To many a visit to the great outdoors means a leisurely stroll through the well-worn trails of a nearby state park, perhaps entailing the odd clamber over a felled tree or rogue boulder before taking a well-deserved granola bar break. And then there are these: Extreme adventures that offer intense and thrilling challenges to even the most seasoned outdoorsman, from terrain, or temperature, fauna or any combination of the three.
Mount McKinley, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK
The Alaskan wilderness is of a completely different scale than most places on earth. It’s remote and sprawling, it’s truly wild, it’s populated by few humans but very many large, powerful animals (all of these are, of course, also why it’s so appealing). Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) is perhaps the perfect expression of it all. While there are extensive bus routes and comfort stations for casual hikes, to attempt the continent’s highest peak requires an arduous journey hacking through the bush and then often treacherous winds and ice, the possibility of altitude sickness – the summit tops out above 20,000 feet – not to mention the possibility of encounters with Black and Grizzly bears and moose among others. Despite a banner year of successful climbs last year, typically just over 50 percent of aspiring climbers make it to the top on average, and more than 100 have died trying over the past century.