Adventurers to iconoclasts, our project looks at the past 110 years to find 110 people in the outdoors world who have made a difference. Take a tour of these “unexpected” heroes, from athletes and artists to conservationists of decades past.
Thanks to Wigwam, a made-in-the-USA socks brand, for sponsoring our 110 project in sync with its 110th anniversary!
This photo shows Huston on a -50F day on the way to the North Pole. In 2009, he and partner Tyler Fish became the first Americans to ski unsupported over 475 miles to the world’s most northerly point. They battled abyssal temps, drifting sea ice, and open patches of water where the pair needed to don dry suits and swim while towing floating sleds filled with gear to the other icy shore.
Women’s Nordic Skiing in the United States has growing recognition thanks largely to the charismatic smile and indomitable perseverance of Kikkan Randall. She has stormed to three consecutive World Cup Sprint titles and multiple World Cup wins. Now, her focus is on achieving Olympic glory with unorthodox training that includes plyometric strength sessions and high mountain runs.photo credit: Flyingpoint photo
An aggressive spiked plume has for decades symbolized Glen Plake’s personal brand. But beyond the hair Plake has spent a 25-year career moving from freeskiing icon to soul-skiing leader, including competition wins, countless film credits (“License to Thrill,” “The Blizzard of AAHHHs”), and guiding and ski mountaineering today based out of his adopted home near Chamonix, France.
A god to climbers and ultralight backpackers alike, Jardine hasn’t slowed down since his 1970s ascents and his invention of the spring-loaded camming device (called Friends) that revolutionized the sport of rock climbing. As an author, adventurer, and gear inventor there are few people on the planet who can compete with “the Ray Way.”
“The world’s largest rapids” — that's what National Geographic called the Congo River’s Inga Rapids. Fisher and a team navigated the death-defying African whitewater after six years of planning. The river included “bus-size whirlpools and house-size holes.” But Inga is just one of Fisher’s accomplishments, including snatching over 100 first descents around the world.
Tow-in surfing star Maya Gabeira hunts monster waves. The Brazilian's biggest dance to date was on a 46-foot-tall wave at the Dungeons in South Africa — the largest known wave ever surfed by a woman. Gabeira has been given the Billabong Girls Best Overall Performance Award four years in a row.
Polar adventurer, expedition guide, and educator, Eric Larsen has spent the past 20 years traveling in some of the most remote and extreme environments on the planet. To date, he has completed more polar expeditions than any other American in history. His ‘Save The Poles’ project in 2009 saw Larsen mounting expeditions to the North and South Poles and the summit of Mt. Everest, all in a 365-day span. Learn More
“Unstoppable.” That was a common observation during the hay day of adventure racing, where Colorado endurance king Mike Kloser captained Team Nike and dominated the sport with more than a dozen major titles. Before AR, Kloser had a career as a World Cup mountain biker and top competitive mogul skier. Today, Kloser runs upstart Out There Gear, which manufactures backpacks for endurance racing and mountain sports.
At age 7, he climbed Wyoming's Grand Teton. Born in 1950, Jeff Lowe’s climbing career follows an arc like no other American mountaineer, including hundreds of first ascents, the authoring of books, and the inventing of gear. Today Lowe lives in Louisville, Colorado, and is continuing to inspire while battling a motor neuron disease and building a project around his film, ”Metanoia,” a Greek word meaning “a fundamental change of thinking and a transformative change of heart.”
Bike races on gravel roads are a major trend today. Back in 2007 when Chris Skogen founded the Almanzo Race only 12 riders showed up. Today, the Almanzo is a world-famous gravel event that hosts up to 1,500 riders each spring in southeastern Minnesota. The kicker? Almanzo is a no-cost event built to promote “the idea of barrier-free bicycle racing” for anyone who wants to sign up.
In the ranks of “most badass grandma” on the planet, Mimi Anderson is a real life Energizer Bunny. She holds so many race wins and records it’s difficult to count, but (for a couple examples) she once ran for 840 miles over 12 days, and in 2007 she won the Extreme Ultra Marathon, a 352-mile non-stop self sufficiency race in the Arctic. “I got into ultra-running by accident,” she told Run247.com “I only took up running to change the shape of my legs.” Learn More
He leads a top crew of explorers and adventurers as captain of The North Face Athlete Team. Anker, age 51, has built a resume over three decades of exploration and alpinism, including climbs and expeditions around the planet. In 1999, on the flanks of Mount Everest Anker found the body of George Mallory, an explorer who’d disappeared in 1924, a “find of the century” that helped shed light on one of climbing's great unsolved mysteries.
Lynn's early career was defined by what she was able to accomplish — for a woman... but when she became the first person to free climb the Nose of El Capitan, and then the first to free climb it in under a day — a feat that couldn't be repeated by anyone, man or woman, for another decade — she proved that women could not only climb as well as men, they could climb better.credit: Bob Carmichael
In 1907, Shackleton led an expedition further south than any other had gone before, turning back just 97 miles from the south pole in deteriorating conditions. On his next expedition, Shackleton's ship immediately became stuck in pack ice and later sank, beginning an epic 635 day struggle for survival. After living for 497 days on drifting ice floes, sailing across 800 miles of open ocean in a lifeboat, and traversing previously unexplored mountains and glaciers, all 28 members of the crew returned alive, earning Shackleton a legendary reputation for making good decisions and enduring in unthinkable times.
A career of 50+ expeditions around the world and counting... Mike Libecki is a top climber and explorer as well as a notable author and photographer. His trips have included diverse adventures and objectives, including the ascent of a 2,000-foot tower in Borneo and snowboarding in Afghanistan’s Koh-e Baba Mountains. He has a life goal of 100 expeditions around the planet. Learn More
From fashion shoots to the pages of National Geographic, Cory Richards’s camera has caught dramatic diversity in recent years. Richards’s core passion remains high-altitude mountaineering, where he has climbed Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and most notably made the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum II, an ascent that nearly cost Richards his life. His dramatic short film, “Cold,” documented the Gasherbrum climb and earned Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
A firefighter and EMT in Ketchum, Idaho, Rusch has an alter-ego as one of the most decorated endurance athletes in the world. This includes wins at the Leadville Trail 100 and the 24-Hour MTB World Championships, as well as major adventure racing titles before her two-wheel career took off. Her annual “Rebecca’s Private Idaho” race is a gravel road event that attracts hundreds to race and raise money for organizations like World Bicycle Relief and PeopleForBikes.org.
From kayak descents and massive frozen waterfall climbs, to world-record paragliding feats, Will Gadd is among the top multifaceted outdoor athletes in the world. Known for his visually-stunning stunts on ice, Gadd has ascended bobbing icebergs off the Labrador coast and massive underground “cave ice” in Sweden. He recently returned from climbing the fleeting ice on top of Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Don’t let her Carolina drawl fool you. This southern belle has been at the top of winter climbing for three decades. As a Patagonia ambassador Calhoun has climbed around the world, excelling on the cold and steeps of Peru, Bolivia, Alaska, Argentina, Iceland, and Nepal, after which she received the Underhill Award for putting a line up Makalu’s technical West Pillar. Calhoun now spends her time leading trips for Chicks Climbing, a women’s climbing organization.photo credit: Tim Davis
In 1905, the first Forest Service was created with Gifford Pinchot at its helm. Under Pinchot’s leadership, the Forest Service forged a new line between conservation and big timber, defining planned use and sustainable foresting. He is regarded by many as the father of American conservation ethics.
A leading mountaineer of the mid-20th century, Washburn established numerous first ascents, including Mount McKinley's West Buttress, now the standard route on North America's tallest peak. Arguably his greatest accomplishments come from pioneering aerial photography and cartography — Bradford was the first to use aerial photos for expedition planning, and he created classic maps of McKinley and Mount Everest. His detailed black-and-white photos are still a reference standard for many Alaskan climbs today.photo credit: Museum Of Science, Boston
Because free-climbing Yosemite’s big walls wasn’t enough, Croft turned to linking multiple walls in a single day. Some of his notable link-ups include the Nose and Salathe on El Cap; El Cap and Half Dome; and the entire Waddington Range in British Columbia. At age 56, Croft is still setting first-ascent 5.12 routes across the High Sierras and beyond.
In 2012, Masiuk became the first person with type-1 diabetes to run across the United States. Along the way he spoke at dozens of venues about diabetes and his quest to “reclaim his health.” Masiuk started running in his 30s and now has a mission to teach people about the importance of exercise in beating and preventing diabetes.
With more than 35,000 miles behind him — a distance equal to walking around the world one and a half times — Justin “Trauma” Lichter is a star in the world of long-distance backpacking. In 2007 he hiked the precursor to New Zealand's now infamous Te Araroa, and a 2011 traverse placed him among the first to complete the Great Himalaya Trail. Currently, Lichter is preparing for an attempt to be the first to complete a winter traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Ask Mike Curiak why he was so damn good at endurance activities and he shrugs – “I can go farther on less calories than anyone else?” he’ll say. And Mike has gone far — he co-founded (and won) the Great Divide bike race, won the Kokopelli Trail Race, and he raced the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational eight times (twice unsupported). Nowadays, Mike owns Lacemine29 and focuses on riding desert rock and exploring remote wild rivers by packraft.photo credit: Gregory Luck
Crack open any climbing guidebook west of the Mississippi and you’ll likely find references to Fred Beckey. He has for decades roamed America and the planet living a lifestyle focused on climbing and pioneering new routes. Currently 91, Beckey has been on the climbing scene forever and holds more first-ascents than, well, anyone.photo credit: Jeff Johnson
One of only two living founders of National Scenic Trails, Strickland began piecing together a 1,200-mile route from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean in 1970. Congress would later designate it, in 2009, as the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Ron continues to advocate for new long distance hiking resources as the founder of Scenic Trails Research.
When Christopher McDougall traveled to Mexico's remote Copper Canyon region to study the Tarahumara, he hoped to answer a simple question: “why does my foot hurt?” When he published his findings in the instant classic “Born to Run,” he created a paradigm shift that caused runners around the world to rethink everything they thought they knew about the sport.photo credit: Michael Lionstar
During a 24-year tenure as an Idaho Senator, Church established himself as a major contributor to the wilderness heritage of the United States. He was the floor sponsor of the Wilderness Act in 1964; sponsored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968; played an integral role in establishing the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in 1975; and he helped designate the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980, which was later renamed for Church (in 1984), and currently stands as the largest wilderness area in the lower 48.
“I'm a woman who loves rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, paragliding and BASE jumping.” Those are Liv Sansoz’s humble words, but in truth the French climber is among the best in the world. She has won multiple World Cup titles and was one of the first women ever to climb the uber-expert grade of 8c+ (or 5.14c).
From slopestyle wins to cameos in a dozen major ski movies, Michelle Parker is a role model for women in the free-skiing world. The Squaw Valley, Calif., skier was born in 1987 and started her professional freeskiing career at age 15 as the sport was in its infancy, and she’s been on the scene ever since.credit: Grant Gunderson
Many of Post's famous photos were taken decades ago. But the World Glacier Inventory uses his images still to aid in tracking receding glacier activity. A hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Post’s aerial photographs of glaciers and peaks are famously featured in climbing guidebooks written by Fred Beckey and others of his era.credit: Photo (left) courtesy World Data Center for Glaciology; Austin Post image (right) courtesy of Bruce Molnia, USGS.
The Seven Summits have long captivated mountaineers. Even more elusive was the idea of skiing down them. But as Kit DesLauriers pushed off the summit of Mount Everest in 2006, the two-time women’s freeskiing champion made history by becoming the first person to do just that — ski the Seven Summits. DesLauriers now runs ski camps to teach alpine skills to women of all abilities.
Before Blanchard came along, the mountain climbs on his resume were considered impossible. His tick list includes first ascents of Infinite Patience on Robson’s Emperor Face, the North Pillar of North Twin, Andromeda Strain on Mt. Andromeda, and the Blanchard-Twight route on the north face of Les Droites. Between expeditions, Barry has advised the Hollywood features K-2, Cliffhanger and The Vertical Limit.
A fixture as an emcee at outdoor events and a funnyman/adventurer in online videos, O’Neill is a serious climber to boot. He has set blistering speed records in Yosemite as well as new routes from Patagonia to Greenland. O’Neill co-founded Paradox Sports, a non-profit for disabled outdoor athletes and currently works as an ophthalmic tech helping to cure blindness in Africa.
Two years into her trail-running career, at age 27, Krissy Moehl became the youngest runner to complete the Grand Slam — finishing the Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100, and Wasatch Front 100 in one season. Since then, she’s toed up to more than 100 races, winning nearly half of them. Off the trail, Krissy works with “Girls on the Run,” an after-school program that teaches wellness and self-confidence to girls through running.photo credit: Tim Davis
An icon in the freeskiing world, Cattabriga-Alosa has been a fixture in magazines and ski movies for more than 10 years. He grew up racing but switched the freeskiing and the backcountry at an early age. Only half-joking, Cattabriga-Alosa cites the invention of the fat ski as his “Favorite Moment In History.”
Lake Tahoe native and pediatric intensive care nurse Rory Bosio is a dominant ultra-runner. Most notably, she has twice won the grueling and prestigious The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, an ultra-marathon 166KM in length that traverses mountains in France, Italy and Switzerland, gaining more than 9,000 meters of elevation along the way.
Horn’s land and water circumnavigation of the entire Earth via a route that followed the equator, which took 18 months, would alone qualify him as a top modern-day explorer. But that expedition is but one of dozens of exploits for the South African, including a trek around (literally) the whole Arctic Circle, up Himalayan peaks, and, in 2006, a winter North Pole expedition with Borge Ousland that included skiing for 60 days through the total darkness of the endless Arctic night.
Out of nowhere, in the last two years, Rob Krar has taken the ultra-running world by storm. The North Face athlete stood atop the podium in two of North America’s most prestigious races this year alone, the Leadville Trail 100 and the Western States Endurance Run, clocking extraordinary times in both events to emerge as a new star of the sport.
Though he was an early big-wall climber and slacklining pioneer, Chongo Chuck is probably best known for his mythical devotion to the lifestyle, having made Yosemite his year-round home for decades by playing a comical game of cat and mouse with the rangers of the park. During his tenure in Yosemite, Chongo was among the first to highline the Lost Arrow Spire, and he lived on El Capitan's Sea of Dreams route for more than a year.photo credit: chongonation.org
Being the fittest mom on the block is no small task in Telluride, CO, especially if you live in Hilaree O’Neill’s neighborhood. The mom of two young boys has cut turns on mountain slopes from Kamchatka to Mongolia, and in 2012 she summited Everest and Lhotse in a day. Currently she is on a remote expedition in Myanmar with a The North Face team.
A student of minimalism, House goes fast and light on the highest peaks around the world. His report card reads the classics of hard-man accomplishments: the North Face of the North Twin, the Emperor Face on Robson, K7 West, Denali’s Slovak Direct (in 60 hours!), and the second ascent, behind Reinhold Messner, of Nanga Parabat’s 15,000-foot Rupal Face, which earned him (and partner Vince Anderson) the highly coveted Piolet d’Or award.credit: Tim Davis
An educator and conservationist, Irwin was widely recognized by a khaki shirt and shorts uniform, which he wore on his television series, The Crocodile Hunter. Irwin worked tirelessly with his wife Terri to film and raise awareness of the natural world. After his death from a stingray barb to the heart, Irwin’s conservation legacy continues to be recognized through a national park in northern Queensland given his name.
Leopold changed the way we view the natural landscape when he introduced the concept of land ethic in “The Sand County Almanac.” He advocated for a responsible relationship between the people and the land that they inhabit, writing “land ethic changes the role of homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” Leopold was the first to use the term “wilderness” to describe wildlife preservation.
Before dishing out 5.12 routes, Brittany Griffith claims she served over 12,000 Happy Meals. Nowadays Brittany graces the pages of Patagonia catalogs, where she can be seen chalking up vertical miles from over 40 countries and six continents.credit: Tim Davis
Dial is best known for his accomplishments in the remote Alaskan wilderness, including deep multisport “missions” that might involve bikes, pack-rafts, and climbing gear. He competed in (and won) the first Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic in 1982, which is considered to be the original adventure race. Dial was the first to combine the use of skis and a packraft in the race, and 25 years later he literally wrote the book on it (“Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide”), establishing himself as the leading authority on the burgeoning wilderness sport.credit: Bill Hatcher
Perhaps it’s in his genes. Son of the past editor of Climbing Magazine and super-alpinist Michael Kennedy, Hayden grew up immersed in the world of climbing. Today he is comfortable setting 5.14 routes as well as climbing new lines up Pakistan’s K7. He’s best known for unchaining Cerro Torre’s Compressor Route in Argentina, where after freeing the climb Hayden and partner Jason Kruk pulled more than 125 bolts off the classic but often considered marred route.credit: Tim Davis
Inspired by the natural beauty of California's High Sierra and the Southwest's red rock country, Everett Ruess was a prolific artist and writer who included Ansel Adams in his list of mentors. Known for his woodblock prints and the poems pulled from his many journals and letters, Ruess became a conservation folk hero who famously wrote “when I go, I leave no trace.” In 1934, at the age of 20, he disappeared into the canyonlands of Utah, but his legacy has been an inspiration to generations of wanderers.
A student of Yosemite Valley, Ron Kauk moved into the park’s famous Camp 4 at the age of 17, and he has been living there ever since. During his tenure, Kauk has established some of the Valley’s hardest lines, including Astroman (5.11c), Separate Reality (5.12a), Crossroads (5.13a), and Magic Line (5.14b). When not climbing, Ron works to protect Yosemite from overuse.photo credit: Jeff Johnson
After traveling to Alaska in 1920, and borrowing an Inuit pack made from seal skin stretched over a willow branch frame, Lloyd Nelson returned to Washington determined to design a better pack than the all-cloth or leather rucksacks of the day. Five years later, his Trapper Nelson Indian Packboard became the first commercially produced external frame backpack, and Nelson had inadvertently established himself as the father of the modern outdoor-gear industry.
Own a pair of hiking boots? Flip them over and you'll likely see a yellow octagon stamped with the Vibram name. Vitale Bramani is credited with inventing the first rubber lug. He founded Vibram to distribute the soles in 1937. Today, Vibram lugs dominate on the soles of work boots, casual shoes, and mountaineering boots around the planet.
As a climber with photography skills, Rowell participated in expeditions from K2 to Denali, Kilimanjaro, Trango Tower, and Cholatse. Though Rowell died in a plane crash in 2002, his photos continue to be exhibited in galleries throughout the world.credit: Michael Powers
The freeskiing revolution can be credited in part to Auclair. After helping Salomon launch a twin-tip ski almost two decades ago, skiers were able to take off and land either forward or backward, thus opening the freestyle stage. Auclair went on to co-found Armada Skis and star in films. Tragically, Auclair died in an avalanche in September, 2014, while filming in Patagonia.
This vegan runner took the ultra-marathon stage by storm after winning the Western States 100 on his first effort. Jurek held tight to the podium for a record seven consecutive wins, all the while besting times at Hardrock 100 and other high-profile ultras, including back-to-back wins at Badwater. Jurek's book "Eat & Run" is a New York Times bestseller.photo credit: Jenny Jurek
Trip Jennings has made numerous firsts, including the first source-to-sea of Papua New Guinea's Pandi River and the first descent of the raging lower Congo River. Nowadays, Jennings travels with his camera filming for conservation projects, from documenting poachers in the Congo to capturing threatened salmon migrations in Alaska.
Climbed a peak in Nepal? If Elizabeth Hawley didn't document it, it didn't happen. An American ex-pat and journalist, Hawley moved to Kathmandu in 1960 and found her calling while covering the first American Everest expedition. In the 50+ years since she has painstakingly documented more than 80,000 climbs on peaks on the Nepalese-China border.
A guide, expedition veteran, filmmaker, and speaker, Stoup has skied to both North and South Poles more than anyone on the planet. From working with Warren Miller films to expeditions on Himalayan peaks — to pioneering an ice-bike traverse in Antarctica — Stoup never stops. As a guide he once led a blind and deaf British adventurer on a 62-day ski from Hercules Inlet to the Geographic South Pole. Learn More
In typical climbing-bum tradition, Canadian Jason Kruk lives in his van. But beyond cragging the 27-year-old is known for his international ascents, notably a history-altering and controversial climb of Patagonia's famous "Compressor Route" on Cerro Torre. Look for Kruk in the Himalaya or practicing what he calls the "mountain arts" of climbing, skiing, and paragliding where his van roams in British Columba and the Canadian Rockies.
"I'm more than just a pair of legs, okay?" That line starts Gates' bio, which then goes on to document the 33-year-old's commitment to the sport of running. It began in high school and rose as Gates adopted a lifestyle as an itinerant trail-runner in his 20s, joining the U.S. Mountain Running Team, traveling the world, and winning events like the 125K Canadian Death Race. Beyond the racing circuit, Gates takes his legs to the mountains in the pursuit of FKT (fastest known time) records, once running up California's massive Mount Shasta in a record-setting 1 hour, 38 minutes.
A pioneering outdoor writer and a conservationist, Cecil Whitaker (Ted) Trueblood found his calling writing for Field & Stream, where he was praised for his simple and direct style. He authored books on the outdoors and wrote in support of several conservation efforts, including Save Our Public lands and The River of No Return Wilderness Council.
He founded GoPro nearly a decade ago with a camera made for surfers. It included a neoprene bracelet strap and waterproof housing, and the camera captured the action on 35mm film. Fast-forward to 2014 and Nicholas Woodman is the CEO of a top action-sports and lifestyle brand. GoPro reigns as the de-facto camera for a new generation of enthusiasts looking to record video and get images anywhere outdoors.
Endurance phenom Kilian Jornet has dominated the mountain-running scene, taking top spots at the world's toughest competitions. But his alpine accomplishments are even more off the charts — Jornet climbed the Matterhorn in a bit under 3 hours, and earlier this year tackled Alaska’s Denali in a record 11 hours, 40 minutes. There are hints he will run up Mount Everest next....photo credit: Jordi Saragossa
A former Navy Seal, Rune Gjeldnes brings new meaning to the term "be prepared." A master of self-support, Gjeldnes has skied across both Poles without re-supply, holds the current record distance for an unsupported polar ski (a nearly 3,000-mile journey), and he has skied the length of Greenland, north to south unsupported. Gjeldnes led a 2005 expedition to reconstruct the Scott and Amundsen race to the south pole, which was later aired on the BBC and History Channel.
Potter’s high-flying feats include blistering lines up Yosemite big walls, huge high-lines walks, and, most recently, the pursuit of the perfect flight. He is scheming to make the first unaided wingsuit landing, no parachute involved. Potter calls Yosemite home, where he lives with his pup, Whisper, the first wingsuit BASE-jumping dog.
Zimbabwean expat Sean Conway’s most audacious adventure was an attempt at cycling around the world. It was cut short because of a run-in with a truck in the United States. (He still finished 16,000 miles with a fractured spine to raise money for charity.) Conway makes Britain his home, where he’s taking the island by land and sea. He swam and cycled Britain's entire length and has plans to run the length in 2015 for a cause.
Josh Galt hucks headfirst down rapids that would cause most kayakers pause. His riverboard first descents include Japan’s Kyotsu and the notoriously technical Green River Narrows. Galt hits waterfalls on his board, once plummeting 50 feet off an edge in Ecuador. When not riding the rapids, Galt sits on the board as the president of the World Riverboarding Association.
His “shorter” hikes include the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Indeed, Skurka is best known for his mega walks, including the Sea-to-Sea route (trailing some 7,000 miles from Quebec to Washington State), and the Great Western Loop (a 6,800-mile route looping the Pacific Crest Trail combined with the Continental Divide Trail). In 2009, Skurka set eyes on Alaska, making an utterly epic 4,700-mile wilderness loop of the state in one 6-month period.
Go big or go home. These words couldn’t ring truer to mountaineer Melissa Arnot, who has climbed Mount Rainier over 100 times. She has summitted Everest five times, becoming the current women’s record holder, and seen the top of other Seven Summits like Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro multiple times. When not on the steeps, Arnot is working on her non-profit organization, helping to provide life insurance and rescue expenses for mountain workers.
Named by National Geographic as the “most accomplished polar explorer alive," photographer, writer, and Norwegian explorer Börge Ousland has completed unassisted solo crossings of both the North and South Poles. In 2006, he joined Mike Horn to make the first winter expedition to the North Pole. When off the ice, Ousland guides, writes, and lectures on behalf of the National Geographic Society.
With more true grit than John Wayne, Alaskan legend Dick Griffith is the classic hardman who every aspiring adventurer wants to be. In his 87 years, Griffith has ground out a string of hardscrabble epics, including the first modern man to traverse the Brooks Range, descending the Green and Colorado Rivers, skiing solo across the Northwest Passage, and pioneering canyoneering routes into Mexico’s treacherous Barranca del Cobre. Griffith’s adventures can be recalled in the recent book "Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith."
As the founder of Sea to Summit, Macartney-Snape named his outdoor gear company after a 1990 expedition where he went from the Bay of Bengal overland to Mount Everest, and eventually to its top. He is cited as "the first person to walk and climb from sea level to the top of Mount Everest." Macartney-Snape is a legend in the outdoor gear world as well as a founding director of the World Transformation Movement.
What’s in a number? For English adventurer David Cornthwaite, it's 1000. Expedition1000 is Cornthwaite’s project to complete 25 human-powered expeditions, each of 1000 miles or more. To date, he’s tackled ten, including 1) Skateboarding from Perth to Brisbane; 2) kayaking the Murray River; 3) cycling from Vancouver B.C. to Las Vegas; 4) stand-up paddleboarding the Mississippi River; 5) sailing from Mexico to Hawaii; 6) Memphis to Miami by "bike car"; 7) swimming the Lower Missouri River; 8) Western Europe by Elliptigo; 9) crossing the Atacama by whike; and 10) pedaling across western Europe by ice trike.
McLean has made a name for himself skiing steep slopes in the remote corners of all seven continents, including first descents in Antarctica, New Zealand, Baffin Island, Patagonia, Tibet, Morocco, and Iran. Before launching into the deep powder of expedition skiing, McLean made waves as an outdoor gear designer. He worked at Black Diamond and helped create the Camalot, wire-gate 'biners, Whippets, and Talon rock hooks.
When Gordon Ainsleigh's horse went lame during the Western States Trail Ride in 1973, he didn't look for another. Instead, he came back in 1974 to run not ride the grueling 100-mile equestrian course. He finished in 23 hours and 42 minutes, setting the stage for the Western States 100 Endurance Run, and establishing himself as a father of ultra running.photo credit: Keith Facchino
Part runner, part climber, Burrell found his muse years ago mixing the two disciplines in fast-and-light "adventure runs" in places like Peru, Bolivia, and Tibet. He’s staked FKT records (fastest known times) on routes like the John Muir Trail, and a Cascade Range climbing trifecta that included Mount Rainier, Adams and Hood — in a blistering 28-hour push! — still turns heads. Today, Burrell is brand director at Ultimate Direction, where he puts his years of experience into designing gear for ultra running and other fast-and-light pursuits.photo credit: Peter Bakwin
Every map tells a story. But cartographer Casey Greene reads between the topo lines, mapping routes for the Adventure Cycling Association that include remote rides like a 700-mile Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike route. An adventure savant of sorts, Greene’s ride doesn’t stop when the trail ends. He’s helped popularize a fringe sport called pack-biking, strapping his bike to his backpack to cross off-trail terrain before he can put two wheels back on the ground.photo credit: Aaron Teasdale
The 87th Infantry was the first unit dedicated to mountain warfare, drawing its recruits from the National Ski Patrol. In 1942, the 87th merged with other battalions to form the infamous 10th Mountain Division out of Camp Hale, Colorado. Trained for the mountain and arctic theaters of WWII, they played a critical role in Italy’s Alps during the war. After the fighting, some of the 10th soldiers went on to help build post-war ski resorts around the West.photo credit: Denver Public Library
With 11 children, 24 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandchild at the time of her death, it's hard to imagine that Emma Gatewood had time for anything else. But in 1955, at the age of 67, she became a pioneer of ultralight backpacking when she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in a pair of Keds. She used a shower curtain slung over her shoulder in the form of a homemade sack. She later became the oldest woman to thru-hike the AT, and the first person to hike it three times, at the age of 75.
He ran a marathon at age 12. He then followed a path many runners take, competing in cross-country and on college teams. But Krupicka's calling came in his 20s, where he ascended in the world of ultra running to take home big wins at events like the Leadville 100. His beard, long hair, tone body, free spirit, and often shirtless frame have made Krupicka among the most recognizable icons of the sport.photo credit: Fred Marmsater
Round and round, Freya Hoffmeister has made her mark circumnavigating major land masses in a kayak. These include Iceland, New Zealand, and, in 2009, a nearly year-long trip around Australia. But her 15,000-mile trip around South America, an epic paddle that took three years, puts Hoffmeister in an endurance-kayaking category unlikely to be matched.
For most, simply getting to the summit of Mount Everest is a lifetime achievement. Lapka and Babu have had enough adventure to satisfy several lives. In 2011, after climbing to the top of Everest, the two paraglided off the summit, setting a new world record of 8,865 meters for free flight. But the journey was far from over: The pair then outfitted a canoe and paddled rivers through Nepal and India for weeks until they reached the ocean, making a complete "summit to sea" expedition.
"Made In The USA" is not so much a mantra at Wigwam Mills as it is a daily reality — for the past 110 years. As the third-generation owner, Robert Chesebro Jr. for decades steered the Wigwam ship, helping the Sheboygan, Wis., company grow to one of the world's biggest performance-sock makers. Beyond Wigwam, Chesebro fights for domestic-manufacturing policies by lobbying in Washington D.C. to support all companies who keep made-in-America a focus for sustainability and corporate growth.
Freeskiing, base jumping, skiing off cliffs into wingsuit flying... JT Holmes is the personification of rad. Always chasing the fringe, Holmes is lately pushing into new alpine territory through speed flying, linking steep, close-out powder lines assisted by paraglide. As director of his BASICS program, Holmes coaches young athletes stunt fundamentals to ensure a safe progression toward the status of rad.photo credit: Five Ten
Baden-Powell returned from the Second Boer War to write a best-selling military training manual. It was popularized by teachers and youth organizations, and the book’s reception inspired Baden-Powell to pen his series, "Scouting for Boys," which went on to become the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century and helped inspire spontaneous scouting troops. Baden-Powell became known as the Chief Scout, and the father of The Boy Scouts.
Polar places and desolate peaks draw Lonnie Dupre, a Minnesota native. He became the first person to climb Alaska's Denali solo in the winter, a harrowing subzero feat. No stranger to cold, Dupre was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage by dogsled and made the first human-powered summer expedition to the North Pole by sled and canoe.
He co-founded The North Face and was a key force in creating brands including Esprit and Patagonia. Then, in 1989, Tompkins left the business world behind and dedicated his life to environmental causes and conservation. He is credited as preserving millions of acres of wilderness in Chile and Argentina. His Foundation for Deep Ecology has a mission "to support education and advocacy on behalf of wild nature."
An accomplished mountaineer in his own right (a member the 10th Mountain Division and of the first American K2 expedition team), Paul Petzoldt is most famous for his work promoting environmental ethics and outdoor skills. Petzoldt helped create Outward Bound’s Colorado chapter and went on to found the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1965. Petzoldt later helped found the Wilderness Education Association, promoting outdoor leadership and education.
An engineer by training, Jordan layered scientific method with a penchant for backpacking to change the way we evaluate choosing gear. Jordan took his zeal for all things ultralight and founded Backpacking Light, a popular online resource for gram-counting fanatics, where readers can compare loft, warmth-to-weight ratios, and lightweight gear lists. An accomplished distance hiker, Jordan was also part of a team that traversed the 600-mile Brooks Range without resupply.
A baker and a competitive cyclist, Erickson years ago concluded that the energy-bar market had poor taste. He mixed his hunch with a passion for food to found Clif Bar in 1992. Today, the Berkeley-based company is among the largest of its kind, with Erickson an instrumental person in raising the "bar" for the kind of food outdoorsy people eat.
Frustrated by fogging ski goggles, orthodontist Bob Smith used dental tools, foam, and glue to make double-pane, fog-resistant goggles that were decades ahead of their time. Early on, Smith traded his goggles for lift tickets. In 1965, he traded up into CEO of Smith Optics. Smith passed away in 2012, but his namesake business continues to lead in optics that let people see more clearly on the slopes.
Riaan Manser has a round-about way of making solo adventures: He’s circumnavigated Africa by bike (a 23,000-mile trip that took two years); kayaked around Madagascar; and paddled icy Atlantic waters around Iceland. When he’s sitting still, Manser runs No Food For Lazy Man, a trust bringing social change through sporting equipment for schools.
When the U.S. military was looking for a better meal, Oregon Freeze Dry stepped up to the cutting board. In 1967 the company, led by chemist Ellis Byer, won a contract to make a ration that lasted longer, tasted better, and was easy to prepare. It also inspired a revolution in food made for outdoor enthusiasts, and by popular demand the company released a menu of backcountry meals under the name Mountain House. Today, Mountain House remains a top quick-prep food company seen in backcountry camps across the world.
Businessman, author, and mail-order mogul, Leon Leonwood Bean grew up in the backwoods of Maine. To keep his feet dry, Bean cobbled his own rubber-soled boots and later had prototypes manufactured and sold with a 100% money-back guarantee. His first boot failed, but his product and business savvy was noticed. Bean patented the iconic L.L. Bean boot and moved his company to Freeport, Maine, where he expanded into outdoor equipment, setting new standards in product quality and customer service for everyone who loves the outdoors.
A bike crash in Vancouver (and a small insurance settlement as a result) prompted Esrock to cut the corporate leash and backpack around the world. He documented his trip through 24 countries in a newspaper column and dubbed the "Modern Gonzo" name and an approach of realtime adventure journalism online. It led to a TV show, "World Travels," and to the writing of his 2013 book, "The Great Canadian Bucket List," which became a national bestseller.
When knocked 200 feet off a remote Alaskan rock wall, Malcolm Daly pounded out a regiment of crunches and windmills to survive the 44-hour ordeal, which eventually cost him a foot. Five years later, a heart attack nearly took him while climbing in Colorado. Daly founded Trango Holdings, which designs climbing equipment. Ask him what product he's most proud of and he'll likely point to his adaptive climbing equipment designed for his foundation, Paradox Sports, which helps disabled athletes participate in outdoor pursuits.photo credit: Isaac Savitz
After being laid off from Boeing, engineer Jim Lea immersed himself in designing a better sleeping pad. By welding open-cell foam inside an airtight space, Lea realized he could control the pad’s internal pressure, stabilizing the surface. Voila! A better night's sleep that self-inflated was born. His partners, Neil Anderson and John Burroughs, dubbed it the “Therm-a-Rest," and today untold legions of backpackers and mountaineers call it an essential part of any backcountry kit.
Half-frozen from pulling lunkers out of wintery ocean waters, Eddie Bauer knew there was a better way. When he returned from that famed fishing trip, Bauer stitched together an insulated goose-down jacket design that would help make his name known around the world. Bauer went on to outfit soldiers in WWII and climbers tackling formidable routes on Everest and K2. Today, hundreds of retail stores bear his name, and Eddie Bauer gear is a top choice for people looking to stay warm in the outdoors.
Perhaps the first trail running bum, True was an unusual suspect to inspire the recent barefoot-running movement. But when True invited Christopher McDougall to Mexico’s Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, he became a central figure in McDougall’s book, "Born To Run," illuminating the minimal running techniques of the Tarahumara people. True passed away on a run in New Mexico’s Gila Desert in 2012, and now the Copper Canyon race has been renamed in True’s memory as Ultramarathon Caballo Blanco.photo credit: Luis Escobar
In 2009, Fish and his expedition partner John Huston became the first Americans to ski unsupported to the North Pole, a 475+ mile journey. The native Minnesotan used skill gained as a competitive skier and a veteran of dog-sled expeditions in the Canadian Arctic. Back home, Fish works for the Voyageur Outward Bound School and pushes a new generation coaching high school cross-country skiing in Ely, Minn.
With a miserly economy of self indulgence, East coast climber John Bouchard had a knack of sewing up impossibly intrepid lines with underwhelming hype. In the 1970s, Bouchard sent north-facing routes in the alps solo, and he helped pioneer the burgeoning sport of paragliding in the mid 1980s. In 1981, Bouchard cofounded Wild Things, manufacturing streamlined gear that would become a climbing and U.S. military standard.photo credit: Mark Richey
Hill once set a record of climbing and skiing 50,000 feet in a single day — up and down all that vertical terrain in 24 hours. But his obsession with backcountry skiing in 2011 elevated Hill to legend status when the Canadian climbed and skied an untouchable 2,000,000 feet in a year, earning him the name "Greg '2 Mil' Hill" along the hard-earned way.
He founded a non-profit group, Protect Our Winters, to educate and work to reduce the effects of climate change. Jones, considered one of the greatest big-mountain snowboarders, is known for his preference for human-powered exploration, including in the films "Deeper" and "Further" where he accessed remote mountain terrain not by helicopter but via split-board and his own two legs.
Mountaineer Ueli Steck climbs major mountain peaks quicker than most people can complete a pitch, including a record accent of the Matterhorn's North Face in 1 hour, 56 minutes. In the Himalaya, Steck climbed 8,000-meter giants Shishapangma (in a bit over 10 hours) and, in 2013, Annapurna on a solo ascent in 28 hours, which netted Steck climbing's top award, the Piolet d'Or as well as a reinforcement of his nickname, "The Swiss Machine."
The man behind one of the leading outdoor innovations of the 20th century (Gore-Tex) is Robert W. Gore. In a 1969 experiment, Gore "stretched" a compound called polytetrafluoroethylene and observed a phenomenon he would later develop into an effective waterproof/breathable membrane. It was patented, and Gore-Tex soon became a default jacket material for adventure-seekers attempting to stay comfortable and dry in the outdoors.
Reiss serves as chairman of Polar Bears International, a non-profit dedicated to protecting habitat for the white giants. His business fame comes from leading a family business, which he renamed as Canada Goose, and embracing "Made in Canada" while competitors were flooding to Asia. With risk came reward — Canada Goose saw an incredible 4,000% growth and became the default premium "down puffy" brand.
He's a gear designer, and a snowboard film star, including this year's Warren Miller production "No Turning Back." But Wescott's rise came after winning the first Olympic Gold Medal in snowboard-cross in 2006. He doubled-up in Vancouver four years later taking another Gold to cement his legacy in the burgeoning winter sport.photo credit: Brian Nevins
From fleeing Nazi Germany with her family, to designing gear and taking over a company after her husband died in 1970, Gertrude "Gert" Boyle has rightly earned the "one tough mother" moniker popularized in a Columbia Sportswear campaign. At age 90, she serves today as the chairperson of the company. A philanthropist, Boyle has outfitted the U.S. Special Olympics Teams and donated more than $100 million to cancer research in recent years.
In the 1930s, a quality ice axe was a hard find in Seattle, but Lloyd Anderson needed one to pursue Pacific Northwest peaks. His importing of the tool from Austria triggered an idea to create a cooperative for gear junkies needing quality equipment, and with wife Mary the couple grew an organization that would become Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI).
Capturing national attention (including a "Congrats" from President Obama) is rare, to say the least, for a rock climbing feat. But this month, Caldwell and Jorgeson completed the impossible and climbed Yosemite's "Dawn Wall" on El Capitan, a 3,000-foot blank face. It took nearly three weeks of living on the wall. But the accomplishment is really the result of years of training and reconnaissance on El Capitan in an effort to elevate the sport.photo credit: Chris Burkard