National Geographic Adventure
Swedish mountaineer Renata Chlumska embarks on a 480-day expedition around the periphery of the United States, paying homage to Göran Kropp.
Where do you start a self-supported trip by kayak and bicycle around the periphery of the United States, a distance of more than 11,600 miles (18,668 kilometers)? Answer, if you're Swedish mountaineer Renata Chlumska: On your doorstep in the suburbs of Seattle. If all goes according to plan, she'll return 480 days later.
The expedition was something Chlumska dreamed up with her fiancé, the late Göran Kropp, the man who famously pedaled a bike from Sweden to Nepal, climbed Everest, andaccompanied by Chlumskapedaled back home. Together, the first couple of Scandinavian adventure climbed 26,248-foot (8,000-meter) Mount Shishapangma and Everest, started a guiding company, launched Arctic expeditions, and rock- and ice-climbed throughout much of the world.
Last year, Chlumska and Kropp moved to Seattle and began plotting the circumnavigation of their new countryit was an idea they'd already been kicking around for months. After Kropp's death in a rock-climbing accident southeast of Seattle, Chlumska returned to Sweden to visit family and friends. After much contemplation, Chlumska decided to move back to the United States and carry on the expedition solo.
When did you decide to go ahead with the plan to circumnavigate the U.S., even without fiancé Göran Kropp?
In the last seven months it's been easier to figure out what I don't want to do. I didn't want to stay in Sweden and continue the presentations and guiding I have done for six years. Göran and I had decided to move to America together; we were ready to move forward. I just feel that I have to keep moving forward on my own, and that's what Göran would have wanted me to do.
I also want to finish what Göran and I started and, in a way, start something myself. You kind of get a lot of existential thoughts when you've been in a situation like I've been in. I felt like I need time, I need a break. I need time to figure out what have I done, where am I, and what do I want to do with my life. This expedition will give me that time for reflection.
Has it been particularly difficult to be immersed in planning a trip that you were originally going to do with Kropp?
I'm living without Göran in anything and everything that I do all the time. We lived so close together and we ran a business together and did the expeditions together and shared every hour of every day together so it doesn't strike me like it's extra for the expedition because this is what my normal life isplanning expeditions.
But of course, I feel alone and I feel like now I have to be even more cautious and careful and even better prepared. Being two is always a strength. You're able to help each other; if one gets sick or one has a problem, there's always the other one there. So I guess I may have been less nervous having Göran by my side. I feel confident, but with Göran I always felt even more confident.
You've had a number of visa problems, and you were even detained at an airport and sent back to Sweden after being assured by the consulate there that everything was OK. Did all this just make you want to stay in Sweden?
No, no. That's just dealing with people. Now I'm told that I need a visa for sponsored athletes. This week they requested additional information about the kind of international competitions I've won. But I'm not competing in anything. They have strong examples of what I've done: climbing, bicycling from Nepal to Sweden. Now they're saying, "Well, she's going to paddle. What paddling has she done before?"
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