Friday, October 02, 2015

Video: Trekking to the End of the World on the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a 540 mile (869 km) long trekking route that begins in southern France and continues across northern Spain. Each year, thousands of pilgrims hike the trail for spiritual, physical, and emotional reasons. Some simply come for the adventure, while others are looking for a transformative experience.

Earlier this year, filmmaker Hank Leukart spent six weeks hiking the Camino, encountering all kinds of interesting people and places along the way. This fantastic video shares his journey, giving us an all-too-brief glimpse of what it was like to trek this historic route. The 35 minute short film is not only enthralling, but very inspirational as well. You're going to want to get comfortable for this one.

And if you'd like to hike a section of the Camino yourself, my friends at Mountain Travel Sobek offer an 11-day trek along the route that highlights its key points. After watching this video, I guarantee you'll be thinking about making this journey yourself.

To the End of the World from Hank Leukart on Vimeo.

Video: Mission Everest 2015 Official Teaser

This video came out a few weeks back, and serves as the official trailer for an online series being run on YouTube. It follows two climbers from India who followed their dream of climbing Mt. Everest in Nepal last spring. With high hopes and lots of optimism they set out to tackle the tallest mountain on the planet, but as we all know the April 25 earthquake put an end to those dreams.

This series of videos, entitled Mission Everest 2015, takes us to the Himalaya, where we watch the entire story unfold. So far, there are five episodes to watch, with new ones coming every week or so. This is a very personal look at what the spring climbing season was like this past year, and how everything came to an abrupt and tragic halt.

Video: Kilimanjaro - The Challenge

We continue our 7-part video series on Kilimanjaro from Tusker Trail today with a look at the challenges climbers face when going up the mountain. Kill is not a technical climb at all, but its high altitude (5895 m/19,341 ft) still makes it a true challenge for sure. This video shows what it is like to ascend the tallest peak in Africa with scenes of numerous climbers heading up. Eagle-eyed viewers might even catch a glimpse of yours truly approaching the summit at one point. 

Across Yellowstone on Horseback to Heal Deep Wounds

We all know that escaping into the wilderness can be an incredibly therapeutic thing. There is something about nature that not only calms us, but helps us to heal as well. That is the basis of a five-part series of stores that are currently being revealed on the National Geographic Adventure website, where a powerful tale is unfolding about how an adventure in the backcountry can heal deep wounds.

The story begins with Ray Knell, a former Green Beret who suffers with PTSD. Seeking peace and solitude, Ray decided he wanted to undertake a 1000 mile (1609 km) journey on horseback across Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana along the Continental Divide Trail. Before setting off, he consulted with horseman Ben Masters, who made a 3000 mile (4828 km) ride of his own to support wild mustangs. That effort was chronicled in the new documentary Unbranded.

Ray set out on his journey earlier in the year, but part way through the expedition his horse and pack mules ate poisonous plants that put their health in serious jeopardy. Fearing for their safety, the U.S. Army vet immediately had the animals pulled off the trail so they could recover. He then called Ben and asked for advice, with Masters saying he would lend him some horses to continue the trip, provided he could join Ray on a ride across Yellowstone.

Just as they were preparing to start that epic journey, one of Ben's friends took his own life, leaving the rancher heartbroken, bewildered, and with a lot of questions. It seemed that both men would have a lot of healing to do on the trail, and lots of time to think about the challenges that life can throw our way.

Thus starts the five-part series from Nat Geo, where two of the articles have already been published. The first part, which you can read here, sets up the story, going into further detail on the outline I provided above. The second part of the tale, which you'll find here, starts the wild backcountry adventure as Ray and Ben meet at last, and start their shared journey that will not only take them through the vast Yellowstone wilderness, but on the road to recovery as well.

The remaining three parts of the story have yet to be published, so bookmark the Nat Geo Adventure page and watch for more to come. This promises to be a great read, and one that will probably leave a deep impression.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Lots of Summits on Manaslu, Kuriki in Camp 2 on Everest

It was a banner day on Manaslu yesterday where all of the hard work and patience from the past few weeks has finally paid off. Meanwhile, over on Everest, the second summit push is underway.

According to the Himalayan Times, more than 73 climbers have now summited Manaslu, which is a dramatic leap in numbers since we reported on the first successful summits of the year yesterday. On Wednesday, 15 members of the Seven Summits Treks team topped out in good conditions, and yesterday several more squads followed suit. A total of 58 people reached the top yesterday, of those 38 were foreign climbers while 20 were Sherpas working in support of the commercial teams.

This success comes after a number of large teams – including Altitude Junkies, Adventure Consultants, and Himalayan Experience – abandoned the mountain last weekend when conditions were not quite so conducive to climbing. These summits mark the first success on an 8000 meter peak in Nepal since the earthquake back in April.

Meanwhile, over on Everest the second summit push has started. According to various reports, Nobukazu Kuriki has left Base Camp on the world's highest peak and has started back up the hill. He is expected to reach Camp 2 today and is eyeing a final push to the top next Tuesday, October 6.

Unlike his summit bid last week, the Japanese climbers is going up alone this time. A support crew followed him to C2 on his first attempt, but almost everything he needs for the ascent is already in place. He is climbing without the use of supplemental oxygen, which makes things more challenging at the higher altitudes, but after reaching  7700 meters (25,262 ft) he should be more acclimated to conditions this time around.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Video: Scenes From Southeast Asia

Take a picturesque tour of Southeast Asia with the help of this video, which takes us to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, giving us many beautiful images of the landscapes, cultures, and people that exist there. Be warned however, the clip has a way of inspiring a sense of wanderlust, providing a strong incentive to want to go see these places in person.

Want to go there yourself? Mountain Travel Sobek offers numerous trips to Southeast Asia, including this week-long excursion through Laos and Cambodia that includes visits to Luang Prabang and Siem Reap, as well as a journey up the Mekong River and a stop at the famous caves of Pak Ou.

Pictures of South East Asia from Janis Brod on Vimeo.

Video: America's National Parks - Yeah, We're Beautiful

Yesterday the U.S. National Park Service released this fantastic video. It not only shares beautiful imagery from some of the amazing landscapes that make up America's national parks, it also tells a tale of why those places are so important, and how they are part of fabric of this country. The video also emphasizes and celebrates diversity, and tells us exactly how important that is to the national parks as well. As the Park Service prepares to celebrate its 100th year, this is a good reminder of what that organization stands for, and how it benefits us all.

Video: Kilimanjaro - The Highest Solitary Peak

We continue our seven-part video series from Tusker Trail on climbing Kilimanjaro today by taking a look at the mountain itself, and the beginning of the trek to its summit. At 5895 meters (19,341 ft) in height, Kili is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. That makes for quite an imposing sight when you're approaching it from the African plains. This clip, narrated by Nat Geo's Will Lyman, serves as an intro to the climb, and what trekkers can expect on their way up.

Kilimanjaro - The Highest Solitary Peak from Tusker on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Summits on Manaslu, Kuriki Launches Second Summit Push on Everest

It has been a tough fall season in the Himalaya so far. Poor weather has stymied numerous climbs, and even sent a number of commercial teams home without success. But we finally have our first summits of the season, as teams topped out on Manaslu yesterday, with potentially more reach the top today.

According to ExWeb, 15 climbers from the Seven Summits Treks team were successful in their bid on Manaslu yesterday. The group got up and down, and were safely back to Camp 4 when they shared the news. The squad consisted of 9 clients from France, Italy, Bulgaria, China, Peru, Australia, and Ecuador, as well as 6 Sherpa guides. They should be descending back to Base Camp today. Congratulations to the everyone!

Hoping to repeat that success today, the Summit Climb team set off this morning amidst good weather and trail conditions as well. With any luck, we'll have a successful update from them later today as well.

The Alpenglow Expeditions team that had been hoping to summit Makalu and make the first full ski descent of that mountain was turned back on their final push yesterday. They reportedly climbed above 8000 meters (26,246 ft), but found unsafe snow conditions and regular avalanches, so decided to pull the plug. Team leader Adrian Ballinger wrote the following on Twitter:
"Push is over and no summit reached. We did ski from a new high point. And everyone safe after some very real avys above 8k. #skimakalu2015"
It is unclear if the team will descend and rest for another attempt, or if they'll decide to go home instead. They may be weighing their options and the moment, and haven't quite decided themselves.

The 20 Best Hikes in the World - According to Nat Geo

Looking for a new hike to add to your bucket list? National Geographic Adventure can help. The website has just published a list of the 20 Best Hikes in the World, with suggestions that will take you to the far corners of the globe to trek in places that will leave a lasting impression to say the least.

Every trail on the list is impressive and beautiful. Some of the routes that made the cut include the El Caminito Del Rey in Spain, which is only 2 miles in length but is an adrenaline inducing walk for sure, and the Devil's Path in New York, which stretches for over 23 miles, crossing over several mountain peaks in the process. Papua New Guinea's Kokoda Trail gets a nod for its jungle setting and historical significance, while Granite Peak in Montana makes the list for its technical challenges.

Additionally, Nat Geo also polled 20 outdoor personalities to ask them what their favorite trails are as well. Such luminaries as long distance hiker Andrew Skurka and explorer Julian Monroe Fisher weighed in on the subject, each sharing their favorite hikes as well. Skurka's choice was the Sierra High Route in California, while Fisher nominated the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail in Africa. Other suggestions include the Pacific Crest Trail by ultra-runner Scott Jurek, and the Everest Base Camp Trek by Jim Whittaker.

Nat Geo's resources for hikers doesn't end with these awe inspiring trails however. There is also an extended list with top trails in the U.S., and a guide for picking out new backpacking gear to accompany you on your treks.

There are enough suggestions and tips here to keep any hiker going for a long time. Some of the trails  are well known, and others are likely to be completely new. Either way, your feet will be ready for a long walk after reading all of this.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Video: Face to Face with Kilian Jornet

It is safe to say that Kilian Jornet is amongst the very best mountain runners in the entire world. He has set speed records for running to the summit of high mountains on just about every continent, and is hoping to eventually set a speed record on Everest as well. In this video, we get a chance to meet the man and learn what drives him in his pursuit of achieving impressive accomplishments at high altitude. Most of us will never be able to run like Kilian, but he can still serve as an inspiration none the less.

Video: The North Face Invites Us to "Never Stop _____"

"Never Stop Exploring" has been the motto for The North Face for many years. But now the company is rolling out its first ever global brand campaign, and as a result it is expanding its definition of exploration. The gear company has always focused on giving people the tools they need to go on their own personal adventures, pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits along the way. In this video, we see the roots of this new campaign taking hold, as we're invited to "never stop" doing the things that we're passionate about. This may be a commercial for The North Face at its hart, but the message it delivers is a good one.

Video: Guides, Chefs, and Safety on Kilimanjaro with Tusker Trail

Back in February of this year I had the distinct pleasure of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with the Tusker Trail, the leading guide service on the mountain. While I was there, the company was in the process of creating a series of videos about the experience. Now, almost 8 months later, those videos are complete. Over the next few days I'll be sharing those clips with you, as they not only provide insight into what sets Tusker apart from the crowd, they'll give you a sense of what it is like to climb the tallest mountain in Africa as well.

In this video, narrated by National Geographic's Will Lyman, we get an introduction to Tusker, their guides, chefs, and approach to safety. You'll also start to get some glimpses of life on the mountain too.

Kilimanjaro - Guides & Chefs from Tusker on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: UCO A-120 Comfort-Fit Headlamp

It seems like these days everyone and their brother is making a headlamp. As a result, there are more options to chose from than ever before, and the list of included features is growing longer than I'd ever thought possible. That's why it is so refreshing to come across a headlamp that is focuses on getting the simple things right. For me, a good headlamp should be easy to operate, provide plenty of light, and be comfortable to wear – three qualities I found in the A-120 Comfort-Fit Headlamp from UCO.

Tipping the scales at just 3.7 ounces with its three AAA batteries installed, the A-120 is one of the lightest headlamps on the market. It features a neoprene strap that is easy to adjust to the perfect fit, and offers enough flexibility that it can rest directly against the skin, or worn over a stocking cap or helmet as well. An adjustable mount on the front of the lamp allows the wearer to tilt the light at an angle that is most suitable, while the lightweight battery pack has adjustable positioning to maximize comfort as well.

Simplicity is at the core of the A-120, and UCO made it extremely easy to operate. A single dial is used to not only turn the white LED light on, but adjust its brightness as well. Turn that same dial the opposite direction and it will activate the built-in red light mode as well. The use of the dial also makes it almost impossible for the light to be turned on accidentally while inside your pack too, unintentionally draining the batteries without you even realizing that it is on.

On its highest setting, the headlamp is capable of putting out as much as 120 Lumens of light. That's actually very bright in a dark setting, so chances are you'll actually dial it back to something a bit less intense. UCO says the burn time on a single set of AAA batteries is up 200 hours as well, making this one very efficient light to carry with you while camping, backpacking, or traveling.

I found that the A-120 definitely lives up to the "comfort" label that is found right in its name. Thanks to its lightweight design and comfortable headband, this is the kind of headlamp you can put on, and forget that you're even wearing it. It puts no strain at all on the forehead either, which means you won't get a headache from using it for extended periods of time.

The A-120 has a unique, almost retro look about it that I like a lot as well. It almost looks like a piece of vintage gear that you might have seen around the campsite back in the 1950's or 60's. Don't be fooled by the look however, as there are a lot of modern technologies and materials in this product which allow it to perform at a high level. It is even IPX4 water resistant too, bring a nice level of durability to the headlamp as well.

Priced at $39.95, the UCO A-120 Comfort-fit Headlamp is an affordable option for anyone looking for a lightweight lighting solution that is bright, easy to use, and well built. This is a real winner in all of those categories, making it very easy to recommend.

Krakauer Not a Fan of Everest Film

Everest may not have been a massive success at the box office, but it continues to generate headlines with the outdoor community. The latest story revolving the film has Jon Krakauer, author of the seminal book Into Thin Air, sharing his thoughts on the film, and lets just say he isn't a fan.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Krakauer says that the film is "total bull" and says that the film took some liberties with the story. The author was of course on Everest when the events depicted in the film took place back in 1996, and while his book was used a source material for the movie, it isn't based on that best selling account of the story. Instead, the film's producers consulted a number of people who were there – Krakauer wasn't among them – and based their telling of the tale off of a variety of different sources.

If you've seen the film you probably can understand why Krakauer isn't exactly lining up to endorse it. In one scene, Russian guide Anatoli Boukreev asks Krakauer – played by actor Michael Kelly – to help him go back out to search for missing climbers caught in a storm. In the movie, Krakauer says he can't do that because he is suffering from snow blindness. The writer says that the scene isn't only not factual, it never even happened.

In a later scene, Krakauer is heard to say that it will be tough enough for the climbers to descend the mountain on their own, let alone helping others get down safely. As a result of these two moments in the movie, he comes across as being someone who doesn't want to lend a hand during the aftermath of the disaster, and only cares about his own well being.

It should come as no surprise that Krakauer says that if we want a true account of what happened during the 1996 climbing season we should read his book instead, even though it isn't without its controversies as well. Still, it is widely considered to be one of the best accounts of the disaster, and as with all book vs. film comparisons it has the luxury of going into greater detail on the characters and events.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Video: Iceland is Simply Beautiful

When it comes to beautiful videos from a specific destination, Iceland seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Today we have yet another stunning four-minute clip from that country, where stunning landscapes, breathtaking coastlines are the norm, and mesmerizing lights dance across the night sky. Shot with a drone, this video once again gives us unique perspectives on an incredible destination.

And if you'd like to visit Iceland yourself, my friends over at Mountain Travel Sobek have several fantastic options, including a 10-day itinerary that takes you hiking through the eastern fjords. This is a country that belongs on every adventure traveler's bucket list, and it is easy to see why.

Iceland. Aerial drone and time lapse compilation. Southern Iceland landscapes and the northern lights. from Colby Moore on Vimeo.

Video: Stand-Up Paddleboarding with Whales

Shot near Esperance, in western Australia, this beautiful video was captured using a drone flying above the crystal clear waters found there. It features a lone stand-up paddleboarder having the encounter of his life as two whales swim alongside him. It must have been quite an experience to be so close to those amazing creatures on such a tiny SUP board. Definitely a once in a lifetime encounter.

Adventurer Swimming the Length of the Mississippi River

For me, some of the most impressive feats of endurance involve swimming long distances. The challenges that come along with such an endeavor are very different than say trekking or cycling on land. The water simply makes things more difficult, creating colder conditions and providing greater resistance. That's why I'm incredibly impressed with what American Chris Ring is doing. The 28-year old U.S. Navy vet set out in June to swim the length of the Mississippi River, and while he has already covered an impressive distance, he still has a long way to go.

This massive undertaking started in the headwaters of  the Mississippi in northern Minnesota's Lake Itasca and has continued south for more than four months. So far, Chris has covered approximately 1300 miles (2092 km) of the journey, with another 1200 miles (1931 km) left to go. He had been averaging about 15 miles (24 km) per day, but when he reached St. Louis on Sept. 24, that milage increased to about 20 miles (32 km) thanks to stronger currents pushing him along. If he can maintain that pace, Ring believes he will reach the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans sometime in mid-November.

The swimmer has dubbed this challenge the Swim for their Sacrifice, and he has dedicated the journey to fallen U.S. soldier and the families they have left behind. With that thought in mind, he specifically chose June 6 – the anniversary of D-Day – to begin the swim, and along the way he has stopped to meet with numerous widows and families of soldiers who have died defending the United States. The expedition is also being conducted sponsored by Legacies Alive, an organization dedicated to improving the support for families of fallen soldiers.

If he is successful, Chris will become only the second person to ever swim the length of the Mississippi. Endurance swimmer Martin Strel also accomplished that feat back in 2002, and is has yet to be duplicated again. Ring seems on track to accomplish that, but he still has many miles to go before he is done.

You can follow Chris' progress on the Legacies Alive Facebook page. I wish him luck on the remainder of the journey and hope he gets to the finish line at Mile Marker 0 safe and sound.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Kuriki Preparing for Another Attempt on Everest

Yesterday I – and a number of other outlets –  posted the news that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki had abandoned his attempt to summit Everest over the weekend, and was now preparing to leave the mountain altogether. That seems to have been a bit premature however, as we have news today that he has not left Base Camp at all, and is preparing to launch another summit push later this week.

At the moment, Kuriki is said to be in good physical condition, and is resting in BC. His most recent summit attempt was thwarted by deep snows, which caused him to have to turn back due to slow going while breaking trail. The hope is that conditions will be better this time around, allowing the solo climber, who is going up without supplemental oxygen, to move faster and gain access to the summit.

According to Kuriki's expedition manager he is now preparing to leave Base Camp on Thursday, October 1. That means that if he can hold to the schedule, Nobukazu will be looking to top out on Sunday or Monday of next week. Hopefully the conditions won't be quite so dangerous on this ascent, and he'll have the weather window he needs to finish the climb safely. I will of course be following very closely.

Elsewhere, the Alpenglow team on Makalu is still on the move, and climbing up the mountain. The weather is said to be quite good there at the moment, and they hope to top out tomorrow, and then make the first full ski descent of the mountain. There hasn't been a lot of updates from the team since they left BC on Sunday, but we should expect to get an update tomorrow or Thursday. Hopefully it brings good news of their success.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Colin Haley are somewhere in the Khumbu Valley. The duo last checked in from Namche Bazaar, and should be continuing on the trail to Nuptse, the 7861 meters (25,791 ft) peak that will be their target for the fall climbing season. The plan is to attempt the very difficult Babanov route, which was pioneered by Russian climbers Valeri Babanov and Yuri Koshelenko back in 2003, and hasn't been repeated since. Ueli and Colin hope to follow that route to the summit once again.

With most of the major commercial teams now departing Manaslu, the Himalaya are about to get a lot quieter. Still, there should be some interesting climbs to follow in the days ahead, so I'll keep you posted on all of the action.

Nepal to Place Climbing Restrictions on Everest?

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The Guardian is reporting that Nepal will begin limiting access to Mt. Everest, possibly as early as the next climbing season in the spring of 2016. According to the article, government officials in the Himalayan country are looking to improve safety on the mountain, and one of the ways they plan to do that is to require all climbers to have previously summited a mountain taller that 6500 meters (21,235 ft). Officials have also said that permits would not be issued to the very young, or very old, although exactly what those age limits are remains unclear. The ban would also apply to those who are "disabled" as well.

We've seen Nepal attempt to place restrictions on the mountain before, particularly when it comes to age. After Jordan Romero summited Everest back in 2010 at the age of 13, there was a movement afoot to prevent other young children from going to the mountain. At the time, Nepal announced that no one under the age of 18 would be allowed to climb, and that older climbers would be evaluated to determine their level of fitness. Tibet followed suit with similar restrictions, but for the most part these limits have never been enforced all that closely. No one as young as Jordan has climbed the mountain, but there have been other teenagers that have gone there.

According to The Guardian, these latest restrictions would continue to ban anyone under 18 from climbing Everest, as well as anyone over the age of 75. It would also ban those with physical disabilities, such as amputees or blind climber Erik Weihenmayer, who successfully summited back in 2001. These rules would have little impact on the large number of people who attempt to climb the tallest mountain on the planet however, as very few climbers actually fall into those categories.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Video: A Tour of Nepal

Shot over a one-month period, this video takes us to Nepal, where viewers get a chance to experience everything from the backstreets of Kathmandu, to the remote regions in the Himalaya Mountains. The five minute clip provides a wonderful sense of the country, spotlighting not only its beautiful landscapes, but its amazing people as well. It's no secret that there is a major push to get travelers to return to Nepal this fall, and this video is as good of an enticement as any.

Nepal 2015 from Dave Dworkind on Vimeo.

Video: A Precision Wingsuit Flight for Your Daily Adrenaline Rush

We have been overdue for a good wingsuit flight video, but this one certainly makes up for lost time. It features Graham Dickinson and Dario Zanon flying through the Alps, which is of course a common theme in these types of clips. But what will amaze you as how close the get to the ground, and how they actually fly below the height of the trees, expertly maneuvering in and out of a forest on the slopes of the mountain. The video is a mere 52 seconds in length, but it'll give you the adrenaline rush you need for the day.

Everest Not Big at the Box Office

This past weekend the film Everest opened wide at the box office, expanding from its limited release in IMAX theaters last week, to more than 3000 screens nationwide this week. There were some predictions that indicated the film would pull in big money, luring in theater goers with its well known cast (Josh Brolin, Kiera Knightly, Jake Gyllenhaal), beautiful cinematography, and compelling story. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and the move ended up underperforming at the box-office.

For the weekend, Everest ended up pulling in just over $13 million, which put it in fourth place overall, and well behind the top grossing film Hotel Transylvania 2, which earned $47.5 million. That bring's Everest's total gross to date to about $23.1 million so far, which is well below what the filmmakers behind the project had hoped for.

The movie had a budget of $55 million, which means after two weekends in theaters it hasn't even reached the halfway point of making that money back yet. Conventional wisdom generally says that a film must make three times its budget to be considered successful. That's because the budget doesn't take into account marketing costs, and theaters showing the film will get a slice of the action too of course. 

That said, Everest is likely to at least break even when you take into account rentals, as well as DVD and digital sales of the film. But sadly, this probably means we won't be seeing Hollywood rush to make any more mountaineering films anytime soon. Despite having a few flaws, this was one of the better movies I've seen in terms of getting the climbing aspects of the film right. After seeing it last week on an IMAX screen, I had hoped that we might see a other mountaineering flicks in the same vein. That is to say, films that told a good story, featured amazing cinematography, and treated the source material with respect. That could still happen, but in the copy-cat world of Hollywood that doesn't seem likely considering the low numbers for Everest at the box office. 

If you have any interest in seeing the film, I'd urge you to try to catch it soon. Its box-office earnings are only likely to drop off further from here, which means it will start to be removed from screens, and have fewer showings probably as early as next week. The fall movie season is typically a slow one however, so chance are it'll hang around for a bit. Still, the movie industry is a fickle one, and when a film doesn't do well, theaters are quick to cut their losses and move on. 

Gear Closet: Osprey FlapJack Travel Pack

Looking for a new backpack for your daily commute or for traveling? Need a bag that can safely carry all of your gear, while providing quick and easy access to all of the stuff inside? Than Osprey most definitely has you covered with their newly updated FlapJack Pack, which deftly mixes the company's vast experience with outdoor products with a great sense of design and functionality.

The FlapJack has been around for a number of years now, and has proved to be a good choice for commuters and travelers. But the line of packs and courier bags gets an update for the fall of 2015 that brings a cleaner, more modern design to the product, as well as new materials that are built to resist moisture, while protecting the contents of the bag more fully. The new FlapJack Pack feels more durable than in the past, which allows it to resist the rigors of daily use more fully. Putting this pack to the test, I get the sense that it can easily stand up to the challenges it'll face with frequent use, which something I value as a frequent traveler.

The interior of the pack is well designed too, providing plenty of space to bring everything you need with you. A large laptop sleeve ensures that my computer is safe and well protected, while a secondary sleeve is perfect for holding my tablet too. There is even a third interior pocket that comes equipped with a zipper, which is perfect for holding important paperwork. The volumes main compartment also has room for a light jacket, power cables, a camera, or just about anything else you might need to take with you on your excursions.

The storage options ont he FlapJack Pack don't end there however. A zippered external compartment on the front opens to reveal a nicely designed organizational space complete with key-clip, penholders, and other pockets meant to hold small items. A secure zip-pocket located under the low-profile handle on the top of the bag is great for holding a smartphone or other small valuables you want to keep close at hand, while a water bottle holder along one side is a welcome touch too. The opposite side of the pack even has a deep zippered pocket for carrying other items with ease.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kuriki Ends Everest Expedition, Teams Turned Back on Manaslu

As expected, it was a busy weekend in the Himalaya, where a number of teams had hoped to make summit bids on their respective mountains. But weather conditions there continue to be unpredictable, and success has remained elusive.

We'll start todays update with news from Everest. Last week, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki moved up the Lhotse Face in an attempt to get himself into position for a summit push this past weekend. But Kuriki was forced to abandon that attempt at an altitude of around 7700 meters (25,262 feet), turning back due to deep snow on the route up the mountain. He said that the snow slowed his progress greatly, and would not have allowed him time to safely get up and down from the summit. So, he wisely chose to turn around.

You may recall that Kuriki has attempted Everest in the past, and his last expedition in 2012 ended in disaster. The young Japanese climber became stranded at altitude and had to be assisted down by a team of Sherpas. This resulted in him losing parts of nine of his fingers due to frostbite. I'm sure memories of that difficult climb still remain, and he didn't want to chance another dangerous push to higher altitudes.

It now appears that the first attempt to summit Everest following the April 25 earthquake has come to an end. All indications are that Kuriki, who was climbing without supplemental oxygen, has decided to go home. We'll now have to wait until the spring of 2016 for regular climbing operations to resume.