On March 1, 2018 , National Geographic announced its 2018 Adventurers of the Year, an annual list that honors extraordinary achievements in the fields of exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism within the past year.
The list this year includes daring climbers, hardcore ultramarathoners, resilient mountain bikers, inspiring photographers, and incredible philanthropists.
‘Trailblazers’ was the guiding theme of this year’s list, meaning each honoree has achieved something unique, groundbreaking and game-changing in his or her field.
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.
The 2018 Adventurers of the Year are:
- Alex Honnold is a rock climber and founder of the Honnold Foundation, a 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 is an 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.
- Emi Koch is a 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.
- Rajesh Magar is a 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.
- Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen are 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 is a 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 an 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.
“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,” said Andrea Leitch, senior director for National Geographic Travel and Adventure.