Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Video: New England Nights In Timelapse

Shot mostly in the states of Maine and New Hampshire, this video reminds us that the eastern United States has its fair share of fantastic landscapes as well. It is yet another beautiful timelapse, capturing the lovely night skies over those places.

New England Nights from Aaron Priest on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking An Abandoned Railway In Argentina

Here's a mountain biking video that straddles the line with looking incredibly fun, and incredibly crazy at the same time. It follows a team of riders as they explore an old railway that has been abandoned for nearly 20 years. They follow it for about 100 km (62 miles) through remote Argentine deserts, crossing rickety looking old bridges, and sketchy trails in the process. It looks like it would make a great trail, if someone bothered to clean everything up. But for these guys, it presents a few challenges.

Meet Adventure Legend Mike Horn

Last week I told you about Mike Horn's plans to climb Makalu, before launching a new expedition to circumnavigate the globe via both the North and South Pole. This past weekend, Mike and his climbing partner Fred Roux, arrived in Base Camp, and are now acclimatizing before launching their alpine style ascent in the Himalaya. As they prepare to get underway, a profile of the South African explorer has been posted to the Red Bull blog.

For those who aren't familiar with Mike's resume, he has, amongst other things, already visited both Poles, climbed several 8000 meter peaks, swam the length of the Amazon, and circumnavigated the globe at the equator, completely under his own power.

In the interview, he talks about such wide ranging things as what he eats for breakfast, the challenges of climbing an 8000 meter peak vs. traveling to the Poles, and the difference in facing Amazon crocs and Polar bears. He even tells the tale of how a polar bear once sat on him while he was in his tent. The bear was searching for food in his sled, and didn't even realize that the explorer was there.

Mike reaffirms something that I have been saying for some time. A journey to the North Pole on foot, could possibly be the toughest challenge in the world of adventure today. It is just such a herculean task to undertake, and it is one that he has already completed, but will attempt again next year.

All in all, the brief interview is an entertaining read to say the least.

Everest Update: Nepal Meets Sherpa Demands, Climbing Season Still Uncertain

Another quick update from Nepal today, where things seem to be evolving quickly in the wake of the deadly avalanche that occurred last Friday, and the subsequent shut down of all climbing operations on the mountain. As you may recall from yesterday's post, the Sherpas working on Everest had a list of demands for the Nepalese government that included paying compensation to the families of those who had died, increasing the amount of insurance covering the those working on the mountain, and paying for the medical expenses for those injured in the accident. The government was given seven days to reply, at which time the Sherpas would determine the fate of the climbing season.

It didn't take the Ministry of Tourism a week to come up with their answer. Reports are starting to trickle in that they have agreed to the terms set down by the Sherpa leadership, possibly ending the climbing boycott. The fate of the climbing season still hangs in the brink however, as there are indications that some of the Sherpas may leave Base Camp, and return home. This comes amidst stories of rising tension in BC between the local guides and the foreign climbers there.

The news article linked to above says that during a Puja ceremony performed for the 16 fallen Sherpas today, the chanting became "furious" in nature, with many calling for the end of climbing on Everest this spring. The Sherpas continue to mourn their lost comrades, and many do not want to step foot back on the mountain. Whether or not this sentiment will continue remains to be seen, but it certainly sounds like things remain very uncertain there at the moment.

My guess is that the Sherpas will take the full week to grieve for the fallen, then make a decision at a later time. Right now, they are angry and heartbroken, and it will take some time before they can begin to heal. That may happen at the expense of this season, and I don't think many of us would blame them for leaving.

Stay tuned for further updates. I'll post more news as it comes in.

North Pole 2014: One Team Left To Challenge The Arctic

Yesterday we received the news that Japanese solo-skier Yasu Ogita has pulled the plug on his expedition to the North Pole. Bad weather and rough ice led to slow progress this season, and with food and fuel running out, it was evident that he would not be able to make it to the North Pole in time. He is still waiting for a plane to come retrieve him from the ice, but his departure means that only one team remains to challenge the Arctic this season, and they are doing their best to complete a full journey to 90ºN. That's a journey that no one has been able to complete in four-years.

Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen continue to press ahead with their expedition to the North Pole, despite the fact that they have faced many of the same difficulties that Yasu did. They are now in their 38th day out on the ice, a week behind their Japanese counterpart. With 55 days of food and fuel with them, the clocking is starting to tick on their progress as well.

As of now, they still have 235 miles (377 km) to go before they reach their goal. That means they need to average approximately 13 miles (20 km) per day, for the rest of the journey, in order to make it before they run out of supplies. That is a tall order, but their speed has increased in recent days, and should only continue to do so as they get closer to the top of the world. They are now past 86.5ºN, and picking up steam. If the weather cooperates, they still have a chance of completing an expedition that has only gotten more difficult overt he past few years. Stay tuned for updates on their progress.

Elsewhere, the Expedition Hope team of Bernice Notenboom, Eric Philips and Martin Hartley are heading in the opposite direction. They set off from the North Pole and are traveling to Cape Discovery, the starting point for Eric and Ryan. A bad storm has plagued the team for the past few days, making travel difficult, and reminding them of how challenging the Arctic can be. Things have improved now, and temperatures have warmed up to a balmy -18ºC/0ºF. That's quite warm for the region of the world they are traveling through, which has made things easier, at least for today. The squad is nearing in on 87ºN at the moment, and should pass their second degree over the next few days. That's a good milestone for the expedition so far.

Everest 2014: Adventure Consultants Cancel Expedition, Will Others Follow?

Climbing operations on the South Side of Everest have been shut down since the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpa last Friday. During that period, the mountaineering community there has been mourning the loss of their friends and teammates, while attempting exactly how to proceed from here. The death of those men has touched every team, and every climber, in some way, and at the moment, the fate of the entire season is hanging in the balance. That is no longer true for one team however, as they have made the difficult decision to end their expedition. 

Earlier today, the Adventure Consultants sent the following dispatch from Base Camp:
The past few days at Everest Base Camp since Friday have been a very difficult time for all on the AC team as we grieve for the Sherpas who have been lost. Our three dear friends were integral to our operation and our Sherpa, Guides and staff know most of the other thirteen Sherpa and Nepalese who have died. After much discussion and consideration of all aspects the tough decision has been made to cancel the 2014 expedition this season.

Our team members have empathy for the Sherpa community and we wish for everyone to be able to mourn their lost family and friends in peace.
We thank you for all your support and condolences, which mean so much as we try to recover from the enormity of this tragedy.

The Adventure Consultants Everest Expedition 2014 Team

Monday, April 21, 2014

Video: Night Lights - Saudi Arabia In Timelapse

Saudia Arabia is not a destination that typically comes to mind when you think of adventure. But the country has some spectacular landscapes and beautiful places to share with visitors who do venture there. The video below captures some of that beauty in a wonderful timelapse. The mood-setting music adds to the effect, inspiring viewers to want to visit these destinations for themselves.

Night lights from Mohamed ALangari on Vimeo.

67-Year Old Kayaker Completes Atlantic Crossing

Polish kayaker Aleksander "Olek" Doba completed an epic paddling expedition this weekend when he reached the coastline of Florida. The 67-year old Doba wrapped up a 6000-mile (9656 km) long journey that carried him solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a specially modified sea kayak.

Doba set out from Lisbon, Portugal on October 5 of last year, with the intention of kayaking the Atlantic at its widest point. That meant arriving at Cape Canaveral, which he did on Friday. But his ultimate destination was New Smyrna Beach, where friends were waiting to greet him Saturday. By the time he stepped ashore, he had spent 195 days alone at sea, and paddled an estimated 6700 miles (10,782 km) in total.

The journey was not without its challenges. Back in February, bad weather damaged the rudder on the kayak, forcing Aleksander to stop in Bermuda to make repairs. That same bad weather knocked him hundreds of miles off course, so once repairs were complete, he caught a ride aboard a ship, which returned him to his original position, so he could resume the journey where he had left off. That was on March 23. Less than a month later, he was crossing the finish line in Florida.

In staying true to the nature of his solo expedition across the Atlantic, Doba did not restock his boat with food and other supplies when he stopped for repair in the Bermuda. Instead, he continued to use the items he brought with him when he set out from Portugal back in October.

This is a pretty impressive accomplishment at any age, and I respect Aleksander for sticking to the "rules" of the challenge that he set down for himself. Inspiring stuff to say the least.

Video: Paddler Sets New Record For Biggest Drop In A Canoe

Last fall, paddler Jim Coffey made an epic drop in an open canoe, going over the 60-foot (18.2 meter)  La Cascada de Truchas on the Alseseca River in Mexico. In doing so, he broke a 20-year old record, and wrote his own name in the annals of paddling history. The video below shares his story and gives us some unbelievable footage from his run. If you thought big drops in a kayak were scary, wait until you get a load of this one. Don't try this at home kids. There is a reason the previous record stood for so long.

Everest 2014: Picking Up The Pieces

It was a sad, somber weekend on both the North and South Side of Everest following the massive avalanche that claimed as many as 16 lives on the Nepali side of the mountain last Friday. It was the single most deadly accident in Everest history, and it will not only have a lasting impact on this season, but many seasons to come.

While the efforts to retrieve the bodies of the fallen continue, climbing on the South Side has come to a complete standstill. The Sherpa community is in shock, and mourning the loss of their brethren. As a result, they have asked for a 7-day moratorium on operations on the mountain, while they sort through their grief and come to terms with how to proceed. That means, none of the clients are moving up the slopes at the moment, while everyone waits to see what will happen next.

Over the weekend, the Sherpas met in BC and discussed their plans moving forward. Out of that meeting came a list of demands that they wanted to see fulfilled before they would resume their work. Alan Arnette summarized those demands, and they are as follows:

North Pole 2014: Yasu Ogita Abandons Expediton

A quick update from the Arctic this morning, where ExWeb is reporting that Japanese solo-skier Yasu Ogita has abandoned his attempt to reach the North Pole. His support team is arranging for a pick-up as soon as possible, although bad weather may delay any attempt to retrieve him for the next few days.

Reportedly, Yasu is in good physical and mental condition, he simply ran out of time. After setting out from Cape Discovery back on March 7, Yasu has spent the last 44 days traveling north. Unfortunately, rough ice, bad weather, and negative drift have conspired against him. Now, as he's running low on food and fuel, he knows that he won't be able to complete the journey. As of now, he is located at 86º 16’43.8”N, 63º 38’43.8”W, although drift won't keep him there for long.

Weather forecasts say that a blizzard is bearing down on his position now, and that would have prevented him from making further progress. Now, it'll keep the pilots from Kenn Borek Air from getting to him as well. Hopefully they'll be able to safely extract him in a day or two.

With Yasu's departure, on the the American team of Ryan Waters and Eric Larson remain out on the ice. They are still attempting to reach the North Pole, and while they still have 240+ miles (385 km) to go, they have been picking up speed in recent days. They have enough fuel and food to last for about another two and half weeks, so there is still a chance they could complete the expedition as scheduled. I'll post an update on their progress in the next day or two.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Video: Alaska In Full Technicolor

We'll round out the week with this beautiful video, which is a timelapse taken in Alaska, and capturing the night sky in all of its glory. Simple, beautiful, and breathtaking.

Technicolour Alaska from Alexis Coram on Vimeo.

Video: The Running Connection From Mountain Hardwear

For an outdoor gear company, Mountain Hardwear sure is great at making videos. Case in point, this beautiful clip that features some of their sponsored athletes talking about why they love trail running in the mountains. Sure, the MH gear is prominently displayed, but for what is ultimately a commercial, the focus is squarely on getting outside and doing what you love. Oh, and the settings that these folks are running in are certainly easy on the eyes as well.

The Running Connection from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking The Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the best hiking trails in all of Europe, if not the world. At 170 km (105 miles) in length, it circles its namesake mountain, and passes through three countries - France, Italy, and Switzerland – in the process. Typically it takes 7-10 days to walk the entire route, but last summer a team of Belgian mountain bikers rode the entire thing in three days. The video below tells their story, and it is a good one. The 17-minute short film, will leave you wanting to ride and/or walk this route too.

Big thanks to reader Mar Knox for sharing this great video.

Himalaya 2014: Progress Reports From Other Mountains

While hearts are heavy with the news from Everest today, climbers on other peaks have been checking in with progress reports as well. Much like the teams on the Big Hill, they are mostly just getting underway, and starting their acclimatization process. But with the season starting to roll, there will be more things to report soon.

Denis Urubko and his team, which includes, Artem Brown, Adam Bielecki, and Alex Txikon, are on their way to Kangchenjunga where they will soon begin their attempt of a new route on the North Face of that mountain. At 8586 meters (28,169 feet) in height, it is the third tallest peak in the world, behind only K2 and Everest. It is also a considerable challenge to climb no matter which route you choose. After acclimatizing in the region, Denis and company will attempt an alpine style ascent, without Sherpa support at altitude. They should arrive in Base Camp this weekend.

Mike Horn and Fred Roux are now in BC on Makalu, where they'll be attempting an alpine style ascent as well. They'll also being going up without Sherpa support, and sans bottled oxygen. They are just starting to get settled into place, and haven't posted too many updates just yet, but expect to hear more from them soon. Makalu is the fifth tallest mountain in the world, standing 8481 meters (27,825 ft) in height.

Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke has her sights set squarely on Makalu this spring as well, and should arrive in Base Camp today. She reports heavy snow on the trail, but BC is said to have no powder at the moment. This will serve as a warm-up for other things to come. This summer, Chris will head to Pakistan to attempt K2.

Finally, Mike and Matt Moniz are on Cho Oyu, where they are acclimatizing for their first 8000 meter peak of the year. The father and son team (Matt is just 16 years old), are attempting to put together a Himalayan triple-header this spring. Once they wrap up their climb in Tibet, they'll jump back across the border to Nepal, where they'll attempt Everest and Lhotse as well. They report that things are going great so far, and their first rotations have been successful ones.

Everest 2014: Avalanche Near Camp 1, Numerous Sherpas Dead

Update: The death toll on Everest has climbed to as many as 16, as some of the missing climbers are found amongst the snow and ice that tumbled down the mountain. That is making things even more somber in Base Camp, as the names of the dead have now been revealed. Alan Arnette has a full list, as well as other info about which teams will be impacted by this accident. Certainly a rough day for all.

Sad news from the South Side of Everest this morning, where reports have come in that a major avalanche has claimed the lives of numerous Sherpas working near Camp 1. Preliminary reports from the mountain indicate that as many as 13 have been killed, with several more missing. Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing at this time, and all climbing activities have been suspended.

The avalanche came off of the West Shoulder, sweeping down the mountain as the Sherpas were shuttling gear up to Camp 1 and 2. There were few western climbers on the slopes at this point, as most were still acclimatizing in Base Camp, or on other nearby peaks. 

Alan Arnette has posted reports from major teams operating on Everest, and most didn't have any Sherpas involved in the accident. Those that did, suffered only minor injuries. There are quite a few smaller teams that guide climbers up the mountain, and presumably most of the dead were working with those companies.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video: The Green Mansions Of The Amazon

The Amazon is an amazing place that few of us ever get the opportunity to see. It is an incredibly diverse biosphere unlike any on our planet, and quite frankly it is an awe inspiring place that I've been fortunate enough to visit. The video below takes us on location to that visually striking place, offering up a glimpse of the Amazon from Colombia, Peru and Brazil.

GREEN MANSIONS from Gātha on Vimeo.

Video: Training For One Of The Hardest Races In The World - The Iditarod Trail Invitational

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is quite possibly the hardest race in the world. It features athletes who run, ski, and mountain bike along the same 1000-mile (1600 km) long trail that the famous sled dog race follows on its way from Anchorage to Nome. The IDI takes place in the dead of winter as well, which adds just another challenge to this tough ultra-endurance event. Many try to complete it each year, few succeed.

Just how do you train for such an event? Check out the video below, which comes our way via EpicTV, and marks the start of a new series entitled Sport & Survival.

Video: Escape - Why We Climb

Here's a beautiful and inspiring short film that I think you'll love. It's entitled Escape and it features a rock climber who shares his thoughts on why he loves to climb. It isn't for glory or recognition. It is to escape the trapping of daily life, and find some time to commune with nature. The cinematography on this 4+ minute video is stunning, and I'm sure there is a little something that we can all relate to here.

Escape from Nikolic Nikola on Vimeo.

National Geographic Presents 50 Tours Of A Lifetime For 2014

Earlier this week, National Geographic Traveler has released their annual selection of their Tours of a Lifetime, giving us 50 more amazing trips that we can take in our never-ending quest to explore the world. As in years past, the 2014 edition of this list offers some amazing tours, offered by some of the best adventure travel companies in the world, that anyone of us can book today. Provided we have enough money that is.

As usual, Nat Geo has broken down their selections by geographic categories. That means you'll find options for travel in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, North America, and the South Pacific and Oceania. This makes it incredibly easy to find new options for travel in a favorite region, or look for options for some place you've never been before. Each of the regions have a plethora of unique trips to choose from, offering up a wide range of choices that any world traveler will appreciate.

The editors of the magazine look for unique offerings that also align nicely with the organization's mission of immersing us in diverse cultures and delivering experiences that can't necessarily be found anywhere else. For instance, for those wanting to visit Africa, one of the suggestions is a trip to Namibia, offered by a company called Adventures in Africa, that sends you off to the Namib Desert to track endangered black rhinos and elephants that have adapted to living in that incredibly dry place. In Asia, there is an excursion from Wild Frontier Travel that takes you along the Trans-Himalaya Highway in India and another from Explore! that take travelers into Iraq (don't ask me why the Middle East falls under the Asia category). Have dreams of South America instead? How about going on a Jaguar safari in Brazil with Wild Planet Adventures?

There truly is something here for everyone, no matter what your style of travel or how you define "adventure." It is certainly fun to read this list and dream about all the possibilities. Of course, not all of them fall into the affordable category, at least not for most of us. Make no mistake, there are certainly some inexpensive trips to be had on this list, but others are quite expensive, putting them well out of there reach of the average traveler. Still, these suggestions are also a good launching point for hatching ideas for our own travels. While Nat Geo's specific suggestions may not always be friendly to our bank accounts, they do allow us to seek other options that are.

3000 Cups Of Tea: Revisiting The Greg Mortenson Story

It has been some time since we've had any kind of update on the Greg Mortenson story. You'll recall, he's the climber-turned-author-turned-humanitarian who wrote the book Three Cups of Tea, and then proceeded to use his platform to raise funds to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His organization, the Central Asian Institute (CAI) was viewed as a model for doing good in struggling countries.

But then, in 2011 Mortenson became the subject of a hard-hitting 60 Minutes piece that called into question the stories he wrote about in his books, how the money CAI was raising was being spent, and whether or not schools were being built at all. That followed on the heels of an article written by John Krakauer entitled Three Cups of Deceit, which further blasted Mortenson, essentially calling him a liar and a fraud. In a matter of a few months, Mortenson's world crumbled around him, and CAI's funding dropped dramatically. Civil lawsuits were raised against him, although most were quickly dismissed, and for his part Mortenson disappeared from the limelight, with not much more to be told.

That is, until now.

Two filmmakers, Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Roads, are working on a documentary that delves back into the Greg Mortenson story. Their film is called 3000 Cups of Tea (see trailer below), and it is nearing completion. They say they have a very different side of the story to tell, and that their experience with CAI, and Mortenson's work, does not resemble what 60 Minutes reported. They have visited many of the schools that were the result of Greg's work, and they say that aside from a few that aren't up and running, most of them are serving the purpose that their founder intended.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Video: Kathmandu To The Summit Of Everest Via Google Earth - Updated!

Updated: Okay, so the original video I placed here was suddenly password protected. I guess they didn't want us to see what they were showing off. So, I've replaced it with a classic clip from Alan Arnette that gives us great insight into an Everest climb up the South Col Route. Enjoy!

As is tradition in the spring, we've been talking a lot about Mt. Everest lately, and I thought you might like to see what the climbers are up against in the weeks ahead. The video below is a simple animation captured in Google Earth, that leaps from Kathmandu to the airport in Lukla, then up the Khumbu Valley to Everest, before proceeding up the South Side route to the summit. It's brief – just one minute in length – but it does put some things in perspective.

Video: Scary POV Downhill Mountain Bike Video

For those of us who don't have the skills, or guts, to ride those really challenging downhill mountain bike courses, this video will have to suffice. Clearly shot while wearing a GoPro, or similar action camera, the clip gives us a point-of-view perspective of a rider as he zips down an incredibly narrow, and scary, course. It's only two minutes long, but it is enough to give you a sense of just how tough and demanding some of these competition courses actually are.

Video: TravelSmith Travel Tips #16 - Cultural Sensitivity

It's Wednesday, which means its time for more great travel tips from our friend Richard Bangs. This time, Richard has a story about a funny encounter he had in New Guinea while scouting locations for a BBC documentary, during which he came across one of the indigenous folks while in a remote region. That encounter taught him a thing or two about being sensitive to the culture of the place he is visiting, and he shares some of those lessons here.

Everest 2014: Into The Icefall

Communications from Everest Base Camp on the South Side continue to be sporadic, as cloud cover and snowfall limit access to satellites and keep solar panels from charging the comms equipment. Still, there have been a few reports from the mountain the past few days, where the teams are busy making themselves at home, and starting to acclimatize to the altitude. The first groups have even begun to make their way through the dreaded Khumbu Icefall, as they prepare for their first rotations in Camp 1 and Camp 2.

As I've mentioned previously, the Icefall is a treacherous section of the climb that sits just above Base Camp on the Nepali side of the mountain. It marks the spot where the Khumbu Glacier begins to calve, which makes it highly unstable. Each year, a special team of Sherpas called the Icefall Doctors build and maintain a route through the Icefall using ladders and ropes. That route will shift and change throughout the season, forcing them to rebuild the route over the course of the three months that it is in place.

Crossing the Icefall is one of the scariest and most dangerous sections of Everest. As a result, teams will try to minimize the number of times that they have to pass through it while on the mountain. IN recent years, that has meant starting their acclimatization on other nearby mountains, such as Lobuche and Pumori. But even that just delays the inevitable, and as I write this, the first teams are venturing into the Icefall to get themselves use to walking on, and climbing, the ladders while wearing their heavy mountaineering boots. It can be a tricky bit of work, but most will become accustomed to it in short order.

World Rogaining Championship Coming To South Dakota, Now Open To All Entrants

This summer, the Black Hills of South Dakota will play host to the 2014 World Rogaining Championship. During that event, the best navigators in the world will descend on what promises to be a tough, but beautiful and fun, course. The Black Hills will make for a stunning backdrop, for this event, which promises to test the skills of even the best rogainers on the planet.

The World Championships will take place on August 16-17 of this year, and will feature a 24-hour long, cross country navigation race, during which competitors will be charged with finding their way through a designated course, using nothing but a compass and map. Along the way, they'll earn points by locating checkpoints, which will be designated by orienteering flags. The object is to find as many of those checkpoints as possible in the allotted time allowed.

So far, there have been more than 400 competitors, from 23 different countries, who have signed up to compete in the event. Registration is still open, and the requirement for having past experience in a 24-hour regaining event has now been waived, opening up the competition to anyone who has the desire to join in on the fun.

Having spent some time in the region where this event will be held, I can promise you that this will be a fantastic event. I was part of the team that organized Primal Quest Badlands back in 2009, and some of that course is being incorporated here. It will be a fantastic setting – one that will probably catch some of the competitors by surprise by it's remote and wild nature. Additionally, our PQ course designer, Rick Emerson, is also organizing the 2014 Rogaining World Championship, and I know he'll deliver a fantastic event. The course will no doubt be tough, but fair, and will provide some unique challenges.

If you think you've got good compass skills, and are looking for a challenge this summer, then check out this event. It is essentially an adventure race on foot, with the toughest element – navigation – brought to the forefront. I think its going to be a really great competition, and I know the folks in South Dakota will welcome the competitors warmly.

Find out more by clicking here.