As wingsuiters whizz by in YouTube clips and snowboarders spin high above the halfpipe at the Winter Olympics, it’s easy to lose sight of what defines a true adventurer. We too often equate adrenaline with adventure; we too often mistake athletes for adventurers. But true adventure is a far more frightening proposition than most athletes and adrenaline junkies could ever handle. You see, the most adventurous people in the world are heading into truly uncharted territory, whether pioneering an entirely new sport, reinventing old ones, using art to inspire action, or challenging seemingly immoveable stereotypes.
These 18 people are on their own personal mountains, as we speak, trudging forward through naysayers, Mother Nature, and physical limitations to reach their own particular summits. Some are almost at the top; others have a long climb ahead of them—and every one of them is changing the world through adventure in their own distinct way.
Additional research by Mary Anne Potts.
The 18 Most Adventurous People in the World
1. ALEX HONNOLD, Free Solo Rock Climber
Rock climber Alex Honnold’s name pops up on lists like this one more than any other person on the planet—his ropeless ascents are so universally frightening and impressive that he has come to embody what we think of as adventure. In fact, Honnold’s ascents would be considered major accomplishments even if he did use ropes, and yet he is committed to the you-fall-you-die style in a way that no free-soloist has ever been. Thus, the 32-year-old is the only person to have ever soloed famous big walls such as Half Dome, Moonlight Buttress in Utah and, most famously, El Capitan.
“I love all types of climbing,” he told Men’s Journal, noting that he spends most of his time climbing with ropes. “But free soloing is for special occasions—from time to time there is a climb that means enough to me to solo.”
That passion was beautifully captured recently when he invited a film crew to document his first free solo ascent El Capitan, perhaps the most groundbreaking climb of his life. “That’s by far the most meaningful climb I’ve ever done,” he says. “It seemed impossible.”
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