Alumnus Attempts to Circumnavigate the Globe

Posted: November 29, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Anzaldi

In 1997, Erden Eruç, EMBA ’99, sat in his office staring at a map, often walking over and tracing his finger across the continents in an arc that he dubbed the “Journey Home.”

An avid mountain climber, biker and outdoorsman, he fantasized about one day pursuing a human-powered circumnavigation of the world. His dream route would take him to some of the globe’s greatest challenges, including Mt. Everest.

Five years later, Eruç was finding the confines of the corporate environment suffocating and was longing to make a change when his close friend Göran Kropp tragically fell to his death during a climbing accident in 2002. In Kropp’s death Eruç found the catalyst he needed to make his dream a reality.

“At the time of Göran’s death, I was in training to become a professional mountain guide to pursue my passions and dreams,” he says. “I was ready to take responsibility for this change and to build on my strengths.”

And what a change it was. Eruç began the “Six Summits Project,” a journey in which he will circumnavigate the globe solely through the use of human power. “No sails, no motors, no bottled oxygen — just raw human power!”

He is kayaking across oceans, bicycling through countries and climbing the highest summits on six continents.

“I began by riding my bicycle from Seattle to Alaska in winter conditions in 2003 and then walked into Denali (Mt. McKinley) base camp, covering 67 miles on foot over glaciers,” he says.

Erden Eruç
With his journey circumnavigating the globe solely under his own power, Erden Eruç wants to motivate and influence the many schoolchildren he encounters around the world.
Photo courtesy Erden Eruç

Following the trip to Denali, Eruç pedaled from Seattle to Miami before taking to the sea. For his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, he rowed single-handedly from the Canary Islands to Guadeloupe in 95 days, which he has found to be the most challenging part of his adventure so far.

“I was entirely in charge of my destiny while rowing at sea. Dealing with solitude, boredom, physical fatigue, lack of sleep and salt blisters all became part of that experience,” he says.

Eruç is ready to take on the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2007. “My goal will be to reach Oceania, the highest point of which is the Carstenz Pyramid in West Papua (Irian Jaya),” he says. “The entire journey will be completed in 2012 if all goes according to plan.”

Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, and raised in Turkey, Eruç’s first climb was with his father at age 11 on the high east summit of Mt. Erciyes, an extinct volcano in south central Turkey. Since then, he has climbed technical rock, alpine routes, big walls and water ice.

Eruç has embarked on this sojourn with not just adventure in mind, but with an aspiration to motivate and influence the many schoolchildren he encounters throughout the globe.

Eruç says he started Around-n-Over, a Seattle-based nonprofit, with the goal to “serve to make the world a better place, and to make his journey a part of the lives of the children that will be touched by it.” With the help of a team of volunteer professionals, Around-n-Over produces news and educational content related to the journey via the Internet, providing teachers an opportunity to discuss geography, mathematics, physical fitness and social and natural sciences in a new way.

“The biggest challenge in starting Around-n-Over was actually committing. As in most challenges, 80 percent of the work was getting to the starting line,” he says.

Fortunately, his then-fiancée, Nancy Board, who is now his wife, fully supported his decision. “We decided to cash out my savings and retirement funds. We also ‘downsized’ our life and re-arranged priorities so that the dream could become reality.”

The decision to work with schoolchildren has been an important one for Eruc. “I have been able to influence elementary and middle school students by the thousands with my message: to follow their dreams, aim high and persevere,” he says, but he really believes it is a message for all ages.

“Dreams are a magnet if we recognize them, and they are not all physical,” he says. “Remember that you have choices. In each obstacle that we face along the way, we can find an excuse to return to safe harbors or an opportunity to solve the riddle. It is our attitude that will make the difference.”

For more information about Eruc’s nonprofit or to follow his journey, visit www.around-n-over.org.

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