Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quicksilver 100k

Last year I ran the Quicksilver (QS) 100k right in the middle of buying a house and therefore I just realized I never recapped the race. However, the short and dirty of it is: I ran, it was hot, I ended up getting a total time of 13:11.

This year, I decided to tackle the beast again. On my birthday. Happy birthday to me. My goal was to at least beat my time from last year, but I really wanted to try to break the 13 hour mark. Either way, if I made my goal, I would have a 100k PR. This race is a Western States qualifier and to qualify, you have to finish within 16 hours. Therefore my C goal was to just finish within 16 hours.

The good thing about 100k is that basically whatever pace per minute you are running will be the number of hours it will take you to finish. For example, if you want to finish in 13 hours, you have to run a 13 minute mile or faster. 

One of the things I have been doing in my training is to attempt to run the hills that I can run. There is a regular loop that I do with a friend and we have been trying to get faster and faster at the loop each time we do it. It's hard to pace yourself though; knowing when to run the ups and still have enough energy for the downs or the later miles is a bit of an experiment.

Mile 1 - 10: The race starts, of course, with an uphill, which whether good or bad in this case, was runnable as per the new training plan. It is a loop course with a series of out and backs. The first four miles is about a 1,100 ft. gain and I ran it at about an 11 minute pace, which was plenty ahead of my goal. The next few miles are rollers and then around mile 8 comes the long out and back (uphill) to Bald mountain. This out and back is great because you get to see everyone else. I noticed at this point that there was only one woman ahead of me and maybe about 15 other runners in total! My average pace at this point was about a 10:49/mi.

Mile 11 - 20:  11:19/mi average. As you can see above, this portion has a long downhill! But first, you have to do the Bald Mountain out and back. Afterward, you have a steep uphill to the Kennedy aid station and then it's the 6 mile long steep downhill. I still felt good up until about the second half of the long downhill, when my knees started to ache a little.

Mile 21 - 30: 13:35/mi average. The main part of this section is a long 6 mile uphill back to Kennedy aid station. One of the parts of the climb is called "dog meat" which is exactly how you feel when you reach that point. It was also getting hot and there is no tree cover, so this section is hot, plus I ran out of water before the top because I was so thirsty!

Mile 31 - 40: 11:42/mi average. This section is the final part of the first loop. It goes from Kennedy back down to the start line at Hacienda. It is a long but less steep downhill. This part was also bothering my knees and I was dreading the final downhills later in the race. When I got back down to the start line I had to do some blister control, I had a bite to eat and I was on my way again.

Mile 41 - 50: 14:40/mi average. From Hacienda there is a 3 mile section to get to the finish line, which is also the 42 mile mark. It is really hard to leave the aid station since there are already people done and they are sitting around eating and drinking beers and it is so tempting to stay. However, I headed back out after filling up with ice water and fruit. This section has a lot of windy single track, which is both uphill and down, neither of which were really that great. Also, it was hot. The only saving grace was the aid station that had popsicles, which I ate while I ran (running with popsicle?). However, my stomach was starting to get that feeling where you don't feel like eating, even though you know that you should.

Mile 51 - finish: 14:53/mi average. This section goes up, down, up, down, up and then there is a 3 mile downhill to the finish. The first up was slow but then you get to aid, where I ate some turkey sandwich and a bunch of grapes. The next up seemed like a long slog, but really wasn't too bad. However in the middle of this one, they make you do an out and back down a hill where you punch your bracelet and head back up before doing the last climb of the race. Then it's the popsicle aid station, where I did not stop for long before heading out and down to the finish. Right at the very end a friend of mine passed me and he ended up beating me by about 30 seconds. Darn it.

Total time: 12:55
Total elevation: 12,714 ft

Moving time: 12:30 (this means I spent about 25 minutes total at 12 aid stations, an average of about 2 minutes each)

The verdict? This is my second time doing this race and I will probably do it again. It is a great training race, as it has a lot of elevation gain, some very steep climbs and descents and it is usually hot. However, this is exactly why when I am running this race I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking when I signed up.

Where could I improve? I went out too fast. However, it's hard to go slow in the morning, when you are feeling fresh and it's not too hot, especially when you know it's going to be hot and you are going to be tired later no matter what. Time in the bank is good, but you don't want to end up slogging through the final miles like I did. The other thing I need to work on is a good hydration/nutrition plan, since I generally have no appetite, even though I know I need to eat and am sometimes even hungry (if that even makes sense). I also need to eat "early and often", which I do sometimes forget.

What races (or other fun outdoor activities) do you have on your schedule this summer? What's your favorite kind of Popsicle or other cool treat?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Video: Meet the Hippos of Colombia

In 1980, drug lord Pablo Escobar brought several hippos from Africa to his compound in Colombia. It turns out that the environment there was very similar to their natural habitat, and the creatures adapted quite well to their new home. But later, when Escobar was finally brought down and taken in for justice, the animals were left to their own devices. Now, they are cared for by a local conservation organization, and they continue to thrive in the South American jungle. This video tells their story.

Gear to Upgrade Your Car Camping Experience

Not everyone likes to load up their backpack with all of their gear and hike into the backcountry. In fact, many love to stay in a more accessible campsite and enjoy some amenities while they enjoy their time outdoors. For those folks, National Geographic has posted some suggestions on gear that can up your next car camping escape, bringing more comfort to the campfire.

Amongst the gear that Nat Geo recommends is a Yellow Jacket 4 mtnGLO tent from Big Agnes, which has enough room to sleep four and is even tall enough for many people to stand up inside. Mountain Hardwear's Lamina Z 22 is the sleeping bag of choice, with Klymit's Insulated Static V sleeping pad providing extra comfort.

Additional gear that earns a nod include a warm blanket, a hammock, a comfortable camp chair, and a portable battery pack to keep your mobile devices charged up while away from home. All of the gear is easy to pack up and carry with you when you hit the road, which makes it perfect for summer trips or just family camping outings close to home, or even in the backyard.

Check out all of the gear on Nat Geo's list by clicking here.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Rescue and Summits on Everest, Deaths on Makalu, and Turned Back on Shishapangma

There is lots of news to report from the Himalaya today, where the season is unfolding at a rapid clip. The end isn't quite in sight just yet, but the stage is certainly being set, with summit bids underway throughout the region and weather forecasts predicting good opportunities to come. But there is still a lot of work to do before we're through, and the hard work is yet to come.

Our first story from the Himalaya today is an update on the two Slovak climbers who were stranded above Camp 2. Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál were caught in an avalanche yesterday, with Pál suffering an injury to his eye that prevented them from being able to descend safely. Yesterday we reported that rescue operations were underway, but a team of Sherpas that had been sent to lend aid were stalled out in C2, while evac helicopters failed to be able to reach the two men either. But today we get good news that both men have been rescued, as a team of four Sherpas – Mingma Gabu, Lakpa Thinduk, Ngima Dorchi and Nima Wangdi – reached them earlier today and helped them to safely descend.

Details of what exactly happened are still coming out, but it seems that the two Slovak climbers were hit by an avalanche at 7200 meters (23,622 ft) on the Southwest Face. The two men reportedly clung to a safety screw and a couple of carabiners for several hours before they were able to get themselves to safety. Now, they are headed back to BC to recover.

In other news from Everest, rope fixing efforts are now complete on the South Side of the mountain, with 11 Sherpas from various teams reaching the summit earlier today. Those are the first summits on the mountain in the past two years, an unprecedented streak for the world's highest peak. This now clears the way for the commercial teams to follow, with the first squads hoping to top out tomorrow or Friday. Meanwhile, back in Base Camp, other teams are now preparing to set out for the summit as well, with the weather dictating when they'll be able to move up.

The good news of the rescue on Everest was tempered reports of two Sherpa guides perishing on Makalu, apparently of altitude sickness. Da Tenji Sherpa and Lakpa Wangel Sherpa died in Camp 2 on that mountain after both complained of symptoms of HACE and HAPE. They were part of an 11-person Amical Alpin team. According to The Himalayan Times, the two men join two other Sherpas who have died of altitude sickness on Shishapangma, as well as two foreign trekkers in the Khumbu region near Everest.

In other news, Ueli Steck and David Göttler have returned to Base Camp on Shishapangma after being turned back due to poor weather conditions. Forecasts had called for a good weather window, but conditions changed quickly, forcing them back down. The two men are attempting a new route on the mountain, and say that they are far from done yet. They'll rest in BC and wait for better weather before attempting the summit once again.

15-Year Old Canadian Boy Discovers Lost City in Mexico

A 15-year old boy from Quebec is making headlines today for discovering a lost Mayan city in Mexico. The boy used knowledge of ancient astronomy and Google Earth to locate what appears to be remnants of the civilization that thrived across Central America 2000 years ago. 

While looking at maps of the locations of Mayan cities, William Gadoury learned that those cities lined up with the constellations in the sky as they appeared when the Mayan civilization was flourishing. Using that knowledge, he then began searching satellite imagery on Google Earth looking for structures in specific locations, discovering that one city that should have lined up with a specific star was missing. But after careful examination of a spot in the Yucatan Peninsula, he was able to identify what appears to be man-made object hidden under the dense jungle there.

The actual existence of the lost city has yet to be confirmed on the ground, but other researchers are hailing the discovery as a significant one, and are giving William the credit. Experts say that it appears that there are quite a few man-made structures hidden under a thick canopy of vegetation, including buildings, a road, a town square, and possibly even a pyramid. 

 The teenager has named the city K'aak Chi, which means "Mouth of Fire," and he will present his findings at a scientific gathering in Brazil next year. Meanwhile, archaeologists are already applying his technique of matching star charts to maps in hopes of finding other lost cities as well. 

This is another amazing story that reminds us that there are some things that are still hidden away from us, even in the 21st century. It's hard not to be impressed with this young man and his ingenuity. It's a wonder that no one else has discovered the connection between the stars and the Mayan cities before. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Video: American West Landscapes as You've Never Seen Them

This is simply one of the most stunning videos that I've seen in a very long time. It takes us into the backcountry of in the western U.S. to show us just how beautiful and diverse the landscapes are there. The timelapse photos used to create this four-minute clip are breathtaking and will leave you wanting more.

Human Nature 4K from Après Visuals on Vimeo.

Video: A Journey to the Roof of Africa - Kilimanjaro

For many adventure travelers a climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro is the ultimate dream trip, and one that I've made myself. In this video we join two Egyptian friends who set out to Tanzania to trek to the "Roof of Africa" themselves. The short documentary takes you from Kilimanjaro airport to the summit of the mountain and beyond. If this trip is in your future, you'll definitely want to watch.

Gear Closet: Nikon AW130 Digital Camera

When it comes to serious travel photography, I still tend to go a bit old school. That is to say, in the age of the smartphone, I'm still one of those people who likes to carry a dedicated camera with me when I hit the road. Sure, my iPhone takes great photos, and it allows me to easily share them on social media, but it still lacks a proper zoom, has a relatively low megapixel count, and a battery that needs to be recharged every night. On top of that, it isn't rugged enough to take with me into some of the environments that I often find myself visiting. But those places are exactly where the Nikon AW130 digital camera shines. This ruggedized camera has been built with outdoor adventurers in mind, and is tough enough to take with you just about anywhere.

The AW130 is Nikon's most recent generation of rugged camera. I also happen to own the AW100, which is a few years old now, but is still a solid camera to take with me on some of trips. But, the new model shows that Nikon has listened to critics of its earlier models, and has addressed some of their concerns. The results are a camera that has evolved nicely from my older model, while retaining some of the characteristics that made the original stand out.

So what exactly does the AW130 bring to the table for adventure travelers? For starters, it is waterproof down to 100 feet (30 meters), freeze proof down to 14ºF (-10ºC) and drop proof from a height of 7 feet (2.1 meters). Those characteristics alone make it a good option for challenging environments. For instance, I took the camera with me on a kayaking excursion along the Russian River and Pacific Coast in California, and didn't have to worry about getting it wet. It can even shoot photos underwater too. And since it can function in cold weather and is well protected from accidental drops, you'll have a camera that can survive just about anything you throw at it.

This camera isn't just tough however. It features plenty of other useful features too, including a 16 megapixel sensor, a 3" OLED display, and a 5x glass zoom. It also has a built-in GPS receiver for geotagging photos, as well as WiFi and NFC connections for sharing images with your smartphone or tablet. The AW130 is capable of shooting five images per second, and can capture video at full 1080p resolutions. As if that wasn't enough, it also has onboard vibration reduction for steadier photos and video, as well as a fast autofocus that is always ready to shoot.

The design of the camera makes it easy to hold in your hand, even when you're taking part in active sports. It has an small, but useful, textured grip that comes in handy in slick conditions, and the buttons and switches are all large enough that they can be easily operated, even while wearing a pair of gloves. The operating system is typical for point and shoot cameras, which is to say it isn't overly intuitive, but it is fairly easy to find what you're looking for on those rare occasions when you need to go delving into its menus.

Putting the camera to the test in the field, I found it to be a solid point and shoot that was responsive and quick. It is easy to use, and snapping photos is a lot of fun in general with the AW130. The fact that you know you can take it with you anywhere is big plus, as its rugged design brings a nice sense of freedom about how and where you can use it.

In terms of image quality, the photos taken with the AW130 are good, but won't necessarily blow you away. In fact, there were times when I felt my iPhone did a better job of capturing a similar image, with better color reproduction and less noise. On the other hand, there were also times when the Nikon's zoom and glass lens took better photos as well, so performance is certainly impacted by the location and setting. All in all, you won't be disappointed by the photos taken by this camera, just don't expect DSLR levels of quality.

The battery life on my old AW100 was always a bit of a disappointment. It tended to run out of power at the most inopportune times, and far too quickly for my liking. That has been addressed in subsequent generations to a degree however, as I found the AW130 to have far better battery life than my older model. Of course, certain features such at GPS can really kill the battery quickly, so its best to turn it off unless you absolutely need the geotagging features or plan on recharging the camera regularly. Nikon says the AW130 can take 370 photos between charges, but that number drops substantially with GPS or even WiFi use.

The camera's 5x zoom is another source of irritation for me. On the one hand, I'm glad that it has any kind of mechanical zoom, as I far prefer it to digital zoom on any camera. But 5x is hardly anything to get too excited about, and I would have liked to have seen a longer zoom added to the latest model of Nikon's rugged line-up. But, some limitations come along with the design. If you want a waterproof camera, you'll need to make sacrifices in other areas, and this is one of them. Adding something with a longer zoom would compromise the ability to survive in water, which is ultimately one of the main functions of this camera.

Indeed, the one thing you constantly have to keep in mind when it comes to the AW130 is that in making it rugged and durable, Nikon had to make compromises elsewhere. If you want a better camera in terms of speed, features, battery life, and image quality, there are plenty of point and shoots on the market that will fulfill those needs, with most costing less than this one. But if you truly need a camera that can survive in the outdoors, and take very good photos along the way, this is great option.

Personally, I tend to carry the AW130 (or AW100) with me a secondary, companion camera. Depending on the trip, I'll take my DSLR and this one, as they compliment one another quite well. It also happens to make a good companion with a smartphone, surviving in places you'll want to keep your mobile device away from, while being able to share images wirelessly. As a stand alone camera it is still versatile enough to get the job done, just know ahead of time that you'll be trading some functionality in favor of ruggedness.

Wit its $300 price tag, the AW130 is on the more expensive side of the P&S market, particularly as that segment continues to be eaten away by smartphone usage. But, that price delivers a camera that is very rugged and built to survive in some very demanding environments. In the end, that's exactly what you're buying the AW130 for, and recognizing that ahead of time hells to make it the right tool for the job in most instances.

The bottomline is that this is the camera you want with you when white water rafting through the Grand Canyon, skiing in the backcountry, or hiking in the desert. It can handle each of those roles with equal aplomb and capture some good photos of those journeys as well. This is a camera made for those of us who have to leave our smartphones at home, because quite honestly they just won't survive where we're going.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Slovak Climbers Stranded on Everest, Summit Push Begins

The time is now on Everest, where a number of teams are now on the move with the hopes of making a final push to the summit later this week. Meanwhile, we get word today that a pair of climbers are stranded on the mountain following an avalanche, with rescue operations underway.

According to The Himalayan Times, Slovak climbers Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál were attempting to go up the South-West Face of Everest above Camp 2 when an avalanche hit, injuring one of the men. Which of the two is hurt, and the accident of those injuries is unknown, but it s believed that the other climber is healthy and fine.

Unfortunately, they are unable to descend under their own power, so a group of four Sherpas were sent up to try to help. They reached C2, but have been unable to go up the South-West route due to unstable conditions on the mountain. Rescue helicopters have since been brought in to try to lend a hand, but they have been unable to locate them so far. Poor weather hampered further attempts and for now the rescue effort has stalled until morning.

In other Everest news, the rope fixing teams have now installed the lines up to the South Col and expect to reach the summit tomorrow. Once they do, the first of the guided teams will begin their final push to the top, which means we could see the first summits of the season as early as Thursday or Friday of this week. That is a bit ahead of schedule, and considering the weather forecasts indicate good weather well into next week, we could see summits coming at a slow, steady pace. That will be good for the safety of the climbers, and will hopefully prevent traffic jams on the Hillary Step or higher.

On the North Side of the mountain in Tibet, the story is a similar one. Ropes have been fixed nearly all the way to the summit, with work expected to wrap up there in the next day or two. After that, the teams on that side of the mountain will launch their summit bids as well, and since there are fewer teams climbing from Tibet, the fear of large crowds is greatly reduced. Those squads are acclimated and ready to go, and have already started getting themselves into position.

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that a summit bid is well underway on Manaslu as well, with the team of Peter Hámor and Horia Colibasanu head up to the summit tonight. The weather is reportedly favorable, and the duo are climbing without oxygen or Sherpa support as they make their final bid. If successful, it will be Hámor's 13th 8000-meter peak.

Good luck to everyone as they set off to their respective summits.

Update: Success on Manaslu confirmed on Manaslu. ExWeb is also now reporting that Peter and Horia have now topped out along the standard route, and are now descending along the Japanese route. Hopefully they'll both get back down safely after what was reportedly a very tough ascent.

Remembering the 1996 Everest Tragedy

Today will be another solemn one on Everest, even as teams prepare to launch their summit bids. That's because May 10 marks the 20th anniversary of the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of eight people back in 1996, which at the time was the most tragic day in the history of the mountain.

The story is a well known one by now, chronicled most famously in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air and more recently the big-budget Hollywood film Everest that was released last year. Teams heading to the summit that day included the Adventure Consultants led by Rob Hall and the Mountain Madness squad which was led by Scott Fischer. Both of those men perished in the attempt, as did several of their clients who were caught in massive storm that hit the mountain with an unexpected ferocity. Delays in reaching the summit also played into the tragedy that still haunts the mountain to this day.

Twenty years on, the events of that tragic day back in 1996 have been eclipsed by even darker days over the past two years, and yet somehow the wounds still remain fresh two decades after the event. The decisions made during that infamous summit push have been examined to death, with just about everyone remotely involved with Everest sharing their opinion of what could and should have been done. It is easy to be an armchair mountaineer however, and the days for weighing in on what happened are long past at this point.

Today, Everest is both a very different and very similar place to what it was back in 1996. There are still some guides, Sherpas, and support staff working there that were on the mountain when the tragedy occurred. Those men and women have helped to shape the modern climbing scene there, making it safer. Technology has helped in that area as well, improving communications and providing better weather forecasts that helps climbers avoid getting caught out in inclement weather.

The legacy of the 1996 climbing season on Everest is one of improved safety and cooperation amongst the teams there, which has resulted in greater success amongst those who come to climb. In some ways, that has made Everest a victim of its own success, leading to overcrowding and long summit lines at times.

But perhaps the most lasting impact of the 1996 season can be seen in the media that covered the tragedy than, and continues to watch Everest now. Most of the time it seems that the mainstream media only covers the mountain when something bad there. They know that accidents on Everest make headlines, while hundreds of successful summits are not as alluring. That's why we've seen so much about Everest in the media over the past few years, but this year we're likely to see very little. So far, 2016 has been a by-the-books season, with very few issues. There is nothing tragic to report, at least so far. And with the summit pushes now underway, you'll probably have to get your news about successes and failures from sources that are more invested in the mountaineering community, rather than those who are simply looking for sensational headlines.

The 1996 climbing season will always have an impact on the mountain, and those who lost their lives continue to serve as a reminder to take care when dealing with Mother Nature. I'm sure I won't be the only one thinking about those people today, even as the next generation of climbers go in search of their own Everest ambitions.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Video: Italy From Above

Take a scenic journey across Italy with this video, which gives us a fantastic view of the Italian countryside as shot from a drone. The video is the latest in the GoPro Awards, in which the camera maker gives cash prizes to the best short films created using their gear. In this case, those cameras managing to capture some enchanting shots of one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

Video: The Best of Yellowstone National Park

2016 is an important year for the National Park Service. This year, the NPS celebrates its 100th birthday, and over the months ahead we're likely to see a number of great celebrations honoring the iconic places that make up the park system. This video takes us to Yellowstone to give us a brief tour of some of the highlights of the world's first national park. Yellowstone also happens to be the topic of the latest issue of National Geographic magazine, which calls it the "wild heart of a continent." I think that is an apt description of a place that remains one of my favorite destinations on the planet.

Video: Rock Climbing Role Reversal

Since it's Monday, I'm sure there are more than a few of you that could use a good chuckle to help make it through the day. This video can certainly help. It features husband and wife rock climbers Mark and Janelle Smiley as they swap roles for a day on the crag. The humor obviously plays on some stereotypes that are common with male and female climbers, but that doesn't make it any less funny. I'm pretty sure we all know both men and women who fit these roles, which makes it all the better.

Rock Climber's Role Reversal from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

Russian Teens Skied to the North Pole in Just 5 Days

The 2016 Arctic Season may be over, but there are still a few interesting stories to share. For instance, ExWeb has posted an article about a team of Russian teens who skied to the North Pole (last degree) in just 5 days following a host of delays that cut into their planned time out on the ice.

The group of seven teens had planned to make a last-degree ski expedition to the North Pole via the Barneo Ice Camp. Their original schedule gave them 7-10 days to complete the journey, which covered roughly 125 km (77.6 miles) over the frozen Arctic Ocean. That means they were able to sustain a pace of about 25 km (15.5 miles) per day, which is an excellent pace considering the conditions they encountered on the ice.

The challenges of the Barneo Ice Camp have been well documented on this blog, and elsewhere, this year. The ice flows that the temporary base is built on were being buffeted by ocean currents throughout the season, causing the blue ice runway there to crack multiple times. That caused a lot of delays, causing the Russian teens, and a number of other teams, to back up while they waited for their chance to fly out to the camp. Eventually the runway was completed, and the flights started arriving, but it took awhile to catch up on the backlog of people who were waiting to arrive in the Arctic. This cut into the time that the skiers had to reach the Pole.

According to ExWeb, when the team was retrieved from their finish line at 90ºN, they did not look tired or exhausted. In fact, they still had a lot of energy and were so excited to have reached the North Pole. It was quite a journey for these young adventurers, many of whom have wanted to ski through the Arctic for the better part of their lives.

I know that this is "only" a last degree ski expedition, but it is still an impressive feat to see these teenagers make that journey in such a quick pace. Five days to cover a degree of latitude is quite a short time frame, and I know a few polar explorers who would be hard pressed to maintain that same pace themselves. Also, how cool is it to be a teenager and get to go to the North Pole. I clearly went to the wrong high school.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Summit Window Shaping Up On Everest, Go Time on Shishapangma?

The weekend brought a bit more clarity to the summit schedule on Everest, where rope fixing teams are still working on completing the installation of the lines but should wrap up those efforts over the next few days. And with good weather projected this week, the summit teams may not be far behind.

At the moment, most of the teams on the South Side of Everest are in Base Camp or even further down the Khumbu Valley. They'll all be heading back to BC soon however, as various reports say that climbers are now preparing to go to the summit as soon as the rope fixing is complete. That means we could potentially see the first summits of the past two years take place as soon as Friday, May 13. On top of that, the weather forecast looks very favorable through May 20, which means we could have a steady week of summit bids.

On the North Side, the story is a similar one. As of the start of the weekend, the ropes were fixed up to 8230 meters (27,000 ft), with the final lines set to be placed in the next few days. That will clear the way on the Tibetan side of the mountain too, with summit bids launching there as well.

Over the next few days, we're likely to see very few updates from Everest. It is the calm before the storm there at the moment. The climbers are resting, relaxing, and preparing for the challenge ahead. But their schedules are now falling into place, and within a few days they'll start their summit pushes. Even those who will delay past the initial rush are likely to be gearing up for the final stage of the season.

Meanwhile, over on Shishpangma it looks like it may be go time for Ueli Steck and David Göttler soon as well. They have yet to confirm when they will begin their attempt along a new route on the mountain, and a potential traverse down the opposite side. But the weather forecast there is said to be looking good for the next week, giving them plenty of time to begin their light and fast, alpine style ascent without oxygen. We'll be keeping an eye on their attempt as well.

While the next few days may be fairly quiet in the Himalaya, we're about to get vary busy. Stay tuned for lots of updates to come.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Video: Into the Arctic in Norway

We'll wrap up a busy week here at The Adventure Blog with this breathtaking video. It is nearly three minutes of some of the best landscapes on Earth. Shot in the Norwegian Arctic, it shows us just how stunningly beautiful that part of the world truly is, with vistas that were meant to inspire adventures. Simply wonderful.

Norway: Into the Arctic 4K from Raphael Rogers on Vimeo.

Video: The Beauty of Mountain Biking

I'm not going to be able to get some time on my mountain bike this weekend, so this video will have to satiate my craving to go for a ride. It is filled with stunning footage of mountain bikers riding through unbelievable settings, and it is a good reminder of why we love the sport so much. It isn't just about the speed or challenge of riding a tough trail, but also about the places we can go on a bike. After watching this, you'll have some new places you'll want to ride.

Video: Whale Encounters Don't Come Any Closer Than This!

We've seen some interesting whale encounters captured on video over the years, but none of them are as close as this one. A feeding humpback wandered into Knudson Cove in Ketchikan, Alaska and when it breached it was right inside the harbor. It isn't often that you see a whale this closely, let alone capture it on video. Wow!

Adventure Tech: GoPro Delays Release of Karma Drone

It hasn't been a good year or so for GoPro. The action cam maker has seen a drop in sales, which is now hitting its bottomline in significant ways. Worse yet, one of the company's most anticipated new products – the Karma drone – has now been delayed.

Yesterday, GoPro announced its quarterly results, and to say that they were dire would be an understatement. The tech company saw its revenue drop by nearly 50%, and earnings plummeted from a $22 million profit for this quarter last year, to a $121 million loss this year. A major part of that swing was the company writing off older camera models that it discontinued.

But the news that is most disappointing fans of GoPro is the announcement that the release of the Karma has now been pushed back until the coming winter. It was originally expected to become available to consumers in the first half of 2016, but we'll now have to wait just a bit longer. And since winter doesn't technically start until December 21, it seems likely that the drone won't see the light of day until 2017.

In an effort to diversity its business, GoPro has been looking for other sources of revenue. The Karma is seen as one part of that plan, while investing heavily in virtual reality films is another. The camera maker has also revealed a special system designed to shoot 360º video in stunning 4k resolutions. But the current generation of VR is still in its infancy, and far from a sure bet, so it could be some time before these ventures start to turn around GoPro's fortunes.

Meanwhile, other companies continue to crank out new drones that are only becoming better and better. You have to wonder if the Karma will arrive a bit too late.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Teams Wrap Up Acclimatization Efforts, Schedule Starting to Clarify

There isn't a lot of news to report from the Himalaya today as most of the teams are holding in place and watching the weather closely. But as the season continues to evolve we're now starting to get a clearer sense of how the final weeks will unfold, and an idea of when we can expect summit bids to start on Everest.

At the moment, the majority of climbing teams on the South Side of Everest are in Base Camp, or headed that direction. For most, the acclimatization efforts are now wrapped up, and they've gone back to BC to rest and wait for a few things to fall into place. Those variables include getting the ropes fixed to the summit and waiting for a proper weather window, both of which are out of their control.

The hope was that the rope fixing duties would have wrapped up by today, but avalanches and unstable conditions above the Yellow Band have slowed progress some. The Sherpa team is now predicting that they'll have the lines in place all the way to the summit by Tuesday, May 10. After that, the teams will just wait for a few days of good weather to launch their summit bids. And since calm weather traditionally arrives right around May 15 each year, we can expect climbers to potentially be on the move at the end of next week.

Meanwhile, on the North Side in Tibet, the rope fixing duties were expected to wrap up yesterday. That means the teams are now clear to go to the summit when the weather window allows, although most of them are still wrapping up their final acclimatization rotations and are resting as well. That means they could end up being on a similar schedule as the South Side teams, which is fairly common as well.

This is a similar story on several other peaks throughout the Himalaya right now. Logistical operations are starting to wrap up and it is now the weather that will dictate the schedule. But at the moment, it looks like things will remain calm into the early part of next week. After that, it will be a very busy and active time in the mountains. For now though, we all wait.

On a final note, Welsh climber Richard Parks has been forced to end his Everest expedition for the season. Parks, who has summited the mountain in the past, had been taking part in a medical research project. The plan was to take blood samples at the summit with the hopes of understanding the impact of altitude on the body. While in Camp 2 yesterday he was diagnosed with an undisclosed medical condition, and was forced to go back down. He is now preparing to head back to Kathmandu and return home.

Looking Back: April

What's the saying about April? It it the one who goes in like a lion and out like a lamb? Or is it that April showers bring May flowers? The latter is probably more fitting, as it did rain a bit in April and now the days are sunny and bright and the tomatoes are starting to grow!

Running: April was a good month for running! I ended up doing a couple of really long weekend runs with some wicked elevation (one on Mt. Diablo was 25 miles with over 6,000 ft of gain) which helped achieve a total of 223.2 miles of running with 37,500 ft. of climbing. In addition, a couple of commutes plus riding around Brooklyn got me 39.6 miles of cycling with 1,300 ft of climbing. I also clocked one hike, which was 8.1 miles.

Reading: I feel like April was not a good reading month, probably due to the fact that I was often with people. However, once I checked I realized that I actually read 5 books, which is more than my goal of one per week! Here they are (starred ones are for the Read Harder Challenge):

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee -- 3 stars
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel -- 3 stars
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick* -- 3 stars
Spinster by Kate Bolick* -- 3 stars
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline* -- 4 stars

Travel: I actually did not travel that much in April, but I did have events each and every weekend. The first weekend I did some canning with a friend and some trail maintenance volunteer work in Pacifica. The weekend after that, I volunteered at a race, had dinner with my brother and friends in Santa Rosa, and then my parents came to visit and we had a nice dinner and a catch up. The weekend after that, I had breakfast with my grandma in Mill Valley and went to pace/cheer on a friend at a San Francisco race. Then I hosted Lisa and Phil and we had a great time gadding about the city, hiking, walking, going to a Giants game and just hanging out and chatting.

Marshall's Beach

View from Green Point

For the last part of the month I flew to New York and spent a couple of days in the office before heading over to Brooklyn to spend some time with friends. We rode bikes around the borough, drank beer, ran in the park and had lots of fun reliving the "good old days" when we were all traveling around Africa.

How was April for you? Did you travel? What book are you reading now?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Video: Meet the Himalaya

Want an intimate look at the Himalaya Mountains and the people that live there? Than all you have to do is watch this film. It takes us to India, Nepal, and Tibet to show us just how spectacularly beautiful this part of the world truly is. But more than that, it shows us how beautiful the mountain people of the Himalaya are as well. This is a moving, touching, spectacular five-minute clip that you won't want to miss.

HIMALAYA from Berta Tilmantaitė on Vimeo.

Video: It's Time to Play Outside (In the Italian Dolomites)

When we get caught up in the mundane grind of our daily lives we sometimes need a reminder how important it is to get outside and play, something that is good for our bodies, spirits, and minds. This video not only points out just how important it is to go outdoors, but it uses the Italian Dolomites as an example of the playgrounds that are waiting for us. There aren't many places on Earth that can compete with that. Watch the clip, then go outside to play.

Dolomiti Paganella, Time to Play Outside from StoryTravelers on Vimeo.

Video: What Does Frostbite Do To Your Body?

Frostbite has long been the bane of mountaineers and explorers. But what exactly is frostbite, and how does it effect your body? This video from Discovery News helps to explain it, helping us to understand exactly what extreme cold can do to you.

Barneo Ice Camp Closes for 2016

The 2016 Arctic exploration season came to an end last week when the Barneo Ice Camp closed for another season. The temporary ice base is built on an ice flow in the Arctic Ocean each year, and for several weeks it serves as the launching point for various expeditions, research teams, and well-heeled adventure travelers to travel to the North Pole or explore the region. This year it was clear that the Arctic continues to be a place in transition, with the future of travel there seeming more difficult than ever.

For the second year in a row there were now full-distance skiers to the North Pole. The logistics of such an expedition seems to be getting more challenging with each passing year, and climate change is making that journey more difficult than ever. I've said before that the toughest expedition on the planet is skiing to the North Pole, and we may actually have seen the last team to do that a few years back. Others have announced plans to attempt that journey, but no one has been able to duplicate it. That was the case this season as well with the Race Against Time squad, and I think it will probably be the same for future teams too.

2016 was a difficult year for the team that builds and operates the Barneo base as well. Not only did they have problems building and maintaining the ice runway there, they also ran into issues dealing with the Norwegian government too. The challenges with the runway were the result of the Arctic Ocean churning the increasingly thinning ice there, causing the landing strip to crack. Those problems aren't going away, and will probably continue to get worse in the years ahead.

The Barneo team has announced that they'll avoid traveling through Svalbard in Norway moving forward, and will instead use Franz Josef Land for their logistics starting in 2017. The friction with the Norwegians began when a reporter claimed that a team of Ukrainian commandos passed through Norway on their way to Barneo – something the Barneo staff denies – which calls into question whether or not the flights from Svalbard to the ice camp posed a security threat. As a result, the Norwegian government put new restrictions on the Barneo flights, which ultimately forced the change of direction for future seasons.

The 2016 Arctic season was reasonably successful with marathon runners, researchers, explorers, adventure travelers, and more passing through Barneo. Now, it'll be another year before we'll see if anyone can make the journey to the North Pole again. Good luck to the explorers aiming for that feat in 2017.

Himalaya Spring 2016: North Side Route on Everest Could Open Today

As the spring climbing season on Everest continues we could reach a major milestone on the North Side of the mountain today, while on the South teams continue to wait and watch the weather forecasts. Summits pushes are still at least a week from getting underway, but we're nearing the endgame of a season that had to bring some sense of normalcy to the mountain, and so far it has done just that.

So far this year we haven't had a lot of news from the North Side of Everest in Tibet. That's mostly because there are fewer climbers there, and things have just been moving along about as smoothly as possible. The teams have been making regular acclimatization rotations, and for the most part there hasn't been any drama to speak of. Now, we get word that the ropes to the summit could be in place as early as today. On that side of Everest, the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association handles all of the installation of the ropes rather than the teams themselves, and according to their latest updates they say that they "hope to go to the summit on the 5th." Meaning that if all goes as expected, the work will be wrapped up today and the route to the summit will be complete.

With the summit open, the North Side teams will start to look at their schedules and weather forecasts to determine the best time to start a summit bid. Some of those teams are now wrapping up their acclimatization process, so they'll return to Base Camp to rest and regain their strength before starting up. But it won't be long now before they start thinking about the final push.

Meanwhile, on the South Side, the rope fixing efforts have reportedly stalled out after reaching 7900 meters (25,918 ft). Minor avalanches along the Lhotse Face have kept the team that handles those duties from going higher. The teams have organized the rope fixing work on the Nepali side of Everest, and it seems they had a meeting yesterday to start plan their strategy moving forward. The hope is that the weather will hold, and the avalanches will cease, in order to allow the rope-fixing Sherpas to finish the job.

The concern amongst expedition leaders on the South Side now is that the summit schedule could get backed up, or more teams will try to take advantage of a narrow weather window, causing traffic jams on summit day. But its too early to worry about that at this point, and for now the focus should be on getting the ropes in place and acclimatizing for impending summit bids.

Finally, we have no real update from Shishapangma regarding Ueli Steck and David Göttler's new route on that mountain. The duo are still in BC and waiting for a good weather window. But, there is more information on their plans. Ueli and David hope to make a direct ascent on Shisha, and then potentially make a traverse down the opposite side. The weather will dictate if that is possible, but it does give us an idea of these two talented mountaineers' plan for the days ahead.

That's all for now. More to come soon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Video: The Wild Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands rank amongst the top travel destinations in the world, and watching this clip its easy to understand why. The unique creatures found there are a big enough draw on their own, but the beautiful waters that surround the islands are enticing too. Enjoy!

Wild Galápagos from GALAXIID on Vimeo.

Video: Official Trailer for "Crisp" - A Film About the Iditarod Trail Invitational

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is an epic test of endurance. For those not familiar with the event, it is a 1000-mile long bike race through the wilds of Alaska that takes place each March at the same time as the Iditarod sled dog race. This video is a preview for a new film called Crisp that follows riders Ausilia Vistarini and Sebastian Favaro as they compete in this unique, one of a kind, and incredibly demanding event.

Crisp - Official Trailer from Explore MediaLab on Vimeo.

Video: How the First Car Came to Nepal

This video is certainly a blast from the past. It is a brief look at how the first car was delivered to Kathmandu in Nepal. The vehicle in question was a 1938 Mercedes that was gifted to King Truibhuvan by Adolf Hitler, and was delivered by hand in 1940. At the time, there were no roads in the country, and just a few in Kathmandu itself.

Nat Geo Offers the Best Trips for Summer 2016

Are you looking for some suggestions for where you should go on vacation this summer? Are you stumped on which destinations should be on your short list? Than you're in luck, because National Geographic Travel has released their picks for the best trips for summer of 2016.

Amongst the destinations that earn a spot on Nat Geo's list are Banff National Park in Canada, Acadia National Park in the U.S., and wine country in the Pacific Northwest. Each of those places have a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast looking to put a bit of adventure into their summer season, but if the beach is more your speed than consider Moorea in French Polynesia instead. Want a long-distance adventure? Than why not hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway?

These are just a few of the options that earn a spot on the list, with some other great choices that I'll leave for you to discover yourself. The important thing to take away from this article however is that it is not too late to start planning a summer getaway. In fact, some of the best adventures come together over after a brief period of planning, with anticipation for hitting the road driving the idea.

Check out National Geographic's full list by clicking here.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Summit Bid Launched on Manaslu, Fixed Ropes Update on Everest

The news from the Himalaya just keeps coming this spring as more teams continue to acclimatize on Everest and two climbers prepare for a difficult summit bid on Manaslu. Others are now waiting and watching the weather, hoping for a chance to launch attempts of their own.

We'll start with an update from Manaslu, where Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu have reportedly announced that they are leaving Base Camp today to start their summit bid on the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) mountain. The two men will now attempt to reach the top using the standard route, but will help complete their acclimatization prior to attempting a new route without the use of supplemental oxygen. The weather is said to be calm at the moment, and if everything goes according to plan, they should top out this weekend. After that, they'll drop back to BC for a rest before starting their second attempt later in the month.

Over on Everest, more teams, including the Adventure Consultants, have now reached Camp 3 as they continue to acclimatize ahead of eventual summit bids in just a couple of weeks time. Most of the climbers are now descending back to BC for a rest as they wait for Camp 4 to be full established and the fixed ropes to be installed. That process is proceeding, and reports indicate that the lines now reach above the Yellow Band, but bad weather higher on the mountain have stalled due to strong winds at higher altitudes.

Ueli Steck and David Göttler continue to wait for a proper weather window on Shishapangma. The two men have announced that their acclimatization process is done and they are simply waiting for the right time to start the climb. That could happen this weekend as well, although the two talented climbers are prepared to wait as long as necessary before starting their alpine style ascent along a new route.

Finally, there is news from Annapurna as well, were all of the 30 summiteers from this past weekend are now safely back in Base Camp, with most preparing to go home. While they were wrapping up their expeditions over the past few days, a group of 75 local villagers paid a visit to BC. They had just completed construction of a new trail that will cut down the time it takes to trek to the mountain, allowing climbers to get there in as little as three days. That should open up the region to more visitors and bring down the costs for trekking and climbing on Annapurna as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Video: Blessed in the (Australian) West

There is no question that Australia is a country blessed with amazing outdoor environments. From sprawling deserts to dense rainforests to wild coastlines, Australia has it all. This video takes us to the Australian west where we get a beautiful look at some of those places. If you haven't been "Down Under" yet, this will give you a little more incentive to go.

Blessed in the West from Thurston Photo on Vimeo.

Video: The Amazing Story of Alex Lowe and Conrad Anker

The discovery of the remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges on Shishapangma has made headlines across the mountaineering community and beyond. That revelation has brought to the forefront Alex's friendship with Conrad Anker, and they way the loss of his friend changed Anker's life forever. This video from Outside TV provides the background on that story which remains extraordinarily touching even for those of us who already know it.

Gear Closet: Travel Tech From iClever

As someone who travels frequently for his job, I'm always on the look out for new items that can help make my life on the road more convenient and enjoyable. That often takes the form of some new tech gadget that is designed specifically with travelers in mind. Recently, I received a number of products from a company called iClever that definitely meet that description, delivering some great features at prices that are very affordable. Here's some thoughts on what I tested.

USB Wall Chargers (Prices Vary)
When traveling these days we usually carry a variety of tech gear with us. Everything from smartphones to tablets to digital cameras, not to mention portable game systems, e-readers, GPS devices, and host of other items. While each of them are wonderful for helping us to stay informed and entertained while on long flights or spending time in a tent, those gadgets are only useful as long as they can hold a charge. Fortunately, practically everything these days is charged using USB cables, and iClever offers some excellent wall chargers to help keep your technology up and running.

I received the 4-port BoostCube and 2-Port BoostCube, both of which function pretty much identically, other than the number of gadgets they can charge at the same time. Both of the chargers have SmartID technology that automatically detects the fastest speed your device can be charged, and adjusts the wattage provided accordingly. They both also have the ability to provide 2.4 amps per port, which means your gadgets will be powered up as quickly as possible. Similar devices from competitors often split the power between ports, increasing charge times as a result.

Both models of the BoostCube offer great build quality and feel great in your hand. They're also durable and include foldout power plugs for inserting them into wall outlets. They are also priced perfectly, with the 4-port model selling for $17.99 while the 2-port version is just $10.99.

Additionally, iClever also has a single port version called the BoostCube Quick Charge, which has the ability to power up a device up to four times faster than regard chargers. It uses a special process that is safe for your gadgets, and can power them up to 80% of their full charge in as little as 35 minutes. When you need to get your phone up and running as quickly as possible, this is the charger you'll want. And at $16.99, it is affordable too.

All of the chargers come with a full year warranty and work great. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I leave my devices' OEM chargers at home and just carry iClever's versions with me instead. Because they are small, compact, and easy to use, they make great travel accessories for sure.

Tri-Folding Bluetooth Keyboard ($54.99)
As a travel writer who routinely finds himself in a remote destination, I'm always looking for ways to cut weight from my bags. For instance, I often like to leave my laptop at home and just take my iPad along with me instead. The problem is, the onscreen keyboard isn't always the best for getting serious work done. That's where the iClever Folding Bluetooth Keyboard comes in handy.

This product is lightweight, yet very durable. So much so, that I wouldn't hesitate to take it with me anywhere I'm going. The keyboard is cleverly designed to fold up into a surprisingly small footprint, but when it is opened it transforms into a full-sized keyboard. The device actually allows me to easily get work done, using productivity apps on my tablet to write stories and articles, take notes, even compose emails.

The keyboard comes with a built-in rechargeable battery that takes about 4 hours to fully power up, but can provide up to 80 hours of actual wireless use. It can also be connected to your laptop or desktop computer via USB to serve as a standard keyboard for those devices too. It even has a fantastic backlight mode (with three different colors) that makes it easier to use in the dark. But the backlighting eats into the battery life, so I tend to work with it off.

iClever sells the keyboard for $54.99 and ships it with a soft carrying case, making it even easier to take with you on the road.

Outdoor Wireless Speaker ($29.99)
These days, Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, with plenty of good options for consumers to choose from. But iClever's Outdoor Wireless Speaker offers a few nice features that help set it apart from the competition and make it a good option for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. For instance, it is lightweight, compact in size, and offers IP65 water resistance. That's enough protection from moisture that you can even use it in the shower if you'd like.

The speaker comes equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can power it for up to 10 hours. It offers solid performance with clear playback of music across the full audio spectrum, even at higher lives of volume. And since it is built to survive in the outdoors, you can take it with you to the beach, a remote campsite, or for use around a hotel room without fear of damaging it.

What I like most about this speaker is that it isn't overly large or heavy, which means you can toss it into your pack without really realizing that its there. And while it offers solid battery life, I wouldn't mind getting more hours out of it so I don't have to worry about it running out of juice while in the backcountry. But the price is great and the performance is very good too, making it a great travel buddy for sure.

Find out more about all of these products and more at

Men's Journal Gives Us a Three-Year Plan for Climbing Everest

For a lot of people, climbing Mt. Everest is the dream of a lifetime. But thinking about everything that goes into preparing and planning for such an expedition can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Men's Journal is here to help, giving us a three-year plan to making Everest not just a dream, but a reality.

MJ's article was actually written back in 2014, with the plan of reaching the summit of Everest in the spring of 2017. But, if you ignore the precise dates, and focus just on the plan itself, the schedule can remain the same. And fortunately for all of us, the training starts in May.

The first stage of the Everest prep plan is to start getting into shape. The article says that you should start getting ready by building a strong fitness base of cardio, strength, and balance. Over the course of the three year program, that will be the focus of getting your body ready for the challenges of the Himalaya.

Next up, you'll also need to start seeing how your body does at altitude, so the plan is to bag a 14er, or a fourteen-thousand foot peak. This will not only allow you to put your fitness gains to the test, it'll let you build leg strength and lung capacity. With its 53 different 14ers, Colorado is a natural destination to bag one of these mountains, but there are plenty of others around as well.

The rest of the plan includes pushing your physical boundaries even higher by attempting more challenging peaks (Mt. Rainier for instance) and adding altitude. The Men's Journal schedule recommends traveling to Ecuador to climb Cotopaxi to get a taste for altitudes above 19,000 feet, although Tanzania's Kilimanjaro will do too. From there, it's on to Denali in Alaska – described as a "mini-Everest" – before attempting an easier 8000-meter peak like Cho Oyu. After that, Everest will be in reach.

In terms of creating a strategy for getting yourself ready to climb the Big Hill, this is about as good of a plan as any. You could literally go from zero mountaineering experience, to Everest in just three years if you stick to the schedule closely. What it doesn't offer is advice on how to pay for it all. Mountaineering expeditions aren't cheap, and even travel to and from these locations can be pricey. For most of us, that would turn this three year plan into one that would probably take a decade or more to wrap up.

Himalaya Spring 2016: 5 Questions for Ueli Steck and David Göttler

One of the most interesting expeditions that is currently taking place in the Himalaya is Ueli Steck and David Göttler's attempt to summit Shishapangma along a new route. The two men made headlines over the weekend when they discovered the remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges along the route they plan to ascend, but for those of us who have been watching their progress, there was other important news, namely that they have now completed their acclimatization and are simply waiting for a weather window before they begin their fast, alpine style ascent. Before that happens, German journalist Stefan Nestler has sent five questions to the dynamic duo as they wait in Base Camp, and their answers are very interesting indeed.

As usual, I won't spoil all of the questions and answers, but just tell you that Stefan asks some of the things we've all been wondering about, like which one of the two men is the most fit and the fastest. Both Ueli and David are known for being fleet of foot in the mountains, and they say that they are simply enjoying climbing with one another since they know the other is capable of staying with them throughout the expedition.

Stefan also asks them about their unusual acclimatization process (trail running in the Khumbu Valley), the current conditions on the mountain, details on the route they intend to climb, and about their experience in the region one year after the Nepali earthquake. As you can imagine, they have some good things to share on all of these topics. Of course, they are also eager to get started on the actual ascent, which hopefully can happen starting later this week.

Elsewhere, teams on Everest are now starting to retreat back to BC after rotations up to Camp 3 for a round of acclimatization. Despite the fact that there have been a lot of reports of avalanches on the mountain in recent days, it should be noted that there have been no injuries and the route has been repaired where ever these ice slides have occurred. In other words, the season is progressing about as smoothly and normally as it has in the past five years, with teams going about their business quickly and efficiently. If all goes according to plan, they should be ready to make summit bids – weather permitting – sometime around the middle of the month.

That's all for today. More news from the Himalaya as we get it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Video: Paddling China's Salween River

This video takes us to a remote region of China with Travis Winn, a paddler who visited the same area 15 years ago to make the first descent of the Salween River with his father. Now, he has returned to that same waterway, which is being threatened by damming, to take us on a tour of this amazing part of the world, which is increasingly altered by the industrialization of the landscape.

Salween Spring from NRS Films on Vimeo.

Video: Photographing the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park

The May issue of National Geographic magazine is dedicated completely to the world's first national park – Yellowstone. When preparing to release the issue Nat Geo sent a team of photographers to the park to capture the landscapes and wildlife that exist there. Amongst them was Ronan Donovan who was charged with shooting photos of the wolves that live there. In this video, he talks about the challenges and rewards of that assignment, which was unlike any other he'd had before.

Help Expedition Alaska Crowdfunding Efforts, Get Some Cool Gear

Last summer I was part of the team that put on the Expedition Alaska adventure race, during which we hosted some of the best AR teams in the world on a grueling 400+ mile (643 km) course through the Alaskan wilderness. It was an epic event, held in an epic location, that was both thrilling to watch unfold and rewarding to be a part of.

The race was filmed by a talented crew of faculty and students from the University of Cincinnati, which has a unique and innovative Production Master Class that is taught by CCM Professor Kevin Burke, DAAP Professor Yoshiko Burke and UC/CCM Alumnus and Emmy award-winning producer Brian J. Leitten. That group spent days in the field filming the race, capturing some amazing footage in the process. Now, they're looking to crowdfund a documentary, offering adventure racing fans a look at this amazing event. 

A few days ago, the team behind the documentary launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $25,000 that will allow them to finish the project and produce 4 half-hour long episodes that show the drama and challenge of Expedition Alaska. There are multiple levels of pledges to be had - starting as low as $5 – which deliver some great perks to those who contribute to the cause. Those perks include everything from copies of the finished product, digital downloads of a "making of" documentary, and even some excellent outdoor gear. 

In an effort to help out the cause, I am donating some gear to help raise funds. In fact, there is a special "The Adventure Blogger" perk for someone who is willing to donate $500 to the campaign. If you select this perk, I will send you a mystery gear package that will definitely exceed the amount that you are contributing. You'll also receive all of the other perks that fall below that funding level too. 

The video below is the trailer for Expedition Alaska, and gives you a good idea of what to expect from this project. If you'd like to learn more, check out the Indiegogo page here.  

EXPEDITION ALASKA TRAILER from Hyperion XIII Productions on Vimeo.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Summits on Annapurna, Avalanches on Everest, and More

On top of the big news of the discovery of the remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges on Shishapangma that broke this past weekend, there is quite a few other updates to share from the Himalaya today too. And with May now upon us, the season is rapidly slipping by with potential summit bids now just a few weeks away.

Over on Annapurna this weekend it was already summit day for a number of climbers. The first teams topped out on Saturday, with others following suit on Sunday. The weather was reportedly quite good, with low winds and great conditions on the summit. This followed days of less than ideal weather which had kept the climbers stuck in Base Camp, but once the forecast improved, they were on the move quickly, going from BC to Camp 4 over the course of two or three days. That put them in a position to top out over the weekend, with a good weather window holding long enough for everyone to get up and down safely.

All told, 30 climbers managed to reach the summit of Annapurna this past weekend, with 16 of those mountaineers being Nepali Sherpas. Amongst the foreign climbers were Aussie Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria, whom we've been following on expeditions for several years. For Soria, this was his 12th 8000-meter peak, and at the age of 77 he is now the oldest to ever summit the mountain.

Elsewhere on Everest the teams are back on schedule following the avalanche that took place last week, temporarily closing the Lhotse Face. Late last week there was also an ice collapse in the Khumbu Icefall which shut down operations through that crucial part of the ascent as well, but the Ice Doctors quickly fixed the route and had teams back on track once again. In fact, a number of teams have now spent time in Camp 3 and are back in BC following their rotation at altitude.

If the weather holds – and the forecasts look good at the moment – the Sherpa team that is charged with fixing ropes to the summit hopes to complete their work by the end of the week. If that happens, we should be on track to begin summit bids by May 15, weather permitting of course.

Alan Arnette has updated readers on his progress on Lhotse, and sadly his expedition has come to an end. You may recall that last week Alan shared the news that he was forced to turn back while climbing in the Khumbu Icefall due to a cough that was a sign of an upper respiratory infection. That cough turned into something worse a few days later when he made an acclimatization rotation up to Camp 2. In fact, the infection became dangerous and debilitating to the point that he had to be flown off the mountain from C2 by helicopter. He's now back in Kathmandu, starting his recovery, and preparing to head home.

Finally, over on Shishpangma, Ueli Steck and David Göttler are now preparing to make their summit push along a new route. The duo announced that their acclimatization process is complete, they've scouted the route thoroughly, and they are now ready to get going. They're simply waiting for the proper weather window to launch their bid, which could come as early as this week.

As you can see, things are really heating up at the moment with lots of activity taking place. We'll probably see it quiet down briefly as teams return to their Base Camps, rest up, and start watching the weather. The season is moving along at a steady pace, and things are going about as well as can be expected. So far, it has been a nice change of pace over the past couple of years, as it looks like things are getting back to "normal" on Everest.

The Remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges Found on Shishapangma

There is a lot of news to report from the Himalaya over this past weekend, but I felt this story warranted its own post. One of the big stories to break over the past few days is that the remains of climbers Alex Lowe and David Bridges were discovered on Shishapangma more than 16 years after they went missing there.

Back in October of 1999, Lowe and Bridges – along with Conrad Anker – were part of an expedition to the 8027 meter (26,335 ft) mountain. The three men were scouting their route in anticipation of their ascent when an avalanche struck, sweeping Alex and David away in the process. Anker survived and was joined by other members of the team, who swept the face of the mountain for signs of their fallen comrades. They didn't find a trace of them.

Those of you familiar with this story know what happened next. Anker returned home, grieving for the loss of Lowe who was his best friend. He sought solace with Alex's widow Jenni, and the two eventually married with Conrad becoming the step father to the couple's son. In the years that have followed, Anker has gone on to be one of the most accomplished alpinists of his generation.

Last week, Ueli Steck and David Göttler were scouting a new route on Shishapangma in preparation of an alpine style ascent this spring. The two men – who are also highly accomplished climbers - discovered the remains of Lowe and Bridges, who was a talented cameraman sent to film the 1999 expedition.

The bodies of the two men were revealed as climate change has started to cause melting on Shishapangma. And while they haven't been conclusively identified as of yet, the gear from the era that they went missing, and the location of the bodies on the mountain, all point to bodies being Alex and David.

The discovery does bring a measure of closure to the families of the two climbers who are no doubt grieving again with revelation of the remains of Alex and David being uncovered. Our thoughts are with those who were close to the two men. Hopefully this discovery helps them to find a further measure of peace.