Thursday, May 19, 2016

I Am Alaska Bound!

Just a quick note to regular readers to wrap up the day today. Tomorrow I am heading out to Juneau, Alaska for a little adventure. Over the next week or so, I'll be taking part in an Un-Cruise on the famed Inside Passage. While there, I'll be sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking, and whale watching, amongst other activities. Internet access will be limited over that time period, so there won't be any updates to The Adventure Blog until Monday, May 30. Hopefully I'll have some great stories and photos to share upon my return.

This trip kicks off what will be a busy few months for me in terms of travel. I will be updating the site as often as I can in the weeks ahead, but there will be some extended periods from time to time when I'll be off the grid and unable to post. But stay patient and I'll share all the new from the world of outdoor adventure and exploration as much as I can.

While I'm away, I hope you get outside and enjoy some adventures of your own. Now is a great time to be riding, running, hiking, camping, and exploring. Have a great time, and I'll be back before you know it.

Video: Surfing the Arctic Ocean in Siberia

I don't cover surfing often here on The Adventure Blog, but I couldn't resist sharing this video, which takes us to Siberia where a group of adventurous surfers attempt to catch a wave in the frigid Arctic Ocean. The clip was shot over the course of a year near Murmansk, Russia, with the ocean showing the different sides of its character throughout the season. The dedication and commitment to this endeavor is admirable to say the least. The images captured here are astounding as well. I hope you enjoy.

SURF IN SIBERIA ARCTIC OCEAN 5 from Kokorev Konstantin on Vimeo.

Video: When We Were Knights - A Story of Friendship, Love, and Wingsuits

Last summer, Base Jumper and wingsuit pilot Ian Flanders died while jumping in Turkey. When he passed, he left behind a letter to his friend Matt Blank expressing his love for the life they lived and the adventure they had together. This video is a visual translation of that letter that includes some incredible footage of the two men jumping and flying together. It is a reminder to do the things we love and pursue our passions, but also let those around us know just how much they mean to us too.

Men's Journal Has 25 Gifts for the Adventurous Dad

It's nearly June, which means Father's Day is just around the corner. If you're looking for the perfect gift for dad this year, Men's Journal is here to help. They've created a list of 25 gifts for the adventurous dad in your life with some great suggestions that even those of us who aren't dad's can appreciate.

Some of the items that make MJ's list include the Timex Expedition Scout watch, which blends classic good looks with modern sensibilities, and the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 II, which is widely considered to be the best point and shoot camera on the market today. You'll also find a drone, an inflatable stand-up paddleboard, and an awesome camp stove from BioLite.

There really is something for just about every kind of dad on this list. Whether they're a hardcore outdoor nut, gadget enthusiast, or aspiring athlete, you'll find some cool suggestions for gifts for your father too. Best of all, most of the items are fairly affordably too, so you won't have to break the bank to find the right gift either.

Father's Day is still a few weeks off, but it's a good time to start planning. Check out the entire list here.

Himalaya Spring 2016: 200 Climbers Head For Everest Summit

While we've seen a steady string of summits on Everest over the past week, today looks like it will be the busies day of the season by far. According to reports, more than 200 climbers are now on the move with the intention of topping out today. That means we can expect long lines and traffic jams at key points of the mountain, but with the weather reported very good, it should be an incredibly successful day on the world's highest peak. 

The Himalayan Times reports in the link above that more than 150 climbers have already been successful in their bids to top out on Everest, with a number of others still pushing to the summit. Their number indicate that 41 foreign climbers and 58 Nepali guides had gone up yesterday, with another 87 foreigners and 110 Nepalis setting their sites on the summit today. After two years of no summits on the mountain, it is safe to say that Everest is back open for business.

No matter how many people summit today, it won't bring an end to the steady stream of climbers that are on the move. More teams have now moving up to Camp 3 and Camp 4 as they get ready to make their final summit push over the next couple of days. 

Meanwhile, on the North Side of the mountain the teams are moving up to take advantage of the current weather window as well. They are still waiting for the ropes to be fixed to the summit, which hopefully will be done today, allowing teams to go to the top at long last.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Video: A Visit to Magical Iceland

Iceland is a magical place. There is no getting around that. But we're reminded of just how beautiful and special that country is in this video, which takes us on a whirlwind tour of the Icelandic countryside. Sit back and enjoy this one. It is three minutes of pure beauty. And if you still haven't been to Iceland, perhaps now is the time to go.

ICELANDIC MAGIC from Rod Gotfried on Vimeo.

Video: Take a Tour of a Himalayan Base Camp

Ever wonder what it is like to live in Base Camp on a Himalayan climb? Than you'll definitely want to watch this video. It takes us to 15,000 feet (4572 meters) on Ama Dablam, where Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions takes us on a tour of BC. While obviously located in a remote – and very scenic – location, you might be surprised at how comfortable and accommodating Base Camp life can be.

Actor Jared Leto Joins Alex Honnold on El Cap in Yosemite

Academy Award winning actor Jared Leto seems to have added yet another skill to his resume that already includes musician, songwriter, director and author. It seems the celeb is also an accomplished rock climber, as was evidenced last weekend when he went climbing in Yosemite with Alex Honnold.

On Friday Leto and Honnold scaled the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, which is ranked amongst the 50 classic climbs of North America. Then on Saturday, the two men climbed three shorter, easier routes on the 600-foot Manure Pile Buttress, before moving onto the East Buttress of El Capitan on Sunday.

Later, Leto posted a photo of The Nose on El Cap – perhaps the most iconic climb in the world – hinting that he might like to try that at some point. Later, he shared the photo below on his Instagram account of he and Honnold. They're joined by Jimmy Chin, who dropped by for a photo bomb apparently.

A photo posted by JARED LETO (@jaredleto) on

Ultarunner Attempting to Set Speed Record for U.S. Crossing on Foot

One of the toughest running challenges imaginable is currently underway, as British ultrarunner Robert Young (aka "The Marathon Man U.K.") is attempting to set a speed record for crossing the U.S. on foot. To do so, he'll have to run more than 60 miles per day – every day – for a month and a half.

Young set out from Huntington Beach, California last Saturday, and he hopes to wrap up the run in Times Square in New York City, sometime in June. Along the way, his route will take him through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, covering approximately 3000 miles (4828 km) along the way. To reach his eventual destination he'll have run across deserts, over two mountain ranges (Rockies and Appalachian), the Great Plains, and various other environments.

As mentioned, Robert will need to cover about 60 miles per day if he hopes to establish a new record. The previous mark was set 36 years ago and stands at 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes. That won't be easy of course, but the British runner has a reputation of being a phenom. Since he started running marathons in 2014, he has run more than 500 races of marathon length or longer, while setting two world records – one for most marathons run in a year and another for the longest distance run without sleeping.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Next Round of Summits Ready on Everest South Side, North Side Waits

After six straight days of summits from the South Side of Everest, high winds prevented anyone from going to the top yesterday. But now, those winds have quieted once again, and it looks like things could be very busy over the next few days once again. In fact, it is now believed that more than 200 climbers from the commercial teams, along with 250 Sherpas, are now expected to go to the summit over the next few days from the South Side alone. That will be in addition to the 88 climbers who have already topped out this season.

If things stay on course, and there are no major issues over the next few days, 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. Things seem to be running like clockwork on the Nepali side of the mountain, with no major traffic jams or other issues reported. There does continue to be instability in the Khumbu Icefall, where Alan Arnette reports another collapse occurred yesterday, but the Icefall Doctors seem to be on top of those issues, and are fixing them quickly. But other than that, things are proceeding about as smoothly as possible.

Meanwhile, on the North Side of Everest in Tibet, there have been no summits as of yet. The rope fixing team has not completed the route to the top, and as a result the teams are in a holding pattern. Some have gone up to the higher camps in anticipation of the route being completed today or tomorrow, and as the weather improves there should be a dash to the summit from the North as well. We'll just have to wait to see when that will happen, but with the arrival of the monsoon already looming, the best weather window will probably occur over the next four or five days.

Over on Manaslu, after completing a successful summit last week along the standard route, ExWeb is reporting that Peter Hámor and Horia Colibasanu have moved to the North Side of the mountain to begin work on an entirely new route. On Makalu, a weather window seems to be opening for the end of the week, with possible summits on Friday, while the teams on Dhaulagiri high winds are keeping teams in place in Camp 3 as they prepare to go for the summit on that mountain as well.

Finally, yesterday Ueli Steck and David Göttler came up just short on Shishapangma. According to their dispatch today they reached 7800 meters (25,590 ft) but were forced back by the winds too. The descent was a bit harrowing thanks to thick fog, but they made it back to BC where they are resting and preparing for another go. To put things in perspective, their round trip was just 21 hours, so you know that these two are looking forward to having another go at the mountain.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Video: Scenes From Patagonia

We all know that Patagonia is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the entire world. But, this video remind us of that by taking us back to that iconic destination to share some wonderful scenes of life and landscapes of southern Chile and Argentina. Truly one of the great wilderness destinations on the planet.

Moments from Patagonia from Ivana Varesko on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking South Africa

South Africa is one of the absolute best destinations on the continent, offering great hiking, scuba diving, surfing, wildlife viewing, and so much more. It also happens to be a great place to go mountain biking, as you'll see in this video from Specialized bikes. We'll travel to SA with Hannah Barnes and Miranda Miller as they explore the wilderness of Stellenbosch, which was largely destroyed by a major fire last year, but its network of trails is now returning to life.

Gear Closet: SOL Traverse Survival Kit

Need a handy little survival kit to carry with you on your outdoor adventures, but don't want to spend a lot of money putting a custom kit together? Then you'll definitely be interested in the new Traverse kit from Survive Outdoors Longer. It has just about everything you could possibly need for your backcountry excursions, and a price tag that makes it one of those products that you can't afford to not have with you. 

Packed in its own tin case, the Traverse covers the most important elements of survival including water, shelter, fire, and signaling. Items found inside the kit take care of all of those needs, allowing you to survive for an extended time should an emergency situation arise. 

So just what does the kit include? Here's a complete list of what you'll find side the tin container:

1 60” x 84” Heatsheets Emergency Blanket
1 Liter, Sterile Water Bag
2 Micropur Purification Tablets
1 Spark-Lite Firestarter
4 Tinder Quik Firestarters
1 Mini Rescue Howler Whislte
1 26” x 2” Mini Roll of Duct Tape
1 Safety Pin
1 Instruction and Tip Manual

As you can see, there are water purification tablets as well a bag to carry water in. There is also an emergency blanket for warmth, a firestarter and tinder, as well as a rescue whistle. SOL has also conveniently thrown in some duct tape and a few other items that can come in handy as well, including an instruction manual with tops for staying alive in challenging circumstances. 

If you're familiar with SOL's products, you know that they are always high in quality and well made. The Traverse is no different, as it is a product that is designed for the outdoors and is built to survive in those environments. It is also lightweight, weighing in at a mere 6.1 ounces (173 grams). The entire package is very compact, and is made to slide right into your pack and stay there until you need it. 

So how much does this little kit cost? As I said earlier, this is a piece of gear that you almost can't afford to be without when you set out on your travels. The SOL Traverse survival kit is just $20, which makes it almost a no brainer when you consider everything that is inside. It also makes a great gift for other outdoor enthusiasts as well, as its attractive tin case gives it a classic good look that most will appreciate. 

If you want to add one of these great little survival kits to your gear, you can find out more at SurviveOutdoorsLonger.com

Yellowstone Bison Calf Euthanized Following Tourist Abduction

One of the top stories on social media over the past few days has been the news that a father and son duo traveling through Yellowstone National Park put a bison calf into their car because they worried that it was too cold and might die. They took the calf to a ranger station at Lamar Buffalo Ranch, where the animal was taken back into custody and returned to its herd. Unfortunately, the news came yesterday that the young bison had to be euthanized, as the herd wouldn't accept it back into the group.

It should be noted that the man and his son who took the calf were foreign visitors, and it was their first time in Yellowstone. But they ignored Park Service warnings to stay away from the animals, and they obviously had little knowledge of how the creatures in the park survive in much harsher conditions than what are currently found in the park. They were cited for transporting the animal, and park rangers are once again reminding visitors to leave the animals alone. Usually that warning is to keep the humans safe more than the animals, as in recent years there have been some high profile wildlife encounters that have turned tragic. Most of those incidences have occurred between humans and bisons.

Apparently, the calf had been returned to its herd, but the other animals wouldn't accept it back. But having been exposed to humans, the calf was then approaching other visitors to the park and wandering up to cars. That is once again a very dangerous situation for everyone involved, so rangers made the tough decision to put the calf down.

If you're reading this blog, you probably don't need the reminder, but when you're in the wild, leave the animals alone people. That is advice that might just save your life. This story is also a good reminder that not everyone has the same experience and knowledge that most of us take for granted. It's just incredibly sad that this newborn bison had to suffer for that.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Hillary Step Intact After All? A Game of Chess on Annapurna Summit?

There isn't a lot of new news to report from the Himalaya today, where a lot of teams are moving up on Everest to get in position to take advantage of a looming weather window. It has already been a busy season on the world's highest peak, with more to come in the days ahead. But, one of the stories that has been coming off the mountain may not be true after all, despite widespread reports.

Yesterday, I posted the news that the iconic Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest had collapsed during last year's earthquake, making it easier to approach the summit from the Nepali side of the mountain. But, late last night Alan Arnette posted a comment on that story saying that it isn't a foregone conclusion that the Hillary Step has indeed been altered.

Alan indicated that he spoke with Sherpas on the mountain – as well as Himex boss  Russell Brice – and the feeling is that the Step may just look very different thanks to a meter of snow that has accumulated on it. It won't be clear if the route has indeed been changed until that snow is cleared away and climbers can get a good look at the terrain.

The Hillary Step is so named because it was the final piece of the puzzle that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgayhad to overcome on their way to the first successful summit back in 1953. The route has been used by hundreds of other climbers ever since, and it has been a cause of some traffic jams in the past because it requires some actual technical climbing to overcome. If the Step has been altered and made easier, it could eliminate those jams and make approaching the summit safer. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Video: Don't Go to Iran (But Really, You Should!)

This video is here to smash stereotypes. The title tells us not to go to Iran, but the words don't match the visuals you'll see on screen. The 3.5 minute clip shows us all of the great things there are to see and do there, and gives us a glimpse at the people that live in this historically and culturally rich nation. Don't believe everything you hear about Iran. Go and see it for yourself.

Don't go to Iran from Tolt on Vimeo.

Video: Yellowstone as You've Never Seen it Before

As I've mentioned before, National Geographic has dedicated its entire May issue to Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the entire world. Nat Geo has also been releasing a series of great videos centered around the park, with one of the latest posted below. It takes us into Yellowstone with six NG photographers who give us a look at this breathtaking place that we've never seen before. Their photos are simply incredible, and remind us of why this is such a special place.

Video: Wingsuit Pilot Flies Through a Ring of Fire

The title for this one pretty much says it all. Wingsuit pilot Uli Emanuele proves his skill by flying through a ring of fire at high speed. As you can imagine, this looks as crazy in motion as it sounds. Definitely don't try this at home folks.

The 50 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time

One of the true traditions of going on an outdoor adventure is crawling into your sleeping bag at night and curing up with a good book to ready by the light of your headlamp. If you're looking for some new additions to your library for the next time you're in need of something to read, you're in luck. Men's Journal has published its list of the 50 greatest adventure books of all time, and as you'd expect, there are some great options.

As you would expect, the books on this list are incredibly diverse. Some are biographies, others are first-hand account memoirs, and some are complete works of fiction. The stories span the globe, taking us to just about every corner of the planet, from the frozen expanses of Poles, to tropical destinations closer to the equator. These books introduce us to some of the most interesting people to ever walk the Earth, and some that are completely made-up but are incredibly interesting none the less.

With such a long list, it would be impossible for me to ruin it completely. But some of the famous books that earned a nod include Melville's Moby Dick, Alfred Lansing's Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, and The Mountain: My Time on Everest by Ed Viesturs. This is just a small taste of the great books that made this list, but no matter what your definition of adventure is, I think it is safe to say that there is something here for everyone.

On top of that, unless you're an incredibly fast reader, this list will take some time to get through completely. That would be an adventure in and of itself.

Himalaya Spring 2016: More Summits on Everest, Earthquake Alters Hillary Step

It is summit season on Everest, where the weather has been cooperative over the past few days, leading to successful ascents to top of the mountain over the weekend. Meanwhile, as the first climbers go to the summit for the first time in two years, were learn that an iconic point on along the route has been altered by last year's earthquake, making the climb just a bit easier.

Last week we told you that Sherpas had fixed ropes to the summit, and that the first foreign climbers had followed not long afterwards. That cleared the way for the first two waves of commercial teams to make their summit pushes, with as many as 23 people topping out last Friday, and another large group summiting yesterday as well. Amongst those groups was the Himalayan Experience team as well as several of the other larger operators on the mountain. It is unclear at this point how many climbers were on the summit push yesterday, but it seems like it was a large number.

Other teams are waiting for a new, more stable weather window to open this week so we should see yet another large group of summiteers in the days ahead. The route is clear now and it appears that conditions will be great throughout this week. More teams are standing by to take advantage of that opportunity as soon as they can.

On the the North Side of the mountain, it is unclear exactly where everyone is at right now. There have been a few summits, but the major push doesn't seem to have begun just yet. Look for the to change this week too, with lots of teams now on the move.

One of the more interesting stories to come out of the early Everest summits on the South Side is that last year's earthquake has altered the route dramatically. Apparently, the quake caused the iconic Hillary Step to collapse, and from most accounts it is now easier to get over that section of the climb than it was in the past. This portion of the route was where a lot of the bottlenecks occurred in the past, and at what point there was even talk about putting a ladder on the step to help speed things along. That never happened, and from the sound of things it won't be necessary now either.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Video: More Than Just Parks Takes Us to the Badlands

The filmmaking brothers of Will and Jim Pattiz have returned with the latest edition in their More Than Just Parks series. This time, the subject of their lenses is Badlands National Park in South Dakota, which is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes you could ever hope to see. As usual, this video lives up to the high level of quality that this video series has set for itself, almost transporting us to this fantastic designation. If you're ever in western South Dakota, this is a must see destination for sure.

BADLANDS 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Video: Fat Biking Through the Iconic Landscapes of Utah

There is no question that fat biking is changing our perception of where you can go on a bike. Case in point, this fantastic video takes us deep into the deserts of Utah with pro rider Steve Fassbinder and a friend as they explore those iconic landscapes from the seat of a fatty. This will make you want to break out the big wheels and go on an adventure of your own.

Gear Closet: Solavore Sport Solar Powered Oven

I'm a huge fan of using solar power for keeping mobile devices charged while traveling through remote locations. This has become easier that it was in the past thanks to improvements to the efficiency of solar panels and the plethora of options available to consumers these days. But, the sun can actually be used to do more things than just keep our gadgets powered up, as I learned recently when I put the Sport Solar Oven from Solavore to the test.

Perfect for use in your own backyard or a campsite, the Sport Solar Oven does exactly what you would expect – turn the power of the sun into heat for cooking a meal. In fact, it is so efficient that you don't even need to have direct sunlight for it to automatically start collecting the rays and generating enough warmth to cook a surprising number of types of foods. The oven comes with its own thermometer, and while testing it consistently kept a temperature above 220ºF (104ºC), which is hot enough to boil water, and while it might take a little longer, cook just about anything else too.

Set up for the Sport couldn't be easier. Simply find a good spot to place it in the sun, and you're pretty much done. Solavore does sell an optional reflector that can be added to the stove to help focus the sunlight further, which takes just seconds to install. It adds some extra speed and efficiency to the oven, but it works just fine without it as well.

The oven does ship with two graniteware pots, complete with lids, which are perfect for cooking in the Sport. Both are three quarts (2.8 liters) in size, which means they have plenty of capacity, and since the oven has enough space to hold both of the pots at the same time, you can actually cook two dishes at the same time.

Adventure Tech: Land Cruisers Used as Wireless Network in the Outback

Staying in communication with the rest of the world while traveling through a remote landscape can be difficult and expensive. But a new project sponsored by Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia,  automaker Toyota, and a communications and advertising agency called Saatchi & Saatchi shows off a new concept that uses a fleet of Land Cruisers as mobile WiFi network that can keep travelers in contact, even when miles away from an Internet connection or cell network.

The Land Cruiser is one of the most popular expedition and adventure travel vehicles on the planet, often found in remote places where few other motorized vehicles can go. That's true in the Outback of Australia too, with travelers using them to wander far from civilization. Recently, Toyota equipped some of those SUV's with a new device that creates a network between other vehicles in the area, with data being shared between these mobile hotspots until it can be handed off to a unit that is also within range of a permanent Internet connection.

These high-tech communications devices have a range of 25 km (15.5 miles) and can handle both voice and data. That makes them useful for making emergency calls from a remote place, or sharing social media updates while in the field. It uses standard WiFi, UHF signals, and Delay Tolerant Networks (DTN) to help pass along the data. The information can hop from Land Cruiser to Land Cruiser until it finds one with an Internet connection, at which point it is send out to the rest of the world.

The video below gives you an idea of how the whole thing works. It seems like it has a lot of promise for communications in remote places. 


Nefertiti's Tomb Not Found in King Tut's Tomb After All

One of the more fascinating stories that we've been following over the past year was the possibility of hidden chambers inside King Tut's tomb in Egypt. The story first broke when an archeologist by the name of Nicholas Reeves proposed the theory that such hidden rooms might exist after making laser scans of Tut's burial chambers. He then postulated that those hidden areas could belong to the lost queen of Nefertiti, who was Tut's step mother and may have ruled Egypt before him.

Fuel was added to the fire last fall when it was announced that ground penetrating radar has been used at the ancient site, and those scans had revealed that there indeed blank spaces hidden behind Tut's walls. This seemed to show that Reeve's theories were proving accurate, and that archaeologists were on the verge of making a major discovery.

But now it has been revealed that those scans may not have been accurate at all, and that there really isn't anything hidden in Tut's tomb as first thought. A second scan of the tomb, funded by National Geographic earlier this year, reportedly found no evidence of hidden chambers. Furthermore, there are Egyptologists who are claiming that the Egyptian government is suppressing the news as long as they can in order to maintain the illusion that a discovery may be imminent for as long as possible. The idea of finding Nefertiti's remains was seen as a major find, and could potentially be a boost to the country's flagging tourism sector.