For some Adrenalists, partaking in high-risk activities where any misstep could be deadly just isn’t enough of a challenge. No, there are adventurers who need to set records while they’re out leaping over the hurdles that seem insurmountable to so many others. Whether it be claiming the title of highest, youngest, first or fastest, the feeling of achieving a feat that no one else has accomplished must be be an unparalleled rush.
We’ve touched on this phenomenon before in our piece on Most Extreme World Records, but now we’re focusing specifically on ascents, those instances where, on mountain, tower, or space capsule, some of the most motivated and skilled individuals in the world have put themselves to the ultimate test and proven they can go where no other has gone before.
Here are five record-breaking ascents.
The most recent ascent on our list was made even more incredible by its descent. Daredevil and professional skydiver Felix Baumgartner set the world record for highest skydive, using a space capsule to ascend to an altitude of 128,100 feet. After a free fall of 4 minutes and 20 seconds from a height of 119, 846 feet, Baumgartner set the world record for being the first human to travel faster than the speed of sound (or Mach 1.24). Capturing the attention of every major news outlet in the world, he achieved a maximum velocity of 373 meters per second, or 833.9 miles per hour. Joe Kittinger, former world record holder for the world’s longest skydive, said of Baumgartner’s stunning achievement: “Well, records were meant to be broken” and “better champions cannot be found than Felix Baumgartner”.
Like Baumgartner, Jordan Romero wasn’t satisfied with setting one world record. He needed several. Romero’s climbing career began at what some might consider to be a dangerously young age. At 10, he become the youngest person to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, a total of 19,341 feet. Before he turned 11, he added Europe’s Mt. Elbrus to the list. Five months later, he conquered the 22,841-foot Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, then Alaska’s Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet. In September 2009, at age 11, he climbed the tallest island peak in the world — Indonesia’s Carstensz Pyramid, at 16,023 feet. Finally, he became the youngest person to ascend Everest at age 13 and the youngest to ascend the highest mountains on each of the seven continents at age 15. And to think most pre-teens have trouble keeping their backpacks organized.
It should come as no surprise that world records aren’t easy to acheive. In addition to the difficulty of the taske, some are shrouded in controversy. Such was the case with South Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun when she claimed she was the first female to climb every one of the world’s 14 mountains taller than 8,000 meters. After climbing Annapurna in Nepal in 2009, then 44-year-old Eun-Sun’s triumph was met with criticism from many of her fellow climbers who contended she didn’t actually make it to the top. When the Korean Alpine Federation ruled that Eun-Sun did not, in fact, reach Annapurna’s peak, Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban Lizarribar was ruled the first women and the 21st person to achieve the monumental victory.
The Fastest (Mountain)
Want to know how you climb one of the world’s most physically taxing mountains in record-setting time? So do we, but we’re guessing having ten practice runs can only help your chances. Mount Everest Sherpa Lakpa Gyelu knows the storied and daunting mountain like the back of his hand — which may be why he was able to reach the 29,035-foot-high summit in just 10 hours and 56 minutes — a time that squashes the 12 hour 45-minute former record held by Sherpa Pemba Dorjee. Both started their ascent from Everest base camp, located at 17, 380 feet. To put it in perspective, this is a climb that healthy men in top shape have been unable to complete in days, let alone in the time it takes for many people to put in a day at the office.
The Fastest (Tower)
No one is more taken than we are with the man they call the French Spiderman: French rock and urban climber, Alain Robert. His most recent terrifying world record was set on April 12, 2012 when he climbed the 300-meter-high Aspire Tower in Doha, Qatar in the fastest ever 1 hour, 33 minutes and 47 seconds…without so much as a string tethering him to a safety harness or anchor. Just watching him makes our hands sweat. Robert is the epitome of extreme.