Everest Paragliding and Kayaking Pair Named National Geographic Adventurers of the Year

Everest guide Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa and extreme kayaker Sano Babu Sunuwar were named the People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year for 2012 for their climb to Everest’s summit, record-setting paragliding descent and long-distance kayak from Nepal to the Bay of Bengal in India, the National Geographic Society said today.

The two Nepali adventurers were selected from a group of 12 individuals whose extraordinary achievements in exploration, conservation and adventure sports distinguished them in the past year, National Geographic said in a news statement. The final selection was determined through online voting on the National Geographic Adventure website .

On May 21, 2011, Babu (pilot) and Lakpa (passenger) launched a tandem paraglider from the summit of Mount Everest. They were only the third group to do so. Seen in the background are Everest (left), Lhotse (center), and Neptuse (right). For the men, this was the highlight of the entire expedition—a dream come true to fly above the Khumbu Glacier. Photograph courtesy Sano Babu Sunuwar.


The news statement added: The winning duo was chosen for its epic three-month adventure called “The Ultimate Descent,” which included an ascent of Everest (a first for kayaker Babu, but the fourth for mountain guide Lakpa), an 8,865-meter (29,084-foot) free-flight paraglide descent from the summit (which set a world record for free flight) and an 850-km (approximately 528-mile) kayak trip from Nepal to India on the Ganges River to the Bay of Bengal. Along the way, Babu, 28, and Lakpa, 39, faced obstacles ranging from extreme temperatures and oxygen deprivation at the summit to massive whirlpools on the Kosi River’s class V rapids to being held up at knifepoint in India.

“We weren’t after a record, we just wanted to do all these things, climbing, paragliding, kayaking, in one continuous trip,” said Lakpa. When asked about his favorite part of the trip, Babu said, “Taking off from the highest point in the world.”

“We believe that Lakpa and Babu exemplify the spirit of the award in their commitment to adventure in the truest sense of the word,” said Mary Anne Potts, editor of National Geographic Adventure. “Our fans — more than 72,000 across the adventure community — voted overwhelmingly for these two incredible athletes, and we’re thrilled to call them the People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year.”

View a gallery of pictures of the winners

The feats of each of this year’s nominees embody pioneering innovation — from reinventing distance hiking and circumnavigating frigid Ellesmere Island to skiing the Andes on human power and launching a backyard micro adventure movement. The other nominees were:

  • Jennifer Pharr Davis — American hiker
  • Alastair Humphreys — British adventurer
  • Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner — Austrian mountaineer
  • Danny MacAskill — Scottish cyclist
  • Carissa Moore — American surfer
  • Travis Rice — American snowboarder
  • Cory Richards — American mountaineer-photographer
  • Jon Turk and Erik Boomer — American kayakers
  • Nick Waggoner — American skier-filmmaker

National Geographic has named Adventurers of the Year for the past seven years. In 2011-2012, National Geographic Adventure partnered with Glenfiddich Single Malt to present the award. “We are delighted to partner with National Geographic on this exciting program,” said Lindsay Prociw, senior brand manager for Glenfiddich, the Society’s news release. “Both Glenfiddich and National Geographic are pioneers within their industries, and, as we gear up to celebrate our respective 125th anniversaries, we are honored to be able to celebrate and reward those who are keeping the spirit of a pioneer alive. We salute Lakpa and Babu on this award as well as on their pioneering achievement, and are proud to be honoring them for it.”

This post was prepared from news materials distributed by the National Geographic Society.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn