November, 2007 – Leo Le Bon, Co-founder, President and CEO (l968-1991) of pioneering adventure travel company MOUNTAIN TRAVEL, Inc., (Mountain Travel acquired the Sobek River Rafting company in 1992) recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first ever commercial trek to the Annapurna region of Nepal with eight of the original members, at his home in Berkeley, California.
The 32 stalwart pioneers assembled at the San Francisco Airport on October 20 1967, and flew with a PAN AM 707 jet to Japan, Thailand and India on the first visit to Nepal by an American trekking group.
The trip was the brainchild of Le Bon, adventurer, pioneering mountaineer, sailor, kayaker and a local travel executive, who led the group together with Barry Bishop who climbed Everest in 1963 during the first American Expedition. Upon their return, Le Bon, with friends Bishop and Allen Steck, one of the early legendary Yosemite rock climbers, founded Mountain Travel USA, the first American travel company dedicated exclusively to adventure trips and expeditions around the world.
“It has been quite a ride,” said Le Bon, adding “adventure travel has taken off in ways unimaginable even 20 years ago, let alone when we first left for Nepal in 1967.”
The Adventure Travel Industry has since developed into a worldwide phenomenon, with new adventure companies opening their doors, or rather their websites, on a virtual daily occurrence.
Since retiring from Mountain Travel, Le Bon, 73, has remained closely connected to the industry, serving in various consulting positions, including a stint as U.S. representative for the Falklands Islands Tourist Board. “It’s very hard to give up the travel bug, once you’ve been infected”, said the man who is know by his friends and peers as “the Father of Adventure Travel”.
He presently manages Wanderlust Consulting out of his office in Berkeley California, when not out trekking, kayaking or exploring what’s left of his world to discover. Le Bon also manages the North American marketing of Mountain Lodges of Peru, at Lodge to Lodge trekking adventure on Inca trails to Machu Picchu.