The New Icons

Seven of the World’s Most Impressive Outdoor Feats

From 1926 to 2016, the expeditions—and the women behind them–that have rocked our world

Lynn Hill is the first person, man or woman, to free-climb the Nose route on El Capitan. (Beth Wald/Aurora Photos)

A look back at some of the most storied accomplishments by women athletes and adventurers over the past 100 years.

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1926: Gertrude Ederle 

(Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Alamy)

Gertrude Ederle swims the English Channel in 14 hours 34 minutes—eight hours faster than the first man did in 1857.

1966: Bobbi Gibb

bobbi gibb
(Courtesy Of Yarrow Kraner)

Despite receiving a letter from Boston Marathon organizers explaining that women aren’t capable of running 26.2 miles, Bobbi Gibb hides in the bushes near the start line and runs it anyway, finishing in 3:21:40, ahead of two-thirds of the field. (In 2016, a total of 12,166 women finished the race.) 

1978: Naomi Christine James

(Ajax News and Feature Service/Al)

After 272 days at sea, Naomi Christine James becomes the first woman to sail solo around the world via Cape Horn, besting Sir Francis Chichester’s record by two days.

1985: Libby Riddles

(AP Photo)

Dog musher Libby Riddles becomes the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, after 18 days in 50-below weather. She gains time by pushing on during a blizzard while other competitors stop. 

1993: Lynn Hill

Lynn Hill was the first person to free-climb the Nose route on El Capitan. (Beth Wald/Aurora)

Lynn Hill is the first person, man or woman, to free-climb the Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It will take 12 years for anyone to repeat the feat.

2015: Ashima Shiraishi

Ashima Shiraishi
(Tim Kemple/The North Face)

Eleven-year-old Ashima Shiraishi is the youngest person, male or female, to climb a 5.14c route.

2016: Lael Wilcox

lael wilcox
(Ryan Heffernan)

After 18 grueling days biking unsupported across the country, endurance cyclist Lael Wilcox is the first woman to win the 4,400-mile Trans Am Race, beating 41 other finishers, 35 of them men.

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