SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

Globetrotter: Leo Le Bon, the Godfather of Trekking

In this interview the founder of adventure travel dishes on his favorite wild places, oddest encounters, and the world's next great trekking destinations.

by: Michael Behar

Le Bon in Indian Rock Park (Timothy Archibald)
Le Bon in Indian Rock Park (Timothy Archibald)

In 1967, Leo Le Bon led a group of Northern California clients on the first commercial trek in Nepal, and it was wildly successful. So the Belgium-born travel agent created a company offering even more exotic journeys, and in so doing jumpstarted a new kind of tourism: adventure travel. Le Bon pioneered treks in Tibet and China, the Andes and Greenland, and introduced walking safaris in Kenya–firsts for all of these countries. Mountain Travel Sobek, the company he co-founded (and retired from in 1990), still guides trekkers to the unexplored fringe: 160 trips to 72 countries are planned for 2009. We caught up with Le Bon, now 72, just before he left for Everest Base Camp last October, with his wife and a cadre of friends, to celebrate the anniversary of his inaugural journey there 40 years ago.

How did your first trek to Nepal get off the ground?
I put an ad in the Sierra Club Bulletin for a trek in Nepal–and got 100 replies in two weeks! Ultimately, 30 people signed up for what was the very first commercial trek in Nepal. It cost $400 per trekker, or $2,620 in 2008 dollars.

Where did you hike?
To go to Nepal in the mid-60s, you had to be on an expedition and a world-class mountaineer. There was no such thing as wandering off in the hills. So I tracked down Barry Bishop, the third American to summit Everest, and asked him to lead the trek with me. We went to Jomson in the Annapurna region. We went back in 1968 to lead the first trek to Everest Base Camp. Then, with Barry and Yosemite climber Allen Steck, I started Mountain Travel.

And it grew fast.
We immediately started expanding. In 1969, we went to the Bugaboos in Canada. We led treks across Corsica and ran climbs up the Matterhorn and Mt. Blanc. In 1980, I opened up China and Tibet, and within five years we were sending thousands of people over there. We did the first Omo River descents in Ethiopia for Richard Bangs, who started Sobek, another adventure travel company that Mountain Travel acquired in 1991.

Do you ever worry that the huge influx of Westerners you inspired has had a negative impact on indigenous cultures?
On the contrary: The adventure-travel industry has done tremendous things for all Third World mountain areas. We've improved education and health care, offered jobs, and engendered nonprofits such as the American Himalayan Foundation, which conducts large-scale assistance programs in places like Tibet and Nepal.

Where will climate change hit trekking the hardest?
The locals. In Tibet, glacial retreat is impacting farming communities–they're running out of water and can't irrigate their fields. In Khumbu, it's quite dangerous. Retreating glaciers leave a natural basin behind them that fills up with water. Eventually, these glacial lakes burst, causing terrible down-valley flooding.

How has the typical adventure traveler changed since the 1960s?
Today's trekker wants an upscale experience with less risk.

What has that meant for the industry?
In the last five years, agencies selling deluxe tours have joined our bandwagon. The result is that "adventure travel" is losing its meaning. What's an adventure now? We just try to stay as grounded as possible.

What's your all-time favorite trek?
Everest Base Camp. It's the most culturally diverse, scenically spectacular trek I've ever done. You have an incredibly rich Buddhist and Sherpa culture with temples and monasteries, locals trading along the trail, and yaks with sacks of salt coming over the pass from Tibet.

Where's the next trekking boom?
Iran. Also, the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, and the Karakoram and Baltoro regions in Pakistan. But first these places have to get a lot safer, of course.

What's your favorite place to hike in the States?
Death Valley. I love the Eureka Dunes, tucked away in a far corner of the park, and Marble and Cottonwood Canyons. Also Havasu, in the Grand Canyon. That's where I took Nadia, my wife, when we were first dating in 1983.

Any trips gone awry?
Oh, the press feeds on that sort of detail, don't they? In 1986, I led a climbing expedition to Kashmir-Ladakh in the Himalaya to climb Sia Kangri, a 25,000-footer on terrain claimed by both India and Pakistan. We had to abort our climb because the Pakistani army was lobbing shells over the peaks to our high camp at 17,500! It almost caused an international incident, but I had tremendous luck in that no one was even scratched.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Feb 28, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We, Acute Trek Pvt Ltd are here to offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.
http://www.trekshimalaya.com
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/trekking_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/teahouse_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/kathmandu_pokhara_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/luxury_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helicopter_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_panorama.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ghorepani_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/jomsom_muktinath_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/annapurna_circuit_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tilicho_lake_mesokunto_pass.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/upper_mustang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_panoramic_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gokyo_trek_everest_base_camp.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/renjolatrek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_kongmala_trek.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/three_pass_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/everest_trekking_fr_jiri.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_region.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/helambhu_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/tamang_heritage.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/chisapani_nagarkot_dhulikhel_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/cultural_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/langtang_gosaikunda_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/ganjala_trekking.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing_in_nepal.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/peak_climbing.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/high_pass_treks.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/nepal_for_all_season.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/package_tour.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/island_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/mera_peak.php
http://www.trekshimalaya.com/pisang_peak.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/upper-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/lower-mustang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/package-tour.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/annapurna-base-camp-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/everest-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/gokyo-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/langtang-trekking.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/tea-house-trek.php
http://www.adventurestrekking.com/three-pass-trek.php

High Spirit Treks&Expedition
Oct 14, 2011

Namaste Sir/Madam,

We have got your information form the internet and we would like to do an accompany along with you and your organization in coming days. We are also one of the best and well known government licensed Tour & Travel agencies of Nepal. Plus we are also recommended by “lonely planet” and afflicted to tourism department of Nepal”. We mostly do an accompany along with western adventure people because they have got good test of Trek, Tour, Mountaineering etc. So we would like to kindly request you to provide us a space in your webpage. The company is holder by single investment who was over 15 years experience in this field. If your agency is considering to organize British to the destination would be very nice to you either you can hold the company share as well as you are appreciate. Thank you and look forward to hearing from you sooner.

If you have any information please do write us freely. We are keenly waiting to get your reply soon.



With Warm Regards,

Shiva Ram Basnet

Managing Director

High Spirit Treks & Exp. P. Ltd.



Himalayan Trekking, Adventure Travel Agency through Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan!

Nepal Government Register No: 39166 (“Recommended by Lonely Planet”

High Spirit
Treks & Expedition Nepal. (p)Ltd
Po Box 8974 cpc 495
Thamel Kathmandu Nepal
Sales Office Tel: 977-1-4701084, 4701085/Fax: 977-1-4701085

Mobile 977-98510-33257
E-mail: info@highspirittreks.com
E-mail: italiantrek@wlink.com.np
Website: www.highspirittreks.com
www.allnepaltreks.com

Skype: highspirittreks

Online< highspirittrekshiva@hotmail.com

onlinehighspirittreks@yahoo.com

Office remain open whole weekend from 7am to 9pm










Frank Lowry
Mar 19, 2009

I subscribed to Backpacker Magazine for several years. Last year, money was tight (I am a real estate broker) and I didn't renew my subscription. Suddenly, it was like I was turned over to a collection agency. When I called, they said - never mind - and it seemed like a tactic that is used to intimidate someone into continuing the subscription. Did I miss something? Was it a tactic? It left a very bad taste in my mouth about Backpacker Magazine. I otherwise liked your publication.

rflowry@Yahoo.com

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Gear
Super Cat pot stand
Posted On: Apr 22, 2014
Submitted By: ol-zeke
The Political Arena
Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their
Posted On: Apr 22, 2014
Submitted By: hbfa
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions