Last February, Göran Kropp was spotted cantilevered over the rail of his 12-foot Laser in subfreezing gale-force winds on Sweden's Lake Vättern. An alarmed passerby phoned the police, who tore after Kropp in a rescue boat. When the cops pulled alongside, they found Kropp happily flying through the chop, ice caked to his eyebrows and sculpted into wild organic shapes around the mast. The 32-year-old adventurer told his would-be rescuers that he was just learning to sail—the first and most important phase of training for his next epic stunt. "I want to be prepared for the frigid temperatures," says Kropp. "For the blizzards, hurricanes, and monstrous winds in the Southern Ocean."
Readers of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air will remember Kropp as the Swedish soloist who won the respect of every seasoned mountaineer on Everest for his transcendently pure ascent: He biked 8,580 miles from Stockholm to Kathmandu, summited without oxygen or Sherpas to carry his gear, and pedaled home again. Then, like any good adventure-performance artist, he wrote about it. This month, Kropp is touring the country, promoting his book, Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey (published by Discovery Books), and laying the groundwork for an encore. Sometime in 2003, he plans to sail a specially designed 30-foot boat—alone—from Sweden to McMurdo Sound in Antarctica (6,000 miles), ski to and from the South Pole (another 1,440 miles) in three months, and then sail home again.
"Göran's brain is completely loose!" laughs winner of last year's Whitbread Around the World Race and fellow Swede Magnus Olsson, who's been tutoring Kropp in the fundamentals of long-distance ocean sailing. "He's determined to do it, but in such a small boat he'll have to be very good at analyzing the weather to outrace the deadly storms off Cape Horn." A competitive cross-country skier who has trained with the Swedish national team, Kropp embarks on his first mega distance test-run this February, when he skis from the edge of the Arctic, off Russia's Novaya Zemlya, to the North Pole. As for the sailing partŠwell, he's got three more years to perfect his seamanship. "It may sound like madness," Kropp admits, "but you only have one life. I want to see and do as much as possible, and I think I'm doing that when I'm living like this."