Friday, March 06, 2015

Video: Fast Forward Through a Beautiful 4k Timelapse

Let's end the week with this beautiful video of timelapse images captured – in 4k no less – in New Mexico, Alaska, and various other places. It shows off a series of stunning landscapes and break taking night skies that simply have to be seen to be believed. From the mountains, to the desert, to the ocean, it's all covered incredibly well in this short three-minute clip. Enjoy!

Fast Forward - 4K Timelapse Short Film from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Video: Drones Over the Serengeti

While I was in Tanzania climbing Kilimanjaro I couldn't help but wonder what kind of awesome drone footage could be captured over the Serengeti – the premiere safari destination in the world as far as I'm concerned. It turns out I didn't have to wonder for long, as this video not only takes us to the savannah of Africa, it also stops at Lake Manyara and Ngorongro Crater too. As you can imagine, the scenery and wildlife are exceptional. Great footage from one of my favorite places on Earth.

DJI Inspire 1 // Tanzania from Electric Peak Creative on Vimeo.

Video: Thank You, Bicycle

This video expresses a sentiment that I'm sure many of us can relate to. It was created by filmmaker and pro rider Lars Veenstra and serves as a love letter to his bicycle. In it he shares everything he has learned over the years by riding his bike, with lessons that go well beyond just cycling. He talks about how his bike has taken him to the far corners of the globe, given him a sense of freedom, and challenged him to get better as a rider and a person. The short video includes some amazing clips of Lars riding amazing trails, performing daring stunts, and crashing more times than he cares to remember. In short, it perfectly encapsulates the lifestyle of a mountain biker, and I think you'll like it very much.

Thank You, Bicycle from Lars Veenstra on Vimeo.

Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor 2015: The Tusker Difference

This article is the third in a new series about my recent Kilimanjaro climb. In the days ahead, I'll be sharing several articles about the experience to help readers prepare for a potential trek of their own in the future. Read Part 1 and Part 2 respectively. 

As many of you know, my recent trip to Kilimanjaro was not my first visit to the mountain. I first visited the tallest peak in Africa back in 2007, climbing with a local guide service on what could best be described as an adequate, but no-frills, expedition. That operator – who shall remain nameless – was solid in every way, and I had few complaints than or now. But this time I went with Tusker Trail, the leading guide service on Kili, and the difference was like night and day. While both companies offer customers the opportunity to stand at the Roof of Africa, the journey to get there was a very different one. 

When I started working with Tusker on the Climb for Valor project I was immediately struck with how professional the company was at every stage of the process. Not only did the Tusker staff provide plenty of pre-trip information to have participants as prepared as possible for conditions on the mountain, they also gave us extensive gear packing lists and recommendations for medications and shots. They provide each of the members of the climbing team with contact information prior to departure, and went above and beyond to ensure that everyone was comfortable with what lie ahead. 

As you would expect, upon arrival representatives from Tusker were on hand to greet everyone at the airport and ensure that we all collected our bags and arrived safely at the lodge that served as home prior to the departure for the mountain. The staff that assisted us in Tanzania was just as friendly, helpful, and receptive as the those who had helped us back home prior to departure. In fact, the level of professionalism of every member of the Tusker crew was exceptional, ranging from customer service representatives to the guides and porters on the climb. It was truly impressive to see just how well trained each of these men and women were, and how dedicated they all are to making their customers happy and stratified. 

The 2015 Iditarod Gets Underway Tomorrow!

One of my favorite events of the year will kickoff tomorrow in Anchorage, Alaska, where the ceremonial start of the 2015 Iditarod sled dog race will take place. This year, 78 mushers will take to the line to compete in the "Last Great Race," a 1000-mile (1600 km) endurance run that will culminate at the finish line in Nome.

The streets of Anchorage will be lined with well wishers as the racers set out from downtown and head toward Campbell Airstrip just 11 miles (17 km) out of town. From there they'll head to the secondary starting point in Fairbanks where they'll return to the trail on Monday. The route has been moved about 225 miles (360 km) north to help make up for the lack of snow on the traditional route. Unlike some parts of the U.S., Alaska has not been covered in excess snow this winter, and it will now have an impact on the state's greatest sporting event. In fact, Anchorage typically sees 60 inches  (150 cm) of powder by now, but has only seen 20 inches (50 cm) so far.

This has caused race organizers to scramble to find an alternate route that will help keep the race moving forward. The path they have chosen will actually spend more than half of its time out on ice rather than snow, which should make for a vastly different race than ones we've seen in recent years. In fact, the ice could actually level the playing field, allowing just about anyone to have a shot at the win.

The field is a diverse one to say the least. It includes six former champions with the likes of Mitch and Dallas Seavey returning, as well as Jeff King, Lance Mackey, and a host of other very experienced and talented mushers. Iditarod veteran Brent Sass will be looking to capitalize on the momentum he received by winning the Yukon Quest last month as well.  There are also 20 rookies in the field too, and they are likely to get a baptism by fire with this challenging new course.

It is expected that it will take this year's winner about 10 days to reach Nome. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings and keep readers up-to-date as things unfold. If last year taught us anything it is that this race is always full of surprises, and I suspect there will be some amazing stories this time out too.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Video: Fresh Powder in the Himalaya

One doesn't usually think of India as a snowboard destination, but when pro-rider Elias Elhardt traveled to that country he discovered that the Indian Himalaya offer some of the best snowboarding imaginable. At that point, the trip went from an opportunity for cultural immersion to an incredible backcountry adventure on some of the highest mountains on the planet. This video is just a short clip from an upcoming ski and snowboarding movie, but it offers some amazing views of some remote places that few people ever see, let alone snowboard. Great stuff for sure.

Video: Touring Iceland Along the Ring Road

Ever wonder what it would be like to explore Iceland via its famed Ring Road? This route runs along the entire coast of the country, giving visitors an opportunity to visit some of the more scenic and remote areas that Iceland has to offer. The video below – shot by filmmaker/adventure trailer Connor Callaghan, takes us on a 12-day journey through the country. Things get off to a rocky start when Connor and his girlfriend first struggle with driving a manual transmission and then later start their cook stove on fire, but soon they fall into a natural rhythm and Iceland's enchantments take over. At just about 30 minutes in length, this is a bit of a long video to watch, but it is also a fun travelogue from what looks like a fantastic trip. It is filled with numerous personal moments, wonderful scenery, and great opportunities for adventure. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as it seems Connor enjoyed making it.

Team Seagate Wins GODZone Adventure Race in New Zealand

The home team favorites and defending adventure racing world champions Team Seagate proved that they are still a formidable force in the sport this week by taking first place in the GODZone Adventure Race in New Zealand. The team managed to hold off a field of 52 teams to claim the top of the podium once again, completing the 550+ km (340+ mile) event in just 4 days, 8 hours, and 28 minutes.

The GODZone race is the premiere AR event in New Zealand, a country that is synonymous with the sport. It is also part of the Adventure Racing World Series, which means that is serves as a qualifying race for the AR World Championships to be held in Brazil later this year. As is typical with all ARWS events, GODZone pits coed teams of four against one another in a non-stop endurance event that mixes trail running, mountain biking, paddling, and various other disciplines including climbing and abseiling.

While the race is still ongoing at this time, many of the teams have reached the finish line and the podium spots are now secure. Coming in second was Team Columbia Vidaraid with a time of 5 days, 3 hours, and 57 minutes, while Team Tiki Tour claimed third place by finishing in 5 days, 7 hours, and 52 minutes.

For Seagate this was just another opportunity for the team to flex its muscles on its home territory. The team has now won all for editions of the GODZone race and doesn't appear to be slowing down in any way. The squad, which consists of AR legend Nathan Fa'avae, Sophie Hart, Chris Forne, and Stu Lynch are now poised to defend their world championship in Brazil this November. By winning the GodZone they automatically receive an entry into that race months before it is set to take place.

You can find out more about this race, and check out the full standings, at

Gear Closet: Pelican Vault Case for iPad Mini

One of the few symptoms that I suffer from being at high altitude is an inability to sleep. This can lead to some long nights in a tent as you wait for morning to arrive. With this in mind, on my recent trip to Kilimanjaro I decided to take my iPad Mini along to keep me entertained with books, magazines, music, movies, and games. This strategy proved to be a winning one, as often when I woke up in the night, if I read for a bit, I would find myself growing tired once again, and I'd manage to eke out a little more sleep. The problem is, taking a fragile and expensive tablet to a place like Kilimanjaro can be a recipe for disaster. Keeping your precious technology devices safe in that kind of environment can be a real challenge. Fortunately, I wrapped my iPad in a Vault case from Pelican prior to departure, giving it an almost impenetrable suit of armor for the journey.

The Vault case includes everything you would expect to keep your tablet safe in just about any environment. It features a rubber edge seal designed to prevent dust and sand from getting to the iPad's internal circuitry, which is most vulnerable to those kinds of elements. It also keeps water out as well, although the case is not waterproof and does not provide protection from full immersion.

The tough outer shell that the Vault provides is strong enough to absorb just about any impact, and is rated to withstand drops of up to 1.2 meters (4-feet) in length. That should cover most accidental slips, and will keep the tablet safe from getting jarred too heavily in transit or being squeezed inside a backpack or duffel bag as well. On Kilimanjaro I kept the tablet with me almost the entire time, but had to relinquish it to save weight on Summit Day. I felt confident that it was safe in the hands of the porters however thanks to the durability of Pelican's case.

Winter Climbs 2015: Resupply on Nanga Parbat Extends Expedition

It has been very long season on Nagna Parbat, where one team continues to struggle with the mountain in an attempt to complete the first winter ascent of that peak. An aborted summit attempt last weekend sent the three Iranian climbers that had been a part of the international expedition home, while Spanish climber Alex Txikon, Italian Daniele Nardi, and Pakistani's Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Muhammad Khan remain with the faint hope of getting another chance to summit. But time is running low, the window for success becomes narrower with each passing day.

A few days back the team ran out of some of the more important food staples including eggs, flour, and sugar. Kerosine for the generators is also starting to run low as well, but fortunately the team is expecting the weather to clear enough today for a group of porters to shuttle up a resupply to Base Camp. The squad has been stuck there all week with a steady downpour of snow bringing an accumulation of more than five feet (1.5 meters) over the past few days.

For now, the four climbers are content to see wait for Mother Nature to provide them with one last weather window before the official end of winter arrives on March 21. That is still more than two weeks away at this point, so the hope is that perhaps early next week conditions will improve enough for them to head back up. Considering how much snow has fallen in recent days however, they may find the trail above them to be nearly impassable. Climbing through such deep snow is exhausting work at any altitude, but on an 8000 meter peak it is excruciating. All of that snow will also lead to instability on the upper flanks of the peak, which means avalanches become a greater threat as well. When the weather does improve, the team will want to wait a few days just to let things stabilize before they proceed up.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Video: The Himalaya From 20,000 Feet

Our friends at Teton Gravity Research have released a magnificent video that gives us a glimpse of the Himalaya as we've never seen them before. Shot over Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam, the short clip takes us to 20,000 feet (6096 meters) to shoot the stunning mountain landscapes of Nepal using specialized equipment that provides the most stable and crystal clear images of the mountains yet. The journey begins in Kathmandu at 4600 feet (1402 meters) and eventually lead up to as high as 24,000 feet (7315 meters). Along the way, we are treated to quite the views. Enjoy!

The Himalayas from 20,000 ft. from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo.

Video: Rafting Tutea Falls in New Zealand

Tutee Falls in New Zealand is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. While it doesn't look like much compared to some of the major waterfall drops we've seen in the past, it definitely looks like it is a lot of fun. Add in the fact that any rafting crew can go over the falls, and you start to see why it is a special place. Add this to the every growing list of reasons you need to visit New Zealand.

Winter Climbs 2015: Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger Abandon Manaslu Climb

It looks like Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger's attempt to summit Manaslu in winter is over before it ever really got a chance to get underway. Reports indicate that the duo have called for an evacuation from the mountain following a very close call with an avalanche yesterday. They'll now head home and regroup of potential spring expeditions in the Himalaya instead.

The two climbers arrived on the mountain on February 20 with good weather welcoming them to Base Camp. This allowed them to quickly establish Camp 1 and begin scouting the route. Soon there after however the weather too a turn for the worse, with heavy snow falling over the past few weeks. In fact, Simone and Tamara spent much of their time simply shoveling snow to keep the area around BC clear.

Yesterday, while resting in their tent, they heard a deep rumble above them and knew that an avalanche was taking place it swept down the mountain, bringing five meters of snow with it, just outside of their campsite. That close call was enough of a sign to tell them that the mountain is no longer safe, and that it is time to go home.

At the moment, the two climbers are stranded in Base Camp. It is unsafe for them to descend on their own, as the danger of further avalanches is too high. They have called for a helicopter to come pick them up, but the weather is so poor that it is impossible to fly. It could be another day or two before they are evacuated from the mountain, depending on the weather.

This leaves just the team on Nanga Parbat struggling to summit an 8000-meter peak this winter. That squad is back in Base Camp as well at the moment following a failed summit bid this past weekend. Whether or not they make another attempt at the top of that mountain remains to be seen, with the weather ultimately dictating their chances.

Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor 2015: The Team

This article is the second in a new series about my recent Kilimanjaro climb. In the days ahead, I'll be sharing several articles about the experience to help readers prepare for a potential trek of their own in the future. Read Part 1 here

No matter what kind of trip you go on, the people that you travel with will have a huge influence on your overall experience. If you don't happen to enjoy the personalities of the people you are traveling with, you'll end up having a terrible time. Conversely if you are accompanied by a truly special group, even the most mundane of excursions can turn into a truly memorably one. Kilimanjaro is far from mundane however, and fortunately for me I was able to share it with an incredible group of people, making the climb all that more enjoyable. 

As mentioned previously, I traveled to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro as part of Tusker Trail's inaugural Climb for Valor. This very special trek was put together to raise funds for the Duskin & Stephen's Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating scholarships for the children of fallen U.S. special forces soldiers. Through the Climb for Valor, Tusker was able to raise more than $100,000 to contribute to this fund, kicking off this first effort in grand style. 

With such a highly focused theme to the climb it should come as no surprise that Tusker was able to attract a number of participants from within the U.S. special forces family. Not only did we have two active-duty Green Berets join us on the trip, but the widows of three fallen soldiers as well. For security purposes I won't mention any specific names, but these men and women came to Kili with a purpose. They not only wanted to summit for a good cause, they also had their own very personal reasons for wanting to climb the mountain as well. 

Lost City Discovered in Honduras

A team of researchers and archaeologists emerged from the rainforests of Honduras last week bearing amazing news. The group has discovered an ancient lost city that belonged to a civilization that thrived a thousand years ago, then suddenly vanished altogether. The city is believed to be the legendary "White City" or the "City of the Monkey God," which is only referred to in old tales. In fact the civilization lived in parallel with the Maya for a time, but so little is known about them that the people don't even have an official name.

Apparently the city was completely abandoned by the people that inhabited it centuries ago. As a result, archaeologists now get a peek at what day-to-day life was like there. Although the structures are mostly covered in overgrowth and sediment, there were reportedly as many as 52 artifacts that were visible upon first survey. Those included statues, monuments, ceremonial seats, and other finely crated items.

The exact location of the site has not been revealed so as to protect it from looters, but we do know that it is in a remote area of the rainforest in a valley known as La Mosquitia. The region is dominated by swamps, rivers, and mountains, making it very difficult to pass through. The explorers who discovered it documented their findings, but mostly left it undisturbed until they can return with a proper team to begin further excavation.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Video: New Zealand: Mountains to Sea

The landscapes of New Zealand are captured incredibly well in this short video which takes us across some of that country's most wild places on a journey from the mountains to the sea. Timelapse imagery captures the natural beauty that New Zealand is so well known for, and it puts it prominently on display for viewers. This is a visual travelogue of a place that is known for its outdoor adventures.

Mountains to Sea from Stephen Patience Photography on Vimeo.

Video: Joshua Tree - More Than Just A Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most spectacular landscapes that I've ever had the honor of witnessing. It is a wild place filled with rolling desert, immense rocks, and a surprising amount of wildlife. The essence of Joshua Tree is captured oh-so well in this video, which was shot as part of the More Than Just Parks Project, in which filmmakers Will and Jim Pattiz have embarked on a journey to create a short film documenting every national park in the U.S. Beautiful and haunting, this clip will definitely put Joshua Tree on your list of must visit places.

MTJP | Joshua Tree from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

CheapTents Interviews Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Way back in 2008 conducted an interview with Swedish explorer Mikael Strandberg. At the time, Mikael had already racked up an impressive string of expeditions that included a 3000 km (1864 mile) journey across Patagonia on horseback, as well a 1000 km (620 mile) expedition on foot across the Maasai Mara in Africa. He also had explored Siberia by skies and canoe, as well as cycled from Chile to Alaska, amongst other journeys. Now, seven years later, CheapTents has posted a follow-up interview where they discover that Mikael hasn't been resting on his laurels.

In the interview, Mikael talks about his return to Siberia, where he traveled amongst the Reindeer People who inhabit that cold and desolate region. The explorer talks about the challenges of preparing for such a journey. For instance, he put on 20 kilos (44 pounds) of weight to better adapt to the cold, but found himself out of shape an unable to move has quickly and easily as he would typically like. Mikael also talks candidly about his experiences in this remote area, where the nomadic way of life is becoming increasingly rarer. 

Switching gears from the frozen wilds of Siberia to the hot deserts of Yemen, Strandberg also traveled by foot through the Al Mahra desert. Of that journey, Mikael says "The Yemenis are among the friendliest, warmest and nicest people on earth. And it deserves better than some poor job done by Western media just looking to sensationalize things." Clearly his experience there was far different than the stories we are generally fed through traditional outlets. 

Mikael goes on to share insights on the different challenges of traveling through extremely cold and extremely hot environments, his interactions with the people that he meets along the way, and what it was like to conduct a long-distance expedition across England. All in all, it is very interesting an eye-opening interview that I'm sure many of you will enjoy. 

Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor 2015: The Route

This article is the first in a new series about my recent Kilimanjaro climb. In the days ahead, I'll be sharing several articles about the experience to help readers prepare for a potential trek of their own in the future. 

As many of you already know, there are a number of routes that trekkers can use to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. Those routes include Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Each of them includes unique characteristics and features which makes them stand out from one another. For instance, the Marangu route is generally considered the easiest – relatively speaking – and features a series of huts for climbers to stay in along the way. As a result, it is often more crowded as well, which can certainly have an impact on the experience. On the other hand, the Machame route is widely regarded as the most scenic, although it is is also very challenging and steep. Each of the others have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on the experience you most want to get out of the climb.

When selecting the route for the Climb for Valor, the team at Tusker Trail decided that they wanted to do something a little different. The idea was to give the climbers on our team a complete unique look at the mountain, along a route that is seldom hiked. We began by entering Kilimanjaro National Park at the Londorossi Gate and proceeding up the traditional Lemosho Route along the western flanks of the mountain. At that stage of the climb we were passing through rainforest, with the trail meandering up to our first campsite located at Mti Mkubwa at about 2795 meters (9170 ft).

The next day we continued upwards out of the forest and entered a new vegetation zone dominated by overgrown heather. At that point, we were still following the Lemosho Route up to Shira Plateau, which afforded us our first truly great look at the mountain. From that vantage point it appeared impossibly tall and still very far away, but Kilimanjaro now loomed over us, giving us a clear idea of what we had come to do. We camped that night at Shira Camp, which is located at 3505 meters (11,500 ft).

On Day three we began to divert from the Lemosho Route at last and ventured out onto the all-but abandoned Northern Circuit of the mountain. At this point, we left all other teams behind and had the trail completely to ourselves. While we weren't exactly overwhelmed with crowds along the trail, it was refreshing to have the place to ourselves. After a full day of hiking to the Moir Camp (4164 meters/13,660 ft), Kili seemed much closer. It became abundantly clear that the summit was indeed an obtainable objective, and soon we would start to head up in ernest.

Alan Arnette Officially Announces Lhotse Expedition, Shares Gear For Everest

Back in early January, Alan Arnette announced his intention to become just the second American to climb all 14 of the world's 8000 meter peaks. Having already successfully topped out on Everest, Manaslu, and K2, he will now set his sights on the remaining 11 mountains starting with Lhotse this spring. The initiative is part of Alan's ongoing efforts to raise awareness and funds to fight Alzheimer's, an affliction that he has a very personal connection with having lost his mother to the disease a few years back. To date, his efforts have reached more than 50 million people, and he had raised $250,000 for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. With Project 8000, he hopes to raise those numbers to 100 million and $1 million respectively.

This spring Alan will travel to Nepal where he'll be attempting to summit Lhotse, the 8516 meter (27,940 ft) neighbor to Everest. In fact, the two mountains are so close that they share much of the same route to the top, as mountaineers go up the Lhotse Face before diverting in separate directions. Much of the climb will be very familiar to Alan, who has spent plenty of time on Everest in the past. This should make his climb a bit easier, as he won't be facing a completely new experience while scaling this Himalayan giant.

Alan will depart the U.S. on March 30 and soon there after he'll begin blogging about his adventure both from the trail, and Everest Base Camp. Throughout the spring, we'll be able to get some very candid and personal dispatches from the climb, which should make for a very enjoyable experience for those that follow along. Alan writes with an engaging style that makes it fun to follow his efforts, and I'm sure he'll keep readers posted about any and all developments on the mountain.

Speaking of Everest, we're now just a month away from climbers setting out for Kathmandu, and in the days ahead they will be frantically packing all of their gear and preparing for the challenge ahead. Just what equipment they bring with them is crucial to their comfort on the mountain, and eventual success on a summit bid in late May or early June. With that in mind, Alan has also written a very interesting blog post about the gear that he takes with him on his expeditions. The story includes his selections for warm sleeping bags, boots, gloves, packs, and more. If you've ever wondered about what gear is best for an Everest climb, than you'll certainly want to give this article a read. He also shared the video below, which is a couple of years old, but also gives us some insights into the gear situation for climbing in the Himalaya.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Video: Exploring the Himalaya by Motorbike

Looking for a dose of inspiration to pursue your adventurous ambitions? Then look no further than this video, which features five French women who set out to traverse the Himalaya by motorbike. What started out as a whim turned into a grand adventure, taking them into some very remote, and spectacularly beautiful, areas. This is just Part 1 of their story. If you like what you see, you can check out Part 2 and Part 3 as well. Truly great stuff.

L'équipée en Himalaya - Episode 1/3 from l'équipée on Vimeo.

Video: Wingsuit Flight Over Kilimanjaro

In keeping with our Kilimanjaro theme today, we have this video which features wingsuit pilot and BASE jumper Valery Rozov flying off the top of Africa's highest peak. As you can imagine, the views are spectacular, and the flight is an impressive one. Hard to believe I was just on this mountain a few days ago. Enjoy!

Aconcagua Speed Record Smashed Again!

It seems I missed quite a bit while I was away.

Back in December, Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet impressed us all with his amazing run up and down Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America at 6962 meters (22,841 ft). At the time, Jornet destroyed the old record by more than three hours, posting a total time for the roundtrip at 12 hours and 49 minutes. As impressive as that effort was however, the new speed record was short lived, as it has already been broken by another very talented mountain athlete.

According to reports, Ecuadorian-Swiss sky runner Karl Egloff shaved nearly an hour off Jornet's time, by running to the summit and back in a mind-blowing 11 hours and 52 minutes. Both men used the same route up and down the mountain, covering some 40 km (25 miles), and notching up 4062 meters (13,327 ft) of vertical gain in the process.

While not quite as well known as Jornet, Egloff continues to add to his impressive resume. Back in 2013, the Spaniard ran up and down Kilimanjaro in just 7 hours and 14 minutes. Egloff would later break that record as well, besting Jornet by more than 30 minutes.

It seems that Jornet has a rival to keep him on his toes at long last. The Spanish runner is busy preparing to attempt a speed record on Everest this spring, and is probably completely focused on that  effort. Both of these men are supreme mountain athletes of course, and I'd love to see them compete head-to-head on a trail with one another. For now though, we'll probably have to be satisfied with each of them pushing harder on these speed record runs.

Winter Climbs 2015: Bad Weather Thwarts Summit Bid on Nanga Parbat

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

While I was off climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, the combined international team of Alex Txikon, Daniele Nardi, and their Iranian and Pakistani companions have continued to work very hard on completing the first ever winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. Overt he weekend, the team launched a summit bid at last, but true to form, bad weather set in, forcing the entire squad to return to Base Camp, with at least a few of the climbers deciding to head home.

According to a report from ExWeb, the team abandoned their summit push on day two after finding the route was altered dramatically by a recent snowstorm that dumped plenty of powder on the mountain. The mountaineers were able to proceed above Camp 1 but discovered waist-deep snow and encountered several small avalanches, which convinced them it was time to turn back at 5300 meters (17,388 ft).

With unstable conditions prominent on Nanga Parbat at the moment, Alex and Daniele have decided to wait for another weather window before attempting a second summit push. Exactly when that attempt will begin remains a mystery at this time however.

Discretion being the better part of valor, the Iranian team consisting of Reza Bahadorani, Iraj Maani and Mahmood Hashemi have decided that Nanga is simply too unsafe to proceed this year. After surveying the intended route up the mountain, the trio have elected to pull the plug on their expedition and are now preparing to head home. With excessive amounts of snow and the growing threat of avalanche danger, they feel that it is simply too unsafe to proceed.

Meanwhile, over on Manaslu, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger are stuck in Base Camp as they wait for the weather to clear as well. They arrived on the mountain amidst good conditions a few weeks back, and were quickly able to establish Camp 1 at 5220 meters (17,125 ft), but since then the weather has taken a turn for the worse, preventing them from moving upwards. Heavy snows continue to fall on the mountain, making it very difficult to proceed.

For each of these winter climbs the click is now ticking. With the calendar now officially turned to March, there are just three more weeks of winter remaining. That is plenty of time to launch another summit bid on Nanga Parbat, but on Manaslu conditions are going to have to be exactly right for Simone and Tamara to have a crack at the top. Their late start has put them behind schedule, and now it seems unlikely that they'll get the chance to actually make a summit push. Of course, anything can happen, and three weeks is still plenty of time, but the weather will have to stabilize dramatically for them to have a true chance.

Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Back From Kilimanjaro!

After a two-week absence, I returned home from Africa this past weekend, and have been trying desperately to shake both a nasty cough and persistent jet lag. That said, the trip was an excellent one,  that culminated with a successful summit of the Kilimanjaro a week ago. You'll be hearing a lot more about this trip in the days ahead, but for now just know that it was an amazing experience in large part because of my friends at Tusker Trail, the biggest operator on Kili that clearly demonstrated why they are the best option for climbing the mountain.

It should be noted that this was my second go around on Kilimanjaro, and while I have nothing bad to say about the previous company I climbed with, Tusker was head and shoulders above the competition. There were a number of small touches that set Tusker apart from the crowd, including twice-daily medical checks to ensure that the team was in top form, and some of the best food you could ever ask for while on a high-altitude trek. It's no secret that loss of appetite is one of the major side effects of hiking in the mountains, but thanks to consistently delicious, and surprisingly complex, meals, it was definitely a lot easier to take in the calories you need to push your way up to the summit.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of Tusker's first ever Climb for Valor, which was used as a fundraising effort for the Duskin & Stephens Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating scholarships for the children of fallen U.S. servicemen that have served in the special forces. On the climb I joined two active-duty soldiers who suffered wounds while serving their country, as well as three widows who lost their husbands in the line of duty as well. Hearing their individual stories only magnified my perception of these very brave men and women, realizing that each of them has sacrificed a great deal for their country.