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Mountain Travel Sobek

Mountain Travel began with the belief that there is a little bit of adventure in everyone. The early days were fueled by the passions of outdoor enthusiasts who loved exploring wild places. 40 years later, we offer almost 200 adventures to destinations worldwide.


Adventuring Since 1969

Time flies when you're having fun!
Mountain Travel began with the belief that there is a little bit of adventure in everyone. The early days were fueled by the simple passions of three outdoor enthusiasts and world travelers who loved exploring remote wilderness environments. The three—Leo Le Bon, Allen Steck, and Barry Bishop—officially founded the company in January 1969 with the hope of indulging their incurable wanderlust while doing business at the same time. This was the true start of "adventure travel" and the travel industry hasn't been the same since.

On a parallel track, Richard Bangs, Lew Greenwald, and John Yost founded Sobek in 1973 after leading an expedition on the Awash, a little-known African river filled with crocodiles. The trip, meant to be a last fling before the three recent college graduates entered the routing working world, instead inspired them to form a commercial international rafting company, naming it after the ancient Egyptian god of crocodiles.

In 1991 the two companies joined forces to become Mountain Travel Sobek, offering the broadest range of active adventure travel trips to far-flung corners of the planet ever provided by a single company.

The Legends

  • Leo Le BonOne of the founding fathers of our business, is acknowledged by our honorable competitors as "the crusty godfather of adventure travel." From its inception until he retired in 1990, Leo helped our business grow and thrive by having a visionary talent for always knowing where the Next Big Thing in adventure travel would be.

  • Allen SteckKnown for the long list of first ascents he made in the Yosemite Valley in the 1950s and 1960s, the golden age of Yosemite's rock climbing. And Allen, known to friends as "the silver fox," still free-climbs 5.10 with the best of them. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday by reascending the Steck-Salathé wall in Yosemite Valley, one of his famous first ascents.

  • Barry BishopA member of the successful 1963 American Everest Expedition and was a guiding light in Mountain Travel's early days. At the time of his death in 1994 he had just recently retired from the National Geographic Society, where he was Chairman of the Research and Exploration Committee.

  • Richard BangsOrganized and led Sobek's exploratory river expeditions to Ethiopia in the early ‘70s, and went on to make first descents of a number of great rivers around the world, including the Indus, Zambezi, Yangtze, Bío-Bío, Euphrates, Çoruh, Watut, and more. Richard left Mountain Travel Sobek in 1996 to take a position at Microsoft.

  • Lewis GreenwaldOne of the founders of Sobek, left his job as a social worker in the early 1970's to explore uncharted rivers in Ethiopia. He purchased Sobek's first raft and helped organize and lead trips on the Awash, Omo, and Baro Rivers until a tragic accident on the Blue Nile took his life in 1975. In his book "Rivergods," Richard Bangs refers to Lewis as "the original spirit of Sobek," and in 1996, Richard returned to Ethiopia to raft the Tekeze River, a goal he and Lewis had set together many years before.

  • John YostFormer co-president of Sobek with Richard Bangs, shared in many of the exploratory river trips that made Sobek's reputation. He "retired" from the company several months after the merger, and has since been involved in several ecotourism projects.

 

Timeline

  • 1969 Leo Le Bon, Allen Steck, and Barry Bishop found Mountain Travel. MT's first-ever trek to Nepal takes place in October.
  • 1970 MT organizes the first sailing cruise to the Galápagos Island (for the Sierra Club).
  • 1971 MT leads the first circular trek of the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. MT has author Colin Fletcher scout the first "pure" walking safari in Kenya.
  • 1972 Leo Le Bon takes the first group of Sahara camel enthusiasts to explore the high ramparts of the famous Tassili N'Ajjer in Algeria. The summit of Aconcagua, highest peak in the Western Hemisphere is attained on the first commercial climb, operated by MT.
  • 1973 Allen Steck leads the first expedition to the USSR. This is also start of the company's relationship with the Soviet Mountaineering Federation. Richard Bangs and John Yost found Sobek Expeditions. The first commercial trip is on Ethiopia's Omo River.
  • 1974 Mountaineer and Sierra Club director Jules Eichorn leads MT's first climbing trip to Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro.
  • 1975 Allen Steck leads an MT trek into northern Pakistan and visits famous Concordia, base camp for the climb of K2, the world's second highest peak.
  • 1978 Sobek makes the first decent of the Bío-Bío River in Chile.
  • 1979 MT offers the first US trek to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
  • 1980 MT organizes the first commercial US postwar expedition to climb Minya Konka, the highest peak in China outside of Tibet.
  • 1981 MT organizes a climb and ski decent of Muztagh Ata in Sinkiang, China. Sobek makes the first decent of the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe.
  • 1982 Sobek makes the first descent of the Dar Jung Guo River, China, the Luangwa, Zambia, and the Tambopata, Peru.
  • 1983 MT is the first US company to organize a trek through Sinkiang to the northern base of K2.
  • 1986 John Thune leads the first group of tourists to travel the Karakoram Highway over the Khunjerab Pass into China. The Silk Road tour goes on to become one of MT's most popular trips.
  • 1987 MT launches the first departures of the Wondrous Towers of Paine, a six-day circuit of the Paine massif.
  • 1988 MT initiates a new and innovative program in Continuing Medical Education.
  • 1989 MT fields the first commercial cross-country ski expedition to the South Pole, an epic ski traverse of the Antarctic continent which has the distinction of placing the first Americans–and the first women ever–at the Pole by an over–land route and by their own efforts.
  • 1990 Leo Le Bon, founder and president of MT retires from the company.
  • 1991 MT and Sobek Expeditions merge operations.
  • 1993 MTS makes first descents of the Kunar-Swat Rivers, Pakistan.
  • 1994 MTS makes the first descent of the Ghizar River in Pakistan. The first "Save the Tiger" trip is operated, which raises funds to prevent the tiger's extinction.
  • 1995 MTS completes the first exploratory sea kayaking expedition to remote Cenderawasi Bay in Irian Jaya.
  • 1996 MTS makes the first descent of the Tekeze River, Ethiopia, a 210-mile journal through the "Grand Canyon" of Africa. MTS operates first sea kayaking expedition to Scoresbysund, a 300-mile fjord system of Northeast Greenland National Park (largest national park in the world).
  • 1997 MTS offers the first ever sea kayaking trip to Panama's San Blas Islands.
  • 1998 Trip members from the first departure of the new African Golden Kingdoms trip return with glowing accounts of this exotic experience–an MTS exclusive!
  • 1999 MTS leads National Geographic Society on a 500-mile successful descent of the Blue Nile from the headwaters at Lake Tana to the Sudanese border. Sobek previously rafted sections of the river in the mid-1970s.
  • 2000 Mountain Travel Sobek acquires Alaska Discovery, the oldest and largest wilderness guiding company in Alaska. We also acquire a whitewater rafting permit for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.
  • 2001 Mountain Travel Sobek launches "In the Footsteps of the Explorers" program. Adventurous travelers joined in for adventures such as a Darwin's Galápagos, John Wesley Powell's Grand Canyon, Lawrence's Arabia, and Tilman's Everest Trek.
  • 2002 First commercial descent of the Puyango-Tumbes River on the border of Ecuador and Peru. Up until 2002 it wasn't possible to run this river due to a border dispute between Ecuador and Peru.
  • 2004 The U.S. lifted travel restrictions to Libya in February 2004, and in April, Mountain Travel Sobek is the first company to bring an American tour group into this long forbidden country.

 

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Emeryville, California 94608

Toll Free:1-888-831-7526