We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2009. 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.
And 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 2009.
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 4:
Special mention: Good guys leaving too early - Tomaz, Piotr, Serguey, Martin, Oscar, Roby, Mark...
"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare," said Mark Twain. You might be surprised to find this quote in a place covering hard adventure. Yet real explorers know that true heroes own the full spectrum of guts.
A special mention to the many this year that left us with a legacy to do things our way, and the right way.
Special mention: GIII rescue
Bad tales grab most headlines but Himalaya also offers the most incredible rescues. Often un-noticed so far away from the climbers' homelands, here's just one example:
Attempting a new line on GIII's NW flank in Pakistan, American Don Bowie, Bruce Normand, Billy and Guy were in C4 at 7300m going for the summit at midnight.
Things didnt go to plan. Bruce became sick that night and his state worsened through the following day, while a storm unfolded outside. By the second night the situation became critical as the climber drifted in and out of consciousness, with an O2 sat measurement a staggeringly low 37%.
Early morning Bruce vomited while Don failed to establish a GPS signal. An amazing emergency descent followed in howling winds and zero visibility. Roped together the four climbers tackled unknown terrain through icefalls, black crevasses, fresh snow and avalanche debris for hours on end, eventually bringing their mate down to safety.
Details and more images here.
Related story: GIII-GVI: ExWeb special on "the other Gasherbrums".
Special mention: Nives Meroi, fame vs. love
The position of the first woman in the world to summit all 14, 8000ers (Messner was the first male) will not necessarily go to the one who "deserves" it most.
A few years ago Nives Meroi and her husband Romano Benet were the only to summit K2 without oxygen, Sherpas or fixed rope on the upper sections. That year only two other climbers reached the summit, heavily supported.
This spring, Romano became seriously ill high up on Kangchenjunga and his wife gave up her top rank on the female 14x8000ers list to save his life. In her interview with ExplorersWeb, Nives said the chain of events helped her realize what is really important in life.
"I have summited all my 8000ers together with [Romano] and cant think of reaching a summit without sharing it with him," she said. "[The events] opened my eyes, and put my feet back on the ground. I remembered why I climb, how I climb, what is really important in life, and what is without sense."
Related story: ExWeb Interview with Nives Meroi: Romano comes first, whatever happens.
North Pole/Greenland crossing and polar records
Although exploration is not about sports records, it is about humans exceeding limits in extreme nature and this year a number of polar explorers accomplished exactly that.
Canadian Richard Weber leading Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab clocked the fastest time from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole; American Todd Carmichael broke the solo speed; while Norwegians Christian Eide, Rune Midgaard, Mads Agrup and Morten Andvig did the fastest ski yet from the Messner point. All records were unsupported.
Special mention also to French skiers Arnaud Tortel and Charles Hedrich for choosing a different (albeit positive drift) path on the Arctic, reaching Greenland from a North Pole starting point.
ExWeb's "We hear you award"
Finally, a very special "we hear you award" goes to 14-year old Laura Dekker, born on a yacht and currently supervised by the Dutch Child Protection Department for wanting to hit the seas again onboard her boat "Guppy." After she unsuccessfully went to court to fight for her right to sail solo around the world, Laura withdrew 3500 Euro from her bank account and ran off to the Caribbean Islands.
Departing at age 16, British Mike Perham and American Zac Sunderland both sailed around the world this year. Jessica Watson, 16, is currently attempting the voyage non-stop and unassisted. Also Laura Dekkers dream is to become the youngest to sail around the world, but she would have to leave next year, at age 15.
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