On This Day in Adventure
The Remote Ice Island
On January 1st (that’s today!), 1739, French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier discovered an uninhabited sub-Antarctic volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Bouvet spotted the icy shoreline in the fog and recorded the coordinates incorrectly, so the island remained a mystery to future explorations. Many voyages found and renamed the island through the 19th century, but when a Norwegian ship finally landed upon the glacier-covered island in 1927, they mapped it and named it Bouvet Island after the man who first found what has been determined as the most remote island in the world.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
On January 2nd (that's today!), 1897, the American novelist Stephen Crane escaped the sinking of The Commodore, a boat transporting him and 27 others to Cuba. Crane and three other men, including the ship's Captain, abandoned The Commodore off the coast of Florida in a 10' dinghy. Despite towering waves that threatened to capsize the boat, the survivors endured a 30-hour marathon session rowing the tiny boat toward present-day Daytona Beach. The small boat overturned in the surf before the men reached land, dumping them into the ocean and forcing them to swim to shore; one of them died. Crane would later recall the harrowing details of his survival in his now classic short story ""The Open Boat."
On January 4th (that’s today!), 1854, Captain William McDonald discovered a cluster of volcanic islands close to Antarctica. McDonald never went ashore as there is no quality port or harbor on the glacially dominated island. At the time of his discovery, the volcano had been dormant for 75,000 years, but it became volcanically active in 1992. It has erupted multiple times since then, raising the summit to 750 feet and doubling the size of the island that McDonald named after himself.
Alone at the South Pole
On January 5th (that’s today!), 1996, British industrialist and adventurer David Hempleman-Adams completed a solo journey to the South Pole. It was not his first adventure. Hempleman-Adams has been awarded the Royal Victorian Order, among many other distinctions for completing the Adventurers Grand Slam. This includes scaling the Seven Summits as well as reaching the North and South Poles, but today he stood alone in the coldest, most inhospitable place on earth.
It’s a Mountain, Man
On January 6th (that's today!), 1799, Jedediah Strong Smith, the first United States citizen to travel by land from the Salt Lake frontier to the Colorado River, the Mojave Desert, and into California, was born. Smith's trailblazing nature then drew him east across the Sierra Nevada range, and after that he successfully became the first American to travel up the California coast to reach Oregon. During his travels, Smith recorded his observations on nature and topography, and even survived a fight with a bear. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is named in his honor, as is the large Jedediah Smith Wilderness in Wyoming's Teton Range.
The Kandahar Cup
On January 7th (that’s today!), 1911, Lord Roberts of Kandahar, a British war hero, sponsored the world’s first downhill ski race at Crans-Montana in the Swiss Alps. Twenty competitors climbed the Plaine Morte Glacier and raced each other simultaneously skiing as fast as they could down the 4,000-foot slope. Cecil Hopkinson of Great Britain won the race, and Lord Roberts presented him with the Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup for his victory.
The Southwestern Passage
On January 8th (that’s today!), 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza set out on a Southwestern exploratory journey from Tucson, Arizona. Bautista set forth with three padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses. His goal was the mission in Alta, California. He traveled the Gila River near the border of California and Mexico, and made friendly relations with the Yuma tribe in the region that set the stage for friendly journeys through their land in the future.
First in Flight
At ten in the morning on January 9th (that's today!), 1793, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and a small black dog floated slowly into the Philadelphia morning air. Ascending ever higher, Blanchard noticed that the streets, rooftops, and steeples were covered with people, and cheers erupted as he passed overhead to become the first person to fly a balloon in America. Nestled in the confines of the balloon's basket, and fortified with nothing but biscuits and wine, Blanchard and the pup would reach a peak height of 5,812 feet and plop down 56 minutes later in Deptford Township, New Jersey.
The King of Everest
On January 10th (that’s today!), 2008, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to successfully climb Mount Everest, passed away at 88 years old. The lanky 6’5” New Zealander is best known for summiting Everest, “because it was there,” but he led a colorful life with many other notable accomplishments. He listed his main occupation as a beekeeper, but he pursued the Abominable Snowman during an expedition in 1960, stood with Neil Armstrong on the North Pole, and was dubbed a Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
A Canyon So Great
On January 11th (that's today!), 1908, one of America's greatest wild places, the mighty Grand Canyon, was designated a National Monument by Congress. By 1932, protection increased, and the monument became a National Park, ensuring that private development would never rob the canyon of its natural grandeur. Home to Native Americans for centuries, the first non-native to explore its depths was the geologist John Wesley Powell and company. Starting at Wyoming's Green River in small wooden boats, the crew made their way to the confluence of the Colorado River and entered the ""Great Unknown"" of the Grand Canyon. Amazingly, the crew guided their fragile boats downriver through rushing rapids, whirlpools, and rocks to arrive at the end of the canyon.
Finding the Caves of Nerja
On January 12th (that’s today!), 1959, five friends on an excursion outside the town of Nerja, Spain rediscovered a five-mile system of subterranean chambers now known as the Caves of Nerja. The first discoverers were Neanderthals and cave hyenas that lived in the cave nearly 25,000 years ago. Researchers discovered a Neanderthal skeleton in the cave, along with pottery shards, tools, and stalagmites that have been fluted with openings to produce different notes when hammered upon. Now, the Caves of Nerja are one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions.
National Geographic Founded
On January 13th (that’s today!), 1888, a group of 33 scientists and explorers gathered at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. to prepare the constitution for the National Geographic Society. The members of the club were an elite group of wealthy academics and explorers that aimed to create “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” It has since become one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world, and has funded some of the most important projects of the past century’s greatest adventurers, including Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Jane Goodall, Louis and Mary Leakey, Michael Fay, and many more.
The Summit of the Americas
On January 14th (that’s today!), 1897, renowned Swiss alpinist Matthais Zurbriggen made the first successful summit bid on Aconcagua (22,837ft.), the highest peak in the Americas. Zurbriggen was acting as a mountain guide for the American mountaineer Edward FitzGerald, who financed the expedition to claim the summit. The team made five attempts in six weeks, but each time FitzGerald became extremely nauseous near 20,000 feet and they’d turn back. Fearing that his party would fail, FitzGerald sent Zurbriggen to reach the summit alone.
Surviving at the Bottom of the Earth
On January 15th (that's today!), 1912, while exploring uncharted territory on the Antarctic coast, Douglas Mawson was certain that his days were numbered. Leader of the ambitious Australasian Antarctic Expedition, the explorer's main objective was to investigate geology, meteorology, magnetism, glaciology, and atmospheric science in the unknown land. Five weeks into a research mission, his small team struck disaster when a sledge full of nearly all of their supplies, six of their best dogs, and a member of their team plunged into a deep crevasse and were lost. A grueling 10-month fight for survival ensued that left only one man standing: Mawson. He returned to his home country a national hero nearly two years later and would continue to pioneer Antarctic exploration for the rest of his life.
On January 16th (that's today!), 1909, three explorers from Sir Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition discovered the position of the South Magnetic Pole, making this accomplishment the first in history. Although the point that Douglass Mawson, Edgeworth David, and Alistair Mackay claimed to be the South Magnetic Pole is debated, there is no question that the point is wandering and moves north-west by about 10 to 15 Kilometers per year due to polar drift. The approximate position on January 16th, 1909 was 72.25°S 155.15°E.
Race To the Bottom
On January 17th (that's today!), 1912, the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrived at the South Pole shocked to discover that his party was not the first to stand there. Roald Amundsen had reached the pole just weeks before Scott’s expedition. Staring blankly at the Norwegian flag flapping in the wind, Scott stated, ""Great God! This is an awful place,"" realizing he was on the losing end of one of the greatest adventure races of the early nineteenth century.
Crossing Antarctica Alone
On January 18th (that’s today!), 1997, Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland completed the first unassisted solo crossing of Antarctica. It was his second attempt. The first time he failed, but on this expedition he began at Berkner Island on the northern coast of the continent and traveled 1,864 miles in 64 days to reach the United States’ McMurdo Station, a research center on the southern coast. He dragged all his food and supplies in a sled, which at the outset weighed 392 pounds. He faced temperatures as dangerously cold as negative 70°F. But Ousland heedlessly pushed on listening to ZZ Top and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He had tried the previous year to accomplish the same goal and failed. But after his successful trip he said, “The most important victory is that I dared to take the chance of failing a second time, and I won.”
Ahab on Ice?
On January 19th (that’s today!), 1840, Captain Charles Wilkes, a stern American naval officer who was twice court-martialed for excessively punishing insubordinate officers, became the first American to see the ice-choked continent of Antarctica. Wilkes had set out two years before with his crew on the United States Exploring Expedition. They explored a 1,500-mile section of the Antarctic coastline in the South Indian Ocean that has since become known as Wilkes Land. Wilkes's ship returned safely to port in New York City and became the last American naval expedition to circumnavigate the globe by sail. Many historians speculate that Wilke—and his harsh disciplinary code upon the ship—was the basis for Herman Melville's Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.
More Remote Than the South Pole
On January 20th (that’s today!), the three-man British team of Rory Sweet, Henry Cookson, and Rupert Longsdon became the first people to reach the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility by non-mechanical means. The poles of inaccessibility are locations that are determined through a variety of geographical factors that make them the most remote locations in the world. The team traveled 1,032 miles using skis and kites to cross glacial crevasses on the Antarctic plateau, and reached elevations of 11,000ft in temperatures as low as minus 60°. When they reached the southern POI they discovered the bust of Lenin that the Soviets had left in 1958, and they drank whiskey for a warm celebration.
On January 21st (that's today!), 2012, Austrian climber, David Lama completed the first free ascent of the Southeast Ridge of Cerro Torre in Patagonia. Lama's success came at the end of a three-year battle that saw his tactics and ethics evolve. Lama fell under heavy critical fire after his first attempt, when his party added even more permanent protection to the infamous and already over-bolted Compressor Route. Owning this mistake, Lama returned on this day in 2012 to use only existing protection and removable, clean protection pulling off one of the greatest feats in modern climbing history.
Skiing All of Colorado’s 14ers
On January 22nd (that’s today!), 2006, one of America’s best big-mountain skiers, Chris Davenport, began his mission to become the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in a single year. He began this ambitious undertaking on Mt. Lincoln in the Mosquito Range near Hoosier Pass. He descend a route called Putnam Gulch and described the conditions as “mildly horrible.” Over the course of the year, Davenport’s ascents added up to over 200,000 vertical feet and he faced every ski condition imaginable, from ice, to powder, to sub-zero temps, to bluebird skies, to skiing on water. He completed his mission nearly a full year later with only three days to spare.
On Her Own Strength
On January 23rd (that’s today!), 2012, British adventurer Felicity Aston became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica. After hauling two sleds with all her gear for 1,084 miles in 59 days, she finally saw the coastal mountains near her final destination, the Hercules Inlet. She broke down and wept saying, “All these days I thought there was no chance I was going to make it.” Her successful crossing of the ice continent also set another record: Aston is the first person to make an entirely human-powered traverse of Antarctica.
On January 24th (that's today!), 1908, Robert Baden-Powell inspired boys throughout England to pick up and pack out with the publication of Scouting for Boys. Baden-Powell's first installment of what would become six classic manuals were meant to help support young people in their physical, mental, and spiritual development through camping, resourcefulness, and chivalry. The handbook was an immediate success and kicked off the Scout Movement that would eventually become a non-governmental international organization with over 41-million members.
Window of Opportunity
On January 25th (that's today!), 2010, American climbers Ian Nicholson and Graham Zimmerman made the first ascent of the East face of Los Gemelos, a serious alpine rock route in the French Valley of Torres del Paine National park in Patagonia, Chile. This area is known to adventure seeking alpine rock climbers as a mecca. Endless granite spires and untapped stone are guarded by fierce weather patterns that only allow small windows of opportunity each season, if at all. To succeed in Patagonia is a testament to ones skill, patience, and good fortune.
On January 26th (that’s today!), 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill to create Rocky Mountain National Park. Located in the northern portion of the Colorado Front Range, the park is split lengthwise by the Continental Divide, and is home to Long’s Peak (14,259ft.) which is the only one of Colorado’s “fourteeners” located within the park. It attracts dedicated big wall climbers who attempt to scale the gigantic sheer cliff, The Diamond, but the park draw thousands of tourists annually to see the aspens turn in the fall, and for the numerous alpine lakes that sparkle beneath the high, glacially carved peaks.
The Original Birder
On January 27th, 1851, the United States’ most famous naturalist painter John James Audubon died at the age of 65. Audubon emigrated from France to the US at the age of 18. He moved to the 225-acre Mill Valley farm in Pennsylvania and began to explore his surroundings. Audubon was a prodigious hunter, an indefatigable walker, and a patient observer with a keen interest in birds. He painted all the birds he found in his adopted homeland, and is credited with having discovered 25 new species. His final compilation, Birds of America, is considered one of the finest ornithological studies ever produced.
The First Ski Lift In The U.S.
On January 28th (that’s today!), 1934, Wallace Bertrum, also known as “Bunny” built a tow rope on a farm in Vermont. There were already ski lifts in Europe and Canada, but there were no lifts in the U.S. and as a result skiing was not popular here. Bertrum heard about a resort in Quebec that hauled skiers up by using a rope and so he decided to build one on Clinton Gilbert’s farm in Woodstock Vermont. Now, the tow rope has become a right of passage for all novice skiers as they learn to ski on the “Bunny” slope, which was named after Bertrum.
Happy Birthday Edward Abbey
On January 29th (that's today!), 1927, environmental advocate, self-proclaimed ""enemy of the modern military-industrial state,"" and one of America's greatest wilderness authors, was delivered into this world—most likely with grit in his hair and sand in his teeth. Born in Pennsylvania, Edward Abbey hitchhiked across the country at the age of 17 and fell in love with the Desert Southwest, where he stayed for the remainder of his life. Inspiring radical environmental groups and wanderlust adventurers alike with his words, Abbey has been referred to as the ""Thoreau of the American West.""
On January 30th (that's today!), 1827, Prussian explorer and naturalist, Grigory Langsdorff and his crew reached Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, in Brazil. Exploring the very heart of South America, Langsdorff and company conducted geographical and scientific research throughout the Amazon, and collected zoological, botanical, and cartographical observations over the course of nearly three years. His findings are still in museums throughout Russia and offer a glimpse of the indigenous tribes in Brazil of which many are now extinct.
The Marooned Buccaneer
On February 1st (that’s today!), 1709, the Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk, was rescued from the Chilean Juan Fernandez Islands by an English vessel after he had spent four years marooned on the island. Selkirk, an unruly buccaneer, deemed his ship unfit to sail and told the captain he’d rather stay on the island where they’d stopped to repair it than continue aboard. The captain accepted his offer, and Selkirk immediately regretted it as his crew sailed off leaving him utterly alone. He initially camped on the beach and ate shellfish, but a raucous, foul-smelling horde of breeding sea lions forced him inland where he hunted feral goats with great success. When he was discovered, Selkirk was physically fit, with a sound mind, barefooted wearing well-sewn goatskin clothes, carrying a hatchet, a musket, and a bible. Daniel Defoe was enchanted by his story and a few years afterwards he wrote Robinson Crusoe, based on the experience of Alexander Selkirk.
A Noble Effort
On February 2nd (that's today!), 1536, Spanish conquistador and explorer Pedro de Mendoza y Luján founded Buenos Aires while sailing up the Río de la Plata. His efforts to colonize the city resulted in a hastily built three-foot-thick adobe wall made of mud, which disintegrated each time it would rain. Sickly and downtrodden, Luján and the colonialists were slowly deteriorating as well, and as food became scarce they resorted to eating rats, mice, snakes, lizards, rawhide boots, and more. Appointing a new Captain-general, Luján headed home to Spain, promising to send aid to those left behind. He never made it, and the settlers abandoned early-day Buenos Aires.
Here’s to Hoping
On February 3rd (that’s today!), 1488, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to round the African Cape of Good Hope, but Dias didn’t realize that he had passed this historical milestone because his ship Saint Christopher was sailing too far from the coast to see the land. So his expedition pressed on for another 3 weeks and Dias tried to convince his crew to sail further to India, but they weren’t having it. So it wasn’t until their return, that Dias discovered that he had become the first European to find the fabled route around Africa.
The Savage Mountain
On February 4th (that's today!), 1943, Wanda Rutkiewicz, a Polish mountaineer and the first woman to successfully summit and descend K2, was born. Known to climbers as the "Savage Mountain" due to the technical nature of its sheer faces and the deaths that it has delivered to its suitors, K2 is the second highest mountain on earth. For every four people that have reached its summit, one has died trying. Not only was Rutkiewicz the first woman to summit and descend the treacherous mountain, she did so without the use of supplemental oxygen, a monumental feat.
On February 5th (that’s today!), 1869, Cornish prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates discovered the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found. The two men were mining in an area known as Bulldog Gully, just outside of Moliagul, Australia. They discovered the nugget an inch beneath the soil near the root system of a tree. They set off to the local blacksmith to have their nugget weighed, and there was no scale large enough to hold it so they broke it into three pieces. The original nugget weighed 3,123 ounces and measured 24x12 inches. The nugget became known as Welcome Stranger, partly because of its unique shape and size, and because its estimated worth in today’s currency would be roughly $3,766,950.
Birth of the American West
On February 6th (that's today!), 1682, Robert de La Salle set sail down the Mississippi River. La Salle was a prominent French explorer and the first European to travel from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. On this expedition, La Salle claimed the entire river basin and its tributaries for France, naming it Louisiana in honor of his king, King Louis XIV. Years later, in 1803, France sold the land back to America, an act that opened the doors to future explorations by Lewis and Clark and the continued westward expansion of the country.
On February 7th (that’s today!), 1821, U.S. ship captain John Davis and his crew aboard the sealing ship Celia became the first men to set foot upon Antarctica. They landed at Hughes Bay and the men scattered along the shore looking for seals. Finding none, they boarded the ship after an hour and continued their search elsewhere. Captain Davis took their bearings, however, and determined that their brief sojourn ashore was most likely a stroll upon the, at that point, mythical land of Terra Incognita.
Put A Badge On It
On February 8th (that's today!), 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded, providing young explorers with an organization to help harness the power of the most meaningful classroom of all, the great outdoors. The main goal of the BSA is to funnel responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance into young men through a wide range of outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, and much more. To this day, more than 110-million Americans have been BSA members.
A Hop, Skip, and a Jump
On February 9th (that's today!), 1839, John Balleny, an Arctic explorer and Captain of the schooner Eliza Scott, spotted a group of islands just south of the Antarctic Circle. Captain Thomas Freeman traveled alongside Balleny in a ship named the Sabrina and he made the first push toward the island in a small rowboat. Due to treacherous weather, Freeman only had a moment to jump out of the boat and stand on terra firma. He snatched a few rocks, hopped back in his rowboat, and headed back to the safety of his vessel. The island group is now known as the Balleny Islands, and this event marked the first time that a human had landed on shore south of the Antarctic Circle.
Doing the Congo
On February 10th (that’s today!), 1874, investigative journalist turned explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, set off an African expedition to trace the Congo River from source to sea. The newspaper he wrote for, the New York Herald, partnered with Britain’s Daily Telegraph to finance the journey. Stanley began with 356 people, but the perilous conditions of the river, and the insidious disease-bearing insects claimed the lives of many on the crew, but Stanley successfully reached the mouth of the Congo 999 days after the expedition began.
Born On The Trail
On February 11th (that's today!), 1805, Sacagawea, the famous Native American guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. The youngest member of the expedition, Charbonneau was born with adventure in his blood, and grew to become a foremost explorer and guide, traveler of the world, gold miner, and linguist, fluent in multiple languages. You can find his image imprinted alongside his mother's, resting peacefully on her shoulders, on the Sacagawea ""golden dollar.""
Birth of the Supertramp
On February 12th (that’s today!), 1968, the idealistic adventurer Christopher McCandless was born. McCandless is known for shedding the trappings of society in an attempt to pursue an idealized life of hunting and foraging in Denali National Park, Alaska. He paid the ultimate price for his insistence to meet the wilderness on his own terms, and refused to bring a map, compass, or adequate food for his adventures. McCandless’ story has transformed him into a polarizing figure. Some hold him in high regard for his steadfast commitment to his principles, other consider his actions recklessly naïve, but there’s no denying that he has become an enduring legend of the wilderness.
A Humble Legend Disappears
On February 13th (that’s today!), 1984, Naomi Uemura, a Japanese adventurer who gained an international reputation for his solo mountain and polar expeditions, disappeared. He spoke his last words to two photographers that were flying over Mt. McKinley. He informed them that he had summited the mountain the previous day and would be in basecamp within two days. A storm came in and he was never heard from again. Apart from his fast and lightweight expeditions, Uemura will be long remembered by his indomitable good-spirit and his humble appreciation of nature.
The Arctic Diet of Butter and Bacon
On February 14th (that’s today!), 1995, Richard Weber and Misha Malakhov left Ward Hunt Island to begin the first self-supported, human-powered expedition to the North Pole. Since the duo was hauling months of supplies in sleds behind them, they made every effort to minimize their weight, but throughout the eighty-one day expedition they averaged eating 8,000 calories per day to stay warm. They ate raw bacon, butter, and chocolate. When their thermometer broke they used butter instead. At minus 30 the butter stick broke; at minus 50, it shattered, but despite the cold Weber and Malakhov successfully reached the North Pole.
Simone Moro’s Winter Attempt On Broad Peak
On February 15th (that’s today!), 2007, Italian alpinist Simone Moro attempted a winter ascent of Broad Peak, also known as K3 because of its proximity to the second highest mountain in the world, K2. Rising out of the Karakoram Mountain Range along the border of Pakistan and China, Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world. Moro and his Pakistani climbing partner Shaheen Baig climbed higher and higher despite brutal cold and deteriorating weather. They made it to Camp 3 where they waited for a weather window to reach the summit, but the weather never cleared and they were forced to retreat from their attempt on this day.
Skiing On The Moon
On February 16th (that's today!), 1996, Hans Johnstone and Mark Newcomb made the first ski descent of the Northeast Couloir (Hossack—MacGowan Couloir) on the Grand Teton, climbing and skiing it in a day. Known as one of the most difficult ski mountaineering lines in America, it has only been repeated once. Ski mountaineering on the Grand is in the realm of a select few, requiring not only expert skiing abilities but also years of mountaineering experience. Jackson locals liken a successful ski descent of the Grand to ""skiing on the moon,"" since the chance for success is squashed by so many variable conditions. For ambitious suitors, the Grand Teton offers the unique combination of accessibility, technical difficulty, altitude, exposure, and objective hazards that beckon only the best and the bravest."
The Ice Warriors
On February 17th (that's today!), 1980, Polish mountaineers Krysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy made the first winter ascent of Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world. Before this accomplishment, summiting an 8,000-meter peak in winter was thought impossible. Some of the difficulties that winter imparts on Himalayan climbing are sub-zero temperatures, short days that limit climbing opportunities, strong winds that eat tents for breakfast and strip away snow (exposing rock and hard ice that makes climbing more technical), and lower barometric pressure, which leads to less oxygen in the air. This visionary ascent by Wielicki and Cichy opened a new era in mountaineering, and over the next eight years, Polish climbers would nab six other 8,000-meter peaks during the winter months, earning them the moniker, ""Ice Warriors.""
A Triumphant Finale
On February 18th (that's today!), 1965, the Italian mountain climber, explorer, and journalist, Walter Bonatti, made the first winter ascent of the Matterhorn's ""North Face Direct"" route. Known for his climbing panache, Bonatti climbed the route solo, an extraordinary feat, and promptly announced his retirement from professional climbing at the young age of 35. The Matterhorn lies on the border between Switzerland and Italy, and is one of the tallest peaks in the Alps. It is known for its unique geography, and has four steep faces that rise majestically from the glaciers below. The mountain is a famed test-piece for climbers worldwide and is considered one of the deadliest mountains on earth.
Beyond 60° South
On February 19th (that’s today!), 1819, Captain William Smith was sailing his British merchant brig to Valparaiso, Chile, when he accidently drifted farther south than his intended route around Cape Horn. He sighted the northern extremity of Livingston Island, which is the northern most island of the Antarctica archipelago called the Shetland Islands. Smith’s sighting marked the first time anyone had ever recorded seeing land south of 60° latitude.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
On February 20th (that's today!), 1902, famous nature photographer, dedicated conservationist, and brilliant artist, Ansel Adams, was born. Known best for his dramatic black and white images of the American west, Adams began his lifelong career in Yosemite Valley at 14 years old. Returning to the iconic park each year after his first visit, Adams became famous for his visually stunning photographs of the park, and won a devout following from a growing community of outdoor adventure seekers. His work is synonymous with unfettered wilderness and has been pivotal in helping to inspire others to protect and preserve the places we love to play.
A Place For Dirtbags To Call Home
On February 21st (that's today!), 2003, Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, California, was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known as the epicenter of modern day rock climbing, and an international melting pot for rock climbers and outdoor aficionados worldwide, Camp 4 is a launching point for big adventures. Whether you aspire to climb El Cap, want to test your mettle on the famous boulder problem Midnight Lightning, or are just relaxing under the canopy of trees, this historic campsite will impart its magical allure on you.
A Tall Tale In Patagonia
On February 22nd (that's today!), 1976, an American climbing team consisting of John Bragg, Jim Donini, and Jay Wilson made the first ascent of Torre Egger in Patagonia, a peak that is considered by some to be the most difficult summit to reach in the Western Hemisphere. For a portion of their ascent, the Americans followed the famous, yet contentious route of Cesare Maestri. In 1959, Maestri claimed to have made the first ascent of the adjoining peak, Cerro Torre, a groundbreaking achievement for the times. Maestri's partner perished in an avalanche during their descent, and according to Maestri, so did their camera, which could prove their accomplishment. Doubt lingered within the community regarding his claim, however their success lay unchallenged for 17 years, until the Americans discovered that Maestri's gear stopped well below the summit of Cerro Torre, proving that Maestri's claims were more than likely false.
Coronado Goes For Gold
On February 23rd (that’s today!), 1540, the famous Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado set out on his famous expedition of the American Southwest. Coronado and his men left Compostela in western Mexico to travel north along the Pacific Coast. They were searching for the famed Seven Cities of Cibola, which a visiting friar had proclaimed was unbelievably rich in gold and silver. Abundant wealth was not in the cards for Coronado, but his crew became the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon and the enormous bison herds of the Great Plains.
The Jumping Russian
On February 24th (that’s today!), 2007, Russian BASE-jumping legend Valery Rozov became the first person to BASE-jump from the summit of Patagonia’s iconic Central Tower in Torres del Paine. Rozov climbed the Bonington-Whilans route with four other climbers working on the Russian Big Walls Project. The Grade V 5.11 route took them two days, and as they neared the summit the other climbers began to relax having reached their goal, but Rozov steeled his nerves to focus on his main objective. He jumped from the summit and dropped 4,500 vertical feet in 47 seconds, making it one of the longest human flights on record.
Biking on Ice
On February 25th (that's today!), 2010, a five-man team of American and Venezuelan cyclists began the first ever human-powered winter circumnavigation of Lake Baikal on mountain bikes. Lake Baikal is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Located in southeastern Siberia, it's the deepest lake in the world, 395 miles in length, and 50 miles across at its widest point. The lake is also host to 1,085 species of plants and 1,550 species of wildlife, including the nerpa, a freshwater seal which is the only mammal living in the lake. The five-man team endured 36 days of tumultuous weather to raise awareness for environmental conservation in Russia, specifically recognizing the Lake Baikal region.
Grand Tetons for Everyone
On February 26th (that’s today!), 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill that created Grand Teton National Park. This came after a decade of political maneuvering. Western ranchers felt that declaring it a national park was a federal government land grab, locking them out of access; and many tourists wanted the creation of the park to preserve the spirit of the Old West. The compromise was that the national park only encompassed the rugged mountains where cattle would not roam, but John D. Rockefeller bought extensive tracts of private land surrounding the park and 20 years after the park was created, Rockefeller donated his land to the government to provide habitat for the great bison and elk herds that still live there today.
Revered Climber Passes
On February 27th (that's today), 2002, the world lost one of the most accomplished and influential rock climbers of all time. Warren Harding found his niche in Yosemite Valley during the early 1950's, and was soon the driving force towards pioneering new routes up the gargantuan rock walls. Harding was the leader of the first team to climb El Capitan, one of the largest granite monoliths in the world, which soars 2,900 ft. above the Valley floor, via a route called "The Nose." To this day, his visionary route tests climbers from all over the world, and remains a very serious undertaking. Known for his free spirit, penchant for wine, and larger-than-life character, Harding will forever be remembered as a true adventure icon.
The Shuksan Shuffle
On February 28th (that’s today!), 2008, Eric Wehrly and Sky Sjue made the first ski descent of the northwest couloir on Mt. Shuksan, in the North Cascades of Washington. The extremely beautiful summit rises into a classic pyramid-shaped peak. The duo traveled light and fast using no ropes or protection beyond their crampons and ice axes to reach the north summit. They descended the steep couloir in wintry snowpack to log the first descent by this route on the popular mountain in North Cascades National Park.
America Gets First National Park
On March 1st (that's today!), 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that gave America its first national park. Yellowstone National Park spans a whopping 3,468.4 square miles located primarily in Wyoming, and extends into portions of Montana and Idaho as well. The park is the core of one of the last natural ecosystems in the Earth's temperate zone and houses the world's largest collection of geysers. Many creatures call Yellowstone home, and the land teems with hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, including grizzly bears, wolves, herds of bison and elk, and more. With this historic act, Congress would go on to designate dozens of other national parks, spreading the idea of preservation of Earth's wild-places to other nations around the world.
Happy Birthday Laird Hamilton
On March 2nd (that's today!), 1964, in an experimental saltwater sphere at UCSF Medical Center, one of the greatest big-wave surfers of our time and the inventor of tow-in surfing, Laird Hamilton, was born. Known best for his fearlessness while dropping into behemoth waves, Hamilton secured his spot in surf history when he crested the lip of Tahiti's deadly Teahupo'o break and carved through the enormous tunnel vortex of the 70-foot wave. This ride became known as "the heaviest wave ever ridden," cementing his status as one of surfing's greatest legends.
Sea Dragon Sets Out
On March 3rd (that's today!), 1939, travel writer Richard Halliburton began his voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a Chinese junk boat, which is an ancient Chinese vessel with a high, platform-like stern. He named it the Sea Dragon because of the gaudy dragon painted across the 75-foot long hull. Several of the crew Halliburton hired to help him sail from Hong Kong to San Francisco declined the offer after inspecting the Sea Dragon's construction, but Halliburton was undeterred. No stranger to whimsical adventures, he had gained national acclaim for his previous travels which most notably included swimming the length of the Panama Canal. His voyage on the Sea Dragon caught the attention of the nation, but it did not last long. Halliburton and his crew encountered a typhoon nearly a month out at sea. As they battled the monstrous waves, he sent a message to a nearby freighter. It said, "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here instead of me." And then the Sea Dragon disappeared.
Maiden Voyage of Henry the Navigator
On March 4th (that's today!), 1394, Portuguese prince Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu, or best known as Henry the Navigator, was born. Credited for singlehandedly advancing Portuguese exploration into unknown territories, Henry helped to usher in the Age of Discoveries. In 1417, he founded an institute who's sole purpose was to teach navigational techniques to Portuguese sailors, employing the leading astronomers, cartographers, geographers, and mathematicians throughout Europe to help explorers discover the far-flung reaches of the globe.
Birth of Bjaaland, Telemark Skiing Champion
On March 5th (that's today!), 1873, Olav Bjaaland, the Telemark ski champion of Norway, was born. He rose to prominence in the ski world in 1902 by winning 1st place at the Holmenkollen Ski Festival, which combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Later, in 1909 Bjaaland met the most famous Norwegian of all-time, polar explorer, Roald Amundsen. Amundsen invited him to join him on his upcoming expedition to the South Pole. They were greatly aided in their successful journey by Bjaaland's expert skiing. He often skied ahead of the dogs to keep their pace while creating perfectly straight tracks for the supply sleds to follow. He won many honors for this trip, including lighting the Olympic torch at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Morgedal.
Just Shy of the Broad Peak Summit
On March 6th (that's today!), 1988, Polish mountaineer Maciej Berbeka made what he believed to be the first winter ascent of Broad Peak, an 8,000-meter mountain located in Pakistan. Broad Peak is also known as K3, and is the 12th highest mountain on Earth. Climbing solo, Berbeka battled fierce weather that brought near-whiteout conditions during his summit bid, greatly impairing his vision. Pushing ever higher, he climbed to what he thought was the summit, and descended to basecamp thinking that he had just accomplished a monumental feat. Only later while viewing photographs did it become clear that he never reached the top, but had stopped at the rocky forepeak, a mere 20-meters shy of the actual summit.
First All-Female Ski Descent of Grand Teton
On March 7th (that’s today!), 2007, Julia Niles and Lisa Van Sciver completed the first all-female ski descent of the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. The duo began their ascent in the predawn hours and reached the summit by early morning light. They proceeded to ski the crusty snow down the 50° summit snowfield that is rife with potentially fatal cliffs. If either were to fall, they would plummet to their deaths. They then rappelled through vertical couloirs too steep to ski to reach the Tepee Glacier where they found the best snow on the mountain, and completed their grand descent.
First Argentinian Summits Aconcagua
On March 8th (that's today!), 1934, high-altitude climber, Lieutenant Nicholás Plantamura, became the first Argentinian to summit Aconcagua. Located in the Andes mountain range, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in both the Western and Southern hemispheres, and is one of the Seven Summits—the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. Unpredictable weather, extreme temperatures, and gale-force winds make Aconcagua a serious undertaking, and each year climbers test their mettle on the peak. Plantamura's accomplishment came nearly 38 years after the mountain's first successful ascent, making him a local hero.
Amerigo Vespucci, Navigator Extraordinaire, Born
On March 9th (that's today!), 1454, the Italian explorer, navigator, and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci was born. Vespucci began as an explorer and made two influential voyages to South America, and distinguished himself through excellent navigation. He was promoted to chief navigation officer of Spain, and it was in this role that he developed his theory that Brazil and the West Indies were not, as Columbus suggested, Asia's peripheral lands but a new continent unknown to Afro-Euroasians. His theory was correct, and over time people began referring to the New World as America, deriving from the first name of Spain's finest navigator.
Remo Läng Sets BASE Jumping Record
On March 10th (that's today!), 2012, Swiss BASE jumper, Remo Läng, became the first person to cross a mountain range during a free fall. Leaping from a plane at an elevation of 25,000 feet, Läng travelled 16 miles in his custom-built wing suit, hurtling past the summit of the Grand Combin, one of the tallest mountain peaks in the Alps, at 310mph. Läng deployed his chute nearly seven minutes after takeoff, landing in the Aosta Valley, Italy.
Coombs Drops Abiqua Falls
On March 11th (that's today!), 2011, kayaker Jesse Coombs became the first to successfully drop the beautiful 92-foot Abiqua Falls in Oregon. It's not the highest waterfall drop in history, but it comes with heavy consequences. The steep-angled entry to the lip makes maintaining form in the air difficult, and several kayakers have suffered serious injuries. Kayaker Tim Gross blew out both his knees in a previous attempt, and world-record holder for the highest drop in a kayak, Tyler Bradt, broke his back attempting Abiqua Falls one week after Coombs made it. Even Coombs did not escape unscathed. He maintained composure throughout the 3-second drop and landed cleanly in the large splash pool, but the force of impact fractured his shoulder socket and made his lung collapse. Even with those injuries, Coombs stayed upright to notch the first successful drop of Abiqua Falls.
First Ascent of Takargo
On March 12th (that's today!), 2010, alpinists Joseph Puryear and David Gottlieb made the first peak ascent of Takargo, a daunting mountain in the Rolwaling Himal of Nepal. The route took the team 12 days to accomplish, with only two of those days consisting of actual climbing. Takargo is a remote peak tucked deep in the Himalaya, and Puryear and Gottlieb faced arduous glacial travel in order to reach the base. Establishing their first camp underneath the west face of the mountain, conditions seemed hairy, raising doubts about safety. The team moved camp to the more favorable conditions of the east side, a solid move. Once en route, and travelling over vertical, solid ice on the east face, the team enjoyed clear skies and superb climbing. Reaching the top with relative ease, Puryear and Gottlieb were shocked to realize that the view that stretched for miles in all directions was reserved for their eyes only.
Youngest Musher Wins Iditarod
On March 13th (that’s today!), 2012, Dallas Seavey, age 25, became the youngest musher to win Alaska’s Iditarod. The 975-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome requires fitness and endurance, but strategy is what wins the race. With scheduled rest times for the dog teams, Seavey, a 3rd generational musher, opted to stay within the middle of the pack before sprinting out ahead. And once he gained the lead, he rested his team outside of town so competitors would believe he had raced further ahead. When his team barreled into Nome against a strong headwind blowing in from the Bering Sea, Seavey crossed the finish line after traversing Alaska’s winter wilderness in nine days, four hours, and 29 minutes.
Andrew Skurka’s Epic Yukon Expedition
On March 14th (that’s today!), 2010, American adventurer Andrew Skurka began his epic Alaska-Yukon Expedition. He covered 4,678 miles traveling by ski, foot, and packraft along a route that circled Alaska by traversing the Alaska Range, the Brooks Range, and floating down some of the wildest rivers including the Copper and the Yukon, as well as following the historic Iditarod and Chilkoot trails. When Skurka returned to his starting point seven months later, he had averaged 26.7 miles through some of the wildest terrain on the planet.
Baumgartner Breaks Free Fall Record
On the morning of March 15th (that's today!), 2012, Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, entered a space capsule that was attached to an enormous helium balloon that ascended to an altitude of 71,581 feet. Donning a pressurized space suit, Baumgartner launched himself from the capsule and hurtled towards earth for three minutes and 40 seconds, passing through potentially deadly zones. He reached a maximum speed of 365mph, setting the world record for the maximum vertical speed reached in flight. This jump would pave the way for an earth-shattering, record-breaking, supersonic jump performed in front of a worldwide audience via live Internet streaming in October of 2012.
Mt Mausolus and a Tribute to a Friend
On March 16th (that's today!), 2011, Clint Helander and Scotty Vincik completed the first ascent of Mt. Mausolus, in Alaska's remote Revelation Mountains. Helander attempted the 4,500-foot route along the west face numerous times before with a different climbing partner, Seth Holden. That duo first pursued the route in 2007, but over the years they were never able to make a successful summit. When Holden died in a plane crash in 2010, Helander decided that he must complete the climb in memory of his friend. When he returned with Vincik in 2011, they found perfect late-winter conditions and were able to complete the much-anticipated ascent. Helander spread Holden's ashes atop the summit to honor his friend, and the team aptly named the route "The Mausoleum."
Solo Unsupported North Pole First
On March 17th (that's today!), 2003, British polar guide and explorer Pen Hadow began his successful journey to become the first person to make a solo, unsupported trek to the North Pole. He began from Ward Hunt Island in Canada and skied across 470 miles of pack ice to the North Pole. When he encountered thinning pack ice, Hadow swam through the open Arctic Ocean in an immersion suit. The 470-mile trip took Hadow 64 days. This trip, along with his many other polar explorations led Hadow to create his business Geo Mission Limited, which designs scientific research programs to address polar environmental issues.
Manion Sets Deep Sea Diving Record
On March 18th (that’s today!), 1994, Dr. Dan Manion set the record for open deep sea diving. Off the coast of Nassau, Bahamas, Manion dove to the incredible depth of 525-feet on compressed SCUBA air. The record is not official, however, because in deference to the high death rate, the Guinness Book of World Records stopped publishing records on deep air dives. Manion's record incapacitated him and he has no recollection of the time he spent at that depth while setting the record.
Sir Richard Francis Burton Born
On March 19th (that's today!), 1821, Sir Richard Francis Burton, a British explorer, translator, writer, linguist, spy, poet, fencer, and diplomat was born. Burton could speak 29 languages ranging across a spectrum of European, African, and Asian dialects and used his extensive cultural knowledge to expand Britain's understanding of the world. In 1858, while working for the Royal Geographical Society, Burton became the first European to see the second deepest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika in Africa. It is also the longest lake in the world, and is divided among four countries, Zambia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. Throughout his travels, Burton kept detailed records of his remarkable findings and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles that led to a greater understanding of previously unknown regions. You may have read some of the works he translated such as 1,001 Nights (The Arabian Nights) and The Kama Sutra.
Voyage of Plastiki
On March 20th (that's today!), 2010 British explorer and conservationist David de Rothschild set sail from San Francisco on a catamaran made entirely from repurposed plastics. He named the boat Plastiki in reference to Thor Heyerdal's 1947 expedition on the Kon-Tiki, where Heyerdal and his crew built a balsa raft using primitive tools to sail across the Pacific to prove that South Americans could have populated the Polynesian Islands in pre-Columbus times. Rothschild, however, had a different purpose; he wanted to raise awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans. Plastiki made its voyage across the Pacific to Sydney, Australia in 128 days.
Henry Morton Stanley Stanley Sets Out After Livingstone
On March 21st (that's today!), 1871, American journalist Henry Morton Stanley began his voyage to Zanzibar, Tanzania, to search for the missing explorer Dr. Livingstone. The New York Herald paid for the intrepid journalist's trip to find the missing Scottish missionary saying, "Draw £1,000 now, and when you have gone through that, draw another £1,000, and when that is spent, draw another £1,000, and so on - BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE." Stanley outfitted his 700-mile trip through the jungle with 200 porters. When Stanley did succeed in finding the lost missionary, his story became an international sensation and led him to fame and fortune.
Descending the Little Gem Canyon
On March 22nd (that's today!), 2003, five members of the West Slope Chapter of the Colorado Club made the first documented descent of Little Gem Canyon, in a remote section of the San Rafael Swell in Utah. The canyon is only two miles long, but it took the crew 10.5 hours to walk its length. The crux of the canyon included a free-hanging rappel from a chokestone over a 200-foot cliff they named Scorpion Falls for an albino scorpion they spotted that was also dangling from the cliff.
Lewis and Clark Return Home
On March 23rd (that's today!), 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition, who famously crossed the western portion of the United States to reach the Pacific coast, departed their winter encampment at Fort Clatsop in present day Oregon to return for home. With depleted supplies, they loaded canoes and set off up the Columbia River, and would endure seven months of dangerous travel to finally come full circle and arrive at the docks of St. Louis, where the expedition started nearly two and a half years prior. With maps, journals, and sketches in hand, Lewis and Clark would shed new light on America's last wild frontier.
Adventure Legend John Wesley Powell Born
On March 24th (that’s today!), 1834, the famous explorer of the Grand Canyon, John Wesley Powell, was born. Powell took an early interest in natural history and became renowned through Illinois as a mollusk expert, but when the Civil War broke out Powell dropped that pursuit to become a soldier. He lost his arm during the Battle of Shiloh but served out the remainder of the war as a Union major. He returned to civilian life as a professor but the academic life did not suit him. He sought and secured funding for a geographic expedition down the Colorado River through the heart of the Grand Canyon in which he developed a geographic understanding that helped shaped our understanding of the geography, geology, and general understanding of the arid Southwest.
Steve House Survives Death-Defying Fall
On March 25th (that's today!), 2010, world-renowned climber and alpinist, Steve House, took a death-defying fall from the north face of Mount Temple in Alberta, Canada. Plummeting 80-feet after a handhold broke and sent him flying, House suffered five broken ribs, a collapsed right lung, two minor pelvis fractures, and five minor fractures to bits of his spine. After months of painful rehabilitation, and barely a year after this life-changing accident, House was back at it, attempting to climb Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain in the world. Although unsuccessful in reaching the summit on Makalu, House aims to return to climb the west face (8,463-meters) in alpine style, which would be a groundbreaking achievement.
Mount Everest Expedition Sets Forth
On March 26th (that's today!), 1922, the British Mount Everest Expedition set forth to attempt a summit bid on Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. This was the first expedition team created to make an ascent on the enormous peak and previous reconnaissance missions from subsequent British parties armed them with valuable information about the mountain. Implementing the use of supplemental oxygen for the first time, the team climbed to a record-breaking height of 8,230-meters before retreating due to an avalanche. Mount Everest would not see a successful summit team until the spring of 1953, which owed a portion of their success on the greatest peak in the world to the pioneering British team.
Savage Finds Inspiration Point
On March 27th (that’s today!), 1851, the Mariposa Battalion into California’s Sierra Nevada rode by horseback to find Chief Tenaya of the Ahwahnechee Tribe to settle a land dispute. Major Jim Savage led the battalion deeper into the mountains until they reached what is now called Inspiration Point in Yosemite National Park. From that prominent viewpoint, Savage and his battalion became the first non-indigenous people to look upon where the Ahwahnechee Tribe had lived for over 3,000 years among the valley floor surrounded by Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls.
Jason Lewis vs The Crocodile
On March 28th (that’s today!), 2005, British adventurer Jason Lewis’ human-powered circumnavigation of the earth nearly came to an unfortunate end. He had just completed a 26-mile paddle from the Great Barrier Reef to the North Queensland coast on the Australian mainland when he saw a 15-foot saltwater crocodile swimming toward him. Lewis raced the croc to the beach, barely getting there first. He jumped out and ran up a sand dune. When Lewis returned to his gear-filled kayak, the croc was still there, hissing at him. Lewis picked up his paddle and slammed the croc in the mouth, forcing it to swim off. This was his closest encounter with a wild beast during his 46,505-mile trip.
Descending The Mighty Mekong
On March 29th (that's today!), 2004, Australian kayaker Mick O'Shea became the first person to paddle his boat the entire length of the Mekong River. Travelling solo, O'Shea paddled through six countries, from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea. O'Shea made over 2.5-million paddle strokes and encountered over 2,000 rapids on his 4,900-kilometer trek down the world's 12th longest river. He also became the first person to paddle the treacherous stretch that flows through the gorges of Tibet, which are peppered with expert level rapids.
A Well-Deserved Beer
On March 30th (that's today!), 2001, Jim Shekhdar became the first person to make an unassisted non-stop crossing of the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat. He rowed approximately 8,000 miles in 274 days in a 10-meter boat he dubbed "Le Shark," after surviving multiple encounters with sharks that tried to ram his vessel. Shekhdar's most frightening encounter however, was a near miss with an oil tanker, which all but ran him over and almost sunk the Le Shark in its wake. After months of faithfulness, Le Shark capsized a mere 30-meters from the Australian shoreline, forcing Shekhdar to swim the final distance to land where he declared; "Now I want a beer and a barbecue."
Tara Oceans Expedition Returns
On March 31st (that's today!), 2012, the Tara Oceans expedition returned to the harbor at Lorient, France, after nearly two and a half years at sea. Their boat, Tara, was a 36-meter schooner with two masts that acted as a scientific research vessel and as an outreach program. During their voyage the Tara traveled through the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Nearly 5,000 children from every continent stepped aboard the Tara to speak with the scientists, but the crew's primary duty was to collect data about how marine organisms are impacted by global warming. The results of the research will serve as the baseline data for future climate models.
First Ascent of Chimbote
On April 1st (that's today!), 2011, Fernando Fainberg and Waldo Farias made the first ascent of Chimbote, a remote alpine peak in the Central Andes that straddles the border of Argentina and Chile. Cerro Chimbote was first attempted unsuccessfully in 1944 and the mountain gained mythical status throughout the years because it thwarted the strongest climber's in their attempts to reach the top. Fainberg and Waldo had themselves pursued the elusive peak for decades, making their first serious attempt in 1985. Their 2011 summit bid proved difficult at best, requiring four days of trekking in sub-freezing temperatures in order to reach the base of the mountain. Once climbing, the team encountered snow and ice, poor rock quality, and severe temperatures. Their perseverance paid off however and on this day in history they stood atop the summit as no man had done before.
Ed Stafford Walks The Amazon
On April 2nd (that’s today!), 2008, British ex-soldier Ed Stafford set forth from southern Peru to walk the length of the Amazon River to its mouth in Brazil. During his 28-month jungle trek, Stafford dodged pit vipers, electric eels, anacondas, and scorpions. He ate piranhas, beans, and rice. Bow-wielding natives imprisoned him twice on the suspicion of murder. None of that stopped him. But after 4,000 miles, Stafford collapsed from exhaustion nearly 50 miles from his final destination. He broke out into a full body rash and began itching himself compulsively. Many thought his trek was over, but Stafford proved them all wrong when he regrouped and finished the expedition to become the first person to ever walk the length of the Amazon.
Booze, Heroes, & the Sourdough Expedition
On April 3rd (that's today!), 1910, the Sourdough Expedition summited the north peak of North America's tallest mountain, Mt. McKinley. Motivated by a bar room gamble on a midwinters' night, four ordinary miners from Fairbanks embarked on a three-month adventure that would make national headlines. On the day of their summit bid, two of the miners armed themselves with a bag of doughnuts, three thermoses of hot chocolate, some caribou meat, and a 14-foot spruce pole with an American flag they planned to plant into the summit. They were successful, and returned town heroes.
“Live to Ski” Line Established
On April 4th (that’s today!), 2012, Christian Beckwith and Jared Spackman claimed the first ski descent of an unnamed line on the 12,028-foot Thor Peak in the northern Tetons. They woke up at 1:43am to drive to the route, where they biked their gear up a closed access road. From there they skinned up the peak in threatening weather. With bruised skies overhead and a dwindling snowpack under ski, they almost bailed. But as they climbed the sun came out and the snow softened up. Their route proved incredibly fun and they named it Live To Ski, in honor of two prominent skiers in the Teton ski community.
Easter Island Discovered
On April 5th (that’s today!), 1722, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen founded the island Rapa Nui in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. As they neared shore, the crew noticed a few of the tall, head-like sculptures that surrounded the high volcanic island. It being Easter, Roggeveen named his finding Easter Island, but at the time of his discovery there were over 2,000 people living there. This population was a remnant of the cultural flourishing of Rapa Nui people 100 years before. They created the iconic maoi statues that are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explorer Robert Peary’s Swing and a Miss
On April 6th (that's today!), 1909, American explorer Robert Peary became the first person to nab one of the last remaining laurels of exploration by reaching the North Pole; or so he thought. Out of the woodwork arrived Dr. Frederick Cook, a former associate of Peary's who claimed that he was the rightful owner of the crown and had discovered the pole nearly a full year prior. The nation was spellbound by the controversy until congress officially recognized Peary's expedition as the first to reach the pole. However, recent studies have found that both Peary and Cook never reached the true pole, but that Peary's efforts were far closer to those of Cook, falling a mere 30-miles shy.
85-year old Anthony Smith sails across the Atlantic on homemade raft
On April 7th (that’s today!), 2011, 85-year old Anthony Smith completed a childhood dream of his: He sailed across the Atlantic on a homemade raft. Smith, along with a three-man crew departed from the Canary Islands on a 40-foot-long raft that they called the An-Tiki, a pun on the age of the captain and the legendary raft trip across the Pacific by Thor Heyerdahl. The raft featured a nearly 40-foot-tall mast and a 400-square-foot sail that allowed them to travel at an average speed of 4 knots. They arrived at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten after roughly two months at sea, where Smith declared, “Yes, of course it’s a success. How many people do you know who have rafted across the Atlantic?”
First Descent on the Grand Gendarme d’Envers du Plan
On April 8th (that's today!), 2010, Andreas Fransson made the first ski descent of the east couloir on the Grand Gendarme d'Envers du Plan in the Mont Blanc range in France. For such a line to still exist un-skied in Chamonix valley, the epicenter of European skiing, is a testament to its extreme difficulty. After climbing to the top of the Grand Gendarme with ropes, harness, and ice tools, Fransson made three separate rappels into the couloir where he dropped in and and skied out safely. The Swedish native is known for his bold and technical descents that continue to push the limit of alpine ski mountaineering.
Mississippi Claimed for France
On April 9th (that’s today!), 1682, the French explorer Robert de La Salle placed an engraved plate and a cross at the mouth of the Mississippi River and claimed the territory for France. He reached the rivers’ mouth after canoeing from present day Fort Wayne, Indiana with a crew of 18 Native Americans. Once he completed the trip down North America’s longest river he named the region La Louisiane in honor of the French King Louis XIV. And that’s how the state of Louisiana got its name.
First Circumpolar Navigation
On April 10th (that's today!), 1982, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Charles R. Burton reached the North Pole during the first-ever circumpolar navigation. Using only surface transport, the team travelled vertically to journey around the world on its polar axis. Known as the world's last great adventure, the Transglobe Expedition spanned three years, starting in 1979 from Greenwich in the United Kingdom and ending in Greenwich in 1982. The feat remains unrepeated to this day.
First Descent of Tuckerman’s Ravine
On April 11th (that’s today!), 1931, two Dartmouth skiers and future Olympians, Charles N. Proctor and John Carelton, made the first ski descent of New England’s most iconic route, Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington. The duo wore single-layer leather boots and rocked seven-foot wooden skis as they jump turned down the 55-degree slope. Their pioneering spirit gave New England skier’s their most beloved backcountry route, and now thousands of people visit the famous glacial cirque each spring weekend to carve turns all the way into July.
Jon Krakauer Begins First Adventure
On April 12th (that's today!), 1954, one of America's best-known adventure journalists and mountaineers, John Krakauer, was born. In 1996, Krakauer climbed Mount Everest with a guided party while on assignment for Outside magazine. On this climb, a storm took the lives of four of the five teammates who reached the summit with him. Nine people in total perished during summit attempts on that same day, and this event became known as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Kraukauer's eventual book, Into Thin Air, which examined his climb and the current state of guided trips on Mount Everest raised questions about the commercialization of high-altitude climbing. Into Thin Air received critical acclaim and gained wide publicity, becoming a #1 New York Times bestseller that was translated into more than twenty-five languages.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson Born
On April 13th (that’s today!), 1743, the visionary President who drafted The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was born. He’s best known as the leading political theorist that shaped the way the U.S. government works, but also he made a sizeable contribution to the U.S. by increasing its landmass by over 800,000 square miles. With the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson basically bought the American West, giving us our recreational playground of mountains, deserts, and seas for the generations to come.
Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea
On April 14th (that's today!), Don Walsh, an American oceanographer, explorer, and marine policy specialist received the National Geographic Society's greatest honor, the Hubbard Medal for his contributions to ocean science. Named one of the world's great explorers by Life magazine, Walsh is best known for a record maximum descent into the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the world's oceans. Measuring more than 1,500 miles long, 43 miles wide, and seven miles deep, you could place Mount Everest into the Marina Trench and its peak would still be more than a mile underwater.
First Route up the Classic Higher Cathedral Spire
On April 15th (that’s today!), 1934, Yosemite rock climbers Jules Eichorn, Richard Leonard, and Bestor Robinson finally succeeded in establishing the first route up the classic Higher Cathedral Spire in Yosemite National Park. The climbers hammered in 38 pitons to ascend to the top where they hoisted an American flag and enjoyed the view. Then they rappelled down the spire in the ensuing darkness to the base where there was a crowd of spectators cheering their accomplishment.
First Solo Ascent of the Matterhorn’s South Direttissima
On April 16th (that's today!), 2007, Hervé Barmasse made the first solo ascent of the Matterhorn's south Direttissima, a route his father established in 1983. An iconic symbol of the Swiss Alps, the Matterhorn was one of the last alpine peaks to be scaled and is considered one of the deadliest peaks in the world. Barmasse has pushed the boundaries of climbing on the Matterhorn's crumbling cliffs since his youth and has established multiple first ascents on the extreme peak throughout his career.
The Peak District Becomes A National Park
On April 17th (that's today!), 1951, the Peak District became the United Kingdom's first National Park, offering protection to a diverse landscape as well as public access to the pristine countryside. Covering an area of over 555 square miles, the Peak District is the second-most visited National Park in the world, seeing over 22 million visitors per year. It is most famous for its extensive network of trails for hikers to walk, rocky outcrops for climbers to scale, and deep cave systems for spelunkers to explore.
Thor Heyerdahl, Legendary Sailor, Passes
On April 18th (that's today!), 2002, the world lost one of its greatest visionaries, Thor Heyerdahl. He's known best for his legendary expedition on the Kon-Tiki, in which he sailed a self-built, balsa wood raft 8,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean. Heyerdahl and crew spent 101 days at sea, proving that Polynesia was well within the range of prehistoric South American seafarers. Many scientists did not believe he actually completed this voyage until the release of a film that documented this incredible journey. The film won an Oscar, and his lifetime of devotion to archeological explorations, humanitarianism, and exploration earned him numerous awards and medals, including the United Nations environmental protection prize.
Cook Discovers Australia
On April 19th (that’s today!), 1770, captain James Cook became the first European to discover the southeastern coast of the continent of Australia. He spent the next few weeks mapping the coastline and recording his encounters with the indigenous Australians from the Gweagal tribe. These discoveries were much more enjoyable for Cook and his crew than when they left the coastline and discovered the Great Barrier Reef by running aground against it and severely damaging their boat.
Jacques Cartier Names Canada
On April 20th (that’s today!), 1534, the French sailor and explorer Jacques Cartier set sail from France on behalf of King Francis I to find a western passage in the hopes of establishing a lucrative trade route to the wealthy Asian markets. He crossed the Atlantic in a mere 20 days, and then explored the coast of Newfoundland. They never discovered the rumored western passage, but Cartier and his crew encountered the aboriginal people of Canada, and they incorrectly interpreted the Huron-Iroquois word for village, “Kanata”, as their term for the new nation they had discovered, and this is where the word Canada comes from.
Say Cheese: Loch Ness Monster’s First Famous Photo
On April 21st (that’s today!), 1934, the infamous Surgeon’s Photograph that captured the best-known image of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland was published in the Daily Mail. The photograph shows the back and the neck of the mythological creature surrounded by ripples. It appears as though it had just surfaced above the water, but later analysis concluded that the purported size of the animal and the size of the ripples were not accurate. Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson supposedly snapped the photograph while on vacation, but he refused to have his name attached to the image.
First Solo Circumnavigation of the World
On April 22nd (that’s today!), 1969, the ex-merchant marine Robin Knox-Johnston returned to Falmouth, England to become the first man to circumnavigate the globe alone without ever stopping in a port. He set sail nearly ten months earlier as one of only nine contestants in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. The sailors competing for the $5,000 prize met vastly different outcomes; one sank, one gave up, one committed suicide, and one turned away from the race after rejecting the concept of commercialized competition. Only Knox-Johnston finished, and for his remarkable accomplishment he was dubbed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Rock-Climbing Phenomenon Chris Sharma is Born
On April 23rd (that's today!), 1981, rock-climbing phenomenon Chris Sharma was born. Sharma has established some of the world's hardest climbs and is known for his humble attitude and fierce tenacity, sometimes working on his routes for years until he climbs them successfully. In July 2001, he completed Biographie, which became the first route that was given a grade of 5.15, a monumental achievement in the climbing world. Sharma continues to push the boundaries of climbing and has created a non-profit organization that's dedicated to giving underprivileged children the experience of rock climbing.
Teng Kang Poche Checkmate
On April 24th (that's today!), 2008, alpinists Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten made the first ascent of Teng Kang Poche's northwest face in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. They named the route "Checkmate," and completed the climb in alpine style, moving fast and light to ascend the 6,487-meter route. A warm-up route for a much larger objective, this climb helped to prep them for an attempt on the notoriously steep and dangerous south face of Annapurna. One-year prior, Steck soloed the formidable south face and was knocked off the wall by a rock, sending him careening 300-meters to the base of the south face where he miraculously survived relatively unscathed.
Shackleton Sets Sail on a Rescue Mission
On April 25th (that's today!), 1916, Ernest Shackleton, along with five other men, set sail from Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica in an effort to obtain a rescue ship for 23 crewmembers that were marooned on the island. They sailed 800-miles over the course of two weeks through stormy seas and hurricane-force gales to land on the unoccupied south shore of South Georgia. Rather than risk putting the boat back to sea to reach the whaling station on the northern coast, Shackleton trudged 32-miles over mountainous terrain to contact civilization. He arrived back on Elephant Island four and a half months after his initial leave to finally save his crew. Not a single member of the expedition had perished, making this one of the greatest tales of human endurance ever known.
The Founder of Carlsbad Caverns
On April 26th (that’s today!), 1946, the man who discovered Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, James Larkin White, passed away. White was working as a cowboy when he made the discovery of the great cave in 1898. He was riding through the Chihuahuan Desert looking for cattle that had gone astray when he noticed a large plume of bats rising from the painted hills. White explored the cave with a ball of string and a kerosene lantern, and became the first person to see the stalagmite and bat-filled caverns that now attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
First Ascent of Jannu
On April 27th (that’s today!), 1962, a French climbing party led by Lionel Terray became the first to reach the summit of Jannu in the far eastern Himalayas. At 25,295ft, it is the 32nd highest mountain in the world, but what makes it such a significant climb is the amount of technical climbing that occurs over 20,000ft to reach the summit. It’s official name translated into the native language means “mountain with shoulders.” It has two ridges that collide into a massive headwall that rises to the summit. Terray and his party became the first to step onto the summit on this day.
The Mutiny on the Bounty
On April 28th (that's today!) 1789, 11 disgruntled seamen took control of the British Royal Navy ship, HMS Bounty. Ill-treated and desirous to return to the Pacific island of Tahiti, the mutineers forced their commanding officer and 18 of his loyal crew members into a small boat and set them adrift. The mutiny and the adventures that ensued have become a thing of often-fictionalized sea legend popularly referred to as The Mutiny on the Bounty.
Gray, Vancouver, and the Great River of the West
On April 29th (that’s today!), 1792, the American merchant sea captain Robert Gray exchanged information with the British merchant George Vancouver when the two men’s ships encountered one another in a chance meeting off the coast of Washington. Gray told Vancouver that he thought he had discovered the outlet of “the Great River of the West,” but Vancouver doubted his finding. Undeterred, Gray continued to investigate the passage into the great river that would later bear the name of his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, when they became the first European ship to explore the mighty Columbia.
Mapmaker David Thompson Born
On April 30th (that's today!), 1770, British-Canadian mapmaker and explorer David Thompson was born. Thompson has been described as the "greatest land geographer who ever lived," and during the course of his career mapped more than 3.9 million square kilometers of North America. He was the first white man to explore the length of the Columbia River from its source to its mouth and he built the first trading post along the Columbia's shore. Thompson also worked as an astronomer and surveyor to help chart the border between Canada and the United States. His exceptional skill and knowledge of astronomical science earned him the moniker "the stargazer."
American Summits Mount Everest
On May 1st (that's today!), 1963, at approximately 1pm, James Whittaker and Sherpa Nawang Gombu stood atop Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Whittaker drove the American flag into the ice crust to solidify his place in history and become the first American to reach the summit. Upon arrival back in his hometown of Seattle, Whittaker was greeted with national headlines, a ticker-tape parade in his honor, and a Rose Garden tribute from President Kennedy.
The Massif Traverse
On May 2nd (that’s today!), 1989, the famous Kazakhstani mountaineer, Anotoli Boukreev, made an astonishing three-day traverse of the four 8,000 meter summits on the Kangchenjunga massif. The main peak of the massif is the third highest mountain in the world. This was one of Boukreev’s earliest expeditions of his short, but illustrious climbing career that included multiple summits of Everest, Annapurna, and Denali, and it was the first time the massif had ever been traversed by one man.
Goran Kropp: The Crazy Swede
On May 3rd (that's today!), 1996, mountaineering badass Goran Kropp attempted to climb to the top of Mount Everest only to be turned around a mere 300-feet shy of the summit. What is remarkable about this particular effort, however, are the events leading up to it. The previous October, Kopp departed his hometown of Jonkoping in Sweden on a bicycle with 250 pounds of gear in tow. He then pedaled 8,000 miles to the base of his objective. He employed no help while humping his loads up the mountain, climbed solo, and used no supplemental oxygen. Although his first attempt was unsuccessful, Kopp recovered at Base-Camp and accomplished the climb on May 23rd. He then casually rode his bike back home.
Norwegians Claim the Pole
On May 4th (that's today!), 1990, renowned Norwegian polar explorers Borge Ousland and Erling Kagge became the first people to reach the geographic North Pole on an unsupported expedition. The two men began their trek on Ellesmere Island, Canada, and skied nearly 500 miles in 58 days. They braved temperatures down to negative 30 degrees, and survived a curious polar bear family that became interested in their sled of provisions.
Elsa Ávila Summits Mount Everest
On May 5th (that's today!), 1999, Elsa Ávila became the first Latin American female to reach the summit of Mount Everest. She climbed via the Southeast Ridge and settled a longtime score that began 10-years prior. In 1989, Ávila descended from the south summit of Mount Everest, just 98-meters shy of the true summit due to severe hypoxia. Throughout her career, Ávila has achieved not only significant first ascents, but also first female ascents in some of the most remote wilderness areas in the world.
Birth of Polar Legend Robert Peary
May 6th (that’s today!) 1856, marks the day American explorer Robert Peary was born. Peary reached tremendous fame for his claim that he reached the North Pole on his 1909 expedition. He was awarded a lifetime pension from Congress for his accomplishment, even as fellow explorers began to question the feasibility of his claim. Nonetheless, if he did not reach the precise location of the North Pole – he came close – and much closer than Fredrick Cook who made an even more exaggerated claim the year before. Peary is now honored as one of our great explorers and his body is interred in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
First to Climb the Seven Summits
On May 7th (that’s today!), 1986, Canadian mountaineer Patrick Morrow reached the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid (16,024) in Indonesia to become the first person to climb the Seven Summits, but not without dispute. Richard Bass had completed the Seven Summits a year earlier, but he hiked the highest peak on mainland Australia, Kosciuszko, (7,310), while Morrow completed Reinhold Messner’s list of the Seven Summits – which includes the higher oceanic peaks surrounding Australia. Morrow said, “Being a climber first and a collector second, I decided to climb Carstensz Pyramid because it presents a greater challenge.”
Messner Summits Everest Sans Supplemental Oxygen
On May 8th (that’s today!), 1978, the greatest mountaineer in history, Reinhold Messner, became the first person to ever summit Mount Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen. It dumbfounded the climbing and scientific community. Previous to his success, it was widely accepted that humans could not sustain proper oxygen levels above 25,000ft for an extended period of time, but Messner proved them all wrong. This climb opened up a whole new realm of possibility for serious mountaineers, and it is one of the many reasons why Messner is the ultimate badass of all time.
Hill Survives a Climber’s Nightmare
On May 9th (that's today!), 1989, after forgetting to completely tie into her harness, American rock climber Lynn Hill lived a climber's nightmare on the famous cliffs of Céüse, France. On her warm-up route, Hill successfully reached the anchors at 75 feet and leaned back expecting the tension of her rope to hold her in place. Instead she found herself careening through the air in a deadly free-fall. She looked beneath her as she fell and knew the only chance for survival would be to try and guide her body towards a small tree in an effort not to land on the rocky outcrops at the base. She was successful. Hill awoke in the hospital bruised but alive and has since become one of the greatest living climbers that the sport has ever known.
Disaster in Thin Air
On May 10 (that's today), 1996, a storm trapped four expeditions on the exposed slopes of Mount Everest, resulting in the deaths of nine climbers, the worst loss of life ever recorded on the mountain in a single day. Unlike the many mountaineering tragedies that go unnoticed each year, you may actually be familiar with this one. John Krakauer chronicles it in his best-selling and controversial book, Into Thin Air.
Into Thin Air
On May 11th (that's today!), 1996, a storm trapped four expeditions above 8,000m near the summit of Mount Everest, resulting in the deaths of nine climbers. Journalist John Krakauer was on assignment with Outside magazine with one of those expeditions caught in the blizzard, and his best-selling and controversial book, Into Thin Air, depicts the events that led to the worst loss of life ever recorded on the mountain in a single day. As a result, the disaster gained wide publicity and raised public awareness about the commercialization of climbing Mt. Everest.
Maroney Swims from Cuba to Florida
On May 12th (that’s today!), 1997, then 22-year-old Australian swimmer Susie Maroney became the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida. Maroney swam the 110-mile open ocean course in 24 hours. It was one of the major accomplishments in her historic swimming career. She was inducted to the Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005 after she officially retired from professional swimming.
The First Giro d’Italia
On May 13th (that’s today!), 1909, the Italian newspaper Le Gazzetta dello Sport raised enough money to finance the first Giro d’Italia bicycle race. The 127 bicyclists gathered in the early morning hours in Loreto Place in Milan to begin the eight stages of the 1,521-mile race through the Italian countryside. Only 49 riders finished the race, but the event was a huge success. Now the Giro d’Italia is one of the most prestigious, and one of the most challenging cycling tours in the world. The modern course consists of 21 stages that take riders through the Alps and the Dolomites before they reach the historic finish line in the city of Milan.
The Journey Of Exploration Begins
On May 14th (that’s today!), 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition finally left Camp Debois, Illinois on their historic journey across the west in search of the Northwest Passage. Their camp was a military fort positioned at the confluence of the Wood and Mississippi Rivers. The Corps of Discovery crew had been stationed at the fort throughout the winter and was restless to get underway. Today, they sailed upriver and would not return to Camp Debois for two years after conducting the nation’s most iconic expedition through the American West.
Cape Cod Gets its Name
On May 15th (that's today!), 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, in a voyage from Falmouth, England, to the northern part of Virginia, became the first European to discover and name Cape Cod, the promontory peninsula in Massachusetts Bay. Upon arrival, Gosnold and crew went fishing and caught a great number of Cod that helped fuel their expedition, hence lending a name to the archipelagic region.
First Woman to Summit Everest
On May 16 (that's today!), 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the peak of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Earlier in the all-female expedition, Tabei was buried beneath snow for over six minutes after an avalanche struck camp. Later, she would go on to become the first woman to climb the Seven Summits.
Epic Voyage of the Ra II
On May 17th (that's today!), 1970, Norwegian ethnologist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his multinational crew set sail from Morrocco in an effort to cross the Atlantic. Made entirely of papyrus reeds, and crafted after ancient Egyptian sailing vessels, Heyerdahl named his boat the Ra II, after the Egyptian Sun God, and this voyage was an attempt to prove that Mediterranean civilizations could theoretically and may have possibly sailed to America during ancient times. The Ra II crossed 4,000 miles of ocean in 57 days, landing on Barbados and demonstrating that early seamen could have dealt with trans-Atlantic voyages.
The First Ascent Of Lhotse
On May 18th (that's today!), 1956, Swiss mountaineers, Ernst Reiss, and Fritz Luchsinger, became the first team to successfully summit Lhotse, the fourth highest peak on earth. Located on the Nepal-Tibet border and overshadowed by the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest, Lhotse is a formidable mountain, and its huge South Face is the steepest in the world, rising 1.9 miles in just 1.4 miles of horizontal distance.
Cartier Sets Sail
On May 19th (that’s today!), 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier set sail from France to return to North America. On his previous voyage he met with Iroquois along the St. Lawrence River near present day, Montreal. Cartier intended to meet with Donnacona, the Iroquois chief, and return two captives Cartier took on the previous voyage. His main intent, however, was to prove what he felt to be true, that he had found a shorter route to Asia.
Vasco de Gama Lands in Calicut
On May 20th (that's today!), 1498, the Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, landed in the city of Calicut in southern India to become the first European to sail directly from Europe to India. This unprecedented feat of maritime travel led de Gama to the legendary Indian spice routes and helped to solidify the growing Portuguese empire. His route would influence worldwide trade and drive the world's economy from the end of the Middle Ages well into our modern day times.
Ueli Steck and a Miracle in the Mountains
On May 21st (that's today!), 2007, Swiss mountaineer, Ueli Steck, survived a 300-meter fall down a sheer ice cliff while climbing solo. Steck was attempting to summit the tenth-highest mountain in the world, Annapurna, via the extremely technical south face when a falling rock struck him and knocked him unconscious. He survived with only bruises and a serious concussion. Known for climbing light and fast in some of the most extreme places on the planet, Steck has set a number of records, received multiple awards for his accomplishments in the mountains, and is considered one of the greatest alpinists to have ever lived.
13-Year-Old Jordan Romero Summits Everest
On May 22nd (that's today!), 2010, American mountaineer, Jordan Romero, became the youngest person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak. Inspired at age nine by a painting that hung in his school hallway depicting the highest mountains on each continent, Romero was only 13 years and 10-months old when he made his record-setting accomplishment. Romero would continue his alpine pursuits after Everest to become the youngest climber in the world to successfully summit all of the Seven Summits when he topped out on the Vinson Massif in Antarctica on Christmas Eve, 2011.
Captain Kidd’s Treasure
On May 23rd (that's today!), 1701, the scallywag pirate Captain Kidd met his fate at the gallows at London's Execution Dock. Knowing that charges were being brought against his ship, the Adventure Prize, and against himself as the captain, Kidd was reported to have buried treasure so his spoils would not be captured. This act led to the myth that has been perpetuated through generations of authors, poets, and musicians as the legend of a pirates buried treasure.
The Young and the Everest
On May 24th (that’s today!), 2001, the 16-year-old Sherpa, Temba Tsheri, reached the summit of Mt. Everest on his second attempt. On his first summit bid in 2000, Tsheri was caught in a storm at High Camp and was forced to stop his climb. He lost five fingers due to frostbite, but he vowed to return to reach the summit. The very next year, Tsheri returned and reached the summit thereby fulfilling a childhood dream of his to become the youngest person to stand on the top of the world. His record stood for nine years.
On May 25th (that's today!), 1955, Joe Brown and George Band made the first ascent of the world's third-tallest mountain, Kanchenjunga. The team stopped just shy of the actual summit because they promised the Maharaja of Sikkim that the top would remain unaltered. Every climber that has reached the summit since has followed this tradition. Kanchenjunga translated means "The five treasures of snows," and the treasures represent the five repositories of god, which are gold, silver, gems, grain, and holy books. This holy mountain was considered the tallest peak in the world until 1849, when scientific evidence proved otherwise.
Man Climbs World Trade Center
On May 26th (that's today!), 1977, a toymaker from Queens named George Willig scaled the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He fashioned special clamps to fit within the window washing tracks, and tested the equipment at the tower in the night five times before he arrived at the tower at 6:30am on this day. As he climbed, a crowd gathered beneath him. Television news cameras broadcast his stunt live. Police tried to capture him by descending in a window washer basket but Willig eluded them by swinging away. When he reached the top 3.5 hours later the crowd erupted in applause.
Mountain Man’s Passing: Jedediah Smith Killed
On May 27th (that's today!), 1831, mountain man, fur trapper, and explorer of the American West, Jedediah Smith, was killed when a hunting party of Commanche Indians attacked him. Smith was integral to opening exploration of the Wild West, and is best known for establishing the South Pass, an easy alternative for fur trappers to cross the Rocky Mountains. This pass eventually became the primary route of the Oregon Trail, and helped travelers heading into Oregon and California navigate safely through the mountains.
Muir Founds The Sierra Club
On May 28th (that's today!), 1892, the grassroots environmental organization, The Sierra Club, was founded by the Scottish conservationist, John Muir. Dedicated to preserving our country's most pristine natural areas and habitats, The Sierra Club has been responsible for securing some of the most recognizable outdoor playgrounds on our planet, including Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park, and California's coastal Redwoods. Today, we'd like to tip our hats and say, "Thank You."
The First Everest Summit
On May 29th (that's today!), 1953, at 11:30 a.m. the two mountain climbers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the historic first ascent of the highest peak on earth, Mt. Everest. They spent the previous night camped at 27,900 feet. Sleep deprived and freezing cold, the duo plodded on toward the summit until they reached a steep, 40ft. rocky outcrop. Hillary wedged himself in the crack and shimmied his way to the top of what's now known as the Hillary Step. He threw Norgay a rope, and the two went on to be the first people to ever stand on top of the world.
First Blind Summit of Mount McKinley
On May 30th (that's today!), 1993, Joan Phelps of Anchorage, Alaska, made the first blind ascent of North America's tallest mountain, Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Guided by her twin sons, Phelps arrived at the summit to make what was considered by many to be the most remarkable ascent of the year on the imposing peak. Mt. McKinley, better known as Denali, is the third most prominent mountain in the world after Mount Everest and Aconcagua, and it's vertical relief from base to peak is considered the largest of any mountain situated above sea level. Although several hundred climbers reach the summit each year, Phelps' humble achievement opened many eyes to greater, grander possibilities.
Mapping the Straight of Juan de Fuca
On May 31st (that's today!), 1790, Spanish-Peruvian explorer Manuel Quimper began mapping the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Named after the fabled Juan de Fuca, a Greek mariner who explored the nearby area in the 16th century, the straight is 102-miles long and 18-miles wide. Known for its cold and rough waters, the Strait of Juan de Fuca is the access route to the Pacific Ocean from the Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia and also serves as the International Boundary between Canada and the United States.
Magnetic North Pole Discovered!
On June 1st (that’s today!), 1831, British naval officer Sir James Clark Ross discovered the magnetic North Pole. He made the discovery while camped on the Boothian Peninsula, that is the northern-most point of mainland Canada. The magnetic North and South Poles are the only locations on Earth where the magnetic fields point downward. When Ross discovered the magnetic pole on Cape Adelaid, on the western side of the peninsula, the compass needle of his dip circle, an instrument that is essentially a 3D compass, pointed straight downward. His career as a navy officer quickly skyrocketed after making this discovery and Ross went on to make many more geographical discoveries during his career.
Grand Teton Descent
On June 2nd (that's today!), 1996, two intrepid Jackson Hole locals, Mark Newcomb and Doug Combs, completed the first ski descent of a route on the Grand Teton. Many descents had been done before, but this descent was down the route known as the Otter Body, for its otter-like shape. It is an aesthetic line high on the mountain's east face that is only skiable during perfect snow and weather conditions due to the risk of avalanche. The two skiers jump-turned down the steep slope in sun baked, slushy snow where a fall would have sent them over 2,000ft. cliffs. When they reached the bottom of the run, the two skiers rappelled off the slope to the Tepee Glacier having completed the first ski-descent of the Otter Body.
The Birth Of A Big Wall Climber
On June 3rd (that's today!), 1970, iconic big wall climber, Ammon McNeely, was born. McNeely is something of a hero in his corner of the outdoors world. In addition to holding the most speed-climbing world records and first one-day ascents on El Capitan in Yosemite, he is a leading advocate for opening America's national parks to BASE jumping. European countries such as Switzerland and Norway allow the activity but the National Park Service strictly forbids it despite endorsing activities such as hang gliding. In 2010, McNeely was tazed by a park ranger in Yosemite after making a civil disobedience jump in the park.
Hot Air Balloon Takes Flight
On June 4th (that's today!), 1783, the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated the first flight of a hot air balloon in Annonay, France. This was also the first documented flight in history. Built from sackcloth and lined with three layers of paper, the balloon was constructed in four separate pieces and held together with 1,800 buttons. A group of dignitaries stood watch as the balloon lifted from the ground and ascended to an estimated altitude of 6,000-feet and covered 1.2-miles in roughly 10 minutes. Months later, the brothers would succeed in launching the first manned ascent to secure their place in history.
Inventor Otis Barton Is Born
On June 5th (that's today!), 1899, American deep-sea diver and inventor Otis Barton was born. Barton invented the bathysphere, an unpowered submersible chamber that could be lowered into the ocean with a cable. Barton, along with marine biologist William Beebe, set the world's first deep-sea dive record in 1930 by descending 803-feet into the ocean. Not only did they set the world record, but Bebee was able to view marine life in its deep-sea habitat for the very first time. Barton's invention was a scientific success that paved the way for ocean explorers of the future.
Barbara Washburn Summits Denali
On June 6th (that’s today!), 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Barbara Washburn, along with her husband Bradford Washburn, were incredibly influential mountaineering pioneers in Alaska, and contributed greatly to the current geographic and geologic understanding of the Alaska Range. As for her first ascent of the 20,320-foot mountain, Mrs. Washburn said she didn’t even know that she was the first woman to attempt the peak. She said, “She didn’t give a rip about it at the time,” but came to realize how important her first female ascent was to the mountaineering community.
Hudson Stuck Climbs The High One
On June 7 (that's today!), 1913, a small group of mountaineers led by Alaskan missionary Hudson Stuck accomplished the first successful ascent of America's mightiest peak, the 20,320-foot behemoth, Mount McKinley. McKinley is a mountain of many names. Its Athabascan Native name is Denali, which means "The High One." In 1889, it was officially dubbed Densmores Peak after a prospector. Seven years later, it was renamed after Senator and soon-to-be President William McKinley. Stuck's party managed to summit the treacherous mountain in spite of inclement weather and a fire at camp that burned up half of their supplies.
4,200 Pull-Ups To The Top Of El Capitan
On June 8th (that's today!), 2009, former British Provost officer Major Phil Packer hauled himself up the 1,800-ft. tall sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without the use of his legs. Packer sustained a severe spinal cord injury during a tour of duty in Iraq that left his legs paralyzed. In order to make his ascent possible, he used a specialized hauling device to pull himself up the cliff. He had to do more than 4,200 pull-ups to reach the top, but for a good cause. He climbed on behalf of the British charity organization, Help for Heroes, which raises awareness and funds for disabled and injured veterans of war. Packer has independently raised over one million pounds for his achievements.
George Mallory Last Seen
On June 9th (that’s today!), 1924, British mountaineer George Mallory and his partner Andrew Irvine were last seen climbing toward the summit of Mt. Everest. They were attempting to become the first people to ever summit Everest. Another climber spotted the duo as they negotiated a cliff band only 800 vertical feet from the summit, but the two climbers were never seen again. It is not known if they ever reached the summit, and speculation continues to this day.
Frederick Cook Arrives on the Scene
On June 10th (that's today!), 1865, Arctic explorer and mountaineer Frederick Cook was Born. Cook was best known for claiming to reach the North Pole in 1908. One full year later Robert Peary, whom Cook worked for as a surgeon on previous expeditions, made the exact same claim. A heated debate ensued and ended with Cook on the losing end of the battle, his achievement being widely regarded as false. During the debate, doubts surfaced about Cook's claim of being the first man to summit North America's tallest mountain, Mount McKinley as well. These claims were also verified as false and Cook's reputation was tarnished. Cook would defend his righteousness until his death.
The Greatest Reef
On June 11 (that's today!), 1770, Captain James Cook became the first European to discover Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately for Cook, the discovery was lacking a bit in style. The explorer discovered the reef after accidentally running his ship aground on it. Thatmay have earned Cook's Captain friends some fun at his expense since The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world.
Teen in Trouble
On June 12 (that's today!), 2010, an emergency rescue on the high seas meant the end to a California teen's dream of becoming the youngest person to sail around the world. Stranded at sea after her 40-foot sloop, Wild Eyes, suffered severe damage including a broken mast from rogue waves in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, sixteen-year-old mariner Abby Sunderland was forced to trigger her emergency beacon. Airborne rescuers spotted her vessel 2,350 miles out at sea just as the plane was reaching the limits of its search zone, forcing it to turn back. Sunderland was ultimately rescued by the nearest ship—a fishing vessel over 24-hours away.
On June 13 (that's today!), 1805, Meriwether Lewis experienced some mid-expedition stoke when he located the south fork of the Missouri River, meaning the expedition was on the right track. Lewis, who had forged ahead with a small party of scouts, later described the falls as "a sublimely grand spectacle [sic]… the grandest sight I had ever held."
Descending The River Of K2
On June 14th (that’s today!), 1996, two hardcore Russian rafters completed a historic first descent of the Chogir River in China. They began at over 13,000-feet on the 2nd highest peak in the world, K2, and traveled over 200-miles down some of the most severe rapids in the world. The feverish rate of the descent whips the river into a white froth between the pinched canyon walls that punctuate the steep grade by dropping gigantic boulders in the river that can withstand the current to create technical rapids for the rafters.
The Worst Himalayan Disaster
On June 15th (that’s today!), 1937, an avalanche overcame German mountaineer Karl Wien and his expedition of sixteen men while they were attempting to climb Nanga Parbat. The 8,126-meter peak is located in the western Himalayas of Pakistan and is the ninth highest mountain in the world. It is notoriously difficult to climb. It has tremendous vertical relief on all sides, but Wein and his crew followed an established route to Camp IV beneath Rakhoit Peak on the main ridge to the summit. No one had ever climbed further than Camp IV and the German team was poised for success, but the avalanche that struck in the night destroyed those hopes and remains the worst single disaster on an 8,000-meter peak in the Himalayas to date.
Roald Amundsen Seeks North West Passage
On June 16th (that’s today!), 1903, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set out from Oslo, Norway to complete the first east to west navigation of the Norwest Passage. Unlike previous attempts by other explorers, Amundsen chose a small ship and planned to travel lightly. He hugged the coastline to avoid the worst of the ice-locked seas and gleaned tips from the Inuit people on how to hunt and what to wear in the polar environment. The lessons he learned from this trip established his foundation of knowledge that became invaluable on his later expeditions.
Sir Francis Drake Lands On California
On June 17th (that’s today!), 1579, British sea captain Sir Francis Drake landed on the northern coast of California during his circumnavigation of the world. The exact location of his landing has long been debated, but archeologists have officially determined that he anchored just north of San Francisco Bay at what is now called Drakes Bay. He named the area “New Albion” as a tribute to the archaic name of Britain that references the White Cliffs of Dover. Broken pieces of porcelain that are attributed to Drake’s ship were found ashore at the coordinates for Drakes Bay, but many historians believe he may have recorded false coordinates to misled the Spanish.
Alexander Murray Attacked By Mosquitos
On June 18th (that’s today!), 1847, fearful fur trader and wilderness explorer Alexander Murray departed for the Yukon River Territory in North America. His plans were to establish a new fort for trading purposes on assignment from the Hudson's Bay Company. Fearful of attacks from Native Americans and Russians, Murray and his crew traveled with heavy armaments into the region. After finding a suitable location, the paranoid Murray erected a veritable fortress to withstand attacks. He remained at the fort for four years but the only attacks he encountered were from bloodthirsty mosquitos, which attacked him at every opportunity, causing him to lament about his time in the region: "I never saw an uglier river…. with lakes and swamps behind."
Austrians Move Fast And Light On Himalayan Peak
On June 19th (that’s today!), 1957, Austrian mountaineers Marcus Schmuck and Fritz Wintersteller accomplished the first ascent of Skil Brum, a 24,311 ft. mountain in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. Climbing in pure alpine style, without oxygen or the use of porters, the team moved from basecamp to summit and back in a remarkable 53 hours. This incredible achievement would pave the way for fast and light Himalayan ascents well into the future.
The Legend Of Joe Meek
On June 20th (that’s today!), 1875, fur trapper, wilderness explorer, and storyteller extraordinaire, Joe Meek, passed away on his farm in Oregon. A favorite character at the annual mountain-men rendezvous, a yearly carnival-like gathering of fur trappers in the middle of the wilderness, Meek would captivate his audience with stories of wild adventures, which included attacking grizzly bears with his bare hands. After retirement from the fur trading industry, Meek moved to Oregon, which he helped make an official American territory and where he served as a U.S. Marshal.
Russian Explorer Embarks On Fateful Voyage
On June 21st (that’s today!), 1900, Russian explorer of the arctic Eduard Toll departed St. Petersburg in the attempt to find the legendary Sannikov Land. He captained his steam and sail-powered brig the Zarya on behalf of the Russian Academy of Sciences to conduct scientific research, but Toll and his men encountered severe ice conditions. Their ship locked in the arctic icepack and the men were forced to retreat south in kayaks. They spent two winters on Bennett Island, left journals that sailors would later discover, but Toll and his men were never seen again.
Mutiny On The Discovery
Henry Hudson got around. The 17th-century explorer navigated his way through many of the unmapped regions of North America on behalf of merchant enterprises such as the Dutch East India Company. But on June 22 (that's today!), 1611, after a long winter trapped in arctic ice, the crew of Hudson's ship, Discovery, mutinied. Blaming him for the poor conditions they'd endured during the voyage, the mutineers set Hudson, his young son, and a few loyal crewmembers adrift in the Atlantic. Though the castaways were never heard from again, Hudson's legacy lives on. Numerous bodies of water bear his name, including the Hudson River in New York and Canada's Hudson Bay, which is where the mutineers set him adrift.
The Birth Of A National Beauty
On June 23rd (that’s today!), 1887, the Canadian Parliament enacted the Rocky Mountains Park Act, creating the nation's first national park. Now known as Banff National Park, the land encompasses 2,564 sq. miles of mountainous terrain that is famous for its trails, lakes, rivers, and streams. Each year millions of visitors come to the park to explore the beautiful region.
John Cabot Lands In America
On June 24th (that’s today!), 1497, Italian navigator and explorer John Cabot made the first European encounter with America since the days of the Vikings. Everything that is known from this voyage comes from four letters, and one of them was written to Christopher Columbus. In it a Bristol merchant pieced together a detailed account of their voyage to describe how they “discovered” the lands of modern day Newfoundland.
Big-Wall Climbing In The Himalaya
On June 25th (that’s today!), 2011, Russian alpinists Alexander Odintsov, Evgeny Dmitrienko, Ivan Dozhdev, and Alex Lonchinsky completed the first ascent of Latok III in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. The team climbed the massive West Face, which stands at 22,798-feet, in true big-wall style, establishing eight camps and spending 15 days in total on the route. The ascent completed an eleven year dream for Odintsov, who had previously attempted the route twice before.
Predecessor To The Bicycle Is Invented
On June 26 (that’s today!), 1818, British coachmaker Denis Johnson patented the ‘Pedestrian Curricle,’ a predecessor of the bicycle. Johnson’s contraption, which was popularly referred to as a ‘dandy horse’ and ‘swift-walker,’ featured two wooden wheels set in a curved wooden frame. It was billed as an improved version of a similar vehicle invented in Germany around the same time. Both models were like Flintstones versions of the modern bicycle. Instead of pedaling, users would wend their way down the road by a combination of propelling the vehicles with their feet and coasting.
The First Solo Circumnavigation
On June 27th, (that’s today!), 1898, Nova Scotian sailor extraordinaire Joshua Slocum completed the first solo circumnavigation of the world. It took him three years to cover more than 46,000 miles. He navigated using dead reckoning that relies on marking the position of the sun at noon. Once, on a long passage across the Pacific, he didn’t touch the helm for over 2,000 miles because he designed the hull of his ship, The Spray, to remain balanced relative to any wind pressing against the sails. When he finally returned to Newport he was met with little fanfare because of the Spanish American War, but after it ended most newspapers across the country covered his adventure. His book Sailing Alone Around The World, however, earned him an immortal place in adventure lore through his eloquent account of the trip.
The First Free Ascent Of Devils Tower
On June 28th (that’s today!), 1937, rock climbers Fritz Wiessner, William P. House, and Lawrence Coveney completed the first technical ascent of Devils Tower in Wyoming. Composed of a granitic rock known as Phonolite Porphyry, Devils Tower stands 867 feet tall and is known for its vertical columns with parallel cracks. The climbing party led the entire route without using any permanent protection, except for one piece, a piton, which they later claimed was unnecessary.
Cyclocross Star Jeremy Powers Is Born
On June 29, (that's today!), 1983, American cyclocross phenomenon Jeremy Powers was born. Cyclocross is a form of competitive bicycle racing that incorporates various disciplines of cycling into a single race, such as road and mountain biking. Competitors regularly battle deep mud, snow, or dust. The courses often include obstacles that forces riders to dismount from their bikes in order to clear them. Powers is largely credited for popularizing cyclocross in the United States and commonly represents the US in races that are held in Belgium, the sports birthplace.
The Great Blondin Crosses The Niagara
On June 30th (that’s today!), 1859, Frenchman daredevil Emile Blondin became the first man to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. His rope was over 1,000 feet long and stretched 160 feet over the torrential waterfall. He wore pink tights and a yellow tunic as over 5,000 spectators cheered him on as he walked across the tumultuous waters of certain death below. In walks to come he cooked an omelet mid-wire, walked in a blindfold, and pushed a wheelbarrow across the rope while dressed as an ape.
The First Tour De France
On July 1st (that’s today!), 1903, the first Tour De France race began. A French newspaper L’Auto conceptualized the idea as a way to bolster their support from cyclists. The initial race was planned as a five-stage race with an entry fee of 20 francs, but this drew little interest from the cycling community and only 15 cyclists had registered just weeks before the starting day. L’Auto increased the prize money to 20,000 francs, which resulted in 60 cyclists starting the race. Pre-race favorite Maurice Garin won the 1,509-mile race by nearly three hours. And though no one knew whether this scheme to keep the newspaper afloat would continue the next year, it has become the most popular cycling event in the world.
Amelia Earhart Disappears In The Pacific
On July 2nd (that's today!), 1937, pilot Amelia Earhart and navigator Frederick Noonan were reported missing near a small island in the Pacific. The two were on the most difficult leg of their ill-fated attempt to fly around the world when things took a turn for the worst. Earhart radioed the U.S. Coast Guard to announce that the pair was lost and that their plane was running out of fuel. They were never heard from again. To this day, no trace of their plane has ever been found.
The First Ascent Of Nanga Parbat
On July 3rd, (that's today!), 1953, Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl made the legendary solo ascent of the ninth tallest mountain in the world, Nanga Parbat. Buhl climbed without the use of bottled oxygen and after summiting the mountain was forced to bivouac on a narrow snow ledge while standing upright. The resting spot was so precarious that it required he use his ice axe as a handhold in order not to fall to his death. He survived the night and arrived at his high camp 40 hours after his initial summit push to become the only man to have ever made a first ascent of an 8,000-meter peak alone.
William Rogers Makes First Ascent Of Devils Tower
On July 4th, (that's today!), 1893, the multi-faceted cowboy William Rogers made the first ascent of Devils Tower in the Black Hills of Wyoming. Devils Tower is a 5,112-ft. tall freestanding monolith with hundreds of parallel-sided cracks that run its length. Over the course of many weeks, Rogers built a 350-ft. wooden ladder to the summit by pounding stakes into a continuous vertical crack on the southeast aspect of the tower. Once standing on top, Rogers installed a flagpole and ran an American flag to its hilt while over a thousand spectators cheered with joy.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend: John Bachar
On July 5th, (that's today!), 2009, the world of rock climbing lost the original pioneer of free soloing when John Bachar fell while doing what he loved most, climbing. Bachar was known for his free spirit, incredible fitness, and graceful movement over stone. He elevated the sport of rock climbing by introducing training and nutrition into his regime and consistently pushed the limits of what was considered possible both with and without a rope. Bachar is respected throughout the climbing community as an untouchable legend.
Portuguese Explorer Discovers The Congo
On July 6th (that’s today!), 1484, the famous Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao discovered the mouth of the Congo River. He marked a stone pillar at Shark Point where he depicted a cross, a coat of arms, and an inscription attesting to the sovereignty of Portugal. From there, Cao sailed up the turbid waters of the mighty river where they encountered the natives of the Bakongo kingdom. When he returned to Libson, King John II made him a knight for his success in finding this important waterway.
Austrian Climbers Ascend K4
Heyerdahl’s RA II Reaches Barbados
On July 8th (that’s today!), 1969, Thor Heyerdahl’s boat the RA II reached the islands of Barbados after sailing across the Atlantic in a primitive ship. The RA II was built from papyrus reeds that were gathered from around a lake in Ethiopia, and they constructed it using building methods known to the most ancient cultures of the region. The purpose of their trip was to prove that ancient African cultures had the ability to complete trans-Atlantic voyages. Heyerdahl and crew rode the Canary Current from Morocco to Barbados in 57 days.
David Thompson Sails the Columbia
On July 9th (that’s today!), 1811, British explorer and mapmaker David Thompson reached the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. He camped along the banks and erected a pole with a notice of his intention to build a trading post at the site for the North West Company. He sailed onward down the Columbia River and became the first European to sail the entire length of the Columbia. When he arrived at the Pacific Ocean he discovered that he was two months behind the Pacific Fur Company, which had already begun establishing a trading post that they called Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River.
Mackenzie Discovers His River
On July 10th (that’s today!), 1789, famed Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his crew of explorers first paddled their birch bark canoes into what is now known as the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The waterway proved to be an efficient new route to the Arctic Ocean. Mackenzie, however, was so frustrated that it didn't lead to the Pacific Ocean he christened it, "Disappointment River." Much later, the river would come to bear the name of the famous explorer.
To The North Pole! In A Balloon?
On July 11 (that's today!), 1897, Swedish engineer-turned aeronaut and polar explorer Salomon August Andrée set out in a hydrogen balloon of his own design to reach the Geographic North Pole. He didn't make it. During lift-off, the balloon lost two of the three sliding ropes that the expedition planned to use to land safely. Then came the storm. Ten miles into the expedition, Andrée and his two companions were forced to hunker in the balloon's basket as horrific winds ravaged their contraption from all sides. After nearly 300 miles of freezing flight with over 65 hours in the air, the team was forced onto the ice, where they somewhat miraculously landed The Eagle (the name of their balloon) with little damage. The expedition then attempted to push on by foot, dragging sledges full of supplies and shooting the occasional polar bear for food. None of the men survived to reach the pole. Historians believe the explorers died from ingesting polar bear flesh crawling with parasites. Andrée's campaign, though a source of nationalistic pride at the time, is now used as an example of one of those missions that was so doomed from the beginning it never should have been attempted. What would you do?
Human-Powered Global Circumnavigation
On July 12th (that's today!), 1994, Jason Lewis and an international crew embarked on what would become a 13-year human-powered journey to circumnavigate the globe. The crew relied solely on bicycles, in-line skates, kayaks, swimming, rowing, walking, and a unique pedal-powered boat to make progress. They travelled over 45,000 miles across five continents, two oceans, and one sea and passed through two antipodal points in order to make a true circumnavigation of the world.
Avalanche Strikes Mountaineers On Lenin Peak
On July 13th (that’s today!), 1990, an avalanche tore through Camp 1 on Lenin Peak killing 43 mountaineers. The 23,456-foot high mountain is the third highest in Russia and it is located in the Pamir Mountains near the Chinese border. The victims were part of a 140-member expedition that was camped on an alpine ledge known as the Frying Pan when the avalanche struck. This tragedy resulted in the largest loss of life of any mountaineering accident in history.
First Ascent Of The Matterhorn
On July 14th (that’s today!), 1865, English illustrator and climber Edward Whymper made the historic first ascent of the Matterhorn. The pyramidal peak is one of the highest and most iconic mountains in the Alps. Whymper hastily assembled his climbing crew because he was in a mad rush to best an Italian team to the summit. They beat the Italians by a mere few hundred feet by climbing the southeast ridge to earn the notable first ascent.
Zebulon Pike’s Expedition Begins
On July 15th (that’s today!), 1806, American brigadier general Zebulon Pike set out to explore the southern portion of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. His main goal was to find the headwaters of the Red and Arkansas rivers. Unlike his predecessors Lewis and Clark who were exploring the north, the Pike Expedition would go down in infamy. They were captured by Spanish authorities in southern Colorado and held as prisoners for over five months, but not before discovering the most eastern 14,000-foot mountain in the Colorado Rockies which now bears the name Pikes Peak.
Harvard Team Sends The Wickersham Wall
On July 16th (that’s today!), 1963, seven members of the Harvard Mountaineering Club established a direct route up the Wickersham Wall on the north peak of Mt. McKinley. The wall is three miles wide and rises more than 14,000 feet in four miles making it the second largest vertical rise on the planet. Their route, dubbed the Harvard Route, is exposed to substantial hazards as it sustains a 50-70 degree pitch for thousands of vertical feet up icy headwalls that occasionally bulge into overhanging ice cliffs. Attesting to the extreme danger and difficulty of this route is that despite the hundreds of climbers who summit McKinley each year, the Harvard Route has never been repeated.
A New Route On K7
On July 17th (that's today!), 2012, alpinists Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, and Kyle Dempster set off to climb to the summit of K7, a remote Himalayan peak in the Karakoram mountain range. The team aimed to establish a new route directly up the East Face. This same route thwarted their previous efforts one-year prior and they were eager to try again. Moving fast and light with only two sleeping bags, one ground pad, one stove, food for two days, seven ice screws, a few stoppers, and four cams, the team was ultra-committed. They summited on their second day of climbing only resting briefly during an exposed seated bivy. Fifty hours later the climber's reached their base camp to have successfully established their new route.
Pioneering Woman Mountaineer Dies
On July 18th (that’s today), 1935, the mountaineering community lost pioneering American mountaineer Annie Smith Peck. During Mrs. Peck’s long and adventurous life she climbed, wrote, and lectured about her expeditions to the Alps, Andes, and Rockies. In 1895, she gained an international reputation for climbing the Matterhorn. This accomplishment led to a fervent public discussion about the roles of women in the public sphere because she wore pants, which many people of that time deemed an inappropriate outfit for a woman. Many years later, when she was nearly 60 years old, Mrs. Peck climbed Mount Coropuna in Peru and placed a banner upon the summit to support the right for women to vote.
Mt. Everest Made Into National Park
On July 19th (that’s today!), 1976, Sagarmatha National Park became the first of its kind in the country of Nepal. Its name derives from a Nepali word that means “sky head." While the park is defined by Mt. Everest, the forested lowlands provide habitat for numerous rare animals including the snow leopard, langur monkeys, and Himalayan wolves. There are also numerous small villages within the national park including the famous Namche Bazaar that serves as a gateway to the high Himalayas. UNESCO recognized the world-class terrain as a World Heritage Site.
Sir Edmund Hillary Is Born
On July 20th (that’s today!), 1919, Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to summit Mt. Everest, was born in Auckland, New Zealand. After his first ascent earned him international acclaim, the tall and stoic Hillary went back to his hobby of beekeeping. He also wrote numerous books, became a champion of many environmental issues, and started a foundation called the Himalayan Trust that he founded for the betterment of the Sherpa people.
Circumnavigating The Globe
On July 21st (that's today!), 2012, Turkish adventurer Erden Eruc completed the first solo human-powered circumnavigation of the globe. During his travels, Eruç became the only person to successfully row across three major oceans, setting the world record for distance when he crossed the Atlantic (5,415 nautical miles). Starting and ending in Bodega Bay, California, Eruç travelled for 1,026 days and covered more than 37,472-miles. His efforts helped to raise money for schools in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Africa, Turkey, and Papua New Guinea.
Bradley Wiggins Wins The Tour de France
On July 22nd (that's today!), 2012, Bradley Wiggins became Britain's first winner of cycling's greatest race, the Tour de France. This annual multi-stage bicycle race has been held since 1903, and has expanded from a small local race to a global phenomenon, attracting the strongest riders in the world. Wiggins finished with a winning margin of three minutes and 21 seconds to secure his spot in history.
Brodie Jumps Brooklyn Bridge
On July 23rd (that’s today!), 1886, Steve Brodie made the first successful jump into the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York Times covered the story and said he leaped from 120 feet or the same height as a 14-story building. Not everyone believed Brodie’s story. Skeptics believed that he dropped a dummy from the bridge and appeared swimming beside a passing barge. Regardless, Brodie capitalized on the stunt and became a popular character in musical shows in New York City where the kids began calling risky moves, “Doing a Brodie.”
First Ascent of Eiger’s North Face
On July 24th (that’s today!), 1938, a German-Austrian mountaineer party became the first to scale the North Face of The Eiger. The 13,020-foot summit is one of the most iconic peaks in the Swiss Alps. The North Face rises more than 6,000 feet from the Grindelwald valley below, and poses extreme risk to climbers because of the near constant avalanches and rockfall. The mountaineers were caught in a minor avalanche as they ascended a large glacier known as The Spider, but they were able to resist being swept from the face. They reached the summit in the afternoon of the third day of their climb, and barely had enough strength to descend the regular route as a blizzard set in.
Jack London Sails North
On July 25th (that's today!), 1897, American novelist Jack London set sail on the SS Umatilla in search of gold! He headed for the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory and left with nearly 2,000 lbs. of equipment and a copy of Miner Bruce's Alaska to aid in his efforts. London never discovered gold, but he hit the jackpot with endless inspiration for his many stories. The rugged nature of his surroundings influenced London to pen his first successful work shortly after his experience in the north, including the venerable favorite, The Call of the Wild.
Finding The Caribbean
On July 26th (that’s today!), 1499, Spanish navigator Alonso de Ojeda discovered the Caribbean island of Curacao. Ojeda was a lieutenant of Christopher Columbus and he sailed for the Catholic Monarchs. His sighting of the island off the coast of Venezuela was made during his first voyage to the Americas. Aboard his ship was the famed Italian navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, for whom the newly discovered continents would much later be named after.
Tony Hawk Lands First-Ever 900
On July 27th (that's today!), 1999, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk landed the first-ever 900 on a skateboard. He landed it during a halfpipe competition at the X Games. The 900 is considered one of skateboarding's most difficult tricks and requires that the rider spin two-and-a-half rotations, or 900 degrees along their longitudinal axis. Only four people have successfully landed this technically demanding trick since Hawk, and he recently performed it again in 2011 at 43 years old. Through the years Hawk has maintained his status as a skating superstar and remains one of the most influential pioneers the world of skateboarding has ever seen.
Captain Vitus Jonassen Reaches Alaska
On July 28 (that's today!), 1741, Captain Vitus Jonassen Bering, a Danish explorer contracted by the Russians to chart Siberia's northern coast and continue his quest to confirm or deny the existence of a land bridge between Russia and America, reached Alaska. Bering had already made a trip to the region in 1728 and was fairly convinced that any bit of Russia you could see from the shores of America was across the ocean, with nothing connecting it. But inclement weather turned Bering's ships around before he could definitively confirm or deny the fabled connection between the East and the West. On the way home, Bering became ill and died somewhat unceremoniously of scurvy on an island near the Kamchatka Peninsula along with nearly 30 of his men. Bering's name lives on in the region he spent his life exploring. The Bering Straight, the Bering Sea, Bering Island, Bering Glacier, and the Bering Land Bridge were all posthumously named after the adventurous navigator.
On July 29 (that's today!), 1776, Silvestre de Escalante and Francisco Dominguez, two Spanish priests, left Santa Fe to embark on an epic journey through the Southwest desert. Originally planning to blaze a new trail from New Mexico to Monterey, California, the two explorers were stopped short when mother nature dealt fierce snowstorms and bitter cold, forcing them to eat the horses they rode in on for sustenance. Barely making it back to Santa Fe, the exhausted men had travelled nearly 1,700 miles in just 159 days through some of the most desolate territory that man had ever encountered. Escalante’s written account of the expedition became an essential guide for future explorers.
Columbus ‘Discovers’ His Distaste For Chocolate
On July 30 (that's today!), 1502, on his final voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus became the first European to get a taste of chocolate. And he didn't like it. The iconic explorer was trading with natives on a small coniferous island off the coast of Honduras known today as Guanaja (pronounced "Gwa-nah-ha") when he was offered cacao bean in exchange for goods. Columbus was confused as to why the natives found the strange pellets valuable enough to use as currency. The chief whipped up some xocolatl (Aztec-style chocolate) for him but the explorer found it bitter and distasteful. After returning to Spain, he presented King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with xocolatl but they didn't like it either. Had they, Spain would have gotten into the chocolate trade several decades sooner. Whoops.
On July 31 (that’s today!), 1715, seven days after departing from Havana, Cuba, eleven ships chocked full of treasure were lost at sea in a hurricane near present day Vero Beach, Florida. Although heavily fortified against pirate attack, nothing could prevent the carnage that Mother Nature dealt. Sinking every boat in the fleet, nearly 1,000 people and tons of gold and silver coins (approximately 14 million pesos worth) were lost to a watery grave. All of the treasure on board would not be recovered for nearly 250 years and some artifacts and even coins still wash up on Florida beaches to this day.
William Clark In Command
On August 1 (that's today!), 1803, at 33 years old, the red-haired planter, military man, and slaveholder William Clark accepted shared command of the Corps of Discovery, which would ultimately claim the Pacific Northwest for the United States. At over 6 feet tall, he was an imposing man. But, uneducated, his journals were filled with grammatical errors and confusing language, weakening his appeal to readers. His partner, Meriwether Lewis, was more the leader of the expedition and his engaging journal entries solidified his reputation as such in history. Clark is primarily remembered as Lewis's second, the one who drew maps and managed supplies. You don't see a lot of grade schools named "Clark and Lewis." But that doesn't mean that on August 1 (that's today!) you shouldn't spend a moment reflecting on the expedition in honor of Clark's birthday.
Dead Man’s Hand
On August 2 (that’s today!), 1876, at 39 years old, the most famous gunfighter in the history of the American West died with his iconic Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster. "Wild Bill" Hickok gained notoriety in 1861 after casually shooting down three men who were trying to kill him, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok earned his reputation with a string of gunfights over the years. Turning to professional gambling in his later years, Hickok saw his last hand dealt when he uncharacteristically sat down at the poker table with his back faced towards the door, at Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, South Dakota. When shot, Hickok was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black, solidifying the fate of the dead man's hand.
Climbing High In Switzerland
On August 3 (that’s today!), 1811, brothers Johann Rudolf and Hieronymus Meyer returned from the mountains claiming to have conquered Jungfrau, one of the most iconic peaks in the Swiss Alps. Not only would this have been the first ascent of the mountain but also the first ascent of any mountain in Switzerland over 4,000 meters. It was an extraordinary feat that many people doubted since from where they stood on the valley floor, they could not see the flag the brothers hoisted at the summit. To clear his father's and uncle's names, Gottlieb Meyer, together with Joseph Bortis and Alois Volker, climbed the mountain yet again in 1812. Jungfrau did not see another ascent for sixteen years, quieting any disbelief about the family's mountaineering prowess.
Custer’s First Stand
On August 4 (that's today!), 1873, while protecting a railroad survey party in Montana, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry first clashed with the Sioux Indians, who would ultimately defeat the unit three years later at Little Big Horn. Before the scuffle, the military escort saw little action, and Custer took the opportunity to get back to his roots as an outdoorsman. Spending a majority of his time searching for game, he would often lead the 7th Cavalry towards fertile hunting grounds, far from the survey crew they were hired to protect. A savvy woodsman, one might presuppose that Custer may have fared better by leaving the cavalry altogether, and turning his passion for the outdoors into a lucrative career as a big-game guide.
Transatlantic Telegraph Is Born
On August 5 (that's today!), 1858, the final cables for the first transatlantic telegraph line were set into place, spanning nearly 2,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean at a depth often exceeding two miles. The transatlantic cable reduced communication time to a matter of minutes between North America and Europe. To test the functionality of the system, President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchanged a formal introductory and complementary message. Although the signal was weak, the transmission was made successfully between the two leaders. The line ceased to function only three weeks later but this achievement paved the way for future technological advancement in communication.
First Woman In History To Swim The English Channel
On August 6 (that's today!), 1926, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle became the first woman in history to swim 21 miles from Dover, England, to Cape Griz-Nez across the English Channel, which separates Great Britain from the northwestern tip of France. Cutting her teeth by swimming the length of the New York Bay and breaking the established men's record, Ederle focused on her ultimate goal, the Channel. Her first attempt was cut short after eight hours and 46 minutes of swimming by her coach, Jabez Wolff, as he feared she was swallowing too much water. Ederle disagreed and fired Wolff, replacing him with T.W. Burgess, a skilled channel swimmer. Fueled by the promise of a new roadster from her father if her efforts were successful, Ederle persevered through storms and heavy swells and finally, after 14 hours and 31 minutes in the water reached the English coast, becoming the sixth person and first woman ever to swim the Channel successfully.
Norwegian Of The Century
On August 7th (that's today!), 1947, Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl captained his 40-square-foot balsa wood raft onto a small island near Tahiti, proving his hotly debated theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands. But scholars proved more difficult than the sharks and storms of the Pacific for Heyerdahl. Even though his raft, Kon-Tiki, was built using indigenous materials and in the style of early South American Indians, and despite the fact that he successfully captained it 4,300 miles from Peru to Raroia, historians and anthropologists continued to shoot down his theory. However, some things are better than recognition from your peers. The underdog subsequently published a book about his adventures that gained him such popularity in Norway he was named "Norwegian of the Century."
Keats Takes His Famous Walk
On August 8, 1818 (that's today!), 22-year-old English poet John Keats returned from his now-famous walking tour of England and Scotland. A few weeks prior, Keats had contracted an illness on the Isle of Mull. Mid-way through, a doctor described him as "too thin and fevered to proceed with the journey." The illness would develop into tuberculosis and kill him three years later, but not before the young writer pumped out what would become some of the most famous poems in the English language.
The Scout Movement Begins
On August 9 (that's today!), 1907, the first ever Scouting encampment came to a conclusion on Brownsea Island in England, setting the standard for future Scouts across the globe. During the course of the camp, boys participated in activities like camping, observation, woodcraft, chivalry, lifesaving, and patriotism. Founder Robert Baden-Powell started the organization to help support young people in their physical, mental, and spiritual development so that they can play constructive roles in society. His efforts kicked off the Scout Movement that would eventually become a non-governmental international organization with over 41-million members.
Magellan Sets Sail
On August 10th, 1519 (that's today!), Ferdinand Magellan's five ships raised their sails to circumnavigate the globe. They got nowhere fast. The fleet sailed from Seville to the Spanish coast, where they proceeded to anchor for five weeks waiting for provisions to bolster their supplies. After the layover, Magellan and company crossed the Atlantic in three months and spotted South America on December 6th, anchoring near present day Rio de Janeiro. They sailed down the South American coast until they discovered a deep brine passage. On All Saints’ Day, Magellan's ships entered the strait and became the first Europeans to reach Tierra del Fuego on the Pacific side of the strait, which has now been named the Strait of Magellan.
Meriwether Lewis Shot By His Crewmate
On August 11th (that's today!), 1806, Meriwether Lewis was shot in the hip, probably by one of his own men. Lewis was hunting elk near a thickly forested riverbank on the Missouri River when he felt a sharp stinging sensation envelop his buttocks. The blow spun him around and slashed a three-inch gash in his hip. Standing behind him was the blind-in-one-eye Private Cruzatte. "Damn you," Lewis cried. "You have shot me." Cruzatte never confessed even though the bullet lodged in Lewis' flesh was of the same caliber as the gun he held in his hand. The wound was not serious, and two weeks later, when the crew arrived in St. Louis two years after embarking on their epic journey to the Pacific, the excitement had overshadowed the mysterious shot.
On August 12th (that's today!), every year, is the peak of the Persieds Meteor Shower. Grab a blanket and distance yourself from the city lights to watch these intergalactic fireworks. Comet watching primetime is in the pre-dawn hours when nearly 60 comets streak across the sky per hour. All the comets in the Perseids are like shrapnel coming off the boss comet, called Swift-Tuttle, traveling on a 130-year orbit. Folks have been watching this phenomenon for over 2,000 years.
Annie Oakley Is Born
On August 13 (that's today!), 1860, one of the greatest female sharpshooters in American history was born. At eight years old, Annie Oakley shot a squirrel right between the eyes, taking her first shot ever. It wasn't luck, and as she continued to hone her sharpshooting skills word of her legendary aim spread. Oakley was known for her female charm and fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler became smitten and soon the two were married. The couple began performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and soon became one of the most popular acts of the time. One of Oakley's trademark tricks was to shoot a cigarette out of her husband's mouth or a dime out of his fingers. Oakley would stay with the traveling show for more than 15 years, giving performances around the world.
Daniel Boone Settles Down
On August 14 (that’s today!), 1756, Daniel Boone married sixteen-year-old Rebecca Bryan. Boone’s father, Squire, conducted the ceremony on the banks of the Yadkin River, in Rowan County, North Carolina. The legend of their first encounter, like many of the Boone legends, is likely a blend of fact and fiction. The story goes that Boone first saw his future wife through the scope of his rifle. Stalking the woods with a torch, the frontiersman was trying the 18th-century version of catching a deer in the headlights. Instead, he found a terrified young woman looking for an escaped cow. He ushered her home, and the rest, they say, is history.
An Unfortunate Accident
On August 15, (that’s today!), 1945, the professional cyclist Bruno Carini and Dante Gianello were struck by a US Army Jeep during the Grand Prix du Débarquement. The Jeep’s driver never stopped. The accident killed Carini and resulted in Gianello losing his leg and effectively ending his career, which included the highlight of winning the 13th stage of the Tour de France in 1938, and finishing 10th overall.
Gold In The Yukon!
On August 16th, (that’s today!) 1896, George Carmack and his native companion, Skookum Jim, discovered gold in the Yukon. They were camped on the banks of Rabbit Creek when Skookum Jim noticed gold nuggets glinting in the creek bed. They picked apart the riverbed and discovered they were sitting on the mother lode. They filed a mining claim the following day, kicking off the Yukon Gold Rush. In the following two years, more than 50,000 prospectors flocked to the Yukon in search of their fortunes. It paid to get their first. By the time Carmack left the Yukon he had discovered over $1 million of gold in Rabbit Creek, which was later renamed Bonanza Creek.
First Trans-Atlantic Balloon Voyage
On August 17th (that's today!), 1978, a six-day odyssey to complete the first trans-Atlantic balloon voyage came to a successful end when The Double Eagle II, an 11-story, helium-filled monstrosity, plopped down in a barley field outside of Paris, France. The balloon had set sail from Preque Isle, Maine 137 hours prior. From 1859 until the flight of the Double Eagle II in 1978, there were 17 attempts to conquer the Atlantic, resulting in the deaths of seven balloonists. But that didn't stop Double Eagle II pilots Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, who survived on hot dogs and canned sardines for the duration of the 3,233-mile flight.
Grandmother Of The Conservation Movement
On August 18th (that’s today!), 1902, Margaret Thomas Murie, one of the most influential conservationists of the past 100 years, was born. Murie was a naturalist, author, and adventurer whose conservation work earned her the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, the title "Grandmother of the Conservation Movement" by both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom-the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States. Even if you're not familiar with Murie, you've probably heard of her work. Among other feats, she is responsible for the creation and subsequent doubling in size of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
For the Love of Science, Climb!
On August 19 (that's today!), 1861, physicist John Tyndall and two partners made the first ascent of the formidable Swiss mountain, Weisshorn. Many connoisseurs of alpine mountaineering consider the Weisshorn to be the greatest of all alpine peaks. At 4,505 meters, it is taller than the Matterhorn and more arduous and serious to climb. Set amidst massive glaciers, the peak sports three huge faces and three long ridges, giving it the form of a gigantic pyramid. Amazingly, Tyndall not only ascended the mountain but also carried a variety of instruments up the face with him so that he could make scientific observations about glacier movement. This pioneering ascent helped to usher in the golden age of alpinism.
Black Saturday In Yellowstone
On August 20th (that's today!), 1988, marks what old smoke droppers still refer to as the legendary "Black Saturday," a day that saw the most fires in the history of Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone fires of 1988 burned a total of 793,880 acres, or 36 percent of the park and resulted in its first-ever closing. Thousands of firefighters and U.S. military personnel wielding dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft beat back at the fires for months, racking up a bill of some $120 million. In the end, Mother Nature extinguished the blaze under a blanket of cool and moist weather in late autumn.
First Hot Air Balloon Flight Over The Alps
On August 21 (that’s today!), 1972, Don Cameron and Mark Yarry became the first people to fly a hot air balloon over the Alps. The pair launched from Zermatt, Switzerland, and piloted their balloon, the Cumulo Nimbus, to 17,798ft over some of the highest peaks in the Alps, including Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. Their voyage ended 36 miles away in the small, pastoral town of Biella, Italy, where thousands of residents swarmed to congratulate the balloonists on their accomplishment.
Swimming With The Sharks
On August 22 (that’s today!), 1979, Diana Nyad completed a 102-mile open ocean swim from North Bimini Island, Bahamas to Juno Beach, Florida. In the Gulf Stream that is teeming with sharks, Nyad swam without a protective shark cage. She was never attacked by sharks, but did get into a tangle with a Box Jellyfish. Powering past it, she averaged 3.7 miles-per-hour and completed the swim in a little over a day. Nyad’s feat set both the men’s and women’s world record for distance swimming without a wetsuit.
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner Summits K2 Without Oxygen
On August 23 (that’s today!), 2011, Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner summited K2 to become the first woman in the world to stand atop all of the fourteen 8,000-meter summits without supplemental oxygen. Kaltenbrunner, along with Edurne Pasaban are the only two women who have ever stood atop all fourteen of the world’s highest peaks. Of all the summits she scaled, K2 was the most difficult. Kaltenbrunner had attempted the summit six times before she finally made it to the top and into the lore of mountaineering history.
O Captain! My Captain!
August 24 (that's today!), 1875, the prolific daredevil Captain Matthew Webb of Great Britain became the first man to successfully swim the English Channel without assistance. Admired for both his prowess in the water and his penchant for risk-taking, Captain Webb was intrigued by the challenge of spanning the treacherous body of water. Lubing himself up with porpoise oil for added warmth, Webb entered the water for his monstrous effort. Swimming against the tide for the next 21 hours and 45 minutes, and nearly being stymied from the sting of a jellyfish, Webb persevered with a nip of brandy, and waded onto the beach an instant international celebrity.
National Park Service’s Birthday
On August 25th (that’s today!), 1916, is the birthday of the National Park Service. With the stroke of a pen, president Woodrow Wilson established the agency to administer the 14 National Parks and 21 National Monuments that were already in existence. Since then, the National Park Service's domain has expanded to 58 National Parks containing some of the most iconic landscapes in the United States. The notable western writer and historian, Wallace Stegner wrote, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Fastest Kid: Etta Boitana
On August 26th (that’s today!), 1973, running phenom Mary Etta Boitana beat 1,500 runners to win California’s historic Dipsea Race. She was ten years old. Being a youngster, she had a 25-minute head start, but the course is a rigorous series of obstacles. The 7.5-mile race climbs 688 stairs up the side of Mt. Tamalpais then plunges through Muir Woods to the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach on numerous singletrack trails. The maze of alternate trails makes race strategy important, and that’s what contributed to Boitana’s win. At age five she won the women’s title, making her a savvy 5-year veteran by the time she won it all at age ten.
On August 27th (that’s today!), 1883, the volcanic Indonesian island of Krakatoa unleashed its fury in a series of four gargantuan explosions that made what is to this day, the loudest sound in recorded history. Never mind the ash plume that rocketed 50 miles into the atmosphere, or the shock waves that traveled around the earth seven times, Krakatoa takes the cake for earsplitting explosions. Scientists say it was like 200 Megatons of dynamite. Anyone within ten miles of the blast went deaf. Ships in the Sunda Strait contended with 100ft tsunami waves and the sailors' eardrums ruptured. The rain of hot ash and pumice on deck convinced many sailors they were under attack, and they were, by a pressure wave created by the final explosion that sped away from the blast at 675mph. The sound was mistaken as cannon fire in the Indian Ocean, on the small island of Rodrigues, 3,000 miles away.
Descending The Grand Canyon
On this day August 28th (that’s today!), 1869, three men decided to abandon John Wesley Powell’s expedition to make the first descent of the Colorado River through the unknown depths of the Grand Canyon. After a fitful night’s rest listening to the roar and imagining the froth of the downstream rapids, Ormal Howland, his brother Seneca, and Bill Dunn bid farewell and proceeded to scale the canyon then trek by land to the nearest Mormon settlement, 75 miles away. Powell’s crew reached the safety of the Virgin River just two days later, while Howland’s men were never seen again. A plaque now honors the men at the site now called Separation Canyon.
Ishi Walks Into Civilization
On August 29 (that's today!), 1911, Ishi, the last surviving member of the Yahi Indians in northern California, walked out of the woods and into civilization. He was nearly 50 years old and had lived his entire life in the wilderness foothills surrounding Mt. Lassen. When Ishi walked into the town of Oroville, it was his first contact with European descendants. Citizens called the police on the ""wild man"" wearing buckskins and carrying a bow and arrow. The Sheriff took Ishi into custody. He spoke no English, and over the next few years, he worked with anthropologists to reveal to them the extinct language and customs of the Yahi people. He also grew fond of riding the trolley cars in downtown San Francisco.
The Icy Archipelago
On August 30 (that's today!), 1873, an Austro-Hungarian Polar Expedition led by Karl Weyprecht and Julius von Payer discovered an icy archipelago while searching for a northeast passage to the North Pole. They named the cluster of 191 ice-covered islands Franz Joseph Land, after their emperor. The islands, located north of Russia, had no inhabitants except for polar bears, walrus, arctic foxes, and seals. Today, the islands have several Russian settlements where the settlers rely solely on walrus and seal meat for sustenance."
Meriwether Lewis Ventures Into The Unknown
On August 31 (that's today!), 1803, Meriwether Lewis departed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sailing down the Ohio River to join forces with William Clark near Louisville, Kentucky. This first step of the epic journey would take Lewis over a month. After preparations for the journey were finalized the following year, the two explorers began their famous cross-country exploration of the present-day American West.
Spider-Man Scales Lithuanian Landmark
On September 1st (that’s today!), 2006, Alain Robert climbed to the top of Lithuania’s tallest building, the Europa Tower. The urban-climbing daredevil is nicknamed, “The French Spider-Man” for his free-solo ascents of iconic buildings around the world. For the Europa Tower, Robert donned a black suit and climbed to the observation deck that is 374 feet up the building, while a crowd gathered in the plaza below to cheer him on.
John Muir Begins 1,000 Mile Trek
On September 2nd (that’s today!), 1867, American naturalist-explorer, John Muir, left Louisville, Kentucky to begin his thousand-mile trek to the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier that year, Muir had temporarily blinded himself while working as a sawyer. After spending six weeks in a dark room to recover, he re-committed his life to follow his dreams. So at the age of 29, he set off on this life-changing thousand-mile journey with no planned route, and only a vague sense of his destination, but it would lead him down the path to becoming “the patron saint of the American Wilderness.”
Shackleton Saves His Men
On September 3rd (that’s today!), 1916, the Chilean tugboat Yelcho returned to Punta Arenas with the 22 men that were stranded on Elephant Island for four and half months after Ernest Shackleton’s failed Endurance expedition. The men had survived on moss, crustaceans, walrus, and seal while they waited for their captain’s return, which was highly uncertain. Shackleton had left them in late April in a 20ft lifeboat for an 800-mile journey through perilous seas in search of the whaling port at South Georgia Island. Shackleton tried three times to return to his stranded men but was blocked each time by drifting sea ice. So when the Yelcho retrieved the men and returned to port, the expedition became, instead of a disaster, one of the greatest survival stories of all time.
Tip Of Capricorn
On September 4th (that's today!), 1774, en route to New Zealand aboard his ship HMS Resolution, famed British navigator Captain James Cook spotted an uncharted archipelago. The principle island was 7,000-square-miles of pristine beaches and mountains that hosted a sparse population of local people. Cook put the island on the map and named it "New Caledonia," because it reminded him of Scotland. (Caledonia is a Latin name for parts of northern Scotland.) European missionaries settled the island in 1843 and by 1863 it was being utilized by the French as a penal colony. Today, New Caledonia, located 750 miles east of Australia, is a popular tourist destination with a population of around 250,000.
The Patron Saint Mother Teresa
On September 5th (that's today!), 1997, Mother Teresa transcended into the spiritual realm, leaving behind a legacy of unprecedented humanitarianism. The recipient of numerous honors including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was ranked first by Americans in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. Devoting her life to helping the sick and the poor, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, that consists of over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. Following her death, Pope John Paul II gave her the title of "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta."
Into The Wild
On September 6th, (that's today!), 1992, a local Alaskan hunter, Butch Killian discovered the body of Christopher McCandless in an abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail just outside of Denali National Park in the Alaskan interior. McCandless' diary depicted his 113-day attempt to live off the land eating plants, porcupine, and caribou before succumbing to starvation. John Krakauer's book Into the Wild and Sean Penn's movie by the same title depicted McCandless as an idealistic young man searching for adventure.
John Muir Climbs The Cathedral
On September 7th (that's today!), 1869, John Muir, naturalist, author, and advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States, made the first ascent of Cathedral Peak, an outstanding granite pinnacle in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. While working as a sheepherder for the summer, Muir wandered to the base of the cliff and climbed to the summit, alone, without the use of a rope. Most climbers to this day prefer to rope up for the final, airy bit of technical climbing on this route. Muir's ascent is arguably the first 4th-class climb to be accomplished anywhere in the Sierra range.
False Summit Of Denali
On September 8th (that’s today!), 1906, Dr. Frederick Cook embarked on his controversial summit bid of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley (20,320ft.), otherwise known as Denali. Cook claimed that he and two accomplices reached the summit to become the first people to ever stand atop the great mountain. Years later, his descriptions and photographs of the route proved dubious to mountaineers who had successfully made the climb. Cook described the South Summit as “the heaven-scraped granite of the top,” although there is no exposed rock there anywhere above 19,000ft. An investigation into the validity of Cook’s climb by the Mazama Club discovered that Cook’s summit photo was taken on a peak 20 miles from the base of Denali and at an elevation just shy of 5,000ft.
The Rare Bite Of An Orca
On September 9th (that’s today!), 1972, Hans Kretschmer felt a bump against his leg. He was surfing the break at Point Sur on the California coast. Maybe it’s one of the seals I saw frolicking in the waves, he thought. But no, Hans turned around just in time to see a 20ft.-long Killer Whale chomp into his leg. Hans described the bite as “tremendous pressure.” It lacerated his left thigh to the bone. Trailing blood, he bodysurfed to shore and was driven to the hospital. A surgeon laced 100 stitches into his thigh. The surgical precision of the bite confirmed Hans’ description, making him the only person to ever be attacked by a killer whale in the wild.
Light and Fast
On September 10 (that's today!), 1855, English mountaineer and author, Albert F. Mummery was born. During his lifetime, Mummery pioneered techniques in the mountaineering community that would make climbing the highest peaks in the world possible. In 1885, Mummery embarked on the first recorded attempt of an eight-thousander, Nanga Parbat, one of the fourteen tallest mountains in the world. Using lightweight, alpine tactics, the trip was ill-fated and Mummery and two others perished in an avalanche. Nanga Parbat, known as the "Killer Mountain," was not successfully summited for 58 years after the visionary attempt.
Hudson Anchors at Manhattan
On September 11th (that’s today!), 1609, the Dutch sailor Henry Hudson sailed his ship the Half Moon into the Upper Bay of Manhattan. Hudson was on a mission for the Dutch East India Trading Company to find a rumored passage through North America. He anchored in the bay near what would later be called Ellis Island, and journals from his crew revealed that they viewed the island of Manhattan and the surrounding landscape as inhospitable, filled with wild animals, poisonous snakes, mountains, and dense forests.
On September 12th (that's today!), 1964, Congress designated Canyonlands National Park. Nearly half a million people visit the park each year, but only 3% of the tourists ever make it to The Maze district. It is one of the most inaccessible locations in the continental U.S. The famous author and desert conservationist Edward Abbey describes it as, "The most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth - there is nothing else like it anywhere."
The Bangladeshi Mountaineer
On September 13th (that's today!), 2011, Bangladeshi mountaineer and professional journalist Musa Ibrahim stood atop the fourth highest mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. Bangladesh, whose primary national sporting pastime is cricket, is not well known for pumping out high-altitude mountaineers. That didn't stop Ibrahim, who went on to become the first Bangladeshi to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2010.
On September 14th (that’s today!), 2006, professional kitesurfers Jeremie Eloy, Julien Sudrat, and Yannick Salmon became the first kitesurfers to ever surf the break known as Teahupo’o on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti. Teahupo’o loosely translates to mean, “to sever the head,” and fittingly, the break produces a dangerous, hollow wave that ranges from 10-70ft. What makes the wave so dangerous is that it crashes over a coral reef that is only 20 inches beneath the surface, producing a dense wave that is considered the “heaviest wave” in the world.
Darwin Spies Galapagos
On September 15th (that’s today!), 1835, the famous English naturalist Charles Darwin first spied the Galapagos Archipelago. His ship, the HMS Beagle, was on a five-year voyage to study the flora, fauna, and geology of the islands and coastlines of South America. Darwin’s notes and observations of the variety of unique finch species on the Galapagos Islands led him to discover his theory of evolution that he outlined in his seminal work, The Origin of Species.
Mayflower Sets Sail
On September 16th (that’s today!), 1620, the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England bound for North America. The 102 passengers aboard were English and Dutch Separatists seeking freedom in the new land from religious persecution. The 66-day journey faced savage seas and the captain, Christopher Jones, considered returning to England. Storms pushed them far north of their intended Virginia destination, and they finally landed in Massachusetts in late November well into the harsh New England winter.
Birth of the Greatest Mountaineer
On September 17th, (that’s today!), 1944, the greatest climber in history, Reinhold Messner, was born. He is considered the best for his astonishing solo ascent up a new route on Mt. Everest in 1980 during the monsoon season without using supplemental oxygen. He is rumored to scramble ahead of Sherpas and wait for them while he smokes a high-elevation cigarette, and he is also the first person to successfully summit all fourteen eight-thousand meter peaks, but it’s not just summiting peaks that has led to his larger than life reputation. He has also crossed Antarctica on skis, the Gobi desert on foot, held political office, but decided to pursue mountaineering more than rock climbing after he had 6 toes amputated due to frostbite in his successful, yet tragic climb of the Rupal Face that killed his brother, Gunther. In the downtime between his daring ascents of the world’s most dangerous peaks, Messner has written 63 books.
Old Faithful Coined
On September 18th (that's today!), 1870, members of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition that surveyed the region that would later become Yellowstone National Park, coined the name, "Old Faithful." Shooting up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water skywards at heights exceeding 185 feet, the geyser wasn't originally a tourist attraction. The now-iconic symbol of the American West first served as a laundry mat for early settlers. Sound crazy? It is! But it worked. The settlers would dump their laundry into the cavernous opening and wait for the predictable blast of boiling water, which would both clean their clothing and scatter it all over tarnation.
Ötzi On The Rocks
On September 19th (that's today!), 1991, two German tourists hiking off path in the Ötztal Alps in Northern Italy discovered a body frozen in an icy field. Dating back to 3,300 BCE, the mummy proved to be Europe's oldest and most well-preserved artifact of the Copper Age. He became known the world over as "Ötzi" the iceman. Offering an unprecedented look at Chalcolithic Europeans, Ötzi has been extensively examined, X-rayed, measured, and dated. The prehistoric man sported tattoos, was possibly murdered, and is allegedly cursed.
Magellan Sets Sail
On September 20 (that's today!), 1519, the Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the Spice Islands, modern-day Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan was relentless in his pursuit. After failing to find passage along the South American coast, the crew wintered at Port St. Julian. Easter day, 1520, the Spanish captains mutinied against their Portuguese counterpart, however, Magellan quickly crushed the revolt. Persistence paid off, and on October 21, he sailed into the strait that he had been seeking. Now known as the Strait of Magellan, three of the five original ships entered the passage. The Pacific Ocean was spotted after 38 days of treacherous navigation, and Magellan wept at the view. He was the first European explorer to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic.
The English Double Crosser
On September 21st (that’s today!), 1961, Antonio Abertondo, an Argentinian marathon swimmer, swam across the English Channel, from Calais, France to Dover, England and back to become the first person to ever complete the double crossing. It took Abertondo 43 hours and 10 minutes to swim the salty channel that is 21 miles wide between the two towns.
No Gold For Coronado
On September 22nd (that’s today!), 1554, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado passed away from his injuries received on a two-year exploration of the American Southwest in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. He traveled from Mexico up through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas but failed to find the golden cities. He died believing himself to be a failure, however, the explorer succeeded in providing the Spanish with the first accurate understanding of the geography and cultures of the American Southwest.
Skier of The Impossible
On September 23rd (that’s today!),1936, the father of extreme skiing, Sylvain Saudan was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. Saudan has many notable first descents on the world’s largest peaks, including Mount McKinley, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Fuji, among many others. To descend these peaks, Saudan pioneered and perfected the “jump turn,” which allowed him to do 180-degree turns down the steepest skiable pitches in the world.
On September 24th (that's today!), 1988, while competing in the Seoul Olympic Games, Jackie Joyner-Kersee set the women's record for heptathlon. The seven competitions within the event include: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m dash, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m run. Joyner-Kersee is only one of three women to ever earn over 7,000 points, and her mark of 7,291 remains the highest score of all time. And, she accomplished all her feats without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Pride And Prevalence
On September 25th (that's today!), 1804, the famous Lewis and Clark expedition nearly came to a screeching halt when they encountered a large party of Teton Sioux warriors that demanded a toll of tobacco before allowing the expedition party to head upriver. Outnumbered and outmatched, the expedition members agreed to supply the Teton with some tobacco. The chief waved his well-armed warriors off, and the expedition team continued on their way, more than likely avoiding what would have been a deadly end to one of the most documented expeditions in history.
First Paraglide Descent Of Mount Everest
On September 26th (that's today!), 1988, French alpinist and overall extreme sport connoisseur, Jean-Marc Boivin, climbed to the top of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, and proceeded to make the first-ever paraglide descent of the gargantuan mountain. This achievement simultaneously created the world record for the fastest descent of Mount Everest, the highest paragliding flight ever accomplished, and the longest flight ever recorded.
September 27th (that’s today!), 1952, is the birthday of Michio Hoshino, who is Japan’s most-celebrated nature photographer. Often mentioned in the same breath as Ansel Adams, but Hoshino specialized in photographing Alaskan wildlife. He was able to capture incredibly intimate shots of dangerous mega-fauna like grizzly and polar bears by developing rapport with them through extensive expeditions in their habitat.
On September 28 (that's today!), 1542, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered present-day San Diego Bay while searching for the Strait of Anian, a mythical passage through North America. Unsuccessful in his attempt to find passage, Cabrillo is credited for the discovery of California and was the first explorer to extensively map most of the important features of the coastline.
First U.S. Woman Summits Mt. Everest
On September 29th (that’s today!), 1988, Stacy Allison of Portland, Oregon became the first American woman to summit the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. It was her second attempt at the peak. She spent 29 days clambering up the southeast ridge of the Himalayan giant before reaching the icy summit of the world. At 29,305 feet above sea level, she stood in the rarified air where jetliners fly and temperatures often dip beneath -30F and there is not enough oxygen to survive for an extended period of time. Everest is considered the ultimate test-piece of a serious mountaineer.
Deep Sea Monster Caught
On September 30th (that’s today!), 2004, researchers from Japan’s National Science Museum captured the first images of a giant squid in its natural habitat. The researchers discovered the squids' quarry 600 miles off the coast of Japan, deep in the cold and shadowy depths of the Pacific. Their photographs of the 16-foot squid did not lay to rest the ages of folklore dating back to the ancient Greeks about these massive ‘sea monsters.’ The scientists speculate that giant squid can grow upward of 60ft. but no one has ever discovered a specimen that large, yet.
Birth of a Legend
On October 1st (that's today!), 1890, President Benjamin Harrison created Yosemite National Park with the stroke of a pen. Home to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, including the 2,425-foot-high Yosemite Falls and El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the U.S., the act of congress paved the way for generations of climbers, hikers, campers, and nature-lovers the world over.
Old Man on the Mountain
On October 2nd (that’s today!), 2011, Richard Byerley from Touchet, Washington became the oldest man to ever hike to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He was 84 years old. Byerley stays in shape farming alfalfa in Washington’s Palouse prairie, and by skiing all winter at Sun Valley, Idaho. Staying active paid off during his five-day expedition to Africa's highest summit. When asked how he felt about becoming the Guinness Book of World Record holder for his accomplishment, Byerley, who accomplished the feat accompanied by his two grandchildren, responded, “I smile a lot about it.”
Cook Drops Anchor
On October 3rd (that’s today!), 1778, Captain James Cook dropped anchor just offshore from the current city of Anchorage, Alaska. While in the inlet he met with Russian fur traders to learn more about the Alaskan coastline, which had never been extensively documented. Cook was searching for the Northwest Passage, but he did not find it; instead, in his ship the HMS Resolution, Cook mapped the entire Alaskan coastline up to the Bering Strait. The location of his anchorage is now called Cook Inlet in honor of one of the greatest naval explorers of all time.
The King of Eiger Speed
On October 4th (that’s today!), 1976, one of Europe’s fastest modern mountaineers, Ueli Steck from Switzerland, was born. His most notable achievements come on the north face of Eiger, one of the most dramatic alpine test pieces in the Swiss Alps. He first climbed the face when he was 18 years old, but he has since set the speed record for climbing the face twice, once beating his own record. In 2008, Steck set a speed record for climbing the 5,900-foot face with an unassisted solo time of 2 hours and 47 minutes and 33 seconds.
The Recumbent Speedster
On October 5th (that’s today!), 2001, Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham broke the recumbent bicycle speed record by reaching 81 miles per hour. He is the only person to ever reach that speed on a bike over the course of a 200-meter race without a pace vehicle. Whittingham has set multiple speed records for recumbent cycling at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge held in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
Lewis Completes the Ultimate Human-Powered Adventure
On October 6th (that’s today!), 2007, British adventurer Jason Lewis completed a 13-year, human-powered global circumnavigation. Starting from England, he rowed across the Atlantic, roller-bladed across North America, biked across the Outback, got attacked by an alligator, and broke both of his legs after a car struck him while roller blading in Colorado. He spent 9-months recuperating before returning to his mission. He raised over $66,000 for charities along the way and traveled 46,000 miles.
The Yankee Leaper Jumps Niagara
On October 7th (that’s today!), 1829, Sam Patch became America’s first famous daredevil after his successful 125-foot plunge into the Niagara River at the base of Niagara Falls. A crowd of thousands gathered in the fog, wind, and rain to watch his stunt, but just minutes before he was scheduled to jump a metal support chain snapped from the ladder. The stunt was delayed until 4pm, at which point Patch climbed to the top of the platform on Goat Island and pencil-dived into the churning water near Cave of the Winds. When Patch did not emerge, a rescue boat circled the location where he had disappeared. Soon, though, a great roar swept through the crowd as Patch was spotted standing onshore waving to the spectators.
Conquering the Kangshung Face
On October 8th, (that’s today!), 1983, James D. Morrissay’s American climbing expedition became the first crew to successfully ascend the 11,000-foot Kangshung Face, the eastern face of Mt. Everest. Their route is on the most remote portion of the mountain and is considered one of the most dangerous summit routes because hanging glaciers on the upper half present constant avalanche danger, while overhanging rock buttresses with unstable ice towers define the lower half of the route. After five and a half weeks of grueling effort, the seven-person team reached the summit of the world at 29,029 feet.
The First World Surf Reserve
On October 9th (that’s today!), 2010, an international group of surfers, scientists, and environmentalists led by Save The Waves and NSR Australia dedicated the Malibu Surfrider Beach as the first World Surf Reserve. The designation aims to protect the fragile marine environments that create internationally renowned waves. There are currently four World Surf Reserves in the world, but Malibu received the designation first because it’s the epicenter of modern surfing with a perfectly shaped, long, peeling right-hander that breaks off the point where Malibu Creek enters the sea.
October 10th (that's today!), 1861, is the birthday of famous Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen. Leading an expedition across the Greenland interior in 1888, Nansen pioneered successful arctic travel with innovations in equipment and clothing that would pave the way and influence generations of polar travellers. Most famous for reaching record northern latitudes during a North Pole expedition from 1893-1896, Nansen retired from professional exploration and dedicated himself to scientific study upon his return. Winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, Nansen is recognized as one of the most influential Norwegians of all time.
Mary Keitany Breaks Half-Marathon Record
On October 11th (that’s today!), 2011, Mary Keitany of Kenya destroyed the half-marathon record time by half a minute. Her time of 65 minutes and 50 seconds set the world record for the women’s half-marathon. Weighing 93lbs, Keitany is a lightweight running machine and has broken numerous other records, but on this day in the United Arab Emirates city of Ras Al Khaimah, Keitany became the first woman in history to break the 66-minute mark.On October 11th (that’s today!), 2011, Mary Keitany of Kenya destroyed the half-marathon record time by half a minute. Her time of 65 minutes and 50 seconds is the current world record for women’s half-marathon. The 30 year old weighs 93lbs and is a running machine, haven broken numerous other records, but on this day in the United Arab Emirates city of Ras Al Khaimah, Keitany became the first woman in history to break the 66-minute mark.
The Parachuting Lady
On October 12th (that’s today!), 1798, Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse became the first woman parachutist in history. She jumped from nearly 3,000 feet from a hydrogen-filled balloon floating over Paris. The seed of her record-breaking stunt was planted two years earlier when she watched Andre Jacques Garnerin’s first hydrogen balloon flight. She became his pupil, and soon they married. The two registered a patent for the parachute and began touring Europe jumping from balloons.
The One-Wheeled Wonder
On October 13th (that’s today!), 2011, Mike Tierney, a ski-patroler in Aspen, Colorado, accomplished the most badass hill climb on a unicycle in history. For 11 hours, Tierney charged up Hawaii’s highest peak, Mauna Kea, (13,796 ft.). The route has been dubbed the world’s toughest hill climb. What sets Tierney’s accomplishment apart is that he did it all on a 29-inch wheel. He arrived at the summit triumphantly blasting Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love,” and emotionally high-fived a park ranger before he hoisted the unicycle above his head in a moment that he described as Nirvana.
Zebulon Decides to Split
On October 14th (that’s today!), 1806, Captain Zebulon Pike made the fateful decision to split his crew of 20 soldiers into two separate detachments to further explore the Great Plains and interior of America. One detachment headed down the Arkansas River from Colorado, and safely returned to St. Louis. Zebulon, then 27 years old, led the other crew west, up the Arkansas River, to explore the interior. After four months, Zebulon’s party was captured by Spanish soldiers and imprisoned for years, where they likely thought back to this day when they parted ways and thought aloud, “Damn you Zebulon!”
On October 15th (that’s today!), 1978, the American Women’s Himalayan Expedition became the first American team to reach the summit of Annapurna (26,200 ft) in the Himalayas. Four of the team members safely navigated a route populated with tremendous peril, while two of their team members perished in the summit bid. Unfortunately, this tragedy is all too common on Annapurna. It holds the highest fatality rate of climbers of the world’s 8,000 m. peaks. But on this day, the American Women’s Himalayan Expedition claimed the summit and earned a place in mountaineering immortality.
Another One Bites The Dust
On October 16th (that's today!), 1986, Reinhold Messner, one of the greatest mountaineers of all time, reached the summit of Lhotse (8,516m) and became the first man to summit all of the 14 "eight-thousanders" of the world. A feat of this magnitude was previously unimaginable. Until 1975, no mountaineer had climbed more than two of these mountains, marking this achievement as one of the most remarkable in history.
New Route on Makalu
On October 17th (that’s today!), 2008, Vince Anderson and Marko Prezelj climbed a new route up Makalu, otherwise known as Kangchungtse, a Himalayan peak with a summit elevation of 24,850 ft. They left their basecamp to climb all day through fierce winds and gathering storm clouds. The two climbers needed to take four breaths for each step, and when they reached the summit at sunset they did not celebrate, they hugged each other and then began their descent to their basecamp in the dark.
Woman Skis the Seven Summits
On October 18th (that’s today!), 2006, Kit Deslauriers became the first person to complete ski descents from the top of Seven Summits. Her quest began in 2004 when she became the first American woman to ski from the summit of Mt. McKinley. For the next two years, Deslauriers went on a full-on climbing and skiing assault of the world’s highest peaks, which culminated today, at 11am, when she pushed off from the summit of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest (29,029 feet).
Unlocking Cho Oyu
On October 19th (that’s today!), 1954, Herbert Tichy led a climbing party up the northwest ridge to the first successful summit of Cho Oyu. At 26,906 feet, Cho Oyo is the sixth tallest mountain in the world, and it is the most accessible summit of the world’s 14, eight thousand meter peaks due to the proximity of a glaciated mountain pass that Tibetans and the Khumbu’s Sherpas use as their main trading route. Initial climbing parties, however, including Sir Edmund Hilary’s attempt in 1952, were turned away by the challenging climb. It was not until Tichy and his men unlocked the northwest ridge with a challenging high elevation crux move, that Cho Oyo became known as the easiest of the world’s highest summits to climb.
Phil Ershler Climbs The North Face of Mount Everest
On October 20th (that's today!), 1984, Phil Ershler, one of the world's most renowned climbers, became the first American to ascend the North aspect of Mount Everest. Ershler bags peaks like most active people knock out day hikes. His tick list includes summiting Mt. Rainier 400 times and summiting Mt. Mckinley 25 times. He is recognized as one of only a handful of climbers to have summited the highest peaks on all seven continents twice!
John Muir Summits the High Sierras
On October 21st (that’s today!) the legendary naturalist and conservationist John Muir made his first successful summit of the highest peak in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney. He set out by himself from the town of Independence, and climbed into the alpine. There was no wood to build a fire, so he “danced” to keep from freezing. Instead of dancing all night, he decided to begin climbing directly up the east face for warmth in the early morning. He said his “well-seasoned legs enjoyed the 9,000 feet on his direct approach” to the rooftop of the country.
The First Parachutist
On October 22nd (that’s today!), 1797, André-Jacques Garnerin made the first notable parachute jump. Garnerin first conceived of the idea while imagining his escape from the high ramparts of a Hungarian prison where he served three years during the French Revolution. Upon his release, he designed a parachute with a 23-foot canopy, and on this day he attached it to a hydrogen balloon and ascended 3,200 feet above Paris. He jumped above the crowd and oscillated wildly because there where no vents in the original chute. He landed a half-mile away from his launch point, shaken up, but unharmed, and with the distinction of the first and highest parachute jump.
The Deadly Protest
On October 23rd (that’s today), 1999, BASE jumper and stuntwoman Jan Davis died while making an illegal protest jump in support of lifting the National Park Service’s ban on BASE jumping. Mrs. Davis was the fourth of five jumpers to leap from the 3,200-foot granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The tragedy highlighted the controversy that surrounds BASE-jumping in National Parks.
63-Year-Old Woman Drops Niagara Falls In A Barrel
On October 24th (that’s today!), 1901, Annie Taylor became the first person ever to drop Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. She wanted to perform the stunt to raise money so she would not have to live out the remainder of her life in the poorhouse. On her 63rd birthday, she entered a custom-made barrel clutching a lucky heart-shaped pillow. Her friends sealed it tight and pushed her overboard. The Niagara River currents swept her toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America. She dropped 165 feet. When rescuers pulled Taylor from the barrel they found she had a minor cut across her head, but otherwise emerged unscathed.
Eddy Merckx Is Fast
On October 25th (that’s today!), 1972, Eddy Merckx set the initial record for the amount of miles biked in a single hour on a bicycle. He used a drop handlebar, steel-tubed frame to bike around a velodrome in Mexico City for a grand total of 49.431km, or just under 31 miles. Merckx held his record for 12 years. He summed up the effort by saying, “It was the hardest ride of my life.
The Czech Locomotive
On October 26th (that’s today!), 1952, the famed Czechoslovakian long distance runner, Emil Zatopek, broke two world records, the 25,000-meter and the 30,000-meter runs. Zatopek was not only one of the world’s greatest long distance runners, but his distinctive style also garnered a lot of attention. His torso would swing from side to side over his hips, and his head would often roll about on his shoulders as he made terrible wheezing and gasping noises. His idiosyncratic style earned him the nickname, the “Czech Locomotive.
Dr. Livingstone, I presume
On October 27th (that’s today!), 1871, Henry Morton Stanley finally found Dr. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who had disappeared for six years in the African interior. After completing his assignment for the church, Livingstone ambitiously set out to discover the source of the Nile River. His mission went awry in Ujiji, Tanzania where his supplies were stolen, and in illness, he vanished. The American journalist Henry Stanley couldn’t let this intriguing story die, so he set on a journey of his own from Zanzibar to find Livingston. When Stanley saw the Caucasian man standing among Arab slave traders in Ujiji, he walked up to him and delivered his famous greeting, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
Don Ritchie: The Human Antelope
On October 28th (that’s today!), 1978, Don Ritchie, who is largely considered one of the best ultra-long distance runners of all time, broke the 100km record. And no, it’s not because no one had ever run that far before. He set the record in London’s Crystal Palace where he ran 100km in the record time of six hours, ten minutes, and 20 seconds. That’s less than six minutes a mile! This phenomenal record lasted for 25 years.
Mount Hood Finds A Name
On October 29th (that's today!), 1792, Lt. William Broughton, a member of Captain George Vancouver's discovery expedition that explored and charted the Pacific Northwest coast range, coined the name for Oregon's tallest peak, Mt. Hood. He named it after a man he admired, the British Admiral, Samuel Hood. The mountain is a prominent landmark, visible up to a hundred miles away. Many Clymb employees shred Hoods slopes, hike its valleys, and climb to its peak each year so we're happy to give it a little shout-out today.
Cycling Speed Record Set
On October 30th (that’s today!), 1967, professional Belgian cyclist Ferdinand Bracke set the World Hour Record. Earning the World Hour Record is a coveted distinction for elite track cyclists. Bracke set the record of 48.093km at the Olympic Velodrome in Rome, Italy. His record has been eclipsed by modern riders on modern bicycles, but it remains an incredible feat by one of cycling’s all-time best riders.
Mount Rushmore Completed
On October 31st (that's today!), 1941, the Danish-American sculptor Lincoln Borglum completed the construction of his father's masterwork, Mount Rushmore. Gutzon Borglum, along with over 400 workers, spent 14 years carving out the 60-foot-high visages of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln into the granite cliff face near Keystone, South Dakota. The famous monument now attracts over three million visitors a year.
Ansel Adams Captures The Moon
On November 1st (that’s today!), 1941, the famed U.S. photographer Ansel Adams photographed the rural settlement of Hernandez, New Mexico. He composed shots all during sunset and lingered for what the night might hold in store. When the moon rose, Adams captured the shot of it rising over the snow covered mountains behind the rural town with a cross on the church glowing white in the moonlight beneath a dominatingly black sky. The photo went on to become Adam’s most famous photograph of all time.
Birthday of Daniel Boone
November 2nd (that's today!), 1734, is the birthday of Daniel Boone, who is one of the most iconic explorers in American history. As a frontiersman, Boone blazed trail through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachians, from North Carolina all the way to Kentucky, founding one of the first settlements west of the mountain range. Captured by Shawnee warriors and eventually adopted by the tribe, Boone would become one of the first folk heroes of the United States and a legend in his living years.
John Forrest Returns From Outback
On November 3rd (that’s today!), 1874, John Forrest and the six men on his expedition walked into the Australian town of Adelaide to a cheering crowd. Forrest’s seven-month journey traversed the unexplored western interior of Australia, now referred to as the Outback, in search of pastoral land, mineral deposits, and to investigate rumors of an inland sea. What they found was an inhospitably dry land, severe dehydration, and an Aborigine war party that attacked them at Weld Springs. Forrest believed his party had little chance of survival, but infrequent thunderstorms provided just enough water for them to walk into Adelaide as triumphant survivors.
Vasco de Gama Hits Africa
On November 4th (that’s today!), 1497, Vasco de Gama’s ship, the São Gabriel, reached a historical milestone in his exploration of a trade route to India. Vasco sailed from Libson, Portugal and voyaged south hoping to find a route around Africa. They sailed over 6,000 miles and spent more than 3 months aboard the ship. Vasco's journey finally came to an end when the explorer stepped ashore near the Cape of Good Hope after having completed the longest journey out of sight of land known to history at that time.
Tony Rominger Sets Bike Speed Record
On November 5th (that's today!), 1994, Tony Rominger pedaled his bike at break-neck speeds to become the fastest man on two wheels. Breaking the world record for the longest distance cycled in the period of one hour, Rominger's accomplishment stands as one of the most prestigious in the cycling world. Amazingly, it was the second time he'd broken the record in a month's time. Rominger's record has since been broken-but only once.
Cabeza Shipwrecked In Texas
On November 6th (that’s today!), 1528, after a long voyage Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked near present day Galveston, Texas. There was no celebration. The 90 men in his expedition were starving, dehydrated, and suffering numerous wounds from skirmishes with native war parties as they sailed along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas in pursuit of mythical cities of gold. They never found the golden cities, but they did become the first Europeans to ever step foot in the Lone Star state.
Spider Dan’s Renaissance
On November 7th (that's today!), 1981, Dan Goodwin scaled the 56-story Renaissance Tower in Dallas, Texas. Using suction cups on his feet and hands, Goodwin wore a Spider-Man suit as he climbed. This publicity stunt was nothing new to Goodwin, who throughout the 80s went on a skyscraper-climbing rampage to raise awareness for various causes. On this day he climbed as a gift to a young Dallas boy stricken with cystic fibrosis.
Climbers Summit The Ararat Massif
On November 8th (that's today!), 1829, Dr. Friedrich Parrot and Khachatur Abovian completed their assault on the Ararat massif by summiting the Lesser peak, which skirts the Iran-Turkey border boundary. One month earlier, they had become the first explorers in modern times to summit Greater Ararat, the tallest peak in Turkey. It is rumored that Abovian brought a chunk of ice back from the summit with him and carried it down in a bottle, believing the water to be holy.
Yvon Chouinard Birthday
November 9th (that's today!), 1938, marks the birthday of Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard. Rock climber, environmentalist, avid fly fisherman, surfer, and outdoor industry businessman extraordinaire, Chouinard began his entrepreneurial career selling climbing hardware out of the back of his truck in Yosemite Valley, California. His second business, Patagonia, Inc., is regarded as highly for its environmental programs as for its legendary gear. In 1985, Chouinard teamed up with Craig Mathews to start 1% for the Planet. Their campaign has become a global movement with over 1,000 participating companies that donate 1% of their sales to a network of more than 3,000 approved environmental organizations worldwide. To date, Patagonia has awarded over $46 million in cash and in-kind donations to environmental groups through the organization. Happy birthday, Mr. Chouinard. Thanks for all you've done to keep our playground healthy!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
On November 10th (that's today!), 1978, the U.S. Congress established Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The park encompasses a wildly variegated landscape of cliffs, gullies, mountains, plains, and wildlife. It serves as one of the last strongholds for North American bison, and that is the reason the young Roosevelt traveled into the territory in 1883-"to bag a buffalo." His attempt at establishing a homestead ranch in the region made a lasting impression upon the President who later said, "I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."
Spider Dan Strikes Again
On November 11th (that’s today!), 1981, the infamous building climber Dan Goodwin, otherwise known as Spider Dan, clung to the side of the 100-story John Hancock Center in Chicago while a crew of angry firemen blasted him with cold water from a fire hose. Spider Dan, wearing a Spider Man wetsuit, swung across the building on a rope to elude the cold blast. Crews of firemen then shattered the windows with their axes and tried to grab him with grappling hooks attached to long poles, but Spider Dan climbed right past them. Chicago’s Mayor Jane Byrne called off the firemen fearing for Goodwin’s life. After he summited the building, Spider Dan announced that he'd made the climb to raise awareness of firefighters' inability to successfully fight fires in high-rise buildings.
Harding Picks El Nose
On November 12th (that’s today!), 1958, California rock climber Warren Harding completed the first climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The route he dubbed as The Nose ascends 2,900 feet up the central prow of one of the largest granite rock faces in the world. Harding, along with two others, spent over 45 days on the cliff hammering pitons, fixing lines, and hauling gear up the route. To reach the summit, Harding needed to wait out a three-day storm 2,500 feet high on the sheer cliff before pushing for 15 hours through the night to top out at six in the morning. The Nose is now considered the most famous climbing route in North America.
Tarzan’s Golden Swing
On November 13th (that’s today!), 1985, the American daredevil Steven Trotter, best known for going over Niagara Falls in a barrel when he was 22 years old, completed a brand new, never-been-done-before stunt. He attached a 176-foot cable to the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and then walked the distance of the cable away from the center of the bridge. He jumped off the bridge and swung like a human pendulum, traveling 70 miles-per-hour and setting the World Record for the longest “Tarzan Swing.”
Around the World in Eighty Days
On November 14th (that's today!), 1889, journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, better known as Nellie Bly, boarded the steamboat Augusta Victoria in an attempt to make it around the world faster than the protagonist in Jules Verne's novel, "Around the World in Eighty Days." The event was heralded from the headlines of her sponsor and employer, the New York World, inspiring a competing newspaper to hire their own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat Bly's time. The race was on. Travelling by steamships and existing railroad systems, Bly returned to New Jersey on January 25, 1890, seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes, and fourteen seconds after her Hoboken departure to defeat Bisland and make history.
Zebulon Spies His Peak
On November 15th (that’s today!), 1806, the American explorer Zebulon Pike spied a high and distant peak in Colorado. His men were exploring the interior, and Zebulon decided to climb the high peak to gain a vantage of the landscape. The crew was unprepared for the conditions and went two days without food. They retreated after slogging through waist deep snow. Now the peak is known as Pike’s Peak, in honor of Zebulon’s quest into the interior of the American West.
The Santa Fe Trailblazer
On November 16th (that’s today!), 1821, William Becknell and his train of packhorses arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Behind him lay the 900-mile route that he chose to cross the arid plains, deserts, and mountains between Missouri and New Mexico. He survived thunderstorms that exploded over the plains, Comanche raids, rattlesnakes, and severely arid lands. Upon arriving, Becknell converted the $300 of cotton cloth and calico in his saddlebags into nearly $6,000 in silver, and he immediately began planning a second trip. And with this route, Becknell pioneered the Santa Fe Trail.
Swedish Divers Discover The Sword
On November 17th (that's today!), 2011, Swedish divers discovered the remains of the 17th-century warship, the Svärdet, whose name means "The Sword" in English. Built in 1642 and one of the largest warships of its day, the Svärdet was heavily decorated, its gaudy look was meant to impress the enemy. It was struck down in 1676 during one of the largest naval battles in the Baltic. Salt levels in the seawater almost fully preserved the wreck, and scientists hope it will reveal valuable information about the secrets of the first ships made for naval warfare.
Tell Splits the Apple
On November 18th (that’s today!), 1307, famed Swiss marksmen William Tell walked with his young son Walter into a village square and publicly refused to bow to the newly appointed Emperor. Angered, the emperor arrested Tell and sentenced him to a swift execution without realizing who he was: one of the most renowned marksmen in the region. Upon discovering the identity of his prisoner, the emperor decided to allow Tell one shot to redeem his freedom by shooting an apple off of the top of Walter’s head. Tell pulled two arrows, and split the apple with a single shot, but when the emperor asked him why he pulled two arrows, Tell replied that if he missed the shot and killed his son then the other arrow was so that he could kill the emperor immediately after.
Mayflower Spots Cape Cod
On November 19th (that’s today!), 1620, the Mayflower, a ship filled with English and Dutch Separatists, finally spotted the land that would mark the end of their 65-day journey from Plymouth, England. Over the course of their voyage, the passengers and crew aboard the 100-foot ship survived the strong North Atlantic gales that battered their ship. Relief swept across the passengers as they dropped anchor near present day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and prepared to settle into their new land and become a symbol of the beginning of European settlement in America.
The Real Moby Dick
On November 20th (that's today!), 1820, an 80-ton sperm whale capsized the American vessel Essex 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America. The 238-ton Essex was hunting for whales to harvest oil and bone when a bull whale decided that he had had enough, ramming the boat twice and sinking the ship. The men scrambled aboard lifeboats where they ultimately resorted to cannibalism during the harrowing 83-day journey to the coastal waters of South America. Only five men survived. Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick was inspired by these events.
Captain William Brown Docks At Honolulu
On November 21st (that’s today!), 1794, William Brown's ship the HMS Butterworth made the first European anchorage in the Honolulu Harbor on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Captain William Brown commanded the ship, and after passing a peaceful night's rest among the lapping waves and pleasant evening air he decided to name the harbor Fair Haven, which, it turns out, is a rough translation of the native Hawaiian name for the harbor.
Marooned and Festooned
On November 22 (that's today!), 1574, the famous Spanish sailor Juan Fernández, who was sailing between Peru and Valparaiso, discovered what is now known as the Juan Fernández Islands. Located in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile, the islands are best known for being a hideout for pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries and was the home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk for four years, inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe.
First All-Women Team Treks To South Pole
On November 23rd (that’s today!), 1990, an international team of 16 women began a 70-day, 800-mile trek from the Soviet scientific station at Vostok to the South Pole. Twelve members of the team were Soviet scientists studying the physiological impact of this harsh environment upon women to prove that women can work alongside men in these inhospitable conditions.
Jumping Into Oblivion
On November 24th (that’s today!), 1971, a man in Portland, Oregon known as D.B. Cooper boarded a Boeing 727 that was headed for Seattle, Washington. The suited man ordered a bourbon and soda and passed the stewardess a note that read, “I have a bomb. Please sit next to me.” When the plane touched down in Seattle, he gained a ransom of $200,000. All passengers disembarked and he directed the flight crew to refuel and then fly toward Mexico. At 8:13pm, Cooper jumped out of the aft door of the plane into a thunderstorm wearing a backpack parachute and the bags of cash strapped to his leg. Detectives estimate that he jumped into 200 mph winds, and that according to the flight path he would have landed in the rugged mountain wilderness of southern Washington. Despite the most extensive ground search ever conducted at that time, Cooper has never been seen again; although, nine years later, a boy camping in the Washougal River Valley in southern Washington discovered a small portion of Cooper’s ransom money buried neatly in the creek bed.
Polar Bear Refuge
November 25th (that’s today), 2010, the U.S. Government set aside 187,000 square miles along the Alaska coastline for a polar bear refuge. The “critical habitat” designation is the first step in creating a safe refuge for the only polar bear habitat in the U.S. Nearly 95% of the designated region is sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off the northern coast of Alaska, and the move is intended to help the polar bear stave off extinction.
King Tut’s Tomb Discovered
On November 26th (that’s today!), 1922, British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon broke through a mud-obscured antechamber door in King Tut’s tomb. Having discovered the tomb a few days earlier, the archaeologists were initially convinced that this tomb, like so many of the others in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, was looted. Carter leaned in with a candle and in the flickering light he saw gold and jewelry, clothes, a chariot, weapons, furniture, and a golden sarcophagus containing the mummified body of the boy king. Carter could see the footprints of the tomb’s builders on the floor. No one had stepped foot within the tomb in over 3,200 years. Standing behind Carter, Carnarvon anxiously asked, “Can you see anything?” To which Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things!”
Crossing the Sierras
On November 27th (that’s today!), 1826, Jedediah Smith became the first American to travel overland from the Great Salt Lake to California. Smith and 6 men followed the Colorado River far to the west in search of beaver pelts, and with their supplies greatly diminished, Smith made the bold call to head for California instead of returning to the Salt Lake region. They traveled through the Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, and over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. And it was on this day that his crew arrived at the Mission San Gabriel and received a lavish meal by the missionary priest to celebrate their long journey.
Magellan Gets It Strait
On November 28th (that's today!), 1520, after 38 days of treacherous navigation through the strait that now bears his name, Ferdinand Magellan wept at the sight of tranquil blue waters in the Pacific Ocean. Magellan and his crew would become the first expedition to successfully sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean.
Hawaii Grows In A Boom
On November 29th (that’s today!), 1975, the Hilina Slump, a shield volcano on the island of Hawaii, added 26 more feet to the Hawaiian coastline. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake instigated this real estate-adding advance, and it also created some new landscaped features including a 37-mile wide section of the Hilina Slump that dropped 11.5 feet. This caused a 48-foot high tsunami as the surrounding ocean adjusted to the new size of Hawaii.
Twain’s Round-Trip Comet Ride
On November 30th (that’s today!), 1835, the famed American author/humorist Mark Twain was born. Besides his substantial contribution to American literature through books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, what makes Twain’s birth a remarkable event is that he was born on the exact day that Halley’s Comet arrived on its 74-year cycle, and 74 years later when the comet returned, Twain died on that day, too. In the days before his death, Twain said, “I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."
Santa Fe’s ‘Outstanding Waters’
On December 1st (that’s today!), 2010, New Mexican Governor Bill Richardson along with conservation groups, six cities along the Rio Grande, the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, and the support of thousands of New Mexican citizens protected over 700 miles of streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands throughout their state. The protection is a bold step toward securing the state’s water quality by safeguarding the headwaters of their most pristine water sources. Dubbed as ‘Outstanding Waters’ under the state’s Clean Water Act, Commission’s historic decision affects over 1.4 million acres of land.
Aussie Woman Tackles The Ocean
On December 2nd (that’s today!), 2007, Australian Margaret Bowling set out from the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa to row across the Atlantic from the east to west. Bowling and her partner rowed their boat Atlantic Jack for 42 days across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean island of Antigua, making Margaret the first Australian woman to row across an ocean.
December 3rd (that's today!), 1857, is the Birthday of the famous novelist, Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, better known in his later years as Joseph Conrad. Born in Poland, Conrad left his homeland at the tender age of 17 to join the merchant marine in Marseilles, France. A lifetime of adventure would follow, and his harrowing adventures at sea would set the tone for many of his most influential novels, including Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness.
On December 4th (that’s today!), 2004, the entrepreneurial adventurer Steve Fossett, an American businessman who sought and earned many aviation records, set the world distance record for flying a glider. Fossett and his partner sailed in their glider 2,192.9 km., that’s the equivalent distance of flying from Portland, Oregon to San Diego, California. As of 2012, no one has beaten this record.
The Jackie Robinson of Cycling
On December 5th (that’s today!), 1896, Marshal Taylor entered into his first professional race at the age of 18. The race was a six-day cycling meet at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Over 5,000 people attended, and they saw Taylor lap the entire field of contestants to win the final heat by over 105 feet, overcoming racial prejudice by other contestants strategizing to box him in. Taylor’s victory marked the first time an African American cyclist won a professional cycling event in the U.S.
Everglades National Park Founded
On December 6th (that's today!), 1947, Everglades National Park in South Florida was established as an effort to conserve the natural landscape and prevent further degradation of its land. Originally spanning from Lake Okeechobee in central Florida all the way down to Florida Bay, only 25% of the historic Everglades remains, which is now protected by the National Park. Home to numerous rare and endangered species such as the manatee, American crocodile, and Florida Panther, the habitat is 1.5 million acres in size and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance. The park is one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.
The Challenger Sets Sail
On December 7th (that’s today!), 1872, the H.M.S. Challenger set sail on its three-year voyage to circumnavigate the globe in pursuit of a greater scientific understanding of the oceans. The H.M.S. stands for Her Majesty’s Ship, and the Challenger’s mission established the scientific discipline of Oceanography. During the course of their 68,890 nautical miles, the scientists aboard took deep sea soundings, conducted numerous dredges of the sea floor, and trawled the currents with nets. Their work resulted in discovering 4,700 new marine species. Their resulting report was described by the eminent Scottish scientist John Murray as “the greatest advance in the knowledge of our planet since the fifteenth century.”
Boukreev Summits Manaslu
On December 8th (that’s today!), 1995, the Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev completed his summit bid on the Himalayan peak of Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world. Boukreev, you might remember, gained an international reputation as a life-saving guide on the ill-fated Mt. Everest expedition in 1996 in which 8 different climbers died, and John Krakauer reported on in his best selling book Into Thin Air. Boukreev’s summit bid on Manaslu exposed him to negative 30 degree temperatures, and capped off his successful climbing season where he summited three 8,000 meter peaks.
The Painted Forest
On December 9th (that's today!), 1962, marks the establishment of Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. Boasting large deposits of petrified wood, the park covers 146 square miles of amazing and varied scenery. Known primarily for its fossils, especially fallen trees that date back 225 million years, the park is an archaeological stronghold and has unearthed everything from giant reptiles to early dinosaurs. Although paleontologists have been studying the fossils since the early 20th century, inhabitants were roaming the desert there at least 8,000 years ago. Spanish explorers of the 16th century gave the area the fitting moniker, El Desierto Pintado, the painted desert.
Huck Finn Lives
On December 10th (that’s today!), 1884, Mark Twain’s American classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published for the first time. Twain’s story focuses on outcast Huck Finn and the runaway slave Jim as they escape their oppressive upbringings together on a raft down the Mississippi River. The novel has inspired many imitations that blend adventure travel with social commentary, and the book is widely considered one of the Great American Novels.
A Leap of Space
On December 11th (that’s today!), 1959, Joseph Kittinger set a high-altitude skydiving record by jumping from 74,700 feet. His jump was one of three that he made for Project Excelsior, a research experiment by the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory. Kittinger rode a gondola suspended from helium balloons to his intended jump height. He wore a 60 pound pressurized suit and he was likely nervous. On his first jump his pressurized suit failed and he experienced g-forces 22 times greater than gravity and was knocked unconscious. His automatic parachute opener saved his life. But this jump went off without a hitch, and he received the A. Leo Stevens Parachute Medal for setting the record that was just recently beat by Felix Baumgartner.
The Real Indiana Jones
On December 12th (that’s today!), 1964, the world lost one of its most beloved archaeologist explorers, William Montgomery McGovern. Rumored as the inspiration behind the character of Indiana Jones, McGovern’s life was quite possibly more colorful than his Hollywood counterpart. By the age of 30 he had bushwhacked deep into the Amazon to discover Inca ruins, slipped into the Forbidden City in the mountain kingdom of Tibet disguised as a porter, become a Buddhist priest in Japan, and served as a military strategist during World War II. He could speak 12 languages though he was deaf in one ear. But his most enduring legacy was his 30-year teaching career at Northwestern University where he charmed students and faculty alike with his outlandish foreign outfits and anecdotes peppered with the details of his adventurous exploits.
On December 13th (that’s today!), 1577, the English sea captain Sir Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth, England to become the first Englishman to successfully circumnavigate the globe. Six ships carrying 164 men set out on the 10-month voyage. Sailing through the Strait of Magellan, two of the ships were battered against the rocks and sunk. Once safely reaching the Pacific, Drake found two different Spanish ships and looted them of over 80 pounds of gold, 13 chests of royal jewels, and 26 tons of silver. When he presented the Queen with her half share, it was worth more than the crown’s income for that entire year.
Roald Reaches South Pole
On December 14th (that’s today!), 1911, one of the world’s greatest explorers during the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration, Norwegian Roald Amundsen, became the first man to conclusively reach the South Pole. His five-man crew steered 4 sleds pulled by 52 dogs across the Antarctic Plateau to accomplish this goal. Opposed to other groups that ended in disaster, Amundsen insisted that his crew travel light and in the manner of the Inuits. His crew wore animal skins, traveled on skis, and had developed a mastery of managing sled dogs. When they reached the pole they erected a small tent, raised the Norwegian flag, left a letter describing their accomplishment, and named their camp Home on the Pole.
With Little Help from the Wind
On December 15th (that’s today!), 2007, a four-person U.S. crew set out in their multi-hulled rowboat to set the speed record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. They committed to a 2,987-mile route from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Their goal was to set the speed record for rowing across the ocean, and they did—in just over 36 days. An anonymous email sent from a crewmember to the Ocean Rowing Records committee, however, showed a different story. The photos showed that upon orders from their captain, the oars were rigged upright with makeshift sails billowing in the wind. Their record time was adjusted to 49 days, short of the record, but the crew is still proud of what they accomplished.
On December 16th (that's today!), 1497, the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Although not the first explorer to reach the cape, da Gama was the first to venture past, and would lead his crew into waters never before sailed by a European, eventually reaching India. This voyage is considered a pinnacle in world history and the achievement is viewed as the beginning of global multiculturalism.
To the Top of Antarctica
On December 17th (that’s today!), 1966, Nicholas Clinch led an American climbing expedition of nine other members to achieve the first successful summit of Mount Vinson, Antarctica. At 16,067 feet, Mount Vinson is the highest summit on Antarctica making it one of the Seven Summits of the world. Being incredibly remote, it was the last of the Seven Summits to be climbed.
Capitol Reef Protected
On December 18th (that’s today!), 1971, Congress established Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah. The Waterpocket Fold, a 75-mile ridge that marks the eastern boundary between the Wasatch Plateau and the desert, is the central feature that creates a veritable wonderland of sandstone canyons. The Fremont River cuts through the Waterpocket Fold and it was a significant site for wildlife, natives, and early Mormon pioneers. Now, the park attracts adventurers that want to scramble through slot canyons, ascend arroyos, or discover fossils and artifacts hidden among the rocks.
Touching the Void and Back Again
On December 19th (that’s today!), 2009, English mountaineer Joe Simpson, known for his epic climbing disaster story documented in his book Touching the Void, returned to serious mountaineering to ascend a new route in Nepal. The route ascends unstable seracs and demands an intricate balance of mixed rock and ice climbing up the south face of Nepal’s Mera Peak. In spite of the inherent dangers, Simpson, who was controversially cut from the rope and left for dead by his partner Simon Yates, decided to do this route solo.
Smith Sails to Jamestown
On December 20th (that’s today!), 1606, soldier and explorer John Smith set sail with the Virginia Company of London to cross the Atlantic to colonize Virginia for profit. Smith became a historical figure for his written accounts that described the colonization of Jamestown, and most notably for becoming captured by the Powhatan tribe for four weeks and having his life saved the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas. When Smith returned to Jamestown, dissent grew among the colonists. Under Smith’s rigid discipline, the colony survived a rough winter, but it all almost turned out very differently for Smith. He was charged with mutiny on the voyage to Virginia and the ship’s captain planned to hang him. But when they arrived in the New World they opened a sealed box and John Smith’s name had been selected by the Virginia Company of London to be one of Jamestown’s leaders.
The Source of the Amazon
On December 21st (that’s today!), 2000, a National Geographic expedition led by Andrew Pietowski pinpointed the exact location of the Amazon’s source using sophisticated GPS technology. Long known to originate in the Peruvian Andes, the exact source of the world’s largest river had eluded cartographers, explorers, and scientists. They discovered that the true source begins from an ice sheet on Nevado Mismi an 18,363 foot-high mountain in the southern Andes. The water cascades over a 130 foot-high cliff and into a meandering alpine creek 3,900 miles away from where the mighty Amazon reaches the Atlantic.
The Pathfinder in the Outback
On December 22nd (that’s today!), 1843, one of the greatest explorers of the American West, John C. Fremont, discovered unexplored country in what’s now known as the Oregon Outback. Fremont quickly realized after riding through an extensive sagebrush plain and passing freshly burned acres of grass and many native trails that his discovery was of inhabited land. They rode until nightfall before making camp beside a freshwater lake near present-day Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, which is a 278,000-acre refuge that provides the modern traveler with a window into the expansive and fenceless west that Fremont and his men travelled through.
Miracle in the Andes
On December 23rd (that’s today!), 1972, the 16 surviving passengers of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 that crashed deep in the Andes on October 13th were rescued. They had survived the plane crash, and then survived for more than two months on inadequate food in harsh conditions by living in the torn fuselage of the plane at 11,000 feet. Three of the strongest members of the crew hiked through the Andes to find help. Their trek took them ten days, and they were extremely famished and weak. When they spotted a man on a white horse across the river they were afraid it was a delusion. The man was real, and when the two ravaged survivors told him their story he sent for the two helicopters that rescued the rest of the survivors on this day.
The Old Spanish Trail
On December 24th (that’s today!), 1829, the Spanish Mexican explorer Antonio Armijo reached the approximate halfway mark on his pioneering route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. At the age of 25, Armijo led his crew of 60 men and 100 mules along the 1,200-mile trail through high mountains, arid deserts, and the deep canyons of the American Southwest. Many natives and trappers had used this route before, but Armijo established this route for a pack train, and in the years following, Armijo’s trail earned the reputation as the most arduous of all the trade routes established in the United States.
Anatoli Boukreev: The Loss Of A Legend
On December 25th (that's today!), 1997, the mountaineering community lost a true legend when the Russian alpinist Anatoli Boukreev was trapped in an avalanche while climbing the Himalayan Mountain, Annapurna. In 1996, Bourkreev was instrumental in saving stranded climbers on Mount Everest during the deadliest season ever documented. His book, The Climb, documented his experience on Everest. A plaque at the base of Annapurna commemorates his life and quotes his words, "Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion."
The Ship Has Set Sail
On December 26th (that's today!), 1541, Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador in search of wealthy Amazonian civilizations ripe for plunder, set off with a small team in a makeshift boat down the Coca River in Ecuador in an attempt to find food for his starving comrades. Meandering downriver soon led them to a village that offered food and supplies, but the downtrodden men threatened to mutiny if Orellana demanded they return for the rest of the crew. Fearing persecution in his homeland, Orellana demanded a signed document from each explaining the situation. Pushing forward, Orellana and his team of deserters soon hit the mighty Amazon River, which would lead them into the Atlantic. Years later, back in Spain, Orellana successfully defended himself against the survivors' charges of mutiny and is now remembered as an explorer who helped open the interior of South America for future exploration and settlement.
Cave of the Swallows
On December 27th (that’s today!), 1966, T.R. Evans, Charles Borland, and Randy Sterns were the first people to explore the largest cave shaft in the world, The Cave of the Swallows in San Luis Potosi in Mexico. The cave mouth is 442 feet wide and the shaft is 1,214 feet high. New York City’s Chrysler Building could easily fit within this cave. The unobstructed freefall has drawn BASE Jumpers from around the world, but BASE Jumping has been outlawed because the local villagers want to protect the different species of birds that return to the cave nightly to roost.
Climber Cody Roth Repeats The Impossible
On December 28th (that's today!), 2010, American rock climber Cody Roth made the first repeat of a climb called Malvasia 22 years after its visionary first-ascent by climbing legend, Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla. Malvasia is located in a pristine setting, located opposite an abandoned castle in the small town of Dvigrad in Croatia. The technical nature of the climb thwarted every assault until Roth was able to decipher the cryptic movement so many years later, even suggesting an upgrade in difficulty, rating the climb American 5.14c.
The Mississippi Swim
On December 29th (that’s today!), 1930, Fred Newton emerged from the water in New Orleans, Louisiana after completing a swim down the length of the Mississippi River. Newton's journey had begun five months earlier when he dove into the river at the Ford Dam in Minnesota. He swam 1,826 miles in 742 hours. To combat water temperatures that fell to 47° F, Fred lubed up in axel grease and petroleum jelly. When he emerged in New Orleans he had set the world record at the time for the longest swim by anyone who is not a fish.
Long is Born
On December 30th (that’s today!), 1784, one of the greatest, and yet least-known American explorers, Stephen Harriman Long was born. Long was a career military man most famously known for leading an expedition up the Platte River in Nebraska. He coined the term the “Great Desert” for that region, which later became known as the Great Plains so as not to discourage potential irrigation farmers. He notably discovered and named Long’s Peak in Colorado, and over the course of five expeditions traveled more than 26,000 miles across the Wild West in the early 1800s.
The Furthest South
On December 31st (that’s today!), 1902, the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovery Expedition reached the furthest point south at that time. The major polar expedition figures of Robert Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson, and Ernest Shackelton trudged through particularly hostile conditions across the icy continent to reach within 480 miles of the South Pole, but Shackleton became sick with scurvy and Dr. Wilson suffered from snow blindness so they had to turn back.
The Furthest Point South
On December 31st (that’s today!), 1902, the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovery Expedition reached the furthest point south at that time. The major polar expedition figures of Robert Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson, and Ernest Shackelton trudged through particularly hostile conditions across the icy continent to reach within 480 miles of the South Pole, but Shackleton became sick with scurvy and Dr. Wilson suffered from snow blindness so they had to turn back.
On January 3rd (that's today!), 1841, Herman Melville set sail for the South Seas on a whaler named the Acushnet. The Acushnet anchored in Polynesia, and Melville took part in a mutiny. Promptly thereafter, he was thrown in jail in Tahiti. After a narrow escape, he wandered the South Sea Islands for two years. Years later, drawing from his experiences, Melville penned an enduring classic and one of the greatest novels of the 18th century, Moby-Dick.