Voyage Into the Unknown

Rock climber Mike Libecki is on a one-man quest to conquer remote lands untouched by humans. He travels the world in search of "virgin earth," and some of nature's most daunting terrain -- rock walls, cliffs and treacherous mountainsides. He then climbs on perilous journeys that can last for weeks.

Over the last 10 years, he has taken 30 such trips to the far corners of the planet in search of extreme adventure.

Libecki developed an attachment to the outdoors growing up in California, near Yosemite. He first climbed as a sophomore in high school and became so obsessed he dropped out of college to devote his life to exploring full time.

But climbing on the so-called beaten path soon wasn't enough. In 1997, Libecki went on a climbing trip in the Canadian Arctic and became consumed with discovering the unknown, trekking alone.

Editor's Picks

He was 24 years old. The journey to Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and home to some of the highest rock walls in the world. Some rock faces are a mile high. He calls it his "first real step into completely virgin territory," Libecki got a rush from climbing in remote, untouched and dangerous land.

"[It was] complete, utter wilderness where there is no rescue possibility," Libecki told "Nightline." "Way out there, climbing these big vertical walls that no one's touched before. That was the first one, and it hit me hard. When I got home, I just kept thinking, 'How am I going to get back out there?'"


But Libecki has been back out there, returning to Baffin Island four times. On one trip he spent six weeks in solitude, climbing a 2,000-foot rock wall.

He is drawn to extreme climbing not only as a way of discovering the unknown but also for the intensity of living in the moment and being totally consumed by the wilderness around him.

"I've explained it as living in the ultimate now," said Libecki. "Experiencing the ultimate moment of reality, where you're so involved, you're so entwined in what you're doing, it's so exotic that you're not thinking in the past or the future. It's just a ride of ultimate reality."

Climbing Solo

In 2004, Libecki took a two-month expedition to Antarctica. He hitched a ride on a Russian military plane, set up base camp in a remote area called Queen Maud Land and surveyed the frozen terrain before the climb by kite skiing. As his target, he selected a 2,000-foot mountain cliff that no one had ever set foot on before.

Libecki's extreme climbs are recorded on a video camera attached to a helmet

"Looks like God created this area for climbers," Libecki said. "Just a little niche on this earth for climbers to come out and live their dreams, just satisfy their souls."

It took 16 days of grueling, precision climbing to mount the unnamed rock face. He sought shelter in a tent dangling from the rock, perched on a port-a-ledge, which is a horizontal platform anchored into the rock face with a tent lashed to it.

There have also been five trips to Greenland, including two solo climbing trips. In 2002, he traveled by boat for a week until he arrived at his final destination, 250 miles from the nearest Inuit civilization. From there he selected a 4,400-foot rock wall to conquer.

For 23 days, he lived on the sheer drop in absolute solitude -- fighting off gnats and singing to himself to keep occupied. But it was all worth it when he reached the summit of the wall.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...