Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Video: Expedition to the Valley of the Dinosaurs

The Badlands of North Dakota are the site for this video, which takes us on a dinosaur hunting expedition with Tyler Lyson, a man who seems to have a knack for finding fossils hidden in the Earth. In this short documentary, Tyler is attempting to recover a rare, intact skull from a triceratops with the help of a group of amateur fossil hunters that he has invited along for the ride. While working on that discovery, he comes across another one that is equally astounding. Enjoy.

Valley of the Last Dinosaurs from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Video: GoPro Celebrates One Year Anniversary of the GoPro Awards

Last October, GoPro announced a novel program in which they paid users of their Hero cameras for sharing epic clips of their adventures. The program has become an overwhelming success to say the least. Over the course of the past 12 months, they have received submissions from 196 countries and paid out over $1 million in cash. To celebrate the first anniversary of the GoPro Awards, they've put together this short but sweet video comprised of clips from some of the best submissions the company has seen. The program still continues, so if you have awesome footage to share, find out how you can submit it here.

Video: What Was the Last Place on Earth to be Discovered?

Here's an intriguing question. What do you think was the last place on Earth to actually be discovered by man? Most researchers now believe that human life on our planet can be traced back to Africa, with man spreading out across the planet from there. Over thousands of years we migrated across the planet, settling in various places along the way. But have you ever stopped to think what part of the planet was the last to actually be found by humans?

That is exactly the subject of this video, which uses an animated map to show you exactly when certain destinations were discovered, with the timeline for many of them actually being quite surprising. For instance, who would have thought that North America was reached before Portugal for instance? There are plenty of other interesting little tidbits like that to be learned along the way too, with some remote places obviously taking longer to find than others.

So just what was the last place found by humans? I won't spoil the answer, but I will say that it will be quite logical once you learn where it is. There is definitely a lot of interesting things to learn here.

REI Invites Us to #OptOutside Again This Fall

Last fall, gear retailer REI made headlines when it announced that it would close all of its brick and mortar stores, as well as online shop, on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. Instead of chasing the almighty dollar on a day that should be about spending time with your family, the company elected to give all of its employees the day off, and encourage them – as well as the rest of us – to head outside for an adventure. They even used the hashtag #OptOutside to promote the movement, which was adopted by several other outdoor brands like Outdoor Research as well.

Yesterday, REI announced that it will again be closed on Black Friday, and that it is encouraging its employees and customers to skip the crazy shopping madness that is typical for the day, and instead head outside to enjoy some time with nature. That means that on November 25 all 149 REI stores will be closed, and the company's more than 12,000 employees will be free to spend time with friends and family, as well as pursue their favorite outdoor adventures.

In addition to that, over 275 national and local organizations are joining in on the fun this year as well. Those entities will also be encouraging their communities to #OptOutside on Black Friday too, as this movement seems to be picking up even more steam heading into its second year.

REI has also launched an activity finder on the #OptOutside website to help you find organized events, and other things to do, on November 25. That search engine lists local hikes, trail running outings, organized mountain bike rides, climbing excursions, skiing trips, and more. If you're at a loss for things to do where you live, this will surely help.

Obviously REI received a ton of publicity for its decision to close its doors on Black Friday last year. The company more than made up the revenue it would have made on that day with the exposure it received with the #OptOutside campaign. But it would be easy to dismiss this as just a marketing scheme if I hadn't met some of the representatives of the company a few weeks back. It is clear that the gear retailer genuinely cares about helping its staff, members, and customers to get outside and enjoy their time in nature, and while #OptOutside has been a good marketing campaign, the people who run the company definitely believe in the message they are sharing too. You don't find that in too many companies these days, and it is refreshing to say the least.

This attitude also makes it easy to want to support REI too. Which is exactly what I'll be doing on November 25. Hopefully you will too.

Antarctica 2016: Italian to Attempt Traverse of the Frozen Continent Again, Researcher Dies in the Field

Preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is now underway, with the advance team from ALE now arriving on the ice to prepare the permanent campsite at Patriot Hills for the arrival of the first skiers of the season. It will take them a few days to get the camp ready, and they'll spend a considerable amount of time preparing the runway that will allow the big Ilyushin aircraft to begin transporting supplies, crew, and explorers out to site. That typically begins around the end of October, although the weather ultimately decides when those flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile actually begin.

Elsewhere, the McMurdo Station on the Ross Iceshelf has started to return to life. The station is an important research outlet for the U.S., and during the Antarctic winter it is manned by just a skeleton crew. Now, essential personnel are arriving there to prepare for another busy season ahead as a full compliment of scientists, researchers, and military crew have started to flow in.

Similarly, the Russian base called Novolazarevskaya is also starting to come to life with its crew scheduled to begin arriving later this week. That station is manned and supplied out of Cape Town, South Africa, with the first flight planned for Friday, weather permitting of course. If all goes as planned, one of the passengers on that flight will be Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo, who will once again attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole.

Last year, Pontrandolfo made the same attempt, hoping to use his kite to cover large chunks of ground at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, he never was able to capture the winds like he had expected, so as a result his expedition was much slower than planned. He never managed to get much momentum going, and eventually had to pull the plug. Now, he's back for another go. Hopefully this season he'll have better luck. We'll of course be following his progress in the days ahead.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Video: The Mists of the Pyrenees in Timelapse

Shot over the course of four days, this clip takes us into the Pyrenees where we catch a glimpse of some of the beautiful landscapes found there. The timelapse photography used to make the video shows us the ebb and and flow of the clouds and mist that shroud the peaks of the mountains. At just a minute and a half in length, this is one of the most tranquil videos you'll see all week.

And to visit these settings for yourself, checkout this amazing travel opportunity from my friends at Mountain Travel Sobek.

To the Mist - 4K Timelapse from Mathieu Stanić on Vimeo.

Video: Zipline Base Jumping in Utah

In this video, a group of extreme athletes traveled to the amazing landscapes of Utah to attempt a version of BASE jumping that I've never seen before. It's called Zip-BASE and it involves first ziplining down a long line before letting go and parachuting back to Earth. In this case, that long zipline is spread out across a large canyon and looks like quite a ride in and and of itself. But, mid-way through the descent things get even more interesting. Looks like fun, but I never want to try this.

Ultimate Playground 4K (Zip-BASE jumping) from Negative4 Productions on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Altra StashJack Lightweight Running Jacket

Fall is here, which means cooler weather and unpredictable conditions that can make it much more challenging to know how to dress for our favorite outdoor activities. On some days you need a jacket, and on others you don't. And then of course there are those times when unexpected rain showers strike, making you wish you had brought a jacket with you even though you didn't think it was needed. That's exactly where the new StashJack from Altra comes in handy. It is a super lightweight option that has been so well designed that you won't ever have to decide whether or not you should bring it on your adventures.

A quick look at the technical specs for the StashJack provides some insights into why it is such a nice piece of kit. For example, it weighs just 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams), provides protection from both wind and rain, and it features a loose, tapered fit that gives your body room to move while taking part in fast-paced activities. It also includes some reflective highlights to help keep the wearer more visible in low conditions, and it is made with trimmed and flat locked seams that make it more comfortable to wear.

But, that is really just the beginning. Because what makes the StashJack so special is its ability to be stuffed into a tiny carrying pouch that comes complete with a built-in adjustable belt. This gives you the ability to wear the jacket around your waist until you truly need it, at which time it can be deployed in a matter of seconds without ever having the need to stop moving at all. The jacket even features an open back that is designed to wrap around your pack so you won't even have to remove it to put the jacket on.

The First Woman to Summit Everest Has Passed Away

Sad news for the mountaineering community, as the story broke late last week of the passing of Japanese climber Junko Tabei. While not as well known as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Tabei left her own mark on the world of mountaineering by becoming the first woman to summit Mt. Everest back in 1975 – some 22 years after Hillary and Norgay. She was 77 at the time of her depth.

Tabei was instrumental in opening up the sport of mountaineering for other women to follow, both in her home country and internationally. Back in 1969 she established a ladies-only climbing club back in Japan and began promoting the idea of women-only mountaineering expeditions. At the age of 35 she led a squad of Japanese women to Everest in an attempt to make the first female ascent of the highest mountain on the planet, proving that women could indeed reach that point in the process.

Throughout her climbing career, Junko visited more than 60 countries, scaling the highest peaks in each of those nations. In 1992 she became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits as well, as she stood on top of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she continued to pursue her dreams in the mountains right up until the end.

My condolences go out to Junko's friends and family. She was a towering figure in the mountaineering community who broke new ground for female climbers everywhere. Her visionary approach to climbing helped open the door for many other ladies to follow, and she will be missed.

Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Making Steady Progress on the Toughest Climb in the World

Remember last week, when I shared the news about Czech climber Adam Ondra preparing to make an attempt on the incredibly difficult and demanding Dawn Wall in Yosemite? At the time I had said that it seemed unlikely that he would be able to take on that epic ascent considering it was his first visit to the valley, and he hadn't even touched the rock there yet. On top of that, the Dawn Wall had only been completed once in the past, having famously been free-climbed in January of 2015 by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. But, it turns out I couldn't have been more wrong however, as Ondra is proving what many in the outdoor world already knew – that he just might be the best rock climber in the world today.

Ondra began his climb of the Dawn Wall last Monday – October 17 – and has been making steady progress up the face ever since. On his first day out, he managed to knock off seven quick pitches as he rapidly ascended the route, which falls along the southeast face of El Capitan, quite possibly the most famous rock climbing spot in the entire world.

But, being primarily a sport climber, Ondra found the Dawn Wall to be a different beast than he is use to tackling. By the time he finished those first seven pitches he was exhausted. Despite those challenges however, he did manage to reach the top of pitch 10 before darkness fell Tuesday, making it a very productive first couple of  day for sure.

Over the following few days of last week, Ondra continued to make progress, albeit at a slower pace on more difficult pitches. Heading into the weekend, he had reached pitch 15, which is rated a 5.14d and is considered the crux of the entire climb. There hasn't been update yet as to his progress on that particular challenge, but if he didn't get past it over the past couple of days, it will certainly be his primary focus as he starts his second week on the Dawn Wall.

If the 23-year old Czech climber can get over the next three pitches – and there is no indication that he won't – it is relatively easy sailing to the top from there. That means we could see a second ascent of what many consider the toughest rock climbing challenge in the world by the end of the week. Stay tuned for more updates. It's going to be fun to follow Adam's progress.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Video: The Living Landscapes of Colorado

We'll end the week with this beautiful video shot in Colorado where the stunning colors of autumn are in full display. We all know that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., but this is a great reminder of just how amazing the landscapes there can be. All it takes is one clip like this one, or a brief visit to the state, to understand why the people that live there love it so much.

Colorado - A Living Landscape 4K from Jason Hatfield on Vimeo.

Video: Riding Through an Enduro Playground in British Columbia

This short clip is part of Red Bull's "Raw" series, which is essentially a video that has been created to give viewers a great experience, but hasn't been heavily edited and lacks much in the way of special effects. In fact, this video doesn't even have any music. It is simply two-minutes of pure bliss as pro mountain biker Brandon Semenuk spends a day riding a beautiful trail in British Columbia. The results are spectacular.

Gear Closet: Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, I'm always looking for ways that I can shed weight from my pack without sacrificing functionality. Often that comes from packing more wisely, leaving behind nonessential items, and choosing the proper gear for any given trip. But sometimes those gains can come from discovering an item that is designed for those who like to travel fast and light, but don't want to have to make compromises along the way. The Stash water bottle from Hydrapak is just such a product.

Made from durable and flexible materials, the Stash is a collapsible water bottle designed to shrink down to a highly packable size when not in use. This makes it super easy to stow in your pack until you're ready to use it, at which time it expands back to its full size in a manner of seconds.

I carry the 1-liter version (it is also available in a 750 ml size) of the Stash with me when I hit the road, and I've found it to an excellent traveling companion. It is lightweight (3.1 oz/88 g when empty), and yet still plenty durable enough to survive plenty of use and abuse in the backcountry. My Stash bottle is capable of holding up to 32 oz of water when full, but can reduce down to just 1/5 its normal size when you're ready to tuck it away.

As if that wasn't enough, the bottle can be used to store both hot and cold beverages. It is rated for use at temperatures as high as 140ºF (60ºC) or it can withstand its contents being frozen too. That versatility makes it a great option for the trail or campsite, allowing you to take it anywhere you want to go, and still stay hydrated along the way.

The 1-liter version comes with a wide-mouth (63 mm) cap that makes it extremely easy to drink from. That cap has also been designed to fit most backcountry water filters too, allowing the Stash to be refilled directly from a stream or lake. That same opening comes in handy when you're pouring water out as well, for instance when you're filling a pot to boil water for dinner.

Team of British Explorers Heading to Bhutan in Search of the Yeti

The existence of a strange ape like creature living in the Himalaya is one of the more enduring (and endearing) myths of the past century. The animal, which is commonly known as the yeti or the abominable snowman, has been a part of the local lore for centuries, but managed to capture the imagination of westerners as explorers from other parts of the world delved deep into the mountains looking to climb peaks like Everest and Annapurna. Over the years, men like Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner have gone looking for this mountain ape, but other than uncovering a few stories and legends, everyone who has searched for it has come up empty. That hasn't stopped others from trying of course, including a new team of yeti hunters that is heading to Bhutan to find mythological beast.

According to this article in the Daily Mail, the team will be led by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who will take the group into Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary on a trekking expedition with the hopes of spotting the elusive creature. The remote setting, which is situated at 3530 metres (11,581 feet), is believed to be one of the yeti's habitats amongst the Bhutanese people. The rugged mountains there would be the perfect place for a rare animal to remain hard to spot.

For his part, Humphreys tells the Daily Mail that while he would love to find the yeti, he is a realist when it comes to these kinds of expeditions. He compares the Himalaya creature to Britain's own Loch Ness monster, which has continued to spark interest for decades as well. For him, this is just another chance to head out on an adventure, and to visit a place that is difficult for independent travelers to visit on their own. From the interview in the article linked to above, it seems that experienced traveler and adventurer is looking forward to the local cuisine as much as he is the thought of finding an animal that most believe doesn't exist. As far as excuses for launching an adventure, I've certainly heard of worse.

The expedition is being sponsored by the car manufacturer Škoda, with updates being posted to @ŠKODAUK or with the hashtag #YetiBhutan. I'm sure Alastair will also post updates to his website  and Twitter as well.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kuriki Calls it Quits on Everest, Vows to Return

One of the more interesting expeditions of the fall climbing season in the Himalaya has come to an end. Japanese alpinist Nobukazu Kuriki has announced that he is leaving Mt. Everest and will return home, bringing an end to his latest attempt to summit that mountain solo and unsupported.

You may recall that Kuriki launched a summit bid on the North Side of Everest on October 6, only to be turned back a couple of days later due to deep snow high up on the mountain. In that attempt, he made it as high as 7400 meters (24,278 ft) and was preparing for the final push to the top, but the route was covered in snow that came up to his waist. That heavy snow made it impossible to break trail on his own, so he wisely decided to descend back to Base Camp to reassess his options.

After spending a few days back in BC watching the mountain and regaining his strength, Kuriki took a look at the weather forecast and found it to be very unfavorable. The jet stream was moving over the summit of the mountain, making it impossible to summit for the foreseeable future. He realized that his chances of climbing Everest in 2016 were coming to an end, and his home team reports that he broke down in tears with the realization.

This was Nobu's sixth attempt at climbing Everest solo in the fall, and apparently it won't be his last. He has already said that he plans on returning next year to give it another go, and considering the level of determination we've seen out of him in the past, I would expect to see him back on the mountain again next year if at all possible.

Kuriki is an enormously popular figure in his home country, and in order to fund this expedition he launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Whether or not he can do that again remains to be seen, but part of the disappointment he has felt in not completing the expedition comes from the feeling of disappointing all of those who have supported him. As we all know however, mountaineering is not an exact science, and conditions have to be just right to be successful. Particularly on a peak like Everest when you are completely alone. Something tells me that his supporters understand this as well, and will be willing to back him again in the future.

To my knowledge this is the last expedition taking place on an 8000-meter peak in the Himalaya at the moment, although there may be a few smaller teams that have slipped below my radar. There are some ongoing climbs on 6000 and 7000 meters peaks however, so stay tuned for more updates as they happen.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 6)

Discovery Canada has released another episode of their fantastic series of mountaineering videos entitled Unclimbed. If you've been following along with the series, you know that it has been following climbers Gabriel Filippi and Elia Saikaly as they prepare to attempt the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks in Nepal. Up until now however, we've seen very little of the third member of the team – Pasang Kaji Sherpa. That changes with this episode however, as we are introduced to Kaji and learn more about his way of life. Born and raised in the big mountains, he is an expert mountaineer, and a crucial part of the team. Learn more in the clip below.

Video: First Person Ride From the Red Bull Rampage

The 2016 edition of the Red Bull Rampage was held last week in Virgin, Utah,  and as always it provided a host of spectacular video clips from this crazy downhill mountain bike event. To get a sense of what the riders face as the take on his crazy trail, take a look at the video below. It was captured by the helmet cam of pro rider Darren Berrecloth, who made a memorable ride along a route that I'd be reluctant to walk, let alone take my mountain bike on. This is two minutes of sheer terror for those of us who don't ride downhill on a trail that is anywhere close to this.

Gear Closet: First Look at Upcoming Gear From REI

 A few weeks back I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to Bryce Canyon where I would be treated to an early look at some new outdoor gear coming our way courtesy of REI. Typically, Bryce is a dry, warm place that is perfect for hiking and backpacking, but on our trip it turned out to be pretty much the exact opposite. The weather mixed in a little of everything, including sun, rain, sleet, hail, heavy rain, high winds, mud, snow, and yet more rain. And just to make things more interesting, there were even tornadoes and flash floods in the area too. In other words, it was the perfect conditions to test out new gear, even if the team wasn't especially comfortable, warm, and dry at all times. 

Over the course of a couple of days, I was able to test out some great new products and learn about them from the team that is designing them. There is a bit of a revolution going on right now inside REI, which has always made its own brand of packs, tents, sleeping bags, and apparel. But in the past, those products were generally seen as more affordable options when the bigger outdoor brands are out of your price range. Now how, those same items are all going through a dramatic redesign that will turn them into premium products that you'll want to carry with you on your outdoor adventures. They are being built to compete on the same level as The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and the other brands we've come to know and trust. This is a big step for REI, which will still offer these items at a very attractive price, but the performance of all of the gear is being fine tuned to be much better than in the past.

Most of these new items are scheduled for release in the spring of 2017, so if you're in the market for any of these pieces of gear, you'll have to be a bit patient. But, I can tell you that they are all worth the wait, and you won't be disappointed. They should all arrive in REI stores in time for next year's camping, hiking, and backpacking season. Best of all, company reps tell me they're also working on travel gear too, which means we should see some amazing things in the category in the future too.

Here's a sampling of what I saw:

Flash 45 Backpack
Built for traveling light – but not ultralight – this 45-liter pack is super comfortable, offers plenty of capacity, and is capable of carrying heavy loads over longer distance. I should know, as I tested this bag in Bryce Canyon under challenging conditions for two days carrying quite a bit of gear along with me. The pack includes REI's proprietary UpLift system, which allows you to dial in a great fit for the load you're carrying and your body type. It also has a nicely padded 3D contoured hipbelt, and a number of strategically placed pockets for stashing small items you want to keep close at hand. Best of all however, are the two water bottle pockets that can be easily accessed without ever having to take the pack off.

Casting Call: Adventure Capitalists is Looking For Outdoor Entrepreneurs

Do you have a great idea for a product or business that revolves around the outdoors or adventure travel? Are you looking for funding to get that idea off the ground? If so, the Adventure Capitalists want to hear from you. 

If you're not familiar with Adventure Capitalists, it is a television show on CNBC that features three hosts – Jeremy Bloom, Craig Cooper, and Dhani Jones – who also happen to be businessmen who are looking to invest in great ideas that revolve around the outdoors. They bring on potential partners to pitch them on their idea, and if they like what they hear they just might buy in and help get the project funded. The format is similar to ABC's Shark Tank, which has been a popular show for a number of years now. 

As Adventure Capitalists gears up for a new season, the producers have put out a casting call for new guests to have on the show. The team is looking for outdoor entrepreneurs who are looking for investors to help them take their products from a simple idea to reality. If that sounds like you, you can apply to be on the program by clicking here.  (Before applying, you may want to first check out the list of eligibility requirements as well. Those include being over 18 years of age, and a citizen of the U.S. or hold a visa to work within that country)

If you haven't seen the show before, it really is quite interesting. Some of the products that are pitched to the hosts are quite remarkable, while others are bit silly. It is fun to see what kind of ideas are floating around out there, and you might even recognize some of the people who are sharing their ideas. For instance, on one episode the founders of SlingFin tents appeared looking for funding on some new projects that they are working on. 

This is a legitimate opportunity to turn your great idea into a legitimate product. If you think you have what it takes, head on over to the Adventure Capitalists website now and apply for your chance to be on the show. Good luck! 

Australia to Host the Biggest Expedition Length Adventure Race Ever

In about three weeks time, the best adventure racing teams in the world will make the pilgrimage to Australia to take part in what is shaping up to be biggest adventure race of all time. That's because this year, the country plays host to the Adventure Racing World Championship, and the entire AR community is looking to get in on the action.

The XPD Expedition Race is this year's ARWC event and is scheduled to run from November 8 - 18. It will take place in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, and will cover approximately 600 km (372 miles) of tough backcountry terrain. As usual, coed teams of four will have to run, mountain bike, paddle, climb, and trek through a challenging course that most will be happy to simply complete, but the teams looking to stand on the podium will finish in about 4.5 days.

Of course, this is all standard fare for the world of adventure racing, which has been staging some of the toughest endurance competitions on the planet for years. But what makes this year's AR World Championship so special is that the starting list for the race includes 99 teams – the largest field ever for an event of this kind.

According to reports, those teams hail from 20 different countries across six continents. What's more, at least three of the four members of a given team must be from their country of origin in order to claim that home country. That means that this race isn't just about winning the championship, it is truly a competition between rival nations as well. With the tops teams coming from the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil, this should indeed be one of the most competitive races ever as well.

While the course for the race won't be revealed until just before the start of the race, we're told that it is a very straight forward affair. The course designers promise "no mandatory stops, no dark zones, no optional controls – pure adventure racing at its best!" Because of this, the race course will be open for just 8 days, making it one of the shortest and fastest World Championship events ever.

Right now, the teams that are competing in the race are in wrapping up their training, planning their travel, and packing their gear. They still have a couple of weeks before they set out for Australia, but those weeks will go by quickly, and the'll be setting off before they know it. It should definitely be a fun race for fans of the sport to follow. With so many great teams on hand, the competition should be fierce. Of course, I'll share updates once the race is underway as well.

Good luck to all of the athletes, event organizers, volunteers, and support crew who will be at the event. I know from first hand experience how challenging and demanding these races can be for everyone involved.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Video: Danny MacAskill's Wee Day Out

This video was released while I was away in Majorca, but it is so good that I thought that it was still worth sharing anyway. (And if you've already seen it, it's worth another look!) It follows biking phenom Danny MacAskill on his day off exploring the rural landscapes near Edinburgh. Travel along with Danny as rides through a series of pastoral settings in unique ways that only he can. Definitely a fun and entertaining video.

Video: The North Face Athletes Question Madness - Conrad Anker and Alex Honnold

Yesterday, I shared a video that launched a new brand campaign from The North Face that invited us to "Question Madness." The campaign celebrates the 50th anniversary of the company, which has become synonymous with outdoor adventure and exploration. Today, I have two more videos from that exemplify what the company is going for by introducing viewers to some of their sponsored athletes. In this case, those two people are mountaineer Conrad Anker and rock climber Alex Honnold. Check them out below.

Gear Closet: Catalyst iPhone 6/6S Waterproof Case

Okay, I'll admit it. For a very long time I was very resistant to putting a case on my iPhone. I always appreciated the sleek, thin lines that Apple had designed for the device, and adding a case usually changed that aesthetic drastically. On top of that, most cases I saw added weight and bulk that took away from the look and feel of the phone too. And some of the cases designed for use in the outdoors ended up impacting sound quality and ease of use as well. So, as a result, my iPhone went unprotected for years, and usually when I traveled to a remote location, I'd end up leaving it at home or somewhere safe where it couldn't be harmed.

But, as the speed and functionality of the device increased, and the camera continued to improve year in and year out, I've now started taking my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere. It serves as my mobile command center, allowing me to take notes, share images and impressions of the place I visit, snap amazing photos, keep in contact with friends and family, and navigate foreign cities with ease. And since the device is now a constant companion during my adventures, I found that I needed a case to help protect it from the elements too. Finding the right one however, took some time and plenty of trial and error. But finally, I've found what just might be the perfect match for my particular needs in the form of the Catalyst Case for iPhone 6S.

As mentioned, one of the things I have always disliked about most iPhone cases is that they change the look of the device, and add a lot of bulk as well. This is especially true of a case that has been designed for use in the outdoors, which typically brings a measure of protection from dust, accidental drops, and water. The Catalyst Case does all of that, but manages to do so without turning your elegant-looking device into a massive brick. That's because it has been unique designed to provide a high level of protection with the most minimal amount of material necessary. In fact, it is easily the thinnest and lightest protective armor I have ever seen for a smartphone.

That doesn't mean that Catalyst skimped on the specs however. This case can keep your iPhone safe from water down to a depth of 5 meters (16.4 ft). It is also dust, sand, and snow proof, and is rated to survive a drop of 2 meters (6.6 ft) onto a hard surface. In other words, it was built for use in rugged, demanding environments, and should be able to keep our precious devices from suffering an untimely demise.

Researchers Discover Two Hidden Chambers Inside Egypt's Great Pyramid

It seems the discoveries just keep coming in Egypt, a civilization thousands of years old with plenty of monuments to prove it. Researchers in Cairo now say that they have discovered "cavities" inside one of the most well known and iconic structures on Earth – the Great Pyramid itself.

The discovery was made using imaging technology called muography. This technique uses special equipment to analyze radioactive particles known as muons. Analysts can detect where the particles are most dense or least dense to help create an image of the interior of spaces. In this way, it works much like ground penetrating radar, providing a map of the interior of the pyramid itself. 

According to reports, the team conducting the study says that they are "now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the North Face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid.” The team added that “The precise shape, size, and exact position of this void is now under further investigation. It should be done with the help of 12 new Muon Emulsion plates that are installed in the descending corridor, and will be collected by the end of October 2016.”

The same researchers say that they have also located a second "void" in the structure that is located behind the descending corridor inside the pyramid as well. This corridor is the one that leads directly down into the structure to the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu, who had the pyramid constructed as his burial chamber some 4500 years ago. 

What does all of this mean? We'll just have to wait for further information to know for sure, but it could confirm the existence of hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid. What those chambers could contain would be open to speculation of course, but anyone who has ever been inside these structures can tell you that they are unimpressive other than from an architectural/construction sense. Unlike the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the walls are not covered in hieroglyphs or painted in ornamental styles. Instead, they are bare, smooth, and colorless. The corridor and chambers are relatively small, and even a bit claustrophobic. But, it is possible that important items for Khufu were stashed in these spaces to prevent them from being looted by thieves.

Of course, it is also hard to get too excited about these "discoveries" considering the hype that was made last year about possibly finding the tomb of Nefertiti hidden inside that of the boy-king Tut. Those claims later seemed to have been proved false, although archaeologists continue to research the findings. Will this be a similar story? If these chambers inside the Pyramid are real, will they hold anything of value? Or are they just part of how the structure was made? It will likely be months before we know for sure, but it is definitely intriguing to think about. 

Antarctica 2016: A New Season Set to Begin

It may be hard to believe but the calendar now reads late-October, which means the 2016 Antarctic season is set to begin in just a few short weeks. Typically, the arrival of November also marks the start of another busy season on the frozen continent, where once again this year we'll find plenty of interesting stories to follow, including several full-distance ski expeditions to the South Pole and beyond.

A few days back, Explorers Web posted a good rundown of the expeditions to keep an eye on. Two of the more interesting attempts at crossing the Antarctic this year are being made by women with Emma Kelty and Johanna Davidsson both making solo and unassisted ski trips along the traditional route to the South Pole, which begins at Hercules Inlet. Both of the ladies also plan on getting resupplied at 90ºS, before returning to their starting point as well. Kelty will ski the same route back, while Davidsson will use kites to cover the return trip much more rapidly.

They'll be joined out on the ice and along the same route by Canadian Sébastien Lapierre, who is attempting to become the first person from his country to make the journey solo and unassisted as well. As ExWeb points out, Lapierre is not stranger to the colder regions of our planet, as he traveled through part of the Northwest Passage in a Kayak back in 2013.

A Swedish man by the name of Aron Andersson is also heading out on the ice, and although he won't be going solo or unsupported, his story will likely be quite an inspiring one. Andersson is a quadriplegic, so he'll be making the journey in a specially designed sled that he can push along using his arms. He'll be guided to the Pole by Doug Stoup, and they'll follow a shortened route that begins at the Leverett Glacier and ends at the bottom of the world. They estimate it will take about 30 days to complete the 510 km (316 mile) journey.