Monday, September 19, 2016

On the Road Again - Backpacking Bryce Canyon



It seems I've been home for an all-too-brief stay, but its time to go on the road again. This time, I'm headed for Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah where I'll be backpacking for the rest of the week with the fine folks at REI Adventures. This trip was actually organized by the REI retail team, so over the next few days I'll be joining some other outdoor writers in testing some of the latest and greatest gear from that company.  That means I'll be off the gird for the rest of the week, with no updates to The Adventure Blog in the meantime. But, I should be back at it next week. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing Bryce, a national park I haven't visited yet. I'm sure I'll have a story or two to share from the experience as well.

Video: Meet the World's First All-Female Anti-Poaching Team

The Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa a team of women called the Black Mambas has been training for the past three years to combat illegal poaching in the region. They are the first all-female squad to take on such a mission, with their main goal being to protect the wild elephants that roam the area. In this video, brought to us by National Geographic, we join the Mambas as they go out on patrol, searching for the hunters who are looking to kill the animals in the preserve where they work. The short film is an inspiring look at this team of dedicated and tough women who are looking to make a difference with Africa's wildlife. It is really an interesting story.

Adventure Tech: GoPro Unveils the Karma Drone at Long Last

It seems like we've been waiting a very long time, but today GoPro finally took the wraps off of its highly anticipated Karma drone, giving would-be filmmakers yet another tool to help them create their outdoor and adventure travel masterpiece.

By now, we all know what a drone is, and how it can be used in a variety of ways. Over the past few years, the drone market has matured dramatically, with companies like DJI leading the way. But this is GoPro's first foray into UAV's, and in order for the company to make a dent in the industry – and possibly reverse its flagging fortunes – it knew that had to deliver something different and unique. Was the Karma worth the wait? We'll have to hold on a bit longer to know for sure, but it certainly is intriguing.

The Karma is a small, sleek looking quadcopter with a foldable design that makes it easy to transport. It comes with its own custom built controller, complete with a touchscreen built right in. The controller is said to be very beginner friendly, and the drone has a number of autonomous features that help to make it easy to fly. Still, it doesn't appear to have anything close to the level of independent control as something like the DJI Phantom 4, which is equipped with a host of sensors to allow it to safely navigate on its own without a pilot.

Being a camera company first and foremost, GoPro clearly put a lot of thought into capturing outstanding footage from its other devices. With that in mind, the Karma comes with a specially built 3-axis stabilizer designed to hold an action camera. This stabilizer can also be removed and attached to a new product called the Karma Grip, which can be mounted on a vehicle or held in your hand to get great, super-stable shots as well.

Gear Closet: Osprey Manta AG 28 Daypack

If you're a regular reader of my "Gear Closet" stories here at The Adventure Blog, you probably already know the I have a habit of going on at great length about the product that I'm writing a review for. That is likely to be the case with the Manta AG 28 from Osprey as well, but for those of you who would rather get to the bottom line on this bag, I thought I would save you some time. So, for those folks wondering whether or not this pack will get a good review, let me just tell you now. It is amazing. Go buy one. Thank me later.

For those of you who are still around, we can now get into the details.

The Manta line of packs have been a part of the Osprey catalog for some time. But this pack, which was released this past spring, adds a nice new dimension that truly helps to separate it from the crowd. The "AG" in the bag's title stands for "Anti-Gravity" which is the name given to Osprey's innovative suspension that not only helps the pack to sit more comfortably and naturally on your body, but it can effectively carry more weight over a longer distance too.

The Anti-Gravity suspension was first introduced on Osprey's Atmos series, which is designed for backpacking and adventure travel. But now, it has trickled down to these daypacks as well. The suspension really does make a noticeable difference, and the integration of the mesh backpanel plays a big role in keeping you cooler and drier while hiking.

I have to say that I was a bit skeptical that the AG system would have as big of an impact on a daypack as it does on the larger backpacking models. But, after putting this bag to the test in the field, I can honestly say that my doubts were unfounded. The suspension is remarkable, and I think you'll find yourself coming off the trail at the end of the day feeling much better than you would with a traditional daypack without AG integration.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Manaslu the Most Popular Peak of the Season

The numbers are in for the fall climbing season in Nepal, and Manaslu is far and away the most popular peak in the country. Over the weekend, the Nepali Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation released some statistics for the number of permits issued to foreign climbers, and as usual those numbers share some interesting insights.

According to The Himalayan Times, Nepal has issued 277 climbing permits for the fall. Those permits are spread out over 19 different peaks within the country. Of those 277 climbers, 151 have are attempting Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world at 8163 meters (26,781 ft). For some, it will be a testing ground before moving on to Everest in the future, while others are there to add an 8000-meter peak to their resume. In all, there are 16 teams heading to the mountain this fall.

Sherpa teams have finished installed the fixed ropes up to Camp 3 on Manaslu over the past few days, which means the teams on that mountain – including Seven Summit Treks and Himex – will be wrapping up their acclimatization efforts there soon and will begin thinking about summit bids. That could happen as early as next week. Traditionally, the summit push comes in the final week of September or early October, depending on weather conditions.

The Himalayan Times also reports that Amadablam, Saribung and the Putha Hiuchuli are some of the other peaks that have been issued permits this year as climbers look for other challenges in the region that aren't 8000-meters or taller in height. For instance, 39 climbers have obtained permits for Himlung Himal as well, a peak that is 7126 meters (23,379 ft) in height, and a good introduction to Himalayan climbing.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Video: A Highliner Talks About Fear While Suspended 2800 Meters Up

This short, but beautiful video, takes us up to 2800 meters (9186 ft) as we join highliner Hayley Ashbury as she walks a thin rope across two spires on Torri del Vajolet, a peak located in the Italian Dolomites. While doing so, Hayley shares a quote from the book Dune by Frank Herbert about controlling her fear, something that seems very fitting considering where she is at in the clip. This is 90 seconds of pure terror wrapped up in an incredibly well shot video.

Highlining 2800m in winter.'Hayley'- 90 seconds about fear. (Dir. Stian Smestad Music by Nils Frahm) from Stian Smestad on Vimeo.

Video: Kilian Jornet's Everest Summit Dreams Live On

Yesterday the news broke that Kilian Jornet has abandoned his plans to make a speed attempt on Mt. Everest due to very poor weather conditions on the mountain. Deep snow made him cancel that attempt, but while his dream of a speed ascent may have been postponed, they are no over. Clearly he will return again in the future to have another go at the world's highest peak.

In this video we get a bit of a recap of what Kilian has been up to over the past couple of years. It is a review of his Summits of My Life project to date, with a bit of inspiration to help us all move forward. It is a nice tribute to one of the greatest mountain athletes on the planet today, and definitely worth a look for those who follow his exploits.

Colorado Adventures: Fly Fishing in Crested Butte

Earlier in the week I shared a post on my recent trip to Crested Butte, Colorado where I had an amazing time exploring the mountain biking trails there. If you read that piece, you already know that CB is considered one of the birth places of mountain biking, and as such there are plenty of trails to ride. In fact, there are more than 750 miles of trail, spread out over 150 different routes. That's enough to keep even the most dedicated rider busy for awhile.

But, Crested Butte isn't just a great mountain biking destination, as it has a lot to offer other visitors too. For instance, in the winter it has excellent skiing both at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort and backcountry options for the more adventurous. There is also plenty of great snowshoeing and nordic skiing too, if you prefer your winter adventures with a bit less adrenaline-fueled downhill action. During the warmer months, the hiking and trail running routes are spectacular, and the most of the mountain bike trails can be done on horseback too. This being Colorado, there also plenty of options for camping, climbing, and paddling as well, with even some good whitewater to run.

While I didn't have the chance to try each of those activities while I was in town, I did get the chance to do a little fly fishing. And while I'm mostly a beginner at that sport, I found it to be a relaxing, yet still engaging, way to explore the local culture.

For my fly-fishing experience we drove about 20 minutes outside of Crested Butte to reach the Three Rivers Resort, located in the small town of Almont. Three Rivers not only has a some wonderful rooms, cabins, and houses for visitors to rent, it also offers some active day-trips for those looking for some adventure. In addition to guiding rafting and kayaking excursions, travelers can also book stand-up paddleboard sessions, and skiing and snowboarding outings during the winter months. They also have a knowledgable and friendly staff in a well-stocked tackle shop for local and visiting anglers, as well a guide service that can get you out on the water and reeling in fish in no time.

Are You the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year?

Listen up all aspiring photographers out there. National Geographic has begun accepting entries into this year's Nature Photographer of the Year contest, and is giving away some great prizes to winners. If you've taken an outstanding photo of nature in 2016, they want to see it. And it could send you off on an impressive adventure of your own.

The contest website says "We’re looking for photos that showcase the awe-inspiring and diverse natural world around us. That could be a powerful wildlife shot, a stunning landscape, or a look at a complicated environmental issue—whatever nature means to you." In other words, there is a pretty broad interoperation out there of what exactly Nat Geo means by "nature." I'm sure more than a few have you have captured some great images over the past 12 months that you can submit to the contest. Entries are begin accepted until November 4, after which a panel of judges will decide which photos are worthy of making the cut.

Of course, there are some great prizes for those who win the contest. Each of the categories – Landscapes, Animals, Action and Environmental – will have three winners. First place will be awarded $2500 in case, while second place will get $750 and a signed National Geographic book. The third place winner goes home with $500.  But best of all, the Grand Prize finisher will receive a 10-day trip for two to the Galapagos Islands courtesy of Natural Habitat Adventures. I can't think of a better place to take more photos of nature than that destination.

As you would expect, competition is sure to be tough in this contest, but you just might have the wining photo sitting on your hard drive right now. Pick out your best and submit them for consideration. Who knows, you just might be on your way to the Galapagos in the near future.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Commercial Teams Planning Summit Attempts, Nobu Alone on Everest

With Kilian Jornet announcing his departure from Everest yesterday, I felt it was time to take a look around at the other expeditions currently going on in the Himalaya to check the status of their progress. In some cases, teams are already starting to look ahead to summit bids, which could come as early as late next week in some cases.

First off, now that Jornet has left Everest, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is the only one on that mountain this fall. He reports that he has now climbed up to 7000 meters (22,965 ft) and his acclimatization process is moving along about as well as can be expected. From the reports we've heard from the mountain, that won't be the challenge for him this year. Instead, it will be the deep snow that seems to be piling up on Tibet's North Side. Kilian mentioned the heavy snows as the main reason for his departure from the mountain, but for Nobu it is just another challenge to overcome as he attempts to climb solo, unsupported, and in alpine style without oxygen. For now, he'll just have to continue acclimating and waiting for his opportunity to push higher.

Alan Arnette is reporting that two climbers are taking an interesting approach to attempting a summit on Cho Oyu. Adrian Ballinger, who owns Alpenglow Expeditions, and his partner Emily Harrington are currently training in Tahoe, and are sleeping in altitude tents as they acclimatize as much as possible before they head to the Himalaya. Once they've wrapped up their preparation, they'll head to Tibet and try to climb the mountain in just two weeks total time. This holds true with the company's philosophy for climbing faster by preparing more ahead of time, which is used on other peaks too. A strategy that has come under fire from mountaineering purists from time to time.

Speaking of Cho Oyu, that continue to be a popular mountain this fall. There are currently no less than six commercial teams there, Base Camp has been a bit crowded this season. Most of those squads have now wrapped up their first round of rotations, with the next coming in a few days when they'll move up the slope to Camp 2.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Video: The Last Rhinos - Would Legalizing the Sale of Their Horns Save Them?

Here's an intriguing video to say the least. It follows the efforts of John Hume, a man living in South Africa who happens to own five percent of the world's rhino population. Hume sued the government in South Africa to legalize the sale of rhino horns, arguing that if you sold them on the open market, it would bring the number of rhinos killed by illegal poachers down dramatically. It seems that when removed safely and properly, the horns will grow back, and the animal won't be killed. Could this be the answer to saving Earth's engendered rhino species?

National Geographic - The Last Rhinos from Brian Dawson on Vimeo.

Video: 72-Year Old Ultrarunner Completes Western States 100

And now for your daily dose of inspiration. In this amazing video, we meet 72-year old ultrarunner Wally Hesseltine, who set out to not only run a 100-mile (160 km) race, but perhaps the best known ultramarathon of them all – the famed Western States 100. He managed to finish that epic run in 30 hours, but that isn't the entire story. Watch the short film below and then go put on your running shoes. Amazing.

Thirty Hours from alex on Vimeo.

168 Years After Sinking in the Arctic the HMS Terror has Been Found

After years of searching in the Arctic, the missing ship of explorer Sir John Franklin has been found at long last. Earlier this week it was announced that the HMS Terror, a vessel that Franklin was using to explore the icy waters of the Northwest Passage, had been found after 168 years.

Franklin and his crew had been exploring the Arctic Ocean north of Canada back in 1848 when they ran into thick pack ice that prevented them from continuing their voyage. Both the Terror and its sister-ship, the HMS Erebus became trapped, forcing everyone onboard to abandon the two vessels. Eventually, all 129 members of the crew perished in the Arctic, and what became of the ships remained a mystery.

A few years back the Erebus was discovered by a search crew, but the location of the Terror remained a mystery. Now, thanks to a tip from a local Inuit tribesman, that mystery has been solved. The Terror  was found in – of all places – Terror Bay, where its mast was spotted sticking out of the ice by passing hunters a few years back. That tip led to an archeological team going to the site to check out the area, only to discover the very vessel they had been searching for.

According to early reports, it seems that the ship is in relatively good condition, and may contain most of the things that were left onboard when it was abandoned by Franklin and his crew. In comparison, the Erebus has suffered hull damage, and Arctic currents had spread out its contents over a wide area. It'll be some time before salvage crews can truly get a look at the Terror however, so just what might be on the ship remains a mystery.

As for Franklin and his men, it seems that after they abandoned their ships, they began a long and perilous march across the Arctic with the hopes of reaching the Hudson Bay Company – a fur trading outpost far to the south. None of the men made it to the safety of that place however, vanishing in desolate white expanse of the north. Inuit oral histories talk about the foreigners passing through their area, but their ultimate fate has never been fully told.

The disaster that beset the Franklin crew is one of the worst in British naval history. It was quite a blow to that country, which ruled the seas and was pushing the boundaries of exploration at the time. Now, after more than a century and a half, at least part of the mystery has been solved.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kilian Jornet Cancels Everest Speed Attempt

One of the current Himalayan expeditions that we've been watching closely has come to an end before it ever even had a chance to really get started. It was announced earlier today that Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet has pulled the plug on his attempt at a speed record on Everest due to poor weather on the North Side of the mountain.

In a quote that was sent out via a press release a few hours ago, Jornet says “During the first few weeks we were acclimatising well and the conditions were good. However, when we were getting ready to prepare the attempt the weather began to change. There were some heavy snow storms and a large accumulation of snow. As a result, although we were in good physical shape, there was a high risk of avalanches and in the absence of good safety conditions it was impossible to climb.”

Apparently, the expedition was actually nearing its conclusion when the decision was made to go home instead. There hasn't been a lot of news from Kilian or his team, but it seems acclimatization was going very well, and he was extremely happy with his progress. Unfortunately, heavy snow has been falling on the mountain over the past couple of weeks, and that was making the route much more dangerous. So much so that they made the wise choice of cancelling the summit attempt and going home instead.

Kilian says that he has learned a lot from the experience and will now return to Spain where he'll evaluate how this expedition went, and decide from there how to proceed. He has already indicated that next time around he'll do a few things differently both in preparation and acclimatization once on the mountain. He had spent three weeks training at 6500 meters (21,325 ft) which will give him a better understanding of the Everest environment the next time around.

Honestly, an attempt in the spring would probably provide more stable weather conditions, but Kilian would then have to contend with a lot more people on the mountain. For most of the time that he was there, he had Base Camp all to himself. We do know that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is also there for a solo bid on the mountain, but he didn't arrive until last week. It is unclear whether or not the heavy snow will impact his attempt to summit Everest, which will be his sixth time trying to accomplish that feat.

For now, we'll have to wait to see how Kilian does on Everest. Remember, he's never climbed an 8000 meter peak before. Hopefully he'll get another crack at it in the future. It will be interesting to see what an athlete of his caliber can accomplish there.

Arctic Explorers Bring Bad News After Sailing Northwest and Northeast Passages

One of the most ambitious and interesting adventures of the summer has been the Polar Ocean Challenge. Led by famed explorer David Hempleman-Adams, the objective of the expedition was to sail both the Northeast and Northwest passages in a single year, circumnavigating the North Pole and taking stock of the arctic sea ice along the way. A few days back the crew of adventurers, sailors, and researchers completed a major milestone of their journey, and they brought back some sobering news about the state of ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The sailing ship Northabout set sail from Bristol, in the U.K. back June, making way for Norway before proceeding on to Russia to the start of the Northeast Passage. The ship ran into a delay at that point due to pack ice still blocking the route. That isn't too uncommon in the early part of summer, as it generally takes a few weeks before the passage clears. From there, they navigated on through the icy waters of the Arctic before exiting into the Northern Pacific and crossing over to Alaska. The next stage of the journey was through the Northwest Passage above Canada, which is the section that was just completed. Now, the plan is to sail on to Greenland, and then back home to Bristol.

By successfully navigating through the both the Northwest and Northeast passages, the crew proved that those once mythical routes are now fully open, and accessible. They also became the first ship to make such a journey in a single season, although they certainly won't be the last. Climatologists now predict that both passages will see increasing numbers of commercial traffic before the middle of the century, even by ships that are not hardened against ice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Video: Wings of Kilimanjaro 2016 Expedition

Next week, 29 climbers will set out for the "Roof of Africa" as part of the Wings of Kilimanjaro initiative. The team, which is being led by my friends over at Tusker Trail, will attempt to trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, where they will then paraglide off the mountain. But the group isn't there just to have an amazing adventure. They'll also be raising funds to support a number of projects that are improving the lives of people living in Tanzania. Those projects include installing pumps to deliver clean water, teaching local farmers to grow crops in a sustainable fashion, and improving the education of the children that live there. In the video below, you'll learn a bit more about the program, but you'll also see some amazing shots of their previous climbs up Kili, and the epic flights they've taken from the summit. It looks like a great way to see an already impressive mountain, and its all for a good cause.


Video: Unclimbed Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Episode 2)

Yesterday I posted the first video in a new series that follows mountaineers Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa as they prepare to take on two unclimbed peaks (Tenzing and Hillary Peaks) in Nepal. Today, we have the second video of the series, this time we head out with the team as they go ice climbing as part of their process of getting ready for the challenges ahead. If you've ever wondered about the training that goes into prepping for the Himalaya, this video will give you an idea.

If you're a fan of mountaineering or climbing in the big mountains, you'll very much enjoy this series. We'll also be following Gabriel, Elia, and Pasang Kaji as they go for these two first ascents this fall.

Colorado Adventures: Mountain Biking Crested Butte

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Crested Butte, Colorado – a place I had heard about for a long time, but had never had the chance to see for myself before. As an adventure destination, CB's reputation proceeded it, as I had long heard that it was a great place to go mountain biking. As it turns out, the town easily exceeded my expectations, delivering great opportunities for riders of all skill levels.

For those that don't know, Crested Butte is considered one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. As far back as 1976 local riders were heading out across mountain passes on single-speed bikes that were hardly made for the conditions. In the 80's the sport really started to gain traction as riders took part in a number of grueling races and group rides, including the Pearl Pass Tour, which has been around for nearly four decades. CB is even home to the oldest mountain bike association in the world, something that they are rightfully proud of.

Located about 4.5 hours southwest of Denver by car (or a short hop to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport), Crested Butte is a quintessential mountain town, complete with plenty of outdoor activities and surrounded by breathtaking scenery. With just 1500 permanent residents, you would expect it to be a sleepy little place, but the opposite is actually true. Not only is CB home to an interesting and eclectic blend of locals, it has plenty of visitors who come to partake in its outdoor playground pretty much any time of the year.

During the winter, the town is a wonderful ski destination, with Crested Butte Mountain Resort just minutes away. With more than 120 ski runs, and an average snowfall of about 300" (7.6 meters) each year, it has plenty to offer snowboarders and skiers alike. And for the more adventurous amongst us, the area also has outstanding backcountry opportunities as well, giving visitors a chance to shred untouched powder on a regular basis.

My visit came just after the end of the summer rush, but still prior to the start of the fall season, when the local aspen trees begin to take on their legendary golden hues. At some of the higher elevations that was already starting to happen, giving me a hint of what was to come. But while I was there summer was still in full swing, with cool mornings but warm afternoons that were perfect for hitting the trail.

Did Amelia Earhart Survive Her Crash in the Pacific?

One of the most compelling missing person's stories of the 20th century may have just gotten even more interesting. A member of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) now claims that aviator Amelia Earhart not only survived her crash in South Pacific back in 1937, but she lived for days on a remote island, where she continuously called for help from her aircraft's radio, with those calls being picked up by amateur radio operators all over the world at the time. 

In recent years, TIGHAR has put considerable effort into searching for the remains of Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan, and their aircraft. The group has made several expeditions to islands in the Pacific searching for evidence of what may have happened to her. They have found some compelling clues, but nothing that definitively says whether or not she or Noonan survived the crash, or even made it to one of the sites they have examined at all. 

But according to Ric Gillespie, a member of TIGHAR, Earhart's calls for help were heard by a woman in Melbourne, Australia; a housewife in Texas who claims to have recognized her voice, and perhaps most intriguing of all – a teenager in Florida. 

What makes the Florida teen's story so fascinating is that she scribbled notes based on what she was hearing, transcribing what was allegedly Earhart's broadcast. The teen wrote several times "New York, New York," seemingly referencing the city. But Gillespie believes that Earhart was actually saying "SS Norwich City," which was a ship that was abandoned on Nikumaroro island in 1929, the place that  TIGHAR believes the aviator set down. 

Polar Bears Trap Russian Research Team Inside Arctic Base

Think your job is rough? Consider the challenges that a team of five Russian scientists have been facing as they conduct weather research on the remote island of Troynoy in the Arctic Ocean. According to a report from TASS the group had become trapped inside its meteorological observation center by a group of ten polar bears who have taken up residence just outside the base.

Normally, in order to keep the bears at bay, the scientists use flares and have dogs at the base to scare off the animals. But, the team had run out of flares, and according to Mashable the bears even killed one of the dogs. Because of this aggressive nature, the researchers have had to abandon some of their projects, and had been instructed to only leave the base when absolutely necessary.

It was originally reported that it would take weeks to deliver new flares and dogs to the station, but apparently relief came earlier today when a passing research vessel made a detour to lend a hand. The ship resupplied the team with flares, which were used immediately to scare off the bears. The next resupply ship wasn't scheduled to arrive for another month, but this should help buy the team some time.

Apparently, the bears gather near the base to wait for the Arctic Ocean to freeze. That typically occurs in late October or early November, at which time they'll depart the area and head north. Considering the current state of the arctic sea ice, it may take longer than usual before the bears begin their migration, and it is possible that they'll return to that location again in the days ahead.

In the past only about 4-6 bears have spent their summers on Troynoy, but apparently this year there are at least 10, including some large female with small cubs as well. One of the females has even been spending her nights just below one of the windows of the weather station, making it even more difficult for the team to sneak outside to record readings for their research.

Hopefully there will be some relief for these scientists soon. While watching polar bears up close sounds like an amazing experience, being locked inside and unable to go out doesn't seem like a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Video: Life in Balance

Here's one of those videos that shows off a skill that is better to be seen in a clip like this one, rather than to attempt yourself. In it, we join Norwegian Eskil Rønningsbakken as he travels around that country demonstrating his ability to balance on objects that are dangling not he edge of extreme spaces, including cliff, canyons, and mountains. His demonstration of agility is quite impressive, particularly considering the places he has chosen to show off these skills. And of course, this being Norway, the scenery is beautiful too.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Episode 1)

Earlier today I posted a story about three climbers  – Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly and Pasang Kaji Sherpa – who have traveled to Nepal this fall to attempt to summit two unclimbed peaks named for Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. But the story of this climb doesn't begin with their arrival in Kathmandu, but instead it starts last year when all three were on Everest when the April 25 earthquake created an avalanche that killed 22 people there. That put an end to their efforts on the mountain, but not their ambitions to climb in the Himalaya again.

This video is the first of a series that will follow the team as they head back to Nepal to take on these two unclimbed peaks. Over the coming weeks, we'll be able to follow their progress, and hopefully continue to see more videos like this one. It is a great introduction for what Gabriel, Elia, and Pasang Kaji are trying to accomplish there, and I'm already looking forward to further installments.

Gear Closet: JBL Reflect Mini BT Wireless Sport Headphones

In case you haven't heard, there is a new iPhone coming out this week. That's pretty much common knowledge considering how much press Apple gets. But what you might not have heard is that one of the design elements of the new smartphone that is getting the most attention is Apple's decision to drop the standard audio port. This has freed up some precious space inside the phone that Apple engineers can use to add more tech, but it also means that we can no longer simply plug in a standard set of headphones. Moving forward, the iPhone's lightning port will pull double duty for both charging and audio output, which means you'll need to either use a set of lightning earbuds, a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter (included in the box), or wireless headphones to listen to your music, podcasts, and audio books. While all of those are obviously viable solutions, Apple is making a hard push towards Bluetooth headphones, particularly since they are releasing their own unique entry into that market with the new AirPods and some updated wireless options from Beats.

I haven't had a chance to test out the AirPods yet, but I have been testing some other wireless headphones that are specifically designed for use by those of us who are fairly active. I actually made the switch to Bluetooth earbuds awhile ago, and I have to say that it is a niche shift. Not having to deal with cables while running or cycling is a major plus in my book, and I think that while some will continue to be reluctant to make the change, once you do, you'll never want to go back.

Recently I've been testing the new Reflect Mini BT sport headphones from JBL and have discovered a product that ticks all of the boxes in terms of what I'm looking for when it comes to earbuds. And while they may not be quite a fancy as Apple's AirPods in terms of design and technology, they still perform very well and cost a lot less.

The Reflect Mini use Bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly to your smartphone. There once was a time when that pairing process was a bit of hassle, but those days are long over at this point. It literally took just a few seconds to pair the two devices together, and after that when ever I turned on the headphones they would automatically connect with one another. That's the way all wireless audio devices should work, and that has pretty much been my experience with all of them for some time.

Backpacker Gives Us America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes

When most of us decide to go for a hike we generally tend to hit local trails that are scenic, fun, and even relaxing. But not all trails fit that description, with many being down right difficult and demanding. Then of course, there are the ones that are actually quite dangerous.

That's the subject of a great article put together by Backpacker magazine, which takes a look at the 10 most dangerous hikes in the U.S. The list contains some iconic treks across the country, as well as some lesser known trails that have a reputation for being incredibly difficult. In fact, if you go unprepared on these hikes, you could get seriously hurt or even killed.

Some of the hikes that make the list include Bright Angle Trail in the Grand Canyon, which is known for being a challenging walk in hot conditions the often leaves those who aren't prepared dehydrated and exhausted. The Maze in Utah on the other hand will confound even the most navigationally savvy, while the infamous Mt. Washington in New Hampshire blasts hikers with its high winds, which tend to blow furiously all year round.

I won't give away the entire list, as the article is well worth a read by everyone. I will say however, that each of the entires definitely has an element of danger to it, which could cost the inexperienced and unwary their lives. Thankfully, Backpacker has some suggestions on how to avoid these challenges, and survive each of these beautiful but difficult hikes.

Check out the entire list here.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Climbers Heading to Tenzing and Hillary Peaks

The fall climbing season in the Himalaya is still ramping up, with lots of climbers heading to places like Cho Oyu, Manaslu, and Dhaulagiri. But, the big 8000 meter peaks aren't the only ones garnering attention this year, as it appears that several teams are heading out to attempt first ascents on some unclimbed mountains.

According to this story in The Himalayan Times, a three-person team consisting of Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly and Pasang Kaji Sherpa will be attempting to summit both Tenzing Peak (7916 m/25,971 ft) and Hillary Peak (7681 m/25,200 ft). Both mountains, which are named after the two legendary climbers who were the first to summit Everest, hold a special place in the hearts of Nepalis but until now have not drawn much attention from climbers.

According to the story, Hillary Peak can be found close to Lhotse and Nuptse, while Tenzing Peak is located between Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang. That means the team will have to travel a bit in order to get to the summits of both mountains. It appears that they will first acclimatize on Hillary and make an attempt on the summit, before proceeding toward their second goal.

Neither of the two mountains has been climbed before, and the route to their summits remains a bit of a mystery. While the two peaks have been scouted, the trio of mountaineers will have their work cut for them. They will likely be creating the path to the summit that others will follow in the years ahead.

In a push to draw some attention away from its 8000 meter peaks, and spark some interest in more mountaineers coming to visit, Nepal recently opened up more than 100 peaks that had previously been closed to climbers. A number of those mountains remain unclimbed, which is a big draw to even the most experienced alpinist. The plan seems to have worked to a degree, as I have heard from several mountaineers who will be attempting one of these "virgin" peaks this year or in the near future. That includes American Lonnie Dupre, who will head to Nepal next month to lead a team up Langju, a 6365 meter (20,885 ft) mountain that has yet to be summited as well.

I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about the big peaks in the days ahead, but I'll try to keep an eye on this smaller expedition as well. Some of the boldest and most impressive climbs are coming on other mountains, and the teams attempting them deserve plenty of attention too.