Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Video: Welcome to Deception Island

Deception Island is a remote little rock that sits just off the Antarctic Peninsula. It is one of the more remote places on the planet and home to more than 200,000 mated pairs of penguins. Few people ever get the chance to visit this place, but thanks to this short video from National Geographic, we can get a look at what it is like there. Wild, desolate, and remarkable, it is a place that remains mostly untouched by man.

Video: BikingMan is an Epic Bike Race Across Oman

Looking for a new endurance challenge? Enjoy riding bikes? Than we have just the event for you. This short documentary will introduce you to the amazing BikingMan Oman, an epic cycling challenge that sends riders out on a 1000 km (621 mile) self-supported race across the rugged deserts of Oman. The first edition of the race took place from February 25 - March 2 of this year, and as you'll see it looks like it was as grueling and reward as you would expect. Truly a test of determination and endurance.

Gear Closet: Fjällräven Bergtagen Insulation Parka Review

On my recent trip to Arctic Europe I was outfitted for the journey by Swedish brand Fjällräven, who hooked me up with some incredible gear to keep me warm, dry, and comfortable in the cold conditions. Over the course to this entire week, I'll be sharing my thoughts and reviews of the majority of that gear and letting you know why it should be in your gear closet as well. Most of the products I tested fell into the company's new Bergtagen line, which is a complete system built specifically with mountaineers in mind. That makes this gear a bit on the pricy side for the average consumer, but for the mountain professional, the guide, the avid adventurer, or explorer, this is the equipment you're going to want to have at your disposal, as it delivers amazing performance in the absolute worst of conditions.

Fjällräven week continues here at The Adventure Blog, this time with a look at the company's Bergtagen Insulation Parka, which quite possibly might be the warmest jacket I've ever worn. The jacket uses Fjällräven's proprietary G-Loft synthetic insulation, which manages to provide plenty of warmth and comfort without piling on the bulk. In fact, the Insulation Parka is relatively lightweight and thin, while still managing to keep both wind and cold temperatures at bay.

As with the other products in the Bergtagen line, the parka is environmentally friendly. It is made from 100% recycled polyester and features a PFC-free coating to assist with wind proofing. It also comes with a large, helmet-compatible hood, Velcro adjustable cuffs, drawcords to adjust the fit in both the waist, and hem, as well as a two-way zipper on the front. Dual zippered chest pockets provide ample storage while an interior button flap provides an extra layer of protection from the cold and snow. The jacket even comes with Recco reflectors to aid in search and rescue operations too.

More Ships are Getting Stuck in Arctic Ice Thanks to Climate Change

A new report indicates that ships traveling in the north Atlantic run a higher risk of getting stuck in ice thanks to an increasing number of icebergs calving off from glaciers and floating south from the Arctic. The situation is predicted to get worse in the future as well due to climate change speeding up the melting of the ice caps.

According to a study posted in the academic publication Geophysical Research, 2017 saw a major shift in the number of vessels that found themselves stuck in the ice off the coast of Newfoundland. This is due to the fact that the channels that connect the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic typically contain large chunks of ice that stay frozen in place, even during the summer months. This ice tends to serve as a barrier, preventing the ice trapped behind it from flowing south. Now however, that barrier is melting, and as a result more – and large – icebergs are heading south.

The research came about because last year an icebreaker called the Amundsen was suppose to leave a port in Quebec and spend its time conducting a research mission in the Hudson Bay area. But, it ended up having to rescue so many other vessels trapped in the ice that it never had the chance to get on with its intended mission. It could save them all however, as two fishing ships sank, others suffered serious damage, and one couldn't move more than a few hundred meters before getting stuck again.

Most of the rescue operations took place in a section of the ocean located north of Newfoundland, which was getting choked with all of the ice that was floating into it. When the cause of the excess ice was investigated, it was discovered that the natural barriers that held it in place in the past had melted, sending large icebergs south to choke off shipping and commercial fishing lanes.

The research paper indicates that this could become an increasing trend in the years ahead as temperatures in the Arctic are only continuing to increase. How this will impact future traffic in the north Atlantic remains to be seen, but this summer Canadian officials are moving more icebreakers into the area and the Amundsen will finally get a chance to conduct its original research.

Carmaker Announces Plans to Drive Off-Road Vehicle Across the Bering Sea

A small, boutique automaker best known for making supercars has announced ambitious plans to get into the SUV/off-road market by reviving the classic Baja Boot. The modern update to the custom-made dune buggy will then be through its paces on a series of increasingly difficult challenges that include setting a new high-altitude driving record and a crossing of the Bering Sea.

The company in question is Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, which currently makes a twin-turbo 490-horse power vehicle called the SCG003 C, which is designed for Le Man style racing and has a top speed of 183 mph (295 km/h). But now, the carmaker says it will begin producing a modern version of the Baja Boot, which was originally built for actor Steve McQueen to drive in the Baja 1000. This updated version will reportedly be outfitted to take on all kinds of different terrain, and will come in both two-door and four-door models, selling for $250,000 and $270,000 respectively when they go on sale next year.

That alone would be a unique story, but that isn't the end of what SCG has in mind. The company says that it will prove the off-road capabilities of the vehicle by first competing with it in the Baja 1000, just like the oringal model. After that however, it aims to set a new altitude driving record with the Boot. That will entail driving higher than 21,942 feet (6687 meters), which is the current record set by Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales in a Suzuki Samurai on Chile’s Ojos Del Salado volcano. SCG says that it will take its boot all the way to the summit of that volcano located at 22,615 feet (6893 meters).

But that still isn't the end of the story. In 2020, SCG intends to sponsor an expedition that will send the its new Boot on a round the world excursion that begins in New York and ends in Paris. The vehicle will first drive west across the U.S., then north to Alaska, where it will attempt to cross the Bering Sea at its narrowest point. The Boot will allegedly deploy inflatable pontoons that will allow it to navigate the difficult waters of the sea, crossing a section that is just 51 miles wide. This isn't the first time this has been done, but when British adventurer Steve Burgess did it back in 2008 with his Land Rover it took him days to complete the crossing due to poor weather conditions.

After making landfall in Russia, SCG says its Boot will continue on across that country and into Europe, before eventually arriving Paris, the finish line for this ambitious – some would say crazy – expedition. But, the company hopes to not be alone on this venture as it is inviting other SUV makers to come along for the ride too.

For now, the new Baja Boot can only be seen in artist renders, but SCG says that it has acquired partnerships with OEMs to begin production soon. Whether or not the off-road vehicle ever sees the light of day remains to be seen, let alone makes any of the bold claims it has set for itself.

Thanks to Gear Junkie for this awesome story.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Video: The Stunning Landscapes of Patagonia

The title of this post pretty much says it all. The video takes us to the southern end of South America to explore the breathtaking landscapes that make up Patagonia. This is a part of the world that I never get tired of seeing with some of the most famous and dramatic mountain skylines found anywhere. Here, they are captured in all of their glory. Sit back and enjoy two and a half minutes of the best scenery you'll see all week.

PATAGONIA | TORRES DEL PAINE | 8K60 from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

Video: This Ultra Runner is the "Most Elusive" Man in America

Dag Aabye is a 70+ year old ultra runner who lives completely off the grid. Preferring seclusion and solitude to the busy trappings of modern life, he has been dubbed the "most elusive" man in America. In this amazing short film, two filmmakers set out to find him, which doesn't prove easy. But, the story is a good one that will inspire, amuse, and delight. Never die easy indeed.

Gear Closet: Fjällräven Eco-Shell Bergtagen Trousers Review

On my recent trip to Arctic Europe I was outfitted for the journey by Swedish brand Fjällräven, who hooked me up with some incredible gear to keep me warm, dry, and comfortable in the cold conditions. Over the course to this entire week, I'll be sharing my thoughts and reviews of the majority of that gear and letting you know why it should be in your gear closet as well. Most of the products I tested fell into the company's new Bergtagen line, which is a complete system built specifically with mountaineers in mind. That makes this gear a bit on the pricy side for the average consumer, but for the mountain professional, the guide, the avid adventurer, or explorer, this is the equipment you're going to want to have at your disposal, as it delivers amazing performance in the absolute worst of conditions.

Yesterday I took a look at Fjällräven's Eco-Shell Jacket, giving it high marks in terms of durability, breathability, and all-around functionality in poor weather. Today, we'll examine the Bergtagen Eco-Shell Trousers as well, which bring the same level of comfort and performance to mountaineering pants, offering uncompromising protection from the elements.

Made from the same waterproof and breathable fabrics as the Eco-Shell Jacket, the trousers offer amazing breathability while managing to offer impressive protection from both the wind and rain. And like its jacket counterpart, the fabrics used in these pants are made from recycled materials and a fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment. That means that both garments are good for the environment, even as they protect you from the worst things it can throw at you.

Like the Eco-Shell Jacket, the trousers offer an athletic cut that is designed to work well with base layers underneath, while still conforming to you body without inhibiting motion. In fact, these pants fit so nicely that they don't feel like a hardshell trouser at all, making them comfortable to wear both indoors and out. Full-length zippers along each leg help with venting, while elastic Veclro adjustments along the waist – paired with extra-wide belt loops and reinforced suspender zones – help wearers dial in the right fit.

World's Last Remaining Male Northern White Rhino Dies

Sad news for conservationists today as it was revealed that the last remaining male northern white rhino has died. This leaves just two females left on the entire planet, making efforts to save the species of all-out extinction even more challenging.

The 45-year old male rhino was named "Sudan" and had been living in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where he was watched day and night to ensure his safety from poachers. But in recent weeks Sudan had seen his health begin to decline, with age-related complications making it harder to treat his ailments. On Monday, the team that watched over him made the painful decision to put him to sleep. In the final 24 hours of his life he reportedly was unable to stand as degenerative conditions in his muscles and bones took over.

The northern white rhino is a casualty of mass poaching efforts that took place in the 1970's and 80's, but still continue to this day. The creatures' horns are valued on the black market in Asia, where they are integrated into traditional medicines, despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that they have any medicinal values whatsoever. This ongoing practice has brought the five species of rhino known to exist in Africa to the brink of extinction, as efforts are made to try to revive the creatures.

With the death of Sudan, only two female northern white rhinos remain. Scientists will now continue their efforts to revive the species by developing in vitro fertilization techniques. This has had limited success in the past and since the gestation period of a rhino is about 450 days, there is a very long time between births. Still, researchers remain hopeful that they can potentially revive this subspecies in the future.

It is a shame what man has done to this creatures all in the name of some hokey belief that their horns promote virility and long life. Rhino horns still bring a considerable amount of money on the black market in Asia, even as efforts are made to educate people on this subject. Poachers are constantly on the lookout for the animals in Africa and will go to great lengths to harvest their horns, leaving the animals to bleed to death in the wild. It is a sad fact of life in certain parts of the world, with places like Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad all having their rhino populations pretty much completely wiped out. Hopefully we can turn this around moving forward, but the northern white rhino in particular has very little hope of survival.

Explorer Will Steger Sets Off on 1000-Mile Solo Expedition in Arctic Canada

Will Steger is no stranger to traveling in the remote, wild places of our planet. His adventure resume includes leading the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole back in 1986, a 1600-mile (2574 km) south-to-north journey across Greenland, and the first ever dogsled traverse of Antarctica, an epic journey that covered more than 3740 miles (6018 km) in a seven month period from 1989-90. But, the polar legend says that his next expedition may be his toughest yet as he sets out tomorrow to trek through a seldom-visited part of Canada completely on his own.

The 73-year old Steger will set out from northern Saskatchewan on a 1000 mile (1600 km) solo expedition that will take him across a section of Canada simply known as the "Barren Lands." This remote and rugged place in the Canadian Arctic is said to be a treeless, open expanse filled with snow and ice. And while the calendar will now officially say spring when he set out, he expects to face temperatures in the -40ºF/C range as he embarks on the trip, which he expects will take about 70 days to complete, ending in early June on the shores of Baker Lake near Hudson Bay in the northern Nunavut Territory.

To stay well provisioned out in the wilderness, Steger will pull a custom-built sled/canoe that will be loaded with about 200 pounds (90 kg) of supplies and gear. In the early days of the expedition he'll manhaul the sled as he would were he skiing to the North or South Pole, but as temperatures warm up he should be able to paddle the canoe at times as well.

In order to complete the journey on schedule, Steger will have to average about 14 miles per day, which is a fair serious pace for hauling so much gear over rugged ground. Fortunately, the Barren Lands are mostly flat, with just a few hills here and there, so he won't face much in the way of elevation change. His biggest challenges will come from potentially falling into frigid water, so he'll wear a drysuit for those times when he is crossing frozen lakes and rivers.

The experienced adventurer says that this will be his most challenging expedition to date. While he has spent months at a time out on frozen sections of the planet, this is the longest journey he's ever undertaken in solo fashion. He says that he doesn't expect to see another person while traversing the Barren Lands, and may not even see a single tree from the time he starts to the finish in June.

There is no questioning the validity of Steger's exploration credentials. As I already mentioned, he's a legend in the polar exploration community. But at the age of 73 to still be undertaking such a journey is wildly impressive. It should be fun to follow along with his progress and learn more about this wild and desolate place in northern Canada. Watch for updates to his Facebook, Twitter, and website.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Video: A Speedrider's View of the French Alps

This video takes us to the French Alps where we get a first-person perspective of what it is like to speedride through those iconic mountains. What's speedriding you ask? It is a combination of paragliding and skiing that allows participants to fly down a mountain, clearing trees and crevasses, while touching down momentarily to shred through the snow. We've shared videos of the sport before, but this one offers some particularly terrifying views. Buckle in, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Video: Explore a Massive Penguin Mega-Colony in the Antarctic

Recently, researchers visiting the Antarctic stumbled across a massive penguin colony that they didn't even know existed. Located on the Danger Islands, to the west of Antarctica itself, this colony is home to 1.5 million birds, making it the largest mega-colony we've found yet. In the video below, you'll get a chance to see what a mega-colony of this size actually looks like, with a stunning number of birds happily living on the island with one another.

Gear Closet: Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Review

On my recent trip to Arctic Europe I was outfitted for the journey by Swedish brand Fjällräven, who hooked me up with some incredible gear to keep me warm, dry, and comfortable in the cold conditions. Over the course to this entire week, I'll be sharing my thoughts and reviews of the majority of that gear and letting you know why it should be in your gear closet as well. Most of the products I tested fell into the company's new Bergtagen line, which is a complete system built specifically with mountaineers in mind. That makes this gear a bit on the pricy side for the average consumer, but for the mountain professional, the guide, the avid adventurer, or explorer, this is the equipment you're going to want to have at your disposal, as it delivers amazing performance in the absolute worst of conditions.

I'll start this series of reviews with a look at the Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket, which falls into the active shell category when it comes to outdoor apparel. That means that it is the article of clothing that sits the closets to the elements when working as part of your layering system, so it has to be able to repel water, wind, snow, and other weather conditions in order to keep the wearer warm and comfortable at all times. The Eco-Shell can do that without breaking a sweat, and brings plenty of other nice performance features to the table too.

Made from waterproof, yet still highly breathable, hardshell fabrics, the Eco-Shell can shed water even if the rain is coming down in buckets. It's DWR coating prevents the moisture from penetrating the jacket's out defenses, while still allowing warm air from inside to escape. As a result, it keeps you drier and warmer in cold temperatures, allowing you to stay out longer without slowing down. Better yet, those fabrics are made from recycled fluorocarbon-free materials, which makes them good for the environment too.

Volvo Ocean Race Begins Stage 7, Heading Back to the Southern Ocean

The seventh stage of the Volvo Ocean Race got underway yesterday in New Zealand, with all of the teams setting out on what promises to be another tough and demanding stage. This time, the ships will need to cover 7600 nautical miles (8745 miles/14,075 km) as they race from Aukland to Itajaí, Brazil. The route will take them around the infamous Cape Horn in South Africa and through the Drake Passage as they navigate the Souther Ocean before turning northward across the Atlantic.

Stage 7 is the longest and most coveted section of this year's race by far. The teams will get bonus points for being the first to round the Cape, and they'll get double points for arriving in Itajaí first too. That's because race organizers know that they're going to have to earn it, navigating the rough seas and unpredictable weather of the Southern Ocean while en route. In addition to the big winds and big waves they'll find at the bottom of the world, they'll also have to watch out for icebergs too.

Strategy and swiftness will combine in this stage with the teams having to avoid major storms and pick just the right route. There will be plenty of opportunities for the ships to pick different courses, with bold captains looking for potential options that could make or break their ambitions of winning the stage and the race. Navigating the Horn is never an easy thing to do and picking the right route  north will play a crucial role in who reaches Brazil first. In other words, it should be a particularly interesting and fun stage to watch.

After sitting out the last stage due to damage to the ship, Team Vestas 11th Hour as returned to race this section. You may recall that Vestas was involved in a collision with another vessel on their way into Hong Kong during stage 5 and as a result suffered some damage. The ship couldn't be repaired in Hong Kong itself, so it was sent to New Zealand instead. Now that it is seaworthy again, they are back in the race, and ready for the wild route that sits ahead.

You'll be able to follow all of the action on the Volvo Ocean Race website. The webpage does a great job of keeping us informed of how things are proceeding, offering excellent photos and video as the stages transpire. The next leg should be an amazing one to follow, as the teams face their biggest challenges yet. 

Himalaya Spring 2018: Ice Doctors Head to Everest, China Adds Rules to North Side

We're still a couple of weeks away from the 2018 spring climbing season in the Himalaya truly ramping up, but logistically speaking things are already being set in motion. In Kathmandu a number of operators are collecting gear and supplies in anticipation of their clients arriving soon, while climbers around the world are at home putting the finishing touches on their planning. As usual, we'll be watching the proceedings closely over the next couple of months as the new season unfolds.

On the South Side of Everest in Nepal things officially got underway late last week when a 10 person team set out from Namche Bazaar for Base Camp. Eight of those individuals make up the famed Ice Doctors, whose job it is to create and maintain a safe route through the Khumbu Icefall, while the remaining two serve as cooking staff for the team.

The Ice Doctors are expected to arrive in BC early this week and begin their survey of the area. Their first task will be to scout the icefall itself and look for the best route to cross it. They will install ropes and ladders that the climbing teams will eventually use to pass through this dangerous and unstable section of the climb which is amongst the most treacherous sections of the entire route. Once established, the docs will stay on the mountain until the end of May ensuring that the route remains open and is safe for the entire season. They'll also fix the ropes all the way to Camp 2 in preparation for the arrival of the commercial teams in a few weeks time.

Meanwhile, over in Tibet the Chinese government is anticipating a growing number of climbers attempting Everest from the North Side in the years to come. Because of this, officials are now introducing important new regulations to help maintain the environment on that side of the mountain. There has been a major clean-up effort underway on the South Side for nearly ten years, but in Tibet so such efforts have existed so far. But as the Chinese prepare to invest millions of dollars to develop Everest as both a climbing and tourist destination, they are also looking to improve the conditions there as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 10: Our Favorite Adventure Books

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcasts now available to download and listen to on your favorite platform. As usual, you'll find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, as well as for direct stream at the bottom of this post.

This week we thought we'd tackle a fun topic and share our picks for our all-time favorite adventure books with both Dave and myself brining some great suggestions for listens. Some of the books you've no doubt heard of, others might be a bit of surprise. Hopefully there will be some new ones that you might not have heard of before that you can add to your library. We also talk about the latest adventure news with updates on the Iditarod, a new speed record on Kilimanjaro, and more. And as always, we wrap things up with our weekly gear picks, with both of us bringing some excellent – yet pricey – items to the table.

As always, thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy what you hear. Don't forget to drop us a note on Facebook, Twitter, or email if you want to offer feedback, ask a question, or make a suggestion on a topic you'd like to see us cover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Iditarod 2018: Joar Ulsom First to Nome!

We have a winner in the 2018 Iditarod sled dog race. In the overnight hours, Norwegian Joar Leifseth Ulsom sped into Nome, claiming victory in the race. It is the first win for Ulsom, who first raced in the Iditarod back in 2013 when he was named rookie of the year. He has never finished lower than 7th place, and claimed 4th last year.

The win breaks the stranglehold that the Seavey family has had on the race over the past six years. During that span, Mitch Seavey has won twice, while his son Dallas has gone home with four wins. Currently, Mitch is running in third place out of White Mountain, the second to last checkpoint before reaching Nome. Nicolas Petit is in third, out of Safety and making his way to the finish line.

Ulsom takes home a prize of $50,000, which is a decent sum for a little more than a week's work. But, that's down from the $71,000 that Mitch Seavey took home last year. That is in part because of the pullout of key sponsors like Wells Fargo, which have left the future of the race somewhat in doubt.

While the Norwegian was claiming victory in Alaska, Dallas Seavey is currently leading the Finnmarksløpet, the longest dog sled race in Europe. That event is held in Norway, and covers approximately 1200 km (745 miles). They younger Seavey elected to participate in that race as a protest to a doping scandal from last fall that left some in doubt about how he handles his dogs. It would be fitting however if Ulsom won in Alaska, while Seavey took the victory in Norway, setting up an epic showdown next year.

The Iditarod finished up faster than even I expected. I thought it would take the better part of today before anyone would reach Nome, but Ulsom pushed on through the night and his dogs moved with swiftness over the final miles of the race. We should see several more racers reach the finish line today as well, although others will be straggling in well into the weekend and beyond.

Congratulations to Joar on a fantastic and decisive win.