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Outside Classics

We've rounded up our favorite Outside long reads, perfect for moments when you want to lose yourself in stories of adventure, survival, and outdoor inspiration

ADVENTURE

Stories to keep you on the edge of your seat

At the bottom of the biggest underwater cave in the world, diving deeper than almost anyone had ever gone, Dave Shaw found the body of a young man who had disappeared ten years earlier. What happened after Shaw promised to go back is nearly unbelievable—unless you believe in ghosts.

Diana Saverin

Every year, scores of Into the Wild fans tackle a dangerous river crossing to visit the last home of Alaska's most famous adventure casualty. Why are so many people willing to risk injury, and even death, to pay homage to a controversial ascetic who perished so young?

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Norway's forbidding Hardangervidda Plateau nearly killed Roald Amundsen when he attempted a ski traverse in the winter of 1896. But the failure set him on a path of training, study, and exploration that led to his historic conquest of the South Pole. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of that feat, Mark Jenkins and his brother Steve skied the route, an epic challenge that even now can prove deadly.

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It's been more than 50 years since the Colorado River regularly reached the sea. But this spring, the U.S. and Mexico let the water storm through its natural delta for a grand experiment in ecological restoration. As the dam gates opened, a small band of river rats caught a once-in-a-lifetime ride.

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It sounds too good to be true: a star miler turned criminal goes to prison, links up with a legendary track coach, trains behind bars until his feet bleed, and earns a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Is the real world ready for Jon Gill's dream?

Eric Hansen

The Quidditch World Cup sounds dorky, and make no mistake: it is. But these sorcery-loving Harry Potter fans play pretty rough, as Eric Hansen found out when he captained a bad-news team of ex-athletes, ultimate Frisbee studs, slobs, drunks, and some people he knows from Iceland. Brooms up, and may the best Muggles win.

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From miles out in the storm-ravaged Chesapeake Bay, the Tangier Island crab boat radioed a mayday, then fell silent. Fellow skippers from this lonely and legendary speck of land rallied to save the two-man crew. God willing, they'd get there in time.

Lhakpa Sherpa ​​has climbed Everest more than any other woman—​and now she's on the mountain trying for her seventh summit​. So why doesn't anyone know her name?

Rich Schapiro

When Raymond Stansel was busted in 1974, he was one of Florida's biggest pot smugglers. Facing trial and years in prison, he jumped bail, changed his name, and holed up in a remote Australian outpost. Even more remarkable than that? His second life as an environmental hero.

Leath Tonino

The most perilous road in America gets 300 inches of snow a year, features 70 named avalanche paths, and has almost no guardrails. Who would be crazy enough to keep Colorado's infamous Highway 550 clear in winter? Leath Tonino hopped into the cab of a Mack snowplow truck to find out.

In July, a group of Afghan women set out to climb 24,580-foot Mount Noshaq, their country's highest mountain. No Afghan woman had ever reached the summit, and many challenges stood in their way, from hostile Afghan men who think that women shouldn't exercise, to the terrorist attack in a district near the peak two days before the climb began. This is their story.

Madison Kahn

Inspired by an infamous assassin's escape from prison, the Barkley Marathons just might be the toughest race on the planet: a 100-mile-long, unsupported slog through the Tennessee backcountry that only 14 people have ever finished. Madison Kahn spoke to three of the event's regulars to get the story behind the Barkley.

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What kind of person sticks a ferret down his pants for more than five consecutive hours? Our writer tried to find out.

LIFE & DEATH

Tales of mystery, miraculous survivals, and untimely ends

Tim Zimmermann

He glanced through the glass and saw Tilikum staring back, with what appeared to be two human feet hanging down his side. There was a nude body draped across Tilikum’s back.

Beth Rodden

After bursting onto the scene as a teenage gym rat, Beth Rodden became one of the most accomplished climbers of all time. Here, for the first time, she opens up about the price of perfectionism, the kidnapping that almost grounded her, finding love again after her marriage to big-wall prodigy Tommy Caldwell, and balancing motherhood and rock.

Ned Zeman

A brilliant American financier and his wife build a lavish mansion in the jungles of Costa Rica, set up a wildlife preserve, and appear to slowly, steadily lose their minds. A spiral of handguns, angry locals, armed guards, uncut diamonds, abduction plots, and a bedroom blazing with 550 Tiffany lamps ends with a body and a compelling mystery.

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When 18-year-old Joe Keller vanished from a dude ranch in Colorado's Rio Grande National Forest, he joined the ranks of those missing on public land. No official tally exists, but their numbers are growing. And when an initial search turns up nothing, who'll keep looking?

Whitewater kayaker Hendrik Coetzee had decided to call it a career after a decade of first descents on the wildest rivers in Africa. The river's most feared predator had a different ending in store.

Six young men set out on a dead-calm sea to seek their fortunes. Suddenly they were hit by the worst gale in a century, and there wasn't even time to shout.

As America wrestles with high rates of suicide among military personnel and veterans, outdoor programs have been offered up as a promising treatment. Dan Sidles seemed like the ideal candidate: an Iraq War vet who suffered from PTSD, he tried to find a renewed sense of purpose through climbing and mountaineering. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough. Brian Mockenhaupt explores the final years of a tortured friend.

Matthew Batt

What motivates an amateur racer to rack up thousands of training miles and take on the pain and tedium of marathons and ultramarathons? Sometimes it's about keeping a step ahead of your ghosts.

What happened that summer at Miss Katie’s camp

Wells Tower

Is it a bird or a haunting memory? Wells Tower tracks an uncertain resurrection in the big woods of Arkansas.

Richard Carr, a retired psychologist who had long dreamed of sailing around the world, was in the middle of the Pacific when he started sending frantic messages that said pirates were boarding his boat. Two thousand miles away in Los Angeles, his family woke up to a nightmare: he might be dying alone, and there was almost nothing they could do about it.

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The 33 special agents assigned to the Investigative Services Branch handle the most complex crimes committed on NPS land. When a day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park ended in a grisly death, ISB veteran Beth Shott hit the trail, where she began unraveling a harrowing case.

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He was the alpha male of the first pack to live in Oregon since 1947. For years, a state biologist tracked him, collared him, counted his pups, weighed him, photographed him, and protected him. But then the animal known as OR4 broke one too many rules.

ESSAYS & ESCAPE

Come along for the ride

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Living the dream has never been easy in the West's most beloved adventure hamlets, where homes are a fortune and good jobs are few. But the rise of online short-term rentals may be the tipping point that causes idyllic outposts like Crested Butte, Colorado, to lose their middle class altogether—and with it, their soul.

Susan Orlean

To be a surfer girl in Maui is to be the luckiest of creatures. It means you're beautiful and tan and ready to rip. It means you've caught the perfect dappled wave and are on a ride that can't possibly end.

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Research almost any travel destination and you'll probably wind up on travel-industry Goliath, where passionate people praise and denounce everything from romantic getaways to cockroach-infested hotel rooms. But who can you trust?

Wells Tower

Having constructed the greatest flotation device mankind has ever known, our fearless writer embarks on an ill-conceived, possibly insane crossing of alligator-infested North Florida via a string of seriously imperiled and incredibly beautiful rivers. (Yeah, it's a tube.)

As the U.S. battles over the fate of public lands, the Chilean government and Kristine Tompkins are doing something extraordinary down in Patagonia—setting aside millions of acres for stunning new national parks. And they aren't done yet.

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For decades, the Old Forge was the holy grail of the British outdoors community. The UK's remotest pub, it could only be reached via boat or a three-day walk through one of Britain's last true wildernesses, the Knoydart peninsula in Scotland. A dispute between some locals and a new owner threatened the legend—until they decided to open up a pub of their own.

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What happens when America's most fabulous advice columnist fires up her polka-dot car and hits the road to ask total strangers about love and cleaving in a bunch of tiny towns called Eden? Let's just put it this way: Paradise is Regained, and John Milton himself would have said, “Oh. My. God.”

Spa treatments have gotten wild in recent years, especially in Southern California, where women pay big bucks for radical remedies like colonics, juice fasts, and a Gwyneth Paltrow fave—the life-changing V-steam. Taffy Brodesser-Akner dons a satin robe and asks: If this is the path to happiness, why am I so freaked out?

A recklessly picaresque, highly philosophical, gloriously unmapped road trip in search of secret places you'll have to find yourself

Bill Vaughn

A Wetland Restoration Comedy: how one man transformed vile, polluted, dank little swamp into the perfect glassy ice pond