Friday, May 27, 2011

Outside Has Seven Questions For Conrad Anker

The Outside Blog has posted an excellent little interview with Conrad Anker, one of the best known climber/mountaineers in the U.S. Anker, as you probably recall, was part of the team that discovered George Mallory's body on Everest back in 1999, and he shared a lot about that story in the wonderful documentary The Wildest Dream.

Outside took the opportunity to chat with Anker, quizzing him with seven questions that range from how he got started as a professional adventurer, what it was like discovering Mallory's remains, and how we can still find adventure, even in the 21st century. It's a an excellent read, and definitely worth your time on a slow Friday.

I had a chance to meet Anker back in 2008 while I was in Bozeman, Montana for Primal Quest. He is an interesting guy who is very approachable and humble about his accomplishments. Definitely one of the most down to Earth people you'll ever meet.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lion Carries Off GoPro Cam While It's Filming

We all know that the tiny GoPro helmet cams are popular amongst outdoor athletes and adventurers, but apparently they're pretty popular with lions as well. In the video below, you'll see a group of professional photographers set up with of the little cameras in hopes of catching some images of lions. Turns out they got a lot more than they bargained for, when one of the big cats took a shine to the GoPro and proceeded to carry it around in her mouth. How they ever found the thing again is beyond me, but after seeing the video, I'm glad they did. :)

Atacama Desert: Round 2!

Just a quick site note to let everyone know that I'm traveling again. Yes, I know, life is rough, but this is actually the trip that I tried to go on a few weeks back, but was thwarted by the weather. So far, that doesn't seem to be an issue this time out, and with any luck, tomorrow morning I'll be in the Atacama Desert in Chile. 

While I'm there, I'll be staying at the Tierra Atacama resort, which I'm told has WiFi Internet access. Hopefully that means I'll be able to post some updates during the evening, although my days will likely be spent scrambling up volcanoes, going on desert treks, and mountain biking. And when I'm done playing outside, in the driest place on the planet no less, I'll head back to the resort for some serious pampering. Adventure and luxury! What a great trip! :)

Obviously, this weekend looks to be another busy one in the Himalaya, especially on the North Side of Everest. Hopefully I'll be able to post a few updates on what is going on. Otherwise, I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I'll be back to regular posting early next week, when I should have plenty of great photos to share as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NASA Unveils Next Generation Space Vehicle

With just one space shuttle mission still on the docket, the current U.S. space program is quickly coming to an end, and soon the venerable workhorse shuttle will be put in mothballs and sent to museums. Until today, it was unclear as to where NASA would go with its next generation space vehicle, but earlier they announced a new system that will carry astronauts back into orbit, and beyond.

The new craft is dubbed the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and it springs from a design that originated at Lockheed Martin. That aerospace company created the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which puts a small capsule, not unlike the Apollo spacecraft that pre-date the shuttle, inside a multifunctional system that is built to put man in space in a far safer, and cheaper, manner than we currently are capable of.

The MPCV offers room for four crew members, down from the eight that were possible on the shuttle. It also lacks the shuttle's giant cargo bay, which means satellites and sections of the International Space Station will have to be delivered by other means. The crew can live aboard the MPCV for up to 21 days, inside its 316 cubic-foot cabin. There is room aboard for small projects and experiments, but otherwise, it'll be a rather cramped living quarters.

The new system is lauded for the fact that it suppose to be ten times safer than the current shuttle launch vehicle, which seems likely considering the issues that NASA has had in that regard. It also expected to be far less expensive to operate as well. But what has most space enthusiasts excited is that the MPCV can leave low orbit, something the shuttle wasn't capable of, and climb further out into the reaches of space, perhaps even to the moon at some point.

To read more about NASA's new project, click here.

Himalaya 2011: Lhotse Ski Descent Video Dispatch 3

Have you ever wondered what life is like in Base Camp during one of these big Himalayan expeditions? You can get a sense of it in the video below, which follows the North Face Lhotse Ski team as they go about their daily lives in BC while waiting for an opportunity to climb the mountain, and ultimately make a descent on skis. Watching this video will either have you better prepared for this type of expedition experience or have you swear it off altogether. Enjoy!

The North Face®: Lhotse Ski Expedition Dispatch THREE from Camp 4 Collective on Vimeo.

Himalaya 2011: Another Notable Summit, Another Climber Passes Away On Everest

Yesterday brought both more good and bad news from Everest, where teams on both sides of the mountain are still working their way to the summit ahead of the arrival of the monsoon, which is likely just a few weeks away at this point.

First, we have a summit of note, as climbers Richard Parks and Steve Williams reached the top of the mountain while climbing with the Jagged Globe squad. For Parks, this marks a major milestone in his "737 Expedition" during which he is attempting to reach the "three poles" and complete the Seven Summits in just seven months. Everest has often been called the "third pole" and by topping out on the mountain, Parks has now visited the three poles, having gone last degree to the North and South, and has finished off five of the seven summits as well. He now has just Denali and Elbrus standing in his way of becoming the first person to visit the three poles and seven summits in a single calendar year. (Thanks to Alan Curr for sending this my way!)

While some climbers continue to pursue their dreams of standing on the summit of Everest, others have decided to call it a season and head home. Amongst them are Edurne Pasaban, who hoping to summit without supplemental oxygen, but turned back at Camp 4 over the past weekend due to high winds and the poor health of two of the team's Sherpas. On the descent, Edurne and her team provided aid to the Spanish climbers who were in trouble on Lhotse, and the efforts to climb and assist in the rescue, have left them exhausted and unable to continue. Pasaban provides details on what turned out to be a very long two days on the mountain in a blog post you can read here.

Alan Arnette has arrived back in Lukla, and is preparing to head out to Kathmandu tomorrow and catch a flight home on Friday. He posted a great blog entry today in which he answers a number of questions about climbing Everest. It is an excellent read for those looking for more information about what goes into such a climb.

Finally, sad news from Everest, as we have received word that Irish climber John Delaney passed away on the mountain while climbing with the 7 Summits Club last weekend. He apparently ran into trouble at about 8800 meters and fell behind the summit team, passing away shortly there after. Condolences to his friends and family.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pole2Pole Expedition Update: In Sight Of Land At Last!

It has been awhile since I posted anything about Johan Ernst Nilson's Pole2Pole Expedition. That's the ambitious adventure undertaken by the Swedish explorer during which he hopes to go from the North Pole to the South Pole, in a completely carbon neutral fashion, in just one year's time.

When last we checked in, Nilson has been dropped off at the North Pole, and had begun his journey south on skis. It was very tough going however, as the conditions in the Arctic were less than ideal this season, with large open leads of water, incredibly tumultuous weather, and thin pack-ice all around. Still, Nilson has been sticking to his course and working hard, and his efforts are about to get a lot easier.

In a blog post from earlier today, Nilson announced that he is in sight of land at long last. That means that he is approaching northern Greenland, where he expects to enter the next stage of his journey, which will be conducted on a dogsled. He still remains a few days away from actually touching solid ground, but when he does, he'll transition to this new mode of transportation, which will carry him to Thule Airbase, where he'll board a ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

After that, Nilson will climb aboard a bike and begin a very long cycling journey from Ottawa, Canada to Tierra Del Fuego, where he'll once again sail across the Drake Passage, and head to the South Pole via skies. That's a long way off at this point, but he is about to hit a major milestone in what has already been a difficult journey.

Expedition Bolivia: The Run Is Done!

Over the past week or so, I've written a couple of times about the latest adventure from the impossible2Possible crew, during which a group of youth ambassadors were traveling on foot across the
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, a massive expanse of salt flats that are remote and beautiful. The journey was dubbed Expedition Bolivia, and was undertaken as part of i2P's educational outreach program, during whih the organization provides lesson plans to participating schools and reaches out to students while in the field via satellite technology.

The original plan was for the six youth ambassadors to cover approximately 250 km (155 miles) through the Salar, but due to flooding there, the route had to be changed at the last minute. The new route took the group higher into the mountains, which resulted in a shorter distance run, but at a higher altitude than had been anticipated. In all, the team covered approximately 201 km (124 miles), while reaching an altitude of about 15,000 ft, over the course of a single week in the field. 

This expedition was also one of the first from i2P that allowed the team to conduct experiments while actually on the go. One of the most important of those was collecting data on the way that our bodies adapt to altitude. Tests were conducted throughout the expedition on not only the young runners, but also the support crew, the guides, and so on, and what they found was that the body adapts surprisingly quickly while living at higher elevations, with performance improving even after just a few days living in the higher environment. The tests did show that there was a significant difference in performance from those that lived at altitude vs. those that were new to those heights as well however, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise either. 

For more information about the expedition, including footage of the youth ambassadors reaching their finish line, check out the video below. 

What's Next For Lance Armstrong?

As widely reported last week, Tyler Hamilton was on the CBS news show 60 Minutes over the weekend, where he recounted tales of performance enhancing drug use by Lance Armstrong and other members of the U.S. Postal Team which dominated the Tour de France a decade ago. If you missed the report, and want to catch-up, a transcript and several videos are available by clicking here.

During the interview, Hamilton talked about the use of EPO, testosterone, and even blood transfusions that he, and his teammates, including Armstrong, used while he was part of the team from 1999 to 2001. Hamilton described the culture of cycling as being one in which if you didn't use these banned substances, you simply wouldn't be able to compete. If a cyclist wanted to keep his job, and stay in the sport, he really didn't have any choice. What he described is not unlike a number of other sports, such as baseball, where the annual home run race became a media circus in years past.

Watching Hamilton give his account of the details, I was struck by how difficult it seemed for him to talk about his experiences during his career as a pro-cyclist. He was very much aware that he was not only sharing the intimate details of his own life, but also that of many of his friends in the sport, including Lance Armstrong. He seemed extremely reluctant at times and I personally felt that he was very convincing. Hamilton shared with the 60 Minutes audience the same things he told a grand jury that is investigating the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport, and whether or not their use on the U.S. Postal team constitutes fraud against the government, who was primary sponsor of the squad. Depending on their findings, riders, coaches, and doctors, including Lance Armstrong, could face jail time.

While Armstrong hasn't really responded to the accusations directly, there isn't much here that he hasn't heard before. His legal team has pointed out the fact that Hamilton has a book that he is pushing, and that by dragging Lance's name into the conversation, he stirs up controversy and garners publicity. As always, Armstrong hangs his defense on the fact that he has been tested hundreds of times throughout his career, and hasn't failed a single test.

While processing all these latest accusations, the one thing that stood out in my mind most was not what Tyler Hamilton said, but what fellow rider George Hincapie hasn't. Hincapie and Lance have been friends for years, and there may not be another rider that is closer to Armstrong. Hincapie rode along with Lance on all seven of his Tour de France victories, and the two have remained close, even after Lance's retirement.

In light of Hamilton's statements, rumors have come to light that Hincapie has told the grand jury similarly damning things about Lance. While Hincapie has neither denied or confirmed these rumors, he has allegedly testified that he and Lance injected EPO together and had, at the very least, talked about other performance enhancing drugs.

If this story is true, and Hincapie has admitted these things, it would be a witness that would be difficult for Armstrong and his team, to dismiss. George doesn't have an axe to grind, he doesn't appear to be selling anything, and he hasn't rushed out for an publicity. Discrediting his accounts will be no easy task to say the least.

Taking into account all of this news, it is difficult to not think about what might be next for Lance Armstrong. He and his legal team seem prepared to fight to the bitter end to protect his considerable reputation, continually pointing to the fact that he has never failed a drug test, something that was also called into question in the 60 Minutes report. Proving a negative is always a difficult task however, and we all know there are ways to mask the use of performance enhancing drugs, which will always cast a shadow of doubt in either direction.

Personally, I think that it is naive to believe that anyone could win the Tour multiple times without using some kind of PEDs. When you consider that the vast majority of the peloton appeared to have been using something, it seems miraculous that anyone not doping could compete at all, let alone win. I don't want to dismiss the fact that the use of performance enhancing drugs were so prevalent in the sport, nor offer up any excuses for riders, but much like the "home run era" of baseball, the doping era of cycling was, and quite frankly remains, simply standard operating procedure for the athletes who were and are competing during that time period.

Of course, the grand jury doesn't seem to see it that way, and they seem to be hyper-focused on nailing Lance Armstrong the wall. Much like the investigation into Barry Bond's use of PEDs, it has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a case against Lance, which could quite possibly land him behind bars. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider the case against Marion Jones, and where she ended up.

The differences between Armstrong and Jones however are quite vast in terms of public personas. Marion Jones is an accomplished Olympic athlete who was very dominant in her sport and competed at an incredibly high level. Lance Armstrong was also a very dominant athlete who ruled his sport, but he is also an American icon, whose story has inspired millions and his charity work has extended his reach well beyond the world of cycling. He is, quite simply, one of the most respected athletes in the U.S., and if these accusations were to be proven true, it would shatter a lot of the Armstrong myth that many have come to enjoy.

As I mentioned last week, my biggest fear is that all of the good work that Armstrong has done with his Livestrong Foundation could possibly be tainted by these doping scandals. He has been a tireless advocate for cancer research, and those little yellow wrist bands have raised millions of dollar to help fight that disease. That legacy can't be taken away from him, and neither should his seven victories in the Tour de France, but it seems that the number of people close to Lance who claim to have seen him use EPO and other PED's continues to grow.

Eventually it'll come down to a game of  "Who Do You Believe," and while we all have our opinions on Lance, the question isn't just who does the grand jury believe, but also what they can prove. For the moment, that remains a very murky question, and in the end, it will be what decides the fate of Lance Armstrong.

The waiting game continues for us all.

Himalaya 2011: News From All Over

The 2011 Himalayan climbing season is starting to wind down for another year, but there is still plenty of things happening on peaks throughout the region. With so many expeditions taking place at this time of the year, it is a real challenge to keep up with all the activity, so apologies in advance if I've neglected someone or failed to mention an expedition.

We'll start once again on Everest today, which is where the bulk of coverage has been on the South Side, but the teams approaching from the North are finally getting their chance. As reported yesterday, the 7 Summits Club  topped out not long after the ropes to the top were fixed and apparently the Asian-Trekking squad was also there at about the same time. It is unclear which team reached the summit first from the North Side, but in the greater scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Both teams enjoyed summit success, and the North Side is open for business. Most other teams are looking for summit bids late this week, and there is no news on when Ueli Steck and Don Bowie will make their attem32pt. My guess is that they'll go for it before the crowds, but it depends on how they feel and what the weather dictates.

On the South Side there are still a few teams making their summit attempts as well, including the Jagged Globe team, who are on the move today. Edurne Pasaban and her team are hoping to head back up later this week as well. They turned back at Camp 4 over the weekend due to illness on the squad and windy conditions, which can be tough to endure when climbing without oxygen. The Spanish climber, the only woman officially recognized for climbing all fourteen 8000-meter peaks, also took part in a rescue on Lhotse of fellow countrymen who ran into trouble while descending that peak.

Speaking of summitting without oxygen, ExWeb is also reporting that a monk by the name of Bhakta Kumar Rai spent 32 hours on the summit of Everest, meditating for 27 of those hours. He was on oxygen for just 11 of those hours as well. Impressive feats all around, especially when you consider most people only spend a few minutes on top.

There is sad news to report this morning from Cho Oyu, where a number of sources are saying that Dutch climber Ronald Naar has died. Apparently he had given up on his summit bid due to bad weather, and on the descent he was feeling ill. He later collapsed in Camp 3. Naar had previously conquered the Seven Summits, as well as K2, and also enjoyed polar exploration too. This was to have been his last expedition.

There was also alarming news from Kangchenjunga as well, where Alex Gavan reported a dicey situation involving a Serbian climber named Dragan. Apparently, he was suffering from both HACE and HAPE, and had to be evacuated from the mountain via helicopter. No news on his condition as of yet, but it sounds like a very serious situation. Keep your fingers crossed!

Finally, on Lhotse, the previously mentioned Spanish team that was in trouble over the weekend included Manolo "Lolo" Gonzalez, who had to be evacuated from the mountain following a harrowing descent in bad weather. Lolo, and the rest of his squad, reached the summit, but conditions made for a slow descent, which left them exposed at altitude for far too long. Gonzalez ended up spending the night alone on the mountain until he was discovered by another group of climbers the following day.

Ryan Waters and his teammates also topped out on the mountain, as did Zsolt Eross, who claimed his ninth 8000-meter peak. What made this one special however, is that Eross suffered a climbing accident in 2010, which required that a leg be amputated. He earned this summit with an artificial limb. Congrats to Zsolt and the rest of the Lhotse summitteers. 

More news to come in the next few days I'm sure. There is still a lot happening, despite the end of the season looming. Lets hope there aren't any more causalities or serious accidents. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Polartec Announces 2011 APEX Award Winners

Looking to add some great, new cold weather gear to your gear closet? Then check out the latest and greatest items that use Polartec fabrics to keep us warm and dry in even the harshest  of conditions. The company has released their annual list of APEX award winners, which they give to the best products that are manufactured using Polartec materials.

As usual, there are actually two lists of award winners, one for the North American market and the other for the European. Both lists contain excellent gear, but not all items are available in both regions, which why they are segmented in this fashion. Since Polartec doesn't manufacture the gear directly themselves, they rely on great partners, such as The North Face, Patagonia, or Mammut to design and sell great gear for the outdoor crowd.

Some of the items that got the nod this year include Thermal Zone base layers from Cabela's, which look surprisingly fantastic and the Zion Jacket from Marmot. Both of those items are available in North America, while European adventurers will want to check out the Norrona Lofoten Warm2 jacket or the Stretch Neo Jacket and Pants from Rab.

There are plenty of other great gear items on both lists as well, ranging from base layers to mid-layers, to outer shells and more. It may be hard to think about cold weather gear as the summer months loom closer, but now is the time to grab the things you'll need when the snow and cold return a few months down the line. I have a number of gear items that use Polartec fabrics, and I can tell you that they are fantastic. While they are seldom put to use where I live in Texas, my forays into high altitude or cold weather zones make me very happy to have the gear. I'm sure these APEX award winners are all fantastic additions to the line-up as well.

Himalaya 2011: Dave Hahn Notches 13th Summit Of Everest

Mountain giude Dave Hahn reached the summit of Everest over the weekend, marking the 13th time that he has stood on the top of that mountain. That number represents the most summits of any non-Sherpa ever, extending Hahn's own personal record.

The National Geographic Adventure blog has Dave's account of his summit climb, which you can read in its entirety right here. Climbing without clients – his two paying customers went home last week without attempting the summit, Dave and his Sherpa team made easy work out of the climb, arriving ahead of most other climbers and enjoying plenty of time on top of the mountain all to themselves.

The account of the climb is fairly straight forward, although Dave says that the higher portions of the route were easier than normal thanks to plenty of snow pack and well worn trails. But he and his team made it a challenge for themselves by making one long push from ABC up to the summit, and then back down again. By doing this, they limited their time above 26,000 feet and thereby lessening the effects of the thin air on their bodies. That should allow for a quicker recovery time after their ascent as well.

Congrats to Dave for adding a 13th Everest summit to his already impressive resume.

Meanwhile, a couple of Dave's teammates on the First Ascent climbing team were turned back on Makalu over the weekend. Dave Morton and Melissa Arnot were hoping to summit that mountain, but both turned back for their own reasons. Melissa was feeling the effects of the altitude, which she was enduring without supplemental oxygen, and she was climbing too slowly to have a legitimate shot at the summit, so she turned back to Camp 4 fairly early on. Dave, on the other hand, continued to go up on his own, but noted that he too was moving slowly, despite the fact that he was feeling good. He thought that he was carrying far too much weight, with camera equipment, as well as excess food and water, and late in the afternoon he determined that it was best that he turn back as well. He was just 150 meters from the summit at that time, but thought that might mean another 2-3 hours of climbing. You can ready both of their accounts of the climb by clicking here.

Now, the two mountaineers are catching a flight to Everest Base Camp, where they hope to make a late season run up that mountain. They are acclimatized and familiar with the route, so they're hoping to add one Himalayan summit to their resume while they're in the neighborhood. Stay tuned for more!

Himalaya 2011: Paragliding From The Summit Of Everest

As I mentioned in my earlier post, it was another busy weekend on the world's tallest mountain. By some accounts, there could have been upwards in the neighborhood of 200 summits, although we'll have to wait for the dust to settle before we know for sure. One summit, and more importantly, one descent, is worth nothing however, as Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tshering Sherpa flew a tandem paraglider off the top of the mountain, and had what must have been one amazing ride.

Many mountaineers will tell you that while the climb to the summit is a grueling slog, the descent can be just as challenging. On the way down you're exhausted from so many hours at altitude, and the adrenaline rush has long since worn off. But Babu and Lakpa avoided all of that by launching their paraglider from the summit, and gliding back down the Khumbu Valley in style.

The pair didn't descend back to Everest Base Camp however. Instead, they kept on flying, covering more than 20km (12.4 miles) in total, before landing in Namche Bazaar. That means they not only eliminated the tough descent back to EBC, they also took away a couple of days on the trail trekking back down the valley as well. I'm sure there are plenty of other exhausted climbers who would love to have been able to take this express flight as well.

I'm hoping that one of the two men on the glider remembered to bring a helmet cam for what has to be some amazing footage of their descent. Gliding above the highest mountains in the world, then slowly making a descent over the course of 20km, must have been amazing. Having made the trek just from Base Camp back to Namche myself, and covering that ground in two days, I can appreciate this method of travel. While their friends are still packing up and preparing to head down the Khumbu, Babu and Lakpa are kicking it in a Namche teahouse, enjoying good food, and shooting pool in the local billiards parlor. (I don't even want to think about how they got those pool tables up there!)

This is a very cool story, and hopefully we'll at least get some more photos in the days ahead.

Himalaya 2011: Alan Summits Everest, North Side Teams On Top Too!

As predicted last week, the weather window on Everest this past weekend was a good one, an many climbers went up to the summit. There are some indications that as many as 100 people stood on top on Friday and a similar number may have gone up on Saturday as well. One of the first to top out on Saturday was Alan Arnette, whose expedition we've been following closely for the entire season.

As regular readers of this blog know, Alan has been climbing Everest as the third leg of his 7 Summits for Alzheimer's  campaign. Alan's mom was afflicted with that horrible disease for eight years, and since her passing, he has dedicated his life to helping educate the public about it, while also raising funds for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. Everest was the biggest hurdle to him reaching his goal, and the mountain had thwarted his efforts on three occasions in the past. So with all of that backstory and challenge, it was with a lot of emotion that he sent this audio dispatch from the summit a few days ago. He has also posted an excellent report of his climb that makes for a great read as well. You can find that report by clicking here.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Alan personally. I know exactly what this means to him and it is a gigantic step towards knocking off the Seven Summits and more importantly achieving his goals for spreading the word about Alzheimer's as well. Listening to his dispatch from the summit brought a tear to my eyes on Friday night when I heard it, along with a swell of happiness for my friend. It has been a struggle, but on the fourth attempt, he finally stood on top of the world. Well done Alan!

On the North Side of the mountain, the climbers finally got the break they were looking for as well, and many took advantage of it by going up over the weekend too. Alan reported that there were three climbers from the North on the summit when he arrived, and they were apparently part of the 7 Summits Club team, who were amongst the first to top out. Expect a regular string of summits on the Tibetan side of the mountain this week, as it appears that many of the teams are in place to make bids on Thursday or Friday. Amongst them are Ueli Steck and Don Bowie, who are in Advanced Base Camp and are weighing their options on when to make their move.

Back on the South Side, it appears that Edurne Pasban and her team have backed off their summit bid, at least for now. She was hoping to make the summit without the use of oxygen, but the team abandoned their attempt in Camp 4 when two of the Sherpas developed respiratory issues and the winds picked up again on Saturday. They hope to have another go of it later this week.

I'm sure we'll have more news from the mountain all week as reports come in about the climbs. The window is now coming to rapid close, as June is looming. I expect Base Camp on both sides of the mountain to be empty in another week and a half. But for now, there is still plenty of excitement in the Himalaya.

Congrats To Final Ditch The Deet Winners

As promised, I drew the final two winners for my Ditch The Deet contest that I've been running over the past few weeks, and I'll be sending prize packages out to Ian Stevens of Naperville, IL. and Steven Smith of Midland, TX ASAP. Congrats to both Ian and Steven. Hopefully the swag will come in handy for battling off the bugs in the summer months ahead.

Thanks to everyone for entering the contest over the past month, and as always, thanks for reading the blog. Keep checking in regularly, as I hope to have more gear giveaways in the days ahead. It is always fun to share cool prizes with my readers, and there are some more opportunities to do just that right around the corner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Everest Summit Report: Solo On Top Of The World!

So you want to know what it is like to climb the highest mountain on the planet, and stand on top of the summit, all alone? Then look no further than this story from It was written by climber Brian Dickinson, who is with the Mountain Gurus team on the South Side of Everest, and the article chronicles his epic climb to the summit last week.

The story is very well written and does a great job of conveying what it is like to go up the mountain. Brian talks about the difficulties of climbing in weather conditions that include extreme heat, high winds, heavy snow, and more. He shares his emotions as he completes each stage on the way to the top, and then finally gets there, all by himself. On the way up, his support Sherpa took ill and was forced to head back, and as a result, Dickinson had the opportunity to stand on top of the world, completely alone. He even says that he spent an hour on the summit, by himself, taking it all in, and while he laments the fact that there was no one there to share it with, it had to also be very moving to have the place all to himself for so long.

As many mountaineers will tell you however, the climb isn't over until you get back down, and that was something Dickinson discovered first hand. His descent was a wild one, made all the more challenging because his broken glasses continued to fog up and ice over, making it impossible to see much of anything along the way. Throw in issues with his oxygen bottles, and exhaustion setting in, and you have a harrowing tale that everyone should read.

The article is a great indicator of what climbers face on Everest. At various times, Brian encountered 50-70 mph (70-110 km)  winds, mini-tornadoes, and whiteout conditions, all the while dealing with challenging rock climbs above 26,000 feet, and a solo push to the summit that had to have been surreal.

Excellent read. I definitely recommend this one.

Himalaya 2011: More Summits On Everest And Kangchanjunga

As expected, a second wave of summits has begun on the South Side of Everest, where teams have gone up this morning despite higher winds. The trend is expected to continue into the weekend, as other teams are currently poised to make their bids as the winds die down later in the day.

The Himex team put eight of their clients, along with three guides and ten Sherpas, on the summit this today, after setting out at about 12:30 AM local time. Apparently, the team moved efficiently and with good speed, and over took other expeditions at the Balcony. There was a traffic jam at that point, so the ever-industrious Himex Sherpa's circumvented the ropes that were in place, and short roped their clients over that portion. They were soon on their way to the top, leaving slower teams behind. Amongst the summiteers today were David Tait, who has now stood on top of Everest on four different occasions. Well done to all!

The final IMG team is in place at Camp 3 and waiting to move up as well. That's where we heard from Alan Arnette this morning, who says that the winds are expected to dissipate, allowing the teams currently in a holding pattern to make their summit bids tomorrow. If all goes according to schedule, they'll be at the top around or shortly after dawn.

Meanwhile, on the North Side, rope fixing is suppose to be finished today, which will finally allow teams to reach the summit. A number of teams, including the 7 Summits Club, have already set out for Advanced Base Camp in hopes of being in position to go up as soon as possible. Kenneth Koh, who is climbing with Project Himalaya, Tweeted that he and the rest of the team are heading up today as well, and they hope to summit sometime around the 27th of the month, which would be a week from today, weather permitting. I hope for their sake, that the window stays open for them, as it seems to be a narrow one from the Tibetan side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of activity on Kangchanjunga today as well. The third highest peak on the planet at 8586 meters (28,169 ft), sees far fewer climbers than Everest, and is a formidable climb in its own right. On his Twitter feed, Alex Gavan reports that 50 people went up today in one of the biggest summit pushes Kang has ever seen. At this point, we're not sure how many made it but we do know that  Alexey Bolotov reached the top, as did Christian Stangl, who reportedly is suffering from some frostbite. A French team consisting of three climbers also topped out, but from the reports, it seems that bad weather and cold turned back a good portion of the climbers. Alex is recovering from a stomach bug himself and hopes to go back up soon, weather permitting.

It seems it will be another very busy weekend in the Himalaya, with summit attempts coming on a number of peaks. Wish everyone well and keep your fingers crossed that everyone gets down safely.

Tyler Hamilton Accuses Lance Armstrong Of Doping

In an interview for 60 Minutes that is set to air on Sunday, retired professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton says that he witnessed seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong use EPO to preparation for the race in 1999, the year that Armstrong won his first Tour. Hamilton further alleges that the doping continued for the next two seasons as well, which was the length of his contract on the U.S. Postal Team.

According to this story at, Hamilton is quoted as saying: "I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator .. I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times." He goes on to add "(Armstrong) took what we all took ... the majority of the peloton. There was EPO ... testosterone ... a blood transfusion." His remarks not only condemn Armstrong, but also give us a glimpse into how wide spread the use of performance enhancing drugs have become in the sport.

Hamilton retired from cycling in 2009 after failing an off-season drug test for a banned substance that was in an anti-depressant that he was taking at the time. He has previously served a two-year ban for an illegal blood transfusion. Last year, Hamilton provided six hours of testimony to a grand jury investigating Armstrong and the use of performance enhancing drugs, in cycling.

Armstrong, and his legal team, point to his record of having never failed a drug test in his 20 year career, which includes more than 500 doping controls. Their defense is that if he were on something, it would have shown up in some test over the years. Armstrong also sent out a message via Twitter last night that read: "20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case."

Lawyers for Armstrong also say that this is a grab for headlines and publicity from Hamilton, who they claim has written a book about his career. They say that he has been shopping the book to publishers, and that by pointing the finger at Lance, he's simply drumming up controversy to sell books. It's a similar story that we've heard in the past as well.

This is, of course, just the latest round of allegations against Armstrong, who has been the target of scrutiny for years. While he may not have ever failed a test, there are plenty of people who have come forward in recent years to say that he used EPO and other substances, to help win his seven Tours. Of course, was we pull off the layers to this onion, we also learn that pretty much everyone else in the field was doping too, which means it was standard operating procedure for anyone who wanted to be able to compete.

For most riders, this probably wouldn't be that big of an issue. For instance, Hamilton and Floyd Landis have both admitted to doping, and at the time, it made headlines for a few days, particularly with fans of the sport. But Armstrong is a figure that looms over cycling, at least in the U.S., in such an iconic way, that it is seen quite differently with him. Proof of his doing would bring down a guy who has been an inspiration to millions.

And then you get into his off-the-bike activities. Lance's LiveStrong organization has done great things, and his legacy is likely to be so much bigger through those efforts. But much like the Greg Mortenson affair, which also flared up on 60 Minutes awhile back, these other issues threaten to cast a shadow over all the good work that has been done. Once again, lets hope thats not the case here either.

So? What does everyone else think? Did he dope? Does it matter? Personally, I think it is difficult to believe that he didn't use something during his seven year run at the top. Especially in light of how wide spread the use of PEDs had become. If he didn't, it really makes his wins all that more impressive.

Two-Minute Trailer For Expedition Impossible

A few days back I posted a teaser video for an upcoming television show called Expedition Impossible, that will begin airing here in the U.S. on ABC in June. The show is produced by Mark Burnett and looks to combine elements of adventure racing with a healthy mix of puzzle solving and challenges a la The Amazing Race. Now, we have a full two-minute trailer for the show, that offers up a bit more insight into what we can expect when it begins airing on June 23rd.

The show will pit 13 teams of three against one another in a competition that looks to cover a sizable distance through the country of Morocco. In the trailer, we see plenty of trekking, climbing, and paddling, and it looks like the competitors will have to deal with one of the banes of adventure racing – animals! Camels are notoriously stubborn, and I know plenty of adventure racers that groan when ever they, or just about any other animal, is added to a race. The ones in this trailer just look plain mean and nasty.

Also of note is the fact that mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer is one of the competitors in the race. You may recall that Erik made headlines all over the world when he became the first blind person to summit Everest a few years back. He has gone on to climb plenty of other mountains, and do all kinds of other amazing things, so I expect he'll do quite well here and probably surprise a lot of people who are unaware of his abilities.

So, what do you think? Is this going to be a fun show to watch?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Expedition Bolivia: Day 4

It is the fourth day of Expedition Bolivia, the latest adventure from the impossible2Possible crew. This time out, Ray Zahab and his team, are taking a group of youth ambassadors across the salt flats of Bolivia, known as the Salar de Uyuni on foot. The expedition is expected to last about a week, and will cover 250 km (155 miles) in total.

As is typical with any expedition from i2P, there is an educational outreach aspect to this adventure as well. The youth ambassadors, all of which are in their mid to late teens, have been interacting via satellite uplink with classrooms around the world and conducting some chemistry experiments as part of the International Year of Chemistry. One thing that I always admire about the i2P adventures is that they always find a way to link back what they are doing to the classroom in an effort to inspire students to do great things as well.

Today, the team covered 36 km (22 miles), which is tough enough in any environment, but mix in an arid climate and some altitude, they're at about 4267 meters (14,000 ft), and you can see how that distance could be rough. Check out the video below to get a bit of what this group is experiencing, and you'll even get the opportunity to see how they interact with those students back home.

Expedition Bolivia Day 4 - 36km from GOi2P on Vimeo.

America's Most Endangered Rivers

A few days back, American Rivers released their annual list of the ten most endangered rivers in the U.S., sending out a call for action to help protect these waterways from a number of threats, including pollution, mining, and over damming. For more than 26 years, American Rivers has worked hard to raise awareness of these issues, while also striving to restore rivers across the country for the benefit of the communities that live on them, as well as the wildlife and environments that surround them.

This year's list of ten most endangered rivers is as follows:

1. Susquehanna River
2. Bristol Bay Rivers
3. Roanoke River
4. Chicago River
5. Yuba River
6. Green River
7. Hoback River
8. Black Warrior River
9. St. Croix River
10. Ozarks National Scenic Riverways
Special Mention - Mississippi River

Clicking on the individual links will take you to the special report on each specific river as organized by American Rivers. Those are some pretty serious waterways to be endangered, and chances are, one or more, of them have an effect on where you live. 

Obviously, climate change is having a direct effect on the world's water supply, and maintaining healthy water is becoming an even more important issue for the years ahead. The hope is that by naming these rivers as "endangered," we can do some things now to protect them for the future. 

Riding The Brown Powder

Check out this amazing looking trailer for a mountain biking film that is due out later this year. Not only does the riding look like a lot of fun, the setting is simply beautiful and the camera work is amazing as well. The riders featured in the video say that they build their own trails to ride, but they do it for themselves, never creating a one-off experience they'll use for their videos or to just ride a few times and move on. Judging from the quality of the video, I say they put that craftsmanship in everything they do. This is really well done.

Thanks to the Adventure Journal for sharing this.

More Wingsuit Fun!

You know that I can never get enough of these wingsuit videos. It looks like such a fun activity and the surreal images of these guys drifting through the clouds is both tranquil and exhilarating at the same time. In this latest video, a team of skydivers jumps out of a plane over Illinois, not far from the city of Chicago. You won't be seeing them whizzing past the Sears Tower, but they do pass through some low hanging clouds, which only adds to the cool factor.

Thanks to Richard Schneider for sharing his video with us. Looks like fun!

Ditch The Deet: Last Chance To Win!

For the past few weeks I've been continually posting about my Ditch The Deet giveaway contest, but this is the last time I'm putting out a call for entries. Tomorrow, I'll draw two winners and send them the last two prize packages I have. Those packages, like the others I've given away, include a  a SOL Core Lite tool, Natrapel Insect Repellant Wipes, AfterBite Itch Eraser, and Ben's Insect Treatment for Clothing and Gear. Just the thing you need for a hot, bug-filled summer ahead.

To enter, send me an e-mail with the subject of "Ditch the Deet" to In the body of the e-mail tell me a bit about your summer outdoor plans and how all of this bug repellant could come in handy. I'll then put you into the contest, and pick two random winners tomorrow and ship out their swag.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my friends at Adventure Medical Kits for hooking me up with all of the stuff to give away. I've reviewed a number of their products in the past and have always been quite happy with their gear. In fact, I usually carry one of their kits with me when I travel or go on a day hike, and they make excellent first aid kits for just about any situation, and at affordable prices. Check out their products at to see what I mean.

Also, don't forget to enter Natrapel's Ditch The Deet contest. They're giving away some great prizes as well, including a trip for four to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. All you have to do to win is send them a photo of your outdoor adventures. I'm sure we all have a few of those just sitting around.

As usual, if you've already entered my contest, you don't need to so again, and good luck in the final drawing!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Geographic Announces 2011 Emerging Explorers

National Geographic has announced the 2011 list of Emerging Explorers, a distinction they bestow upon young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers who are already making a significant contribution to their field, even at a particularly young age or early stages of their profession. These are men and women who are on the cutting edge of science and exploration, with the potential to do great things. In support of these individuals, Nat Geo awards them a $10,000 grant to continue pursuing their work.

Amongst the 14 recipients of Emerging Explorer status this year is Tuy Sereivathana, a conservationist from Cambodia who is working to protect the endangered elephant population in his home country. He is joined by Aziz Abu Sarah, a man who is working to bridge relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist who will search for life in the oceans of Europa, the fourth largest moon of Jupiter. Ecologist Sasha Kramer earns a spot on the list for her work in addressing basic health and sanitation needs in Haiti, while Kakani Katija studies the effects of creatures living in the ocean on the waves and tidal currents, which have a broader effect on the world.

This is just a sample of the great work these explorers are pursing. Most are in the field and actively researching their particular interests. They are on the forefront of some very important cultural, ecological, and historical studies, and if past recipients of the Emerging Explorers award are any indication, you're likely to hear at least some of these names again in the years to come.

A hearty congratulations to the winners. This award is much deserved! Keep up the great work!

Expedition Impossible Starts June 23 On ABC

Remember that reality television show called Expedition Impossible that I told you about way back in November? Well, it'll begin airing in June on ABC and looks to pit 13 teams of three against one another in  what appears to be an interesting mix of The Amazing Race and the sport of adventure racing. It'll debut on June 23rd and could make for fun summer television for those times when you're not actually outside doing these things for yourself.

The show is executive produced by Mark Burnett, of Survivor fame, and while not everyone knows it, Burnett does have experience in the world of adventure racing. He was the creator of the Eco-Challenge, which was the AR event back in the day. When I met Burnett a few years back, I asked him about Eco-Challenge and he told me that it was his favorite project ever, but that the liability was too high to continue producing the event. It seems like he has found a way to mix his passion for adventure racing with a television show that is more suited for home audiences to follow. I'm looking forward to seeing what he has cooked up for us.

The official website for the Expedition Impossible doesn't offer much info yet, but the trailer below may get you excited. Thanks to Clyde Soles for sharing this with me.

Updated: I've added the high quality commercial to this post. Much better looking than the one shot on someone's iPhone or Flip camera. I'm told a full 2 minute trailer is in the works and may come as early as this week.

Trailer For Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race Film Looks Amazing

Earlier this year we followed the Patagonian Expedition Race as it went down in Chile. It was, as usual, one of the more demanding adventure races of the year, with amazingly beautiful, but brutal terrain, harsh weather, and grueling conditions all around.

Now, a trailer for the video of the race has been released, and it gives us a glimpse of what the teams endured while out on the trail. It looks even more difficult than I imagined from the race reports that we heard post-event. It is also even more beautiful as well.

Thanks to the Gear Junkie for the heads up on this. Stephen can be seen at the 42 second mark of the trailer, looking like a complete zombie. He also shares some thoughts about the race here.

Mountainfilm Posts Full Film and Guest Line-up

The 2011 Mountainfilm Festival is now just a week and a half away, and organizers for the event, which goes down annually in Telluride, Colorado, have posted the complete line-up of films and guests that will be on hand to celebrate. Over the past 30+ years, the festival has earned itself a reputation for being one of the best events around, and that is reflected in the diversity of films and guests that will make an appearance there this year.

You can check out the complete list of films by clicking here. There are literally dozens of options to choose from, and I'm not sure how attendees will find time to screen even a fraction of the movies that look interesting. Some of them are shorts of course, but I'm still amazed at the quality of the line-up and the variety of topics that are covered. I'd be interested in catching The Swiss Machine, which profiles Ueli Steck and Towers of Ennedi, which I've mentioned before. That short film follows a group of climbers who go to Chat to take on some unclimbed rock faces there. Both films look fantastic, but there are plenty of others to catch as well.

Amongst the guests who will be attending the Mountainfilm Festival this year are the Baffin Babes, who you may recall skied across Baffin Island back in 2009. Their joined by adventurers like kayaker Ben Stookesberry, climber Freddie Wilkinson, and environmentalist David De Rothschild, amongst numerous others. Check out the full list of special guests by clicking here.

The festival is scheduled to run from May 27-30 and passes are still available to purchase. It looks like it'll be another great event again this year. Anyone planning on going?

Himalaya 2011: Winds Delay Everest Bids

The ever fickle weather on Everest is once again causing some issues for the climbers, but at least for now it seems like a minimal issue. Yesterday I mentioned that a number of teams were moving into position to make a run at the summit late in the week, with most expecting to reach the summit early on Friday morning. But a new weather forecast is changing those plans, at least for some, as high winds are now projected for that day. In order to avoid those potentially dangerous winds, cautious climbers are holding off for an extra day and will now look for a Saturday summit instead.

One of the climbers who was happy to hear the news was Alan Arnette, who is currently in Camp 2 and is looking forward to an extra day there. He'll take advantage of the situation to rest, conserve his energy, and continue to eat plenty of calories in the hopes that he'll be more than ready come summit day. Alan, and the rest of his IMG team, will now look for a May 21st summit in the hopes of avoiding the winds.

Also in Camp 2 is Dave Hahn, who is now climbing the mountain sans clients. He was expecting to take father-daughter team Bill and Sara McGahan to the summit, but it wasn't to be. Yesterday the clients pulled the plug on their expedition and elected to go home, so now Dave and his crew will climb for themselves. If he reaches the top, this will be Hahn's 14th summit of Everest, the most by any non-Sherpa. He is also expecting to top out on Saturday.

Edurne Pasaban has begun her summit bid as well, setting out yesterday. Her original plan was to summit on Friday, without the use of supplemental oxygen, but the forecast for higher winds may change those plans. Climbing with oxygen in high winds is tough enough, but going with out O's could be brutal. While she hasn't updated her schedule yet, I wouldn't be surprised if her team doesn't wait out the winds as well.

Finally, some possible good news from the North Side, where the 7 Summits Club reports that the Chinese have promised to complete the rope fixing by Friday, May 20th. This will come as a big relief for teams that have been waiting to get a crack at the summit, and as a result, the 7 Summits Club team has started to move up the mountain. If all goes as expected, they hope to make a summit bid on Saturday morning as well. There is no word on whether or not the high winds will impact the North Side of Everest, and if so how it could alter the rope fixing and summit plans. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed for those poor souls on the Tibetan side of the mountain who have been patiently waiting their turn.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mandatory Equipment Episodes 1 and 2

Awhile back I posted the trailer to a new webseries called Mandatory Equipment that was set to give us an inside look at what it takes to train for an expedition length adventure race. That teaser gave us a sample of what was to come as Team Mandatory Equipment  prepares to race in the 600km Raid The North Extreme this summer. Since that time, the team has released two episodes, and a third is on the way.

I've posted both of these videos below, and they not only serve as a great introduction to the sport, they also give you a taste of the training and preparation that are involved with major event such as the RTNE. In the first video, the team asks themselves "What Have I Gotten Myself Into?", which is a common response when teams take on a race of this length and in the second video they really get down to the training and the daunting task of getting ready for the Raid. Fans of the sport will no doubt enjoy this "behind the scenes" look at the training regime. It'll either motivate you to want to do your own race, or confirm the reasons why you never have! Enjoy!

Himalaya 2011: News From Lhotse

Everest gets much of the attention in terms of Himalayan climbs, but its neighbor Lhotse is quite a challenge as well. Standing 8516 meters (27,940 ft) in height, it is the fourth highest mountain in the world and shares a large portion of the same route as the mountain in whose shadow it always sits. But plenty of climbers are on that peak this year as well, and there has been a notable summit to report.

Michael Horst has been climbing with the Alpine Ascents team this spring, and according to the team's blog, he accomplished an impressive feat over the weekend. Horst topped out on Everest on Sunday, and then less then 24-hours later, he also bagged the summit of Lhotse as well. The Alpine Ascents blog says that they think he may be the first climber to achieve this double-summit without first descending to Base Camp to rest. Instead, he returned to Camp 4, rested there, then went right back up into the thin air. Pretty impressive, and definitely worth a hearty congratulations.

Meanwhile, the North Face Lhotse Ski Expedition team has sent back their second video dispatch, which you can check out below. The team is currently still on the mountain, and are preparing to go for their summit bid, which will be followed by a ski descent. In the video, you see them arriving in the Khumbu and trekking up to camp, where they begin their expedition in earnest. There are plenty of great shots of the region and it really gives you a great sense of what it is like to be there. Lots of memories ofr me on this one!

The North Face®: Lhotse Ski Expedition Dispatch Two from Camp 4 Collective on Vimeo.

Himalaya 2011: Everest North Side Updates

Over the past few weeks there has been a flurry of activity on the South Side of Everest, as the commercial teams are well organized, and worked together to fix the ropes. That has led to the first wave of summits, and as we all know, many climbers are currently moving up the mountain to get in place for a second summit push at the end of the week, when a 48-hour weather window is expected to open once again.

But getting news from the North Side of the mountain has been especially difficult this season and to date, there have been no summits from that side of the mountain. In fact, as of Sunday, it seems that the ropes aren't fixed to the top yet, which is leaving climbers sitting in Base Camp, wondering when they'll get their opportunity to go up. As you probably already know, rope fixing on this side of the mountain is handled by the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association, which seems to be a bit unorganized and lagging behind their counterparts to the south.

Still, there is some word as to what is happening. Kenneth Koh, who is climbing with the Project Himalaya team, has been sending out tweet from Everest, and you can glean some information from what he has posted. Yesterday, Kenneth sent out a tweet which read: "It's too long to just sit around BC, so we are hiking up to ABC today for a couple of nights to keep fit." That indicates to me that they're still waiting for the okay to go up the mountain, and like everyone else, they're hoping for a weather window. In an earlier tweet, he mentioned that it looks like everything could be set by the final week of May.

Kenneth's teammate Grant Rawlinson has also been blogging from the North Side, and he echos his companions comments. They're continuing to wait and trying to stay busy and healthy until their opportunity comes. But what if that doesn't happen? The Sherpas may not get the ropes fixed until the weather window at the end of the week, and since it is only 48-hours in length, the teams may not be in position to take advantage of the opportunity to dash up the mountain. What if another window doesn't come? The entire North Side season would be a bust, leaving many bitter and disappointed climbers. Lets hope that doesn't happen.

Finally, two guys who may be well suited to make a quick dash up the mountain, Ueli Steck and Don Bowie, arrived in Base Camp today. The note on Don's site says that they will take the next few days to assess the situation and prepare for their climb. If anyone can take advantage of a small window, it is probably Ueli and Don. Stay tuned. If Steck summits, it'll be his third 8000 meter peak in a little more than a month.

Four Climbers Injured, One Dead on Denali

While most of our attention has been drawn to the Himalaya over the past few weeks, some daring climbers have been making spring attempts on Denali. One of those climbs went bad last week, leaving one climber dead and four others injured on the West Buttress of the mountain.

According to this story at the Alpinist, six climbers set off for their final summit push on the 6196 meter (20,327 ft) Denali on May 11th. They began the day at High Camp, located at 5242 meters (17,200 ft), in conditions that were said to be excellent, although high winds were in the forecast for later in the day. One member of the group elected to stay in camp due to the forecast, while Tony Diskin, Jeremiah O'Sullivan, Beat Niederer and Lawrence Cutler, along with their two guides Dave Staeheli and Henry Munter, headed for the summit.

Part way up the mountain, Diskin turned back. Suffering from frostbite on his fingers, he was assisted down the mountain by Munter. When the pair arrived at High Camp, they gathered up the climber there, and moved further down the mountain. Meanwhile, the others continued to go higher, eventually reaching the summit late in the afternoon. On their descent, O'Sullivan tripped and fell, dragging his teammates, who were all roped in, down the glacier for about 300 feet. He broke his leg in the fall, and the report says that Niederer also dislocated a shoulder and that Staeheli broke a rib.

 With the team in bad shape, Staeheli attempted to call for help, but was unable to get a radio signal and the satellite phone was damaged in the fall. The guide sent Niederer and Cutler, who was uninjured, down the mountain to seek help, while he attempted to drag O'Sullivan in a bivy sack, giving up after just a few hundred feet.

At about this time, the winds began to pick up and temperatures began to drop, so Staeheli made the decision to go down to High Camp with Niederer and Cutler to try to organize a rescue, leaving O'Sullivan on the mountain above 19,000 feet. They stumbled down the mountain, and at one point, Staeheli and Cutler became separated from Niederer, who went missing somewhere on the descent. Stumbling into High Camp, the guide and his lone remaining client, were aided by another team that has also gone up to the summit that morning.

The weather took a turn for the worse and a rescue wasn't possible until the following day. Helicopters were able to go up the mountain, where they pulled both O'Sullivan and Niederer off the high slopes of Denali. O'Sullivan was alive, but need immediate attention, while Niederer showed no signs of life at all, and was later declared dead. At this time, the cause of his death is not known.

For the full story, be sure to read the account by the Alpinist. It is a sad tale, with a set of circumstances that put the guides and other climbers into a bad position. It was almost as if things were going to turn sour no matter which decision they made. This will no doubt be one of those mountaineering stories that are debated for a long time.

My condolences to Niederer's friends and family for their loss.

Monday, May 16, 2011

impossible2Possible's Expedition Bolivia Underway

As I mentioned last week, the impossible2Possible crew have launched another adventure, this time to run across the salt flats of Bolivia with several youth ambassadors. They've dubbed this journey Expedition Bolivia, and it got underway yesterday with a 30km (18.6 mile) run through an amazing, yet desolate, landscape, as you'll be able to see from the video below. The video also shows the six young runners, who come from the U.S., Canada, and Bolivia, officially starting the run and then again at the 5k mark, where they admit that their adrenaline put them off to a bit of a fast start, but they fell into rhythm later.

All told, when they've finished the expedition this weekend, they'll have covered 250km (155 miles) and beamed their adventure back to hundreds of classrooms, where students of all ages are getting the opportunity to interact with them while they go. One of the key elements to any i2P expedition is their educational outreach opportunities, and this one is no different. In this case, Expedition Bolivia celebrates the International Year of Chemistry and much of the interaction with the classrooms will reflect that. They also hope to inspire students with a healthy dose of adventure along the way.

Looks like another great program.

i2P Expedition Bolivia - Day 1: 30 KM from GOi2P on Vimeo.

Primal Quest 2012 Update!

A few weeks back I posted about the possibilities of Primal Quest returning in 2012, much to the surprise and delight to racers and fans across the globe. Since then, I've had emails and Facebook notes from a lot of people asking for more information. Of course, I couldn't spill too many details at the time, and to be quite honest, they are still filling in, but here is a note that I wrote last night that was posted on the Primal Quest website earlier today:
To The Adventure Racing Community: 
For the past few weeks there have been a number of rumors circulating around the Internet regarding the possible return of Primal Quest in 2012. We can confirm that those rumors are true and that wheels have been set in motion to bring this legendary event back from its hiatus.
While we can’t share specific details at this time, we can tell you that the Primal Quest team is already in negotiations to hold the race somewhere in the western United States. We have high hopes that those negotiations will come to fruition, and that we will have exciting news to share in the very near future.
For now, stay tuned and start training. Because “the World’s Most Challenging Human Endurance Competition” hasn’t gotten any easier!
What I can share with you at the moment is that progress is being made on bringing the race back in 2012, and that the entire PQ team is very optimistic about the chances of that happening. We hope to make an official announcement within a month's time that will share details on the location and possible dates as well. For now, all I can say is that we're aiming for a seven day race to be held somewhere in the Western United States.

As the note above says, stay tuned!

Ditch The Deet: Week 4

Okay, so I promise this is the last week for my Ditch The Deet giveaway. I'm running low on supplies anyway! :)

Once again this week, I'll be giving away one, and possibly two, summer survival packs to help fight off the bugs in the warmer months ahead. The pack includes a SOL Core Lite tool, Natrapel Insect Repellant Wipes, AfterBite Itch Eraser, and Ben's Insect Treatment for Clothing and Gear, all of which should prove handy in the warmer months ahead. I say that I may be giving away two of these kits because my Week 1 winner still hasn't contacted me, and if he or she doesn't drop me a note by Friday, when I pick this week's winner, I'm giving away their pack too! So, there is a good chance you'll have two chances to win this week!

As in previous weeks, entering the contest couldn't be easier. Send me an email to with the subject line of "Ditch The Deet," and in the body of the email, tell me a little something about your summer plans and how you could use this swag. That's all there is to it! On Friday, I'll randomly pick a winner, and send off the stuff. As always, if you've already entered in previous weeks, you don't have to send in your e-mail again.

Don't forget to also enter the Ditch The Deet contest that Natrapel has running at the moment either. The grand prize is a trip for four to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which should be a lot of fun. All you have to do to win that one is submit a photo of your bug-free outdoor adventures. Head on over to the official website for more information.

Finally, congratulations to Bob Czaplicki of Woodstock, GA for winning last week's Ditch The Deet contest. I'll be shipping your prizes today Bob and I know they'll come in hand in Georgia this summer.

Himalaya 2011: A New Weather Window Opens

The weekend was a slow one on the South Side of Everest, with high winds slamming the weather window shut. All told, some 40 climber reached the summit last week, but plenty more spent the weekend in Base Camp, where they anxiously watched the weather reports and waited for good news. That good news came last night in the form of a second projected weather window for the end of this week. It now looks like we can expect another round so summit bids on Thursday and Friday, and teams are now on the move to take advantage of that opportunity.

Amongst the climbers who have begun the ascent are Alan Arnette, who sent an audio dispatch this morning from Camp 1. He reports that the conditions on the  mountain are favorable right now, and that he and the entire IMG team he is climbing with, made the climb up to C1 in rapid time. Normally, a lot of teams would push on to Camp 2, but they have elected to spend the day in Camp 1 and conserve their energy for the final push. The plan is to go up to C2 tomorrow, then on to C3 on Wednesday. Thursday, the team will climb to the South Col and Camp 4, where they'll rest for a few hours before leaving for the summit at around 3 AM Friday morning local time. If everything goes as planned, they should arrive at the summit sometime Friday morning. For Alan, who sounds in great spirits on the dispatch, this would be a major milestone in his 7 Summits For Alzheimer's campaign.

David Tait has started back up the mountain as well and will be checking in from Camp 2 later in the day via sat phone. In his latest update, he talks about facing the Khumbu Icefall yet again and the toll that the climb is having on his body, having lost a considerable amount of weight. You may recall that David was on his summit push last week when winds picked up on the mountain, causing Himex boss Russell Brice to pull the plug mid-ascent. Tait, and others, were forced to descend all the way back to BC, where they had a short rest before turning around again. The entire Himex squad is hoping to top out during this new weather window later in the week.

There was sad news to report from Everest this weekend, when it was revealed that Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki died on the mountain. ExWeb says that it was apparently a result of HAPE, and notes the particular injustice of Ozaki dying on the normal route of Everest after he helped pioneer some of the more challenging, and little used, other routes on the mountain. Ozaki, who was 58, had plenty of success in high altitude mountaineer, as he had successfully climbed six of the 8000 meter peaks. My condolences to his friends, family, and teammates.

That's all for now. Expect lots more news later in the week, when it appears there will be another round of summit bids. It is possible that this could be the final weather window of the season, as June is looming, and the monsoon won't be far behind.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Circumnavigating Ellesmere Island

Ellesmere Island is one of the most remote places on Earth, located above the arctic circle, and falling into the chain of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the  Canadian territory of Nunavut. It is a cold, icy, mountainous place that is seldom visited due to its rugged and challenging nature. It is also the site of a spring expedition in which Jon Turk and Erik Boomer will be attempting to circumnavigate the island by kayak.

The expedition officially got underway a few days back, with Jon and Erik setting out from Resolute Bay last Thursday, and taking a series of short flights on "puddle jumpers" to eventually reach their starting point. The weather forecast had been good for their first week out on the water, but according to Jon's blog,  which was updated two days ago, that has changed some. The blog posts reports heavy snow in the region, and that the duo were holed up in a small cabin at the time of their last check-in.

They also report that the paddling has been hard going through the ice fields that surround the island, but when they move in closer to shore, the fjords have been smooth as glass. They've encountered quite a few polar bear tracks as well and even spotted a mother bear with her cub. The creatures are fairly common on Ellesmere, and of course they would like to avoid them as much as possible.

The journey will cover 1485 miles (2390 km) and is expected to take upwards of 100 days to complete. At the moment, they're just 75 miles into the expedition, and despite the fact that it is spring there, they are experiencing bitterly cold, sub-zero temperatures. Even in the height of summer, the place never really gets all that warm, so this will be a long, slow, challenging journey to complete, to say the least.

To check out the official expedition website, click here and for blog updates click here. This should be another interesting expedition to follow as it unfolds.

Contour+ Helmet Cam Brings New Features

Contour has launched a new helmet cam, the Contour+, delivering a host of great new features that will give aspiring filmmakers some wonderful new options when creating their next adventure film. The new edition to the line-up delivers pro-level quality and ease of use in one very small, yet durable package.

The Contour+ adds a new "professional grade" lens that allows capturing of 1080p video, which is what you would expect out of any digital video camera in this day and age. The new lens also provides the ability to shoot in a wider format, while delivering a cleaner image as well. The camera also now includes an external microphone jack, as well as a built in GPS receiver that tracks location, distance, traveled, and other data. And if that wasn't enough, it is now capable of live streaming from events and can connect, via Bluetooth, to your smartphone, which can be used as an external display. All of this for just $499, including all the cables, a 2GB memory card, and 3 different mounts.

I have an earlier model of the Contour, and while it is a bit on the larger and heavier side, when compared to other helmet cams, it is also more durable and of higher quality than the other cameras I've used. The video that it shoots is great, and mine doesn't do 1080p, and it is fun to play with when mountain biking, climbing, or just about any other outdoor sport. My one gripe is that it is sometimes hard to know what you're shooting, but with the ability to use a smartphone screen, that doesn't seem to be much of a problem now either. At least for lining up shots and knowing that things are working properly.

This new gadget seems like a worthy upgrade and if you're looking for a great helmet cam, it is tough to beat all the technology stuffed into this little device.