Monday, November 20, 2017

Nat Geo Shares All the Gear We Need for Winter Adventures

Winter is only a month away here in the northern hemisphere, and while that means that some people will hole up inside their warm houses for the season and wait for spring, many of us still prefer spending some time outdoors. To help those folks out, National Geographic has provided an excellent list of all of the gear you need to spend time outside this winter.

Each item on the list is accompanied by a suggested adventure in which you could use it. For instance, if you want to go hiking in Arches National Park in Utah, Nat Geo recommends bringing the Keb Eco-Shell Jacket from Fjällräven. Heading to Acadia to do some winter camping instead? Bring the Big Agnes Copper Hotel tent to sleep in. Other suggestions include skis and paddling gear for use in the parks too.

The article also has an "adventure gift guide" attached with ten individual items that would make welcome gifts this holiday season. Those suggestions include a point and shoot camera, a smart-lantern for use around the campsite, an excellent travel backpack, and more.

If you've been looking for some new gear to take with you on you winter adventures, there are some solid suggestions on the list. I would have liked to have seen more choices provides for layers, boots, snowshoes, and other common winter equipment, but there are some good nuggets to be gleaned from what Nat Geo shares here. And if you're looking for the right gift for the outdoor adventurer on your list, there are definitely some products here that I'd appreciate under the tree this year.

Check out the full story here.

Antarctica 2017: Antarctic Ghurka Hits the Ice, Maidens Still Waiting

Last week while I was away another plane carried more Antarctic skiers to the Union Glacier camp to begin their expeditions on the frozen continent. Some didn't have to wait long before they were shuttled out to their starting points, while others continue to sit and wait for a weather window that will allow them to get underway at long last.

One of the new skiers who has just launched his expedition is Scott Sears, a former member of the British Royal Ghurka Soldiers, who is attempting to become the youngest person to ever ski the full distance to the South Pole solo and unassisted. Dubbed the Antarctic Ghurka, Scott flew to Union Glacier on November 15 and was able to be taken directly out to his starting point at Hercules Inlet the following day. He's now three days into his journey and so far has had mostly excellent weather, with blue skies and bright sunlight. There have been occasional high winds, but for the start of his 1100 km (683 mile) expedition to the South Pole, it has been mostly smooth sailing thus far.

The same can't be said for the Ice Maidens, a team of six women who are active and reservist in the British military. They've been sitting and waiting at Union Glacier for more than two weeks now simply because there hasn't been a weather window at their starting location on the Leverett Glacier. Hopefully that will change soon, but for now they continue to sit and wait.

Delays like this one aren't all that uncommon in the Antarctic, particularly early in the season. They can be extremely frustrating nonetheless, as teams are eager to get started. A two-week pause at Union Glacier is somewhat unusual however, although not unheard of it. The weather forecast is starting to improve however, so hopefully the Maidens will get underway soon.

British polar explorer Ben Saunders has faced none of these delays and has already been out on the ice for two weeks. He has started to find his his rhythm and is making decent time across the ice, although he has started to run into the regular challenges that are found in the Antarctic, most notably high winds, soft snow, and sastrugi, all of which can cause serious slow downs and zap the strength from your legs. Soft snow is hard to ski in and sastrugi are very hard ridges of packed snow on the ice that act as speed bumps. Neither are fun to deal with, but Saunders is making the best of his situation so far and is forging ahead with impressive resolve.

That's all for today. I'll continue to keep an eye on the things going on down on the frozen continent and post updates as warranted. The season is truly just getting underway, so there should be plenty of interesting updates to come.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On the Road Again: I'm Nevada Bound!

A quick note to let everyone know that I will be on the road again for the rest of the week, and thus there will be no updates to The Adventure Blog until next Monday. This time out, I'm heading to Nevada, and while Las Vegas will serve as Base Camp, I won't be spending a lot of time there. Over the course of the next few days, I'll be mountain biking, hiking, off-roading, and climbing at a variety of different destinations in the area. Of course, I'll share some thoughts on those adventures once I get back home and I'll be posting updates to Twitter and Instagram along the way too.

We'll just barely get things cranked back up next week only to have the Thanksgiving holiday appear on the scene here in the U.S. But, we'll make the most of the time and post important updates, videos, and stories while we can. I also have some holiday buying guides in the works, with a few other nice surprises in the wings too.

Stay tuned. I'll be back soon with more information news.

Video: Adventure Not War

This short documentary film is one that should not be missed. In it we join Stacy Bare, Robin Brown, and Matthew Griffin – three captains in the U.S. Army – as they head back to Iraq to where they not only go to heal old wounds, but searching for some adventure along the way. In this case, we'll head up into the mountains with these former soldier to see a side of Iraq that has been seldom showcased in the past. It is a moving, powerful, and revealing film that will resonate with you long after you've finished watching it.

Adventure Not War from Nimia on Vimeo.

Stranded Kitesurfer Uses Third-Generation Apple Watch to Call for Help

Here's an interesting story of how technology and outdoor adventure continue to merge in unique ways. Filmmaker John Zilles was recently kitesurfing off the coast of California near Ventura when he found himself in a difficult situation that could have turned life-threatening. But, thanks to his new Apple Watch Series 3 he was able to call for assistance, even though he didn't have his phone on him at the time.

A kitesurfer for more than 20 years, Zilles recently adopted the technique of adding a hydrofoil to the bottom of his board to help push him further off the water. While still mastering this technique, he wiped out more than a mile from shore, tumbling roughly into the water. To make matter worse the kite lost momentum and came plummeting down as well. Without any way to get the kite back in the air, the 49-year old found himself stranded in waters that are frequented by great white sharks with a long swim ahead of him.

Zilles says he tried for 20 minutes to get the kite back in the air, but to no avail. So, he started to collect all of his gear and began thinking about his long slog back into shore. It was then that he glanced at his new Apple Watch and remembered that it could make phone calls, even without an iPhone.

When Apple revealed the Series 3 back in September, its main selling point was that it has onboard LTE networking, freeing from the need to carry a phone with you wherever you go. The device can receive text messages, make calls, send alerts, and more, all without the need to be tethered to another mobile device. It was then that Zilles decided to call the harbor patrol and see if they could lend him a hand.

The harbor patrol immediately dispatched a boat, but asked the kiteboarder to give them a call once again when he spotted them on the water. 15 minutes later, he saw them, placed the call, and helped direct them to his location. A short time after that, he was out of the water and safely on his way back to shore.

Sometimes we lament the fact that technology has become so pervasive in our lives. But then there are times like this when you realize what great tools these devices can be. Glad to hear that Zilles came out of this okay and kudos to him for his quick thinking when using his new gadget.

Long-Distance Hiker To Attempt First Female Completion of the "All-In Trek"

Long distance hiker and runner Breanna Cornell has set an ambitious goal for herself. Starting in September 2018, she will set out to become the first woman to complete the massive "All-In Trek," a 12,500+ mile (20,116 km) thru-hike of four of the most iconic trails in North America.

The hike will begin on the 4600-mile (7402 km) North Country Trail, as Cornell walks west to east, starting in central North Dakota and ending in Lake Sakakawea State Park in New York state. From there, she'll travel south to Georgia to begin a thru-hike of the 2178-mile (3505 km) Appalachian Trail. Once that segment of the All-In Trek is complete, she'll move on to the Pacific Crest Trail, covering some 2650 miles (4264 km), once again going south to north. Finally, she'll wrap up the journey by walking the 3100 mile (4988 km) Continental Divide Trail, this time going north to south.

An experienced endurance runner, Breanna hopes to cover about 30-35 miles (48-56 km) per day, and expects to finish the entire journey in about 13-14 months. She is also an experienced winter hiker and camper, so she doesn't expect that the cold conditions will slow her down much on any of the routes. She'll be joined out on the trail by her dog sophie, who is a 4-year old husky-rotweiler mix. If successful, this will be the first time that a woman has completed each of these trails in succession, completely self-supported.

In addition to simply challenging herself with these long distance hikes, Cornell is also undertaking the expedition to raise funds for the impossible2possible organization, an non-profit that uses adventure experiences to educate children about a variety of important topics. To that end, she is looking to raise $30,000 throughout her trek.

This is quite an ambitious undertaking to say the least. Thru-hiking any one of those trails is serious endeavor but stringing them all together back-to-back-to-back-to-back would be an amazing feat. Hopefully everything goes well and Breanna will complete her mission. We'll be keeping an eye out for progress reports next year.

And thanks to my friend Rick McCharles of BestHike.com for sharing this story with me.

Antarctica 2017: Delays, Starts, and Whiteouts on the Frozen Continent

The Antarctic expedition is in full swing now, and with another aircraft scheduled to arrive at the Union Glacier camp tomorrow, we could have even more teams embarking for the South Pole. To date, there has been only one flight out of Punta Arenas, Chile but soon others will follow and things will really start to get interesting.

For the teams who have already arrived in the Antarctic it has been a challenging week. The Ice Maidens, which is made up of six female British active military members or reservists, appear to still be waiting at Union Glacier, even though they've been there for more than a week. They will be attempting to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, then make a return trip via the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and over the Leverett Glacier and ending on the Ross Ice Shelf. In total, they'll cover about 1700 km (1056 miles) once they get underway, receiving two supply drops en route.

Norwegians Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen have finally gotten underway on their attempt to follow Roald Amundsen's route to the South Pole and back again. They were dropped off at their starting point on Sunday, and have now started their trek to 90ºS. The duo are looking to cover more than 1900 km (1200 miles) and are using kite skis to help them complete the journey, which they expect to take roughly 80 days to complete.

Their route is a bit unusual in that they will first ski away from the Pole out to Amundsen's camp on the coast, then turn around and head to South Pole, crossing the Axel Heiberg Glacier, climbing up onto the Polar Plateau, through the infamous Devil ’s Dance-floor, and over the Titan Dome at 3200 meters (10,500 ft). So far, they haven't posted any updates from the ice, but I would expect a steady stream of news to start soon.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Video: A Journey Through The Largest Cave on Earth

Located in a remote corner of Vietnam, Son Doong Cave is the largest cave system in the entire world, stretching out for more than 5 km (3.1 miles) underneath the surface of the Earth. But it is not just its length that is impressive, as the massive cave features a series of chambers that are a sight to behold. In this fantastic video we'll delve deep underground to witness this place for ourselves.

Son Doong Cave from Georgy Tarasov on Vimeo.

Video: This Ultrarunner Escapes PTSD Out on the Trail

There are a lot of different motivations for why people run. Some of us use it as a way to stay fit, others find it relaxing and therapeutic. Some use it as an escape from other areas of their life. Such is the case for Lithuanian trail runner Gediminas Grinius, uses running as away to calm himself from the post-traumatic stress disorder he feels after serving in as part of the military in Iraq. He witnessed some harrowing events there, and now he runs to help deal with the trauma of that war. His story is both inspirational and touching. Check it out below.

Introducing the Deux Pas Vers l'Autre Expedition - Two Steps Towards Others

In January of 2018 a pair of adventurers – Marie Couderc and Nil Hoppernot – will set out on what they call the Deux Pas Vers l'Autre expedition. This journey on foot will take them 10,000 km (6213 miles) across Southern Europe completely on foot in an effort to get to know more about their own neighboring countries.

Both Marie and Nil are experienced travelers who have been all over the world. But, like many of us, they often overlook the opportunities for adventure that can come in our own backyard. To that end, they will begin their trek in Portugal and march all the way to Istanbul, Turkey, spring their experiences along the way.

All told, the journey is expected to take roughly 500 days to complete, crossing through 17 different countries while en route. They'l spend four full season on the road and visit 120 national parks, and hike some of Europe's most iconic trails along the way.

The video below is a teaser for what they expect to find on this excursion, and you can read an interview with Marie and Nil here. In that profile they discuss what they hope to accomplish during their trek, as well as their workflow for sharing their adventures while on the road. They hope to immerse themselves in local cultures, explore the history of the places they visit, and soak up the incredibly landscapes they find along the way.

Marie and Nil's adventure sounds like a grand one, but I especially appreciate the idea of exploring places closer to home. They are both European, but haven't taken the time to visit some of the places that are close by, choosing instead to jet off to destinations like Thailand and Mexico. Sometimes we're so caught up in seeing the distant places that we forget about the ones right under our nose.

Find out more and follow along on the couple's Facebook page and YouTube channel.


BASE Jumper Valery Rozov Dies on Ama Dablam in Nepal

One of the world's top BASE jumpers has died in Nepal. Russian daredevil Valery Rozov – whose exploits we covered numerous times here on The Adventure Blog – has perished in an accident on Ama Dablam this past Saturday. He was 52 years old.

According to reports, Rozov was in Nepal to train for a potential BASE jump from the summit of Mt. Everest. He had been working on a project in which he would leap off each of the Seven Summits and glide back to Earth using a wingsuit. To accomplish his goal of flying from the world's tallest mountain, he was first training on Ama Dablam, a 6812 meter (22,349 ft) peak in the Khumbu Valley.

Exactly what went wrong on this jump is not yet clear. Rozov did climb the mountain, and made his leap, but something went terribly wrong on the descent and he crashed into the side of the mountain, striking a cliff, and losing his life instantly. His body was later recovered and airlifted back to Kathmandu. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Rozov was known in the wingsuit community as someone who pushed the envelope in terms of high altitude flights. He had made record setting jumps from Changtse and Cho Oyu as he worked towards his goal of summiting Everest and flying from the highest point on the planet. He was an inspiration to many fellow BASE jumpers, and yet remained humble and modest about his accomplishments. He held the honor of making the highest wingsuit flights, as well as becoming the first to fly into an active volcano.

My condolences go out to Valery's friends and family during this difficult time.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Kammerlander Pulls the Plug on Manaslu Expedition.

Another quick update from the Nepal today where the autumn climbing season is quickly drawing to a close. With November nearly half over, only a handful of teams remain in the big mountains, and just two are still climbing on 8000-meter peaks. After today, there will be only one.

Yesterday Hans Kammerlander posted an update from Manaslu, and the news wasn't good. He and his team – which consisted of climbing partner Stephan Keck and a documentary film crew – have decided to end their attempt to summit the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) peak due to poor conditions. From the sound of things it is simply too dangerous to climb with high winds at higher altitude along with heavy snow along the entire route.

The snow is so deep in fact that the Italian mountaineer says he has never seen so much snow on an 8000 meter peak. He says that he has only encountered this much powder while climbing in Alaska. A few days back, Kammerlander, Keck, and four Sherpas climbed up to Camp 1 and found that the snow was usually as deep as their knees and hips, but on several occasions they sank up to their armpits too. Naturally, this makes climbing the mountain extremely difficult and exhausting, so they have elected to pull the plug and head home.

Some of the film crew have already left Base Camp, but the rest of the team will go up the mountain to film some scenes for the documentary about Kammerlander today or tomorrow. After that, they will like return to BC, organize and pack their gear, and return to Kathmandu later in the week.

With the team's departure from Manaslu imminent, that leaves just Sung-Taek Hong and Jorge Egocheaga still toiling away on an 8000-meter mountain this season. They are Lhotse and will decide in the next few days if they will make another attempt on the South Face there or return home as well.  Poor conditions forced them to turn back on their summit bid earlier in the month, but they have enough fuel, supplies, and determination to give it one more shot if the weather cooperates. We should know more about those efforts by mid-week or so.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Video; The Right to Roam in Scotland and Beyond

This film comes our way courtesy of the team at Patagonia. It takes us to Scotland, where two adventurers – Marie-France Roy and Alex Yoder – set off to explore a topic that has sparked a lot of discussion here in the U.S. in recent months as well – access to public lands. While the challenges are different, the overarching philosophy remains the same, and it is interesting to see that these types of issues are somewhat universal. We all have a right to roam after all.

Right to Roam from Patagonia on Vimeo.

Video: Exploring the Compass Points in British Columbia

This beautiful short film takes us to British Columbia in Canada, where a team of outdoor adventurers sets off to explore everything the province has to offer, traveling to each of the different compass points to discover the unique options available in those locations. As you would expect, they found plenty of amazing landscapes to wander.

Video: On the Road to Inspiration with Chris Burkard

Chris Burkard is one of the top adventure photographers working in the business today, having shot stunning images from places like Iceland, Alaska, Canada, and other remote places. In this video, we join him on the road as he talks about the things that inspire him and get him excited for an adventure. We also see how he built the ultimate adventure photography van to carry him into the wild. Its an impressive set-up and one that most of us would love to have at our disposal too. Check it out below.

Antarctica 2017: Weather Keeps Expeditions Grounded

Just a quick update from the Antarctic today, where weather is delaying the start of some of the expeditions. While both the Ice Maidens and Norwegians Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen are eager to get started with their expeditions, poor weather has kept them stranded at the Union Glacier camp. But, there is hope that they will fly to their respective starting points soon, allowing them to truly get underway at long last.

The Ice Maidens are made up of a group of six British women who are hoping to become the first all-female squad to ski to the South Pole. They'll start at Hercules Inlet and ski the "normal" route to 90ºS, covering some 1700 km (1056 miles) in the process. Each of the ladies on the team are all serving in the British Military or the Reserves as well, and will receive two supply drops while en route, but will otherwise be self-sufficient out on the ice.

Meanwhile, the Norwegians are taking on a daunting task of their own as they follow the historic route of national hero Roald Amundsen to the South Pole and back. Their route will cross 2050 km (1273 miles), starting and ending on the Ross Ice Shelf, which they hope to complete in 70 days. If successful, Astrid will also become the first female explorer to complete this route.

British polar explorer Ben Saunders has been out on the ice for a few days now and is already making steady progress. It hasn't been an easy start to the expedition however, without whiteout conditions, crevasses, and other challenges welcoming him back to the Antarctic. You can read about his expedition thus far by clicking here.

The next flight to Union Glacier is set to take place next week, with even more teams arriving on the ice. Hopefully by then, those waiting at the camp will have been dropped off and will be well on their way. Things are definitely starting to get interesting on the frozen continent.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Updates From Lhotse and Manaslu, It's Over on Annapurna

At long last we have some meaningful updates from the Himalaya today. It has been awhile since we've heard much from the teams still climbing 8000-meter peaks there, but now we know the status of the three major on-going climbs, and for the most part it isn't all that positive.

We'll start on Lhotse, where Korean climber  Sung-Taek Hong and his Spanish mountaineer Jorge Egocheaga have been attempting the very difficult South Face. Last we heard, they were going to launch a summit bid in late October, with the hopes of topping out in early November. After that, there were no updates. Now, thanks to adventure sports journalists Stephan Nestler, we finally have an update, and it seems the summit push didn't go as planned.

According to reports, Hong and Egocheaga launched their ascent on schedule and actually made it as high as Camp 4 at 8250 meters (27,066 ft) before turning back. High winds and heavy snow made it very difficult to continue, and the two men were reportedly exhausted before they called a halt to the climb and decided to turn back to Base Camp. Their summit push saw difficulties in both Camp 2 and 3 as well, where the strong winds destroyed tents and swept equipment and supplies – including food and gas – off the mountain. In other words, it was a very difficult summit push from the start, and from the sounds of things it never really got better.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Video: Overlanding on the Morrison Jeep Trail in Wyoming

The Morrison Jeep Trail is a legendary overlanding route amongst off-roaders. It is a 22-mile stretch of road that crosses through the Shoshone National Forest and can test the nerves and stamina of even the best drivers. In this video, we join a team of overlanders as they embark on this epic drive, which pushes them and their equipment to the limits. If you've ever wondered why off-roading is so popular, take a look at this clip, which gives you some idea of the kind of adventures that can be had with the right vehicle in the backcountry.

Video: Paddling the River of No Return

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is almost hallowed ground for outdoor lovers. It is a wild, remote, and rugged place, with some of the best rapids found anywhere in the American West. Naturally, this makes it a popular destination for rafters. In this video, you'll find out why the Middle Fork is such an amazing place and what it means to the park rangers who work to protect it.

American Adventurer Crossing Patagonia Solo on Horseback

Patagonia is a truly magical place. Wildly beautiful, remote, and largely untamed, it remains one of the last great frontiers on our planet. It is also a favorite destination for adventure travelers and explorers alike in no small part because it is such a rugged environment. That is exactly what drew American adventurer Stevie Anna to Argentina as she sets out to cross Patagonia solo on horseback.

Stevie, who hails from Midland, Texas just embarked on what she calls the Patagone Expedition, during which she will travel  1000 miles (1600 km) north-to-south across the Patagonia landscape. With her she'll take her dog Darcie and two Criollo horses, the national breed of Argentina, which are known for both speed and endurance.

But, this isn't a journey about speed. Stevie plans to take her time, exploring as much of her route as possible, while soaking up the local culture and enjoying the journey more than the eventual destination. She revels in the idea of slow travel, which is why she has elected to cover the distance on horseback.

The Patagone Expedition began on November 3, and so far there haven't been any updates on Stevie's progress. She promises to post photos and videos from her travels on Instagram and Facebook when she finds a reasonable Internet connection. Those could be few and far between where she is headed, but the stories she has to share should be good ones. Be sure to follow here social media outlets to stay updated on her adventure.

Having done some travel by horseback myself, I can definitely see the appeal. It is a wonderful way to explore an environment, especially for someone who has as much experience on horses as Stevie Anna does. She's been riding since she was child, which makes this mode of transportation a natural one for her.

Thanks to Expedition News for tipping me off on this story.

New Documentary Le Ride Recreates Grueling 1928 Tour de France

If you're looking for something to do tonight, why not check to see if a new documentary called Le Ride is playing in your area. The film is debuting in theaters across the U.S. this evening, and promises to be quite an enthralling experience for cyclists and fans of the Tour de France.

For those who don't know, Le Ride sends two cyclists – Phil Keoghan of Amazing Race fame and Ben Cornell – off on an epic bike ride around France as they attempt to follow the same route as the 1928 Tour. That race covered 3338 miles (5371 km) in 22 stages, spread out over 26 days. Thats roughly a thousand miles (1600 km) longer than the current race, in roughly the same number of stages.

To make things even more challenging for themselves, Phil and Ben rode vintage bikes from the era and even in vintage clothing as well. This route would be incredibly difficult on a modern bike, let alone one that lacks the technology and components of today.

One of the toughest stages sent the two men up the Col du Tourmalet, one of the most legendary climbs in Tour de France history. That stage was more than 225 miles (362 km) in length and it took 18 hours for the winner to complete it back in 1928. Phil and Ben spent nearly a full 24-hour period attempting to ride it themselves.

The film is showing in my neighborhood tonight, but unfortunately I have a prior commitment. I'm looking forward to catching it at a later time however, as it looks fascinating. Check out the full trailer below.

Antarctica 2017: The Spectre Expedition is a Different Kind of Polar Journey

With the Antarctic expedition season now ramping up, we'll no doubt see a number of interesting projects unfold over the next few months. One of those will be the Spectre Expedition, which is eschews the normal plan of skiing to the South Pole in favor of other, more unique challenges.

The Spectre team consists of Brit Leo Houlding, Frenchman Jean Burgun, and New Zealander Mark Sedon. These men have set an ambitious goal for themselves of traveling more than 2000 km (1242 miles) and climbing a 750 meter (2560 ft) big wall, all within the difficult and demanding conditions that are the norm in the Antarctic, even during the austral summer.

The trio of adventurers are set to fly to Antarctica on an ALE flight to Union Glacier on November 15. From there, they'll then catch another flight out to a remote point located at 88˚S, 110˚W where they'll actually begin the expedition, which will start with a 300 km (186 mile) journey to the Gothic Mountains.

Over the next 69 days they will be completed unsupported and self-sufficient out on the ice, while they spend 20 of those days exploring and climbing in the Gothic Range. The plan is to make a few first ascents, without using any fixed ropes, no drilling and no bolts. They will be using kite skis to help them traverse the landscape however, allowing them to cover more ground at a rapid pace. They'll also have a 20-day fuel and supply cache at the drop off point for the return trip.

The team derives its name from the main objective of their expedition – a mountain called Spectre that is located in the Gothics. Their goal is to ski to that mountain, climb its 750 meter face, and then ski home. It is an ambitious and difficult endeavor for sure, and I appreciate that they are attempting to do something different in the Antarctic, rather than just ski to the South Pole. A visit to 90ºS is still an amazing feat for sure, but it is accomplished every year by an increasing number of skiers.

Houlding, Burgun, and Sedon should now be en route to Punta Arenas to begin their journey next week. I'll be following along with them throughout the entire season. Look for more updates soon.