National Geographic announces adventurer of the year

Last week National Geographic announced the winner of their 2011 “People’s Choice” Adventurer of the Year, handing the award over to Spanish mountaineer Edurne Pasaban who claimed the most votes in an online poll of Nat Geo readers. The 37-year old Pasaban become the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8000+ meter peaks by successfully climbing both Annapurna (8091 meters/26,545 ft) and Shishapangma (8013 meters/26,289 ft) in a span of just a few weeks.

The full list of honorees was announced back in December and an online poll was conducted to determine the favorite amongst readers. Pasaban, who comes from the Basque region of Spain, beat out a host of other explorers to take home the award. Other nominees included Ed Stafford, who made headlines for walking over 4000 miles along the length of the Amazon River and Jessica Watson, the Australian teen who sailed solo around the world.

Climbing all of the world’s 8000 meter peaks is considered the ultimate challenge in mountaineering. The list includes some of the most difficult and deadly mountains on the planet, including Mt. Everest and the legendary K2. A select few male climbers have achieved the feat, but Pasaban became the first woman to join that very elite group. Korean climber Oh Eun-sun claimed to be the first, reaching the top of her final peak just weeks before Pasaban. But questions remain as to whether or not she actually topped out on one of the mountains, which has put her claim into dispute.

Conquering those peaks and winning this award didn’t come without sacrifice however. Pasaban suffered frostbite and has lost parts of several of her toes. That is but a small price to pay for mountaineering immortality.

[Photo credit: Ferran Latorre]