How to Fund Your Adventure
These organizations want to help you tick that big once-in-a-lifetime trip off your list
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Funding your dream trip—or any trip, for that matter—can be expensive. Flights, food, gear, and lodging add up quickly. But if you know where to look and are willing to put in some effort, your next big idea might just be free (or at least cheaper). Maybe you’ve been fantasizing about BASE-jumping off a 3,000-foot cliff, creating your first podcast, or putting up a first ascent on a remote peak. No matter the pursuit, there are organizations and individuals out there who want to help you make it happen. We’ve gathered a handful of grants to get you started.
Female First Ascent Award, Grit & Rock
Application Period: TBA
Grant Amount: Up to $10,000
Skill Level: Intermediate to expert
Women have made only 1 percent of first ascents on high-altitude peaks. This award is intended to change that by enabling women to both attempt first ascents and become role models for future generations of young women to do the same. Funds go to proposals in three categories: ambitious, difficult, high-altitude peaks; smaller-scale exploratory expeditions on new routes in remote areas; and skills advancement. In 2017, a $4,000 prize went to a Ukrainian/Russian team of accomplished alpinists (Marina Kopteva, Galina Chibitok, and Anastasia Petrova) for a new route on Cameron Peak in China.
Early Career Grant, National Geographic Society
Application Period: Due October 3, 2018
Grant Amount: Usually less than $5,000; proposals accepted for up to $10,000
Skill Level: No PhDs allowed
Area: Conservation, education, research, storytelling, technology
Grants in the above areas will be given to proposals that are bold, exploratory, new, and of broad interest––and to people who are diving into their first time leading a project. They should be approached through one of three lenses: the human journey, wildlife and wild places, or our changing planet. Check out this grant if you’ve been trying to, say, finally make that surf film or build a prototype for your revolutionary new tent design.
Cutting Edge Grant, American Alpine Club
Application Period: October 1 through November 30, 2018
Grant Amount: $5,000 to $15,000
Skill Level: Advanced
Area: Climbing, mountaineering
This grant supports leading climbers in pursuit of notable climbing and mountaineering objectives. Think remote areas, unexplored ranges, first ascents, and tough new routes. Low-impact style and Leave No Trace ethics are preferred. The awardee must be a U.S. citizen, but other team members don’t have to be. One 2018 grant went to Kurt Ross, who along with his partner Jess Roskelley is attempting a first ascent on a 6,000-meter peak in the Karakoram that’s been previously inaccessible due to military restrictions in the area.
Mugs Stump Award
Application Period: Ends December 1, 2018
Note: This grant is suspended for 2018 to allow the community time to mourn the deaths of Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins. (Hayden’s father, Michael, is one of the grant’s founders.)
Grant Amount: Varies, approximately $6,000
Skill Level: Advanced
Revered alpinist Mugs Stump died in a crevasse fall on Denali in 1992. To honor his legacy, grants in his name are given to adventurous and exploratory climbs done fast and light. The objective should expand the notion of what’s possible in alpinism today. One of the 2017 awards, for example, went to alpinists Steve Swenson, Chris Wright, and Graham Zimmerman to fund their attempt on the world’s second-highest unclimbed peak (at 24,452 feet) in Pakistan’s Karakoram.
Zack Martin Breaking Barriers Grant, American Alpine Club
Application Period: Ends April 15, 2019
Grant Amount: Around $5,000
Skill Level: Any
Area: Alpinism, ice climbing, rock climbing, bouldering
Created to honor Zack Martin, a mountaineer who died in a car accident at age 24, this award is given to expeditions that focus first on a humanitarian objective and second on a climbing goal. Martin disliked the self-serving nature of climbing trips and was committed to altruistic service on all of his expeditions. The humanitarian effort suggested should be sustainable for the community and, ideally, teach a skill. One award went to 12-year-old Lilliana Libecki, who climbed Kilimanjaro and completed a solar project to light an orphanage.
Millet Expedition Project
Application Period: Ends September 31, 2018
Grant Amount: About $60,000, split between ten or fewer projects
Skill Level: All
This grant funds diverse expedition-style adventures, from climbing a 7,000-meter peak to an all-female kite-skiing trip. The parameters are intentionally broad. The key is to select an ambitious objective, and it doesn’t hurt if trips also have a humanitarian, environmental, or social element. In 2012, Vanessa François, a paraplegic, received a grant to climb El Capitan. One recently funded project was a two-month packrafting trip down Ethiopia’s Omo River, where participants planned to teach the locals circus skills along the way. Applicants must make a three-minute video to tell judges why their trip is worth funding.
Jones Snowboards Grants, American Alpine Club
Application Period: October 1 through December 1, 2018
Grant Amount: $1,500 plus gear
Skill Level: Amateur
Sport: Backcountry snowboarding
Jones Snowboards offers two awards focused on splitboarding expeditions. Its Backcountry Adventure Grant is for a multiday trip designed around a particular objective, a specific descent, or a traverse of an area. The Live Like Liz Award, in memory of ambassador Liz Daley, who was killed in an avalanche in 2014, is for female splitboarders attempting a North American objective. The American Alpine Institute also offers a Liz Daley scholarship ($500 to $2,500) that gives aspiring female guides funding for courses offered by the institute, where Daley taught.
The Next Challenge
Application Period: Fall 2018
Grant Amount: Between £60 and £800 ($85 to $1,139), but typically £100 or £200 ($145 and $290)
Skill Level: No experience necessary; must be self-organized
Area: Anything that involves physical activity, and it should involve camping
This award is offered by adventurer Tim Moss, who benefited from expedition grants when he was younger and wants to offer the same opportunity to others. This grant is fun, because it exists to fund your original, wacky adventure idea. Past projects have been things like running a marathon at Marathon in ancient Greek armor, hiking the length of Portugal, and camping for 100 nights in one year.
Live Your Dream Grant, American Alpine Club
Application Period: February 1 to March 31, 2019
Grant Amount: Varies based on project, $200 to $1,000
Skill Level: Any
This one is all about personal progression. The grant solicits proposals from climbers who are looking to push their limits, wherever those limits may be. Recipients have included a gym climber who wanted to become a competent outdoor lead climber and traveled to South America to do so and a big-wall climber who wanted to test himself on vertical ice during a two-week trip to Ouray.
*Amateur climbers who want to explore new routes or unclimbed peaks in small/lightweight teams should check out the McNeill-Nott Award, another AAC grant offering $5,000 awards.
FKT Grant, Ultimate Direction/La Sportiva/Gu
Application Period: TBA
Grant Amount: Four grants of $1,000 each, plus gear
Skill Level: FKT stands for fastest known time, so…
It’s impressive to thru-hike the nearly 2,700-mile Pacific Crest Trail, but it’s an entirely different thing to do it quicker than anyone has before. If you’re the type of person who has been dreaming of crushing a speed record, then this is the grant you should explore. Running and hiking must be the activity for at least half of the FKT project, and the other half must be nonmotorized sport. While athletes can take on a project anywhere in the world, they must be based in North America. Projects must be documented by GPS or some type of third-party tracking. In 2017, grant recipient Heather Anderson attempted to set the female unsupported record on the 465-mile Colorado Trail (she was unsuccessful).