Seeking the thrill: Extreme hikers go the distance

By Henry Hanks, CNNPublished 5th December 2014
They had been in Nepal for a week trying to reach Thorong La Pass, 17,769 feet above sea level, when they were caught in a snowstorm, unable to make it to the nearest village.
Avalanches roared down the mountain.
Jeremy Aerts and his girlfriend May Wong pressed on: Extreme hiking enthusiasts, they had committed to making it all the way through.
For some people, the idea of facing such obstacles -- especially voluntarily -- seems crazy. And yet many in the extreme hiking community wouldn't have it any other way.
The new film "Wild," based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, chronicles a grueling solo hike along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, on the border with Mexico, after Strayed's divorce and the death of her mother.
The movie, which hits theaters Friday, might encourage more travelers to try extreme hiking.
Aerts, 30, a GIS analyst from Pittsburgh, describes that night in Nepal this past spring as the closest he has ever been to death.
Despite being unable to see 10 feet ahead of them, Aerts and Wong continued.
"At one point the wind was so strong it knocked me off my feet," said Aerts. "We had to break into an abandoned cabin just before dark to spend the night with our guide and another trekking group."
The payoff came the next day when the couple reached the tiny village of Muktinath, surrounded by Himalayan peaks.
"It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever had the chance to see," he said.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Aerts hikes.
"I love the sense of adventure and challenge that it presents," he said. "I like the idea of never really knowing what to expect around the next corner."
Mohit Samant, a 27-year-old software engineer from Kansas City, Kansas, got a similar feeling about hiking when he visited Guatemala a year ago in his most memorable of many hikes.
He had half a mind to quit midway through his hike through the Pacaya volcano due to the incredibly steep terrain, but the hikers with him motivated him to continue to the top.
Ultimately, he said it was the best hiking excursion he has done.
He was able to admire views of three other nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango, making the whole experience -- three hours on foot -- well worth it.
Besides the surge of adrenaline, these adventures pay off with some amazing photo ops. Check out the gallery to see more photos you can only take on extreme hikes.