Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mountain Hardwear Is Giving Away Free Campsites This Summer

Mountain Hardwear is so committed to helping us get outside this summer that they're actually giving away free campsites. The gear company has joined forces with Hipcamp to provide free access to three amazing camps located in California, Wyoming, and New York, with visitors able to reserve a spot for two consecutive nights.

The three campsites include Clear Creek Ranch in Northern California, Grand Tetons Climber's Ranch in Wyoming, and The Gunks in New York. Each is of these private campsites offer beautiful outdoor settings that are perfect for a short escape to the backcountry, particularly during the warm summer months.

Reserving the sites is incredibly easy. Simply go to this website and look for the location that you are interested in visiting. Then, select the dates that you would like to stay at that location, and check to see if they are open. From there, you can book the site absolutely free.

If the dates you are looking for aren't available, don't fret. Mountain Hardwear plans to open more dates throughout the summer, and will send emails to campers to alert them that they are available. Announcements of new open dates will also be made on MHW social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

You can find out more at the Mountain Hardwear Blog here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Off to Alaska for ExpeditionAK!

Tomorrow I'll depart for Alaska, where I'll be serving as part of the team that is putting on the 2015 Expedition Alaska adventure race. As I write this, we're still more than a week away from the start of the event, but it is time to begin prepping for the arrival of the teams, wrapping up scouting of the course, and getting ready for gear and skills checks. There is a lot to do before the start of this epic event, which promises to be an amazing experience for everyone involved.

For those who aren't familiar with Expedition Alaska, it is a 7 day race that will take place in the wilds of Kenai Peninsula. We'll have 25 teams of elite adventure racers competing on a course that will stretch for more than 350 miles (560 km). They'll be competing against one another in a wide variety of stages that involve trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, and more. The action is non-stop, which means once the gun sounds at the start of the event, the clock will be constantly running, and it will be up to the teams to decide when they stop for a rest, when they press on, and just how they navigate from one checkpoint to the next.

Expedition Alaska is also a part of the Adventure Racing World Series, and a qualifying event for the AR World Championships that will be held in Brazil this November. As you can imagine, we are pretty excited to be a part of that organization, and we're hoping to put on a great race that it worthy of the ARWS.

While I'm in Alaska, I will be posting regular updates on the progress of the event, and sharing some of the things that are happening there. But, as is typical with an AR race, time may be in short supply, so blog articles may not come as regularly as I would typically like. On top of that, I won't return home until July 6, which is just five days before I get married. That means there could be further disruptions to the blog content for a few weeks. Please be patient with me until I can get back to a more typical schedule.

Thanks and stay tuned for lots of great things to come!

Video: Itatiaia National Park Timelapse

Brazil's first national park is a place called Itatiaia, which was established back in 1937. Known for its rocky, mountainous terrain, the park offers a remote sanctuary for wildlife and a wonderful retreat from the bustling cities of Rio and São Paulo. This video takes us into that amazing place and gives us a great tour of the landscapes that can be found there. The timelapse images on display begin with some general shots of the flora in the park, but later we see the mountains and clouds, and eventually the stunning starscapes that can be found overhead, all set to some peaceful music that fits the mood perfectly.

Itatiaia National Park Time Lapse from Marcius Clapp on Vimeo.

Video: NBC News Discovers Wingsuit Flying

It is always interesting when the mainstream media discovers an outdoor or extreme sport, and gives it some exposure. Last night, NBC News did just that with its brief exposé on wingsuit flying, which you'll find below. While this video, which features the GoPro Bomb Squad, was part of the nightly news, it was also part of a documentary that aired on CNBC last night entitled "The New High: Extreme Sport," which took a look at a number of the activities that many of us follow or participate in. The one-hour special not only examined wingsuit flying and BASE jumping, but also obstacle course racing, kiteboarding, and other "extreme" activities. The show is likely to air again over the weekend, so if you get a chance, give it a look. I haven't seen it myself, and I'm curious as to how it came out. In the meantime, you can get some solid ariel footage from the clip below.

Gear Closet: Canada Goose Trenton Jacket

Cold weather gear is essential for anyone who enjoys being outdoors all year round. Being able to stay warm during the winter, or when visiting cold weather destinations, brings a sense of freedom that can be exhilarating, and provides an opportunity to pursue our passions, even when conditions aren't exactly at their best. 

That is exactly what the Trenton Jacket from Canada Goose was designed for. This is a soft-shell that was made for adventure, and designed to keep you warm and dry when the weather is at its worst. If you frequently play outside in cold conditions, than this will be an article of clothing you'll want to add to your own gear closet. 

If you're not already familiar with Canada Goose, they are a company that has been making high quality outdoor clothing – mainly jackets and parkas – for nearly 60 years. Their gear has been worn on expeditions to the North and South Pole, climbs up Everest and other major mountains, and in extreme winter conditions across Alaska, Canada, and many other parts of the world. Over the years, Canada Goose has built itself a reputation for creating innovative gear that performs well in the coldest environments, and that is a legacy that is richly deserved. 

Summer Climbing 2015: ExWeb Updates All Team Positions

The summer climbing season is nearly set to begin in Pakistan, and the teams there are now starting to move into position. We're still a few days away from the first squad reaching Base Camp, but it won't be long now until we'll start to see a steady stream of updates from the mountains. In preparation for the season officially getting under way, ExWeb has posted a comprehensive round-up of where each of the teams is currently located, and what their objectives are for the weeks ahead. As is usual for this time of the year, the focus will be squarely on Gasherburm I and II, Broad Peak, and of course K2.

It looks like the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux and Köbi Reichen will be the first into BC on K2. The team has been in country for a couple of weeks now, and were delayed by bureaucratic issues, but finally started the trek earlier in the week. They are now three days away from reaching the mountain, which should put them in on Monday of next week. The team reports that conditions are very warm there at the moment.

The Himex team headed to both K2 and Broad Peak this summer is about to start their trek. They were scheduled to travel to Askole by jeep today, which is where the trail actually begins. It typically takes about 7-8 days to reach BC, so don't expect them to get settled on the mountain until next weekend. Five-time Everest summiteer David Tait, who is climbing with the squad, has been posting regular dispatches about his experience in Pakistan so far. He has done a good job of keeping readers up to date on their progress.

The other major commercial team on K2 and Broad Peak this summer will be led by Madison Mountaineering. ExWeb indicates that the team is still gathering in Islamabad, and has yet set out for Skardu, the regional town that serves as the launching point to those mountains.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Video: Winter Cave Diving in Sweden

First discovered back in 1979, the Dolinsjö Cave is located underwater, making it extremely difficult to explore. But each year, a team of divers visits the cave during the winter, continuing to map out its depths in an attempt to determine just how large it actually is. So far, they've gone as deep as 1.7 km (1.05 miles), and have yet to locate the end of the cave. In this video, those divers take us along on one of their expeditions, giving us a look at the efforts they make in the name of exploration. It is a fascinating experience for sure, and I give these men a lot of respect for what they do. It can be very dangerous, and yet they press ahead into the unknown none the less.

Underground Movement: Cave Diving in Jämtland from Klättermusen on Vimeo.

Video: Utah's Stunning Landscapes in Timelapse

Utah has some of the most amazing landscapes in the entire western United States, if not the world. Its rocky, wind-swept expanses, are truly beautiful to behold, often creating an almost otherworldly feel. In this video, you'll get the chance to see some of those iconic places captured in timelapse in stunning fashion. This short video is a marvel to behold, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Remnants from Nate Atwater on Vimeo.

Video: The Land of the Long White Cloud

Shot over an amazing week of hiking in New Zealand, this wonderful video introduces us to all the possibilities for adventure that that country holds. Everything from dramatic landscapes, to tranquil skies and flowing rivers are on display, while thoughtful narration by Alan Watts plays over the entire three-miune clip. It is quite a powerful video with some truly spectacular scenery.

The Land of the Long White Cloud from Tim Eddy on Vimeo.

Nepal Lays Out Plan For Tourism Revival

Less than two months after a devastating earthquake rocked the country, Nepal is already attempting to plot a course for the recovery of its vital tourism industry. Earlier this week the government there formed a committee to lead the revival of Nepal's travel industry, although the group faces significant challenges in that endeavor. 

The 36-member panel includes some notable names within the tourism and business development sectors within Nepal. The committee has already determined that it will take roughly Rs 21 billion ($205 million) to get recovery efforts back on track, and to that end they are seeking investments both locally and internationally. Those funds will go to repairing damaged infrastructure, including rebuilding some important cultural and heritage sites that were devastated by the April 25 earthquake. 

The committee has also been charged with the important task of attempting to right the ship on Nepal's mountaineering industry as well. Climbing expeditions on Mt. Everest and other major peaks ceased this spring due to the quake, which caused an avalanche near Everest Base Camp that claimed the lives of 18 people. That follows on the heels of last year's disaster in which 16 Sherpas were killed in an avalanche higher up the mountain. That tragedy abruptly ended the 2014 season as well, leaving the entire climbing sector in disarray. 

Part of what the recovery team hopes to accomplish is to get the word out that most of trekking routes and mountains are completely safe in the wake of the earthquake. Only parts of Lantang and the Manaslu Trail remain effected by the disaster. That means that most of Nepal is safe for travelers, and ready for foreign visitors to return. Unfortunately, not all of the infrastructure is in place, and fully operational just yet, although efforts are being made to correct that. 

Without a doubt, this tourism committee faces an uphill battle in reviving the industry in the near future. In addition to the challenges they face with mountaineers and earthquake recovery, the country is also still reeling from another natural disaster last fall. That's when an unusually powerful blizzard hit the Himalaya, killing more than 40 people – including foreign trekkers – and stranding hundreds along Nepal's trekking routes. Each of these events has given many the perception that Nepal simply isn't safe at the moment, which is causing some travelers to go elsewhere. 

The recovery process is certainly going to be a long one, but considering the natural resources and beauty that Nepal possesses I'm sure it'll get back to normal in time. Until that happens however, a lot of people that work in the travel industry there are going to struggle. 

American Woman Ends Bid to Row Across the Pacific

An American woman has ended her attempt to row solo across the Pacific Ocean just eight days into the attempt. Sonya Baumstein launched her bid back on June 7, departing from Choshi, Japan with the intention of reaching San Francisco, covering a distance of 6000 miles in the process. But last weekend she put out a distress call after her boat experienced several mechanical failures that put the entire journey into jeopardy.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Baumstein began her Pacific row by first experiencing sea sickness. That kept her close to the shore for a few days as she acclimated to her conditions. After that, she was able to find the Kuroshio current, which crosses the Pacific west to east, and would have aided her progress. At that point, all seemed to be going according to plan.

On Saturday, June 13, Sonya sent out a distress signal calling for assistance. At that point she was 250 km (155 miles) from shore. That is about the limit for a Japanese coast guard boat to conduct a rescue, and as she started to have issues with the boat, Baumstein decided it was too dangerous for her, and potential rescuers, to continue.

At some point early on the steering system on her row boat failed, and she was facing a very long journey without precise controls. Furthermore, the weather forecast looked ominous as well, so it seemed that the better part of valor was for her to pull the plug altogether. A passing freighter picked up her distress call and hauled her out of the water, and later handed her over to the coat guard.

As of Monday, Baumstein was on her way back to Japan. There is no word yet on whether or not she'll have another go at the crossing.

It should be noted that a number of reports indicated that Sonya was attempting to become the first woman to row across the Pacific solo, which we all know isn't true. Roz Savage completed that feat back in 2010, although she traveled east to west, and made the crossing in stages along a longer route.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Video: Traveling Through the Antarctic

Shot over a 16-day period spent in the Antarctic, this video gives viewers an amazing look at what it is like to visit the frozen continent. It contains spectacular shots of the landscapes found there, as well as some of the wonderful wildlife that exists on, and around, the Antarctic Peninsula. If you've ever wanted to visit Antarctica yourself, this will give you a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect there. With a running time of just over 8 minutes, it seems far too short. I hope you enjoy.

Antarctica from Kalle Ljung on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Bike Race Course Feature 999 Steps

The 2015 Red Bull Sky Gate mountain bike race, held in Tianmen Mountain National Park in China, features a course unlike any other. What makes it so unique you ask? Well, for starters it includes 999 steps to go along with the typical series of ramps, walls, and other obstacles. As you'll see in the video below, it isn't an easy course to navigate, testing the skill of riders often. Some weren't luck enough to come out unscathed, although for the most part it looks like they had a good time trying.

Thanks to Gear Junkie for sharing.

Video: Chris Sharma Climbs a Giant Redwood

We all know that Chris Sharma is one of the most talented climbers on the planet, but just in case you needed further proof, check out this video of him free climbing a giant redwood in California. The tree in question stands 252 feet (76.8 meters) in height, and was specifically selected because it lacked many lichens and moss growing on its trunk, and it was fire scarred from a natural fire that occurred in the past. Before making the climb, Sharma first consulted with biologists at the University of California, Burbank to ensure that he wouldn't damage the tree in anyway. With those hurdles cleared, he set out to make the ascent. As you'll see below, it was pretty spectacular.

Adventures in Egypt: Alexandria

Over the past few weeks I've been sharing some stories from my recent travels through Egypt as part of an itinerary hosted by G Adventures. During my visit there, I explored Cairo, walked in the shadow of the Great Pyramid, visited the ancient site of Abu Simbel, and hiked into the Valley of the Kings and Queens. I also wandered through the White Desert and visited the charming Siwa Oasis. For the final leg of the journey, my traveling companions and I left the remote regions of the Western Desert behind and traveled to Alexandria, a city with a long history that is also modern and vibrant.

I have to admit, I was a bit sad to leave Siwa Oasis behind when we set out for Alexandria. As much as was looking forward to seeing the city that was once the capital of Egypt under the rule of Alexander the Great, Siwa was such an enchanting place that even after spending a couple of days there, I wasn't quite ready to move on. Still, there were things to see and do elsewhere in Egypt, and our 2300 mile (3700 km) journey wasn't done just yet.

We struck out from Siwa in the early morning, as there were many miles to cover before we reached our destination. Traveling north out of the desert, we eventually reach Egypt's Mediterranean Coast. It was a revelation to see that body of water after spending days wandering through the dunes of the Western Desert. To celebrate, we stopped in the city of El Dabaa to not only stretch our legs on the long (8+ hour) journey to Alexandria, but to get a good look at what Egypt had to offer in terms of beaches. Unsurprisingly, those beaches were beautiful, giving us a great look at a section of the North African coastline that was simply gorgeous.

After spending a brief time in El Dabaa we were back on the road to Alexandria, although for the remainder of the journey we never wandered far from the coastline. To the south of us the desert still stretched into infinity, but to the north the Mediterranean Sea glistened blue in the mid-day sun. It was a spectacular contrast to behold, in a country that is full of contrasts.

Mt. Everest Moved 3 cm by Nepal Earthquake

As Nepal continues to rebuild and recover from the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took place there back on April 25, we are starting to get a better understand of just how powerful this seismic event actually was. According to new reports, the earthquake was so strong that it actually moved Everest 3 cm (1.2 inches) to the southwest. That might not sound like it is very far, but when you consider the size of the mountain – the tallest in the world – and the slow pace of geologic movement, it is an incredible shift.

Precise measurements of Everest's movements have been observed since 2005 when the Chinese placed a satellite tracking system on the summit. Since then, they have seen the mountain move about 4 cm (1.5 inches) to the north each year, and grow at a rate of about .3 cm (.11 inches). But the earthquake not only reversed the direction of the movement, it also shifted the peak nearly an entire year's distance in one sudden, jarring motion. That motion caused avalanches to occur on Everest, with 18 people losing their lives in Base Camp on the South Side.

Despite this massive shift, it does not appear that the mountain lost or gained any altitude. Instead, it appears that it shifted horizontally, without moving vertically in any way. Furthermore, the 7.5 magnitude aftershock that occurred on May 12 had no impact on the mountain at all in terms of movement.

The initial quake in April claimed the lives of more 8000 people, and destroyed hundreds of buildings throughout the Kathmandu Valley. It also brought an abrupt end to the spring climbing season, with most major expeditions taking place in Nepal shutting down in the aftermath of the disaster. It is unclear whether or not there are any plans to return to the mountain this fall, but numerous trekking teams have already canceled their trips that were scheduled to take place in the post-monsoon months.

In the greater scheme of things, this shift in Everest's location would have gone unnoticed were it not for the precise instruments installed on the summit. But, that said, in terms of geological forces at work, it does give us an indication of just how powerful this earthquake truly was. When mountains are literally shifting it is easy to understand why the destruction was so widespread and massive in its scope. Thankfully, recovery efforts are well underway, but it is going to take years for Nepal to fully get past this disaster.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Video: Trailer for An American Ascent

In June of 2013, a team of of all African-American climbers traveled to Alaska to climb the highest peak on the continent – Denali. That team would be the first of its kind on the mountain, and hoped to inspire others to follow in their footsteps in seeking outdoor adventure. A documentary film was made about that expedition called An American Ascent, and it is currently screening across the country. The video below is the trailer for that film, and will certainly give you the gist of what it is about. It will also compel you to seek out the film for yourself. Hopefully this comes to Netflix, as I'd very much like to see the whole thing.

An American Ascent - Film Trailer from Distill Productions on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking Nepal

We all know that Nepal is an amazing destination for climbing and trekking, but it is also becoming much more mountain bike friendly as well. As you'll see in this video, there is a lot to like for riders looking to explore the Himalaya from the seat of a bike. The video was shot in Shivapuri National Park on a ride hosted by Himalayan Single Track. It looks like it would be one fantastic way to see the country.

Video: Watch a Chilean Volcano Erupt in Timelapse

We've seen some impressive timelapse videos in recent months, but it is tough to compete with this one. It was shot back in April when the Chilean volcano Calbuco erupted dramatically. That event is caught beautifully in this short two-and-a-half minute clip which gives us a humbling display of the Earth's power. If you have a 4k monitor at your disposal, the video is also available at that resolution. I can only imagine how impressive that must look.

CALBUCO from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

Summer Climbs 2015: 6 Summit Challenge Continues in Pakistan

Earlier this year I told you about Nick Cienski and his 6 Summits Challenge. At the time, Nick was just about to embark on a massive undertaking that would see him attempt to climb six different 8000-meter peaks in a single year. He had hoped to knock off Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu this spring, but unfortunately the Nepal earthquake put an end to those ambitions. Now, Nick has shifted gears some, and identified three other mountains that he will attempt instead. With that goal in mind, he is now ramping up for an ambitious summer in Pakistan.

Following the April 25 earthquake that devastated Nepal, Nick and his team went to work lending support and aid to the country. As with many other climbers, their efforts have helped to rebuild the country that still has a very long road to navigate before any sense of normalcy returns.

In July, Nick will travel to Pakistan to relaunch the 6 Summits Challenge. He will now focus on climbing Broad Peak (8051 meters/26,414 ft), and both Gasherbrum I (8080 meters/26,444 ft) and II (8035 meters/26,362 ft). Together, these three mountains are the 11th, 12th, and 13th highest mountains in the world, and will make for a significant undertaking in the weeks ahead.

This isn't Nick's first time climbing in the region. In fact, he has climbed on Broad Peak twice in the past, reaching the summit back in 1990. He is likely to find that things are a bit different on the mountain now, with more teams visiting on an annual basis. The two Gasherbrum peaks will be a new challenge for Cienski, although after acclimatizing on BP, he'll probably go for a traverse that links the two summits in one long climb.

Following his Pakistani climbs, Nick will travel to Tibet in the fall, where he'll than attempt to summit Shishapangma (8027 meters/26,335 ft) and Cho Oyu (8201 meters/26,906 ft). After that, the plan is to travel back to Nepal to complete the challenge by summiting Manaslu (8163 meters/26,781 ft). Those expeditions are expected to take place immediately after he wraps up the summer triple-header, beginning sometime in late-August.

One thing that hasn't changed with the 6 Summit Challenge is that Nick is using it to raise funds for his Mission 14 organization. This nonprofit is dedicated to stamping out human trafficking, which continues to be a major issue in just about every corner of the globe.

I said it before, and I'll say it again. Summiting six 8000-meter peaks in a single year is going to be tough. Now however, it'll be even more challenging as Nick needs to complete the climbs in a smaller window of opportunity. We'll soon see if he is up to the task. You can follow his progress on Facebook and Twitter as he pushes forward in the weeks ahead.