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In the last week or so, I’ve come across two things that have fed my hunger for adventure at a time when the only ‘thrill’ in my life is income production for the next exploit. For one, I saw that a local independent theater was playing the new-ish documentary MERU, a gripping mountain-climbing film that also features three appealing climbers. One of them, Jimmy Chin, is also a celebrated photographer and filmmaker and, lucky for us, he attended the opening screening here in Chicago and spoke with the audience afterward about his roles as climber, director, and producer of MERU.

From the merufilm.com website, here is part of the introduction to whet your appetite:

“In the high-stakes game of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru may be the ultimate prize. Sitting at the headwaters of the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the Shark’s Fin has seen more failed attempts by elite climbing teams over the past 30 years than any other ascent in the Himalayas.

… To undertake Meru, says Jon Krakauer, the bestselling author of Into Thin Air, “You can’t just be a good ice climber. You can’t just be good at altitude. You can’t just be a good rock climber. It’s defeated so many good climbers and maybe will defeat everybody for all time. Meru isn’t Everest. On Everest you can hire Sherpas to take most of the risks. This is a whole different kind of climbing.”

In October 2008, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru. What was meant to be a seven-day trip with the equivalent amount of food became a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures, thanks to the setback of a massive storm that showered the mountain with at least 10 feet of snow. Like everyone before them, their journey was not a successful one.  … By September 2011, Anker had convinced his two lifelong friends to undertake the Shark’s Fin once more, under even more extraordinary circumstances than the first time around.

MERU is the story of that journey—one of friendship, sacrifice, hope and obsession.”

MERU won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. The film succeeds as both an adventure film and as a story of personal struggle for the three men. The website link above lists theaters across the U.S where the film is opening through mid-October if you, too, need a jolt of adventure but can’t leave your home or armchair right now!

***

The climbing in MERU is light years beyond what I have ever done or could ever hope to do. But a day after watching the film and wishing I were 20 years younger and 10 times braver, I came across a National Geographic list of the World’s Best Hikes: Thrilling Trails, and (ever-so-slightly) puffed out my chest at the discovery that I had done two of them. (Yes, I agree in advance with many of you who would argue for more/other/different treks than those on this list; there are lists for everything these days, but this is as good a start as any for this post!)

One of them, Huayna Picchu in Peru (see my post on that hike here), really was terrifying, but the other – the Kakum Canopy Walk in Ghana – did not faze me at all.

Kakum Canopy Walk, Ghana

Kakum Canopy Walk, Ghana

Precipitous paths do induce fear in me, but creaky swinging bridges high over ravines do not. I guess we all have our personal fear factors. Hiking near a smoking volcano – not a problem. The via ferrata treks – lots of fun / add them to the list! Clinging to those splintered old wood platforms with giant gaps in them on Mount Huashan in China – never, ever going to happen for me!

These 20 hikes have various scare quotients, from tight squeezes in narrow tunnels to dizzying heights to extreme temperatures. Some of them sound quite exciting to me and will be added to my travel wish list, a few of them are things I would not do for a million dollars, and two of them are hikes I have already done.

How many of these 20 Thrilling Trails have you trekked? I’d love to hear your take on them or any other adrenaline-producing ones you’ve done!

  • Besseggen Ridge, Norway
  • El Caminito de Rey, Spain
  • Leukerbad Via Ferrata, Switzerland
  • Devil’s Path, New York, USA
  • Stromboli, Italy
  • Aonach Eagach Ridge, Scotland
  • Huntington Ravine, New Hampshire, USA
  • Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
  • Dry Fork Coyote Gulch, Utah, USA
  • Black Hole of White Canyon, Utah, USA
  • Granite Peak, Montana, USA
  • Búri Cave, Iceland
  • Crypt Lake Trail, Alberta, Canada
  • Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
  • Huayna Picchu, Peru
  • Mount Huashan, China
  • Lion’s Head, South Africa
  • Kakum Canopy Walk, Ghana
  • Low’s Peak Via Ferrata, Malaysia
  • Chadar Trek, India
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