By Jillian Rogers
News Sports Reporter
Though most grizzly and black bears North of 60 are still soundly nestled in their dens, 41-year-old Erden Eruç has his can of bear spray handy.
He’s even thinking about getting a shotgun.
Eruç, a Seattle-based mountaineer and explorer, arrived in Whitehorse by bike on the weekend on his way to climb Mount McKinley in Alaska.
Once there, he’ll summit North America’s highest peak before cycling back to Seattle. But his epic journey will have just started.
After a few months of training, he’ll row from Seattle to Chile and climb Mount Aconcagua; hop back in his specially designed, $50,000 US row boat and cross the Pacific Ocean to New Guinea; climb Carstenz Pyramid, row to Thailand or India, cycle to Nepal; climb Mount Everest, then cycle back to his boat; row to the east coast of Africa and cycle to and climb Mount Kilimanjaro; then, row across the Red Sea and the through the Suez Canal to Turkey and summit Elbruz.
From there, he’ll row across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Islands until he hits Florida. Then he’ll cycle back to Seattle.
The quest, which is all completely self-propelled and independent and is dubbed Around-n-Over, will take him seven years and cost at least $200,000 US to complete.
Although he’s been pondering this tour for some time, it wasn’t until he lost friend and fellow climber Göran Kropp in September that he got the wheels in motion.
Kropp is best known for cycling from Stockholm, Sweden, to the Mount Everest base camp, then climbing the world’s tallest peak and cycling back to Sweden in 1996.
Eruç first heard about Kropp several years ago, while he was planning his original trip, which included biking and rowing but no climbing. He picked up a copy of Kropp’s book, Ultimate High.
“I read the book — he was a climber and I was a climber, so I could relate to him,” Eruç said Tuesday morning in his cluttered hotel room.
The American Alpine Club Cascade Section paid for Kropp to give a talk in Seattle, and while there, Eruç and Kropp became friends.
But, a few months ago, while Kropp and Eruç were climbing in Washington, Kropp fell to his death.
“In tribute to Göran, I added the summits to my trip — I Göran-sized it, if you will,” said the Turkish-born Eruç. “The trip will end in early 2009.”
So far on his bike journey from Seattle, Eruç has had to wait out a few storms, has crashed his 68-kilogram bike and trailer four times and has had to replace his chain, cogs and a wheel.
He spends roughly $1,400 each month on food, repairs and lodging wherever he stops.
Since he pedals for up to eight hours and covers 80 to 100 kilometres a day, he isn’t skimping on food.
He has burgers and fries whenever he can, he said, noting he will need some fat on his body while climbing to help combat hypothermia.
“Nothing prepares you for this kind of trip. The only way to get prepared for this kind of exercise is to do it.
“No pain, no gain does not apply here. I have to pay attention to my body.”
Eruç went through rigorous medical tests before starting the first leg of his trip to determine whether he was fit enough for the seven-year ordeal.
“We basically found out that I was in good shape and that I could keep going forever as long as I keep my heart rate under 136,” said Eruç, a former software consultant who gave up the paycheque and profile to work at REI, a climbing and outdoor store.
Once in Denali National Park, Eruç will be joined by a few of his friends from home, who will accompany him on the climb. His fiancée will also be there, and after he descends the mountain, they plan to get married.
After that, the newlyweds will spend their honeymoon cycling back to Seattle. But after that, Eruç will be completely on his own.
Eruç admitted he sometimes gets a bit bored while pedaling along, but most of the time he keeps occupied by enjoying the ever-changing scenery, he said.
If he takes his eyes off the road for too long, however, a crash inevitably ensues.
Maneuvering the large, cumbersome vehicle takes some practice, and even though it’s fairly stable on firm ground, riding on the shoulder of the road has resulted in a couple of nasty spills.
His watercraft will be complete with solar panels, compartments for sleeping and bike storage, and emergency locators.
Besides ocean storms, Eruç is concerned about “pirates near Indonesia and rowing through the Red Sea — those shores will be treacherous,” he said.
“The unknown is not a challenge; it’s only a fear factor if you allow to be. The unknown is something that you face, and when you face danger, the solution will usually lend itself to you pretty quickly.
“I’m not worried about that stuff. I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
He estimates it will take him 46 to 90 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean and 200-plus to row across the Pacific.
He hasn’t decided whether he’ll bring fishing tackle on his long voyage, but a lot of adventurers who decide to cross an ocean by themselves opt not to bring any kind of hooks or knives because they fear injuring themselves, he said.
He’ll probably just stick with lots of freeze-dried meals, he said.
When his journey finally ends, Eruç said he probably won’t embark on another global venture.
But, “the wanderlust might come back and bite me again.”
For more information, check out Eruç’s website at around-n-over.org.
Contact Jillian Rogers at email@example.com
Erden's Disclaimer about the burgers and fries: With this kind of endorsement, I probably could gain sponsorship by McDonald's or Wendy's! I actually told Jillian that burgers and fries on the road get old after a while, and that I make up on the greens and fruits whenever I arrive at a town with a grocery store. I also told her that I started out with 20% body fat and that I had to keep my fat ratio above 10% to remain healthy on such a long trip. Somehow the two sentences got merged.
I would like to thank Jillian for this flattering article in Yukon News that is read all over the Yukon, especially along the Alaska Higway where I traveled.