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No Fuel, No Wind: The 5 Most Epic Human-Powered Journeys

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For a certain breed of adventurer, crossing an ocean, a continent, or even circumnavigating the globe, is not enough. These rare overachievers want to undertake these Herculean tasks without the aid of fossil fuels, electricity or wind. For them, only muscle power and sweat will suffice to cross oceans, deserts and mountain ranges. In these 5 epic journeys, they have amassed numerous world records and set the bar higher for subsequent generations of Adrenalists.

Two Firsts in One

In 2006, Canadian Colin Angus became the first person to navigate around the earth under his own steam. He used only muscle power to pedal and row through 16 countries and across two oceans. Angus’ history-making expedition came to a close when he returned to Vancouver, B.C., his point of embarkation. As if this achievement weren’t enough, Angus completed it in just two years. Almost as an afterthought, his trip included the first rowboat crossing of the Atlantic. He began the journey with a partner, but finished with his fiancée (now his wife) Julie Angus, who joined during the cycling phase across Europe. When the pair rowed across the Atlantic, she set yet another record, becoming the first woman to make an ocean crossing in a rowboat. Twenty-six thousand miles later, the pair cycled into Vancouver after completing the final leg of the epic journey: a 5,000-mile cycle tour on the Pan American Highway beginning in Costa Rica.

Around the World in 13 Years

Dubbed Expedition 360, this journey sought essentially the same objective as Colin Angus’ round-the-world effort—with one important distinction. Jason Lewis and Steve Smith wanted to make what is called a “true circumnavigation”: their route would pass through two antipodean (diametrically opposed) points on the globe, as Angus’ had not. Lewis and Smith set out in July 1994. In the end, only one of these men, Jason Lewis, would finish the trip as planned. After cycling through England and pedaling a boat to mainland Europe, the men crossed the Atlantic from Portugal to Miami. They cycled and skated together across North America and made it the better part of the way across the Pacific. But in Hawaii, in 1999, Smith decided to give up Expedition 360. Lewis continued through Australia, Asia, India and Africa before completing the trek in England. In October 2007—13 years after setting out—Lewis completed the first human-powered, true circumnavigation of the globe. He is currently in the process of raising funds to create a documentary for his journey, “The Expedition.”

240 lbs. of Gear and a Solo Climb Up Everest

In October 1995, climber Goran Kropp mounted a bicycle loaded with a whopping 240 pounds of gear and food. He pedaled through his native Sweden, headed for his destination: Mount Everest, a full 8,000 miles away. Six months later, he arrived at base camp of the world’s tallest peak, where he made a daring solo ascent of the mountain. As to be expected of a man who had ridden halfway around the world under his own sweat and grit, Kropp chose the hard way once again. He climbed the mountain without bottled oxygen or help from local sherpas, two aids used by virtually every climber who summits or attempts Everest. Before his human-powered Everest expedition, Kropp had soloed K2, Everest’s slightly shorter, but perhaps more dangerous, Himalayan neighbor. In 2002, Kropp died during a rock climbing accident in Washington, not far from his adopted home of Seattle. At the time the tragedy struck, Kropp was being belayed by Erden Eruc, a friend who would later set out on his own human-powered expedition in Kropp’s memory.

Six Summits on Sweat Alone

Spurred by the loss of his friend Goran Kropp, Erden Eruc organized the Six Summits expedition, a trip to six continents—with the aim of summiting the highest peak on each—that would have made his buddy proud. The expedition combines cross-ocean rowing with transcontinental cycling, with climbing. Eruc has reached a few of his objective summits already. He started by conquering Alaska’s famous Mount McKinley in 2003. This epic journey required a 5,500-mile round trip by bicycle and by foot over glaciers. In 2007, he rowed from California to Papua New Guinea on his successful quest to add Australia’s Mt. Kosciuszko to his ticklist. Following this, he rowed across the Indian Ocean; in doing so he became the first person to row across three oceans. In June 2011, Erden reached the summit of Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, crossed the continent by bicycle, and then rowed to South America.

London to London

London to London: Via the World is an apt name for Brit Sarah Outen’s newest journey: a 20,000-mile, two-and-a-half year trip all under her own power. Upon completion, Outen will have rowed solo for 7,500 nautical miles spanning two oceans, crossed three continents and 16,000 miles by bike and consumed an estimated 6,000 calories per day. In the process, she will have racked up three world records, including becoming the first woman to row across the North Pacific. Not bad for a woman who is just 27. Outen departed London in April 2011 and made it to Japan as planned. Partway through her row across the North Pacific, from Japan to Canada, however, she was pummeled by a tropical storm that prevented her from finishing the crossing. Outen is now back in England, planning her return to the expedition. This spring, she will set out once again from Japan to attempt to cross the North Pacific. You can follow the Via the World journey on her YouTube channel.

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