“The last wild race” may seem a bold claim, but if any event can live up to it, it’s the Patagonian Expedition Race (see it featured in our Ultimate Adventure Bucket List). Deemed by many as the pinnacle of adventure racing, this ten-day endurance competition attracts as many as 20 coed four-person teams from more than a dozen countries. Most years, fewer than half finish, but in many ways, winning is irrelevant. In fact, there’s no prize money—only bragging rights.
Racers sea kayak, mountain bike, trek, and orienteer with only maps and compasses through some of the wildest reaches of Chilean Patagonia (see our Chile guide). They travel for days without seeing other teams through spectacularly diverse landscapes, from the tempestuous waters off Cape Horn to peat bogs, ancient petrified-wood forests, and the 11,000-foot peaks of the Cordillera Darwin.
Though the clock is always ticking and teams endure extreme cold and sleep deprivation, participants emerge from the wilderness with tales of life-changing experiences, such as the sight of a gargantuan humpback whale breaching right next to a kayak or the Zen-like feeling of watching dawn light the eastern horizon, casting an otherworldly glow over a landscape few people have seen.
“Eiger” translates to “ogre” in German, which seems a fitting moniker for the 13,000-foot beast of limestone, gneiss, shale, and ice that towers over the resort town of Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. Its unpredictable weather, loose rock, and steep slopes have claimed the lives of more than 60 climbers, and yet its iconic 5,905-foot north face still proves irresistible. Now a new set of adventurers, wingsuit fliers, are not only climbing it but launching off it. Dean Potter (pictured) clinched the most heralded descent in 2009: After free soloing up the north face, he stepped into thin air for a four-mile, 9,000-vertical-foot flight that took two minutes and 50 seconds. The extreme sport is unquestionably one of the most dangerous on Earth, but perhaps that’s the allure: It’s the closest humans can get to true unadulterated flight.