(K2Climb.net) Friday evening, around 8 pm local time, the final summiteers stepped on the top of K2, the "Mountaineers' Mountain" in Pakistan. Early Saturday morning, August 2nd local time, it was clear that summiteers on descent were in trouble around the Bottleneck on K2's upper slopes.
An avalanche had swept a number off the slope, others were reported stuck in or above the bottleneck, desperate to find a route across the maze of ice rubble and buried lines.
Desperate calls went out over the mountain, for available mountaineers to go up with rope and assist the group of stranded climbers.
Reports show that some climbers had been holding below in a camp around 8000 meters in fear of worsening weather. What exactly took place or didn't take place this black Saturday is not yet clear. What is clear however is that these climbers were back in BC already by early Sunday.
Among frantic rescue attempts for the moving dots high up on the wall, some of these men managed to find the time and stamina to grab their satellite phones and call media by Sunday lunch, declaring all the unlocated people dead.
One of these climbers, Swedish Fredrik Strang, made especially big waves - with heroic tales of himself saving at least ten people single handed, carrying bodies, dead and alive on his back - apparently in record time since a descent from 8000 meters to BC normally requires a day in itself - and that is if you run.
Slowing down rescues and blaming the victims
Two things in Fredrik's story were however really bad; many of the climbers up there had been seen moving only the day before and were very possibly still fighting for their lives. Not only was Fredrik not up there with much needed rope, his statement risked to confuse and slow down efforts for their rescue.
Secondly, Fredrik blamed the victims for their misfortune. Relatives and friends were desperate. Among few words of rescue attempts; thousands of articles declared their brothers, husbands and friends already gone, in addition by their own incompetence. It was clear that none of the victims was in position to defend themselves against Fred's accusations to the entire world media.
Turning the tables
But what was the accusers own cred, then? Judging from his know-how and heroism on K2, we would have expected at least a self-sufficient Everest climb. An Annapurna solo would have been great.
Yet we already knew we would find no such thing, for ExWeb had had encounters with the Swedish adventurer before. In friendly emails, ExplorersWeb had warned him on several occasions to be more careful with his claims. Yesterday, fuelled by our mailbox, we decided to check back on Fredrik Strang's resume.
No world record
In December 2006, Strang finished his last of the Seven Summits, claiming 191 days and the fastest to close the round. This was not correct, Canadian Griffith had finished the same quest only one week earlier, in 187 days. Several people made Fredrik aware of this, including ExplorersWeb. Strang still chose to apply for the record to Guinness, in hopes that the Canadian wouldn't bother to file the extensive paperwork.
The stunt worked, for a while. Fredrik was awarded the record by Guinness in February 2007. He published it on the front page of his website and used it heavily in media and speech engagements.
Following complaints by the community, Guinness Book of Records placed Griffith and Malli at the top. Both these climbers had finished the 7 summits faster than Strang. An email from Kim Lacey, Database Records Manager of Guinness World Records on Aug 17 2007 to ExplorersWeb confirmed Guinness correction of their mistake:
"Fastest time to climb the seven summits including Carstensz: Daniel Griffith (Canada) in 187 days. Fastest time to climb the seven summits including Kosciuszko: Mastan Babu Malli (India) in 172 days." No record for Fredrik Strang.
Thus we were surprised to find the claim resurfacing in Fredrik's next project.
The Super 7
"The Super 7" brochure is a presentation aimed to get sponsors for Fredrik's K2 expedition. The "Super 7" in itself is a strange construction with a goal to climb every second highest peak on each continent. On page 6 (of 8), a clue is found to the question posed by reporters to ExplorersWeb over the past few days in relation to Fredriks media rave, "why is he doing this?"
On page 6 in the Super 7 brochure pitch, Fredrik tells his potential sponsors how his 7 summit quest budget was projected at $120,000. But the PR value created by exposure in Television, Newspapers, Internet and Radio had generated $4.3 million! Fredrik even lists the name of the independent media bureau that made this evaluation.
But that was all before the K2 tragedy. While Fredrik didn't summit; the internationally unknown Swede is now the most quoted name in world media. Going to his own figures; the latest exposure has made Fredrik's expedition already worth at least ten times the Seven Summit project. Fast calls and quotes ready for headlines; the K2 tragedy has brought a value of at least $43 million to Fredrik's Super 7 project.
"Fredrik is Sweden's number one alpine climber..." states the presentation and "He set the world record for the fastest ascents of the Seven Summits." Well, we already know that that's not true, and even if it were, it would hardly merit Fredrik as the top alpine climber in any country, except perhaps for Sudan, which is not the same as Sweden.
So what has he climbed, then? On page 4 in the brochure he sent to ExWeb, Fredrik lists his accomplishments; crowned by 4, 8000 meter summits in only three years time, and Everest twice!
The big summits are, as listed in the brochure:
*Dhaulagiri, 8167 meter, 2003
*Mount Everest, 8848 meter, 2005
*Shishapangma, 8012 meter, 2005
*Mount Everest, 8848 meter, 2006
Everest: not 2 times but 1, on 02 from camp 2, with 8 Sherpas and a guide
Everest twice? The Himalayan Database has Strang listed to have climbed Everest (8848 meter) in 2006. The database lists Fredrik as using Oxygen already from C2 in 2005, in a commercial expedition led by Ryan Waters, with 6 climbers and 6 high-altitude porters. All porters and two clients summited, one Swede Magnus Flock, but no Strang. ExWeb notified Fredrik about this straight after we received his pitch.
Strang did reach the summit of Everest in 2006, guided by Scott Woolums and Jamie McGuinness. Again reportedly using oxygen already from C2, Fred topped out with 8 of the 8 high altitude porters, and 5 of 12 fellow clients including fellow Swede Johan Frankelius.
Remember the statement "Fredrik is Sweden's number one alpine climber..."?
That same year, in 2006 Swedish extreme skier Thomas Olson climbed to the summit of Everest without oxygen, carrying his skis. The low-profile climber died when trying to ski down a very difficult route.
Meanwhile, Swedes Martin Letzer and Olof Sundstrom climbed up using oxygen from 7700 meter and skied down the mountain. Thomas, Martin and Olof were in their own expeditions without guides. Martin and Olof shared one high-altitude porter. In fact, Sweden has 15 Everest summiteers out of which only three were guided; Fred one of them.
Remember Inaki Ochoa's remark, "the summit is where everything goes down in every direction"?
Coming home from Shishapangma Fred declared to media (translated from Swedish): "Back home after a successful expedition to Shishapangma in Tibet!...My goal was to summit the two 8000ers Shishapangma and Cho Oyu and I'm back home with a summit."
Confused? That easily happens when dealing with Fred.
While Fredrik apparently did summit A summit, he did not summit THE summit. Fredrik forgets to tell us that 8012 meter is the central summit - shy of the 8047 meter true summit. A long, avalanche prone and bad-looking ridge makes the difference, stopping most climbers in their tracks. Actually most mountaineers would say that Fredrik failed and needs to go back again if he wants to claim a Shisha success.
Dhaulagiri - last climber and no summit picture
But what about Dhaulagiri then? 8167 meter is the true summit of Dhaulagiri and Himalayan Database lists Fredrik as having achieved a successful summit on May 20, 2003. Case closed, congratulations Fredrik!
...but wait. The rule in mountaineering is to believe a climber on his word unless he is questioned by fellow mountaineers or has a record of false claims. Fredrik easily falls in both categories. The number of frantic Swedish climbers disputing Fredrik's claims is remarkable, considering the small size of the country.
On Dhaulagiri, Fredrik was member of a Swedish expedition led by Joakim Ahlin. One of the 6 members was Magnus Flock who summited Everest in 2005 - the year Fredrik failed. The expedition had one high-altitude porter; Kami Sherpa. All expedition members had to abort their summit attempt...except for Fredrik and Kami.
They reportedly topped out last, after a bunch of international climbers. The only summit picture shown by Fredrik from the climb is a face shot and apparently not the summit at all. Swedish climbers told ExplorersWeb that Fredrik has been confronted with this and also admitted that the summit picture actually was taken close to but not on the actual summit.
The previous record of false/misleading claims, in addition to summiting last with only a paid Sherpa for witness and no summit picture gives reason to check a bit closer. Fred's comprehensive website has plenty of info and pictures on most of his climbs, yet click on Dhaulagiri "diary with pictures" and the link is dead. Click on Dhaulagiri "expedition homepage" and find another empty space.
Fredrik Strang's major achievements according to his recent sponsor brochure are 4 8000 meter summits and the 7 summit world speed record. In reality he has one summit of Everest in a heavily supported and guided expedition. Dhaulagiri is unconfirmed and the rest plain incorrect. That's it. Sweden might not be the best climbing nation in the world, but rest assured they have quite a few climbers who can beat that.
In addition to latest on K2, Strang also claims other heroic rescues, a major one reportedly from Antarctica. ExWeb have been unable to locate any confirmation of that. There was however a rescue debrief made by Jagged Globe during the time, where Ian Barker recounts the storm that trapped climbers on the peak. Ian however seems to be putting two other Swedes, Olaf Sundstrom and Martin Letzter (who skied down Everest in 2006) in focus of his praise. (Check links section below images for the debrief).
Now back to the point of the story. In spite of only summiting Everest heavily supported by guides and oxygen, Fredrik has declared the victims on K2 "inexperienced." His media guy reportedly told media latest yesterday that "we didn't mean Rolf Bae," so let's compare the rest:
Wilco van Rooijen (found less than 12 hours before Strang declared all people dead) has K2 summit plus two previous attempts, climbs on Broad Peak, Shisha Pangma, and Everest without Oxygen (plus a number of "Seven Summits"). Cas, who free climbed the Bottleneck with Pemba, and went back up the next morning for Marco has done a number of North Walls, including Matterhorn, Eiger, Droites and Grandes Jorasses; plus Shisha and a previous K2 attempt. Gerard has Everest and a previous K2 attempt among other climbs, Hugues has Mont Blanc 10 times (!), a bunch of other summits in the Alps and the world plus 3 8000ers (G II, Everest, and Nanga Parbat).
And remember how we at the start of this story expected to find Annapurna in Fred's resume? We didn't - but we did in Marco Confortola's file: in 2006 before and after climbs on Everest, Shisha Pangma (main), Cho Oyu in a 26 hour roundtrip and Broad Peak last year. Not to mention technical rock climbs.
Fredrik Strang got what he was after; thousands of quotes in world media to bring to the table when counting on mega value of exposure to his sponsors.
Our reasons sit by the hundreds in our mailbox since the past few days.
A French reader says he tried to alert TF1/LCI in France about Strang's statements which he found "untrue and shameful," a Swedish climber wrote that he was trying to alert his local Swedish media to ExWeb's articles, a Norwegian team member wrote he was wrecked about Rolf and devastated by seeing his name being so shamed, a person close to Gerard has been in tears in phone calls for days.
Some even feel for the Swedes, "I feel sorry for all my good Swedish friends that they have such a jerk as 'spokesperson' in the climbing community, and my thoughts go to all Swedes who feel ashamed of Fredrik's performance on K2," reads one mail.
Yet the major part of emails have contents similar to this one, "Hughes climbed G II (normal route), Everest 17.05.2004 (North route), Nanga Parbat in 2005 (Kinshofer route) That's why I was UPSET by Fedrik Strang's comments...Please God bless you all for your humanity, research of the real truth, and respect for families and friends of those dead or injured."
More about the 7 summit world record.
When you enter www.strang.se, Fredrik's website you will be greeted by a large flash banner rotating between a banner of K2, pictures of African children and a pull for Fredrik's biography.
The book ad says: "7 mountains, 7 continents, 7 months with Fredrik Strang - the hunt for the highest peaks that led to a world record".
On Dec 27 2006 ExplorersWeb received an email from Fredrik, reading:
"On the 1:st of December at 20.40 local time I finished my big adventure when I summited the highest peak in Antarctica, Mount Vinson 4892 m.a.s.l. My goal was to climb the highest mountain on every continent (=7 Summits) within 7 months and beat the present Guinness world record that Andrew Slater from UK has (287 days). I did it in 6 months and 6 which are 191 days in total, becoming the first Swedish person to ever climb the 7 Summits. I will soon send my application form to Guinness world records who will examine my evidence and hopefully in the beginning of February next year I will have the final result."
ExWeb had just received information that Canadian Daniel Griffith had achieved the 7 summits in 187 days - a new record. Being that Fredrik finished his 7 summits after Daniel and in 191 days we wrote back to Fredrik:
"Hi Fredrik, Congrats to the 7! Don't understand this with Guinness though - isn't the Canadian guy faster?"
Fredrik's reply came fast. It offered us an exclusive article of the 7 summit expedition and new exciting plans for the future. But no comment about Daniel and the record. On February 9 in 2008 Fredrik instead sent out the following press release: "New astonishing 7 summits record: Fredrik Strang - fastest person in the world."
The press release mentioned neither Daniel Griffith nor even Indian climber Malli Mastan Babu - but included info about Fredrik's project for poor children in Nepal.
Mail from Kim Lacey, Database Records Manager of Guinness World Records on Aug 17 2007:
"We currently have:
Fastest time to climb the seven summits including Carstensz:
Daniel Griffith (Canada) climbed the highest peak on each continent (Carstensz list) in 187 days between 24 May 2006, when he ascended Mount Everest in Nepal and 27 November 2006, when he conquered Mount Vinson in Antarctica.
Fastest time to climb the seven summits including Kosciuszko
Mastan Babu Malli (India) climbed the highest peak on each continent (Kosciuszko list) in 172 days between 19 January 2006, when he reached the summit of Mt Vinson Massif (Antarctica), and 10 July 2006, when he summited Mt Denali (USA). He climbed each mountain on a different day of the week and a different consecutive month from January to July.
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