information. I had to be available. I had to provide an accident report. If I didn’t , stories would come out of this.”
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