Gretchen Bleiler: “Top Athletes and Explorers Reveal Their Own Bucket List Adventures” on National Geographic Adventurer |

Gretchen Bleiler: “Top Athletes and Explorers Reveal Their Own Bucket List Adventures” on National Geographic Adventurer

In our new Ultimate Adventure Bucket List, we spun the globe to find 20 extreme adventures paired with 20 comparable doable adventures to inspire your quests into the great outdoors. Then we wondered: What do the adventure pros have on their own Bucket Lists? We asked some of the world’s most elite athletes and explorers to tell us which trips they have loved the most and what dream adventures they hope to knock off someday. Read on, their answers may surprise you…. —Mary Anne Potts

Skier Alison Gannett
Best Trip Ever: “I would say our first descent of northeast face of Hanuman Tibba in India—great team, spicy food, colorful country, and a sketchy route that we managed to pull off [pictured].”

Dream Adventure: “I’d love to do first ski descents of several peaks in Colombia because the glaciers will be gone in our lifetime, the country is rumored to be the friendliest in the world, has interesting mountains, and great surfing.”

Ultrahiker Andrew Skurka
Best Trip Ever: “That’s like asking a parent which of their children they love most—you’re never going to get a straightforward answer. One of my lesser-known trips is the Sierra High Route in California. This 200-mile route runs parallel to the John Muir Trail, but sees a tiny fraction of the JMT’s traffic because it features over 100 miles of off-trail travel through some of the most remote parts of the High Sierra.”

Dream Adventure: “I’ve been eyeing the Canadian Rockies and the Andes for a long time—both regions appear mountainous and wild, and they have more than just rock and ice.”

Diver, Marine Ecologist Diver Enric Sala
Best Trip Ever: “My best trip was exploring the Southern Line Islands, five uninhabited, pristine coral reef islands in the middle of the Pacific. They are the wildest place I’ve seen in my life, and we were the first to dive in most of the places we visited. I’ve never seen such a gorgeous, healthy marine ecosystem, full of corals, sharks, giant clams, and so many fish everywhere I looked.”

Dream Adventure: “I have fulfilled my dreams a few times already, and I hope that I’ll continue dreaming so there’s always a new adventure. But one of these dream adventures is exploring the most remote islands in the Arctic, a world that’s disappearing because of global warming.”

Mountaineer Ed Viesturs
Best Trip Ever: “My most amazing adventure would have been my third—and thankfully succesful—attempt on Annapurna in 2005. I had walked away on two previous attempts because of the risk. When I returned for the third attempt, I had no idea of the outcome. I envisioned potentially walking away again due to the risk, but for some reason the mountain seemed different—safer, colder, more ‘glued-together.’ Then and only then did we make the decision to climb, and my partner Veikka and I launched ourselves up the north face. Five days later I stood on the summit of Annapurna and my dream of climbing all 14 8,000-meter peaks had finally come true after 18 years.”

Dream Adventure: “I’ve always been intrigued with the Polar regions and a journey to the South Pole seems to be an interesting personal challenge. The complexity of calculating and organizing the exact amount of supplies and food to take, combined with the physical and mental challenge of skiing and pulling a loaded sled mile after mile, day after day, while being completely self-sufficient seems very interesting to me. It’s quite similar to a mountaineering expedition, except this would be in an almost featureless and horizontal frozen arena.” Editor’s Note: Ed is in attempting to climb Antarctica’s Mount Vinson now. Read expedition dispatches >>

Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler
Best Trip Ever: “There have been so many, but the freshest one in my memory was a trip to South Africa that I just took with Oakley. I was invited to volunteer at a two-week clinic called One Sight in a township called Mamelodi. During that time, Oakley offered 10,000 people free eye exams and prescription eyewear. I was able to do everything from giving the manual seeing-eye exams to operating the machines that automatically measure a person’s prescription to putting the prescription eyewear on each face! It was a totally eye-opening and rewarding experience!”

Dream Adventure: “I would love to take a step away and go with my husband to India and meditate! Haven’t figured out the logistics or if we would stay at an ashram, but I do know the power of meditation and think it would be another life-changing experience.”

Explorer Kenny Broad
Best Trip Ever: “The most amazing adventure, full of good and bad, was a 1994 expedition led by Bill Stone to one of the deepest known caves in the world in Mexico. It was the combination of climbing, caving, and diving with experimental equipment that made it unique.”

Dream Adventure: “I dream of being able to do an expedition that studies the link between the upper atmosphere, the ocean, and underwater caves. I think it will demonstrate how interconnected these ecosystems are—and how important they are for human health and well-being—as well as the myriad of creatures that live in these realms.”

Kiteskier Sarah McNair-Landry
Best Trip Ever: “All my adventures have been amazing, each in their own way. The Pittarak expedition, a 2,300 kilometer traverse of the Greenland ice cap, remains one of my favorite. It was a great challenge and an amazing team, not to mention Greenland is a kite-skiing paradise!

“I must also mention the most amazing place I have ever traveled across is the Arctic Ocean, while en route towards the North Pole. The ice is always in drift and motion, heaving up massive walls of ice, or breaking apart revealing the ocean water, reminding you constantly of the forces of nature.”

Dream Adventure: “I would love to kite-ski the Northwest Passage during the winter. For one, it would be a challenging expedition, as it has never been done. Over the last years, I have always turned my attention towards other parts of the world, but this expedition would take place in my backyard, Nunavut, Canada.”

Ice Climber Will Gadd
Best Trip Ever: “The next adventure is always the greatest. Once you’ve been there and done that it’s an experience; adventure is uncertainty, evolution, dynamic.”

Dream Adventure: “Flying the Rift Valley in Africa. Hopefully 2012!”

For more on this story, please visit National Geographic Adventurer Online.

Posted on: January 9, 2011