National Geographic announces adventurer of the year

Edurne Pasaban is named National Geographic's Adventurer of the YearLast 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]

16-year old girl climbing tallest mountain in Antarctica

16-year old Crina is climbing the tallest mountain in AntarcticaWhile most girls her age are more concerned about which boys will be asking them out this weekend, Crina Popescu has loftier goals in mind. The 16-year old Romanina girl is currently in Antarctica, where she is climbing Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain on that continent. If successful, she hopes to go to Everest in the spring and take a shot at becoming the youngest woman to complete the Seven Summits.

Standing 16,050 feet in height, what Vinson lacks in altitude it makes up for in challenge, due in no small part thanks to the extreme weather. Temperatures on the mountain can plummett well below zero, with -30 degrees Faherenheit not being unheard of. Throw in high winds and heavy snow fall and you start to see the difficulty climbers face. Additionally, due to the very low barometric pressure as you get closer to the South Pole, the altitude actually seems much higher than it actually is. Fortunately, the weather is fantastic on Vinson at the moment, which means a number of climbing teams, including Crina’s, are preparing to make summit bids.

The teenager has plenty of mountaineering experience under her belt, despite her young age. She has already climbed in the Alps, the Himalaya, Iran, and beyond. Vinson also marks the sixth mountain in her Seven Summits bid, which is an attempt to climb the tallest mountain on all seven continents. With Vinson out of the way, Everest will remain the only obstacle left in her quest.

If the weather holds, look for the Romanian teen to take her countries flag to the summit this weekend.

[Photo credit: Crina Popescu]

Climber hopes to make solo summit of Denali in January

Climber Lonnie Dupre will attempt a solo summit of Denali in JanuaryStanding 20,320 feet in height, Alaska‘s Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Due to its extreme weather conditions throughout most of the year, it is typically only climbed in June and July, when the short Alaskan summer allows for the best access to the summit. But in January, mountaineer and polar explorer Lonnie Dupre will attempt the unthinkable – a solo summit in the dead of winter.

The 49 year old Dupre is no stranger to cold climes. He has spent much of his adult life exploring the polar regions of our planet on foot or by kayak and dogsled. During his illustrious career Dupre has visited remote regions of Siberia, completed a Northwest Passage crossing by dogsled, circumnavigated Greenland, and visited the North Pole.

But a solo summit of Denali in January will be a completely different kind of challenge. In fact, only 16 people have ever reached the summit in winter at all, and it has only been successfully climbed in January on one other occasion when a team of three Russian mountaineers topped out back in 1998. Additionally, there have been six deaths on Denali as a result of attempted climbs during the winter.

As you would expect, January is the coldest month of the year on the mountain, but adding to the challenge is the perpetual darkness that shrouds the region during the long Alaskan winters. To avoid the cold, dangerous winds, Dupre plans to take shelter in ice caves that he’ll dig himself and won’t even carry a tent along on the climb, something that the Russian team did on their successful climb as well. He’ll also have to deal with 24 hours of darkness during his climb, which adds to the psychological challenges as well.

If everything goes as planned, Dupre should depart from his home in Minnesota today for Talkeetna, Alaska, where he’ll put the finishing touches on the preparation for his expedition. He hopes to reach the summit of Denali before January 31st.

[Photo credit: Bob Webster via WikiMedia]

Top American alpinist perishes in the Himalaya

Joe Puryear, one of America’s top mountaineers, fell to his death last week while climbing in the Himalaya. He was just 37 years old, but had earned himself a reputation as one of world’s elite climbers, having put up routes in all of the planet’s major mountain ranges, including the Andes, the Himalaya, and the Alps. Joe had reached the summit of more than 30 mountains in the Alaskan Range alone and made more than 80 successful climbs up Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington, where he was a mountain ranger.

Puryear was attempting to make just the second ascent of the remote Labuche Kang, located in Tibet. The 24,170 foot (7367 meter) tall mountain remains largely unexplored even in this day and age, which made it all the more alluring to Joe and his climbing partner David Gottlieb. In the midst of that challenging climb, Puryear fell through a cornice and plummeted hundreds of feet to his death, bringing a premature end to his adventurous life.

Joe is survived by his wife Michelle, who shared his passion for adventure and climbing. She posted her final goodbye to her husband on the expedition’s blog.

The video below comes to us courtesy of the Today Show and offers more insights into Joe’s life.

[Photo credit: Joe Puryear]

Veteran Everest guide lost in the Himalaya

Over the weekend the mountaineering community lost a legendary climber when Chhewang Nima Sherpa was swept off a remote Himalayan peak by an avalanche. The mountain guide, who has reached the summit of Everest on 19 separate occasions, was helping to set the all important ropes to the summit of a peak called Baruntse, located in eastern Nepal, at the time of his disappearance.

On Saturday,Nima was leading a team of Sherpas, working in advance of their paying clients who focus on acclimatizing in the early stages of the climb. The men were busy fixing lines up the mountain, which will eventually be used by the climbers to reach the summit, when the avalanche hit, knocking Nima off the Baruntse’s northeast face.

Other guides and climbers immediately went into action, organizing a search and rescue operation, but they found no trace of the missing Sherpa. Yesterday, a helicopter was brought in to sweep the mountain, but after just a few hours the search was called off. After surveying the area, the SAR teams determined that there was no possible way that anyone had survived the avalanche.

Baruntse is one of the “lesser” Himalayan peaks, rising 23,389 feet. It is often used as a training mountain for those aspiring for bigger mountains such as Everest. Nima was the lead guide for the Shangri-la Trekking and Climbing company who are taking a team of paying customers to the summit of the mountain.

[Photo credit: Mathias Zehring via WikiMedia]