Mike Libecki pauses to check his rock climbing equipment during an expedition on Socotra Island in Yemen.

Explorer Mike Libecki, National Geographic’s 2013 “Adventurer of the Year,” is coming to the campus of Western Carolina University at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, in the theater of Hinds University Center. He will deliver a presentation and take part in a panel discussion, with both centered around the topic “Wilderness and Its Connection to Wellness.”

The free presentation will be followed by the discussion featuring Libecki and five current and former members of the university’s faculty and staff. The event is part of WCU’s Outdoor Adventure Speaker Series and kicks off a new “Wilderness as Wellness” programming series that will offer outings across the mountains for students, faculty and staff throughout the fall semester.

A native of Clovis, California, Libecki was introduced to the sport of climbing at age 17 in what he describes as “the center of the climbing universe” –  nearby Yosemite National Park. Over the years, he has climbed big rock walls and alpine summits with multiple first ascents while successfully completing more than 80 expeditions ranging from Africa and Afghanistan to Guyana and Greenland.

In 2012, Libecki led a National Geographic-sponsored trip to Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land, where he and his partners battled extreme cold in an epic 10-day climb to the summit of the then-untouched Bertha’s Tower.

Faculty and staff from a variety of WCU’s units will join Libecki in the panel discussion. The moderator will be Jeremiah Haas, an associate director for campus recreation and wellness who oversees Base Camp Cullowhee, the university’s outdoor programming organization.

The “Wilderness as Wellness” series, the result of a partnership between WCU’s Campus Recreation and Wellness, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Health Services, will continue with three other programs on the agenda this fall.

A “Yoga and Mindfulness Summit Hike” is planned to Sam’s Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday, Sept. 28, and “Optimizing Physical Wellness and Fueling the Body for Performance in the Outdoors” will be offered at Panthertown Valley in southern Jackson County on Sunday, Nov. 3.

The fall schedule concludes Wednesday, Dec. 4, with a “Finals Week De-Stressor Hike” on the university trail system. More information about those outings is available by going to and checking the schedule of trips, clinics and events.

For more information about the Aug. 22 presentation and discussion and the “Wilderness as Wellness” series, contact Jeremiah Haas at or 227-8805.