Monday, October 31, 2011

Search For Missing Annapurna Climbers Called Off

Explorers Web is reporting that search parties on Annapurna called off their efforts to find three missing Korean climbers on Friday after finding no trace of the men. Park Young Seok, Dong-Min Shin and Gi-Seok Gang all went missing a few weeks back after they made an attempt to summit the 8091 meter (26,545 ft) peak late in the Fall season. The last anyone heard from them was on October 18th, when they radioed their Base Camp to let their support team know that they were turning back after encountering treacherous conditions on the mountain. No trace of them has been found since.

Annapurna has a reputation for being very dangerous. The peak has the highest fatality rate of any of the 8000 meter peaks and it is particularly prone to avalanches on its upper slopes. It is believed that the three Koreans were swept off the mountain by one of those avalanches or that they fell into a crevasse while descending. Search teams spent days looking for any trace of them, going so far as to even descend into several crevasses, but they still found nothing.

My condolences to the friends and families of these three men, who perished while attempting a new route on Annapurna's South Face. They were strong climbers who died doing something they loved.

FEAT Comes To Canada!

For the past year you've heard me mention FEAT on multiple occasions. It's the adventure version of TED Talks during which speakers get just seven minutes to share some aspect of their expeditions, giving them a limited time to convey their message. To date, there have been three editions of FEAT, all of which have taken place in South Africa. That's about to change however, as FEAT Canada is scheduled to take place at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.

FEAT Canada will take place on Tuesday November 15 and will feature nine top Canadian adventurers and athletes. The line-up includes Gary Robbins, Jen Olson, Kevin Vallely, Megan Rose, Nicki Rehn, Paul Gleeson, Philip McKernan, Scott Frandsen and Sebastian Salas. They'll speak on topics that will include mountain climbing, long distance running, cycling, mountain biking, and more.

Tickets are now available for the event, which will take place at The Centennial Theatre in Lonsdale, North Vancouver, BC. The price of admission is just $15 and can be obtained by calling (604) 984-4484.

If you're interested in attending, I'd suggest ordering tickets soon. FEAT Canada is only two weeks off and it will make a perfect opening for the film festival itself. Demand is likely to be high and $15 is a pretty inexpensive night out. Especially considering you'll have the opportunity to have some great adventurers share their wisdom with you.

Hopefully FEAT Canada is just the start for this concept to go international.

Antarctica 2011: Explorers Hit The Ice At Last

Before my brief hiatus last week, the skiers preparing to head to Antarctica were still waiting for a flight out of Punta Arenas so they could get underway. At the time, the weather was still playing havoc with the schedule, but it seemed like it would only be a day or two before the season would officially get underway. Turns out it took a bit longer than that, but the first skiers are out on the ice at last.

Amongst the first teams out were the Crossing the Ice squad of James Castrission and Justin Jones, who plan to make the journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again, completely unsupported. The Aussies sent a blog post back yesterday saying that they had arrived on the Antarctic continent and were preparing to start their journey south. Unfortunately, they ran into a bit of bad luck once again, and some of their food supplies were left on the ALE plane, which means they can't leave the camp until the Ilyushin aircraft returns, which is expected to happen today or tomorrow. Once they're fully supplied, they'll begin the first stage of their expedition, although at that point, they'll be nearly 2 weeks behind schedule.

Alexander Gramme has also arrived on the ice and over the weekend and has already started his march south. After spending a bit of time yesterday getting his gear organized, he managed to get underway today and has already logged about 8km. He tells his home team that conditions are good, that he is feeling well, and is happy to be on the ice at last. The Norwegian adventurer is also hoping to make a there-and-back-again journey to the South Pole from Hercules.

Look for a host of more teams to arrive in Antarctica in the next few days. ALE had missed several flights out, and now that the weather has taken a turn for the better, they'll be looking to shuttle skiers and climbers as quickly and efficiently as possible. A number of those teams will be following in the footsteps of Amundsen and Scott, so there should be plenty of action in the days and weeks to come. Stay tuned for plenty more news and updates.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seven Summits For Alzheimer's Update: Alan Summits Carstensz Pyramid

Over the weekend, Alan Arnette finished the next climb in his Seven Summits for Alzheimer's project by reaching the top of Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest mountain in Oceania. The 4884 meter (16,024 ft) mountain is perhaps the most technically challenging of all the Seven Summits, requiring solid rock climbing skills to reach the top. With that in mind, Alan and his team, managed to summit in just four hours.

You can read a complete summit report on Alan's blog, where you'll find interesting insights into the logistics of the climb,  what it was like to scramble up that rocky face in the pre-dawn hours, and details on the route, which includes a Tyrollean Traverse. One of the things I love about Alan's updates is that you always get great info on each of his climbs, and this is no exception.

Next up, he'll travel to Australia this week to make the hike up Mount Kosciuszko, the tallest mountain on that continent. It is a mere 2228 meters (7310 ft) and is probably the least technical of the Seven Summits expanded list. Still, it should be an excellent hike and a great way to round out what has been a busy, but very successful year.

With these two summits out of the way, only Denali remains left to be conquered. Alan attempted that peak back in July, but bad weather never really gave him a real shot at the summit. It will be next summer before another attempt can be made, so for now, he'll have the opportunity for some much deserved rest.

Congratulations to Alan on knocking off two more of the Summits. And thanks for taking us along with you this past year.

Book Review: Into The Silence

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Mt. Everest has always captivated the public's attention and spurred our sense of adventure. The mountain isn't just the tallest peak on the planet, it is also a physical manifestation of our need to explore and add a little danger and excitement to our lives. 

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis, helps to hammer home this point by tracing the early history of the mountain, how it came to rise to prominence in the minds of explorers, mountaineers, and the public in general. The book features a cast of thousands, with larger than life figures from a bygone era each playing a role in putting Everest on the map – both literally and figuratively. 

As you can probably guess from the title, the book focuses on George Mallory and his early attempts to climb Everest. Of course, Davis gives us a detailed and rich account of those expeditions, beginning with their very origins and leading up to that fateful day in 1924 when Mallory, and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine, disappeared just a few hundred feet below the summit. But before he gets there, he spins quite a tale that will enthrall and amaze you. 

The story gives us an incredible amount of backstory that includes how the British explored the Himalaya, established relations with Tibet, and established a permanent presence in the region. During that time, several prominent soldiers and explorers began to become obsessed with Everest and getting the chance to climb it, even though there wasn't even a route established to the mountain itself, let alone up it. 

The earliest serious discussions of climbing the mountain took place in the early 1890's, between explorer Francis Younghusband and Charles Bruce, a soldier in the British Army. The two men would eventually play a vital role in getting those early expeditions organized and funded, but it would take decades for that to happen, and each of the principle characters would change dramatically over those years, and watch the world change around them. 

In those days, there were a lot of obstacles to climbing Everest, such as the fact that the region was still largely unexplored and there were a lot of politics to overcome before any expedition could even approach the mountain. But the biggest obstacle of all came in 1914, when World War I broke out, putting the world on pause for the next few years. 

The conflict changed the face of warfare and brought a new definition of horror to the men who fought in it. Davis paints a very vivid picture of what it was like on those battlefields and if you're not already familiar with how the first World War was fought, you're likely to experience a little of that horror yourself. It was the bloodiest and most brutal war in history, and it had lasting repercussions that lasted for decades to follow.

Following that war however, there was a renewed interest in Everest and the Royal Geographic Society was able to pitch the expedition as a matter of national pride. After all, the Brits had lost the race to both the North and South Pole, and Everest was viewed as the last great challenge. One that the Empire couldn't afford to lose. 

As we all know, it would be another 30 years before Everest would eventually be climbed, but that doesn't make this tale any less fascinating. The story of Mallory and Irvine and all of the back history that put them on that mountain in June of 1924 is an incredible read, and while at times you'll think you've picked up a history textbook, it all comes together brilliantly. It is hard to believe that there could be a more detailed account of those expeditions or a more accurate portrayal of the men who were involved in the whole affair. 

Mallory is almost as captivating as Everest itself, and the man and the mountain will always be linked to one another. This book puts that relationship in perfect perspective and gives you a better understanding of the climber and the challenge that would take his life. If you're a fan of history, mountaineering, or Everest, than you'll definitely want to own this book. (Price: $19.34 from Amazon

Site News: Limited Updates This Week

Just a quick note to let everyone know I'll be out of town this week and will be posting limited updates. If I get the chance, I'll try to keep everyone updated on the start of the Antarctic season and a few other events that are taking place.

I should be back to a normal schedule next week. Until then, I hope everyone gets outside and enjoys a few adventures of their own.

Monday, October 24, 2011

WEDALI Wins Checkpoint Tracker Championship

This past weekend one of the top adventure races in North America took place at the Land Between The Lakes in Kentucky, where the Checkpoint Tracker Championship went down. The 24-hour event featured a tough course that was more than 100 miles in length and offered a great mix of trekking, mountain biking and paddling.

More than 60 of the best adventure racing teams in the U.S. were on hand to compete, and in the end it was Team WEDALI (We Eat Dust And Like It) that took home the crown. From the sounds of things, they didn't just win the race however, they completely obliterated the competition and tore up a course that left other teams dazed and confused.

The Checkpoint Tracker blog promises more details on the race soon, including photos and video, but for now, I simply want to offer a big congratulations to WEDALI on a job well done.

Australian Rower Hopes To Become Youngest Across The Pacific

While we're on the topic of ocean rowing today, here's another story of interest. Australian Ben Turner hopes to become the youngest person to row solo and non-stop across the Pacific Ocean when he sets out from Peru next year. He'll also undertake the journey to raise funds and awareness for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis as well.

Ben expects his voyage to take approximately 275 days to complete, covering 13,000 km (8077 miles) in the process. He'll start at Lima Peru and make is way towards the Marquesas Islands, before turning in a more southerly direction, traveling to Fiji, and then on to Australia, eventually rowing home to Sydney. He intends to make this a non-stop journey however, which means that while he will pass within a short distance of a number of South Pacific islands, he won't be pulling into shore on any of them.

No word on exactly when he'll set out, but this will certainly be an impressive journey. The Pacific is the largest ocean on Earth and to row across it non-stop and solo will be an amazing feat. Stay tuned for updates as Ben gets closer to his departure.


All-Woman Team Preps To Row The Atlantic

An all-woman team is preparing to row the Atlantic this December as part of the Woodvale Challenge and to help raise awareness of the horrible crime of human trafficking – something that is still all to prevalent, even in the 21st century.

The expedition has been dubbed the Row For Freedom and it will get underway in December when the crew sets out from Canary Islands in an attempt to cover the 3000 miles required to reach Barbados. They estimate it will take about 40 days to cross the Atlantic, rowing in two-hour shifts, 24-hours per day. As mentioned, they'll be rowing as part of the Woodvale, which is an annual ocean race that has earned a reputation as being amongst the most challenging in the world.

The Row For Freedom team includes Julia Immonen, Andrea Quigley, Debbie Beadle, Helen Leigh, Kate Richardson, and Katie Pattison-Hart. Each of these ladies has dedicated their efforts towards stamping out slavery and human trafficking across the globe, and as a result, they're working with ECPAT UK to call upon the U.K. Government to provide safe harbor for child victims of trafficking in particular.

You'll be able to follow the progress of these ladies on their website once they get underway in about six weeks or so. Good luck to the whole crew, who are not only embarking on an amazing adventure, but they're doing so for an incredibly important cause as well.

Kayak Sessions Mag Announces Finalists For Short Film Of the Yea Award

Kayak Sessions Magazine has announced the finalists for their picks for the 2011 Short Film of the Year Award, giving a nod to some of the absolute best paddling videos to come out this year. Amongst the nominees are: Just Water by Twelve Production; Whitewater Grand Prix by Tribe; Dane jackson on Detonator by Rush Sturges; Rain Drop, by Stef Pion; Biluti River - Siberia by Tomass Marnics and Mitsasini River - Quebec by Bomb Flow TV.

Some of these videos have been featured on the Adventure Blog in the past, but the crew over at Kayak Sessons put them altogether in one fantastic video for us to enjoy. Check it out below, but be sure you have time to enjoy. The whole video runs nearly a half-hour in length.

On November 1st, you'll get the opportunity to vote for you favorite video on the Kayak Sessions website, so choose wisely!



The 2011 Short Film Of The Year Awards from Kayak TV (Kayak Session Mag) on Vimeo.

Antarctica 2011: Still Waiting...

These updates on the Antarctic are starting to sound like a broken record. Weather continues to delay the start of the 2011 Antarctic season, as more teams gather in Punta Arenas, waiting for the first flights out. The first group of adventurers was scheduled to hit the ice last weekend, but ALE has had to postpone flights for a variety of weather related reasons.

The initial delays were because of snow covering the blue-ice runway at the Union Glacier camp and it was expected to take the skeleton crew that is currently there a few days to clear the powder away. After that, a new front moved through, bringing high winds to the area that were going to make landing very difficult. That resulted in a few more days delay, which brought heavy snows to the camp, which are likely to delay the start even further.

According to the Crossing the Ice squad, made up of James Castrission and Justin Jones, more than a meter of snow fell at Union Glacier at the end of last week, and high winds was blowing that around. That meant they didn't fly out again over the weekend, and they've now been waiting for more than ten days to start their expedition. They plan to make the first unsupported journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again, so they are more than eager to get started.

It seems they won't be the only ones attempting that feat however, as they have also met Norwegian skier Aleksander Gamme while biding their time in Punta Arenas. Aleksander is hoping to make the same journey and while they seem to have struck up a nice friendship in Chile, there could be a bit of rivalry once their out on the ice. All in good fun of course, but both expeditions are hoping to be the first to achieve this impressive goal.

For now though, everyone sits and waits for the weather, and at this point, I'm not even going to bother trying to predict when things will get underway. It'll begin when it begins, but for teams with a strict schedule, things are already starting to get very tight. Let's hope they get their chance to hit the ice soon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ski The Himalayas S3E5: On The Road Again

Friday brings us another episode of Ski the Himalayas, where the climbing/skiing team finally gets their expedition underway. If you've watched the last few episodes of the show, you've seen the team stuck in Jomsom – a small village in Nepal – trying to figure out logistics and even objectives. With no porters to help them reach their intended mountain, they've now elected to go after a different 20,000-foot peak and then ski back down it. The video gives you glimpse of this new goal, which is, like most Himalayan mountains, spectacular.

With a new plan devised, and permits in hand, the boys hit the road at long last. The first leg of the trip is actually a precarious drive in jeeps along a very rocky road. Looks like a true adventure!



Himalaya Fall 2011: Annapurna Update

There isn't a whole lot of news from Annapurna yet regarding the Korean team that ran into problems on that mountain while making an ascent yesterday. ExWeb has posted an update to their story that does offer a few more clues however, and it isn't sounding good.

That last we heard from the team of Park Young Seok, Dong-Min Shin and Gi-Seok Gang they were heading up the mountain and hoping to make a summit bid today. It is believed that they ran into bad weather however and decided to descend instead, but what happened after that is still unclear.

ExWeb reports that several Search and Rescue teams have traveled to Annapurna, where they have discovered a rope believed to have been used by the trio of Koreans, but as of now, there is no sign of the climbers themselves. While they haven't given up looking for the men, the feeling is that they either fell into a crevasse or were swept off the mountain in an avalanche. You may recall that I noted in my original report on their climb that Annapurna is notorious for having frequent and powerful avalanches.

Either way, there is a good chance we'll never know what happened to the missing climbers. While the SAR team is still holding out some hope of finding them huddled in a tent somewhere, that seems increasingly unlikely.

Sad news indeed.

Video: Human Slingshot

Remember that video we had a few months back that combined a giant slingshot with a slip-n-slide? Well, someone has taken that same concept and removed the slip and slide from the equation. As you'll see in the video below, they've essentially taken a bungie chord, strapped a person to it, then pulled it tight, like a rubber band, using an ATV. The results speak for themselves.

Looks like fun!



The Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Race Championship Is Underway!

One of the top adventure races in the U.S., the Checkpoint Tracker Championship, got underway today in  the Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky. The non-stop, 24-hour race, offers a course that is over 100 miles in length, and mixes in plenty of trekking, paddling, and mountain biking for some of the top AR teams in North America to contend with.

In all, more than 60 teams, in several categories, will be racing throughout today and tomorrow, with an overall Checkpoint Tracker champion being crowned. The race should come to a conclusion sometime tomorrow afternoon, with a banquet and awards ceremony scheduled for Saturday evening. You'll be able to follow all the action with live GPS tracking, continually updated leader boards, and news from the field at CheckPointTracker.com.

Good luck to all the teams racing. It looks like a great course in a great setting.

Gear Box: New Balance 360 Degree Running Jacket

With the summer now long over, and cooler weather settling in, runners are digging deep into their closet to pull out their warmer gear. A recent cool front has brought some much needed, and appreciated, fall weather to my neighborhood, which has made longer runs much more bearable and served as a perfect testing ground for a new running jacket from New Balance.

The 360 Degree Jacket was designed to remove any excuses for not going for a run due to inclement weather. It is both wind and water resistant, helping to keep you warm and dry while on the move, but it is also lightweight and breathable, which goes a long way to extending your comfort even further. New Balance has conveniently included heat vents along the front and back of the jacket as well and an internal mp3 pocket was greatly appreciated, as I rarely hit the road without my iPod.

With its semi-fitted cut, the 360 Degree Jacket fits nicely without impeding movement, two things that always look for in my active wear. Drawcords along the waist allow you to adjust the fit further and an inner lining, that stretches down the sleeves, provide a nice buffering layer between your body and the outer layer of the jacket when you start to sweat. Zippered pockets help to keep important items, such as keys or a wallet, safe, and one of those pockets even includes a ribbon to record your emergency contact information, heaven forbid you should ever need it.

Put to the test in the real world, I found this jacket to be comfortable and performed well in a variety of weather conditions, just as advertised. I was a bit on the warm side however, even in the semi-cool weather that I tested it in. To be fair, I do tend to heat up easily when working out, and if your core temperature doesn't run as high, or you live in a place where there truly is cool weather, you'll be more than happy with the performance of the 360 Degree.

If performance in bad weather were the only thing this jacket had to offer, you'd still think it was a fantastic addition to your running wardrobe, but it turns out it has another trick up its sleeve. When designing the 360 Degree Jacket, New Balance incorporated a new version of the Scotchlite fabrics from 3M. Scotchlite was created to be highly reflective and this latest version is thin, lightweight, and designed for performance gear. It also happens to make that gear HIGHLY visible in low light conditions. In fact, the New Balance 360 Degree Jacket gets its name from the fact that the wearer can be seen from all angles, even while running in the dark.

The addition of the Scotchlite really does make a massive difference in visibility, extending the distance that you can be seen my several hundred meters. This feature of the jacket is also greatly appreciated in the fall, as not only are the days becoming cooler, but they're getting shorter as well. I won't speak for you, but before too long, I know I'll be running in the dark every night.

Taken as a complete package, this is one fantastic jacket for runners. It'll keep you warm and dry, without overheating, and provides great visibility in low light situations. If you're a dedicated runner, I think you'll appreciate all the little touches that went into making the 360 Degree Jacket. New Balance's legacy in the running world is well on display here. (MSRP: $89.99)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Himalaya Fall 2011: Climbers In Trouble On Annapurna?

Yesterday I reported that Explorers Web had the scoop on a late season attempt on Annapurna, in which a team of three Korean climbers were planning making a summit bid tomorrow. Today, it seems, the news from the mountain could be grim, as ExWeb now reports that the team's leader could be missing.

The details are still a bit sketchy, but it seems that the team experienced bad weather on their ascent and elected to turn back. What happened after that remains a mystery at the moment, but local reports seem to indicate that Park Young Seok may have perished on the mountain. According to ExWeb, a rescue operation is underway and a helicopter has scrambled out of Kathmandu to aid in the search.

I mentioned in my previous post that Annapurna, which is the 10th highest mountain on the planet at 8091 meters (26,545 ft), is perhaps the deadliest of all the 8000-meter peaks. The fatality rate on that mountain remains quite high, with avalanches being a real danger, particularly at the higher altitudes.

Lets keep our fingers crossed that all is will with Mr. Park and his two teammates, Dong-Min Shin and Gi-Seok Gang, and that we'll get a happy ending out of this story.

Cycling News From Outside Mag

With the professional cycling season coming to an end for another year, fans of the sport are already looking ahead to 2012, when new teams, riders jumping ship to different squads, and a full schedule of races should keep things interesting. With that in mind, Outside magazine has a couple of interesting articles for us to think about.

First up, we get a nice first look at the just announced routes for both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Both races will offer very different course from this year, which will have an impact on the peloton and just who has a legitimate chance of winning the race. The Giro, for instance, has done away with some of the long post-stage transfers that have bothered racers in the past, and now a more logical and liner route for the most part. The race will start out flat, but in the later stages it shifts into some very tough mountain stages, which will no doubt favor the climbers in the General Classification.

In contrast, the Tour will favor riders with outstanding time trial experience, offering three times as much TT action in 2012 then it did in 2011. That's not good news for the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, who have been in contention the past few years, but have not been able to keep pace in the individual time trials in particular. There will still be plenty of climbing of course, including some never before seen routes, but there is one fewer mountaintop finish this time out, and the course seems to favor the more skilled all around riders, like this year's winner Cadel Evans or three-time champ Alberto Contador.

Speaking of Contador, Outside also scored an interesting interview with the Spaniard, which you can read by clicking here. Contador is still awaiting a hearing over a pending drug suspension for a positive test of the banned substance clenbuterol in last year's Tour de France. In the interview, which is quite short, he touches upon how he got started in the sport, what he does to relax in the off season, and how it felt to finish off the podium in this year's Tour.

As of now, Contador's drug hearing is scheduled for November 22.

New Everest Documentary Spawns Reality Series

A new Everest documentary entitled 40 Days at Base Camp, made its debut at the Vancouver International Film Festival last week, and will headline the Banff Mountain Film Festival next week. By all accounts, it is a gripping look at what happens on the mountain during a typical climbing season.

Evidently, the film must be something special, as filmmaker Dianne Whelan has already been commissioned to return to Everest next spring to shoot an 8-part reality series on the North Side of the mountain. The show is expected to air in December of 2012 and may be a replacement for the now defunct Everest: Beyond The Limit, which aired for three seasons on the Discovery Channel.

Below is the trailer for 40 Days, which looks very well done judging from this footage. Obviously they filmed this documentary on the South Side of Everest, which is considerably busier than the North these days. I'm sure they won't have any shortage of good stories to tell from the Tibetan side of the hill though.



40 Days At Base Camp- Trailer from Andrew Coppin on Vimeo.

Antarctica 2011: Delays Continue

We may have edged a bit closer to the start of the 2011 Antarctic season, but it seems it hasn't kicked off quite yet. According to an update on the Crossing The Ice expedition page, James Castrission and Justin Jones received late word from ALE that they wouldn't be flying today, but could be setting out at last tomorrow. According to the post, bad weather at Union Glacier is still making things dicey, although ALE is planning a flight today to deliver their own personnel and gear to the camp.

The wait could be ending at last however, as ALE hopes to start shuttling teams to the ice tomorrow. Cas and Jonesy will check back in with the logistics company this evening with the hope that this time they'll receive good news, and they can get on the plane at last. There gear has been packed on the big Ilyushin aircraft since Sunday, just waiting for the journey to begin.

Meanwhile, ExWeb points out that a number of other teams are quickly recalculating their average mileage in order to arrive at the South Pole on their projected dates. Because this year is the 100th anniversary of Amundsen and Scott, a number of teams are hoping to arrive at 90ºS on specific dates, namely December 14 (Amundsen's arrival date) or January 17 (Scott's arrival at the Pole). Further delays will increase the number of daily miles they'll have to cover and inclement weather could slow them further. At the moment, it isn't a pressing concern, but should the start of the early expeditions get delayed into next week, it could become a factor.

Hopefully the weather will be good tomorrow or Saturday to start the process of moving the teams out on the ice. I'm sure the first few days of delay weren't nice, as it gave them the opportunity to enjoy some down time, rest up, eat more food, and spend time with friends and family. Now though, I suspect they're all getting anxious to get underway.

Gear Box: High Peak Alpinismo Lite 'n Fast Sleeping Pad

When it comes to sleeping in the backcountry a good tent and a comfortable sleeping bag go a long way to ensuring a good nights sleep. But any backpacker will tell you, to live the true life of luxury, you also need a good sleeping pad. Of course, plenty of gear manufacturers provide durable, comfortable pads for our camping adventures, but few give you the complete package – compact and light weight sleeping pads that you actually look forward to using.

High Peak, a company that specializes in quality outdoor gear, including tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and more, offers a line of light weight gear under their Alpinizmo line. One of those pieces of gear is their Lite 'n Fast sleeping pad, which is designed for the minimalist climber and backpacker who is looking to save ounces without giving up some comforts.

The mattress is shaped to accommodate a mummy bag and self-inflates to about an inch of thickness in just a few minutes. Once it is fully inflated,  the Lite 'n Fast is nicely firm and comfortable to lie on, providing plenty of protection from rough terrain and insulation from the cold ground. That makes for a much more comfortable night in the tent, which also makes for a much happier hiker on the trail the following day.

Weighing in at 1 pound, 5 ounces (.6 kilograms), the Lite 'n Fast isn't the lightest sleeping pad on the market, but it actually tips the scales very favorably for a self inflating pad. Better yet, when it is rolled up and stored in its included stuff sack,  it actually is quite compact, taking up very little room in your pack.

With the Lite 'n Fast, High Pack has designed an excellent sleeping pad that offers quite a lot of value in a small package, although taller backpackers may need to look for something a bit longer. The pad is 72" inches (183 cm) in length, which is plenty long for most people, but anyone over six feet in height will start to hang off the end. I'm actually taller than that, but didn't really notice any discomfort, but it is something to be aware of none the less.

Aside from that, I whole heartedly recommend the Lite 'n Fast for anyone looking for a comfortable, well designed, and affordable sleeping pad that will see you through a lot of adventures, without weighing down your pack or breaking the bank. (MSRP $50)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Himalaya Fall 2011: Late Season Push On Annapurna

Despite the fact that most of the teams have wrapped up their climbs, and gone home for the year, there is a late season update out of the Himalaya. According to ExWeb, a Korean team is now in position on the South Face of Annapurna, and hopes to make a summit bid later this week.

A three-man team of climbers led by Park Young Seok, that includes Dong-Min Shin and Gi-Seok Gang, spent part of the fall acclimatizing on Island Peak, a 6160 meter (20,210 ft) mountain located in eastern Nepal. After the completed that climb, the men traveled to Annapurna, arriving in Base Camp on October 9th, and have been busy fixing ropes and building camps ever since. Now, we have received word that they are on their way to the summit and hope to top out on Friday. ExWeb says they are also still considering the route of their descent, either along the normal southern route or by traversing across the mountain and going down along the North Side.

Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world, reaching 8091 meters (26,545 ft) in height. It provides a considerable challenge to climbers however, with only 153 summits to date. Of those, 58 have died, which gives Annapurna the distinction of being the most dangerous of all of the 8000-meter peaks.

Hopefully the weather holds out and Annapurna's notoriously bad avalanches stay well away from the Korean team while they make their summit bid. I'll follow-up on the story as we learn more.

Antarctic History: 100 Years Ago Today

As we prep for the start of the 2011 Antarctic season to begin, it is a perfect time to reflect back to 1911, when the epic race to the Pole between Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and Britain's Robert Falcon Scott took place. Over the next few months, I'll be sharing important dates for events that took place during that season, which saw the first two expeditions reach the Pole, but only one made it back home.

On October 19th, 1911, exactly 100 years ago today, Amundsen, along with his team (Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wistling) set out on their attempt to the South Pole. They had four sleds and 52 dogs with them when they got underway, along a route that had previously been unexplored. That route ran across the Axel Heiberg Glacier, which would eventually lead them up to the Antarctic Plateau.

At this point, Amundsen was hoping to use a bit of surprise and speed on his rival Scott, who had set out for the Antarctic earlier, but due to a series of set backs, hadn't arrived on the continent yet. In fact, Scott didn't even realize he was in a race with Amundsen until the Norwegian sent him a telegram saying simply: "Beg to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic -- Amundsen," which arrived after the Brit has already set sail himself.

The Fram was Amundsen ship of course, and he had departed Oslo in June of 1910, first arriving in the Antarctic in January of 1911. From there, he and his team used their time to build supply depots and recon their route in preparation for a serious attempt on the Pole.

Their first attempt came in September of 1911, with Amundsen and his squad setting out on the 8th of that month. But generally poor weather and extremely cold temperatures forced a retreat, and the team returned to the Fram until the 19th of October, when they would make a second attempt.

By this point in his career, Amundsen had spent quite a great deal of time in the Arctic, where he had explored the Northeast Passage and learned a lot from the indigenous people that live there. From them, he learned to use seal skins for warm and sled dogs for travel, both of which would serve him, and his men, well on their way to the South Pole.

This is just the start of the story of course and there is plenty more to come. I'll continue to unravel the tale over the days and weeks ahead, as it is both a heroic and tragic one.

7 Summits For Alzheimer's Update: Next Up, Carstensz Pyramid

Alan Arnette continues to check off mountains on his quest to climb the Seven Summits for Alzheimer's. Having already knocked off Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in South America, Elbrus in Europe, Kilimanjaro in Africa, and of course Everest in Asia, Alan has now set his sights on Carstensz Pyrmid, the tallest mountain in Oceania.

Carstensz stands 4884 meters (16,024 feet) in height and is seen as a bit more of a technical challenge than some of the other Seven Summits. Located in a remote region of Papua New Guinea, it takes several days to trek into Base Camp, where climbers are faced with the start of a rocky and challenging ascent that features an exposed approach to the summit.

Alan set off for New Guinea last week and of course it requires considerable travel time just to get to the island. Since then, he's had to wait on some logistical hurdles to be cleared so that he could actually begin the expedition in ernest. You can read about those issues on his always well written blog, and today's update indicates that he is en route to the Pyramid at last. Considering Carstensz is the one peak in the Seven Summits that I know the least about, I'm particularly looking forward to reading Alan's thoughts on the climb.

Once he's done in New Guinea, he'll next fly off to Australia, where he'll take a stroll up Mt. Kosciuszko, the tallest mountain on that continent at 2228 meters (7310 feet). Depending on your definition of the Seven Summits, which is to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents, Kosciuszko is often included on the list. Most climbers going for this achievement climb both Carstensz and Kosciuszko just to have all of their bases covered.

After these two climbs are complete, Alan will have just one mountain remaining on his list. That is of course Denali, the tallest peak in North America. He attempted to climb that peak in July, but bad weather denied Alan the summit. We'll have to wait to see if the mountain is a bit more accommodating next summer.

Gear Box: AS-1 Backpack

When you want to build a house, you hire an architect. When you want to design an airplane, you get an aeronautical engineer. It only makes sense that if  you want the best backpack possible for adventure racing, you go to the best adventure racer ever.

With three Eco-Challenge wins, five Primal Quest titles, and four world championships to his name, Mike Kloser has an adventure racing resume that few can match. He has years of experience in races of various lengths and in various environments, and he has taken all of that knowledge and channeled it into an amazing backpack that will appeal not only to multi-sport athletes, but hikers and travelers as well.

Mike's AS-1 Pack comes to us from his fledgling company Out There! and it brings with it a host of features that are sure to make it a hit with the AR crowd. As you would expect from a pack designed by an adventure racer, the AS-1 is not only tough and durable, but it is also lightweight and comfortable as well. In fact, after spending hours on the trail with this pack, I can honestly say it is one of the most comfortable packs of its size that I have ever used. The back panel is well padded and offers good ventilation, which aids in keeping you cool while on the move, and well placed hip pouches keep snacks or other small gear items close at hand at all times. Those same pouches can be easily removed if necessary, which only begins to hint at the level of versatility found in this pack.

Made from water resistant materials, the AS-1 provides 30 liters of internal storage with another 10 liters of external capacity. A unique double cinch system helps to keep moisture out of the inside of the pack, keeping gear dry in poor weather conditions. Two hydration bladder pockets, one internal one external, offer versatility for carrying your water supply and four(!) bottle holsters make it easy to expand that capacity further.

The versatility extends to adjusting the pack's fit as well. The shoulder and chest straps are a snap to adjust to match your personal comfort, and the waist belt can be easily slid and modified to fit your needs as well. High quality buckles and clasps hold everything in place, even while carrying a full load, and in my testing of the AS-1, once I locked in the fit, it stayed exactly where I wanted it at all times.

The list of features on the AS-1 goes on and on. plenty of storage pockets in various sizes, ice axe/trekking pole loops, side compression straps that can be used to carry skis or a snowboard, integrated emergency whistle, and more. In short, just about everything that the outdoor enthusiast could possibly want out of a pack, save the kitchen sink.

There were a lot of things that I really liked about the AS-1, but I think the variety of storage options and easy of access to your gear is probably what impressed me the most. For instance, their are two zippered pockets in the pack's hood alone, with a variety of others hidden away throughout the design. There are so many cleverly integrated pockets in fact, that you may use the pack three or four times before you discover them all. It is all of this storage and organization that will make this a popular pack not just with adventure racers, but active travelers as well. Heck, I found at least three places to store my laptop alone.

Built from the ground up for the sport of adventure racing, I believe that this is, without a doubt, the best available pack for that sport. Mike knows full well what is needed – and what isn't – out of a high performance pack on a multi-day race, and the results shine through in the AS-1. Small touches, like quick and easy access to all your gear, at all times, is the kind of detail that you don't get out of a pack designed by someone who has never competed in the sport.

But one word that I've used often in this review is "versatility," and it is the characteristic that will make this bag popular with people who have no intention of ever entering an adventure race. The AS-1 may have been built for AR, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great option for hikers, travelers, backcountry skiers, or just about anyone else who plays in the outdoors. Its versatility will make this pack the first choice on many future adventures for me, with only it's size limiting it for longer term forays into the backcountry.

As you can probably tell, I was highly impressed with the AS-1 and think that you will be too. From its high quality construction to its exceptional comfort, this pack was a delight to use, and whether you're planning your first adventure race or preparing for a trek in the Andes, the AS-1 is a perfect companion on what ever adventures  you have in your future. (MSRP: $189)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Missing Sailor Feared Eaten By Cannibals

Here's your "What century is again?" story of the day.

A 40-year old German sailor, named Stefan Ramin, has gone missing in French Polynesia, and is believed to have been eaten by cannibals. Ramin and his girlfriend Heike Dorsch, have been sailing around the world over the past three years, and stopped on the island of Nuku Hiva, where they planned to spends some time off the ocean.

A few weeks back, Ramin went for a hike on the island with a local goat hunter by the name of Henri Haiti. Later in the day, Haiti returned alone and told Dorsch that there had been an accident and that her boyfriend needed help. When Dorsh attempted to call the police for assistance however, Haiti tied her to a tree and sexually assaulted her, before disappearing into the jungle.

Later, Dorsh was able to free herself and alert authorities, who immediately began searching the area for signs of Ramin. Last Saturday, after a week of searching, they believe they discovered his remains in the ashes left over from a fire, where they found a human jawbone and teeth that are believed to have belonged to the German man.

According to the story linked to above, Nuku Hiva was the setting of two novels by Herman Melville and has had a history of cannibalism in the past. That said, there have been no reported cases in more than a century, and the island's 2000 residents are said to be baffled by what happened to the missing sailor. The one man who can actually tell the whole story, Henri Haiti, is still missing as well.

This is certainly a strange story to say the least. I know that there are a lot of remote places on the planet, some with indigenous people who live much the same way as they have done for centuries. But it has been a long time since I've heard anything about cannibals. While it certainly is still a possibility I suppose, but I think it's probably more likely that something happened between Haiti and Ramin, and Haiti tried to cover it up by burning his remains. After all, its pretty evident that Haiti isn't the most respectable of men to begin with.

Ramin and Dorsch were planning on sailing to New Zealand in a few weeks time, where they were also planning on ending their three-year voyage. Sad that it had to finish like this.

Thanks to Outside magazine for sharing this story.

Antarctica 2011: More Delays To Start Of The Season

Yesterday I mentioned that there were delays to the start of the 2011 Antarctic season, but ALE was hoping to get their first plane out to the ice today. Turns out there won't be any flights today either, as weather is continuing to cause problems for the teams hoping to head south soon.

Earlier today, James Castrission and Justin Jones tweeted an update from Punta Arenas, where they are preparing to set out on the Crossing The Ice expedition. The two Aussie lads were expecting to head out to Patriot Hills on Sunday, but snow covered the runway in Antarctica, so the flight was delayed until today. Apparently the runway has now been cleared, but a cold front has moved into the area, causing ALE to scrub all flights out today as well. There is no word on when they hope to make another attempt, but I know there are teams that are anxious to get started.

Meanwhile, ALE has posted a good rundown of all the expeditions for this season on their website. You can get a look at them by clicking here. You'll see several "Centenary" expeditions, which are all a nod to the fact that 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the Amundsen-Scott Race to the Pole that resulted in the Norwegian becoming the first man to reach that point, while the Brit met a tragic end. There will be plenty more to share on that story in the weeks ahead, but it appears that there will be no shortage of teams celebrating the anniversary this year.

Unfortunately, none of those teams are able to get underway just yet. Perhaps tomorrow the weather pattern will change and flights can get underway, but I have feeling it will be another two or three days before things officially get underway.

100-Year Old Man Completes Marathon, What's Your Excuse?

This past weekend, 100-year old Fauja Singh completed the Toronto Marathon and ran into the record books in the process. Singh, who didn't take up running until he was 89, is the oldest person to officially complete a marathon, which is 26.2 mile (42.1 km) in length.

Singh wasn't exactly setting any speed records, but then again, that's not what this story is all about. It took him about 8 hours, 25 minutes to cover the course, which brought him in dead last, but accomplished his goal of finishing in under nine hours. Event organizers were picking up barricades and banners even as he approached the finish line.

This was Singh's 8th marathon and he doesn't seem ready to quit yet. He hopes to be a part of the Olympic torch relay for the 2012 London Games next year as well.

Pretty inspiring stuff. I hope I'm still running when I hit a century old. Fauja shoots a lot of holes in the excuse that "I'm too old" to start running/exercising. You're never too old to get outside and hit the road.

Gear Box: Kelty Cosmic Down 20º Sleeping Bag

For those of us who live in the warmer, southern region of the U.S., the fall season bring relief from the heat at last. That means we get head back outside and enjoy our favorite wild space for the first time in a few months. It is also the perfect season for camping, as the days are still warm, but the nights are perfect for spending time in a tent. Recently I had the opportunity to test out the Kelty Cosmic Down 20º sleeping bag in just those conditions, and came away quite impressed. It isn't the warmest or lightest bag I've ever used, but for the price, it packs a lot of performance.

Kelty is an outdoor gear company that has built a solid reputation for making good gear, at affordable prices, that are perfect for the more casual outdoor crowd. Someone who enjoys camping and hiking, but isn't likely to be heading to the Andes or the Himalaya any time soon. Their gear is designed more for the weekend warrior than the hardcore adventure set, but over the years they have built a very loyal following who swear by their products.

With that in mind, I wasn't sure what to expect out of the Cosmic Down. After all, Kelty was promising a down-filled sleeping bag, rated for 20ºF (-6 Cº) that weighs 3.5 pound (1.6 kilograms) for around a hundred bucks. If the bag could come anywhere close to meeting those specs, I'd be quite happy.

Removing the Cosmic Down from its included stuff sack, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the bag. The fabrics were all quite nice and the zippers were solid and moved without sticking or snagging on the cloth. Rolling it out on the floor, I immediately crawled inside and was happy do discover there was plenty of room for my tall frame. Kelty had sent me the "large" version of the bag for review, and it was definitely spacious and comfortable, particularly for a mummy bag.

When put to real-world, practical use, the bag didn't disappoint either. The Cosmic Down uses 550-fill Down, which was surprisingly warm and made for comfortable sleeping with temperatures falling into the 20's, although I'm not sure I'd want to trust it much lower than that. For most three-season camping conditions, this is a more than adequate choice.

When first eyeballing the CD I was a bit concerned that it didn't have any kind of venting options on the lower half of the bag. Turns out it didn't really need them, as the well designed half-zip that runs along the side worked well when I needed to let a little air into the bag. Kelty also built in security loops to keep the Cosmic Down connected to your sleeping pad, which is a nice touch for a bag that isn't considered "hardcore."

Campers and backpackers on a budget will absolutely love this bag. It is comfortable, well made, and is a perfect option for late spring, summer, and early fall camping. Kelty has managed to create a product that lives up to its performance promises and does so in an attractive and affordable package. If you're in the market to upgrade your gear, than the Cosmic Down is a fantastic choice, as you'll have cash left over to continue shopping for other equipment as well. (MSRP: $99.95 (small), $109.95 (medium), $119.95 (long))

Checkout other Kelty gear at TravelCountry.com.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canadian Man Completes 11-Year Walk Around The Globe

A Canadian man who has spent the last 11-years walking around the world, completed his march yesterday, arriving back home in Montreal. Over the course of his journey, he covered more than 75,500 km (46,913 miles) and burned through 54 pairs of shoes.

The 56-year Jean Béliveau began his World Wide Walk back in August of 2000 as an attempt to not only circumnavigate the globe under his own power, but also promote peace and non-violence as a way of making the world a better place for children. His route first took him south across North and South America, where he then jumped over to Africa and began heading north once again. From there, it was on to Europe, before turning east to cross Asia to Japan, then down to Australia and New Zeland, and finally returning to Canada.

For the most part, Béliveau traveled alone, pushing a three wheeled cart that carried his gear. Over the course of the trip, he pushed that cart through 60 different countries, where he often stayed in the homes of the people he met along the way. He said that one of the most rewarding parts of the journey was experiencing the cultures in those nations first hand and embracing as much as he could along the way.

According to the story I linked to above, Béliveau hadn't been home to Montreal since he embarked on his walk a decade ago. In fact, he met his five year old granddaughter for the first time upon his arrival back to the city, where he was greeted by his wife as well. The journey began out of what he describes as a mid-life crisis, but now he's ready to be home, where he intends to write about his travels, do some public speaking, and continue to promote the cause of peace.

Pretty impressive hike this guy went on. Even more impressive his how understanding his wife must be!

The New York Times Looks At Speed Climbing

The New York Times has posted a story and video on speed climbing in the world of mountaineering and takes a look at the approach to climbing, which inherently brings some risks for those who choose to go faster in the mountains.

The article mentions or quotes a number of big name climbers, including Steve House, who has a few harsh things to say about the approach, saying that speed records are for stroking someone's "ego." The Times also interviews Chad Kellogg about his attempts at a speed record on Everest, and the included video, which can't be embedded here, shows Chad training on Mt. Rainier. Rock climber Alex Honnold weighs in, saying he just climbs, and that speed records are simply a by-product of the faster approach. Even Ueli Steck offers some comments, saying that it is important to balance speed with safety on any climb.

I came across this link thanks to a post over at the Adventure Journal, and like them, I'm happy to see mountaineering get some mainstream press, but the writer acts like it is something new for climbers to try to go faster and lighter on the mountain. It has been happening for years, it is just that we've gotten to the point now where the athletes are better trained, better prepared, and have better equipment than ever before. That combination is allowing a few elite climbers to really push the envelope.

I think the following quote from Steve Swenson, president of the American Alpine Club, is a good one:
“Fifty years ago, adventure in the mountains was more about going places where no one had been,” he said. “Most of these places have been more thoroughly explored. Maybe adventure gets redefined.”
To me, "adventure" is a very personal thing, and what consitutues an adventure for some people, may not  be the same for others. It is important that we all find the definition that works for ourselves, and then pursue the best way to put some adventure into our lives. That's what I see out of these climbers. They are indeed redefining adventure for the 21st century.

Want To Row Across The Caribbean In 2012?

Have you ever wanted to row across and ocean but didn't know how to go about it? Have you read about Roz Savage's experiences on her expeditions and wished you could do something similar? If you answered yes to those questions, then I've got some good news for you.

Expedition Manager Margaret Bowling is currently recruiting rowers for the first ever Caribbean Sea rowing expedition, which will take place early in 2012. The expedition will be conducted in two stages, the first running from Port St. Charles in Barbados and ending in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and the second departs Montego Bay for Cancun, Mexico. The journey is set to begin on March 10th and is expected to run until April 28th.

The crew will consist of 14 crew and 2 skippers, with the team taking shifts of two hours on, two hours off throughout the voyage. They'll be rowing a specially designed rowing catamaran called Big Blue, which I'm told is the largest  ocean rowing boat in the world. As you can imagine, a reasonable level of fitness is required, as is a basic knowledge of rowing as well. Applicants will be vetted by the skippers before they are approved to join the crew.

If you're interested in being a part of this adventure or want more details on how you can join, send an e-mail to WhereFewDare@yahoo.co.uk.

This is going to be a physically and mentally challenging expedition, but for anyone who wishes they could go on a grand ocean adventure, it sounds like it is going to be fantastic.

Antarctica 2011: First Teams Prepare To Hit The Ice

The 2011 Antarctic season was scheduled to officially get underway yesterday with ALE's first flight to Patriot Hills and the Union Glacier camp. Unfortunately, things aren't quite ready yet, so the flight has been delayed until tomorrow. In the meantime, this slight delay has given the teams that are already in Punta Arenas and opportunity to finish their last minute prep work and rest up for the start of their journey.

One of those teams is the Crossing the Ice squad consisting of Aussie adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones who sent an audio dispatch yesterday detailing their delay. Apparently, all of their gear was loaded on board ALE's big Ilyushin IL76 aircraft, and the boys thought they were ready to go, when they received word that the runway, which is built out of ice, was not ready to start receiving traffic just yet. ALE told them that it would be a few days before they could go, and projected tomorrow (October 18) for the date of the first flight.

For those who don't know, ALE stands for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. The company operates out of Punta Arenas, Chile and organizes most commercial flights to Antarctica. They operate a couple of camps on the continent themselves, and many adventurers hire them to deliver them, and their gear, safely to the frozen continent, where they can begin their journey to the South Pole, Mt. Vinson, or whatever other destination they're headed toward.

It is still early in the season, so a few days delay shouldn't disrupt the schedule much at all, and barring any major storms moving into the area, its likely the first flights will get underway tomorrow as expected. Over the next few weeks, we'll see a steady stream of explorers heading out onto the ice, as we celebrate 100 years of Antarctic exploration over the coming months.

There will be a lot of traffic at the bottom of the world this season, so expect plenty of good updates on their progress.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ski The Himalaya S3E4: On The Trail At Last!

To round out the week, I thought I'd share another episode of Ski The Himalayas Season 3. The past few episodes have been spent in the small village of Jomsom, where the team is trying to figure out what to do about their expedition, which has hit a snag thanks to the lack of porters to help them reach their intended destination.

In this episode, show producer Ben Clark, climbing partner Jon Miller, and the rest of the crew start to think about different objectives and destinations for their limited stay in the Himalaya, and then hit the trail to finally get started on what they came to Nepal for.



A Night Of Nine Feats

Last week, while I was off playing in the Costa Rican rainforest, my friend Lisa de Speville was hosting the third edition of the Fascinating Expedition & Adventure Talks, better known as FEAT, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For those that aren't familiar with FEAT, it is an event that brings a group of South African adventurers together for one night to share insights into their expeditions. The format is simple, they each have exactly seven minutes to discuss a certain aspect of their adventure, making it very important that they convey their message in a succinct and coherent manner.

This was the third FEAT event so far, and more are in the works. To get a taste of what FEAT is all about, check out the video below of Kobus Bresler, who came up with the idea of creating a "microadventure" for himself, in which he would climb nine local peaks in nine days.



Video: Mountain Biking Through A Forest

If the mountain biking video I posted earlier wasn't your cup of tea, perhaps you'll enjoy this one more. It comes to us from the Coastal Crew, who prefer to ride not in the wide open desert, but the lush green environments of the forest. This looks like a lovely trail to ride, although I could do without the insane jumping.

Thanks to the Adventure Journal for sharing!




Coastal Crew - Summer Time Voltage from The Coastal Crew on Vimeo.

The Descent II: Mountain Biking In Utah

While back there was a great wingsuit video making the rounds called "The Descent" that was not only extremely well done, but served as a great commercial for Casio's line of G-Shock watches, which were used prominently in the short film. Now, Casio is back with "The Descent II," which leaves the skydiving behind in favor of some great mountain biking in Utah.

This time out, riders Cameron Zink and Kyle Strait are testing out the G9300, a solar powered time piece designed to take a lot of punishment, that also features a built in thermometer and digital compass. While it looks like a fine watch for active people however, the video is all about the riding, and well worth watching for that alone. It is very nicely done.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

All-Star Team Climbs Meru's Shark's Fin

An all-star team of climbers, that includes Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk, successfully sumitted the North West Face of the Shark's Fin route on Meru Peak in India last week. The mountain, which stands 6660 meters (21,850 ft) in height, is located in the Garhwal Himalaya, and had never been climbed along this route before.

The Shark's Fin is well known in mountaineering circles for its diverse challenges. It begins with a typical Himalayan snow and ice route, but then turns into a tough vertical wall of rock and ice, before giving way to an extremely tough overhanging headwall that would be challenging at any altitude. In short, it is an intense mix of technical rock climbing and high altitude, alpine style, mountaineering.

The team of Anker, Chin, and Ozturk first attempted this route back in 2008, but were forced to turn back 100 meters below the summit. This time, things went a bit better, as they even managed to top out a week ahead of schedule. That didn't meant the climb was easy, as in addition to the technical difficulties of the climb, they experienced some rather high winds and snow as well.

You can read the expedition dispatches at the Never Stop Exploring blog, which is the official blog of The North Face, the sponsors of the expedition. Of course, there are also some fantastic pictures from Chin as well.

This is an amazing job out of a great team of climbers on a really tough route.

Antarctica 2011: Calm Before The Storm

With the fall Himalaya season finally winding down (There were a few late summits on Manaslu), the adventure community will next turn its eyes to the Antarctic, where things are just now starting to ramp up. Over the course of the next few weeks, explorers, both solo and in teams, will descend on Punta Arenas, Chile, where they'll take care of all of their last minute preparations before hopping a flight aboard an ALE plane to the frozen continent.

Some of those explorers will be headed to the South Pole of course, while others will travel to Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain on the continent. A few will venture off the beaten path to some other peak or take an unexplored route into a seldom visited, little known area of the Antarctic.

One of the first teams to arrive in Punta Arenas in the Crossing the Ice squad of James Castrission and Justin Jones, affectionately known as Cas and Jonesy. The boys touched down there a few days back, but have been recovering from jet lag and organizing their gear, as they get ready to hit the ice in just a few days time. They are a bit earlier than most, but they're going to need all the time they can get, as they intend to make the 2200km (1367 mile) journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, and back again, on foot and unassisted. If successful, they'll be the first to accomplish that feat.

This year will be a special one in the Antarctic, as it will mark the 100th anniversary of the famous (infamous?) race to the Pole that was waged by Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Britain's Robert Falcon Scott. There are a few teams that will be following in the footsteps of those explorers and plenty of stories about their heroics. For those that don't know, the two men were locked in a struggle to become the first man to reach the South Pole. Amundsen ended up getting their first, 35 days ahead of his rival, and Scott and his party suffered mightily, before dying on the return trip.

The full story is a sad one, and I'm sure I'll be sharing more details of it over the coming days, starting next week, when we'll mark the start of 100 year celebration with the anniversary of the start of Amundsen's expedition.

Because of this big anniversary, the Antarctic is going to be a very busy place this year.

Watch The Last Wild Race Online

If you're a fan of adventure racing, or have always wondered what the sport is all about, then I have great news for you. The full version of the film The Last Wild Race is now available for streaming online, giving you the opportunity to watch this year's Patagonian Expedition Race in all of its glory.

My friend Brian Leitten, who made the documentary, sent me the following information about how you can not only watch this great film, but win some swag in the process:


The Last Wild Race, the documentary on the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race is now available for rental at Prescreen.com. https://prescreen.com/movie/The-Last-Wild-Race

The film, which highlights the struggles and successes of extreme endurance athletes as they traverse some of the harshest terrain in the world, has won four awards:
  • Best Environmental Film - Yosemite Film Festival
  • Best Adventure Sport Film - Killarney Adventure Film Festival
  • Best Film - Vanka Regule Adventure Film Festival
  • Best Environmental Film - Colorado Film Festival

Over the summer it aired around the world on Outside Television, Fox Sports Network and NHK.

The film will be available to rent for 60 days.
If you act quickly, the first day (Thursday, October 13) rental fee is $4, after that the film will cost $8.

For your movie rental, you not only get the film, you are entered into a special giveaway.
Anyone who rents the film from October 13-17 can qualify by submitting their rental receipt to info@patagonianexpeditionrace.com. Please include your name, phone number and email address.
The prizes include 5 gift packs of race memorabilia, 25 official race patches.

I had the opportunity to watch this film a couple of months back and really enjoyed it. The scenery is spectacular and the race is filled with plenty of drama. Everything you would expect from one of the toughest adventure races on the planet. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chris Sharma Preparing To Climb Hardest Route In The World

Nat Geo Adventure has posted a good interview today with Chris Sharma, one of the top rock climbers on the planet. Sharma earned a reputation for wandering across the globe looking for new, and unique challenges to test his skills, but now, according to National Geographic, he has settled down in Catalonia, Spain, and is training take on the toughest rock climbing route in the world.

In this interview, Sharma discusses what Spain has to offer a climber of his caliber, how his style has changed as he's gotten older (Chri is 30 now) and who he thinks is an up and coming star in the climbing world. He also mentions a 5.15b route that he spent seven years trying to figure out, which has led him to his new project, a 5.15c, which he hopes to climb this winter. He feels that it just might be the hardest climb on the planet, and it just so happens to be located not far from where he now calls home.

Chris is an interesting guy and I have always enjoyed his adventurous spirit that has found him climbing in some really unique places. It'll be interesting to see if he can pull off this amazingly tough climb in the near future.



Chris Sharma: A Sense Of Place from Prana Living on Vimeo.

World Rafting Championships Update

The World Rafting Championships that I was lucky enough to attend this past weekend in Costa Rica,  wrapped up the final day of competition on Monday with the long distance, Down River event. That final rafting discipline followed three other days of racing that featured sprints against the clock, head-to-head races, and a test of agility through a slalom course.

Heading into the final day, the championship was still up in the air, and there were several teams that had a legitimate chance to win the competition. In the end, it was the young team from Japan that not only won the Down River, but wrapped up the men's championship as well. They were followed in the point standings by the Czech Republic and Slovenian teams. For the ladies, it was just as good of a competition, although the standings at the top were revered. The Czech team took first place, with Japan coming in second, and the Netherlands claiming third. (Both the men's and women's American teams finished in seventh place overall.)

I've also uploaded some photos from the event so you can get an idea of what was happening there on the lovely Pacuare River near Turrialba, which is an outdoor/adventure sports playground in Costa Rica. You can check out my gallery of images by clicking here.

The WRC was definitely a lot of fun to attend, although it could benefit from a bit more organization. That said, considering the remote nature of the event, and the unpredictable conditions, I'd say the event organizers did a good job overall in keeping things running along as best they could.

Congrats to the winners of course, but to everyone who raced or put the event together. And thanks for hosting me while I was there!

Adventure Interviews: Ripley Davenport and Louis-Philippe Loncke

We've got a couple of more interesting interviews courtesy of our friends at CheapTents.com and Adventeer.com, both of which have been cranking out some great content recently.

First up, CheapTents has posted an interview with Louis-Philippe Loncke, who recently completed his kayaking tour of Belgium. In the interview, he discusses that expedition of course, but also touches on some of his other adventures, sharing thoughts on what inspires him, what he has planned for the future, his favorite gear items, and his worst injury ever suffered on an expedition. Warning! The last one is not for the faint of heart.

Not to be outdone, the Adventeer team has an excellent interview with Ripley Davenport, who has spent a great deal of time in desert environments, including the  Namib Desert, Kara-kum, and, in recent years, the Gobi. Ripley discusses the allure of those places, which of the deserts presented him with the biggest challenges, the indigenous people he has met in his travels, and much, much more. He also offers advice to those seeking to pursue their own adventures and gives us some hint son what he plans on doing in the near future as well.

Both are good interviews to start off your day and provide a little adventurous inspiration. Thanks to both CheapTents and Adventeer for sharing!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ski The Himalayas: S3E3 - Stuck In Jomsom

In the last episode of Ski The Himalayas, Ben Clark and Jon Miller, along with the rest of their team, were stuck in the small village of Jomsom trying to figure out a way to get all of their gear and supplies out to a remote mountain without the aid of porters. The region was too challenging to take a team of donkeys or horses, and it appeared as if the entire expedition could come to a halt if a solution wasn't found.

In Episode 3, the team continues to struggle with the logistics of their climb and ski. With a limited window in Nepal, and no real shot of reaching their intended destination, they're left wondering what they should do next. This is a situation that can occur on nearly any expedition, and at times it seems you have to learn to make the best of what ever situation you find yourself in.



Time Lapse Landscapes That Will Leave You Breathless

As far as time lapse videos go, the one below is certainly amongst the best that I've seen in awhile. If you've been stuck inside for far too long, this will help you to remember why you want to get back outside and go play in a some wild space.

The video was shot with a Canon 5D2 DSLR in Arizona by filmmaker Dustin Farrell, and is like an interactive postcard on why we should all go visit that state. Very beautiful!

Thans to The Goat for sharing this one.


Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Another Team Preps To Row The Atlantic

A team of Slovenian and British adventurers are planning to row the Atlantic in early 2012, making the journey along the Trade Winds Route between the Canary Islands and Barbados. The crew plans to set out in January, when conditions in the Atlantic are best for such a crossing.

The four-man team consists of three Brits, Nikkie Brown, Simon Osborne, and Stephen Bowens, as well as Marin Medak, who is the lone Slovenian on the squad. They hope to complete the 2500 nautical mile journey in about 60 days, braving the vast and open ocean along the way.

You can read more about their plans on the team's official website TransAtlantic20212.com, where you'll find info about each of the men, their specially designed row boat, and more.