Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Video: Official Trailer for Blood Road - Riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam with Rebecca Rusch

If you're looking for an amazing adventure documentary to get excited about, we may have just found one for you. This video is the trailer for a new film called Blood Road, which follows endurance athlete and mountain biker Rebecca Rusch as she travels to Vietnam to ride 1200 miles (1931 km) along the Ho Chi Minh trail. But this isn't just a trip to explore a country by bike. Rebecca's father was shot down and killed while flying a fighter plane during the Vietnam War, and she goes there in search of closure and answers. The film looks incredibly personal and well made. I can't wait to see it.

Video: Kilian Jornet Tells Us Why Everest is So Different

While we're all still marveling over Kilian Jornet's latest accomplishment on Everest, and waiting to see what he does next, this video comes our way to help explain the challenges he faced in preparing for Everest and making his epic speed ascent of the mountain. Obviously shot before he left, the clip gives viewers some insists into what makes this mountain so different from others.

Gear Closet: Kora Holocene Yak Wool Vest Review

Over the years, the vest has gone in and out of style on a number of occasions. Currently, it is enjoying a comeback, serving as a mid-layer as part of a larger layering system or as a stand-alone piece designed to keep the core warm on active days. For the most part, I've never been a huge fan of vests in general, but have to admit that I've reluctantly come around to their value, particularly as designs have improved and the materials used to make them have gotten better as well. But now, I've become a full-blown convert, thanks to the Holocene vest from Kora.

If Kora sounds familiar, its because I reviewed the company's baselayers awhile back. What I loved about their products is that instead of using merino wool like the rest of the industry, Kora instead used wool from Tibetan yaks. The result is a very similar level of performance when compared to merino in terms of breathability and comfort, but with more warmth. That's because yaks have adapted to living in higher altitudes and in more demanding environments when compared to sheep, and the wool harvested from those animals reflect that.

The Holocene vest uses the company's proprietary Hima-Layer Stratam 350 fabrics, which are also made using yak wool. In theory, this makes it just as comfortable as a mid-layer that uses merino, but with more warmth as well. Those fabrics are soft to the touch, easy to clean, and share the same anti-microbial properties of sheep's wool, which means they don't absorb odors – something that certainly comes in handy on longer trips.

Himalaya Spring 2017: So What's The Story with the Hillary Step?

There has obviously been a lot of interest over the past week or so on the current status of the Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest. Last Thursday, it was widely reported that this iconic section of the route was now gone from the mountain, leaving many to ponder how it would impact future expeditions, while others mourned the loss of one of the most well-known landmarks on the most famous mountain on the planet. But, is the news of the Hillary Step's demise premature? Apparently, that depends on who you believe.

As I pointed out in my story from last week, speculation of the collapse of the Hillary Step following the 2015 earthquake first appeared last season. Those reports were quickly dismissed however, with Nepali officials, climbers, and guides saying that it was still there, it just happened to be covered in snow and ice, making it appear different than it had in the past. Now, that seems to be the same story being weaved once again this season.

According to this story from the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Nepalese climbers say that he Hillary Step is once again still there and intact, but is just covered with snow. The story quotes Ang Tshering Sherpa – chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association – as saying "The Hillary Step is in its old position. [It is] intact, except that there’s lots more snow on it so the rock portion is not easily visible."

This runs directly counter to reports that have come in from other mountaineers, including the Brit Tim Mosedale who was the first to break the story when he summited last week. He left little doubt that the step was no gone and that it would eventually have an impact on the route to the top of Everest.

Himalaya Spring 2017: New Round of Summit Pushes Begin, Illegal Traverse, 4 More Deaths on Everest

As expected, yesterday was a windy one on the summit of Mt. Everest, but conditions should improve today, allowing another round of climbers to launch their summit bids. The next couple of days should be extremely busy, with some large groups now on the move. This will likely be the last weather window of the seasons, as May is starting to run short of days. Still, the forecast is good and things look promising heading all the way into the weekend.

Despite high winds yesterday, The Himalayan Times is reporting that 30 more people managed to top out on Everest. Conditions on the summit were reportedly challenging, but the climbers were able to get up and down safely. This brings the total number of summits from the Nepali side of the mountain so far this season to over 220, with more yet to come.

Amongst the climbers who summited earlier this week was Ang Dorjee, a Sherpa guide from the Pangboche region of Nepal. It was his 19th successful trip to the top of Everest, putting him within striking distance of the record, which currently stands at 21 summits, and is held by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi.

Some of the teams that have now launched their summit bids include IMG, Himex, and Alpenglow, all of which have waited for the winds to subside before making a push. A number of teams are eyeing tomorrow – May 25 – as the day they stand on the top, and right now it appears the weather will cooperate for a safe climb and descent. Expect large numbers of mountaineers and potential traffic jams on both sides of the mountain.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Video: SalomonTV Takes Us on a Dream Trip to Nepal

If you could go on a dream trip, where would it be? For trail runner Tyler Courville, it would be a visit to Nepal to go running with National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Mira Rai, and thanks to SalomonTV, that dream actually came true. In this great video, you'll join Tyler as he travels to the Himalaya, meets Mira, and sets out on an adventure in the mountains. It is an epic journey for sure.

Video: 10 Female Adventure Icons Tell Outside About The Moment That Shaped Them

Outside magazine put ten of the most inspiring, impressive, and adventurous women of all time on its May cover, giving readers a chance to learn what drives them in their particular arena. Those ladies included the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Diana Nyad, and Melissa Arnot, and if you haven't had a chance to read the issue yet, I highly recommend it. In this video, we get to meet these ladies once again, while each of them shares with viewers the moment that shaped their lives. For a daily dose of inspiration, check it out below.

5 National Monuments at Risk From the Trump Administration

A few weeks back, the Trump administration sent an executive order to the U.S. Department of the Interior instructing Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of sites that were designated as national monuments over the past 25 years under the Antiquities Act. That order is expected to be carried out in three months, with some outstanding outdoor environments now at risk of losing their protected status, and potentially opening them up for commercial or even industrial development.

Recently, Men's Journal covered this story and compiled a list of the top five national monuments that are now on the chopping block. This list is filled with some very popular outdoor playgrounds that have received protected status under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. But now, thanks to other outside interests, they could be in danger.

So which sites earned a spot on the list? For once, I'm going to go ahead and spoil all five of them, as I think this is a topic worth spreading the word on and getting more people involved in speaking out against the move. So, without further adieu, the top five most threatened monuments are is as follow:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah)
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters (Maine)
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts (Massachusetts)
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico)
  • Bears Ears (Utah)
The MJ article gives readers a sense of why each of these places was designated as a national monument to begin with and what makes it a target for losing that status now. For instance, the Bears Ears has been at the heart of this controversy for months, first because it was protected by the Obama administration in the waning days of its tenure, and because oil and gas interests have been lobbying for access to the area for years. In other words, there are natural resources under the site, and commercial interests are paying a lot of money to try to rescind the protections placed on the monument. 

Have strong feelings about these places? Be sure to express your opinions by going to this website and entering "DOI-2017-0002" into the search bar. From there, you'll be able to not only find out more about this issue, but share your views as well. As of this writing, there have been nearly 75,000 comments to date. 

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Preparing For Another Go at Everest?

Once again, I know we've been posting a lot of news from the Himalaya lately, and already have one article about ongoing expeditions there from earlier today, but considering the general interest in this story, I thought it was worth giving it its own post.

Yesterday it was widely reported that Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet has set a new speed record on Everest. While that record comes with a number of qualifiers, there is no doubt that Kilian's 26 hour ascent is an impressive feat to be sure. Especially when you consider that he began having stomach issues at around 7700 meters (25,262 ft), but pressed on anyway. But, it seems Jornet might not be down with the mountain just yet, despite having already put on such an amazing performance.

On his descent, Kilian still suffered from his bout with the stomach illness, so rather than going all the way back to Base Camp, he stopped in Advanced Base Camp for some much deserved rest. While there, he ran into Adrian Ballinger, who reported on the encounter on his Facebook page. This is what Adrian had to say.
"#pro - if you don't follow @kilianjornet, stop reading this caption and go follow him. I'm lucky to be surrounded by some amazing athletes on a daily basis. But Today he made a 26-hour push from Base Camp to the summit of #Everest, without supplemental oxygen. This is superhuman. But three things make it even wilder. First, he suffered gastro distress throughout the summit push but somehow suffered through and still stood on top. Second, he thinks he can do it faster and hopes to recover in time to make another attempt before this season ends. Third, after 30+ hours awake and enduring real suffering, he still graciously signed autographs in ABC before sleeping or eating. I am so blown away, humbled and inspired for my attempt. Congratulations Kilian! #everestnofilter #everest201"
In other words, it looks like Kilian is already thinking about making another run at the summit and improving on his time. But, he's not thinking about coming back in the fall or returning for Spring 2018, but will instead try to recover now, and if the weather window is good, make another attempt at the speed record in the next few days. If that happens, it would be even more remarkable than his first summit.

Before he can do this, he'll first need to rest and fight off the gastro distress he's been dealing with. With high winds on the mountain today, he wouldn't be able to go up anyway, and with massive summit pushes now underway, it would probably be best for the endurance runner to wait for the crowds to clear out. That would make Friday or Saturday a perfect time for another push, provided he's feeling up to it. Will it happen? We'll just have to wait around to find out.

Stay tuned!

Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits on Everest as Others Line Up For Second Weather Window

More updates from Everest today as the seemingly never-ending summit window continued to stretch out for a third day yesterday. And while winds are likely to briefly quiet things down, there appears to be more summits to come as the week unfolds.

Yesterday we wrote that more teams were reportedly on the move to take advantage of the current weather window before the jet stream shifted today. At the time, it was unclear how many had reached the top, as things were still influx, and the climbers could have been turned back from the summit if conditions changed suddenly. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and now there are various reports indicating that more than 100 climbers topped out in good weather on Monday. Of those, 45 were said to be foreign climbers, while the others were Sherpa guides.

As usual, Alan Arnette has a complete rundown of the proceedings, with good information on where the teams are currently at on the mountain and who successfully reached the summit. Among those finding success yesterday were 7 Summits Club and Asian Trekking, as well as a few smaller squads as well.

Alan also points out that Polish climber Janusz Adamski pulled off a rare traverse of Everest by first summiting on the North Side and then descending along the South Col route into Nepal. This was not only a solo climb, but Adamski made the traverse without the use of bottled oxygen, something that has only been done once in the past, by Jozef Just, who perished in the process.

While congratulations are in order to all of the summiteers, those of us following along at home barely have time to breathe before the next wave of climbers heads up. After today, the winds are expected to die down once again, and so there are numerous squads getting ready to make their ascent between Wednesday and Friday of this week. That wave will include another round of IMG climbers, Himex, Alpenglow, Alpine Ascents, and others. All told, the next few days could be just as busy as this past weekend.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Video: Take a Look at the World Through the Eyes of Nature

This beautiful video isn't just a reminder that we should look around our world and soak in the natural beauty. It also introduces us to Botei – an eagle hunter from Mongolia – and Kuja, who lives with his family in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador. The two men lead very different lives, but they share a bond with the world around them, as both of their people have lived in a very similar way for hundreds of years. To help tell their story further, Botei and Kuja have both been given mobile devices and Instagram accounts to share images from their world. You can follow them at @botei.eagle.hunter and @kuja.achuar.people respectively, with each photo giving us a glimpse into their culture.

NATURE'S EYES from Fabien Ecochard on Vimeo.

Video: High Winds on Everest

Over the past week or two, we've been reporting on high winds on Mt. Everest, which have dictated when summit pushes can begin or must stop. So just what do high winds on the mountain look like? This video – shot back in 2003 – will give you an idea of what the climbers are dealing with, complete with shredded tents and all. After watching this short clip, you'll have a better understanding of the forces at work on the mountain.

10 Great Outdoor Documentaries From The Adventure Journal

Just because the dog days of summer force us to stay inside in the air conditioning from time to time doesn't mean we have to skimp on our daily dose of adventure. On the contrary, as there are some amazing outdoor documentaries to be enjoyed while we rehydrate and prepare to head back out into the heat. And to help us find some of the best, Adventure Journal has put together a list of their 10 favorites, which include some all-time classic and recent hits.

The list has a little something for everyone, from mountaineers, to rock climbers, to surfers, and skiers. Each entry is accompanied by a trailer video that will give you a sense of what each film is about. There is also a brief description of the documentary as well, giving readers an indication of what to expect from the film.

So which movies made the cut? I won't spoil too much of the list for you, but I will say that Valley Uprising and Meru both earned a spot on AJ's top 10. Those two films have been amongst the most celebrated adventure docs to come out in recent history, and for good reason. If you haven't seen either of them yet, than you need to correct that ASAP. Also, one of my favorite documentaries is also on the list in the form of The Barkley Marathons (trailer below). If you haven't seen it yet, it is on Netflix and is fantastic.

While AJ's suggestions are good ones, I find the list to be a bit too safe and predictable. There aren't too many films on it that you probably haven't heard of, and if you're like me, you've probably seen most of them before as well. So, what did they miss out on? What are some great docs that didn't get a mention the we should be watching? Leave a comment with your suggestions.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Summits Everest without Oxygen and in Alpine Style

There has been a lot of news coming out of the Himalaya this past weekend, and it'll likely take a few days to get caught up on everything that his happening. That said, I thought that this story definitely deserved its own post, especially since I know so many people have been following the expedition.

Kilian Jornet has closed out his Summits of My Life project in epic style by climbing Mt. Everest from the North Side in alpine style and without the use of supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes. The Spanish mountain runner set out from the Rombuk monastery at 10:00 PM local time on May 20, at an altitude of 5100 meters (16,732 ft) and reached the top of Everest (8848 m/29,029 ft) at 12:15 AM on May 22, taking roughly 26 hours to complete the ascent in a single push. He then descended safely back to ABC for a total roundtrip time of approximately 38 hours.

Kilian says that he was moving well for most of the climb but once he hit 7700 meters (25,262 ft) he began to have stomach problems, which slowed him down some. Still, he was able to continue upwards to reach the summit nonetheless and set an impressive time in doing so. Most climbers who will be following in his footsteps on the next summit push, will likely take 3-4 days to complete the same route.

Following his success on the mountain, Kilian is claiming another FKT (fastest known time) on for the climb. It would be pointed out however that Hans Kammerlander made the ascent without bottled oxygen from Base Camp in 16 hours and 45 minutes back in 1996. Presumably he did it using fixed ropes however, so there may be some room for interpretation of the true "FKT."

This brings an end to Jornet's Summits of My Life challenge, which over the past couple of years saw him setting new speed records on Kilimanjaro, Denali, Aconcagua, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn. During that time, he has proven himself to be one of the most adept mountain runners – and now climbers – of all time and he likely has another project already in the works. But for now, he's going to savor his accomplishments on Everest and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation.

Congrats to Kilian on finishing this epic quest. It has been a joy to follow along and we can't wait to see what you'll do next.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Weekend Brings Numerous Summits, 4 Deaths on Everest

As expected, it was an incredibly busy weekend on both sides of Mt. Everest. Weather forecasts had called for calming winds on top of the world's tallest mountain, which had led to many teams getting themselves into position for a massive summit push. The weather was a bit dicey at times, but ultimately Mother Nature allowed climbers to reach the top, although unfortunately four climbers also perished in the process.

According to The Himalayan Times, at least 70 climbers reached the summit of Everest yesterday alone, and there are some indications that that number might be conservative. For instance, the IMG team alone put 27 climbers on the summit. Numerous other teams were within striking distance of the top as of Saturday, although some were still watching the forecasts closely to determine whether or not they should sit tight or make a dash for the top. High winds are expected to return today, although there was a narrow weather window that may have allowed even more teams to summit early this morning.

Alan Arnette estimates that as many as 150 more climbers could have been staged for an early summit attempt today, or they could be waiting out the winds for a second window that is expected to open later in the week. At the moment, it is unclear whether how many more may have gone up today, while others await their turn.

Meanwhile, The Times is also reporting that a number of climbers had to be rescued from the South Side today due to severe altitude sickness. The climbers in question were apparently of Nepali, Pakistani and Argentine descent, and apparently ran out of oxygen near the balcony and had to be assisted back down the mountain by other climbers. Once low enough, they were also airlifted to Camp 2, where they were receiving further attention and getting help with the descent back to BC.

Sadly, there were also four deaths reported over the weekend as well. 51-year old American Doctor Roman Yearwood perished near the Balcony at 8000 meters (26,200 ft) on the Nepali side of the mountain. Also not the South Side, a 50-year old Slovakian climber by the name of Vladimir Strba and a 27-year old Indian climber named Ravi Kumar died as well. Sadly, a 54-year old Australian by the name of Francesco Enrico Marchetti also died while attempting the North Col route in Tibet too. Our condolences go out to the friends and families of the deceased.

These deaths put 2017 on pace to surpass the number of climbers who perished last year on Everest, with more summit bids yet to come. Hopefully, those still heading up will get back to Base Camp in a safe and timely manner.

With this first massive summit push now mostly behind us, we'll have a bit of a lull today and into tomorrow as the remaining teams watch the weather closely. There are still a lot of climbers waiting for their opportunity to summit, and that chance should come within the next few days, particularly if the winds subside as expected. For now though, we continue to wait and watch just like everyone else.

Congrats to everyone who successfully summited and good luck to those who have yet to set out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Video: Climbing the Hillary Step on Everest

Yesterday we learned that the Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest is gone from the mountain. This iconic point was often a source of bottlenecks on the route to the top, but once overcome, it was usually clear sailing to the summit. Now, things will be a bit different, with some saying the removal of the step should make things easier, while others are claiming it could present new challenges. In this video, you'll get a look at what the Hillary Step once looked like, and what it was like to climb it. Starting this season, summiteers will have an entirely different approach to the top.

Video: Mountain Biker Takes Midnight Ride Illuminated by Drone Light

When mountain biker Loic Bruni set out to ride a trail after dark, he found a creative way to light the way for himself. In this clip, you'll see Loic descending down the mountain with a drone following close behind to illuminate the way. The rest of us probably would have just mounted a light on our bikes, or worn a headlamp, but hey, this works too!

The 20 Best Day Hikes in America's National Parks

Summer is a time for family vacations, outdoor exploration, and simply having fun in the longer, warmer days. If your plans for the summer ahead include a visit to some of America's National Parks, than you're going to want to check out this article from National Geographic. It lists the 20 best day hikes in the parks, proving that you don't have to hike for days to find some epic trails.

Narrowing down a list of great day hikes in the national parks isn't easy, but some of the best trails in some of the best parks definitely made the cut. For instance, Nat Geo recommends the 9 mile (14.4 km) Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords for its physical workout (1000 feet/mile vertical gain) and stunning views of the glaciers. Meanwhile, the Hot River Trail (also 9 miles) in Olympic National Park gets a nod because it wanders through one of the most spectacular rainforests in all of North America, while the Yosemite Falls Trail in Yosemite (7 miles/11.2 km) is one of the best ways to check out the parks picturesque waterfalls.

This is, of course, just a small taste of what the list has to offer. There are 17 other trails that also make the cut, some of which are amongst the most scenic and iconic hiking routes in all of the national parks. Best of all, each of them is short enough that they can be hiked in a day, and still have you back to town for a wonderful dinner.

To see which other trails made the short list, read the entire article here. Then, start planning your national park getaway this summer.

The Volvo Ocean Race Looks to the Future

The 2017-2018 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race won't begin until October, but already the organization is looking towards the future of the 44 year old race. A few days back, race management made some announcements about where the event is heading, and it looks to be exciting times ahead for this round-the-world adventure.

For those who aren't familiar with the Volvo Ocean Race, it is one of the three major sailing challenges in the world, with America's Cup and the Olympics rounding out the "Big 3." It is a race that is held every two years that tests some of the best sailing crews on the planet as they attempt to be the fastest to circumnavigate the globe. The 2017-2018 edition is expected to cover some 46,000 nautical miles (52,935 miles/85,192 km), as the teams cross four oceans, visit six continents, and stop in 12 different cities. To say it is a test of skill, strength, and stamina, would be an understatement.

But, while the five teams that have entered this year's race prepare for the challenges ahead, VOR leadership is looking beyond that competition to others yet to come. Amongst the changes that are coming in the future is the inclusion of a new 60' foil-assisted ocean racing monohull design that will bring faster speeds to the ships, as well as the introduction of a new "flying" catamaran for use during In-Port Races. Those segments of the Volvo Ocean Race are currently used to settle tiebreakers, but the In-Port Races will play a larger role in future versions of the event, although the offshore legs will still be where individual races will be won or lost.

The updated ship designs are just part of the new initiatives that have been announced however. Race leadership also noted that it will begin offering race activity every calendar year, rather than waiting two years between events. To support that activity, it will also add three new hosts cities, new routes, and some interesting changes in race format as well. For instance, it was hinted that teams may even race non-stop around Antarctica in a future event, which would be an amazing and treacherous part of the world for a sailing competition.

Himalaya Spring 2017: High Winds on Everest Turning Early Summit Bids Back

All week long we've been closely watching the evolving situation and weather on Everest with the expectation that teams would launch their summit bids over the weekend, provided the weather window holds. But, a few teams have attempted to go up in dicey weather, and now it sounds like they may be headed back down without ever reaching the top.

Alan Arnette has been following the summit pushes closely and as always, he has the best info on where everyone is at on the mountain at any given time. He's posted an update of the "second summit wave" which got underway late last night Nepali time, and has been continuing throughout the day there. But, an update from the Summit Club team indicates that they have received a radio call that says high winds on the summit are turning teams back without success. That means that the teams that launched an early bid, including the 7 Summits Club, are heading back down the mountain. How far they'll descend and whether or not they'll be ready to make a second push over the weekend remains to be seen.

Considering that a large number of teams, including IMG, are now heading to higher camps for summit attempts over the weekend, you can bet that all eyes are now on the weather forecast. If high winds continue, a lot of squads will be forced to delay their final push to the top, and the next weather window isn't expected to open until the early part of next week. Hopefully conditions will settle down and allow these teams to get up and down safely, but nothing is certain at this point. In fact, the weather has been so strange and unpredictable this season that it is possible that some climbers will miss out on the summit altogether due to bad timing, a narrow window, or because conditions simply just aren't right. The forecasts continue to look positive for the next couple of days, but for now you can bet there are a lot of climbers and expedition leaders holding their breath and crossing their fingers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Video: Timelapse of the Sun From the South Pole

Ever wonder what the movement of the sun looks like at the South Pole during the long days of the austral summer? Well, wonder no more! This video is a timelapse shot over five days that shows the sun continuously circling the horizon without ever setting. It is quite a sight to see and something that can only truly be found at the North and South Pole.

What does the sun do at the Pole !? from Robert Schwarz on Vimeo.

Video: Exploring Remote British Columbia by Snowmobile

In this video we join a team of backcountry snowmobilers as they set out into remote regions of British Columbia to reach a hot springs that has become almost inaccessible in recent years. Along the way, they find some gnarly snow conditions, challenging routes, and wild space that see very little – if any – human visitors. And if you think traveling through the backcountry on a snowmobile is easy, this video will leave you thinking otherwise.

Is the Hillary Step Gone From Everest?

Yes, we've had a lot of news focused on Everest of late, including an update already today. But this new is big enough that I thought it deserved its own post.

Last year we speculated that the Hillary Step, one of the most prominent landmarks on the route to the summit of Everest on the South Side, may have been destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. The iconic spot was named for Sir Edmund Hillary of course, who scrambled up that section of the mountain on his way to the first ascent with Tenzing Norgay back in 1953. That part of the climb has always told climbers that they were closing in on the summit, and was an important access point for climbers who may not have had the technical skills necessary to complete the ascent. Now, it appears that there is more evidence that the Step is gone, and it could cause problems for future alpinists.

When news broke last year that the Hillary Step was no longer on the mountain, there were some that said that it was indeed still there, but it was covered in a lot of snow and ice, altering its look. When climbers approached, they still found a similarly shaped obstacle that had to be overcome on the way to the top, leading many to believe that everything was normal, but things just looked a bit differently. But now, it appears that those reports may have been wrong.

According to a report posted by Alan Arnette. climbers Tim Mosedale and Scott Mac summited Everest earlier this week just behind the rope fixing team. On the way up, the discovered that the route was indeed a bit more technical than normal, and that the Hillary Step was no longer there. Mosedale is quoted as saying:
"The route from the South summit is reasonably technical and, shock horror, there’s no Hillary Step. The next thing you know we’re on the summit enjoying the views and the sense of achievement."
He later posted the photo above with another quote:
"It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate."

So there you have it, it seems this iconic point that has been a part of the Everest climb for decades is now gone. How that will impact the summit push ahead remains to be seen, but it sounds like it will have a bigger role in years to come, when there might not be as much snow on the mountain. We'll just have to wait to see. 

This season continues to get more and more interesting. 

The New York Times Takes A Look at Climbing K2 in Winter

It's not often that mountaineering gets good coverage by the mainstream media, let along the paper of record. But, this past weekend, The New York Times took an in-depth look at what it takes to climb K2, the second highest mountain on the planet, during the winter – something that has yet to be accomplished.

The story in The Times introduces readers to a team of Polish climbers who are preparing to take on "the world's most lethal mountain" this coming winter. The story does a good job of not only providing readers with a sense of history for Polish winter climbing in the Himalaya, but also the sense of pride and accomplishment that has come along with the impressive feats that those climbers have accomplished in the past. For them, there is only one big challenge yet to be conquered during the coldest months of the year, and that's K2.

Readers get a sense of what it is like to climb a major Himalayan peak during the winter months, when cold conditions and howling winds can leave alpinists stuck inside their tents for days on end, waiting for a proper weather window just to go out and acclimatize, let alone make a summit push. It is a harsh and unforgiving environment that has crushed the dreams of many climbing teams, and has left far too many men and women dead in its wake. Add that to the fact that K2 is already one of the most difficult and dangerous mountains on the planet, and you begin to understand why it is such a crazy endeavor.

The New York Times story is quite extensive, and an excellent read for those of us who already have a sense of what it takes to climb a big mountain in winter as well as those being introduced to the concept for the very first time. I'm sure more than a few readers were left wondering why anyone would want to do this at all, but if you read this blog with any kind of regularity, chances are you've already moved beyond that question.

Winter is still quite a few months off yet, so its hard to think about it too much at the moment. But, it will also be here before we know it, and the Polish team is busy preparing, plotting, and training to get ready. Once they get underway, you can bet we'll be following their progress closely. Until then, you'll just have to read the article to get ready for the challenge they face.

Himalaya Spring 2017: It's Finally Go Time on Everest

After years of planning, months of preparation and training, and weeks of acclimatizing and waiting, it's now starting to look like it is time to climb on Everest. The teams on both the North and South Sides of the mountain have been patiently watching the weather forecasts for the past week or so, and conditions are starting to finally come around. But the weather windows look tight, so squads are setting off now to get themselves into position for the summit push to come.

If you've been following the season closely, and you thought to yourself that the weather seems odd this year, you're not alone. In fact, Alan Arnette has written an article on that very subject, quoting meteorologist Michael Fagin of Everest Weather who has described conditions this year as the most difficult to forecast in the 14 years he's been predicting weather in the Himalaya. He also indicated that the forecast models have often changed ever 12 hours, which is why it has been so difficult to nail down a good window to launch summit bids.

But, things are changing, and there does seem to be a two short periods of stability about to arrive. The first should take place on May 18-21 – essentially today through Sunday, and then again from May 23-25, which is the middle of next week. The teams on the mountain are now scrambling to take advantage of these calmer days ahead.

Amongst them is the IMG squad, which sent their first wave of climbers up yesterday. They're expected to reach Camp 2 today, and if everything goes according to schedule, they should be ready to summit over the weekend. But, the team's guides are keeping a close eye on conditions to determine the right time to climb. They also have two other waves of climbers waiting for their turn, with another one likely to set out today.