Three of the world’s top alpinists, American Jess Roskelley and Austrians Hansjörg Auer and David Lama, are presumed to be dead after an avalanche on Howse Peak in Canada earlier this week. They were attempting M16, a difficult route up the mountain near Banff. The men were members of The North Face Global Athlete Team. Climbers, athletes, and others who knew them began sharing remembrances following the tragic news.
Hansjörg Auer, David Lama and Jess Roskelley. We still do not believe it. Hansjörg was one of our companions on the expedition this fall to Himalayas. The three teammates at @thenorthface. The loss is irreparable both personally and for the mountain
David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family. He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.⠀
We appreciate the numerous positive words and thoughts from near and far. Please understand that there will be no further comments from our side. We ask you to remember David for his zest for life, his enthusiasm and with a view towards his beloved mountains.
Our thoughts are with Hansjörg’s and Jess‘ family.
Hiking is the great equalizer. Everyone enjoys a long (or short) walk in a pretty place. But that doesn’t mean all hikes are created equal. Some are objectively better, with taller peaks, greener trees, and more flowery flowers. So we polled our writers and editors to come up with what we feel is the very best hike in each of the states of our glorious union.
The northwest corner of the Cotton State includes the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi, and it’s chock-full of waterfalls. The 25,000-acre Sipsey Wilderness is wrinkled with deep sandstone chasms that turn the region’s abundant streams into cascades. One of the tallest is the 90-foot Fall Creek Falls, where the stream spills over a 20-foot ledge before fanning out over a jumble of boulders. Reach them from the Sipsey Recreation Area, following trails 200 and 209 for three miles through old-growth hemlocks and white oak. —Kelly Bastone, contributor
Harding Icefield Trail
It’s a little touristy by Alaska standards, and there are definitely more-secluded hikes in the state, but the 8.2-mile Harding Icefield Trail, in Kenai Fjords National Park, is still the best bang for your buck. Starting at Exit Glacier, you’ll climb 1,000 feet through forest and meadows, eventually ending above tree line at the edge of a 700-square-mile ice field. —Kelsey Lindsey, assistant editor
If you can handle 21 miles with 5,700 feet of vertical gain and 4,700 feet of loss, hiking rim-to-rim via the Grand Canyon’s South and North Kaibab trails is the best way to see the big ditch on foot. If you have the legs to turn around and do it again, you can partake in one of ultrarunning’s most sought-after FKTs: Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. The current records are held by Jim Walmsley (5:55:20) and Taylor Nowlin (7:28:58). —K.B.
Ask any native Arkansan where to find the best view in the state, and they’ll all point you to the same place, though they may call it by different names. Whitaker Point, better known to some as Hawksbill Crag, is a rocky prominence in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area that juts out nearly 150 feet over the surrounding landscape below. Go on an early autumn morning, when the low sun floods the valley and lights up the changing maple, beech, hickory, and ash trees for a sight you’ll never forget. —Nicholas Hunt, associate editor
The Pacific Crest Trail Association calls the John Muir Trail the “land of 13,000-foot and 14,000-foot peaks, of lakes in the thousands, and of canyons and granite cliffs.” It runs for 211 miles through the Range of Light from Yosemite to the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. Most people hike the trail from north to south over the course of a week or more between July and September. —K.B.
La Plata Peak
At 14,336 feet, La Plata is the fifth highest peak in the Rockies. It’s great for people who want a long day hike with top-notch alpine views. The hike from car to summit and back is around ten miles with 4,500 feet of gain. You get some good forest time for the first few miles, then you’ll switchback up to a ridge and ascend the last couple miles on a talus scramble. —Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor
Bear Mountain to Lion’s Head
Sorry, New Haven, but white clam pizza isn’t Connecticut’s greatest attraction. It’s the views from the state’s loftiest corner, where the Appalachian Trail connects the 2,316-foot Bear Mountain (Connecticut’s highest) to Lion’s Head, a stony knob affording 180-degree views of the surrounding lakes and farmland. From State Route 41 near Salisbury, hike northbound for 2.7 miles to tag Lion’s Head, then continue 3.3 miles to Bear’s summit and its views of steely Mount Greylock (Massachusetts’ highest) hulking on the horizon. —K.B.
Brandywine Creek State Park
Brandywine Creek State Park offers the state’s wildest paths, with bona fide hills, ponds, and a tangle of unnamed, unmarked trails for meanderers. From the park office, strike out on Hidden Pond Trail though 190-year-old tulip poplars. Cross Thompson Bridge and follow Rocky Run Trail through evergreen-choked hills before descending to Creekside Trail, which parallels Brandywine Creek, where beavers and turtles are often spotted. Retrace your steps to complete the 11-mile circuit. —K.B.
Little St. George Island
You’ll need a boat to access Little St. George Island, ten miles south of the Panhandle town of Apalachicola. But once there, you may want to stay forever. Two primitive campsites sit tucked among the pine-studded dunes on the island’s west end, a web of hiking trails spans its 3.3-mile length, talcum beaches extend along the gulf shore, and fishing off the east end at a dredged channel known as Bob Sikes Cut produces a bonanza of redfish, flounder, sea trout, and drum. —K.B.
Treeless vistas are rare in Georgia, where dense forest dominates, so Blood Mountain’s grandstand views offer hikers a highly sought-after view of rolling peaks. The Appalachian Trail runs right over the summit. To tag it as part of a nine-mile out-and-back, start from Vogel State Park and follow the Bear Hair Gap, Coosa Backcountry, Duncan Ridge, and Appalachian trails to the 4,458-foot Blood Mountain. —K.B.
The hike from the Kalalau trailhead at Kauai’s Ke’e Beach to the waterfall pool at the end of Hanakapiai Valley is safer and far more achievable than doing the whole Kalalau Trail, but you still get the beyond-spectacular views of the Na Pali coast and a dip beneath a 300-foot waterfall. If you get an early start, you can get back to Ke’e in time to snorkel the glorious protected reef, chill on the beach, and watch the sunset. —Aleta Burchyski, assosciate managing editor
Hells Canyon, on the border of Oregon and Idaho, is deeper than Grand Canyon—nearly 7,000 feet from river to rim in some spots—and receives just a fraction of the visitors. Hike the 5.3-mile Summit Ridge Trail in spring for moderate temperatures and blooming wildflowers, like paintbrush and mountain balm. —K.B.
Jackson Falls Trail
Shawnee National Forest covers a 415-mile chunk of southern Illinois. The area gem? The 3.7-mile Jackson Falls Trail, which features numerous scenic overlooks and terminates at a spectacular waterfall. Bring your climbing gear—the 70-foot sandstone walls offer the most climbing routes in the state. —Samantha Yadron, editorial production fellow
Thru-hikers climb 10,500 cumulative feet along the 58-mile Knobstone Trail, which offers bona fide backpacking in the otherwise snoozy Hoosier State. The KT’s southern portion requires the greatest sweat equity but provides the biggest scenic payoff: Hike 31 miles from Deam Lake to Elk Creek Lake for ridgetop views over rolling hills and the nighttime lullabies of coyotes. —K.B.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
On Iowa’s eastern edge, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves more than 200 earthworks, some shaped like bears, lynx, bison, and birds. Explore them and gaze across the wooded bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River along the monument’s north unit trails. (Not to mention the thousands of native remains housed on the monument, more than 2,000 of which disappeared in the 1990s until this detective tracked them down.) The seven-mile round-trip hike from the visitor center to Hanging Rock visits Great Bear Mound (the largest effigy, at 138 feet long), skirts tallgrass prairie, and overlooks the river from 400-foot cliffs, where hawks and eagles cruise the thermals. —K.B.
Elk River Hiking Trail
The Elk River Hiking Trail will make you swear you’re not in Kansas anymore. This 15-mile point-to-point trail weaves through evocative rock sculptures and pinched corridors with 30-foot-high walls. Trek eastward for sweeping vistas over Elk City Lake as your grand finale. The trail hugs the bluffs of this 4,000-acre reservoir, which looks big enough to be one of the Great Lakes. In spring, the shoreline turns pale purple with blooming redbud trees. —K.B.
Pinnacles of Berea
Avoid the crowds of Red River Gorge and head to Berea, Kentucky, and the various pinnacle trails that overlook the area. These dog-friendly hikes offer sweeping overlooks and different vantages of the surrounding area—try West Pinnacle for its sunset views—as well as various levels of difficulty and distance, depending on your capabilities. Thanks to its proximity to Lexington and Daniel Boone National Forest, you’ll be hard-pressed to run out of things to do around here. —Abbey Gingras, editorial assistant
The Backbone Trail
It’s hard to get high in Louisiana, where the mean elevation is just 100 feet and New Orleans actually sits below sea level. But the Backbone Trail though the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness offers escape from the swamp. This 7.7-mile path scales sandstone hills topped with Dr. Suessian longleaf pines. Savor on-high views from 300-foot outcrops and, in spring, blooming azaleas. Keep an eye out for armadillos. —K.B.
100 Mile Wilderness
Even out west, you’d be hard-pressed to find 100 miles of trail that’s uninterrupted by towns and other human-built intrusions, but the Pine Tree State preserves exactly that: The famed 100-Mile Wilderness section of Maine’s Appalachian Trail plumbs fir forests so dark and dense, they unnerved even Henry David Thoreau (who documented his chilling explorations in The Maine Woods). Starting at the tiny outpost of Monson (home to Shaw’s Hiker Hostel), pilgrims trip across rooty paths, ford swampy ponds where moose chill out, peer into the grey slate maw of Gulf Hagas (the “Grand Canyon of Maine”), and end up at Abol Bridge, the Baxter State Park campground and resupply opportunity before the final push up 5,269-foot Mount Katahdin. —K.B.
Annapolis Rocks to Black Rock Cliff
Hop on the Appalachian Trail at South Mountain State Park and hike about 2.5 miles to Annapolis Rocks for sweeping views of northwest Maryland. Continue on to an even more scenic lookout spot called Black Rock Cliff. About 7.5 miles round-trip. —Svati Kirsten Narula, associate social media editor
Bash Bish Falls
At the western edge of Massachusetts lies Bash Bish Falls State Park, home to a probably haunted 80-foot waterfall, the highest in the state. Easy hiking and good summer swimming abound, but take care: 25 people have died after slipping from the top of the falls. —Madeleine LaPlante-Dube, digital media producer
Part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this easy family-friendly hike goes to the top of a sand bluff and offers great views of Lake Michigan. Continue to the right after the scenic lookout to follow smaller trails that wind through beech and maple trees and lead to more secluded sand dunes. —K.L.
Border Route Trail
The 65-mile Border Route Trail follows (surprise) the border between the United States and Canada and allows you to experience the tranquility of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on foot. It’s a place of breathtaking cliffs, almost impassably dense trees, and serene, untouched lakes where you can feel the elves and faeries watching you through the mossy gaps in the trees. —Emily Reed, assistant editor
Black Creek Trail
Soft white beaches and sandbars make Black Creek, a designated National Wild and Scenic River, feel more like the Caribbean than Mississippi. The Black Creek Trail links those paradisial swimming holes with 41 miles of waterside hiking. Ten miles of the trail traverse the Black Creek Wilderness and feature pine-topped bluffs and dogwood trees that glow with white petals in spring. —K.B.
Hercules Glades Wilderness Area
Nearly 40 miles of trails cut across rocky, steep terrain that offers a mix of grass-covered hillsides and hardwood forests teeming with wildlife. Park at the Tower Trailhead—the fire tower on the east side of the wilderness area. From there, warm up on the relatively flat Pees Hollow loop. You’ll be ready for steep paths up and over the hills as you head down the Long Creek Trail to the falls and over to the Coy Bald Trailhead. There are few different trail combinations to choose from for the route back—Upper Pilot Trail is a solid option. Just be sure to take a map, because finding and staying on the trails here requires a little work. —Ryan Van Bibber, senior editor
As great as Montana is, Glacier National Park takes it to a whole different level. One of the very best hikes in the park is the 17-mile Dawson-Pitamakan loop, which circles Rising Wolf Mountain. Alpine lakes and jagged peaks make this truly one of the last best places. —K.B.
Saddle Rock Trail
Hills in corn land? You’ll find them on the 1.6-mile (one way) Saddle Rock Trail, which gains a lung-wringing 500 vertical feet on its climb up a chiseled butte in Scotts Bluff National Monument. The route tunnels through a sandstone fin before emerging atop a wind-raked crag with views over rolling prairie peppered with more buttes. —K.B.
The Tahoe Rim Trail
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the most beautiful circuits you’ll ever do. “The scenery changes around every corner—from towering granite walls to lupine-covered hills—and because it’s circular, you can always see where you’ve been and what’s to come,” says Nancy Greenhalgh, former president of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. The difficult 21-mile section from Mount Rose to Brockway is like a highlight reel of the trail. The views of Tahoe from the narrow trail (and on a steep side hill, to boot) are incredible. If you do it in summer, the aroma of pine and sap warming in the high-alpine sunshine just enhance your hike. —Tasha Zemke, copy editor
Crawford Path, White Mountains
Most people summit Mount Washington by heading straight up Tuckerman’s Ravine, which means the trail is like a highway in summer. Avoid the crowds by taking the Crawford Path, which starts in Crawford Notch and spends five of the eight total miles on a ridge above tree line. You’ll pass two alpine huts, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club, where you can refill your water bottles and stop to rest. —Ben Fox, associate reviews editor
Wear sturdy-soled boots on the rock-studded route to Sunfish Pond, a glacial lake perched at 1,379 feet in the Garden State’s swatch of the Appalachians. The eight-mile round-trip trek on the AT and green-blazed Dunnfield Creek trails plumbs pristine forest made musical by little waterfalls along Dunnfield Creek, which hikers follow for part of the route. At the crystalline spring-fed lake, lounge on rock slabs surrounded by the Appalachians’ time-softened summits. —K.B.
Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev used to live in Santa Fe. To train, he’d summit the 12,631-foot Santa Fe Baldy, then traverse over to Deception, Lake, and Penitente peaks before descending the ski area. The whole loop is around 16 miles. Hike it in fall, when the aspens are changing. —Mary Turner, deputy editor
Climb Hurricane Mountain in the Adirondacks in fall for spectacular colors and crisp weather. The sixish-mile trail tops out on a smooth summit with a fire tower and expansive views. —Abbie Barronian, assistant editor
Carvers Gap to 19E
One of the finest sections of the entire Appalachian Trail, the section from Carvers Gap to 19E runs north for 13 miles, meandering above and below tree line. Wild ponies, 360-degree views, and a small taste of trail magic make shuttling a car worth it. —Elizabeth Hightower, features editor
Maah Daah Hey Trail
The 144-mile Maah Daah Hey—which roughly translates from the native Mandan language to “an area that will be around for a long time”—traverses the wild and rugged badlands of western North Dakota. Keep an eye out for bison, wild horses, and bighorn sheep as you make your way across broad plateaus and prairies. —K.B.
You’ll need three to four weeks to thru-hike the 192-mile Ouachita Trail, bridging Oklahoma and Arkansas. Weekenders can nab the choicest 20-mile segment by starting at Talimena State Park, the trail’s western terminus, and hiking east over steep, rocky terrain that ranks as the trail’s toughest but rewards hikers with expansive views. Spur paths to the Potato Hills, Panorama, and Holson Valley vistas overlook mountains that melt into the horizon. —K.B.
Virginia Kendall Ledges
Scenic overlooks are probably not the first images that pop into your head when you think of Ohio, but the two-mile Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga National Park skirts the tops of sandstone cliffs that tower a couple hundred feet above the Cuyahoga River. Go in the evening for spectacular sunsets. —E.R.
Trail of Ten Falls Loop
This descriptively named 7.8-mile loop in Silver Falls State Park features, well, ten waterfalls, one of which is 178 feet tall. The trail winds through enormous old-growth Douglas fir and hemlock and even dips behind one of falls for a rare through-the-curtain view. The hike is lovely year-round, but spring runoff puts the falls at their girthiest. —A.B.
Tumbling Waters Trail
Panoramas across the bucolic Delaware River Valley are reason enough to hike the Tumbling Waters Trail, a three-mile loop in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, but the trail also passes a delightful two-tiered waterfall surrounded by black birches. From the Pocono Environmental Education Center, hike clockwise to explore groves of red cedar, glacier-scarred bedrock, IMAX-sized views of New Jersey’s verdant Kittatinny Ridge (a 400-mile arm of the Appalachian Mountains), and wetlands filled with singing frogs. —K.B.
Long Pond Woods Wildlife Refuge
Even if you’re not mad about birds, the Audubon Society’s 220-acre Long Pond Woods Wildlife Refuge dazzles with vistas over hemlock-shrouded Long Pond. Warblers and hooded mergansers congregate here because the terrain is too rough for most everybody else. The 2.2-mile hiking trail is steep and rocky enough to require scrambling in some sections, but from its high points, you overlook Long Pond’s shimmering waters and hardwoods that blaze red and orange come fall. —K.B.
Escape low-country heat and humidity on the Foothills Trail, which follows the Middle Fork of the Saluda River on its cascading route out of the Appalachians. Arrive early to beat weekend crowds: Rangers at Jones Gap State Park, where the trail originates, block access when the park has reached max capacity, which ensures that the Saluda’s swimming holes stay pristine. —K.B.
Black Elk Peak
After more than 150 years as Harney Peak, South Dakota’s 7,242-foot high point was renamed Black Elk Peak in 2016, but its stunning views of granite cliffs and ponderosa pines remain unchanged. From Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills’ Custer State Park, hike four miles east on Trail 9S to Black Elk’s granite summit and its medieval-looking stone fire tower. Then loop south for four miles on Trails 3 and 4, following the scrambly spur atop Little Devil’s Tower for jaw-dropping views of the knifelike Cathedral Spires. —K.B.
Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
There was no question that Great Smoky Mountains National Park would be home to Tennessee’s best hike, but with more than 850 miles of footpaths in the park that lead to waterfalls, mountaintops, trout-filled streams, historic cabins, overlooks, and wildflower meadows, exactly which trail deserved top honors was a harder decision. The 11-mile round-trip Alum Cave Trail is as good a pick as any. It leads you through old-growth hardwood forest, on log bridges over gushing mountain streams, and up stairways cut into the living rock to the massive rock overhangs for which the trail is named. Continue past the caves and be rewarded with one of the best views in the park from atop the 6,594-foot Mount LeConte and a stay at the rustic LeConte Lodge, the highest guesthouse in the eastern United States. —N.H.
In any season, McKittrick Ridge, in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, dazzles hikers with its vast panoramas of limestone peaks and feathery pines. But in October, the views pulsate red and gold as McKittrick Canyon’s maple, walnut, and ash trees ignite with fall color. From Dog Canyon, on the park’s north side, hike 7.5 miles east to the ridge. Camp at 7,700 feet for sunset and sunrise views over the ribbon of amber. —K.B.
Wire Pass–Buckskin Gulch Trail
The likelihood is slim of ever getting a lottery permit to hike the super-popular Wave, and Antelope Canyon is expensive. For something that rewards with both slot canyon scenery and red serrated sandstone formations, the Wire Pass–Buckskin Gulch Trail, in south-central Utah, is ideal, especially for novice hikers or those with kids. You can opt for the 3.4-mile Wire Pass round-trip hike, or enter Wire Pass and extend your trip along Buckskin until you’re ready to turn around. —T.Z.
Most people who want to knock off one big hike in the Green Mountains tend to head for the summit of Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont. But for fewer crowds and equally stunning views, hike to the top of Camel’s Hump. At about six miles long, this out-and-back trail climbs over 2,000 feet and past the wreckage of a plane crash before you hit the summit. It’s a great day hike that usually takes a few hours to complete. —A.G.
Three Ridges Hike
This classic 14-miler takes you through the scenic vistas of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest along the Appalachian Trail. Plentiful shelters along the loop make this circuit perfect for an overnight backpacking trip for hikers of all levels. —Jeremy Rellosa, assistant editor
Yellow Aster Butte
Unlike Mount Baker or Shuksan, this northern 7.5-mile round-trip hike requires no mountaineering equipment or experience—though it does offer a great view of both peaks. You’ll gain 2,500 feet as you traverse south-facing slopes before you top out at 6,150 feet. Turn around for a view into Canada. —Ruben Kimmleman, editorial fellow
Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek
This 16.5-mile circuit offers pockets of deciduous and Pacific Northwest–like evergreen canopies, secluded waterfalls, meadows, and panoramic views of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. You can rest at Judy Springs, one of the most scenic campsites in the region. For the cherry on top, go in mid-October, when the air is crisp and the leaves are at peak color. —J.R.
Devil’s Lake Loop
It’s not the length that makes this quick five-mile loop the best in the Badger State, but the views, which range from waterside—looking over Devil’s Lake—to the thick forest of the East Bluff Woods. On the lake’s northwest side sit 100-foot quartzite cliffs that are popular with climbers. Devil’s Lake State Park, the oldest in Wisconsin, is home to 100 bird species and 800 types of plants. An elevation gain of 1,000 feet—a lot of vert for the rolling hills of Wisconsin—is enough to earn a plate of sliders and a flight of whiskey at Driftless Glen Distillery, three miles from the trailhead. —Abigail Wise, online managing editor
The Cirque of the Towers Trail
The granite spires that make up the Cirque of the Towers, in the heart of Wyoming’s Wind River range, contain some of the finest rock climbing in the country. But the range is also a hiker’s dream: lake, rivers, fishing, views, wildflowers, you name it. The 18-mile out and back Cirque of the Towers Trail gets you right into the business. And don’t forget to stock up at the Great Outdoor Shop in nearby Pinedale before launching off into the backcountry. —K.B.
We bring you the year’s most fearless athletes, activists, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and lifesavers. From Alex Honnold, whose climbs of El Cap left us all gasping for air, to the women surfers breaking barriers on the world’s biggest waves, to the Navajo runners uplifting Native American communities, these are the visionaries who inspired us most.
He was already the poster boy of adventure sports coming into 2018, thanks to his free-solo climbs—alone, with no ropes—of massive rock walls. Over the past half-dozen years, his calm embrace of extraordinary risk has garnered a steady flow of mainstream media coverage (60 Minutes, The Economist, The New Yorker) and attracted big-ticket sponsors (BMW, Citibank, Squarespace) while leaving elite climbers dumbfounded. All that was before the October release of Free Solo, a film that marks the end of his transformation from an unknown dirt bag living in a van to a bonafide superstar who, well, still lives in a van, at least for most of the year.
Back in June, Honnold reminded us that he does know how to use a rope when he teamed up with Tommy Caldwell, of Dawn Wall fame, to break climbing’s equivalent of the two-hour marathon barrier. Honnold and Caldwell sprinted up the storied Nose route on El Capitan in an astonishing 1:58, more than 20 minutes faster than the previous best time. When I spoke to Honnold shortly after they reached the top, he described the record as “totally adequate”—which is exactly the kind of shrugging diffidence we’ve come to expect from the guy. He’s been in the spotlight for almost a decade but rarely says anything that would help us truly understand him. “I separate me the human from me the public persona,” he says. “I’ve had success with that.”
He did, that is, until Free Solo. The 97-minute biopic chronicles his mind-bending 2017 ascent of the 3,000-foot Freerider route on El Capitan. Codirected by husband-wife team Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, whose previous project, 2015’s Meru, was on most short lists for an Oscar documentary nomination, the film offers the first truly penetrating look at Honnold. We see him climbing like a machine, but also losing his nerve and bailing from an earlier attempt of Freerider, and expressing his feelings for his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless. Free Solo, he explains, captures him as accurately as a movie can. “It’s basically me,” he says.
Despite having his real self finally exposed, Honnold still struggles to explain how he’s navigated his wild journey. Which is why, after asking him to share some of the lessons he’s learned along the way, we had the people who know him best add some illuminating commentary. —Matt Skenazy
“The first time I tried to solo Freerider, I climbed up partway and then backed off. I was up there and it felt really scary. I didn’t want to be there. With soloing, it’s important to listen to those signals and then act on them. If I’m not having a good time, there’s no real reason to be doing it.”
“When Alex began the process of documenting his climb for Free Solo, I found it pretty disconcerting. He’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t like the glory and attention that comes from being the world’s boldest climber, and my concern was that having a camera crew around would muddy his judgment. In the end, I made peace with the fact that this was the magnum opus of his whole weird art-slash-career.” —Cedar Wright, climbing partner
“My mom taught me how to drive. One day when I was stressed in traffic, she said, ‘If you’re ever really worried, you can just park. Just stop and get out. People will go around.’ That’s a great life lesson: you can always just stop.”
“There was this time when we were both young and I had my license but Alex didn’t, and I was letting him drive to practice. He made a right-hand turn too sharply, and the minivan went up on the curb. We were about to hit a telephone pole. Alex very calmly stopped and let the rest of the traffic go by. Mom would have been proud.” —Stasia Honnold, sister
“[Laughs] Alex never parks. And where did he come up with this? It’s probably something his mom wrote in her new memoir, so it’s fresh in his mind. Alex borrows material like this a lot. But he doesn’t follow his mom’s advice. Alex never stops.” —Josh McCoy, climbing partner
“When I’m soloing, I’m not thinking about anything. I’m physically executing a plan. It’s like asking a gymnast what they’re thinking about while they’re doing a routine.”
“Obviously, Alex can do this really well. But he doesn’t understand why others can’t.” —Tommy Caldwell, climbing partner
“There’s a quote that I like: ‘Being a professional means doing the things you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’ Sometimes you train even though you’re not motivated, because you’re like, Well, I’ll be better if I actually put in the hours.”
“Alex has a deep innate drive. He feels the need to keep achieving in climbing, or he faces depression.” —McCoy
“I’m pretty particular about always putting things in the same pockets, or the same pouches in backpacks. Everything goes in its place. My luggage is always packed the same way, and I always wear the same clothes for travel. You’ve got to keep things orderly so your ship is sailing smoothly.”
“You should see him with my phone. He constantly wants to adjust my updates, erase old voice mail, delete extra alarms. It’s like he’s in a neurotic-tendencies candy shop.” —Sanni McCandless, girlfriend
“I don’t like running, and I almost never run. But I was in Telluride, Colorado, this summer when a friend texted me to say that Robert Redford wanted to meet me and I had 20 minutes to get there. I was like, Holy shit! So I sprinted a mile or so across town. As I was running I thought, this is why you always maintain some basic fitness. It was sort of the modern-day equivalent of being chased by a lion.”
“Alex is a bit of a celebrity dork. Have you seen all those selfies with Jared Leto?” —Wright
“It’s not about controlling your fear. It’s about broadening your comfort zone. You need to systematically expose yourself to something until it’s not scary.”
“After he did 60 Minutes, Alex had to learn to speak in public, which was ten times more terrifying for him than climbing without a rope. But he’s learned to be quite charming.” —Wright
American woman who broke through at Boston
Linden’s historic win at the 2018 Boston Marathon continued a pattern of success for American women distance runners. As the numbers below suggest, an even more exciting future is very likely on the way. —Will Cockrell
Four American womenamong the favorites before this year’s marathon: Linden, Shalane Flanagan, Jordan Hasay, and Molly Huddle. “It would have been really heartbreaking if we didn’t win,” says Linden. “That was just about the best squad we could have put on the line.”
Seven American women who placed in the top eight finishers at Boston. “That depth has been building for a while,” says Linden. “From the 800-meters runners on up, we’re seeing a lot of success right now.”
Thirty-three years since the last American woman, Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, won Boston. “Lisa was thrilled,” says Linden.“She’d been hoping someone would do it soon.”
Fourty-six years that women have been allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon. (Eight entered and finished the 1972 race.) “You always think about history with Boston,” says Linden. “You feel like you’re running in those amazing women’s footsteps.”
Six seconds Linden waited for Flanagan to take a bathroom break roughly halfway through the Boston course. “I knew it was important to help her get back with the lead pack” says Linden. “The more Americans we had with us, the better our odds.”
That other guy on El Cap
When Alex Honnold decided to grab back the climbing speed record for the infamous Nose route on Yosemite’s El Capitan this summer, he figured the best way to guarantee success was to get his good friend Tommy Caldwell to join him. This despite the fact that Caldwell had never set a speed record. “When Tommy commits to do something, it happens,” explains Honnold.
Caldwell is among the best and most dedicated big-wall climbers in history. He spent seven years almost entirely focused on completing the first free ascent—using ropes and anchors for safety only—of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, which he completed with Kevin Jorgeson in early 2015. Their effort earned a shout-out from President Obama and is the subject of the other big climbing film released this fall, The Dawn Wall, by Sender Films.
As Honnold sees it, perceptions of Caldwell have always been half right. “His reputation as a good guy and a pillar of the community is super well-founded,” he says. But the assumption that Caldwell is just another naturally talented athlete couldn’t be further from the truth. “He never had a gift and rested on it,” Honnold says. “Everything he’s done, he was willing to make it happen. I wish I had his work ethic.” —M.S.
Barrier-busting big-wave surfer
Despite the fact that women have long been surfing the world’s biggest waves—Betty “Banzai” Depolito was charging Waimea Bay, the legendary break off Oahu’s North Shore, in the late seventies—they’ve been given few opportunities to compete in big-wave contests. The first women’s heat didn’t take place until 2010, at Oregon’s Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic. Last fall, after years of struggling to get support from the male-dominated surf industry, Depolito created a women-only contest at Waimea called Queen of the Bay, though it was canceled when the waves never came.
To date, no woman has ever competed in an event at Maverick’s, the monster swell south of San Francisco, even though Sarah Gerhardt broke the gender barrier there back in 1999, just weeks before the first Maverick’s event. That’s about to change, following the persistence of Bianca Valenti and the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, which she cofounded with three other pro women in 2016. That same year, the California Coastal Commission required the group behind the Maverick’s contest to include women in order to secure permitting. And CEWS then stepped in to ensure that the women’s purse matched the men’s.
“The organizers had told us, ‘Women aren’t ready’ or ‘It’s unsafe,’ or they’d say, ‘Yes, you can compete,’ but then nothing would happen,” Valenti says. “When we started using policy to try to make a change, things finally shifted.”
Six women, including Valenti and Gerhardt, were invited to compete in 2016. The event was canceled that winter (due to unrelated legal issues) and again earlier this year (due to lack of swell), but the weather window reopens this winter, and ten women are on the roster to be called if suitable waves arrive. Just as important, the contest is now part of the World Surf League, which Valenti is lobbying for a lot more changes.
“We still aren’t in every event, and we’re not getting pay equality,” Valenti says. “But this is a good first step.” —Megan Michelson
Frequently overlooked in the controversy surrounding Serena Williams’s dispute with an umpire at the U.S. Open tennis final was the fact that when Osaka hoisted the trophy, she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam event. It won’t be her last.
In May, three months after Randall teamed up with Jessie Diggins to capture the first ever Olympic medal, a gold, for women cross-country skiers, in Pyeongchang—Randall’s fifth Games and her first as a mother—the 35-year-old was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She’s chosen to make her battle with the disease public and candid, sharing images and videos on social media and her blog in an effort to show people what the process is really like. “Strangely, this chemo experience is kind of like my athletic career,” Randall said in a video she posted in September. “I’ve got to get enough rest, I’ve got to eat right, I’ve got to hydrate—and I’ve got to not push myself too much.” —M.M.
Skier who dropped K2
On July 22, Polish mountaineer Andrezj Bargiel became the first person to make a full ski descent of 28,251-foot K2, the second-highest peak on earth and one of the most dangerous. At least two of the handful of skiers who have attempted previous descents perished in the process. This year, the mountain’s notoriously wicked weather was milder than usual, boosting Bargiel’s odds. His drop took roughly eight hours, including one spent waiting out poor visibility at 26,000 feet. Bargiel, who had already skied down three of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, was both elated and relieved when he finally made it to base camp. “To be honest, I’m glad that I won’t be coming here again,” he said. Drone video footage of his run went viral almost instantly, but few who saw it realized the long history behind the big moment. —W.C.
Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura carves a few turns on Everest’s South Col. They are believed to be the first ski tracks made above 8,000 meters.
Swiss extreme skier Sylvain Saudan makes it down Gasherbrum, likely completing the first full ski descent of an 8,000-meter mountain.
Slovenian Davo Karnicar makes the first complete ski descent of Everest.
Italian Hans Kammerlander starts skiing from K2’s summit, but after reportedly witnessing a climber fall to his death, he completes his descent in boots.
Weather forces American Dave Watson to begin his planned K2 ski descent shy of the summit.
World War II pilot-instructor Orville Rogers lived what many would consider an entire lifetime by age 50, when he discovered running. Now 100 years old, he continues to pound the pavement—and smash age-group records along the way. We asked him how we could follow his lead. —W.C.
“I only started running competitively about 11 years ago. I looked up the world records and I thought, Hey, maybe I can do that. And I did. I set new times in the 400 and 800 meters and slaughtered the mile record. I think I broke it by two minutes.”
“I follow all the scientific reports on exercise and longevity. I eat a good breakfast with lots of multicolored fruits. I like to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night, and I nap every afternoon, whether I want to or not. But I do eat a lean steak once a week, and I have an affinity for fried okra.”
“When I turned 100 at the end of last year, I entered five races and broke five records. There’s nobody in my age group anymore. If I’m still alive in five years, I’ll be in a new bracket!”
“I had to learn a lot on my own. My dad deserted my mother, my sister, and me when I was six. If I had taken a little bit of a different course in life, I could’ve gotten into drinking and drugs.”
“Exercise isn’t everything. I’ve had two bypass surgeries.”
“Above all else, I think my health and longevity have been because of my belief in God. It’s well established that believers live longer.”
“The records are great and all, but I run because I always feel better afterward.”
Two days before Halloween, a history-making federal trial was set to get underway in a U.S. district court in Eugene, Oregon. Juliana v. the United States of Americawas filed by 21 American youths who claim that our government, by knowingly supporting activities that hasten climate change, is violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property while also inflicting damages on public-trust resources like coastlines and forests. Since the suit was filed in the summer of 2015, the government has failed numerous times to have it dismissed. When proceedings start, Kelsey Juliana, at 22 the oldest plaintiff, and the others will call on witnesses that include a Nobel Prize–winning economist, a climate scientist, and a pediatrician. But their most persuasive arguments may end up being their own personal stories. Levi Draheim, 11, lives on a barrier island in Florida that has seen rising seas, hurricanes of increasing power, and crippling property devaluation. Jayden Foytlin, 15, is from a small town in Louisiana that was devastated by a thousand-year flood. Jaime Lynn Butler, 17, had to move from her home in the Navajo Nation in Arizona to Flagstaff after the springs her extended family depend on for agriculture dried up. Their hope is to legally compel our government to take giant steps toward a zero-carbon economy. A ruling is expected sometime in the spring. Should the kids be victorious, the feds will almost certainly take the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco. If the government loses there, you can bet the fight will end up in the Supreme Court. —Will Cockrell
In March, more than 120 people representing more than half a dozen Native American tribes came together to run 785 miles across the Southwest to protest the Trump administration’s shrinking of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments in Utah. Known as Sacred Strides for Healing, the six-day relay-style event followed four separate routes that began in New Mexico, Arizona, or Colorado and ended in Bears Ears. Dustin Martin, a 28-year-old who was one of the lead organizers of the event, explained the rationale: “The best way to understand your landscape is on your feet.”
Martin, a Navajo, is executive director for Wings of America, a Santa Fe–based nonprofit that fosters activism and leadership in Native American communities through running. He described the Sacred Strides participants as prayer runners and saw their effort as the foundation for an enduring battle to protect spiritually significant public lands.
“It wasn’t just about the miles,” he says. “It’s a testimonial. As future lands come under threat, these are the people who will have firsthand accounts of what a place was and what it used to look like.”
Martin is proud of his people’s running tradition—historically it was a way to pass messages over vast distances—and often asks younger Native Americans if they could endure many miles like their ancestors. “Kids always say yes,” he says. “But Sacred Strides was hard proof. It also expanded my vision of the type of community and healing that can be facilitated by running.”
His strongest takeaway from the experience was the bond it created between different tribes. “When you cover so many miles as a team,” he says, “you gain an understanding of each other and respect for each other that you usually get only through years of collaboration.” —W.C.
Artist making bold statements with giant plants
Caron, a Swiss muralist, first began painting weeds on rooftop walls in her adopted home of San Francisco in 2010, after being captivated by the plants’ persistence in difficult conditions. Soon after, she was creating gigantic murals on buildings around the world—Brazil, Spain, Taiwan—and collaborating with local artists to produce works that incorporate economic- and environmental- justice themes. This year she completed her tallest project yet: a 16-story mural in Quito, Ecuador, that she created with painter Raúl Ayala and nine women, indigenous activists from Amazonian and Andean territories. The imagery—the native women in a surreal field of corn and yucca—salutes their fight to protect traditional agriculture from industrial food production and fossil-fuel extraction. It took several weeks to complete, and Caron was often dangling as much as 160 feet above the ground from dawn to dusk. She says: “My intention is to inspire change, to motivate through awareness, and to energize through beauty.” —Megan Michelson
Rescue diver who located the Thai soccer team
“When I was a teenager, I saw a TV program about cave diving in the UK and thought, That looks like something I’d like to do. But it wasn’t until my twenties that I managed to get equipment and train myself. I don’t have any certifications, but I’ve been diving for almost 40 years. I’ve participated in cave rescues all over the world, but I’ve never seen anything like what we saw in Thailand.
A friend in Chiang Rai told me about the soccer team before it was international news. I made some calls, and I knew my crew could add something to the mix. When we arrived, they were pumping water out of the caves and Thai Navy SEALs had been searching for a few days.
Another diver named John Volanthen and I were the first to locate the boys, ten days after they’d gone missing. We were swimming on the surface, having a conversation. The boys heard us and started calling out. We shined our light, and one by one they appeared in the dark passage. I was amazed they were still alive. They were very stoic—they said thank you again and again. One asked if we could take them out, and John said, ‘Not today.’
But we told them it was going to be OK and that more people would be coming to help. At that point, we genuinely had no idea how to get them out. The plan evolved. We’d found them on a Monday, and by the following Sunday we were able to transport the first boy out through nearly a mile of largely flooded passages. It was a technically difficult dive with minimal visibility, and many of the boys couldn’t swim.
Once we had all 13 out, somebody snuck a bottle of bourbon into the entrance of the cave, and we had a small celebratory drink. We met some of the parents later—that was very emotional. We stood in a line opposite each other, and because of the language barrier, we didn’t really speak, but they came in for hugs. Most rescues don’t end on such a happy note.” —As told to M.M.
Wildfire chief on the front lines
California has entered a frightening new era of catastrophic wildfires. Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, has directed the state’s response to the blazes, which has made him acutely aware of the health and safety of firefighters. “This year we had multiple fires that exceeded 100,000 acres,” he says. “That puts more stress on firefighters: more days on the fire line, more days away from home. All that comes at a cost.”
As each year brings another round of record-setting infernos, the men and women in the field are being asked to do more. “We can’t keep working people four or five weeks straight,” he says. “We need to ensure they get time off, to be away from work. It’s no different than soldiers being deployed overseas. They build up stresses.” Pimlott, who’s been chief since 2010, has responded by beefing up staffing year-round and rewriting the state’s strategic plan for managing fires in a changing climate. Six firefighters were killed in various incidents earlier this year, and he was on the ground immediately for most. “I’ve been in the room with grieving families all too often,” he says. In December, Pimlott will retire after 31 years of service. His plan? “I haven’t taken a vacation in eight years, so I’d like to go to Hawaii with my family.” —M.M.
Fitness startup Peloton has transformed at-home workouts with a high-tech spinning bike and live online classes led by charismatic instructors. After six years of growth, in August the company received $550 million in new funding. For cofounder and CEO John Foley, an avid cyclist, guiding Peloton’s rise has been the ride of his life. —Will Cockrell
Three days per week Foley was attending spinning classes when he came up with the idea for a virtual cycling class in 2012. “My first love is outdoor cycling. But when you have kids and a job, efficiency becomes a big deal.”
Four-hundred potential investors who passed on Foley’s pitch between 2012 and 2015. “People said, ‘Wow, this sounds very hard and very capital intensive, and you don’t even know if there’s a market for this product’. I’d say, ‘It’s a new category, so there’s no research!’ ”
Twenty-million dollars: the approximate amount Foley eventually raised from some 200 angel investors who took a risk on his concept. Most startups depend on funds from a few venture capital firms.
Two-thousand dollars: the price of a Peloton bike.
Thirty-nine dollars: the monthly price of a Peloton workout subscription. “Over 95 percent of our bike buyers are still subscribers,” Foley says.
Eighteen-thousand-five-hundred: the largest attendance at a single Peloton class to date.
Four-thousand dollars: the price of a Tread, Peloton’s treadmill (available early next year), designed to facilitate running and strength workouts. “There are 85 SoulCycle locations globally,” he says. “There are 1,000 Orangetheory studios. People like full-body circuit training.”
Four billion dollars: Peloton’s valuation as of October 2018.
Entrepreneur calling out all the suckers
This year the world decided to conquer its addiction to plastic drinking straws, and Cohen played a starring role. Americans alone use some 390 million plastic straws each day, with an estimated 7.4 million eventually winding up along our coasts. In 2018, Seattle and Miami Beach banned them; corporate giants including Alaska Airlines, Disney, Ikea, Marriott, and Starbucks committed to ditching them; and the Queen of England declared them unfit for royal palaces. All of which raises a crucial question: How will we slurp our iced macchiatos without them? Cohen’s answer: the stainless-steel collapsible Final Straw ($25), which raised $1.8 million in 30 days on Kickstarter, thanks in part to a cheeky video featuring a mermaid, and began shipping in November. —Megan Michelson
Gear innovator powering the developing world
Since its launch in 2011, Brooklyn- and Nairobi-based BioLite has taken a unique approach to product research and design, simultaneously creating camping goods for Western consumers and daily life tools for off-grid communities in developing nations. BioLite calls this model parallel innovation and is developing new technologies for electricity and clean cooking that can be used in both markets. The results have been impressive: the company’s clever twig-burning CampStove, which uses thermoelectricity to juice up phones and other devices, was a breakout hit in the U.S. in 2012. The next year, in India and Africa, BioLite introduced the HomeStove, which recharges electronics and reduces hazardous smoke inside homes.
“We thought, Could we build a company that serves families in a place where they need cooking fires and electric charging, while also satisfying the needs of campers?” says BioLite cofounder Jonathan Cedar. “The combination has enabled us to move the needle.”
Some of the same smoke-reduction design elements of the HomeStove were incorporated into this year’s $200 camping FirePit. The 20-pound unit, about the size of a large toaster, eliminates nearly all wood smoke and drastically improves burning efficiency with air jets powered by a rechargeable battery. Swap in charcoal for timber and it’s a pro-quality grill. —M.M.
Entrepreneur shaking up women’s athletic wear
When Tyler Haney founded Outdoor Voices in 2014, her goal was to create a line of leggings and tops that motivated people to get outside and do things. Fast forward to today and her brand has 11 storefronts and counting, 125 employees (80 percent of them women), and $56.5 million raised in venture funding. We spoke to Haney at her new Austin, Texas, headquarters. —M.M.
How did Outdoor Voices get started?
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, at the base of the Flatirons, where the spirit of daily exercise was baked into my lifestyle. But when I moved to New York City after high school, I lost my motivation. I figured I wasn’t alone in that, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a brand that prioritized getting out and being active versus being the first to cross the finish line?
What makes your stuff different?
We have hiking leggings coming out in 2019 that have a snack pocket. We want our leggings to say, It’s OK to stop and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the side of the trail. We focus on exercisers, not athletes. That includes all shapes, sizes, and ages.
What’s behind the name?
When you’re little, your mom always says, “Use your indoor voice.” I wanted to celebrate energy and enthusiasm.
You don’t like the term athleisure. Why?
Because it sounds very lethargic and because there are too many fashion brands applying a sport aesthetic to products that aren’t actually built to sweat in.
What’s your trick for getting unmotivated people to be active?
We’re inviting them to be part of a community without any pressure. At our stores, we host jogger clubs, stroller rollers, dog walks, and kickboxing and dance classes. I’ve got rollerblades in my office right now. We put on what we call a hippie triathlon, where we bike to the trail, run, then jump in a pool. We want to find new, fun ways of getting out there.
Who is your biggest competition?
We’re going after Lululemon in a big way. I’ll leave it at that.
Controversy has tailed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke practically since he assumed the job and hoisted his specially made flag above his office. As head of the Department of the Interior, he oversees 500 million acres of public land—about one-fifth of the United States—and is charged with both preserving our nation’s natural resources and managing them for commercial use. A former Navy SEAL and an avid hunter, Zinke considers himself an outdoorsman in the style of America’s 26th president. “I’m a Teddy Roosevelt guy,” he has said. “You can’t love public lands more than I do.”
But what would Roosevelt, a celebrated conservationist who created five national parks and 18 national monuments, really think of Zinke’s efforts? To answer that question, we created this helpful tracker, which judges noteworthy moments in Interior Secretary Zinke’s tenure as they happen, rating each on a scale from Perturbed Teddy to Angry Teddy to Raging Teddy.
Excavation Over Mitigation
Secretary Zinke decided the Department of Interior should do away with a policy called “compensatory mitigation.” It was introduced to act as a give and take between extraction industries and environmentalists by asking companies to offset damage in one spot by funding conservation in another. For example, if a company wanted to expand its operation on public lands in one area where unavoidable damage to a stream was likely, the company might back a wetland restoration project in another area. Zinke's announcement came just a few days after the Trump administration said it wants to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (primarily to make it easier for companies to work in protected habitats), and environmentalists saw this as another move to hack away at protections in favor of industry. “These companies have been asked to pay for the damage they are doing to our public resources on our public lands. And now the Trump administration is saying you don’t need to pay that bill,” Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, told Bloomberg.
Land use is becoming an ever more volatile topic in this administration. But policies like this were actually designed to help the environmentalist and pro-extraction camps work through arguments. Now that compensatory mitigation is gone, the gridlock and frustration on both sides will probably get worse.
Rating: Angry Teddy
Zinke may have violated conflict-of-interest laws when a foundation under his name worked on a real estate deal with Halliburton chairperson David Lesar. The Interior Department’s internal watchdog opened an investigation—the 11th to date during Zinke’s 16 months at his post—because the secretary stood to personally profit from the deal. Halliburton is one of the largest oil drilling and fracking companies in the world, with projects highly affected by DOI policies.
Politico is covering the complicated investigation in detail. The short version is that Zinke met with Halliburton executives at DOI headquarters in August, and they discussed the interior secretary’s Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, which is trying to build a park in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana. A month later, Zinke’s wife signed an agreement allowing a developer connected to Lesar to build a parking lot on land the foundation owns. Lesar is also backing commercial development in Whitefish, including retail shops, a hotel, and microbrewery, that would be set aside for Zinke and his wife. Plus, with all the development nearby, the land Zinke owns would greatly increase in value.
It’s a deal that is potentially rife with the kind of elitist profiteering Teddy opposed.
Rating: Angry Teddy
Zinke Sabotages Our Best Public Lands Program
As a Montana congressman, Zinke was an adamant supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that Whit Fosburgh, president of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, called the “the single most important program for protecting threatened access and opening up new access that the government has.” Even when his Republican colleagues turned their backs on the LWCF, Zinke stood up for it. “I know what is at stake if we lose this critical resource. This isn’t about politics,” he said in 2015. Fast-forward three years, and Secretary Zinke is urging the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations to slash the LWCF to less than 1 percent of its maximum allotment, essentially disabling the program.
As Outside contributor Elliot Woods wrote, “If Zinke does not find the nerve to speak up publicly for the LWCF, or if Congress doesn’t intervene, the fund will lapse into its most meager state since its creation.”
Rating: Raging Teddy
The “Made in America” (aka Privatization) Committee
When Zinke created his “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, he staffed it with manufacturing executives, the heads of companies with national park contracts, and people who want to increase park privatization. Three of the committee members were even flagged by DOI staff for having conflicts of interest because they stood to gain financially from their influence on national parks policies. Meanwhile, none of the Outdoor Industry Association’s nominees were selected. If the goal was to increase the profitability of parks and focus on how they can earn private interests more money, Zinke assembled a crack team.
This was a blatant move by Zinke to put private interests over the preservation of public lands.
Rating: Angry Teddy
Those Insanely Expensive Doors
Zinke had egg on his face after it was learned his office planned to spend $139,000 on a new set of doors. Granted, the DOI headquarters was built in 1936 and has been undergoing a decade-long renovation. But still, what kind of doors cost that much? Apparently the price was for two sets of double doors, including a pair that led to—of course—the balcony in Zinke’s office. When news of the cost broke, Zinke claimed not to have known about the contract. He later told the House Committee on Natural Resources that he’d talked the contractor that bid for the job down to $75,000.
Rating: Perturbed Teddy
Honey, I Shrunk the Monuments
Late last year, President Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears (by 85 percent) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (by half) national monuments. Zinke played a major part in the decision. In April 2017, Trump tasked Zinke to review 27 national monuments; the interior secretary’s ensuing report suggested shrinking six, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Trump and Zinke both said the decision had nothing to do with pleasing extraction industries. But that’s hard to believe given that just days after the new boundaries took effect, we learned that uranium company Energy Fuels Resources strongly lobbied Utah Republicans and the Interior Department to shrink Bears Ears, even going so far as to prepare maps that pointed to the areas it wanted removed from the monument. In the months leading up to the decision, Energy Fuels execs had even met with Zinke’s office and reportedly came away thinking the DOI was “pretty positively disposed” to what they had to say.
One assumes this action would make Teddy Roosevelt livid. After all, he was the president who signed the Antiquities Act that gave presidents the power to create national monuments.
Rating: Raging Teddy
Loyal to What Flag?
Speaking to an oil industry group, Zinke complained about the strictures of the Endangered Species Act, saying he wanted to deregulate environmental protections as quickly as possible but was facing pushback, in part, because 30 percent of his employees were not “loyal to the flag.” The implication was that not all of his 70,000 employees were on board with the Trump administration’s sprint to enact business-friendly policies.
There’s no problem with making jobs a priority. And, yes, government regulations can be burdensome. But as head of the DOI, Zinke seems singularly focused on using the land he controls to generate revenue. In contrast, during Roosevelt’s time, there was a great national debate about how the United States might run out of natural resources, as well as a growing recognition that pollution is a serious threat to health. This is what led Roosevelt to listen to environmentalists like John Muir and drove him to conserve wild lands in the first place.
Zinke seems unaware of the fact that a major part of his job is to conserve public land in a natural state. DOI staffers who adhere to the full mission of the department shouldn’t be called traitors.
Rating: Perturbed Teddy
Get in Line—or Else
After Alaskan senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan—both Republicans—voted no on President Trump’s Obamacare repeal, they got a phone call from Zinke. According to Murkowski, the interior secretary told her that “the president is really disappointed in what he perceives to be as your lack of support for health care reform”—and then Zinke raised the subject of energy projects in her state. Murkowski, a proponent of big extraction projects, said the implication was that dissent might come at a cost. Sullivan had a similar experience. “We’re facing some difficult times, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear,” he said.
Zinke would later call accusations that he threatened the two senators “laughable.” But they were plausible enough for the DOI’s Office of Inspector General to open an investigation. It was later dropped after the two senators refused to cooperate.
Roosevelt was a maverick in his time. Hell, he created his own political party. Zinke, however, has repeatedly shown that he’s willing to bend ethical boundaries and side with the Trump administration even when doing so contradicts his own beliefs.
Rating: Perturbed Teddy
That Charter Plane
During his first summer on the job, Zinke started to stretch the ethical perks of his position—the sort of thing that would later land EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in hot water. In June 2017, Zinke flew to Las Vegas to give a speech to the Golden Knights hockey team that had nothing to do with DOI business. His office would later describe it as “sort of an inspiration-type speech, one that a coach might give.” When Zinke left Vegas for his home state of Montana, he booked a $12,375 charter flight and billed it to taxpayers. The DOI’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation, and it turned out the hockey team’s owner had donated to Zinke’s first congressional campaign in Montana. The OIG gave Zinke a strong wag of the finger, saying although the flight had been approved by DOI ethics officials, they likely only did so because Zinke didn’t give them enough information about the trip and his connection to the team’s owner.
Despite the 26th president’s aristocratic upbringing, he was a man of the people. Spending taxpayer money to hobnob with wealthy campaign donors is very un-Teddy-like.
There are points in life that forever change who we are and who we will become. Often, these are our “firsts.” It could be something heavy, like falling in love or being thrown from your raft in the Grand Canyon and pinned underwater until your heart stopped. But the power of defining moments is that they don’t have to be major events. Maybe you grew up with a wooded backyard that ingrained a love of nature, or maybe it was the first time you lived out of your van that gave you a real taste of freedom. Like you, our writers have their own moments that forever changed their lives. Below, we’ve collected some of our favorites.
My First Time: Saving a Life
Twenty-five years ago, writer, director, and photographer Jeff Johnson was a lifeguard on Oahu when 30-foot waves started detonating on the reef.
I arrived early to set up the lifeguard tower at Sunset Beach, on Oahu’s North Shore. It was 1994, my first winter season as a lifeguard. I’d made a few mellow rescues but hadn’t been involved in anything serious yet. This morning, the waves were small and clean. The water was packed with bodies.
My First: Emergency Landing
When the engine light flicks off, do you listen to the voice that says it’s time to panic or the one urging you to calmly set the plane down?
When the engine on my ultralight cut out, I was supposed to be ready. Pilots aren’t pessimists, but we practice worst-case scenarios over and over. I’d been flying for years, yet I hadn’t practiced for that sucker punch of adrenaline, the way my hair stood on end, the shock of the sudden silence.
My First: Daffy
Quite possibly the most storied, most coveted, most majestic of all tricks—held for three glorious seconds.
I can get down a ski hill nice and clean, but I’ve never been an air guy. Now that I’m almost 50, I prefer to keep the skis on the snow. Even in my oblivious, invincible years, I was wary of the ether.
My First: Kiss
After 13 agonizing years of waiting, it finally happened for writer Wells Tower—and then the moment disappeared.
At 13, I was sure I was the only American boy who hadn’t yet gotten his mouth onto someone else’s mouth. They were doing it on the school bus and down at the teen center, really kissing.
My First: Great White
Trolling the Pacific Ocean for sharks on a boat called the Dinner Plate.
What I noticed, in the moments before I saw the shark, was the silence. It was a deep silence, full of myth and primordial fear.
My First: True Love
How to love someone like you love a mountain, and how to allow yourself to fall.
Last fall, I met a Forest Service lifer named Mike, a long and lean natural athlete who, like me, chose southwestern Colorado’s high country as the place to spend his life, and who, also like me, loves more than anything to hike long distances and sleep on the ground.
My First: Bear Scare
When all else fails, run around like a raving lunatic while you swing a burning log.
In the summer of 1993, when I was newly married, my husband B. and I took his nephew and my two little brothers camping in the Sierra Nevada. Neither I nor the boys, who were ages 12 to 14, had ever been on a serious hiking trip—an unthinkable experiential deficit, in my outdoorsy husband’s view.
My First: Summer Living in My Van
Writer Ian Frazier learns that if you want to impress anyone while you’re living in your van, for God’s sake, don’t tell them you live in your van.
I had not expected that it would tick. As soon as the sun hit it in the morning—at 6 a.m. or so, in June, in northern Michigan—the metal would start to expand in the heat: tick…tick…tick. My first summer living in my van, in the Pigeon River campground near the town of Vanderbilt, I almost never succeeded in sleeping past dawn.
My First: Drowning
After a legendary career in adventure writing, Tim Cahill thought his story was over. Thrown from a raft in the Grand Canyon’s Lava Falls, he was trapped underwater and out of air. When he finally reached land, his heart stopped for several minutes. Then he came back—and decided to risk Lava again.
Now, on the matter of my death in the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, specifically after an alarming swim in Lava Falls—universally considered the canyon’s nastiest and most difficult rapid—I confess that I miscalculated badly. I miscalculated previous to the run and then again in the aftermath of the excitement to come.
My First: Rattlesnake Bite
When Kyle Dickman set out on a monthlong road trip with his wife and infant son last spring, he was fueled by a carefree sense of adventure that had defined his entire life. Then he got bit by a venomous snake in a remote area of Yosemite National Park, and the harrowing event changed everything.
My parents like to say they raised my older brother, Garrett, and me in the Church of Seventh Day Recreation. As a kid growing up in Oregon, I remember asking them if we could actually stay home one weekend instead of camping or hiking or canoeing. They relented, but that was the exception to the rule. Through that prism, you might say I was preordained to be with my family on that bridge, with that snake, on that warm April morning in Yosemite.
My First: Encounters with Nature
If you’re lucky, you encountered nature for the first time by running out the back door. During our writer’s boyhood, a suburban forest was a gateway to learning, exploration, and natural splendors that shaped his life and career.
When you’re a kid, the world seems big and ordained. Things are as they are because they are. Even your neighborhood seems big and ordained, until you outgrow it, depart, and consider it again from a distance. Then you might start to see its deeper dimensions—its layers of time, contingency, and meaning.
My First: Oxygen-Free Everest Summit
No one knew if it could be done. But when Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler climbed Mount Everest without oxygen in 1978, they smashed one of the last barriers of human performance. Almost 40 years later, both legends talk about their first ascent by “fair means”—and the long-running feud that followed.
Tenzing Norgay wasn’t buying it. Neither were the five other Sherpas who’d summited Mount Everest since 1953, when Tenzing and Edmund Hillary first knocked the bastard off. The Euros had been too fast—too fast to have climbed the mountain with bottled oxygen, let alone without it. But such was the claim that Italian Reinhold Messner, then 33, and Austrian Peter Habeler, 35, were making about their Everest summit on May 8, 1978.
My First: Home Sweet Home
Memorable lives combine tough choices, an adventurous spirit, hard work, and luck—and who knows where any of it comes from? For our writer, the wellspring was a Colorado spread that she was barely able to buy in 1993. It became her escape from a violent childhood and the magical ground that changed her life.
When I look out my kitchen window, I see a horseshoe of snow-covered peaks, all of them higher than 12,000 feet. I see my old barn—old enough to have started to lean a little—and the homesteaders’ cabin, which has so much space between the logs now that the mice don’t even have to duck to crawl through.
My First: Battle with PTSD
When alpinist and photographer Cory Richards dug himself out of an avalanche in 2011, he emerged alive but scarred—an ascendant star in a community that tends to shun the very idea that trauma can have lasting effects. As his profile climbed ever higher, his career and personal life imploded. Six years later, one of the world’s best artist-adventurers comes clean about the panic attacks, PTSD, and alcohol abuse that nearly killed him.
As soon as Cory Richards realized that he had survived the avalanche, he turned his camera on. It was February 2, 2011, and Richards had just summited 26,360-foot Gasherbrum II—the 13th-tallest peak in the world.
My First: Ayahuasca Trip
Was it the time travelers, the jaguar people, or the song from Pocahontas? All I know is that, as my exploration of psychedelics grew from a few camp-out mushrooms to full-on ayahuasca ceremonies, I felt better than I ever had in my life.
“Are you feeling the plants?” Pluma Blanco whispered. It was nearly midnight, in the darkened great room of a mansion in a nice neighborhood overlooking San Francisco. I was kneeling behind a makeshift altar arrayed with objects of spiritual significance set out by the 20 or so other houseguests lying prone on blankets and camping pads on the floor.
The tweet, which we assume came from Department of the Interior press secretary Heather Swift or someone on her team, accused Outside of letting bias creep into our reporting and implied that many of our stories advocate for a partisan (read: liberal) agenda.
We want to use that accusation as an opportunity to address these issues head-on and talk about how we approach DOI and public-land stories. We also want to clear up what “getting more political” means to us. (That’s Recode Media’s headline, by the way, not a direct quote from our executive editor Axie Navas.)
Readers look to us for coverage of the great outdoors, which means we have an obligation to go deep on the people and policies affecting wild places. To do that, we work with a team of ace writers, including Abe Streep, Christopher Solomon, Leah Sottile, Jake Bullinger, and Elliott Woods. The team reports on public-land stories in a clear-eyed, authoritative way.
What our writers and editors have noticed is that since Donald Trump took office and appointed Zinke to lead the DOI, the country’s public lands have increasingly come under attack. As Outside’s editor, Christopher Keyes, wrote in the magazine last year, “What used to be a trickle of seemingly minor policy stories has become a weekly firehose of significant developments. To name a few: President Trump’s executive order requiring Interior secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 national monuments; Zinke’s proposal to reduce the budget and staff of the already strapped Interior Department; and Representative [Rob] Bishop’s unveiling of a new bill that would dramatically alter the Antiquities Act by decreasing the executive branch’s power to designate new national monuments.”
Such developments have national consequences—which is why Outside chose to cover them. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a magazine that uses the narrow focus of the outdoors to tell stories with broad appeal, and if it seems to the DOI that we’ve upped our political coverage lately, it’s because there’s a lot of news in that realm worth reporting. (We’ve largely ignored the scandals that have plagued Zinke personally, choosing instead to concentrate on decisions affecting the places our readers love. Admittedly, we did cover his inability to properly rig a fly rod.)
Recently, we decided to poll Outside staffers on their favorite sports moments in history. We didn’t discuss our picks beforehand, but clearly a good number of us are hopeless Lance Armstrong fangirls and boys: He claims one-third of our favorite moments in this list. Below, listed in no particular order, are all the moments that made a big impact on us personally, forever altered an athlete or sport, or are just indisputably badass.
Lance Armstrong’s Off-Road Shortcut in the Tour de France
Even if you’ve never watched the Tour de France, you’ve likely come across this remarkable clip from the 2009 running of the famous stage race. Denigrate Lance Armstrong all you want, but this moment—in which he rides at speed across a steep, grassy shoulder on teeny, tiny road bike tires—unequivocally proves that the man is a phenomenal athlete. And that he deserved his TdF wins. (Discuss.)
—Axie Navas, executive editor
Jessie Diggins’ and Kikkan Randall’s Olympic Gold Medal
There’s a reason cross-country skiing is often referenced as Nordic skiing: The elite end of the sport is dominated by Nordic countries. The win by Jessie Diggins and Kikken Randall cemented the United States’ place among the top nations in this sport and brought the sport into the national consciousness in a way it hasn’t been for a long time—maybe ever. For the U.S. cross-country ski team, which has been historically underfunded (athletes often have to raise funds to get themselves to overseas competitions and training camps), increased awareness (hopefully) translates into increased interest and support.
—Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor
Honnold’s Free Solo of El Cap
I was sitting in a newsroom in Washington, D.C., last June (at another job) when a co-worker who knew little about the sport yelled out, “Holy shit!” I figured someone important was bailing on Trump’s White House. But then my co-worker asked if I knew who the hell this Alex Honnold guy was.
Honnold’s accomplishment may seem a bit too obvious, but I’m a sucker for history partly because it’s so interesting to trace a truly defining moment backwards to see all the other smaller moments that built up to it. Outside contributor Daniel Duane wrote in the New York Times shortly after Honnold’s feat that, until that day, a free solo of El Cap had been talked about in the same spirit as “science fiction buffs muse about faster-than-light-speed travel.” But back in the 1950s, people were making the same kind of comments to guys like Warren Harding, saying that just climbing El Cap was nuts. We have these kind of circular conversations about risk and sanity a lot—like we did recently when Honnold and Tommy Caldwell pulled off their sub-two on the Nose. I’m not saying these conversations aren’t necessary, but look at what the people who ignore them accomplish.
—J. Weston Phippen, senior editor
Lance Armstrong Gives Jan Ullrich “The Look”
In 2001, Lance Armstrong was going for his third Tour de France victory. Like many Americans, I was religiously watching bike race coverage live for the first time and still trying to figure out the appeal. This was the moment that hooked me. Obviously, you can’t look back at this seminal moment without acknowledging that both Armstrong and Ullrich—and seemingly everyone else in the peloton—were awash in EPO and blood transfusions. But caveats aside, the boldness of the move still stands. On one of the most legendary climbs in the Tour, l’Alpe d’Huez, Lance stares down his main rival to size him up, then brutally drops the hammer. As usual, announcer Phil Liggett captured it best: “He took a look straight into the eyes of Jan Ullrich and said, Well, here I go. Are you coming or not? And the answer is, Not.”
—Chris Keyes, editor
Margo Hayes’ Face After Sending La Rambla
When Margo Hayes sent La Rambla in February 2017, she became the first woman in the world to send a confirmed 5.15a. And not just any 5.15a, but a benchmark route that only the best of the best have climbed. Her human reaction mirrors what all of us feel when we finally do That Thing—whether it’s top out on our super-sketchy highball project or stick a move we never in a million years thought we could with a negative-three ape index (maybe that’s just me). The destination is that much sweeter when we’ve had to work for it.
—Jenny Earnest, social media manager
Greg Lemond in the 1989 Tour de France
I didn’t watch the 1989 Tour as it happened. But a few years later, when I was seven or eight, a friend and I discovered a VHS recording in his parents’ basement. Once we watched it, we were hopeless Greg Lemond fans. We’d wake up, watch a stage of the race as we ate cereal, and then hop on our bikes and ride laps on his circular driveway, huffing up the hill (elevation gain: maybe 20 feet) and crouching down over the handlebars on the downhill.
—Jonah Ogles, articles editor
Brett Tippey, Wade Simmons, Richie Schley, and Co. Riding the Gravel Pits in Kamloops, British Columbia, in ‘Kranked,’ 1998
Okay, so Darcy Hennessey Turenne actually made an entire documentary about this moment (aptly titled The Moment), and everyone should watch it. The gravel pits in Kamloops are pivotal in Turenne’s film and for mountain biking in general, which was busy finding its freeride spirit one face plant and busted frame at a time. The scene in Kranked has everything that’s great about action sports: wild personalities; an aesthetic, improbable dream that asks the human body to do unbelievable things; a healthy dose of audacity; and, of course, a little blood and dirt in the mouth.
—Abigail Barronian, assistant fitness editor
Lance Armstrong’s Crash and Comeback on Luz Ardiden
It was 2003, Lance Armstrong was going for his fifth Tour de France win, and I was just a teenager. My family had always tuned in to the Tour, but 2003 was the first time I really took an interest in the race. And what a race it was that year. Armstrong’s longtime foil Jan Ullrich had a chance to actually win, and the Texan somehow seemed human that year. Of all the stages, I’ll never forget Armstrong’s handlebar clipping a fan, his fall, and everything that happened next: Ullrich letting up on the pace, and Armstrong catching back on and attacking. That day made a lifelong fan of the sport and Armstrong out of me.
—Scott Rosenfield, digital editorial director
Lynn Hill Frees the Nose
Long before the days of Sasha, Ashima, and Margo, Lynn Hill busted through gender barriers in the climbing world. In 1993, Hill became the first person—not the first woman!—to free-climb the Nose on El Cap in Yosemite National Park. She was already well-known at the time, but sending the 31-pitch route forever sealed her legacy and paved the way for women in a historically bro-centric sport. After she sent it, Hill famously said, “It goes, boys.”
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