Sharing a love for the outdoors shapes your entire life—your family, friends, free time, fitness, priorities, politics, and your sense of purpose on this great spinning planet. It changes your perspective on pop culture, consumerism, and what it means to “live well.” Through outdoor adventure we are empowered to strive for goals, break the status quo, solve mysteries, redefine what possible, and make a difference.
Our 2016 Adventurers of the Year are beacons of this. Their achievements range from exploration to conservation to cultural boundary breakers to humanitarianism. They remind us that it’s worth it to be bold, be curious, be a part a something bigger—to be adventure.
Vote every day for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year through January 31.
Meet the 2016 Adventurers of the Year:
Wilderness protector Steve Boyes, a South African wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, who led a team on a 1,500-mile, 120-day expedition by dugout canoe to collect data to help protect Africa’s wildest place, the Okavango Delta.
Mountaineer Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, a rising climbing star in Nepal, who, after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit her country, has worked tirelessly to help her fellow Nepalis.
American ski mountaineers Chris Davenport, Christy Mahon and Ted Mahon, who, this past May, became the first people to climb and ski Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, all with summits over 13,800 feet.
Rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson, a pair of American rock climbers who spent 19 days on the side of 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite to complete the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall, a seven-year-in-the-planning odyssey.
Boundary breakers the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team, a group of women in Afghanistan who have defied cultural taboos and endured harassment by riding bicycles with the goal of competing internationally, ultimately sparking a cultural debate about women’s rights in their country.
Swiss pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who completed the first trans-Pacific flight by solar plane, flying day and night for five days from Japan to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel.
German long-distance kayaker Freya Hoffmeister, who finished her four-year solo journey in April to complete the first circumnavigation of South America in a sea kayak, a 16,700-mile voyage.
Exploratory kayakers Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and Pedro Olivia, a team of kayakers who made a source-to-sea first descent of one of the most remote and treacherous rivers on the planet, tucked away in the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s New Britain Island.
Wildlife photographer Joe Riis and biologist Arthur Middleton, who teamed up to chronicle the Yellowstone elk herd’s annual migration, using art and science to call on policymakers to protect the herd’s vital wilderness corridors.
American ultrarunner Scott Jurek, who capped a 20-year career in trail running with a speed record on the iconic Appalachian Trail.