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)? In the case of Swedish fashion model-turned-adventure junkie and world-renowned mountaineer Renata Chlumska: On your doorstep in the suburbs of Seattle.
439 days later, paddling and pedaling almost 19 thousand kilometers she pulled into Lake Union on Friday 15 September 2006 making her the first person to circumnavigate the Lower 48 States of the USA by bicycle and kayak. And that was only the easy physical part of the expedition. Behold the story of Renata Chlumska.
Her adventuring spirit was nurtured in her early years with Sweden as here camping and adventure playground. But Renata wanted more.
When Renata worked for the Skåne Sports Federation, she met Göran Kropp, a famous mountaineer and adventurer. They became a couple and together they embarked on many adventures. Together they climbed the 26,248-foot (8,000-meter) Mount Shishapangma and in 1999 Mount Everest making Chlumska the first Swedish woman to climb Mount Everest. They also started a guiding company, launched Arctic expeditions, and rock- and ice-climbed throughout much of the world.
Kropp was the man who famously pedaled a bike from Sweden to Nepal, climbed Everest, and—accompanied by Chlumska—pedaled back home, as previously covered here on kickasstrips: Ultimate High >> Göran Kropp’s Cycling & Climbing Odyssey to the top of Everest
The ‘Around American Adventure’ expedition was something Chlumska dreamed up with him, Göran Kropp, her then fiancé.
Early in the new millenium, Chlumska and Kropp moved to Seattle and began plotting the circumnavigation of their new country—it was an idea they’d already been kicking around for months.
But then things took a change for the worse when Kropp, unexpectedly, died in a rock climbing accident on September 30, 2002. While climbing the popular Air Guitar route on the Frenchmen Coulee, in central Washington State, Kropp fell 75 feet onto a rock shelf dying on impact. All of his climbing protection, save one piece, ripped from the crack.
After Kropp’s death 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.
On the 4th of July in 2005 Renata Chlumska embarked on her unique expedition. She was going to circumnavigate the lower 48 states of the United States by her own strength – kayaking, bicycling and walking. Renata started in Seattle, paddled along the west coast on the Pacific Ocean down to San Diego. From there she headed east bicycling along the Mexican Border and paddling parts of the Rio Grande. All the while she pulled her kayak behind her on a trailer, inspiring the guys of BIKE2BOAT years later to do a similar thing across the Alps.
Her kayak and equipment weighed about 80 kilos (176 pounds) all together.
When arriving at the Gulf of Mexico she continued to paddle along the Intracoastal Waterway, but was forced to bicycle sections through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama due to effects of Hurricane Katrina. Renata then paddled/kayaked around Florida, all the way down to Key West before heading north again along the Atlantic coast. Once she got to the Canadian border she got back on her bike again, this time heading west all the way to Seattle. Renata finished in Seattle 439 days later on September the 15th 2006 and had then covered a distance of 18 200 km. That same evening Renata received a letter from the mayor of Seattle proclaiming September 15th, from then on, to be Renata Chlumska Day.
“It’s been a trip I planned almost six years now,” Chlumska said. “It’s a goal I felt I couldn’t leave undone.”
Chlumska paddled into Lake Union around 2 p.m. on that glorious day and was greeted by a crowd of family, friends and fans. “To be able to share this goal I’ve had so long with people means so much to me. I feel very fortunate,” Chlumska said. “I would never have wanted to have it undone, but I’m happy it’s over.”
Though the days were grueling, one of the toughest parts of the trip was remembering to eat enough while kayaking, Chlumska said. She estimated that she burned more than 2.5 million calories during the trip.
Great adventure Renata. Kickass Respect!!