Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Look Back: Goals 2016

At the beginning of this year, I set a few goals for myself. Unfortunately, I did not do a very good job of sticking to them this time! Last year, out of about 10, I completed or partially completed 8 of them. This year, shall see! I found that this year I focused more on a few specific things in my life and a lot of the other little things went by the wayside. 

1. Run a 100 mile race. As much as I hate to say this yet again, this was one goal that I Did Not Complete. I signed up for the Silverheels 100 mile race in Colorado, where the course was from 10,000 feet to 12,500 feet. I got about 60 miles into it before I finally threw in the towel. This was after a lot of nausea and a very difficult time keeping food down, hence very little energy overall. However, I learned from my time in Colorado, and I am ready to try this goal again!! 

2. Run 2,000 miles / climb 250,000 ft elevation: Completed. Last year I ran about 1,800 miles and climbed about 250,000 feet, but my goal was to train smarter than last year, because last year I got injured, which put a damper on my running. Happily, I ran approximately 2,230 miles this year and according to Strava, I climbed 413,000 feet. I will take this with a grain of salt, as my weekly running partner did about 300,000 feet. However, I probably got about 100,000 feet more than him just by hiking in the Alps. So I will call it something between 300,000 - 400,000 feet. Total win.
3. Read 52 books. Completed. This year I read 72 books. I also did the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, which I will probably not do again next year. I found it fun to try new things but felt pressure to complete the categories and guilt if I read something that did not "count toward something". See this post for my favorites of 2016! 
4. Read 12 books from my own shelves. Did Not Complete. I ended up reading 3 books from my own shelves and throwing all three away. It's not great, but if I was a baseball player, I would have a better batting average than most pitchers. 
5. Ride my bike to work 2 times per week: Did Not Complete. According to Strava, I biked 134 miles for a total of 57 rides or 2.35 miles per ride. Before you say that it's not so bad because that's still over 1x per week, let me remind you that a "ride" to me is to AND from the BART station, which would be about 4 miles each day. So I probably rode to work 28 times, which is an average of about once every two weeks.
6. Practice my Spanish: Did Not Complete. My goal was to talk to a friend for at least 5 minutes once a week,  and to study and learn at least 100 new words per week. This is a goal that I didn't really even try to make happen. My running husband is from Mexico and he would happily talk to me in Spanish, but I didn't even try. Total fail.

7. Try new things: Partially Complete. (1) Visit 12 places that I have never been before. DONE (2) Learn one new recipe a week. Did Not Do. (3) Try 6 new things.  DONE (ate Polish food, went cycling in New York city, walked over a huge frozen lake, went to a jug band party, carried chairs down the streets of Brooklyn, ate at a three Michelin star restaurant [and many more!]).
 8. Spend less than I spent last year: Did Not Complete. This year, although I did not buy a house, I did buy a car and so my transportation category is way inflated over last year. In addition, paying all the household bills myself rather than splitting them like I did for part of the year last year probably increased the "bill" portion of my "home" category by at least twice as much. I will be posting my annual 2016 money pie very soon and will give a breakdown of how much each category increased/decreased from last year. 

As you can see, out of the eight goals I posted, I only completed two and partially completed one. Next year I will have to think about where I could improve upon achieving my goals. I think my biggest downfall this year is lack of planning, which is not normal for me! But, in the words of good old Benny F., "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." So true. First goal of 2017: be more structured in my planning! (Side note: If you haven't listened to this episode of Freakonomics about productivity, you should do it now!)

In case you think that I am a totally negative Nellie, fear not! I have a lot of things that I am proud of from this year! I installed a ceiling fan in my room, I did a ton of work in the backyard, I did a huge purge and Goodwill run (and got rid of a ton of books etc. in the process), I had a new 100k PR and beat my old 50 mile time for one difficult race (in the snow no less), I spent a lot of good times with my friends and family and I traveled to some fabulous places! However, those items are not as easy to quantify, but all in all, I would say it was a successful year.
Did you make goals in 2016? Which ones were difficult for you to obtain? Do you fail to plan or are you good at seeing things through? Did you have a successful year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best of 2016: Books

Wow, this year has really flown by and it's time again for the best of the best lists! I enjoy looking back at other people's prior year's lists as well as my own and seeing how things went in years past. So I can't pass it up this year and am looking forward to checking out everyone else's posts. As much as I love all lists, the best of lists for books are probably my favorites.

This year I read 71 books and I gave five of them five stars on Goodreads. They were:

Winter of the World by Ken Follett: This is book two in the Century Trilogy. The first is about WWI, the second takes the characters through WWII. He does a great job of introducing characters from different walks of life which gives you a lot of insight into what different sides and countries were going through during the war. I am looking forward to reading the third set of the series, although these books are a bit long, so I have to space them out a little!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult: This was a great story of a girl working at a bakery who befriends an old man, who ends up being a former Nazi SS officer. To make it even worse, the girl's grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. This book was recommended to me years ago by Lisa and I am glad that I finally took her up on her suggestion!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: The first book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, this is a great step away from reality. The story takes you to several variations of London, some good, some bad, and is full of magic, kingdoms, good, evil and adventure.  The characters are likable and the second book in the series is also a lot of fun as well!

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: Set in WWII, this is a story about three different girls, a doctor from Germany who ends up working at Ravensbruck, a Polish girl who ends up imprisoned in Ravensbruck and an American socialite who ends up entangled in the mix. I learned a lot about the horrors that happen in the camps that I hadn't really known much about before.

In addition to these, some of my other favorites were: Aristotle and Dante Discovery the Secrets of the Universe, Circling the Sun, Between the World and Me, Ready Player One, Homegoing and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. See other 4 star recommendations here.

I also participated in the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, which encourages people to try new types of books. I did not finish the list of 24 categories, but I had a lot of fun exploring new categories! Below is my list. Yellow are the ones I did not complete.

1 A horror book - The Terror
2 A nonfiction book about science
3 A collection of essays - A Manual for Cleaning Women
4 Read a book out loud to someone
5 A middle grade novel - Finding Someplace
6 A biography
7 A dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel - Ready Player One
8 A book originally published in the decade you were born
9 Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award - Euphoria
10 A book over 500 pages long - The Lake House
11 A book under 100 pages long - Holy the Firm
12 A book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
13 A book that is set in the Middle East - Prisoner of Tehrah
14 A book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
15 A book of historical fiction set before 1900 - The Taming of the Queen
16 The first book in a series by a person of color - Blanche on the Lam
17 A non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
18 A book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie
19 A nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes - Spinster
20 A book about religion - 1000 Lashes
21 A book about politics, in your country or another
22 A food memoir - Cleaved
23 A play - Death of a Salesman
24 A book with a main character that has a mental illness - Tender Points

How was your year of reading? What was your favorite book of 2016? Did you participate in any reading challenges this year? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Looking Back: October & November

You know how sometimes you go into a motivation rabbit hole and you just can't climb back out into the light?  I have been going to work earlier than normal and it's dark all the time and a glass of wine and a movie has been sounding way more appealing than suiting up and going running. Not to say that nothing is getting done. I have been revamping the backyard, which is my excuse for not running on some days (cross training!) and there is a never-ending supply of leaves to be raked. And I've purged the closets again and again. And now it's December, the month of parties and friends and eating and merriment and although fun, it sometimes gets a little overwhelming! I look forward to January, when things quiet down and I get back into the running groove. Until then, here's what's been happening!

Running: In October, I ran 167  miles. I am actually surprised at this number, as I was sick for a couple of weeks and went home to visit my parents one weekend. In November I ran 125 miles, which doesn't surprise me, as I was sick (again!) and I had my Mom in town one weekend. My longest run was the Quad Dipsea (28 miles) and man was I sore afterward! As for the biking plan, it's pretty much gone out the window, as I got a flat and I have been lazy about fixing it! I need to get back on track with that for sure! However, I have already reached my 2,000 mile running goal for the year and have way overshot my 250,000 ft climbing goal (I have about 400,000 feet of climbing so far this year)!

Reading: In October and November, I read 5 books each month, the best being Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, which talks about aging and having too much stuff and life in general. It was a quick and easy read that, although I am not of the same age, I could relate to a lot of the author's tales. Otherwise, a lot of them were just so-so and I especially was not a fan of The Nest, which got great reviews or A Little Life, which was really depressing and just went on and on.

Travel: Having traveled a lot during the summer and then gone on vacation in September, October and November were more like decompression months, where I stayed home a lot and worked in the yard and/or around the house. I did get up to see my brother a couple of times in Santa Rosa, I went to visit my parents once and I took a couple of smaller trips to Auburn, Sacramento and Tahoe. I found a great video game arcade and bar in Sacramento that has all of the old games, like Donkey Kong and Mrs. Pac Man. Along with pizza and beer and the fact that the games still cost a quarter, it can't get much better than that!!

December is almost over and Christmas is nearly upon us! I hope that you and yours have a great time wherever you are and I will see you all next year!!

What do you like to do when the weather gets cold and its dark outside? What are your plans for the holidays?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Video: How Hard is it to Climb Everest?

This video comes our way courtesy of BuzzFeed, which isn't a website that I'm particularly fond of, but I still found myself enjoying this clip nonetheless. In just over two-minutes of footage, it shares some fairly interesting facts bout the tallest mountain on the planet, mixing in some great historical photos and beautiful video. Seeing as how we're about to follow an ambitious expedition to the mountain, I thought this was worth sharing. It does provide some context about an Everest climb, and what it takes to get to the top.

Video: Free Skiing Through A Mountain Glacier

It takes a lot to get met o post a ski video, mostly because there are a ton of them out there, they often do very little to distinguish themselves from one another. But, this one is special, so it was definitely worth sharing. It features pro skier Sam Favret as he free skis through the legendary Mer de Glace in the Mont-Blanc region of France. At a bit over three minutes in length, it is pure ski porn, with amazing visuals and some of the best skiing I've seen in a clip in a long time. Really an amazing way to take advantage of the terrain and create something special.

Ice Call - Sam Favret / Backyards Project from PVS COMPANY on Vimeo.

10 Last Minute Travel Gift Suggestions from The Adventure Blog

Christmas is now in sight and the clock is most definitely ticking. If you find yourself still scrambling to find the perfect gift for the adventure traveler or outdoor enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year, we have some suggestions for what they might like. Here are 10 list minute gifts that are sure to make them happy, all of which are under $100.

Ledlenser SEO 7R Headlamp
Every outdoor adventurer can use a good headlamp, and Ledlenser's SEO 7R is one of the best I've seen in awhile. Powered by either a rechargeable battery pack or standards AAA batteries, this lamp is capable of putting out as much as 220 lumens and is built to be water resistant too. It is comfortable to wear, lightweight, great for travel, and comes with a 5 year warranty as well. Price: $90

Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel Bluetooth Padlock
Keeping your valuables safe and secure while on the road can be a challenge, but Dog & Bone's LockSmart Travel high-tech padlock can help. This Bluetooth enabled lock connects to your smartphone for keyless unlocking from anywhere in the world. It also has location tracking properties and is TSA compliant, meaning you can place it on your bad and not worry about nefarious individuals gaining access to your belongings. Price: $59.95

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle
Everyone can use a good water bottle of course, but the LifeStraw Go isn't just a handy way to stay hydrated, it also features a two-stage filtration system that removes 99.99% of all harmful bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that could be lurking in water. This makes it a great choice for both backcountry excursions and travelers who might be visiting countries where finding clean drinking water might be a challenge. Price: $49.95

Power Practical Luminoodle Plus Camp Lighting System
Keep the campsite well lit with a Luminoodle light rope from Power Practical. Flexible and waterproof, these lights are easy to hang in a tent, on branches, or just about anywhere else you need them, delivering 180 lumens of light without blinding anyone in the process. The Luminoodle Plus kit comes complete with a 5-foot set of lights and a 4400 mAh battery to keep them powered on. Price: $39.95

Global Entry
Frequent travelers know how long it takes to get through security lines at the airport, and customs when returning to the country when traveling abroad. But a Global Entry membership from the Transportation Security Administration lets them bypass those bottlenecks quickly and efficiently. The process does require an interview and a bit of a wait time, but it is worth it. Price: $100

Champion Duofold THERMatrix Baselayers
Baselayers are always handy no matter what outdoor activities your favorite adventurer is into. They provide the first line of defense in keeping us warm and dry in the backcountry, and are an indispensable part of any gear closet. Champion makes high quality baselayers that are also affordable and good looking too. Price: $23.99

Yaktrax Cabin Socks
Soft and warm, the Yaktrax Cabin Socks just might be the most comfortable sock your outdoor lover will ever put on his or her feet. If the cold chill of winter is leaving their toes a bit chilly, get them a pair of these to help them recover. They are so comfortable (and affordable!) that you'll even want a pair for yourself. Price: $12.99

Stacked iPhone Wireless Charging System
For the traveler looking for a convenient way to keep their iPhone charged while on the road, the Stacked wireless charging system is a godsend. Modular in design, this iPhone case uses powerful magnets to connect with chargers, portable battery packs, and a handy car mount that is fantastic for navigating on long road trips. Buy the Stacked bundle for $99.99 or individual pieces as needed.

Dry Guy Warm 'n Charge
The cold weather isn't just hard on our bodies, it's hard on the batteries in our electronic devices too. That's why Dry Guy invented the Warm 'n Charge, a battery operated hand warmer that is also capable of recharging a smartphone too. The device uses a 4400 mAh battery for up to five hours of warming or two phone charges. Price: $40

Stanley Pocket Steel Adventure Flask
Let's face it, we all like to rough it in the woods on occasion, but that doesn't mean we have to be completely uncivilized. The Pocket Flask from Stanley is a lightweight and compact way to carry a little extra something into the backcountry with us for those celebrations when you bag a peak or are just toasting to your good fortune. Price: $18

Spanish Climber to Attempt Repeat of Fitz Roy Crossing Solo

Back in February of 2014, climbers Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed what many thought was an impossible climb by linking up Cerro Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks in southern Patagonia. The route was dubbed the "Fitz Traverse" at is involves climbing Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Aguja Saint-Exupery and Aguja de l'S, all in one go. This once-Holy Grail of rock climbing hasn't been repeated since, but a Spanish climber is about to give it a go.

Last week, Pedro Cifuentes set out for Patagonia, where he hopes to make the same climb as Caldwell and Honnold in solo fashion. Going in alpine style, and completely alone, Cifuentes estimates it will take him about 40-50 days to finish the traverse, which is considerably longer than his predecessors, who finished it in just 5 days. But, having a partner makes a huge difference, and the Spaniard admits he isn't up to climbing at the same level of speed that the two Americans can achieve. Instead, he'll look to be self-sufficient and travel in alpine style, carrying a 90kg (198 pound) pack with him filled with his supplies, food, and gear.

In total, the distance he'll travel will be a mere 5 km (3.1 miles), but it will also involve 4000 meters (13,123 ft) of rough vertical climbing to overcome. That climbing is where Cifuentes will slow down, as doing every pitch by himself will be time consuming and demanding.

This won't be Pedro's first go around with a significant rock climbing challenge. In 2013 he become the first person to solo all three Towers of Paine in succession in Patagonia as well. That expedition took 29 days to wrap up. Later that year, he also attempted a solo climb on Nameless Tower in Pakistan, but was forced to retreat due to incredibly poor conditions.

Cifuentes admits that his solo attempt on the Fitz Traverse is a long-shot, but he enjoys the challenge and hopes that his skill, planning, and determination will help get him through. He says, "I'm not looking for summits, but for experiences. It is not my first expedition, nor will it be the last. I do it for me, to enjoy, for the experiences, for what you see, for what you learn .... it is very difficult to convey what it means to face alone an escalation like this ... every second is very intense, thousands spend Of things, you're out of the world ... The top is fine ... but it's not what I'm looking for. If so, there are easier ways to get it. "

Pedro is on his way to the start of the climb now and should get started shortly. Hopefully he'll reach his goals in the mountains of Patagonia, but if not, perhaps he'll at least get the experiences he's looking for.

Everest Winter Expedition Revealed - Alex Txikon without Bottled O's

Last week I mentioned that I had heard it through the grapevine that a major expedition was gearing up for Everest this winter, but that I hadn't quite heard all of the particulars just yet, even though I suspected who might be involved. Well, it turns out my hunch was correct, as we now know more about the impending climb, who's involved, and how it might unfold.

On Friday, Spanish climber Alex Txikon announced that he is indeed leading a small team to Nepal to attempt a winter summit from the South Side. The 35-year old Txikon be joined by 28-year old Carlos Rubio, who is a talented extreme skier in his own right. The expedition will also include Aitor Barez and Pablo Magister, who will both document the climb. They'll also be accompanied by 5 Sherpas who will handle route fixing duties through the Khumbu Icefall.

A winter expedition to Everest is challenging enough with weather that is bone chilling to say the least. In January, high winds and brutal temperatures will likely test the team's resolve. Alan Arnette says that the average temperature on the summit during the month is -36ºC (-33ºF), although it has dropped as low as -60ºC (-76ºF) in the past, with windspeeds topping out at 280 km/h (174 mph).

But, the altitude, weather, and deep snow won't be the only obstacles that Txikon will be looking to overcome. He says that he also intends to make the climb without the use of bottled oxygen, which will add an entirely new level of danger and difficulty to his quest. Presumably, Rubio will be attempting to ski the mountain as well, but those plans have yet to be clarified.

The team will leave for Kathmandu on December 23 and arrive on Christmas Eve. Winter will have officially started by then, so they'll be looking to spend the next two months on the climb. The team will first have to trek to Base Camp however, which will help start the acclimatization process and get them acquainted with the current weather conditions. Reportedly, there has been heavy snow in the region thus far this year, so how that impact the climb remains to be seen.

Txikon is now stranger to climbing in the big mountains during the winter. In recent years he's made several visits to Pakistan to climb in the Himalaya and Karakoram there during the harshest time of year. Earlier this year he was part of the team – which included Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger, and  Ali Sadpara – who completed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. Now, he'll take everything that he learned on that journey and apply it to Everest as well.

We will of course be following this expedition closely in the weeks ahead. It should be interesting to see the first true winter expedition to Everest in a number of years. Good luck to everyone involved. Stay safe!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Video: A Little Holiday Cheer Courtesy of WestJet

We're now just a little over a week away from Christmas, and while this isn't the type of video I normally share, I thought it was worth posting nonetheless. 2016 has been a challenging year for the citizens of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. A forest fire destroyed a large portion of the town, claiming many homes and consuming lots of valuables in the process. But, the holidays won't be quite so grim there thanks to Canadian airline WestJet, which has made a habit out of making Christmas miracles over the past couple of years. In this video, you'll see what they did for the people of Fort McMurray, and if it doesn't warm your heart heading into the holiday season, I don't know what will. Have a great weekend!

Video: Ed Viesturs - The Will to Climb

This video is part of the Nat Geo Live program, and even though it is a couple of years old, it is still worth sharing. It features alpinist Ed Viesturs – the only American to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks – sharing his philosophy on climbing, risk, and life in the mountains. There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge to be gained here, from a man who has pushed himself to the limit in the high places of our planet. If you want to truly know what it is like to climb the highest peaks in the world, Ed can tell you.

Outside Gives Us 20 Stocking Stuffers for $20 or Less

With a little more than a week to go until Christmas, our shopping days are running short. Hopefully you've wrapped up all of your gift buying for the season, but if not, Outside magazine is here to help. The staff there has compiled a great list of 20 stocking stuffers for under $20 that any outdoor enthusiast is sure to love. 

With 20 items to choose from, I wouldn't think of giving away everything on the list. But, there are some really great suggestions for those still struggling to find the perfect gift, or are simply looking to add one more item that won't break the bank. Amongst the things that Outside recommends are a classic Swiss Army Knife from the folks at Victorinox for just $17, running socks from Balega for $8, and a new Nalgene bottle, which start as low as $3.50. Other options include traction cleats from Yaktrax ($14), a travel pillow from Therm-a-rest ($12), and a classic Petzl Tikka headlamp for $20. 

A lot of the items on this list are things that active outdoor athletes use all the time and will appreciate receiving in their stocking. Many are thoughtful items that most gift-givers wouldn't think about picking out for the people on their list, which makes them all the more special to the person receiving it. I can't speak for everyone, but I'd personally rather have a utilitarian gift that I can actually use than an item that just doesn't suit my needs. Of course, it's always the thought that counts, but it is very nice to get things that we actually want too. 

If you're looking for a few last minute ideas on what to pick out for someone, check out all of Outside's suggestions by clicking here

Pursuing a Speed Record on the Hardest Mountain Trek in the World

A few months back, a team of endurance athletes set out to Bhutan to attempt to set a new speed record for trail running along the Snowman Trek, largely considered to be one of the toughest trekking routes in the entire world. The goal was to complete the entire route in less than 14 days – fave days faster than the previously best known time. Along the way they faced tough trails, lots of altitude gain and lost, the thin air of the mountains, altitude sickness, brutal weather conditions, and more. Now, a few months after the expedition wrapped up, National Geographic Adventure has the story of this daring adventure in the High Himalaya.

The team that set out to run the length of the Snowman Trek consisted of endurance athletes Ben Clark, Anna Frost, Tim Olson, and Chris Ord. They had a support team with them as well to help carry gear and supplies, but even getting a group of locals to help with the logistics was a challenge. No one wanted to join the team, as all of the experienced guides in Bhutan thought that their plan was impossible to complete in the time that they had set for themselves. The original trek leaders and support crew quit right before the team was preparing to embark on their quest, leaving them scrambling to find others who were at least willing to try.

But the finally did get underway, and the details of their story are fascinating and at times harrowing. I don't want to spoil too many of the details, as the Nat Geo story – written by veteran endurance athlete Mat Hart – is incredibly well done. I will say this however, the group did manage to set a new speed record on the Snowman, and in the process redefined what can be done on that intensely demanding route.

Read the entire story here. It is a good one, and well worth a look. I'll be thinking about this group of runners when I set out for my own nightly run later today.

Two Young Adventurers Are Kayaking 2000-Miles Across the Caribbean to Miami

Two American adventurers are in the middle of an epic paddle that will see them travel more than 2000 miles (3218 km) across the Caribbean Sea in a tandem kayak. The journey began back on October 1, but is now nearing completion as the two young men close in on their finish line. 

Dubbed The Golden Arc Expedition by Will McCreadie and George Parry – both 21-years old – the trip began on the island of Grenada and will end when the pair reach Miami, which they hope to do by the end of the month. That will end about two months of island hopping as they've made their way across the Caribbean. Along the way, they have stopped in Nevis, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, and  Puerto Rico. Currently, they are paddling through the Bahamas on their way to Florida. 

Throughout the course of the journey, McCreadie and Perry have faced some serious challenges. As you might expect, the ocean hasn't always been kind, as the two men have had to deal with high seas and strong winds. They've also suffered dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sleep deprivation, as they have sometimes paddled for as much as 30 hours straight during open ocean crossings. Still, reading their dispatches they remain upbeat and determined to reach the end of their journey on schedule. 

The two men undertook this challenge to raise funds for the Get Exploring Trust, an organization that awards grants to get people outside and pursuing activities that they are passionate about. It encourages people from all kinds of backgrounds to step out of their comfort zone and encourage them to explore the world around us. The grants are not particularly large, but they may cover costs such as purchasing a good pair of hiking boots, paying for an outdoor training course, or transportation to reach a destination. The whole point of GET is to simply help young, adventurous people to go after their dreams. Something that we at The Adventure Blog can obviously get behind. 

As far as this particular adventure, I could think of worse places to kayak through than the Caribbean Sea. Still, having just been there recently myself, I do know how hot it can get under the blazing sun, and kayaking 2000 miles is an impressive accomplishment no matter where it is done. Will and George haven't had to rough it completely however. During their stop over in Nevis for instance, they stayed at the Four Seasons while they recuperated some. We should all be so lucky on our own expeditions. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Video: A Beautiful Journey to Everest

In need of an escape to the mountains today? If so, have a look at this amazing video, which takes viewers on a beautiful journey through the Himalaya in Nepal to Everest. That journey begins in Kathmandu, continues out to the Khumbu Valley, and passes into the shadow of the tallest mountain on the planet. The entire thing was shot in 4K resolutions, and looks simply stunning. At nearly a half-hour in length, you'll want to get comfortable before you embark, but it is worth the ride.

Video: Above Bellingham - Drone Footage From an Adventure City

Bellingham, Washington is a city that has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor adventure, much of which you'll see in this video, which was captured using a drone to stunning effect. The clip starts a bit slow, and you'll probably wonder why it is worth sharing, but as it goes along the landscapes and opportunities for adventure reveal themselves. By the end, you'll be wanting to visit Bellingham yourself.

ABOVE BELLINGHAM - 4K Drone Film from Kjell Redal on Vimeo.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know Bout Polar Exploration?

If you're a fan of polar exploration like I am, and enjoy the history that surrounds the famous expeditions that ventured into those remote places, we have a real treat for you today. National Geographic has posted a fun quiz designed to test your knowledge, and perhaps teach you a thing or two at the same time. As someone who writes about the history of polar exploration from time to time, I still picked up a couple of nuggets of information along the way. There are ten questions in total, and I managed to score an 8. Not bad, but still room for improvement. Take the quiz below and see how you fare.

Men's Journal Suggests Six Winter Adventures to Take Advantage of the Cold

If you live in the U.S. right now, chances are you're experiencing the "polar vortex" that has brought cold conditions to just about every part of the country. Winter is still technically a week away, but temperatures have dipped well below freezing, and in some place are even dangerously frigid right now. But, as any dedicated outdoor enthusiast will tell you, the winter is just another season to play outside, provide you have the proper gear and the right motivation. To that end, Men's Journal has shared a list of six adventures that make the most out of the cold.

Some of the suggestions – like visit Yosemite in the winter and Fat Biking in Sun Valley, Idaho– are specific to certain locations, but most of them are things you can do just about anywhere there is a bit of snow. Those options include learning to ice climb, cross-country skiing under the stars, go backcountry skiing, and learn to dog sled. MJ has some good suggestions on where to do all of those things as well, but those adventures are a bit more flexible, with opportunities to embark on those winter escapes in many different places.

Of course, none of these activities are going to be especially enjoyable if you don't have proper gear to keep you warm. Make sure you have a good layering system, as well as boots, a hat, and a good pair of gloves. If you're well equipped, winter can be just as enjoyable as any other season to be outdoors, and often times it is even more rewarding. There is nothing quite like hitting the backcountry and finding you have the place all to yourself.

One of my all-time favorite trips was a winter excursion to Yellowstone National Park a few years back. The place is utterly spectacular – and completely deserted – in the winter months. And yes, it was indeed cold, with temperatures dropping well below 0ºF (-17ºC), it was still an amazing place to be. If you haven't done that adventure, definitely put it on your list. You won't be disappointed.

Stay warm, stay active, and enjoy the season. It has a lot to offer.

The 2016-2017 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Challenge is Underway

One of the great annual endurance events in the world got underway yesterday as the 2016-2017 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge began in the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa. Over the next two months, 12 solo, two-person, and four-person teams will row across the Atlantic Ocean to the finish line on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean Sea, covering some 3000 nautical miles (3452 miles/5556 km) in the process.

The rowing crews departed at 9:30 AM local time from the harbor of San Sebastián de La Gomera with a large, and loud, crowd to see them off. As you can imagine, the teams were pretty excited to get underway, but they didn't leave without a bit of trepidation. Most won't see their loved ones for awhile, as the two-person teams are estimated to take roughly 50 days to cross the Atlantic. Of course, the four-person squads – which includes an all-women's team from the U.K. – should go a bit faster, while the solo racers will take longer.

One of the teams from the U.S. consists of brothers John and Kurt Suchwartz, who managed to catch some media attention when it was learned that they would row the Atlantic naked. Of course, experienced rowers know that this isn't completely uncommon, as it helps to lower the level of friction and reduces blistering. Still, it made for a salacious headline or two leading up to the start of the race.

Now that they're underway, the teams will face everything from perfectly calm, lovely weather, to potential tropical storms, heavy waves, and high winds. It's all part of the challenge of course, but that won't make it any easier to complete.

You can follow the progress of the teams in the weeks ahead at race's official website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Video: Where Have All the Stars Gone? - How Light Pollution Affects the Night Sky

One of the great joys of travel for me is visiting places where it is so dark that you can see the night's sky completely unobstructed. Watching the billions of stars overhead is an incredibly humbling experience. But, not everyone gets to feel that thanks to light pollution, which can block the heavens, even on the darkest of nights. In this video, we see just how much of an impact the urban lights can have as we walk through the various levels of light pollution and how they affect our enjoyment of the stars overhead. These timelapse images will put everything into perspective and help you appreciate our dark zones even more.

Video: Meet the People of Rainier

Standing 14, 411 feet (4392 meters) in height, Mt. Rainier isn't the tallest peak in the U.S., and yet it still casts a very long shadow over the mountaineering community here. It is perhaps the most iconic mountain in the lower 48, and it remains a proving ground for climbers everywhere. In this video, we get a beautiful look at that mountain, and share the experiences of some of its most famous climbers, including Lou Whittaker, George Dunn, Bronka Sundstrom and Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa. If you've ever wondered why this mountain has held such a sway over the hearts of so many climbers, this video will shed a bit of light on the subject.

Gear Closet: Sherpa Adventure Gear Ananta Hoodie

Last week I took a look at the Tsepun Zip Tee from Sherpa Adventure Gear, and came away very impressed with how comfortable that baselayer is and how well it performed. This week, I'm going back into the Sherpa catalog to take a look at yet another one of their garments, this time putting the Ananta Hoodie to the test.

Where as the Tsepun is a mid-weight shirt meant to be worn close to the body, the Ananta Hoodie is an insulating layer that works best between your baselayer and your shell. Made from Polartec Thermal Pro fabrics, this pull-over is warm, quick-drying, very breathable, and surprisingly light weight. All of those elements add up to a fantastic piece of clothing for use in the outdoors or just around home.

While this hoodie performs amazing well, and is both water and wind resistant, the first thing that strikes you when you put it on is just how incredibly soft it is. The outer fabric on the Ananta feels fantastic to the touch, almost to the point where you think that it can't possibly be durable as well. But, I've been wearing this mid-layer quite a bit recently, and it has held up to daily use in a variety of environments without a single sign of wear and tear. In fact, it still looks exactly the same as when I first received it, which means it should survive quite nicely in the outdoors.

The Ananta Hoodie features a trim, athletic cut that hugs the body closely. This helps it to trap warm air close to the body to provide extra warmth over a form-fitting baselayer. But, if you prefer a fit that is a bit less snug, you may want to move up to a larger size. Personally, I like the way it fits, and since the Polartec fabrics have a stretchy quality to them, it isn't difficult to get it on or off as needed. Plus, the body-hugging design helps it to feel more natural under an outer shell too.

Simple in design, this hoodie nevertheless has some notable features. For instance, the hood is spacious and provides solid protection from the elements. A pair of cinch cords allow you to tighten up the fit as needed, although for the most part it works fine without having to do so. There is also a single zipped pocket on the left shoulder which is handy for stashing small items in pinch. Although I rarely use it for storing anything, it is large enough to fit a smartphone and is nice to have for those "just in case" moments.

Where I live, winter hasn't officially arrived yet, but we've had some cold, damp days already. During this time, I've found myself reaching for the Ananta on a regular basis, both when heading outside and for staying warm around the house. It is extremely comfortable, looks great, and provides a nice layer of warmth too. There have been times however when I've felt my hands instinctively reaching for a front pouch pocket that doesn't exist. If there were one thing that I'd like to see added to the Ananta in the future, it is just such a pocket. It feels like it should be there, even though it isn't.

Just like the Tsepun shirt, this hoodie was obviously built with quality and care. Everything about it feels well made and crafted to a higher level than some of the garments I've seen from Sherpa's competitors. That is once again a testament to its durability, and since it happens to look great and perform well, I know that this will be a regular companion on my future travel adventures.

Priced at $110, I once again see this as another Sherpa product that comes across as a bargain. You'll be hard pressed to find anything like the Ananta Hoodie anywhere else, and its blend of warmth, wicking, and breathability are tough to beat. It makes a wonderful addition to any layering system, or can be worn with a t-shirt and jeans for nice casual look. Just don't be surprised if you're stopped by strangers on occasion asking where you got it, because that's happened more than once to me as well.

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