The Art of Now

05.08.14

Now That Everest Is Closed, Check Out These Other Extreme Adventures

The sherpa strike left you with no highest mountain to climb? Check out these extreme adventures to satisfy your inner Edmund Hillary until Chomolungma’s back in action.
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Summit Pakistan’s Deadly Peak

Everest gets all the fame and glory, but it’s K2, the world's second-highest mountain, that strikes fear in the hearts of even the most experienced mountain climbers. Towering above Pakistan’s Karakoram Range on the Chinese border, K2 has earned its nickname of “Savage Mountain,” with a 25 percent fatality rate and severe storms that have never allowed a winter climb. A mere 300 or so people in its 60-year climbing history have successfully summited the 28,252-foot peak of K2. An exceptionally brutal climb in 2008 claimed the lives of 11 out of a group of 24 climbers.  

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Dive the Deepest Hole

Dean’s Blue Hole, a gaping underwater cave on Long Island in the Bahamas, is the deepest undersea grotto in the world. While Everest may be the Holy Grail for hikers worldwide, Dean’s Blue Hole, at 663 feet deep, is beguiling for those daring individuals known as free divers. The locations, believed by locals to be the work of the devil, is the site of the annual Vertical Blue, which has been called the Wimbledon of free diving. Free diving is a type of diving that has become popular amongst extreme sports enthusiasts, and involves the diver trying to go as deep as he or she can on just one breath. There’s good reason the islanders ascribe diabolical origins to the hole, as it has claimed multiple human lives, notably in recent years the record-breaking American free diver Nicholas Mevoli.  

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Hike the Driest Desert

Don’t forget Chapstick! Deemed the driest place on Earth, the Altacam Desert in South America boasts spots where scientists think no single raindrop has ever fallen. The tough terrain has become a popular hiking destination, known for its stark beauty and breathtaking stargazing. While there, don’t miss the active geyser fields with boiling steam, a 36-foot sculpture of a hand breaking through the desert in Antofagasta, four-and-a-half-feet-tall penguin skeletons, and ALMA, the world’s most expensive ground-based telescope.

Run the Most Extreme Marathon

This epic race across the Moroccan Sahara pushes more than 1,000 runners on the ultra-marathon of a lifetime. The six-day course of the Marathon of the Sands encompasses the equivalent of five-and-a-half regular marathons in scorching temperatures up to 120 degrees, and over inhospitable terrain—all while carrying your equipment on your back. It’s unofficial title is “the toughest footrace on earth.” Still interested? The website warns, “You may struggle to explain to people why you would want to do this!” If snow is more your thing, the 6633 Extreme Winter Ultramarathon runs 350 miles across the Arctic Circle.   

Drive the "Death Road"

Known by its morbid moniker “death road,” Bolivia’s Yungus Road, which connects La Paz to Coroico, has been called the most dangerous path in the world. The location of thousands of deaths over the past few decades, it has nevertheless become a popular biking route. Chock-full of hairpin bends, stomach-plummeting heights (it’s an 11,800-foot drop from beginning to end), landslides, and narrow, rocky patches, it’s a siren call for those for whom mountain biking alone isn’t enough. Et tu, Tour de France?

Ski the Scariest Chute

This Jackson Hole, Wyoming, chute is notorious for the amount of skiers who come down with a case of cold feet upon approach. And for good reason: the legendary Corbet’s Couloir starts with a 25-foot plunge before snow and skis connect, and then skiers are left to navigate a 55-degree slope flanked by a rock wall that turns into a run forebodingly called “Meet Your Maker.” Apparently, the chute’s namesake, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides founder James Barry Corbet, spotted the deadly stretch in 1960 and said, “Someday, someone will ski that.” 

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Climb a Bubbling Volcano

The vocabulary used to describe many of the world’s more treacherous wonders usually includes some demonic reference. Ethiopia’s volcano Erta Ale, known as “the gateway to hell,” is no exception. This Mount Doom-esque volcano is 2,011 feet high and constantly active—not to mention that it’s located in one of the driest and hottest places on Earth. The volcano is also in a dangerous region, both due to the notoriously protective Afar people, as well as being in an area where visitors have been victims of the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The prize for the hike in these insane conditions is Erta Ale’s famous lava lake, which can only be seen by walking to the edge and gazing down in a cauldron of fire.  

Ride the Roughest Rapids

There are plenty of whitewater rapids throwing oar-welding rowers to and fro in rivers across the globe—but some rise a grade about the rest. In Tibet, the Tsangpo River has earned a reputation as the “Everest of Rivers" for its inaccessibility and almost unconquerable rapids. Snaking through the Tibetan Plateau, it averages an elevation of 13,000 feet, but the river gorge also drops so low, it’s three times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Don’t let the area’s natural beauty fool you—the gorge is thought to be inspiration for Shangri-la—the deadly river has forced countless explorers to turn back. In 2002, a daring seven-person expedition became the first party to ever kayak the 44-mile-long upper gorge, spending 45 days in a hellish ordeal.

Rock Climb the World's Hardest Route

Dubbed the hardest sport climb in the world, Spain’s La Dura Dura route has only been conquered by two top climbers, who spent two years attempting the rocks in Oriana. Clocking in with a rating of 5.15c, it’s considered one of the globe’s most strenuous routes. Recently a second climb has surfaced as a contender for the title: one of La Dura Dura’s climbers has proposed Norway’s Flatanger Cave, a soaring cavern with a gorgeous view and gravity defying slopes, for the same rating.   

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Surf the Toughest Wave

If there was a reality show called So You Think You Can Surf, the mutant waves at Shipstern’s Bluff in Tasmania would certainly be the final obstacle. This remote breakpoint is accessible only by boat or a tough hike, and is famous for its waves having steps, which start at 8 feet and go to 20 feet, and trip up many a skilled surfer. It also takes place near a minefield of rocks, is a hangout spot for sharks, and breaks on a reef.  

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