Friday, April 29, 2016

Video: Awakening - A Timelapse Journey Through Colorado's Rocky Mountains

We'll finish out the week with this beautiful six-minute video that takes us on a journey through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It is an amazing look at a part of the world that always captivates me every time I visit. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

AWAKENING 4K from Taylor Gray on Vimeo.

Video: For the Love of the Climb

In this video, mountaineers Cory Richards and Mark Jenkins share their passion for climbing in the big mountains and what drives them to take sometimes extreme risks in the high places of our planet. It is an insightful look at why alpinists do the things they do, offering some explanation of what the mountains mean to them. For those who don't understand the mountaineering culture, this might provide a bit of an explanation.

Video: Ripcord Travel Protection for Adventurers

A few days back I posted a story on 5 reasons why you need to use adventure travel insurance, and keeping that idea in mind, I have a video that comes our way via Ripcord Travel Protection, a company I've worked with in the past.  This clip actually gives us a rundown of Ripcord's coverage, which includes emergency evacuations from remote corners of the globe. I witnessed just such an evacuation on Kilimanjaro last year, and Ripcord not only retrieved trekkers from Nepal following the earthquake last year, but has rescued several who were suffering from altitude sickness this year too. If you're someone who finds themselves often visiting wild places, you need to have Ripcord on your radar.

The Last Great March Will Take Explorers Across Simpson Desert and to the North Pole

As the 2016 Arctic exploration season starts to wind down, we now get word of yet another attempt to ski the full distance to the North Pole. Adventurers Sebastian Copeland and Mark George are planning on making that journey in 2017 as part of what they call The Last Great March, a project that also includes a self-supported journey across Australia's Simpson Desert as well.

The two men – who has extensive exploration and adventure credits on their resume – first plan to set out from Ellesmere Island in Canada next February in an attempt to ski 775 km (481 miles) to the Geographic North Pole at 90ºN. They'll travel on skis over the ice, dragging their sleds filled with gear and equipment behind them as they go, with the hope of finishing the journey in under 49 days. Along the way, they'll face unpredictable weather, ice rubble fields, large open leads of water, and possibly even polar bears. If they can actually pull it off, they'll be the first team to complete the full journey to the North Pole since 2014, and quite possibly the last to do so.

But the expedition to the North Pole is only one phase of the Last Great March project. Sebastian and Mark are also planning of trekking for 520 km (323 miles) across the Simpson Desert, the driest place on the Australian continent. To do so, they'll need to pull specially built carts carrying 400 pounds (181 kg) of gear and equipment, much of which will consist of the water they'll need to survive in this inhospitable place. While out in the desert they'll face intense heat, dehydration, massive sand dunes, and a variety of poisonous snakes.

The goal of The Last Great March is to not only push the boundaries of human endurance in remote and difficult settings but also to record the impact of climate change on these places. It will be interesting to see how these expeditions play out, particularly in the Arctic. We had one team announce a full-distance expedition to the North Pole this year, and that didn't end so well. Will this team have more success next year? We'll have to wait to see.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Annapurna Summit Push is On, Progress Elsewhere

It is safe to say that the spring climbing season in the Himalaya is now in full swing, with teams now focused on acclimatization and preparation for eventual summit bids. For the most part, it has been a relatively quiet season so far, which is a welcome change from the past few years when we've seen everything from brawls on Everest to tragic deaths to serious disagreements between climbers. But so far this year, there has been a sense of calm pervading the entire region, which could lead to a very successful return to form. 

We'll start today's update with news from Annapurna, where several teams are now on the move with the hope of topping out over the next few days. The plan is to reach Camp 4 tomorrow, spend a brief time resting there, and then launching the final push to the top. At the moment, the weather looks like it will be good, with winds dying off as they climb higher. If everything goes according to plan, they should complete the ascent on Sunday, May 1, most likely ending the season on Annapurna for the year. 

Over on Everest, a ladder was expected to be installed along the route up the Lhotse Face that was closed yesterday due to an ice collapse. That ladder will help the teams overcome this new obstacle in a safe fashion and allow them to continue on to Camp 3 as part of their acclimatization efforts. We're also told that the Sherpa team that is fixing ropes up the mountain is progressing nicely, and should finish their work all the way to the summit in the first week of May. After that, it'll just be a matter of when the teams are properly prepared for the altitude and a weather window opens to the summit. Most likely that will occur around the middle of May. 

On the Northside of Everest things are progressing as well, although at a bit slower pace. The Chinese-Tibetan team has started installing the ropes there and have now reached 7000 meters (22,965 ft), and by all accounts Base Camp is quiet, well maintained, and orderly. Teams are acclimatizing there as well, with the process continuing on schedule. 

Meanwhile, progress is being made on other mountains in the Himalaya as well. ExWeb is reporting that Sherpas have now established C1 on Dhaulagiri and are pressing forward with installing the ropes up to C2 as well. On Shishapangma, Ueli Steck and David Göttler are waiting out some high winds before proceeding upwards, but everything looks good at there at the moment. On Cho Oyu, teams are still arriving and getting settled, but one group has already reached Camp 2 at 7000 meters (22,965 ft), while on Makalu, the route up Makalu La has been installed up to C2 as well. 

Things aren't going quite as smoothly on Manaslu, where heavy snows are keeping teams grounded for now. Above Camp 1 – located at 5800 meters (19,028 ft) – the snow is said to be more than a meter and a half deep, and still falling. That has kept all climbers from going much higher than C1, which has hampered their efforts to acclimatize. As you can imagine, all of the teams are watching the forecasts closely, and working out plans to break trail to C2 and higher. 

We're in the part of the climbing season that is a bit of a grind for the teams. They still have lots of work to do before any eventual summit pushes, and there are lots of challenges to overcome before that happens. Still, things are going according to the plan for the most part, with progress being made across the region. In a few weeks time, we'll be reporting on serious summit pushes during a season that needs to come off safely and without controversy. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Video: Meet Nat Geo Wildlife Photographer Joe Riis

Joe Riis has one of those jobs we all dream of. He is a wildlife photographer for National Geographic an occupation that takes him to wild and remote places all over the world. In this video, we learn more about Joe and his job, but also discover that even when you lead an adventurous life, there are still plenty of challenges to finding happiness and contentment. This is a clip you shouldn't miss. Particularly if you're looking to lead a more fulfilling life.

Joe from Andy Maser on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking the Albula Haute Route in Switzerland

If you're in need of three-and-a-half minutes of pure mountain biking porn, this video will be just what you're looking for. It takes us to the Albula Valley of Switzerland to ride the Haute Route there, with some stunning scenery serving as a dramatic backdrop. This is the kind of ride that mountain bikers live for, with beautiful single track, snowcapped peaks overhead, and lush forest all around.

Trail Tales - Episode 02: Albula Haute Route from Filme von Draussen on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Rumpl Down Puffy Performance Blanket

When it comes to warmth and comfort in cold weather conditions, it it hard to beat a good puffy jacket. In fact, they are often so cozy that we're sometimes reluctant to take them off, even when we get inside. But what if you had a warm puffy of another kind to help keep you warm after you've pulled your jacket off? That's the premise behind the Down Puffy performance blanket from Rumpl, which is so comfy that you'll want to buy two just to avoid arguments over who gets to wrap up in it.

Much like that down jacket that you love so much, this blanket is made with 20D ripstop nylon complete with a DWR coating to help repel moisture. That same coating also helps it to resist stains and odor too, something that comes in handy not only at home, but around the campsite as well.

Stuffed with 600 fill duck down insulation, the Down Puffy is incredibly soft, warm, and comfortable, without being overly bulky. In fact, it is highly packable, which makes it easy to carry with you anywhere. It even comes with a nice stuff sack to help compress it down to a small footprint when you need to stuff it into a backpack, duffel, or piece of luggage. And since Rumpl uses Dry Down water resistant fill, you literally can take this with you to the backyard, the cabin, or a tent in the backcountry without fear.


Obviously this blanket is very warm and cozy for use in cool and even cold weather conditions, but it can also serve as a sleeping bag replacement for warm weather camp outings as well. Using a blanket allows for more versatility in those conditions, when a regular sleeping bag can feel confining and overly warm, even if it is rated for higher temperatures. You'll also find the Down Puffy to be a great addition to your camp gear when sitting around the fire before retiring for the evening too.

I can tell you from experience that this blanket is so comfortable and warm that you won't want to share, even though it is large enough for two. At my house there have been arguments (mostly in jest of course!) over who stakes claim to the Down Puffy, and I can tell you that I can see us packing it on future travel outings simply because it is so easy to take with you and offers so much versatility.

The Down Puffy is described as a "performance blanket" and it carries a price tag to match. Rumpl sells it for $199, which makes it quite an investment for anyone who wants one. I can tell you that it is definitely worth the money, even if it is a bit of a luxury item for use around the home and campsite. But if dropping that much cash on a down blanket seems like too much, Rumpl also offers other puffy blankets in a variety of colors that start at just $65.

Any of these options are a great investment, and make wonderful gifts too. Find out more at GoRumpl.com.

Adventures in... Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia isn't a destination that typically ranks high on the list of places for adventure travelers to visit, but my friend Richard Bangs recently shared his experiences there, which included visits to museums and historical sites, camping in the Empty Quarter, and a dizzying array of other wonders, both modern and ancient.

Richard describes the Kingdom as the "hardest place in the world to visit," but yet he finds plenty of friendly, accommodating people that welcomed him. Along the way he had the opportunity to explore some truly amazing places, including the Lost City of Qaryat Al Fau – the remains of a civilization that dates back to 1 B.C. – and the tombs of Qasr Al Farid, which are carved out of a single giant sandstone monolith in the desert.

Most visitors to Saudi Arabia come on a religious pilgrimage, although there is a tourism sector there that is growing slowly. The country has very restrictive visa restrictions, which include requiring visitors to have a sponsor before they arrive. Most visa are issued for business purposes only, with general tourism still remaining mostly off limits. In fact, the only company that currently offers regular tours of the Kingdom is Mountain Travel Sobek, which Richard is a co-founder of.

Read more about his adventures in Saudi Arabia in this article from HuffPo, and if you're looking for something a little closer to home, Richard also has details on what he calls "far and away, flat out, the West's best road trip."

Himalaya Spring 2016: Lhotse Face Closed on Everest, Annapurna Summit Push Begins

More news from the Himalaya today where the spring climbing season continues to unfold at a quick pace. But today we learn that acclimatization efforts are at a standstill on Everest, while teams on Annapurna are once again on the move.

The big news of the day is that the Lhotse Face on Everest is closed due to the collapse of an ice ledge on the mountain. The collapse occurred along the route from Camp 2 to Camp 3, where some teams were already moving up as part of their latest round of acclimatization rotations. All teams have reportedly retreated to C2, where everyone seems to be safe. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be any casualties.

The collapse occurred this morning local time in Nepal. The teams there are now examining their options for climbing higher, which could involve using ladders to climb over the chunks of ice or a longer route that goes around the area where the collapse occurred. It will probably take a couple of days to sort things out, as ladders would need to be carried up the mountain to be put into place or any potential detours will need to be scouted before teams attempt to go around.

In other Everest news, it has also been reported that a Sherpa collapsed in Camp 1 today. He was immediately treated for altitude sickness, placed on oxygen, and evacuated to Lukla. Now that he is at lower altitude, he is expected to recover completely.

Elsewhere, over on Annapurna a new summit bid is now under way. Teams have started to move up this morning with the hope of topping out on Sunday, May 1. About 30 climbers, including 10 Sherpas, have begun to move up, with Aussie Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria amongst the group. If all goes according to plan, they should reach C4 by Saturday and launch their bid that evening with the plan of summiting on Sunday morning. Hopefully the weather will hold, allowing them to safely get up and down.

That's all for now. More news as it comes in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Video: A Look at the Hardrock 100 Trail Race

The Hardrock 100 is one of the toughest running races in the world, covering 100 miles (160 km) of tough trail and featuring 33,000 feet (10,058 meters) of climbing. It runs from Silverton to Telluride in Colorado, crossing the San Juan Mountain Range in the process. In this video, we get a good profile of the event, which holds a special place in the hearts of many endurance runners from around the world. After watching this, you'l start to understand why.

Video: 5 Things to Know Before You Go on an Adventure

Before you set out on your next adventure, you'll want to watch this video. It comes our way from National Geographic, and it shares advice that a team of climbers learned while traveling to Myanmar to climb the highest peak in Southeast Asia. That expedition wasn't an easy one, with lots of challenges to overcome before they ever reached the mountain. But what they learned along the way was invaluable.

Gear Closet: Skins DNAmic Compression Shirt

With as much running and cycling as I do, I've become a convert to the benefits of compression. Not only do I feel like it helps me to perform better out on the road, but recover faster after my workouts as well. These benefits come from the fact that compression gear helps to stimulate the flow of blood to our muscles, while reducing lactic acids as well, bringing some excellent benefits along with it.

One of my favorite companies that provides compression gear for my workout is SKINS. In colder weather I frequently wear a pair of their tights, and during the warmer month I break out the SKINS shorts. Later, I'll even don a pair of recovery tights to help get my legs ready for the next workout the following day. Recently, I had a chance to check out the new DNAmic Compression Shirt as well, and true to form it delivers positive benefits too.

Like SKINS compression tights and shorts, this short sleeve shirt is designed to help stimulate the flow of oxygen to our muscles, helping to improve performance in the process. In particular, this shirt is meant to aid the muscles in our shoulders, chest, and core, providing more power and faster recovery post workout.


It is tough to quantify the "more power" part of that equation, but I can definitely attest to its ability to help speed recovery. After a workout with this shirt, I still felt the effects of a workout, with tired muscles and lots of lactic acid build-up. But the impact of those workouts diminishes much more quickly, and I feel less sore when I start my next exercise session as well.

One of the other benefits of wearing compression gear is that it prevents the muscles in your body from vibrating and moving around too much while moving. That helps to keep the wear and tear on those muscles to a minimum, which is a large part of where the post-workout soreness comes from. But since this shirt fits like, well, a second skin, there isn't much room for your muscles to move about much, which is part of the reason why it is so effective. But it can take a bit to get use to the fit of the shirt, which is tight, but not uncomfortably so.

The DNAmic shirt brings some other nice benefits to the table as well. For instance, it is made of fabrics that wick moisture away quickly and easily, keeping you dry and cool in the process. That can play a big role in staying comfortable while exercising too. On top of that, the shirt offers 50+ UPF protection from the sun too, which definitely comes in handy on those outdoor workouts.

If you're not already a convert to the compression movement, what are you waiting for? You'll find a lot of nice benefits from wearing this type of gear, both on your legs and upper body. This shirt is a also a great place to start, as it can be worn on its own or under other equipment and still get maximum performance. And at a pice of $89.99, it is also a reasonably priced product for how high quality it is. Yes, you'll find some options that cost less, but in my experience that apparel isn't nearly as durable or effective as the products that come from SKINS.

Find out more at SKINS.net.

Massive Reef Discovered at the Mouth of the Amazon River

Here's a story that is further proof that our world still has a lot of mysteries and surprises to share with us. Scientists have discovered a massive coral reef hidden under the muddy waters at the mouth of the Amazon River in South America. The discovery comes at a crucial stage however, as the region has already been charted by petroleum companies looking to plumb its depth for oil.

Indications that the reef might exist first appeared back in the 1970's when fishermen began catching fish that were more commonly found on and around reefs in other parts of the world. But confirmation of the existence of this particular reef didn't come until recently, when researchers were finally able to prove that against all our knowledge and understanding of the ocean that it was hidden away along the coast of Brazil.

The reef stretches for nearly 700 miles (1126 km), and is more than 3600 sq. miles (9300 sq. km) in size. It is also said to be home to at least 60 species of sponges and 73 species of fish. Even more surprising is the fact that unlike other reefs found around the world, this one appears to be very healthy, and even growing. Climate change has begun to warm the oceans, which is causing coral reefs to die at an alarming rate. But this one is not displaying those same symptoms.

What makes this new reef so amazing is that it exists in a place that it was previously believed one shouldn't be able to survive. While it is submerged in ocean waters, the surface of the Atlantic is covered in fresh water that is dumped in from the might Amazon River. The river also deposits plenty of mud and sentiment into the water, which is typically not conducive to the growth of coral either. On top of that, oceanographers typically find reefs in shallower waters that are warmer and clearer than where this one exists. This has left some scientists to wonder if other reefs are out there in our oceans, just waiting to be found.


But the good news over the discovery of this reef – and the fact that it is thriving – is tempered somewhat due to the fact that it is already being threatened by man. It seems that the Brazilian government has already sold 80 parcels of ocean to oil companies to start drilling at the mouth of the Amazon. 20 of those blocks are already in operation, some of which are believed to be right on top of the reef itself. How that will impact the life of the reef moving forward remains to be seen.

Coral reefs play an important role in the keeping the ocean healthy as they often form protective barriers for ecosystems both along the coast line and living within the waters themselves. As those reefs recede, ocean storms, hurricanes, and typhoons could have a larger impact on certain regions of the planet. The Earth's coral reefs are also seen as the canary in the coal mine in terms of indicating the impact of climate change on an area too.

Still, finding this particular reef is amazing, especially since it shouldn't exist at all. Hopefully it will be well protected moving forward.

Himalaya Spring 2016: 4 Deaths in 5 Days Cast Shadow Over the Himalaya

Despite the fact that the spring climbing season in the Himalaya seems to be proceeding about as smoothly as can be expected following the challenges of the past few years, there are still some dark clouds hanging over the big mountains. The Himalayan Times is now reporting that four foreign climbers have lost their lives in the past five days, breaking the sense of safety and serenity that has hovered over the region so far this year.

Two of the deaths came on Shishapangma, where a Swiss climber named Patrik Mattioli and an Austrian named Jon David Johnson fell from a fixed rope into a crevasse. The accident occurred on April 24 at 6200 meters (20,341 ft) as the two men were climbing up from Advanced Base Camp. They were apparently killed immediately.

Meanwhile, over on Everest, a Japanese climber named Hidenori Hagi passed away in Base Camp on the same day. He was being treated for altitude sickness at the time, but succumbed to the illness. His body was retrieved and flown back to Kathmandu.

The fourth death also occurred in the Khumbu Valley yesterday. An unnamed Korean climber died of altitude sickness while returning from Lobuche Peak. Details on the incident remain sparse, with local officials still investigating the incident, although it seems to be a simple case of HACE or HAPE claiming another life.


Altitude sickness is a common occurrence in the Himalaya. According to the Times, at least seven people were evacuated from Everest Base Camp over the past three weeks while exhibiting symptoms of the illness. Another 110 patients have been treated in EBC for HACE or HAPE as well.

The altitude sickness treatment center in Pheriche in the Khumbu Valley shared even higher numbers. They indicated that 9 people had to be evacuated from the area, while 250 have been treated for altitude sickness.

While these numbers seem high, they are generally in line with what you would expect from the spring climbing season. It is not uncommon for people to take ill at altitude, but those symptoms aren't always life threatening or dangerous. Some are quite mild, with headaches or mild nausea common. That said, a friend of mine collapsed twice above the Khumbu Icefall on Everest last week and had to be evacuated from the mountain. Had he gone much higher, the situation could have become dire, but fortunately he was able to be pulled off the mountain safely and is now home and recovering. Hopefully that will be the case for most who run into trouble.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Video: Haywire - Making First Ascents on Baffin Island

Remote Baffin Island in Canada is the site for this short documentary, which follows climber Cheyne Lempe as he travels to that wild and rugged place to attempt several first ascents on the difficult rock faces that are found there. Along the way, he was forced to consider the inherent risks that come along with climbing, leaving him to ponder whether or not those risks are worth it. It is a something that most big wall climbers and mountaineers face at some point, but it is handled very well here, wile also giving us a peek at an amazing expedition to a breathtaking place.

Haywire from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Video: Nepal Now - One Year After the Earthquake

It has now been one year since the earthquake hit Nepal, and over the past 12 months the country has struggled to get back on its feet and get the rebuilding process under way. This video takes us back to the wild, chaotic streets of Kathmandu and the surrounding area to get an idea of where the country is at right now. In some ways, the people of Nepal have come a long way over the past year, and in many ways there is still so much further to go.

Nepal Now from Matter on Vimeo.

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Adventure Travel Insurance

I'm fortunate that my job takes me to some of the most amazing places on the planet to do some fantastic things. From climbing Kilimanjaro, to camping in the Sahara, to hiking in the Himalaya, I've had the opportunity to see places that most people only dream about. But the destinations I visit are often very remote and some of the activities come with a certain measure of risk as well. Because of this, I always purchase travel insurance before setting out, and you should too. With that in mind, here are five reasons why you should invest in travel insurance coverage before setting out on your next adventure as well.

Emergency Evacuation
One of the biggest worries for adventure travelers is taking ill or getting injured while visiting a destination that is miles away from a hospital or other kinds of medical care. But if you have a travel insurance plan, you'll not only be covered for emergency evacuations, you'll also receive help in determining the best course of action for treating the illness or injury too. Some plans will even cover the costs of family members traveling to meet you should an extended stay in a hospital be required. As if that wasn't enough, you'll also be covered for the appropriate care when you get home too.

Finding Quality Heath Care No Matter Where You Are
It isn't always easy to know which doctors to see or hospitals to go to when visiting a foreign country. But a good travel insurance plan will also offer advice and information on where to go to receive the proper care. You'll have an emergency response team at your disposal 24/7, which can help answer questions and direct you to the best place to receive the care you need. That kind of information can be invaluable while traveling.

Keep Medical Costs Down
Most of our health insurance plans don't cover us while we traveling in foreign countries, and especially if you're undertaking adventurous activities like climbing a mountain or rafting a Class V river. But travel insurance from a company such as MedEx of United Healthcare Global is designed to help keep costs down and prevent you from having to pay an arm and leg to receive care. Some plans do have a deductible, but even that will be far less than what you might pay if you were to become ill or injured while on the road.


Non-Medical Assistance
Travel insurance isn't just useful for overcoming medical emergencies. It can prove highly useful in other ways too. For instance, insurance representatives can help you to get a new passport should yours get lost or stolen. Depending on your plan, you might also be able to receive emergency funds if your cash is taken as well. Most travel insurance companies can offer advice on a wide variety of topics, including where to seek legal advice, how to recover lost travel documents, and who to talk to for arranging assistance in non-medical emergencies too. It's a bit like having a very knowledgable travel resource at your service 24 hours a day.

Unexpected Interruptions
Lets face it, travel isn't cheap and it can be very disappointing when it doesn't go as planned. If your luggage is lost or a trip gets unexpectedly cancelled, there might not be much you can do. But if you have the proper travel insurance, you'll be compensated for these issues, often receiving cash to help purchase new gear to see you through your journey, or covering the costs of the trip if it does get delayed or cancelled. Depending on where you are going, you might not have much legal recourse to recover the funds you've spent otherwise.

As mentioned MedEx of United Healthcare Global can offer travel insurance plans that can provide these levels of protection and more. The company offers plans that can cover travelers for a minimum of 7-days overseas up to a full year abroad. Customers have access to a 24/7 emergency response team that can help answer questions and lend assistance as needed, offering advice on a wide variety of topics.

MedEx has three plan levels that offer a variety of coverages ranging from $50k to $500k in medical insurance, the handling of records and other information, medical and dental referrals, transferal of medication prescriptions and more all for just a few dollars per day. Their coverage also includes emergency travel options, replacement of lost travel documents, legal referrals, transportation to medical facilities, and lots of other things you don't tend to consider until you run into a problem while traveling.  (Note: MedEx of United Healthcare Global is not available for purchase by residents of Washington State or New York)

I've been fortunate that I haven't had to use my travel insurance while on a trip, but I have been with others who have. For instance, while visiting Everest Base Camp a few years back, one of the members of my group became incredibly sick due to the altitude. She needed to be taken to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible, and received emergency treatment for high altitude pulmonary edema. Similarly, last year when I was climbing Kilimanjaro two members of the team had to be taken off the mountain via helicopter when one had a severe allergic reaction to something she came in contact with, while the other was once again suffering from altitude sickness. In both cases, travel insurance covered the costs of the evacuations and the medical treatment that followed.

And if you need yet another reason why you should carry travel insurance while traveling abroad, consider this. Many adventure travel companies now make it mandatory that you have coverage before you depart on the trip. Some will offer their own plans of course, while others will allow you to choose the company that you want to work with. If that is the case, you should definitely look for a quote from MedEx. Not only are their insurance plans very reasonably priced, they give you the coverage that you need for the destinations you are visiting. Keep in mind, depending on the activities that you plan on doing, you may need to add a sports rider as well to ensure that your coverage handles whatever things you choose to do while on the road.

Find out more by visiting the MedEx website and pricing out the plans that best fit your needs.

Himalaya Spring 2016: News From Everest, Another Summit Window Opens on Annapurna

Yesterday was a busy – if solemn – one on Everest, as the climbing teams are now in the thick of their acclimatization process. Elsewhere, a similar story is unfolding on a number of other Himalayan peaks, while over on Annapurna the climbers are now eyeing another weather window that approaches in the next few days.

We've reached the mid-way point of the climbing season on Everest, where we get an excellent report on what is happening there via to Alan Arnette. He says that in some ways it is a very normal season on Everest this year, which is a relief considering the challenges of the past few seasons. But it is a quieter time in the Khumbu Valley as well, with about 15% fewer climbers on Everest, and about a 40% drop off in trekking across the region too. That means its fairly quiet there compared to years past.

Alan says that another major change on Everest this season is that the route through the Khumbu Icefall has been altered as well. In the past, climbers spent a lot of time in the Icefall, crossing upwards of 20 ladders as they made their way through this dangerous section of the mountain. But this year, there are just 7 ladders, as the route is shorter while avoiding some of the more dangerous overhanging seracs. The route might be more direct, but it is also more challenging too. Alan indicates that there is actually more climbing involved with passing through the Icefall this season, which is a departure from previous years as well.


As for Alan himself, he's in Nepal to climb Lhotse this season, but his acclimatization process has been slowed by an upper respiratory infection. He tells readers that his team is now on a mid-season rotation up to Camp 2 right now, but he was forced to return to Base Camp after developing a nasty cough. He's hoping to knock the illness out quickly and get back on track soon. With five weeks to go, he still has plenty of time to acclimatize ahead of an eventual summit bid.

Over on Shishapangma, Ueli Steck and David Göttler have now arrived in BC. They finished their trek to the mountain on Sunday and have spent the past couple of days getting settled and rested. The duo have traveled to the Himalaya to attempt a new route on this peak, which they hope to complete in a light and fast, alpine style ascent. They acclimatized in the Khumbu Valley before crossing the border into Tibet, and are now ready to start scouting the line that they intend to climb. It is likely that they'll spend a bit for time acclimatizing and watching the weather before they actually start their ascent.

Finally, the remaining teams on Annapurna are now gearing up for what looks like the next – and possibly final – summit bid of the season. Forecasts now indicate that the jet stream is now starting to move away from Nepal, and as a result winds are beginning to die down to a degree. It now appears that conditions could permit climbers to go for the summit this coming weekend or early next week, although the exact schedule is still in flux.

Time could be running out on Annapurna, where teams have been on the mountain for weeks already. The current strategy for this mountain – which is prone to avalanches – is to climb earlier in the season before it gets too warm there. We're approaching the point in the season when things will start to warm up, making it riskier to climb. With that in mind, most of the climbers are hoping to take advantage of the next weather window to nab the summit while they can. On top of that, a number of the alpinists are also planning on moving on to other peaks in the region, so they're eager to wrap-up their expeditions on Annapurna as well.

Things are really starting to ramp up now across the Himalaya. We're still several weeks away from summit attempts on Everest of course, but it is easy to see how things are unfolding at the moment. It's all about the acclimatization rotations and the weather right now, but things are proceeding about as well as expected at this point.

North Pole 2016: British Team Completes Expedition

As expected, the British Race Against Time team completed its journey yesterday, reaching the North Pole after 13 days out on the ice. The Pole marked the finish line for what was a demanding trek that began long before they ever set foot in the Arctic, and culminated at 90ºN early yesterday.

It took Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge just 4 hours to complete the final push to the Pole yesterday, facing more ice rubble and fields along the way. The squad saw plenty of that, plus plenty of other obstacles over their two weeks of skiing north, including open leads of water and blocks of ice the size of a house. They also witnessed the effects of climate change, with thinning ice, warming temperatures, and the Arctic Ocean uncovered in surpassingly large areas.

The 13-day expedition was far shorter than the trio of explorers originally envisioned. Initially the plan was to ski the full distance to the North Pole via the Russian side of the ice. Later, they decided to change directions, and travel from the Pole to Ward Hunt Island in Canada instead. But delays to the start of the expedition pushed back their start, making that much longer journey an impossibility. Instead, they elected to complete a journey that crossed two degrees of latitude instead. The shortened trip still allowed them to observe the environmental impact they had hoped to learn more about, but they had hoped to collect more data over a larger area of the Arctic.

The three men didn't spend much time at the Pole. They were picked up by helicopter last night, and flown back to the Barneo Ice Camp where they now are waiting for transportation back to Europe. It might take another day or two for that to happen, but soon they'll be on their way home.

The North Pole season will continue for another week or so as some "last degree" teams continue to ski to the Pole and some research teams wrap up their projects. Soon though, the Barneo camp will pick up for another year, and the Arctic will be abandoned once again. At this point, it is impossible not to wonder if the age of Arctic exploration is quickly coming to an end as climate change alters the landscape their forever.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Video: Winter in the Dolomites

The Italian Dolomites are one of the most beautiful places in all of Europe, if not the world. This video confirms that, providing almost three minutes of fantastic timelapse imagery from this fantastic setting, which is where many great Italian climbers have cut their teeth over the years. If you want to know just how magical of a place the Dolomites are, just sit back and enjoy this short clip. It is definitely worth the time.

WINTER | DOLOMITES 4K TIMELAPSE from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

Video: Dropping a 60-Foot Waterfall in Mexico

If you're looking for a healthy does of adrenaline to get you week started, GoPro is here to help. This short clip takes us to the Rio Jalacingo in Mexico where kayaker Edward Muggridge drops a 60-foot waterfall called Tomato 2. Thanks to his helmet cam, we get a fist person perspective of the entire event.

Video: Intova Duo Waterproof Action Camera

There is no question that GoPro is the market leader in terms of the action camera market. Their devices are used by thousands of people, ranging from professional filmmakers all the way down to weekend warriors hoping to catch a great shot of their own travel adventures. But those cameras can come with a large price tag, which makes them an expensive luxury for many people. But what if there was a more affordable option that offered solid performance at a price that would make more of an impulse purchase? That's exactly what the Intova Duo brings to the table, delivering some surprising features for a pice that is tough to beat.

Before we go too far, I'll say right of the bat that if you're expecting GoPro level of performance and video quality, this won't be the action cam for you. On the other hand, if you understand that you're getting a solid substitute for a fraction of the price, your expectations will be more in line with Intova's device.

So how much does the Duo cost exactly? It sells for just $49.95, which is considerably cheaper than even the lowest price camera from GoPro. For that price, you'll get a camera that can shoot 720p video footage and shoot 5 mega-pixels till photos as well. It has a battery life of about two hours, a 4x zoom, and it comes with a 1.77" LCD screen for accessing images, video footage, and settings.


As if that wasn't enough, the Duo also comes with a waterproof housing that keeps it safe down to 100 feet (30 meters). That same housing allows the camera to float, which certainly comes in handy when operating around water, when one accidental drop can mean the loss of the device. The camera is very easy to use, both above and below the water, and because the 720p video is fairly lightweight, it is easy to edit on just about any device, including a tablet or smartphone.

The Duo is small, measuring just 2.6 inches (6.7 cm) across and it weighs just 1.6 ounces (46g). That means it easy to toss in a pack and carry with you just about anywhere. It also makes it a great companion device for your other photography equipment, allowing you to capture video and still photographs with ease. And while I personally felt that the video quality of this camera was better than the still photos, the fact that it can take 5MP snaps was nice in a pinch.

Make no mistake, this isn't a camera that will replace a GoPro Hero 4 Black with professional filmmakers, but it is a camera that delivers plenty of quality video for those of us who don't need everything that the high end, $500 GoPro camera offers, or even the $200 Hero Session. The Duo is a great option for those who don't want to break the bank for an action cam, but do want to take something with them on their travels that can capture solid images and is rugged enough to survive in the outdoors.

If you've been looking for an affordable solution to shoot your outdoor adventures, the Intova Duo is a worth taking a look at, especially since it costs less than $50. It is a surprisingly fun camera to use, and I think a lot of people will be surprised at how well it performs for the price.


North Pole 2016: British Trio Close in on 90ºN, Barneo in Transition

The 2016 North Pole season has been a strange one to say the least, and it appears that it is quickly coming to an end. It now looks like operations will begin to wrap up in the next week or so, with the final expeditions heading towards the finish line. But it is clear that the North Pole is a place that remains in transition, with new challenges to the logistics of getting there.

One of the teams that is nearing the completion of its journey is the Race Against Time squad. If all goes according to plan, polar explorers Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge should reach the North Pole sometime today. They've been closing in on the top of the world for the past few days, but the final miles haven't been easy ones. Just yesterday they faced their largest lead of open water yet, covering as many as 3 or 4 football pitches across. Those leads slow down their progress greatly, and can be dangerous to cross, but the real news here is that they are finding these areas of open water so close to the Pole. That should be one of the coldest places on Earth, and not a place where the ice is failing so quickly, but it is happening and it is going to make any future expeditions to the North Pole even more difficult, if not impossible. It won't be too long before these journeys could come to an end altogether.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that there will be no more flights to the Barneo Ice Camp from Svalbard, Norway. Instead, future flights will likely be conducted through Franz Josef Land, which is a remote Russian island. Barneo has had its share of issues being built this year thanks to the health of the ice and its movement atop the Arctic Ocean. But, it turns out there have been some political issues that also challenge the future of the temporary base, which has been in operation for 15 years.


A few weeks back, a team of Ukrainian commandos traveled to the Arctic to conduct a training exercise. Officials from Barneo say that those soldiers flew to the camp aboard a special flight that did not depart from Svalbard in Norway, which is where the majority of the commercial flights to Barneo originate. But the Norwegian government aren't convinced that that wast he case, so they revoked the flight permits citing national security. They then imposed a new set of rules that require the flights heading to Barneo to share the exact contents of its cargo, and all passengers, 48 hours before the flight. Due to the fluid nature of those flights however, Barneo officials say those requirements are impossible to meet, so future flights will no longer depart from Svalbard. That starts now, and seems likely to continue through all future operations in the Arctic as well.

This means that in addition to changing conditions in the Arctic, this shift in regulations it making it logistically more challenging to get there as well. These new flights could cost more as well, which could potentially sink some future expeditions. Traveling to the North Pole is already expensive enough, and sponsors seem more reluctant to back such a journey. This is all speculation at this point of course, and we'll have to see how this all shakes out.

Either way, its clear that operations in the Arctic for 2016 are starting to wind down now. It won't be long before Bareno is closed once again for the year.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Solemn Day on Everest and Beyond

It is a solemn day in the Himalaya, as it was exactly one year today since the devastating earthquake shook Nepal, destroying thousands of buildings and claiming the lives of more than 8800 people, including 21 on Mt. Everest itself. In the weeks that followed, continued aftershocks kept the country on edge, fraying nerves and preventing the rebuilding process from fully getting underway in some areas.

Last year this time, the world was stunned to see just how widespread the destruction was, with everything from mountain villages to World Heritage sites being completely destroyed by the quake. We were horrified to read about the massive loss of life, and the mountaineering community was saddened by yet another tragedy on Everest that brought an end to the climbing season there for a second year in a row.

Now, a year later, Nepal still struggles with the rebuilding process. According to reports, while the roads are cleared and power has been restored, there has been little progress towards actually reconstructing the buildings that have collapsed. Many people still live in tent cities or temporary shelters, while the Nepali government struggles to manage the massive rebuilding effort. In the meantime, the people that live there continue to suffer.

There have been a number of ceremonies held throughout the country today to commemorate the occasion. With the wounds of the disaster still fresh, it is certainly a sad day across the region, made all the worse by the fact that reminders of the natural disaster can still be seen all around Kathmandu and the surrounding valley.

A year may have passed, but it will take many more before the Nepali people can begin to put the earthquake behind them. A not-very-efficient government is not helping with the healing process, but the return of tourism and climbing operations is bringing a much needed boost to the economy, as visitors slowly start to return.

The Nepali people are strong and resilient. They will survive and thrive once again. But today is a day to remember those who were lost, and look to a brighter future. It is time to renew the commitment to rebuild the country, and get on with getting that job done.

One quick note on currently climbing operations. The weather window on Annapurna failed to open over the weekend, so teams are still standing by, waiting patiently. They hope for an opportunity to come later in the week, but until the forecasts start to firm up, it is still a "wait and see" situation there. We'll keep an eye on it.

More soon!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ancient Ruins Influence Modern Art - Just Over the Mexican Border



Paquimé Ruins
Few places within an easy morning's drive of the United States' border offer UNESCO World Heritage ruins to explore and world-class art to collect. If you'd like to know how people lived in 1100-1300 CE while you buy pottery from an artist who also sells his work to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, then Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, is the place you'll want to visit. You will be amazed by the way the ancient Paquimé civilization led to the creation of the modern ceramic art created in nearby Mata Ortiz.

Continue Reading>>

Video: The Pacific Northwest in Timelapse

We'll wrap up the week with this fantastic five minute video that takes us to the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. for some stunning timelapse images of the landscapes found there. It took two years, and more than 10,000 photos to create this stunningly beautiful clip, but it is a great reminder of just how amazing our world truly is.

Pacific Northwest Timelapse // GENESIS from andrewcox1 on Vimeo.

Video: The Wonder List Visits Machu Picchu

CNN produces a television show called The Wonder List, which takes viewers around the globe to visit some of the most interesting and iconic places on our planet, while telling stories of interesting people, cultures, and locations. For those of us who love travel, it is an interesting escape on a weekly basis. But thanks to the elections process here in the U.S., the final episode won't air for awhile yet. So, we get a preview of that episode in this wonderful video, that takes us to Peru on a journey to Machu Picchu. As you can imagine, the sights along the way are spectacular.

The Wonder List: Peru - Behind The Shot from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

Solar Impulse 2 Resumes Round--the-World Flight

Its journey around the world may have been delayed for 10 months, but the historic flight of the Solar Impulse 2 has resumed at long last. The solar powered aircraft took off from Oahu in Hawaii yesterday, and is now flying towards California on what is arguably the most dangerous leg of the entire project.

The innovative plane features a wingspan as large as a 747, yet it has a very small and cramped cockpit. Most of those large winds are covered in solar panels, with large batteries onboard that cover the rays of the sun into energy and store it for use while inflight. The aircraft carries absolutely no fuel, which is why flying it around the world is such a major achievement.

The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March of last year, flying on to China with few problems. Once there however, poor weather kept the plane on the ground for several weeks, and when it did take off it was forced to land in Japan, where it suffered damage on the ground. The crew repaired that damage, and Swiss adventurer/pilot Bertrand Piccard pressed on to Hawaii.

But while on that leg of the journey, the plane's batteries overheated, damaging the electrical system en route. Safely on the ground in Hawaii, the team reviewed the issue and discovered that it would take some time to repair the Solar Impulse and get it back in the air. The aircraft needed two new batteries and an improved cooling system, which took some time to get in place. It remained in Hawaii until yesterday, when a weather window opened that allowed the plane to take off and resume its journey at long last.


Over the next few days the solar-powered aircraft will make its way to San Francisco, before continuing across the U.S., making several stops along the way. From there, it'll fly across the North Atlantic, visit Europe and North Africa, before proceeding back to Abu Dhabi sometime in the summer. If successful, the Solar Impulse will be the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe using nothing but solar power.

Hopefully this is the last of the delays, and the airplane can now continue along on its journey without any further delays. There is still a long way to go, and it is far from out of danger, but the team behind this project is happy to see its aircraft back in the air once again.


What's it Like to Climb Everest Without Oxygen?

For most climber hoping to summit the world's highest peak, donning a tank of oxygen is simply the only way to get to the top. Without supplemental oxygen, most of the more than 4000 people who have topped out on Everest wouldn't have made it, including Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first climbed the mountain back in 1953. But it would be two other legendary climbers who would follow in their footsteps 25 years later who would show the mountaineering community that there was another way to scale the Big Hill, and n the process they shocked the world. 

Back in 1978 most people thought that the idea of climbing Everest without oxygen was ludicrous. In fact, there may have just been two men on the entire planet that thought it was possible. They were Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler, who traveled to the North Side of the mountain that year to attempt the impossible. They faced a myriad of challenges along the way, including food poisoning, and winds that reached 125 mph (201 km/h), on top of the usual difficulties. And all of that came before their historic summit push without using bottled O's. 

National Geographic Adventure has shared a great story about that historic ascent, including a video of Messner recalling what it was like for them on that climb. Today, a summit without supplemental oxygen remains somewhat rare, but back in 1978 Messner and Habeler might as well have been going to the moon. But their success changed the face of modern mountaineering, to the point that there are some who now believe using oxygen on Everest takes away from the purity of the climb, and is almost a form of cheating. 

Read the story in its entirety here, and not only learn about Messner and Habeler's climb, but two other alpinists who are hoping to repeat the feat this year. 

Himalaya Spring 2016: Ueli Steck and David Goettler on Their Way to Shishapangma

It has been a busy week in the Himalaya, where teams have been on the move all week in preparation for the season ahead. That includes some well known figures in the mountaineering world who are on their way to Shishapangma, and the first climbers reaching the North Side of Everest as well.

One of the expeditions that we'll be watching very closely this spring is the attempt by Ueli Steck and David Göttler on Shishapangma. The duo plan on making a fast and light, alpine style ascent of the 8046 meter (26.397 ft) peak along an entirely new route. As is usual with these two men, the climb will likely be ground breaking and interesting to watch unfold.

Ueli and David spent a couple of weeks acclimatizing in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal before returning to Kathmandu last weekend. From there, they flew to Lhasa in Tibet and started the trek to Shishapangma a couple of days ago. They've now spotted the mountain, but are still a few days from reaching BC, where they'll briefly rest before they start scouting their new route. Once fully acclimatized and ready to go, they'll start looking for a weather window to launch their summit bid.

With the Tibetan border now open, and Chinese officials issuing climbing permits, teams have now started crossing over from Nepal to make their way to their respective summits. The first teams have started to arrive in Base Camp on the North Side of Everest, where they are now getting settled. More climbers are expected in BC over the weekend as that side of the mountain starts to ramp up operations. Unlike on the South Side in Nepal, teams can drive to EBC, although it still takes a couple of days to get there as they try to acclimatize along the way.

Over on Annapurna, the remaining teams are watching the weather forecasts closely. High winds kept them from reaching the summit last weekend, but a weather window is expected to open in the next few days. That means that climbers could be on the move as early as this weekend. We'll keep an eye on how things shake out over the next few days.

That's all for now. More next week I'm sure.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Video: The Art of Recovery in Nepal

As we near the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal we'll likely see more insightful stories, beautiful videos, and touching reflections on the tragedy that has shaped the country over the past 12 months, and will continue to do so for years to come. In this video, we travel to the Himalaya with climber/artist Jeremy Collins, who is using his art to help with the healing and rebuilding process. The clip is filled with fantastic images of the iconic landscapes of Nepal, reminding us all why it is such a great destination for adventure.

Video: Meet the Man Behind the Most Grueling Footrace on Earth

The Barkley Marathons is considered one of the toughest races on the planet. How tough you ask? Consider this. Since the race's inception back in 1986 only 14 people have managed to actually finish it. This video introduces us to Gary "Laz" Cantrell, the man who created this grueling endurance challenge that sends runners out on an incredibly demanding course where they have to complete 5 laps of a 20-mile (32 km) route in under 60 hours. Find out more about the race and Laz himself in this video profile.

World's Largest Viking Ship to Sail From Norway to the U.S.

Photo credit: Peder Jacobsson
A crew of 16 sailors are about to embark on an epic adventure that will take them across the North Atlantic as they look to recreate historical voyages that first took place more than 1000 years ago. On Sunday, the Draken Harald Hårfagrethe largest viking ship ever built – will set sail from Norway with the goal of eventually reaching the U.S., proving once again how Viking explorers reached North America hundreds of years earlier than Christopher Columbus.

Dubbed Expedition America, the journey is meant to learn about the conditions faced by the Vikings as they undertook voyages of discovery from 750-1100 AD. To that end, the Draken Harald Hårfagre has been built to exacting details in the same manner as the ancient Viking ships before it were constructed. It has an open-air kitchen and a sleeping area. The 16 crew members will take turns spending 4 hours manning the vessel and 4 hours off resting throughout the length of the voyage.

The ship will depart from Vibrandsøy, Haugesund, Norway, setting out across the North Atlantic with the goal of reaching Reykjavík, Iceland by May 1. From there, they'll continue on to the port of Qaqortoq in Greenland, skipping across the ocean just as their ancestors did before them. After that, they'll make a harrowing voyage across the Davis Strait – traveling a thousand miles north of where the Titanic went down – on their way to the viking settlement of L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. They hope to arrive there around the 1st of June.

The voyage won't end when they reach North America however. The Draken Harald Hårfagre will than proceed up the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Quebec City, before proceeding into the Great Lakes to visit places like Toronto, Chicago, Green Bay, and even traveling as far west as Duluth, MN before turning back east for a stop in New York City in September.

Of course, you'll be able to follow along with this voyage on the expedition's official website. It should certainly be interesting to watch unfold.

Infographic: Choose Your Own Adventure in America's National Parks

National Park Week continues through this weekend in America's National Parks. That means free entry into every park in the system, and lots of great opportunities for outdoor adventure. To help you find the best adventure for you, the National Park Foundation released this info graphic, which is filled with all kinds of great suggestions. I don't post too many infographics on this blog, but I thought this one was worth sharing. For a full size version of this click here.




Himalaya Spring 2016: Use of Helicopters Approved on Everest

With most of the climbing teams now in place in the Himalaya, the spring climbing season has started to resemble the traditional schedule we've come to know from years past. Acclimatization rotations have begun on Everest and Lhotse for instance, while elsewhere Base Camps are very busy with climbers getting settled and preparing for the challenges ahead. But the Nepali government has announced a major change in operations that could dramatically improve safety on the world's highest peak.

Climber and mountaineering blogger Alan Arnette is reporting today that government agencies in Nepal have approved the use of helicopters to shuttle gear up to Camp 1, bypassing the dangerous Khumbu Icefall altogether. Alan says that using the helicopters will eliminate the need to carry 87 loads from Base Camp to C1, thus preventing the need for porters to cross through the Icefall numerous times, which is where 16 lives were lost back in 2014 while shuttling equipment up the mountain.

Reportedly, the weather has been warmer than usual on Everest this spring, which has brought concerns about avalanches and collapsing ice in the Icefall. This move will help to reduce fears of too many people spending too much time on this dangerous section of the climb. As Alan reports, most foreign climbers pass through the Icefall an average of 6 times, while the Sherpas are far more exposed, often climbing up more than 18 times. For them, the decision to use helicopters is an important one and a matter of life and death.


Meanwhile, the first acclimatization rotations are proceeding on schedule, with Everest and Lhotse teams now spending time in both Camp 1 and Camp 2 as they allow their bodies to become accustomed to the thin air at altitude. Most will spend a night or two at those camps before dropping back to BC to rest and recover. Than, they'll start the process over again, possibly moving higher as the fixed ropes are installed.

Over on Annapurna, the remaining teams are now gearing up for a another potential summit bid. The weather is expected to start improving over the next few days, which means the climbers will likely be on the move once again. Those summit pushes could start as early as this weekend, with an eye on topping out early next week. The forecasts are still shaping up however, so any attempts on the summit could be pushed by a day or two.

More news to come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Video: The Wildlife of Chernobyl

It has been 30 years since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. Since than, the city, and the surrounding area, has been mostly deserted of people, but wildlife has returned to the area and is thriving. In this video from National Geographic, we get a glimpse of those creatures that include wolves, foxes, dogs, and other animals. It is fascinating to see them wandering through a place where humans continue to shun. As is usual, nature finds a way.

Video: GoPro for a Cause - Remember the Nepal Earthquake

Next week will mark the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal. Over the past 12 months there have been a lot of efforts to help the country – which is a haven for outdoor adventure – to rebuild itself. In this video, we see yet another one of those efforts as paragliders and hangliders join the Cloudbase Foundation in its efforts to help with the cause. Along the way, we get some great views of the legendary Himalayan landscapes found in Nepal.

Gear Closet: Thule Stir 35 Technical Backpack

In need of a new backpack for your spring adventures? Than you're in luck, because Thule has delivered a couple of great new packs that deliver a high level of performance and a number of great features, at a price point that we can all appreciate.

Recently I got my hands on the new Thule Stir 35 pack and found it to be a great option for day hikers that need to carry plenty of gear with them out on the trail. But the pack also works great for climbers and peak baggers looking for a bag that can carry all of their equipment without slowing them down. The Stir is comfortable, versatile, and well designed, making it a breeze to stay organized while hauling a surprising amount of equipment with us on our adventures.

With 35 liters of storage, the Stir is definitely on the larger size when it comes to daypacks. That may make it overly large for some hikers, but as a frequent traveler and outdoor enthusiast who takes part in a lot of different activities, I found the extra space to be really useful. Some of my smaller packs are a bit cramped at times, while this bag allowed me to carry pretty much everything I need without compromise.


Some of the features that I really like include the easy-access lid that allows you to get inside the main storage compartment while still keeping the elements at bay. But if the weather really takes a turn for the worse, the Stir comes equipped with a built-in rain cover, which should pretty much be a standard piece of equipment on every daypack these days. I also love that this pack offers access to the interior through a side zipper, making it super easy to retrieve important items no matter where they are stored. This is something I'm use to finding on larger backpacks, but it isn't all that common on a daypack.

Another feature that is more common on larger packs that is also found here is an adjustable torso for improved fitting. This not only adds another level of versatility to the pack, but allows you to find a more comfortable fitting for the Stir as well. By simply adjusting the back panel using some Velcro, you can adjust where the pack sits on your back, making it easier to carry heavier loads.

For those hikers who count every ounce, the Stir offers the ability to remove the hipbelt and sternum strap, saving some weight in the process. That ability also makes the pack a bit less technical looking if you want to use it as a commuter pack around town as well. I personally like having those items in place, as the small pockets on the belt come in handy, but it is nice touches like this one that indicate that Thule took great care in designing a backpack that meets a variety of customers' needs.

Other nice features that have a more technical slant include a light loop attachment points made from reflective materials and two attachment loops for carrying trekking poles or ice aces. There is even a stretch pocket on the one of the shoulder straps that is specifically designed to carry a smartphone, keeping it close at hand for when you need it most.

Personally, I really like the slim design and minimalist approach that Thule took with this pack. It looks great, but also offers great features and functionality too. Comfortable to wear and with plenty of storage capacity, this is a backpack designed for longer day hikes or even short overnight trips if you can manage to go ultralight in warmer weather. But climbers will appreciate everything it brings to the table as well. And since the pack is priced at just $139.95, it is very affordable as well, particularly when considering all of the great features it delivers.

The pack is available now. Find out more at Thule.com.

The Impact of Climate Change on Everest

There is no denying that climate change is having a major impact on our planet. Temperatures are warming, ice caps are melting, and ocean levels are rising. As a result, some of our most iconic places are now starting to be undeniably altered by this shift in our environment. That includes Everest, where the effects of climate change are becoming more and more evident with each passing year.

Outside Online has the story of two researchers who have traveled to Nepal this spring to study the effects of climate change on the mountain. In particular, they are watching how warming temperatures are impacting the Khumbu Glacier, which has been receding for years. That will have a direct impact on climbing the mountain, making it even more difficult and potentially deadly. 

Everest Base Camp sits just below the Khumbu Icefall, an important section of any Everest climb on the south side of the mountain. Mountaineers must pass through this dangerous section using ropes and ladders that must be carefully placed, and meticulously maintained, for the entire season. But as the glacier melts, the Icefall could disappear altogether, making it almost impossible to climb Everest from the Nepali side. Perhaps a new route would be revealed under the ice, but that isn't likely.

Additionally, the crumbling glacier has also made the trek from BC up to Camp 1 a lot more dangerous, as evidenced in 2014 when 16 porters were killed in an avalanche. More avalanches are likely to take place in that section of the climb as temperatures rise and the glacier continues to feel the stress. 

The Outside article goes into more depth on the impact of climate change not just on the mountain itself, and the Khumbu Glacier, which is a source for fresh water further down the valley. As the glacier continues to recede, that water will become more scarce, directly impacting the people who live in the area. 

This is a sobering piece about how climate change is already having a major impact on a part of the world that is now seeing dramatic changes. Soon, it will become even more difficult for us to bury our heads in the sand over this issue as the effects begin to be felt in more widespread parts of the world. Hopefully we can do something about it before its too late. 

North Pole 2016: Barneo Ice Camp Begins Regular Operations

It has been a challenging season in the Arctic so far with lots of delays for the explorers, researchers, and adventurers who planned to travel their this year. The Barneo Ice Camp, a temporary base built at roughly 89ºN each spring has experienced its share of issues, which resulted in some unprecedented delays to the start of the season. But now, things are finally back on track and regular flights have resumed, as support teams race to complete a busy schedule as quickly as possible.

ExWeb is reporting that the runway at Barneo is complete and stable at long last, which is allowing the Russian built Antonov AN-74 aircraft to safely land and deliver important supplies and people to the Arctic. You may recall that the team of engineers who build the Barneo camp experienced issues with the blue ice landing strip, which cracked on four separate occasions, even forcing it to be relocated twice.

Amongst the groups that have now flown to Barneo so far are guided last degree ski teams that will spend the next ten days or so traveling across the frozen Arctic Ocean on their way to 90ºN. Several research teams are also out on the ice, as were Arctic marathon runners who were able to complete their race after several delays.

Because of the long delays to the start of the season, it looks like Barneo could stay open later than normal. Typically it begins to wind down operations by late April, but it is now looking like it could stay open into early May due to the backlog of people waiting to reach the ice.

Meanwhile, the Race Against Time team reports that ice conditions are now improving dramatically. They have moved away from open water and are now skiing over solid ice, which is allowing them to make better time, covering 10 nautical miles yesterday. But the continue to see foot prints from polar bears and even arctic foxes, reminding them that they are not alone out on the ice. The team is on its way to the North Pole and should arrive there late this week or early next.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Video: The Earth in Ultra High Definition

This is another short, but oh-so sweet, video that has to be seen to be believed. It was shot from the International Space Station using an ultra-high def video camera. The result is some stunning shots of our planet captured at 4k resolutions. The Earth never looked so good.

Video: Wild Chile Teaser

Chile is one of my favorite places that I've been fortunate enough to have visited in my travels, and this video is a short, but sweet, reminder of why. Just one minute in length, it gives viewers a tour of the country, spotlighting some of its most wild and beautiful places. It is a stunningly beautiful place with some surprising diversity. Warning: After watching this, you'll want to go to Chile too!

WILD CHILE Teaser 4K from NedoEquilibrio on Vimeo.

Video: Meet Ray Zahab - Extreme Adventure Athlete

Ray Zahab has been a frequent subject of posts on this blog over the years as we've followed his adventures across the globe. He is an ultra-runner and adventure athlete whose resume includes such feats as running across the Sahara, Gobi, and Atacama Deserts, as well as several expeditions into the Canadian Arctic. In this video, which comes our way courtesy of Canada Goose, we get to know Ray better as he shares his story of going from a daily smoker to an endurance athlete capable of running vast distances without stopping. It is an inspiring, energizing story that will get you motivated to go out and seek your own adventures.

Adventure Racing World Championships Come to the U.S. for the First Time

The Adventure Racing World Series has announced the dates and location for the 2017 World Championships revealing that the event will be held in the U.S. for the very first time.

The Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race will serve as the championship event, which will take place from August 13-20, 2017 in the wilds of Wyoming. As usual with this race it will pit coed teams of four against one another over a course that will be hundreds of miles in length that they'll cover on foot, mountain bike, and kayak. As always, navigation will play just as important of a role as speed and endurance.

This will be the earliest in the year that the AR World Championship will have taken place, with the best teams from across the globe descending on Wyoming to take part in the race. Expect dozens of teams from places like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Canada, and of course the U.S. to be on hand to battle it out for the win.

For those of us who are fans of adventure racing here in the U.S. this is great news. Previous AR World Championships have been held in Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, and other great locations, but it will be good to have the race taking part stateside. I know that a lot of my AR friends will be looking forward to this as well.

Check out the announcement video below for an idea of what to expect from Cowboy Tough and start looking ahead to August of 2017 with the official race website.

North Pole 2016: Race Against Time Team Faces Big Challenges

After overcoming a series of challenges just to get to the starting line, the Race Against Time team is now out on the Arctic ice and making their way towards the North Pole. But as expected, this journey to the top of the world hasn't been an easy one so far as a number of natural obstacles force the team to earn every mile.

Last week, the team of Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge were finally dropped off on the ice after facing unprecedented delays to the start of their expedition due to issues with the runway at the Barneo Ice Camp that serves as the gateway to the Arctic each season from the Russian side of the ice. That caused the trio of explorers to rethink their journey for a second time, switching from the original plan of a full-distance ski journey to the North Pole to an expedition that actually began at 90ºN and would head south to Ward Hunt Island in Canada, before finally settling in on their current route, a two-degree ski expedition back to the Pole.

The squad has now been out on the ice for five days, and they've discovered that the Arctic is everything they had expected and more. In the first few days they faced rubble fields of disrupted ice, with many blocks the size of cars and even a few larger than a house. As they inched north however, other obstacles have begun to appear. For instance, yesterday the team only gained 4 nautical miles of distance thanks to a large lead of open water that they had to cross. The only way to do so is to don drysuits, enter the water and swim across while pulling their gear in inflatable rafts.

As if that wasn't enough, the men have also come across a set of footprints left behind by a polar bear. That means that one of these big carnivores is in the area, and they have been known to stalk polar explorers that pass through their domain. So far, no sight of the creature but they will remain wary and vigilant on the trail.

The hope is that the team can reach the North Pole sometime next week. When they originally set out, they thought it would take 12-15 days, and they are still on track to reach their goal. What else they'll find on the way north remains to be seen.