Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Antarctica 2017: Spectre Team Summits and

More news from the Antarctic today, where the expedition season continues to unfold at a fairly fast pace. The explorers who are making their way across the continent this year seem to continue to hit milestones on their way towards their own individual objectives. And while the season still has a very long way to go before it ends, it seems like it will be one of the more interesting years on the frozen continent in quite some time.

Will begin with an update on the Spectre team, which consists of Leo Houlding, Jean Burgun, and Mark Sedon. This trio of adventurers set off across the Antarctic via kite ski to reach the Gothic Mountains. Their plan was to climb a challenging rock spire called the Spectre by making the first ascent via the South Spur. Unfortunately, when they finally arrived there, they discovered that route that they had indeed to use for their descent was incredibly difficult, consisting more of blue ice and snow than rock and solid ground.

When we checked in with the team last week they were setting off on a traverse of the tower to look for alternate ways of getting back down. What they discovered that this rock face presented more challenges than they had first anticipated, so they had a quick change of plans and decided to change up their route and climb the North Side of the Spectre instead. That route was originally climbed by Mugs & Edmund Stump back in the 80's and remains the best approach to the top.

On Sunday, the trio of climbers set out to complete their objective and while it was hardly an easy ascent, they did manage to top out. Along the way they had to deal with cold temperatures, unexpected winds, and a complex rock face that was tougher than they thought it would be. You can read their account of the climb here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Video: Climate 101 - Nat Geo Educates Us on Glaciers

There as been a lot of talk all year long about the collapse of the ice shelfs in Antarctica and the impact that will have on the glaciers there. This phenomenon has the potential to have long and lasting consequences for hundreds of millions of people around the globe, but just what does this mean for climate change? In this video, National Geographic provides some insight into what is happening to the world's glaciers and how this could impact all of us in the future.

Video: 13-Minutes of Footage From the New Speed Record on the Nose

Back in October, rock climbers Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds set a new speed record on The Nose in Yosemite, zipping up the most iconic climb in the world in a blistering 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 44 seconds. That's 4 minutes faster than the previous record held by Hans Florine and Alex Honnold. In this video clip we get a look at the two men on the wall, as they're making their way up. This isn't some stylized, highly produced climbing documentary, but is instead raw footage captured on their way to the record. That makes it all the better.

Volvo Ocean Race Resumes as Teams Head to Southern Ocean

Stage 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race got underway yesterday from Cape Town, South Africa as the teams head into the Southern Ocean for the first time. This next leg of the race promises to be a challenging one, as strong winds appeared just prior to the restart.

The seven ships taking part in this year's edition of the round-the-world sailing event departed Cape Town and are now under sail for Melbourne, Australia. This stage of the race will cover approximately 6500 nautical miles (7480 miles/12,038 km) and will include a trip round the infamous Cape of Good Hope before the crews take a hard left turn and plunge south to the Souther Ocean. The route will take them through the Westerly Storm Track, a section of water that is notorious for its bad weather, before heading north once again to cross the Great Australian Bight and the Bass Strait on their way into Melbourne. They are expected to arrive there sometime around December 27.

On Saturday, just prior to the teams setting out on Stage 3, the "Cape Doctor" arrived in South Africa. This strong southeasterly wind brought sustained 40 knot (46 mph/74 km/h) winds with gusts up to 60 knots (69 mph/111 km/h). By Sunday, those winds had died down some but were still hitting 25-35 knots. That made for a blistering start with the ships finding plenty of breeze to help push them along. A high pressure front arrived today however to provide a bit of calm before facing the challenges that await.

The wild Southern Ocean will now test the crews. Known for its big waves, terrible storms, and high winds, this body of water surrounds Antarctica but has no other land masses to impede the progress of its winds and weather. That leads to some absolutely massive storms at times and cold, biting Antarctic winds are the norm. This will certainly not be a pleasure cruise for the members of each of the teams as they battle to be the fastest team to arrive in Melbourne.

You can follow all of the action and get regular updates on the Volvo Ocean Race website. The team there does a great job of not only providing plenty of news and insights into the race, but offering video and photos too.

How Much Will it Cost to Climb Everest in 2018?

Alan Arnette has compiled his annual examination of the costs of climbing Everest and as usual the post is filled with lots of interesting information. If you're thinking of joining an expedition to the highest mountain on the planet sometime in the near future, you'll definitely want to give this article a look. For those going in 2018, here's what you can expect to pay.

So how much will it cost next year? Alan says it will be a minimum of $30,000, with most climbers paying somewhere in the neighborhood of about $45,000. That's an increase over 2017, with prices climbing both on the lower end of the spectrum and the premium high-end as well.

In 2018, the price range for an Everest climb starts at $28,000 and goes up to as much as $85,000. You can have a completely custom climb for $115,000 as well, although few take that option. At the bottom end, if you want to mostly go it alone, with some support, you can get away with spending as little as $20,000, although as Alan points out, this is for the extreme risk takers only.

In recent years we've seen a rise in the number of low-cost expedition options on Everest, which is what is fueling the larger numbers of climbers on the mountain as more alpinists from India and China rush to make the climb. Even though more of these inexpensive options exist, prices have continued to climb. Alan says that over the past five years companies have increased their prices by 6% on the Nepal side of the mountain and 12% on the Tibetan side.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Video: Start Your Impossible - The Inspiring Story of a Man Who Climbed Everest Without Arms

This video comes our way as part of a new campaign from Toyota that invites us to #startyourimpossible. It is the inspiring story of Sudarshan Gautam, who lost both of his arms in an electrical accident in Nepal, but then went on to become the first person to climb Everest without arms. Just a little something to think about as we headed into the weekend.

TOYOTA - START YOUR IMPOSSIBLE from Oliver Würffell on Vimeo.

Video: The Bears Ears - A Living Museum in 360º Video

There has been a lot of talk about the Bears Ears National Monument this past year, and particularly in the past week. What makes this place so special? Why it is of such importance to so many people? This fantastic video will help you sort it all out, and it does so by giving viewers a 360º view of the surrounding landscape. You'll need a browser that supports that type of video to get the full effect, but even if you watch it and just listen to the narration, you'll get a better understanding of why this is such a special place.

Bears Ears - A Living Museum from Patagonia on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Cauldryn Fyre Mobile Heated Water Bottle

One of the things that I've l liked most about the continued advancements in technology is that it has forced us to improve the batteries that go into our various devices. These more powerful and long-lasting rechargeable power cells have made their way into a wide variety of other product that either didn't use them before or didn't exist at all. Such is the case with the new Cauldryn Fyre Mobile, a heated water bottle that will redefine the way you think about hot beverages and cooking around the campsite, while on the go.

At first glance, the Cauldryn Fyre looks like a lot of other water bottles you might find on the market, It is sleek, made of stainless steel, and uses the vacuum-insulated design that has proven to be a winner in countless other models over the past few years. The 16-ounce bottle even has two openings for sipping a beverage or for pouring out more liquid depending on your needs.

But look a little closer, and you'll start to see how this product differentiates itself from the competition. For starters, it includes a built-in heating mechanism that allows it to warm a beverage completely on its own, or keep liquids hot for hours at a time. This heating element is so powerful in fact that it can even boil water all on its own. Simply plug the bottle into a USB outlet and set it to the temperature you need.

The Cauldryn Fyre comes in two different models, the standard version and the Mobile. The difference between the two is that the Mobile edition comes with a battery pack that allows it to function while away from a power source. An included battery pack means that you can have hot beverages on the go, even if you're venturing far off the beaten path. Taking a morning hike to the top of your favorite peak, but would like some hot coffee along the way? The Cauldryn Fire Mobile can handle that. Snowshoeing or backcountry skiing and want some hot cocoa? Check!

Men's Journal Presents the 20 Best Gifts for Adventurers

I may have shared my picks for the best holiday gifts for outdoor adventurers a few weeks back, but as we get closer to Christmas there are sure to be others. For instance, Men's Journal has posted its picks for the 20 best pieces of gear for the adventurer in your life, with some really great items we'd all like to find under our tree this year.
The list gets off to a rocky start – at least for me – by suggesting a rifle from Ruger, but I know plenty of people who wouldn't mind receiving that as a gift. Other items include awesome rain pants from Kuhl, iPhone cases from OtterBox, and a tent from Big Agnes, amongst plenty of other things. In fact, it is safe to say that pretty much whatever your favorite outdoor pursuits are, you'll find something you can use here, including a folding kayak from Oru and a waterproof duffel from Yeti (which also made my list!).

I won't spoil the rest of the items on the Men's Journal list as there is plenty to discover. Check out all of their picks by clicking here.

Patagonia Sues Trump Administration Over Bears Ears Reduction

Earlier in the week we talked about the Trump administration's plan to reduce both the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in size. That proposal was officially announced on Monday, calling for the greatest reduction of public lands in the history of the U.S. Now, a coalition of activist groups that includes gear manufacturer Patagonia is banding together to sue the President to prevent this move from happening.

The day after the announcement was made to reduce the size of the monuments the lawsuits started to be filed. At least three came on Tuesday alone, with others following throughout the week. By Wednesday, Patagonia had replaced its usual website homepage with a warning message saying "The President Stole Your Lands," which remains in place as of this writing. The company has also created a second page with information about this topic, including maps showing the new monuments before and after the reduction. There are also links that allow concerned visitors to express their concerns by sharing the info on social media, although those efforts have done nothing to convince Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to change course. In fact, he may be preparing to announce reductions to to other monuments as well.

Patagonia has been at the forefront of the movement to protect Bears Ears for years, and applauded the efforts of the Obama administration to protect the area last year. The company was also one of the first to step up to fight the President's move to review national monuments when it was announced earlier this year. Patagonia was also instrumental in getting the industries Outdoor Retailer trade show to relocate from Salt Lake City to Denver in large part because of Utah's actions against public lands.

The outdoor apparel manufacturer wasn't alone in filing lawsuits this week. A number of conversation groups, including The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and seven other groups are all part of one lawsuits, while at least five Native American tribes are taking part in others. These lawsuits are expected to take years to sort out, with the potential to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as judges decide where the limits of executive powers lie. That will be a matter of debate for some time, with some arguing the President doesn't have the authority to make this move, while others say it is well within his jurisdiction.

For now, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will remain unchanged while this issue gets sorted. What they will look like when it is all said and done will be very interesting.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Video: Let the Tiger Go - Saving Wild Tigers in Sumatra

The once thriving population of tigers in Sumatra have raced to the edge of extinction. These magnificent big cats have been hunted by poachers, who sell their skins and bones on the black market, where they remain in high demand. That has caused the Sumatran tiger population to fall to under 400 animals remaining in the wild. In this short documentary, we'll travel to Sumatra to see the team that is working to keep these creatures from vanishing. In the clip, we'll witness their efforts to rescue once such tiger first hand, as they battle ruthless hunters looking to make a quick buck at the expense of an entire species.

Video: Heli Mountain Biking in the Andorra Mountains

Heli-skiing has been a popular way to get into the backcountry for awhile now, so it only seems natural that mountain bikers would use the same method of transportation to more easily reach remote trails. In this video, we hop a flight with Andreu and Lluis Lacondeguy as they head out into mountains of Andorra to explore the region from their seat of their bikes. What they find, is one awesome adventure.

Receding Antarctic Glaciers Bring Cause for Concern

Throughout 2017 I've posted a number of stories about Antarctica's ice shelves are calving off massive chunks of ice sending icebergs adrift into the Southern Ocean. We first saw one of these events back in July, when a large section of the Larsen-C Ice Shelf broke away, creating a berg the size of Delaware. In September, a similar break-up occurred near the Pine Glacier as well. As you can imagine, these events have been watched closely by scientists, who view Antarctica as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. Now, there is even more cause for concern, as thing continue to confound and perplex researchers.

Typically when a large chunk of ice breaks away from the Antarctic, it tends to float north into the Southern Ocean, where the warming waters cause it to melt and break-up over a period of years. But, that isn't what happened with the piece from the Pine Glacier, which quickly broke up into 20 smaller pieces less than a month later. That means that the ice itself is already somewhat thin and fractured, and possibly that the water around it is starting to warm up as well.

Why is this such an issue? Because the Pine Glacier is already the fastest retreating glacier on the planet, and it contains about 10% of the water in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet. When you combine that with the nearby Thwaites Glacier, which is also shrinking rapidly, you'll find that there is enough water to raise sea levels across the globe by 11 feet (3.3 meters). That would be disastrous to millions of people around the world.

The large sections of ice that broke off from Pine Glacier and the Larsen-C Ice Shelf actually serve as a buffer between the sea and the glacier itself. With those protective buffers gone, the melting of the glaciers is only expected to accelerate. While it will take decades for them to vanish altogether, resulting in that 11-foot rise in sea levels, it won't take long for them to begin brining those levels ups couple of feet. That alone would be devastating. Throw in the fact that there are plenty of other glaciers that are adding to the increase, and you start to understand why this is such a major concern.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to do anything about it. The Byrd Research Center in Antarctica reports that average temperatures near the Pine Glacier have already risen 2ºC or 3.6ºF. That may not seem like a lot, but in a fragile ecosystem like the Antarctic, it is enough to push things past the point of no return.

Introducing The Adventure Podcast

It's been a long time coming, and I've hinted at it on social media a couple of times, but I'm happy to introduce The Adventure Podcast at long last. The first episode is now available to download through iTunes or can be accessed directly here

The show looks to be a bit of an extension of this blog, sharing weekly news from the adventure world, discussing major topics of interest, talking about gear, and having interviews with interesting guests. It is co-hosted with my friend David Adlard, who has a rich background in the world of outdoor adventure as well having competed in several Ironman events and numerous adventure races, as well as working as a mountain guide and race director himself. Dave and I have known each other for a number of years and share a passion for the outdoors, exploration, and travel. We hope to bring that to you on a weekly basis in an audio format. 

We've labeled this first show as Episode 0 because it serves as a pilot of sorts. It is our first attempt at creating this type of content, and we're still learning the ropes some. As a result, the show is still a little rough around the edges, but you'll get an understanding of where we are coming from and where we hope to go in the weeks ahead. We've already learned a lot from making this one, so we hope to make some big leaps forward in terms of production quality with our next show. 

We have also set up a few social media outlets for those who would like to share feedback and learn more about the podcast. Our Facebook page can be found here and we're active on Twitter at @adventure_pod. We can also be reached by email at theadventurepod@gmail.com. We would love to hear from listeners as we continue to develop the show, and one of the regular segments we'd like to include is answer questions sent our way. So, if there is something you'd like to ask, feel free to drop us a note. 

Other than that, Dave and I hope you enjoy the program. We're looking forward to having fun with the podcast format and hopefully offering some interesting and compelling content. 

Antarctica 2017: Maidens Halfway to the Pole and the Challenges of Going Solo

The 2017 Antarctic expedition season continues to unfold at the bottom of the world. Unlike our last update, most of the skiers are now reporting good weather, although surface conditions remain challenging with sastrugi and soft snow making for slow going at times. Still, the teams that we've been following closely continue to forge ahead, making progress toward their individual goals.

Ben Saunders has been out on the ice longer than anyone and he's being reminded of the challenges of going solo. Back in 2014 he made a round trip expedition to the South Pole and back to the coast with Tarka L'Herpiniere and the duo split duties breaking trail. That helped to give each of them a break from being the lead man, but perhaps more importantly also provided some companionship on the hardest days. On his current traverse of the frozen continent, Saunders has neither someone to split those duties with nor anyone to keep him company either. That has worn on him some, causing him to grow tired more quickly. As a result, he's being more conservative with his efforts.

Still, the British polar explorer continues to make good strides forward. He's been knocking off 12-14 miles (19-22 km) per day and now has 688 miles to go before he's done. That is still a considerable distance, but he has now passed the 85ºS mark and has his sights set on reaching the Pole before he begins his return trip to the coast at the Ross Ice Shelf.

Speaking of making good time, Scott Sears – aka the Antarctic Ghurka – has found his rhythm and is covering solid distances most days now. Yesterday he managed to cover 40.1 km (25 miles) in a little more than 12 hours of skiing. In Antarctic terms, that is flying and he should be very pleased with the progress. He also passed the 84th degree, and is making his way towards Thiels Corner on the edge of the Thiel Mountains. That's a milestone for anyone skiing to the South Pole as most make a turn there and begin heading more directly towards 90ºS.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Video: Wild and Wonderful - Deepwater Soloing Documentary

This video is the full 13+ minute award-winning documentary about PsicoRoc 2016, America's first deep water soloing climbing competition to take place on real stone. It is filled with stunning footage of climbers who took part in the competition, which was a groundbreaking event for sure. The clip also includes an amazing tribute to Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins, who won the female division.

Wild And Wonderful from NRAC on Vimeo.

Video: Krzsztof Wielicki Shares Thoughts on Polish Winter Expedition to K2

We've previewed the Polish winter expedition to K2 a couple of times already and we're still several weeks away from the team actually arriving on the mountain. But, this is certainly a climb that will draw a lot of attention in the weeks ahead, and this video gives us some insights into that adventure courtesy of Krzsztof Wielicki himself. The 67-year old climber is the leader of the expedition and has considerable experience on major mountains all over the world. This clip is an interview with the Polish alpinist who offers insightful thoughts on the challenge ahead.

Gear Closet: Yaktrax Summit Traction Cleats Review

A good pair of winter boots is essential for our outdoor activities during the snowier months of the year, but even the best footwear can struggle to maintain traction on slick surfaces covered in snow and ice. Thankfully, you can always add a pair of Yaktrax to your gear closet to help you maintain your footing when out for a run, walk,  or even just commuting to work. Traditionally however, Yaktrax hasn't offered a more technical option for those of us who venture further afield during the winter months, as their more lightweight options didn't always fare all that well when wandering in the backcountry. That all changed with the introduction of the Yaktrax Summit however, giving more adventurous hikers an option that isn't quite as technical as a crampon, but still provides plenty of traction when you need it most.

The Summit is by far the most advanced and technical product that Yaktrax has created to date. While most of the company's products simply pull on over your shoes and and are held in place by thin straps or elastic bands, the Summit actually uses a Boa lacing system to adjust the fit. This allows hikers to truly dial in the exact tension they need, then lock the crampon in place without fear of it slipping off. In real world testing, this proved far more effective, particularly when hitting a trail. While I've seldom had issues with Yaktrax's products on pavement, they've sometimes run into issues when using them staying on my boots in the backcountry. That isn't the case here, with the Summit locking into place and staying there.

Armed with 12 carbon spikes – each 3/8 of an inch deep – the Summit can provide outstanding traction on crusty snow and hard ice. Those spikes have a triangular shape that allows them to dig in on the ascent as well, providing a much better grip on uphill climbs. And because they weigh just 11 ounces each, the Summits don't add a lot of weight to your shoes either, allowing the wearer to travel surprisingly fast and nimbly, even on slick surfaces.

British Ultrarunner Completes 70-Mile Crossing of Desert in Kazakhstan

Photo courtesy of Mark Woodward
A British ultrarunner by the name of Jamie Maddison has become the first person to cross the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert in Kazakhstan on foot. The 29-year old endurance athlete spent 30 hours traveling 70 miles (112 km) while enduring intense heat throughout the journey, which took place in October.

Maddison began his run in a the town of Birlik, which located on the western edge of the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert. He made a nighttime stopover mid-run because the driver of his support vehicle was having a difficult time navigating in the remote area and was himself getting dangerously tired. The following day Maddison resumed his expedition, reaching the end point at a river that borders the desert, and plunging in to cool off.

In an interview discussing the expedition the ultrarunner says that there were certainly times when he wanted to give up. Just 32 miles (51 km) in he thought he would have to call it quits after exhaustion started to set in. After running up and down dunes for hours on end, and enduring 97ºF (36ºC) heat, Jamie says he could feel his vision closing in around him. He describes the experience as time slowing down and putting one foot in front of the other took a tremendous effort. He also says that when the expedition was over, there was much of it he couldn't remember at all.

Maddison also says that if he were to do things over, he would have went at a later time of the year when temperatures weren't quite so harsh. He has spent years traveling in Central Asia, so he felt prepared for the desert crossing, but even then the intense heat still caught him a bit off guard. For others attempting a similar challenge he recommends taking your time, studying and researching the region fully, and preparing as best you can for the challenges you'll face in the field.

You can read the entire interview by clicking here. Congratulations to Jamie on undertaking and completing this tough expedition.

Nepal Revises Climbing Rules, Bans Solo Climbs on Everest and Many With Disabilities

Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has put fourth a set of new regulations for climbing in the country with some big changes coming to the mountains. The governing body that oversee mountaineering in Nepal has already forwarded its recommendations to that nation's ruling body, the Council of Ministers where it is expected to be accepted prior to the start of the spring climbing season.

Amongst the changes are a complete ban on climbers who are completely blind or have had a double amputation. The regulations also call for a ban on those who have proven medically unfit for climbing as well, although exactly where that line is drawn remains unclear. 

The move comes after former British Gurkha Hari Budha Magar announced his intention to climb Everest next spring. Magar lost both of his legs fighting in Afghanistan, but summited Mera Peak this autumn as a tune up climb for Everest. His story has already served as an inspiration to others across the world. 

Other new regulations include a complete ban on solo attempts to climb Everest, with the regulation requiring all climbers to take at least one guide with them to the mountain. The Ministry has recommending a continued ban on any climber younger than 16 years of age, and is also requiring expeditions to carry at least 15 walkie-talkies rather than the current number, which stands at 12.