Razing the Bar (cont.)

Sep 21, 2007
Outside Magazine
The Upgrade

The propulsion mechanism on Ted Ciamillo's new pedal-powered wet sub (scuba gear required) allows him to hit 4.5 knots by mimicking the kick of a dolphin's tail. This spring, Ciamillo plans to power the contraption 2,300 miles from West Africa to the Caribbean in only 40 days. At night, he'll raise sails for an added boost. subhumanproject.com


ELITE ALPINISTS have long since stopped thinking of Everest as, well, the Everest of mountains. The focus today is on harder routes, not higher peaks. In that spirit, 28-year-old Josh Wharton went to the Karakoram in August with Wyoming-based Exum guide Bean Bowers to attempt the unclimbed 8,038-vertical-foot north ridge of Pakistan's Latok I. The ice-and-rock line, having rejected more than a dozen teams of top climbers over the past 30 years, is considered one of alpinism's greatest remaining prizes. "It's been my dream since I was a kid," says Wharton, who in 2004, along with fellow Coloradan Kelly Cordes, established the world's longest rock route, the 7,400-foot southwest ridge of Pakistan's Great Trango Tower.

Colin Haley, 23, still an undergrad at the University of Washington, just completed one of the most productive years ever for an American climber: In July 2006, he ticked off the 6,500-foot north face of Alaska's Mount Moffit, flew to Patagonia six months later to link up the west and south faces of Argentina's famously foul-weathered Cerro Torre, then in March returned to Alaska, where he notched the first winter ascent of Mount Huntington, a first ascent on Mount Robson, and a route up Mount McKinley's Denali Diamond, all in four months. "Colin is poised to change the landscape of alpinism," says fast-and-light-mountaineering pioneer Mark Twight. "But like all ambitious young guns, he must first survive his initial trajectory."

Meanwhile, 37-year-old Steve House, of Bend, Oregon, one of Haley's mentors and still America's top alpinist, just flew back to Pakistan to attempt K6, which was last climbed in the 1970s.

And all of the world's alpinists are suddenly eyeing the Siachen region, on the India– Pakistan border, where a decades-old conflict has kept climbers from attempting 17 of the world's unclimbed 7,000-meter peaks. After four years under a steady cease-fire, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has begun easing permit restrictions.


IN 2002, WHEN Scott Lindgren and his six-man crew became the first to paddle Tibet's Upper Tsangpo River, at the bottom of one of the planet's deepest canyons, they took out at the start of a roughly 75-mile gorge leading to the Indian border. That section, the Lower Tsangpo, is one of whitewater's longest, most challenging sets of unrun rapids. "There was no way to move around in there. It was just too steep," says Lindgren. "It could be years before it gets run—especially if the Chinese dam it."

Or not. "I think it's inevitable, if not this year, then certainly within the next five, that it will be paddled," says Ben Stookesberry, 29, a veteran of more than a dozen international first-descent expeditions and the most likely man to try. To prepare, Stookesberry is planning the first descent of the Subansiri this fall. The river shares the Tsangpo's geography—falling off the Tibetan Plateau toward India at a gradient of 150 feet per mile—but has roughly half the volume. "I'd like to think it'll be a warm-up," he says.

The Congo River, kayaking's other big adventure prize, provides a different set of obstacles. "Combine the hardest whitewater and the most threatening wildlife with the instability of the African continent," says Colorado-based Brad Ludden, who ran the upper section of the Congo in 2000, at 19. "The only guy I knew who was even considering a source-to-sea mission expected to lose at least one paddler." One reason nobody is currently planning a descent.


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