Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Polar Bears Force Halloween Celebration Indoors in Canadian Community

Halloween is suppose to be a fun, and slightly scary, holiday for kids of all ages. But one Canadian town is taking measures to ensure that it isn't too frightening this year, following an invasion of polar bears to the community. The Inuit village of Arviat has decided that it will hold its annual Halloween celebration indoors in order to avoid bumping into ursine visitors, which are said to be hanging out in record numbers this year.
Polar bears are not new to the tiny town of just 2000 inhabitants, located on the northernmost coast of Nunavut territory. The village sees numerous bears in the region in any given year. But this year, the population has increased dramatically, and they have been wandering into town with more frequency as a result.

With this in mind, the town council held a special meeting last week to discuss what they should do about Halloween. With 1200 kids in town, they didn't want to disappoint the young trick-or-treaters, so they came up with the idea of holding the holiday indoors at the local community hall. A shuttle bus will even pick up the children and safely deliver them to the festivities. This should greatly reduce the chances of a bear encounter, which could easily end in tragedy.

Animal experts say that shrinking ice caps in the arctic are reducing the size of the polar bear's natural habitat, and forcing them into a smaller area. That is the reason that Arviat, and other villages along the Arctic Ocean, are seeing more of the bears in their area. Warmer weather is causing the Hudson Bay to take longer to freeze this year as well, preventing then bears from making their annual pilgrimage back north. Once the bay has frozen over for the season, the animals will leave Arviat behind.

While some of the ghosts, ghouls, and zombies of Halloween can indeed be scary, I can think of few things that would be more terrifying than coming face-to-face with a hungry male polar bear weighing more than a thousand pounds (450 kg). This is a wise move on the part of villagers.

Antarctica 2014: Prep Teams at Union Glacier

The 2014 Antarctic season is still a couple of weeks away from getting started, but the prep work for the support teams on the frozen continent have already begun. ExWeb is reporting that ANI flew the first support team to Union Glacier last week, where they are now prepping for the arrival of the South Pole skiers, climbers heading to Mt. Vinson, and the various other expeditions that will be taking place in the weeks ahead.

ANI's advance team arrived at Union Glacier on October 17, where they promptly went to work preparing for the new season. That prep work includes setting up the permanent camp facilities there, which serve as a logistical base for everyone that comes and goes from the Antarctic on ANI flights. The team is also preparing the company's blue ice runway and ensuring that it is ready for the big Ilyushin-76 aircraft that serve as shuttles from Punta Arenas, Chile to the facilities on the frozen continent.

In order for this first ANI staff to get to Union Glacier, they must first charter a flight with Kenn Borek Air, who uses smaller, shorter ranged Twin Otter aircraft for flights throughout the Antarctic. Their flight path took them from Punta Arenas to the Rothera Research Station – a British scientific outpost located on Adelaide Island. From there, the flight hops over to Union Glacier to drop off personnel and supplies.

Over the next couple of weeks, the ANI team will stock the Union Glacier camp, and make it as comfortable as possible before the arrival of the first wave of South Pole skiers. Usually, those adventurers start arriving around the first of November, although the weather actually dictates when they can get to the camp, and start their expeditions. Most spend only a short time at UG, before they are flown out to Patriot Hills, the traditional starting point for a journey to 90ºS.

ExWeb also points out that there is one other base that supports Antarctic expeditions, although it isn't used quite as often as ANI's Union Glacier camp. It is located at the Russian science station Novolazarevskaya, with flights arriving out of Cape Town, South Africa. The first flight due for that camp is scheduled to take place on November 4, and is reportedly fully booked.

It looks like another busy Antarctic season is about to get underway. As usual, I'll be following the progress of the teams closely.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Video: The Isle of Skye in Scotland

The Isle of Skye is one of a number of islands that are part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Skye is a wild, mountainous place, with some amazing landscapes, some of which you'll get to see for yourself in the video below. The use of black and white imagery, and wonderfully atmospheric music, helps to set the scene. This looks like a beautiful place.

Skíð : 'Cloud Island' from Fourth Dimension on Vimeo.

Video: Kayaking Kerela, India

Earlier this year, kayakers Sam Sutton, Bradely Lauder, and Mire Kodada traveled to the remote Kerela region of India to explore opportunities to go kayaking in the largely unexplored and untouched part of that country. What they found was some of the best whitewater that they had ever seen, on rivers that few – if any – other paddlers had ever descended. The video below shares some of that adventure, with some amazing footage from this beautiful part of the world.

Video: John of the Forest

Here's a wonderful short film that has some good messages for all of us. It features a man named John who is a retired organic farmer that lives in New South Wales, Australia on Mount Warning. His land is covered in dense, beautiful forest that looks like a spectacular place to call home. John shares his philosophy of connecting with nature, and the importance of recognizing that we are all part of the environment, with the need to work towards protecting it. The short video is thoughtful with its narration and imagery.

John of the Forest from PALATE on Vimeo.

Fears of Ebola Crushing Africa's Safari Tourism Industry

A month ago I wrote an article about why now is a good time to go to Africa. When I wrote that piece, Ebola was making headlines, and fear over the deadly virus was just beginning to set in with the general public. I argued then – and continue to do so now – that a downturn in travel to Africa was coming, and that opportunistic travelers could take advantage of the fear and ignorance over the disease to book a once in a lifetime journey at a fraction of the normal cost.

Since then, the bottom has fallen out in the safari tourism industry, with bookings dropping off to almost nothing. Countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana are all seeing their economies damaged by fear over Ebola, even though they are thousands of miles away from the countries that have suffered the epidemic. In fact, there are European nations that are closer to West Africa, where the virus is most prevalent, than the countries that I've named above.

New reports indicate that safari operators are seeing a 20-70% drop off in new bookings for the rest of this year, and into 2015. This is an alarming number for many countries in Africa, who had seen tourism rise dramatically in recent years. In fact, 2014 was poised to have the best travel numbers of all time, as more people planned holidays on safari. But now, fear over Ebola has put the breaks on the tourism economy, most due to a misunderstanding of the geography of Africa.

Make no mistake, Ebola is a dangerous virus, and those traveling to West Africa should take caution, particularly if they are visiting Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But the disease has not spread to other parts of the continent, and thus travelers are safe from coming in contact with someone who is infected. Still, there is a misperception that Africa is just one big place, and that all of it is rampant with Ebola. As a result, the entire continent is being lumped together, with dire consequences for the economy there.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Nepal Ends Search For Missing Trekkers, Summit Bids Begin on Makalu

It was another busy weekend in the Himalaya, but sadly for all the wrong reasons. Search and rescue teams spend the past couple of days sweeping through the mountains in search of missing trekkers who were caught out in that horrific blizzard that struck Nepal last week. The weather has improved considerably since then, but a number of people are still missing, and feared dead, in what has become the worst tragedy in the history of the Himalaya.

Efforts to locate missing trekkers and locals were continuing today, even though the SAR teams have started to scale back their efforts. All told, more than 40 people lost their lives in the storm, while 600 had to be rescued. Most of those were in the Annapurna region, where the storm seemed to hit the hardest.

Over the weekend, the popular Annapurna Circuit was shut down, while rescue efforts were conducted. When it was finally opened again, new trekkers, just setting out on their hike, ran into trouble as well, and had to be evacuated. This prompted officials to shutdown the trail once again, in order to keep others from becoming stranded.

As recently as today, ongoing avalanches have hampered efforts to locate those who are still missing. Despite those challenges however, a search team located the body of a missing Israeli traveler, which brought the death toll to 40, with others still to be found.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video: Guilin and Yangshuo in China Captured by Drone

This video is brought to us by filmmaker Patrice Gaucher, who took his DJI Phantom drone with him to Guilin and Yangshuo, two UNESCO World Heritage sites located in China. As usual, the ariel photography captured by the drone is pretty spectacular, offering an amazing view of these beautiful landscapes.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ in Guilin and Yangshuo (UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China) from Patrice Gaucher on Vimeo.

Video: Adrenaline Filmmaking

A few days back, I posted a great little video that shared the secrets of how photographers capture those fantastic climbing photos that we often see. Today, I have another cool video that focuses on "adrenaline filmmaking," or the art of making adventure films in remote places. It is nearly a half-hour in length, and follows National Geographic filmmaker Bryan Smith as he offers insight into his craft. If you've ever wanted to make your own adventure films, there will be something interesting to discover in this video.

Video: No Sleep Till Bakewell - A Climbing Endurance Challenge

This short film is sure to provide some inspiration on a Friday. It is the first of a series of videos with the theme of "Never Give Up," that is sponsored by Casio's G-Shock watches. In this clip, climbers Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker attempt to 125 individual claims, and run 23 miles, nonstop over a 24 hour period. This is a challenge that they set for themselves a number of years ago, and only recently went for it. Pretty compelling stuff.

G-SHOCK Presents - No Sleep Till Bakewell from casio electronics on Vimeo.

ExWeb Interviews Steve Jones of Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions

With the 2014 Antarctic season quickly approaching, it will soon be time to ramp up coverage of the men and women who will be skiing to the South Pole this year, or exploring some other little known region of Antarctica. Ahead of the start of that busy period on the frozen continent, ExWeb has posted an interesting interview with Steve Jones, one of the main points of contact for expeditions at Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) about the rules and regulations for traveling at the bottom of the world.

In the interview, Jones addresses a number of topics, including the use of drones in the Antarctic, the requirements for carrying not one, but two, satellite phones, and why other replacement devices won't always suffice. He also talks about the challenges that skiers face on their way to the South Pole, as their gear breaks down and deteriorates over time – something that hasn't changed in a hundred years, when the first expeditions to the Pole were finally completed.

Jones, who is a veteran Base Camp manager and guide in the Antarctica, also offers some good tips for those considering an expedition to the world's coldest, windiest, driest, and highest desert. He stresses the importance of planning, working closely with ALE, and the challenges of adapting to fluid situations as things inevitably go wrong. Steve also offers tips on getting funded, and how ALE can provide advice and even gear for those who need it.

Finally, the ALE point man also talks about the company's new trip to Mt. Sidley, the tallest volcano in Antarctica. This was the point of another story earlier int he week, and you can find out more about it here.

As the fall climbing season in the Himalaya comes to an end, the focus of the adventure world will turn to Antarctica once again. It will be interesting to see how many people will be embarking on expeditions to the South Pole this year, and if there will be any unique, unusual stories to tell.

Himalaya Fall 2014: More Trekkers Rescued, Search Continues For Those Missing

I wanted to post an update on the ongoing crisis in Nepal, where dozens of trekkers are still missing, even as search and rescue operations are being conducted. The weather has improved across the Himalaya, allowing SAR teams to reach some of the areas that have been cut off for the past few days, and as a result more trekkers are being airlifted from the mountains. Sadly, the number of deaths attributed to this unexpected, and incredibly powerful, blizzard continues to rise as well, with officials saying that at least 29 people have now lost their lives as a result of the bad weather.

Earlier today, search teams were able to reach the Thorung La pass on the Annapurna circuit, where they were able to locate 40 trekkers, and evacuate them to safety. The pass was at the center of the storm, and as a result, many of the deaths have occurred near there. According to some reports, a number of the deaths occurred because the hikers caught in the pass tried to descend and escape the blizzard, with some freezing to death as a result.

Officials from the Ministry of Tourism say that the death toll will likely continue to mount, as there are still a lot of trekking routes to be checked, and heavy snow still hinders the search. Yesterday alone, more than 200 trekkers were rescued, and they suspect that there are still more waiting to be found. Operations will continue through the weekend in the hopes of rescuing more stranded backpackers, and recovering bodies.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Video: America's Great Spaces in Timelapse

At just over five minutes in length, this video gives us an incredible timelapse tour of some of the best outdoor spaces in the entire U.S. The photography is brilliant, and the landscapes are breathtaking. This is a clip you want to enjoy without distractions, as it is a healthy reminder of why we love nature so much. Enjoy.

Video: The Beauty of Wingsuit Flying

This video is simply entitled Life, which conveys a lot of meaning when mixed with the images that delivers. It features some fantastic shots of wingsuit pilots and BASE jumpers doing what they love, with some spectacular settings for backdrops. It is a wonderful short film with some amazing footage of these pilots gracefully carving through the air at incredible speeds. The feeling of freedom that comes along with these activities must be amazing.

Life from FlyLikeBrick on Vimeo.

National Geographic Pinpoints Location, Size of Everest Avalanche

The spring climbing season on Everest is far behind us at this point, and most climbers have already started looking ahead to 2015. But the shadow of this past season will loom over the mountain for years to come, and continue to be discussed in mountaineering circles for even longer. With that in mind, over the past several months, National Geographic has been using satellite photography to examine the mountain in an attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas. That research has not only discovered exactly where the ice serac was located on the mountain, but has allowed Nat Geo to estimate its size as well.

The report on the avalanche was published yesterday on National Geographic's website. It includes a "before and after" satellite photo of Everest, with the first image taken on April 7, and the second on April 26. The avalanche occurred on April 18. The location of the large serac is outlined in yellow on both images, and is clearly missing in the second photo, which gives us a sense of the scale of the avalanche as well.

The research presented in the article comes our way courtesy of National Geographic's senior editor and cartographer Martin Gamache, who says that the surface area of the ice block prior to collapse was roughly the size of an NBA basketball court, and it towered more than 113 feet (34.4 meters) in height. He estimates that it weighed approximately 31.5 million pounds (14.3 million kilograms), which gives you an idea of the amount of force that hit the climbers on the mountain that day in April.

Exactly what caused the collapse remained a mystery, but Gamache chalks it up to gravity. He says that is the force that is generally the cause of these kinds of accidents. There has been some speculation that climate change may have played a role as well, with warmer temperatures possibly allowing large chunks of ice to become unstable over time.

The results of Camache's study coincide with the release of the November issue of National Geographic Magazine, which contains a number of stories revolving around the Everest tragedy. Amongst them is "Sorrow on the Mountain," which recounts the events of that day in detail. Another article takes an in-depth look at Sherpa culture, and what drives those strong men and women to live and thrive in the harsh Himalayan environments. The issue is on newsstands now and available to download in electronic format as well.

This is more fascinating coverage of what is undoubtedly the adventure story of 2014.

Training for the Mountains with RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

Preparation for a big climb on any mountain goes a long way towards determining the level of success that can be achieved. If you don't put int he work ahead of time, chances are you'll suffer mightily when your expedition begins. Recently, the Eddie Bauer blog caught up with RMI guide Seth Waterfall to get some tips on preparing for a climb. As you would probably expect from a three-time Everest summiteer, he had some good insights to offer.

To get things started, Seth says he defines "mountain training" as having a specific goal in mind. Rather than just going to the gym, or hitting a trail, for regular workouts, you instead know what your objective is, and begin tailoring your workouts towards achieving that goal. He says that while the gym is a good place to train, he prefers actually being outside, and on a mountain where the practical aspects of the training come into play.

Seth goes on to discuss such topics as his layering system for mountain training, what footwear he prefers while training, and the three things that he focuses on most while preparing for a climb. Those three things include building a strong base, working on power training, and the importance of getting rest to help the body recover.

This is all good information from a man who makes his living in the mountains. In addition to climbing Everest three times, Seth has summited Rainier 137 times, and guided climbers up that mountain, as well as Kilimanjaro and Denali. Hs resume even includes ski descents of Denali and Mt. Waddington as well.

If you're looking for a few basic tips to help provide direction and focus to your mountain training, this short article is worth a look.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Avalanche Claims Lives of Climbers on Dhaulagiri, Death Toll Amongst Trekkers Rises

The bad news out of Nepal continues today, with more reports of avalanches claiming the lives of both trekkers and climbers there. The forecast has called for improving weather conditions across the region, but unstable snows are making some of the trekking routes dangerous, not to mention the upper slopes of many of the mountains. The unexpectedly bad weather has hit the country hard, and as a result, the death toll continues to rise.

Yesterday, I reported that 17 trekkers had perished in two separate avalanches near Annapurna and in the Manang district. Today, we get word that that number has climbed to 26 foreign visitors, and may be as high as 32, with more than 100 people still missing. The situation is very fluid at the moment, with dozens of trekkers stranded throughout the region. Some are believed to be suffering from frostbite and dehydration, as they wait for rescue, or for conditions to improve enough that they can proceed to a village where they can receive aid.

The incredibly bad weather is the result of cyclone Hudhud coming ashore in India, and creating unusual conditions in the Himalaya as a result. Heavy snow and and rains have fallen over Nepal for the past several days, creating conditions that don't typically occur during the fall trekking and climbing season. Normally, autumn is the best time of the year to go hiking in Nepal, but this year it has become a dangerous nightmare for many travelers.

In addition to the numerous trekkers who have been killed, or stranded, we've also received word that an avalanche has claimed the lives of several climbers on Dhaulagiri as well. The 8167 meter (26,795 ft) peak is the 7th highest mountain in the world, and was the target of a team of Slovak climbers this fall. Two members of that team – Jan Matlák and Vladimir Švancár –  along with three Nepali guides, were killed in an avalanche that swept through Base Camp yesterday. The team had established Camp 1 and 2 on the mountain, and were waiting for the storm to pass before they attempted a summit push.  As you would expect, the expedition is now over, and the eight remaining members of the team have been evacuated back to Kathmandu.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Video: The Snows of the Nile

This is a fantastic short film that introduces viewers to the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, a series of 5000 meter peaks that rise up from the African plains. These peaks were once covered in some of the few equatorial glaciers that exist on the planet, but those glaciers are in rapid retreat as climate change and global warming impact the environment there. In the short documentary, two researchers travel to the "Mountains of the Moon" to investigate what is happening.

Thanks to the Adventure Journal for sharing.

Snows of the Nile from Connect4Climate on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Running with Anton Krupicka

Anton Krupicka is an endurance athlete that is amongst the best ultrarunners in the world. He loves to run on long mountain trails that allow him to connect with nature. The video below gives us an introduction to Anton, and offers some insights as to what drives him to run not only in some of the toughest ultra-events on the planet, but just in his daily life as well. The scenery in the short seven-minute film is spectacular, and will motive you to want to go run some trails too.

The Ingenuous Choice - Mountain Running with Anton Krupicka from Outdoor Live on Vimeo.

Help Tusker Trail Pick Their Next Trek, Win An Adventure Of Your Own!

Tusker Trail, one of the best adventure travel companies in the world, is asking us to help them select their next trekking detonations, and as an added incentive, their giving away one of their great trips to one lucky winner.

Tusker's current trekking catalog offers some excellent opportunities to go hiking in some of the best locations on the planet, including Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as Everest Base Camp in Nepal. They also offer trips to places like Mongolia and Bhutan, allowing clients to see some very remote regions of the world. But, the company is looking to expand their offerings, and that is where you can help.

The Tusker Facebook page is currently hosting a contest that allows us to vote for the next detonation that the company should add to its catalog. Options include New Zealand, Machu Picchu in Peru, Greenland, Australia, Myanmar, the Dolomite of Italy, Patagonia, and the Ladakh region of India. Each of those is a fantastic adventure destination, with a lot to offer travelers. Some are classic places that everyone should see at some point in their lives, while others are emerging as exciting new destinations that are luring adventurous travelers with their beautiful landscapes and interesting cultures.

To enter the contest, just visit the Facebook page, and vote for your choice for Tusker's next trip. You'll then be automatically entered to win your choice of four Tusker treks. Those include a Kilimanjaro climb, a hike across Mongolia, a visit to Bhutan, or the classic expedition to Everest Base Camp.

The contest is open through the end of October, at which time a winner will be chosen at random. That person will be notified the first week of November, at which time they can select the trip of their choice.

This is a great opportunity to win a trip from one of the best trekking companies around. Who knows, you could be off on a grand adventure of your own soon!

17 Trekkers Die in Nepal Due to Poor Weather

More sad news out of Nepal today, where there are reports that at least 17 trekkers have died over the past two days as a result of heavy snow and unusually bad weather in the Himalaya. The poor conditions have been spurred on by the arrival of cyclone Hud-hud in eastern India. While the storm isn't hitting Nepal directly, it is altering atmospheric conditions in the region, creating dangerous conditions in the mountains as a result.

According to CNN, a dozen of the travelers who have died were hiking in the Annapurna region, one of the most popular trekking destinations in the entire world. The group was hiking through the famed Thorung La Pass in Mustang district, located at 5416 meters (17,770 ft) when they were struck by an avalanche. So far, only four bodies have been recovered, with eight more still buried under the snow. The fear is that there may be many more trekkers stranded or killed in the mountains, but the poor conditions are making it impossible to know for sure right now, and disrupting communications to and from the area.

The other five trekkers who have been confirmed to have perished included four Canadians and one Indian travelers. They were exploring the remote Manang region yesterday, and their bodies were discovered today. The exact cause of death hasn't been made clear, but has simply been blamed on "heavy snow." That would indicate that perhaps another avalanche occurred.

Fall is a popular time for climbing and hiking in the Himalaya, but typically it isn't a dangerous time to be there, particularly for trekkers. It is unusual for backpackers to run into problems on the popular trekking routes, such as the Annapurna Circuit or the walk to Everest Base Camp. The incredibly bad weather is altering that perception however, as the CNN article indicates that 38 more trekkers were rescued by army helicopters today as well.

ANI Opens Remote Antarctic Mountain To Climbers for the First Time

ExWeb posted an interesting story yesterday about a remote mountain in Antarctica that has begun to see more climbing traffic in recent years, as mountaineers seek to summit the "Volcanic Seven Summits," which would be the tallest volcanoes on each of the seven continents. In the case of Antarctica, that mountain is the 4285 meter (14,058 ft) Mt. Sidley which has become accessible to teams thanks to logistical support and transportation provided by ANI (Adventure Network International).

ExWeb spoke to Steve Jones, a representative of ANI, who says that Sidley presents some unique challenges for mountaineers, not the least of which is its incredibly remote location. Each austral summer, numerous teams travel to Mt. Vinson, the tallest peak on the continent at 4892 meters (16,050 ft) as part of the process of climbing the Seven Summits. But Vinson's Base Camp is located just 150 km (93 miles) from the research station at Union Glacier. Sidley is actually 975 km (605 miles), which could quite possibly make it the most remote climbing destination on the entire planet.

As expeditions have ramped up on Sidley over the past few years, a couple of standard routes to the summit have become popular already. But Jones tells ExWeb that "... a strong party could pioneer its own route on Mount Sidley," indicating that there are still plenty of new routes that can be opened for those looking to explore this mountain further.