The Highest Points of Exploration
This year National Geographic magazine looks at some of the superlative challenges facing explorers; this gallery profiles those who soar to new heights.
In 1960 Joseph Kittinger jumped from an open-air gondola 18.5 miles high wearing a duct-taped suit. He set a record for the highest jump and lived to tell the tale in the December 1960 issue of National Geographic.
Photograph by Volkmar K. Wentzel, National Geographic
Felix Baumgartner made his record-breaking jump from a height of 24 miles (39 kilometers) on October 14, 2012. He broke the sound barrier during his 4-minute, 22-second free fall.
Photograph Courtesy © Red Bull Media House
Exploring the Majlis al Jinn—one of the largest cave chambers in the world—requires some high wire rappelling. There is a 518-foot drop to the bottom of the chamber.
Photograph by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic
When Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner climbed K2 in 2011 she became the first woman to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks without oxygen. Known as the Savage Mountain, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and considered more difficult and dangerous to climb than Everest.
Photograph by Tommy Heinrich, National Geographic
Climbers pass the Hillary Step as they push for the summit of the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. Hundreds attempt to climb the mountain every year.
Photograph by Pemba Dorje Sherpa/Getty Images
This BASE jumper flies off Angel Falls in Venezuela. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna tower, span, and earth—all high points that provide a place parachutists can jump from.
Photograph by Ken Fisher/Getty Images
Climbing without a rope in Yosemite National Park, Dean Potter scales a route called “Heaven.”
Photograph by Mike Schaefer, National Geographic
A portaledge provides a campsite 1,500 feet in the air. Climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell have lived here for up to two weeks while working on routes in Yosemite.
Photograph by Jimmy Chin, National Geographic
At least 1,500 years old, a 300-foot titan in California’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has the most complex crown scientists have mapped. This photo is a mosaic composed of 84 images.
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic