Andrzej Bargiel on his way to Shishyapangma.
© Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

These are the 10 modern explorers you need to know

Find these modern explorers taking their adventures to new heights and depths. From the deepest dive ever to the fastest ascent of Annapurna, you'll want to keep your eyes set on these men and women.
Written by Mandy Burkholder
5 min readPublished on
Whether summiting the world's tallest peaks in record time or discovering species in the depths of Earth's oceans, modern explorers are taking their adventures to new extremes. Find these awe-inspiring men and women setting records – and even breaking some of their own – across the world.
From rock climbing and cave diving to Antarctic expeditions and big mountain freeskiing, keep an eye on these modern explorers, whose feats are only the beginning.

Andrzej Bargiel

2 min

Watch Andrzej Bargiel's epic descent from K2

On July 22, 2018, Andrzej Bargiel completed the first-ever descent of K2 on skis – watch his nail-biting descent here.


Andrzej Bargiel knows one thing: big mountain skiing. The professional freeskier and climber became the first person to descend the world's second tallest mountain, K2, via skis in 2018 – a feat previously thought impossible.
Andrzej Bargiel is seen on his ascent of K2 in Pakistan on July 22, 2018. The Polish ski mountaineer made history as the first man to ski down from the summit of K2.

Andrzej Bargiel ascends K2

© Bartek Bargiel/Red Bull Content Pool

Bargiel spoke about the challenges faced while navigating such a historic descent. "There are one or two steep sections, where you have to pass at the right time to be safe, so that the snow isn't too hard or soft and there's no avalanche danger, the sun shines exactly on the spots where you need it, but it's not too warm, because otherwise you have seracs [ice blocks] falling on your head." Bargiel’s expedition is touted as opening a new chapter of mountaineering and ski exploration throughout the Himalayan Mountains.

Nirmal Purja

Best known for speed-summiting six of the world's tallest peaks in just one month, Nirmal 'Nims' Purja is quickly becoming one of Nepal's biggest adventure stars. On April 3, 2019, Purja summited 8,091m Annapurna and continued on to bag Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Everest and Lhotse, before finishing Makalu on May 24.
Purja's adventures weren’t free from distress however. After the Annapurna descent, his crew helped locate and evacuate a missing doctor who'd strayed from the trail. The rescue effort gave Purja the chance to smash the speed ascent record a second time that day. During his time on Kanchenjunga, his team also discovered and assisted three men who'd become disoriented from lack of oxygen.
Catch Purja completing his Project Possible through 2019, as he plans to ascend 14 peaks over 8,000m in just seven months.

Leo Houlding

Climber Leo Houlding big wall climbing on Mount Asgard in Canada's Baffin Mountains range.

Leo Houlding shows the fun of big wall climbing

© Alastair Lee/

Many claim Leo Houlding is the face of modern British exploration. He began rock climbing at the age of 10, moving his homebase to Llanberis in North Wales to eventually become the British Junior Indoor Climbing champion. He's appeared in iconic British television programs such as Top Gear and Extreme Lives, displaying his natural ability to ascend complex routes.
In 2013, Houlding led an expedition up Ulvetanna Peak in Antarctica, where his crew established a new route on the northeast ridge, and he recently completed his latest project, trekking 1,600km to summit Antarctica's Sceptre, the most remote mountain in the world.

Brian Kakuk

Underwater cave explorer Brian Kakuk is an unassuming presence in the diving community, but logs some of the world's most impressive excursions. From his homebase in the Bahamas, Kakuk explores virgin shipwrecks and discovers fossilised animal remains in long-forgotten caves, but his true passion lies in mapping the craggy, cavernous tunnels of the Bahamas' multitude of blue holes. Diving through spaces as deep as 103m, Kakuk explores the expansive network of more than 1,000 holes, of which less than 20 percent have been mapped.

Colin O'Brady

After suffering life-threatening burns at the age of 22, adventurer Colin O’Brady set the speed record for both the Explorer's Grand Slam and Seven Summits. He then went on to summit each of the highest peaks in America's 50 States in just 21 days, a feat less than 300 people have ever attempted.
Endurance athlete Colin O'Brady stands for a portrait against mountain backdrop in March 2016.

Endurance athlete Colin O'Brady

© Colin O'Brady via Wikimedia

It's what he went on to do next that really turned some heads however. Finishing in December 2018, O'Brady became the first person to traverse the continent of Antarctica–solo and completely unsupported. He wrote to his Instagram followers shortly after finishing the last 128km in under 33 hours: "While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced."

Ocean Ramsey

Ocean Ramsey is best known for her freedives with Great White sharks, helping draw attention to conservation efforts around the world. In January, Ramsey was filmed freediving with a pregnant Great White measuring over 6m, which brought her platform to the front page of news outlets around the world. Ramsey lives in Oahu, Hawaii and continues to freedive with her team, having swam with over 32 species of shark to date.

Mike Horn

Mike Horn wears a furry hood for a portrait in Antarctica.

Mike Horn during his Pole2Pole expedition

© Dmitry Sharomov

Mike Horn has built his career on professional exploration. The South African native has circumnavigated the equator, paddled the entire length of the Amazon River and completed the Arctic Circle loop, but at age 52, he's nowhere near done exploring the globe. Horn is looking towards his next polar adventure in 2019, sailing the Arctic Ocean until his boat touches land, after which he plans to trek by foot to the North Pole.

Sarah McNair Landry

Sarah McNair-Landry in Greenland.

Sarah McNair-Landry is one tough adventurer

© DrehXtrem

By 18, Sarah McNair Landry had skied, unsupported, to the South Pole. By 19, she'd accessed the North Pole via dog sled. Her feats made her the youngest person to ever reach both poles, but her adventures only continued from there.
In 2016, McNair Landry led a kite-ski expedition with professional kayakers Erik Boomer and Ben Stookesberry across the Greenland Ice Sheet, leading to the world's first Arctic river paddle descent. She suffered a broken back during the first stages of the expedition, but continued on despite the pain. Watch their epic adventure Into Twin Galaxies here.

Eric Hjorleifson

Michelle Parker and Eric Hjorleifson hiking up a mountain during filming of Ruin and Roses.

Michelle Parker and Eric Hjorleifson

© Ruin and Roses

Veteran freeskier Eric Hjorleifson has slowly adapted his career from adventure-seeking enthusiast to behind-the-scenes workhorse. When not out exploring new lines in the backcountry of Canmore, Alberta, he designs skis and graphics for 4FRNT skis. He also appeared as the focus in Matchstick Productions' 2018 hit Hoji, based on his artistic and adventurous career in the ski industry.

Victor Vescovo

Victor Vescovo in full dive gear during his 2019 dives to the bottom of the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep.

Victor Vescovo during his dives in the Marianas Trench

© Glenn Singleman

In April 2019, businessman and investor Victor Vescovo led the deepest dive ever into the Mariana Trench, reaching a depth of 10,928m and discovering three new aquatic species. His descent also encountered snailfish and spoonworms at depths never before recorded within the Mariana Trench's subsection the Challenger Deep. Vescovo went on to explore nearby Sirena Deep and recovered a slab of Mantle rock for scientific study.

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Andrzej Bargiel

A Polish ski tourer, Andrzej Bargiel made headlines around the world when completing the first-ever descent of K2 on skis.

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