Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Off for a Few Days

After being home for several weeks straight, it is now time for me to hit the road once again. This time however I'm not jetting off to some far-flung place to go hiking or climbing or paddling. Instead, I'll be making a 10 hour road trip to visit friends and family for a few days. That means now updates for the rest of this week, nor will there be any on Monday of next week. Things should get back to normal on Tuesday however.

This brief break comes at a good time. With the Himalaya climbing season now finished, we're in a bit of a lull in terms of major expeditions taking place. I'm sure we'll still find plenty of big adventures to follow and report on moving forward, but for now things are quiet.

Enjoy the rest of your week and take advantage of the season wherever you are to get outside and enjoy an adventure or two of your own. Back soon!

Video: Shishapangma South Face - The Door to Base Camp

Yesterday I brought you the first in a series of videos from The North Face that take us along with alpinists Hervé Barmasse and David Göttler as they attempt a climb up the very tough South Face of Shishapangma in the Himalaya. In the first clip we saw their training and preparation in the Khumbu Valley, but with that complete they're now off to Base Camp to start the expedition itself. In this video, you'll get a sense of the logistics that go into a project like this one, and some amazing views of the mountains in Nepal and Tibet.

Video: Avalanche at Camp 1 on Everest

This video was shot within the past few weeks and shows a fairly minor avalanche on Everest. While the clip is only 20 seconds in length, the thing that strikes me the most while watching it is the sense of scale. With a couple of climbers marching across the landscape as a reference point, viewers can see just how massive the area is and how big the avalanche is as well. The video provides a nice sense of proportion and lets us know just how small we truly are.

How Adrian Ballinger Summited Everest Without Bottled Oxygen

One of the numerous interesting stories to come out of this year's spring climbing season on Everest was the success of Adrian Ballinger, who set out to summit the mountain without bottled oxygen. While Adrian has reached the summit of Everest six times throughout his career, he was determined to head back to the highest point on the surface of the Earth without using oxygen. This was a goal that eluded him last season but drove him to train harder and smarter for this year. This past weekend all of the hard work, planning, and preparation finally paid off, as he topped out in high winds on Saturday, May 27.

So what exactly did it take to get an already very accomplished and talented mountaineer to summit Everest without oxygen? That's the subject of a story from Men's Journal, which puts into perspective exactly how difficult it is to climb in the big mountains without supplemental oxygen, and the level of fitness needed to climb at such altitudes. It turns out, it isn't just about training and conditioning however, but so much more.

The story takes a nice, detailed look at how elite athletes perform at altitude, or in any active endeavor really. For instance, when Ballinger was making his summit push in 2016, he suddenly got very cold and had to turn back short of the top. Meanwhile, his climbing partner Corey Richards was able to push on and top out successfully. Both had trained in a similar fashion, both with were in top shape, and Ballinger may even have more experience than Richards. But, one was able to succeed where the other couldn't. What was the difference? As it turns out, it was about the way that Adrian eats and consume calories. Making a fundamental shift in his diet may have played a large role in improving his efficient and energy on the climb.

It is a fascinating article and provides lots of interesting tips for veteran and aspiring mountaineers alike, as well as endurance athletes who want to better understand how their bodies perform. It is also a good read for anyone who follows major expeditions like the ones we cover here at The Adventure Blog, as it gives some insights into what climbers and explorers put themselves through as they push their bodies to the limit. It may even help you to perform better on your own hikes, trail runs, and mountain biking rides.

Find out exactly what Adrian did to improve his performance by clicking here.

Where to Get Your Next Mountaineering Fix

So the Himalaya climbing season is over, and we won't likely see anyone on Everest – North or South Side – until the spring of 2017. But, that doesn't mean that we can't continue to get our armchair mountaineering fix from other locations as well. Quite the contrary in fact. As the Himalaya shut down, the focus only shifts to other locations.

At the moment, the Denali climbing season in Alaska is ramping up. Teams from RMI, IMG, Alpine Ascents, and numerous others are already on the mountain and going through the steps of preparation and acclimatization. In fact, some of the squads are even nearing their summit push, provided the notoriously wild weather on the mountain is cooperative. And since this peak serves as a good training ground for moving on to the Himalaya, many of the climbers are building important skills that will serve them elsewhere in the years to come.

Later in the month, we'll start to see teams heading to the Karakoram as well, with climbers setting their sights on K2, Broad Peak, and possibly even Nanga Parbat. Those are some of the most difficult and demanding mountains to climb anywhere in the world, and the unique landscapes of Pakistan makes it a challenge just to get to Base Camp. We'll be following those expeditions very closely as well.

In the fall, we'll no doubt see a number of expeditions head back to the Himalaya too. While not nearly as busy as the spring climbing season, the fall often brings some unique projects on the big mountains. Everest sees very little traffic at that time of year but some of the other mountains – particularly in Nepal – often have small, highly talented, teams making daring alpine-style ascents in a fast and light fashion.

Finally, the winter is often a quiet time for climbing the big mountains for obvious reasons. But this year, we know that a Polish team has set its sights on attempting K2 during the coldest, harshest, most dangerous season of all. That alone should make for an interesting season, as no one has been able to accomplish that feat yet, and far too many have died trying.

Of course, there are always new expeditions that pop up that we don't expect or hear much about until they are underway or even over. I'm sure 2017 will bring us a few of those as well. The point is, the spring climbing season may be over, but there will still be plenty of daring and fascinating mountaineering expeditions to follow in the days ahead. For now, we take a break, catch our breath, and wait for more to come.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Video: Shishapangma South Face Expedition - Arrival in the Khumbu

This past spring climbing season, alpinists Hervé Barmasse and David Göttler traveled to Shishapangma to attempt a new route along its tough South Face. Now that the season is over, The North Face is sharing videos from the expedition, telling the story of this impressive climb. The first of those videos can be found below, giving us a glimpse of the training and acclimatization that the two men went through before ever leaving for the mountain. I'll follow up with more of these videos as they are released.

Video: Suunto Celebrates Kilian's Double-Summit on Everest

By now, we're all well aware of Kilian Jornet's exploits in the Himalaya this spring. This video was put out by Suunto – one of his sponsors – to celebrate and congratulate him on his accomplishments. It doesn't really share anything new, nor does it have footage from his Everest summits, but it does remind us of what an exceptional athlete Jornet truly is. Speed records and double summits without oxygen are impressive enough, but the fact that he does these things with humility and grace is something special too.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Moro and Lunger End Kangchenjunga Skyline Expedition

One of the expeditions that I was most interested in following this season was Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger's attempt to traverse the entire length of the Kangchenjunga Massif. Their daring climb was truly one of the most audacious and difficult announced for the spring of 2017, and I appreciated the fact that these two talented climbers were focusing their talents somewhere other than Everest. But news of their progress was sparse, and updates were few and far between, and now we've learned that they have dropped the curtain on this attempt and have headed home.

When last we checked in with the Kangchenjunga Skyline Expedition – as the project was called – Simone and Tamara had turned back at 7000 meters (22,965 ft) due to Moro suffering from poor health. After spending a few days resting up, they launched a second attempt, only to reach 7200 meters (23,622 ft) before the illness caught up with the Italian climber for a second time. This time, Simone's condition was so bad he had difficulty standing, which is obviously extremely dangerous at such high altitudes. Knowing that only rest and recovery at home would allow him to get better, the team decided to pull the plug on the expedition and head home.

The initial plan had been for the duo to make the highest and longest traverse on the planet, covering some 5.5 km (3.4 miles) across the four main peaks of Kangchenjunga, while climbing above 8400 meters (27,559 ft) for almost the entire time. They had planned on making the traverse in alpine style and without the use of bottled oxygen, which meant a very long period of time above 8000 meters without supplemental O's.

Unfortunately, Simone and Tamara never got the chance to even come close to the 8000-meter mark. But, they say they aren't quite ready to call it quits on this plan just yet. The mountain may have one this round, but they intend to learn from their experience and potentially come back at another time to try again. Moro is quoted as saying "We will keep everything we have learned this time on this mountain, as we did with the Nanga Parbat. It's an ambitious goal ... but nothing is impossible."

So, for now, this big expedition is over and Simone and Tamara are headed home. Hopefully we'll see them back again to give it another try when they are both feeling strong and healthy.

The New York Times Uses Virtual Reality to Take Us to Antarctica

Most of us will probably never get the chance to travel to Antarctica ourselves. But, thanks to modern technology and a little help from The New York Times, we can catch a glimpse of the place without ever having to leave home. The paper of record has produced four virtual reality videos from the frozen continent, taking viewers to the bottom of the world to get a sense of what it is like there.

The four clips take us to places like the McMurdo Station and the Ross Ice Shelf to give us a first hand look at Antarctica. The clips take us to the frozen surface of the continent, as well as above and below it, as we explore the environments there. Each of the videos is presented with narration that informs us of what we're seeing, while also giving us the ability to pan around in 360º to examine the location from different vantage points. The result is a nice mix of informative documentary and freedom to view the film as we choose.

The four videos range in length from 9 to 15 minutes, and they far from static. Each shifts location within the context of the place they are visiting, allowing viewers to get a number of different views from which they can pan around to explore the region. Of course, we also get a healthy dose of information on the current state of the environment in Antarctica, which is threatened dramatically by climate change as well. Particularly on the Ross Ice Shelf, where large chunks of ice are preparing to break off into the sea.

This is a great demonstration of modern technology being used to tell an interesting story. The VR clips can also be viewed in the NYT VR app available for both iOS and Android too, which only opens the door to new possibilities.

If you're fascinated by the Antarctic like I am, or simply like 360º videos and the use of technology, than you'll want to check out these short documentaries. View them all here.

Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits But End of Season in Sight

It has been a long and very eventful spring season in the Himalaya, that much is certain. Over the past few month we've seen drama, intrigue, tragedy, and triumph. Now, the season is coming to an end, but it will be one that will be remembered for years to come without a doubt.

This past weekend marked the final pushes to the summit by several teams who had waited patiently for their opportunity. And while not everyone was successful, a number of climbers stood on top, closing down the season in style. High winds made the final push more difficult than expected. The forecast has called for clear skies and calm winds, but the jet stream is now moving into place and likely won't shift again until fall.

Amongst those topping out was Adrian Ballinger, who summited without oxygen after having to turn back just short of the top last year. He was accompanied by Corey Richards, who did have to put on an oxygen tank for the final push up. They of course climbed with Alpenglow, which also saw another successful season come to a close by putting seven on the summit.

By now, most of you have probably already heard that Kilian Jornet summited for a second time in less than a week, this time taking 17 hours to go from ABC to the top of Everest, which isn't a record but is damned impressive indeed. It seems Kilian is now the first non-Sherpa to summit twice in the same season without using bottled oxygen. It is nearly impossible to convey just how amazing that feat truly is.

It was also a good season for women climbers from India. Anshu Jamsenpa also had a record setting year on Everest. She also managed to summit twice in five days, earning her the distinction of the fastest time by a female climber between a double summit. Meanwhile, Anita Devi became the first Indian woman to climb Everest from the North Col route and the first to scale the mountain from both sides.

Unfortunately, Ralf Dujmovits wasn't successful in his attempt to nab his 14th 8000-meter peak without oxygen. This past weekend he turned back from the summit in part because of the high winds. Dujmovits has said that this would be his last go at Everest, so this was a disappointing end to his efforts. Perhaps next year he'll reconsider.

In another record setting effort, Kami Rita Sherpa topped out on Everest, claiming his 21st summit of the world's tallest mountain. That ties him with Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa for the most summits of all time.

At this point, both the North and South Sides of Everest are all but deserted. The teams that climbed over the weekend are packing up and heading home at long last. The one climber who was hoping to summit today or tomorrow was Nobukazu Kuriki of Japan, but it appears that he may have packed it in as well due to the shifting winds. I'm still waiting on confirmation on that, but with Kuriki preparing to leave the South Side, the season will now officially be over.

Considering that few teams climb in the fall, and the Chinese are making it difficult to get permits from the North Side, it seems likely that we won't see any climbers on Everest until the spring of 2018. That's a long wait, but if this season is any indication, it should be worth it once again.

Congrats to everyone who successfully summited during this very busy season. Travel home safely and revel in your accomplishments.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Summits Everest for Second Time in a Week

It is a long holiday weekend here in the States at the moment, so as a result I won't be posting a full round-up of stories today. That said, I did want to share this story before getting back to a normal schedule tomorrow.

On Saturday (May 27), Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet added to his already impressive accomplishments on Everest. Last week he set a new speed record by running from Base Camp to the summit in 26 hours, all without oxygen, fixed ropes, or Sherpa support. Now, he's done it again, bagging a rare second summit in a single season, once again without the uses of bottled oxygen.

For his second summit bid, Jornet set out from Advanced Base Camp, and traveling to the summit in 17 hours, which is just shy of Hans Kammerlander's record of 16 hours, 45 minutes. But while this isn't a speed record, to be able to summit a second time in such short order, and without using oxygen, is an impressive accomplishment nonetheless.

In a statement sent out to the media Kilian had this to say:“I’m so happy to have made the summit again! Today I felt good although it was really windy so it was hard to move fast. I think summiting Everest twice in one week without oxygen opens up a new realm of possibilities in alpinism and I’m really happy to have done it”

While making his fast attempt last week, Jornet suffered stomach cramps and vomiting on his way up the mountain. That slowed him down considerably, and forced him to stop at ABC while making the descent. He had hoped to go all the way back to Base Camp. While recovering throughout the week, we started to hear rumblings that he might try a second summit bid, and try to go even faster. He wasn't able to quite set a new speed record, but very few climbers are ever able to summit twice in the same season, let alone do it without supplemental oxygen.

Now, the spring climbing season is winding down, and the teams are wrapping up their work. Most have left the mountain although Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is still on the South Side and attempting a final push to the top, weather permitting.

I'll post a full update on the final weekend tomorrow, along with an update Kuriki's position as well. It has been a long, eventful, and exciting season to say the least, but it is almost time to close up Everest for another year. More to come soon.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video: A Visit to Yosemite National Park Circa 1938

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., which marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season. Of course, many families will be headed to the country's national parks this year to take in the amazing sites that can be had there. Yosemite is always amongst the most popular destinations, and anyone who has ever been there already knows why. But this video, which comes out of the U.S. national archives, shows that it was a hotspot even back in 1938. Shot in black and white, and without sound, it is a fantastic look back at an adventure film from a bygone era. You'll definitely get a sense of nostalgia as you watch.

Video: Up Denali's West Buttress Route

As climbing operations begin to wind down in the Himalaya, things are starting to heat up on Denali, where teams of other climbers are now starting to set their sights on that major peak. As the highest mountain in North America, Denali gets plenty of attention each year, as it serves as a good training ground for Everest and other big peaks. In this video, we get a look at the most commonly used route on the mountain up the West Buttress. This is a tough, technical ascent, with weather always a concern. But, it is also a rewarding climb as well. Here's what alpinists face on the way to the top.

Forbes Gives Us the 30 Cheapest Places to Travel in 2017

If you're still making travel plans for 2017, we may have an article that can help you out with your decision making process. Forbes has posted a list of the 30 cheapest places to go this year, giving readers a wide variety of destinations to chose from that won't break the bank.

The list is set up in a slideshow format, with each destination given an excellent photo to help sell us on the aesthetic value of the place. The text that accompanies each of the images tells us which travel expert selected that particular location with details on why it earned a place on the Forbes list. Since this is an article about cheap destinations, things like good exchange rates, affordable accommodations, and cheap food are all part of the consideration.

So, which places made the cut? A few of the destinations that are deemed hot spots for budget travelers in 2017 include South Africa, Chile, and Morocco. All of the place of course offer outstanding value, not to mention history and culture too. Some are also fantastic destinations for outdoor adventure as well, although not all fall into that category. The three I mentioned above are prime examples, but other spots that Forbes recommend are aimed more at those interested in relaxation rather than exploration.

Of course, as alway when it comes to travel, any destination is what you make of it, and you'll find outstanding options in each of these place. The other 27 that I haven't revealed are up to you to discover, but I assure you you'll find everything from hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path recommendations, to well-trodden locales that are classic travel spots for a reason.

Check out the entire list here.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Reports of Dead Climbers at Camp 4 Untrue

We have another story from Everest today that I felt was once again worth giving its own post to just to make sure that it wasn't buried with the other news of current summit pushes. A few days back, it was widely reported that four dead bodies were found in a tent at Camp 4 on the Nepal side of the mountain. It appeared from the accounts that we received that the climbers were part of a new, smaller team and that they had suffocated in their tent, perhaps because they had used a stove without proper ventilation. Now, it appears that the story is completely false, and possibly the result of miscommunication.

The original story broke in an article posted by The Himalayan Times, but soon was picked up by major news outlets around the world. The story, as usual, was one about how dangerous and deadly climbing Everest truly is, which was lapped up by an eager audience. The original narrative had a team of Sherpas climbing up to C4 to retrieve the body of another mountaineer who had died during a summit push. But, when they reached the campsite, there were claims of four new bodies found inside of a tent instead. That was what was told to The Times, and that is the story that most of us shared as well.

However, Alan Arnette is now reporting that the story is not true. His sources, which include Mingma Sherpa from Seven Summits Treks and Rajan Pokhrel from The Himalayan Times, have now retracted the story and say there was an error on the part of the Sherpas who mistook what they saw. Alan has checked with several other sources who say there are no new bodies on the mountain, including Willie Benegas who personally checked all of the tents at Camp 4.

Exactly how this mistake was made remains a mystery, and of course the brain can do funny things at 8000 meters. But, thankfully no one else died on the mountain. Yes, there have been several noteworthy fatalities this year, but at least four more weren't added to the mix. That is good news at least.

Now, the question I have is how many of those mainstream news outlets will pick up on this story and report the error? I'm guessing not very many of them will follow-up with a correction, and audiences will once again be left with the impression that these four people died in their tent, underscoring the narrative that Everest is an incredibly dangerous and deadly place. By the time that this season ends, hundreds of people will have stood on the summit of the world's tallest mountain, with only a minuscule number perishing in the attempt. Every death is tragic and sad of course, but the fatality rate on Everest is also grossly over exaggerated at times.

I'll get off my soapbox for now, but I definitely wanted to share this news to make sure the story was set straight.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Summit Pushes Continue with End of Season in Sight

The current – and probably final – weather window on Everest continues today with more teams heading to the summit. At this point, the number of climbers on the mountain is starting to dwindle, but there are some key players still making their way up the mountain. The season isn't quite over yet, and now looks to stretch into next week for at least one climber, but the end is now in sight as the last teams make their way up and down the mountain. 

Amongst the teams currently on their push are Alpelnglow, who are accompanied by Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards with the hope of Ballinger getting his no O's summit of Everest. The team is steadily making their way upward and should be in position to summit tomorrow provided everything goes well. Adrian reports a bit of gastrointestinal distress on the climb today, but seems to have sorted things out. The team is in good spirits and doing well. 

Also eyeing a summit for tomorrow or Sunday are the Alpine Ascents team who are now on their way up, and report good weather and no major crowds. Himex is also on the move and eyeing the same window as they close out the season too, as is SummitClimb, who were turned back by poor weather on their first attempt but have now regained their strength and are heading up to give it a go one more time. 

Other notable climbers currently on the move include Ralf Dujmovits who is attempting a summit without bottled oxygen, something that has been on his "to do" list for several years now. He reports exceptional weather on the North Side for the days to come, and looks to summit this weekend as well. 

Also on the North Side, Alan Arnette is reporting that there are rumors that Kilian Jornet may have set off on a second attempt at the speed record on Everest. Those rumors are unconfirmed at this point, but after making a 26-hour ascent a few days back, then returning to ABC, Jornet said that he thought he could improve on his time, especially since he had stomach issues on the way up as well. For now, we'll have to sit tight and see if he is indeed heading for a rare second summit, and of course we'll post and update as we learn more. 

On the South Side, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is having an on-again, off-again relationship with the mountain. After setting out for the West Ridge with plans to summit along the tough Hornbein Couloir, it was reported that he got sick and decided to descend. But, arriving back in Gorak Shep, he started to feel much better and now says that he plans to go back up the mountain. He hopes to summit early next week, standing on top by the end of May. 

Finally, we have a quick update from The Himalayan Times on Janusz Adamski, the Polish climber who summited Everest from the North Side, but then illegally traversed into Nepal and descended along the South Side. Reportedly, he is currently in Namche Bazaar and tells The Times that he is "ready to face any legal challenge in Nepal to safeguard the greatest achievement of my life.”

He, and another climber by the name of Andrzej Ziółkowski who helped coordinate the project, will descend to Lukla today, then take a bus to Kathmandu where they will face potential charges from the Department of Tourism. Chances are, Adamski will see a 10 year ban of climbing in Nepal, but we'll have to wait to learn the final verdict. 

That's it for now as we head into the weekend. The news is trickling off at this point, but still a few more days of action to come. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Video: Take a Tour of the Rockies (by Drone)

If you're in need of an escape today, than allow this clip to be of assistance. It is less than two minutes in length, but takes us on a whirlwind tour of some amazing national parks, including Jasper and Banff and Canada, and Glacier and Grand Teton here in the States. The landscapes are epic and beautiful, and probably more interesting than what's outside your window today.

The Rockies - (Jasper, Banff, Glacier, Grand Téton) by Drone from Ludoc on Vimeo.

Video: Adventure Not War - Healing the Wounds of Iraq

Adventure can be the cure for a lot of things, not the least of which is the horror and trauma of war. That is expressed incredibly well in this amazing short film, that travels to the mountains of Iraq with three U.S. veterans who have returned to that country to experience it without the shadow of conflict hanging over them. There story is a powerful and moving one that gives viewers a sense of the pain that they've felt, and how they are finding ways to deal with it. What ever you do, don't miss this one.

Gear Closet: Glovax Adventure Gloves Review

Finding a good pair of gloves for use on your outdoor adventures is a bit like searching for the right sock. It isn't something you put a whole lot of thought into, until you find the ones that truly stand out. Than you realize how much of a difference it can make and just what you've been missing.

Such is the case with Glovax gloves, which are currently seeking crowdfunding on Indiegogo. What makes them so special? Well for starters, they've been built from the ground up for use in the outdoors, which makes them durable and resistant to wear. But, beyond that, they're also cut resistant, water and oil resistant, and abrasion resistant too. They also have an anti-skid fabric that helps you hold you grip on a variety of surfaces, without compromising fit and flexibility in any way.

I was sent a couple of pairs of Glovax gloves to test out, and I have to admit, when I first saw them I was skeptical. They seemed like a colorful, lightweight option that was ill-suited for use in the outdoors. The, I put them on and my opinion quickly changed. Not only do they fit your hands extremely nicely, the stretchy fabrics that are used in their construction feel extremely comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time, and while they are quite snug, it isn't in any kind of restrictive way.

You'll find that the palm of the Glovax has a different texture than the rest of the glove. That's where the anti-skid materials are found. And while it felt a but odd at first, the value of this material soon proves itself when you begin to realize just how well it holds a grip on a variety of surfaces, wet or dry.

The Glovax gloves also happen to be surprisingly breathable, which makes them easier to wear for extended periods of time, even when you're taking part in some intense activities like trail running, mountain biking, or climbing. And since they fit your hand so well, it is sometimes easy to forget you have them on. That's not something I can say about a lot of other gloves I've used either.

It is important to note that these gloves are water resistant, and not completely waterproof. In my testing, I found them to be great for use in the rain or even when paddling, but they can get wetted out if they get too soaked with water, although that didn't happen in normal, day-to-day usage with typical levels of moisture involved.

As mentioned, Glovax is still in the crowdfunding phase, but has easily surpassed its goal and will go into production this summer to start shipping in August. The gloves will come in two varieties – "Lite" and "Pro." The Lite version will have the same features and fit as the Pro, but won't be puncture, water, or oil resistant, nor will they come with the micro patterning materials that enhance the grip. They will weigh a bit less (30 grams vs. 50 grams) however, and will retail for $39. The Pro model will sell for $49.

Find out more at the Glovax Indiegogo page.

Adventure Tech: DJI Introduces Tiny New Spark Drone

If you've been holding off on buying a drone until they were smaller, smarter, and more affordable, your time may have come. Yesterday, DJI took the wraps off of its latest creation, giving budding filmmakers a look at the Spark for the very first time. That drone is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet delivers a lot of the features that you would expect from the leading drone maker.

Despite its diminutive size, the Spark is packed with all kinds of features. For instance, it has auto-tracking of its subjects, the ability to avoid obstacles completely on its own, and a variety of other autonomous features. It also comes with quick editing options, a "selfie" mode, and an onboard camera capable of capturing video at 1080p/30 resolutions.

But the best thing about the Spark is that it is tiny (weighs just .6 pounds) and easily transportable, plus it costs just $499, making it one of the most accessible products that DJI has ever produced. It can be flown using a smartphone or an optional controller, and can produce quick clips for easy sharing on social media too. Flight times are 16 minutes with speeds of up to 31 mph (49 km/h), with easy options for recharging the battery in the field.

The video below will give you a glimpse of this fantastic looking new tool. It begins shipping in mid-June with preorders available at now.

Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits on Everest and Dhaulagiri, Near Miss on Shishapangma

The second big summit push is underway on Everest, and teams are now reaching the top with regularity as good weather has arrived once again. Expect a steady stream of climbers topping out over the next few days as the seasons begins to slowly grind to a halt. The days are most definitely numbered, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

IMG reports that they had 100% success with their team, putting 25 climbers on top of Everest from the South Side yesterday. They have another small squad making a summit push without oxygen and a lone climber heading up Lhotse today, so their work isn't quite done yet.

The Alpenglow team is on the North Side in Tibet, and are in position to summit today. Going with them will be Adrian Ballinger and Corey Richards, who are making a no O's ascent as part of the #EverestNoFilters project. Everyone is reportedly in good spirits, moving well, and ready to finish what they came to do. Also preparing to go for the summit today or tomorrow is German climber Ralf Dujmovits, who is attempting to complete his quest to stand on the summit without bottled oxygen as well.

Blind climber Andy Holzer is amongst those who summited earlier in the week. He made the final push to the top in just 8 hours, and spent 5 more descending to Camp 3. Holzer is now the second vision-impaired climber to reach the top of the tallest mountain on the planet, with Erik Weihenmayer accomplishing the same feat back in 2001.

Elsewhere, this past weekend Marco Confortola and Mario Casanova managed to summit Dhaulagiri. According to ExWeb it took the Italians 20 hours to complete the push to the summit. For Confortola, this was his 10th 8000-meter peak as he inches closer to nabbing all 14 of those big mountains. The team descended back to Base Camp without issues, and are now preparing to head home.

Over on Shishapangma, Hervé Barmasse and David Gottler came up just short in their efforts to summit along the very difficult South Wall. The two men managed to complete the ascent of that route, wrapping up what is perhaps the most daring and difficult climb of the season thus far, but they were forced to turn back from the summit just 3 meters from the top. Apparently, as they approached the final section of the climb, they were crossing over a snow cornice and could actually hear the snow and ice cracking around them. Rather than risk losing their lives on the final few meters, they wisely turned back.

Finally, more on the tragic death of the four climbers found at Camp 4 yesterday. Alan Arnette has weighed in on the topic, with the thought that perhaps he guides made a mistake by using their stoves inside the tent, without proper ventilation, causing carbon monoxide build up which eventually led to their death. Alan uses this opportunity to discuss the risks of going with a new, inexperienced, and less-well funded operator on Everest, where the guides may be inexperienced, lacking in proper training, and possibly not prepared for the summit themselves. It is an interesting read for anyone who is considering a climb with one of these "budget" guide services.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Video: Official Trailer for Blood Road - Riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam with Rebecca Rusch

If you're looking for an amazing adventure documentary to get excited about, we may have just found one for you. This video is the trailer for a new film called Blood Road, which follows endurance athlete and mountain biker Rebecca Rusch as she travels to Vietnam to ride 1200 miles (1931 km) along the Ho Chi Minh trail. But this isn't just a trip to explore a country by bike. Rebecca's father was shot down and killed while flying a fighter plane during the Vietnam War, and she goes there in search of closure and answers. The film looks incredibly personal and well made. I can't wait to see it.

Video: Kilian Jornet Tells Us Why Everest is So Different

While we're all still marveling over Kilian Jornet's latest accomplishment on Everest, and waiting to see what he does next, this video comes our way to help explain the challenges he faced in preparing for Everest and making his epic speed ascent of the mountain. Obviously shot before he left, the clip gives viewers some insists into what makes this mountain so different from others.

Gear Closet: Kora Holocene Yak Wool Vest Review

Over the years, the vest has gone in and out of style on a number of occasions. Currently, it is enjoying a comeback, serving as a mid-layer as part of a larger layering system or as a stand-alone piece designed to keep the core warm on active days. For the most part, I've never been a huge fan of vests in general, but have to admit that I've reluctantly come around to their value, particularly as designs have improved and the materials used to make them have gotten better as well. But now, I've become a full-blown convert, thanks to the Holocene vest from Kora.

If Kora sounds familiar, its because I reviewed the company's baselayers awhile back. What I loved about their products is that instead of using merino wool like the rest of the industry, Kora instead used wool from Tibetan yaks. The result is a very similar level of performance when compared to merino in terms of breathability and comfort, but with more warmth. That's because yaks have adapted to living in higher altitudes and in more demanding environments when compared to sheep, and the wool harvested from those animals reflect that.

The Holocene vest uses the company's proprietary Hima-Layer Stratam 350 fabrics, which are also made using yak wool. In theory, this makes it just as comfortable as a mid-layer that uses merino, but with more warmth as well. Those fabrics are soft to the touch, easy to clean, and share the same anti-microbial properties of sheep's wool, which means they don't absorb odors – something that certainly comes in handy on longer trips.

One of the things that has often turned me off to wearing a vest in the past is that I never quite cared for the fit. A lot of vests can be oversized, bulky, and oddly shaped. But that isn't the case with Kora's offering, which features a more athletic cut that fits the body nicely. Not only does it move with you when things start to get active, it doesn't impede your actions in any way either. I've worn the Holocene while running, mountain biking, hiking, and just running errands around town, and it has always felt great on. The fact that happens to look sporty and attractive doesn't hurt either.

Designed to work over a baselayer, the Holocene does a fine job of keeping your core nice and warm. On a recent trip I managed to get knocked out of a whitewater river raft and found myself not only soaked, but quite cold. Once the trip was over however, I was able to throw on this vest, and it helped immensely. The idea is to keep your core warm at all times, and the rest of you will stay comfortable too. That has proven to be the case with this vest, which also serves as a nice replacement for a full jacket on those days where it is cool, but not quite cold enough to require something heavier.

As with most vests, the Holocene is a bit of a minimalist product. It doesn't have a lot of features, although it does include two hand pockets, and two rear stash pocket. I found the rear pockets to be a nice place to store extra things that you want to carry with you on an outing, such as a hat or some gloves, or even a water bottle, although the standard pockets offer ample storage as well.

All of the components that make up the vest are of top notch quality. The fabrics are durable and built to survive in the outdoors, while the zippers flow smoothly and are easy to open and close, even with one hand. The bottom of the vest is also lined with a no-slip strip to help keep the mid-layer from rising up. This came in handy while running or riding in particular.

Warm, comfortable, easy to pack, and durable enough to survive your outdoor adventures. What more could you ask for from any article of clothing? That's what you ket from the Kora Holocene, which is an addition to my gear closet that will see a lot of use in the future. In fact, it is likely to become mandatory gear when traveling to climates that are cool or even cold. I think you'll find that it is fantastic as well, and want to take it with you everywhere too.

One word on sizing. Typically I would wear a large jacket or mid-layer, but on Kora's recommendation I went to an XL, and it fits perfectly. You may want to keep that in mind when ordering one for yourself.

Find out more at

Himalaya Spring 2017: So What's The Story with the Hillary Step?

There has obviously been a lot of interest over the past week or so on the current status of the Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest. Last Thursday, it was widely reported that this iconic section of the route was now gone from the mountain, leaving many to ponder how it would impact future expeditions, while others mourned the loss of one of the most well-known landmarks on the most famous mountain on the planet. But, is the news of the Hillary Step's demise premature? Apparently, that depends on who you believe.

As I pointed out in my story from last week, speculation of the collapse of the Hillary Step following the 2015 earthquake first appeared last season. Those reports were quickly dismissed however, with Nepali officials, climbers, and guides saying that it was still there, it just happened to be covered in snow and ice, making it appear different than it had in the past. Now, that seems to be the same story being weaved once again this season.

According to this story from the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Nepalese climbers say that he Hillary Step is once again still there and intact, but is just covered with snow. The story quotes Ang Tshering Sherpa – chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association – as saying "The Hillary Step is in its old position. [It is] intact, except that there’s lots more snow on it so the rock portion is not easily visible."

This runs directly counter to reports that have come in from other mountaineers, including the Brit Tim Mosedale who was the first to break the story when he summited last week. He left little doubt that the step was no gone and that it would eventually have an impact on the route to the top of Everest.

Another Nepali, Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, claims that the route up the Hillary Step was altered last year by the team fixing the ropes. After not seeing any traffic for two seasons, there were no obvious ways past the obstacle, so the route was altered slightly. Pasang says that it now sits a little further right, obscuring the view of the Hillary Step to a degree. Extra snow and ice cover the spot too, changing the appearance some.

For his part, Mosedale is sticking with his story. He told The Guardian the Step simply isn't there, and it could spell trouble. “This year and last year a snow ridge formed which we were able to ascend with relative ease. But in future years, if the ridge doesn’t form, it could be a particularly difficult area to negotiate. The loose debris comprising some rocks that look to be precariously perched and ready to slide could be very hazardous indeed.”

Everest blogger Alan Arnette has weighed in on the subject with an article he posted yesterday. Much like the rest of us, he's confused by the conflicting reports too, but says that judging from the photos it  looks like things have at the very least moved some. Excess snow is making it hard to tell for sure, but judging from the photos he shared, it appears that the Step has been altered.

The photo on the left was taken by Tim Mosedale during his recent summit, while the one on the right was shot by Jamie McGuiness back in 2008. To my untrained eye, they do look very different, although I'll admit that the snow is playing a role in that.

So, is the Hillary Step still there? We'll probably have to wait for other climbers to weigh in to know for sure. We could learn more soon as the current round of summits plays out, but until we get a season with less snow on that portion of the mountain, we might not have a clear understanding of what this section of the route looks like at this point. Hopefully it isn't as precarious as Mosedale has made it sound, as it could cause problems in the future.

Himalaya Spring 2017: New Round of Summit Pushes Begin, Illegal Traverse, 4 More Deaths on Everest

As expected, yesterday was a windy one on the summit of Mt. Everest, but conditions should improve today, allowing another round of climbers to launch their summit bids. The next couple of days should be extremely busy, with some large groups now on the move. This will likely be the last weather window of the seasons, as May is starting to run short of days. Still, the forecast is good and things look promising heading all the way into the weekend.

Despite high winds yesterday, The Himalayan Times is reporting that 30 more people managed to top out on Everest. Conditions on the summit were reportedly challenging, but the climbers were able to get up and down safely. This brings the total number of summits from the Nepali side of the mountain so far this season to over 220, with more yet to come.

Amongst the climbers who summited earlier this week was Ang Dorjee, a Sherpa guide from the Pangboche region of Nepal. It was his 19th successful trip to the top of Everest, putting him within striking distance of the record, which currently stands at 21 summits, and is held by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi.

Some of the teams that have now launched their summit bids include IMG, Himex, and Alpenglow, all of which have waited for the winds to subside before making a push. A number of teams are eyeing tomorrow – May 25 – as the day they stand on the top, and right now it appears the weather will cooperate for a safe climb and descent. Expect large numbers of mountaineers and potential traffic jams on both sides of the mountain.

Also on the move is Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki, who left Camp 2 yesterday and is now making his way up the West Ridge. He then hopes to summit along the Hornbein Couloir, which is one of the toughest routes on the mountain. Kuriki was also eyeing a potential summit tomorrow as well, but he is climbing solo and along a route that no one else is using, so it could be slow going.

Meanwhile, there is sad and strange news from the mountain today as well. The Times is also reporting that four climbers were found dead in Camp 4. The names of the climbers have not been revealed yet, but it is said to be two Nepali guides and two clients. The bodies were found inside their sleeping bags in their tent. The cause of death is unknown, but it is believed to possibly be suffocation. All four climbers were on the same team, which is new to guiding on Everest. This brings the death toll so far this season to at least 10.

Yesterday I reported that a Polish climber named Janusz Adamski had made a rare traverse of Everest, summiting from the Tibetan side and descending into Nepal. Now, it appears that that traverse may have been done illegally, without even his guiding company knowing what he was up to. Reportedly, Adamski summited without oxygen, but did use bottled O's on the descent at Camp 3 on the Nepali side. According to his Facebook page, he has now arrived in Lukla and is working his way back to Kathmandu.

The problem is, he only obtained a permit to climb on the North Side of Everest and not the South. That means the descent was done illegally, and he could now face charges. Authorities are likely to be awaiting his arrival in Kathmandu to further investigate the situation.

That's all for now. It looks like we'll still have plenty of news to report from the Himalaya over the next few days, so stay tuned. It has certainly been a busy, active, and interesting season so far, and that doesn't seem likely to change soon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Video: SalomonTV Takes Us on a Dream Trip to Nepal

If you could go on a dream trip, where would it be? For trail runner Tyler Courville, it would be a visit to Nepal to go running with National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Mira Rai, and thanks to SalomonTV, that dream actually came true. In this great video, you'll join Tyler as he travels to the Himalaya, meets Mira, and sets out on an adventure in the mountains. It is an epic journey for sure.

Video: 10 Female Adventure Icons Tell Outside About The Moment That Shaped Them

Outside magazine put ten of the most inspiring, impressive, and adventurous women of all time on its May cover, giving readers a chance to learn what drives them in their particular arena. Those ladies included the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Diana Nyad, and Melissa Arnot, and if you haven't had a chance to read the issue yet, I highly recommend it. In this video, we get to meet these ladies once again, while each of them shares with viewers the moment that shaped their lives. For a daily dose of inspiration, check it out below.

5 National Monuments at Risk From the Trump Administration

A few weeks back, the Trump administration sent an executive order to the U.S. Department of the Interior instructing Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of sites that were designated as national monuments over the past 25 years under the Antiquities Act. That order is expected to be carried out in three months, with some outstanding outdoor environments now at risk of losing their protected status, and potentially opening them up for commercial or even industrial development.

Recently, Men's Journal covered this story and compiled a list of the top five national monuments that are now on the chopping block. This list is filled with some very popular outdoor playgrounds that have received protected status under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. But now, thanks to other outside interests, they could be in danger.

So which sites earned a spot on the list? For once, I'm going to go ahead and spoil all five of them, as I think this is a topic worth spreading the word on and getting more people involved in speaking out against the move. So, without further adieu, the top five most threatened monuments are is as follow:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah)
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters (Maine)
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts (Massachusetts)
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico)
  • Bears Ears (Utah)
The MJ article gives readers a sense of why each of these places was designated as a national monument to begin with and what makes it a target for losing that status now. For instance, the Bears Ears has been at the heart of this controversy for months, first because it was protected by the Obama administration in the waning days of its tenure, and because oil and gas interests have been lobbying for access to the area for years. In other words, there are natural resources under the site, and commercial interests are paying a lot of money to try to rescind the protections placed on the monument. 

Have strong feelings about these places? Be sure to express your opinions by going to this website and entering "DOI-2017-0002" into the search bar. From there, you'll be able to not only find out more about this issue, but share your views as well. As of this writing, there have been nearly 75,000 comments to date. 

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Preparing For Another Go at Everest?

Once again, I know we've been posting a lot of news from the Himalaya lately, and already have one article about ongoing expeditions there from earlier today, but considering the general interest in this story, I thought it was worth giving it its own post.

Yesterday it was widely reported that Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet has set a new speed record on Everest. While that record comes with a number of qualifiers, there is no doubt that Kilian's 26 hour ascent is an impressive feat to be sure. Especially when you consider that he began having stomach issues at around 7700 meters (25,262 ft), but pressed on anyway. But, it seems Jornet might not be down with the mountain just yet, despite having already put on such an amazing performance.

On his descent, Kilian still suffered from his bout with the stomach illness, so rather than going all the way back to Base Camp, he stopped in Advanced Base Camp for some much deserved rest. While there, he ran into Adrian Ballinger, who reported on the encounter on his Facebook page. This is what Adrian had to say.
"#pro - if you don't follow @kilianjornet, stop reading this caption and go follow him. I'm lucky to be surrounded by some amazing athletes on a daily basis. But Today he made a 26-hour push from Base Camp to the summit of #Everest, without supplemental oxygen. This is superhuman. But three things make it even wilder. First, he suffered gastro distress throughout the summit push but somehow suffered through and still stood on top. Second, he thinks he can do it faster and hopes to recover in time to make another attempt before this season ends. Third, after 30+ hours awake and enduring real suffering, he still graciously signed autographs in ABC before sleeping or eating. I am so blown away, humbled and inspired for my attempt. Congratulations Kilian! #everestnofilter #everest201"
In other words, it looks like Kilian is already thinking about making another run at the summit and improving on his time. But, he's not thinking about coming back in the fall or returning for Spring 2018, but will instead try to recover now, and if the weather window is good, make another attempt at the speed record in the next few days. If that happens, it would be even more remarkable than his first summit.

Before he can do this, he'll first need to rest and fight off the gastro distress he's been dealing with. With high winds on the mountain today, he wouldn't be able to go up anyway, and with massive summit pushes now underway, it would probably be best for the endurance runner to wait for the crowds to clear out. That would make Friday or Saturday a perfect time for another push, provided he's feeling up to it. Will it happen? We'll just have to wait around to find out.

Stay tuned!

Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits on Everest as Others Line Up For Second Weather Window

More updates from Everest today as the seemingly never-ending summit window continued to stretch out for a third day yesterday. And while winds are likely to briefly quiet things down, there appears to be more summits to come as the week unfolds.

Yesterday we wrote that more teams were reportedly on the move to take advantage of the current weather window before the jet stream shifted today. At the time, it was unclear how many had reached the top, as things were still influx, and the climbers could have been turned back from the summit if conditions changed suddenly. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and now there are various reports indicating that more than 100 climbers topped out in good weather on Monday. Of those, 45 were said to be foreign climbers, while the others were Sherpa guides.

As usual, Alan Arnette has a complete rundown of the proceedings, with good information on where the teams are currently at on the mountain and who successfully reached the summit. Among those finding success yesterday were 7 Summits Club and Asian Trekking, as well as a few smaller squads as well.

Alan also points out that Polish climber Janusz Adamski pulled off a rare traverse of Everest by first summiting on the North Side and then descending along the South Col route into Nepal. This was not only a solo climb, but Adamski made the traverse without the use of bottled oxygen, something that has only been done once in the past, by Jozef Just, who perished in the process.

While congratulations are in order to all of the summiteers, those of us following along at home barely have time to breathe before the next wave of climbers heads up. After today, the winds are expected to die down once again, and so there are numerous squads getting ready to make their ascent between Wednesday and Friday of this week. That wave will include another round of IMG climbers, Himex, Alpenglow, Alpine Ascents, and others. All told, the next few days could be just as busy as this past weekend.

In other news, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is in place on the South Side and waiting for better weather before he begins. His forecasts show improved conditions for the attempt on the West Ridge and a summit along the tough Hornbein Couloir starting today, so now Kuriki is looking to summit around Thursday or Friday of this week, provided conditions stay the same.

Not far from Everest, the summits continue on Lhotse. Elisabeth Revol topped out on that mountain yesterday amidst very high winds that not only prevented her from sending a message from the top, but swept one of her gloves away too. She is safely back down the mountain now and heading to BC.

Finally, Simone Moro and Tamra Lunger are preparing for their attempt to traverse the entire Kangchenjunga Massif. The duo went up above 7000 meters (22,965 ft) yesterday, but then turned back because Simone fell ill. The plan is to now rest up and get healthy, then attempt the traverse again later this week.

Good luck to all the climbers as they set out for their various summits. Get up and down safely, and remember – the summit is optional.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Video: Take a Look at the World Through the Eyes of Nature

This beautiful video isn't just a reminder that we should look around our world and soak in the natural beauty. It also introduces us to Botei – an eagle hunter from Mongolia – and Kuja, who lives with his family in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador. The two men lead very different lives, but they share a bond with the world around them, as both of their people have lived in a very similar way for hundreds of years. To help tell their story further, Botei and Kuja have both been given mobile devices and Instagram accounts to share images from their world. You can follow them at @botei.eagle.hunter and @kuja.achuar.people respectively, with each photo giving us a glimpse into their culture.

NATURE'S EYES from Fabien Ecochard on Vimeo.

Video: High Winds on Everest

Over the past week or two, we've been reporting on high winds on Mt. Everest, which have dictated when summit pushes can begin or must stop. So just what do high winds on the mountain look like? This video – shot back in 2003 – will give you an idea of what the climbers are dealing with, complete with shredded tents and all. After watching this short clip, you'll have a better understanding of the forces at work on the mountain.

10 Great Outdoor Documentaries From The Adventure Journal

Just because the dog days of summer force us to stay inside in the air conditioning from time to time doesn't mean we have to skimp on our daily dose of adventure. On the contrary, as there are some amazing outdoor documentaries to be enjoyed while we rehydrate and prepare to head back out into the heat. And to help us find some of the best, Adventure Journal has put together a list of their 10 favorites, which include some all-time classic and recent hits.

The list has a little something for everyone, from mountaineers, to rock climbers, to surfers, and skiers. Each entry is accompanied by a trailer video that will give you a sense of what each film is about. There is also a brief description of the documentary as well, giving readers an indication of what to expect from the film.

So which movies made the cut? I won't spoil too much of the list for you, but I will say that Valley Uprising and Meru both earned a spot on AJ's top 10. Those two films have been amongst the most celebrated adventure docs to come out in recent history, and for good reason. If you haven't seen either of them yet, than you need to correct that ASAP. Also, one of my favorite documentaries is also on the list in the form of The Barkley Marathons (trailer below). If you haven't seen it yet, it is on Netflix and is fantastic.

While AJ's suggestions are good ones, I find the list to be a bit too safe and predictable. There aren't too many films on it that you probably haven't heard of, and if you're like me, you've probably seen most of them before as well. So, what did they miss out on? What are some great docs that didn't get a mention the we should be watching? Leave a comment with your suggestions.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Summits Everest without Oxygen and in Alpine Style

There has been a lot of news coming out of the Himalaya this past weekend, and it'll likely take a few days to get caught up on everything that his happening. That said, I thought that this story definitely deserved its own post, especially since I know so many people have been following the expedition.

Kilian Jornet has closed out his Summits of My Life project in epic style by climbing Mt. Everest from the North Side in alpine style and without the use of supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes. The Spanish mountain runner set out from the Rombuk monastery at 10:00 PM local time on May 20, at an altitude of 5100 meters (16,732 ft) and reached the top of Everest (8848 m/29,029 ft) at 12:15 AM on May 22, taking roughly 26 hours to complete the ascent in a single push. He then descended safely back to ABC for a total roundtrip time of approximately 38 hours.

Kilian says that he was moving well for most of the climb but once he hit 7700 meters (25,262 ft) he began to have stomach problems, which slowed him down some. Still, he was able to continue upwards to reach the summit nonetheless and set an impressive time in doing so. Most climbers who will be following in his footsteps on the next summit push, will likely take 3-4 days to complete the same route.

Following his success on the mountain, Kilian is claiming another FKT (fastest known time) on for the climb. It would be pointed out however that Hans Kammerlander made the ascent without bottled oxygen from Base Camp in 16 hours and 45 minutes back in 1996. Presumably he did it using fixed ropes however, so there may be some room for interpretation of the true "FKT."

This brings an end to Jornet's Summits of My Life challenge, which over the past couple of years saw him setting new speed records on Kilimanjaro, Denali, Aconcagua, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn. During that time, he has proven himself to be one of the most adept mountain runners – and now climbers – of all time and he likely has another project already in the works. But for now, he's going to savor his accomplishments on Everest and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation.

Congrats to Kilian on finishing this epic quest. It has been a joy to follow along and we can't wait to see what you'll do next.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Weekend Brings Numerous Summits, 4 Deaths on Everest

As expected, it was an incredibly busy weekend on both sides of Mt. Everest. Weather forecasts had called for calming winds on top of the world's tallest mountain, which had led to many teams getting themselves into position for a massive summit push. The weather was a bit dicey at times, but ultimately Mother Nature allowed climbers to reach the top, although unfortunately four climbers also perished in the process.

According to The Himalayan Times, at least 70 climbers reached the summit of Everest yesterday alone, and there are some indications that that number might be conservative. For instance, the IMG team alone put 27 climbers on the summit. Numerous other teams were within striking distance of the top as of Saturday, although some were still watching the forecasts closely to determine whether or not they should sit tight or make a dash for the top. High winds are expected to return today, although there was a narrow weather window that may have allowed even more teams to summit early this morning.

Alan Arnette estimates that as many as 150 more climbers could have been staged for an early summit attempt today, or they could be waiting out the winds for a second window that is expected to open later in the week. At the moment, it is unclear whether how many more may have gone up today, while others await their turn.

Meanwhile, The Times is also reporting that a number of climbers had to be rescued from the South Side today due to severe altitude sickness. The climbers in question were apparently of Nepali, Pakistani and Argentine descent, and apparently ran out of oxygen near the balcony and had to be assisted back down the mountain by other climbers. Once low enough, they were also airlifted to Camp 2, where they were receiving further attention and getting help with the descent back to BC.

Sadly, there were also four deaths reported over the weekend as well. 51-year old American Doctor Roman Yearwood perished near the Balcony at 8000 meters (26,200 ft) on the Nepali side of the mountain. Also not the South Side, a 50-year old Slovakian climber by the name of Vladimir Strba and a 27-year old Indian climber named Ravi Kumar died as well. Sadly, a 54-year old Australian by the name of Francesco Enrico Marchetti also died while attempting the North Col route in Tibet too. Our condolences go out to the friends and families of the deceased.

These deaths put 2017 on pace to surpass the number of climbers who perished last year on Everest, with more summit bids yet to come. Hopefully, those still heading up will get back to Base Camp in a safe and timely manner.

With this first massive summit push now mostly behind us, we'll have a bit of a lull today and into tomorrow as the remaining teams watch the weather closely. There are still a lot of climbers waiting for their opportunity to summit, and that chance should come within the next few days, particularly if the winds subside as expected. For now though, we continue to wait and watch just like everyone else.

Congrats to everyone who successfully summited and good luck to those who have yet to set out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Video: Climbing the Hillary Step on Everest

Yesterday we learned that the Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest is gone from the mountain. This iconic point was often a source of bottlenecks on the route to the top, but once overcome, it was usually clear sailing to the summit. Now, things will be a bit different, with some saying the removal of the step should make things easier, while others are claiming it could present new challenges. In this video, you'll get a look at what the Hillary Step once looked like, and what it was like to climb it. Starting this season, summiteers will have an entirely different approach to the top.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Looking Back: April

And then it was April. With it comes the start of baseball season, the tiny curling leaves of the tomato plant and the knowledge that before you know it, summer will be here!

Running: This month should have been one of my higher ones due to upcoming long races. However, a fluke pinched nerve in my back caused over a week of rest, which threw me back a bit. In the end, total miles run ended up being about 211 with about 32,000 feet of climbing. My next race is the Quicksilver 100k and I feel a bit under-trained but will see how things go! As for biking miles, I logged a big fat zero again. Shame on me.

Reading: Lucky for my reading goals, I had over a week where I was unable to do pretty much anything, so I got a lot of reading done! In April, I read 10 books. I knocked off another book from my own shelf (in bold) and also read a few goodies to boot! I actually gave four stars to five of them, which is saying a lot for me (I almost never give five stars and don't give four very often either). In order of favorites, here is what I read last month.

The Underground Railroad ****
The Year of Yes (audio book, read by the author) ****
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ****
Love Warrior ****
Hillbilly Elegy ****
The Paris Winter (audio book) ***
Modern Romance ***
The World We Found ***
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget ***
Seven Brief Lessons of Physics ***

Travel: I spent a great weekend up at my parents house on Easter weekend, doing some snowshoeing and hiking and eating. We went snowshoeing at an old ski hill and we were the only ones out there aside from the mountain lions (we saw fresh prints but no cats) and the birds. It was a great way to get some sunshine and fresh air and exercise!

The Parentals

I also went on my semi-annual New York work trip, which was a lot of fun and another successful trip. It was a nice change from last time, when it was cold and snowy and icy and wet! It was in the 80s and I added on a couple extra days in order to spend some time with some old friends who I haven't seen in about 7 years!

The East River

Bonus: I know you are wondering....but what about the garden? Well... I can happily say that I reorganized the back yard, set up the drip system, and planted a bunch of tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers, beans, beets, radishes and carrots. Unfortunately, I have a pest (slugs?) that loves vegetables as much as I do, and it has eaten everything but the tomatoes and radishes. I saved one pepper from certain death by moving it to a pot on the porch, but I think I will have to replant a lot of things. Boo hoo. Back to square one.


What was your favorite part of April? Are you stingy or generous with your five star reviews? What is your favorite spring activity?