Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Human Slingshot + Slip and Slide = Epic Air

While we're sharing videos today, here's one more, just for the fun of it. It features a "human slingshot" which consists of a mechanical pulley system anchored to a pick-up truck, and pulled by an ATV, with an inter-tube on the other end. The tube is then pulled down a giant slip and slide, hurdling anyone riding  on it into the air, only to splashdown in the middle of lake. This sounds far more complicated than it actually is, and the video will make it it all clear. The question is, would you take a ride on this thing?

The video is a publicity stunt from Vooray, an outdoor, active clothing company, but it looks like a fun way to end the summer. Crazy fun!

The River Why Supports The River Network

The River Why, a new film set to make its debut soon, is the story of Gus Orviston, who is described as "the Mozart of flyfishing." After an argument with his parents, 20-year old Gus leaves home to live in the wilderness beside an idyllic river, where he plans to escape the challenges of life and spend his time fishing. Instead, he ends up meeting a cast of unlikely characters, including a young woman that he falls in love with. Its sort of Into The Wild, but with a fishing pole.

The film is set to have its world premiere in Portland, Oregon on September 9 at the Hollywood Theater, where guests and ticket holders will have the opportunity to support The River Network, a non-proft dedicated to protecting and resorting waterways across the U.S.

The film's debut will also serve as the beginning of the countdown towards the 13th annual River Rally, a conference held each year for the top watershed conservation specialists in the United States. The River Network is bring that event to Portland from May 4-7, 2012, with keynote speakers including Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and Alexandra Cousteau.

If you're interested in attending the premiere of the film, you can buy tickets by clicking here. The $20 fee includes admission to the film, a donation to The River Network, and a raffle ticket for a chance to win great prizes. Three of the film's stars, William Hurt and Zach Gilford, and Alex Hurt, along with Producer Kristi Denton, will be on hand for the event as well.

Checkout the trailer for the film below.

Taking Care Of Mother Earth

I've seen this video making the rounds a bit the past week or so, and thought it was worth sharing here as well. For starters, it is beautifully shot and captures incredible images from around the globe, some breathtakingly beautiful, others very sobering.

The video was created by Vivek Chauhan, a young filmmaker working with Sanctuary Asia, and it is a good reminder that our planet is alive and that our actions have consequences that can endanger our environments. Warning, there are a few scenes that are a bit tough to watch, so keep that in mind when you're viewing this. It is a short film that can be humbling, inspiring, and terrifying all at the same time.

Early Registration For The Checkpoint Tracker Championship Ends Tonight

Adventure racers planning on competing in the Checkpoint Tracker Championship, to be held in western Kentucky this October, may want to get their registrations in today. Not only is the field for the event filling up very quickly, today is the final day to get the early registration discount.

The race is scheduled to take place on October 21 in the Land Between The Lakes and will feature a 100+ mile course designed to challenge the teams with plenty of mountain biking, trekking, paddling, and more. Currently, registration for the event is $250 per person, but after midnight tonight that price goes up to $275. That entry fee includes registration for the Championship, pre and post-race dinners, a limited edition Checkpoint Tracker Championship fleece, a Checkpoint Tracker hat, maps from, and more.

If your team is looking for a great event to compete in this fall, than you should be strongly considering this race. Not only is the setting going to be a remarkable place to compete, but this will be one of the premiere races in North America for the remainder of the year. Most of the top teams in the country will be on hand, so it is a great place to test your skills, and above all else, it should simply be a fun weekend.

Hurry and register now before the price goes up at the end of the day.

London2London Update: Sarah's In China And Headed Towards The Sea

It has been nearly five months since Sarah Outen set out on her London2London via The World expedition, so we're long over due for an update on her progress. As you might recall, London2London is an attempt to circumnavigate the planet completely under human power, and considering Sarah has already rowed across the Indian Ocean, she knows a thing or two about human-powered adventures.

When she began her journey, Sarah started in London, and paddled down the River Thames, and across the English Channel, making landfall in France. After that, she jumped on her bike and started along ride across Europe and Asia. She's made great progress however, and she's already into China and making her way towards the Pacific Coast, where she'll eventually kayak to Japan, and then row across the North Pacific, eventually arriving in Vancouver.

As you can imagine, it has been a very busy and eventful five months for Sarah, with lots of adventures on her route. Although she has been joined by a few others along the way, she's currently riding alone, somewhere in eastern China. She's well ahead of schedule however, and is likely to take some down time for awhile after this epic ride, as she doesn't expect to start rowing the Pacific until the spring of 2012. In a recent blog post however, she did show off her new boat, the Gulliver, which she'll use in that crossing.

Below you'll find a great video of Sarah riding in China which will give you a sense of what it is like for her on the road day in and day out. The video was shot back in July, but shows her taking on a rather long and tough climb on her bike that is built more for strength than speed.

Stay tuned for more updates from Sarah as she nears the end of her first stage and gets ready to hit the water.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kiteboarding Hurricane Irene

My friends over at Wend posted this video yesterday, but it's definitely worth sharing here as well. It stars a couple of crazy people who decided it would be a good idea to go kiteboarding in the middle of Hurricane Irene this past weekend. The results are some big wind and waves of course, but if you stick through the video to the end, you'll see what happens when said kiteboarder catches major air.

Fun, but scary!

Norway's Prime Minister To Travel To South Pole For Amundsen Anniversary

The Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, announced today that he'll be traveling to the South Pole in December to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at that point. Amundsen and his team became the first men to reach the Pole on December 14th, 1911, famously beating out Britain's Robert Falcon Scott by just a few weeks.

Unlike Amundsen, Stoltenberg won't be making the journey overland however. Instead, he'll fly to the Pole where he'll greet a four-person Norwegian team that is set to follow Amundsen's route. The plan is for that team to arrive on December 14th of this year to commemorate the historical event which remains such a point of pride for the people of Norway. 

The polar team will consist of Jan-Gunnar Winther, the head of the Norwegian Polar Institute  as well as former cross-country skier and Olympic champion Vegard Ulvang. They'll be joined on the journey by a historian and an adventurer as well. While Amundsen went to the Pole by dogsled, this team will travel on skis however. 

As we get closer to the 2011 Antarctic season, we're sure to hear a lot more about Amundsen and Scott, who were in a desperate race to be the first to reach the Pole. Both men had tried on more than one occasion to plant their nation's flag at 90ºS, but weather conditions, poor equipment, and the challenges of the unknown all conspired against them. Finally, Amundsen broke through using his dogsleds, and as result, Scott discovered a Norwegian flag at the Pole when he arrived four weeks later. 

Devastated by losing the race, Scott and his men turned back towards the coast and their ship, which was waiting 800 miles away. Along the way, the weather took a turn for the worse, and they managed to get caught in a blizzard that lasted for ten days. Stranded in their tent, the last of their supplies and energy, ran out, and Scott, along with his two remaining companions, perished. They were just 11 miles away from a supply cache that would have probably saved their lives.

The race to the South Pole is filled with epic characters, epic journeys, and epic suffering. A century later, those same characters still cast a wide shadow over the frozen continent. 

Running The Silk Road Update: Under 1000km To Go

Last week I posted a story about a team of athletes who are running the length of the Silk Road in an effort to raise funds and awareness of the need for clean drinking water throughout Asia. The expedition began in Turkey back in April, and since that time, the runners have been heading east. Now, they have less than 1000km (621 miles) to go until they reach the finish line in the ancient city of Xi'an, China.

The run was organized by The Home Expedition, a non-profit organization that seeks to fund charitable projects through adventurous activities. The Silk Road run is their first expedition, but they have others planned for the future, including a cycling journey along the Trans-Siberian Highway and an adventure along the Amazon River.

Two of the runners on this journey, Kevin Lin and Bai Bin have run the entire distance so far. That includes more than 8000km (4971 miles) through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and into China. They hope to wrap up the final leg of their journey by September 16th, their target date for arriving in Xi'an.

When I wrote about this expedition last week, I mentioned that updates on the website had been infrequent over the last few months, but it turns out the best place to follow along with the journey is on The Home Expedition Facebook page. There, I discovered that Kevin and Bai Bin are still knocking off about 70km (43.5 miles) per day as they continue to pursue their goal.

For those that don't know, the old Silk Road was a network of trade routes that connected China with Europe. It's origins can be traced back to 200 BC, although at that point it was mostly used throughout Asia. As time passed, and the road expanded, merchants from as far away as Italy used the road to trade goods, and it eventually became one of the most important trade routes ever. Marco Polo was said to have traveled the Silk Road in his dealings with China, and to this day, the road continues to inspire adventure.

I'll continue to keep an eye on the progress of Kevin, Bai, and the whole team. If all goes as scheduled, they should be finishing up in a just a few weeks. Big thanks to Andrew for sharing information and updates with me!

A Kayak Video Shot And Edited Using Only Solar Power

The latest episode of the wonderful paddling webseries Currents, from Five2Nine Productions,  sends a group of kayakers to California, where they find plenty of great summer whitewater to explore. As is typical in these videos, the kayaking looks amazing, and the crew does a great job of capturing the action out on the water.

This video is unique in one aspect however, as it was completely filmed, captured, and edited using only solar power. The team used solar panels and battery packs from Goal Zero to completely power ever aspect of their expedition, and it is a great example of how we can use alternative sources of energy while on our adventures.

I had a chance to play with some of the Goal Zero gear at Outdoor Retailer a few weeks back, and I have to say that it seems like really well designed and efficient stuff. It's great to see it being put to use in the video below.

Currents v2_3: California from Five2Nine Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jornet, Hawker Win North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

As I mentioned last Friday, this weekend was the annual North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the world. Late Friday, 2300 competitors set out on the 166km (103 miles) course, which circles Mount Blanc, the tallest peak in western Europe, and crosses through Italy, Switzerland, and France in the process. It is a truly spectacular trail with plenty of wonderful scenery and tough challenges.

The race got off to a rocky start when storms delayed the event for more than five hours, and once it was underway, it turned into one of the most challenge UTMB's ever. Rock slides forced the course to be extended to 169km, while rain and snow tested the competitors at every turn. In the end though, it didn't seem to matter, as Kilian Jornet came in first, crossing the finish line in a record time of 20 hours, 36 minutes, 43 seconds. Lizzy Hawker would take first place for the ladies, coming home in 25 hours, 2 minutes even.

So what's it like to run the Ultra Trail do Mont Blanc? Check out the beautiful video below to see for yourself. It is both inspiring and exhausting at the same time. Wow!

New Adventure Race Coming To New Zealand In 2012

A new expedition length adventure race is scheduled to take place next year in Queenstown, New Zealand, one of the top adventure destinations on the planet. The race, which is called GODZone Adventure, will be  put on by 100% PURE Racing, and is apparently part of the AR World Series.

The race will take place from April 7-14, 2012 and will consists of coed teams of four competing on a course that is 450km (280 miles) in length. This will be an unsupported race, meaning teams won't need a support crew to lug their gear around for them, and will involve the usual AR disciplines of trekking, mountain biking, and kayaking.

GODZone Adventure marks the return of adventure racing to New Zealand, a country where the sport can trace its origins. In fact, this will be the first race of its kind on Kiwi soil since the Raid Gauloisis kicked off the expedition race craze back in 1989. That is FAR too long for New Zealand to go without a major AR event in my opinion.

Organizers of the event believe the fastest teams will take between 3-4 days to finish the course, but other teams will be allowed as much as 5.5 days to navigate their way through the different stages. The race will include navigation, ropes courses, a few other surprises as well.

It looks like races are starting to nail down their dates for 2012 already. This has been a busy year for adventure racing, and it is far from over, but teams and race organizers are already looking ahead to next year. 2012 has the potential to be even better for fans of the sport.

Solo Sailing Update: Laura Dekker Arrives In Australia

Last week, 15-year old Laura Dekker achieved two major milestones in her attempt to sail solo around the world. First, it has now been a full year since she set out on her epic journey to become the youngest to sail around the globe, and perhaps more importantly, she safely arrived in Darwin, Australia, having successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean.

You may recall that Laura garnered a lot of attention when she first announced her intentions to circumnavigate the globe on her own at the age of 13. But before she could get underway, the Dutch government stepped in, with child protective services investigating her plans and whether or not she was ready for such a big adventure. That process took some time to complete, but eventually she was allowed to sail, and at the age of 14 she was able to hit the open water at last.

Since that time, she's been making slow, but steady progress around the globe, first crossing the Atlantic Ocean, then navigating through the Panama Canal. The Pacific was her next major obstacle, and with that now behind her, she'll be setting her sights on the Indian Ocean and eventually the Suez Canal. But for now, she plans to enjoy some good old fashion Aussie hospitality for awhile.

According to her blog, Laura arrived in Darwin last Friday, August 25, and while she is in good spirits, and her ship, the Guppy, is fine, the final approach to land wasn't great on her sails. The course took her across the Van Dieman Gulf, where the winds tore her main sail to shreds, which will keep her on land for awhile. She plans on staying at least through the weekend, when she hopes to use a borrowed boat to compete in a local regatta.

For now, it is time to rest, resupply, and repair the Guppy. The trials and tribulations of the Indian Ocean await, and after that, home at last. But Laura has earned some down time before she takes on those challenges. I can't think of a better place to recuperate than Australia.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Levi Wins!

Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack won the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge yesterday, eking out an 11 second win over Christian VandeVelde of Garmin-Cervélo who came in second, while Tejay Van Garderen of HTC-Highroad took third, 17 seconds off the pace. Tom Danielson, also of Garmin-Cervélo and George Hincapie of Team BMC rounded out the  all-American top five.

The race started last Monday and promised to be quite a mix of high altitude and grueling climbs. It seems it lived up to that billing, as it was a challenging week for all the riders. Pre-race marketing materials for the event were quick to point out that this was the highest altitude course ever designed, with some of the stages going well above 12,000 feet, with nearly the entire race taking place above 8000 feet.

Yesterday's final stage was a bit of a relief however, as the course was 73.8 miles in length between Golden and Denver. There was just 3129 feet of climbing, and the sprinters seemed to enjoy having the opportunity to show off their skills, racing for the finish line in front of the Colorado state capitol building. It was Italians Daniel Oss and Elia Viviani, both of Team Liquigas-Cannondale, who finished one-two for the stage win, while American Freddie Rodriguez took third for Team Exergy.

All in all, it seems this was a very successful first outing for the Pro Cycling Challenge. Hopefully we'll see the race well into the future as well. Colorado is a great setting for road cycling, with plenty of options to challenge all kinds of riders. It was great that cyclists like Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck showed up to ride as well, giving the event a lot of legitimacy in its first go.

Congrats to Levi on the great win!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Conquering A New Solo Route On The Matterhorn

Yesterday I posted a story about three climbers putting up a new route on Mount Blanc at the beginning of the month. In that story, I mentioned that one of the climbers, Hervé Barmasse, had also completed a solo climb along a new route on the Matterhorn back in April. Today, I found a beautiful video of that climb that I think you'll enjoy.

With its sharp, distinctive peak, the Matterhorn is one of the most recognizable mountains in the entire world. Rising 4478 meters (14,692 ft), the mountain sits along the border of Italy and Switzerland. It was amongst the final big European mountains to be climbed, with the first summit coming in 1865, and has remained a proving ground for many alpine climbers in the decades that followed.

Barmasse climbed it as part of his Exploring The Alps expedition, during which he's attempting to open new routes on three peaks in the Alps. With the Matterhorn and Mount Blanc already under his belt, he'll next turn his attention to Mount Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland.

Enjoy the video.

Hervé Barmasse, New route solo on the Matterhorn/ Hervé Barmasse, nuova via solitaria sul Cervino from Hervé Barmasse on Vimeo.

The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mount Blanc Begins Today

One of the toughest ultra-trail runs in the world gets underway today in Chamonix, France, where some of the best long distance runners will set out on the North Face Ultra-Trail du Mount Blanc. The race, which stretches for 166km (103 miles) and includes 9600 meters (31,496ft) of vertical gain, runs through the Alps in the shadow of Mount Blanc, one of the most famous peaks in all of Europe.

The race will start with approximately 2300 competitors, although not all will make it to the finish. The trail actually circles around the mountain, passing through three countries – France, Italy, and Switzerland – along the popular Tour du Mount Blanc trekking route. Hikers who make the trek usually take 7-9 days to finish the entire trail, but the top runners will do it in about 20 hours, while the cut-off for the race is 46 hours.

When heading out on the course, the runners are expected to carry a minimum of safety gear with them along the trail. That includes a rain jacket, warmer clothes, extra food and water, a safety whistle, survival blanket and a head lamp. They'll be able to resupply with food and water at stations along the course, which are spaced out about every 10-15km (6-9 miles).

The UTMB is always a challenging race to say the least, as the trail is not an easy one, and it has plenty of altitude to contend with as well. Bad weather has been a problem in recent years as well, but hopefully this year the weather will hold, and the racers will be able to run the trail safely.

Friday Inspiration: Ueli Steck Climbing The Eiger.

Looking for a little inspiration for your weekend adventures? Then look no further than the video below which shows Ueli Steck climbing the Eiger when he set a new speed record on that iconic mountain back in 2008. The video is from the film Swiss Machine, that was part of the Reel Rock Tour in 2010 and it is a fine example of what an amazing climber Ueli is.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Americans Dominating On Home Turf

We're now more than halfway through the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge and it clear that the American riders want to make sure they defend their home turf. After the prologue on Monday, two road stages on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a time trial yesterday, American cyclists dominate the leaderboard, controlling the top five spots.

Leading the race is Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack. He who holds an 11 second lead over Christian VandeVelde of Team Garmin-Cervélo and 17 seconds on Tejay Van Garderen of HTC-Highroad. Tom Danielson, also of Garmin-Cervélo, holds down the fourth spot, 21 seconds off the pace, while George Hincapie of BMC Racing rounds out the all-American top five, 53 seconds off the leader.

So far, the race has lived up to its promise of being a challenging, high altitude competition. Colorado has served as a scenic, yet brutal, backdrop for the racers, who have endured difficult climbs, thin air, and heart-pounding descents. Hincapie won a thrilling Stage 2 that included more that 9740 feet of climbing, while Levi took the time trial through Vail yesterday, which featured 1783 feet of climbing over just a ten mile course.

Today, the Peloton will return to the road with an 82.8 mile long stage between Avon and Steamboat Springs. This should be a relatively fast stage for the riders, as it only has about 5000 feet of climbing, with the highest point being 8550 feet. That sounds like a lot for the rest of us, but should be a walk in the park after what they've gone through earlier in the week.

So far, it seems that the Pro Cycling Challenge has been quite a success in its first year of existence. Considering the field is full of big names from the pro circuit, it is garnering plenty of attention on the world's stage as well. Hopefully the race will become a staple on the tour, and will be around for a long time to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Route Opened On Mount Blanc

Three North Face sponsored climbers opened a new route on one of Europe's most iconic mountains earlier this month. The team, which, consists of Italian Hervé Barmasse and Spaniards Iker and Eneko Pou, free climbed the southern Italian face of Mount Blanc, naming their new route La Classica Moderna as an homage to Walter Bonatti, who pioneered many routes in the Alps in the 50's and 60's.

Carrying only essential gear, the three men attempted a true alpine style ascent. Their approach to the mountain was hampered by knee-deep snow, but once on the face they were able to make steady progress, despite cold weather. The team worked the new route for three days, finally completing it on August 1st, after a 3300 meter (10,826 ft) vertical gain. Upon reaching the summit, the men descended on the French side of the mountain, eventually arriving in the classic mountain-town of Chamonix.

At 4808 meters (15,774 ft) in height, Mount Blanc is the tallest peak in Western Europe. The peak has been a popular climbing destination for more than 200 year, and has long been a proving grounds for alpine climbers. In fact, the mountain was first summited in 1786, which many climbing historians point to as the genesis of modern mountaineering, and it remains a formidable challenge to this day.

This newest route on Mount Blanc was completed as part of the Exploring The Alps expedition, which looks to be a trilogy of great climbs in the region. Back in April, Barmasse opened a new solo route on the Matterhorn (4478 meters/14,691 ft), and next the team will set its sights on Mount Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland at 4634 meters (15,203 feet).

Row To The Pole Team Reaches Destination

A few weeks back I posted a story about the Row To The Pole Team, which was made up of six crew members who were attempting to become the first people to row to the Magnetic North Pole. At the time, they were just setting out from Resolute Bay, Canada and were taking to the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. Now, more than three weeks later, they are approaching the finish line.

The team, which is led by polar explorer Josh Wishart, has battled cold weather, high winds, and plenty of drift ice on the way to their destination. In total, they will have covered approximately 450 miles on their way to the Pole, which is located in the waters of the Arctic Ocean itself. Reading the updates from their blog, it is clear that his hasn't been an easy trip, as weather conditions haven't been favorable much of the time.

Officially, the team is rowing to the GPS coordinates of 78°35.7N 104°11.9W, which is actually the location of the Magnetic North Pole back in 1996. Unlike the Geographic North Pole, which is located at 90ºN, the Magnetic Pole is moving, and has continued to do so for some time. Now, 15 years after it was recorded at this location, it has now drifted further north and east. In 2005, the Pole was estimated to be located at 82.7°N 114.4°W, and is now believed to be moving towards Russia at a speed of about 35 miles per year. That means that the destination that the team is actually rowing to is nowhere near where the atual Magnetic North Pole is located. This has, as you can imagine, caused a stir amongst some in the adventure community.

So, while I congratulate the team on reaching their destination, as rowing through the Arctic Ocean is never an easy feat, I can't help but wonder what it is they have actually accomplished. They did reach a point on the map, but that point doesn't really hold any kind of significant relevance to any other. I salute their adventurous spirit and attitude, and I commend them for facing the elements to complete their voyage, but I'm not sure that they actually achieved what they set out to do, which is to Row To The Pole.

The video below shows what the conditions are like for them today as they approach the finish. They've left behind much of the ice and the winds have calmed some as well.

Karakoram 2011: International Team Safely Off K2

The squad of international climbers who successfully climbed K2 earlier this week are now safely down the mountain and making their way to Base Camp. According to a dispatch posted on Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's website, Ralf Dujmovits and Tommy Henrich climbed up to their "Deposit Camp" today to meet Gerlinde, and her compatriots Maxut Zumayev, Vassiliy Pivtsov, and Darek Zaluski. The six teammates then continued down the mountain to BC, and eventually the Chinese Base Camp, where a team of porters were waiting to load the remaining gear on camels for the trek out. That trek will begin tomorrow, and the entire team will soon be back in civilization once again.

According to Max, the four summiteers didn't truly celebrate their achievement until they were officially back down the mountain. As most mountaineers will tell you, the summit is only half-way to the finish line, and K2 is a particularly treacherous peak on the descent as well as the climb. Fortunately, the team reached Base Camp without any real problems, and they are now resting up and preparing for the journey home.

Max also noted that he and Vassiliy received a call from the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Masimov, to personally congratulate them, but they were still on the mountain at the time. Ralf took the call and passed on the sentiments to the two Kazakh climbers.

Now that everyone is down and safe, I want to send one more round of congratulations to the team. They worked hard and were very patient, and in the end their persistence paid off, and they were able to climb the toughest mountain in the world. It is an amazing accomplishment and they've earned every bit of rest and relaxation that they've got coming to them. Well done!

Ruggedized PC's For Your Next Expedition

Lets face it. In recent years our mandatory gear list for any expedition has expanded to include a number of tech toys. We now carry smartphones, MP3 players, tablets, and laptops with us when we head out on our adventures. Not only are they great for staying in touch with friends and family back home, they also allow us to get some work done on the road and even chronicle our expeditions. Just like our gear manufacturers, PC companies continue to improve their products as well, and as a result, we now have an interesting array of products that are available for us to take into the field.

Ben Rudolph, one of the writers at the Windows Experience Blog, recently put a number of these ruggedized PC's through a battery of interesting tests, including burying one in sand and pouring a cup of water over another. The results were quite interesting and may help you decide on the next computer you'll want to have with you when you set out on an adventure. Ben filmed his tests so you can watch him punish these computers on video. Unfortunately, I can't embed the video here, but if you want to watch him do nasty things to laptops, click here.

Included in Ben's tests were the Panasonic Toughbook 31, which many of you are probably familiar with, and the Lenovo Thinkpad X220. The Toughbook actually looks like it could survive a surgical strike from a cruise missile, although it does weigh in at more than 8 pounds, which is a lot of weight for anyone wanting to travel fast and light. That said, the laptop looks like a great Base Camp computer that could survive in nearly an environment. The Thinkpad was the laptop that was doused in water, and it was impressive how it kept running, even as liquid flowed out of its case. There were other PC's included in the tests as well, including ruggedized tablets that look like they offer a lot of potential.

If you're in the market for a new computer to stay connected while in remote places, you'll want to check out Ben's blog post and video. It is amazing how far this technology has come and how tough these devices are today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

US Pro Cycling Challenge: Levi Leads After Stage 1

As I mentioned a few days back, the US Pro Cycling Challenge is underway in Colorado, and already off to a great start. The event got underway on Monday with a short 5.2-mile long prologue that was won by German Patrick Gretsch, who rides for HTC-Highroad and finished the course in just 8 minutes and 27 seconds. That time put him two seconds ahead of Christian VandeVelde heading into yesterdays first road stage.

Stage 1 was an altogether different beast than the short prologue. It was a 99.4-mile ride through the scenic Colorado countryside that include more than 8000-feet of climbing. It was a day in which the stars of the sport came out to play, as Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and third place finisher Frank Schleck rode at the front of the Peloton for much of the day. In the end however, it was American Levi Leipheimer who pulled away at the end, and took the stage victory, finishing seven seconds ahead of those two men, and four seconds in front of Sergio Luis Henao, who he overtook coming down the stretch.

Today's Stage 2 is expected to be one of the toughest of the entire race. It is 131.1 miles in length and includes more than 9745-feet of climbing. In fact, the riders will face two major summits along the way to the finish line in Aspen, each of them more than 12,000-feet in height. So far, the race has been living up to is billing as the having the most altitude of any race in history.

The overall standings look promising for American riders at this stage of the contest. Leipheimer is in first place, 11 seconds in front of VandeVelde and Tejay Van Garderen. Evans is holding down the 4th spot right now, with a host of riders less than a minute off the pace.

The race comes to and end on Sunday with a ride into Denver. It looks like it should be a highly competitive race all week long, and it certainly is open for anyone to win at this point.

Beautiful Timelapse Video of the Alps

Having a stressful day? Wish you were somewhere else? How about a quick trip to the Alps courtesy of this lovely timelapse video. Sit back, enjoy the music and savor the images. You'll be feeling much better when it's done.

Running The Silk Road

While we're on the subject of amazing long distance runs today, reader Yihui from Singapore dropped me a note this morning to let me know about a fantastic expedition that I hadn't heard about before. It consists of a team of runners, led by Kevin Lin, who set out in April to run the length of the Silk Road. Now, four months later, they're closing in on the finish line at last.

The expedition got underway in Istanbul, Turkey back in the spring and the runners have been traveling east through Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China ever since. The plan is to end in the ancient city of Xi'an on September 16th, although since there have been few updates to their online journal since June, it is difficult to know exactly how close they are to reaching that goal. They do continue to upload photos however, and their galleries indicate that they are in China and well on their way to the final destination.

The entire run was created and organized by The Home Expedition, an organization that looks to motivate and inspire more privileged groups of people to work together to create sustainable, long term alternatives for assisting under privileged people and regions. During this expedition, THE has been raising funds to assist other NGO's who are struggling with the problem of providing clean drinking water in the region that they have been running through. This is the THE's first expedition, but they have several others planned for the near future, during which they hope to continue to inspire others into action.

In order to cover the entire 10500+km (6524 mile) Silk Road in the time frame that they've outlined, the team has to average 70km (43 miles) per day for 150 days and under a variety of weather conditions. The entire expedition is being documented, so hopefully we'll get some great video from this adventure. I'd love to see some of the places they've visited along the way.

Running Across Death Valley

On Friday of this week, Ray Zahab, the man who hasn't met a desert he won't try to run across, and Will Laughlin, will set out to traverse Death Valley on foot. The two men will begin at the northern boundary of Death Valley National Park and won't stop until they hit the southern boundary, some 300km (180 miles) later.

All told, the expedition is expected to take about four days to complete, and it will serve as much as a testing ground for new gear as a hot summertime adventure. The two men will carry all of their emergency supplies with them, as well as their food and water, and will meet with their support crew about every 20-30km (12-18 miles) to receive a resupply. They hope to cover approximately 75km (46 miles) per day in heat that is likely to exceed 43ºC/110ºF each and every day.

The Death Valley Run will give Ray the opportunity to prepare for a couple of planned runs later this year and early next. His impossible2Possible organization is planning another youth expedition to India in October, and Ray has set his sights on running across Saudi Arabia in January. With those two adventures looming, Death Valley is the perfect proving grounds for testing gear, new technology, and expedition foods as well.

You'll be able to follow Ray and Will on their run at the expedition's official website, where they'll be posting dispatches, video and audio updates, and photos. They'll also be carrying a GPS tracker of course, so we'll be able to see where they are at all times, as they travel on foot across the hottest and lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.

Good luck guys. Stay cool out there!

Karakoram 2011: K2 Team Descending To Camp 1

With their successful summit of K2 now behind them, the team of Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Maxut Zumayev, Vassiliy Pivtsov and Darek Zaluski have been working hard to get back down the mountain safely. Today, they hope to descend as far as Camp 1, then finish their descent tomorrow, and start the long trek back home.

After a very long day of climbing yesterday, Gerlinde and Darek were able to make their way back to Camp 4, where they spent the night. Max and Vassiliy stayed in an intermediate camp above C4, but all four climbers headed down early this morning. According to their latest dispatches, they regrouped in Camp 3, where Gerlinde was waiting with  hot soup on the stove. After a brief rest there, they continued the descent, with the ultimate goal of reaching C1.

Tomorrow, they'll clean up all of their gear in Camp 1, then make their way down to their Base Camp, where Ralf Dujmovits and Tommy Henrich are already waiting and have most of their gear packed. From there, they'll spend another 3.5 hours descending to the Chinese Base Camp, where a team of porters are waiting with camels to help pack the gear back out to civilization. If all goes according to plan, they should be off the mountain and on their way home by Friday at the latest.

The descent is still a treacherous one, but they have passed the most demanding sections now and should arrive in Camp 1 today without too many problems. The worst of the climb is behind them, and it won't be long until they can get some real rest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Circumnavigating Ellesmere Island: Adventure Complete!

Last week I posted an update on Jon Turk and Erik Boomer's attempt to circumnavigate Ellesmere Island and at the time, they were nearing the end of their journey. In fact, when I wrote that story, the feeling was that they would finish that day, but strong winds and navigating through ice, slowed their progress and the boys didn't reach their end point, located in Grise Fiord until the following day.

When they did finally finish, they showed the toll that the expedition took on their bodies. According to Jon's blog, he could hardly walk by the time they had reached their final destination on Friday, and Erik's feet had swollen to the point that they were two shoe sizes larger than normal. Despite all of that, they were reportedly in good spirits, but ready to come home.

In the end, their expedition really was quite an adventure. The two men spent 104 days skiing and kayaking around Ellesmere, a remote island that falls in the Arctic Ocean to the north of Canada. In all, they covered 1485 very challenging miles to become the first men to circumnavigate the island.

There hasn't been much in the way of updates since last week, and I can only assume that Erik and Jon are now on their way home and looking forward to a much deserved rest. I'm sure we'll get more information about their journey once they've had time to decompress and recover some. Until then, we'll just have to send them a hearty congratulations, and hope that all is well.

Alastair Humphreys and Howies Want To Hear About Your Micro-Adventure

Lets face it, the global economy remains in the tank and we've all been more conservative with how we spend our money. That includes British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who has been embarking on a series of "microadventures," which by definition are short, cheap, and take place close to home.  With that philosophy in mind, it is kind of amazing what you can find just outside your door.

To promote this micro-adventuring further, Alastair and apparel company howies have joined forces and are looking to give away some nice gear for your best microadventure. You can read all about this cool contest in this blog post that Alastair wrote yesterday, but in a nutshell, he's encouraging all of us to find an adventure just outside our own homes.

The rules are pretty simple: the journey must begin and end at your front door and should cover a circular route in a non-motorized fashion. The microadventure must take at least 24-hours to complete, give or take a few hours, and you must sleep outdoors in a place that you've never been. Oh, and an outdoor swim needs to be included at some point as well.

When you've finished your microadventure, let howes know about it in some fashion. Get creative, Tweet them a haiku, post a blog story on their Facebook page, drop them an e-mail with images from the journey, or even send them a note through the mail. The contest runs through September 30th, and four grand prize winners will each get £250 howies bundles and their story on the howies website. Ten runner-ups will get howies t-shirts and a copy of Alastair's book.

For more on the contest and project, check out the video below.

Karakoram 2011: Summits On K2!!

The long weeks of hard work and patience have finally paid off on K2, where the news is coming in this morning that the international team has summited the mountain. Details are still a bit light, but late in the day Pakistan time, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Maxut Zumayev, and Vassiliy Pivtsov have topped out on the world's second highest peak. Derek Zaluski is said to be close behind, but as of this writing, not at the summit yet.

Gerlinde's website has been down for maintenance all day (How's that for timing?), but has just come back online to announce that she has reached the summit, with Max and Vassiliy close behind. The note alos says that Darek is trailing a bit, but should arrive shortly. That post came at 6:18 PM local time.

Their day began at 1:30AM this morning, when they started the final summit push. The team had spent a very cold night at 8300 meters (27,230 ft) and were anxious to get the final portion of their climb underway. Unfortunately, they found plenty of snow waiting for them, and they had to continue to break trail through waist deep powder for much of their way up. It is also an extremely cold day on the mountain, and all four are said to be suffering from the bitter temperature. That said, the winds are nearly non-existant and there isn't a cloud in the sky, so the weather window has held, even if the temperatures have dropped.

This is all welcome news, as these summits are the first since the tragic events of 2008 during which 11 people died on K2. Since that time, the mountain has turned back all challengers, including some of the most experienced and talented climbers on the planet.

It should also be noted that by completing this climb, Gerlinde has become the first woman to summit all 14 of the 8000 meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen. That is a huge accomplishment as well, and she deserves all the accolades for pulling that off.

Of course, the climb isn't over just yet. They need to get back down safely as well, and considering how long they've been climbing already today, they are surely exhausted. They'll likely descend back to Camp 4, rest awhile, then continue down the mountain. Keep your fingers crossed for them until they are safely back in Base Camp. They're not safely off the "Savage Mountain" just yet.

Congrats to Gerlinde, Max, Vassiliy, and Darek on a job well done. Now get down safe!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top Ten Songs For Walking, Climbing, and Running

My good friends over at put together a fun little blog post a few weeks back that is sure to create some discussion. The post, which can be found by clicking here, is their selection of the ten best songs for walking, climbing or running.

Now, reading their headline and included text, I thought these would be the best songs to get you motivated and keep you moving while you're outside, doing your favorite activity. It is actually more like a list of ten songs that are about walking, climbing, or running. So, without further ado, here are their selections for the best songs in this category:

  1. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross

  2. River Deep Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner

  3. Move On Up – Curtis Mayfield

  4. Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh

  5. Run to the Hills – Iron Maiden

  6. Ramblin’ Man – Lemon Jelly

  7. Walking In My Shoes – Depeche Mode

  8. Walk of Life – Dire Straights

  9. Step On – Happy Mondays

  10. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and The Waves

So? What do you think? What did they miss? I'm thinking 500 Miles by the Proclaimers. What would you add?

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge Begins Today!

128 of the best cyclists in the world have descended on Colorado Springs, Colorado today to kick off the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The six-day event begins with a prologue today and includes four stages and a time trial, spread out over 600-miles of the Rocky Mountains and the highest altitude course ever.

The field is full of tough competitors, including Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, as well as both Frank and Andy Schleck. In all, 17 teams will be competing in the race, which is the first pro-cycling event in Colorado in a decade. To make the event a memorable one, the course designers decided to add plenty of challenges to the race, including some major climbs, dizzying descents, and plenty of that trademark Colorado thin air.

Things officially get underway later today when the riders take to the street for a short 5.18 mile prologue. It gets a lot more interesting tomorrow however, when they'll hit the road for a 100 mile long stage that features more than 8000 feet of climbing, reaching altitudes in excess of 11,300 feet. That's only the beginning however, as most of the rest of the stages will offer similar climbs, and the time trial on Thursday will include more than 1200 feet of climbing, with the entire stage staying above 8000 feet. Hopefully these guys have spent a few days acclimatizing, as this is going to be one long week of riding.

Velonews has a nice breakdown of the stages, which can be read here and will no doubt have good coverage of the event throughout the week. It should be fun to watch how the race unfolds, as it seems like it should be a beautiful, yet very challenging course. I hope it is a big success, as it is always great to see another cycling event here in the States.

Expedition Idaho Update: Thule Wins!!

Over the weekend, the Expedition Idaho adventure race came to close after six long days of racing through a stunningly beautiful course in Northern Idaho. The 500+ mile competition featured challenging trekking, paddling, and mountain biking sections that pushed teams to the limit all week long, while still offering them a fantastic racing experience to match any other on the planet.

When the race got underway last Sunday, there were 13 teams in the field, but as the week progressed, it became increasingly evident that this was a two team race. Teams Thule and Seagate jumped out to early leads, and never looked back as they pursued one another through the backcountry all week long. In the end, it was the international team of Thule that crossed the finish line first, with the Kiwi's of Seagate claiming second place. Team Bones, an all American squad, took third, rounding out the podium.

While the course was most certainly a challenging one, the race organizers were keen on making it fair as well. As a result, all the teams that entered the race also completed it, although some finished unranked due to dropping a teammate along the way. A few were short coursed as well, but it is rare in adventure racing to have all the teams cross the finish line, as inevitably it seems that some get caught in a time cut-off or physically can't continue. It's a testament to the race organizers that they put together a course that is, by all accounts beautiful and very tough, but was still fun and fair for the racers.

Speaking of the finish line, I teased a few times this week that the race had a unique finish in store for the racers and that turned out to be very accurate. The final leg of the race, as you'll see in the video below, was a steep trek up to Silver Mountain Resort, which just so happened to be holding its Silver Mountain Blues & Brews music festival at the same time that the teams were finishing. As a result, there were more than 2000 fans on hand to welcome them home, giving the finish line a feel that is very different from most expedition length races like this one. It seems the racers apprec

iated the reception, as I'm told many of them stayed around to enjoy the atmosphere, even after they had been racing all week long.

By all accounts, Expedition Idaho was a very successful race, especially considering this was its inaugural run. I'm told that logistics went very smoothly and teams arrived at Checkpoints and Transition Areas, to find their gear boxes waiting for them and often hot food available as well. There are already plans in place for the race to return in 2012, with some great ideas on how to enhance the event even further and provide new, unique experiences for racers and fans alike.

Congratulations to all the teams of course, but also the staff that put on the race. You should all be very proud of what you've accomplished. Now go get some rest. I'm sure you sill have a lot of sleep to catch up on!

Update: Here is the official rankings for all the teams in the race.
1) Thule
2) Seagate
3) Bones
4) Light & Motion
4A) Team Gear Junkie/Yogaslackers
5) Team SOG
6) Team Gramicci
7) Team Florida Xtreme
9) Gung Ho
10) Topo Adventure Sports
11) Train Chicago Studios
12) Team Idaho

Karakoram 2011: Climbers In Camp 4 On K2

The international team of climbers on K2 continue their long, slow, exhausting summit bid today. The attempt started last Tuesday and as of yesterday, the four person group was into Camp 4, amidst good weather and near perfect conditions. But with lots of snow on the upper slopes, there are still plenty of hazards to overcome before they stand on top.

According to the latest update on Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's website, the team has elected to spend today in C4, where they'll rest and work on fixing lines. There are no ropes going to the summit, so they'll have to put them in place as they go, and considering this push has already gone on for two days longer than planned, they can use some time to recharge the batteries before the final ascent.

As expected, a weather window has indeed opened, and we're told that it has brought clear skies and virtually no wind. Above Camp 4 however, there is still waist deep snow that is impeding progress. They did manage to break a bit of trail and get a few lines in place before turning back to rest, and the hope is that tomorrow, they'll be able to cover the same ground much more quickly and move into an area with less snow. If that happens, they may have a real shot at reaching the summit.

In addition to Gerlinde, this team also includes Maxut Zhumayev, Vassily Pivtsov, and Darek Zaluski. The four are all that remain on the mountain, as all other teams have already left Base Camp and gone home for the year. Two other members of this team, Ralf Dujmovits and Tommy Henrich, have both descended back to BC, where they await their companions.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow will likely be the decisive day on K2 this year.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Teva Creates Custom Boot For Injured Penguin

The Gear Junkie shared this video earlier today, and it was just too good to not pass along. It's about "Lucky" the penguin, who was born in the Santa Barbara Zoo. Not long after he hatched however, it was discovered that he had a bum leg that wasn't developing properly. So, shoe manufacturer Teva, who is a sponsor for the zoo, stepped up to build the little guy a boot. The results are smiles on our faces and one happy penguin.

Great stuff for a Friday afternoon.

Diver To Attempt Record 30-Mile-Dive

Here's an interesting project that will test the endurance of a SCUBA diver looking to set a new record, while also raising awareness for the plight of the world's oceans. In September, deep sea explorer and combat diver Scott Cassell is going to attempt a 30-mile long dive that will take him from the Catalina Islands to Los Angeles. The dive is expected to take 24-hours to complete and will be the first of its kind in terms of length and time.

Global Reef is making a documentary of the dive and is currently raising funds for the project. You can find out more by watching the video below then clicking here to read up on Scott and why he is doing this. You'll also be able to donate from that same page.

Staying submerged underwater and swimming for that long is going to be insanely tough. I can't imagine who tired you would be after just a few hours under the water. I have no idea if he plans to surface to change out his oxygen bottles or if they've come up with something different to address that issue. Either way, it's going to be one very difficult day in the water.

30-MILE-DIVE from GLOBAL REEF on Vimeo.

Karakoram 2011: K2 Team In Camp II

The weather on K2 cleared enough today for the four climbers still hoping for a chance at the summit to move up higher on the mountain. It wasn't easy though, as they reportedly had to wade through waist deep snow at times. The forecasts improve heading into the weekend however, and they are still planning a summit bid in the next few days.

According to both Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Maxut Zhumayev's home teams, the team arrived in Camp II at about 3:30 PM local time today. Gerlinde and Max are joined by Vassily Pivtsov and Darek Zaluski on this climb, and all four are said to be exhausted after another long day on the hill.

You may recall that yesterday it was reported that they were forced to camp between C1 and C2, as the heavy snow was making it very hard to break trail, and they were faced with the constant threat of avalanches as well. Fortunately they made it through that treacherous section, and now hope to have the weather on their side starting tomorrow.

The plan now is to go to Camp III tomorrow and overnight there. On Sunday, they'll push on to Camp IV and evaluate the conditions. If the weather holds, and they feel comfortable going higher, the four-person team will have a go at the summit.

Meanwhile, it is also being reported that Ralph Dujmovits and Tommy Henrich have both arrived safely back in BC. The two men turned back yesterday due to the conditions on the mountain and the fact that they felt it wasn't safe to climb higher. They'll now wait for their companions to descend before they all head home.

Good luck to the team this weekend!

The Leadville Trail 100 Run Is This Weekend

The epic Leadville Trail 100 Run is set to take place tomorrow in Leadville, Colorado. The 100-mile long "Race Across the Sky" will test some of the best endurance runners on the planet with a grueling course designed to push anyone to the limit.

The actual race itself begins at 4AM in the morning with the athletes setting out for one very long day on the trail. The top runners will finish in around 18 hours (last year's champ Duncan Callahan came in with a time of 17:43:24) while the bulk of the pack will take somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-28 hours to finish, depending on conditions. There is a mandatory 30-hour cut off for the race as well, and a lot of runners fall outside of that window.

While obviously the length of the trail is always a concern, the altitude in Leadville adds another dimension to the run. It is a 50-miles out and back course, with the lowest point falling at 9200 feet (2804 meters) while the highest is 12,600 feet (3840 meters). Needless to say, in between there are a lot of ups and downs.

Last year, Lifetime Fitness took over the Leadville series of athletic events and has been promoting it ever since. Before, it was always more of a grassroots affair, but it feels a bit more corporate this time out. On the other hand, the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, which took place last weekend, seemed to fly under the radar. The past few years it has been a media circus, with guys like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, amongst others, riding in the event. I actually had to actively search for the results this time out, and barely knew that it was taking place.

Good luck to all the runners tomorrow. Stay safe on the trail!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Expedition 1000 Update: Rollin' On The River

While we're checking in with expeditions in progress this week, I thought I'd also update you on Dave Cornthwaite and his attempt to stand-up paddle the length of the Mississippi River. Dave set out from Lake Itasca, located in northern Minnesota, back in June and has been making his way south ever since. When he's finished, he'll have covered more than 3862km (2400 miles), going from source-to-sea, before finally ending in the Gulf of Mexico.

A few days back, Dave hit a major milestone by reaching Memphis, TN, which puts him at the 2612km (1623 mile) mark. In an e-mail I received from him yesterday, he indicated that he received quite the welcome, as about 20 local paddlers came out to meet him, while a news helicopter hovering overhead. Memphis is about 2/3 of the way to the Gulf, and was a perfect opportunity to take some time off the water and get some rest before he went back out onto the water again today.

While in Memphis, Dave met with a local reporter for a television interview, during which he explained why he has undertaken this journey, what hazards he has faced along the way, and more. It's a great news story, which you don't always get from the local press, and it seems Dave and his host were having a good time with the conversation.

Never one to stay put for too long, Dave resumed his journey this morning, and I'm told he was heading out of town dressed as Elvis. He has 800 miles yet to go, and he hopes to complete the journey sometime in mid-September or so.

Karakoram 2011: K2 Team Splits, Four Have Summit Dreams

The drama unfolding on K2 continues today with the news that the international team on the North Side of the mountain has now split into two units, with four climbers heading up to Camp II, while the rest abandon their climb and return to Base Camp.

According to a dispatch from Maxut Zhumayev this morning, the climbers moved up to an intermediate camp located at 6100 meters (20,013 ft) on the mountain. It was tough climbing as there is a lot of snow above Camp I, which ultimately forced them to stop short of their goal for the day, which was CII. Joining Max on the climb is fellow Kazakh and long time climbing partner Vassily Pivtsov, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and Darek Zaluski.

Gerlinde's home team posted an update to her blog as well, noting that her long time climbing partner (and husband), Ralf Dujmovits has given up his attempt to summit K2 this year and is headed back down the mountain. He is joined by Tommy Henrich as well. Apparently, Ralf felt that the danger of avalanche was too great for him to proceed any higher.

The post also says that the four climbers have been making very slow progress thanks to the steady snows that have been falling all day. They'll now stay at the "rocky shoulder" and rest, before further evaluating their next move.

The weather forecasts indicated that conditions would improve as the week moved along, with a possible window opening over the weekend. They did expect some snow in the early part of the climb, but it sounds like they are getting far more than they had expected. Whether or not they'll actually get a chance at the summit remains to be seen, but it isn't looking all that promising at the moment, as they've also fallen off their schedule for a Sunday summit as well.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this team to top out, but as we all know, K2 is not a mountain to take lightly. The conditions sound dicey at best, but things can change quickly. We'll now have to wait until tomorrow to see if they have a chance at moving higher.

Circumnavigating Ellesmere Island: Nearly Done!

Way back in May, Jon Turk and Erik Boomer set off on a 2390km (1485 mile) expedition to circumnavigate Ellesmere Island. Since that time, they've been paddling and trekking their way through the icy Arctic Ocean and remote tracts of land that have seldom been visited by humans. Their journey may be coming to an end at last however, as according to Jon's blog, they expect to complete their expedition sometime today.

Located above the Arctic Circle in Canada's Queen Elizabeth chain of islands, Ellesmere presents a considerable challenge for any adventurer, even in the warmer summer months. But it seems Jon and Erik have gotten more than they expected, encountering harsh weather, polar bears, and thick pack ice. Those conditions have conspired to slow their progress and make this an amazing adventure in one of the most difficult environments on the planet.

An entry on Jon's blog from yesterday says that the two men are now about 35 miles from their planned finish point in Grise Fiord. That's still a long way to paddle, especially since they expect to face 10 knot winds throughout the day, but they are anticipating finishing up the expedition today. Needless to say, it won't be an easy day for them.

It seems the boys have had more than their fair share of bear encounters along the way. Just a few days ago the awoke to find that one of them had bitten holes in their tent, while five others prowled around the camp. Pretty scary stuff. I'm sure these guys have a lot of tales to tell once they're home. Can't wait to read them!

Expedition Idaho Update: Thule and Seagate Out In Front

The Expedition Idaho Adventure Race continues into its fourth day today, with teams continuing to navigate their way through a tough course in the wilds of northern Idaho. The racers have been going nearly non-stop since Sunday morning, and there is a real battle shaping up at the top of the leader board for who will eventually win this race.

At the moment, Teams Thule and Seagate are pushing each other to the limit at the front of the pack, with the rest of the teams chasing further back. The lead teams have endured long treks and mountain bike legs, intermixed with some paddling and "special" challenges, that included having to build their own raft and starting a fire without matches or a lighter. Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers, who are racing unranked due to the loss of a teammate, and Team Bones are in third and fourth place respectively.

The race hasn't gone without its mishaps. While the elite teams at the front are chugging along, some of the others have had their struggles. For instance, Team Idaho made a navigational error that put them 50 miles off course, while one racer crashed on a mountain bike section and had to be airlifted off the course.

When it's all said and done, the teams will have raced for more than 500km over a six day period, and organizers of the event are promising them quite a welcome at the finish line. I don't want to give too much away yet, but I can say the finish should be unlike any other in adventure racing.

Follow the action on the Expedition Idaho website, blog, and Twitter feed. There is still plenty of racing to go, and I think there will be an epic battle between Thule and Seagate before its all done.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Outside Magazine's 50 Best Places To Work

Face it. The economy is rough right now, and a lot of us wish we were working somewhere else. Fortunately, Outside Magazine has come along with their annual list of the 50 Best Places To Work, and it is full of outdoor and adventure related companies.

Each of the companies on the list are hot linked to a page explaining who they are, what they do, and where they're located. The listing also gives us the best perks of the job and tells us if the company is hiring or not. That's only the beginning however, as the in depth profile also shares the company's approach to fitness, flextime, employee recognition, and oh so much more. It is a great resource for anyone looking for a job in the outdoor industry at the moment.

Some of the companies on the list are perennially in the top 50. Companies like Osprey Packs and Patagonia. Others are rather new, like Virgin Galactic, the company working to commercialize space travel. All in all though, this is a pretty great list of places to work and I think we'd all love to have a job at any one of these companies.

Once you're finished perusing the best places to work, check out Outside's other work related articles today. For instance, they also tell you how to find your dream job, as well as the six best jobs out there at the moment. Finally, they talk to ten different people who quit their regular jobs to pursue their their dream jobs as well. They share ideas on how we can all do the same.

Excellent stuff. Now, excuse me,  I need to go update my resume...

The Wildest Dream Premieres Tonight On BBC2

Here's a quick heads-up for my friends across the pond. The Wildest Dream, the excellent docu-drama about Mallory and Irvine's ill-fated attempt to summit Everest back in 1924 will debut tonight on BBC2 at 9PM local time. The film is narrated by Liam Neeson and stars the voices of Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Dancy, and Alan Rickman. It also features Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding as the climbers themselves.

I caught the film on Netflix a few months back and really enjoyed it. It was a well done production that offers great insight into the climb, while also exploring the personal lives of these two men who are so much a part of Everest lore. Check-out the trailer for the film below to find out more.

Of course, I realize this is coming late in the day, so if you miss tonight's airing of the film, be sure to tune in on Sunday, the 21st, at 5:30PM. Definitely well worth a watch!

TWD 2min BBC2 from Atlantic Productions on Vimeo.

Karakoram 2011: It's Over On K2's South Side, North Side Teams Staying In Camp I

More updates from K2 today, as the team on the North Side stays put, while the final team on the South calls it quits.

Yesterday I posted the news that the international team on the North Side of the mountain had moved up to Camp I, where they were planning to evaluate the weather and conditions on the mountain before they proceeded any higher. Forecasts look good for the next few days, and it appears that there could be a weather window for a summit bid coming this weekend. Yesterday however, a lot of snow was deposited on the mountain once again, which has made conditions treacherous once again. Because of this, the team has elected to stay in Camp I for another day with the hopes that it will help clear some of the excess snow from the upper slopes.

According to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Ralf Dujmovits’ home team, the plan is to now head up to Camp II, located at 6600 meters (21,653 ft) tomorrow. Avalanches above CI have made the climb dangerous today, but apparently much of the loose snow has been sliding off the mountain, so they're feeling confident about their ability to climb higher tomorrow.

Spending an extra day in Camp I shouldn't impact the team's schedule much. They had already built in a one-day cushion for the climb and still expect to top out on Sunday, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, on the South Side of K2, Fabrizio Zangrilli and Kinga Baranowska have called it quits. After more than two months in Base Camp, the duo were running out of time and supplies, so they have elected to head home. In fact, Fabrizio says that they are already back in Islamabad, after spending three days trekking out and two more driving out of Skardu.

The decision came after climbing back up to Camp II and evaluating the conditions higher on the mountain. Zangrilli described them as "very dangerous" and with weather forecasts not looking particularly promising on their side of the mountain, he and Kinga thought it best to pull the plug. They are already planning a return for 2012 however, and wishing the North Side team the best of luck on their final bid.

So, we're down to just one team on K2. Will they be the ones to finally stand on top again? We'll find out this weekend.

Capturing Cameroon By Hexacopter

One of my Gadling colleagues posted this video this morning, and I found it absolutely beautiful to watch. The filmmaker, William Thielicke, built his own radio controlled Hexacopter, then traveled to Cameroon in Africa, and shot a bunch of video from a camera attached to the tiny vehicle. The result is a spectacular travelogue of the country that makes me want to visit.

In case you'd like to build a Hexacopter for yourself, Thielicke has shared more about his little aircraft here and the source code and manuals here. It is amazing how well he manages to pilot the thing, although if you watch the video to the end, you'll see that it's not always a perfect landing.

A nice place to fly: Hexacopter in Cameroon / Africa from W. Thielicke on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

World Run II Update: Heading North Through Peru

I was reminded earlier today by my friend Darrell Raubenheimer, who organizes the terrific Rhodes Run in South Africa, that I hadn't posted an update on Jesper Olsen and his World Run II in awhile. Turns out Darrell was right, I haven't written about Jesper in nearly a year and a half, and since that time, he's continued to make tremendous progress.

For those that don't remember, World Run II was the Danish ultrarunner's attempt to run more than 40,000km (24,855 miles), fully documenting and tracking his progress via GPS. The run began at the northernmost point in Finland and continued south across Europe, into Turkey and onto the Middle East, then into Africa, before finally running out of land in Cape Town. From there, Jesper jumped across the pond, and turned his way north at last, resuming his run in Punta Arenas, Chile. He has since made his way into Argentina, and now Peru, as he continues to make steady progress towards the top of South America. From there, he'll cross into Cuba, run the length of that island, then move on to the United States, where he'll travel from Miami to the tip of Nova Scotia, Canada, his eventual finish line.

Along the way, Jesper has been posting updates from the field and sharing information and photos on his progress. He is now into his 30th day in Peru, and while he has experienced stomach issues (something that plagued him throughout Africa as well), he continues to make steady progress. In his last dispatch, he was running near Nazca, Peru, home of the famous Nazca lines, where he mentioned he was hoping to find a good hotel where he could rest up for a few days, and let his stomach ailments pass.

When I've written about the World Run II in the past, I've always been in awe that anyone would undertake such a journey on foot. Of course, this isn't Olsen's first long distance run. As you might have guessed, he has the World Run I under his belt as well, during which he quite literally ran around the world, covering 26,232 km (16,300 miles) in the process. The sequel to that run is much longer of course, and, it seems, more demanding as well.

I'll try not to take so long between updates next time. Obviously Jesper still has a long way to go and will be experiencing some interesting things as he continues. Reaching Cuba should definitely be an interesting milestone. Oh, and for the record, he has so far run 27,346km (16,992 miles). I'm not sure my car has that many miles on it!

Karakoram 2011: Final K2 Summit Bid Is Underway!

It has been a long season on K2 already, with many ups and downs along the way. But today, the climbers on the North Side of the mountain began their final climb, reaching Camp 1, as they make one last attempt on the summit this year.

According to an update posted to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's site, the entire international team met for breakfast this morning and discussed their plans. Apparently after resting for a few days in the Chinese Base Camp, they are now more than ready to go back up. The weather reports look solid for the next few days, and they have moved up to C1 today, with an eye on reaching the summit by Sunday, August 21st.

According to Maxut Zhumayev, the weather should continue to get better as the week goes along, with the best window opening up on the weekend. Between now and then however, plenty of snow is expected on the higher elevations, which could make breaking trail to Camp 4 particularly challenging. Apparently the Kazakh climbers were able to work out their visa extensions as well, as Max and the rest of the crew are part of this summit push. He sent in a dispatch from Camp 1, informing us that they were all safely at their destination, and despite lots of snow, they intend to move up to C2 tomorrow and evaluate their situation from there. If the weather holds, and conditions are good, they'll keep moving up.

There has been no word from the K2's South Side as to whether or not Fabrizio Zangrilli and Kinga Baranowska will make another bid of their own. They've been in BC longer than anyone, and it appeared that they would be running low on supplies and time by the middle of this week, but if the weather looks good for them too, they may have it in them to give it one more go.

Stay tuned. This weekend will be the decisive days in the mountains for these climbers who have been extremely pa