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Meet National Geographic's Adventurers of the year 2018

Daring climbers, hardcore ultramarathoners, resilient mountain bikers, inspiring photographers and incredible philanthropists — National Geographic's adventurers of the year are set to inspire

Published 3 Apr 2019, 12:56 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 05:46 GMT
Magar is at home on the trails in Nepal's Lower Mustang Valley
Magar is at home on the trails in Nepal's Lower Mustang Valley
Photograph by Joey Schusler

Trailblazers. That's what National Geographic was after this year when they conducted their annual hunt for adventurers. Someone who has achieved something unique, groundbreaking or game-changing in their field. National Geographic is synonymous with adventure and the list of what they deem to be adventurous motivates us to go further. 

The 2018 adventurers come from the fields of exploration, adventure sports, conservation and humanitarianism. This year, honorees were nominated by past Adventurers of the Year, prominent members of the adventure community, and National Geographic Explorers and photographers. The National Geographic Adventure editorial staff reviewed all of the nominees and selected the final eight.

Meet the 2018 Adventurers of the Year 

Rock climber Alex Honnold trains on the Freerider route for the first-ever rope-free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He completed the feat on Saturday, June 3, 2017
Photograph by Jimmy Chin

Alex Honnold
Rock climber and founder of the Honnold Foundationa group that supports global clean energy initiatives

Considered by many to be the best free-solo climber in the world, Honnold became the first person to free-solo El Capitan in June 2017—a feat that required climbing the 3,000-foot granite wall without ropes or support.

Kilian Jornet passing through Camp 2 during his first ascent of Mount Everest. Kilian achieved the faster summit of the peak after reaching the top in only 26 hours
Photograph by Summits of My Life

Kilian Jornet
Ultrarunner and ski mountaineer who has set speed records on mountains around the world

In 2017, he set a new record for the fastest summit of Mount Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen or ropes. He reached the 11,429-foot summit in just 26 hours.

Surfer Emi Koch watches a student ride a wave at one of her nonprofit organization's global sites. Koch teaches children how to surf in an effort to empower local communities facing environmental threats
Photograph by Courtesy Emi Koch

Emi Koch
Professional surfer and founder of the nonprofit Beyond the Surface International

With her organization, she works to empower environmentally threatened coastal communities by teaching local children to surf and providing workshops on visual storytelling.

Magar modifies his first mountain bike from old bicycle and motorcycle parts. He uses his "Franken-bike" in local races and his first national championship
Photograph by Joey Schusler

Rajesh Magar
Downhill mountain biker

He competed in his first Nepali national championship race on a Frankenstein-style ride—a low-budget mountain bike he modified himself. Magar has since won national and international races, including the National Downhill Championship in 2017, and is working toward competing in the Enduro World Series.

Photographer and marine scientist Cristina Mittermeier looks out from a helicopter. As co-founder of Sea Legacy, she works to protect and create healthy oceans through powerful visual storytelling
Photograph by Paul Nicklen

Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen
Wildlife photographers, conservation activists, and founders of the nonprofit Sea Legacy

The organization works to protect and create healthy and abundant oceans through visual storytelling. In 2017, Cristina and Paul sparked a global conversation about polar conservation with their footage of a starving polar bear.

Hilaree Nelson O'Neill looks out from a makeshift camp at about 18,500 feet on the Casino Ridge. The day after this photograph was taken, she and her mountaineering partner Jim Morrison summited Denali
Photograph by Chris Figenshau

Hilaree Nelson O'Neill
Climber and ski mountaineer

She's been a professional adventure athlete for over 20 years and first caught sight of Papsura, or the Peak of Evil, in 1999. It seared a place in her mind and inspired years of training with the goal of reaching its peak. Despite failing to summit in 2013, her obsession with this perfect mountain drew her back for a second attempt, something she'd never done in the past. She finally reached the top and skied the route in 2017.

Mirna Valerio is the definition of a trailblazer. As an ultramarathoner, she is redefining what a runner looks like — and she's doing it with style, grace, and a huge smile
Photograph by Jenny Nichols

Mirna Valerio
Ultramarathon runner, author, and educator

She competes in races around the United States and is dedicated to creating positive messaging around health and fitness. Facing racism, sexism, and body shaming, she has dedicated herself to challenging stereotypes around who is and is not an athlete.

"At National Geographic, our stories inspire people to pursue their own adventures and learn more about the world around them," said Andrea Leitch, senior director for National Geographic Travel and Adventure. "These eight Adventurers of the Year are constantly pushing boundaries and exemplify National Geographic's spirit of exploration. We're thrilled to celebrate their accomplishments with this prestigious honor."


What adventures will you be undertaking in 2018? Share your exploits with us on Twitter and Instagram using #ngtuk 

Discover more wild ways to see the world and read about our adventures in our 2018 Adventure Guide. 

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