According to online definitions, an adventurer is someone who seeks out and enjoys dangerous or exciting experiences. They look for adventures, and are willing to take risks. Some use unconventional methods for personal gain. Others are just in it for the thrills, pushing a new pursuit to new heights.
These adventurers use sport to empower others, protect the planet for future generations and embrace difficulty. The challenge inspires them as they learn from those that have gone before them and they head off to explore the world’s hardest to reach places.
A Nepalese athlete and ultra-runner trail runner, Mira Rai has participated in a lot of international competitions and has won numerous awards. She’s participated in some of the world’s most challenging trails, but she started off hauling rice sacks through the Himalayas during the Napalese civil war. As the eldest of five children, she was expected to stay at home and help her mother cook, clean and live a domestic life.
But Mira didn’t like working inside at all. She loved working outside, cutting grass, chopping firewood, and finally trading rice full-time after she was forced to leave school and earn money at aged 12. She would carry sacks of rice—up to 28kg of the stuff, and work 15-hour days. Then she joined the Maoist army, without telling her parents, and spent two years in the jungle as a child soldier, marching for hours under the cover of darkness, learning how to handle guns, training in karate and survival skills, and happily receiving just $2 for soap and a toothbrush. And a dream began to grow within her.
Mira turned up at an ultra race with just the clothes she was wearing. It was the furthest she’s ever run. Bounding along the mountain trails as the sky hailed and rained down on her, she found out that she was really quite good at running trails like this, and came first. Her dream and determination, running up and down the mountains to fetch water, and Mira’s other experiences, had prepared her perfectly for a professional career in trail running. She’s now inspiring hope in Napal, a fierce gender equality advocate and receives considerable international attention. When she holds up her country’s flag at the end of her races, she is the proudest she’s ever been. Her motto is “khana pugyos, dina pugos”, which means “Let there be enough to eat, let there be enough to give.” Mira dreams of running the 100-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc in France.
In 2016, the native New Yorker Ashima Shiraishi climbed the hardest-rated boulder problems ever achieved by a woman, and she’s 15 years old. In Februray of the same year, Ashima won the USA Climbing Youth Bouldering Championships, after previously falling 40 feet during training just one week before. In March, she climbed Horizon, a boulder problem with a difficulty rating of V15 that had only previously been climbed by one man, breaking a record for female climbers in bouldering, a rock climbing genre that involves tackling difficult movements on short rocks.
In August, Ashima climbed her second V15 boulder problem, Sleepy Rave, near Melbourne, Australia, and reached the top. She likes to focus on boulder problems and sport climbs that many of the world’s best male climbers take months or even years to complete. She does her bouldering with no ropes—just sticky-rubber shoes, chalk and foam landing pads that soften falls. When she’s sport climbing, she’s ascending routes of between 40 and 100 feet, and achieving world-class results in both fields. In fact, she’s considered one of the best female boulderers and sport climbers of all time, and she’s still attending high school.
In November, Ashima won the IFSC World Youth Championships for both lead and bouldering in the Female Youth B category in Guangzhou, China, where she also own titles in 2015.
Ashima started her rock climbing journey aged just six years old. She fell a lot at the beginning, she says, but she was having so much fun that she didn’t stop trying until she reach the top of each climb.
Ashima’s father, Hisatoshi, is her coach and belayer, is a great support to her, as is her mother, who sews her distinctive printed pants. She is also sponsored by The North Face, which lets her choose her own style, which is on the eccentric side for a climber. Other sponsors include All Nippon Airways, Nikon, Clif Bar and Rav.
However, Ashima has always dreamed of being an Olympian, and now that climbing has been accepted as an Olympian sport, and the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo are in sight, she is getting ready, while pushing the limits of what all climbers can achieve, of course.
After 20 years of risky exploration and technical trial and error, this Polish diver found the world’s deepest submerged cave. Krzysztof and his team sent a little yellow ROV down into the cave below them in September, 2016. At 393 meters, the team set a new record when they dived into the cave and descended to explore it. At 404 meters, they found the cave’s floor, covered in fallen trees. They’d discovered the deepest cave in the world.
This momentous occasion was the high-point of Krzysztof’s exploration of this cave, Hranická Propast. He’s been down there himself many times, and then sent ROVs down there to go deeper than any human has ever been. He studied the cave’s unusual structure, which formed when a volcano-like gush of acidic water burned through the soft limestone and created the vertical cave. In 2012, Krzysztof found a narrow opening that he wasn’t able to get through about 200 meters down that led to another, previously undiscovered tunnel. He ran a probe through that narrow shaft in 2014 and got down to a depth of 384 meters, but last year he realized than an underwater avalanche had widened the opening, and he could dive through it.
Krzysztof finally modified a ROV so it could survive the depths he thought he might be able to reach with it, and achieved something no one else has ever managed to do.
It’s “mind-blowing”, said Kenny Broad, a professor at the University of Miami and the 2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year. Indeed, cave diving involves complex passageways overhead that may go for miles in any direction, total darkness, zero visibility at times, and tight squeezes that often require the diver to remove their the equipment that’s keeping them alive, at extreme depths. Krzysztof is praised for his skilled planning, innovation and training, and thinks the cave, whose limestone is a thousand meters thick, might go even deeper. He’s willing to find out, despite the considerable dangers and having broken every bone in his body during his sporting career.