Hike to the Summit: Maptia Storytelling Theme 1

By Maptia, Co-founder Team Share

Have you ever marvelled at the scale and magnificence of those great, immoveable giants of nature, the mountains? Have you ever felt the cool caress of a snow-scented breeze from distant peaks, or seen the first long sun rays of dawn dispel shadows as light creeps up to heights? Have you ever lifted your eyes to a looming ridge and found a deep well of strength and resolve to take the next step upwards? Have you ever stumbled, half-delirious with fatigue and joy, onto a summit?

Today, for our inaugural Maptia Storytelling Theme, we bring to you the inspiring tales of thirteen mountainous adventures from all over the world.

Each of the featured stories touches on a different aspect of hiking, whether it is the mental and physical endurance required, the sublime feelings of insignificance evoked by the majestic surroundings, the relationships forged through adversity, or the jokes and laughter shared along the way. There is both stunning photography and remarkable narrative to be savoured in the stories below, and we hope that you will be inspired to get out there and start exploring.

The mountains are calling and I must go.
— John Muir

To get you in the mood for your exploration around the world through the eyes of our thirteen hikers below, we thought it would be fun to create a ‘Hike to the Summit’ playlist. Simply hit the play button below to begin your musical accompaniment.

We hope that many of you will contribute stories to our upcoming themes (you’ll find the announcement for our next theme at the very bottom of this post), but for now, don your cold weather jackets, and settle down for a series of mountainous adventures! 


1 | A Personal Everest

Cindy Fan regales sublime moments on the steep path up to Kala Patthar, peppering her beautiful narrative with existential musings and honest reflections, as she fought above the clouds to reach a shimmering peak in the Everest Region of the Himalayas. Read the full story on Maptia here.

Sunlight begins fighting its way through. Stronger it grows, dissolving the mist, vanquishing the clouds. As if curtains have been thrown aside, the world is suddenly revealed.
— Cindy Fan

 Cindy is a Canadian writer and photographer living in Laos. Her travels have taken her deep into the Sahara, across the wilds of Patagonia, down (and out) of the Grand Canyon and into kitchens all over Iran. Cindy has a fantastic blog over at somanymiles.com and if youd like to drop her a friendly tweet to tell her you enjoyed her story, you can find Cindy on Twitter here. 


2 | Mountain of the Crescent Moon

Set in Tungnath, which literally means ‘Lord of the Peaks’,  Yoav (Y.D.) Bar-Ness captivated us with this visceral account of his ascent along a winding pilgrim’s path. Interspersed with reflections on planetary equinoxes, lunar companions, and sacred mountains, this story recalls his hike to pierce the clouds that cloak the jagged peaks of India. Read the full story on Maptia here.

It was the first Himalayan peak I had ever visited. Emotionally, I was pulled in three ways. I could not quite balance awe, reverence, and disgust: sublime terrain, sacred religion, and human pollution.
— Y.D. Barness

Y.D. is an ecologist on a long term quest for the Kalpavriksh, the mythical wish-fulfilling tree of ancient Sanskritic myth. He hasn’t found it yet, but will make sure to tell you when he does. His writings and photos have been published or featured in Outlook Traveller, Australian Geographic and elsewhere. Take a look at treeoctopus.net to learn a bit more about the work he does.


3 | The Changing Arctic

Duncan Geere followed his curiosity all the way to a polar research base nestled in Sweden’s highest mountains. He recollects the days he spent in these still pristine and breathtaking landscapes, weaving a story with a sobering message that inspires you to care about our fragile Arctic ecosystems. It is a powerful reminder that no matter how much we think we understand climate change on an intellectual level, there is no substitute for seeing the changing planet with your own eyes. Read the full story on Maptia here.

The undulating waves of green and purple light hang in vast curtains across the sky… watching them dance, you get a compelling sense of how special this part of the world is.
— Duncan Geere

Duncan is a freelance science, technology, and culture journalist with a mild obsession with maps. Based in Gothenburg, he contributes to Wired UK and also here on Medium. Feel free to drop Duncan a tweet here if you enjoyed his story or send him an interesting map on Twitter tagged #morningmap.


4 | Dwarfed by Towering Peaks

Not only will you be seduced by Colin Henderson glorious photography of the surreal Patagonian landscapes, this heart-in-mouth account of his expedition to find the finest view of the Fitz Roy Massive will have you gripped. Read the full story on Maptia here.

Perhaps it was the uncommon lack of wind and the resultant silence, or more likely my jangly nerves, but the further I walked into this deep glacial cirque the more the surroundings began to affect me.
— Colin Henderson

Colin spends most of his outdoors time in the Scottish Highlands, capturing people playing amongst a magical mix of mountains and coastline renowned for its beauty the world over. Check out his amazing photography over at colinhenderson.co.uk and drop him a friendly tweet if you enjoyed reading his gripping story as much as we did.


5 | To Guadalaupe Peak with our Heads in the Clouds

Many of us wish to travel with a childs view on the world. To be filled with curiosity, to see the world around us without preconceptions, and to feel as if we are experiencing everything for the first time. Jason Brewers account of climbing up to the highest point in Texas with his 5-year-old son is a wonderful example of this. We challenge you to read his story through and not be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling and an ear-to-ear grin. Read the full story on Maptia here.

This would be my son’s toughest hike to date, but a challenge that he greeted with excitement, The Adventure Boys were back in action.
— Jason Brewer

An avid rock climber and budding mountaineer with a passion for photography, Jason has had an ongoing love affair with adventure since he was a child. Jasons excellent blog, basecampelpaso, is an online manifestation of the things he thinks about when out on the trail or climbing in the mountains. If you loved reading about Jason (and his legendary son) drop them a tweet here and say hi.


6 | Conquering Kilimanjaro

We mentioned in a previous post how our sense of time is often warped whilst travelling and we imagine that the five hours and 25 minutes it took Samantha Phelan to summit Kilimanjaro must have felt like an eternity. Sams story is a gripping account of how grit, determination, and a little adrenaline can get you through the toughest of times and help you achieve that which, at moments, seemed impossible. Read the full story on Maptia here. 

It was undeniably one of mother nature’s best kept secrets; conjuring up emotional responses in you that you didn’t know you could conjure up!
— Samantha Phelan

A self-proclaimed ‘Modern Day Marco Polo’, Samantha is a newfoundlander, Marketer, Vegetarian, and Snow Capped Mountain Enthusiast. She is relentlessly inquisitive, and hungry for adventure and new cultural experiences. You can read about her latest adventures over on moderndaymarco.com or send her a lovely message via Twitter here.


7 | Vast Wilderness in the Great American Southwest

We had never seen an entrenched meander before either, but it turns out that they can be rather spectacular. Kat Carneys photo essay of vivid memories hiking in the wilderness of the Great American Southwest provide twelve wonderful reasons to explore whats just around the bend. Read the full story on Maptia here.

The sun rising in the Grand Canyon was one of the coolest things I have ever seen…as the sun peeked around the corner, shining its first rays throughout the entire canyon.
— Kat Carney

Kat grew up a flatlander on the plains of Kansas where she came to love intense storms and the ability to see for miles. She now resides in San Diego and works as an adventure and lifestyle photographer. Check out some of her stunning photography over at katcarneyphotography.com and send her a tweet of appreciation here.


8 | City to Summit: Trekking Nepal’s Langtang Valley

Leaving Kathmandu behind her, Kristen Zipperer fell down a rabbit hole and into a Tibetan wonderland filled with snowy cathedrals, ancient monasteries, and carefree yaks. Her story requires a slow read, you will first need to grasp the outline of the Langtang Valley in your mind, and then you will be able to appreciate the marvellous details that colour her journey. Read the full story on Maptia here.

Kyanjin...is the last settlement of any kind at that end of the valley—beyond it lies wilderness and the Tibetan frontier.
— Kristen Zipperer

Currently living in Kathmandu, Kristen graduated from the University of Washington, where she studied International Studies and Urdu language and literature. If you enjoyed her story why not send her a friendly tweet here to say thanks.


9 | Summit Day

Not many can claim to have been the highest people on the planet, yet even if just for a short moment Dean and Dorothy (two of Maptias co-founders) were the highest of humans in the world as they reached the summit of Mount Aconcagua. This thrilling, nail-biting story of their journey to the top will have you catching your breath as they reach the summit.  Dean also deserves special credit for carrying his guitar up to Base Camp at 4,300m. If you ever run into the man himself, ask for an impromptu rendition of the Aconcagua song. Read the full story on Maptia here.

I carefully tied my boots, knowing that I could not take them off again until I had either made it or I had failed.
— Dean Fischer

Dean is the guitar-playing, mountain-climbing, song-writing co-founder and lead developer here at Maptia. Originally from Switzerland, he is most at home when travelling all over the world. If you’re interested in learning more about the man responsible for building Maptia you can read his founder interview here and you drop Dean a tweet here if you enjoyed his adventurous story.


10 | Lost on the Roof of IndoChina

No one ever said that hiking was meant to be easy, but Marc Surchat demonstrates real stoicism as he navigates through dense jungle with inaccurate maps and along abandoned trails. Dodging the fog in search of an unforgettable view and a thoroughly earned sense of personal accomplishment, Marc tells the tale of his expedition to the summit of Phan Xi Păng. Read the full story on Maptia here.

Mike Horn’s teaching had left a strong belief in me. Giving up had never been an option.
— Marc Surchat

Marc is an adventurer, explorer, philosopher and writer with a burning love for challenging adventure expeditions. Check out his Istanbul-Japan blog over at marcsurchat.ch or tweet Marc here to show your appreciation for his story.


11 | 3 Days in Yosemite

We were lost for words to describe these evocative, sun-tilted photos that Julian Bialowas took while hiking in Yosemite. That is until one of our community members coined the term ‘wondermazement’, and the elusive word which we had been grasping for materialised. Julian's beautiful photos make us want to head for the hills with a tent, and seek that moment of stillness as early morning mists lift above valleys and peaks. Peruse the full story on Maptia here.

We slept atop mountains...
— Julian Bialowas

 When Julian isnt behind the lens or the screen you can find him in the mountains. You can explore more of his stunning photography over at julianbialowas.com or tweet him here to tell him how much you enjoyed his Yosemite story.


12 | Snowed in at 5,000m

 Caught in the extremes of unpredictable weather, Dorothy and Dean (two of the co-founders at Maptia) spent nearly a week in the Cordón del Plata mountains building up their high altitude experience, sometimes in blazing sunshine, and at other times in a raging blizzard. Surrounded by towering peaks, snow-dusted and craggy, they were in true glacial country. Read the full story on Maptia here.

There was no wind in that moment, and in the stillness a great shining moon hung like a glowing orb in the sky, surrounded by thousands of stars. A shining king among his courtiers.
— Dorothy Sanders

Dorothy, apart from being madly in love with the mountains, is also the CEO and designer here at Maptia. She is responsible for all of those neatly arranged pixels on this blog and of course on Maptia itself. Despite never being satisfied what she has created is good enough, Dorothy isnt immune to the occasional morsel of praise and should you feel so inclined you can find her on twitter here. 


13 | Colorados 14ers - Pikes Peak

Justin Wild and his fiancé have embarked on a bold mission, to climb every single one of Colorados peaks above 14,000 feet. Each peak presents its own unique challenges, scenery, and beauty. Join them on their journey as they climb their 22nd peak, with the tantalising smell of those famous Pikes Peak doughnuts spurring them on.

At about 13,200 ft, we take a rest near The Cirque, a 1,500-ft deep bowl that looks like it could hold the Moon.
— Justin Wild

Justin is a hiker, climber, traveller and lover of photography, with a nagging day job that limits it all. Drop him a line on Twitter if you liked his story as much as we did.


We hope you enjoyed this collection of hiking adventures and our very first storytelling theme on Maptia. If you feel suitably inspired, please do tweet this post and @mention any mountain-loving friends who you think might also enjoy perusing these stories.


On the Road to Somewhere: Maptia Storytelling Theme 2

There is perhaps nothing that evokes wanderlust more than the thought of setting off along an open road. Whether you tramped it by foot, ate up long stretches of asphalt on the Mongol Rally, chased the horizon on a motorbike, crossed India on a tuk-tuk, or set off for a weekend adventure with your family, we would love to hear about your road-related adventures and escapades!

The top stories for this theme will be featured on the Maptia blog in two weeks time, on Saturday 12th October.

For now, just a small group of founding storytellers are contributing to Maptia and we are only able to send a limited number of new invites each week. We don’t yet have the resources to cope with more, and are still working on the coding and design. However, if you have a road trip story in mind and absolutely can’t wait to get started, then send a 200-word snippet and photo to stories@maptia.com and we will shuffle your invite right to the front of the queue.


What did you think of our first Storytelling Theme post? Is there anything that we could add or improve for the next one? Please do let us know in the comments below and in the meantime here are a couple of suggested reads if youre looking for more inspiration.


Places are made of a thousand stories - what were building at Maptia and the philosophies and vision behind it.

 One man and his tent - the hikers choice of photo essay and one of our personal favourites here at the Maptia HQ as well.

Date added
Location Taghazout, Morocco