A celebration of Five Years of First Ascent only feels right with the inclusion of our top 10 (out of 53) expeditions. We are recapping the best of the best, and we couldn’t keep First Ascent’s journey to Mt. Vinson, Antarctica off our list. The First Ascent alpine team—Peter Whittaker, Ed Viesturs, Seth Waterfall, Jake Norton, and Caroline George—traveled to Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica to repeat a historic Eddie Bauer-outfitted expedition ascent of the highest peak on the world’s coldest continent.
Five years, 53 expeditions, all seven continents—it’s tough to narrow that selection down to ten of the best. But we have and the first descent of the Impossible Gorge to the Marble Fork is one of our top ten picks. While California is not nearly as remote a location as Bhutan, the Congo, the Torngat or Svalbard, Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic’s backyard mission was one that easily rated as class 6 crazy. Big wall climbing, sketchy lowering with full kayak rigs and a fully committing section of canyon that could only be run in perfect conditions—all the key ingredients for a Korbulic and Stookesberry special. Thought to be an unrunnable stretch of river on the hard-to-reach Marble Fork of the Kaweah River deep in Sequoia National Park, our kayak team tandem proved the fallacy wrong with a high degree of skill and a heavy dose of insanity.
Adventure kayaker and pro photographer Chris Korbulic has ticked a life list of big-water first descents in the most remote corners of the globe, from Bhutan and Brazil to Africa and the Arctic. It’s hard to pick the trips that top his list, but Korbulic’s greatest hits include unlocking the Iso Gorge in Papua New Guinea, running the Impossible Gorge of the Marble Fork, completing the first commercial rafting descent of the Murchison Falls section of the Nile, completing the first descent of the 18 waterfalls of the Nachvak River in Labrador and more than 60 similarly impressive remote first descents of rivers, sections of river and waterfalls around the globe. He’s been part of the First Ascent effort since the beginning, both testing our gear at the far corners of the globe and capturing incredible images of the journeys. We sat down with him to get his take on the significance of First Ascent hitting the five year mark and his perspective on the Guide-Built process.
As part of our Five Years of First Ascent celebration, we are revisiting the top 10 expeditions, out of 53 total, tackled by our guide team in the past five years. Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic have logged more than 60 first descents around the globe and each one of their expeditions has resonated with a high degree of remoteness and a high degree of difficulty. But the one that stands apart on the expedition-of-magnitude scale is this past summer’s mission to the remote reaches of Northern Labrador, to paddle the historic George River canoe route, tick the second descent of the Ford River and to claim the first no-portage descent of the 18 waterfalls of the Nachvak River.
“We accessed one of the truly remote stretches of whitewater on earth,” Ben Stookesberry recounted, “We survived the most hellacious onslaught of flies and mosquitos. We treaded lightly in a land I hope will never bear the imprint of modernity. Most importantly, we did it as a team, one of the finest groups I have ever been a part of.” Deep into the polar bear entrenched wild, Stookesberry continued, “There are few rivers where you can paddle for three weeks without seeing any signs of civilization. The bears, caribou, falcons, river otters, beavers, and seagulls are all part of this vast wilderness only 1,000 miles north of New York City.”
In one of the most heavily documented First Ascent expeditions with DeLorme InReach and sat phone connectivity from the wilderness, the team captured the entire journey with audio dispatches via Soundcloud, expansive images, eight field reports written by Stookesberry and real time tracking of their progress via sat gram. It was indeed an epic worthy of the term. Read the first installment at http://blog.eddiebauer.com/2014/07/22/destination-torngat-launches-dispatches-labrador-wilderness/ or listen to the Soundcloud dispatches @eddiebauer on Soundcloud. —LYA Editor
Five years ago we had a mission: draw on our brand’s heritage of technical innovation and alpine exploration to launch Eddie Bauer First Ascent and set a new standard for gear in the alpine realm. Five years after First Ascent launched, our record speaks volumes: 13 industry best-in-class awards, 53 pioneering testing expeditions, and a series of innovative technical gear that has enabled personal adventures, big and small, around the globe. For the month of November we’ll be profiling the First Ascent effort on Instagram, on the Live Your Adventure blog, at eddiebauer.com and with our YouTube playlist. Check back daily for guide-built, expedition tested and award winning product stories behind the making of First Ascent.Comments (0)
Named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2007, Ben Stookesberry has run some of the world’s most remote rivers, from Bhutan and Brazil to Greenland and Africa. His personal tally tops 60 first descents for rivers, sections of rivers and waterfalls, but it’s the geographic remoteness of his explorations that have notched him an impressive resume in the world of global adventure. Ben has been part of the First Ascent effort since the early days and his expedition drive has made him an ideal candidate for putting our expedition gear to the ultimate test. He’s also an aspiring filmmaker with award-winning festival films Kadoma and Walled In to his credit, as well as an upcoming cinematic saga that will chronicle their Destination Torngat epic to the remote reached of Northern Labrador. As part of our Five Years of First Ascent celebration sat down with him to get his take on the significance of First Ascent hitting the five year mark and perspective on the Guide Built process.
Celebrating Five Years of First Ascent wouldn’t feel right without a recap of our favorite expeditions. We’ve chosen the top 10 of 53 guide team adventures to highlight, and big-wall free climber Mason Earle’s trip to Ua Pou in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia with little information and no guidebook couldn’t be left out. From jungle base camps at an off-the-grid compound, brutal sufferfests, and a towering first ascent on Montutuake, every step of the way thrilled.
With 53 stories and galleries to choose from, picking the top 10 trips from the past five years of First Ascent was no easy task. But one late arriving entry made the final cut—Erik Leidecker and Mason Earle’s Bugaboo Classics trip. The story is a good one, the climbing was impressive and the history of the area all converged to elevate it above the expedition competition. As a short summary, the climbers heli-approached into to this pristine area to tackle alpine classics like the Beckey-Chouinard route on South Houser Tower, the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire and Mason’s probable first free ascent of the Gar Wall.