Friday, April 17, 2015

The Adventure Blog is Back on Hiatus – I'm Egypt Bound!

I have a quick note to post to end the week. I wanted to let regular readers know that The Adventure Blog is going back on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I head to Egypt for a new adventure. I depart tomorrow (April 18) and will return on May 5. During that time I hope to have the opportunity to post about the journey, but I'll have to wait to see what kind of Internet service will be available. Hopefully I can post some regular updates however, so you can get a feel for what I'm up to.

I'll be traveling with a group hosted by G Adventures, who are easily one of the best adventure travel companies that I've ever had the experience of working with. The company has invited me to join one of their regular groups who will be taking part in their Absolute Egypt tour. While there, I will of course see the wonders of this famous country, including the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. But I'll also be camping in the Sahara, sailing on the Nile, and meeting with locals too.

This will be my second time in Egypt, but the first since the Arab Spring. It will be interesting to see how things have changed since I was last there, and what life is life for the people of this amazing country. The story that I will be looking for is the return of tourism to the Middle Eastern nation. The travel industry is vital to the economy there, but it has been crippled due to unrest in recent years. I've heard reports that the major attractions and monuments have been all-but empty at times, and I want to see if that remains true. 2015 is the year that travelers are expected to return to Egypt, but it is unclear of that has started to happen just yet.

While I'm away, there will obviously be a lot going on, particularly with the spring climbing season in the Himalaya. If you're looking for regular news from Everest and the other big mountain, than I'd suggest reading Alan Arnette's regular reports, and dropping by Explorer's Web from time to time too. I'll be trying to follow the unfolding season as best I can as well. I'll be home in time for the first summit pushes on Everest and Lhotse, although some of the other mountains may see some action ahead of the major push on the Big Hill.

While I'm away, stay safe, enjoy some adventures of your own, and hopefully I'll have some good things to share from Egypt soon. If Internet connections are reliable, I will at least post some photos on my Twitter feed at @kungfujedi.

I'll be back before you know it!

Video: A Journey to Antarctica

Antarctica is the most remote destinations on the planet, so most of us never get a chance to go there. But in December of 2014 and January of 2015, filmmaker Kalle Ljung traveled to the frozen continent, and captured some amazing footage from his journey. The 8-minute video below is a compilation of his work that gives us a glimpse of the breathtaking landscapes that can be found there. Ljung says that his journey began in Ushuaia, Argentina and proceeded to Port Williams in Chile, before rounding Cape Horn and crossing the infamous Drake Passage. Over the course of 16 days in the Antarctic, he was able to film some amazing places using a GoPro camera and DJI Phantom 2 drone. As you'll see, the results are spectacular.

Antarctica from Kalle Ljung on Vimeo.

Video: Rey Del Rio Waterfall World Championships - Kayaking Competition at its Most Extreme

Kayaking competitions are nothing new, nor is paddling over massive waterfalls. We've certainly seen both over the years. But when you combine the two, you get the Rey Del Rio Waterfall World Championships, an insane event in which pro kayakers run three massive falls in Chiapas, Mexico, pulling tricks and stunts as they go. The video below captures the insanity of this competition, where some big names in the world pro paddling gathered to take on the waters of the Agua Azul. As you'll see, it was quite the event.

Get Outside and Celebrate National Park Week - April 18 - 26

If you're looking for something to do this weekend, than perhaps a visit to a national park is in order. Tomorrow begins the annual National Park Week here in the U.S., and to celebrate all of the parks are waving their entry fees for visitors this weekend. Additionally, many parks will have a number of activities planned for the week ahead as well, including events to commemorate Earth Day on Wednesday too.

The national parks have been called "America's Best Idea," and rightfully so. These amazing outdoor settings are amongst the best in the entire world, and have spurred numerous other nations to protect their natural landscapes too. Yellowstone became the first national park in the world back in 1872, and Yosemite would follow a couple of decades later. Both remain amazing examples of the natural beauty that can be found in the western United States, and I for one appreciate that someone had the foresight to protect these places.

You will no doubt find plenty of online articles and blog posts providing suggestions on how you could celebrate National Park Week. The National Park Foundation has one here, and your's truly wrote another one for About.com that can be read here. But the bottomline is that over the course of the next week – if at all possible – you should get outside and enjoy a one of these great places. With more than 400 units in the U.S. park system, there is almost assuredly one semi-close to where you live. And to help you locate where they are, the new Find Your Park website will certainly come in handy.

I know there are a lot of readers of this blog who are not from the U.S. of course, but considering that many nations across the planet have designated national parks, now is a good time to visit one of yours as well. National Park Week may be an American event, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate your parks too. In my experience, if a destination has been designated as a protected park, it probably is a place worth visiting.

As for me, I have to forego my national park visits for a few more weeks. I'm heading out of the country tomorrow, and won't be around to take part in the celebration. But at the end of May I'll be heading out to visit Yosemite, Sequoia and King's Canyon, and I'm looking forward to that experience. Until then, I'll just have to be patient and wait for my chance.

Himalaya Spring 2015: Puja Ceremonies and a Collapse in the Icefall

There as been another setback on Everest that is keeping the climbers in Base Camp today, despite the need to start their acclimatization rotations soon. Earlier in the week it was bad weather that prevented them from getting on the move, but now it is a collapse in the Khumbu Icefall that has delayed the start of the first rotations up the mountain.

Alan Arnette reports that more than 80 Sherpas were in the Icefall this morning as they continued their work to shuttle gear up to Camps 1 and 2. But the collapse of the ice along the route caused all of them to turn back. Apparently there was a traverse over a large crevasse that required four ladders to complete, and the entire thing came crumbling down. The Khumbu Ice Doctors will now have to search for an alternate route through the dangerous Icefall. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the collapse.

This is not uncommon, and is large part of why crossing through the Icefall is so dangerous. This portion of the mountain is incredibly unsteady, and the Ice Docs work all season long to keep the route safe and open. This sounds like it was a major collapse however, so it could take a day or two for them to find a new path. You may recall that this route was described as safer and shorter than the ones used in the past, and hopefully that won't change following this incident.

Alan also says that his team had its Puja ceremony a few days back. The Puja is an important step for any climbing expedition, as no one can start up the mountain until it is finished. During the Puja, a Buddhist monk brings the climbers and Sherpas together to ask permission from the mountain gods to safely pass up Everest, or what ever other mountain they are climbing. Traditionally, the monk will also bless their gear and ask the gods to keep the climbers safe. While it is taken very seriously by everyone, it is also a time to celebrate and have too.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Video: A Journey into Adventure

This fantastic short film is a billed as "A visual poem about the beating heart of adventure that resides within us all." After watching it, I'd say that is an apt description, as it is filled with beautiful images of men and women pursuing their outdoor passions, while a narrator shares his philosophy and approach to adventure. I think many of you who read this blog will find those words to be very inspirational, and will more than likely strike a chord. For us, going to the mountains isn't an escape, it is a place for us to be. Truly wonderful work on this video.

ARRI Journey - Directed by Casey Warren & Danielle Krieger from Casey Warren | MINDCASTLE on Vimeo.

Video: Underwater Explorers Encounter Rare Sperm Whale

While operating a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, a team of underwater explorers had an unexpected encounter with a sperm whale. The
magnificent creature circled the ROV several times before moving on, while cameras aboard the unmanned craft recorded the experience. The video below shares that footage, along with the very excited voices of the team that witnessed the encounter. To say they were thrilled would be an understatement. Amazing stuff to say the least.

Adventure Tech: Recon Jet Heads-Up Display For Outdoor Athletes

Here's a product I've had my eye on for some time, and it is now finally coming to market. Recon Instruments, a company that makes heads-up displays (HUD) for skiing and snowboarding googles,  has announced that their latest product – the Recon Jet – is now available. This wearable computer was built specifically with outdoor athletes in mind, and is designed to provide them with all kinds of information while they run, paddle, and ride.

The Jet is a lightweight set of sunglasses that includes a small HUD that sits at the lower right corner of the eye. The device pairs via Bluetooth with your smartphone to provide a data connection that can track performance, offers access to social sharing, and can capture both photos and video. The Jet also includes onboard GPS capabilities to track distance, speed, duration of workout, elevation gain and loss, and more. It'll even connect with other devices, such as a heart rate monitor, via ANT+ to display information as well. It will even display text messages and caller ID on it's small, but high resolution screen.

Recon has been developing the Jet since 2008, and a lot has changed in the technology world since then. But the designers have been forward thinking in their plans, and have created an SDK that will allow developers to create their own apps for the device. Additionally, the data collected and saved can be easily uploaded to other apps such as Strava and MyMapFitness. The company has even built its own Recon Engage web platform, and apps for iOS and Android as well.

Ocean Rower Anne Quéméré to Challenge Northwest Passage Once Again


Ocean rower Anne Quéméré has announced that she is returning to the Arctic Ocean once again this summer in an attempt to complete the very difficult journey across the Northwest Passage by kayak. Last year, bad weather thwarted her efforts, but she has vowed to go back and finish what she started by covering the entire 3000 km (1864 miles) over a three month period. 

That 2014 expedition to the Passage proved to be an eye-opener for the veteran adventurer. She discovered that it was not as easy as she thought it would be to pass through the ice-choked waters found north of Canada. The weather was surprisingly bad all season long too, with high winds and heavy seas making it difficult to make any kind of progress. She also traveled solo on that journey, and unarmed. Two things that she'll rectify this time out. 

This year, Quéméré will have a companion joining her on the expedition. A Swiss scientist by the name of Raphael Domjan will accompany the her across the passage, and while she will be paddling her kayak, he will be following along in a second boat powered by a small electric motor that will match her pace. Domjan will spend his time in the Passage taking notes and environmental readings as he makes observations about the impact of climate change on the Arctic Ocean. 

Since the duo will be kayaking, they will stop and camp on shore most nights. That means they'll run the risk of encountering a polar bear, a creature that Quéméré had a few brushes with last year as well. This time out, they'll go armed with shotguns to scare the bears away. Massive and powerful, a hungry polar bear can be a real threat to a person in the arctic, and Anne and Raphael will not underestimate that threat in 2015. 

No stranger to oceanborn adventures, Quéméré has successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat in the past, and even crossed the Pacific in a prototype boat using a kite for propulsion, spending 78 days at seas. She has also kayaked in the ice waters off Greenland, and has last year's experience in the Northwest Passage to her credit as well. 

The two will set out for Tuktoyaktuk in Canada in June, with the crossing starting shortly there after. 

North Pole 2015: Thomas Ulrich Begins Solo Ski Expedition to Canada

It has been a busy week at the North Pole, where the Bareno Ice Camp continues to serve as a temporary base for researchers, explorers, and adventurers. This year's camp has been open for a couple of weeks now, which means it is nearing the end of its lifespan, but it will continue to see steady arrivals, and departures, until the Arctic season ends before the end of the month.

Work has begun to repair the aircraft that had its landing gear damaged upon arrival to Barneo back when the camp first opened. As you can imagine, that isn't an easy task when you're located just one degree off the Pole. The plane has obviously been out of commission for most of the season, and as a result the support flights out of Longyearbyen in Norway have been forced to use just one aircraft this year. Two flight crews have been aboard those flights, and that plane has been flying almost non-stop to deliver people, fuel, and supplies to base. Add in nearly a week delay in flights due to weather, and the crews have been struggling to keep up.

One of the biggest pieces of news to come out of Barneo in the past couple of days is that polar guide Thomas Ulrich has reached 90ºN with his team of clients. They has skied the last degree to the North Pole after starting out at the Ice Camp last week. Those clients were plucked from the ice by a Russian helicopter, and flown back to the base, where they then made their way home. But they said goodbye to Ulrich at the top of the world, as he will now proceed to ski solo to Ellesmere Island on the Canadian side of the ice. This expedition will serve as a tune-up for his even bigger plans for 2016, when he hopes to traverse the entire arctic – via the North Pole – completely solo and on foot.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Video: Earth Porn Vol. 3 - The Alberta Badlands

In this latest edition of the Earth Porn video series we travel to the Badlands of Alberta, Canada where we see landscapes that are starkly beautiful in their simple settings. Ariel footage takes us through a series of open flatlands and canyons, giving us a bird's eye view of the countryside, which is awe inspiring with its diversity and complexity. This short clip is mesmerizing in so many ways, and is a good reminder of just how amazing our planet truly is.

EARTH PORN // VOL 3 // BADLANDS (AERIAL ALBERTA) from Christiaan Welzel on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing a New Route in the Canadian Rockies with Raphael Slawinski

At the moment, mountaineer Raphael Slawinski is in Tibet preparing to attempt a new route up Mt. Everest. But in this video, we travel to the Ya Ha Tinda Range in the Canadian Rockies, where he put up a new route as well. The five-minute short film is a good introduction to Raphael, and his approach to climbing. It also has some spectacular shots of the scenery he passed through on his way to the top. This is a beautiful mountaineering film, with some good inspirational words from a man we'll be hearing a lot about this spring.

Raphael Slawinski - Surpassing - A film by AliasCinema. from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Adventure Tech: Garmin Virb X and XE Action Camera Challenges GoPro

We all know that the GoPro cameras are the kings of the action cam category, but that doesn't mean there aren't worthy challengers to that crown. In fact, when I reviewed the Garmin Virb Elite camera a year ago, I found it to be an excellent alternative to the GoPro hegemony, offering up some excellent features that had yet to be implemented in Hero line.

But a lot has changed in a year, and GoPro continues to refine and improve their cameras. Last fall, the company released its Hero 4 line, improving an already great product with some excellent new options. But Garmin hasn't been standing still either, and earlier this week they announced an outstanding new addition to the Virb line-up in the form of the X and XE models.

The new Virb cameras come with a completely redesigned body that more resembles a traditional action cam. Previously this product was elongated in shape, but now it is a bit more rectangular, making it easier to grip. The body is ruggedized as well, and built to take the inevitable punishment we'll throw at it in our outdoor pursuits. It is even waterproof down to 50 meters right out of the box, without the need to add an additional housing.

While the standard X model of the Virb maintains the same tech specs as last year (1080p video @ 30fps), the XE received some nice technical upgrades. It is now capable of shooting 1080p at 60 fps, or even 1440p at 30 fps. That is a nice upgrade of course, but falls short of the 4k video that the GoPro, and some of its competitors, are capable of.

The XE does have a new "Pro" mode that gives the user more manual control over the settings, and both models continue to include Garmin's impressive data collecting capabilities which track speed, distance, elevation, location, temperature, and a whole lot more. That data can than be incorporated directly into your videos using the Virb's free editing software.

All in all, this looks like a worthy update to an already impressive action camera. If you don't need 4k video – which is difficult to edit or watch in full resolution at this point – than the Virb delivers some other impressive features that are certainly worth a look. Check it out in action in the video below to get a better idea of what Garmin has delivered here.


Major Carolina Rivers Expedition Set to Begin April 29

Explorer Julian Monroe Fisher's many travels have taken him to some of the most remote places on the planet where he has had the opportunity to observe indigenous cultures and map little-known landscapes. But with his next project he wants to show that you don't have to go to the ends of the Earth to be an explorer. In fact, you can find plenty of adventure and exploration right in your own backyard.

The Costa Presents Carolinas River - Education and Preservation Through Exploration project is scheduled to get underway later this month. It will consist of a series of ambitious expeditions that are meant to explore the waterways of the Carolinas while documenting the history and cultural heritage of the region. Over the next two years, Julian plans to explore 32 individual rivers in North and South Carolina, both overland and on the water. Through his travels, he hopes to also hopes to bring attention to the environmental threats that these rivers now face.

Over the course of his journey's, Julian will travel by kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddleboard, as well as on foot. When he isn't paddling one of the 32 rivers, he'll be hiking along North Carolina's Mountain to Sea Trail or South Carolina's Palmetto Trail. He'll be joined on these excursions by a documentary film crew from Blue Car Productions that will capture the settings, communities, and ecosystems that he encounters along the way.

One of the more crucial aspects of the project is the role education will play. Julian believes that through education, these threatened Carolina rivers can be saved. To that end, he is establishing ties with a number of schools to create a learning tool that can be used in classrooms. By engaging students in the Carolinas River project he hopes to get the next generation invested more fully in the environment, which in turn will help spread the word about the importance of protecting these waterways. Updates of the journey will be shared via social media as well, giving students an even deeper connection to what is happening.

The first stage of the Carolina Rivers project will launch on April 29 with a special media event at the Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. By that point, Julian will have already started to paddle the French Broad River, considered the third oldest in the world, and will make a stopover to meet with press and the public.

This will be a major project to watch unfold over the next couple of years. Paddling 32 rivers over that period, while also hiking through the Carolinas backcountry, should be extremely interesting to follow.

You can learn much more at CarolinaRivers.com.

Himalaya Spring 2015: Climbers Arriving in North Side Base Camp, Nat Geo Interviews Raphael Slawinski

The start of the 2015 climbing season continues to unfold as expected. Teams are continuing to arrive in Everest Base Camp on the South Side, where they are being greeted by unusually heavy snow that is delaying the start of their acclimatization rotations. Meanwhile, the first climbers are now en route to BC on the North Side as well, as some other notable mountaineers arrive in Kathmandu.

Will start with news from the North Side today. While climbers from the Nepali side of the mountain have been slowly making their way out to Base Camp over the past week or so, those heading north generally have to wait for the Chinese to open the border into Tibet. That has now happened, and the teams who will be climbing from that side of the mountain have begun to cross over and are now making their way to BC as well. Unlike on the South Side however, they can actually drive to the start of their climb, so they generally take a few days to get there by stopping the towns of Nyalam and Tingri for acclimatization purposes.

But North Side Base Camp is quickly becoming a hive of activity, as Sherpas from the major teams have arrived onsite and are quickly getting the camp prepared for the arrival of the climbers. According to reports, there will be roughly people attempting to summit from the Tibetan side this spring, with about 150 Sherpas joining them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Video: A Photographic Adventure Through Norway

The Arctic north of Norway is the subject of this video, which was shot in February of this year. It does a wonderful job of bringing the landscapes and communities of that part of the world to life through stunning timelapse images. This is a place where winters are long, and harsh, but the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful too. The four minute video captures the spirit of the Norwegian north nicely, and will inspire you to want to visit there too.

ARCTIC NORWAY Photographic Adventure from Marty Melbos on Vimeo.

Video: Mile for Mile - Trail Running to Support Conservation in Patagonia

We all know that Patagonia is one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. It is also one that is becoming increasingly threatened. That's why the team at Conservacion Patagonica have been working hard to create a national park in southern Chile to protect this wild and rugged place. The video below is entitled Mile for Mile, and follows three trail runners – Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning, and Luke Nelson – as they embark on a 106 mile (170.5 km) run across what will eventually be that national park. Along the way they get to experience Patagonia in all of its glory, and it viewers get the opportunity to understand what makes the place so special.

As the park nears completion, there are still about 50 miles (80 km) of trail that needs to be built. To help with that effort, the gear company Patagonia is matching all funds donated to the cause through the end of the year. They also sponsored the creation of this short film, which considering the ties that the company has with the region is completely understandable. Find out more about the film, and the effort to create the trails in the park, at the official Mile for Mile campaign website.

Gear Closet: Limefuel Rugged Portable Battery Pack

Keeping our electronic devices charged while we're on an expedition to a remote area can be real challenge. After all, we generally set out with a slew of gadgets with us these days, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other tech toys. All of those items are extremely useful when they work, but once their batteries go dead they are little more than dead weight.

With that in mind, a few months back I went looking for good solutions to help keep my iPhone and  iPad Mini running while I was climbing Kilimanjaro this past February. I discovered that there were a host of options to provide portable power, but not all of them met my requirements. I wanted something that was fairly lightweight and compact, but also rugged enough to withstand plenty of punishment too. I also wanted an option that would provide plenty of juice for my devices, as the trip was going to be 12+ days away from any kind of power outlet. I found everything I needed – and more – in the form of the Rugged battery pack from a company called Limefuel, which will no accompany me on just about every adventure that I embark upon.

I knew I had found the right product when I reached out to Limefuel to request a sample for testing and review, and they informed me that they would be happy to send one my way, provided I shared photos of me running over the Rugged in my car. The battery pack is so tough that it can survive being driven over, and still continue to operate with out the slightest hint of damage. That told me that this was the portable power source for me, and one that was meant for use on outdoor adventures.

Cycling Through Cuba with Richard Bangs

We are living in a remarkable time. After more than 50 years of ice cold relations, the U.S. and Cuba are at long last thawing their relationship, and it is for the better. The trade embargo imposed on Cuba for decades has been a failed, outdated approach to foreign affairs for a very long time, but fortunately some semblance of sanity is returning, and the two nations are now on a path to normalizing – and formalizing – relations. 

It is in that environment that the travel industry has found a great deal of excitement this year. Cuba has long been off limits for American travelers, some of whom went to great lengths to go there anyway. But now, travel to the Caribbean country is a real option, and many are lining up to visit the place while it is still in its current, preserved state. 

Recently, my friend Richard Bangs led a group of travelers on a cycling journey through the island nation and shared his experience with readers at the Huffington Post. His journey took him through a series of historical sites, beautiful landscapes, and burgeoning urban settings. Cuba, it seems, is still caught in the past, but is joining the 21st century very rapidly. 

The island nation is tailor made for cycling it seems. Richard says that in the 1990's, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, bikes were the dominant form of transportation. Traffic has increased since then of course, but the roads are bike-friendly, and the terrain isn't particularly demanding. 

Richard's journey through Cuba is made all the more memorable as he is joined by his seven year old son Jasper. The young man rides a trail-a-bike behind his father for much of the trip, while having the rare opportunity to explore a country that is opening up to future possibilities for the first time in many decades. The father-son duo roll their bikes past farms, beautiful beaches, and buildings that were the height of luxury back in the 1950's. 

As someone who does a good deal of travel writing, I know that there is immense interest in visiting Cuba right now. Richard's article will give you taste of what it is like there, as the country goes through a transition period. Eventually, Cuba will begin to change, as economic forces from outside start to develop the country. For those who want to see it in its purest form, now is the time to go. While the future does indeed look much brighter for the Cuban people, much of its charm will eventually disappear, lost in the mists of the modern age.

Himalaya Spring 2015: Heavy Snows Hit Everest Delaying Acclimatization Rotations

We continue to have a steady stream of news and information coming from the Himalaya this spring, as regular updates are keeping us well informed of the happenings there thus far this season. At the moment, the teams continue to arrive in Base Camp on Everest, where they are being greeted by some unusually poor weather conditions that are delaying the start of the actual climbs.

According to a report from the Himalayan Times, about 900 people are now in EBC. That number represents 60% of the climbers and their support staff, so a large number of people are yet to arrive on the mountain. Most began trickling in this past weekend, although there are still some larger teams yet to reach the mountain. With so many climbers, porters, and support crew now onsite, Base Camp has transformed into a hive of activity, with the squads undertaking training exercises, making acclimatization hikes, and resting, while preparing for their first opportunity to go up to higher altitude.

Some of those efforts may be delayed now however, as two feet (60 cm) of snow has fallen on Base Camp since yesterday. That weather has blanketed the tents and ground in fresh powder, which will certainly have an impact on schedules for the next day or two. But perhaps more troubling is the fact that this unusual snowstorm continues a trend of bad weather in the Khumbu that has been plaguing the area all spring. Typically the conditions have started to improve by now, with clear skies settling in. That hasn't been the case so far however, and as a result, it has been anything but a typical year so far.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Video: Exploring Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Arizona's Antelope Canyon is one of those iconic places that you've probably seen before, but just didn't know it. It has been the subject of many beautiful photos, with the twisting corridors of the slot canyon helping to create some remarkable images to say the least. In this video we delve deep into that landscape, wandering the narrow passages of the canyon where light and shadow play off the sandstone walls in impressive fashion. It is a beautiful place that is awe inspiring for sure.

Antelope Canyon from Metron on Vimeo.

Freya Hoffmeister Approaches End of Kayak Journey Around South America

German paddler Freya Hoffmeister is approaching the end of her epic journey around South America in a kayak. According to her most recent updates, she is now less than 350 km (217 miles) from reaching the finish line in Buenos Aires, the city she set out from nearly four years ago.

According to her own estimates, it should take Freya about 18 more days to complete her expedition. That seems like a conservative estimate however, as she has been making good time recently, and is likely to finish ahead of that schedule. I'd expect her to press on to the end in a little more than two weeks, as she wraps up what has been one incredibly long and difficult journey. By the time she is done, she'll have circumnavigated the entire continent – including passing around the treacherous Cape Horn – by kayak, covering some 24,000 km (14,912 miles) in the process.

Freya is no stranger to long distance journeys by kayak. Previously she has paddled around Iceland and New Zealand, and even became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia as well. After completing that massive challenge back in 2009, she started looking for other places she could paddle as well. Somewhere along the way she came up with the idea of traveling completely around South America, and in August of 2011 she set off to do just that.

In her original estimate she expected it would take about 24 months to complete her expedition, beginning and ending in Buenos Aires. It has taken considerably longer than that however due to logistical challenges, taking some time off to go back home, and overcoming personal obstacles along the way. But now, the end is in sight, and Freya is poised to make history once again.

Normally I would have waited until she was a bit closer to the finish line to post an update on her progress, but at the end of the week I'll be leaving the country once again, and it is likely that Freya will finish her impressive journey while I am away. So, with that in mind, I'd encourage everyone to follow her progress at FreyaHoffmeister.com. Her final journal entries should prove memorable, as will the dash to the end.

It is always interesting to see these long expeditions wrap up at long last. I've been following this one since Freya set out all those many months ago. I'm glad that she is closing in on the end at long last. I'm sure the sense of relief and accomplishment that she'll feel will be overwhelming.

Video: Astronaut Takes a GoPro on a Spacewalk

Over the years we've seen the tiny and ubiquitous GoPro camera go just about everywhere. But in this video it takes us some place we have seldom seen in the past. Astronaut Terry Virts wore a GoPro camera when he went for a spacewalk, and as you can imagine the video he captured was pretty spectacular. Take a peek at what it is like to step outside the International Space Station, and go to work 250 miles above the Earth. I'm sure the view was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

Extreme Running News: North Pole Marathon Tests Runners, Sir Ran Completes Marathon des Sables

After a delayed start last week due to weather and a damaged aircraft at the Barneo Ice Camp, the 2015 North Pole Marathon finally took place over the weekend. This year there were 22 countries represented in the race with, with 45 total competitors, traveling to the top of the world to run in some of the most grueling conditions imaginable.

At the start of the race, temperatures hovered around -29ºC/-20ºF. Setting off across the pack ice, the runners knew they had quite a challenge in front of them, but not everyone knew exactly how difficult it would be. Apparently several athletes had to be treated for hypothermia after prolonged exposure to the cold, as the final competitors didn't reach the finish line until after they spent 15 hours running the route. That is an awfully long time to be out in those conditions.

The winner of the race was Petr Vabrousek of the Czech Republic. He finished in 4 hours, 22 minutes, 24 seconds, which is an impressive time all things considered. Second place went to Doug Wilson of Australia with a time of 5 hours, 1 minute, 38 seconds. Daniel Palko rounded out the podium with a time of 5 hours, 8 minutes, 56 seconds.

For the ladies it was Heather Hawkins of Australia taking the top honors with a time of 6 hours, 57 minutes, 39 seconds. She was followed by Alice Burch of the U.K. at 7 hours, 4 minutes, 42 seconds, and Jennifer Cheung of China/Hong Kong, who finished with a time of 7 hours, 6 minutes, 6 seconds.

Himalaya Spring 2015: Teams Arriving in Everest Base Camp, Summit Bids Delayed on Annapurna

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya is about to get a whole lot more interesting. As expected, teams began arriving in Everest Base Camp over the weekend, and while they'll take a day or two to get settled, it won't be long before they start heading up the mountain itself, or visiting nearby peaks to launch acclimatization and training rotations on other mountains. For some, the skills training has already begun, with a number of units entering the Khumbu Icefall to work on their rope skills. Others are just now arriving, but will begin the real work soon.

Amongst those expected to arrive in EBC today are Alan Arnette. He checked in from Gorak Shep – the last stop before reaching the mountain – yesterday, and shared plenty of interesting news from the Khumbu. For instance, Alan has learned that there are roughly 319 individual climbers who have received permits to climb Everest this year. With a few more teams yet to check in, that puts the numbers on par with last year. That means that the tragedy from last season, and the ensuing shutdown of climbing operations, hasn't dissuaded anyone from coming to the mountain. Of those, 109 have returned from last year, with the Nepali government honoring their permits from 2014. Also, Alan says that there are an additional 96 climbers on Lhotse as well.

Perhaps more of interest is the changing dynamic of the teams on the mountain. Traditionally, squads led by western guide services bring about 8-12 clients to Everest, but there are now Nepali owned companies who have as many as 60 people in their groups. This is, of course, an economics of scale move, allowing them to bring the price of the climb down through larger numbers. One has to wonder however if they are sacrificing safety in the process.
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