Friday, October 21, 2016

Video: The Living Landscapes of Colorado

We'll end the week with this beautiful video shot in Colorado where the stunning colors of autumn are in full display. We all know that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., but this is a great reminder of just how amazing the landscapes there can be. All it takes is one clip like this one, or a brief visit to the state, to understand why the people that live there love it so much.

Colorado - A Living Landscape 4K from Jason Hatfield on Vimeo.

Video: Riding Through an Enduro Playground in British Columbia

This short clip is part of Red Bull's "Raw" series, which is essentially a video that has been created to give viewers a great experience, but hasn't been heavily edited and lacks much in the way of special effects. In fact, this video doesn't even have any music. It is simply two-minutes of pure bliss as pro mountain biker Brandon Semenuk spends a day riding a beautiful trail in British Columbia. The results are spectacular.

Gear Closet: Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, I'm always looking for ways that I can shed weight from my pack without sacrificing functionality. Often that comes from packing more wisely, leaving behind nonessential items, and choosing the proper gear for any given trip. But sometimes those gains can come from discovering an item that is designed for those who like to travel fast and light, but don't want to have to make compromises along the way. The Stash water bottle from Hydrapak is just such a product.

Made from durable and flexible materials, the Stash is a collapsible water bottle designed to shrink down to a highly packable size when not in use. This makes it super easy to stow in your pack until you're ready to use it, at which time it expands back to its full size in a manner of seconds.

I carry the 1-liter version (it is also available in a 750 ml size) of the Stash with me when I hit the road, and I've found it to an excellent traveling companion. It is lightweight (3.1 oz/88 g when empty), and yet still plenty durable enough to survive plenty of use and abuse in the backcountry. My Stash bottle is capable of holding up to 32 oz of water when full, but can reduce down to just 1/5 its normal size when you're ready to tuck it away.

As if that wasn't enough, the bottle can be used to store both hot and cold beverages. It is rated for use at temperatures as high as 140ºF (60ºC) or it can withstand its contents being frozen too. That versatility makes it a great option for the trail or campsite, allowing you to take it anywhere you want to go, and still stay hydrated along the way.

The 1-liter version comes with a wide-mouth (63 mm) cap that makes it extremely easy to drink from. That cap has also been designed to fit most backcountry water filters too, allowing the Stash to be refilled directly from a stream or lake. That same opening comes in handy when you're pouring water out as well, for instance when you're filling a pot to boil water for dinner.

Team of British Explorers Heading to Bhutan in Search of the Yeti

The existence of a strange ape like creature living in the Himalaya is one of the more enduring (and endearing) myths of the past century. The animal, which is commonly known as the yeti or the abominable snowman, has been a part of the local lore for centuries, but managed to capture the imagination of westerners as explorers from other parts of the world delved deep into the mountains looking to climb peaks like Everest and Annapurna. Over the years, men like Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner have gone looking for this mountain ape, but other than uncovering a few stories and legends, everyone who has searched for it has come up empty. That hasn't stopped others from trying of course, including a new team of yeti hunters that is heading to Bhutan to find mythological beast.

According to this article in the Daily Mail, the team will be led by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who will take the group into Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary on a trekking expedition with the hopes of spotting the elusive creature. The remote setting, which is situated at 3530 metres (11,581 feet), is believed to be one of the yeti's habitats amongst the Bhutanese people. The rugged mountains there would be the perfect place for a rare animal to remain hard to spot.

For his part, Humphreys tells the Daily Mail that while he would love to find the yeti, he is a realist when it comes to these kinds of expeditions. He compares the Himalaya creature to Britain's own Loch Ness monster, which has continued to spark interest for decades as well. For him, this is just another chance to head out on an adventure, and to visit a place that is difficult for independent travelers to visit on their own. From the interview in the article linked to above, it seems that experienced traveler and adventurer is looking forward to the local cuisine as much as he is the thought of finding an animal that most believe doesn't exist. As far as excuses for launching an adventure, I've certainly heard of worse.

The expedition is being sponsored by the car manufacturer Škoda, with updates being posted to @ŠKODAUK or with the hashtag #YetiBhutan. I'm sure Alastair will also post updates to his website  and Twitter as well.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kuriki Calls it Quits on Everest, Vows to Return

One of the more interesting expeditions of the fall climbing season in the Himalaya has come to an end. Japanese alpinist Nobukazu Kuriki has announced that he is leaving Mt. Everest and will return home, bringing an end to his latest attempt to summit that mountain solo and unsupported.

You may recall that Kuriki launched a summit bid on the North Side of Everest on October 6, only to be turned back a couple of days later due to deep snow high up on the mountain. In that attempt, he made it as high as 7400 meters (24,278 ft) and was preparing for the final push to the top, but the route was covered in snow that came up to his waist. That heavy snow made it impossible to break trail on his own, so he wisely decided to descend back to Base Camp to reassess his options.

After spending a few days back in BC watching the mountain and regaining his strength, Kuriki took a look at the weather forecast and found it to be very unfavorable. The jet stream was moving over the summit of the mountain, making it impossible to summit for the foreseeable future. He realized that his chances of climbing Everest in 2016 were coming to an end, and his home team reports that he broke down in tears with the realization.

This was Nobu's sixth attempt at climbing Everest solo in the fall, and apparently it won't be his last. He has already said that he plans on returning next year to give it another go, and considering the level of determination we've seen out of him in the past, I would expect to see him back on the mountain again next year if at all possible.

Kuriki is an enormously popular figure in his home country, and in order to fund this expedition he launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Whether or not he can do that again remains to be seen, but part of the disappointment he has felt in not completing the expedition comes from the feeling of disappointing all of those who have supported him. As we all know however, mountaineering is not an exact science, and conditions have to be just right to be successful. Particularly on a peak like Everest when you are completely alone. Something tells me that his supporters understand this as well, and will be willing to back him again in the future.

To my knowledge this is the last expedition taking place on an 8000-meter peak in the Himalaya at the moment, although there may be a few smaller teams that have slipped below my radar. There are some ongoing climbs on 6000 and 7000 meters peaks however, so stay tuned for more updates as they happen.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 6)

Discovery Canada has released another episode of their fantastic series of mountaineering videos entitled Unclimbed. If you've been following along with the series, you know that it has been following climbers Gabriel Filippi and Elia Saikaly as they prepare to attempt the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks in Nepal. Up until now however, we've seen very little of the third member of the team – Pasang Kaji Sherpa. That changes with this episode however, as we are introduced to Kaji and learn more about his way of life. Born and raised in the big mountains, he is an expert mountaineer, and a crucial part of the team. Learn more in the clip below.

Video: First Person Ride From the Red Bull Rampage

The 2016 edition of the Red Bull Rampage was held last week in Virgin, Utah,  and as always it provided a host of spectacular video clips from this crazy downhill mountain bike event. To get a sense of what the riders face as the take on his crazy trail, take a look at the video below. It was captured by the helmet cam of pro rider Darren Berrecloth, who made a memorable ride along a route that I'd be reluctant to walk, let alone take my mountain bike on. This is two minutes of sheer terror for those of us who don't ride downhill on a trail that is anywhere close to this.

Gear Closet: First Look at Upcoming Gear From REI

 A few weeks back I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to Bryce Canyon where I would be treated to an early look at some new outdoor gear coming our way courtesy of REI. Typically, Bryce is a dry, warm place that is perfect for hiking and backpacking, but on our trip it turned out to be pretty much the exact opposite. The weather mixed in a little of everything, including sun, rain, sleet, hail, heavy rain, high winds, mud, snow, and yet more rain. And just to make things more interesting, there were even tornadoes and flash floods in the area too. In other words, it was the perfect conditions to test out new gear, even if the team wasn't especially comfortable, warm, and dry at all times. 

Over the course of a couple of days, I was able to test out some great new products and learn about them from the team that is designing them. There is a bit of a revolution going on right now inside REI, which has always made its own brand of packs, tents, sleeping bags, and apparel. But in the past, those products were generally seen as more affordable options when the bigger outdoor brands are out of your price range. Now how, those same items are all going through a dramatic redesign that will turn them into premium products that you'll want to carry with you on your outdoor adventures. They are being built to compete on the same level as The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and the other brands we've come to know and trust. This is a big step for REI, which will still offer these items at a very attractive price, but the performance of all of the gear is being fine tuned to be much better than in the past.

Most of these new items are scheduled for release in the spring of 2017, so if you're in the market for any of these pieces of gear, you'll have to be a bit patient. But, I can tell you that they are all worth the wait, and you won't be disappointed. They should all arrive in REI stores in time for next year's camping, hiking, and backpacking season. Best of all, company reps tell me they're also working on travel gear too, which means we should see some amazing things in the category in the future too.

Here's a sampling of what I saw:

Flash 45 Backpack
Built for traveling light – but not ultralight – this 45-liter pack is super comfortable, offers plenty of capacity, and is capable of carrying heavy loads over longer distance. I should know, as I tested this bag in Bryce Canyon under challenging conditions for two days carrying quite a bit of gear along with me. The pack includes REI's proprietary UpLift system, which allows you to dial in a great fit for the load you're carrying and your body type. It also has a nicely padded 3D contoured hipbelt, and a number of strategically placed pockets for stashing small items you want to keep close at hand. Best of all however, are the two water bottle pockets that can be easily accessed without ever having to take the pack off.

Casting Call: Adventure Capitalists is Looking For Outdoor Entrepreneurs

Do you have a great idea for a product or business that revolves around the outdoors or adventure travel? Are you looking for funding to get that idea off the ground? If so, the Adventure Capitalists want to hear from you. 

If you're not familiar with Adventure Capitalists, it is a television show on CNBC that features three hosts – Jeremy Bloom, Craig Cooper, and Dhani Jones – who also happen to be businessmen who are looking to invest in great ideas that revolve around the outdoors. They bring on potential partners to pitch them on their idea, and if they like what they hear they just might buy in and help get the project funded. The format is similar to ABC's Shark Tank, which has been a popular show for a number of years now. 

As Adventure Capitalists gears up for a new season, the producers have put out a casting call for new guests to have on the show. The team is looking for outdoor entrepreneurs who are looking for investors to help them take their products from a simple idea to reality. If that sounds like you, you can apply to be on the program by clicking here.  (Before applying, you may want to first check out the list of eligibility requirements as well. Those include being over 18 years of age, and a citizen of the U.S. or hold a visa to work within that country)

If you haven't seen the show before, it really is quite interesting. Some of the products that are pitched to the hosts are quite remarkable, while others are bit silly. It is fun to see what kind of ideas are floating around out there, and you might even recognize some of the people who are sharing their ideas. For instance, on one episode the founders of SlingFin tents appeared looking for funding on some new projects that they are working on. 

This is a legitimate opportunity to turn your great idea into a legitimate product. If you think you have what it takes, head on over to the Adventure Capitalists website now and apply for your chance to be on the show. Good luck! 

Australia to Host the Biggest Expedition Length Adventure Race Ever

In about three weeks time, the best adventure racing teams in the world will make the pilgrimage to Australia to take part in what is shaping up to be biggest adventure race of all time. That's because this year, the country plays host to the Adventure Racing World Championship, and the entire AR community is looking to get in on the action.

The XPD Expedition Race is this year's ARWC event and is scheduled to run from November 8 - 18. It will take place in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, and will cover approximately 600 km (372 miles) of tough backcountry terrain. As usual, coed teams of four will have to run, mountain bike, paddle, climb, and trek through a challenging course that most will be happy to simply complete, but the teams looking to stand on the podium will finish in about 4.5 days.

Of course, this is all standard fare for the world of adventure racing, which has been staging some of the toughest endurance competitions on the planet for years. But what makes this year's AR World Championship so special is that the starting list for the race includes 99 teams – the largest field ever for an event of this kind.

According to reports, those teams hail from 20 different countries across six continents. What's more, at least three of the four members of a given team must be from their country of origin in order to claim that home country. That means that this race isn't just about winning the championship, it is truly a competition between rival nations as well. With the tops teams coming from the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil, this should indeed be one of the most competitive races ever as well.

While the course for the race won't be revealed until just before the start of the race, we're told that it is a very straight forward affair. The course designers promise "no mandatory stops, no dark zones, no optional controls – pure adventure racing at its best!" Because of this, the race course will be open for just 8 days, making it one of the shortest and fastest World Championship events ever.

Right now, the teams that are competing in the race are in wrapping up their training, planning their travel, and packing their gear. They still have a couple of weeks before they set out for Australia, but those weeks will go by quickly, and the'll be setting off before they know it. It should definitely be a fun race for fans of the sport to follow. With so many great teams on hand, the competition should be fierce. Of course, I'll share updates once the race is underway as well.

Good luck to all of the athletes, event organizers, volunteers, and support crew who will be at the event. I know from first hand experience how challenging and demanding these races can be for everyone involved.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Video: Danny MacAskill's Wee Day Out

This video was released while I was away in Majorca, but it is so good that I thought that it was still worth sharing anyway. (And if you've already seen it, it's worth another look!) It follows biking phenom Danny MacAskill on his day off exploring the rural landscapes near Edinburgh. Travel along with Danny as rides through a series of pastoral settings in unique ways that only he can. Definitely a fun and entertaining video.

Video: The North Face Athletes Question Madness - Conrad Anker and Alex Honnold

Yesterday, I shared a video that launched a new brand campaign from The North Face that invited us to "Question Madness." The campaign celebrates the 50th anniversary of the company, which has become synonymous with outdoor adventure and exploration. Today, I have two more videos from that exemplify what the company is going for by introducing viewers to some of their sponsored athletes. In this case, those two people are mountaineer Conrad Anker and rock climber Alex Honnold. Check them out below.

Gear Closet: Catalyst iPhone 6/6S Waterproof Case

Okay, I'll admit it. For a very long time I was very resistant to putting a case on my iPhone. I always appreciated the sleek, thin lines that Apple had designed for the device, and adding a case usually changed that aesthetic drastically. On top of that, most cases I saw added weight and bulk that took away from the look and feel of the phone too. And some of the cases designed for use in the outdoors ended up impacting sound quality and ease of use as well. So, as a result, my iPhone went unprotected for years, and usually when I traveled to a remote location, I'd end up leaving it at home or somewhere safe where it couldn't be harmed.

But, as the speed and functionality of the device increased, and the camera continued to improve year in and year out, I've now started taking my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere. It serves as my mobile command center, allowing me to take notes, share images and impressions of the place I visit, snap amazing photos, keep in contact with friends and family, and navigate foreign cities with ease. And since the device is now a constant companion during my adventures, I found that I needed a case to help protect it from the elements too. Finding the right one however, took some time and plenty of trial and error. But finally, I've found what just might be the perfect match for my particular needs in the form of the Catalyst Case for iPhone 6S.

As mentioned, one of the things I have always disliked about most iPhone cases is that they change the look of the device, and add a lot of bulk as well. This is especially true of a case that has been designed for use in the outdoors, which typically brings a measure of protection from dust, accidental drops, and water. The Catalyst Case does all of that, but manages to do so without turning your elegant-looking device into a massive brick. That's because it has been unique designed to provide a high level of protection with the most minimal amount of material necessary. In fact, it is easily the thinnest and lightest protective armor I have ever seen for a smartphone.

That doesn't mean that Catalyst skimped on the specs however. This case can keep your iPhone safe from water down to a depth of 5 meters (16.4 ft). It is also dust, sand, and snow proof, and is rated to survive a drop of 2 meters (6.6 ft) onto a hard surface. In other words, it was built for use in rugged, demanding environments, and should be able to keep our precious devices from suffering an untimely demise.

Researchers Discover Two Hidden Chambers Inside Egypt's Great Pyramid

It seems the discoveries just keep coming in Egypt, a civilization thousands of years old with plenty of monuments to prove it. Researchers in Cairo now say that they have discovered "cavities" inside one of the most well known and iconic structures on Earth – the Great Pyramid itself.

The discovery was made using imaging technology called muography. This technique uses special equipment to analyze radioactive particles known as muons. Analysts can detect where the particles are most dense or least dense to help create an image of the interior of spaces. In this way, it works much like ground penetrating radar, providing a map of the interior of the pyramid itself. 

According to reports, the team conducting the study says that they are "now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the North Face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid.” The team added that “The precise shape, size, and exact position of this void is now under further investigation. It should be done with the help of 12 new Muon Emulsion plates that are installed in the descending corridor, and will be collected by the end of October 2016.”

The same researchers say that they have also located a second "void" in the structure that is located behind the descending corridor inside the pyramid as well. This corridor is the one that leads directly down into the structure to the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu, who had the pyramid constructed as his burial chamber some 4500 years ago. 

What does all of this mean? We'll just have to wait for further information to know for sure, but it could confirm the existence of hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid. What those chambers could contain would be open to speculation of course, but anyone who has ever been inside these structures can tell you that they are unimpressive other than from an architectural/construction sense. Unlike the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the walls are not covered in hieroglyphs or painted in ornamental styles. Instead, they are bare, smooth, and colorless. The corridor and chambers are relatively small, and even a bit claustrophobic. But, it is possible that important items for Khufu were stashed in these spaces to prevent them from being looted by thieves.

Of course, it is also hard to get too excited about these "discoveries" considering the hype that was made last year about possibly finding the tomb of Nefertiti hidden inside that of the boy-king Tut. Those claims later seemed to have been proved false, although archaeologists continue to research the findings. Will this be a similar story? If these chambers inside the Pyramid are real, will they hold anything of value? Or are they just part of how the structure was made? It will likely be months before we know for sure, but it is definitely intriguing to think about. 

Antarctica 2016: A New Season Set to Begin

It may be hard to believe but the calendar now reads late-October, which means the 2016 Antarctic season is set to begin in just a few short weeks. Typically, the arrival of November also marks the start of another busy season on the frozen continent, where once again this year we'll find plenty of interesting stories to follow, including several full-distance ski expeditions to the South Pole and beyond.

A few days back, Explorers Web posted a good rundown of the expeditions to keep an eye on. Two of the more interesting attempts at crossing the Antarctic this year are being made by women with Emma Kelty and Johanna Davidsson both making solo and unassisted ski trips along the traditional route to the South Pole, which begins at Hercules Inlet. Both of the ladies also plan on getting resupplied at 90ºS, before returning to their starting point as well. Kelty will ski the same route back, while Davidsson will use kites to cover the return trip much more rapidly.

They'll be joined out on the ice and along the same route by Canadian Sébastien Lapierre, who is attempting to become the first person from his country to make the journey solo and unassisted as well. As ExWeb points out, Lapierre is not stranger to the colder regions of our planet, as he traveled through part of the Northwest Passage in a Kayak back in 2013.

A Swedish man by the name of Aron Andersson is also heading out on the ice, and although he won't be going solo or unsupported, his story will likely be quite an inspiring one. Andersson is a quadriplegic, so he'll be making the journey in a specially designed sled that he can push along using his arms. He'll be guided to the Pole by Doug Stoup, and they'll follow a shortened route that begins at the Leverett Glacier and ends at the bottom of the world. They estimate it will take about 30 days to complete the 510 km (316 mile) journey.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Video: The North Face Invites Us to Question Madness

The North Face has just launched a new marketing campaign using the hashtag #QuestionMadness. Much like the famous "Think Different" ads from Apple Computers back in the day, this campaign introduces us to some of TNF's sponsored athletes. People like Conrad Anker, Alex Honnold, and Renan Ozturk, who are pushing the edge of adventure and exploration. Are they mad or are they geniuses? That is the question, and in this beautiful video we get an opportunity to see them doing what they do best, while we ponder whether or not it is all worth it or why they pursue these challenges. If you read this blog with regularity, you probably already know the answer to that. Particularly on your own personal level. Enjoy!

Video: Trail Running Through the Canyons of Nowhere, Utah

The stunning landscapes of American southwest take center stage in this beautiful video that follows ultrarunners Rickey Gates and Dakota Jones as they head into the canyons of "Nowhere, Utah" to explore the amazing topography that is found there. Traveling on foot and by raft, the two men discover a vast wilderness that is simply breathtaking to behold. This is another great video from the team a Salomon, who have been knocking it out of the park with their clips recently. I hope you enjoy.

Gear Closet: Five Ten Eddy Water Shoes

One of my favorite pairs of shoes that I've tested this year has been the Five Ten Access approach shoe, which I loved for their light weight, comfort, and durability. Since I reviewed them a month back, those shoes have become a staple in my wardrobe, accompanying me on many outdoor excursions. Because of this, I had high expectation of the new Eddy water shoe from Five Ten as well. The latest edition to the company's catalog brings Five Ten's years of experience to footwear designed to be worn in and around wet environments, delivering a fantastic option for paddlers, boaters, or just about anyone else who spends time out on the water.

Designed to be thin and lightweight, the Eddy was created to provide good protection for your feet, without becoming big and cumbersome. This allows them to fit nicely inside the cockpit of a kayak, including smaller play boats. I came to appreciate this design choice not because I needed the extra room, but because some of my larger water shoes often make it difficult to find the pedals that control the rudder on a sea kayak for instance. With these thin shoes, that wasn't a problem, and as a result I felt more connected with the boat in general.

Of course, that's just one element that I came to appreciate with these shoes. As you would expect, they offer quick-drying synthetic materials on the upper that allow water to pass through without retaining excess moisture, and thereby adding any amount of significant weight. The Eddy is also outfitted with plenty of drainage holes that help with this process too. The results are a shoe that is meant to be used on the water, but can be completely dry in about 15 minutes, allowing you to transition seamlessly back to land as well.

Men's Journal Gives Us 14 Epic One Day Adventures

Last Friday was a National Day of Adventure, and while I wasn't in the country to celebrate, you can bet I was off on an adventure of my own that day. Hopefully you took advantage of the opportunity and hit your favorite trail, climbed a new route, paddled some open water, or did something equally fun as part of the celebration. But if not, Men's Journal is here to help with a list of 14 epic adventures that you can do in a single day.
Whether you like ride a mountain or road bike, prefer to hike on your own two feet, or are down for some aquatic adventures, this list has something for you. For instance, some of the suggestions that earn a nod from the MJ editors include a hike to the summit of 5267-foot (1605 meter) Mount Katahdin in Maine or trekking through the Vermilion Cliffs of Arizona. Other options range from riding a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail on your mountain bike to cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina. And for those who prefer their adventures to be waterborne, the list suggests running the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, which is at its peak this time of year with Class III to V rapids.

I won't spoil the entire list, as half the fun is discovering what adventures actually made the cut. Needless to say however, there some great suggestions here with destinations spread out across the entire U.S. Chances are, you live fairly close to several of these places, and could potentially fit one or two of them in on a busy weekend.

Of course, this list is also a good reminder that there are plenty of opportunities for adventure just outside our door at all times. Perhaps its time to head out and explore some of those options and remember why there is no place like home.

Will Ueli Steck Attempt Everest-Lhotse Traverse in Spring of 2017?

When it comes to daring climbing expeditions in the big mountains, Ueli Steck always seems to be planning something interesting. Over the years, the Swiss climber has built an impressive reputation for going fast and light in both the Alps and the Himalaya. So, naturally when he shares plans for an upcoming expedition, it is usually something of interest to the mountaineering community. Ueli did just that in a recent interview with Stefan Nestler for his adventure sports blog.

Recently, Nestler caught up with Steck at the International Mountain Summit in the Dolomite mountains of Italy. They talked about what Ueli has been up to recently, which included a climb on Shivling in India to celebrate his 40th birthday. On that expedition he traveled with his wife, and kept the climb low-key, not even alerting media to their plans. While they were there, they also met and shared Base Camp with Polish climbers Grzegorz Kukurowski and Lukasz Chrzanowski, who ended up later perishing on that mountain.

In the interview, Ueli also talks about what it is like getting older, and that while he can still go fast ni the mountains, he finds that it takes him longer to rest and recover. He's also learned that he doesn't necessarily want to take the big risks that he has in the past, although he estimates that he has another five years of big expeditions ahead of him.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is when Nestler asks him about his plans for the future. Steck says that his next project is another attempt on making the Everest-Lhotse traverse which would involve a summit of the tallest mountain on the planet, followed by a daring crossing of the ridge that links it to its neighbor Lhotse, where he would nab another summit along the way. "The Swiss Machine" doesn't give any indication of exactly when he'll give this expedition a go, but it seems that it could be on his radar for the spring 2017 climbing season in the Himalaya. Naturally, he'll be making the traverse and both summits without oxygen.

Ueli tells Stefan that he'll make the climb as part of a two-man team, with only Tenji Sherpa joining him on the expedition. Tenji was with him in 2012 when Ueli summited Everest, and the two have enjoyed several other expeditions in the Himalaya together as well.

The 2016 fall climbing season isn't completely over just yet, but we already have something to potentially start looking forward to in 2017. As always with Ueli, it should be a fun expedition to follow. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 5)

Discovery Channel Canada has released the latest episode of its Unclimbed series, which follows mountaineers Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa as they attempt to make several first ascents in the Himalaya this fall. In this episode, Gabriel and Elia travel to Peru to continue their preparation for the challenges they'll face in Nepal. This training expedition is overshadowed a bit by a previous attempt in the Andes, with the ghosts of that past climb impacting their current situation. If you've been watching this ongoing series, you'll definitely want to catch up with the team in this latest installment.

Video: The Official Trailer for Planet Earth II

Way back in 2006 – when this blog was still in its infancy – a groundbreaking television show called Planet Earth was released. Narrated by the incomparable David Attenborough, it went on to capture the imagination of millions of viewers, and set a high-water mark for nature documentaries that has yet to be surpassed in my opinion. Now, the BBC is back at it and will release Planet Earth II in November. We recently got a sneak peek at what we can expect in the form of a 2+ minute long trailer, which you'll find below. When it was released a decade ago, the original series was filmed in high definition, revealing to the public just how stunning that format could me. Now, the show has been filmed at 4K resolutions, which is just as dramatic of a leap forward as HD. As you'll see, the team behind this program looks like they delivered on the epic heritage of the original. I can't wait to see it.

Majorcan Adventures: Hiking and Driving the Wild Coast

Yesterday I returned home from my all-too brief visit to Majorca, Spain's beautiful and enchanting Mediterranean island paradise. If you've ready my previous two articles about that experience (Part 1 and Part 2 here) was a relaxing one, during which my traveling companions and I enjoyed camping the local food and wine, while soaking up plenty of history and culture as well. But, it wasn't all just about eating and drinking while basking in the Mediterranean sun. We also enjoyed some active escapes as well, including hiking and driving some of the most scenic coastlines I have ever encountered.

For our trip to Majorca we enjoyed a stay in an amazing villa located in the town of Pollença. Our accommodations for the trip were provided by Travelopo, a website that specializes in providing luxury villa rentals not only on the Spanish island, but in other amazing European destinations as well, including France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal too. Our particular villa served as a comfortable base camp for our trip, and it was nicely situated close to town, so we could walk into the village each night for dinner at any number of wonderful restaurants. It was definitely a great place to stay, and one that were reluctant to leave at the end of our trip.

As fantastic as our villa was however, we weren't content to just hang around there for the entire stay. We ventured out regularly, with visits to nearby towns, wineries, and beaches luring us to a variety of locations on the large – but still very drivable – island. In fact, the roads are well maintained, clearly marked, and easy to follow, making it a simple affair to find the various places you are looking for. In the smaller towns, like Pollença, the streets can get quite narrow however, so we often found it better to park and wander on foot whenever possible.

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring some of the local markets, which take place in different villages on different days. For instance, Pollença holds its weekly market on Sunday, offering a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and hand-crafted goods for visitors and locals alike.  It is relatively small however, when compared to the Wednesday market held in the village of Sineau. While walking the streets of this town, you'll not only discover plenty of good food and wine, but also leather goods, clothing, sweet treats, and custom-made art. You'll even see live animals such as chickens, goats, dogs, rabbits, and a variety of colorful birds for sale, right alongside knock-off electronics and more.

Adam Ondra to Challenge the Dawn Wall in Yosemite

In January of 2015 the world was transfixed by one of the most difficult and audacious rock climbing expeditions ever. That's when Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Joregeson spent nearly three weeks climbing the Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park, widely considered the toughest big wall in the world. At the time, millions of people followed their ascent, including a large portion of the population who normally doesn't care about what happens in the rock climbing world. It was a pivotal moment for the sport, and an inspiring challenge to say the least. Now, another climbing star is hoping to repeat that epic feat, even as he climbs in Yosemite for the very first time.

Czech climber Adam Ondra has already made a name for himself as one of the best sport climbers in the world. But, he recently admitted in an interview with Black Diamond that he has never been to Yosemite Valley to go climbing before – something that he is about to change. Ondra arrived in the U.S. last week and is currently en route to the national park, where the has already announced plans to take on two of its most iconic routes – The Nose and the Salathé Wall. Both are considered to be extremely challenging, and and are amongst the most well known routes in the entire world.

But, Ondra has also told Black Diamond that he is considering an attempt on the Dawn Wall as well. He admits that he doesn't want to reveal too much about those ambitious plans since he hasn't even seen the route in person yet, but he would like to give the famous climb a go should the opportunity present itself.

For most climbers, attempting a massive climb like the Dawn Wall without first setting eyes on it would seem like a silly proposition. But as National Geographic Adventure points out, Ondra has already climbed similar routes on his first attempt, something that is known in rock climbing circles as "onsighting." Nat Geo further points out that the Dawn Wall carries a Yosemite Decimal System rating of 5.14d, which is incredibly tough for sure. But, there are three sport climbs rated 5.15c in the entire world, and Ondra is the only person to complete all of them. That is the most difficult rating in the entire sport.

Will he be able to complete the Dawn Wall? Only time will tell. Personally, I think he'll need to scout the route a bit and consider his options closely. Climbing the Dawn Wall isn't just about its difficulty rating. It is a long, grueling ascent that takes days to complete. Caldwell and Joregeson spent years in preparation, and both have a great deal of experience in Yosemite. Can Ondra make he climb? Of course he can. But, I think he'll need a bit more seasoning in the Valley before he does so.

If he proves me wrong, it will indeed be one of the greatest feats in the history of climbing. For now, we'll just have to wait to see if that is the case.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Commercial Expeditions Head Home, Missing Climber on Manaslu

I'm back from Spain and will resume a typical posting schedule for the foreseeable future now. As I ramp up the content once again here at The Adventure Blog, I felt it was fitting to check in with the fall climbing season in the Himalaya, which is still ongoing but winding down rapidly now. While I was away, there was some news updates to report, although few summits have taken place during that time.

Now that mid-October has arrived, the commercial squad in the Himalaya this fall have pretty much wrapped up their operations and headed home. Prior to my departure for Majorca, most of the busy mountains – including Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and Dhaulagiri – had seen the bulk of their summits for the season with the larger squads packing up their gear and heading home. Now, they are all but abandoned until spring, when more climbers will arrive to test their skills and resolve on each of those peaks.

Of course, the season isn't quite over yet, and there are a few ongoing expeditions that we'll continue to keep an eye on. For instance, Japanese climber Nobukazo Kuriki is still on Mt. Everest and hoping to pull of a solo summit of that peak before he heads home. When last we checked in on him, he had abandoned a summit push due to heavy snow on the mountain, but had returned to Base Camp to gather his strength for another go. Last week, after regaining some energy, he headed back up to Camp 1 only to find that the winds were too strong to allow a safe ascent up the mountain. He is now back in BC and waiting for conditions to improve. The weather window will start to close soon however, particularly as November draws closer. For now though, Nobu is remaining patient and looking for opportunities to summit, despite very heavy snows.

Sadly, there were a few tragic stories to report from the past week as well. On Manaslu, for instance, a 24-year old Japanese climber by the name of Hirotaka Onodera went missing on October 7 after reaching the summit on that mountain. Reportedly, he topped out along with his team leader, but then slipped and fell while taking summit photos for another climber. All attempts to locate the missing man have failed to turn up any results.

Elsewhere, a guide named Ang Chhongba Sherpa fell to his death after losing his footing while collecting ropes after a successful summit bid on the 6119 meter (20,075 ft) Lobuche East. He was a member of a four-man squad that had topped out previously in the day and were making their way back down the mountain. The accident occurred at about 5800 meters (19,028 ft) and Chhongba's body was later recovered by a recovery team following a 20-hour search.

I'll continue to keep an eye on any developing stories from the Himalaya in the days ahead. Things are definitely getting quieter there, but there are still several teams pressing forward with their expeditions.