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Interviews | September 2, 2014

Jill Owens: IMG David Mitchell: The Powells.com Interview



David MitchellDavid Mitchell's newest mind-bending, time-skipping novel may be his most accomplished work yet. Written in six sections, one per decade, The Bone... Continue »
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Original Essays | Yesterday, 10:42am

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?



My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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    Love Me Back

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Powell's Q&A

Greg Witt

Describe your latest project.
I've long had a love for great outdoor adventure. It puts you face to face with the power of nature. It may cause you to squirm, shake, sweat, or do all three simultaneously, but you come away with a physical achievement and a personal triumph. Adventure changes who you are from the inside out. Adventure helps you break the habits of a routine by dealing with elements of chaos and uncertainty, risk and fear — It's the fuel of creativity. I wanted to share that experience with a wider audience, and Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel is the result.

Ultimate Adventures is an adventurer's life list. Practical and inspirational, its purpose is to arouse passions, open doors, and lead you to explore and discover. It features 177 of the greatest hiking, trekking, paddling, climbing, cycling, skiing, diving, and safari experiences on the planet. Each adventure is rated for its physical challenge, psych factor, skill requirements, and the "wow!" factor. These are uncommon adventures for the common man, and some of the most achievable adventures on earth.


  1. Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel "Visually appealing, with colorful photographs and illustrations throughout, the guide is an enticing read for adventurers, would-be adventurers, and arm-chair travelers." Library Journal
What historical character would you have enjoyed sharing an adventure with?
Being an oarsman on John Wesley Powell's historic first descent of the Colorado River would have been the adventure of a lifetime. Imagine a 1000-mile journey down unknown rapids and through the Grand Canyon, guided by the one-armed major as he sat in a chair lashed amidship, scouting the river below.

What's the most startling thing you've witnessed on an adventure?
Watching a full-on avalanche plow down a mountain slope at 100 mph, leveling stands of trees and producing a blast of air strong enough to flatten a small house is a heart-pounding and terrifying sight. It's particularly gratifying to witness it from a safe distance.

When have you overestimated your skill and found yourself in a real fix?
On a mountain, weather can change instantly and often with disastrous results. I was recently hiking a rocky peak in Scotland when a bank of fog reduced visibility to just 10 feet. I was off the trail and knew that my life depended on locating the route, descending, and getting out of the fog. Knowing when to turn around is an essential element of mountaineering judgment.

What are the most scenic and photogenic adventure destinations you've encountered?
I'm always captivated by the stunning scenery in the Swiss Alps. Powerful glaciers, deep valleys, plunging waterfalls, wildflower-spangled meadows — the Alps has it all. The sculpted redrock canyons and formations of the American Southwest are a visually evocative playground — but my photos never seem to do them justice.

There are some pretty wild adventures here. What are you most afraid of?
I have no fear of heights or dangling from a rope down a mountain cliff, but the thought of plunging into cold water terrifies me. That might keep me off a polar expedition where crashing through the thin ice cap into zero-degree water is a real possibility.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.

Our suicidal poets (Plath, Berryman, Lowell, Jarrell, et al.) spent too much of their lives inside rooms and classrooms when they should have been trudging up mountains, slogging through swamps, rowing down rivers. The indoor life is the next best thing to premature burial. —Edward Abbey

What are your favorite television shows?
I haven't seen a television show in over 25 years. The whole damn medium jumped the shark about 30 years ago. But I recall as a child being enraptured by the adventures on Sea Hunt, Sky King, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. That was reality TV.

How do you relax?
Cross-country skiing through woodland blanketed with glistening new snow is a sensual delight, silent, and exceptionally relaxing.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Greatest Real-Life Outdoor Adventure Accounts

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

÷ ÷ ÷

Greg Witt is the author of Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel. He is the owner of Alpenwild, which guides classic walks and hikes in the Alps. He writes from his home in the mountains of Utah.

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