From mountain biking to caving, here’s a list of the hardest, the highest, the most challenging pursuits that athletes around the world aim to tame.
When extreme athletes want to test their mettle, they don’t go for a Sunday stroll. They embark on the world’s most extreme adventures, tackling the highest climbs, deepest dives, and roughest rapids on the planet. These adventures require advanced athletic achievement and a mastery of highly specialized skills—and they are not for the faint of heart.
THE MOST EPIC TECHNICAL MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL:
PORTAL TRAIL, UTAH
Located on a 200-foot cliff above the Colorado River, the extreme exposure of this red rock route creates one of the most technical rides around. Riders pass a sign warning them to dismount in certain sections or risk a deadly plunge near an area where three riders have died.
This rugged trail, approximately two miles long, descends 1,050 feet, packing an average grade of 23 percent. This is the final ride in the “Magnificent 7” series of Moab-area trails.
THE HIGHEST CLIMB:
While everyone knows Mount Everest is the world’s highest peak—though its exact height is being reevaluated by scientists this summer—it doesn’t offer the world’s greatest base-to-apex vertical. For that, you’ll have to travel to Alaska’s Denali.
Climbing North America’s highest mountain involves ascending nearly 18,000 feet from the base to the 20,310-foot summit. Along the way, expect to encounter Arctic conditions, glacier travel, crevasses, temperatures down to -35ºF, and winds whipping at over 100 miles an hour.
The climb usually takes three or four weeks, and over 90 percent of groups tackle the West Buttress route, though some prefer to hike in via the Muldrow Glacier or take the West Rib route.
THE MOST EPIC HIKE:
SNOWMAN TREK, BHUTAN
With 48,000 feet of uphill hiking and 11 passes over 16,000 feet, this 186-mile trek is one of the world’s hardest hikes. And don’t expect a break from the altitude at night: The route involves camping at over 16,400 feet.
The Snowman Trek usually takes around 25 days, with some variations available, but it’s all rugged, high-altitude, remote terrain. Many attempt but don’t finish the trek due to snow conditions and problems with the altitude.
But it’s not all painful. The high-altitude Himalayan scenery, including passes such as Gangla Karchung La, Jaze La, and Rinchenzoe La, will enchant intrepid hikers along the way.