2012 was a momentous year for for our athletes and we couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments. In total, our athletes won at least three national/world championships, climbed Everest without the aid of supplemental oxygen, biked through Antarctica, and sailed the North and South Pole in the name of environmentalism. Our hats are off to the athletes that inspired us this year and will do so in the next.
February – Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race
February saw Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers make the podium in the Patagonian Expedition Race where they took third place after 162 hours and 400 miles of biking, trekking, climbing, and paddling in the Chilean wilderness. The team has competed in the race, dubbed the toughest on the planet, for the past three seasons and can now put two consecutive podium finishes under their belt. That’s something worth bragging about.
March: First EPIC Award to Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy
Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy might just be the most influential and controversial climbers of the year but don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of their sponsors or major accomplishments…yet. Launched by GearJunkie, the EPIC award highlights individuals who “affect notable change and do good in the outdoors world.” Kruk and Kennedy were the first recipients of the award for their controversial and astounding ascent of Patagonia’s Cerro Torre in which they stripped the bolts and anchors from Italian climber Cesare Maestri’s infamous “Compressor Route.” In the 1970′s Maestri used a gas-powered compressor drill to install bolts up 1,000 feet of blank rock. In a bid to restore the face to its original state, Kruk and Kennedy free-climbed a variation of the route and removed 120 of the bolts on the descent. While some complained that the duo destroyed the history of the route, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote, “Thank God there are a few young climbers like Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk who exemplify the best qualities of alpinism.” We think so too.
April: Second Epic Award to Chris Skogen
Chris Skogen, founder and current race director of the Almanzo 100, earned the EPIC award for his efforts to launch an event that has inspired race directors across the Midwest to follow suit. The Almanzo 100 is an annual 100-mile bike race across the gravel roads of the Midwest. The event, launched in 2005, is completely free and has no limit to the number of riders allowed to participate, attracting over 800 riders last spring. Designed to bring together mountain bikers, roadies, touring cyclists, and city riders, the race is a grueling (and dusty) affair through the country’s heartland. Where do we sign up?
May – Ueli Steck Climbs Everest Without Supplemental Oxygen
Legendary Swiss climber Ueli Steck wowed us yet again when he climbed the world’s tallest peak without the assistance of supplemental oxygen. Steck, famed for his speedy ascents of some of the world’s most grueling climbs, is no stranger to pushing limits and after an aborted attempt last year in which he turned around 100 meters from the summit due to frostbite, Steck and climbing partner Sherpa Tenzing reached the summit of Mt. Everest on May 18th at 1:30 p.m. without oxygen. We’re not sure what Steck is planning next, but we’re watching in anticipation.
August – Third EPIC Award goes to Alec Drummond and Jonathan Cedar
Have you ever stared at your cookstove or campfire and wished you could charge your iPhone with it? Well, then you’ll understand why Alec Drummond and Jonathan Cedar, inventors of the BioLite stove, were recipients of the EPIC Award this year. The BioLite CampStove turns the heat from fire into usable electricity. Place wood inside the $130 unit, light it, and while you’re cooking, this little multi-tasker is stealing energy from the burning wood and converting it to power up any device compatible with a USB plug. While we love the camping version, it’s really the home version that earned these two the EPIC award. The HomeStove aims to provide clean cooking and electricity access to millions across India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
September – Team Gear Junkie/Wedali Wins Checkpoint Tracker National Championship
The Checkpoint Tracker National Championship, 110 miles across rugged wilderness on foot, bike, boat, and riverboard, proved to be one of the most high-profile adventure races of the year. And we were stoked that after 29 hours, Team Gear Junkie/Wedali not only finished the race, but finished first! We’re not gonna lie, we’re pretty dang proud of our…wait for it, wait for it…national champions. The annual event attracts top endurance racers from around the country and this year’s course, held in West Virginia, was a tough haul with difficult navigation, a six-hour riverboarding section, Class V whitewater rafting, and nonstop rain. The team won by two checkpoints and about 20 minutes of time and included captain Justin Bakken, Stephen Regenold, Kelly Brinkman and Thomas Puzak.
October – Team Gear Junkie/Wedali Wins USARA National Championship
Team Gear Junkie/Wedali enjoyed their September national championship win so much, they thought they’d do it again. In an unprecedented series of events, the team (comprised of ten athletes based primarily in Minnesota) scooped up another national title by winning the United States Adventure Racing Association’s 2012 National Championship. The event, held in the Catskill Mountains of New York, took 27 hours to complete in below freezing temperatures. We couldn’t be more proud of their dual national championship wins and all the hard work that got them there.
November – Thomas Palmer of Drapac Cycling takes First in Tour de Okinawa
After four attempts, Australian cyclist Thomas Palmer snagged his first and very well-deserved Tour de Okinawa title. Twenty-two year old Palmer, who cycles for Drapac Professional cycling, has managed to win the opening prologue every year since 2009, but the second day of the two-day race has consistently seen the title slip through is fingers. Not this year. This year’s race, held as a single 210 kilometer road race, saw Palmer reach the finish line in five and a half hours and comfortably ahead of his competitors. Hard-earned and well-deserved!
December – Eric Larsen Starts Bike Trip in Antarctica
Polar explorer Eric Larsen has had a busy year and he’s not done yet. After traveling to the South Pole, the North Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest, Larsen has just set off on an expedition to be the first person to complete a journey to the South Pole by bike. Yes, you read that correctly. With a bike boasting 4.8 inch wheels, Larsen is making the 750-mile trek to raise awareness for not just one, but two causes. In addition to encouraging fans and followers to make donations in support of efforts to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, Larsen also hopes to make the point that traveling by bike is feasible in all kinds of weather conditions and is an important component in cutting down carbon emissions to combat the effects of climate change.
December – Mike Horn Finishes 4 Year Pangaea Tour
After four years, Mike Horn–a South African born Swiss explorer and adventurer– finished his Pangaea Expedition. The expedition, which began in May of 2008, was Horn’s dream expedition. Born from his desire to increase awareness of our impact on the environment, he traveled over the North and South Poles, crossed seven continents, and sailed several oceans without the use of fossil fuel. The expedition also included the creation of the Young Explorer’s Program, touching on Horn’s belief that, “together we can tap the world’s most powerful energy source – the younger generation – to help them find solutions for their tomorrows.” For a full profile of his expedition as well as specs on the knife inspired by this intrepid explorer, check out this post.