Friday, May 18, 2018

Video: I Train So I Can - Mirna Valerio

Recently outdoor footwear manufacturer Merrell launched a new campaign called "I train so I can..." with various outdoor athletes filling in the reasons why they go out and run, ride, and exercise. Each of them briefly explains why it is they actually workout and focus on their training. For instance, in my case it's because I want to be in good shape, healthy, and be able to enjoy all of the activities that I do outdoors. I do not train for a race. In this video, we'll find out why ultrarunner Mirna Valerio trains as well, as she focuses on not only her health, but educating and promoting diversity and understanding too.

Video: Setting an FKT on Kilimanjaro

In this video, we join Brazilian ultrarunner Fernanda Maciel as she attempts to set a "fastest known time" on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. We'll see her have a go at setting the speed record on one of the most iconic mountains in the world, completing her journey from base to summit in just 10 hours and 6 minutes, a blistering pace on a trail that typically takes 5-6 days to complete at a minimum. Along the way, you'll also get some amazing views of what Kili has to offer. Really a great, inspiring clip.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lhotse Face Skiers Free to Climb, More Summits!

I'm still traveling home from the press event I've been at over the past couple of days, so this might be the only post I get to make today. That said, it's a good one, with lots of news from the Himalaya as the climbing season continues to unfold with more summits, not to mention an update on the two climbers who found themselves in trouble with the government for skiing the Lhotse Face.

Let's begin there. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably already know that Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas climbed up to Camp 3 on Everest back on May 2, then proceeded to ski back down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2. This was a great accomplishment for the duo, who have come to the Himalaya to summit not on the world's highest mountain, but its next-door neighbor Lhotse too. The only problem was, they didn't have a ski permit, which created quite a stir with the Nepali government.

When officials got word of the "illegal" ski descent, they threatened to pull Matt and Willie's climbing permits, putting their expedition in jeopardy. But as the situation continued to play out, we also learned that there was no mention of the need for such a permit in the mountaineering regulations. In fact, the only mention of it is found in another regulatory section, which is in Nepali, making it very difficult for foreigners to even know that such a permit was needed.

Last week we learned that 150 climbers, including many Sherpas, signed a letter to the Nepali government requesting that Matt and Willie be allowed to climb. The group argued that the two skiers did not put anyone in jeopardy, nor did they cause any problems on the mountain. Even better, Willie has been guiding on Everest for 20+ years, contributing to the economic well-being of the country.

Apparently someone in Nepal came to his or her senses, because we have now learned that Matt and Willie will be allowed to climb after all. Yesterday, The Himalayan Times reported that the duo will have to pay for the ski permit, which costs $1000, and a $500 garbage deposit. Additionally, their expedition support team will be charged Rs 50,000 ($465) and the team's liaison officer will be warned for not being on the mountain to oversee these kinds of activities.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 19: Family Camping Adventures

I"m on the road today at a press event, but wanted to share the latest episode of The Adventure Podcast. As usual, the show is available to download on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. I've also embedded the show in this blog post for those who prefer to listen straight from their browser.

In this week's episode, we start things off with an update on what's happening in the Himalaya, the Volvo Ocean Race, and the Giro d'Italia, before delving into what could be the start of the outside industry's #metoo movement. Then we get some great family camping/backpacking tips from Dave who has a lot of experience in this area, before wrapping up with some cool gear news and gear picks for trail running and mountaineering.

Of course, you can join us online at our Facebook Page and our Twitter account, or email us directly too. We always love your feedback and questions, so keep 'em coming. And as always, thanks for listening!


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Video: New Zealand Ascending

Travel to New Zealand's South Island in this amazing video which captures the landscapes and lighting of that destination in all of its glory. Along the way we travel across the country's highland, through the rainforest, and up into the Southern Alps where the scenery just gets more and more breathtaking as we go along. If you're in need of a mid-week escape to someplace beautiful and adventurous, this will definitely scratch that itch.

NEW ZEALAND ASCENDING | EXTENDED CUT from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

Video: Want to Change the World? Take a Vacation!

We all want to have a positive impact on our planet, but who knew taking a vacation might be a good way to do just that? In this video. Shannon Stowell, the CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, tells us why travel can do great things for the world, fostering better understanding, connecting people, and promoting conversation too. Shannon manages to tackle those weighty topics while remaining entertaining, funny, and insightful. Want to change the world? Go on vacation!

REI's Outessa Announces Dates and Locations for 2018

Sorry guys, this post is just for the ladies!

REI has announced the dates and destinations for its 2018 Outessa retreats. These three-day long adventure camps are designed just for women, encouraging them to not only get outside and enjoy their favorite activities (along with some new ones), but also meet and make new friends along the way. The program has been a highly successful one so far, with hundreds of women attending each of the weekends getaways this year. Those numbers are expected to grow in 2018 as more ladies learn about Outessa and everything the camps have to offer.

This year there will be two Outessa retreats, the first of which will take place in Squaw Valley, California near Lake Tahoe from August 2-5. The other will be held September 13-16 at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. Both locations will play host to great yoga and exercise classes, rock climbing, mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding, backpacking seminars, hiking, and much more.

Outessa is part of REI's Force of Nature program, which his specifically designed to get more women interested in the outdoors. The gear retailer knows that not everyone can attend Outessa, so it is holding a virtual join-in for the first time too. This will allow women to take part in organizing their own outings and pledge miles towards achieving their goals.

You can find out more and sign up to take part in a retreat on the official Outessa page.


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Outside Magazine Reveals 2018 Summer Gear Buyers Guide

If you're looking for new outdoor gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and happy this summer, than Outside magazine has you covered. The publication has just launched its 2018 Summer Buyer's Guide with more than 360 products to sift through. That ought to be enough to satisfy even the most voracious of gear nerds, providing everything you need to enjoy your favorite activities in the busy season ahead. 

All of that gear is broken down into some large categories, which include Hike, Travel, Float, Bike, Run, and Fitness. Each of those categories is further subdivide with pertinent gear falling under the most applicable. For instance, you'll find the best trail shoes and sleeping bags under hiking, while the best cameras fall under travel, the best SUP boards are under float, and so on.

As usual, Outside has done an excellent job of sorting through all of the thousands of outdoor products that are available and filtering down to the best in each category. You'll generally find five or six products under each heading, with a brief description of why those items are considered to be amongst the best. You'll also find links to buy each of the products online once you've made up your mind as to which ones you need to add to your gear collection.

No matter what your favorite outdoor pursuit is, chances are you'll find some great new gear to support your outings on the Outside list. You can read the entire thing starting here

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lots of Summits, New Records on Everest, Oxygen Regulators Fail on North Side

The day we've all been waiting for is finally here. The first major wave of summits are upon us on Mt. Everest, where a number of teams have now reached the top. The weather is reportedly very good at the moment, with low winds making it a good day to top out on the world's highest peak. Even better, the forecast looks good for the next few days, setting the stage for several more good summit days to come.

The South Side of the mountain in Nepal has been a hive of activity with teams either heading to the summit or moving up to the various camps to get into position to do so. The Adventure Consultants have put several members of the team on the summit, including lead guide and owner Guy Cotter. Jagged Globe has also sent its team up, but there is no official word on their success yet. Kaitu Everest Expedition reports 100% success with 8 Sherpas and 6 clients standing on top. Meanwhile, the IMG team is now heading up the mountain to take advantage of the weather windows.

On the North Side of Everest in Tibet things are also moving quickly, although with significantly fewer climbers it isn't quite so hectic from that direction. Furtenback Adventures is reporting 100% summit success today too with all clients and Sherpas reaching the top around 5:00 AM local time. It seems that a number of the other North-Side teams are lining up behind them to follow.

Unfortunately, Alpenglow isn't one of them. The team was on the move this morning and looked like they were about to summit when they started to have a rash of failures on their oxygen regulators. The equipment apparently quit working when the team was at 8500 meters (27,887 ft). In fact, Adrian Ballinger tells Alan Arnette that 10 of the team's 39 regulators inexplicably malfunctioned, forcing everyone to turn around and head back to C3. On the descent, another four regulators stopped working as well. Apparently the initial set of breakdowns all occurred within four minutes of one another, while the second set all happened between 8300 and 7700 meters (27,230-25,262 ft.) on the descent.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Video: What it Takes to be an Ultra Man

Want to know what it takes to truly compete in the world of ultra running? British endurance athlete Robbie Britton has some insight into that area and shares them with viewers in this video. As you would imagine, it takes a lot of dedication, training, and commitment. But as you'll see, it even goes beyond that.

Ultra Man from GoshDamn on Vimeo.

Video: The Top 7 Unclimbed Mountains in the World

I'm going to give this video a thumbs up for its content and information, but the robotic voice used to create the narrator isn't exactly the best. Still, it is filled with some impressive images and historical data as the filmmaker runs down the pick fo the top 7 unclimbed peaks in the world. Some of these are fairly well known while others are a bit more off the beaten path, making them potentially more alluring for climbers. Just be sure to leave the robot narrator at home.

Brazilian Adventurer Plans to Cross Antarctica on a Bike

The start of the 2018-2019 Antarctic season is still quite a long way off, but we're already starting to get a hint at some of the expeditions we can expect to follow later this year. Among them will be Leandro Martins, a Brazilian native who now teaches kindergarten in Shanghai, who intendeds to cross the frozen continent on a bike.

Martins says that he plans to begin his ride on the Ross Ice Shelf, pedal up to the Antarctic Plateau, travel to the South Pole, and end his journey at Hercules Inlet. If successful, he'll be the first person to travel Antarctica by bike, covering some 1800 km (1118 miles) in the process. He expect that it will take him 50-60 days to complete the journey, riding somewhere between 8-12 hours per day.

The use of fat bikes to cross snow and ice has become increasingly popular in the Antarctic in recent years, but a number of riders who have attempted to pedal to the South Pole have come up short. It turns out, this is an incredibly difficult way to cross Antarctica, with surface conditions not always being very conducive to riding. Massive sastrugi can slow cyclists down too and they still have to carry the same amount of equipment as skiers, meaning the bike tends to be very heavy.

Still, such a ride isn't without precedent. American Daniel Burton successful made the journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole back in 2013, becoming the first person to complete that journey. He rode for 1243 km (775 miles), which is considerably less than what Martins plans. It should also be noted that polar explorer Eric Larsen made an attempt to ride to the South Pole back in 2012 and abandoned his expedition about a quarter of the way in.

That isn't deterring Martins one bit however. He expects to embark on his journey later this year. Of course, we'll be following along closely when he does.

Researchers Record Highest Wave Ever in the Southern Hemisphere

A team of oceanographers researching the movement of the oceans has revealed that it has recorded the largest wave ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere. The wave reached a height of 78 feet (23.7 meters) and was created by intense storms raging in the Southern Ocean.

This massive wave was detected by a high-tech buoy operated by MetOcean, a company that specializes in oceanographic and meteorological solutions for collecting environmental data. The buoy floats in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Campbell Island, which is located about 430 miles (692 km) south of New Zealand. The device detected the wave on May 9, relaying the data to MetOcean research stations remotely.

The buoy is powered by solar power and turns itself on for 20 minutes every three hours to sample the movement of the waves. As such, it may have missed some of the largest waves traveling through the area at the time. Weather forecasts predicted that largest could crest out at over 82 feet (25 meters) The previous record for the largest wave in this part of the world was 63.6 feet (19.4 meters) in the same stretch of the Southern Hemisphere last year.

Scientists say that these types of waves are not all that unusual in the Southern Ocean, which is known for its incredibly strong wind and massive storms. Where as in the Northern Hemisphere the conditions necessary to create the waves usually only occur in the winter, down south they can pop up at any time of the year.

This comes just a short time after we received video of a surfer taking on the largest wave ever as well. In that clip, Rodrigo Koxa surfed an 80-foot (24.3 meter) wave off the coast of Portugal. That alone sounds terrifying enough, but traveling to the Southern Ocean to find these massive swells sounds even crazier.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Winds Delay Summit Bids on Everest, A Death on Makalu

High winds have returned on the South Side of Everest creating a speed-bump of sorts heading into the summit push for most of the teams. Several squads have halted their push to the top to wait out the weather with conditions expected to improve today or tomorrow, granting access again to the summit. Until then, most of the teams are in a holding pattern or moving up to Camp 2 or 3 to get into position.

The Jagged Globe team was the first to report poor conditions high on Everest. The climbers were in C3 yesterday and left for Camp 4, only to turn back three hours into the march up the mountain. They ended up spending another night at C3 and plan on pushing back up today provided the winds have dropped and the weather has improved. Otherwise, they'll spend a third night in C3 before proceeding up.

The Adventure Consultants sent their first group off early yesterday morning with the group pushing throughout the day to reach C2. If the weather cooperates, and the climbers stay on schedule, they'll be looking to top out on Thursday. Meanwhile, the IMG squad is still biding its time in Base Camp while the Sherpas carry loads of gear – including oxygen bottles – up to Camp 3. They're looking to launch their summit bids in another day or two as the weather conditions continue to improve.

On the North Side of the mountain in Tibet, the winds don't seem to be quite so bad at the moment, but most of the teams are still making their way up to ABC and positioning themselves for summit bids. The two Alpenglow teams are on the move and hope to be in position to reach the top today or tomorrow. One of those teams has already summited Cho Oyu this season and is getting an extra day of rest, but is expected to meet the other team in Camp 4 and push to the top together.

As you can tell, there is a lot of movement going on right now on both sides of Everest. The weather window is nearly upon us and all of the teams are jockeying for position. It now looks like we can expect summit bids starting tomorrow and running all the way through the weekend, so stay tuned for lots of news over the next few days. There should be some interesting stories to come.

Finally, sad news from Makalu today as The Himalayan Times is reporting that a Ang Dawa Sherpa – age 32 – died in Base Camp on that mountain yesterday. He reportedly suffered from altitude sickness in Camp 2 on Monday after returning from the summit the day before. Efforts to evacuate him from the mountain were stymied due to poor weather conditions, which prevented a helicopter from being able to land and retrieve the sick climber. Our condolences go out to Ang Dawa's friends, family, and teammates.

More news to come soon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Video: Kayaking Uganda

If you've ever wondered what it is like to paddle big water in Africa, this video is for you. It takes us to Uganda, where you'll see kayakers take on some incredible surf on the rivers there, even as the legendary wildlife from the region watches on. Looks like a truly epic place to catch some waves with wild whitewater to keep you on your toes.

Video: Traditional Sleeping Bags vs. Down Quilts

As we head into the summer months its time too start thinking about our camping gear a bit more closely and in particular what type of sleep system we want to take with us on our adventures. Sleeping bags are great for some situations and in others a good down quilt has become a viable alternative. In this video, you'll get a rundown of what makes each of them good for what they do and which one you should use when. Personally, I'm a sleeping bag guy when its cold, but like a quilt in the warmer weather. Simple as that!

Adventure Tech: SPOT X Two-Way Satellite Communicator

Last week I shared the news that Garmin had introduces the new inReach Mini satellite communicator, and now we have another entry into this category. After not releasing much in the way of new products over the past couple of years, SPOT has returned with a vengeance, this time bringing a two-way communications device to the masses at long last.

The new SPOT X device add a keyboard and a screen to a SPOT tracker for the very first time. This gives users the ability to send messages to any cell phone or e-mail address on the planet and greatly extended the possibilities for communicating from remote places. Previously, SPOT devices could only send short, pre-determined messages to preset numbers and addresses, but this new model is much more versatile in that regard.

Looking at the SPOT coverage map however, the two-way messaging is limited to North and South America, Europe, and most of Africa. The Middle East, Asia, and Australia do not receive two-way coverage, but can still send one-way messages. That means if you plan to use this at Everest Base Camp, don't plan on receiving incoming messages on your way up the mountain.

As with other SPOT devices, the X allows for GPS tracking while in the field, giving friends and family back home the ability to follow along with your adventures. It also has a digital compass to aid with navigation, the ability to send brief "check-in" messages to let others know you're alright, and the option to share location data and messages to social media too. This being a SPOT device, it can also send out an SOS alert should the user run into trouble in a remote location.

The new SPOT X is priced very affordably at $249.99. That makes it one of the most affordable satellite communications devices on the market today, with monthly service plans starting at about $19.99. The one downside is that the device uses the Globalstar network, which doesn't offer quite as much coverage as say the Iridium network, which extended all the way to the Poles. Still, for most people, the SPOT will cover what they want to do, and its low-cost of entry will aid in making it an indispensable safety net for those who wander off the beaten path.

Find out more at findmespot.com.

Plastic Bag Found at The Bottom of the Mariana Trench

We've had a slew of disturbing environmental stories of late, but this one might just rank up there with the most troubling of them. We all know that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a major problem that is only continuing to grow and get worse. That's the place in the Pacific Ocean where millions of pounds of plastic and other debris are collecting, with some estimating that the GPGP is perhaps 16 times larger than initially thought. Now, we get word that the spread of plastic in our ocean is hitting even more remote places. Places that we previously believed were safe.

A recent study has found that a common plastic bag, like the ones used in grocery stores around the world, was found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The bag was discovered there by a team of researchers who were examining an extensive database of photos that have been collected over the past 30 years from more than 5000 dives. The so-called Deep-Sea Debris Database was only recently released to the public, making the photos available for the very first time.

According to National Geographic, scientists studying the photos have categorized most of the things that they've found in the images, with about 89% of them being made of plastic. They also found that about 17% of the images in the database indicate some form of interaction between the plastic and wildlife in the ocean, further demonstrating how the debris is impacting the habitats there.

It was thought that for a long time the Mariana Trench would likely be safe from the trash. It drops to a depth of more than 36,000 feet (10,972 meters), making it the deepest point on the Earth's surface. It is so deep, that it has only been visited by humans on two occasions, although unmanned drones have plumbed its depths more regularly. One of the images shot by a remotely-controlled submersible contained the photo of the plastic bag.

Researchers have also said that the trench has become incredibly polluted in certain areas. More so than even the most polluted rivers in China, which is home to some of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. There is a theory that suggests the Trench is become unceasingly polluted as plastics in the ocean break down, releasing their chemicals into the water.

The report of a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench is proof that pretty much nowhere is safe from man's influence. Thankfully, there researchers have also started to study ways to clean up the GPGP and perhaps reverse the trend of garbage collecting in our oceans. We're a long way off from of solution, but at least we may be starting down a path in the right direction.

Himalaya Spring 2018: First Summits of the Season on Everest and Other 8000-Meter Peaks

It was a very busy weekend on Everest and other 8000-meter peaks in Nepal and Tibet. After waiting for the wind to die down late last week, most of the teams were in a holding pattern as they waited for  conditions to improve. That didn't happen on Saturday as expected, but by Sunday the jet stream started to shift and things changed very quickly and as a result, we saw the first summits of the year on several different mountains.

We'll start on Everest, where things are beginning to get very busy indeed. The rope fixing team on the South Side in Nepal finally managed to install the lines early Sunday morning, with eight Sherpas reaching the top of the mountain shortly thereafter. They finished their work around 8:00 AM with Pasang Tenjing Sherpa, Pasdawa Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, Jen Jen Lama, Siddi Bahadur Tamang, Pemba Chhiri Sherpa, Tenzing Gyaljen Sherpa and Datuk Bhote all part of the initial summit team.

This has now cleared the way for more teams to follow and at least four or five teams are expected to go to the summit today with others to come later in the week. But, there were some teams hanging in Camp 4 just behind the rope fixing squad that were able to go up and grab the summit yesterday too. Among them was Chinese double-amputee Xia Boyu, who managed to top out at long last. It has been a 40-year odyssey for Boyu, who lost his legs after contracting frostbite in them in an attempt back in 1976.

The Himalayan Times is also reporting that Nepali Nima Jangmu Sherpa has become the first woman to summit both Everest and Lhotse this year. She took a team of foreign clients to the summit of Everest yesterday and topped out on Lhotse back on April 29.