Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventure Travel Company Accused Of Killing Over 100 Sled Dogs

An adventure travel company has come under scrutiny in British Columbia, Canada after a former worker filed a compensation claim for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The employee says that the condition came about because he was ordered to shoot more than 100 sled dogs over a two day period last year.

According to this story from CTV News, Outdoor Adventure Whistler conducted a "horrific" culling of their sled dogs last April, killing more than 100 of the them and throwing them in a mass grave. The culling took place April 21-23 and in the original claim, the worker says that he helped kill 70 dogs. The article says that the company later corrected that number to 100.

The tales that the person filing the claim has to tell are certainly not easy ones to read, and dog lovers will especially want to take caution when reading the story. A follow-up article, found here, says that Royal Canadian Mounted Police have now joined the investigation into what actually happened, and they will now dig up the mass grave to further investigate the allegations.

The story says that Outdoor Adventure Whistler did not respond to inquiries about the incident, but indications are that with the economy still sluggish and the travel industry still recovering, the dogs were killed off following a particularly slow winter season last year. One Vancouver group has already called for a complete ban of dog sled tours following this report.

Reading this story earlier was a extremely tough for me. As an animal lover, I wouldn't want to see any creature treated this way. This is a glimpse of a darker side to adventure travel, and while I believe that this is probably an isolated incident, it doesn't make it any easier to read about. If the allegations prove to be true, I hope action is taken very swiftly against the people involved.

Thanks to Eric Chan for sharing this sad story.

Atacama Extreme: Blisters Bring The Suffering

We're now a week into the Atacama Extreme, which is an expedition that has been undertaken by explorer Ray Zahab who is attempting to run the length of Chile's Atacama Desert, the driest place on the planet. So far, the pace has been exactly what he expected, as he has covered roughly 70km (43 miles) per day, but that hasn't come without a price. Ray has been suffering with a massive blister, which has rubbed his foot raw, and as a result, yesterday he was forced to take some time off to let it heal. This is, as you can imagine, a bit of a frustration for the man who has run across the Sahara, gone to the South Pole on foot, and traversed the length of Lake Baikal in the dead of winter.

The video below gives you an idea of what exactly Ray has been dealing with while he has run the past few days. Clearly the desert has taken its toll on his feet. Since our last update on the run, Ray has moved through a region that was full of deep gorges and has found his way out onto the salt flats that the Atacama is so well known for. He has also found a set of abandoned railroad tracks that have helped lead the way through some of the more remote areas, but despite that, the desert still presents a considerable challenge, although the expedition remains on track to finish up later this week.

Day 7 Atacama Extreme from GOi2P on Vimeo.

Ireland Gets A New Adventure Film Festival

The Explore Foundation, which is a new non-profit organization founded by Tim Lavery and Ripley Davenport, has announced a new adventure film festival for Ireland. The Killarney Adventure Film Festival, or KAFF, is scheduled to take place April 7-10, 2011 and will feature plenty of great adventure films from amateurs and professionals alike.

The organizers of the event are now looking for submissions and on the official KAFF website they have this to say about what they are looking for:
"It’s open to everyone that does weird, wacky, death-defying acts of adventure so here’s your chance to get excited and have a crack of getting your adventure film into the Hall of Fame and onto the big screen. By all accounts, who knows where this may lead to next?"
No matter what your outdoor adventure passion, you'll find a spot at KAFF. Entries can be short videos or feature length films, and can fall into a variety of categories including: Polar Adventures, Climbing Adventures, Desert Adventures, and a whole lot more. For a complete list of the categories click here and to register to submit a film, click here.

While still in the early planning stages, it seems that there are plenty of great things on tap for the first ever KAFF. The early info hints at surprise guests, screenings of some big films, and great prizes for the winners. The official website offers more info on Killarney as well, including where to stay while attending the event.

The Explore Foundation was founded in December of 2010 and has the ambitious goal of inspiring young people to see the world through a different perspective. The non-profit hopes to educate and inspire them through exploration and adventure. It seems there are some big things in the works for the organization, and we'll all just have to wait to see what is ahead. For now though, the focus is on KAFF and building a great adventure film community around that festival. Sounds like a blast!

Gear Box: Polarmax Base Layers

There is an old adage amongst outdoor enthusiasts that says "there is no bad weather, just bad gear." We all love to play outside no matter what time of the year it is, but if you don't have the right clothing, it can make for a very long day. This is especially true during the winter, when cold weather can keep you shut inside for weeks on end. Thankfully, modern outdoor apparel is fantastic, allowing us to enjoy our favorite winter sports in even the worst conditions.

For me, a good layering system always starts with the base layers, and we're fortunate enough to have a lot of options in this area. But I recently had the chance to put the entire line of Polarmax base layers to the test when I went to Montana and Yellowstone in early January, and over the course of several days, I had the full gamut of weather to try them out in.

Polarmax base layers come in three varieties: warm, warmer, and warmest. The "warm" category is actually a lightweight travel silk that can be quite versatile in a number of environments, even when it isn't necessarily all that cold. The "warmer" option offers comfort and performance in a great package, and it even looks and feel like cotton, although it performs like the technical gear you would expect. This option is great for true winter conditions, keeping you warm in just about all temperatures. Finally, the "warmest" option is exactly that – warm! I wore the tops as a stand alone option until temperatures fell below zero, at which time I paired it with a shell jacket and stayed perfectly warm all day long.

Each of the various options come in both tops and bottoms, and all of them are extremely comfortable to wear. I rarely need to wear the technical tights, but on extremely cold days they are nice to have on your legs. The Polarmax pants not restrictive to movement at all, and they kept me warm while breathing, which meant that while I was snowshoeing in sub-zero weather, I remained comfortably warm without getting too hot.

When we're headed out for a day in the snow, that is exactly what we want, great technical clothing that keep us comfortable no matter what we're doing. Polarmax delivers that and then some with their entire line of gear and with all the options they have available, they have the right piece for where ever you're headed or what ever you're doing.

On my Montana trip, I wore the "warm" layers while kicking around Big Sky Resort, snowboarding and zip lining. On those days, temps were roughly 25º-30ºF and when used with a shell, it was comfortable all day long. A few days later, while in the very heart of Yellowstone, temperatures dropped to single digits, with some scary wind chill factors. It was then that I jumped up to the "warmest" option, donning both technical tops and tights. They served their purpose quite well while standing out in the cold watching wildlife and geothermal activity. They were also versatile enough to transition to more active pursuits while cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well.

My favorite piece that I tested was the Quatro Fleece Men's Zip that falls into the "warmest" category. It works so well in so many ways that it quickly earned a place of honor in my gear closet. It can be a base layer on it's own, or you can put a technical top under it for added warmth, and on the very cold days, you can pull a shell over top for a complete layering system. I love a piece of gear that can be this versatile, which comes in handy when you're trying to pack light for winter travel. I've used the Men's Zip alone on cold weather runs and as part of a full layering system on sub-zero days.

With a well designed, good looking line-up of base layers available, Polarmax has us well covered for all of our cold weather needs. If you're planning some winter adventures in the near future, you'll find everything you need in the Polarmax line no matter where you're headed. I give them a big thumbs up for comfort and performance and I think you'll love the layers too.

(MSRP: Varies depending on pieces.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Denali In January: Heading Home!

For the past several weeks, we've all been following Lonnie Dupre has he attempted his solo climb of Denali in January. We all knew that the polar explorer was tough and could handle frigid conditions, but the task ahead of him was still a daunting one. He hoped to nab the first solo summit of the mountain during its coldest and darkest month. Today came news that the mountain had won, as he is now headed to Base Camp and eventual flight home.

Throughout the month of January, things seemed to be going well for Dupre. The weather was good and he was making steady progress up the 20,320 foot (6194 meter) tall mountain. But last weekend, conditions took a turn for the worse, with high winds and heavy snow hitting the region. Reportedly, Lonnie endured 100 mph winds and -60ºF temperatures while he waited for things to clear. After a few days in a snow cave however, he decided it was best to head back down and wait for a better opportunity. During our last update, on Wednesday, it appeared that that is exactly what he would do as he descended to 14,200 feet.

The updates to his blog today tell a different story however. It seems that he has decided that it isn't safe to climb the mountain any longer, and as the last few days of January slip away, it is best to head home. So, his support team says that he is in the process of moving down to Base Camp, located at about 7200 feet, where he'll wait for a plane to pick him up and take him to Talkeetna. Reportedly, conditions on the way back down have been on the treacherous side, which has made for slow going. But if all goes well, he should be able to catch a flight over the weekend and should be back in civilization soon.

Despite not grabbing the summit, this was an excellent expedition to follow. Lonnie did a great job under very difficult conditions and we're told that he is in good spirits but looking forward to a hot shower, a green salad, and a glass of red wine. Come to think of it, those are the same things I'm looking forward to as well.

Well done Lonnie!

Contador Maintains Innocence, Says He'll Fight Suspension

Yesterday I wrote a piece about Alberto Contador's being stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and his  suspension from competitive cycling for one year. In that story I wrote that Contador would be holding a press conference today and that he had ten days to provide any evidence that could possibly impact the ruling on his ability to compete. In typical Contador fashion, at that press conference he wasn't silent on the matter and has vowed to fight the suspension.

The whole controversy started in August when one of Contador's doping control samples tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance that can be used for muscle building that can also provide some short term, competitive advantages for riders. That alone would normally mean that a positive test would result in a suspension, but the drug is also used, illegally I might add, to build bulk in cattle. Contador has maintained all along that he tested positive due to eating tainted meat that was brought by a team chef from Spain on one of the rest days during the Tour, and it is quite possible that that is what happened. Trace elements of the drug can be passed into the human body from meat that has been enhanced through its use, and if that is the case, then Contador is a victim of the system, as he has said.

The Spanish cycling federation seems to acknowledge that that might be the case as well, since they offered him a one year ban and not two, which has become the standard. They seem to recognize that it is possible that the clenbuterol was passed on to the pro cyclist from something he ate, but they're also in a position that it might not matter. Contador did test positive for a banned substance, and they only have his word that he didn't take it directly for competitive reason. It puts them in a difficult position of trying to rule on the matter in a fair way, but one that is consistent with existing anti-doping policy.

So? What are your thoughts on the matter? What do you think the cycling federations should do in a case such as this one? Clearly the substance is in Contador's body, but how it got there remains a mystery. Should there be a zero tolerance rule or are there gray areas? How do those gray areas get defined?

This isn't an easy thing to rule on. On the one hand, I'm of the mind that he tested positive and that you can't take any chances. The ban needs to apply. But on the other, I'm sympathetic to the possibility that he may have picked up the drug through other means. There is no real way to be sure if Contador was cheating or not, and unfortunately that probably means you need to take the hard line on the matter.

Disagree? Than how would you rule?

National Geographic Announces Adventure Travel Initiative

National Geographic is jumping into the adventure travel arena in a big way and has announced 11 great itineraries for 2011. These new travel opportunities will fall under their National Geographic Expeditions umbrella, but will have their own Nat Geo Adventures brand.

Amongst the destinations for these inaugural trips are Nepal, Chile, Bhutan, Mongolia, and more. The trips are capped at just 16 travelers, which helps to keep it a more intimate affair, and accommodations will range from deluxe camping to cozy mountain inns and lodges depending on the location. The itineraries are also graded on their level of challenge, ranging from easy, moderate, and strenuous, all the way up to "Ultimate Challenge."

In putting these trips together, Nat Geo partnered with Mountain Travel Sobek, one of the top adventure travel companies in the world. Experts from both organizations worked diligently to craft a travel experience that is very different from what is offered elsewhere and that means good things for the adventurous traveler who is looking for something unique.

One of the more interesting options is a 14 day trip through Mongolia on horseback. Travelers will stay in traditional villages while exploring the countryside just like the nomadic Mongol tribes of the past. They'll also have the opportunity to spend some time with National Geographic hosts, anthropologist Carroll Dunham, and her husband, photographer Thomas Kelly, which is just a hint at how the Nat Geo Adventures will vary from other similar trips.

Personally, I think the move into adventure travel by National Geographic is long over due. These trips all look fantastic, and the Nat Geo trademark style is all over them.

For a full list of the tours, click here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Best of OR From The Gear Junkie

A few days back I posted a rundown of some of the best gear at the Outdoor Retailer show that went down last week with a number of outlets weighing in on their favorite items from the convention. At the time, the Gear Junkie, aka Stephen Regenold, shared Part 1 of his Best of Show selections. Now, we have the second part, with even more items that will be luring money out of our bank accounts soon.

In Part 2 of his "Best of" series, Stephen takes a shine to a number of interesting looking items, including a "technical smock" that promises to be the first zipper-free eVent garment. That one comes to us from U.K. based Montane and is set to release in March. Also gaining attention is a new $80 camp pad from NEMO that has a pack weight of just 10 ounces and is about the size of a water bottle when it is rolled up. The new Dry.Q jackets from Mountain Hardwear also get a nod thanks to their ability to keep us warm while also breathing better than GoreTex.

Two other items of note from the Gear Junkie's list. First, the tiny little headlamp from Light and Motion known as the Solite 150 is getting tons of press. It seems that everyone has it on their list of favorite gear, so you know it must have been very impressive at the show. It looks very small and light weight, weighing in at just 125 grams, and can be recharged via the USB port on your computer. I'm definitely interested in this one, although it doesn't come cheap at $179.

The other item that I wanted to point out on the list is a new pair of winter gloves from Outdoor Research. Known as Ambit Gloves, these babies will keep your hands warm and dry while also allowing you to use your touch screen phone such as an iPhone or Android device. Not sure who will want to use those items while out in the cold on the mountain, but at least you have the option without taking your hands out. I recently put my Alti Golves to the test in Yellowstone, and they were incredibly warm even in very cold temps. I highly recommend a pair of gloves from OR. Really good stuff.

So, with most of the post- gear show reports out now, have you seen anything you can't live without yet? There seemed to be al of great evolutionary products coming, but I haven't seen anything truly revolutionary. Am I missing anything?

7 Summits Climb For Alzheimer's: Camp 2 On Aconcagua

It has been about a week and a half since we last checked in on Alan Arnette. At that time he was in Argentina, where he was preparing for the trek to Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, and next on his Seven Summits hit list. Since that time, he has not only arrived on the mountain, but has been working hard to help shuttle gear to the high camps in preparation for the summit push. Yesterday, he and the rest of the team were in Camp 2, located at 18,000 feet (5486 meters), with plans to move up to High Camp today. With their gear in place at that location, they'll be all set for their final push when the weather allows.

For Alan, hiking around Aconcagua is like visiting an old friend. He has successfully climbed the 22'841 foot peak (6962 meters) on two other occasions. But Alan is also a safe and deliberate climber who doesn't take anything for granted. I can assure you that he doesn't look at this summit as a fore-gone conclusion, and he is focused on getting up and down very safely.

For those who aren't aware, Alan is climbing the Seven Summits to raise $1 million for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. Since announcing this project back in November, he has already successfully climbed Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, and after Aconcagua he'll move on to Everest, a mountain that he has also been on several times in the past. Most Seven Summiteers wait to do Everest last, but Alan will make it the third peak on his list.

Good luck on Aconcagua this week Alan! Climb on!

Another Black Eye For Cycling, Contador Banned, Stripped of Tour Title!

Here we go again!

It seems pro cycling still has a long way to go in cleaning up its image and its riders. The big news today is that three time defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title and suspended from the sport for one year after he tested positive for a banned substance last year.

Contador tested positive for a weight loss/muscle building drug called clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, but has maintained that he picked it up through bad meat that he ate while competing. The drug is sometimes used in cattle to help with the growth process. Velo News reports that the drug can "have short-term stimulant effects, including increasing aerobic capacity, blood pressure and alertness," as well. Contador now has ten  days to present any counter arguments, or he must sit out of the sport for one year. He intends to hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss the situation. He continues to maintain his innocence.

The Spaniard now joins disgraced rider Floyd Landis as the only Tour de France champions to ever be stripped of their titles. Landis lost his crown following the 2006 race after testing positive for very high levels of testosterone in his blood. The 2010 Tour will now be awarded to Andy Schleck, who is a great competitor on the course, but certainly doesn't want to win a TdF title in this fashion.

Guilty or not, Contador's suspension is yet another incident for a sport that has struggled to be taken seriously in recent years. When the winners of the sport's biggest event are continually under scrutiny, and getting stripped of their titles, it really does make the general public wonder what is going on. Add to the fact that cycling's biggest name, Lance Armstrong, continues to be under investigation for alleged doping while winning his seven straight Tour titles, and you can see why many fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the sport.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I'm a very big fan of pro cycling. I think that the riders are supreme athletes and aren't given as much respect as they deserve – at least not here in the U.S. It pains me to read these stories and to see the sport continually beaten and battered in the court of public opinion. I'll continue to follow cycling and watch the Tour de France each year, but it is becoming harder and harder to defend the riders, who seem to always be looking for new and creative ways to cheat. I'm not sure the sport will ever be completely clean, but I do hope that moving forward we can finally start to get past these drug scandals and focus on the amazing races and riders that compete in them.

Low2High: Africa Expedition Underway

A unique expedition got underway last week in Africa when Brit Kyle Henning set off on his bike from the shores of Lake Assal near Djibouti, Ethiopia. That region has the distinction of being the lowest spot on the continent, falling 155 meters (508 feet) below sea level. From there, Kyle will ride his bike to Tanzania, covering about 3000km (1864 miles), where he'll then proceed to climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa at 5892 meters (19,340 feet).

Henning has dubbed his journey fittingly enough Low2High: Africa, and he has undertaken this excursion to raise funds for the New Day Children's Center, located in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Kyle hopes to raise £2,500 (roughly $4000) for the center to help meet the needs of some of the children there. He has just finished a two year stint in the Peace Corps, where he helped to improve the HIV/AIDS Services Network in the city, but he hasn't finished helping out just yet.

Already ten days into his ride, Kyle has posted a rather large update to his blog to help keep everyone informed of how the journey is going so far. He has also spoken with ExWeb, who have posted a nice interview with him as well. Henning tells ExWeb that he is "having the time of my life" on this expedition and that he is glad that he has taken on the challenge.

This seems like another fantastic adventure. As I mentioned a few days back, traveling through Africa on a bike sounds like a great way to explore the continent. Getting to visit it's lowest and highest points along the way, is an amazing bonus. Hopefully Kyle is successful in his venture, both for himself and the children he is trying to help back in Bahir Dar.

To donate to Kyle's cause, go to his fund raising page here. As of this writing, he has raised about £888.13, so he is well on his way towards his goal, with a bit to go yet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Whitewater, Water Fall Dropping Fun

If yesterday's first descents in Costa Rica weren't enough to quench your thirst for whitewater action, check out another entry today. This time it comes to us from Norway, where Matze Brustmann was successful in his attempt at a first descent of the Bruresløret waterfall at the Store Ula.

Both videos come to us courtesy of Canoe & Kayak magazine by the way.

First descent of the Bruresløret waterfall from Pascal Schaffner on Vimeo.

80-Year Old Keeps On Running!

U.K. newspaper The Guardian ran a profile of runner Ajit Singh a few weeks back that should prove inspirational for runners of all ages and dispel the old myth that you may be too old to work out. The 80-year old Singh has been running since he was a child, going five miles to and from school each day. He stuck with the practice as he got older however, and even began competing in long distance runs after he turned 40. He would continue to compete for another 35 years!

Singh's running resume is pretty impressive. He's run the London Marathon 20 times and averaged roughly 2000 miles a year over the 35 years he was competing. That puts him at more than 70,000 miles for his lifetime, which is enough to circumnavigate the planet. Three times! At the age of 80, he still runs three times a week, covering about 5km each time.

The runner, who grew up in Punjab, India but now calls the U.K. home, is also part of a running group called the Sikhs in the City that was started about 10 years ago. The group is full of older runners, their founder is now 99, and when they recently competed in a relay race in Edinburgh, where their combined ages was 340 years.

Singh has this advice for those starting to run:
"Mental motivation is vital. You need to eat a simple diet in moderation, and you need to train regularly. Consistency is crucial. If you decide to start running, you need to stick at it. If you're patient, it will be extremely rewarding."
 Seems like great advice to me. This guy is kind of my hero. I hope when I reach his age I'm still running and covering as much territory. It is a great way to stay healthy and fit, although getting over the initial hurdle of getting started can be a bit daunting. Stick with it though, and you'll not only learn to love it, you'll find good health for many years.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy a new pair of running shoes. Again!

Thanks to Jorge Brake for sharing this cool story.

Denali In January: Lonnie Retreats For Now

One of the bolder and more intriguing adventures that is currently underway is Lonnie Dupre's attempt to become the first person to solo summit Denali in January. We've been following his progress over the past couple of weeks, as he has made slow, but steady progress up the tallest mountain in North America. But yesterday he was forced to retreat back down the mountain, while he reevaluates his next move.

As I mentioned on Monday, Dupre was stuck in his snow cave, waiting for a nasty storm to pass. At the time, the forecasts were calling for winds in excess of 100 mph, with blowing snow and whiteout conditions making it impossible for Lonnie to move further up the mountain. So, he was stuck in a snow cave at 17,200 feet (5242 meters) while he waiting for things to clear. The weatherman predicted that that wouldn't happen for a few days yet.

Yesterday, Lonnie elected to turn back and head for lower altitudes. His home team reports that it took him 8 hours to descend back to his cave at 14,200 feet (4328 meters), where he is currently resting and deciding what his next move is. If the weather continues to be bad, there is a real possibility that he'll scrub the climb altogether, but if it improves, he can still make a quick climb back up to his established high camp, and have a go at the summit.

Of his biggest concern is that he is running out of days in January. Today is the 26th, which means he has just five more days to complete his expedition as he hoped for. That's plenty of time, provided conditions improve, but Dupre could easily lose days waiting for the skies to clear. And when they do clear, the upper portions of Denali may not be safe climb.

Reportedly Lonnie will reassess the situation today and decide on his options. Lets hope he at least gets a crack at the summit.

2011 Catlin Arctic Survey Prepares To Cross The Thin Blue Line

Over the past couple of years, the Catlin Arctic Survey team has been very active during the yearly Arctic Season. In 2009, a team of three explorers that included Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels, and Martin Hartley set out for the North Pole on foot, taking core samples of the ice as they went. Those samples would later be used to check the health of the Arctic pack-ice. In 2010, a new team, this time consisting of Daniels, Hartley, and Charlie Paton, made a similar trek, this time reach the Pole, while taking readings of the levels of CO2 in the ice, while a second team of scientists conducted a series of experiments at a stationary ice base. In 2011, the team is gearing up for another arctic adventure that has even more far reaching goals.

Earlier today the Catlin Arctic Survey announced a 10-week long expedition that will get underway in March. This time out, they will be examining the surface layers of the Arctic Ocean, and how changes in temperature there have had an effect on the climate in Europe and North America. In particular, they will be examining a "Thin Blue Line" of fresh water just beneath the surface of the Arctic sea ice that may offer some clues towards understanding the changes in ocean currents and their effects on global climate change.

Once again, the Survey team will establish an Ice Base, this time located aboard a ship off the coast of Ellef Ringnes Island, where scientists will conduct new and potentially ground breaking research into the potential for organic material in fresh water near the surface of the ocean for trapping heat from the sun, and causing the upper ocean layers to increase in temperature.

Meanwhile, two other teams will undertake separate missions of their own. Those teams will head out onto the ice, with one setting out to cross Prince Gustav Adolf Sea and the other will trek from the North Geographic Pole towards Greenland. Those explorers will collect samples from the water beneath the polar icecap that will be used to further the research project that is the brainchild of Dr. Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

As I have over the past two years, I'll be following along with the progress of this important scientific expedition as it unfolds during the looming North Pole season which always gets underway in March. The Catlin Arctic Survey continues to grow in scope and sophistication each year, and true to form it has expanded once again. I love the fact that these adventurers are not only traveling through one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet, but they are doing so for research that may give us clues as to how and why our planet's climate and weather is changing. Expect regular updates starting in March.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Descents of Costa Rican White Water Caught on Video

Awhile back, paddlers Chris Baer and Todd Wells traveled to Costa Rica to make the first descent on a couple of water falls along the Rio Chirripo Pacifico. The captured their results on video and compiled them together to share with us all. As usual with these kinds of great kayaking vids, there is plenty to enjoy, but you have to love the cockpit view caught on helmet cam that shows the drop over the falls. Crazy!

First Descents, Rio Chirripo Pacifico, Cateratas from Chris Baer on Vimeo.

Outdoor Retailer: Best of Show

The Winter Outdoor Retailer show went down in Salt Lake City last week with gear manufacturers rolling out all kinds of new items to drool over. There were literally thousands of things to sift through and over the course of the coming months most of them will begin to find their way onto the shelves of our favorite gear stores and into our anxiously waiting hands. To get an idea of what we can expect, here are two list of the "best gear of the show."

First, The Gear Junkie has Part 1 of his favorite gear from the show posted. He gives kudos to a new cold weather active jacket called the HyBridge Lite which comes to us courtesy of Canada Goose. This looks like a fantastic piece of gear that will arrive in time for next winter. GJ also liked the Speed Climbing knife, endorsed by none other than Ueli Steck himself, which will be making its way to stores from Wenger. GoLite's new line of ultra-lightweight shoes alls gets a nod and looks like its going to be a real winner as well. Check out the article for the full list of gear items and stay tuned for Part 2 of the Gear Junkie's picks a well.

Over at the Outside Blog, the Gear Girl, Stephanie Pearson,  weighed in with her favorite items as well. She was especially fond of a new performance winter jacket from Patagonia, as well as tiny, but bright, new headlamp from Light and Motion. She also dug the new lightweight footwear offerings from Salomon and a great looking new women's vest from Klymit.

Finally, check out this great new bike tool, which Gizmodo found interesting. It is super small and lightweight and comes our way from Pocket Tool. Looks like a great addition to the tool kit on my bike.

Remember, most of this stuff won't be available for some time yet, so you can start saving now. Looks like even more refined gear in the works.

Antarctica 2010: Explorers Finally Heading Home!

As I mentioned yesterday, a number of climbers and South Pole skiers have been stuck in the Union Glacier Base Camp in Antarctica for the past week while they awaited a break in the weather so they could be picked up from the ice. As the day wore on, they received both good news and bad news, but it looks like their extended stay in the Antarctic is nearly finished at last.

Mountaineer Caroline George posted an update to the Born Out There Blog, which is the official home of the First Ascent Team. She reports that the skies finally cleared yesterday, making it much easier for ALE's big Ilyushin aircraft to land on the ice runway and collect everyone who has been waiting ever so patiently. In fact, the first flights were able to get in and out, so the process of evacuating the explorers and their gear has begun. But, there has been one more hiccup that has once again caused a delay to that process. It seems that the airport in Punta Arenas, Chile has run out of fuel.

Punta Arenas serves as the launching point for ALE's flights to the Antarctica, and many climbers and skiers go there to begin their journey to the South Pole, Mt. Vinson, or one of a number of other locations on the frozen continent. But, civil unrest hit that city last week when the Chilean government announced a 17% increase in the price of fuel. There were protests and demonstrations in the street, road blocks were set -up all over the region, and many restaurants and shops were closed. While all of that has mostly calmed down now, it hasn't helped in resupplying the city with some of the things it needs, including fuel.

Caroline says that it isn't all bad however. She and the rest of the First Ascent Team have used their time in Union Glacier to bag a few unclimbed peaks and have some fun on a continent that few ever get to visit. While waiting has been a challenge for some, they've made the best of when they could. It looks like they'll finally get to go home soon, and the curtain will finally drop on another Antarctic season. One that has been plagued with odd weather, but plenty of great stories as well.

Atacama Extreme: Ray is Officially Underway!

I've been posting updates on the Atacama Extreme expedition, which features endurance athlete Ray Zahab running solo across the entire length of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Ray, who was originally was suppose to run with his usual adventure partner Kevin Vallely, set off on Sunday, after carefully selecting the perfect starting point along the Peruvian/Chilean border. On his first day out, Ray covered 78.5km (48.7 miles) through the driest desert on the planet. As if that wasn't a big enough challenge, he also had to stay on a road for the first few miles to avoid land mines and later he had to conquer a massive gorge that cut across his path.

Check out the video journal below for a first hand account from Ray himself, and go to the expedition's website for photos and more information on the first day of the run.

Day 1 Atacama Extreme from GOi2P on Vimeo.

Monday, January 24, 2011

BBC Discovers The Patagonia Expedition Race

It has been one of the top adventure races in the world over the past few years, but it has taken a bit longer for the mainstream press to catch on. The BBC has discovered the Patagonia Expedition Race, and has written a rather nice article about what it calls "

">the world's last 'wild race.'"

Scheduled to take place in Chile from February 8-16, the 2011 Patagonia Expedition Race is now just 13 days away. This year's event will be the ninth time that the race has been run, and for a change of venue, it will move the course further north this time out to have the teams compete across the Southern Continental Ice Field, which will present its own unique challenges and obstacles.

Of course, as usual, the racers will have to paddle, mountain bike, trek, and navigate their way through the beautiful and wild Patagonian backcountry, while also dealing with the notoriously unpredictable weather that is common there.

The BBC has a great video on the event, but unfortunately they won't let me embed it here. You'll just have to check it out by clicking here. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more coverage of the race once it gets underway in a couple of weeks. As usual, it looks like it will offer a wild and spectacular start to the international adventure racing season.

Antarctica 2010: Still Waiting At Union Glacier

A week ago I posted what I thought would be my final Antarctica update for the season that has just passed. After all, the skiers had all reached the South Pole and the climbers were off of Vinson and the other peaks, and were waiting for a lift back to Punta Arenas. At the time, bad weather, not to mention civl unrest in Chile, were preventing the explorers from heading home, but it seemed like all of that would be resolved shortly. Turns out, a week later, their still stranded and Union Glacier and waiting for a lift back to civilization.

Jake Norton posted an update to the Born Out There Blog today updating us on the progress, or lack there of, for the First Ascent Team. It seems that since we last checked in with them they've simply continued to hang out at the Union Glacier base with nothing much else to do. The bad weather in Antarctica has prevented ALE's big Ilyushin aircraft from coming to pick them up, so has Jake says:
"So, we sit. We wait. We play cards, we laugh, we go out for a climb, a ski, something to pass the time and keep our minds off loved ones and family far, far away. It could be worse, much worse, so there are no complaints."
Similarly, Willem ter Horst and Hannah McKeand are all still at Union Glacier and hoping to get a lift out soon. Willem posted an update a few days back saying that ALE was scrambling to get different aircraft into place to get the evacuation process underway, but a seat on those aircraft cost $14,500! Despite the high cost however, the two flights sold out quickly, proving just how badly some people want to get out of Antarctica at the moment.

It seems that patience is a virtue on the frozen continent at the moment. Some of these adventurers have now been stranded at Union Glacier for nearly two weeks, and with fresh snow falling today, it could easily be a few more days before they get back to Punta, let alone home. After all this time, I'm sure they miss their friends and family deeply. Lets keep our fingers crossed that they can come home soon.

Denali In January: Ridin' The Storm Out

The weekend update from Lonnie Dupre is all about the weather. You may recall that climber and polar explorer is attempting the first solo summit of Denali in January the coldest and darkest month on already cold mountain. Last week, Dupre was making solid progress, but now he is at the hands of the very fickle weather gods, waiting out a storm that could be of epic proportions.

On Saturday, Dupre had reached 17,200 feet (5242 meters) on the mountain 20,320 foot (6194 meter) mountain, but inclement weather set in, giving him an unexpected rest day. At that point, winds were blowing at about 50-60 mph (80-96 km/h), which created whiteout conditions that forced him to stay at his current location. Climbing higher was out of the question, and the plan was to sit tight and wait for things to improve yesterday. Turns out, they didn't improve at all, and are in fact getting much worse.

The weather report for the next few days indicate that the winds are only going to increase in speed. They are expected to hit 100 mph (160 km/h) today, which is dangerous in and of itself, but the resulting whiteout conditions and dangerous temperatures, will make it impossible for Lonnie to move, up or down, for at least a couple of days. So, now he sits, and waits, very patiently in his snow cave, hoping that he'll at least get a crack at the summit.

As if that wasn't bad enough, in his latest audio update, Lonnie reports that his entire snow cave shook rather violently and unexpectedly while he was in his sleeping bag the night before. He wasn't sure exactly what happened, but he suspect that either a large crevasse opened up near by or an earthquake hit the region. It was enough to make him worry about his whole cave collapsing, burying him beneath the snow, but it passed quickly and all is well for now.

Dupre is in good spirits and is doing well physically as well. He says that his food, fuel, and other supplies are in good shape, although he is running low on battery life and will likely make fewer audio dispatches in the days ahead to conserve his sat phone's power. Other than that, for now, all he can do is hope for a weather window, which seems to be a few days off yet at least.

2011 Tour d'Afrique Underway

I'm not sure how I missed this one, but one of my favorite annual events got underway last week when the 2011 Tour d'Afrique launched from Cairo, Egypt. For those who aren't familiar with the Tour, it is a four month long bicycle ride that runs the length of Africa, north to south, ending in Cape Town, South Africa. it is also both an adventure travel opportunity and a race as well.

Over the course of the four months, the participants in the Tour d'Afrique spend 95 days riding with 23 rest days built into the schedule as well. There are also two days of travel by ferry, bringing the total time on the road to about 120 days. During that period, the riders pass through ten different countries, and glide past some of the most amazing settings on the continent, including the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Masai Steppe, Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, and so much more.

The Tour d'Afrique seems, to me, like the the ultimate way to explore Africa. On the back of a bike you are exposed to so much of the culture and landscapes of the place, and it seems like it would really give you the opportunity to take in the setting at a perfect pace. Most of us can't escape our work for four months however, so the Tour can also be broken down into smaller segments, 18 days in length, that allow for riders to join the event for preset sections of the route that offers smaller doses of the over all adventure. If you're interested in doing that, you can see the various stages by clicking here.

As I mentioned, the Tour d'Afrique is a race as well as a cycling tour of the continent. There are some riders in the event who ride for the competition as well, dashing for the finish line each day to pick up precious seconds on their competitors. While most of the riders are content to enjoy one of the most unique ways to see Africa, a few form a peloton of shorts that work towards becoming the fastest riders to reach Cape Town. But on an epic ride like this, I say "Why rush?"

All told, the entire ride covers approximately 11,700 km (7270 miles). The riders average about 123km (77 miles) per day, with some days being long and others shorter depending on how demanding the terrain is. Either way, it is one big adventure and remains on my life list of things to do. Maybe in 2012!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ski Tibet: Attempting the First Descent of Shisha Pangma

Last fall, a team of talented skiers and climbers traveled to Tibet to attempt to climb, and make the first descent of Shisha Pangma, an 8013 meter (26,289 ft) monster in the Himalaya. They managed to capture their adventure on video, which chronicled their travels through colorful and chaotic Tibet and on to the mountain itself. Last week they released a short teaser video of that adventure, which you'll find below. After watching it, you'll definitely be looking forward to the "long version" as it is beautifully shot and looks incredible.

Thanks to Adventure World Magazine for the tip off to this one.

Ski Tibet short version from Mark Fisher on Vimeo.

OR Winter Market Reports Abound

Yesterday I mentioned that the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market gear show was underway and that we could expect to see a host of reports from the event giving us a glimpse of the goodies we can expect in our favorite gear shops in the months ahead. True to form, we have a number of websites checking in today with the first look at a bunch of new stuff that we won't actually be able to buy for months yet.

The Adventure Journal also has some great previews up for a bunch of gear from companies like Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, and Camelbak, to name a few. The theme for much of the new gear seems to center around stylish, but functional, gear that uses high tech fabrics and design to make our outdoor experiences all the better. That's something we can all get behind I think.

First up, the Outside Blog has several reports posted from the show, including a look at the new super-lightweight snow cap from Outdoor Research that promises to be a down jacket for your head. As a fan of OR's gear, I have to say that that one looks quite warm and comfy.

Next up, is doing their usual great job of posting from the show floor as well, including a nice sneak peek at the line of outdoor shoes coming form Adidas. Now, I have to admit, when I heard the sneaker company was looking to get into outdoor shoes, I was quite skeptical, but looking at the products themselves, and there are a lot of them, I'm definitely intrigued. They certainly look nice. We'll have to wait to see how they actually perform once they hit the store shelves. Check out the video below for an early look.

Finally, the Sierra Blogging Post is also in Salt Lake City for all the fun and festivities. They posted a nice Day One Trip Report with a variety of thoughts on the new offerings from several companies, including Adventure Medical Kits and Black Diamond Equipment.

Needless to say, it looks like there is plenty of good stuff in the pipeline once again. I haven't seen anything that I can't live without yet, but plenty of stuff I wouldn't mind having. I'm a sucker for this stuff!

Walking The Amazon Comes To The Discovery Channel!

I've made little secret of my admiration for Ed Stafford, the man who walked the length of the Amazon River. Ed spent 860 days in the jungle, covering more than 4000 miles in the process, and setting the standard for which all 21st Century expeditions will be measured.

He completed the trek last August, and has been home to the U.K. since, and while Ed works away on a book about his exploits, the Discovery Channel is preparing to share his journey with their audience. They'll air two shows on successive Wednesdays, on February 2 and 9, at 10 PM, which will give us a glimpse into what it was like for Ed to make his epic hike. Check out the trailer and a preview clip below.

Polartec Announces Recipients of 2011 Challenge Grants

Polartec, the company behind the fabrics that keep us warm and dry while playing in inclement weather, has announced the recipients of their 20th annual Polartec Challenge Grants. The awards are generally awarded to small, innovative, and daring expeditions in need of funding to realize their goals. This year, there were four winners.

Amongst the recipients for 2011 is climber Mike Libecki who plans to make several first ascents above the Arctic Circle. Libecki will catch a lift aboard a Russian Icebreaker, than travel like a polar explorer on skis and rubber raft, across 50 miles of open ice, to reach his eventual climbing destination. Look for this expedition to get underway this spring.

The second grant was awarded to Jon Turk, Tyler Bradt and Erik Boomer, who will attempt the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, one of the most remote pieces of land on the planet, falling not far from the North Pole. The team will be covering more than 1400 miles through treacherous pack ice in kayaks and on skis. This will be another spring time adventure that should be quite interesting to follow.

The third grant goes to an all-female team of climbers who have set a goal for themselves to make the first ascent on an unnamed peak in the Karakoram along the border of India and Pakistan. The team consists of top climbers and guides Janet Bergman,  Zoe Hart and Kirsten Kremer, who will be making an ascent of a mountain that is 6135 meters (20,128 ft) in height. The expedition will most likely take place this summer, when the Karakoram season is in full swing, and will be a daring alpine style ascent.

The final grant was actually awarded last year, but due to an injury to climber Kelly Cordes, it has to be postponed until 2011. Cordes, and his climbing partner Kyle Dempster, will be headed to Charakusa Valley in Pakistan, where they'll have their choice of a number of unclimbed faces. Of particular interest is a 6200 meter (20,341 ft) spire near K7 that has yet to be conquered. No dates are set for this expedition, but considering the destination, this is probably a summer adventure as well.

Congrats to the winners. These are some interesting and exciting expeditions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Atacama Extreme: Ray Will Challenge The Desert Alone

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the Atacama Extreme expedition is scheduled to get underway tomorrow and was to have feature Ray Zahab and partner Kevin Vallely running the length of the Atacama Desert in Chile, north to south. But a last minute change in plans now has Ray taking on the desert solo.

According to this story from ExWeb, Kevin was forced to pull out of the run after his father became sick just days before the team was to set off for Chile. ExWeb quotes an e-mail from Ray that says “I will now be running alone! Unfortunately Kev's dad has taken ill, and as an awesome son would, Kev is staying with his Dad. The absolute right decision. Family comes first.”

This now puts more stress on Ray, at least on a psychological level. Without a doubt, he is up to running the desert from a physical stand point, as he is an amazing endurance athlete. But spending days on end by yourself, running an average of 70km (43 miles) per day, through the driest place on Earth, will take its toll on a guy.

All of this adds another dimension to what was already a very big challenge. Expect updates to begin as soon as tomorrow, as the run officially gets underway. It should be quite the adventure to follow.

The Caves of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog is a master director. He's brought us such films as Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World. This morning I came across the trailer for his next film, Caves of Forgotten Dreams, and it looks spectacular.

The documentary follows a spelunking crew that drops into a long forgotten cave that was re-discovered back in 1994. Inside the cave is an array of amazing artwork, some of which dates back more than 30,000 years. Even more impressive is the sophistication of that artwork for the time that it was created.

Check out the trailer below and then look for the film to be released sometime this spring and in 3D no less. Can't wait to check this one out.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams from Nate Calloway on Vimeo.

Winter Outdoor Retailer Underway

The bi-annual Outdoor Retailer show has kicked off in Salt Lake City today with gear companies descending on the town to give us a glimpse of their upcoming product lines. The four day event gives the manufacturers an opportunity to show off what they have in the pipe-line for later in the year, when the new gear will make its way onto store shelves while outdoor enthusiasts gobble up the latest and greatest innovations.

The Gear Junkie posted a "teaser" for the show a few days back, letting us take an early look at what some of the companies will unveil while in SLC. Some of the equipment that earned a spot on the sneak peek list included an ultra-small headlamp from a company called Light & Motion, a new climber's knife from Wenger that is endorsed by Ueli Steck himself, and new offerings to the Vibram FiveFingers line of barefoot running shoes.

Of course, there will be plenty more to show as well and over the course of the next week or so, we'll probably be inundated with press releases and gear previews that will not only test your patience while you wait for their release, but may send you out in search of a second job to help pay for all the gear you'll want to buy. If you're a gear hound like me, it's like Christmas came a month later. Well, at least the Christmas wishbook came a month later.

I'll be sure to post any interesting items that come out of the show, but expect plenty of incremental updates on backpacks, clothing, shoes, and so on as well. Either way, it's always fun to see what's coming.

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenges Airs On NBC This Weekend

Adventure racing fans in the U.S. can get their fix this weekend when NBC kicks off a new season of The World of Adventure Sports with coverage of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge which took place in the United Arab Emirates back in early December. The program will air from 3-4 PM EST on this Sunday and will also feature segments on rally cross, snowboarding, and more.

Over the past few years, the ADAC has held down the final spot on the international adventure racing calendar. The event attracts top teams from across the globe and has become one of the premiere races each year. It is a stage-based race, with coed teams of four beginning and ending at the same point on a daily basis, but competing in the usual AR disciplines such as running, mountain biking, paddling, and navigation.

For those who haven't had the opportunity to see what adventure racing is all about, the World of Adventure Sports episode should be a great introduction. They usually do an excellent job of presenting any of the events they cover, whether its kayaking, ultrarunning, motorcross, or what ever. This weekend's episode kicks off the new season, with new shows being aired nearly monthly for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teen Ager Sets Eyes On Everest, Youngest Seven Summits Mark

16-year old Brit George Atkinson is preparing to go to Everest this spring where a successful summit will earn him a spot in the record books. George is hoping to become the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits, and the 8850 meter (29,029 ft) Everest is all that stand between him and that goal.

According to this story from the BBC, Atkinson just finished up his climb of Vinson in Antarctica, and if he conquers Everest before the 29th of May, a likely scenario if he does reach the summit at all, he'll be the first person to complete the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, before the age of 17.

Of course, this all brings into focus, once again, the debate about the age of climbers on Everest. Last year, after Jordan Romero climbed the mountain at the age of 13, both China and Nepal instituted age limitations for taking on the tallest peak in the world. The Chinese set the limit at 18, but said they would consider going as low as 16 if circumstances dictated. In Nepal, the age limit was set at 16 as well, which means George has his choice of which side he'd like to climb from, although Nepal's South Side seems the most likely location.

Atkinson turns 17 on May 29th, so he'll likely be just shy of his birthday when he goes to the top. His record will probably relatively short lived however, as Romero is scheduled to go to Antarctica in November, where he'll probably finish off his Seven Summits by topping out on Vinson. He'll be 15 at that time.

Thanks to my friend Alan Curr for sending this story my way.

New BBC Series Celebrates The Human Planet

The BBC is perhaps the best television production company on the planet. They've brought us some amazing shows, such as Blue Planet and Planet Earth, amongst numerous others. It looks like that tradition will continue with a new show, entitled Human Planet, which will make its debut tomorrow night for those who are lucky enough to have access to BBC One and BBCHD.

The show looks to be a celebration of human life on this planet. Our ability to adapt and live in some of the harshest environments imaginable and thrive in places that we typically wouldn't exist in. It is an examination of the human spirit and the creativity and adaptability that comes along with it.

You'll find the trailer for the show below, and as you might expect, it looks exceptionally beautiful, capturing some amazing scenes. This time however, those scenes aren't of wild animals surviving in the wilderness, but humans, surviving all over the planet. Looks great!

So, You Want To Be A Travel Writer?

I know that a lot of people who read this blog share my enthusiasm for adventure and travel. We all love to visit amazing places, do amazing things, and then come home and share the stories with our friends and family. Some of you probably even write about it on your own blogs and dream of being a travel writer, living the luxurious life of someone who is paid to prowl the globe and share their stories.

Okay, I'm kidding about that "luxurious life" part, but really being a paid travel writer does have its perks, and if you've always wanted to give it a shot, now's your chance. Travel website, which I happen to be a writer for, is looking for some new bloggers to add to the team, and to that end, we announced a new contest today to find some suitable writers. You'll find all the details on the contest by clicking here, but in a nutshell, you have until January 31st to submit a sample piece to demonstrate your writing skills. From there, the team will whittle down the entires to 15 of our favorites, which will be posted on the website. Those 15 writers will be given an assignment, and how they respond to that assignment will further shorten the list down to five. Those finalists will battle it out for a chance to join the Gadling team and get paid to write about their travels.

As part of the Gadling family, I can tell you that you won't find a better, more dedicated team of writers on the Internet. Everyone loves what they do and had a great time sharing thoughts, advice, and stories. It is a collaborative group who loves travel and everything that comes along with it. If that sounds like the kind of place you'd like to contribute to, then you'll definitely want to join in on the contest. Who knows, we might be teammates soon!

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Denali In January: Weather Holds As Lonnie Moves Up

It has been a few days since we checked in on Lonnie Dupre, the climber and polar explorer who is hoping to make the first solo summit of Denali in January. During that time, Lonnie has been climbing higher on the mountain to drop supply caches and to build snow caves, in preparation for his final assault on the summit.

Yesterday was rest day for Dupre, and it seems like it was a good day to lay low. His home team says that the skies were clear, but that high winds made for extremely cold temperatures and blowing snow. The climber is currently at 14,200 feet, but plans to head further up today. His next milestone will be stopping at 15,500 feet to retrieve a cache and to catch his breath, before climbing to his next camp, located at 17,200 feet along the West Buttress ridge.

What happens next will be determined by the weather. The mountain stands 20,320 feet in height, but is subjected to some of the worst weather on the planet. Especially in January. If the weather holds, Dupre will challenge the more difficult sections of the mountain that are still ahead of him, and are no doubt covered in deep snow. The final stages of the climb will not be easy, with altitude, extreme cold, high winds, and technical challenges all conspiring against him.

Only 16 people have ever stood on top of Denali in winter, and just three of those have done it in January. A solo climb of the mountain during that month is a daring, but daunting, adventure. But Dupre has years of experience in polar climes and is use to the cold. If he doesn't make it to the top, it'll be for other reasons. He has 11 more days to reach the summit and make his January deadline. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he seems like he is in a good position to do that, although the weather is unpredictable on the mountain, and you never know what obstacles may arise.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Skiing and BASE Jumping Fun!

Outside Online has posted a great interview today with skier and BASE jumper Suzanne Graham, and also included a fun video as well. The video was shot at "Pooper's Point" in Utah and begins with the crew building a little ski-jump off the cliff. They then proceed to ski down the hill, hit the jump, and fly off into the nothingness, only to release their parachute on the descent. It looks like insane fun. Enjoy!

Atacama Extreme: Website Goes Live, Run Begins Friday

Last week I told you about the Atacama Extreme expedition, which will feature endurance runners and adventure athletes Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely running the length of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Last night the official website for the run went live just days before the two men head off to South America to start their adventure.

You can check-out the expedition's website at At the moment, the site contains several videos, one on training for running through the desert and two gear related videos. The first of those takes a look at preparing your footwear for a winter run and a desert run, and the second shows Ray organizing his gear for the upcoming trek. There is also a placeholder link on the site that will display the team's journal as the run unfolds and they share their experiences with those of us back home who are following along.

As I've mentioned before, the Atacama Desert is the driest place on the planet due to the fact that it falls into the rain shadows of both the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coastal Range. Those two mountain ranges create a barrier on either side of the region which prevents storms from bringing rain to the area. As a result, some part of the Atacama haven't seen rain in centuries.

Kevin and Ray expect to arrive in Chile on Thursday of this week and will start the run on Friday. They'll begin in the northern part of the desert and head south, covering roughly 70km (43 miles) per day on foot. That's the equivalent of a marathon plus 17 more miles. They'll also be carrying their gear with them and have planned water stops along the way to help keep them hydrated, which will be a constant issue throughout the course of the run. If all goes as planned, they'll wrap up the expedition in the first week in February.

This adventure, like all of Ray and Kevin's other expeditions, is being conducted under the impossible2Possible banner, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and enriching student experiences across the globe. i2P delivers cultural, geographic, and environmental messages through fantastic adventures in far flung places. On this expedition alone they expect to reach more than 16,000 students, which is a very impressive feat in and of itself.

More to come as the expedition unfolds.

Time Lapse Video Captures Antarctic Journey By Ship

I came across this video earlier today and definitely thought it was worth sharing. It follows the adventures of a Russian icebreaker as it goes on a 201 day journey to Antarctica and around the continent, stopping a variety of research stations along the way. The time lapse photography captures the voyage very well, and gives us a great glimpse into travel around the frozen continent.

The ship actually visits the "Pole of Cold" which is the location of the coldest temperatures on the planet. In this case, that means -89.2 °C or −128.6 °F. Now that's cold! Oh, and while they're there, they build in airplane, just for good measure.

Cool stuff!

РАЭ-54 с борта НЭС "Академик Фёдоров" from North Pole on Vimeo.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cycling Silk: Following in Marco Polo's Footsteps to Promote Conservation

Americans Kate Harris and Melissa Yule have just set off on an epic cycling adventure. The two young women are currently in Turkey where they put the final touches on their plans to ride their bikes the length of the ancient Silk Road last week, finally hitting the road on Friday. While that, in and of itself, is quite the adventurous pursuit, the ladies have bigger plans in mind as well, as they hope to use their ride to promote the importance of conservation in a series of Trans-Boundary Protection Areas (TBPA) along their route.

Kate and Melissa have have named their expedition Cycling Silk, and you can find plenty of info about their plans and their cause on their website. The duo expect that it will take them a full year to complete the 10,000 mile ride, and while they have mapped out an intended route, they say that the exact details are in flux, and will evolve while they ride, due to changing political climate in some countries. The ride is also a bit of a science project, as the girls hope to research the impact of TBPA's on the surrounding areas and get a grasp of what the locals think about the concept as well.

The term Trans-Boundary Protection Area refers to a region that straddles the border of two international borders and is managed cooperatively between the nations involved. These regions are sometimes called "peace parks" and generally present some unique challenges, but great opportunities for opening dialogs and relations between countries. An example of such a place is Big Bend National Park here in the U.S. with one side managed by the American government, and the other side of the border controlled by the Mexican government. That example is a work in progress, but attempts are being made to make it more of a reality.

On this ride, Kate and Melissa will pass through six TBPA's while also promoting the growing clean water crisis that is becoming an issue across the planet and the impact of global climate change on the environment. You can follow the progress of these two adventurous women on their Facebook page and through their Twitter feed.

Ten Winter Activities In Yellowstone

I sent this out to my Twtter feed over the weekend, but wanted to share it here as well. As many of you know, I spent a good portion of the early part of January in Montana and Yellowstone National Park, playing in the snow. This is the second time that I've visited the park in the past six months, and my winter adventure was very different from my summer one, although I did get a blizzard in September too. As a result of this latest excursion, I posted a list of Ten Great Things To Do In Yellowstone During the Winter at Gadling.

Now, some of the things on the last are bit more relaxed than others. For instance, I recommend soaking in the hot springs of the Boiling River, not far from Mammoth. Even when it is freezing cold outside, the river is warm and comforting. I also mentioned spending the night at the Snow Lodge, which is a fantastic place to stay and serves as a great base camp for your Yellowstone adventures. But there are also some amazing outdoor activities to take part in while you visit in the winter as well, such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

There are miles of groomed trails to explore in the park, and whether you're on snowshoes or skis, there is plenty to see. In the article I mentioned the Geyser Basin, which is where all the geothermal activity takes place, including Old Faithful. One of my days in the park we spent snowshoeing off the beaten path behind  Yellowstone's most famous geyser, which gave us a view of the eruption that most don't get to see. But that was just the beginning, as we continued further down the valley, there were plenty of other geysers, mud pots, and hot springs to see as well.

Spotting wildlife was especially fun and easy in the winter too. While we didn't get the opportunity to see any wolves, we were able to spot plenty of bison, elk, and sheep, as well as coyotes and even a bright red fox. There were lots of trumpeter swans in the park this winter too, and the famed ravens of Yellowstone were making their usual rounds and being quite the nuisance. The Lamar Valley is a great place to go looking for critters, and I'm told there is an active family of otters in that area this year as well. The fresh blanket of snow makes it easy to see them all, and because there are no crowds during the winter, you're likely to have much of the place to yourself. The park now boasts 3 million visitors a year, of those just 100,000 come during the winter.

So, if you don't mind a little cold (It was -10ºF one morning) and you enjoy a little snow (Old Faithful gets about 200 inches per year!) then I can't think of a better winter playground than Yellowstone. Just e sure to dress warmly and invest in a good pair of boots before you go. Then grab the camera and prepare for a great time, as Yellowstone is even more beautiful in the winter than it is in the summer.

Climbers, Skiers Stuck in Antarctica, Travelers Stranded in Punta Arenas

As the Antarctic climbing and skiing season moves toward the finish line, bad weather is making it difficult for the teams to head home. Meanwhile, strikes and road blockades are preventing travelers from escape Punta Arenas, Chile as well.

The First Ascent Team, who completed a climb of Mt. Vinson and have been doing some skiing over the past week, are back at the Union Glacier camp where they are waiting, along with plenty of others, for a lift back to Punta Arenas, where they can eventually catch a flight home. According to their most recent blog post, filed by Jake Norton, the team has been waiting for a couple of days for a ALE flight to come pick them up. The weather has been less than cooperative however, as thick fog has prevented any kind of movement off the ice, and apparently some people have been stuck at the base for over 11 days now. Jake explains how they fill the days  waiting, saying: "We read. We sleep. We listen to music. We eat. We repeat."

South Pole skier Willem ter Horst and guide Hannah McKeand are also stuck in Union Glacier, and have been there for about five days as well. Willem says that they hope to get a flight out tomorrow, but it all depends on the conditions. He does say that if he has to be stuck somewhere, there are few places more beautiful.

The teams may actually be happy to be stuck on the Antarctic ice, as conditions are not good in Punta Arenas at the moment. In fact, it may be worse to go back to Chile, where a government proposed 17% rise in fuel costs has sent a wave of dissatisfaction through works, who have now gone on strike and have clashed with police.

Reports indicate that there are road blocks set up all over the region, and thousands of tourists and other travelers are currently stranded in the city. Worse yet, most of the shops and restaurants in the city are also closed, and there are reports of food shortages too.

While Punta Arenas is the gateway for the explorers and climbers who go to Antarctica each year, it is also a major cruise ship port for tourists who are sailing in the waters off the frozen continent. During the high season, which is in full swing at the moment, a great deal of traffic moves through Punta and these strikes are playing havoc with the tourist trade there. There are some reports that many of them are attempting to get passage to Argentina, where they hope to be able to get a flight back home.

The situation seems rather grim, and the BBC reports that some countries have advised their citizens to stay away from the area for now.

7 Summits Climb For Alzheimer's: Alan's Off To Aconcagua!

This past weekend, our friend Alan Arnette flew off to Argentina where he is attempting to climb Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America, as part of his 7 Summits Climbs for Alzheimer's. Alan is currently en route to the mountain, which stands 6962 meters (22,841 ft) in height. While it is a mostly non-technical climb, at least along the regular route, the altitude alone is enough to cause some problems for those that are unprepared.

Alan will not arrive in BC for a few more days yet, as he and his IMG guides are now in Mendoza awaiting the rest of the team and preparing the last of their gear before purchasing their climbing permits for the mountain. Expect good updates at every step of the process, as Alan always does an excellent job of keeping us informed of his progress and giving great insights into what it is like to climb the mountain he is currently on. I expect no less this time, especially considering that he has already successfully climbed Aconcagua in the past.

An example of Alan's great work is the video below, during which he talks about his prep work for the mountain and shows off the gear he's using on this climb. He doesn't just show us the individual pieces however, as he actually shows us each piece in regards to where it is used during the climb. It is very insightful for those that wonder where all that gear is put to use.