David Lagercrantz, who has written about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alan Turing, and is the author of the latest Stieg Larsson Millennium-book, knows how to write. It really feels like you are there, in the snow and in the darkness, with Göran Kropp. You are really cold. What is surprising is the interesting relationships forming at base camp, and the necessity to trust and depend on each other. The people coming there to climb are so unlike each other, but become the same, with the same thoughts and the same needs and struggle to survive. There are so many destinies intertwining, which makes the book rich in a fascinating way. It is really beautiful that people meet and have this bond. Kropp tells us about wonderful meetings with wonderful people, but and also people that are arrogant and selfish. Up there, people are really put to the test. They seem to be reduced to the basic foundation of themselves, in a way. The true personality is revealed.
Some facts about Mount Everest
* In 1924, George Mallory was the first westerner that climbed Mount Everest. No one knows what happened, and whether Mallory and his collegue Andrew Irwine reached the top. They disappeared and were find 1999. They were the first to die there.
* In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers known to have succesfully reached the top. Three days later, the same day that Elisabeth II was crowned Queen, their achievement reached the news and they became heroes. Kropp claims that the news were comparable with Neil Armstrong later walking on the moon.
* Reinhold Messner reached the top 1980, alone and without oxygen tubes.
* Water boils beneath 100 degrees celcius, around 60.
* A person looses 8 liters of water a day.
* Above 8000 meter, the ground is called the "death zone". Already at base camp, near the height of 6000 meters, the body stop producing muscle cells. Exercise is not only burning fat, but also muscles are affected.
* It is said that the mind of a person with great physique is slowing down up there and the ability of understanding is half of a six year old, due to exhaustion and the low levels of oxygen.
* The mountain can only be climbed a short time, between the jetstreams and the monsoon season.
* Around 155 people have died climbing Mount Everest.
This is a story about the love of climbing, but it is also a report about the climbing industry. Göran Kropp critiqizes the rich people that pay huge amounts to be a part of a team, but lack knowledge, respect and experience, only surviving because they depend totally on their guides, jeopardising the entire expedition, because of their inability. Kropp doesn't like the fact that mountains have become like trophies for the rich. According to him, it contaminates the air. A climber should first and foremost care about the climbing, the love for the mountain. But the commercial aspect is growing. Now, the mountain is like a high way, trafficked by unexperienced people, which might have stopped the flow of climbers, may 10th, 1996, and caused the delay - one of the reasons that led to the major tragedy.
Climbing is expensive and has become an adventure for the rich people. The more comfortable adventure, the more expensive adventure, sadly. Money should not be the ruling aspect, deciding who will be a part of a team. Kropp discusses the rich and famous people using oxygen tubes at all times and paying many sherpas to carry their baggage. Of course, it's not possible to demand that people should carry heavy packing and drop the oxygen tubes, and still be able to carry out the deed. Then, not many people would be able to have the experience of reaching the top. There should be no prestige. However, it's obvious that it is the sherpas that are the real heroes. But many people that pay their way up to the top and don't need to prepare themselves that much or plan anything, seem to lack the careful, responsible, humble and respectful approach that characterizes the guides. Many of them give the impression of not being that interested in climbing, which makes you wonder what their climbing is all about. Perhaps some of them are genuinly trying to learn, while others just want a trophy. Kropp is critical of people like the arrogant and disrespectful journalist Sandy Pittman, who, according to him, seem to have had a big part in the tragedy of the expedition she belonged to, in 1996. An assistent to the guide had to drag her up and down – she didn't even climb by herself, just because she was famous and great advertising - and therefor didn't have the strengh later to save people's lives. Pittman survived because she was rescued, but her comment later to the tragedy that occured was that it was indeed horrible, but at least her book would sell well. After getting back to base camp, she hired a helicopter and asked only two people to ride with her, when she could have hired another one for the same amount of money, and helped those that had saved her life. Perhaps Scott Fischer's death might have been avoided if he hadn't burned himself out, trying to help such clients, and she didn't mention and never thanked the people that saved her life, when later talking to the press.
The guides shouldn't take totally unexperienced people on. Obviously, everyone has the right to climb, but it would be safer if the clients had some practice before deciding to climb Mount Everest. It is dangerous even for the most experienced guide. No one can buy a life garanty, and unexperienced people increases the risk. But the climbing industry is growing, and money is power. May 10th, 1996, the guides Scott Fischer and Rob Hall decided to ignore the rule to not climb the mountain after 02.00 pm - Hall waited there until 04.00 pm, because he didn't want to let his client, Doug Hansen, down. Kropp remembers the famous call between Rob Hall and his wife, Jan Arnold. Hall was alone, somewhere in the cold, exhausted and almost didn't have the energy to talk to her. The last time they spoke to each other they talked about what they would name their baby.
Despite the growing commerse, there are still people that want the whole challenge, and do everything themselves. They are often the most experienced, and most likely to survive. It's something beautiful and magnificent about challenging oneself to that extent. It's almost as if a person's mind is reduced to only the strongest feelings - happiness, hope, disappointment, fear, determination and grief. It's easy to understand the climbers' view of what it really is to live. Perhaps some people live their lives to the fullest when they are close to death. Göran Kropp died in 2002, climbing in the area of Frenchmans Coulee, close to Washington. He was and still is a great inspiration, while reminding us of the danger of climbing. With this book, he is able to tell his story.