Leh is a remote town in the region of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas. Bathed in natural beauty — towering mountains, seemingly endless vistas, blankets of white mist  — the town was host to a different sort of beauty this August. 100 bright, creative, and optimistic people getting together to discuss great ideas for the future of Leh and the world at TEDxLeh.

For one speaker, Stephanie Wolcott, the event capped off an eleven-day trek through the mountains (hence the stunning photos above). She walked for seven hours a day at an altitude of 16,000 feet, braving slippery slopes in freezing rain, and delivering solar lanterns to remote villagers. Later, she recorded her fascinating experience. Below, Stephanie’s story in her own words:

A visionary Tibetan Buddhist monk, a brave Ladakhi filmmaker, a snow leopard savior, India’s best rafter, a solar crusader, two Dutch guys on bamboo bicycles and me; this was the lineup of speakers at TEDxLeh. Eclectic perhaps, but the line-up included some of the most innovative Ladakhis driven by a mission to take on the extraordinary—people from very remote, resource-challenged areas working against pretty big odds to make their world a better place.

People of the Himalayas face extreme odds, a dispersed population, poor communications capacity and few resources. Organizing, promoting and hosting a TEDx in such an environment should have been impossible, but a small group of young men, led by Paras Loomba, did it. And in the process of hosting a TEDx, the organizers, speakers and participants took their place in a global family of people doing extraordinary things — the TEDx community.

A few weeks ago, the very first TEDxFairyMeadows was held. Named by Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl for its sylvan, idyllic landscape, Fairy Meadows is an area of northern Pakistan that straddles the western edge of the Himalayan mountain range and is characterized by green grasses and breathtaking vistas.

"We wanted to do a TEDx event, [but] this one would be quite different," said TEDxFairyMeadows organizer Saad Hamid, who is also the organizer of TEDxIslamabad. “It would be organized in open-air space (rather than in a air-conditioned auditorium or corridor) and the speakers and the audience would set out with us on a 5-day adventure tour starting from Islamabad to the base camp of Nanga Parbat (the ninth highest peak in the world). Yes, it did seem crazy at first but I am happy that I managed to pull it off.

"The idea behind TEDxFairyMeadows was to take ideas to a new whole new height in Pakistan and introduce the world to the beauty of the north as well as use the TEDx platform to share inspirational and motivational ideas and stories,” wrote Saad in a round-up of the event. "[M]ore than 90+ attendees…travelled via Jeep all the way from Riakot bridge and then hiked all the way up to 3500m to reach the lush green plateau of Fairy Meadows…

"[TEDxFairyMeadows] made me discover a whole new side of TEDx as a platform to share ideas and stories and it made me realize how this platform can be used to make the ordinary stories and ideas special. Especially in a culture such as we have in Pakistan where open sharing and open dialogue is a taboo, this platform can be used to create connections that can do wonders.

A TEDx at 21,000 feet:  For the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the tallest mountain peak, TEDx’ers Nate Mook and Eiso Vaandrager brought TEDx to Mt. Everest — TEDxEverest — bringing talks to an audience of international climbers, local sherpas, and good friends at Everest’s Advanced Basecamp.

Above, Nate and Eiso hold flags for the TEDx communities represented at TEDxEverest.

The road less traveled: the 5 best TEDxTalks on adventure to watch before you set off

With a new year comes new adventures, and to ring in 2013, here are 5 talks to inspire you to follow through on those new year’s resolutions to be more adventurous, climb Mount Everest, see the pyramids, or just to get out more:

Walking the Amazon: Ed Stafford at TEDxSalford

Forging ahead against the advice of experts, Ed Stafford became the first person to walk the length of the Amazon river, a journey that took two and a half years. At TEDxSalford, he recounted his incredible odyssey trailblazing along the world’s longest river.

Think small: Alastair Humphreys at TEDxOxbridge

After spending more than four years circumnavigating the world by bike, Alastair Humphreys returned home inspired to help other people experience the thrill of adventure. In his talk at TEDxOxbridge, he explained that anyone can create their own mini trek, whether it’s a mountain bike race or a weekday mountain climb.

John Haskell of Atlantic Dash at TEDxCardiff

After John Haskill’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he and a fellow firefighter set off to raise money by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. In this thrilling talk, he described the epic scale and challenges of life at sea.

The wages of fear: Andy Kirkpatrick at TEDxHull

Fighting fear, self-doubt, and the warnings of locals, Andy Kirkpatrick attempted to scale the massive Troll Wall in Norway three times before finally turning back just 50 meters from the top. Along the way, he discovered that life is about the journey, not the destination, as he relates in this lighthearted talk with a heartwarming message.

Photographing whales large as life: Bryant Austin at TEDxSanJoseCA

Bryant Austin gave up his career, his marriage, and his savings to swim with whales in the deep ocean for up to six months at a time. Through the tales of his profound encounters with endangered whale species, he makes a call for understanding these gentle giants of the sea.