Happy New Year's from our fam to yours.

2021 continued to showcase the resilience of the human spirit and how exploration never stops. We're taking a pause to look back at the incredible accomplishments of our athlete team, despite the challenges over the last year.

Angie Scarth-Johnson shot by Adri Martinez

Our athletes' stories are diverse, but they all share a calling to push the limits of human potential. Even in a year where we all continued to face large and looming challenges, our athletes found the drive to push their limits. In doing so, they uncovered more of themselves through their connection with the natural world. We're here to take a look back at some of their achievements as we welcome a new year, and plan for new adventures. 

Andrius Ramonas shot by Jeff Ward

Andrius Romanos

Andrius set the fastest known time for the technical 42km trail, with nearly 2,800m of vertical gain throughout, completing the run in 5:58:56. “I was keeping an eye on Mt Taranaki ‘Around the Mountain’ track and its record for many years. Iconic volcano always attracted me, with its rough and wild terrain. It was a relief to make a start for the FKT, directing all physical and mental energy to one task." For Andrius, setting a personal challenge gave focus and energy to a period of postponed and cancelled races. 

Photo by Jeff Ward 

Blake Hose shot by Mark Watson

Blake Hose

“When I spoke with David Byrne about some potential areas to have an FKT attempt, I was really excited about the mention of Kosciuszko, as there are so many beautiful locations in the area. After some more research, I stumbled across the Sentinel, an eye-catching peak with a technical rocky ridge, nestled between Watson’s Crags and Mt Townsend. I decided right away that’s what I’d run.” After an FKT attempt on the Sentinel that turned more into a reccy misison, Blake Hose returned the next morning on tired legs and completed the run from Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Sentinel Summit and back in 1:20:50 officially setting the FKT. The trail covers 14.49km and 838m elevation, and leaves you looking – well, like the above.

Photo by Mark Watson 

David Byrne and Victoria Beck shot by Mark Watson

David Byrne & Victoria Beck 

David Byrne and Victoria Beck joined Blake Hose in Kosciuszko to take on FKT attempts of their own. David Byrne tackled the challenging Hannel's Spur track, Australia’s greatest elevation gain on a single track. Starting in Geehi Flat, the track climbs 1,800 metres to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, covering the entire western fall of the Snowy Mountains. David Byrne set out on the morning of Friday, February 19, not having stepped foot on the track before. After 2:38:42 he reached the summit of Kosciuszko – covering over 1,800m of elevation gain, navigating the technical and indistinct section out of Hannels Spur towards the summit, and setting the new FKT for the route. 

Victoria took another approach to summit Mt Kosciuszko, setting her FKT for the Thredbo Village to Kosciuzsko Summit, covering 8.47km and 837m elevation gain in 1:13:08.

Photo by Mark Watson 

Janina Kuzma shot by Ross McKay

Janina Kuzma

“In 2018, I decided to start the NZMGA Ski Guides Pathway. As a skier I wanted to continue to acquire knowledge to expand my skill set for skiing. Over the past few years on this pathway I’ve learnt so many new skills that have made me feel more confident in my own capabilities and made me feel like I’m ready to take on more challenges in the mountains." Janina Kuzma completed her training and became an NZMGA level one ski guide this year. She put her skills to good use finishing up the season skiing the West face of Mt Aspiring / Tititea via the SW Ridge. 

Photo by Ross McKay 

Roland Morley-Brown shot by Dan Mullins

Roland Morley-Brown

In a season like no other before, Roland Morley-Brown got after it in Austria. Road tripping to chase the weather, and when the lifts weren’t turning, taking it to the streets. Visiting old, familiar zones, and ticking off new objectives late into the season – he took advantage of a season that kept on giving. The Austria Edits capture some of the incredible riding RMB got in early this year, and he backed it up with the New Zealand ski season as well. You can watch The Austria Edits here, and see more from RMB on Instagram

Photo by Dan Mullins 

Sam Smoothy shot by Joe Collinson

Sam Smoothy

“On Thursday I skied the Caroline Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook with @outdoorswithrowntree and @joecollinson110. After climbing the stunning East Face route, we witnessed a large serac avalanche sweep the lower face just right of our line. After much deliberation we made two rappels into the face & set off linking turns on beautiful steep pow down to the mid-height serac band. Two more solid raps dropped us into yet more complex terrain to exit the face under huge overhead hazard. It’s hard to process that this has actually happened, and gone so well. A massive thanks to our incredible team, without their vision & skills this wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks to all those who have helped me upskill over the last decade. This line is the terrifying yet joyous culmination of that work.” 

In 2021, Sam Smoothy accomplished a dream that had been lurking in his mind for ten years. The three skiers were the second team to ski the Caroline Face, and the first Kiwi team to do so. 

Photo by Joe Collinson 

Tom O'Halloran shot by Kamil Sustiak

Tom O'Halloran

“The brutality of competing is the most glorious and bitter thing. Some days you’re on, others you’re not. Although I’m disappointed with my final rank, I’m bloody proud of the effort. I put everything onto the wall, even though there wasn’t much there at the time. Before I stepped through the curtain for the first time, I stood there, closed my eyes and felt the whole experience. I smiled to myself and thought, ‘there’s nowhere I’d rather be in the world.’”

In competing in Tokyo earlier this year, Tom O'Halloran blazed the trail for Australian climbers to come. Navigating lockdowns, limited training facilities, work and family – getting there was a feat in itself. After taking time out to compete on the world stage, Tom is heading back to projects that were put on hold - pictured here on the first ascent of The Milkbar P2 (34), Blue Mountains, Australia. 

Photo by Kamil Sustiak 

Angie Scarth-Johnson shot by Jan Novak

Angie Scarth-Johnson

After projecting Pornographie (9a) in Céüse, and finding it to be something she would return to, Angie Scarth-Johnson continued pushing herself on the rock. After dedicating the season to her goal, embracing failure, and battling the mental and physical toll, Angie climbed ‘Victimes del Futur,’ 9a (35) in Margalef, Spain, becoming the first Australian woman and third Australian to climb this grade.

“I passed the red point crux for the first time. I reached the undercling jug and my heart started pounding, adrenaline running through my body. I paused and took a few deep breaths in the last resting position. With my hand in my chalk bag, I looked down at the people below me. I realised I was in ‘that moment.’ That moment we all crave as climbers. The moment before it all happens. I knew this was it.”

Photo by Jan Novak 

Here's to a new year brimming with possibilities. To see what 2022 has in store, follow along on Instagram and Facebook, and share your stories with #NeverStopExploring

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