12-year old climbs highest point in all 50 states in record time

12-year old Matt Moniz of Boulder, Colorado will have quite a tale to share with his friends when he returns to school this fall. While most kids his age spend the summer relaxing and doing as little work as possible, Matt, along with his father Mike, launched their 50 in 50 in 50 expedition. The plan was to reach the highest point in all 50 states, in 50 days or less, and on July 16th, they completed their quest, reaching the summit of the 13,796-foot tall Mauna Kea in Hawaii, setting a new record for completing the high points in the process. The previous record for the fastest time to reach the highest point in all 50 states was 45 day, 19 hours, and 2 minutes, set by climber Mike Haugen back in 2008. Matt and his dad completed that same feat in just 43 days, 2 hours, and 8 minutes.

America’s high points vary greatly in altitude, with some being quite easy to reach, while others involving true mountaineering skills. The lowest of the high points is Britton Hill, which is located in Florida and stands just 345 feet above sea level. The highest is of course Mt. McKinley, also known as Denali, which is found in Alaska and stands 20,320 feet in height. Other peaks of note include Mt. Whitney, which is the highest point in California at 14,494 feet and Mt. Rainier, which stands at 14,411 feet and is the tallest mountain in the state of Washington.

Matt’s climbing resume is quickly becoming a very impressive one. Not only has he now completed the 50 high points, he has also climbed Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and Elbrus, the highest peaks in Africa, South America, and Europe respectively. He has also made the trek to Everest Base Camp as well, and with the completion of Denali, he now has four of the Seven Summits under his belt. Not bad for a young man who hasn’t even entered junior high yet.

[Photo credit: Matt Moniz]

Scotsman completes epic ride from Anchorage to Ushuaia

Scotsman Mark Beaumont completed his Cycling The America’s expedition yesterday, reaching Ushuaia, Argentina 268 days after he set out from Anchorage, Alaska. Mark crossed through 12 countries on his journey, racking up 13,080 miles, and climbing two major mountains, in the process.

While this would seem like an incredibly long ride for just about anyone else, for Mark it’s only his second longest ride. Back in 2008, almost two years ago to the day, he finished circumnavigating the globe on his bike, a journey that took him just 195 days to complete, which was a record at that time.

To spice things up on his latest adventure, the Scotsman decided to throw a couple of new challenges into the mix. Not only did he climb the 20,320 foot tall Mt. McKinley, in Alaska, he also reached the summit of Aconcagua, which stands at 22,841 feet and is located in the Andes mountains of Argentina. The two peaks are the tallest in North and South America respectively.

While he peddled away the past eight months, Mark has also been blogging his experiences extensively, and it has made for an interesting travelogue. He clearly enjoys spending his time on the road, exploring the countries he passes through, and getting fully immersed in the local cultures. For their part, many of locals that he met along the trail thought that he was a little crazy for making such an epic journey on just his bicycle, but Mark was often touched by the kindness of strangers, who were usually curious about his expedition.

For certain sections of the ride, Beaumont was accompanied by a camera crew, but he also carried his own camera, and filmed much of it himself as well. All of the footage will be edited together to make a BBC documentary that will air in the U.K. later this year. No doubt it will be a fascinating adventure to watch unfold.

Alaska national parks: choose your own adventure

You’ve probably heard of Denali National Park, home to the tallest mountain in North America. And if you’ve taken an Alaskan cruise you might have also visited Glacier Bay National Park. But a rental car and a willingness to venture off the tourist track will reward you with rich and wild experiences that many folks miss on a trip to Alaska.

Following are two lesser-known national parks that are a day’s drive from Anchorage, but first, a fact: four of the five biggest national parks in the US are in Alaska, and seven out of ten. They are home to grizzlies, caribou, salmon, and eagles, among many, many others.

The biggest national park in the US, Wrangell-St. Elias, is accessible by car and about a six-hour drive from Anchorage. It’s home to several 16,000ft-plus mountains, as well as well as the second-highest peak in the US, Mount St. Elias, which measures in at just over 18,000 feet. Once there, you can visit the historic Kennecott Mine, and drive the road to McCarthy.Much closer to Anchorage is Kenai Fjords National Park, a stunner bordering my hometown of Seward. Though most of the park is accessible only by boat (and there are plenty of tours out there), you can drive to Exit Glacier. Here you’ll find a small visitor’s center with guided hikes. Those with gumption and muscles can follow a long, difficult trail up to the Harding Ice Field – one of my favorite hikes and a truly rewarding one.

For more information on Alaska’s national parks, visit the NPS page on the state and follow the links.