ExplorersWeb has been awarded the best Adventure website in the world. What is then the Best of ExplorersWeb?
We covered close to a thousand expeditions in 2007. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.
Theirs have been stories of dreams, frustration, hope, disaster and - sometimes - victory in the eye of the impossible. It has been a pain in the butt (why always summit pushes on weekends?!) but always a sheer joy to follow the brave explorers of our time.
Yet there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2007.
By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
Out of the hundreds of expeditions, the countdown of the most exceptional begins tomorrow, but starts already today with a special mention to an additional 7:
Special mention: Valery Rozov Base Jump
Nobody believes it, but we did it, Russian X-gamer Valery Rozov, 41, is something else for sure. Last year, he made the first BASE-jump from the Alps' Grandes Jorasses, after experts said the huge wall lacked a single spot safe enough to launch a free-fall jump. But then the breath-taking images arrived, of the jump that followed a climb on one of the faces hardest routes: The Croz Spur.
The only reason he didn't get the ExWeb award was because he won it already in 2004 - for his new route on Amin Brakks (5850m) West face in Pakistan, considered the most technically complex wall in the world. Valery climbed it - and yes - jumped it!
This year, Valery did it again. In the morning of February 24 he Base jumped off the 1400-m face of Torres del Paine in Patagonia.
The climb was done by no less than Alexander Ruchkin, Alexander Odintsov, Valery Rozov, Denis Provalov and Vladimir Kachkov on Feb 21-22. After Valery jumped, the remaining climbers had to stay at the summit to weather a storm. By then, Valery was already downing his third beer.
Valery Rozov has won Russias, Europes and Worlds championship in Parachuting. The climb and BASE jump was the latest stage in his Russian Extreme B.A.S.E. climbing Project. Previously, Valery climbed and jumped from the Big Sail peak in Baffin Island (2002), Mt. Nalumasortoq in Greenland (2003), and Karakorums Amin Brakk (2004) that expedition was awarded among the best of the year by ExplorersWeb.
Special mention: Jannu, Valery and Serg
"Les Droite North Face and Grandes Jorrasses North Face Croz - but on altitude." That's how Valery Babanov described his and Sergey Kofanov's ascent of Jannu's west ridge (7710m). "I'd like to go with a guy like Babanov - he knows just the problem of Rakaposhi NW" Italian Alberto Peruffo told ExWeb. "In Alaska with Valery, I again learned a lot from a master of alpine climbing," said American Fabrizio Zangrilli.
Siberia born Valery Babanov commands respect and so does Jannu. This fall the two met and it was a perfect match. Valery teamed up with Russian mountain guide Sergey Kofanov - himself climbing fast into the books of world mountaineering. Serg's Jannu ascent followed only months after an astonishing high altitude rescue on Everest north side. Serg didn't know the climber but lowered him down, partially on his back, from 8300 meters.
The two mountaineers used no fixed ropes on Jannu, no fixed camps, and a minimum of gear. They brought only 2 ropes (5 mm and 8 mm), 7 ice-screws, 12 pegs, a set of nuts, 4 snow stakes and a few cams. They used a very lightweight tent (1 kg/2 lbs) and a very lightweight double sleeping bag (800 g), 5 cartridges of EPI-gas and 8-day provision of food. Their backpacks were about 20 kilos (40 lbs) each.
BC was at 4700 m. On the first day they crossed the glacier and climbed a rock buttress to 5500 m. Day two and three, they climbed Sabitong North Face and reached the base of west pillar (6350 m). The pillar took another 3 days until they got to 7200 m, where the pillar merges with the SW ridge of Jannu.
From this point they continued on the ridge and reached the base of Jannu summit tower (7300 m). They left their sleeping bag, some food and gear at the base of the tower and the last bivouac was made at 7600 m. It was hardly any shelter though - the climbers spent the night there without sleeping bags. Through several storms and the past season's unusually snowy weather; on October 21 finally, Valery Babanov and Sergey Kofanov reached the summit.
For their feat, the two were awarded second place in the Russian Golden Ice Axe award, and Alex Abramov (for whom Serg had guided on Everest) also treated his young guide to pancakes with caviar.
Special mention: Tim Cope
Tim Cope, 28, finished his 3 year, 6,000 mile ride in the hoofsteps of Genghis Khan.
His first time in the saddle, Tim has proved that anyone can take a life-changing equestrian journey, the Long Riders Guild said.
Tim's final steps through Hungary read like a story out of Lord of the Rings. In the evenings, tall, powerful horsemen with almond eyes shared tales of the Huns to Palinko (the national spirits) and goulash cooking slowly over camp fires. Tigon the dog swam across the Tisa river, and both travelers were treated to a stay in a castle where Tigon and Tim were led up to a kind of royal guest room with a huge bathroom, red quilted king size bed, and views over the gardens.
Special mention: NW Passage
It took Sebastien Roubinet one year to build Babouche - a 7,5 m ice catamaran designed to sail on water and slide over ice. Early September, the vessel made Sebastien's dream come true. The adventurer and his friends connected the Pacific to the Atlantic by the north of Canada; claiming the first Northwest Passage made without engine in one season.
The passage took 3 months and 21 days, and spanned 4500 miles. As the ice melts (partially) only two months of the year, August and September, Babouche was in a hurry to get through.
The crew took turns, with Seb and Boris nailing the long, final leg. The team lost the mast at one point, had no heat - and used only sun and wind power for progress. Soaked and tired, they fought hard conditions during the crossing of the Baffin Sea. North-east winds prevented a direct route to Greenland and leaving Devon Island, the guys battled 20 knot winds and a very hard sea.
There were icebergs and lots of thin ice, (2-3 cm) - not enough to sail on; but just enough to slow the speed when pushing the ice sheets. The stays froze, and so did the crew - shivering through their night watches on a deck turning white. The whole idea of the expedition was to go gently and green - which the crew proved in point - with an added giant dose of courage and innovation.
"I have been following this trip with real admiration," Chris Bray (1000HourDay expedition) told ExWeb. "I have a lot of respect for this trip, and their attitude/approach. It was a very human, refreshing, honest adventure."
Special mention: Korean Lhotse Shar, Karl Unterkircher G2 & Jasemba, Japanese Lhotse off season climb
Korean 14x8000er summiteer Um Hong-Gil summited Lhotse Shar via its south face on May 31 together with team mates Byung Sung-ho and Mo Sang-hyun, and one climbing Sherpa. This was a sweet success for Um, who was forced back on three previous attempts. Lhotse south has rejected some of the best climbers in history - including the Polish winter masters and Reinhold Messner.
Italians Karl Unterkircher, Daniele Bernasconi and Michele Compagnoni summited GII via the north spur, traversing down the south side and achieving the first complete ascent of the mountains north side. Earlier Karl Unterkircher and Hans Kammerlander summited the 7,350 meters-tall Jasemba on their third straight year attempting the peak. The two men climbed 2,000 vertical meters non-stop to the summit and back, in a 20-hour push.
A Japanese team from the JACs Tokai section climbed the South face of Lhotse on December 27, 2006 in their third attempt for the ascent. Osamu Tanabe, Yamaguchi and Sherpa Penba Chorten reached the top of the face via the Cesen route at 3:35 pm, but it was too late in the day to proceed to the summit.
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