Ski and snowboard mountaineers walk the Biafo Glacier in Pakistan.
Photograph by Bill Stevenson, Aurora/Corbis
Dream Trip: Snowboard the Himalaya
More than 110 peaks rise to over 24,000 feet in the Himalaya, making it both the loftiest mountain range on Earth and an irresistible stomping grounds for elite adventurers. Gretchen Bleiler is no exception. The accomplished competition and backcountry snowboarder daydreams about a journey to the region for both its adventurous allure and its cultural and spiritual mystique.
She envisions "a trip to the Himalaya where we go on treks and snowboard, build jumps to learn tricks, practice yoga, and also adventure to find hidden monasteries in the middle of nowhere.” As for specifics, Bleiler is still hatching a plan. She could wander anywhere from the flanks of 20,200-foot Thorung Peak to the snowfields, glaciers, and pinnacles surrounding Everest. One thing is certain: Along the way, she’d undoubtedly encounter the captivating suggestions of Himalayan culture: stupas on remote hilltops, chants wafting from high monasteries, and ubiquitous prayer flags that carry missives to the heavens.
Will Steger climbs a glacier in Ellesmere Island in 2008.
Dream Trip: Traverse the High Arctic, Canada
“The Inuit or Eskimo people call this area the land of hardship and starvation,” says Will Steger of Canada’s Arctic—in other words, an obvious vacation destination for the famed polar explorer. “For adventure’s sake, I’m stringing together an extremely challenging route, up valleys and rivers and crossing mountains, the whole thing,” says Steger of a 2,000-mile dream expedition that he will undertake during the winter of 2013—14. “A lot of the areas I’ve always wanted to go to and others I want to revisit, particularly some of the native cultures along the way.”
Starting on the Arctic Ocean at the MacKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories—one of the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere in winter—Steger will cross thick forests, huge lakes, headwaters of grand rivers most of us have never heard of, open plains, and frozen mountain ranges all the way to South Indian Lake in northern Manitoba. He’ll travel territory he’s never seen but also stop in villages where he’s known three generations of Inuit.
The ever present dangers of bitter cold, storms, and the unknown that would deter less trained individuals don’t phase Steger. In fact, that’s a large part of the appeal. “Go to any wild place, for as long as you can, even if it’s a week or two, and you’ll get a new perspective on your life,” he says.
Road bikers pedal the Austria's Ötztal Glacier Road, the second highest paved road in Europe.
The idea of a multiday bike race around France seemed preposterous when journalist Géo Lefèvre first cooked up the idea in 1903. Now the Tour de France is one of the world’s premier sporting events—and pedaling atop the high mountain passes of Western Europe is one of the highlights of any pro cycling career.
“The ultimate bike trip would be to take a trip to Europe and ride up the highest paved peaks inFrance, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain,” says racer Kristin Armstrong, who has one of the Tour’s famous climbs in mind. “While I was there I would spend a week in each of these countries to explore the towns and to experience the culture.”
Among the stops would be Col de la Bonette, the Tour de France’s highest pass; Spain’s Pico del Veleta, the highest paved bikable road in Europe (a stretch of nearly 27 miles with an average 6.2 percent grade); and Austria’s Ötztal Glacier Road, where a sign warns “Mountain Road Only for Experienced Riders.” Enough said.