Age: 31 Specs: 5-foot-10, 157 pounds
Home: Kamnik, Slovenia
THE CASE: To get a sense of the audacity of Tomaz Humar's November 1999 solo ascent of the 4,000-foot wall of ice and rotten rock on the south face of Nepal's Dhaulagiri, consider this: Upon returning home, he found that climbing's greatest living legend, Reinhold Messner, had flown in and was waiting to congratulate him. An epic in 1997 on the west face of Nuptse, Everest's 25,921-foot neighbor, and a 1996 first ascent of the northwest face of Nepal's Ama Dablam also rank as two of the boldest climbs of the 1990s. A fiercely self-reliant mountaineer who typically goes solo, Humar prides himself on his mental strength: "When I start a climb, I become some kind of animal," he says. "I turn off everything—hunger, pain, freezing—in order to survive."
SECOND OPINION: "Humar is willing to take on dangerous climbs with the understanding that if he moves fast enough, he'll get through without getting killed," says Christian Beckwith, editor of the American Alpine Journal.
MOST HARROWING MOMENT: "Saying good-bye to my children before each expedition."
WHAT'S NEXT: "I'm cooking it in my head right now," he says. "When it is the right time, the mountain will tell me so."