Friday, July 25, 2014

Video: Turkey in Timelapse

Sitting at the juncture of three continents, Turkey is a country that is rich in history and culture. This video serves as a lovely travelogue of that nation, sharing images of the people and places that make it such a special place. Intermixed with those shots are some amazing timelapse scenes that are as beautiful as any we have seen. This excellent five-minute video seems like a wonderful way to end the week. Enjoy!

In Turkey - 2014 from Vincent Urban on Vimeo.

Video: Alex Honnold Free Soloing Mt. Watkins in Yosemite

The title of this post says it all. Video footage of Alex Honnold free soloing Mt. Watkins in Yosemite. As usual, Alex is pushing the limits of climbing, taking on big walls with little, or no, safety gear. This clip will certainly get your heart rate going.

Tour de France: Soggy Ride Underscores Dangers For Nibali

It was a long, wet day in the saddle for the peloton at the Tour de France. The riders faced a 208.5 km (129.5 mile) ride from Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to Bergerac with steady downpours following them for most of the way. Those made for slick conditions on the road, and had an impact on the eventual outcome of the stage. Those rain soaked roads also underscored the dangers that overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali still faces on his ride into Paris.

After leaving the high mountains of the Pyrenees behind yesterday, today's stage featured just a few rolling hills, and a single Category 4 climb, along the route. But that Cat 4 climb was a step ascent, and it was put to good use by Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardauskas, riding for Garmin Sharp. He managed to catch stage leader Alex Howes at the crest of the hill, and set off on a 13 km (8 mile) solo ride to the finish that saw him cross the finish line just ahead of a surging group of riders in pursuit. The win gives Navardauskas the distinction of being the first Lithuanian rider to win a stage at the Tour de France.

But he didn't do it completely on his own. The weather helped to a degree, as the slick roads caused a crash amongst the primary pursuit group with just under 3 km (1.8 miles) to go to the finish line. That crash sent a number of riders to the ground, including Frank Schleck, Romain Bardet and Peter Sagan, who was expected to contend for the stage win up until that point. Sagan's bike was broken in the crash, and he was forced to wait for the arrival of a replacement, effectively ending his chances of earning a stage win at this year's race.

The bad weather was a good reminder to Nibali that he hasn't won the race until he crosses the finish line in Paris. One bad accident could still end his chances, and considering how many riders we've seen crash out this year, the idea of Nibali joining them isn't all that crazy. Fortunately, he was able to avoid the crashes today, and navigate safely to the finish, without surrendering any time to his rivals or suffering an injury himself. With just the individual time trial left on the schedule for tomorrow, and more than a seven minute gap between him and second place rider Thibaut Pinot, I'm sure the Italian will be cautious if the rains return for the penultimate day of the Tour.

Video: Mountain Biking the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of those countries that is brimming with potential for explorers and adventurers, but the ongoing conflict there prevents most of us from being able to travel there, and discover everything the country has to offer. But the video below will give you an idea of what is possible there, as it follows mountain bikers Dan Milner and Matt Hunter on an epic 12-day ride through the legendary Wakhan Corridor, a place that I would love to visit for myself someday. The terrain is rough, remote, and challenging, but the place looks amazing as well.

Pakistan 2014: Summit Push Begins on K2

With the weather window holding out, and teams now in position, it is go time on the grand prize of the summer climbing season - K2. This weekend will see two waves of teams move up the mountain, with the first big push coming tomorrow, followed by a second group approaching the top on Sunday. While conditions are as good on K2 as they have been in recent years, the teams are still unsure of what they'll find above Camp 4, which is where the Saturday summit teams are now gathered. At this point, things look good for a large number of climbers to summit over the next few days, but this is the hardest mountain in the world, and until they stand on top, nothing is certain.

The first group of teams going for the summit tomorrow include Al Hanccock and Adrian Hayes. Chris Jensen Burke, and Lhakpa Sherpa, will also be a part of that push, as will the Italian team led by Giuseppe Pompili. The mixed team of Pakistani and Italian climbers celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2 has sent 10 members of the mountain, while an all female Nepalese expedition is also in position to go for the summit as well.

On Sunday, the teams will include Alan Arnette's team (Garrett Madison, Matthew Dupuy, and Frederick Sylvester) as well Finnish climber Samuli Mansikka. The Fin set out from BC yesterday, and skipped Camp 1, choosing to instead head directly C2. This group will have the benefit of being able to follow the trail of the teams that will go for the summit 24 hours before them.

Alan updated his audience with an audio dispatch earlier in the day, checking in from Camp 3. He indicated that K2 has completely lived up to its reputation for being a difficult climb, pushing him to the limits on the ascent from C2 to C3. He and his teammates will head up to Camp 4 today, and plan to summit around 5:00 AM local time on Sunday. Alan reports that the weather is great, and looks to remain that way at least through the weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Video: Kayakers Have an Incredibly Close Encounter with Whale

In this video, two kayakers have a close encounter with a whale that would be absolutely terrifying. Paddling a tandem, sit-on-top boat in Puerto Madryn, located in Argentina's Patagonia district, the two paddlers drift into a pod of whales passing through the region. When one of them surfaces directly under them, they get a look at whale from a perspective that few people on Earth have experienced. Amazing and scary at the same time.

Adaptive Ocean Rower Completes Pacific Crossing

Ocean rowers Tara Remington and Angela Madsen wrapped up an impressive crossing of the Pacific Ocean a few days back, completing a 4000 km (2485 mile) journey that began in Los Angeles and ended in Waikiki, Hawaii. The two women were out on the water for 60 days, facing rough seas, high winds, and treacherous storms in the process.

Traveling in their 6 meter (19.6 foot) long row boat, dubbed The Spirit of Orlando, the duo set out to not only cross an ocean, but to raise funds for worthy causes in the process. Remington, who hails from New Zealand, was attempting to raise money to send a young girl to a special summer camp for amputees, while American Madsen rowed to support the California Adaptive Rowing Program, an organization that holds special meaning for her.

Throughout the voyage, the two women took turns manning the oars, making slow, but steady progress across the northern Pacific. The rough seas made for tough going at times, and exhaustion from 60 days of rowing certainly took their toll. But the scariest moment came when they were ten days from reaching the finish line. A big wave struck the boat, nearly sending Remington overboard. Fortunately, she was able to stay on the Spirit, and avoid what would have been a life-threatening situation.

Both women are accomplished rowers and athletes, each having rowed across the Atlantic in the past, amongst other great adventures. But in this case, Angela has other physical challenges that makes her accomplishment standout even more. The former U.S. Marine suffered a back injury while on active duty, and a botched surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down. Madsen hasn't let that slow her down much however, as she has rowed oceans, and competed in sporting events, despite lacking the use of her legs.

With this successful crossing of this leg of the Pacific, Angela has become the first adaptive rower to complete a section of that ocean. Clearly she has not allowed her physical challenges to prevent her from chasing after her dreams, and that should serve as an inspiration to all of us.

Congratulations to both Tara and Angela on completing this amazing feat.

Thanks to TA Loeffler for sharing this story.

Tour de France 2014: Nibali Leaves No Doubt!

The toughest day in the Pyrenees has had a major impact on the General Classification of the 2014 Tour de France, but at the end of the day,  the overall leader of the race remains the same. Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali has left no doubt who is the best rider in the race this year, claiming his third stage win on the summit of Hautacam, and securing his victory in Le Tour, barring some unforeseen problems over the final few days of the race.

Today's stage featured two massive climbs, the first of which went up the imposing Tourmalet, which has been the site of some dramatic cycling showdowns in the past. That Beyond Category climb gave way to a fast and furious descent, before the riders started the grueling ride to the mountain top finish on Hautacam, another legendary slope from past tours.

The day belonged to Nibali, who left all challengers in his wake as he made his way up the final climb of this year's race. When the great Italian rider went on the attack, few were able to hang with him for very long, and soon he found himself riding alone all the way to the summit Behind him, the battle for a podium spot heated up however, as Alejandro Valverde, who entered the day in second place on the GC, cracked on Hautacam and watched a number of young riders pull away from him. That group included Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and Tejay Van Garderen, all of whom picked up time. At the end of the stage, Valverde fell out of the top three, with Pinot and Péraud moving up to second and third place overall.

With the last mountain stage now behind us, Nibali should ride into Paris in the Maillot Jaune. Tomorrow's stage will be flat, and favor the sprinters, while Saturday's individual time trial shouldn't pose much of a challenge considering he has more than a seven minute lead on the second place rider.  Nibali is not a great time trialist, but he is certainly strong enough to hold off any challengers. Provided he gets through the course without any serious accidents, he will ride onto the Champs Élysées on Sunday in Yellow. He will become one of just six riders to win all three of cycling's Grand Tours.

Video: Where in the World Are You - Quest #11

Our friend Richard Bangs is back this week with another "Where in the World Are You" video. Once again, Richard provides clues as to the location that he is visiting, sharing cultural and historical landmarks to help give us hints. Can you guess where his travels have taken him this time?

Pakistan 2014: Success on Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II, Progress on K2

It has been a busy couple of days in the Himalaya and Karakoram of Pakistan, where multiple teams launched summit bids on several mountains across the region. While those summit bids are still on going on K2, climbers have found success on other peaks, including Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak.

We'll start on BP, where most teams set out from Base Camp on Monday, with the promise of good weather, and a wide window. Those forecasts proved to be true, and teams report great summit conditions as they approached the top yesterday and today. Amongst those summiting were Romanian climber Alex Gavin, who topped out along, with climbing partners Boyan Petrov and Ivan Tomov, both of Bulgaria. They completed their climb yesterday, and have already begun their descent back to BC.

The second round of summit pushes are underway today, and ExWeb has indicated that Spanish climber Jesus Morales also topped out at 6:15 AM local time. He is the first of a large group of climbers heading up today, and we should expect to hear about more successful summits shortly.

Not everyone found success on Broad Peak however. Oscar Cadiach, climbing with Anna Pujol and Jean Marc Flores, was headed for the summit this morning as well, but was forced to turn back just 22 meters (72 feet) from the top. Cadiach's home team reports that Oriol Ribas continued up alone, but it is unclear if he reached the summit or not. Oscar, Anna, and Jean will retreat to Camp 3 for now, and reevaluate the situation. The good weather window is expected to last through the weekend, and they may have another go at the summit before they leave the mountain.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Video: Nobody's River Trailer

Last year, a team of female paddlers set out to explore the Amur, a remote river located in Russia and Mongolia. It took them two months to complete that project, which was dubbed the Nobody's River expedition. Now, a documentary about their travels is nearing completion, and will soon be making the rounds at various screenings and film festivals. Below, you'll find the beautiful trailer for that film, which gives us a brief glimpse of what they faced while on their journey. This looks like a fantastic adventure film, and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished documentary.

NOBODY'S RIVER - TRAILER from NRS Films on Vimeo.

Ever Wonder What a $20,000 Bike Looks Like?

With the Tour de France in its final stages, and the riders turning towards Paris at last, I'm sure there are more than a few of us who are climbing aboard are road bikes, and dreaming of riding on the Champs Élysées in the Yellow Jersey. While that is an impossible dream for most of us, that doesn't mean we can't at least ride a bike that is fitting for the toughest cycling event on the planet. Outside magazine has posted a profile of five of the most advanced bikes that are currently in Le Tour, including a $20,000 ride that is unlike any other.

If you're in the market for a new bike, or the TdF has inspired you to get into cycling, than any one of these five bikes will make for an impressive ride. While the high end models have been built specifically for the best riders in the world, there are consumer models designed for you and me that are more than adequate fore our needs, not to mention much easier on our wallets.

Amongst the bikes that Outside spotlights are the Trek Émonda, which is the lightest production bike at the planet, tipping the scales at just 10.25 pounds (4.6 kg), a full 4 pounds (1.81 kg) lighter than the minimum requirements for the Tour de France. The top end version of Émonda will set you back $15,750, but the entry level model costs just $1650, although it isn't quite so svelte.

Tour de France 2014: Hard Riding in the Pyrenees

With the 2014 Tour de France all but decided, fans of the race are hanging on to see who will claim major stage victories, and stake claim to all of the jerseys that are not yellow in color. Usually, the big mountain stages bring tension and drama, but this year they have provided individual efforts for glory on individual stages, while the peloton watches Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali continue his dominance of the race.

Today's stage was expected to be a punishing one, and it lived up to the hype. With the riders now moving into the big mountains of the Pyrenees, the peloton struggled to stay together across three Category 1 climbs, and a final push up the Pla d'Adet on a Beyond Category slope, that ended with a summit finish. It was a day that would sap the legs of all but the strongest of riders, even though it was a mere 124.5 km (77.4 miles) in length.

The hero of the day was Polish rider Rafal Majka, who wore the Polka Dot Jersey of the King of the Mountains at the start, and only extended his lead in that category at the end of the day. He was chased by Giovanni Visconti of Team Movistar, who finished 29 seconds back, while Nibali came across the line in third, 46 seconds off the pace. But that was enough to take more time from his rivals, and extend his overall lead in the race.

At the end of the stage, Nibali had a 5:26 lead on Alejandro Valverde, and a 6 minute lead on Thibaut Pinot. With one more big mountain stage to go, and no sign of cracking, the Italian seems assured of riding into Paris with the Maillot Jaune, that is barring an unforeseen problems.

Reminder: National Geographic Seeking Adventurers and Explorers for "Expedition Granted"

A month ago I posted that National Geographic was seeking explorers and adventurers for their Expedition Granted program, which will award a $50,000 grant that will ultimately allow someone to pursue their dream project. Over the past few weeks, numerous ideas for how that grant would be used have been posted to the Expedition Granted website, with some fascinating projects being pitched. But the contest is not over yet, and it isn't too late to pitch your passion project as well.

The process is simple. Record a two-minute video that explains how you would use the $50k grant, and why you deserve to be the recipient. Then, upload it to the Expedition Granted website, and share it on social media. If your idea is good enough, you just might earn a spot amongst the finalists, and a shot at winning the grant.

The deadline for submissions is August 31. After that, the EG Advisory Council will select ten finalists, which will be announced on September 16. The public will then be allowed to vote for the project of their choice, with balloting open through September 29. The winner will be announced on September 30.

This is a great opportunity for someone to get their dream project off the ground. Often times, we have great ideas on things we would like to do, but the ability to raise cash to accomplish those goals can be a major stumbling block. A $50,000 grant from National Geographic should help to open doors however, and allow someone to do some very interesting things with the money.

Kudos to Nat Geo for putting together the Expedition Granted program. The organization is looking to promote exploration in the 21st century, and this is a great way to do it.

If you'd like to see what kind of projects have been submitted so far, click here for a list of the submissions. All I can say is that the competition is going to be stiff.

New Documentary Seeks to Tell the Story of the Women of the Mountains

A new documentary that is seeking funding via Kickstarter  is looking to tell the story of six women, all of whom are drawn to the mountains. The film is entitled the Women of the Mountain, and it tells the tale of three ultra-runners who compete in some of the longest, and toughest, trail runs on the planet. At the same time, the doc also profiles three other women who live their lives in those same mountains. The film will take viewers from the Himalaya in India, to the Alps of Europe, and on to the Sierra Nevada in California. It will follow these women as they overcome a variety of challenges in their lives, and show how strong they truly are.

The film is seeking $45,000 in funding to complete the project. As I write this, they have collected about $7600 towards that goal. Check out the video below to learn more about the film, and click here if you'd like to contribute to the cause.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Video: Miracles Around Us

This video was apparently made as a promotional project for Oars, the adventure travel company that specializes in rafting and kayaking expeditions. But this doesn't come across like a commercial in any sense of the word, but is instead a beautiful reminder of all of the amazing, miraculous, things that are taking place around us as we travel across our planet. The scenery is breathtaking, and the narration is thought provoking, even if it is a bit haunting. This video is one you won't want to miss.

Miracles from Thelonious Step on Vimeo.

Video: Megavalanche Mountain Bike Race Down Alpe d'Huez

The Megavalanche is an insane down-hill mountain bike race that takes place each year on the sloes of Alpe d'Huez, one of the most storied climbs in the history of the Tour de France. But in this case, the riders are racing down a much different route, and as you'll see in the video below, it is one wild ride. Carnage is often the best way to describe the early stages of the ride, and it doesn't get much easier as the riders descend. This is one event I'm more than happy to watch on video, and leave the actual racing to those who are crazy enough to ender it.

Tour de France 2014: Pyrenees Showdown as Push to Paris Begins

This past weekend, the 2014 Tour de France rode into the Alps, where it became abundantly clear that Vincenzo Nibali is the strongest rider in the peloton, and in complete control of the race. When the riders hit the long, steep slopes of the mountains, the Italian flashed displays of strength and endurance, even as his closest rivals faded away. With five stages yet to go, including several big days in the Pyrenees, this is Nibali's race to lose, and barring any unforeseen problems, he will ride into Paris in the Maillot Jaune and take a victory lap on the Champs Élysées.

But their is still some drama and glory left to play out in Le Tour. There are stage victories to be claimed, a long individual time trial to be overcome, and several other jerseys still up for contention. That was exactly the mood amongst the riders as they took off on today's 237.5 km (147.5 miles) Stage 16, running from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon, which featured tough climbs, but a very fast downhill descent to the finish. It was a day for a breakaway to survive, provided some climbers could get over the final Beyond Category climb, then sprint to the end. That is exactly what happened, as Aussie rider Michael Rogers found his first success in the Tour de France after riding in the race for ten years. He finished nine seconds ahead of a group of riders, that included Thomas Voeckler, Vasili Kiryienka, and Cyril Gautier, who had jousted with one another across the final kilometers of the course.

The first day in the Pyrenees have already had an impact on the overall standings for the General Classification. Nibali didn't surrender any time to those who have been chasing him, and made sure that he kept Alejandro Valverde, currently riding in second place, in his sights at all time. But French rider Thibaut Pinot managed to climb up to third place however, as Roman Bardet and Tejay Van Garderen lost ground in the mountains and gave up significant amounts of time. As it stands now, Valverde is 4'37" behind Nibali, with two more big mountain stages looming.

Walking the Nile Update: Into Egypt

Last week, explorer Levison Wood reached another milestone on his Walking the Nile Expedition when he crossed the border between Sudan and Egypt. It is his sixth, and final, country in Wood's attempt to walk the entire length of the Nile, which he launched last fall. With his arrival in Egypt, Lev now faces approximately 1600 km (995 miles) before he reaches the finish line at the mouth of the river as it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

According to a dispatch posted late last week, the border crossing took place aboard a slow, crowded, and very hot ferry. It took nearly 20 hours for the boat to reach Aswan in southern Egypt, where Wood could begin walking once again. Ahead of hims is another long stretch of the river of course, but also a bit of uncertainty. Egypt has had its share of unrest over the past few years, and hopefully there will be no issues for the Brit as he makes his way north. It is my understanding that the country is most dangerous in Cairo itself, which is still some weeks off.

When Levison set out late last year, he had every intention of walking the entire 6853 km (4258 miles) length of the river. Not long after he began his trek however, civil war broke out in South Sudan, and the country was incredibly dangerous when he arrived there. Determined to press on, he entered South Sudan and continued his walk along the Nile. But as he traveled across the conflict riddled country, he ran into problems in the town of Bor, and was expelled from the country by the South Sudanese government in an effort to protect him from the ongoing fighting there. As a result, Wood was unable to walk approximately 645 km (400 miles) of the river, so even as he approaches the finish line, he'll have a section of river that remains unfinished.

There are still weeks of travel ahead of Lev, who will now walk along the Nile Valley through the Sahara Desert. Having visited this section of the Nile myself, I can tell you that it is quite fertile along the river, but the harsh desert conditions begin not far from its banks. The desert brings incredibly high temperatures as well, which will almost certainly have an impact on his journey as well.

Pakistan 2014: Summit Push Begins on K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II

While I was off on a little adventure of my own on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the climbers in Pakistan have been busy preparing for summit bids in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Most have now wrapped up their acclimatization efforts, and have launched their summit bids in ernest. Over the next few days, they will be pushing themselves to the limit with the hopes of reaching the summit on their respective mountains, including the most difficult peak in the world – K2.

Over the past few days, Alan Arnette has continued to release a string of dispatches sharing his experiences on K2. He reported that heavy snow and high winds have made things challenging, even in Base Camp, where avalanches were a regular occurrence. But the weather is expected to improve starting today, with favorable conditions expected to last into next week. That is an unusually long weather window for K2, so everyone is hoping to take advantage of it, even if they haven't had a chance to complete their full acclimatization rotations.

Alan, and the rest of his team, will leave BC today to begin their summit push. Over the next few days he'll be proceeding upwards to each of the successive camps with the hopes of reaching C4 on Saturday, then going for the summit in the early hours of Sunday. He'll provide brief updates on his progress while he can, but all of his efforts will be focused on climbing this "Mountaineer's Mountain" over the next few days.

He won't be alone in his efforts to reach the summit. Al Hancock and Adrian Hayes have also began their summit bids. They have had the opportunity to fully acclimatize, and are now ready to stand on the summit. Since they have spent some time at Camp 3 already, they'll have an accelerated schedule, with the hope of topping out on Friday or Saturday of this week. The duo will release no further dispatches until they return from the summit push, as they'll now leave behind any unnecessary gear to move faster and lighter, and carry more important items with them.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Video: Where in the World Are You? - Quest #6

While I'm off on a short adventure of my own, I wanted to share the latest video in Richard Bang's Where in the World Are You? series. This time out, we're off to Africa. But can you identify the place from the clues that Richard provides? Just watching this makes me want to return to Africa soon. Fun stuff!

Video: Bike Mounted Camera Capture Tour de France Action

Ever wonder what it is like to ride in the Peloton at the Tour de France? Than this video is definitely for you. It shows some harrowing footage on the now infamous Stage 5 of this year's race. That's the stage that was marred with crashes due to steady downpour, and the riders passing over the always-dangerous cobblestone roads of northern France. The footage was captured by a bike mounted camera, and provides a bit of perspective on what pro riders face in the biggest cycling event in the world.

Off to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

The Adventure Blog is on a brief hiatus as I head off to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a little fun and adventure of my own over the next couple of days. While there, I'll be hiking, mountain biking, sea kayaking, and taking in the wonderful sights of the UP.

If you've never been to this wonderful place, you truly need to add it to your list of destinations. It is a surpassingly remote and wild place, with a lot to offer the outdoor adventurer. In fact, I'd venture to say that it is perhaps the best outdoor playground in the U.S., east of the Mississippi River.

In the days ahead, I'll share some stores about my time there, but for now I'm looking forward to exploring what the UP has to offer. This is a fairly brief trip, and I'll be back to posting updates on Tuesday, July 22. Until then, I hope all of you take the opportunity to enjoy some outdoor adventures of your own. And if you want to follow along with what I'm up to, follow me on Twitter at @kungfujedi or "like" the Facebook page for The Adventure Blog. I'll be posting regular updates to both of those social media outlets.

Have fun, and I'll be back soon!