Friday, June 30, 2017

Thanks Again to Grayl for Sponsoring The Adventure Blog in June

With the final day of June now upon us, I wanted to take the opportunity to once again thank my friends at Grayl for sponsoring The Adventure Blog over the past month. It's always great to work with good partners, but especially when they make a product that I happen to really like too. That just happens to be the case here, as Grayl makes one of the easiest to use and most effective water purification systems that I've ever used. If you are a frequent traveler or someone who spends a lot of time in the backcountry, I'd definitely encourage you to check it out. The Grayl is lightweight, simple, and very well made, making it a regular traveling companion for me.

If you're a regular reader here, and you haven't clicked on one of the banner ads that have appeared on the site this past month yet yet, do me a favor and head on over to see what Grayl is all about for yourself. I think you'll like what you see.

The 2017 Tour de France Begins Tomorrow

The arrival of July can only mean one thing for cycling fans - the start of the 2017 Tour de France can't be far off. In fact, the event is scheduled to get underway tomorrow with a 14 km (8.6 mile) time trial in Düsseldorf that will definitely favor the fastest riders in the field. But that will mark just the start of what promises to be yet another very interesting race on the roads of France.

This year's course is 3540 km (2200 miles) in length, and will take three weeks to complete, culminating in Paris on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 23. In between, the riders will take on fast and furious stages built for sprinters and leg-shredding mountain rides designed to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

The big question heading into this year's event is whether or not Chris Froome can once again dominate the Tour and ride into Paris with the Yellow Jersey. He is clearly the favorite to win, but 2017 has been a fairly lackluster season for the three-time champ so far. The question will be whether or not he can round into form in time to win once again.

The main challengers to Froome's crown are likely to be Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana. Both have been riding well so far this season, and appear to be in great form heading into the start of the Tour. Both have notched some solid wins this season and seem poised to make a run at the Yellow Jersey as well.

As an avid fan, I'll be following the race closely as usual. In the past, I've often done daily updates, but this year I will likely post less frequently about the unfolding events of the race. Expect regular updates, particularly as we get near the end of the three-week race, but I'll save the non-cycling fans amongst us from too much TdF coverage. Promise!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Video: Blood Road Preview Shows Us the Dangers of Mountain Biking in Vietnam

We've mentioned Rebecca Rusch's fantastic looking documentary Blood Road before. The film sends her on a very personal journey to Vietnam, which she explores on mountain bike as she searches for answers about her father's death during that country's war with the U.S. in the 60's and 70's. Today, we have another clip from the doc, this time showing us the left over bomb craters from that conflict, as well as the challenge that the Vietnamese people face with unexploded landmines that still exist there. It is some sobering footage to say the least and it makes us want to see the full documentary even more.

Collapse of Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica Seems Imminent

Back in December, I posted two articles (here and here) about a growing crack along the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. At the time, the big news was that the giant rift had expanded to as much as 300 feet (91 meters) in width at some point, and it was growing at an alarming rate. So much so that scientists warned that the shelf would soon collapse, dropping an iceberg the size of Delaware into the ocean. At the time, we were in the middle of the Austral summer, so it was hypothesized that the colder temperatures of winter might slow the collapse down, but new reports indicate that that isn't the case, and the loss of this massive piece of ice now seems almost imminent.

According to researchers monitoring the crack on the Ice Shelf, the speed at which it is growing has only increased. Right now, in the dead of the Antarctic winter, it is now splitting apart at a speed of about 33 feet per day. It has also grown as wide at 1500 feet (457 meters) at some points as well. All of that evidence points to the shelf  crumbling apart soon, although scientists aren't sure exactly when that will happen yet.

In a report published online yesterday, researchers at the U.K.'s Project MIDAS had this to say:
"The iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, but its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf. We still can’t tell when calving will occur - it could be hours, days or weeks - but this is a notable departure from previous observations."
They went on to add that when the collapse finally does occur, the Larsen Ice Shelf will lose 10% of its surface area. This will leave the ice in its "most retreated position ever recorded." And "this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula."

Worse yet, the glacier behind the ice shelf will now be more vulnerable to warming ocean temperatures as well. The shelf itself has served as a barrier from the seas, which will likely have a bigger impact on the ice moving forward. In other words, while this will be the largest iceberg ever seen, the impact on Antarctica is likely to be even more substantial.

As scary as this is in terms of climate change, I'd sure love to see some video of the collapse when it occurs. That is could be one cataclysmic event for sure. How this plays out moving forward will be interesting too.

Find out more here.

Gear Junkie Interviews Kilian Jornet On Double Everest Summit

One of the biggest stories from the spring 2017 season on Everest was the double-summit by Kilian Jornet. In case you weren't following along at the time, the Spanish mountain runner set a record time on his first attempt up the mountain, then had a second go at five days later to see if he could improve on his performance. Since then, Jornet has mostly been radio-silent, choosing to focus on returning to competition in a host of ultramaathons across Europe this summer. But now, we have more insights on what it was like to climb the world's highest peak without oxygen or Sherpa support, straight from the horse's mouth.

A few days back, Gear Junkie posted an interview with Kilian that was compiled together from questions asked by a panel of journalists representing several outdoor websites and publications. In it we learn a lot more about the experience, which was a challenge for Jornet, although he indicates that he has learned to compartmentalize pain and suffering to a degree that allows him to push himself beyond normal boundaries.

Some of the more interesting elements to come out of the Q&A session include the fact that the entire expedition was just 28 days in length door-to-door. He was able to to achieve that in part because of his phenomenal physical conditioning of course, but Jornet also warmed up and acclimated on Cho Oyu ahead of time, summiting that 8000-meter peak in just 10 days as well.

Kilian also says that he took just two liters of water with him up the mountain on his first attempt, but one liter froze in his pack. He says that he had to make compromises in terms of weight and mobility, but in the end it turned out okay. On the 15 hour descent he didn't eat or drink anything because his stomach ailment caused him to throw up. On the return trip, he carried four flasks of water, but had two of those freeze on him too.

You'll find all kinds of interesting tidbits throughout the story, including the Spaniard's thoughts on innovative gear for use on Everest, what his training is like, and whether or not he will return to Everest in the future, and where he wants to go next. If any of that sounds intriguing to you, you can read the full interview here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Off to Austin, Texas!

Another quick note to let readers know that I'm about to hit the road again for a few days. This time, I'm returning to Austin, Texas where I'll be once again visiting with Yeti to learn about their latest products, tour the company's Innovation Center, and generally enjoying a visit to my old stomping grounds. I was fortunate enough to live in Austin for nine years, so a return visit feels like going home.

I'll only be away Thursday and Friday of this week, and hope to have some time to post a few brief news updates during that time. But if not, I'll resume posting next week, although things may be a little disrupted with the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S. We'll still find a way to muddle through however, and continue our usual coverage of all things adventurous.

Thanks for being patient with the regular disruptions around here. I'll be back soon, and hopefully you'll enjoy a few adventures of your own while I'm away.

Video: Climbing El Cap with Alex Honnold Using Google Maps

Most of us will never get the chance to climb an iconic rock face like El Capitan, let alone do it with world-class climbers Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell, or Alex Honnold. But, it turns out we can join that trio through he use of technology, as Google Maps has provided a virtual ascent of El Cap that lets us follow along. This video shows us why this is such a special place for climbers the world over, and it gives us insights into what it is like to go up wall. Check it out below, then go make the 3000-foot climb yourself, all without leaving home.

Video: How to Use a Compass

REI has been cranking out some great videos recently, with their instructional clips being especially helpful. For instance, this one is a short tutorial on how to use a compass, something that you would think more people would already know how to do. If you've always been curious as to exactly how a compass works, or you just need a quick refresher course, give this video a look. You'll probably come away with a few new tips to help you navigate through the backcountry.

Outside Posts 2017 Summer Gear Buying Guide

If you're in the market for some new outdoor gear, you're in luck. Outside magazine has just published its 2017 Summer Buying Guide, and as usual it is filled with tons of great gear to see you through your outdoor adventures. In fact, the guide contains more than 330 products in categories that include hiking, fitness, bike, float, run, and travel. In other words, there is plenty to like here, no matter what your outdoor passion happens to be.

Each of the different categories is broken down further into subcategories, with the best options for that type of gear listed there. For instance, under the hiking category you'll find the best summer hiking boots and the best summer jackets, with some amazing options to see you through the warmer months ahead. That same category is home to the best backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags as well, amongst plenty of other options.

With so much interesting gear to sift through, it could take hours to read about it all. But, as usual Outside has covered all of its bases, offering up the best options for just about anything you could possibly be shopping for. For instance, under the Fitness category you'll find the best watches and the best energy snacks, while visiting the travel section reveals the best new cameras and the best luggage too.  If you want to sort through everything, you might want to grab a beverage and some food, and get comfortable for awhile.

As a gear nerd myself, I always enjoy reading Outside's choices for the various categories and this buyer's guide didn't disappoint. It provided plenty of insight into some products that I've already seen – and even tested – as well as quite a few I haven't used as of yet. It also reaffirmed my belief that the outdoor industry is making some of the best, most innovative gear ever at the moment, making it harder to choose what to buy exactly, but delivering so many good options that no matter which way you go, you'll probably come away satisfied. For outdoor enthusiasts, it is a good time to be alive.

Check out the entire guide here.

Two Climbers Go Missing on Nanga Parbat

Troubling news from Pakistan today, where the summer climbing season is still ramping up. ExWeb is reporting that Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan have gone missing on Nagna Parbat and a search and rescue operation is now underway. The two men were climbing along the very difficult Mazeno Ridge prior to their disappearance.

Last week, on June 19, the Argentine and  Spanish climbers set off to make a summit bid on Nanga Parbat, ascending to 5600 meters (18,373 ft) on their first day. But the weather made a sudden shift, bringing heavy snows along with it. This forced them to stay tent-bound for several days, not emerging until June 23, at which time they moved upwards to 6000 meters (19,685 ft). The following day they were once again on the move, with their GPS tracking device showing them climbing as high as 6270 meters (20,570 ft), but shortly there after the tracker stopped at 6112 meters (20,052 ft). It held that position until the device presumably powered itself off later in the evening on June 24. Neither Alberto or Mariano have been seen since.

Earlier today a helicopter was scrambled to fly over their last known location to see if the two men could be spotted. That search proved fruitless however and so far there have been no signs of the climbers. It is possible that they have continued along their route and may have dropped the tracker at some point during the climb. They had expected the Mazeno Ridge to take roughly a week to complete, and had scheduled two days for bad weather as well. That would mean that if they are still climbing they are probably getting low on supplies, as the bad storm that hit on their second day out of Base Camp kept them in place for one day longer than anticipated. Hopefully that is the case, but until they are spotted or make contact, we'll just have to wait to see how things unfold.

Today's helicopter search was eventually called off due to poor weather conditions, but flights are expected to resume tomorrow. We'll keep our fingers crossed that the men turn up safe and sound, but have just been out of communications for several days. More to follow as we the story develops.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Video: The Lofoten Islands of Norway

Remote and wild, the Lofoten Islands in Norway are a gateway to the Arctic. In this video we travel to this incredible place that is seldom visited by outsiders, but holds a raw, untouched beauty that calls out to the adventurous explorer in all of us. The short film is just two-and-a-half minutes long, but is offers some wonderful scenery from this part of the world.

Norway - The Lofoten Islands from Rodrigue El Hajj on Vimeo.

Video: This is Not a Beautiful Hiking Video

Most of the adventurous videos that I share here at The Adventure Blog are all about the amazing journeys that a filmmaker goes on when creating that clip. They seldom show the difficulties that they had to overcome and the hardships they've faced along the way just to get the beautiful shots that make up the film. That is not this video. Here, we join Peter Hochhauser as he sets out on a five month journey to hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail, covering some 2650 miles (4264 km) in the process. This fantastic video essay shows us the ups and downs he faced along the way, and spoiler alert, it turns out it was a fairly beautiful trip nonetheless. Enjoy.

Honnold and Ozturk Abandon Attempt on Mt. Dickey in Alaska

Back in April I wrote about an upcoming expedition that would send Alex Honnold and Renan Ozturk to one of the toughest free climbs in North America. The duo were planning to head to Alaska, where they would attempt a tough route called the Wine Bottle on the East Face of the 2909 meter (9545 ft) Mt. Dickey. The route has only been climbed once before, and it promised to be an incredibly technical and demanding ascent, even for a guy who just free soloed El Capitan.

Fast forward a couple of months, and Alex and Renan – along with renowned alpinist Freddie Wilkinson, are in Alaska, but they have abandoned their attempt on the Wine Bottle route. The trio made camp on the mountain last week and waited for several days for the East Face to dry out before beginning their ascent. But, the weather has been unpredictable this spring and summer, with lots of precipitation over the past few weeks. As a result, the team has pulled the plug on what would have been an interesting project to follow for sure. Apparently they did make one attempt, but it was more of an exploratory climb rather than a full-on assault on the wall.

But all is not lost. According to Men's Journal, the team is now looking at other potential projects in the area and hope to do some other interesting climbs while they're in Alaska. Hopefully we'll hear more about their plans in the days ahead.

After all of the media coverage and hype surrounding Honnold's big climb from earlier in the month, many people wondered what he would do next. Apparently the answer was fly to Alaska and take on some big walls there. The Mt. Dickey climb would have been the perfect follow-up to such an iconic moment for the sport of climbing, but for now it will have to wait. I'm sure these three very talented climbers will come up something equally intriguing soon.

Watch Men's Journal's Adventure section for more updates.

British Solider to Attempt to Become Youngest to Ski Solo to the South Pole

The calendar may say that it is late-June, but it is never too early to look ahead to the Antarctic expedition season, which will get underway in November. This year, the ranks of South Pole skiers will include a man by the name of Scott Sears, who will attempt to become the youngest person to ever ski solo and unsupported to the bottom of the world.

Sears, who is a member of the First Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles in the British Army, has been planning this expedition for more than two years now. In November of this year, he will fly from the U.K. to Punta Arenas, Chile, where he'll hop a flight over to Antarctica and embark on a 1100 km (684 mile) journey across the frozen expanse to reach the South Pole. He'll begin at Hercules Inlet and follow the classic route to 90ºS, dragging his 90 kg (198 pound) sled behind him the entire way.

The junior officer is undertaking this expedition for two reasons. First, he wants to become the youngest person to complete the journey solo and unsupported, and second he is hoping to attempting to raise £25,000 ($31,915) for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, an organization that provides support for vets that have served in that venerable and well respected military unit.

As far as I can tell, the current record for the youngest person to ski to the South Pole is held by another Brit. Luke Robertson made the same journey back in 2015-2016 at the age of 30. I haven't been able to track down just how old Sears is, but his website says that he was "born in the 90's," which would lead me to believe that he could be as old as 27 when he launches the expedition later this year. It should also be noted that there have been plenty of people to reach the South Pole that are younger than that, but they haven't done the full distance, nor have they traveled solo on those journeys.

You can find out more about Scott, his life, and the expedition by visiting his website. Of course, in the fall we'll be following the expedition closely as well. Good luck Scott.

Climber Sets New Women's Speed Record on Denali

While we've been tracking the summer climbing season in Pakistan fairly closely thus far, up in Alaska there has been plenty of action on Denali as well. The mountain is seen as a good training ground for Everest thanks to its technical nature, high latitude, and unpredictable weather, so as a result hundreds of climbers make the attempt each climbing season, which usually lasts from May into July.

This year, the weather has been worse than normal, which has led to a low success rate on the mountain. But alpinist Katie Bono didn't let that get in the way of her summit bid, which actually resulted in a new women's speed record for Denali.

According to Outside online, Bono set off from Base Camp for the summit at 3 AM on June 14. She reached the top around 8:46 PM that evening, then turned around and headed back down, returning to BC later that evening. All told, her round-trip journey took 21 hours and 6 minutes, making it the third fastest time ever on Denali.

The 29-year old climber had to overcome a number of challenges en route to the summit. Outside says that she ran low on food and water, which made a long day an even longer one. She also had to abandoned a previous summit attempt do to poor weather and at one point she had to assist a climbing partner who had taken ill off the mountain as well. Despite those setbacks however, Bono was able to remain focused and patient, which eventually paid off for her.

Congratulations to Katie for not only setting an impressive speed record but also making a successful summit on a very tough mountain. That is an impressive accomplishment all around.

And for the record, the fastest known time on Denali belongs to Kilian Jornet, who made the round trip journey from BC to the summit and back in 11 hours, 40 minutes back in 2014.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Video: Miles Daisher Sets New World Record with 63 BASE Jumps in a Day

Last week, on June 21, the summer solstice occurred here in North America. That's marks the longest day of the year, and to celebrate BASE jumper Miles Daisher set a new world record, making 63 unassisted jumps in a 24 hour period. The biggest challenge in his quest? Climbing out of a narrow river valley 62 times, racking up some serious vertical over the course of the day. Check it out below.

Video: How to Choose a Pair of Trail Running Shoes

When it comes to trail running, the most important piece of gear is without a doubt your running shoes. But, with literally hundreds of different models to choose from, it can be extremely challenging to figure out which ones work best for you. To help us sort through this challenge, our friends at REI have created a video to help us learn how to choose the right shoes. If you're looking to get started in trail running, or are a long time veteran of the sport who'd like to know more, check out the short clip below. It could save you a lot of pain and difficulty.

Aleksander Doba Makes Mid-Atlantic Repairs to Kayak to Continue Paddling Towards Europe

It hasn't been an easy start to Aleksander Doba's third expedition across the Atlantic by kayak. After first embarking from New York City back in early May, he soon found himself pushed back ashore in New Jersey a few days later. The 70-year old Polish adventurer then waited out poor weather before returning to the water once again, only to find himself struggling to make much progress. Eventually he paddled south to reach the Gulf Stream waters, which he had hoped would push him on towards Europe, only to have another challenge arise in the form of a damaged boat, which once again created some setbacks. 

A few weeks back a massive storm hit Doba's position, tossing his boat about in the heavy waves. The poor weather conditions caused severe damage to his rudder, which became entangled in the boat's sea anchors. With no rudder to help keep the boat steady forward progress became very difficult. In fact, the kayak actually lost ground and was pushed back towards the coast of North America for a time. In the first few days following the storm, it looked as if expedition might be over.

Fortunately, Aleksander is a resourceful man and he was able to find a way to fix the rudder even while he was at sea. Few details have been provided on what exactly the repairs entailed, but it seems that Doba has been able to right the ship so to speak, and continue to press onward once more.

According to the last update on his website, the Polish kayaker is now about 650 nautical miles (748 miles/1203 km) off the U.S. coast and 2350 nautical miles (2704 miles/4325 km) from Lisbon, Portugal, the eventual destination for this kayak journey. If successful, it will be Doba's third crossing of the Atlantic in a kayak, although the previous two journeys he traveled east to west, while this time out he's headed in the opposite direction. 

Originally it was believed that Aleksander would reach Portugal sometime in September of this year, although that now seems unlikely. Progress has not been as quick and easy as he had originally hoped, so unless something dramatic changes, its going to take longer than originally planned. For now though, he is happy to have a fully functional kayak once again, and continues to make his way back across the pond. 

I'll continue to follow his progress and post updates when important news arises. 

Chasing the Ghost of Shackleton on South Georgia Island

Regular readers of The Adventure Blog probably already know that I spent the better part of March traveling in the Southern Ocean with Lindblad Expeditions visiting the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. For me, this was the trip of a lifetime, taking me to a place that I had heard about for years, but didn't think I'd ever get a chance to see. So far, I haven't shared too many details of that journey here on the blog, but that's because I was there on assignment for Popular Mechanics, and I wanted to ensure that they published my story before I wrote about it on any other outlets. Last week, they finally posted that article online, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

The article focuses mostly on South Georgia and the time that I spent there. I'm sure most readers are already aware of the role that the island played in the amazing story of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of his ship the Endurance. For me, that is one of the greatest tales of exploration and adventure ever, and it has been a fantastic experience not only sharing that story with the readers at Pop Mech, but also getting the chance to visit that iconic place for myself. South Georgia is indeed a special place filled with natural wonders, history, and mystique. In the days ahead, I'll have a lot more to share on that story, but for those who are interested in reading more now, I'd love it if you headed on over to the PM website and took a look at the article that is posted there now.

I'm especially proud of this particular article as it blends my love of history with my own experiences while traveling. If you're a fan of Shackleton and his ill-fated expedition, I think you'll enjoy the narrative that I've written and put together with the help of my editors at Popular Mechanics. They did a great job of using my words and photos, along with some fantastic historical images, to help me weave an amazing tale. Hopefully you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. And as always, thank you for your support.

Pakistani Climbing Season Ramps Up on K2 and Elsewhere

Before I took off for Outdoor Press Camp last week, the climbing season in the Karakoram was just starting to heat up. Now, most of the teams have settled in to Base Camp on their respective mountains, and are preparing to begin their acclimatization efforts. Right now, it looks like it will be quite a busy summer season, as more commercial teams head to K2 and Broad Peak in particular.

Speaking of K2, Venessa O'Brien is back this year to make another attempt on the mountain. This is her third attempt on that particular peak, which has a summit that remains elusive to even some of the best climber in the world. According to reports, Vanessa and her teammates, led by Dreamers Destinations, arrived in BC yesterday and are now getting settled. They'll soon be joined by a team of Himex climbers as well, as the commercialization of K2 continues.

A number of the squads that are focused on K2 this season will first tune up on Broad Peak, where things are already starting to get interesting. According to Alan Arnette, the Furtenbach Adventures has already spent the night at Camp 3 as part of their acclimatization schedule, which should put them on track to perhaps launch  a summit bid later this week, weather permitting of course. Spaniard Oscar Cadiach is also in Base Camp on BP, where some reports indicate that there is heavy snow on the higher sections of the mountain, which could make things difficult and stall out any potential plans for now as well.


Over on Nanga Parbat, summit bids were already underway this past weekend, but poor weather forced teams to turn back. According to ExWeb, Korean climber Kim HongBin reached Camp 4 on Saturday, but poor conditions forced him and his team to descend back to C3, and then eventually Base Camp as they wait for things to improve. That group of climbers was focused on the Kinshofer Route, but a similar report comes from the Mazeno Ridge, where Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan were reportedly forced to halt their progress too. The duo made it has high as 6100 meters (20,013 feet) before they were forced to bivouac, but it is unclear if they have the supplies needed to continue upward, or if they will now descend back to BC to wait for another weather window.

Meanwhile, on Gasherbrum I and II, teams have begun to settle into Base Camp as well. Most are still getting settled, although a few climbers have now launched their first acclimatization rotations as they prepare for the challenges ahead. While still very difficult peaks due to the altitude, Alan is quick to point out that the mountains area amongst the more accessible of the big 8000-meter hills in the Karakoram.

That's he quick update on where things currently stand on the summer expeditions to the big mountains. I'll post more news as the season continues to develop. Right now, we're still a few weeks away from summit pushes on K2, but the other mountains in the region should continue to be very active.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Off to Outdoor Press Camp Next Week

I'll close out the week with a quick note on next week. I leave Monday for Park City, Utah, where I'll be attending the 2017 edition of Outdoor Press Camp. While there, I'll be meeting with some major outdoor brands, learning about a wide range of new gear and products, and connecting with other writers. It is a full, busy week with lots of activities, which means that The Adventure Blog will likely be on hiatus for the entire time. Should any major news break, I'll try to post an update, but I'll likely resume regular stories on Monday, June 26. 

In the meantime, the weekend is here and its time to get outside and have some fun. Where I'm at, its a bit warm and humid at the moment, but that won't be keeping me inside in the air conditioning for too long. I already have a long run planned for today and possibly some mountain biking tomorrow. Hopefully you have some similar ideas on how to enjoy a few days off as well. 

I'll be back soon!

Video: Pro Kayaker Drops 70-Foot Waterfall on an Inflatable Pool Toy

We've seen some pro kayakers make big drops over massive waterfalls before, but we've never seen anything like this. Here, Rafa Ortiz takes an inflatable pool toy over a 70-foot waterfall in Washington State. Before hand, Rafa gives a tongue-in-cheek interview about how he feels this is the future of his sport, before taking the plunge with a bright orange inflatable lobster. Fun stuff for a Friday.

Men's Journal Gives Us 43 Big Adventures for the Summer

Summer doesn't officially begin until the middle of next week, but for most of us it is already in full swing. To take advantage of the season ahead, Men's Journal has posted an article that provides us with 43 big adventures for the summer, offering up some amazing suggestions on where to go, what to do, and how to get there.

MJ's list is long and varied, with options for readers who want to stay close to home in the U.S. or the more adventurous type who is looking to escape to another country. There are suggestions on where to go climbing, hiking, biking, paddling, and more, with plenty of tried and true classic adventures to go along with some interesting new alternatives too.

Half the fun of a list like this is discovering what is on it for yourself. But, a few of the options that caught my attention included fly-in mountain biking in British Columbia, going for a hike in the Tri-Peaks region of Arkansas, and exploring the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, a place that has on my "must-see" list for a very long time.

Some of the other adventures involve setting some new traditions for yourself, like entering a trail run race, going on a long road trip, or taking a camping outing. Others come from suggestions from people like basketball great Kobe Bryant and John Burke, the president of Trek bikes. You'll find trips that are meant to inspire and motivate, and others that are all about relaxation. In short, no matter what you're looking for out of your summer, you'll probably find something that can scratch your adventurous itch on this list.

In the end though, it doesn't really matter where you get your inspiration for an adventure, but rather that you embrace the opportunity and set off on one. A good adventure is great for the body, mind, and soul, and chances are you'll come home refreshed and eager for more.

Read the entire MJ list here and start planning your escape.

Summits on Nanga Parbat to Start Summer Climbing Season

The summer climbing season in Pakistan is barely underway and there is already stunning news from Nanga Parbat. ExWeb is reporting that eight climbers have already summited that mountain this week, a good month ahead of the usual schedule and even a couple of days before our official preview.

According to the story, the team consists of climbers from Iran, China, and Nepal who had come directly from Kathmandu, arriving on May 28 following a full climbing season in Nepal. That meant they were already acclimated to the altitude and could begin the climb almost immediately. The group was led by Dreamers Destination staff, and not long after reaching the mountain they were able to start their ascent. 

With the Sherpa team already acclimated, the squad immediately went to work on fixing ropes. By June 10 there were nine people at Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat, including four Sherpa, four foreign climbers, and one Pakistani high altitude porter. The following day they moved up, recording one of the earliest summit bids ever. They all descending safely to Base Camp, and they have already left the mountain, with some members of the team now proceeding on to K2 as well. 

This is some incredibly surprising news. Most of the teams planning to climb in Pakistan this summer are still arriving in the country, with a few en route to Base Camp. Most won't be settled on their respective mountains for another week or two, let alone beginning their acclimatization process. Summit bids are still a long way off, with most taking place in late July or even later. But this team took advantage of the fact that they had already acclimatized in Nepal before arriving, and knocked off the mountain in rapid fashion. 

Amazing work to all that were involved and congratulations to the entire team. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Video: Iceland in 4K

Take a beautiful journey across Iceland in this wonderful video, which captures the stunning landscapes found there in 4K, making them feel in more lifelike than ever before. The clip shows us towering mountains, wild coastlines, incredible waterfalls and so much more. This is one of those clips you simply want to sit back and enjoy. So turn up the music and do just that. And if you have a 4K monitor, even better.

ICELAND 4K from Tomas Aamli on Vimeo.

Video: Speak Out for Your Public Lands

A few days back I shared a video that explained exactly what was meant when discussing "public lands." In the wake of that post, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that he would recommend to President Trump that the Bears Ears National Monument be reduced in size. This is seen as a bit of a blow to conservation efforts in Utah, and potentially elsewhere, as a number of other national monuments are also under review. This video reminds us that we need to speak out for our public lands and let our thoughts be known on this subject. We have until July 10 to express our opinions, which can be done at UnitedForPublicLands.com.

Elon Musk Outlines Plans for Sending People to Mars

Billionaire tech-wizard Elon Musk has big ambitions for Space X, the company he founded to make commercial space travel a reality. In the past, he has talked openly about the potential for making routine flights into Earth orbit (something Space X is already doing, albeit with unmanned spacecraft), and he has even announced plans to send travelers to the moon as early as next year. Beyond that however, Musk has waxed philosophically about colonizing Mars, which has seemed like a pipe dream for many of us who have longed to see man step foot on another planet. Many have been dismissive of those plans, but now Musk is offering up insights into how he could make such a project a reality.

Musk has published a story in this month's issue of New Space magazine that provides an outline of how he is approaching the potential for a colony on Mars. To do that, he must first bring the cost of space travel down significantly, something that Space X is working on all the time. Musk estimates that by today's standards, a flight to Mars would cost about $10 billion, making it far too expensive of an undertaking. But, he would like to see that cost reduced to about $200,000 and he has a plan for how to make that happen. 

According to Elon, there are several things that need to happen to make a spaceflight to Mars more approachable. First, the entire spacecraft needs to be reusable, including the rockets, second stages, capsule, landing craft and so on. This is a major element to what Space is already doing, and it's helping to make the company's rockets a cost effective way to deliver payloads into space. 

Beyond that however, Musk says that the interplanetary craft used to travel to Mars would need to be refueled in space in order to efficiently make its way towards the Red planet. Next, it would also need to be able to be refueled on Mars as well. To do that, the Billionaire says that methane might be the answer, as it is inexpensive and easy to reproduce. 

Finally, Musk also provides some rough details about the spacecraft itself, describing its design, interior, propulsion system, and so on. He even discusses a timeline for such a project, which is still years away of course, but something that he has clearly put some serious thought into. 

The entire New Space article is based on Elon's presentation entitled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species," which you can watch below. While this project is obviously near and dear to his heart, and it is still a long way off, I do applaud his efforts to take us further out into space. It will be interesting to watch this unfold. 


Aleksander Doba Catches Gulf Stream on Attempt to Cross Atlantic by Kayak

When we checked in with Aleksander Doba last week he was struggling to make headway across the Atlantic. The 70-year old Polish adventurer had set out a few weeks back on his third crossing of that ocean, this time going west to east. But, after paddling for days, he still remained within 100 miles (160 km) of the U.S. coastline and the expedition looked like it could be jeopardy. But now, a little more than a week later, things have taken a turn for the positive and he is making progress at long last.

With the winds, currents, and weather working against him, Doba had decided to paddle further south with the hopes of catching the Gulf Stream, a fast Atlantic current that could help push him along. It was a bit of a desperate measure that he hoped would allow him to finally begin making progress towards Europe, his eventual landing space. Fortunately, his efforts have payed off, and Pole is now firmly surrounded by that current, as a result he is picking up speed and finally headed in the right direction.

Despite finding his way into the Gulf Stream, the challenges of the expedition are far from over. High winds are still making it difficult for Doba and his 23-foot ocean kayak. On previous Atlantic crossings he found himself rowing in circles at times, and that could definitely happen again here. Still, he has shown his grit and determination on past long-distance journeys and that should prove useful once again.

If he is successful in this crossing, Aleksander will have covered approximately 5000 miles (8046 km) and likely have spent 4+ months at sea. He will also turn 71 during the crossing as well, proving that for him, age is just number. 

I'll continue to monitor his progress throughout the journey and post updates as the news warrants. 

A 118-Year Old Painting Has Been Found in the Antarctic

Here's an amazing story that is also a bit of a mystery. The New Zealand Antarctic Trust has discovered a 118-year old painting in Antarctica that was painted by Dr. Edward Wilson, a member of the ill-fated Scott Expedition that set out for the South Pole in 1911. Wilson was known for being an artist of natural history paintings and drawings, and there is even a museum in his hometown Cheltenham, England that proudly displays his work. But the discovery of this particular piece of art came as a complete surprise.

The painting was found in a portfolio that was recovered from one of the Antarctic huts that the Trust oversees on Cape Adare in the Antarctic. The portfolio was recovered, along with a number of other artifacts, and taken back to New Zealand for examination. It was reportedly covered in penguin excrement, dust, and mold, but when the Trust's conservator Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez was sifting through the documents contained within the portfolio she came across the work of art.

“I opened it and there was this gorgeous painting… I got such a fright that I jumped and shut the portfolio again. I then took the painting out and couldn’t stop looking at it - the colours, the vibrancy, it is such a beautiful piece of work. I couldn’t believe it was there.”

At first it wasn't clear who the artist was, but it was believed to have been someone from Scott's expedition from 1911 or a Norwegian team that had been at Cape Adare back in 1899. But Bergmark-Jimenez later attended a lecture on Wilson and his work and recognized the art style immediately.

But just how the painting found its way into the hut remain a mystery.

“It’s likely that Wilson painted it while he was recovering from tuberculosis in Europe. Clearly, he could have taken the painting to Antarctica on either of Scott’s expeditions but we think it’s more likely the artwork travelled with him in 1911, and somehow made its way from Cape Evans to Cape Adare.”

We'll probably never know exactly how it got there, and once the Trust is done restoring the huts, all of the artifacts will be returned to it. But, it certainly is another interesting slice of Antarctic history. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Video: Instruments of Adventure in Alaska

In this video we follow five friends as they set off on an epic adventure across southern Alaska, traveling by sea kayak, fat bike, and packraft as they go. Those are their instruments of adventure, which allow them to escape the well-trodden paths that most people take in their travels and instead find and carve their own. We all have these types of instruments at our disposal. What's keeping us from using them more too?

Instruments of Adventure from Bjørn on Vimeo.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Alex Honnold's Free Solo of El Cap

It's been more than a week and a half since Alex Honnold completed his historic ascent of the Freerider route on El Capitan without ropes or any other safety equipment at all. Over that period, we've seen this story go from something the climbing community was buzzing about to a full-fledged mainstream phenomenon that has been reported on by dozens of major news outlets. But, if you haven't quite gotten your fill of Honnold news just yet, might I suggest reading one more story, as Men's Journal  has put together a step-by-step guide of his climb, providing more details on what he had to overcome on his way to the top.

All told, there are 33 pitches to be climbed on Freerider. That is, if you were climbing that route using ropes and the usual climbing gear. MJ breaks those pitches down into four sections and looks at the individual parts of the climb that Alex had to work his way through on his way up. The article also enlists other well-known climbers – like Tommy Caldwell and Pete Whittaker – to help explain what each section and pitch involves. As you can imagine, some are far easier than others, with the most difficult obviously requiring a high degree of skill, strength, and mental toughness to overcome, even if you are using ropes to prevent a catastrophic fall.

The story helps to put further context to the story of Honnolds awesome, amazing, terrifying, and mind-blowing climb. We all know that it took supreme concentration and athletic effort for him to scale El Cap in this fashion, but this article provides a lot more detail on the more subtle moves he had to make along the way. It is an eye opening read that breaks down which parts of the route were insanely difficult, and which were merely incredibly tough.

Check out the full story here.

Ultrarunner Sets New Speed Record on Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit in Peru

Ultrarunner Darcy Piceu has set a new "fastest known time" on the iconic Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit in Peru for both men and women. She completed the 85-mile (136 km) route, which has an average altitude of around 14,000 ft (4267 meters), in just 29 hours and 15 minutes. This achieves her goal of finishing the entire trail in less than 30 hours.

The Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit cuts through the Andes Mountains in Peru, weaving its way around and over a number of snowcapped peaks. The route meanders past icy rivers, towering glaciers, and alpine forests as it crosses some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the entire country. The high point of the trail came at Cuyoc Pass, which tops out at 16,404 ft (5000 meters).

Piceu announced her achievement via Instagram where she also shared some images from along the way. Here's what she had to say about the experience:

Expedition to Traverse Antarctic Plateau Planned for 2018

A team of Antarctic explorers is in the process of planning an ambitious exception to the frozen continent that will take them into a remote and largely unexplored region fraught with challenges. ExWeb is reporting that Phil WIckens, Vincent Colliard, and Luc Delriviere will lead a team into the an area known as the Narrow Plateau on the Antarctic Peninsula, where they'll ski along a series of mountains and ridges that are seldom visited by man.

According to the article, the group will travel across a section of the Antarctic that consists of several connected plateaus. They'll begin on the Detroit Plateau, then proceed on to Herbert Plateau, Foster Plateau, Forbidden Plateau, and finally Bruce Plateau. While on the traverse they'll spend most of their time at alludes of 1500 - 1750 meters (4921 - 5741 ft.) as the shuffle along sections that range from several hundred meters across down to just a few meters. They'll also top out on several mountains along the way as well, with views of the nearby Gerlache Strait and Weddell Sea.

Exploring this region on skis has never been done before, and as such it requires quite a bit of planning and preparation. Because of this, the expedition isn't set to launch until the 2018-2019 Antarctic season. Right now, the group is tentatively planning on starting on December 28 of next year with a projected end date of February 8, 2019.

Unlike most expeditions to the Antarctic, the members of this squad won't be flying to Union Glacier either. Instead, they'll gather in Ushuaia, Argentina and board a specially prepared Antarctic yacht called the Icebird. They'll spend approximately three days sailing across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, where the journey will truly get underway. Once there, they'll have a full month out on the ice as they traverse the Narrow Plateau. And when they're finished, they'll sail back to Ushuaia.

The start of the expedition is still more than a year and a half away, so hopefully we'll hear more about their plans in the coming months. As usual, I'll be watching the Antarctic season unfold and will share more details as we get them. Sounds like an interesting project in a part of the Antarctic that we seldom hear anyone visiting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Video: Riding the Super Technical 'Treasure Trail' in Squamish, Canada

The "Treasure Trail" in Squamish, Canada is considered a very technical mountain biking route, and definitely not for beginners. In this video we get a first-person look at what it like to ride this wild trail as we join pro rider Richie Schley and friends as they test their skills on a path that includes big drops and plenty of narrow, twisty singletrack. It looks like a lot of fun, although I'm happy to just watch from the safety of my home at the moment.

Video: Adventure in Real Life

Most of the time when someone makes a video of their travels it only shows the glorious landscapes and amazing fun that they had while on the road. Those short films don't show the downtime that we all have to deal with in airports and on busses, but instead give the impression that everything always goes as planned and the results are perfect. Not so here. In this clip we join a group of travelers on their way to Patagonia in South America. Along the way the discover that things can get very challenging, and not everything goes as expected. But, that's also when the true adventure begins, allowing us to appreciate our normal lives just a bit more. This is a wonderful four minute film that serves as a good reminder of why we love adventure so, and why we need it in our lives, even when things go off the rails a bit along the way.

Gear Closet: Endeavor Exceed Run Short 2.0 and Edge Hoody

If you're in the market for some excellent new exercise gear to keep you comfortable during your workouts, take a look at what Endeavor Athletic has to offer. I was recently introduced to the brand and have had the chance to check out a couple of their pieces and have come away thoroughly impressed. Here's what I've been testing, along with some thoughts on each item.

Endeavor Exceed Run Short 2.0
I'm a runner. I run almost everyday. On the road and on the trail, running is my favorite form of exercise and it is a good stress reliever after a long day. That's why it is important to me to stay comfortable during my workouts, and that starts with a good pair of running shorts. For me, those shorts need to fit snugly, but not in a way that constricts movement. They also need to provide some level of moisture management, as I can get pretty sweaty when running hard. It doesn't hurt if those same shorts can be versatile enough to be used in other activities too. 

That's exactly what I got out of Endeavor's Exceed Run Short 2.0. I've spent more than month testing these shorts in a variety of conditions ranging from mild and comfortable to hot and steamy, and they have performed well in all cases. I've even run with them in the rain and they performed well in those conditions too. This gives me a lot of confidence in knowing that when I set out on a run, the shorts that I'm wearing will work well, even if the weather shifts somewhere along the way. 

The Exceed Run Short come with two zippered pockets that are surprisingly large and deep. This makes them a nice option for securely stowing a smartphone, keys, a few energy gels, or other small items. Endeavor has even managed to sneak in a couple of reflective logos to help the shorts stand out in low light conditions, along with a small interior pocket as well.

But what I like most about these shorts is just how comfortable they are to wear. Made from lightweight, flexible nylon, the Exceed Run Short moves well with the body, thanks in part to their anatomical cut that. A built-in brief provides extra support during the run, but better yet hasn't caused any type of chafing as of yet. Laser perforated ventilation holes provide an extra measure of breathability, while a drawstring waistband allows runners to adjust the size to fit their individual needs. 

If you're looking for a comfortable pair of shorts for your outdoor workout routine, the Exceed is an excellent option. These shorts are durable, comfortable, and built with runners specifically in mind. That said however, they'll serve you well in a variety of other activities too, including an intense CrossFit class, stand volleyball at the beach, or just kicking around in the backyard. (Price: $75)

Endeavor Edge Hoody
When it comes to versatility, its difficult to top the Endeavor Edge Hoody. I've found it to be a great option to have in your closet on cold weather runs, but it can also be pulled on after a workout to keep you warm in cooler conditions too. The hoody features a nice, athletic cut that makes it a good choice to wear during your outdoor workouts, trips to the gym, or even just running errands around town. 

When designing the Edge Hoody, the team at Endeavor managed to work in plenty of nice features. For instance, it comes with a mesh back and underarm vents to help regulate temperature and it features two large hand pockets as well. The hoody also comes with a media pocket, complete with headphone management system, and thumb loops to pull the sleeves down over your hands for added warmth. 

Additional features include reflective logos, a mesh-lined hood, and an integrated polygiene odor control system that keeps the jacket feeling and smelling fresh, even after numerous workouts. The hoody is also made from durable knit fabrics that have survived countless runs – not to mention washes – without losing any of its luster. The Edge still looks as good now as it did when it was first shipped to me awhile back. 

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a comfortable hoody that performs well. I have a couple of them in my closet that I happen to love, one of which has accompanied me on some far flung adventures to remote corners of the globe. The Edge is good enough to take its place alongside those other jackets that I enjoy so much. It is comfortable, good looking, and allows you to move without impairing motion, despite the fact that it feels snug when you're wearing it. All of this make is a great choice for  outdoor athletes who need a versatile piece of clothing for cold weather workouts. (Price: $120)

Summer Climbing Season in Pakistan Begins

ExWeb has posted an update to the start of the summer 2017 climbing season in Pakistan, where things are going about as well as expected so far as teams begin to trickle into the country. In fact, some of the early arrivals have already reached Base Camp as they prepare for some big challenges ahead.

Nanga Parbat is open for business again this year and will welcome a couple of different teams. Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan headed to Pakistan from Nepal, and hope to take advantage of the fact that they have already acclimatized on Annapurna and Lhotse respectively. They're on their way to the mountain already where they hope to take on the very difficult Mazeno Ridge route, which includes eight peaks above 6000 meters (19,685 ft).

Over on the Diamir Face two teams will be attempting Nanga Parbat as well. The Dreamers Destination squad has already reached BC and are getting settled there, while a Korean team is currently in Islamabad and preparing to depart for the mountains in the next few days.

A team of international climbers that includes Grace McDonald is already en route to Broad Peak. The team is trekking in the Concordia region now and are expected to have a rest day today before proceeding on tomorrow. They'll soon be joined by a number of other teams as the month goes on, as BP serves as an acclimatization mountain for nearby K2, with some alpinists looking for the double-header this summer by first warming up on Broad Peak then moving over to the technically much more difficult K2.


Speaking of K2, ExWeb reports that Polish climber Andrezej Bargiel will attempt to summit that mountain and ski back down. The site also indicates that Spanish mountaineer Oscar Cadiach is headed to the mountain as well with the hopes of summiting without the use of bottled oxygen. If successful, he'll have done so on all 14 of the 8000 meter peaks. He has just left home yesterday and should arrive in Pakistan sometime today.

Finally, several squads have also turned their attention to the Gasherbrums, with a trio of Spaniards (Alberto Inurrategi, Juan Vallejo, and Mikel Zabalza) hoping to make a traverse of GI and GII in alpine style. They made the same attempt last year but were turned back due to poor weather conditions. The three men are reportedly already in Skardu and preparing to set out for the mountains soon.

ExWeb says Czech climber Marek Holecek is back on Gasherbrum I to attempt the Southwest Face, a route he has been working on for several years now. He'll be joined on that mountain by several commercial teams as well.

As you can see, the season is just starting to ramp up, but there should be plenty of action for us to follow in the days ahead. Of particular interest will be K2, which is always extremely difficult thanks to the technical challenges it presents coupled with the extremely poor weather conditions that are typical there. It should be interesting to see if the mountain will be more accessible this year.


Climbers Confirm the Hillary Step has Been Altered

One of the big stories to come out of this past climbing season on Everest was the current state of the Hillary Step, a famous landmark located on the South Side of the mountain just below the summit that was the final hurdle that needed to be overcome before reaching the top. Not long after the ropes were fixed to the summit this year we received word that the Hillary Step was gone from the mountain, possibly due to the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Later, Nepalese officials tried to reassure us that it was indeed still in place, but simply covered in snow, causing a bit of uncertainty and doubt over its current status. Now, we get further word on the condition of this iconic point on the climb, and it sounds like the initial reports were true after all.

Mountaineers Garrett Madison and Ben Jones tell Outside magazine that at the very least, the Hillary Step has been severely altered. Originally, the Step consisted of several large boulders stacked on top of one another, with smaller rocks wedged in around them. This created a near vertical rock wall 39 feet (11.8 meters) in height that had to be scaled before proceeding to the summit. Now, it appears that the largest of those boulders has come off the top of the landmark, bringing quite a bit of debris down with it.

Madison tells Outside “The boulder formally know as the Hillary Step is gone. It’s pretty obvious that the boulder fell off and has been replaced by snow. You can see some of the rocks below it that were there before, but the gigantic boulder is missing now.”

The top of the Hilary Step is now covered in deep snow, which helped to hide the fact that it had been altered, even though there were reports during the 2016 season that it was damaged. The snow remained this year as well, but the damage done to the mountain was more evident as climbers approached.

So how will this alter the ascent along the South Col route? Madison says it has made it easier, as climbers no longer have to scale the vertical rock face. Instead they can go up a series of snow steps that are easier to navigate. He also thinks the removal of the giant boulder will help alleviate traffic jams coming and going from the summit, something that was common in the past but wasn't much of an issue this year.

Others aren't sure that the loss of the Hillary Step will make things easier, particularly if there isn't any snow. But, as noted in the Outside article, the biggest disappointment is that an iconic monument of the mountain – named for Edmund Hillary – is now gone. That is something that simply can't be replaced.

Read more here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Video: Outside Explains What the Term "Public Lands" Means and Why it is Important

Federally owned (aka "public") lands have been in the news a lot recently thanks to President Trump's decision to review many of the protected areas that have been designated at national monuments from the three presidents that held office prior to him. Some of those areas could see their protected status go away, potentially opening them up to commercial development. So what exactly does this mean for us? What are public lands exactly? In this vide Outside magazine explains what defines these places and why we as outdoor enthusiasts should take an interest in what is happening with those spaces right now. If you're not aware of this situation this video will help explain it further.

Video: Meet the First American to Explore Africa

Today we get a little history lesson courtesy of National Geographic. This video takes us to the furthest reaches of the African continent along with American explorer William Stamps, who traveled deep into the heart of the Congo back in 1889. He spent eight years there, making first contact with three different tribes and bringing back knowledge of the place, which up until then had remained mostly a blank spot on the map. Truly an interesting character. Enjoy.

Oru Kayaks to Attempt First Solo Crossing From Cuba to Key West by Kayak

The team at Oru Kayaks is getting ready for an epic paddling adventure. In July, the company will test its unique, origami-inspired kayaks on a record setting attempt at the first solo crossing from Cuba to Florida, overcoming some significant challenges along the way. That crossing has been done on stand-up paddleboards and tandem kayaks, but it has yet to be completed by solo paddlers in their own individual boats. 

The journey is expected to begin in Havana and end in Key West, covering some 103-miles in between. The solo paddlers are expected to take roughly 30-40 hours to cross that distance, spending the entire time in the cockpit of their boats. Along the way they'll be facing potentially poor weather, rough seas, sharks, and unpredictable currents, as well as other hazards.

The team will attempt the crossing in Oru's new Coast XT, a 16' (4.8 meter) long expedition boat built for use out on the ocean. The Coast can carry up to 400 pounds, offers 180 liters of storage, and is designed to be stable enough for open water crossings. But, just like every other Oru boat, this kayak comes apart, and folds up into a relatively small and easy to carry box too. 

A few weeks back I had a chance to travel to Oregon to take an Oru kayak (the Bay ST) on a test paddle down the John Day River. (Read my thoughts here.) These boats are certainly intriguing, and are versatile enough to be used in a variety of situation. I happen to love their ability to be packed away in a closet and carried in the trunk of a car, only to be unfolded and up and on the water in a matter of minutes. This crossing from Cuba to Florida will be a great test of their abilities and will demonstrate just how well made these boats truly are. This won't be a walk in the park however, so it should be interesting to see how the expedition unfolds. 

I'll keep an eye on the team's progress in July as they get started. It should be a fun trip to follow along with. Good luck to the entire team!

Conrad Anker Shares Thoughts on Ueli Steck's Final Climb

As successful as the 2017 climbing season in the Himalaya was, there will always be a dark cloud that hangs over the proceeding there. That's because on April 30, the mountaineering community lost one of its most well known and accomplished members when Swiss climber Ueli Steck fell to his death while training on Nuptse. To say that Steck was a pioneer in the world of alpinism would be an understatement. He changed the game in a lot of ways when it came to conditioning, training, and moving fast and light in the mountains. He showed us that there were unique, new ways to do things on big peaks and he continuously opened our minds to what was possible.

Now, a month and a half after his death, many of us are still wondering what happened to him as he climbed alone in the Himalaya that day. To help us sort it all out, another esteemed and accomplished mountaineer has penned a story for Men's Journal. The article is written by Conrad Anker and it looks to provide readers not only with insights into Ueli as a person, but the expedition he was hoping to complete this year as well.

It is important to note that Nuptse was simply a training mountain for Ueli. He was there to work on his acclimatization prior to launching what would be his real challenge. The plan was for Steck to summit Everest along the West Ridge, an incredibly difficult route that was first completed back in 1963 and has never been done again since. After reaching the top of Everest, Ueli would have traversed a narrow ridge over to Lhotse, topping out on that peak as well, all without coming down from altitude. It would have been an incredibly bold, daring, and dangerous project, which unfortunately we'll never know how it would have turned out.

In the article, Anker shares stories of when he and Ueli crossed paths over the years, finding themselves on the same mountains from time to time. He also lays out Steck's impressive climbing resume, putting those efforts into better perspective for us mere mortals. The story is one of both life and death, and is part of the grieving process that the mountaineering community is still going through. This is one mater climber discussing another, and it is a fascinating story about risk, reward, and the all consuming obsession of exploring the mountains.

Read the entire story here.

2017 Turned Out to be a Mixture of Success and Failure on Everest

The Nepali Department of Tourism has released its final numbers for the 2017 spring climbing season, and the numbers are mixed bag to say the least. At the start of the season is was expected to be a record setting one, with perhaps the highest summit total in the history of the mountain. But, now that the dust has settled, it seems that while there were plenty of successful summits, there were also quite a few that never reached the top as well.

According to The Himalayan Times, a minimum of 449 climbers reached the summit of the mountain this year, with most of those being local climbers and guides. Of that number, 190 were foreign alpinists, with most climbing as part of one of the  42 teams that was issued permits for climbing this spring. According to the article, this brings the total number of summits of Everest to 5328 since 1953 when it was first scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

While those numbers are solid and represent a healthy year on Everest, perhaps most interesting is that of all the permits that were issued for this season, 164 people failed to reach the top of the mountain. That is a fairly high number of people that weren't able to summit at some point during the season. The Times indicates that the dicey weather conditions, and short summit windows are mostly to blame. DOT officials say that overall, it was another successful season, but high winds above Camp 4 during the final weeks of May created an abbreviated weather window that helped teams avoid traffic jams, but kept some squads from ever making a legitimate push to the top.

Sadly, the official numbers also say that six people perished while attempting to climb Everest this spring. They included Roland Yearwood, Vladimir Strba, Ravi Kumar, Min Bahadur Sherchan, Goth Kuber Rai and Ueli Steck. While every death on Everest is a tragic loss, that is a fairly modest number as well considering the large number of people that were on both the North and South Sides of the mountain.

Elsewhere in Nepal it was a healthy climbing season as well. Officials say that in total, there were 109 expeditions with 840 climbers who were issued permits for climbing this past spring. Aside from Everest, the next most popular peak was Lhotse (113 permits), followed by Dhaulagiri (77) and Makalu (45). Annapurna received an additional 14 permits as well.

With the monsoon now descending on Nepal we won't see any significant expeditions until the fall at the earliest. And while the spring season may not have ended up being quite as successful as everyone had hoped, it was another good season overall. That should set the stage for big things in 2018 and beyond.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thank You to Grayl for Sponsoring The Adventure Blog in June!

As we wrap up another full week here at The Adventure Blog, I wanted to take this opportunity to send out a special thank you to my friends over at Grayl who have generously sponsored the site for the entire month of June. Not only is it a fine group of people that work for the company, but they happen to make a product that I actually love too.

For those unfamiliar with Grayl, you can read my review of their awesome water purification bottle that I wrote for the Gear Institute here. But essentially, all you need to know, is that you can fill the bottle from pretty much any water source, and clean it of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in about 15 seconds. It is fast, convenient, and best of all it works. I should know, as I've taken it with me on many of my own adventures.

The Grayl Ultralight comes in a variety of colors, weighs in at 10.9 ounces, and sells for just $59.50. In terms of overall value, that's pretty outstanding, as it is tough to beat just how easy and effective this purification system truly is.

Find out more at TheGrayl.com, which has all the lowdown on how the system works. I think you'll find it is an amazing product and one you'll want to have at your disposal too.