The Pioneers of Adventure Travel

A collection of firsts

In 1969, three intrepid mountaineer-explorers, Leo Le Bon, Allen Steck, and Barry Bishop, came up with a then-radical idea: to create a business out of their incurable wanderlust for global adventure, sharing backcountry wilderness trips to remote areas where foot travel was the only means of access. Their venture was called Mountain Travel and with it, the business of “adventure travel” was born. Around the same time, Richard Bangs, Lew Greenwald and John Yost were rafting first descents of rivers across the globe. In 1973 they formed Sobek Expeditions—an international rafting company named after the ancient Egyptian god of crocodiles.

For the next two decades, each flourished on its own—earning word-renown as a leader in the adventure travel industry. In 1991, the two companies joined forces, becoming Mountain Travel Sobek, offering the world’s single largest selection of active adventure journeys across the globe.

In 2019, MT Sobek turned 50 and our deep passion for adventure is as strong today as it was in ’69. We are proud of our adventure travel legacy and thankful to our founders, guides, and intrepid guests who have helped craft the adventure company of today.


Leo Le Bon, Co-Founder, Mountain Travel

Leo is one of the legendary founders of the original Mountain Travel and often called the “godfather of adventure travel.” He organized the first ever American-led trek to the Annapurna Himalaya in 1967 and founded Mountain Travel USA with Barry Bishop and Allen Steck in 1968. Their first brochure came out in January 1969 and their first commercial Mountain Travel trip was to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Until Leo retired in 1990, he helped Mountain Travel to thrive by having a visionary talent for always knowing where The Next Big Thing in adventure travel would be. Leo and his wife Nadia remain close to modern-day MT Sobek.


Allen Steck, Co-Founder, Mountain Travel

Allen is known for the long list of first ascents he made in Yosemite Valley in the 1950s and 1960s, the golden age of Yosemite’s rock climbing. Sixteen-year-old Allen made his initial climb, a first ascent of Mount Maclure in the Sierras, with no hardware, no ropes, no experience—an event that led to his mountaineer’s life, spanning 70 years. Allen co-founded and edited Ascent magazine in 1967 and his interest in the far reaches of the world let him to partner in Mountain Travel, America’s first true adventure travel company, in 1968. Allen paved the way for many mountaineers and remains a distinguished figure in MT Sobek’s history.

Barry Bishop, Co-Founder, Mountain Travel

Barry was a member of the successful 1963 America Everest Expedition and was a guiding light in Mountain Travel’s early days. As a famous alpinist and experienced hiker made him a highly valued member of Leo Le Bon’s first trip to Nepal in 1967—and an encouraging voice in the creation of Mountain Travel USA. 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 & Exploration Committee.

Richard Bangs, Co-Founder, Sobek Expeditions

Richard has often been called the father of modern adventure travel since co-founding Sobek Expeditions back in 1973. He has spent nearly 50 years exploring the globe and led the first descents of 35 rivers, including the Zambezi, Indus, Yangtze, Bio Bio, Euphrates and many more. Richard still loves to lead exciting “out there” adventures and is looking forward to navigating Siberia’s Sayan Oka River with John Yost in 2019. Richard is an accomplished writer, lecturer and media personality-best known for his popular PBS series “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose.” Richard’s adventure travel knowledge and insight continues to help give MT Sobek. He remains on the Board of Directors today.

John Yost, Co-Founder, Sobek Expeditions

John Yost co-founded legendary rafting company Sobek Expeditions in 1973 and shared in many of the exploratory river trips that made Sobek’s reputation. In fact, he has run over 30 international river exploratories, has boated most of the rivers in the western US, and was recently named a member of the board of directors with Friends of the River—a non-profit organization working to protect California rivers. John is known for his culinary skills (especially Omo Chicken Curry, named during the first descent of the Ethiopia’s Omo River in 1973) and is looking forward to showing them off on his anniversary rafting trip to Siberia’s Sayan Oka in 2019.

The History of MT Sobek

Take a look at our timeline for a brief history of Mountain Travel Sobek from 1969 to present day.

Celebrating 50 Years of Adventure Travel

To celebrate 50 years as the adventure travel company, we collected stories that showcase what MT Sobek means to our community. These stories are from guests, guides, founders and staff—those who know and love what MT Sobek brings to the world of adventure travel. Read our special collection here.