Thursday, December 08, 2016

Video: Saving Antarctica for Future Generations

We've had a number of troubling stories late about the shifting environment in the Antarctic. Most of those stories have involved the collapse of the ice shelves there, which could eventually lead to rising ocean levels around the world that may impact our coastlines dramatically. In this video, we travel to the frozen continent to see just how things are changing there. It is part of a series of clips from National Geographic about living and working in the Antarctic, as we hear first hand from the researchers who work there just how things are changing. Along the way, we also get some incredible views of the continent, which few of us ever get the chance to see.

Video: Paddling and Kiteboarding Iceland

We've seen some impressive videos from Iceland over the years, but this one still manages to deliver something new. It follows outdoor athlete Nuria Goma as she visits that beautiful destination, exploring its landscape not just in the traditional way, but also by kiteboarding and stand-up paddleboarding along the spectacular Icelandic coasts. As you can imagine, th country makes a stunning backdrop to her adventures.

This is what I am made of: ICELAND from Nuria Goma on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: CamelBak Franconia LR 24 Backpack

When it comes to staying hydrated on the trail, CamelBak pretty much wrote the book on it. After all, it was that company that first introduced the concept of the hydration pack way back in 1989 when founder and cyclist Michael Eidson was searching for ways to easily take on fluids while in the midst of a race. His humble designs have evolved greatly over the years, becoming lighter, more efficient, and more durable too. Today, CamelBak has diversified its catalog in a number of different directions, and yet it still continues to look for new ways to improve the product that first launched the brand more than 25 years ago.

One of its latest creations is the new Franconia LR 24 backpack, which just began shipping this fall. This bag is designed for hikers who want to be able to carry everything they need with them on the trail, and of course need to stay hydrated while they are out there. As such, it has a number of excellent touches that make it an outstanding option for trekkers and day-hikers, as it provides ample amount of storage space and is comfortable to wear, even when it loaded down with a lot of cargo.

The Franconia is the first pack in CamelBak's line-up to use its new Crux LR hydration reservoir. Completely redesigned to make hydration easier than ever, it delivers 20% more water per sip than previous models. This translate to getting more water while staying active, and speaking as someone who has used CamelBak packs for years, I can tell you that it is a noticeable difference when taking a drink. The idea is that over the course of the day, you'll have more water intake in general, keeping you better hydrated as a result.

The Crux also features a wide cap that helps you to fill it much more quickly and easily, as well as a built in handle for carrying it around and getting it slid into place. The Franconia has a special hydration bladder compartment that is designed to hold the Crux nicely, without taking away storage space from the interior of the bag. The bladder also sits lower on your back as well, creating more stability while hiking and making it more comfortable to carry. There are even integrated reservoir compression cinches that reduce the movement of the bladder both when it is full and as you drink from it. Those cinches can be adjusted on the fly as you hike too.

19 Facts About Mt. Kilimanjaro - The Highest Peak in Africa

As the tallest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro always draws a lot of attention from trekkers and climbers alike. Many travel to Tanzania to nab one of the Seven Summits, while others are lured by the challenge that comes along with hiking to the iconic "Roof of Africa." But no matter what reason you have for going, it is truly an adventure of a lifetime, and one that will leave a lasting impression for sure.

With that in mind, a blog called Altitude Treks has posted an article listing 19 Kilimanjaro Facts that offers some interesting insights into the mountain. Whether you've been there in the past, are planning in the future, or just want to know more about this amazing place, you're likely to learn something that you didn't know before about Kili. 

I've to the mountain twice, and have written about it many times, and I still learned a few things from the story. For instance, the article goes into detail about the various climate zones you'll pass through on the way to the summit, which total five in all. It also offers insights into the history of the mountain, including some of the earliest attempts to climb it. You'll also learn about the East African Mountain Club, which led early expeditions to the summit, and find out who the oldest and youngest summiteers are. You'll discover how the mountain got its name, why certain areas on its slopes have their own monikers, and even gain insights into the death rate on the mountain. According to the story, about 5-15 people die on Kili each year, with 2-3 of them being visitors and the rest porters. That number is relatively small when you consider thousands attempt the climb in any given year, with about 60% of those making it to the summit.

If you're a previous Kili climber or have a trek to the mountain on your bucket list, you'll want to give this article a look. It is fairly long, but a very interesting read for those of us who love this mountain. You can check it out by clicking here

And thanks to Clare Groom for sharing the story. 

No Major Winter Climbing Expeditions This Year?

Now that the fall climbing season in the Himalaya is done, we would typically turn our attention to the winter climbing season that would usually get underway near the end of December. But, it appears that there won't be any major expeditions to the big mountains this year as numerous teams take a break and look forward to next year.

According to a blog post by German adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler, two of the more prominent names in winter mountaineering are staying home for sure this year. Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz has been a staple on Nanga Parbat the last six years, but he won't be going this winter. He says that he couldn't raise the funds necessary to launch the expedition, which was probably made all the more difficult considering Italian climber Simone Moro, along with Basque mountaineer Alex Txikon, and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara”, put up the first winter ascent of that mountain last February. They were accompanied on that expedition by Tamara Lunger, who was forced to turn back due to illness. Lunger says she'll pass on a winter ascent this year as well as she focuses on getting her helicopter pilots license instead. Next year, she hope to attempt Everest in winter however.

As of now, there are no expeditions announced for any of the Himalaya or Karakoram peaks. That could obviously change, as a lot of climbers keep their plans close to the vest until they're ready to set out. But now that K2 is the last remaining 8000-meter peak that has not been climbed during the winter months, it seems most have decided to stay home. K2 is treacherous enough under the best of conditions, but is even more deadly in the winter. That said, there are already some teams gearing up for a winter expedition to that peak as well, it is just a matter of when they will go.

Nestler reports that Indian climber Arjun Vajpai has announced that he'll make a winter ascent of a 7000-meter peak in his home country, but he hasn't said which one just yet. The 23-year old mountaineer has already summited five 8000-meter peaks, and appears to have a promising career ahead. How he does on a winter climb should be interesting to follow.

While at the moment it doesn't appear that we'll have any big winter climbs this season, that doesn't mean that there won't be interesting expeditions to keep an eye on. Last year, Moro and Lunger didn't go to Nanga Part until well into January, and we could see something similar this season. Perhaps we'll have a few expeditions pop up on the radar as the winter gets rolling along. But if not, 2017 is already shaping up to be a promising one for winter mountaineering.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Video: Rise - Exploring Oregon by Drone

The state of Oregon is an incredibly beautiful place, but it never seems to get its proper due, in part because it is competing for attention with other western states like Colorado, Montana, and Utah. But in this video, Oregon gets the attention it deserves, as it is four minutes of spectacular footage captured by drone. The results are some impressive landscapes that reveal some of the best hidden gems in the American West.

RISE - Oregon Aerial 4K from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Video: Ice Climbing Helmcken Falls in Canada

At 140 meters (459 feet) in height, Helmcken Falls is the fourth tallest waterfall in Canada. During the winter, it doesn't freeze solid, but it creates enough of a spray to freeze the cliffs that surround it. In this video, we follow climber Klemen Premrl as he attempts to go up the ice walls along a route known as "Interstellar Spice." Along the way, he'll find out why this is considered one of the toughest mixed routes in the entire world.

Gear Closet: Sherpa Adventure Gear Tsepun Zip Tee

If there is anyone who knows what gear works best in the outdoors, it is probably the Sherpas of Nepal. They are the backbone of pretty much every major expedition to the Himalaya, and without them most climbers would never reach the summit of their respective mountains. In order to be on the leading edge of those expeditions, the Sherpa guides need top-notch gear to get them safely up and down the mountain, as more often than not they are tasked with the thankless jobs of fixing ropes, breaking trail, and scouting conditions high on the slopes. A lot of demands are placed on these highly skilled, dedicated, and hard working men and women, so of course they demand a lot from their gear as well.

The team at Sherpa Adventure Gear have brought that same sensibility to the products that they make. Founded in 2003, the company is based in Kathmandu and was originally started to pay tribute to the heroes of Everest, the dedicated climbers who have gone up and down that sacred mountain. Since then, the company has also focused its attention on creating jobs for Nepali citizens, and last year it played a crucial role in helping rebuild the country following the massive earthquake that struck the region in April of 2015. Now, Sherpa Adventure Gear employs more than 1500 people, all dedicated to turning out some of the best products in the outdoor industry.

Recently, I've been testing a number of items from Sherpa, and have found all of them to be of exceptionally high quality. The various products that I've used have all been made extremely well, displaying durability, versatility, and a high level of performance. Of course, they also show the influences of the rich history and culture of Nepal as well, which helps to distinguish them from other outdoor brands.

One of the items that I've been using regularly now that temperatures have started to drop is the impressive Tsepun Zip Tee. This mid-weight baselayer is made from highly technical fabrics that are great at pulling moisture away from the body and drying incredibly quickly, keeping you warmer and dryer during your favorite outdoor pursuits. This makes it an ideal choice for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, skiing, or just about anything else that takes you outside during the cooler months of the year.

British Stand-Up Paddleboarder Embarking on Expedition Down Sri Lanka's Longest River

Stand-up paddleboarding continues to be an interesting sport that is growing in popularity and presents some unique opportunities in the world of outdoor adventure. While most of us are content to paddle out on our local lakes and rivers, some intrepid individuals are using SUP boards to explore remote corners of the world. Take for example British adventurer Kev Brady, who is Sri Lanka and preparing to paddle down that country's longest river.

Kev arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka yesterday and is now preparing to embark on what promises to be quite an experience. He'll begin by hiking 2200 meters (7217 feet) up into Horton Plains National Park where he'll go in search of the source of the Mahaweli River, a remote waterway that runs for 335 km (208 miles) that runs through lush forests populated mostly be wild animals, like elephants, crocodiles, leopards, monkeys, and snakes. He'll then drop his trusty Red Paddle Co. Explorer SUP board into the water, and begin his long journey, which will also include 1287 km (800 miles) of Sri Lankan coastline as well.

The entire journey is expected to take roughly four months to complete, and since he's only taking a SUP board for transportation, Kev will need to travel light along the way. He's taking little more than a hammock and some basic supplies to help get him through the journey, with plans to restock food and other items as he passes through villages and towns in the later stages of the trip.

Much of the upper Mahaweli River remains unexplored, and at this point Brady isn't sure what he'll encounter early on. He is prepared to portage around waterfalls and possibly whitewater, although the wildlife in the area may dictate when and where he'll be able to proceed. But, he says he's excited about the exploration aspects of the trip, with just his paddleboard, meager supplies, and his own wits and skills to see him through.

Brady should be setting out on the actual expedition in the next few days, but at the moment he is in Colombo and taking care of less minute logistical challenges before he sets off. You can follow his progress on both Facebook and Twitter as he heads out into the unknown. This should be quite an adventure indeed.

An Antarctic Base is Being Relocated Because of Massive Crack

It seems we've been hearing a lot about the shifting ice sheets in the Antarctic lately. Last week we learned that climate change is causing those sheets to collapse into the sea, and a few days ago I posted a story about a 300-foot (91 meter) crack that was causing another ice shelf to begin its inevitable drop into the ocean as well. Now, we have yet another story of the ice breaking apart on the frozen continent, and this time it is threatening an actual research station that will now be relocated to avoid disaster.

Yesterday, the British Antarctic Survey announced that it was relocating its mobile Halley VI research station due to the possibility that the ice shelf it is resting on could break off and fall into the sea. If that were to happen, the station currently finds itself on the wrong side of the crack that is developing across East Antarctica, and it would end up floating off into the Southern Ocean along with the massive iceberg. To avoid this, the base – which was designed to be moveable – will be towed 23 km (14 miles) inland to a safer position.

The Halley VI has been in its current position since it was first constructed on the ice back in 2012. It rests on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where it has been conducting research on climate change, the ozone layer, and various other environmental projects over the past few years. One of the things that scientists have discovered is that a nearby crack in the ice – believed dormant for more than 35 years – has begun to widen, and the entire shelf could calve off into the ocean.

Now that the Antarctic summer has arrived, a team of engineers has traveled to the base to begin uncoupling its 8 different modules, and start the slow process of relocating the station. While they do that, scientists will continue to conduct research at is current site in temporary facilities before moving back into the Halley VI next year.

I had two take aways from this story. First, this seems like yet another sign of climate change having a dramatic impact of the Antarctic with the third story of massive chunks of ice potentially calving into the sea in less than a week. And secondly, I'm impressed at the foresight of the engineers who designed and built the station to be able to move it relatively easily. Yes, it is a massive undertaking to relocate the base, but in doing so they are saving millions of dollars and allowing important research there to continue. It is a pretty impressive feat of engineering to put this base together in such an extreme place, and to move it is no less impressive.

It appears that Antarctica is going through a dramatic shift right now, and there probably isn't a thing we can do to stop it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Video: 15 Things You (Probably) Never Knew About Antarctica

Here's a fun and informative little video that I thought many of you would like. It is a "list" of sorts, counting down 15 things you might not have known about Antarctica, the most remote and unexplored continent on our planet. Of course, I know a lot of the readers of this blog follow the continual exploration of the frozen continent, and some of you have even been there yourselves, but all that said, you'll probably still learn a few things about the place that you didn't know before simply by watching this short clip. I know I did, and I write about the Antarctic on a regular basis.

Video: The Best Mountaineering Films of All Time

Looking for some great mountaineering films to watch in your downtime? Then you'll certainly want to give his video a look. It provides a brief glimpse of some of the best mountaineering films ever made, including some top-notch documentaries and Hollywood produced dramas that offer a look at life in the mountains from a perspective that many of us never get the chance to see. I think I've personally seen everything on this list, but if you haven't, you'll find some good suggestions of what to add to you DVD collection or Netflix queue.

Gear Closet: Mountain Hardwear's 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket

It's no secret that Mountain Hardwear has long been one of my favorite outdoor brands. I've always appreciated their no-nonsense approach to making great gear for use in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, and over the year's I've come to rely on the company's commitment to quality and performance. But, as the company grew and found more mainstream success, it also seemed to lose some of its focus. Its products were never out-right bad, but they for a time Mountain Hardwear was no longer delivering top-notch, cutting edge products that we'd all grown accustomed to seeing from them. By their own admission, the company got a bit complacent, which is not something that sits well with its core customers.

Thankfully, that era seems to be a thing of the past, and MH is currently in the process of righting the ship and getting back to the basics that made it such an innovative brand. As a result, over the past six months or so, it has been releasing some fantastic products, including the Dragon hoody I reviewed a few weeks back, and the awesome new StretchDown Jacket that has broken new ground. Better yet, I've seen a glimpse of things to come from Mountain Hardwear, and I can promise you the company has some amazing things in the pipeline for next spring and beyond.

But, if you're looking for something in their current catalog that stands out as a great piece of performance apparel, look no further than the 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket. It is an exceptional piece of gear designed to keep you warm and moving fast on the trail, that also happens to be priced great too. This high-performance soft shell carries a price tag of just $130, making it extremely affordable, even for those of us who have never worn any of Mountain Hardwear's clothing before.

Nepal to Take Action Against American Climber without Permits

Sticking with news from the Himalaya this morning, we have a follow-up story on the article I posted a couple of weeks back about American Sean Burch who claims to have summited 31 unclimbed peaks in just 21 days. That alone would be an impressive feat of course, but unfortunately Burch didn't have the proper permits to climb any mountains in Nepal, and according to The Himalayan Times, he now faces charges from the tourism department there.

The incident has been under investigation by Nepali officials for the past few weeks, and apparently they have decided to move ahead with initiating legal action against the climber. A letter was sent to both the Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation (Shankar Prasad Adhikari) and the head of the Department of Tourism (Jaya Narayan Acharya) advising them that Burch was in violation of the law, despite the American claiming that he had received permission from the Department of Immigration, which doesn't have the authority to grant that permission or issue climbing permits.

It does seem that officials are recognizing Burch's claims of making first ascents on 31 unclimbed mountains in 21 days, which would be a world record. But, since he did so without proper authorization, and entered restricted areas along the way, it appears he'll face substantial fines and mostly likely a ban on climbing in Nepal. That ban could be for up to 10 years, while the fines would normally go on a peak by peak basis.

For his part, Burch has already left Nepal and returned home to the U.S., which complicates matters in enforcing the rules. He did send out a tweet on November 30 thanking the DoT for recognizing his achievement, but he still finds himself in hot water moving forward. His fines could equal the cost of a climbing permit on Everest – the most expensive that Nepal charges – which is currently at $11,000. In theory, he could be charged that for each individual mountain that he did not have a permit for, although it is unclear just how much he could be fined.

Personally, I think Nepal needs to make an example of these kinds of actions to ensure they don't happen in the future. The country banned the Indian couple who faked their Everest summit for 10 years, and to me what Burch has done is worse. It appears that he has climbed 31 mountains illegally, and to me that should be worth 31 individual sentences. That means $11,000 per summit and a 10 year ban for each too. Too harsh? I'm not sure, but there should be zero tolerance for mountaineers that circumvent the laws.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Conrad Anker Suffers Heart Attack at 20,000 Feet

The 2016 Himalayan climbing season has pretty much wrapped up, and quite honestly I didn't expect to be sharing another story from the region until sometime next spring. But, there is one more major update from Nepal, and it is an important one.

National Geographic Adventure is sharing an exclusive story about legendary alpinist Conrad Anker, who suffered a heart attack while climbing in the Himalaya a few weeks back. The 54-year old Anker was at 20,000 feet (6096 meters) on Lunag-Ri – a 22,600-foot (6888 meter) mountain – when the medical incident occurred. He was assisted down by his climbing partner David Lama, who led the rappels back to the start of the climb, where Conrad said he was suffering pain in his arm and numbness in his lips. From there, he was picked up by a helicopter and flown back to Lukla, before proceeding on to Kathmandu, where he received medical attention. A cardiologist at the Siddhartha Hospital had to perform emergency surgery to remove a blockage, potentially saving Anker's life.

Now, Conrad is back home and resting comfortably in Bozeman, MT. That's where Mark Synnott reached him to conduct the interview for Nat Geo. In that interview, Anker goes into more detail about what happened, the rescue procedure, how he got home (Vanity Fair, the parent company of The North Face – whom Conrad is a sponsored athlete for – helped with that process), and much more. We also learn that Anker is extremely healthy for a man his age, and has good medical indicators all around, but he suffered a heart attack none the less.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Video: Iceland - Here's to the Travelers

Need another amazing look at the country of Iceland? This video provides that, and much more. It is a tribute to the wanderlust that mean of us feel. That inexplicable need to explore the world that only seems to grow in intensity the more you see. If you understand what I'm talking about, this video is definitely for you. Here's to the travelers who boldly venture out to see this big, beautiful world around us.

ICELAND // Here's to the Travelers from Tobi Schnorpfeil on Vimeo.

Video: Fatbiking Through Western Mongolia

This past summer I was fortunate enough to spend the better part of July riding on horseback through the Tavan Bond National Park in Mongolia on what turned out to be one of the best trips I have ever taken. But, if riding on horses through this part of the world sounds a bit daunting, my friends over at Round Square Adventures have an alternate means of transportation – fatbikes! Yep, that's right, you can visit the same region of Mongolia that I did, but on a bike instead. The video below will give you an idea of what these excursions are like, while also providing an amazing look at the landscapes you'll be traversing. After watching the clip, you may want to get on your bike and start training, because you're definitely going to want to do this.

Fatbike Trips through Tavan Bogd National Park, Mongolia from Kirsten Scully on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Lander Powell iPhone Case

Lets face it, there are literally hundreds of smartphone cases to choose from these days and it has gotten to the point where it is impossible to see them all. But, there aren't very many of them that are slim, light, and still manage to provide a high level of protection. Those are exactly the characteristics I'm looking for when I want to buy a case for my iPhone, as the device is already quite thin and lightweight on its own and I don't want to mess with that. Because, I'm very particular about the case that I put on my mobile device, particularly when I'm traveling. Recently, the one that I've found myself using the most is the Lander Powell, which is a good looking suit of armor that doesn't detract from the looks of the phone.

The feature-set on the Powell is what you would expect from a good iPhone case. It is tough and rugged, and includes a raised bezel that helps protect the screen from accidental drops. It also has a nice textured feel to it that makes it easier to grip, which is a common issue for Apple's sleek gadgets.  It even has a sleek, modern look to it that helps to set your phone apart from the crowd, which is a refreshing change in a sea of cases that often look exactly alike.

But beyond that, the Powell has been certified to meet military 810 drop-test standards. That means the case was built to survive a fall of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) without causing any damage to the phone. That might not seem like very much, but it is enough to keep your device safe from most common accidents.

As someone who has owned an iPhone since the very first day the became available, I've always been drawn to its nice sense of style. Thankfully, the Powell doesn't detract from that style, but instead compliments it. In face, Lander even makes a version of the case that is translucent, which allows your chosen color of iPhone – not to mention the iconic Apple logo – to be seen even while the case is in place.

Its slim design hugs the body of the iPhone nicely, giving you the extra protection you need but without turning the phone into a brick. That's something I appreciate greatly, because I now take my phone pretty much everywhere, including to some pretty remote places. This year alone, my iPhone has gone to Utah (multiple times!), Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina, California, Spain, the Caribbean, the Adirondack Mountains, Quebec, and Mongolia, and each time it was used extensively in all of those different places. That means that every time I hit the road I run the risk of damaging the device. But, with Lander's Powell case I don't feel like that is much of a legitimate concern, and I suspect you won't either.

Sure, there are other case options to choose from, some of which extend the level of protection to making the phone waterproof as well. But, those cases usually add a significant amount of bulk to the phone, and can create some other challenges too, not the least of which are poor audio performance and difficulty taking them on and off. While the Powell won't make your iPhone waterproof, it will provide all the protection it needs against drops and hard impacts, which is what we generally need for our backcountry excursions and adventure travels to the far side of the planet.

Lander makes the Powell for both the iPhone 6/6S and the iPhone 7, as well as the "Plus" editions of each of those models as well. Priced at $34.95 for the standard model and $39.95 for the "Plus" version, this is an excellent case at a great price. If you need plenty of protection in a thin package, this is a case you'll want to have on your list. It'll perform admirably without dramatically changing the look of the device.

Find out more at

NASA Discovers 300-foot Rift on Antarctic Ice Shelf

Last week I posted a article about how climate change was causing the collapse of ice sheets in Antarctic, and today we have another sobering story to share. It seems that NASA has found a massive rift on the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the frozen continent which will eventually cause a massive chunk of ice – the size of state of Delaware – to break off and fall into the ocean.

The crack, which measures 300 feet (91 meters) across, was discovered on November 10 as NASA researchers were making a flyover of the region as part of a survey of the shifting ice in Antarctica. This is the eighth consecutive year that the so called "IceBridge" team has traveled to the bottom of the world to measure the impact of climate change on the Larsen Ice Shelf, and their findings were startling even to them. The crack extends for more than 70 miles (112 km) and is a third of a mile (.5 km) deep.

The massive rift doesn't go entirely across the ice shelf – at least not yet. But once it does, the chunk of ice will collapse, sending it into the ocean. For the researchers studying the changing area, this isn't a matter of "if" this will happen, but "when." It seems to be only a matter of time at this point, particularly since the crack has only continued to get wider and longer since the survey was there last year.

As mentioned in the article I posted last week, the collapse of the ice shelf itself won't lead to increased sea levels since they are already displaying massive amounts of water. But the removal of this ridge will clear the way for other sheets of ice on the Antarctic continent to flow into the Southern Ocean, which will cause water levels to rise globally. In this case, a sheet of ice roughly the size of Scotland is behind the Larsen C Ice Shelf. That entire section of ice will then become vulnerable and start melting into the sea.

This section of Antarctica has seen both air and water temperatures rise in recent years, which is of course having an impact on the ice there. The alarming thing in these photos isn't necessarily the size of the rift, but how quickly it is growing. Climate change seems to be out-pacing some of the predictions and models that we've seen in the past, at least in this area of the world. What that means for the future remains to be seen, but it is sobering to say the least.

Antarctica 2016: Skiers Find Their Rhythm

As we start another week here at The Adventure Blog, it is once again time to check in with the Antarctic skiers and see how they are progressing. The first wave of explorers have now been out on the ice for nearly three weeks, and have really started to find a rhythm on their way to the South Pole, with more than a few already putting up impressive distances on a daily basis.

We'll start with an update on the six-man British military squad, who are now nearly halfway to the Pole, having reached 84.5ºS. But, that's only about a third of their total journey as they will turn back towards the coast once they have hit the very bottom of the world. They've now been out on the ice for 20 days, and have started to feel their sleds lighten as they consume food, fuel, and other items along the way. As a result, they're now averaging more than 30 km (18.6 miles) per day, which is a solid pace for this stage of the expedition.

Likewise, solo-skier Johanna Davidsson has really found her stride as well, which is even more impressive since she's going it alone. She's also hitting the 30 km/day mark at this point, as she looks to ski to the Pole then kite back to her starting point at Hercules. On day 19, with visibility low, Johanna decided to take a half-day of rest, change her socks and underwear, and refresh her self some. As a result, she's ready to hit the ice with some renewed strength and vigor today.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Video: Alive in the Himalaya

To wrap up the week, take a three-and-a-half minute journey to the Himalaya in northern India courtesy of this video, which captures the amazing landscapes of that part of the world in spectacular fashion. Shot during a three-week journey from Himachal Pradesh to Kashmir, the clip gives us a glimpse of the towering mountain peaks, the lush forests, and remote valleys that are found there. But more than that, it shows us the people and culture that exist there, not to mention one adorable pup. I'm not particularly wild about the narration at the beginning, but once it gets going, the video is mesmerizing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Alive from Alessandro Rovere on Vimeo.

Video: Yab Yum - Searching the Mayan Underworld (Part 3)

Today we have the third, and final, installment of a series of videos we've been sharing all week long that take us into the Yucatan in Mexico in search of some of the world's deepest caves. The series has followed explorer Robbie Schmittner and his team as cave dive into some amazing settings, where they discover remnants of the Mayan civilization that occupied the area centuries ago. In this episode, the crew descends into Yab Yum, a giant sinkhole where they make discoveries that date back to the last ice age.
(Note: If you've missed the first two parts of this excellent series, you'll find them here and here.)

Gear Closet: Char-Broil Portable Grill2Go X200

One of the biggest challenges for any camping trip is creating tasty meals while on the go. This can be especially difficult if you're backpacking into remote backcountry, where you're looking to travel fast and light. But, if you're car camping instead, and weight is not an issue, your options open up tremendously, giving you the ability to cook tasty meals no matter where you go. That is exactly the case with the new Char-Boril Portable Grill2Go X200, which is a surprisingly great cooking option for camping, overlanding, tailgating, or even just the backyard.

Obviously there have been portable grills around for quite some time, and many of them bring a lot to the table (pun intended!) in terms of how they perform. But what helps set the X200 apart from the crowd is that it is a portable infrared grill, which is something I hadn't come across before. For those who don't know, infrared grills use metal and ceramic pieces to allow them to heat up much faster and cook at higher temperature levels. This means the grill is ready to go much more quickly, and food prep doesn't take nearly as long.

In this case, the Grill2Go is powered by small canisters of propane fuel, which are of course a breeze to fire up and get cooking, even in colder temperatures and windy environments. It is quick, fairly efficient, and makes grilling a simple affair, which is usually what you want when you sit down to make a meal outdoors.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Evacuated From the South Pole

The legendary Buzz Aldrin is reportedly resting comfortably and recovering in a New Zealand hospital today after being evacuated from the South Pole yesterday for medical reasons. The 86-year old former astronaut and second man to walk on the moon, had been visiting Antarctica as a tourist when he took ill.

Aldrin was traveling with White Desert luxury tours and had hoped to visit the South Pole research station while in the Antarctic. Fortunately, he did make it to 90ºS before he became ill. Doctors say that he began collecting fluid in his lungs, which prompted the evacuation. While he is being kept in the hospital for observation, he is said to be doing fine and should have a full recovery.

Despite his age, Aldrin continues to be very active, and is a tireless advocate for exploration – particularly in space. He has been a major supporter of plans to go to Mars, and has spoken frequently about the importance of continuing to push boundaries beyond our own planet. He recently visited NASA for the unveiling of a new astronaut exhibit at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, before he left for Cape Town, South Africa to join the White Desert tour.

On November 28, Buzz and the rest of the group he was traveling with set out for the frozen continent on an itinerary that was expected to last about a week. But Aldrin took ill during the journey, with his condition getting worse as he reached the Pole. Once there, the decision was made to evacuate the moonwalker, and a specially equipped LC-130 aircraft was dispatched to fly him back to the coast where he caught another flight to New Zealand where he is now recovering.

I've always been a big admirer of Buzz Aldrin. Sure, Neil Armstrong got all the credit for being the first man to walk on the moon, but Buzz was only a couple of steps behind him. On top of that, Armstrong retreated from public life, seldom making appearances in his later years before passing away in 2012. But Buzz has always been a larger than life figure who isn't afraid to speak his mind or tell you his thoughts on any subject. He has used his position in the public eye to promote science and education, and has remained a staunch supporter of exploration in all its forms. Even now, at the age of 86, when most people are looking to slow down, he's still traveling to remote places on our planet. I hope that when I reach his age, I'm still half as active and vital as he is.

Get well soon Buzz. We're not ready to say goodbye to you for a very long time yet.

Mike Horn's Pole 2 Pole Expedition is About to Truly Get Underway

If you've been reading my updates from the Antarctic so far this season, you've probably seen me mention Swiss explorer Mike Horn on more than one occasion. That's because not only does he have an impeccable adventure resume ( climbed four 8000-meter peaks without oxygen, explored the Arctic during the winter, swam the length of the Amazon), but he is also about to embark on one of the most ambitious expeditions of all time. Horn is attempting to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe north-south (rather than east-west), passing through both Poles along the way. And soon, he'll launch the first critical phase of that journey, which will see him traverse Antarctica on foot.

Currently, Mike is aboard his ship the Pangea just off the Antarctic coast. According to his dispatches, he and his crew are slowly making their way through the ice to his drop-off point on the Antarctic continent. Remember, most of South Pole skiers are dropped off at Union Glacier, prior to flying to their starting points at Hercules Inlet, by the professional crew at ALE. In Mike's case however, he's sailing independently as part of his round-the-world journey.

The Pole 2 Pole expedition – as Mike calls it – has been a long time coming. I first told you about his plans back in 2014, but it has taken two years to get this adventure truly underway and off the ground. The journey began when the South African-born explorer set out from Monaco back in May, and began sailing out of the Mediterranean Sea and down the coast of Africa.

Along the way, he spent some time exploring the Namib Desert and visiting the Okavango Delta, before traveling overland to Cape Town, where he dove with sharks and conducted research on those ocean-going predators. Now, he has ventured across the Southern Ocean on his way to the Antarctic. Once there, he'll don a pair of skis and pull a sled across the frozen expanse just like all the other skiers heading to the South Pole. But after he reaches 90ºS, he'll continue on to the coast once again (possibly to Hercules Inlet) where Pangea will be waiting to pick him up.