Allow us to introduce the best new outfitted trips around the globe: Be among the first in Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park. Make fresh tracks in newly independent Montenegro. Our annual report takes you to the cutting edge of adventure in an ever-expanding world. Plus: “The Sustainable Future” profiles five pioneers in science, exploration, tourism, and environmental conservation who are reinventing travel.
RWANDA: Gorillas Go Chic
WHAT’S NEW: Face-to-face with mountain gorillas—beloved for their humanlike mannerisms and massive grace—it’s easy to see a reflection of yourself in one of the world’s most endangered species. Less than 700 of the primates remain, most of them in the volcanic forests of northwestern Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where tracking parties limited to eight visitors can spend an hour with the giant apes. As Rwanda’s domestic strife has settled in recent years, these rare creatures have become a major tourist attraction. But until now there has been little infrastructure near their protected stomping grounds. That changes early next year when Kenya’s Governors’ Camp safari company opens an eight-room luxury lodge on the park border.
ON THE GROUND: After gorilla-watching, you can dry your boots and sip cocktails as the sun sets behind the peaks of the Ruwenzori Range. The high-end Governors’ Camp property is representative of Rwanda’s drive toward niche tourism; the nation has already refused package tours and is pushing operators to sell high. “We’re not shy about saying Rwanda will be expensive,” says Rosette Chantal Rugamba, director of Rwanda Tourism and National Parks. “Visiting the gorillas will be one of the wonders of the world.”
TANZANIA: A Coastal Exchange
WHAT’S NEW: For 15 years Berkeley-based nonprofit Seacology has worked to preserve the environments and cultures of undeveloped islands around the world. It does so by collaborating with local communities in places such as Fiji and Tonga to provide critical social services—medical clinics, schools—in exchange for locally backed conservation initiatives. This year, for the first time, the organization has opened its expeditions to the public, and in February, Seacology leads its debut trip to Tanzania’s Chumbe Island, Lake Manyara, and the Ngorongoro Crater.
ON THE GROUND: With staff ecologists as guides, you’ll check out Zanzibar’s spice markets, snorkel and hike Chumbe Island (the first official marine park in Tanzania and host to a Seacology project to install mooring buoys for fishermen), and scout sites for other potential ventures. The trip wraps with six days of safari game drives through Lake Manyara National Park, which Ernest Hemingway called “the loveliest [park] I had seen in Africa,” and in the Ngorongoro Crater, where your arrival coincides with the greatest annual wildebeest migration. Though lodging along the way is cushy—intimate inns, eco-resorts, and safari hotels—you’ll know that you’re supporting a nonprofit that has earned kudos from famed marine biologist Sylvia Earle.
ZAMBIA: Africa’s Untouched Game Preserve
WHAT’S NEW: This past summer, southern Africa specialist Wilderness Safaris opened a series of camps in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, on and around the expansive Busanga floodplains. One of the largest national parks on the continent, Kafue is relatively untouristed—far from the masses that descend on other preserves, its animals are still shy of humans. Over 150 mammal species roam the park, including Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, defassa waterbuck, leopards, cheetahs, and tree-climbing lions. In 2007 the outfitter offers a Zambia trip that will visit this area and include stays at the renovated Lunga River Lodge and Busanga Bush Camp.
ON THE GROUND: The first two days are spent on game drives, hikes, and canoe trips from Lunga’s thatch-roof bungalows set in the Miombo woodland; the next three are based at Busanga in the heart of 290 square miles (751 square kilometers) of wildlife-filled wetlands reserve. Busanga’s three posh tents give you front-row seats for spotting herds of puku and antelope crossing the plains in front of the camp. In the evening you’ll head out on nocturnal safari drives in search of big predators that stalk the darkness.
CHINA: Riding the Rising Giant
WHAT’S NEW: Aussie duo Naomi Skinner and Scott Spencer have guided biking tours everywhere from Mongolia to Vietnam, but their favorite routes lie inside southern China’s lush rural hinterlands. In 2005 these co-owners of Bike Asia set up shop in Yangshuo, a small town in Guangxi Province, in order to develop their local knowledge for clients. In 2007 Bike Asia showcases this know-how with a close-to-the-ground cycling trip in Guangxi Zhuangzu and Guizhou Provinces. The itinerary passes through dramatic and varied landscapes—lush rice fields, bamboo-lined rivers, jutting limestone peaks—that have inspired some of the nation’s most famous poets. “It’s like cycling through a traditional Chinese painting,” says Skinner.
ON THE GROUND: Starting from Guilin, in Guangxi Zhuangzu, you’ll combine long biking days—at altitudes ranging from sea level to about 2,000 feet (610 meters), on a mix of paved and unpaved surfaces—with visits to remote villages such as Zhaoxing, known for distinctive Dong architecture, including palatial drum towers and bamboo waterwheels. Says Skinner, “The trip provides unparalled access to rural China, as you travel through one of the nation’s most diverse and scenic regions.”
BHUTAN: The East Opens Up
WHAT’S NEW: In early 2007, Bhutan plans to officially open its eastern valleys of Merak and Sakten to the world; next April, Wilderness Travel will lead a three-week trip there, crossing the entire nation from Paro, in the west. Until now, these remote valleys—home to the seminomadic Brokpa people, who migrated from the Tibetan plateau centuries ago—have been visited by few Westerners. “This is a trek to some very distinct cultural areas, far from the standard routes,” says Barbara Banks, director of new-trip development for Wilderness Travel. “The Bhutanese government has talked about opening the region for years, and it’s finally happened.”
ON THE GROUND: After touring monasteries and cities in western Bhutan, you’ll set out on a five-day trek into Merak and Sakten themselves—climbing to cross 13,500-foot (4,115-meter) mountain passes, stopping to explore traditional weaving villages, and visiting with monks who follow the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Along the way, you’ll get firsthand experience of eastern Bhutan’s distinctive knife-edged ridgelines and its semitropical climate; you’ll also meet the Brokpa and observe their pastoral way of life.
RUSSIA: Behind-the-Scenes Baikal
WHAT’S NEW: The world’s deepest lake, Russia’s Baikal is a 7.8-million-acre (3.1-million-hectare) giant deep in the heart of Siberia—getting there requires two overnight flights and a five-hour drive. Ever ponder how you might set out to explore it? Next year, in partnership with Russian trip specialist Mir Corporation, Maine-based H20utfitters aims to show you through their novel program, the Coastlines of Adventure. “It’s a way to look at a trip from behind the scenes and be involved in the planning stages,” says H2Outfitters founder Jeff Cooper. The intent is to encourage participants to plan their own expeditions; it also makes visiting far-off locales such as Baikal more affordable.
ON THE GROUND: After a day exploring Moscow, you’ll fly overnight to Irkutsk and drive to the shores of Lake Baikal. The next week is spent kayaking the lake’s islands, scouting hidden bays, camping among sand dunes, and staying at a mix of guest houses, residential homes, and a barge hotel. When you’re not paddling, the cultural experiences are decidedly local: You’ll soak in hot springs on the Holy Nose Peninsula, visit a Buryat village, and meet the chief lama at Ivolginsky Buddhist monastery.
THAILAND AND MALAYSIA: Exclusive Island Access
WHAT’S NEW: Early next year, the regal 170-passenger Star Flyer sets sail on the Andaman Sea, touring a series of beguiling tropical islands that have rebounded rapidly from 2004′s devastating tsunami. The vessel is the only cruise boat allowed by the Thai government to stop at many of these islands; this privileged access means that passengers aboard the ship, which is stocked with sea kayaks and small sailboats, can explore shallow reefs and uninhabited beaches that other seafarers miss. National Geographic underwater zoologist Clyde Roper—whose research was featured in the film Sea Monsters: Search for the Giant Squid—will lead the expedition.
ON THE GROUND: Launching from Phuket, the ship first travels to the little-visited Batong Group, where you’ll pause to snorkel, kayak, and windsurf along the secluded beaches and coves of Ko Adang. You’ll then sail to Pinang, Malaysia, where a local expert will lead a tour of the shrines and lush gardens of Kek Lok Si, one of the largest Buddhist temple complexes in Southeast Asia. Other tropical gems include the Similan chain, famous for its vibrant indigenous bird species and unusual mammals such as the flying lemur. As the trip loops back to Phuket by way of mangrove-lined Phang-nga Bay, Roper will act as an on-site naturalist, pointing out spinner dolphins as they frolic nearby and helping you spot underwater oddities, including fire coral and blue-ringed octopuses.
ANTARCTICA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
ANTARCTICA: Discover a Penguin Colony
WHAT’S NEW: Two years ago a new emperor penguin colony was discovered on the south side of Snow Hill Island. You can be among the first to witness this 4,000-breeding-pair rookery of majestic birds on Zegrahm Expeditions’ October journey aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. Setting sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, the icebreaker will cruise the 500-mile (805-kilometer) Drake Passage—where guests on deck can photograph whales and swooping albatross—and crash through frozen waters to reach the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea. There, giant tabular icebergs dot the horizon and crabeater seals drift by on ice floes. “Emperor penguin colonies are usually much harder to reach,” says Zegrahm spokesperson Casey Marker. “That’s what makes Snow Hill so special.”
ON THE GROUND: Once on the island, if weather permits, helicopters will carry you to the rookery to watch newborn penguin chicks cluster and brood at their parents’ feet. You’ll also have a chance to make a Zodiac landing at the Trinity Peninsula’s Brown Bluff and set foot on the Antarctic landmass itself.
AUSTRALIA: Explore an Undeveloped Shore
WHAT’S NEW: The Arnhemland Coast, east of Darwin in north-central Australia, is one of the nation’s least developed shorelines. But although its rugged headlands and palm-fringed beaches are virtually free of human footprints, marine debris has posed a major environmental threat in recent years. Australian environmental organizations have documented a high incidence of animals choking on plastic rubbish and endangered sea turtles becoming entangled in discarded fishing nets. World Expeditions hopes to halt this degradation as part of a new series of trips dedicated to community-project travel. “We’ve found that a lot of people have been looking for trips on which they can do as well as see,” says World Expeditions spokesperson Brad Atwal.
ON THE GROUND: Under the guidance of Yolngu Aboriginal park rangers working for the Arnhemland Marine Rescue project, you’ll travel the coast by foot and four-wheel-drive vehicle to collect, catalog, and dispose of marine litter. You’ll also head out on rescue missions by helicopter, scouting for turtles and other entangled wildlife from the air. Downtime is spent in bush camps and in Yolngu communities where villagers offer insight into local philosophies of land and sea stewardship.
NEW ZEALAND: Do As the Guides Do
WHAT’S NEW: Ask any group of experienced guides about their dream trips, and chances are they’ll rattle off dozens of options. This year Queenstown-based Active New Zealand invented a creative way to take advantage of all this unrealized trip-planning potential: The outfitter inaugurated an annual competition among its guides to design the best trip around New Zealand. The winner, of course, would get to lead his or her entry. The contest’s first champion is veteran guide Lynette Warmington, 37, who, beginning in March, will lead visitors on her custom 14-day multisport tear around the South Island, stopping to sample some of the region’s finest and least known outdoor offerings.
ON THE GROUND: After trekking in the shadows of 12,316-foot (3,754-meter) Mount Cook, you’ll set out on a three-day hut-to-hut hike along Warmington’s favorite trail, the five-year-old Hump Ridge Track. Tucked into the southwest corner of the South Island, the 35-mile (56-kilometer) route has two new backcountry mountain lodges and offers stellar views of both Lake Hauroko, at 1,516 feet (462 meters) the country’s deepest lake, and the moody mountain ranges of Fiordland National Park. The trip culminates with an overnight cruise through isolated Doubtful Sound, where you’ll explore waterfall-draped shorelines populated by seals and gape as the sun dips into the Tasman Sea.
CROATIA AND MONTENEGRO: Balkan Comeback
WHAT’S NEW: In the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro was once known as the Adriatic’s St. Tropez, a beach-studded playground attracting movie-star luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. War ravaged the Balkans a decade ago, but Montenegro’s dense pine forests, craggy granite peaks, and steeply cut river canyons survived unscathed. This May, Mountain Travel Sobek co-founder John Yost leads a rafting-and-hiking romp that takes in the sandy beaches, stalactite-crowded caves, and thunderous waterfalls of the world’s youngest nation.
ON THE GROUND: You’ll begin in the coastal city of Dubrovnik, in neighboring Croatia, and move inland to the wilds of Montenegro’s Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Trekking along high, rocky plateaus that lead to panoramic views of glacier-formed kettle lakes, you’ll also explore tiny villages built in the Venetian style. The centerpiece of the excursion is a 20-mile (32-kilometer) white-water rafting trip down the Tara River’s pulsing Class III-IV rapids through one of the deepest and longest canyons in Europe. “People always think of Europe in terms of cities,” says Sobek spokesperson Kim Beck. “In Montenegro we’ve found a true wilderness, undiscovered by most.”
GEORGIA: Crossing the Caucasus
WHAT’S NEW: Since 1999, Explorers’ Corner owner Olaf Malver has collaborated with the United Nations and the Georgian government to protect the Caucasus Mountains, establishing a national park system that will open the range to the public and promote conservation. The World Wildlife Fund has called the Caucasus “one of the world’s biologically richest yet most threatened areas” because it holds within its forests and alpine ecosystems more than twice the animal diversity found in neighboring regions of Europe and Asia. (Resident species include lynx, brown bears, golden eagles, and black vultures.) Next year Malver showcases the result of his conservation efforts on an Explorers’ Corner trip to brand-new Tusheti National Park, taking hikers on challenging treks with local guides onto the flanks of 16,541-foot (5,042-meter) Mount Kazbek.
ON THE GROUND: Days are spent on horseback and nights in hotels, camps, and at village homestays where you can expect elaborate hospitality: Georgian feasts, complete with song and dance and even toasts in your honor. “No one has done this [itinerary in Georgia] before—it’s definitely an up-and-coming destination,” says Malver. “And the people are incredibly warm. You won’t find a more welcoming culture anywhere.”
HUNGARY, SLOVAKIA, POLAND: Castles in the Sky
WHAT’S NEW: In June the bike-touring specialist Backroads launches a trip through Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland that includes cycling through beech forests, windswept pastures, and some of the least touristed medieval cities and alpine hamlets in Europe. The seed of the trip was planted by Tom Hale, the company’s founder, who, inspired by all he’d been reading about Eastern Europe, ordered as many maps of the region as he could find. “With the small villages, it feels like postwar Europe,” says Backroads spokesperson Christian Chumbley, who helped Hale create the itinerary. “Traffic just disappears, and you can do a 60-mile (97-kilometer) route where you don’t see a single car.”
ON THE GROUND: The tour begins with a cruise up the storied Danube River from Budapest to the 13th-century forts and 14th-century palaces at Visegrád, Hungary. Then you’ll head west and begin cycling with a roll over the Maria Valeria Bridge into Slovakia. Winding through the High Tatras Mountains to Banska Stiavnica, a town filled with Renaissance architecture, the route crosses into Poland, where a day of biking the Polish High Tatras ends with a horse-drawn-carriage ride to a traditional highlander restaurant (smoky soft cheeses and dumplings comprise the local fare). The final two days are spent spinning past the ancient castles that surround Krakow.
ARGENTINA AND CHILE: Patagonia Your Own Way
WHAT’S NEW: “Fewer and fewer travelers are taking scheduled group departures—the baby boomers and twentysomethings want individualized trips,” says Jim Sano, president of Geographic Expeditions. “We’re taking private trips into places like Patagonia, where there are incredible national parks in the making in Argentina and Chile.” Next year the 25-year-old San Francisco–based outfitter will lead custom treks into areas where nonprofit Conservación Patagónica is turning enormous estancias into protected public reserves and national parks. The goal, says Sano, is to create sustainable tourism projects—such as El Rincón, a 35,000-acre (14,164-hectare) former ranch along the spine of the Andes that is now a beautiful preserve with a nearby guest lodge—in locations that are breathtaking and virtually trail-less.
ON THE GROUND: Your options are based on group interest and physical ability and can include exploring Torres del Paine National Park and the Fitz Roy massif, trekking up peaks that have rarely been climbed, or fly-fishing for Patagonia’s behemoth 13-pound (6-kilogram) trout. GeoEx will eventually develop fixed itineraries to some of these locales; going now means that you can choose your own path through the untrammeled wilderness.
BRAZIL: Sail Away on a Tall Ship
WHAT’S NEW: “The ship is one of a kind,” says GAP Adventures Operations Manager Jeff Russill about the Tocorimé, a 120-foot (37-meter) traditional colonial vessel, hand-built by local craftsmen along Brazil’s Tapajós River. “Sixteen travelers cruise up the coast of Brazil on a colonial-style tall ship and learn to sail her in the process.” GAP’s first ever excursion aboard the Tocorimé launches next year from Paraty, a historic merchant town on the southeast coast famous for seafood, bossa nova, and potent cachaça liquor. From there, the ship ventures out into the surrounding tropical bay, which has more than 65 islands and dozens of isolated beaches to explore, and heads north up the coast toward the bright lights of Rio de Janeiro.
ON THE GROUND: You’ll stop at remote Mamanguá Ecological Reserve, a fjord on the Brazilian coastline with a magnificent five-mile (eight-kilometer) sea entrance and a protected mangrove forest; Ilha Grande, a 17-square-mile (44-square-mile) state park that is home to Brazilian thrushes, endangered bugio monkeys, and scarlet ibis (once thought to be locally extinct); and Lagoa Azul, where bioluminescent sea plankton put on a glowing nighttime show. Off-ship excursions include rain-forest hikes, waterfall hunting, snorkeling, and kayaking. Along the way, you’ll clamber up the masts and learn to navigate the blue-green waters—enough of a taste of the sailing life to make you want to jump ship from your day job.
MEXICO: Track Gray Whales
WHAT’S NEW: For at least as long as scientists have studied them, a massive population of Pacific gray whales has spent summers feeding in the Bering Sea and winters mating off Baja California Sur. But recent observations suggest that this annual migration pattern has been upset, and the whales now seek sources of food outside of the Bering Sea. “There’s a big change afoot,” says William Megill, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Bath, in England, and the leader of this Earthwatch Institute expedition. “Some of the whales are looking for feeding grounds near British Columbia and down in Mexico. We’re examining whether or not there is any room for them in these new habitats—a hungry whale can do a lot of damage to an ecosystem.”
ON THE GROUND: As a volunteer with Megill, you’ll spend most days in small skiffs, spotting and photo-identifying whales, recording population stats, and assisting with navigation. You’ll also help the local community build wind-powered generators. Downtime is spent relaxing on the edge of a blue tropical lagoon. “You’ll have 250 whales outside your tent and meaningful connections with the local communities,” says Megill. “That’s what really gets people excited about being down here.”
PERU: Become a Park Pioneer
WHAT’S NEW: In 2001, north-central Peru’s Cordillera Azul became a protected national park after biologists in partnership with the Chicago-based Field Museum discovered 28 unknown-to-science species of plants and animals in the 5,225-square-mile (13,533-square-kilometer) preserve. Thus far, only four expeditions have been allowed to enter this diverse Andean mountainscape filled with cloud forests, marshlands, and lowland valleys; next year, Sierra Club Outings makes history by leading the first public group into the park.
ON THE GROUND: On the Sierra Club’s pioneering team, you’ll backpack, raft, camp, canoe, and fly by Peruvian police helicopter to unexplored regions of mountain and thick forest. You’ll see big cats, Andean bears, and recently discovered bird species such as the scarlet-banded barbet. How did guide John O’Donnell gain access to scout the trip? By making the rounds with his daughter, Hilary, a former Field Museum anthropologist. “It’s a true wilderness that has experienced very little alteration by mankind,” he says. He’s not kidding: A group of what scientists call “uncontacted” indigenous people resides in the park, living essentially the same lifestyle they have for thousands of years—complete with bows and arrows and poison blow darts. “We probably won’t run into them,” says O’Donnell, “but just knowing that these people are there speaks to the wildness of the place.”
ALASKA: Inside a Floating Aquarium
WHAT’S NEW: Alaska’s Inside Passage—packed with mysterious fjords, dramatic glaciers, and charismatic marine life—has long captivated families. Next year, the 300-mile-long (483-mile-long) route plays host to a new Lindblad Expeditions initiative aimed at transforming its vessels into outdoor classrooms. Over the past several years, the small-ship cruise outfitter has witnessed a surge in the number of families onboard its boats. For 2007, all of the outfitter’s naturalists will be trained in child education through a course designed in conjunction with the National Geographic Society, and all of its Alaska vessels will be fitted with underwater bow cameras, allowing kids to track orcas and other creatures by operating a joystick in the ship’s lounge.
ON THE GROUND: When not kayaking, hiking, or exploring quirky seaside communities, you and your kids can while away the hours on deck, listening to whale songs from a hydrophone and watching harbor seals and their young crowd onto glacial icebergs.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Canada’s Newest Preserve
WHAT’S NEW: Last February about three million acres (1,214,057 hectares) of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest became North America’s newest protected area—the result of a protracted struggle to save the region’s old-growth forests from excess logging. Part of the largest coastal temperate rain forest in the world, the Great Bear extends along 250 miles (402 kilometers) of rugged shoreline, making ship-based, or mother-ship, sea kayaking one of the best ways to access it all.
ON THE GROUND: Local outfitter Pacific Northwest Expeditions has been leading summer paddling trips in the area since 1998. Its 2007 departures will feature keynote guests—scientists and ecologists—who can speak to the changing character of the preserve and the need for saving threatened species such as the white-furred Kermode bear, or spirit bear, a variant of the black bear. You’ll cruise between kayaking sites in a retrofitted 95-foot (29-meters) World War II-era wooden ship, the MV Songhee, which has six staterooms, a hot tub on deck, and a chef to fry up your fresh catch of the day.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Multisport in Napa North
WHAT’S NEW: A heady mix of snowcapped mountains, deep cobalt lakes, and fertile wine country, Canada’s Okanagan Valley—five hours north of Spokane, Washington—has yet to be discovered by most Americans. But as area vineyards’ crisp, fruity whites and big reds begin to rate high marks at global competitions, an influx of south-of-the-border wine buffs is sure to follow. Austin-Lehman Adventures will add a trip to the Okanagan in 2007, offering guests a chance to preview the wines of the region and sample the endless biking and hiking trails that crisscross its semiarid landscape—before the word gets out.
ON THE GROUND: You’ll cycle routes that trace the shore of 218-square-mile (565-square-kilometer) Okanagan Lake, ascend through high-altitude pine forests and granite tunnels, and end in vine-covered foothills dotted with wineries. Austin-Lehman’s flexible schedule can be amped up to include 25-mile (40-kilometer) rides on the Trans-Canada Trail or long days of canoeing across the lake. But if you’d rather spend your hours relaxing, you can take an afternoon to taste the Pinot Noir at NK’Mip Cellars, North America’s first aboriginal-owned-and-operated winery, or sip the award-winning pyramid-aged wines at Summerhill, Canada’s largest certified organic vineyard.
CALIFORNIA TO MAINE: Perfect Your Weekend
WHAT’S NEW: Few outdoor institutions are more sacred—and fragile—than the weekend trip. Done right, you tackle not one but several new summits by the time you head home. Done wrong, you get no farther than the trailhead, where you’re stuck cleaning soot out of your camp stove. REI Adventures’ Weekend Getaways Program, new for next year, is the first nationwide attempt at removing uncertainty from an action-packed long weekend. “Most Americans’ vacations last only three to six days, which means that people place a premium on their weekend,” says Justin Wood, coordinator of the program. “Our destinations lend themselves to this kind of escape.”
ON THE GROUND: The outings focus heavily on the classics: cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking from one historic inn to another in Vermont’s Green Mountains, or backpacking through Yosemite’s Cathedral Pass. Each of the close-to-home excursions includes lodging and most meals, and prices are competitive with the cost of doing it yourself. Depending on which trip you choose, you can also set your own level of comfort, whether that means learning how to construct a bombproof backcountry campsite or simply bedding down in a century-old bed-and-breakfast.
NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: Untamed Tundra
WHAT’S NEW: A broad, 10,000-square-mile (25,900-square-kilometer) swath of rolling tundra and deep river canyons, Tuktut Nogait National Park lies inside Canada’s rugged Northwest Territories, 105 miles (169 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle. The ten-year-old park’s three main valleys are valuable nesting areas for raptors and migratory birds. One of its rivers, the Hornaday, flows northwest into the Beaufort Sea and will be the site of an exploratory trip by Ontario-based Black Feather next summer. “Few paddlers have ever navigated the Hornaday,” says Black Feather guide Wendy Grater. “In the summer the river is clear and easy to paddle, but its major canyon is impassable.”
ON THE GROUND: Along with two guides, you’ll start by paddling the upper Hornaday to the mouth of the river’s canyon. From there you’ll swap paddles for hiking boots to trek the barren tundra. The going is moderate, says Grater, with some challenging river crossings—there are no bridges in this isolated region. But the isolation makes for tremendous, unspoiled scenery: A herd of 80,000 caribou moves through the park each summer (including calving females that can be seen from the Hornaday); once overhunted musk oxen have been steadily increasing in number; and, in late July, wildflowers set the entire park aflame.
WASHINGTON: Conquering a Cascades Classic
WHAT’S NEW: The legendary Ptarmigan Traverse begins at Cascade Pass in the shadow of North Cascades National Park’s 8,065-foot (2,458-meter) Johannesburg Mountain and traces nearly 25 miles (40 kilometers) of the Cascades Crest, cutting across ridges and cirques to the north side of 10,541-foot (321-meter) Glacier Peak, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. It’s the kind of iconic route that experienced Cascades mountaineers have been tackling unguided ever since the area’s Ptarmigan Climbing Club established it in 1938. Next May, Seattle-based Mountain Madness will guide a tour that makes this North American classic accessible to beginning ski mountaineers.
ON THE GROUND: The off-piste skiing and climbing along the traverse are both challenging, but the payoffs are unrivaled: bombing down 3,000-foot (914-meter) corn-choked couloirs while supreme views of frozen lakes and tumbling glaciers spread out before you. Ptarmigan vets effuse about the brilliant alpenglow on the LeConte Glacier and adjacent Sentinel Peak—arguably the best view along the entire route. “The trip is equivalent to the Haute Route in the Alps, but in a wilderness setting,” says Mark Gunlogson, president of Mountain Madness. “It’s beautiful.”
WYOMING: The Ultimate Grand
WHAT’S NEW: Scaling Wyoming’s 13,770-foot (4,197-meter) Grand Teton has long been a rite of passage for beginning multipitch climbers seeking to take their skills to the next level. Combined with nearby 12,325-foot (3,757-meter) Teewinot and 12,928-foot (3,940-meter) Mount Owen, the Grand becomes what Exum senior guide Mark Newcomb calls “some of the best continuous climbing and scrambling in the lower 48.” This three-summit route, called the Cathedral Traverse, takes its name from the resemblance that the mountains’ sheer north faces bear to a Gothic cathedral’s spires. Exum Mountain Guides has led exploratory trips on the traverse for years, but rave reviews from these excursions have prompted the company to open the route—which requires nearly 12,000 vertical feet (3,658 vertical meters) of ascent—to the general climbing public.
ON THE GROUND: After shooting up Teewinot’s east face on day one, you’ll track across a granite ridgeline—with panoramas of the north face of Grand Teton towering above—before summiting Mount Owen and bivouacking for the night. Day two takes on the six-pitch climb to the top of the Grand itself. Don’t despair if you haven’t yet tackled a big mountain: This traverse is accessible to average, fit climbers with 5.8-level multipitch experience.
PRIVATE JET TRIPS: Around the World in 23 Days
PICTURE THIS: A World Wildlife Fund-assembled faculty of experts on Earth’s natural and cultural treasures waits aboard a private Boeing 757—think white-tablecloth meal service, a gourmet chef. You’re right there with them, in business-class seating, on the tarmac in Orlando, Florida. Then, as the plane speeds down the runway, cue a three-week-long montage of the world’s greatest destinations. First it’s Peru for three days of exploring Lima, Cusco, and the sacred altars, temples, and terraced gardens of Machu Picchu. Next you’re on Easter Island (pictured), in Chile, examining the treeless landscape’s enigmatic moai, or head sculptures. In the following two weeks, you partake in a kava ceremony in Samoa; snorkel Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; observe artisans carving elaborate dugout canoes in Papua New Guinea; and visit Cambodia’s legendary Angkor Wat complex. You also visit the Taj Mahal, watch falconry demonstrations in Dubai, witness a wildebeest migration on the Serengeti, and finally, haggle for keepsakes in the busy souks of Marrakech—all before returning home. Take a deep breath. Now consider the cost of funding each of these trips separately: Seeing it all at once suddenly seems worth saving for.