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That night, the memories replayed over and over in Eruçs mind. The second-guessing started and wouldn't let up.

What if?

What if I had called it day?

What if I could've done more to save him?

The two had considered quitting prior to Kropp's final, fatal climb because of potential bad weather and the time of day. If only they had.

The thought carried different meaning this time.

 

Kindred Spirits Erden Eruç and Swedish climber Goran Kropp, right, in 2002.Eruç was holding the belay when Kropp fell to his death later that year climbing accident

 In the days and months that followed, Eruçs life played out in torturous stretch of reminiscing, grieving, and second guessing. The flame that had ignited his desire to circumnavigate the world flickered. It wasn't until Eruç 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, 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 Eruç with peace in her eyes.

 
"Goran's mother told me that we would be , that he was there," Eruçsaid, referring to the eagle. "It felt like Goran was with us."

The guilt Eruçfelt suddenly gave way to sense of empowerment. It was there, where his friend had perished, that Eruç finally saw the light. Kropp's death gave him sense of purpose greater than he had ever imagined. The passionate climber's life needed to be celebrated, not forgotten. With renewed determination, Eruç dedicated his global journey to his friend. There would be no turning back now. "That was the turning point for me," Eruç said. "It was time to carry the torch and get the journey on the road. That became the moment of commitment for me. I didn't want to wait for sponsors to validate this trip for me."

 Eruç reviewed the map once again, charting an ambitious path around the world. Before, he had included Everest in his itinerary. This time, he modified his plan to include what he calls the Six Summits Project, commitment to climb the tallest peak in each continent, minus Antarctica. He would climb the peaks 1 Kropp-without supplemental oxygen. To get to each peak, he would cycle across land and row across oceans. He would do it exclusively under human power. It would be solo journey with the spirit of his friend fueling him along the way. Some called the trip crazy, spurred by some melodramatic spirit that was untamed. But to Eruç, he couldn't have been more serious.

 Eruçs first destination was Mount McKinley's in Alaska. He left his home on February 1, 2003. By May 29, he was standing atop the mountain with two other partners. Along the way he married fellow adventurer Nancy Board in traditional Alaskan ceremony. By the time he returned to Seattle, Eruçhad covered 5,546 miles. It was August 24. The first leg of the journey had been success. "Going to Alaska and back was part of the healing process," Eruç said. "There was reason for me to be there, to honor m friend, and to carry the torch."

It was only the beginning. There were five more summits to go. To scale the next peak, Argentina's Mount Aconcagua, Eruç will have to cycle from Seattle to Miami, where he will ditch his bike for an ocean-going rowing shell and pull his way through the Caribbean en route to the Panama Canal. Once through, Eruç plans to row south to Ecuador. He will cycle to Santiago, Chile, turn east for Argentina, and scale the 22,841-foot mountain by December, 2006.

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