Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Video: Places of Fear - Searching the Mayan Underworld (Part 1)

A few days back I shared the trailer for a new series of short films coming our way from GoPro that followed a team of divers as they plunged into a cave on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in hopes of finding the largest cavern in the entire world. Now, we have part one of that series which gives us an introduction of an entirely new kind of exploration – underwater, in mysterious caves, where there are remnants of the Mayan civilization yet to be discovered. It is a fascinating look at this incredible place that will definitely leave you wanting more. I'll have part two tomorrow.

Video: Expedition Alaska Adventure Race Trailer

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that organized and ran the Expedition Alaska Adventure Race, a 300+ mile (482+ km) multi-sport, multi-day race that attracted 20 teams from across the globe. It was an amazing event with some of the best endurance athletes on the planet taking on a course that ran through some remote and rugged areas. The entire race was filmed by a dedicated and tough team, and a full-length documentary about the event has now been completed. It will be making the rounds of the adventure film festival circuit and will eventually be available to purchase as well.

To get a taste of what Expedition Alaska was all about, and what I was working on up north last summer, check out the trailer for the documentary below. It will give you a sense of what adventure racing is all about, while showing off the amazing landscapes in Alaska. It's pretty epic, and well worth a watch.

EXPEDITION ALASKA TRAILER from Hyperion XIII Productions on Vimeo.

Adventures in the Caribbean: Hiking and Mountain Biking Nevis

Yesterday I posted the first part in a series of stories I'm writing about my recent visit to the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. That article was meant to serve as an introduction to the place, which is rich in history and culture. If you haven't read that piece already, you may want to take a look at it first before proceeding with this one, as it does provide a bit of context. That said, these stories are also meant to be self-contained so readers can enjoy them without needing too much backstory. So, without further ado, here's a bit more about my recent travels in the vary intriguing country.

When most travelers think about a visit to the Caribbean, they usually conjure up images in their mind of white sandy beaches, relaxing in the warm water, and enjoying fruity beverages in the sun. Of course, you can do all of those things on Nevis too, but there is so much more to see and do there that you'll miss out on a lot of you confine yourself to the lovely beaches alone.

For example, the island actually has a couple of unique and challenging hiking trails. As mentioned in my previous story, one of the most difficult is a tough climb to the top of Nevis Peak, which stands at 3232 feet (985 meters) in height. Remember, you'll be starting at sea essentially sea level, so while the altitude isn't all that serious, the amount of elevation gain can make it tough. There are also some ropes involved in getting to the top, and you'll definitely want to take a guide if you go.

Unfortunately, do to scheduling I wasn't able to make this hike, so instead I trekked another route known locally as the "Source Trail." The path gets its name because it passes through some lush cloud forests on the way to the island's main source of fresh water, located high in the mountains there. Now days, a series of pipes have been installed to carry that water to the towns below, but it wasn't all that long ago that the inhabitants of Nevis had to make this hike daily to fetch fresh water for use around their homes. It remains a popular walking path with visitors and locals alike, and is a good way to stretch your legs.


The trail begins near the Golden Rock resort, first winding its way up through some small villages before passing under the thick jungle canopy. From there, the route covers just a few miles, but takes about 2.5 hours to complete the round-trip, in part because there is a lot of uphill sections that can be both muddy and rocky. Because of this, you'll want to wear a sturdy pair of shoes that can grip the slick surfaces and provide plenty of support. Some of the group of hikers that I joined didn't heed that warning, and were actually forced to turn back midway through the walk.

Since the trail passes through the cloud forest, it can be warm and humid even in the mornings. Bring plenty of water and dress in wicking, quick-drying clothes of help keep you more comfortable. Even then, expect to get sweaty, dirty, and completely soaked through as you march up the trail. A shower will most definitely be in order after you finish this brief, but often intense trek.

Those who do venture up the Source Trail will get a sense of what it was like for the locals to walk to collect fresh water each day. While the hike itself isn't particularly grueling, it is a challenge to keep your footing in certain sections, and it is easy to get dehydrated and overheated as well. The islanders who made this hike in the past often did so without shoes at all, and while carrying heavy jugs of water back to town with them.

Sharp-eyed hikers may spot some of the local vervet monkeys that inhabit the island as well. These primates came over from Africa – via Europe – as pets when Nevis was first colonized. Over the years, some of them escaped, and ended up mating in the jungles. Now, it is to the point that there are probably more monkeys on the island then there are people. For the most part, they scurry away at the sound of humans approaching, but on occasion you could catch a glimpse of them leaping through the trees.

The Source Trail comes to an abrupt end at a relatively nondescript place. We were told that to go any further would be too dangerous, so the group I was hiking with stopped to enjoy some light snacks and water before turning back. The view at the turn around place was a bit obscured by the thick trees, but you could still see through to the shoreline far below. There, the beautiful beaches and stunning waters of the Caribbean looked spectacular, making the hike up worth the effort.

After a few minutes, we turned around to head back down, which in some ways was more difficult than the hike up. The slick rocks, coupled with the sometimes steep trail, meant that you had to be very careful where you put your feet. There were times when I wished I had a pair of trekking poles along for the walk, as they would have come in handy on the descent. Still, it was easy enough to make our way back to our starting point, it just required a bit more diligence to avoid tripping or falling on the obstacles along the way.

While not as challenging as a climb to the summit of Nevis Peak, the Source Trail is nonetheless a good hike with plenty of opportunities to test your legs and lungs, not to mention your balance. If you're looking for a hike to take with friends and family while on the island, it is recommended. And while a guide isn't needed, it is recommended.

Hikers aren't the only ones who will find ways to stretch their legs on Nevis either. Road cyclists and mountain bikers will get the chance as well. The island is very bike-friendly, and it is not uncommon to see riders out on the road. There are even some surprisingly tough hills that can provide a good workout as well. Take for example Anaconda Hill, which leads out of Charlestown on the main highway that circles the entire island. It is long, difficult, and at some points quite steep. If you're looking to do a bit of cycling on a visit there, and want to test your legs, Anaconda will be more than happy to oblige.

I certainly love a good ride on a road bike, but I'm a fan of mountain biking as well, and had the opportunity to spend one of my afternoons there touring the island in that fashion. My guide was none other than Reggie Douglas, a local legend for his cycling prowess. Reggie has competed in triathlons and cycling events all over the world, and is definitely a strong rider.

He and I set out on our afternoon jaunt from a place called Pizza Beach and ended up wandering up and down a variety of both paved and dirt roads, as well as some jeep trails and single track. Along the way, we passed through a number of small towns and villages as wandered past old sugar plantations, churches, cloud forests, and more. For me, it was a great way to explore the history of Nevis, and Reggie was a knowledgeable guide who pointed out many sights to see along the way.

In terms of mountain biking, there was nothing incredibly technical about any of the routes we rode. Just about anyone could climb on a bike and enjoy the paths we rode, with the only real challenge coming in the form of some steep hills and the hot afternoon sun. For the most part, I had few problems keeping up with Reggie, who obviously was doing his best to not drop me on the climbs. But, on the last big section of uphill of the ride I was forced to dismount and push my bike to the top. After a very long day in the warm Caribbean sun, I just didn't have power left in my legs any longer.

But, after cresting the top of the hill, I climbed back on my bike and started the descent down the other side. At this point, we had left the paved roads, villages, and other signs of civilization behind, and we were gliding along in an open meadow lined with cloud forest around us. As we zipped past the trees, some of the vervet monkeys that are common on Nevis were hopping out of the grass and fleeing into the jungle. It was a sublime moment for sure, and one of my favorite memories of any mountain bike ride I've ever taken. Reggie can take you on the same ride as he runs the Nevis Adventure Tours, and can be hired for a tour at just about anytime.

One of the things I love about mountain biking is that it allows you to go places on a bike that are often only accessible on foot. That was certainly the case here, as we wandered through the cloud forest, spotting the remains of old plantations that date back to the 17th century. While riding high in the hills, we could also look down at the beach and the Caribbean Sea. From that vantage point it was beautiful to behold, even when rolling along at a rapid pace.

Once again, if you're going to mountain bike while on Nevis, be sure to bring plenty of water and wear comfortable clothes. You will work up a sweat, and the heat of the day can take its toll on your legs. But, you'll be rewarded with a great ride that provides amazing views and a chance to immerse yourself even deeper into the history of the place. I've always been a big proponent of using cycling as a way to explore a destination, and Nevis is a great example of that.

Unfortunately, my time on Nevis was short and I only had the opportunity to see a fraction of what it has to offer. Still, I was more than impressed with the options for hiking and biking that the island provided. While of course we all enjoy sitting on the beach and being pampered from time to time, most of us also like being active on our escapes. On Nevis, you can do both, and feel very happy and satisfied along the way.

In the next part of the series, I'll explore a few other things that the island has to offer, which go beyond hiking and biking. Stay tuned.

Expedition 1000: Dave Cornthwaite Scoots His Way Around Japan

If you've read my blog with any regularity over the years, you've seen me cover the exploits of British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite on more than one occasion. About a decade ago, Dave came up with the idea of jumpstarting his life by undertaking 25 major journeys of 1000 miles (1609 km) or more by non-motorized transportation. Over the years, this has led him to undertake such excursions as crossing Australia on a skateboard, stand-up paddleboarding source-to-sea on the Mississippi River in the U.S., and paddling from Oslo, Norway to Helsinki, Finland. Along the way, he has inspired thousand of others to embrace a more adventurous, active, and open lifestyle as well.

Fast forward to 2016, and Dave has recently set out on the 12th of his 25 planned expeditions. This time, he has traveled to Japan, where he is riding a kick scooter for 1000 miles. He left Tokyo back on November 17, and is now undertaking a massive loop through the southern Honshu and Shikoku regions of that country. On this particular journey Dave has no set route, but has instead decided to let instinct and fortune take him where he needs to go. Ultimately, he'll return to his starting point in Tokyo on December 19, after having explored yet another part of the world under his own power.

Throughout the course of the trip so far, Dave has been posting regular updates, photos, and videos to his Facebook page. As I write this, he has arrived in Kyoto, where he has been overwhelmed by the history and culture of the place, but even more so by the vast number of tourists visiting the area. Most of his journey has been spent interacting with the locals, learning about the various places he is visiting from their perspective, and experiencing Japan in a more authentic fashion. In that regard, Kyoto seems to have been a bit too much of a tourist trap for Dave's liking.

Throughout the journey he's been spending roughly 5-9 hours on his trusty kick scooter – lovingly dubbed Swifty – making his way from one destination to the next. Nights are generally spent camping in the wild and even soaking in local hot springs. The idea is to immerse himself deeply in the culture, while exploring the countryside in a non-motorized way.

For Dave, this is his first Expedition 1000 excursion in a few years. He says that he hurt his back and left leg in 2013 and has struggled at times to undertake his ambitious efforts. But while hiking through Palestine and Jordan last year the injury got worse, forcing him to use crutches and a therapeutic boot on his foot for awhile. After two months had passed, he discovered that things started to improve dramatically, allowing him to finally get back into action. From that experience, the idea of scooting around Japan was born.

You can follow his progress over the next few weeks on Dave's official Facebook page. It is sure to be inspiring, amusing, and down-right fun to watch the remainder of the trip unfold.

Himalaya Fall 2016: More Nepali Peaks Climbed Without Permits

Last week I posted the story of American climber Sean Burch, who is under investigation in Nepal for climbing as many as 31 peaks without obtaining a permit first. It turns out, he may not be the only one who has thumbed his nose at authority in the Himalayan country. Today we have word that three Spaniards have also made first ascents of two mountains there without first obtaining permits as well.

According to The Himalayan Times, Santi Padrós, Oriol Baro and Roger Cararach claim to have summited Mt Karyolung (6530m/21,423 ft) and Mt Numbur (6958m/22,828 ft) earlier this month without government permission. The three men reportedly organized and planned the expedition completely independently, and were doing so in honor of a fallen comrade. They dedicated the two ascents to Domen Kastelic, a Slovenian climber who perished on Mont Blanc recently.

Unfortunately, as Burch has learned, climbing a mountain in Nepal without the proper permits is a serious offense, and officials there are now investigating the trio's claims. If they are found to have violated the laws, the three men will face a ten year ban from climbing in Nepal, and a substantial fine. The law stipulates that anyone climbing without a permit must pay "a fine equal to twice the royalty fixed for Mt Everest." The cost for climbing Everest currently stands at $11,000.

While Everest is obviously the crown jewel for climbing in Nepal, obtaining permits for smaller mountains below 7000 meters (22,965 ft) cost just $700 apiece. Expeditions are also generally required to have an assigned liaison officer as well, and are encouraged to employ high-altitude porters, although some independent teams go it completely alone.

According to The Times, all three of the climbers made it to the summit of Karyolung back on October 31, but Padrós says he topped out on Numbur on his own. Both mountains were climbed along completely new routes, as the team said they were looking to explore the region and scout it for potential new climbs in the future. Instead, they decided to summit a couple of mountains while they were in the area as well.

What exactly will happen to these three men remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. Nepali officials don't like to not get paid, so it seems likely they'll face that impending fine and suspension. The government isn't going to take these kinds of reports lightly, and will probably make examples of them to prevent future incidences as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Video: Bike Rider Balances on Narrow Beam 200 Meters Up

Add this video clip to the list of things you shouldn't try at home folks. It features pro rider Fabio Wibmer as he rides along a very narrow beam 200 meters (656 feet) up the Koelnbreinsperre Dam in Austria. Needless to say, it is a scary sight to behold and no one will blame you if you catch yourself holding your breath as he inches along. I prefer my bike tires to stay more firmly planted on the ground, but I can definitely salute his skills.

Video: Reminder - Hippos are the Most Dangerous Animals in Africa

It has often been said that hippos are the most unpredictable and dangerous animals in all of Africa. That is further underscored by this video in which a man was driving across a bridge near Kruger National Park in South Africa when he came across a hippo. The massive creature didn't take too kindly to anyone else being there apparently, as it promptly turned an charged the truck. The results are pretty impressive. And scary.

Adventures in the Caribbean: A Visit to Nevis

One of my favorite things about getting to travel regularly is discovering new places and learning about all of the amazing things that they have offer. Such was the case recently when I traveled to the Caribbean island of Nevis, a place that you wouldn't think would be a home for outdoor adventures, but nevertheless has much to offer those looking for a nice blend of active pursuits and relaxation.

This wasn't my first trip to the Caribbean. In fact, quite the contrary. I've been there several times, and have always enjoyed the beautiful water, fantastic landscapes, laid-back atmosphere, and the culture and history. Nevis didn't disappoint in any of those departments for sure, but one of the things that I liked best was that the island was quieter and less "touristy" than some of the other places I've visited in the region. You won't find any massive resorts lining the beaches there, nor are there gigantic cruise ships pulling in on a daily basis, expelling passengers into Charlestown or any of the other villages on the island. Instead, you'll get a unique – more authentic – experience that allows you to explore everything that Nevis has to offer at your pace.

Located in the West Indies of the Caribbean, Nevis sits just across the water from St. Kitts. The two sister islands function as a single country in most regards, although the atmosphere is unique to both places. Covering just 36 square miles (72 sq. km), Nevis is home to roughly 12,000 people, all of whom seem friendly, accommodating and content. Most everyone I met during my brief stay on the island were outgoing, happy to meet visitors from another country, and eager to provide the island's famous hospitality. As much as I enjoyed all of the adventurous activities on the island – which I'll get to in another story – it was the wonderful people of Nevis that left the most lasting impression.

The best way get to Nevis is to first fly into St. Kitts and then grab a water taxi over to the island. That is exactly how I arrived, and it was a great way to sample the scenery of both places, which are bordered to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea. Taking the boat across from St. Kitts to Nevis took about ten minutes, with some lovely views of the water and the towering landscapes along the way.


Both islands are volcanic in nature, although they have remained dormant for centuries now. Nevis Peak, which stands 985 meters (3232 ft) in height dominates the center of the island and is pretty much never out of view. It is also a popular destination for hikers to go up to the summit, although it does require a fairly good degree of fitness, a sense of adventure, and some rope skills to reach the top. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that trek do to timing, but I did take another hike later on that gave me a sense of what it is like to explore Nevis on foot.

It may have been more than 100,000 years since the volcanoes on the island erupted, but that doesn't mean there isn't some geothermal activity at work on Nevis. In fact, there are a few places where fumaroles can be found, and hot springs bubble up in a couple of different locations as well. One of those spots is right in the middle of the capital city of Charlestown, where locals and visitors alike can take a soak in the hot springs, which stay at temperatures ranging from 104ºF (40ºC) to 108ºF (42ºC) at all times. That means you'll want to skip a visit to the Bath Springs during the heat of the day, but it is a great place to relax first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down in the evening.

Although Nevis has been home to indigenous people for more than 2000 years, it was first spotted by Europeans when Christopher Columbus sailed past back in 1493. In the years that followed, it became a popular place for ships from Europe to stop when coming and going from the New World. The island itself was first colonized in 1628 however, kicking off a rich history that included Nevis becoming one of the wealthiest places in the region thanks to the sugar trade. Today, the remains of the sugar plantations can still be found dotted the landscape, and the production of that commodity played an indelible role in how the island developed. If you're going to visit Nevis, it is beneficial to know a bit about that history and how it shaped the first several hundred years of its existence.

Despite its diminutive size, Nevis is making large steps toward protecting the environment. The country has announced that it is attempting to become the first country in the world to be completely carbon neutral, and it is making good progress towards that goal. As you travel about the island you'll find wind and solar farms that are helping to generate power, and it is working on tapping into the geothermal forces beneath the surface to help create even more energy. The hope is to reach the goal of carbon neutrality within the next few years, and the people that spoke to about this initiative seemed focused on making that happen. Not only does it make good economic sense for a place relies heavily on foreign oil, but it is good for the country's environment too. As the erosion of the shoreline becomes an ever more important consideration, and sea levels continue to rise, every effort – big and small – becomes vital to the future of the island.

While visiting Nevis I stayed at the amazing Hermitage Plantation. This boutique hotel mirrors the personality of the rest of the island nicely, being a quiet and charming refuge at the end of the day. The hotel features individual cottages that look like the kind of place Ernest Hemingway would stay on his escapes to the Caribbean. The rooms are very comfortable, unique, and fun, with plenty of space to spread out if you need to. My cabin – the aptly named "Blue House" – featured two stories, a spacious living room and bedroom, four different porches, a kitchenette, hammock, and plenty of outdoor furniture. Isn't any wonder I spent parts of each day while I was there writing on one of those balconies?

Nevis has no shortage of great restaurants to indulge in while you're there either. I'd personally recommend the Golden Rock, Bananas Bistro, and The Gin Trap, although there are plenty of other places to enjoy as well. Obviously, fresh fish is a good choice at any location, although I found plenty of other delectable things to eat as well, including surprisingly good steaks, wonderful burgers and pizza, and of course delicious desserts too.

If my description of Nevis sounds like an island paradise so far, I haven't even gotten to the good stuff just yet. My intention with this article was to set the stage to a degree and introduce readers to the island. Tomorrow, I'll share some stories about the more active adventures that the Caribbean country has to offer. Those outdoor pursuits help to immerse you in the culture and history of the place even  more fully, and are a great way to explore the island. Suffice as to say, there is plenty to see and do and I was lucky enough to get a brief taste while I was there.

I'll be back with more stories about my recent trip to the Caribbean. But in the meantime, you can discover more about Nevis here.

New Study Finds Massive Collapse of Ice Sheets in Antarctica Almost Inevitable


A new scientific study published yesterday indicates that West Antarctica is going through some dramatic changes at the moment that include major collapses of the ice shelf found there. The study predicts that major shifts in the ice will occur in the years ahead, and it will have profound effects on the frozen continent, and the rest of the world as well.

Last year, a chunk of ice 225 square miles in size broke off from the Pine Island Glacier and slid into the ocean. At the time, researchers were at a loss to explain the phenomenon, but now believe they have discovered the root cause. A massive crack formed in the ice 20 miles (32 km) inland and deep beneath the surface. As the crack widened, the incredible weight of the ice gave way, causing it to collapse altogether and fall into the sea. It was unlike anything that anyone had ever seen in polar regions before. 

As we all know, Antarctica is covered in a massive ice field that is at much as 2555 meters (1.5 miles) thick in some points. That ice is held in place by large glaciers that ring much of the region. But now, those glaciers are in full retreat, particularly along the Amundsen Sea where the waters are warming, which is having an impact on the conditions there. If those glaciers continue to recede, and temperatures continue to go up, the Antarctic ice could melt and run into the sea, causing ocean levels to rise around the world. Worst of all, for many scientists this isn't a question of "if" but more like "when" it will happen. 

Researchers who studied the Pine Island incident say that the collapse of the ice shelf there isn't a new thing, and that it happens ever few years. What has them worried however is that the calving of the glacier started so far inland and so deep beneath he surface. They haven't seen that happen before, and it is an indication of what may be happening across the entire continent. 

The brief explanation for this unprecedented event is that melting due to rising temperatures is now occurring where the underlying bedrock meets the ice. And unfortunately Pine Island isn't the only place where this has been observed, as NASA also spotted similar activity in another part of Antarctica last month. If this becomes a common occurrence as it appears that it could, we are likely to see a dramatic loss of ice across the entire region. Worse yet, the results of the study indicate that it is taking place very quickly. Far more quickly than anyone had anticipated. 

This is just another example of how climate change – man-made or otherwise – is reshaping our planet. It is tough to deny that these things are happening, and while we have taken strides to help limit our impact on these conditions, it may be far too little and far too late. 

Antarctica 2016: More Teams Arrive on the Ice

Yesterday I posted an update from Antartica that shared the progress of the teams that are already out on the ice and making their way toward the South Pole. Those skiers were amongst the first to reach the frozen continent this year, and are now squarely focused on making their way to 90ºS as quickly as possible. But, they aren't the only people who are making that journey this season. In fact, there have been a few newcomers with some interesting stories that have just joined them.

One of the big expeditions to watch this year is from Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen. He intends to ski 2260 km (1404 miles) making the journey from Hercules Inlet to the Pole and back again. Because of a series of delays to his start due to the weather, Risto is now pushing hard to make up for lost time, and as ExWeb reports he even dropped a supply cache for the return trip, even though he hadn't originally planned to do that. This allows him to lighten the load on his sled now, and ensures that he'll still have food, fuel, and other supplies on his way back to his starting point. While he hasn't shared many updates so far, Risto has said that he is struggling with the humidity in his tent, which is making things a bit uncomfortable so far.

Experienced mountaineer and polar guide Ryan Waters is leading a team of three skiers the include Katrina Follows from the U.K., Paul Adams of the U.S., and Scott Kress from Canada. The squad is making good time so far, and are already nearing the 84th degree on their way to the Pole. They're also picking up speed as they climb up to the Antarctic Plateau, covering 11 nautical miles (20.3 km/12.6 miles) for the first time yesterday. When traveling with a group it is easier to make progress and cover longer distances as everyone takes turns breaking trail, and just having companionship can make a big difference.

Doug Stoup, another experienced Antarctic guide, has arrived at Union Glacier along with his client Aron Anderson, who is a Swedish adventurer who also happens to be an adaptive skier and para-Olympian. Anderson is attempting to become the first person to sit-ski to the South Pole in what is sure to be quite an inspiring expedition to watch unfold. The challenges will be many, but he and Doug are prepared to make the journey together. They should get underway today or tomorrow, weather permitting.

Finally, Canadian skier Sébastien Lapierre arrived at Union Glacier yesterday as well, and is now preparing to get underway with his solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole. He reports that conditions are great and the landscape is beautiful as he prepares to depart for his ultimate goal at 90ºS.

We'll be watching the progress of these explorers in the days ahead as well as the season unfolds. There should be plenty of interesting stories to follow in the days and weeks ahead. Things are just getting started at the bottom of the world.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Video: Norway's Spectacular Lofoten Region Captured by Drone

The title for this post pretty much says all you need to know. In this video clip we travel to the remote and rugged Lofoten region of Norway where we get an amazing view of the spectacular mountains found there. This is five minutes of pure bliss with some stunning shots of a region of the world where few of us will ever get to visit. Definitely a great clip to start the week.

Video: Diving into the Mayan Underworld

This video is a trailer for a much longer three-part documentary to come, but it gives us a great idea of what to expect. The film follows a team of divers – led by explorer Robbie Schmittner – who travel to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in search of the world's largest cave. They discover an elaborate system of submerged caverns that the Mayans believed was a gateway to the underworld. They also find artifacts and remnants of that civilization that have been waiting to be discovered for hundreds of years. It looks like quite an adventure, and I'm already looking for the full series to hit at a later time.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Avalanche on Ama Dablam Claims Life of Sherpa

Sad news from the Himalaya today where it was revealed that an avalanche on Ama Dablam has claimed the life of a Sherpa and injured a foreign climber. The avalanche was caused by ongoing seismic activity in the region, with a 5.6 magnitude earthquake causing the slide.

The 13-member team launched its summit bid this past weekend with the hopes of topping out on the 6812-meter (22,349 ft) Ama Dablam tomorrow. They were hiking up from Camp II to Camp III this morning when the accident occurred.

Reportedly, heavy snow rolled down the mountain, striking the climbers on the slopes. Most of the team was left with minor injuries, including bruises and scrapes, but Lakpa Thundu Sherpa suffered internal injuries and was airlifted from Camp III to Lukla for medical assistance, but unfortunately he succumbed to those injuries while in the mountain town.

The Himalayan Times also reports that a British national by the name of Ciaran Hill was also injured in the accident. The extent of those injuries has not been revealed, but the climber was airlifted off the mountain and returned to Kathmandu for treatment.

The remainder of the team reached Camp III and are now deciding whether or not they should continue upwards, or retreat to Base Camp and head home. It is not uncommon for a team to pull the plug on their expedition following the loss of a teammate, but for now they seem to be weighing their options.

The fall climbing season is slowly grinding to a halt, and it won't be too long before all expeditions come to an end. Winter weather is approaching the Himalaya, and now most of the mountains will close until the spring. Ama Dablam is often considered a good tune-up peak before trying some of the taller mountains in the area. It is generally considered quite safe, although the altitude can play a role in the health of climbers. In this case, it was an unexpected earthquake – an aftershock of the one that occurred in April of 2015 – that caused the avalanche to begin in the first place. Fortunately, there were no other major casualties nor was their extensive damage in the area.

My condolences to the friends and family of Lakpa Sherpa. Also, we'll keep our fingers crossed that Hill recovers fully from his injuries as well.

China Reveals Plans to Build Hotel, Restaurants at Everest Base Camp

Anyone who follows the mountaineering scene on Everest with any regularity already knows that it has become quite a commercial affair. But, China has decided to take that level of commercialization even further by revealing plans to build hotels, restaurants, and a climbing training center on the Tibetan side of the mountain.

On the Nepali side of the mountain, visiting Everest Base Camp is big business. Each year, thousands of travelers make the trek to EBC just to get a glimpse of the mountain. That isn't the case on the Chinese side of the mountain however, although officials there are hoping to change that. Earlier this year a paved highway running to the Tibetan camp opened, making it easier than ever to reach that point. But, that highway has also cleared the way for other businesses to begin setting up shop as well.

The plans for this project include building a training facility for mountaineers hoping to climb the mountain, as well as creating a base for a search and rescue team as well. Both of those operations would be a great addition to either side of the mountain. But, the ambitious long-term goals for the project also include expanding the site with hotels, restaurants, shops, and even a museum.

Chinese officials see this as a way to increase economic growth in Tibet and expand tourism operations there. While altitude is still a concern for anyone wanting to visit Everest Base Camp, on the Tibetan side of the mountain you can avoid a week long hike and go by car instead. The problem is, at the moment there isn't much to see there. If this project comes to fruition, that would change and allow many more visitors to visit the region.

The idea of commercializing the Tibetan side of the mountain is also part of an even bigger plan to raise interest in snow sports ahead of the 2022 Olympics games to be held in Beijing once again. The hope is to change perceptions about the activities that are available within the country and get visitors to realize there are opportunities to potentially ski, snowboard, and snowshoe while visiting China, and Tibet in particular.

There is no announced timeline for when this project will move forward, but it does appear that construction could begin as early as next year. If that is the case, it is possible that we could see a working hotel near the mountain within the next few years.

Antarctica 2016: Slow and Steady Progress on the Frozen Continent

Another week has passed for the South Pole skiers heading across the Antarctic this season. As usual, they face a variety of challenges on their way to the bottom of the world, not the least of which is the weather. But everyone who is currently on the ice is pushing ahead nicely and making steady progress towards their various goals.

We'll start with an update from the six-man British military team that has been skiing for nearly two weeks now. Yesterday they reported "horrendous" conditions as high winds made forward progress, and visibility, very difficult. The winds roared at 40-50 knots (46-57 mph), which caused temperatures to plunge and sap their strength. Add in some very difficult sastrugi to the surface, and it tallied up to an incredibly rough day. Fortunately, things improved today and they were able to knock off a solid 13.6 nautical miles (25 km/15.5 miles) as conditions improved. They also managed to cross the 82nd degree as well, which means they still have 8 more degrees to go before they're done, but they are slowly but surely moving ahead.

In contrast, Emma Kelty reports great weather over the past few days, allowing her to start to get a rhythm on her ski expedition to the South Pole. She says that the sastrugi are making it tough on the legs at the moment, but they are just part of the challenge that anyone traveling in the Antarctic faces. She did have a brief scare in which she thought her back-up stove had stopped working, but thankfully she was able to make repairs and get it operational again. As you may recall, she had a problem with the fuel for her stove early on, which requires a supply drop. That cost her the "solo and unsupported" status she was hoping for, but she continues to forge ahead nonetheless.

Johanna Davidsson has certainly gotten up to speed quickly. She's now been out on the ice for 12 days, and managed to cover 27.7 km (17.2 miles) yesterday. That's a solid pace for this early in the expedition, as most skiers pick up steam as they get closer to their goal. This is in part due to their bodies getting more acclimated to the daily grind, and because their sleds start to get lighter too. But Johanna seems to be cranking out the distances now and is looking very good out on the ice. 

Explorer Mike Horn is continuing to make progress sailing toward Antarctica. He departed South Africa last week aboard his ship the Pangea, and reports ice in the waters but nothing dangerous enough to slow him down. It appears that he's still a few days away from making landfall, at which point he'll attempt to traverse the frozen continent by way of the South Pole. The ship will then pick him on the other side, and he'll start sailing north where he intends to continue his quest to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a north-south direction. 

It appears that the climbing season on Mount Vinson is about to begin. Guide Dave Hahn and his team of climbers arrived in Base Camp on that mountain yesterday after a long day of travel from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier and onto the mountain. They'll spend a day or two getting camp set up and rested before they start to head up the mountain, but it appears that operations are now underway to summit the tallest peak on the continent. 

Finally, Italian Michele Pontrandolfo is finally getting some winds to work in his favor. Progress is still slow, but his expedition to kite-ski to the South Pole has begun covering some distances at long last. He still has a long way to go, and faces the real possibility of not reaching his goal as he did last year, but for the moment he seems content and happy to be in the Antarctic. Hopefully he'll get some good winds in the days ahead so he can really start knocking off the mileage. 

That's it for today. More updates as the season progresses.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Video: Trekking to Mt. Roraima in South America

At just 2810 meters (9220 ft.) in height, Mont Roraima isn't even close to being the tallest mountain in South America. Still, it is quite an adventure to get to its table-top summit, which rises above the lush forest below. At the top, there is an ecosystem unlike what is found nearby, including some species of animals that aren't seen anywhere else on Earth. In this video, we make the trek along with some other adventure travelers to explore a place that was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. This part of the world remains beautiful and largely untouched, and is on my bucket list of places I'd like to visit myself at some point. For now, I'l have to settle for this video like everyone else.

DRONE DA MONTANHA - MONTE RORAIMA from DRONE DA MONTANHA on Vimeo.

Video: Rays of Joy in Nepal

Despite the fact that it has been more than a year and a half since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal, some parts of the country continue to struggle to get back on their feet. With that in mind, there have been a lot of efforts to help improve the living situation there, including a project from Goal Zero that sent solar equipment, water filters, computers, and more to help the people in areas that are still recovering. This video takes us to Nepal on just such a mission, and along the way you'll catch a glimpse of what makes this such a special country. No, it isn't the amazing mountain landscapes, although those are impressive. But it is the Nepali people who leave the longest lasting impression. Great video for heading into the Thanksgiving weekend here in the States.

The 2016 Adventure Blog Holiday Shoppers Guide (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted my first round of picks for the best gifts for the outdoor lover in your life in the form of Part 1 of my Holiday Shopping Guide. Most of the items that made the cut are products that I've personally used and really enjoy, but they also mostly focused on the basics for the general outdoors, including boots, a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and so on. Today, in Part 2 of the shoppers guide I'll offer up some suggestions for other categories as well, including travel, running, cycling, and so on. Hopefully you find these suggestions to be good ones as you get ready to head out and start hunting down the perfect gift for the adventurer on your list.

Altra Men's Superior 2.0 ($110)
If you're looking for a great trail shoe for the runner on your shopping list, look no further than the Altra Superior 2.0. I practically ran the bottoms out of mine this year, as they are comfortable, lightweight, and offer plenty of room in the toe box. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a shoe that offers better balance and control on the trail. (Buy at REI.com) (Note: These are on sale at both REI and the Altra website for $76 right now)

Craghoppers National Geographic Response Compresslite Travel Jacket ($95)
The Response Compresslite from Craghoppers is my new favorite travel jacket. Incredibly lightweight, yet warm and comfortable, this jacket stuffs into one of its own pockets for easy packing, yet when needed performs like a much bulkier and heavier puffy. The jacket looks great, isn't overly technical and is priced right. It is the perfect companion for the traveler who is active, but isn't venturing into the more remote areas of the world where something more serious is required. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

Catalyst iPhone Case (Prices vary by model)
Lets face it, our smartphones are a constant companion these days no matter where we go. That means we have to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are well protected, both from accidental drops and the elements. I haven't found a case that does that better, without compromising the look and feel of my iPhone, than the ones made by Catalyst. These cases don't add a lot of needless bulk to your mobile device, and yet they still offer an amazing level of protection. The cases are available for the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7, as well as the "+" models for each of those generations too. Once in place, the phone is waterproof and shrouded in a case of armor that is will keep it safe from just about anything. (Note: Catalyst also offers cases for the iPad and Apple Watch too.)

Power Practical Luminoodle Plus Camp Lighting ($39.99)
Camp lighting has come a long way in the past year or two, to the point that there are now a number of awesome options to choose from. One of my favorites is the Luminoodle Plus from Power Practical, which uses a portable battery pack to power a flexible string of lights that can be strung up just about anywhere. Waterproof and durable, these lights give off up to 180 lumens, but the light is dispersed more than with a headlamp, making it easier to enjoy when sitting in your tent or lounging around the campfire. (Note: The Luminoodle Plus is on sale for $28.50 right now)


Stacked Wireless Charging System for iPhone ($99.99)
Speaking of iPhone cases, here's one that not only keeps your phone well protected, but also offers the ability to charge it without having to plug in cables as well. The Stacked Wireless Charging System has everything you need to keep your iPhone charged both at home and on the road, plus an optional car adapter ($49.99) not only does the same in your vehicle, but is great for mounting the smartphone where it can be reached for navigation too.

Ledlenser SEO 7R Headlamp ($90)
A good headlamp is essential for adventure travelers and outdoor lovers a like. The SEO 7R from Ledlenser can fill both niches nicely. It offers 220 lumens of light, and a burn time of up to 20 hours, and since it comes equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and can also use AAA batteries as well, you never have to worry about running out of juice again. (Also, for the mountain biker in your life, check out Ledlenser's amazing XEO 19R headlamp, which puts off a blinding 2000 lumens of light to illuminate the trail.)

Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($65)
Want the same comfort and warmth that you get from your down jacket in a blanket? Rumpl has you covered with their Original Puffy Blanket. Made of high quality fabrics that are weather resistant, and filled with the same insulation found in sleeping bags, this is the best outdoor comforter you could ever ask for. Warm and cosy in the tent, backyard, or cuddling up around the fire at home, it is simply the best. And since the blanket packs down to an incredibly small footprint, you can take it with you when you hit the road too.

Eagle Creek Afar Travel Daypack ($119)
Every traveler needs a good daypack to accompany them on their journey, and Eagle Creek's Afar pack is perfect for just about any kind of excursion. Made from durable fabrics and with integrated anti-theft zippers and lock points, the Afar offers plenty of storage for carrying essential gear for the day. It includes a laptop sleeve large enough to hold a 17" notebook, a passport pocket, a padded, breathable backpanel, and a built-in ego-skeleton that adds increased durability. It is even water and abrasion resistant so it can handle the rigors of the road. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

ExOfficio Isoclime Thermal Hoody ($90)
We all need a good looking and versatile wardrobe at our disposal for when we hit the road, and ExOfficio makes some of the best travel clothes around. Their Isoclime Thermal Hoody features casual good-looks, but it is also warm, comfortable, quick-drying, and has the ability to wick moisture away from the body as well. Additionally, it works well as a layer under a warmer jacket, or completely on its own depending on your needs. And of course, if you're ordering anything from ExOfficio, don't forget to pick up a pair of their legendary underwear. No adventure traveler should ever leave home without at least one or two pairs. (Buy at REI.com) (Note: The Isoclime Thermal Hoody is currently on sale for $44)

Adventure Medical Kits World Travel ($80)
Staying healthy while traveling is never easy, but with the World Travel first aid kit from Adventure Medical Kits, it is a lot easier. Packed with items to keep you healthy while away from home, this kid literally has everything you need, an then some. The World Travel is stocked with enough bandages, gauze, medications, and tools to keep a family of four well stocked for a month on the road, and probably longer. It even comes with a handy guide for treating common injuries as well, and when you start to run low on supplies, AMK has handy refill picks too. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

Solavore Solar Sport Camp Oven ($239)
Want a unique and fun way to cook at your campsite that is also good for the environment? Check out the Solar Sport oven from Solavore. This oven comes with everything you need to create some amazingly tasty meals at your campsite using nothing but the rays of the sun. It does require a bit of planning and forethought on a part of the chef, but the results are amazing, including the ability to bake bread or cookies, make pizza, casseroles, and so much more. Designed more for car campers than backpackers, this oven will nevertheless turn you into a camp gourmet.

There you have it. More picks for the best gifts for the traveler and outdoorsman or woman in your life. Anyone of these items is something I'd like to find under the tree come Christmas Day, and chances are your loved one will too. Happy Holidays!

Reminder: Don't Forget to #OptOutside This Friday

We are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., and as such I'll be shutting down the blog over the next couple of days to enjoy some time with friends and family, as I'm sure many of my readers will be doing too. But, before I step away I wanted to remind everyone that Friday of this week is also "Black Friday," that annual ode to consumerism in which many people flock to shopping malls and department stores in search of the ever elusive big sale. But, just like last year, there is an alternative – you can #OptOutside instead!

Last year, gear retailer REI made headlines when it elected to close all of its stores on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Instead of luring in customers, the company decided to give all of its staff the day off and encouraged them to go outside to pursue the activities they love. They offered the same encouragement to us – their customers – as well.

Needless to say, the promotion was a big success, so REI is doing it again this year. Their stores will be closed – including the website – and the company's employees will once again get the day off. But this year, more than 500 other organizations are joining the #OptOutside campaign, including the national parks and many state parks as well. If you're looking for a place to go to get outdoors, check to see if the parks near you are offering free entrance to celebrate the day.

I'm happy to see that this movement has continued for another year. Hopefully it will become an annual tradition, not just for REI, but other stores as well. Most of all, hopefully it will be a tradition for most of us too. After celebrating Thanksgiving with the family on Thursday, gather them all up for an outdoor adventure on Friday. You won't regret it for sure.

How will you #OptOutside this year?

New Photos Reval Uncontacted Tribe in the Amazon

As I've mentioned in the past, I am endlessly fascinated by the uncontacted tribes that still exist in the deepest parts of the Amazon Rainforest. It boggles my mind to think that there are still people living out there who have had not had any sort of interaction with the modern world or the people who live in it. Having been to the Amazon myself, I realize how remote and wild of a place it truly is, but it is still amazing to know that these tribes still go about their lives as they have for thousands of years in the past.

Now, some new photos have been released that reveal one such tribe living in Brazil’s Yanomami indigenous territory near the border with Venezuela. And while those photos show that the Moxihatetema people – as they are known – continue to struggle with substance living, they are actually thriving despite concerns over outside threats.

The home of the Moxihatetema was feared to be threatened by illegal gold miners who are moving into the area. Those miners bring with them diseases that while common in the modern world, can be deadly to anyone who has not built up an immunity to them. The miners have also polluted waters and food supplies with mercury, which could be devastating to the tribes population too.

Human rights activists have kept an eye on the Moxihatetema for some time, and have feared that their way of life could be wiped out as more outsiders encroached on their territory. But the new photos reveal that the tribe has actually grown in size since it was last observed from a distance. It is believed to now number more than 100 people, with two new families joining the fold.

The images also show the tribe's "yano" – a communal house – that serves as a home for many of the people who are a part of the community. The photos also reveal the surrounding area that remains an isolating wall with the outside world. That wall is more fragile than it has been in the past however, as more of the miners arrive near by. Officials warn that while this particular tribe seems to be doing well, and is growing in size, the threats they face are as serious as ever, and could result in the entire group being wiped out in a very brief time.

Brazil has taken steps to ensure that the lands that surround the Moxihatetema people are protected, but of course the illegal miners ignore those laws to go in search of the gold that is found there. And since the governmental agency that oversees the indigenous tribes is facing severe budget cuts, it becomes ever more challenging to enforce the rules in these remote corners of the world.

Still, it is amazing to see these people continuing to thrive, and there is a part of me that is cheering for them to continue to resist the advances of modern life. Hopefully they'll be able to hold out as long as they want, but something tells me it is only a matter of time before their lives change forever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Video: The Last Steps - Man's Final Journey to the Moon

We all know who the first man to walk on the moon was, but do you know who was last to take steps on Earth's closest celestial neighbor? That would be Gene Cernan, who was a part of the Apollo 17 mission. Cernan was joined by Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt on that historic journey, and this video tells their story. The three-man crew launched on December 7, 1972 and were the last explorers to leave Earth orbit and go to the moon. It was the end of an era, and we have yet to repeat anything like it in space. This is a wonderful short film about that mission and what it was like to travel through space four decades ago.

The Last Steps | A Really Great Big Story from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Video: Why Height Doesn't Matter in Mountaineering

This video is a few years old, but it is still an interesting one nonetheless. It comes our way courtesy of National Geographic, and features climber Colin Haley who talks about why the top mountaineers are more interested in climbing hard peaks rather than high ones. Case in point, on Everest several hundred people summit each year, which means it isn't all that difficult, even though it is the tallest mountain on the planet. Climbers like Haley prefer to go to places where almost no one ever summits, and they like to do so in fast and light, alpines style. The video features some great shots of these alpinists going to work on spectacular mountains all over the world. It may be a little dated, but the images are still fantastic.

The 2016 Adventure Blog Holiday Shoppers Guide (Part 1)

The holidays are now upon us, and its time to start looking for the perfect gift for the outdoor adventurer and world traveler on your list. If you're looking for the perfect gift for that guy or gal, I have some suggestions that should make them happy this year. Here's what they really want to find under their tree this holiday season.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket ($250)
If your loved ones like to spend time outdoors in the cold months of the year, they'll appreciate the new Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket. Not only does is use stretchy material that moves well during active outings, but it employs heat-sealed baffles rather than standard stitches, making it much warmer as well. This is the most innovative puffy on the market today, and one that will be a great companion on many adventures to come. (Buy at REI.com)

Osprey Atmos AG 50 ($230)
There are so many great backpacks to choose from on the market today it is tough to select just once. But Osprey's Atmos AG 50 is still one of the very best, with perhaps the most comfortable fit and suspension available today. Perfect for backpacking, camping, and adventure travel, this pack has plenty of capacity and comes with such additional features as a removable top lid, tool attachments, removable sleeping pad straps, and much more. Best of all, its backed by Osprey's lifetime warranty, which means they'll fix or replace it should anything every happen to the pack. (Buy at REI.com)

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots ($230)
There are a lot of great hiking boots to choose from these days, but for my money it is tough to top the Lowa Renegade GTX in terms of performance, comfort, and durability. This boot is designed for hiking, trekking, and even light mountaineering, with excellent traction on a wide variety of surfaces, plenty of support for the foot, and a classic look that never seems to go out of style. (Buy at REI.com)


Goal Zero Venture 30 Battery Pack ($99.95)
Being able to keep your gadgets charged while on the go is an important consideration these days, and there are many portable battery packs to choose from. But Goal Zero's Venture 30 not only carries a lot of juice (7800 mAh) but its rugged enough to survive just about anywhere you want to take it. Waterproof and durable, the Venture 30 has a high speed USB port that can recharge your mobile devices as quickly as a wall outlet. (Buy at REI.com)

Eddie Bauer Kara Koram +20ºF Sleeping Bag ($449)
When it comes to getting a good night's sleep in the backcountry, your sleeping bag is the most important piece of kit that you can take with your. Warm, comfortable, lightweight, and compact, the Kara Koram +20º bag from Eddie Bauer is a great option to have at your disposal. Stuffed with 850-fill, water-resistant down, this bag is tough enough to go anywhere and continue to perform at an incredibly high level.

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad ($64.95)
Nobody likes to sleep on the hard ground when they're spending a night in the tent, which is why a good sleeping  pad is a must. The Klymit Static V2 is lightweight (weighs 1 lbs), very comfortable, and packs down to the size of a soda can. Its body-mapped pattern is also extremely comfortable too, allowing you to sleep like a baby in the backcountry. (Buy at REI.com)

The North Face Talus 2 Tent ($199)
A good tent provides the shelter you need to survive in the backcountry, and the Talus 2 from The North Face is an excellent option for those who like to travel light but without sacrificing features. Tipping the scales at a mere 3.2 pounds, this tent has plenty of room to sleep two, features double-doors and two vestibules, and comes with both a gear loft and a footprint. It even has a lifetime warranty, which means you can depend on it surviving rough conditions, or TNF will replace it. (Buy at REI.com)

Mountain Khakis Original Mountain Pant ($84.95)
If you're looking for the perfect outdoor pants that can also transition to town without missing a beat, the Original Mountain Pant from Mountain Khakis has you covered. Reinforced in all the right places, and designed for comfort on and off the trail, these pants feature classic good looks, a relaxed fit, and quality fabrics, stitches, and zippers. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

REI Sahara Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36.93)
The REI Shara tech shirt is comfortable to wear, provides moisture wicking and temperature control features, and offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun. It also has classic good looks, is designed for travel and outdoor activities, dries quickly, and packs down to a small footprint. Pretty much everything you want out of any piece of active apparel.

Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec DSS Trekking Poles ($159.95)
A good pair of trekking poles are essential for challenging hikes, and Leki makes some of the very best. Lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with, the Micro Vario TI Cor-Tec DSS poles are perfect for anyone hiking local trails close to home, or flying off to tackle Kilimanjaro. Quick and easy to assemble, with comfortable hand grips, these trekking poles are one of those items you don't know you need until you have a pair. They are perfect for the hiker on your list. (Buy at REI.com)

More gift ideas to come in the second part of my holiday gift guide tomorrow.






Antarctica 2016: Another Solo Skier Hits the Ice

The 2016 Antarctic season is barely a week old, and yet it is already shaping up to be an interesting one. The first skiers were dropped off on the ice at Hercules Inlet last week, and are now making their way towards the South Pole. And while conditions have been good so far, each is dealing with their own set of challenges on the frozen continent.

One of the more interesting trends that is developing for this season is the number of solo women out on the ice. Last week, Emma Kelty and Johanna Davidsson started their bids to ski both to, and from, the Pole, and they are now joined by another female explorer as well. Polish explorer Malgorzata Wojtaczka was dropped off at Hercules Inlet last Friday, and is now making her way towards 90ºS. She reported great weather for her start, but since then has skied into whiteout conditions, with large sastrugi already making the going tough.

Meanwhile, Emma Kelty has actually had to surrender her "solo" status according to ExWeb. Early into her ski expedition she began to have issues with her cook stove, which is vital for not only making meals but melting snow for water too. After struggling to get it working, she eventually realized the problem was with her fuel canisters, so she requested more be delivered rather than end her expedition for such a relatively small issue. This means she'll be able to continue on towards the Pole, and hopefully back to Hercules, but in the grand scheme of things she had to give up the "solo and unassisted" part of the journey.

Bad fuel canisters are not the only issue she's been struggling with however. She also has a sore neck that hopefully won't continue to give her problems throughout the length of the expedition. And, sastrugi have been an issue for her as well. Those tough snow ridges on the ice can make skiing extremely difficult, and slow things down greatly. To make up for it, Emma has been skiing into the night, which is a different experience for sure.


The third adventurous lady currently skiing to the Pole is Johanna Davidsson, who plans to kite ski back to the start at Hercules Inlet when she's done. So far, Johanna seems to be doing quite well, knocking off solid distances early on in the expedition. On her sixth day out on the ice she has already amped up her mileage to 20 km (12.4 miles) in a single day and has crossed the 100 km (62 mile) mark. The weather so far has been mostly good, although whiteout conditions have started to creep in for her too. Still, she seems focused, happy, and engaged thus far.

The six-man British military team are scooting right along on their way to the South Pole as well. They report cloudy skies, which has made navigating a bit challenging at times, but otherwise morale is high, their cranking out 12 nautical miles (22 km/13.8 miles) per day, and the sastrugi haven't been quite so bad so far. Having a full team around them, rather than going solo, makes a huge difference on progress, mood, and overall approach to the expedition.

Italian kite-skier Michele Pntrandolfo continues to look for favorable winds for his expedition from Novo Station to the South Pole. So far, much like last year, the winds have not been particularly helpful in achieving that goal. Things are expected to change this week however, and he hopes to begin making meaningful progress at long last. He plans to ski past the Pole of Inaccessibility on his way to 90ºS, which means he'll be covering about 4000 miles (6437 km) if he's successful. In order to do that, he needs to get moving however so hopefully the winds will shift in his favor soon.

Finally, it appears that Mike Horn has left Cape Town and is now sailing towards Antarctica. He'll be traversing the continent via the South Pole as he attempts to circumnavigate the globe north-south, rather than east-west. He and his crew left South Africa a few days back and now expect about a two-week journey to reach the frozen continent. From there, he'll begin the ski portion of the expedition. It should be interesting to follow his progress as well.

Now that the season is in full swing, expect more teams to hit the ice soon. It is going to be a busy year at the bottom of the world, and we'll continue to keep an eye on the progress there.


Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Finishes the Climb!

We've been following Adam Ondra's ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite closely over the past few weeks, and especially since he launched the full on assault on what many consider the world's toughest big wall last week. Now, we are happy to report that the Czech climber has reached his goal, repeating the climb that was first done by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson back in 2015.

When I posted an update yesterday on Adam's progress, he had finished the cruz of the climb – the very tough 14th, 15th, and 16th pitches, but was forced to wait out bad weather on Sunday before proceeding. With just 11 pitches left, he was expected to take another day or two to wrap things up. But, with improved conditions yesterday, and showing why he is considered one of the best climbers in the world at the moment, he blitzed through the final 11 pitches and finished up the entire project in just eight days. A very impressive feat indeed.

Even more impressive is that this was just Adam's first visit to Yosemite Valley. He traveled their back in mid-October and started scouting the Dawn Wall on October 18. He spent a good amount of the following days examining each of the pitches before launching his ground-up climb last week. In comparison, it took Caldwell and Joregson 19 days to finish the first ascent, although Ondra is the first to admit he followed in their footsteps.

Major congratulations to Adam for completing this epic climb. Personally, I thought that he would visit Yosemite to get the lay of the land on his first visit, then return to do the Dawn Wall at a later date. But, he proved that theory completely wrong and crushed it on the wall. What he has accomplished is nothing short of remarkable.

Today, Adam will take a much deserved rest day, and where he goes from here has yet to be determined. But for now, it is clear that his talent and skill are on another level. I don't think I was alone in believing that it would be some time before we saw a repeat of the Dawn Wall, but he made it look relatively easy, and could have finished it in just a week had the weather cooperated on Sunday. Still, this is a climb for the ages and one that will go down in history for sure.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Video: The Harsh Conditions of the Antarctic

Ever wondered what it is like to live and work at the bottom of the world? If so, this short video will give you a few clues. In it, Tom Arnold – a field trainer for the Antarctic – tells us what it is like to conduct research and explore the seventh continent. It is one of the harshest environments on the planet, but it is also an incredibly beautiful and untouched place. You'll get a glimpse of that, and more, in this two minute clip.

Video: Swimming with Killer Whales

Spotting a pod of orca whales (aka killer whales) in the wild is an impressive sight indeed. But few of us ever get the chance to actually go swimming with them while they are in the midst of a feeding session. This video takes us into the cold waters off Norway to do just that, providing some amazing footage of these massive creatures in their natural environment.

2016-11-12 - Spectacular close ups of herring feeding orcas from Jonas Follesø on Vimeo.

Couple Who Faked Everest Summit Suspended From Indian Police Force

One of the biggest stories to come out of the spring 2016 Everest climbing season was about an Indian couple who faked their climb but said they reached the summit anyway. They used doctored photos of the top of Everest, and applied for a summit certificate, but later their story made headlines across the globe as it was revealed that they were a fraud. Now, it seems the couple is in trouble back home, where they have reportedly been suspended from their jobs as police officers.

According to this story from The Himalayan Times, Dinesh and Tarkeshwari Rathod received the suspension after an investigation was conducted by the Pune police department in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The investigation started after the husband and wife team were outed for their false Everest summit claims. They will now remain on suspension until it can be determined whether or not they should be fired altogether.

While in some countries, a summit of Everest is viewed as a badge of honor and respect, in others it can lead to much more. In some parts of the of the world, climbing the highest peak on the planet can lead to fame, fortunate, promotions at your job and a level of celebrity status. India is one such country where this holds true.

Allegedly, the Rathods often talked about wanting to climb big peaks together, and had been planning an Everest summit for some time. This past spring, they finally went to Nepal, where they had told others they would attempt to summit the mountain. Later, the claimed to have done so, but used false images to back up their claim. An investigation by the Nepali government showed that the duo never stepped foot on the mountain, but instead only trekked to Base Camp.

Following that revelation, the couple's summit certificates were revoked and the they found themselves in hot water, receiving a 10 year ban from climbing in Nepal. Numerous news outlets from around the globe shared their story, and they were soon disgraced in the mountaineering community and beyond. Now, it seems they could lose their jobs as a result as well. Apparently they have not returned to work since this past May.

While being fired from your job for falsifying summit claims may sound a bit harsh, if the culture of a country is one that highly celebrates an Everest summit, it also seems likely that the punishment is going to be significant as well. It seems likely that these the couple will never work as police officers again, and will have this story follow them around for quite some time. Those are severe consequences, but their actions were pretty outlandish too. Hopefully, others will learn from this.

Himalaya Fall 2016: American Climber in Trouble with Nepalese Authorities for Climbing without Permit

The 2016 fall Himalayan climbing season is wrapping up quickly at this point, but there are still a few stories to be told. One of which is a controversial effort by an American climber, who claims that he made the first ascent of 31 unclimbed peaks in Nepal, which would be a record setting achievement if proven true. But, the man now finds himself in hot water with Nepalese officials for making those climbs without a permit.

Sean Burch says that he began his expedition back on October 11 and continued to climb through the end of that month. While in Nepal, he visited the Kangnun Himal, Chandi Himal, Changla Himal and Valley regions, where he says that he managed to bag his record setting number of peaks over a three week period. If true, that would be enough to set a new Guinness record.

But, it appears that Burch – who was named an Honorary Goodwill Ambassador to Nepal’s Tourism Year in 2011 by the government there – didn't have a permit for any of the mountains that he now claims to have summited, something that is strictly prohibited by the country's mountaineering laws.

An investigation is now underway, with the results to be shared soon. If he is found guilty of breaking the law, Burch could face significant fines. According to The Himalayan Times, those fines could be as much as "three times the royalty to be paid for scaling the highest Himalayan peak opened for mountaineering while two times the highest royalty for scaling opened peak without any permit." That means it could cost him $15,000 per mountain, as Everest is the highest peak in the Himalaya (and the world for that matter), and the permit for that peak is $3000/person.

For his part, Burch says that he shouldn't be fined at all, and that he didn't need a permit for any of the mountains. In Nepal, a permit isn't required for mountains that fall below the 6500 meter (21,235 ft) mark, and he says all of his climbs were below that altitude. He says that "these 31 mountains ranged in height from 16,000 to over 19,000ft," which equates to 4876 meters to 5791 meters.

While the government investigates whether or not the American climber violated any laws, others are questioning the truthfulness of his other claims. For instance, Mingma Sherpa told The Times "It’s impossible to make 31 ascents in a span of 21 days even if mountains are below 6,000 meters.” He adds “It is even more difficult if the peaks are virgin because one has to find the route to the summit.”

We'll have to wait to see how all of this plays out, but it seems Burch – who has lived in Nepal for six years – could face stiff fines and a potential long term ban from climbing there. If the government determines that he didn't do anything wrong, he'll be free to continue his adventurous pursuits, but he'll still have to offer more proof to his claims of bagging 31 beaks in 21 days.

Dawn Wall Update: Ondra Through the Crux, Weather Slows Ascent

It was a busy weekend for Adam Ondra on the Dawn Wall in Yosemite. The young Czech climber on his first visit to the valley is attempting what most believe is the toughest free climb in the world, and making fairly short work of it. Over the past few days, he's managed to finish the crux of the climb, and was looking at a strong push towards the end, but bad weather has temporarily delayed Ondra's march towards history, which seems like an inevitable conclusion now.

When last we checked in on Adam's progress, he had just reached the crux of the Dawn Wall ascent at the very tough 14th, 15th, and 16th pitches. But, he managed to move through all three with relative ease, finishing pitch 14 and 15 on Friday of last week, then putting through both 16 and 17 on Saturday. Those are considered the most challenging of the entire climb, with the remaining 11 pitches being fairly straight forward for a climber of his skill level.

You may recall that the Dawn Wall was first climbed back in 2015, when Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell went up its massive rock face. They scouted the route that Ondra now follows, but he is doing it at a much more rapid pace. He reached the crux in just two days to their six, and he is through it in just five days total.

It is possible that Adam would now have several more pitches behind him, but bad weather moved into Yosemite yesterday, forcing him to take the day off. He will resume climbing as soon as conditions improve, which could be as early as today. Depending on how things go, it is possible that we could see the second ascent of the Dawn Wall completed before the end of the week.

As I've mentioned before, it is tough to over state just how impressive of a display of climbing that Ondra is putting on right now. This is suppose to be the toughest big wall around, and yet he is making the Dawn Wall look like just another climb. On top of that, this is his first ever visit to Yosemite at all, which only makes his accomplishments thus far all the more awe inspiring. Hopefully he'll have no problems finishing off the rest of the ascent, and adding his name to the very short list of climbers who have made the ascent.

Stay tuned for more. We'll be following along closely.