Erden Eruc Ends Six Summits Project

Erden Eruc has aborted his Six Summits Project. Since 2003, he has been trying to reach all the Seven Summits (except Vinson in Antarctica) by human power, then climb them.

He was hoping to relaunch into the South China Sea from the Philippines, then continue on his way to Everest. But lack of sponsorship has made it impossible.

On top of funding issues, he was unable to get the necessary visas. First Myanmar, then China turned down his visa requests. As late as March 12, China denied him a visa. Then three days later, the country announced that it had begun to issue visas to foreigners again after the long COVID hiatus. But combined with the mounting costs, it was probably too late.

“I no longer have the resources to push this proverbial boulder uphill,” Eruc said on social media, in announcing the end of the project.

Photo: Erden Eruc


How the project began

It was the death of Eruc’s friend Goran Kropp in 2002 that pushed him to start planning the project in earnest. The two were climbing together in Washington State when Kropp suffered a fatal fall. Kropp was best known for cycling from Stockholm to Nepal to climb Mount Everest.

“On the plane returning home from his funeral in Stockholm, I drew the world map on a piece of paper and marked the highest summit on each continent except Antarctica. I said, ‘I’m going to reach each of the highest summits on these continents by human power, in honor of Goran.’ That’s how the Six Summits Project began,” Eruc told ExplorersWeb.

He first climbed Denali in Alaska in 2003. Four years later. he started his human-powered circumnavigation of the world. He climbed Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia in 2010. Then he rowed alone across the Indian Ocean and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his father in 2011.

Photo: Erden Eruc


Completes solo circumnavigation

Remained for him to tackle Everest, Elbrus, and Aconcagua. But financial issues began to impede his plans. Everest, as many of us know, is particularly expensive. Eruc decided to bypass the summits for the time being and continue with the circumnavigation. By 2012, he completed that human-powered trip around the world.

Eruc’s west-to-east circumnavigation. Image: Erden Eruc


After more years of planning and saving, he decided to tackle the final three summits. Eruc left California in the spring of 2021 and began to row 11,000km to Hong Kong. He estimated that it would take 10 months. On reaching Asia, he was going to cycle overland to Everest.

Weather prevailed against him from the start. He faced Tropical Storms Hilda, Jimena, Kevin, and Linda, which eventually became a hurricane. Currents and winds pushed him off track and delayed him significantly. Then he was denied a visa to China, which was crucial for his plan.

Eruc’s route from the U.S. to the Philippines. Image:

More hurdles

In September 2021, he stopped in Hawaii so he could repair his boat and try to fix his visa problems. Again, no success. The weather was also becoming an issue. If he rowed straight to Hong Kong, he would have to resupply at sea, a difficult feat, so he rowed to Guam.

When he landed, he became the first person to row from Hawaii to the Marianas. He became the first person to notch 1,000 days of rowing alone across the world’s oceans, besting the previous record of 937 days, set by legendary British rower Peter Bird in the 1990s.

Eruc re-launched from Guam in February 2022, hoping to avoid tropical depressions and storms. But he started a few weeks too late. At the time, he admitted that “the volatility of these patterns was a bit of a surprise to me.”

Weather forced him to stop in the Philippines. He left his boat there, waiting for him to return and restart in February 2023. Sadly, it was not to be.

Photo: Erden Eruc


“At this point, I am disappointed but I don’t have any regrets,” said Eruc, now 61. “To put it simply, I lost faith that my journey would be welcome in China…Six Summits Project lost its luster when it became clear that even before this visa nonsense, reaching Everest by human power and then climbing it was out of the question without proper funding.”

Though he didn’t say as much, given the current political situation in Russia, even climbing Elbrus might have been one bureaucratic headache too far.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.