Scarpa North America Blog

SCARPA Athletes Among National Geographic Adventurers of the Year

Jan. 8th 2015

For the last 10 years, National Geographic has selected the world’s most accomplished athletes, explorers and humanitarians to join their esteemed list of Adventurers of the Year. Among this year’s impressive roster of adventurers are SCARPA athletes Ueli Steck, Will Gadd and Erik Weihenmayer. These men have trekked, summited, soared and rafted their way into some of the most uncharted territory in their respective sports. And while we’re not surprised that they’re nominated, we’re incredibly excited to share more about the incredible feats that have landed them on National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year list.

THE PARAGLIDERS: Will Gadd and Gavin McClurg

Will Gadd is arguably one of the world’s best ice climbers, having scaled some of the hardest ice and mixed routes in the world. So to make National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year list for paragliding over the Canadian Rockies just goes to show why this versatile athlete was a natural choice. A SCARPA athlete for more than 15 years, Gadd has continuously trailblazed his way into the unknown with his paragliding and ice climbing pursuits. We recently caught up with him to get his take on the nomination, and what’s next on his adventure tick list.

Will Gadd and Gavin McClurg paraglide over the Canadian Rockies during their epic traverse of North America's most rugged wilderness. Photograph by Pablo Durana

Tell us about your paragliding adventure that got your recognized by National Geographic.

Gavin McClurg and I flew our paragliders more than 800km from the north-central Rockies to the US border. This is really wild, remote terrain with big stretches that hadn’t ever been flown before. We would fly all day, land on a high alpine ridge or peak in the evening, and then fly again the next day. That was the plan, but the weather was brutal, so we got to spend some time exploring really beautiful areas in the Rockies while we waited for the wind to mellow. This sort of trip is called “vol bivy,” which is french for fly camping. It was awesome!

What pushes you to take on these types of adventures?

I’m always looking for ways to take my sports into new geographic or mental areas, new arenas, new ideas. This is what drives me whether I’m climbing, flying, kayaking or just hiking around in the mountains and looking for new lines, or to see what’s over the next ridge. I was born curious, and that’s what fires me up today–what would happen if… What’s out there? How can I get there? What’s that like? These are the cool questions to me.

A green peak becomes a campsite for Gadd and McClurg, who practice the evolving discipline of vol-bivy, French for “fly camping.” Photograph by Pablo Durana

So what’s next for you in 2015?

So many great things! I’ve just about finished a crazy hard dyrtool route, then the Ouray Ice Festival, then I’m off on a top-secret project that I can’t talk about but you are absolutely going to know what I was talking about when here when you read about it, so very very stoked!

National Geogrpahic Adventurer of the Year – People’s Coice: VOTE FOR WILL AND GAVIN


THE BLIND ADVENTURERS: Erik Weihenmayer and Lonnie Bedwell

Erik Weihenmayer is an accomplished climber, skier, explorer and motivator. And while perhaps best known as the first blind person to climb all Seven Summits (including the famed Everest), Weihenmayer is always seeking new ways to explore the world’s wildest places. Enter the Grand Canyon. Alongside fellow blind kayaker Lonnie Bedwell, the two adventurers descended down 277 miles of some of the biggest water in the U.S. We spoke with Erik about the kayaking adventure that landed him the nomination, and what pushes him to keep upping the ante on summits, slopes and raging rivers.

Weinhenmayer takes a minute to breathe on a narrow break between rock formations in the Grand Canyon. Photograph by James Q Martin

What was your adventure like down the Grand Canyon that got you the nomination?

In 2007, I was on a raft trip with a group of blind kids on the Grand Canyon. One of the safety guides, Harlan Taney, suggested that maybe a blind person could learn to solo kayak. Rivers are fast and dynamic, very different from climbing mountains which are slow and methodical. I wondered if it could be done, and challenged myself to kayak the entire length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, one of the most iconic stretches of river in the world.

I’ve been on a lot of climbing adventures, but learning to kayak was the hardest and scariest sport I’ve ever taken on. So I was surprised to learn there was another blind kayaker in the world, Lonnie Bedwell. After learning about Lonnie, I reached out and invited him to join me and make it a double-blind descent. After 277 miles, 21 days, and supported by an extraordinary team, Lonnie and I completed our challenge. You should have seen it when we tried to bump our paddles together in celebration; it took three tries.

Guided by Harlan Taney, Weihenmayer (front) takes on Horn Creek Rapid in the Grand Canyon. Photograph by James Q Martin

What pushes you to take on these types of adventures?

I’m usually up for trying new things and enjoy the process of problem solving and innovating through challenges . . . pioneering what people didn’t think was possible. I call this a No Barriers Life, and this has become the mission of an entire movement. Learn about us at www.nobarriersusa.org. Our motto, “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.”

What’s next for you in 2015?

I always have a long list of adventures tucked away, and there are way more mountains and rivers in the world than I have cartilage in my knees and elbows. After a hiatus to focus on kayaking, I am excited to get back into the mountains to try some big rock and ice climbs. I love the Alps and Dolomites and will be heading over to ski the Haute Route, climb the Marmolada, maybe even an attempt of the North Face of the Eiger. We’ll “see.”

National Geogrpahic Adventurer of the Year – People’s Coice: VOTE FOR ERIK AND LONNIE

THE ALPINIST: Ueli Steck

Photograph by Patitucci Photo.

The Swiss Machine is at it again. SCARPA global athlete Ueli Steck joins the list of Adventurers of the Year for his feats on some of the world’s most deadly and technical peaks. In 2013 he headed back to the Himalaya to complete one of the most dangerous ascents of his career, a solo climb of the south face of Annapurna. After nearly being pulled off the mountain by a small avalanche, Steck finally made it to the top of the 8,091-meter peak and back down again within 28 hours.

Steck is no stranger to the Annapurna. In previous treks he has lost climbing partners, been struck by rock fall causing him to slide down 1,000 feet, and has even been called into question about the authenticity of his lightening fast ascents. Despite the hazards and set backs of Stecks’s high alpine adventures, he continues to push on and set nearly impossible to repeat records that leave us all in awe.

Photo Steck descends the glacier beneath the south face of Annapurna and heads for advanced base camp. Photograph by Patitucci

National Geogrpahic Adventurer of the Year – People’s Coice: VOTE FOR UELI STECK

Don’t forget to vote every day for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year!

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