Thursday, June 30, 2011

GoPro Captures The Ouch!

We all know that GoPro helmet cams can be a lot of fun, and have provided endless hours of entertaining video over the past couple of years, but this video puts it all into a new perspective. It captures two mountain bikers bombing down a run, and then crashing along the way. I won't give too much away, but there were too moments that made me wince and say "ouch!" out loud. First, when the lead rider crashes, then bounces off a tree, and second when the cameraman runs him over. Both made me hurt just watching 'em.

Thanks to the Goat for sharing. Nice find!

Mount 7 Wet Dream Crash from Robb Thompson on Vimeo.

Expedition Impossible Episode 2 Is Tonight

The second episode of ABC's summer reality show Expedition Impossible is set to air tonight, and I know that some of you, like me, enjoyed the first episode and are looking forward to the race continuing. With that in mind, I have a few links to share this morning that fans of the show might really enjoy.

First, we have a great post from Eric Weihenmayer on his BlindVision Blog in which he gives a peek behind the curtain and shares some details of what really went on during the race. If you're watching the show, he's the "blind guy," although most of us know him as the first blind person to summit Everest. Eric isn't giving anything away in his post, so no worry about spoilers, but he does share insights into some of the events that went down on the first episode. For instance, he mentions that the show was actually filmed over the course of two days, but edited to seem like one. He also says that the first impressions of a couple of the teams were a bit gruff, but that they actually turned out to be good people once they got to know them, specifically the NFL Players and The Fishermen.

One thing that Eric noted that stuck with me was that the contestants to the race really didn't know what they were getting themselves into and small details made a difference. For example, Eric was the only one who brought gaiters with him on the race, something I noticed and actually mentioned while watching. (Yes, I'm a gear nerd!) That shows his experience in rough terrain, and it helped his feet in the desert. Meanwhile, everyone else, including his teammates, suffered with sand in their shoes. Ugh!

Eric promises to do similar recaps after every episode, and while this one was published last week, it is still worth a read before heading into tonights episode.

Speaking of tonight's episode, the PR team over at ABC has been excellent at sharing video clips leading up to the start of the race. Turns out they have a few more to offer for tonight as well. Check out the preview below to get you ready for a new episode tonight. Hopefully we'll start to get to know the teams a bit better and see some really interesting challenges. Enjoy!

The Patagonia Expedition Race To Air On Outside Television

Fans of adventure racing will have yet another chance to catch a race on TV, provided you're lucky enough to have Outside Television in your market. The network has announced that it will begin showing the video of the 2011 edition of the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race on July 6th at 1 PM.

The video of the race has been garnering plenty of attention at adventure film festivals across the globe. It won the "Adventure Sport" category at the inaugural Killarney Adventure Film Festival, and is also a Finalist at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival as well. Additionally, it was an Official Selection at the Breckenridge Festival of Film held a few weeks back too.

I've been fortunate enough to have seen the video, and I can attest to its quality. It is a fantastic film covering not only this particular race but also doing a good job of capturing the spirit of adventure racing in general. Considering the remote nature of Patagonia, and the unpredictable weather conditions there, it is remarkable that producer Brian Leitten was able to put together such comprehensive coverage of the event. You can watch the trailer for the video below to get a glimpse of what you can expect.

If you're luck enough to have Outside TV, set your DVR's for July 6th at 1 PM. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

U.S. National Parks Face Major Threats To Their Future

This story was the topic of my daily post at today, but it is an important one, so I wanted to share it here as well.

Yesterday, the National Parks Conservation Association released a report that examines the biggest threats to America's national parks and assesses what can be done to address those threats. They found that climate change, invasive species, increased development, and a number of other forces are all causing major issues in the parks now, and will only continue to do so in the future, unless a comprehensive plan is created to help protect those natural places. The NPCA also cites a lack of funding for being a major issue as to why the National Park Service can't address these issues properly at the moment.

The report, which is being called the most complete examination of the future of the national parks, was conducted over a ten year time frame. During that time, researchers surveyed 80 parks in the U.S. system and came away with some sobering facts. For instance, they discovered that 95% of the parks assessed had completely lost at least one plant or animal species over the past decade. Furthermore, 63% of the parks also showed signs of degradation to the air and water quality as well.

It isn't all bad news however, as the NPCA noted in the report that with proper funding, training, and education, the Park Service can take measures to protect the parks and prevent irrevocable changes to their landscapes. They even list a couple of good examples to illustrate their point. The problem is "proper funding" does't seem to be available right now thanks to a sluggish economy and an ongoing budget crisis. Still, the organization recommends that the Obama Administration pledge federal resources to helping protect the parks for future generations to enjoy as well.

I'm a huge fan of America's national parks. They are amazing places that have, in some cases, been neglected in recent years due to lack of funding. I know, and understand, that climate change is going to alter those places dramatically no matter what we do, but that doesn't mean we can't take other measures to ensure that the parks are safe and are given the proper attention to steward them into the future in fine fashion.

The entire NPCA report can be found here. Definitely worth a read if you're a fan of the parks as I am.

Alan Arnette On Denali

While I've posted a few times on the start of the climbing season in the Karakoram, I have barely mentioned the attempts on Denali so far this year. As many of you know, the 6196 meter (20,327 foot) mountain, located in the heart of Alaska, is the tallest peak in North America, and a formidable challenge at any time of the year. Most climbers attempt the peak in June and July in an attempt to avoid the worst of the weather there, although conditions can be unpredictable and dicey year round.

Fresh off his successful summit of Everest this past spring, Alan Arnette has traveled to Alaska and has already been sending back some excellent dispatches from the road. Alan set off on his latest expedition on Saturday and arrived in Base Camp yesterday, where he reports that his team has the place all to themselves at the moment. The climb itself begins in ernest today, with the team, which is being led by Mountain Trip guides, heading up to Camp 1, located at about 2408 meters (7900 feet). They'll now spend a few nights there before going back down to BC as part of their acclimatization process.

This is the fourth leg of Alan's 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's project, during which he is hoping to raise $1 million for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. Having already finished off Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcaqua in South America, and Everest in Asia, Denali is the toughest of the climbs left on the schedule. It is also a mountain that Alan is familiar with, having attempted it on two occasions in the past. He's hoping that third time will be charm however, and that this time, he'll stand on the summit.

Follow along with Alan's adventure with regular updates on his blog. He always offers great insights into what ever climb he is on and shares his experiences in a wonderful manner. I'll post updates has he heads up as well.

2011 Tour de France Begins Saturday!

One of the greatest annual sporting events in the world gets underway on Saturday, when the 2011 Tour de France begins. As usual, this year's Tour will no doubt bring plenty of excitement and drama, with the top cyclists in the world sparring with one another across 3430.5km (2131.6 miles) of French road. Over the course of 21 days, they'll face 10 flat stages, 6 mountain stages (with 4 summit finishes!), 3 medium mountain stages, 1 individual time trial, and 1 team trial. There will also be 2 rest days thrown in for good measure.

The 2011 Tour begins with a 191km (118.6 mile) ride from Passage du Gois La Barre-de-Monts to Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers in the  Province of Liège. This is a bit of a departure from recent Tours, in which the riders start the race in an individual time trial as part of a short Prologue. This year, they'll be out on the road instead, and the stage even finishes with a brief climb, which should provide some much welcome fireworks for the first day. Don't look for the General Classification contenders to do much more than pace one another and stay close to the pack, but the sprinters should be jousting early on before giving way to one of the more well rounded riders later in the day.

After that, it'll be a sprinter's paradise until Stage 8 or so, when the first mountains will come into play. As usual, the Le Tour will be decided in the Alps and they Pyrenees, with the best climbers dueling it out on the slopes to see who will eventually ride into Paris in Yellow. This year, they'll even get to battle on the most famous Tour mountain of them all, Alpe-d’Huez, which comes late in the race at the 19th stage.

The field of contenders is deep, with a number of great riders hoping to claim victory. But the odds on favorite remains Alberto Contador, who is coming off a big win at the Giro d'Italia and is the defending champ of the Tour as well. He'll be pressed by Andy Schleck, who is riding with a new team this year, and has to be thinking that it is now or never. He has finished behind Contador the past two years, but now has a lot more experience and a better team to protect him. With a cloud of controversy hanging over Contador, this could finally be the year for Andy to break through and win the race.

These two aren't the only contenders of course. Andy's older brother Frank has the possibility of pulling off the win as well, although he is more likely to ride in support of his kid brother. Spanish rider Samuel Sanchez finished fourth last year, and has designs on standing on the podium in 2011, as does Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck, the fifth place finisher in 2010. Australian Cadel Evans is always a popular pick, and he has displayed the talent to win, although he does seem cursed in France. Last year, he was a minute and a half in front of Contador when he crashed and fractured his elbow. Other potential threats to Contador's crown include Levi Leipheimer, Bradley Wiggins, and Ivan Basso.

For me, the month of July is one of the best times of the year, and I can't wait for the race to get underway. As usual, I'll post regular updates on the results, standings, and strategies. I know a lot of readers are also big fans of the Tour, and I'll try to keep that in mind when I send out tweets so as to not spoil the events for those that watch the coverage in the evening. It should be a great race once again this year, and I'm eager for it to begin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big City Mountaineers Adds Fiske, Viesturs To Board

Big City Mountaineers, that fantastic non-profit that seeks to inspire urban youth through wilderness experiences, has added a couple of big names to its board of directors. It was announced yesterday that Neil Fiske, CEO of Eddie Bauer, and mountaineer Ed Viesturs have joined the team to help lead the organization forward.

Fiske says that he is excited to join the BCM family and that he'll be contributing Eddie Bauer gear to the cause to help encourage the next generation of outdoor adventurers and explorers to pursue their passions. Similarly, Viesturs has been involved with Big City Mountaineers for some time, but this move helps to formalize that relationship further. Ed is a spokesman for SOLE custom footpads and has designed a great insert for our boots with that company, and as a result, SOLE is donating $1 for every pair of the EV Signature Footpads that are sold. Check out Ed talking about the relationship in the video below.

On a personal note, I've written about Big City Mountaineers, and their Summit For Someone program,  a few times in the past and think that they have a fantastic program. The organization has done a great job of helping thousands of urban youth to get outside and actually experience the wilderness in unique ways that they normally wouldn't be exposed to. Adding these two men to their board only helps to enhance their already great reputation.

Karakoram 2011: Big Walls Conquered, Summit Bids Stymied

Yesterday I mentioned that news out of the Karakoram has been a bit slow so far this year, but that teams were arriving in Base Camps and that things would pick-up soon. Turns out that was a prophetic, if obvious, thing to say, as we have news today of a major success in the mountain range, as well as an early summit bid that was turned back.

First, the British Mountaineering Council is reporting that four Russians have claimed the first ascent of the West Face of Latok III. The team, which includes Evgeny Dmitrienko, Ivan Dozhdev, Alex Lonchinsky and Alexander Odintsov, spent 15 days on the wall, from June 10th to the 25th, before successfully topping out. Latok III is a 6949 meter (22,798 foot) peak located in Pakistan, and the West Face is a 5580 foot big wall that is considered one of the most challenge climbs in the world. Reaching the top puts an end to an 11-year quest, led by Odintsov, to finish a route that was first explored by an Italian team back in 1988. (Tip of the hat to Outside Online for sharing this story)

Meanwhile, over on Broad Peak, an audacious young French climber by the name of Sophie Denis attempted to nab the summit quickly this season, but was turned back by high winds at Camp 3. Sophie is climbing with Lakpa Sherpa and only had arrived in Base Camp a few days before their alpine style ascent. The fixed lines are only up to Camp 2 at this stage, but the two climbers were hoping to take advantage of the acclimatization from the Himalaya this past spring, during which Lakpa summited Everest, and Sophie knocked off Cho Oyu and Lhotse within two weeks of one another.

Now back in BC, they'll wait for a better opportunity to climb the mountain. Reading the report on their attempt however, you can't help but wonder what the rush was. Do they have designs on another peak this summer, say maybe K2? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Lots of teams are expected to begin reporting in soon as Base Camps start to fill up. Expect more regular reports in the days ahead.

Adventure Racing News

News from the world of adventure racing continues to roll in, as we march towards some big races that are yet to come this year. Like the Raid the North Extreme which will be held in British Columbia's West Kootney region at the end of July. Last week, organizers for the race announced a partnership with Canadian gear retailer Atmosphere, naming them their title sponsor for the event. The company will promote the race in their stores of course, as well as provide gear and contest prizes for racers and volunteers alike. The RTNX will cover more than 500km and is set to take place from July 23-31.

Congratulations are in order for the Thule Adventure Team, who claimed victory at the Le Grand Raid, held between Calais and Lille, France this past weekend. It is the second major victory for the team this year, who also took place at the Huairasinchi, Ecuador back in March. The Thule Adventure beat out second place Kiwi team Wilsa AFG and Buff Thermocool, who crossed the finish line in third place. 

Finally, the latest rankings for the Checkpoint Tracker Series have been released following a full weekend of racing that saw Team Tecnu Extreme/StaphAseptic win the Endorphin Fix in West Virginia. The race saw some top teams go head-to-head and served as a great tune-up the RTNX, which is now less than a month away.

Checkout the latest standings below as teams jockey for position heading into the Checkpoint Tracker National Championship in October. 

Checkpoint Tracker North American Rankings - Coed Elite Division
Rank Team Points
1st Checkpoint Zero/Tech4o 470
2nd Odyssey Adventure 430
3rd Tecnu Extreme/StaphAseptic 406
4th TeamSOG 389
5th Mountain Khakis/Rev3 Adventure 386
6th Florida Xtreme Adventure Racing Club 293
7th WEDALI 280
8th Goals ARA 266
9th Green Paw Adventure Sports 212
10th Big Mountain Adventure Racing 175
View Complete Rankings by Division

Vancouver Island Speed Circumnavigation Attempt

Long distance paddler Colin Angus is attempting to break the speed record for a solo, circumnavigation around Vancouver Island. He's hoping to cover the 1150km (714.5 mile) journey in less than 16.5 days. He's now halfway through the attempt, and has passed the 600km mark and is now headed toward the finish line.

You can follow Colin's adventure on his website,, where you'll find daily updates on his progress and a SPOT tracker feed of his current location. As of this writing, the SPOT doesn't seem to be tracking accurately, but hopefully that's just a temporary glitch.

Reading the updates on his progress, it doesn't seem like this has been an easy row for Colin thus far. Not only is he dealing with painful tendonitis in his arm, he has also had to contend with difficult headwinds and turbulent waters. He has also been forced to row further out to sea than you would think was necessary in order to avoid submerged reefs that can create massive waves – sometimes 50 feet high, that could potentially put a premature end to the expedition.

For Colin, and his wife Julie, a rowing challenge like this one is old hat. They once rowed from Scotland to Syria, covering more than 7000km (4350 miles) in the process. Back in 2004, this adventurous couple also set out on a human powered circumnavigation of the planet, covering the land on foot, bikes and skies, while rowing across the Bering Strait and the Atlantic Ocean. They completed that journey two years later, and have continued their pursuit of outdoor adventure ever since.

If everything goes as planned, and his tendonitis doesn't get any worse, Colin should complete his journey sometime early next week. He's setting a pace that should allow him to break the record, but weather and conditions on the water can still play a role. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Julie for sending me the tip on her husband's adventure!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kilian Jornet Wins Western States 100

As mentioned last week, the Western States 100 was held this past weekend in California, where the world's top long distance trail runners gathered to test themselves on the 100 mile long course between Squaw Valley and Auburn. This year, they not only had to contend with the usual challenges, such as 40,000+ feet of elevation change and rugged terrain, but also large amounts of snow that caused the course to be altered. In the end, it was Spaniard Kilian Jornet who took first place amongst the men, while Ellie Greenwood, a Scot living in Canada, was tops amongst the women.

The highly anticipated showdown between Jornet and defending champ Geoff Roes failed to materialize when Roes was forced to pull out of the race at the 55-mile mark. Last year, Jornet was leading the pack, but failed to carry any water with him on the trail. As a result, he ran out of steam, allowing a surging Roes to overtake him. This year, Jornet took no chances with the water, and ran a good race, finishing at 15 hours, 34 minutes, and 25 seconds. The time would have been faster, but he and several of the front runners strayed from the main trail for time, losing about 15 minutes total. As it stands, this was the third fastest time ever run at the WS100 and Jornet has become the first foreign born winner of the 37-year old race. Mike Wolfe of Montana took second place in the race with a time of 15:38:30.

For her part, Greenwood turned in an impressive time too, finishing the 100 mile course in 17 hours, 55 minutes. She beat out a strong field of female contenders that included last year's defending champ Tracy Garneau and three-time winner Nikki Kimball.

Congrats to the winners and everyone who ran the race. If you finished, and earned that belt buckle, wear it with pride!

Non-Profit Warm Current Seeks To Inspire Youth Through Surfing

A non-profit organization known as Warm Current has kicked off a unique fund raising program today that will allow them to continue, and expand, their mission of inspiring youth and underserved communities through surfing.

Starting today and running through July 31st, the organization is holding its Faces of Warm Current fund raiser, which focuses on generating cash to purchase new surfboards, wetsuits, and a trailer for upcoming Warm Current surf camps. The minimum donations start at just $5 and anyone who contributes will be able to upload a photo or message of their choice, which will then be added to the side of the trailer in the form of a two inch by two inch tile. Those tiles will form a mosaic that shares your message or image with the young people who will be reached by the Warm Current surf camp program.

The organization sprang from a 2008 surf trip to South America, during which the three founders visited a number of communities where underprivileged people simply couldn't enjoy the water because they couldn't afford the resources necessary to take advantage of it. Observing the plight of those local people inspired the idea of helping underserved communities throughout the world to reconnect with the natural environment through surfing. Since then, hundreds of wetsuits and surfboards have been donated to the cause, which has already impacted lives here and abroad.

The plan is to continue sending surf gear to those South American communities that helped generate the idea for the organization, but to also expand the Warm Current surf camps in the Pacific Northwest to help inspire kids here in the States as well. The non-profit has three goals in mind, help underprivileged individuals connect with outdoor recreation; increase the awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship; and decrease the amount of waste generated by the outdoor community by recycling their surf gear.

For more information about Warm Currents and their fund raising efforts, check out the video below. You can also donate to the cause by clicking here.

The Faces of Warm Current from Warm Current on Vimeo.

Karakoram 2011: Teams Arriving In Base Camps

News from the Karakoram has been a bit slow thus far this year, in part because most of the climbers have still been en route to their intended peaks. Travel has been made all the more challenging, as some have had to make the trip overland while flights have been grounded throughout the region. But, the teams have begun arriving at last and have started their acclimatization process.

While the Karakoram has plenty of majestic and challenging peaks, the crown jewel is of course K2. Gerfried Göschl and his team hope to eventually give that mountain a go, along a new route no less. But they arrived in Base Camp on Gasherbrum I last Thursday, where they will make a warm-up climb first, then assess their chances of a summit on the world's second highest mountain. Reportedly, the team was headed up to Camp 1, located at 5900 meters (19,356 feet) over the weekend, but they are expected back in BC today to report on their progress thus far.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and her squad should be at K2 Base Camp by now, although she hasn't posted any updates since she set out for the Karakoram nearly two weeks ago. She is hoping to finish off the last of the 8000 meter peaks on her list. Also reportedly on her way to BC is Kinga Baranowska, the talented Polish mountaineer who has already topped out on Dhaluagiri, Kangchenjunga, Cho Oyu, and numerous other peaks. She's hoping to add the Savage Mountain to her resume as well. There are some indications that Christian Stangl may climb under the same permit as Kinga as well.

Meanwhile, according to Everest News, the Polish-Ukraining team led by Jacek Teler has arrived on the Gasherbrums and has already begun working the mountain. The team hopes to go for a double summit of GI and GII, and have already started establishing their high camps in preparation.

Finally, contrary to earlier reports that Ueli Steck would be in the Karakoram this summer, the Swiss climber has decided to pass on the season there. No word yet on what the speed climber will be up to next, but I'm sure he'll be planning and training for something.

Stay tuned. Hopefully we'll get more detailed and updated reports form Pakistan soon.

Thoughts on Expedition Impossible

I didn't really have the opportunity to share my thoughts following last weeks premiere of the new ABC reality television show Expedition Impossible.  Prior to its debut, I had been writing about the program with some regularity, and even posted videos from the start. Before seeing the show, I noted that it appeared to be a mix of adventure racing and the show The Amazing Race. That description holds up to a certain extent, although Expedition Impossible charts its own course as well, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

First, I'll say that as far as first episodes go, this wasn't a bad one. I found myself enjoying the show overall, in no small part because the Moroccan landscapes look absolutely spectacular in HD. The setting was fantastic and offered some great challenges for the three-person teams who were setting off on the race, many of which seemed completely unprepared for the environments that they would be racing through. (I'm looking at you "Country Boys"!)

Much like Amazing Race however, Expedition Impossible suffers from having too many teams in the first few episodes. It becomes a bit overwhelming for the camera crews and editors to keep up with, and as a result, the audience doesn't get to see too much of the teams in the early going. This was evident when the "Gypsies" won the first leg, although we hardly saw them at all throughout the episode. This will become less of an issue in a few episodes however, as teams are eliminated, giving the remaining teams more screen time. It will also make it easier for us to get to know the racers and start cheering for the ones that we like best.

Unlike in adventure racing, it didn't appear that the contestants in Expedition Impossible were actually having to navigate anywhere. Sure, we saw them carrying compasses at some points, but I believe those are more for show than anything else. It appeared that the trails were marked to some degree, making it easier for the racers to find their way. This made for more of a canned feel to the "expedition," something that doesn't happen AR or The Amazing Race. On the other hand, I'm not surprised by this, as even expert navigators can get lost in the desert, and I'm sure ABC didn't want anyone wandering off to die in the Sahara, despite the fact that it would probably be a rating bonanza.

The challenges that we've seen so far haven't been all that impressive either. In the first one, the teams were told to find water "the local way," which meant digging under the sand for buried water. This made perfect sense to me watching at home, but it seemed to stump all but one of the teams on the show. But once one of them figured it out, they all got it, making it an irrelevant challenge to those that followed. Once the original team had dug their well, everyone else was able to use it afterwards, making it little more of a speed bump. Hopefully future challenges are designed to challenge every team.

The five minute commercial for the Ford Explorer was also a bit much. Sure, Ford is one of the sponsors of the show, and it was disguised as a behind the scenes look at show creator Mark Burnett scouting Morocco for the race, but it seemed to go on forever, and wasn't all that interesting in the greater scheme of things. Hopefully we won't have something similar each week.

Now, all of that said, you would probably think that I hated Expedition Impossible, but on the contrary I still found it enjoyable. I think it'll be better in the episodes to come, and I think it showed a lot of promise. I loved seeing the Moroccan countryside and it was fun to see a pseudo-adventure race on television. The teams are a bit archetypal for me, but hopefully as we get to know them, that will resolve itself as well. As it stands, some of them are quite impressive so far.

Speaking of the teams, one of them, Team No Limits, is probably destined to become known as "the team with the blind guy." While they didn't play it up a ton, it should be mentioned that the "blind guy" is mountaineer Eric Weihenmayer, who became the first blind person to summit Everest a few years back. Eric has notched many adventures in his climbing career and is more than capable of winning this race, which is why I get a chuckle when ever someone says something about not wanting to lose to a bling guy or that he would be out of the race in no time. I have no idea how No Limits does in the race, but I know I'll be cheering for them as long as their still competing.

So? Did you tune in and watch? What are your thoughts on Expedition Impossible so far? Will you give it another go this week? Without a doubt, it is a canned adventure, but hopefully it'll be a fun one to watch during the long summer months. Post your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 24, 2011

National Geographic Announces 2011 Explorers of the Year

Kenny Broad (Photo by Rebecca Hale)

Last night, National Geographic held their first ever "Evening of Exploration" during which they announced the winners of their inaugural Explorers of the Year awards. During the event, three individuals and a corporation received recognition for their efforts in a variety of fields.

The 2011 Explorers of the Year award went to environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad and underwater photographer Wes Skiles, for their efforts in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas last year. This was particularly fitting, as the theme of the evening was "Oceans."

Broad is a professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and serves as the director of the University of Miami’s Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. He also co-directs the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. Broad specializes in the study of the interaction between humans and their environment.

Skiles worked as a freelance photographer and produced, directed and filmed over 100 projects for television. He was an accomplished diver who specialized in filming and photographing underwater caves, having explored those beautiful, yet dangerous environments, in Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, Antarctica and the Bahamas. Sadly, he passed away last year on a dive off the coast of Florida. His family accepted the award for him posthumously.

Also honored at the event were musician Jack Johnson and the IBM corporation. Johnson was the recipient of the "Arts Ambassador for the Environment Award," which is presented to an individual in the entertainment field who has taken a leadership role in raising awareness about environmental issues. IBM took home the "Chairman's Award" for their work with Nat Geo on the Genographic Project, a  a ground breaking piece of research that examines how human populations migrated across the planet.
Congratulations to these very worthy winners.

Photo: Environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad and late underwater photographer Wes Skiles were named National Geographic “Explorers of the Year” for their extraordinary achievements in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas in 2010. Broad is seen here accepting his award at the inaugural “Evening of Exploration” event.  (Photo by Rebecca Hale)

2011 Gobi March Begins This Weekend

This weekend is turning out to be a good one for endurance athletes. Not only do we have an exceptional adventure race in Colorado and the Western States 100 in California, halfway around the world another group of ultrarunners are preparing to set out on the 2011 edition of the Gobi March, a 250km (155 mile) trek through the Gobi Desert.

The annual race, which is part of the 4 Deserts series of ultramarathons, is set to be another grueling affair this year. Race officials were out on the course yesterday and reported that temperatures were around 42ºC (107ºF) and conditions are expected to remain warm after the race gets underway on Sunday.

At the moment, the competitors are all arriving at the Turpan Basin, a remote region of China that is known to be very dry and hot. This year's route will take them through Aydingkol Lake, which sits 155 meters (508 feet) below sea level and is the farthest point from any ocean on the planet. This year there are 152 athletes, from 30 countries, taking part in the Gobi March. Over the course of the six stages and seven days of racing, they'll be completely self supported while out on the course.

One of the competitors in the 2011 Gobi March is a friend of mine. His name is Wouter Kingma and he'll be taking part in his first ever ultra-event, although he has run plenty of marathons in the past. Wouter is a well known and respected professional photographer who has often attending these kinds of events in a official capacity to take photographs, but this time he'll be on the other side of the lens. He is running to raise money for the ABC Children's Aid Uganda, an organization that works hard to help children in Uganda who are orphaned due to AIDS/HIV or armed conflict.

I want to wish Wouter and all the competitors good luck in this fantastic event.

Floyd Landis Harassing Lance Armstrong On Twitter?!?

Reading this story on Outside Online earlier had me shaking my head and thinking "life really is stranger than fiction."

It has been a really odd couple of months in the ongoing story of whether or not Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs in his historic wins in the Tour de France. We all know the rumors and allegations have been swirling around for years and that Lance has been the subject of an on going investigation by a federal grand jury. Things came to a head a month back when Tyler Hamilton claimed that he saw Armstrong use EPO while they were teammates back in 2000. That was followed up by some legal wrangling, denials, and more verbal sparring. More recently, there was that run-in between the two riders in an Aspen restaurant that has widely varying accounts of what happened depending on who you talk to.

Now, coms this new story from Outside that shares the details of an odd, yet systematic, Twitter campaign, being orchestrated by former pro rider and disgraced Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, who is using the Twitter feed of @GreyManrod to take jabs at Lance and his closest associates, in an attempt to discredit him and change public perception of the seven time Tour winner.

Even that is just the beginning however, as Landis was also set to go to court with the International Cycling Union (UCI) who were suing him over defamation because he continually accused them of covering up a failed drug test administered to Armstrong back in 2001. In response to the notice of the case, Landis set up a website for a fictitious law firm called Grey Manrod Associates.

You'll have to read the full story to get the entire scope of what Landis has been up to, but it comes across has very odd to say the least. There are even some that speculate that it won't help any case against Armstrong, as it could be pointed to as an obsessive fixation with bringing Lance down. Landis once sent out 47 tweets in 44 minutes, for example.

The article reminds me of just what a circus this whole story has become, or perhaps more of a soap opera, I haven't decided which. All I know is that the Tour de France starts a week from tomorrow and I'll be happy to be writing about the actual event again.

Gear Box: Eureka Apex 2XT Tent

Living in Texas, where we've already had more than a dozen days of triple-digit heat y this year, we're always looking for gear that performs well in warmer temperatures. After all, it isn't much fun to be uncomfortable in extremely hot and dry weather. In fact, while most of the U.S. is just getting their camping gear onto the store shelves, ours is being put in storage until fall, when it is actually safe to go back outside again.

Fortunately, there are some gear manufacturers that go to great pains to design gear that works well in warm weather, ensuring we don't have to cancel our camping trip just because the mercury starts to climb. One of those companies is Eureka, who makes a variety of tents for backpacking, family outings, and even mountaineering expeditions. I took one of their newly designed Apex 2XT tents on a recent weekend outing, and found that it was a fantastic option for summer campers.

One of the biggest challenges of testing out a new tent is trying to figure out how to set it up. Sometimes they are simple, straight forward affairs, and sometimes it requires a rocket surgeon to help you figure it out. In the case of the Apex, it was a real breeze to put it together, taking just a few minutes to get it set up and ready for use. That's greatly appreciated at the end of a long day on the trail or when you're trying to out run a sudden storm.

After setting the tent up, I climbed inside to check out my sleeping space and was surprised to find a very spacious interior. The Apex 2XT is rated for two campers, which it can fit comfortably with room to spare for gear as well. In fact, its large enough that two adults and even a small child could probably get away with sharing the space for weekend outings.

As is typical with Eureka tents, the Apex is well constructed and durable. It also includes a fly that covers the entire tent and creates two vestibules that are helpful for keeping gear dry in inclement weather. A gear loft and interior pockets helps you to keep your important items close at hand, and a "bathtub" floor helps to keep the water out.

The Apex is most definitely designed for warmer weather, and the twin side-opening access points help to keep the interior well ventilated on summer nights. If you use the tent in those kinds of conditions, you're likely to be very happy with its performance. This is a late-spring to early-fall kind of shelter, and anything much colder than that will probably leave you wanting something a bit more substantial.

Speaking of substantial, the tent is a bit on the heavy side as well. Light and fast backpackers will want to look elsewhere as well, as the Apex 2XT has a pack weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces. That's a fairly heavy load for a two-person tent that doesn't offer better protection in colder temps. But on the other hand, it is hard to beat the quality, size, and performance for the price.

One other item of note is that I've read that this tent has issues with keeping moisture out, particularly in heavy rainfall. I can't confirm or deny these issues, as it was warm and dry when I used the tent. I can say that it seems that Eureka has taken great strides to incorporate design elements that should help to keep all but the heaviest of rains out. The bathtub floor, included fly, zipper covers, and other items seem well thought out and incorporated to keep us dry, but perhaps there is something I'm overlooking.

Warm weather campers will find the Apex 2XT has everything they need for their summer outings. With plenty of interior room and good design elements, tt is an excellent and affordable option that should serve you well, provided you don't use it in cooler weather.

MSRP: $129.99 (But it at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Kayak Run Of The Season - Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Ah... spring time! When we all start to head outside once again and enjoy all the great outdoor activities that we missed during the long winter months. Like the paddlers in the video below, who took their first run of the year on Sixmile Creek on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. The video was shot back on April 24th of this year, and gives you an idea of what the area is like in the early spring. There is still plenty of snow on the ground and ice in the river, which makes it all the more challenging.

BBC Video On Uncontacted Tribes

Yesterday I posted a story about another uncontacted tribe being discovered in a remote region of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. In that post, I mentioned that there are a number of such tribes in the Amazon, and that the Brazilian government has been taking steps to protect them and their environment from outside threats. It turns out, the BBC documentary Human Planet filmed a piece on those tribes, which you can watch below. The video does a good job of explaining the situation while offering up some fascinating images of these isolated people who continue to live in the same manner that they have for generations.

While watching the video and seeing these tribes first hand, I can't help but wonder what they think about the airplane that is flying overhead and shooting the images. The narrator says that the plane stayed a kilometer away, but I'm still intrigued by thoughts of what that first contact was like for the people in the village.

Big thanks to Ethnonomad for sharing the video with me!

Reminder: Expedition Impossible Starts Tonight

I've been posting about ABC's Expedition Impossible on a semi-regular basis lately, and tonight we'll finally get the chance to see if it has been worth the hype. It has been getting promoted fairly heavily in the past few weeks, in part because it is summer now, and there simply isn't much to watch on TV. But that said, from the promos I've seen so far, this looks like it'll be a fun diversion for those looking to watch an interesting competition, that doesn't deal with singing or dancing, set in an exotic locale.

For those who have some how managed to avoid the promos, Expedition Impossible looks to be a mash-up of The Amazing Race and the sport of adventure racing. When the show launches tonight, it'll have 13 teams of three racing against one another for a $150,000 prize. Each week they'll face both mental and physical challenges, as they race to a series of checkpoints, with the last team to arrive presumably being eliminated. We'll find out more about the exact format tonight, but it seems there will be a mix of puzzle solving, navigation, climbing, running, and more.

The show is the latest creation of Mark Burnett, who has a background in adventure racing having produced the legendary Eco-Challenge races back in the 90's. While the premiere episode of the show is airing tonight, Burnett will be live Tweeting the show, offering some behind the scenes insights and commentary about the events unfolding on the screen. You'll be able to follow his tweets at @MarkBurnettTV. Additionally, ABC will be hosting a "Chat Party" on their website as well, with viewers sharing their thoughts on the show as it unfolds and incorporating Burnett's tweets too. The Chat Party begins at 9PM ET, when the show starts, and will run through the West Coast feed a few hours later.

So, will you be tuning in to watch? I know I'm interested to see what the show is all about. I like that they'll be racing through a single location and it seems more physical than The Amazing Race, which I am admittedly a fan of as well. At the very least, I hope it is fun and entertaining, and while I'd rather Mark Burnett revive the Eco-Challenge, I'll settle for this. For now.

Gear Box: Brooks-Range Alpini 30 Sleeping Bag

One of the keys to a good camping trip is, without a doubt, a quality sleeping bag. You can put up with inclement weather, going days without a hot shower, and endure mediocre camp food, but when it comes time to sleep, you need to be comfortable. This is true in every season, ranging from the sub-zero temperatures of winter to the scorching hot of summer.

Recently I had the opportunity to test out the new Alpini 30 Sleeping Bag from Brooks Range and as usual with gear from BR, I found it a more than worthy addition to my gear closet. From the moment you take it out of the included stuff sack, the Alpini impresses with its design and build quality, as the bag features lightweight fabrics that are both soft and rugged, making it comfortable to sleep in, but tough enough to survive the rigors of the trail.

As the name implies, the Alpini 30 is rated down to about 30ºF (0ºC) making it a perfect sleeping bag for spring and fall camping excursions or cooler summer nights at altitude. Thanks to its "mummy" style design, which includes a hood, the Alpini is extremely versatile, allowing you to bundle up as much or as little as you need to stay comfortable. The heavy duty, high quality, zippers aid in this process quite a bit, allowing you to keep the bag open on warmer nights, or zipped up snuggly when the temperatures start to drop. Those same zippers are bi-directional, allowing you to vent your legs and feet, while remaining warmly wrapped around your torso and head. 

As someone who travels regularly, I always tend to favor gear that is light in weight and doesn't take up much room in my pack. The Alpini fits that description as well, as it stuffs down to a very small footprint and weighs less than a pound and a half. In fact, it is so light, you'll barely even remember you have it with you when you're hiking. Brooks Range used 850+ fill goose down to achieve the miracle of a warm and comfortable sleeping bag that also happens to have such a minimalist profile. 

While the Alpini is an excellent, well made sleeping bag, there are two things to keep in mind when deciding if it is right for you. First, the temperature rating system is fairly accurate, and I can't imagine using this bag much below freezing. It is a perfect cool weather bag but you'll want something warmer for your cold weather adventures. (Like the Alpini 15 perhaps!) The other thing to consider is that Alpini runs a bit on the small side, and if you're above 6 feet in height, you may find it a bit too confining. I'm 6'3" and about 200 pounds, and at times I felt the bag didn't quite fit me properly. A larger size would be appreciated, although that doesn't seem to be an option at this point. 

Those two quibbles aside, the Alpini 30 is a fantastic option for three-season camping. You'll be impressed by how comfortable and lightweight it is, not to mention how small it packs down. It is a versatile and well built sleeping bag that will serve you well in all but the most extreme conditions. 

MSRP: $319 available from the

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Adventure Racing News

It seems that there has been a steady stream of adventure racing news of late, partly because the season is in full swing here in North America, where a number of races are preparing to challenge teams throughout the summer.

One of the most highly anticipated races is the Raid the North Extreme, which will take place July 23rd - 31st in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. That means the race is just over a month away, so you know that teams, volunteers, and organizers are gearing up for their event. The last time I posted an update on the race, it was to announce that it would be televised in both the U.S. and Canada later this year. At the time, it was announced that New Edge Entertainment would be taking charge of the production of the show, but they want to get the teams in on the act as well.

While New Edge crews will be on hand to film as much of the race as they can, they realize that it is difficult to capture all the amazing and dramatic moments of any adventure race. That's why they're also looking for any first-person footage, shot out on the course by teams competing in the event. They will accept highlights that are up to 30 minutes in length, but would like to know which teams could provide them with said footage before the race begins.

So, if you're competing at the RTNX and you're planning on strapping a helmet cam to your head, you may want to let them know. Contact Julie at New Edge asap if your team is interested at 778.297.7377 ext 117 or

Also, it was announced today that registration for the second annual Checkpoint Tracker National Championship will open July 1st. Teams that are interested in competing in the October 21st event will want to sign-up as soon as possible, as the event is limited to just 300 racers, although the top ten teams in each division at the end of the season will get a guaranteed entry. The entry fee is $250/racer and this year's championship will be held in the Land Between the Lakes area of Kentucky.

Watch the Checkpoint Tracker website for more information and for the registration to go live.

Another Uncontacted Tribe Discovered In The Amazon

Brazil's National Indian Foundation, better known as Funai, has announced that it has discovered a new, uncontacted tribe in a very remote region of the Amazon Rainforest. The organization first spotted a clearing on satellite images, then used airplanes to fly over the region. According to this story from The Guardian, those flyovers spotted four small huts built next to banana trees and surrounded by very dense jungle.

The tribe is said to live in an area close to the border between Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Experts estimate that there are approximately 200 people living in the village, none of which have ever seen or met someone from the outside, modern world. The discovery brings Funai's official count of uncontacted tribes up to 14, with approximately 2000 people living in those tribes.

The Brazilian government has made it a policy to not establish contact with these indigenous people, and instead they work to protect their lands. Those regions have come increasingly under threat in recent years due to logging, poaching, and mining and other outside influences. There is a fear that contact will eventually have to be established because of those threats.

This story reminds me of a similar one from a few years back. When I wrote that story I remarked about how remarkable it is that these primitive tribes still exist in the wildest places on our planet. We take so much for granted in our modern lives, and yet these people have continued living a simple, yet successful lifestyle for centuries on end. That is such an amazing thing.

The Western States 100 Is This Weekend!

Looking for something to do this weekend? Feel like getting in a good workout? Then maybe you should enter the Western States 100, one of the toughest trail runs in all of North America. The 38th edition of the race will gets underway on Saturday in Squaw Valley, California, where runners will take their mark at 5 AM for what promises to be another great run through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The 100 mile course begins with a long, slow climb out of Squaw Valley, up to Emigrant Pass. Along the way, the runners gain more than 2500 feet in just the 4.5 miles of the run. It doesn't get much easier after that, as the athletes will face another 38,000+ feet of elevation change over the remaining 95 miles of course, before eventually reaching the finish line in Auburn, California.

Due to the record levels of snow that fell in the Sierra Nevada this past winter, there is still as much as eight feet of powder still on the ground at some of the higher altitudes. This has caused the race organizers to alter the traditional course to a degree, although the changes won't have an impact on the overall length of the race. While the change in course has been made for the safety of the athletes and the support crews, they won't avoid it completely, as there is just too much of it along the trail.

The race has a full field of 400 participants, including defending men's champ Geoff Roes, who set a new course record last year at 15 hours, 7 minutes. Tracy Garneau, the reigning women's champ, will also be on hand to defend her title as well.

Video Profile Of Alex Honnold

Black Diamond Equipment has shared a video profile of rock climber Alex Honnold, who just happens to be one of their sponsored athletes. In the video, we get to watch Alex do his thing on a couple of routes in Squamish, British Columbia, while talking about his love for food, how much he enjoys living out of a van, and his unquenchable thirst to climb just about anything. After watching this video, I think it is safe to say that Honnold has an all consuming passion for climbing.

Thanks to The Goat for sharing!

VIDEO PROFILE: Alex Honnold climbing 5.13+ in Squamish, British Columbia from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Adventure TEAM Challenge Puts The Emphasis On The Team

While we're on the subject of adventure racing, there is another great event taking place this weekend in Colorado that really puts a great spin on the sport. It's called the Adventure TEAM Challenge, and on the surface it appears like many other AR events. It is a 3-day long race, held along the Colorado River, not far from Eagle, Colorado, that features teams competing in the usual disciplines of trekking, biking, and paddling. As in all good adventure races, navigation will play a role as well, as the athletes work their way through wilderness backcountry, passing through various checkpoints along the way.

But where this race diverges from others is in the area of the make-up of the teams. While most AR events consist of three or four person teams, quite often coed, the Adventure TEAM Challenge requires teams to have five members. Now that, in and of itself, isn't such a radical thing, but the rules also say that two of those team members must be disabled in some way, with at least one of those athletes being a wheel chair user or paraplegic. Obviously, this changes the dynamic of the teams greatly and really requires a higher level of cooperation amongst the athletes, who will have to work together even more closely if they hope to win.

I love the message that this race sends in that it is 1) inclusive to all athletes, even those who are disabled and 2) that you don't have to stop leading an adventurous life just because you suffer a physical impairment of some kind. I think it is fantastic that a race like this one exists and I want to wish everyone the best of luck in the TEAM Challenge this weekend. You are an inspiration to the rest of us!

Thanks to Clyde for sharing information about the Adventure TEAM Challenge. Very much appreciated.

Expedition Idaho Launches New Website!

With less than two months to go until the start of the race, Expedition Idaho has launched a new website that will serve as its online presence before, during, and after the event. The new site features the official ExpID blog, a complete roster of teams, an online store, as well as more information about the race itself.

The site was developed and built on the new Race Central platform that has been created by the creative minds behind Checkpoint Tracker. Race Central, which will be used for the first time Expedition Idaho, allows race directors and promotors to host live coverage of their events, on their own websites, while the race is underway. That includes GPS Tracking, Leader Boards, Course Maps, a live blog, and more. Previously, those features were all hosted on the Checkpoint Tracker servers, diverting traffic away from the race site, but now that traffic will stay focused on the event website, opening the door for better marketing opportunities.

Race Central isn't the only innovation that Checkpoint Tracker can deliver to race organizers either. The newly launched "Checkpoint Tracker Solutions" offers a turnkey solution for events that includes website design and  hosting, content syndication, social media integration, e-mail marketing and more. In short, everything that a race director needs to run a successful event online. For more information on these options, send an e-mail to

In addition to launching the new website, Expedition Idaho has also taken the plunge into the world of social media. Race officials have created a Facebook page for the event, which can be found by clicking here, and have also launched the race's official Twitter feed. Get all your news on ExpID by following @ExpeditionIdaho.

As one of the major adventure racing events for the summer, anticipation for Expedition Idaho is running high. The race will take place from August 14th through the 21st in Coeur d'Alene and will feature coed teams of four competing across a course that is more than 500km (310 miles) in length and promises to have one of the best finishes in the history of the sport.

Stay tuned for more information soon!

New Issue of JPFreek Magazine Now Available

The June 2011 issue of JPFreek Magazine is now available online. The magazine, which I happen to be a contributor to,  is a great source of news and information for outdoor enthusiasts – particularly ones that also happen to be fans of Jeeps as well.

In the latest issue, you'll find articles on a host of topics, including the second part of a trekking journey through Peru, jeep adventures in California's Corral Canyon and Arches National Park, and more. You'll especially want to read the story on Expedition Awareness, an organization that is undertaking several overland expeditions to help raise awareness of Adrenoleukodystrophy, a horrible disease that effects young boys. You'll also find the usual Jeep related news, reviews, and more. To read the latest issue, visit the JPFree website and click on the June 2011 issue in the upper right hand corner.

You can also get all the great JPFreek content on your iPad through the magazine's iPad app, which features interactive slideshows, video, and other enhanced content. Download the app through the App Store on your device or by clicking here.

Racing Across America For Safe Drinking Water

Last Saturday, a group of cyclists set out from Los Angeles, California on a 3000 mile bike ride/race across the United States in an effort to raise funds for Blue Planet, an organization dedicated to delivering safe drinking water to the world. Ultimately, they hope to complete the journey in just eight days, eventually ending their ride in Annapolis, Maryland. If successful, they'll have completed a race that is longer than the Tour de France and in just a fourth of the time.

These efforts are taking place within the Race Across America (RAAM), an annual event that has riders from all over the world competing in a transcontinental road race. The Blue Planet network teams that are taking part in the event include Team Ride4Water, made up of Katie Spotz and Sam Williams, and Team Hope, which as four riders – Alejandro Galindo, Sara Harper, Andre Husain, and Lawrence Smith. Solo rider Samim Rizvi is also competing in the race for Blue Planet as well.

The riders are off to a great start and have already completed the first 1000 miles of the ride. As of this morning, they're in Colorado, where they are about to cross one of their biggest hurdles in the form of the Rocky Mountains. With that out of the way, the next two-thirds of the race should be a piece of cake.

You may recall that Katie Spotz rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean a last year for clean drinking water as well, and apparently her partner Sam has also accomplished that feat. Things haven't gotten off to a good start for her however, as according to the video below, she broke her pelvis in a crash a week before the race. She is continuing on however using a recumbent bike, which should be more comfortable, but still doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

If everything goes as scheduled, the teams and riders in this year's RAAM, should arrive at the finish line this Sunday.

Win A Trip To Anywhere With Travel2Change Water Conservation Contest

Non-proft organization Travel2change is sponsoring a contest in which they are giving away a trip to any travel destination, in any country in the world, to the person who comes up with the best idea for improving the sustainable management of water in that destination. The hope is that they'll find, and fund, creative and innovative ideas for how travelers can have a positive and lasting impact on the places we visit.

Proposals are being accepted in four categories which include: Health, Environment, Education, and Sport, with one winner in each category being selected. To enter, simply go to the Travel2change website and submit your proposal before the end of the day on July 10th. If your idea is one of the four selected, the Travel2change, working in conjunction with travel company Kuoni, will arrange to have you visited your proposed destination.

All of the entries in the contest will be available on the site, allowing others to read and comment on them. The hope is that through that discussion, the proposals can be tweaked and improved to make them even more efficient and well thought through. The best, most helpful, participant on the website could also be selected to go on one of the trips selected from the four categories as well.

The entries into the contest will be judged on the basis of creativity, effectiveness, impact, feasibility and sustainability. So, get your thinking caps on, come up with a great plan, and submit it to this project. Not only could you have a lasting impact on a community that needs our help, but you could also get to visit that place first-hand and help see your idea come to life.

Very cool contest/project with a great message and "prize."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kilian Jornet Sets New Speed Record Up Mt. Olympus

Trail runner and endurance athlete Kilian Jornet has set another speed record for running up a mountain. According to the Salomon Running blog, the man who is widely considered the best trail runner in the world, conquered the 3500 meter (11,482 feet) Mt. Olympus in Greece in just 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 45 seconds. His trail to the top was 45km (28 miles) in length. Check out the video below to get a taste of what it was like to run up that legendary peak.

You may also recall that Kilian was the man who set the new speed record on Kilimanjaro last fall. On that run, he went from the base to the summit, and back again in just 7 hours and 14 minutes. His summit climb took just 5 hours and 23 minutes. Impressive times to say the least, as the trail up Kili is not a smooth one, and dealing with those kinds of rapid altitude gains is not easy.

Solo Sailing Update: Laura Dekker Reaches Bora Bora

15-year old solo circumnavigator Laura Dekker reached another milestone on her round-the-world journey over the weekend, sailing into Bora Bora in the South Pacific. Her arrival in that island paradise puts her a little more than halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

When we last checked in with Laura back in April, she was getting ready to pass through the Panama Canal and challenge the sometimes turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately for her, the seas have mostly been kind to Laura, who has made good time in the open waters. After visiting the Galapagos Islands, she arrived in French Polynesia a few weeks back, and has been enjoying the calm, clear waters ever since. In fact, Dekker has enjoyed it so much, that she has visited a couple of extra islands along the way.

She nearly had disaster strike on Saturday however, when she was moving into an anchorage on her approach to Bora Bora. Spotting a larger yacht already at anchor, Laura assumed it was safe to sail into the area, but she ran her boat, the Guppy, into a coral reef, scraping the bottom as she went. Luckily, there was no damage, but it was a good reminder of the dangers of the sea.

For now, Laura will enjoy a few days of relaxation in Bora Bora before she gets underway again. She still has a long ways to go before she is done, but she doesn't seem to be in any hurry, after all this isn't a speed record attempt. There are worse places to be than the South Pacific and Dekker doesn't expect to reach Australia until November.

So? What were you doing on your summer break when you were 15? I think I was mowing lawns and riding my bike to the local movie theater. That seemed like a long way to go back then. Laura, on the other hand, has already covered thousands of miles on her journey, with many more to come.

Video: View From The Top of Kangchenjunga

Exactly one month ago today, Christian Stangl, along with climbing partners Maro Panzeri, Sangay Sherpa, and Tunc Findik stood on the summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world at 8586 meters (28,169 feet). The video below captures that moment and gives us all a brief glimpse of what it is like to be on top of an 8000 meter peak.

While watching the video, keep in mind that Christian summetted without the use of supplemental oxygen. Listen to his breathing in the video, and you'll get an idea of how hard it is to accomplish that feat.

New Adventure Travel Website Launches

Adventure travelers have gained a new resource in the form of the recently launched website Adventure Traveler Online, which aims to connect like minded explorers through "responsible travel, social awareness in business, humanitarian efforts, adventure sport, world issues, and celebration of culture."

The site has launched with some excellent content already in place. Browsing the home page, you'll find articles on The Coastal Challenge, a six-day foot race across Costa Rica, as well as the adventure offerings in Pasco County, Florida. There are also a pair of articles on Ireland as well, including an introduction to Giant's causeway and the start of a journey across the wild Iveragh Peninsula. But those stories are just scratching the surface, as a quick look at the Travel/Tourism, Film/Art/Music, Humanitarian, Adventure Sports, and Product Reviews sections reveal even more content to be explored.

ATO has a lot more going on beyond that as well, and the potential is there for it to be a great, "go-to" site for the adventure community. There are a lot of talented people on the team and I know they're committed to offering excellent insights into destination, gear, and events across the globe. Add it to your bookmarks now and check back often for new content.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Watch The First 14-Minutes of Expedition Impossible Now!

I've posted about Expedition Impossible a couple of times already. It's the latest show from Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor and other hit reality shows. The interesting thins about Expedition Impossible is that it looks to combine successful elements from adventure racing and The Amazing Race, into a new formula that will hopefully be fun to watch.

The show begins airing on ABC this Thursday, June 23rd, at 7 PM, but you can now watch the first 14-minutes online. Check out the video below and share your thoughts!

Himalaya 2011: Lhotse Ski Descent Video Dispatch 5

The fifth, and final, video dispatch of the North Face Lhotse Ski Expedition that went down in the Himalaya this spring has been released. This video starts with the team at Camp 3 and then follows them up the mountain to C4, where the route up Everest and Lhotse diverges at last. Unfortunately, while in Camp 4, one of the team members takes ill, and the plans for the expedition change. Watch the video below to see how everything played out.

Alex Honnold Solos Another Tough Route In Yosemite

Rock climber Alex Honnold is once again pushing the boundaries of rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, a place that has become his own personal playground over the past few years. According to, Honnold made a solo, ropeless ascent of The Phoenix, knocking off a route that is rated as a 5.13a. He reportedly went on to free climb Chouinard-Herbert a 5.11+ route the next day as well. Both climbs were captured on film.

According to the story, The Phoenix took just eight minutes to complete, while Chouinard-Herbert required two hours on a surface that was reportedly wet at the time. Honnold says that it wasn't two hours of climbing however, as he had to stop at times and wait for the film crew to move into proper position. That climb was being recorded by 60 Minutes, presumably for an upcoming profile of some kind.

Last summer, Honnold did back-to-back climbs on the Northwest Face route on Half Dome and the Nose on El Capitan, completing both routes in just eight hours. That feat established him as one of the top rock climbers in the world, and he has since gone on to tackle other impressive routes, including some spectacular towers in the country of Chad. He has also been climbing a lot of tough routes in California's Jailhouse Rock and is preparing to travel to Newfoundland on a major trip later this summer as well.

I never cease to be amazed at the things that Alex is up to. It seems that we're hearing about him tackling some incredibly tough new routes, usually solo, every few months. At this point, I think he practically owns everything in Yosemite!