Friday, September 30, 2011

Antarctica 2011: Antarctic ICE Expedition

The start of the 2011 Antarctic season is now just a few short weeks away, and as such, the explorers, both solo and on teams, are in the final stages of preparation. Almost before they know it, they'll be arriving in Punta Arenas, Chile, the last stop for many who will be heading out on the ice this year.

One of those teams consists of Belgians Dixie Dansercoer and his partner Sam Deltour, who will launch their Antarctic ICE expedition at the end of October. Dixie is, of course, a veteran with many adventures under his belt, including a previous trip to the South Pole and visits to a number of other arctic destinations. Sam, who is a med student, has an impressive resume of his own, having raced sled dogs in both the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, as well as having competed in cross country races and other endurance events.

The two men have joined forces to travel to the remote, and largely unexplored, East Antarctica, where they plan to kite-ski approximately 6000km (3728 miles) between November 2011 and February of 2012. Along the way, they hope to set a new record for the longest non-motorized, self supported, expedition ever, while also exploring a new route across the continent using wind power. They'll also be taking a number of meteorological measurements along the way, turning that data over to aid scientific research upon their return.

This will be just one of several Antarctic expeditions that I'll be following closely this season. For these two men to stay out on the ice for more than 3 months, completely unsupported, will be very impressive, and the distances they hope to cover are ambitious as well. I'm looking forward to the start of the new season in just over a month's time.

Good luck to both Sam and Dixie and thanks to Matthias for sharing this information with me!

The 2012 Sahara Race Begins Sunday

The 2012 edition of the Sahara Race is scheduled to get underway this Sunday, when 160 runners from 40 different countries will set off on a week-long race through the hottest desert on Earth. The course, which is 250km (155 miles) in length, will take them directly into the heart of the Sahara in Egypt, where daytime temperatures are expected to hit roughly 50°C / 122°F.

This is the seventh running of the event, which is part of the 4 Deserts series of ultra-runs. The format for this race is well established, with the runners, who are completely self supported except for water stations, setting out on a stage of the race each day. Most of those stages are 40km (24.8 miles) in length, although Stage 5, commonly known as "The Long March," doubles that distance. The final stage, which is next weekend, is just 10km (6.2 miles) in length and finishes in the shadow of the Great Pyramids in Giza.

As usual, you'll be able to follow the event at the official website, with daily updates to standings and news from the course. Most of the runners are already in Egypt and are preparing to get underway on Sunday in what is sure to be a grueling test of endurance, through an amazingly beautiful setting.

A Pair Of Adventure Interviews

We have a couple of good interviews this morning of two very interesting adventurers who have spent a lot of time on mountains and in very cold places.

First up, my friends at are making it a habit of posting excellent interviews with some fascinating subjects. This week they put polar explorer Lonnie Dupre under their microscope, discussing such topics as what inspires him to go on his adventures, what his biggest weakness is, and why he decided to attempt Denali in January. Even for a guy who has been to the North Pole twice and circumnavigated Greenland, that was a tough expedition.

Once you're done getting to know Lonnie better, head over to Adventeer to check out their interview with  mountaineer Meagan McGrath. I've written about Meagan's adventures a few times, most notably when she went to the South Pole, but also on her Seven Summits climbs as well. In her interview, Meagan discusses her motivations for climbing, what it was like going to the South Pole alone, and how she manages to self-fund her adventures. She also goes into detail on the Seven Summits and shares which of those peaks was her favorite as well.

Both are good reads and highly motivational. If you're finding it difficult to get your energy going this morning, both Lonnie and Meagan may provide some inspiration. At the very least, they'll give you something to think about heading into the weekend.

Ocean Rowing: Roz Nears The Finish Line

Today marks the 150th day on the Indian Ocean for Roz Savage, who set out from Australia in April and at long last is closing in on Mauritius, her finish line for yet another epic ocean row. She is expected to make landfall on Tuesday, October 4th, and when she does, she'll become the first woman to have rowed solo across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

While each of the three ocean rows has had its share of challenges, the Indian Ocean presented one that Roz hadn't dealt with before, namely pirates. Pirate activity in the region has increased greatly in the past few years, and for that reason alone she kept her course and location a well guarded secret. Those of us who have been following Roz's adventures over the past few years have been use to following her progress on the "Roz Tracker," but on this expedition that was disabled on her website, leaving us wondering where exactly she was out on all those miles of open water. That question was answered today with a press release posted to her website.

As of this morning, she has just 104 nautical miles to go until she's done. If conditions stay favorable, she should have no problems completing the row early next week as scheduled, and my guess is that its no coincidence that she's arriving in Mauritius, a place that is greatly threatened by climate change.

After spending all of those days out on the world's oceans, Roz has become a dedicated environmentalist, and has even launched an Eco-Heroes program to create grassroots efforts to take care of the planet. One of the places that could feel the effects of climate change the most is Mauritius, where rising sea levels will have an impact on the island nation.

Watch for an official announcement on Roz's arrival on land early next week and wish her well on the final leg of our journey.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Explorers Club Now Accepting Student Grant Applications

The Explorers Club is now accepting student grant applications for 2012. The program gives students, high school through grad school, who will be conducting individual scientific or exploration research projects the opportunity to receive funding to support their work.

The awards programs fall into two categories, Youth Activity Fund and Exploration Fund. The former is designed for high school and undergrad students, while the latter is for graduate, post-graduate, doctorate and early career post-doctoral students. The amount of the award generally falls between $500-$1500, but can go as high as $5000 in rare circumstances.

For more information on the grants and the process for applying click here. You'll also find the application form and lists of past winners on the same page.

The deadline for submitting your application is November 15. Grant winners will be announced in April.

Himalaya Fall 2011: New Summit Bids Underway!

Extremely bad weather shutdown all summit bids last weekend, but the new week brought clear skies and generally good conditions. That has also brought on a new round of summit bids, with most teams now starting to move up their respective mountains, with an eye on topping out this weekend. They're also in a race against time, as the jet stream begins to move over the region.

Yesterday we received word from Manaslu that the Altitude Junkies and Himex Sherpa teams were joining forces to dig out the fixed lines, which were buried under snow earlier in the week. They hoped to get everything ready for another summit attempt, although the teams were a bit reluctant to say when that bid might happen. Today we learn that they are now eyeing next Tuesday or Wednesday for their final push, and although the weather pattern looks better, they are now expecting much colder temperatures. If they do plan to summit on the 4th or 5th, they'll start the ascent as early as tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, the improved weather over the Himalaya has kicked things into high gear on Cho Oyu. The IMG, Adventure Lovers, and Jagged Globe teams have all started moving back up the mountain, and all are reportedly in Camp 2. Conditions are said to be good, although the deep snow is slowing progress considerably. Still, if they stay on pace, and the weather remains good, expect summits on Sunday.

IMG also has a team on Shisha Pangma, and they've also preparing for a new summit bid as well. The Sherpas climbed to Camp 1 today to dig out the tents and prepare for the arrival of the climbers, who are set to begin their ascent tomorrow. That would conceivably put them on schedule to summit on Tuesday of next week, provided everything goes according to plan. 

ExWeb chimed in with the news yesterday that a Polish team climbing on Makalu was already in Camp 3 on that mountain, with plans to head up to C4 today. If that milestone was reached, than it is likely that tomorrow will be summit day for the 7-man team.

Finally, in the same story, ExWeb reported that an unnamed Czech climber died on Cho Oyu a few days back. The cause of death isn't known, but the body was apparently found hanging in the ropes. The man was an independent climber, but aside from that no one even seems to know his name. As always, condolences to friends and family. 

Nat Geo Adventure Interviews Kayaker Jesse Coombs

National Geographic has posted an interview with kayaker Jesse Combs on their Adventure Blog today, in which he talks about making huge drops off waterfalls, such as 96-foot Abiqua Falls, which he went over in April. The video for that drop has recently shown up on websites once again, despite the fact that we featured it here on the Adventure Blog just days after it happened.

In the interview, Jesse talks about what the experiencing of making a big drop like Abiqua from the moment he gets into his kayak to the moment he breaks the surface after the drop. He also touches on the dangers of running these big falls and the injuries they can bring on, his dream kayak trip, and the best paddling adventure he's ever been on.

The interview is a good one and offers some insights into the world of paddling these big falls. The current record for a big drop is 186-feet, but Coombs says he believes someone will try to break that record soon.

And it case you missed it the first time, here is the video of Jesse going over Abiqua Falls in April.

Gear Box: Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest

It has been a very long, very hot summer in Texas. Today will actually be our 90th day of the year in which temperatures will top 100ºF/39ºC. While that record heat hasn't deterred me from my regularly scheduled runs, it has reminded me of the importance of staying hydrated while out in the sun and recently I've been using a new hydration vest from Camelbak to do just that. Yep! You read that right. Not a hydration pack, but a hydration vest.

The new Marathoner was designed from the ground up to be the perfect hydration solution for runners. It is lightweight, weighing in at just 12.7 ounces, made from breathable fabrics, and allows runners to carry plenty of water. The included hydration bladder stores up to 2 liters of water and two harness pockets on the front can support 24 ounce bottles. Those same pockets can also carry snacks or other items you want to keep close at hand while on the go. A second storage pocket is located on the back and is great for carrying keys or other small items.

The Marathoner's unique design is a lot more like a vest than a traditional hydration pack and when I first started using it, I was worried about how it would feel while on a longer run. Fortunately, it as easy to adjust the fit and after a mile or so, I barely remembered that I had it on. I was happy to find that once I had the narrow belts pulled tight, the vest stayed snugly in place, moving with me as I went about my run, even after I built up quite a sweat.

Another concern of mine was how much warmer I'd feel while using the vest in the summer heat, but once again, I was relieved to find that my fears were unfounded. What little fabric there is on the Marathoner is very thin and an air channel along the back helped to keep me as ventilated as possible, even when he mercury climbed into the triple digits. Wearing the vest was warmer than simply going shirtless of course, but it wasn't a dramatic difference and the quick access to water while on the move, more than made up for any slight discomfort. I also learned to add ice cubes to not only help keep the liquid cooler on longer runs, but it also helped to reduce the overall temperature of the vest as well.

Perfect for long distance training or trail runs, I predict the Marathoner will become a favorite piece of gear for runners upon its release. The bad news is, it won't be available until February, but with an MSRP of just $100, I think any runner will want to add it to their gear closet. It makes staying hydrated incredibly easy and that will not only help you run further, it'll help performance as well. Keep an eye out for this one. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kayaking Video: Rider of the Year

We seem to have a bit of an aquatic theme going today, but the kayakers amongst us will be happy to see this one. Below is a video of the winners of "Rider of the Year" awards courtesy of Tribe, a company that specializes in making active clothing for whitewater kayakers. For the second year in a row, they've handed out awards to their picks for the top paddlers around in categories such as "Best Male," "Best Female," and the always popular "Best Drop."

The video below highlights those winners in grand fashion and I thought it was fitting to include it amongst the stories on stand-up paddling today, just in case we forgot what traditional paddling looked liked.

Rider of the Year II Awards Video from Tribe Rider on Vimeo.

Might Journey: Another Stand-Up Paddleboarder Completes The Mississippi

And yet another stand-up paddleboarding story today.

A few weeks back, Dave Cornthwaite completed his SUP journey down the Mississippi River. Turns out he wasn't the only one attempting that feat this summer. On June 8 of this year, Matthew Crofton waded out into the headwaters of the Mississippi and started his own 2400+ mile journey down that waterway, following the same path that Dave had taken. Yesterday, Matthew finished up his expedition, arriving at the Gulf of Mexico at long last.

His story is a bit different from Dave's however. While the Mississippi paddle was the latest leg in Cornthwaite's Expedition 1000 project, for Matt it was a celebration of life and living it to its fullest. Last year, he was stuck down with a rare disease known as Histoplasmosis – a fungal disease, contracted from bat guano and most likely picked up while Crofton was spelunking. When the disease set in, it put Matt in a coma, with the prognosis that he had less than 48 hours to live. His family was told that if by some miracle he did manage to survive, he would need a liver transplant and daily dialysis for his kidneys.

The miracle did happen, and not only did Matthew survive, his liver began to regenerate and his kidneys started to function at full capacity again. He did spend three months in the hospital recovering, and another three months learning to walk again, but as a part of his rehab, he took up stand-up paddling.

Almost a year later, Crofton set out on his journey, hoping to set a new world's record for the longest stand-up paddle. Along the way, he also manage to inspire a few of us as well.

Congrats and well done Matthew!

Himalaya Fall 2011: Snow Stopped, Teams Plan For Next Summit Bid

Yesterday I posted a rather dire update from the Himalaya, in which nearly every team had retreated to their respective Base Camps after a massive storm dumped snow across the entire region. Today we get news that the weather has shifted once again – this time for the better – and plans are in motion for the next attempt on the summit. At least on Manaslu.

Earlier today, the Altitude Junkies posted a dispatch in which they reported that the snow had finally stopped flying and that conditions were "glorious" in BC. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that they are particularly good higher on the mountain, where heavy accumulations have buried the fixed lines and will make breaking trail an arduous task. On top of that, until the snow settles, conditions will be unstable, which could make avalanches a real possibility.

Because of those unsafe conditions, the AJ team isn't in a real hurry to head back up the mountain, although the current weather reports say that conditions should be good heading into the weekend. The team leaders aren't quite ready to announce their new schedule, but they have indicated that they'll be working with the Himex team to dig out the ropes and re-establish the high camps so they'll be ready to go as soon as possible.

There were some forecasts that indicated that the jet stream would move over the Himalaya around the first of October, so obviously there are some concerns that if that happens, the season will come to a quick end. But for now, it seems that the teams on Manaslu are feeling optimistic about their chances of another summit bid. We'll likely know more about their plans in the next few days.

No word from the teams on Shisha Pangma or Cho Oyu yet, but they were also hit hard by the storm. They're probably evaluating the situation too and hoping that they'll have the opportunity to climb soon as well. Once the jet stream settles in, cold weather and high winds come along with it, which means the end of the fall climbing season. Only a few brave and rugged climbers venture to the region in the winter.

Battle of the Paddle California Results

As I've mentioned before, stand-up paddling continues to grow in popularity, with more and more outdoor enthusiasts joining in on the action all the time. The sport has grown to the point that there are now major SUP competitions taking place on a regular basis, with one of the bigger ones, the Battle of the Paddle, taking place in California this past weekend.

The event is a race in which the stand-up paddlers take to the water, catch a bit of surf, and use their paddles to power their way through a simple course which includes making some turns around floating buoys. There were a couple of qualifying heats before the real competition got underway, and in the end it came down to a neck and neck fight between a trio of top competitors, with 17-year old Conner Baxter of Hawaii claiming the victory in the men's division. For the ladies, it was Candice Appleby who crossed the finish line first, putting a considerable distance between herself and her closest competitors.

SUP Connect, a website dedicated to stand-up paddling, has more details on the event, which you can read by clicking here. The video below also gives good insights into the race and the men and women who competed in it.

I have yet to give SUP a try, although I see people doing it on a regular basis here in Austin. Anyone tried it yet? Are you a convert?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Train For A Polar Adventure With Ice Warrior

The 2011 Antarctic season is just a few weeks away, and soon we'll see a number of intrepid explorers setting out for the South Pole or other locations on the frozen continent. If you have your own dreams of visiting polar destinations, you may want to consider taking a course from Ice Warrior, a company that not only organizes expeditions of their own, but provides crucial training for adventurers traveling in the extreme polar regions of our planet.

Ice Warrior is preparing a full slate of Polar Training courses for this October, offering excellent opportunities to learn new skills and discover just what it takes to survive on a journey to the North or South Pole. The courses are held in Dartmoor, in the U.K., and offer training on navigation, first aid, ropes work, and more. Most of the training modules are broken down into two day sessions and they can be taken independently or back-to-back in one comprehensive learning experience.

Of particular interest to me is their first course in October which focuses on the core skills of expedition planning, finding funding, and overall fitness. Those are key skills that are important for anyone hoping to make an expedition, whether in an arctic setting or elsewhere. And since these courses are instructed by polar veteran Jim McNeill, you can bet you'll come away with some excellent practical knowledge that can be applied to your next adventure.

For a complete list of courses, including dates and pricing, click here. On that same page, you'll also find information on two polar training expeditions which will be coming up in January as well.

Video: Jeb Corliss Flies Wingsuit Through A Cave

This past weekend, BASE jumper Jeb Corliss was in China where he leapt from a hovering helicopter then used his wingsuit to successfully navigate his way through a large cave, and then eventually land safely on the other side. When I first heard about this last week, I wondered about the logistics of the flight, which you can examine for yourself in the video below. The cave was bigger than I expected, but this was still a pretty crazy stunt.

My guess is now we'll see people in wingsuits trying to thread the needle through increasingly smaller caves, as they attempt to one up each other. Crazy stuff.

Video: 2011 Put Foot Rally!

Way back in March I told you about the Put Foot Rally, a driving adventure that sent teams on a 17-day, 7000km (4350 mile) journey through seven countries in Africa. The rally was designed to not only operate as a fundraiser for the Bobs For Good Foundation, an organization that delivers new shoes to underprivileged children, but also demonstrate that Africa is a safe and wondrous place to travel.

The inaugural Put Foot took place between June 21st and July 7 of this year, and was a huge success. So much so, that registration is already open for 2012, which will run from June 20-July 6. To get a taste of what the event is all about, check out the video below. It is 15 minutes in length, but not only captures the spirit of the rally, and the people who took part, but also plenty of beautiful scenes from the countries they visited along the way.

This looks simply amazing. Its no secret that I love Africa, and the Put Foot Rally looks like a fantastic way to see the continent and have a lot of fun doing it.

Put Foot Rally 2011 from D4 Productions on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2011: Weather Window Slams Shut

At the end of last week, the climbing teams in the Himalaya seemed poised to take advantage of a favorable weather pattern to make summit bids early this week. In fact, a number of them had planned on standing on top of their respective mountains today, but that weather pattern shifted, preventing any serious summit attempts. Now, most of the climbers are simply hoping that they'll get another chance before the season ends. 

Weather forecasts last week seemed to indicate that a front would move through the region, depositing some snow, but would quickly move on, bringing clear skies and low winds for the first part of the week. That front stalled out over the mountains however, and as a result, most of the teams saw two to three days of snow fall. That heavy snow was the reason that most aborted their summit bids over the weekend, and now find themselves back in Base Camp, watching the skies. 

Not all of the teams missed their window however. ExWeb is reporting that a Korean team topped out on Cho Oyu last Friday after the lines were finally fixed to the summit on that mountain. Their forecasts indicated that the jet stream would change, moving directly over the summit, and if they were going to have a successful climb, they would have to make a dash up the mountain. They did so, and now Jae Soo-Kim can claim to have "legally" climbed all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks. He had previously climbed Cho Oyu without a permit, which is illegal. 

The IMG squad on Cho Oyu wasn't so lucky however. They climbed up to Camp 1 before the snow started flying, and have since retreated back to ABC. The same holds true for their counterparts on Shisha Pangma. For now, both teams wait to see if they'll have the opportunity to go back up, but their forecasts indicate that as soon as the snows leave, the jet stream flow in, bringing colder temperatures and high winds with it. As a result of the continued bad weather, both the Adventure Lovers and Jagged Globe teams abandoned their summit attempts over the weekend as well. 

A similar story is being told on Manaslu, where the Altitude Junkies and Himex teams saw their summit bids stalled out by heavy snows in Camp 1 and 2. Both report that the snow continued all through the weekend and into yesterday, which means that the higher slopes on the mountain are covered with lots of fresh powder. That makes breaking trail a much more challenging task, and at the moment, the fixed lines are all buried. Over the next few days, the Sherpas will be moving back up the mountain to inspect the conditions of the high camps and free the ropes. While the teams wait, some members of the AJ squad will head down to Sama Goan, to rest at one of the teahouses there. Whether or not they'll get the chance to make another summit bid remains to be seen. 

Hopefully this big snow storm isn't the end of the fall season in the Himalaya. The next few days will probably decide the fate of most of the teams, as the skies clear, it'll all depend on where the jet stream falls. If they have a few days of good weather, there is still a chance for some summits. But if the jet stream settles over the region, it usually is in place until the spring, bringing an end to climbing for all but the most experienced and hardy mountaineers. Stay tuned for more updates. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Video: Through The Khumbu Icefall

If you ask any climber on the South Side of Everest what the scariest part of the mountain is, most will invariably say that it is the Khumbu Icefall. Ironically enough, this portion of the climb is actually located at relatively low altitude, sitting just above Base Camp. The Icefall is created by the Khumbu Glacier, which begins breaking apart on this section of the mountain. The result, is rather large crevasses that must be negotiated by the climbers in their way up to Camp 1. In order to cross those open areas, a team of Sherpas, known as the Khumbu Ice Doctors, build and continually maintain, a route through the falls using a series of ladders to cross.

So, just how scary is this section of the climb? Check out the video below to get an idea. I've seen these videos, and even the Icefall, for myself, and it never gets any easier to look at.

Thanks to The Goat for the heads-up on this one!

Everest Flight Crashes In Nepal, Kills 19

A small plane that was taking an arial tour of Mt. Everest earlier today, crashed amidst bad weather, killing all 19 people aboard. The flight, which is operated by Buddha Air, went down about 10 miles outside of Kathmandu while returning to the Tribhuvan International Airport there.

The $140 tour takes travelers to Mt. Everest by air and circles the mountain, offering spectacular views of the summit that most wouldn't have a chance to see in any other way. The Beechcraft 1900D aircraft took off from Kathmandu this morning and completed the Everest flight, but was returning in rain and dense fog. Witnesses say it was flying very low and smashed into the side of a hill with a big explosion. Others indicated that they saw flames coming from the plane as it went down, indicating that it may have had mechanical problems that resulted in the crash.

In addition to the Nepali pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendant, there were two other Nepali passengers aboard, along with 10 Indian, two Americans, and one Japanese. One of those passengers reportedly survived the crash only to die at, or en route, to a hospital.

Investigators have only just begun piecing together the cause of the crash, but it could deal a blow to Nepal's plans to lure travelers to the country to help the poor economy there.

My condolences to the friends and family of those who died in the crash.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Video: Fun In Chamonix

How's this for a fun – not to mention busy– day. The video below was shot in Chamonix, France, which is considered one of the truly great outdoor playgrounds in Europe, if not the world. In the video, climber Colin Haley manages to not only hit the slopes for some skiing, but also some ice climbing, and later in the day bouldering. Yep, that's right, everything you see Colin doing in the video was all done on the same day. Maybe it'll give you some inspiration on what to do this weekend! Enjoy!

Colin Haley in Chamonix from Bjarne Sahlen on Vimeo.

Best Hike Takes On The GR 20 Hiking Trail In Corsica

The GR 20 is a 180km (110 mile) trail in Corsica that is considered by many to be one of the toughest trekking routes in all of Europe. The route wanders north-to-south for nearly the entire length of the Mediterranean island, passing through remote and mountainous regions along the way. The combination of scenery and challenge have led some to name this the best trek in the entire world, edging out a number of more famous hikes.

This past June, Rick McCharles, the editor at Best Hike, traveled to Corsica to take on the GR 20 himself. Earlier this week he started posting his daily trip reports to the Best Hike blog, sharing his experiences on the trail, and from the first few updates, it is clear that he not only enjoyed his journey, but the GR 20 lived up to its reputation.

You'll find Rick's Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 reports by clicking on the links, and if his words don't inspire you to want to try this trail for yourself, then his photos surely well. What he has posted thus far are beautiful, and sometimes scary, images from Corsica that not only demonstrate how difficult this trail can be, but how scenic as well.

I'm going to be totally honest and say that I had never heard of this trail until Rick shared it with me a few days back. Perhaps it is much more well known in Europe, than the world as a whole, but perhaps that also means that it isn't particularly crowded while hiking it either. From what I understand, the length is a big part of the challenge, as much of it is spent at higher altitudes, and even in the summer, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. Yet the payoffs seem like they are well worth it, and for backpackers looking for a new challenge, the GR 20 may be just the thing they need.

CheapTents Interview: Adventurer Leon McCarron

The gang over at have posted another one of their excellent interviews today, this time with adventurer Leon McCarron. If that name sounds familiar to you, it may be because he is one of the two men who are planning to walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong, a journey of 3500km (2175 miles) that will commence in November.

In the interview Leon discusses a previous cycling adventure, during which he rode more than 22,500km (14,000 miles) from New York to Hong Kong, passing through a number of countries along the way. He also gives insights into the inspirations for going on these adventurers, and his favorite pieces of gear as well. Perhaps most of interest however, is his thoughts on the upcoming Mongolia to Hong Kong expedition, how he is preparing for it, and what he expects that trek to be like. As someone who has cycled more than hiked (and paddled) he thinks it could be a real struggle at first.

Leon also happens to be a filmmaker, and he has used that skill on his previous cycling journeys, so I would expect we'll see some interesting videos from Mongolia and China once he and his traveling companion, Rob Lilwall, hit the road in a few months.

NASA Outlines The Future Of Space Exploration

Earlier this year the Space Shuttle program was put on mothballs, effectively closing the book on an era of manned space travel. While it was sad to see it go, it was time. The Shuttle was an aging piece of equipment that was long over due for a replacement. The problem is, with an ongoing economic crisis causing budget cuts, NASA doesn't have a new system ready to go, and it will be years before they are ready to launch the Shuttle's replacement.

That hasn't stopped them from preparing for the future of space exploration however. Earlier today, NASA released The Global Exploration Roadmap, a document that lays out the agency's plans for the next 25 years of operations.

The roadmap, which is actually in it's first draft, was put together by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, which includes not only NASA, but space programs from China, Russia, Europe, and more. That group sees a greater need for cooperation in moving forward with space exploration and is  putting down the groundwork for both manned and robotic missions across the solar system.

The 38-page document sees two potential major missions in the future. A return to the moon or a visit to nearby astroids, both of which would be stepping stones for going to Mars. Each will require a grand commitment, and both have exciting possibilities for manned space travel, although they are, at a bare minimum, a decade away.

For fans of space travel, who have been wonder where we go next, this is an interesting read. Clearly the push is to now move away from Earth orbit and go further out into space. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome first, but it is interesting to not only see a plan to get there, but one that involves the cooperation of a number of nations and independent entities. This gives me hope for a future for man in space, and it lays out some very important reasons for why we should be headed in that direction.

Himalaya Fall 2011: Summit Bids Begin Today!

Earlier in the week I posted an update on the 2011 fall Himalaya season in which I noted that many teams were now in their respective base camps, resting, and keeping an eye on the weather. Most had completed their acclimatization rotations, and were now enjoying some down time before they started their first summit attempts. Fast forward a few days, and plans are now in place to make those bids, with climbers starting to head back up their mountains as early as today.

It looks like Monday or Tuesday will be summit day on Manaslu. Both the Altitude Junkies and Himex teams are reporting that a weather window is expected to be open on that mountain for early next week, and they're now moving into position to take advantage of it. Heavy snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, but after that, things look good, so both teams are climbing to Camp 1 today, and will proceed higher over the weekend, putting themselves in position to summit on the 26th or 27th. Presently, ropes are fixed all the way to Camp 4, but Sherpas will be working in front of the teams next week to place the lines all the way up to the summit.

The IMG team reported in that Camp 3 was established on Shisha Pangma a few days back as well, opening the door for the climbers to begin their summit attempt on that mountain too. Weather reports are looking good, with little to no snow in the forecasts, so it appears that they'll start their ascents in the next few days. A second IMG team on Cho Oyu, along with a squad from Jagged Globe, are preparing for a summit attempt on the 27th as well after finishing their acclimatization rotation at Camp 2.

With the weather holding steady into next week, it looks like everyone is hoping to top out before an expected shift in the jet stream sometime around the beginning of October. Most of the climbers have been on their mountains for more than a month now, and are eager to stand on top. Hopefully the good weather, and their health, will hold out for a few more days. It looks like early next week will be very busy in the Himalaya.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Video: First Ski Descent Of Denali

This past spring, mountaineer/skier Andreas Fransson made the first ski descent of Denali's South Face, an epic challenge that has been considered for some time, but hadn't been tried yet. A few days ago he released video of his climb and ski descent, which, at more than 13 minutes in length, offers an excellent look at what it takes to climb the highest mountain in North America, and then subsequently go back down in grand fashion.

Looking down that long, steep slope in the video makes me wonder why anyone would ever, under any circumstances, try this, but thats why its never been done before I suppose. The views are simply stunning however, and the landscapes surrounding Denali never cease to take my breath away.

Thanks to The Goat for sharing this great video.

First ski descent on Denali south face by Andreas Fransson from Bjarne Sahlen on Vimeo.

BelgiKayak Update: Reaching The North Sea

Belgian adventure Louis-Philippe Loncke has completed his BelgiKayak expedition, which sent him on a 600km (373 mile) journey around his home country, exploring its waterways and measuring their health, while filming the experience as a way of documenting what he saw along the way. What he found was incredible beauty that is threatened by man.

I received a note last night from Lou-Phi giving me insights into his expedition which ended when he reached the North Sea this past weekend. Traveling along Belgium's idyllic rivers, he discovered a number of smaller tributaries, often hidden behind foliage, that when entered, allowed him to get close to nature like never before. Anyone who has paddled a calm river has probably experienced something similar. Since kayaks make virtually no noise, it is easy to paddle up on unsuspecting animals, providing some fantastic experiences that are hard to have while traveling on foot.

When he first started this journey back in July, Loncke had very limited time inside a kayak. In fact, he only had an hours worth of training before setting off on in his Seabirddesigns boat. He freely admits that he didn't know how to pull of an eskimo roll and was completely afraid of capsizing in his first few days out on the water. But after hours of paddling, he became more comfortable and experienced, and is now looking forward to more paddling adventures.

Logistically speaking, there were some hurdles to overcome along the way. For instance, he had to navigate a series of 50 locks which help regulate water flow along the river. Those usually involved a portage, although he did pass through some that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List that have been in operation since 1888. He also paddled into Brugge, a city that is sometimes called the "Venice of the North," where kayaking is only permitted one day of the year. Loncke contacted the local officials before his arrival however, and they granted him permission to paddle through their fair city, something that sounds spectacular.

One of the things that I love about this expedition is that it was often conducted on weekends and during what ever spare time Lou-Phi could find. It is an example of how we can all find ways to put a little adventure into our own lives, even close to home, and maybe even discover some wonderful new places that we didn't even know existed. This could easily be a blueprint for other weekend expeditions, and I'm sure we could all find similar opportunities close to where we live. Well done Lou-Phi!

One Man Epic: On An Egyptian Adventure

In 2010, we followed Australian adventurer Tom Smitheringale on a solo attempt to reach the North Pole, a journey during which he suffered frostbite while struggling with the grueling demands of the arctic. Now, Tom has traded in those frigid conditions for a decidedly warmer adventure, this time taking on the Sahara Desert in Egypt.

A few days ago, Tom set out on a 2500km (1553 mile) journey that begins with him paddling the length of the Nile River, starting at the border of Egypt and the Sudan and continuing to the Great Pyramids in Cairo. From there, he'll travel to Luxor, where he'll join a Bedouin tribe as they enter the Western Desert in a camel caravan, following an ancient trade route that will eventually end at the famed Siwa Oasis. That portion of Tom's journey will be 1300km (807 miles) in length, taking him into the deepest part of the desert with the people that know it best.

You'll be able to follow along with Tom's journey through his blog, which he has already updated several times, or by joining his Facebook page. Setting out from the temple of Abu Simbel a few days ago, it has already been a challenge dealing with heat and long days out on the water, yet he writes about the people who live along the river, many of whom come out to wave at him as he passes by.

Tom is undertaking this expedition in support of the Starlight Children's Foundation of Australia, a non-proft that works to help make the lives of seriously ill children and their families, better.

Having traveled through Egypt, and along the Nile where Tom is currently paddling, I can tell you that it can be incredibly hot there. One of the days that I was in the Aswan area the temperature soared above 125ºF/51ºC. On top of that, the sun is very intense, and if you're not use to the heat, it can be extremely draining on your body. But that said, it is a fascinating place to visit, as their are settlements scattered along the banks of the river, and ancient ruins throughout the journey as well. Egypt is a magical place, and it should be interesting to see it through Tom's eyes as he continues to make progress.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Video: Climbing Kangchenjunga

At 8586 meters (28,169 ft) in height, Kangchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world, and yet it few people know about the challenges of climbing the mountain. While the mainstream audience and press focuses on Everest, and others keep an eye on K2 – "the mountaineer's mountain" – climbers on Kangchenjunga tend to toil in obscurity. The mountain offers a formidable challenge in its own right and has a bit of mystique about it in that no climbers have actually gone up to the true summit. That place is considered sacred, and out of respect to the mountain, the first ascenders, Joe Brown and George Band, stopped short of the top – a tradition that has continued to this day.

Filmmaker Philippe Gatta accompanied a team of French and Swiss climbers to the mountain this past spring, and has now released a fantastic video on the experience. You'll find it below, but get settled in, as it is nearly 15 minutes in length. Well worth watching however.

Antarctica 2011: Blind Man Heading To The South Pole

The 2011 Antarctica season is still a couple of months off, but it is closing in quickly. One of the expeditions that has already been announced is the Polar Vision excursion which will see five team members, including visually impaired Alan Lock, heading to the South Pole on foot.

In December, Alan, along with teammates Sean Swarner, Richard Smith, Garrick Hileman, and Andrew Sensen, will head to the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf in Antarctica and begin their 600-mile long journey to the South Pole. As is typical with this kind of expedition, they'll be pulling sleds with all of their gear and supplies behind them, as they trek through one of the coldest and most inhospitable environments on the planet, following in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.

The five-man team is undertaking this journey to not only show that a visually impaired person can still do amazing and adventurous things, but to also raise funds and awareness for Sightsavers and Guide Dogs For the Blind, two charities that help the blind.

Explorers Web, which is where I first came across this story, reports that Alan is no stranger to challenging, physically demanding adventures. He has completed 10 marathons, including the Marathon Des Sables, has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, and has visited plenty of mountains as well.

Expect to hear more about this expedition once it gets underway in a few months time.

Running The Silk Road Update: Finish Line Reached!

After 150 days of running, and 10,000km (6214 miles), Kevin Lin and Bai Bin have reached the finish line of their epic run along the historical Silk Road. The two men completed their expedition in the Chinese city of Xi'an last Friday, ending their journey in one of the most well known destinations along the ancient trade route.

Kevin and Bai Bin first hit the road back on April 20th of this year, and proceeded to run across Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and into the Xinjian, Gansu, and Shannxi provinces of China. Along the way they've faced bad weather, including snowstorms, sandstorms, and extreme heat in the final days of their run. The expedition has taken its psychological and physical toll on them, sending them to the hospital in Iran and ongoing issues with shin splints and gastroenteritis.

This amazing journey was sponsored by The Home Expedition, a non-profit that is dedicated to promoting sustainable, environmentally friendly, options for people and places that don't always have the resources they need. For instance, this run was undertaken to help bring awareness for the severe shortage of clean drinking water in the countries that the Silk Road passes through.

Congratulations to Kevin, Bai Bin and the entire THE organization for reaching their goal and completing this expedition. This was an unbelievably challenging undertaking, and having finished it by averaging more than 66km (41 miles) per day of running, is very impressive. I hope you're all home safe and sound now, with your feet comfortably propped up.

Exploring Australia's Slot Canyons With National Geographic

Canyoneering is the term given to an outdoor activity that involves hiking, climbing, and scrambling through narrow, twisting canyons. It is a popular outdoor pursuit in places like Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Canyonlands National Parks here in the U.S. It also happens to be the subject of a new article from National Geographic as well, with author and climber Mark Jenkins traveling to Australia to experience the Aussie version of the sport.

The article, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here, explores an extreme form of canyoneering in which participants look for the most remote, unexplored, and narrow canyons they can find. They travel light, relish the challenge of getting into tight places, and aren't afraid to endure cold water, unforgiving rock, and extremely narrow slots, just on the off chance that they might discover a place that no one has seen yet. They even revel in the fact that a GPS won't work in the narrow gorges, forcing them to navigate by map and compass – that is, if a map of the area even exists.

One of the most popular destinations for canyoneering in Australia is the Blue Mountains. Located not far from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a series of canyons carved by rivers over thousands of years. The area also happens to offer thick vegetation, leading Jenkins to describe the area as a mix of Utah's canyonlands, covered with the dense plant life found in Louisiana.

Aussie canyoneers have a culture that is all their own. The article introduces us to a couple of these characters, who obviously love what they do, but are also reluctant to share their favorite destinations with the outside world. They even have a bit of rivalry between them that adds a bit of flavor to their story.

As usual, this is another great story from Nat Geo and it will likely have you dreaming of canyons to explore as well. The Blue Mountains, which are central to the story, sound fantastic, and reading Jenkins account of his own exploration into those canyons makes me want to visit the place as well.

The bucket list of adventures just continues to grow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PowderWhore Productions Presents Breaking Trail

It seems the number ski and snowboarding films being released is starting to hit critical mass. Could it be that as the end of summer approaches (It's officially over on Friday!), our need to play in the snow begins to overwhelms us? We still have to make it through autumn before we can hit the slopes, but to help us get there is the new film Breaking Trail from PowderWhore Productions, a film that celebrates backcountry skiing at its finest.

Pole To Pole Run Update: Halfway There!

A little more than a year ago, I wrote about Australian ultrarunner Pat Farmer, who was planning the massive undertaking of actually running from the North Pole to the South Pole. Since then, I hadn't really heard much about the expedition, but it turns out that it launched on schedule this past spring and Farmer is continuing to make impressive progress.

Dubbed the Pole To Pole Run, and not to be confused with the Pole2Pole Expedition, Farmer set off from the North Pole last April and has been heading south ever since. Traveling across the arctic on foot, and sometimes kayaks, Farmer made his way to Quebec, Canada, then has continued across the eastern United States, down into Mexico, and through Central America, arriving in Panama this week. Thus far, he has covered approximately 12,500km (7767 miles) and is about to start the next phase.

After crossing the Panama Canal, Pat will now make a daring trek through the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle that is home to drug runners, bandits, and insurgents. For this stage, which is roughly 250km (155 miles) in length, he, and his support team, will be escorted by armed guards to ensure their safety.

Once he's cleared that section, he'll continue into South America proper, where he'll keep running until he reaches Tierra del Fuego at the end of the continent. That will tack an additional 9693km (6022 miles) onto his journey. From there, it'll be on to the final stage, which will be a crossing of Antarctica beginning at the Ronnie Ice Shelf and ending at the South Pole, 900km (559 miles) later.

This is a truly epic expedition to say the least and it seems that Farmer could indeed accomplish his goal of running from one pole to another. However, if he's going to make the 2011 Antarctic season, he's really going to have to make good time on his way across South America. Most expeditions to the South Pole will get underway in November to allow plenty of time for the crossing of the Antarctic continent. If he misses that window, he may have to wait until next year to complete his run, or risk horrible weather conditions for his crossing.

Either way, it should be fun to follow along with his adventure. Below is a video that was posted to the Pole to Pole Run website a few days ago and gives you an idea of what kind of conditions Pat has been running in recently.

Himalaya Fall 2011: Early Summit Bids Soon

For the most part, the weather across the Himalaya has remained good so far this season and as a result, teams have been making good progress. This past weekend was spent acclimatizing for most, and now climbers are back in Base Camp on their respective mountains. Everything seems to be going as scheduled thus far, and some teams are already talking summit bids.

The joint squad of Himex and AlpenGlow are back in BC on Manaslu following three nights stay in Camp 2. Their Sherpa teams have now fixed lines all the way to Camp 4 and have their gear caches in place for a summit bid, which will come after they rest for a few days and when the proper weather window arrives. They don't have a firm date on when that will happen yet, but if the weather stays calm, it could begin as early as this weekend.

The team also reports that they felt the earthquake that struck the region on Sunday while they were in high camp, and while it didn't cause any damage to the climbers or their equipment, it did trigger a large avalanche which streamed down the mountain not far from where they were encamped at the time. Fortunately, no one was hurt by either the quake or the avalanche, but it was sobering experience at the time.

The Altitude Junkies are also on Manaslu and spent the weekend high on the mountain as part of their acclimatization process as well. On Saturday they climbed up to Camp 2 and were surprised to find two French climbers occupying one of their tents. After evicting the squatters, they also discovered that they had damaged the tent, making it useless for anyone else to stay in as well. That incident behind them however, they went on to "tag" Camp 3 the following day, before returning to Base Camp yesterday. Everyone is doing healthy and doing well, and it seems they are on track for a summit bid soon as well.

 IMG has teams on both Shisha Pangma and Cho Oyu and it seems they are both moving along like clockwork. On Shisha they hoped to have Camp 3 established and stocked yesterday and on Cho Oyu the climbers have been on rotation up to Camp 2 and should now be back in Base Camp and resting for their next push. No word on summit attempts on either mountain yet, although it is still early, so this is not at all unexpected.

The Jagged Globe team is also on Cho Oyu, and they provide more insights into when summit bids are likely to happen there. They report snow every day, at least at the lower altitudes, but thus far the winds have remained calm. But, the weather patterns are expected to shift around October 1, bringing the jet stream directly over the mountain. That means high winds, and possibly heavier snow. Because of this, the JG guides are saying that they'll need to summit before the end of September. Thankfully, they've been acclimatizing well and things look good. The team is currently in BC after a rotation up to Camp 2.

It looks like the calm before the storm at the moment. Lots of teams are resting and watching the skies. Expect the summit bids to really get going early next week.

Stop Motion Video Captures Coast-To-Coast Hitchhiking Adventure

On his website, Benjamin Jenks calls himself a "backpacking filmmaker with a slight hitchhiking addiction." Recently he put those two passions together and created a stop-motion video of his travels across the U.S. during which he hitchhiked from Los Angeles to Maine. Along the way, he snapped more than 3000 photos of the people he met on his journey, and compiled them altogether to give us a sense of his experience. The result is the video below, which is a fun glimpse of his travels and a creative way of taking us along with him.

Thanks to reader Ted Grella for sharing this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alan Arnette Summits Kilimanjaro

Climber Alan Arnette knocked off another one of the Seven Summits today, reaching the "Roof of Africa" on Kilimanjaro. This is his fifth successful summit as he continues his efforts to raise funds, and awareness, of Alzheimer's Disease.

Earlier today Alan sent an audio dispatch from the top of Kili, where he reported spectacular views and clear skies overlooking the African savannah below. Since Kilimanjaro is the tallest free standing mountain in the world, at 5894 meters (19,340 feet), summiteers can see for miles in all directions, which makes the experience different from a lot of other climbs.

Following their successful summit, Alan and his team were planning a descent back down to about 3048 meters (10,000 ft) where the final camp of the climb is located. While there are a number of routes to the summit, all teams use the same route to descend, and as a result, the camp is often a busy and active place. Trekkers spend a final night in that location before hiking back to the base of the mountain on their final day, before making their way back to Moshi or Arusha, the two cities that serve as the launching pad for Kilimanjaro climbs.

In his dispatch, Alan noted that Kilimanjaro is more than the "hike-up" as it is often dismissed as. While it is true that no technical skills are needed to go to the summit, trekkers can be caught off guard by how challenging the climb can be. Not only is the altitude an issue, the trail can be rough and demanding as well, which is something to keep in mind if you are planning a Kili climb of your own. It is an incredibly special place, with experiences unlike any other, but it can also surprise you at times as well.

Next up for Alan will be Carstensz Pyramid, located in a remote area of Indonesia. That mountain is 4884 meters (16,023 ft) in height and offers a significant technical challenge. It is considered the tallest peak in Oceania, which encompasses Australia and a number of island nations in the Pacific. If you take the Seven Summits at their purest sense, the tallest mountain in Australia is actually Kosciuszko, which is 2228 meters (7310 ft) in height, and is generally considered the easiest of the all the climbs.

So far, Alan has been successful on all of the Seven Summits, save Denali. Poor weather conditions on that mountain prevented him from even making a summit bid when he was there in July. Hopefully he'll get another crack at it next summer.

Man Floats Over Alps Using Helium Balloons

Remember Jonathan Trappe? He's the guy who flew across the English Channel last year in a lawn chair that was lifted by helium balloons. Well, according to this story, he's up to his old tricks, although this time he didn't simply float across a flat body of water, electing to attempt a crossing of the Alps instead.

Using 54 balloons filled with helium, the 38-year old American set off from Gap, in southern France and took to the air on his unusual, yet daring, adventure. Reaching altitudes in excess of 4500 meters (15,000ft), it took Trappe 12 hours to complete the crossing, which ended when he landed in the Italian village of Andezeno.

Trappe set off on his journey before dawn and actually watched the sun come up over the mountains. Before that happened however, he drifted along in the dark, nervously hoping that he wouldn't have to make an emergency landing in the mountains below – something that he thought would probably result in his own death.

That didn't happen fortunately, and he successfully completed the crossing and delivered the video below. It shows him floating along above the clouds, calm as can be. Amazing.

Video: Experience Zero Gravity

Experience Zero Gravity is a beautiful new video from Infinity List that features a number of BASE jumpers throwing themselves off high mountain cliffs, then floating back to Earth. Much of the video is done in slow motion, which lulls you into thinking that it is a serene, almost peaceful activity. The music also helps to convey that mood, and you almost think that you might want to try BASE jumping for yourself. Then the video kicks back up to realtime speeds, and you remember that these people aren't drifting downward – they're plummeting at insane speeds.

Still, it is wonderfully shot and the settings are gorgeous. Seems like a great way to get the week underway. Enjoy.

Experience Zero Gravity from Betty Wants In on Vimeo.

Earthquake Shakes The Himalaya

A strong 6.9-magnatude earthquake hit the Himalaya last night, causing damage, injuries, and even deaths across India, Nepal, and Tibet. News reports indicate that 50 fatalities have already been counted, although that number is expected to rise as more information is collected.

The earthquake's epicenter was located in India's Sikkim state, which falls along the border of Nepal and Tibet. The rumblings were felt as far away as Bangladesh and Kathmandu, where residents scrambled to exit homes and other buildings.

Due to the remote nature of this part of the world, it could take some time before an accurate estimate of the true damage is known. Landslides are also reported across the region, which is making it difficult to get supplies and aid into the mountainous areas, where authorities expect the death toll and damage to buildings and infrastructure to only climb. Cell service is reportedly down in parts of Tibet where the quake as taken out fragile radio towers.

To make matters worse, after two after shocks have followed in the wake of the original quake. They measured 6.1 and 5.3 on the Richter scale and there are fears that another major quake could strike before the rubble from the initial disaster can be cleared.

Hopefully the climbers who are currently in the Himalaya are all safe and haven't been caught up in any of the rock slides. I'm sure we'll be hearing some harrowing tales from those teams shortly, but lets keep our fingers crossed that they are all okay.

Having visited the region, I know how fragile the infrastructure can be there. The homes that the people of the Himalaya live in are not designed to withstand a natural disaster such as this one. Hopefully the death toll doesn't continue to rise and the people in the region will remain safe in the days ahead.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everest Fall 2011: Acclimatizing In The Himalaya

As I mentioned earlier in the week, a number of autumn expeditions are underway in the Himalaya, where small teams have collected on a few mountains, where they are already busy setting up camps, learning important skills, and most of all – acclimatizing for the ascents to come.

On Manaslu, the Altitude Junkies have now set-up shop and have their all important "Internet dome" working properly. This gives the team members an opportunity to blog about their experience, stay in contact with friends and family back home, and keep track of what's happening in the world. They won't get too long to enjoy their technology however, as the team plans to head up to Camp 1 today, weather permitting, and spend a few nights sleeping there as part of their first rotation.

The Himex squad is also on Manaslu, and they have already finished their first stay in C1, and have now been back in ABC for several days. They hope to go back up for their second rotation in a day or two, but for now, they are enjoying warmer temperatures and clear skies in BC, where thick fog and cool weather had been the norm. The Sherpa team, consisting of 21 climbers, went back up the mountain earlier in the week and were preparing to build Camp 3 and drop supplies at 6800 meters (22,400 ft), but they discovered part of the route had collapsed, so they've had to go to work on rebuilding the lines and making sure they are safe for clients. That process is complete, and the climbers can now safely proceed up to C3, although they're not quite ready to go that high just yet.

Jumping over to Shisha Pangma, the IMG team has already completed it's climb and stay in Camp 2, and everyone is back in Advanced Base Camp and recuperating from that rotation. Their Sherpa team is also fixing lines to Camp 3, but more teams are now arriving on the mountain, so the hope is that they'll be able to work together to finish the process. The latest updates indicate that the weather is good, with small snow showers, but no major storms.

Meanwhile, on Cho Oyu the Adventure Lovers team was in ABC, located at 5650 meters (18,536 ft) on Tuesday, where they conducted their Puja Ceremony before they began their climb. Wednesday they made the trek up to Camp 1, at 6400 meters (20,997 ft) and after spending a few days acclimatizing there, they are expected back in ABC today. They'll then rest for a time before starting back up the mountain.

On Dhaulagiri, Carlos Soria is making progress as well, despite bad weather. According to an update on Wednesday, he and his team have moved up to Camp 1 and continue to be in good spirits and health. Unfortunately, they've had to contend with heavy rains in the evenings, although it doesn't seem to have been a major detriment thus far.

At this point of their climbs, it is all about the rotations. The reports sound a bit repetitive and boring, but in actuality, this is what it is like to climb in the Himalaya. The process can be slow and monotonous, but also necessary for success at the end. Still, these teams are all doing well thus far, and if the weather continues to be good, it is likely we'll see summit attempts beginning in a couple of weeks.

Solitaire: A Beautiful Backcountry Skiing Video

My friends over at the Joy Trip Project posted this video yesterday, but it is too beautiful not to pass along and share here as well. It is the trailer for a new ski/snowboard film from Sweetgrass Productions called Solitaire, which debuted last night in Denver, Colorado. It is yet another example of some of the amazing work that is being done by adventure filmmakers across the globe, and its images inspire not only adventure, but also a need to hit the slopes.

In the immortal words of author George R.R. Martin: Winter Is Coming!

SOLITAIRE: A Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding, and Telemark Film from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Expedition 1000: Video Highlights From The Mississippi

Last week I posted a final update on Dave Cornthwaite's 2400-mile expedition to stand-up paddle the entire length of the Mississippi River, just as the adventurous Brit neared his finish in the Gulf of Mexico. The day after I wrote that piece, Dave did indeed complete his journey, and now he's home in the U.K. resting up and preparing for his next big adventure. He also managed to find time to edit and share a great video featuring highlights from his record breaking SUP voyage. You can check it out below and get a whole new appreciation of what he has accomplished.

Well done mate!

Team Plans To Follow Shackleton's Route Across Antarctica

A team of adventurers is planning an epic expedition to the Antarctic in 2014 as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton's attempt to cross the frozen continent. They intend to follow the same route that Shackleton had planned before his ship, the Endurance, became locked in the Antarctic ice, preventing the expedition from ever getting underway.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition 2014 doesn't expect to have that problem however, as they'll set out from the Falkland Islands aboard an icebreaker in September or October of 2014 and make their way across the Weddell Sea to Vahsel Bay. From there, they'll make their way on foot through the Shackleton Range of mountains, to the South Pole, before proceeding onward to the Beardmore Glacier, and the Ross Ice Shelf, where they'll even visit Shackleton's famous hut. The entire team will be retrieved from McMurdo Sound upon completion of the journey, which is expected to take somewhere between 100-120 days and cover approximately 2500 miles (4023 km).

The team already consists of expedition leader Joanne Davies and Sebastian Coulthard, but they hope to add another 3 or 4 teammates to the mix. They are currently recruiting a medic, photographer/cameraman, an artist or poet, and a scientist. If you'd like to join the team, they have an online application that you'll find here.

While 2014 seems like an awfully long ways off yet, there is a lot to accomplish in the next three years. The team will need to train and prepare of course, but there are plenty of logistical hurdles to overcome as well. They'll spend that time planning and preparing, testing gear, and preparing themselves for the long, arduous task of crossing the most desolate and harsh continent on the planet.

The next few years are going to be exciting ones in the Antarctic, with a number of expeditions celebrating the exploits of Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton. Explorers who dedicated, and sometimes lost, their lives in pursuit of adventure.

Registration Open For 2012 Trans-Rockies Run

The 2011 edition of the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run is still fading from memory, but registration is already open for the 2012 edition, which is scheduled to take place beginning next August 14. But runners who are interested in joining the field will have to hurry, as there are a limited number of entries available, and they are already filling up fast.

There are two options for running the TransRockies – solo or as part of a team. If you elect to go solo, the course is 59 miles in length from Buena Vista to Camp Hale, Colorado and takes three days to complete (August 14-16). The route also features 8400 feet of vertical gain and is limited to just 100 runners, which made it a sell out this year.

The second option is the team run, which is 120 miles in length, features 20,000 feet of climbing, and stretches from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek. This is a six day event (August 14-19) that is limited to 180 teams of two, and was 75% sold out in 2011. Registration for both team and solo options can be found by clicking here.

Spectacular views, great trails, and a tough course have made the TransRockies one of the more popular trail running events in North America over the past few years, as evidenced by how fast it has sold out. If you'd like to take part in the event in 2012, you'll definitely want to register soon, and first time participants will even get a free DVD of the past race. Sign up now and get started on your training program. August 2012 will be here before you know it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Video: Traveling Through The Alps

Speaking of traveling by motorcycle, the video below appeared on Gadling a few days back and it is simply too beautiful not to share. It was shot by a filmmaker who was riding a motorbike through the Alps, crossing through Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and France in just a few days time. The sights he saw along the way are nothing short of spectacular however, and will remind you why the Alps have remained a draw for travelers for centuries. Simply spectacular.

And Through The Alps from Gerard Kevorkian on Vimeo

Motorcycling Solo Around Africa: Jolandie Gets A New Mode Of Transportation and Sponsor

A few weeks back I posted a story about Jolandie Rust, the adventurous South African woman who had set out to cycle around the Africa. At the time, she had been held-up in Angola and someone stole her bike and most of the rest of her gear. Since then, she's briefly returned home, but is now eager to get back on the road, albeit with a different mode of transportation.

A few days ago, Jolandie announced on her blog that she would be foregoing her plans to circumnavigate Africa on a bicycle in favor of doing it on a motorcycle instead. She'll still be traveling solo and still hopes to become the first woman to complete this journey, but her mode of transportation has changed. Obviously this means she'll be able to travel much faster than on a bike, but she'll also have to be cognizant of where she can get fuel as well. At the moment, she's working out all the details and doesn't have a date in mind as to when she'll restart the journey, but she seems as determined as ever to reach her goal.

In addition to having a different method of transportation, Jolandie has also picked up a new sponsor as well. The Government of Angola, along with their Tourism Ministry, has agreed to become her primary sponsor for the expedition. It seems that the country, and its people, have really stepped up to help Rust in her time of need, and their support will allow her to continue her adventure soon.

So, look for more information on her blog soon. Despite the change in vehicles, there are still plenty of African adventures ahead.

Third Edition of FEAT Takes Place October 6

The next edition of FEAT, the fantastic mash-up of an adventure film festival and TED Talks, featuring some of the top adventurers from South Africa is set to take place on October 6th in the the Alexander Theatre in Johannesburg. The format for the latest FEAT, which stands for Fascinating Expedition & Adventure Talks, remains the same. All speakers are given exactly seven minutes to convey some message about their experiences and the lessons they've learned on their adventures.

You'll find a complete list of the speakers for the Braamfontein event by clicking here. Amongst those scheduled to appear are big wave surfer Grant ‘Twig’ Baker, climber Andy de Klerk, and adventure meteorologist Simon Gear. The entire program is expected to last about 2.5 hours and promises to be "The Ultimate Armchair Adventure Experience."

Tickets for the event are still available through Computicket and are selling for R140.00.

One of these days I'm going to get the opportunity to attend FEAT. I was in South Africa this past spring when the Cape Town edition of FEAT took place, but my schedule didn't allow me to attend the event. I love the format and it sounds like it would be a fun evening with a lot of like minded people. Congratulations to my friend Lisa de Speville for not only coming up with the concept, but also finding a way to make it such a big success. Well done!

And just how inspiring are the FEAT talks? After watching one of the videos from FEAT Cape Town, Lisa's 59-year old mother decided to go on an adventure of her own. Not only did she start training right away, she flew off to Spain to hike the El Camino de Santiago trail. That should be an inspiration to us all that it is never too late to add some adventure into our own lives.

Paddlers Make Third Descent Of Yellow Creek

Four paddlers (Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Taylor Robertson, and Josh Bechtel) recently made the third ever descent of a whitewater run called Yellow Creek. It is the first time anyone has run this stretch of river in nine years, and the results are in the video below. Neither I, nor Canoe & Kayak, where I discovered this video, know where Yellow Creek is but it looks both incredibly fun and incredibly terrifying at the same time. The water is wild and there are rocks and logs everywhere, including a gigantic one right at the start when the paddlers drop a large waterfall. This is a beautiful place to say the least, and I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did. 

3rd descent Yellow Creek from Ben Stookesberry on Vimeo.

September/October Issue of JPFreek Now Available

JPFreek Magazine, the Jeep and outdoor adventure publication that I contribute to, is now available on and in the JPFreek App for iPhone and iPad. The free e-zine is aimed at Jeep enthusiasts but offers plenty of great material for adventure travelers and general outdoor nuts as well.

In this issue, you'll find a number of great articles including an Australian offroad adventure in a vintage World War II Jeep that is a fantastic read, an interview with Cam Brensinger, the founder of NEMO Equipment, a report from the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree, as well as the usual plethora of gear reviews, adventure news, and so on. My own contribution to the issue is a travel piece on the Beartooth All-American Road, my pick for the best drive in the U.S.

If you haven't checked out JPFreek before, swing on by the website or fire up your iOS device and give it a look. There is a lot to like about the magazine, even if you're not a Jeep Freak yourself.