Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video: Yosemite Ranger Meets the True Owners of the National Parks

As we edge closer to the 100th anniversary celebration of the National Park Service later this week, this video gives us a good reminder about what those parks are all about. The clip, which comes our way courtesy of NBC News, introduces us to the true owners of these parks – the American people themselves. The national parks have been called "America's Best Idea" and for good reason. Prior to the designation of the world's first national park – Yellowstone – the idea of setting aside lands for the greater good of the public was completely unknown. Now, there are thousands of national parks around the world, with more being created on a regular basis.

Video: Mountain Biking Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is one of the truly great adventure destinations in the American west. Not only does it offer great skiing and snowboarding in the winter, there are plenty of trails to hike and ride during the rest of the year as well. In this video we travel to Jackson with pro mountain bikers Curtis Keene and Jared Graves where they discover some epic singletrack mixed in with the breathtaking scenery that this part of the country is so well known for. Enjoy the video, but be warned: You're probably going to want to ride these trails yourself.

Gear Closet: Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Hiking Shoes

A couple of weeks back I took a look at the new Altra Superior 2.0 trail running shoes, and found them to be an excellent choice for runners. At the time I mentioned that I was testing another pair of shoes from the company as well, and was eager to put them through their paces. Last week while visiting Quebec I had the opportunity to do just that, and ended up coming away just as impressed.

This time out I was testing the new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid, a hybrid shoe of sorts that blends the best elements of a trail runner with a lightweight hiker. It features Altra's proprietary Foot Shape technology that allows for more room in the toe box for a more natural fit, and its Abound materials that allow energy to return to the foot when walking. They also have a zero-drop sole that allows both the forefoot and heel to strike the ground at the same time, which encourages better form throughout the length of your run or hike.

This being the "mid" version of the original Lone Peak shoe it comes with more ankle support built-in. This not only comes in handy when hiking demanding trails, it also gives the shoe a look that more resembles a hiking boot as well. Since I was using them more in that capacity rather than as trail runners, I appreciated the extra support, even on routes that weren't especially demanding.

When compared to other hiking shoes, the Lone Peak 3.0 Mid is extremely lightweight, tipping the scale at just 10 ounces (283 grams). That made them extremely easy to pack for my Canadian adventure, and helped to reduce fatigue when wearing them for extended periods of time, both on the trail and walking around town. In fact, I'd say that these shoes are more on par weight-wise with the trail running shoes I wear from other companies, rather than most hiking shoes. In other words, if you're in the market for a new pair of hikers and are looking to shave off some ounces, this just might be the shoe you've been looking for.

Is the Grand Canyon in Jeopardy?

Yesterday I posted a beautiful video of the Grand Canyon in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service later this week. Everyone knows that the national park is one of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the entire world, with some of the most amazing opportunities for adventure. But are we losing the Grand Canyon to commercial and industrial development? That is the question posed in a new article from National Geographic that reveals an uncertain future for one of the U.S.'s most famous landscapes.

In order to explore the threats to the Grand Canyon, journalists Kevin Fedarko and Pete McBride have spent the better part of the past year exploring its wonders. Starting last fall, the two men have trekked for more than 650 miles (1046 km) through remote wilderness to not only get to understand the Canyon better, but to discover how its fragile ecosystem has increasingly become under siege by outside interests.

Along the way, they talked with people living in and around the park as the two men learned about the potential for over development and the increased stress put on the Grand Canyon due to a larger number of tourists visiting. But most importantly, they discovered that mining operations just outside the park's borders could have a long-lasting, and incredibly devastating, impact on the park itself, creating a potentially dangerous environmental catastrophe. For example, uranium is one of the substances that is mined near the park that could have severe impact on its future. In fact, U.S. Geological Survey data says that 15 springs and five wells near the Grand Canyon already have levels of uranium that are considered unsafe to drink. This is mostly due to incidents from older mines in the area, but it underscores the problem none the less.

While the story is already quite eye-opening, Fedarko and McBride aren't quite done yet. They're continuing to explore the Grand Canyon even now, with plans to wrap up their investigative expedition sometime in October. The story is of course still unfolding, but the hope is that we're not too late in spreading the word about the threats to this incredibly popular national park. After all, it is a place that has been presumably preserved for future generations to enjoy as well, so why would we want to spoil it now? Hopefully that won't happen.

Indian Couple Who Faked Everest Summit Face 10-Year Ban

Remember that Indian couple who were accused of faking their summit of Everest this past spring? It appears that a decision will soon be made on their fate, and it seems they'll not only be stripped of their summit certificates but they're also facing a very long ban from climbing on Everest again.

If you're not familiar with the story, Dinesh and Tarkeshwari Rathod are a husband and wife team who also happen to be police officers back in India. The two claimed to have reach the summit of Everest this past spring, but holes were punched in their story when photos that purported to show them on top of the world's highest peak appeared doctored. It seemed as if they had used photoshop to put themselves on the summit when they hadn't even gotten close to the point. The situation got even murkier when the Nepali guide service that they hired for the expedition certified their summit without any real evidence that they had topped out. Later, when the story received more scrutiny, government ministers in Nepal were forced to retract their summit certificates, and launch an investigation into the proceedings.

Last week, The Himalayan Times reported that a high-level committee looking into the situation has recommended at least a ten-year ban be placed on the couple. That means that for the next decade they would not be able to climb in Nepal at all. The investigation confirmed that the Rathods had made false claims about their expedition and had submitted doctored photos of their climb when applying for the certificates.

Furthermore, the committee also recommended delisting the climbing Sherpas that were with the Indian couple from the climbing record as well. They were working with the company called Makalu Adventure Treks at the time, and are considering action against another member of the team who had backed up the Rathods' claims. It doesn't appear that there will be any actions taken against the government liaison officer who may or may not have been in Base Camp during the time of the expedition either, but it is possible that any member of the expedition could also receive a minimum of a five-year ban.

The couple has stayed mum on all of these proceedings since the news broke, but it seems likely they were hoping to add an Everest summit to their resume to potentially increase their fortunes back in India, a country with a proud climbing tradition. An Everest summit there is seen as quite an accomplishment, which can lead to fame, money, and increased social standing. Now however, they instead face deep shame from their actions.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Video: Remote Iceland as Seen by a Drone

Take a drone's eye view of remote Iceland in this video, which gives us stunning views of the landscapes that are found there. You'll catch a glimpse of everything from rugged coastlines, snowcapped peaks, and lush forests, with just about everything in between. You'll discover a place that is epic in scale and is calling out to be explored. After watching the 2+ minute clip you'll begin to understand why Iceland holds such an allure with travelers.

Video: The Best of the Grand Canyon

This week, the U.S. National Park Service will celebrate its 100th birthday in grand fashion, with all kinds of special events taking place across the country. For those of us who love the parks, this is a major milestone in their history, and one well worth commemorating. The video below comes our way courtesy of National Geographic and shares the very best vistas and landscapes from one of the most iconic parks in the entire system – The Grand Canyon. It is a good reminder of just how special these places truly are, and why having protected public lands is such an important thing. Consider that this week as we all appreciate the NPS just a bit more.

Gear Closet: The Zus Ruggedized Charging Cable is a Fantastic Travel Accessory

These days when we travel we always carry a host of gadgets with us. In fact, depending on the trip I'm taking, I often have a wide variety of devices that I need to keep charged while on the go. Those include a smartphone, tablet, and at various times a rechargeable headlamp, smartwatch, water purifier, headphones, and more. In order to keep all of those items from becoming nothing more than dead weight, you'll also need to carry charging cables, most of which are not designed for use in the back country or withstand the rigors that are often placed on them when traveling. But fortunately, there are some options on the market that are built to survive, even in remote environments, making the ruggedized charging cable a must have for outdoor adventurers.

One such cable is the ZUS from Nonda. Encased in an outer shell of tough nylon braiding over a thin PVC tube, and made up of protected aramid fibers, this cable was built from the ground up to survive darn near anything. In fact, the ZUS was tested in the lab and survived being bent more than 15,000 times without suffering damage. But if that wasn't enough to convince you, it is also backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Available in standard micro-USB, USB-C, and Apple Lightning versions, the ZUS cable definitely feels more substantial in your hands than most other charging cables I've used, especially those that come directly from a device manufacturer. There is a clearly defined resistance in the cable that you can feel as you use it that simply provides a sense that even though you're twisting it about, it isn't doing any kind of damage to the cable itself.

Speaking of twisting it about, the ZUS has also been built to be tangle free, which is something I appreciate when traveling. The materials used to create this cable also prevent it from wrapping up around itself, which means you can pull it out of your pack and plug it into your device and charging solution within a matter of seconds. If you're carrying multiple cables with you, this feature is even more handy, and the ZUS doesn't end up wrapping itself around them. And since it comes with its own built-in Velcro tie, it is extremely easy to keep it organized too.

Outside Gives Us the Best New Gear for Under $50

The 2016 Summer Outdoor Retailer show may be long over at this point, but there are still things to be said about what we saw there. Case in point, Outside magazine has posted a story that reveals their picks for the best pieces of gear for under $50, a price point that isn't necessarily all that common when it comes to the gear we use on our adventures.

So what made Outside's list? As you can imagine, they selected some unique items that are affordable, but also highly functional. For instance, Stanley showed off a new product designed to help keep your coffee warmer for longer, while Hydroflask revealed a Growler that can keep your craft brew drinks colder. Meanwhile, JetBoil's new MightyMo stove is certain to be a big hit in part because it weighs just 95 grams (3.35 ounces), and the latest knife from Gerber proves you don't have to break the bank to find a decent everyday carry for your pocket. Finally, the latest headlamp from Black Diamond also received a nod from the magazine thanks to it being very light (56 grams/1.97 ounces) and bright (150 lumens).

Since each of these items is $50 or less, there is sure to be a lot of interest in them. You'll probably have to be a bit patient however, as most of the gear shown at Outdoor Retailer won't be available until next spring. Still, it'll be worth the wait, and since these products are so inexpensive, you won't have to take out a second mortgage just to pay for them.

In the weeks ahead I'll be testing a lot of gear that I saw at OR and posting reviews. I've already started to receive some of those products, and there is plenty of good things to come for outdoor adventurers and travelers. I think you're going to be very happy with the way the industry is evolving, both in terms of delivering high quality gear that performs amazing well, and how eco-friendly the approach to creating our gear is becoming. It is an exciting time to say the least.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kilian Trains in Tibet for Everest

We're back on a regular posting schedule for a few weeks after my recent visit to Quebec, and we have news from the Himalaya about Kilian Jornet's speed attempt on Everest. This expedition will be the last of his "Summits of My Life" project, which has also resulted in new records for the fastest known times on other major peaks, including Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and Denali.

If you've been following Kilian's progress at all, you probably know that he left for the Himalaya a few weeks back where he has been organizing gear, continuing his training, and acclimatizing to the altitude. But, we also have a few more specifics about his schedule over the past few days.

Last Tuesday, Kilian flew from Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet. He spent a day there before starting the drive to Everest Base Camp, which is accessible by car on the North Side of the mountain. But, it is still a dramatic gain in altitude during that drive, so most people still go slow, and take a few days to reach BC, allowing their bodies to acclimatize a bit along the way. With that in mind, the Spanish ultrarunner has been working out along the way.

Over the weekend, he was in Tingri at 4300 meters (14,107 ft) where Kilian conducted some training runs. That's an altitude he's accustomed to, having spent the last few years making the Alps of Europe his personal playground. He also spent a good deal of time there training before leaving for the Himalaya.

It isn't clear yet just when Kilian and his team will arrive in Base Camp, but I would expect that that will happen this week. From there, the plan is to acclimate to higher altitudes before getting ready to make his historic attempt on the summit of Everest. We're still a few weeks away from that happening, but it certainly should be interesting to follow his preparation for the final push to the top. Especially when you keep in mind that this will be his first foray above 8000 meters.

Kilian's approach to the speed attempt has been a simple one. Get to the mountain while it is still summer, before there is anyone else attempting to climb it in the fall. This will ensure that the route is free from crowds that could potentially low him down. Taking one of the routes on the North Side should help keep the still on-going monsoons at bay to a degree as well, although it still could be dicey up on top. He'll now focus solely on acclimatizing and scouting the route until he is fully ready to go. From there, it will be a simple matter of waiting for the weather to cooperate and then choosing the best time to go.

For now, we all wait for that to happen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

On the Road Again: Heading Back to Quebec!

Just another quick note to let regular readers know that there will once again be no updates next week. My time back home was brief, and now I'm headed back to Quebec, Canada for another adventure. Some of you may recall that I was in Quebec this past winter where I had the opportunity to do some snowshoeing and dogsledding in some of the most beautiful (and cold!) conditions ever. Now, I'll return once again to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region where I'll be whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, sea kayaking and hiking. It should be a wonderful time and a nice way to contrast the region between the two seasons.

While I'm away, the Karakoram climbing season should finally come to an end, and I'm sure there will be other interesting adventure news taking place. I'll try to post updates upon my return of anything important that may have taken place. Regular updates will resume on August 22, at which time I'll actually be home for several weeks in a row. That will be the first time that that has happened in several months.

Until then, enjoy the last few weeks of summer, get outside and have some adventures of your own, and explore this great big planet of ours. I'll be back before you know it!

Video: In the Land of the Midnight Sun - A Visit to Norway

Need a bit of an escape as we head into the weekend? You'll find it in this five minute video that takes us into the Nordland region of Norway where we discover epic landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and a place where the sun never sets – at least at this time of the year. It is an incredibly beautiful clip with some amazing views that will leave you desperate to get outside and pursue an adventure of your own. We all might not be able to get to a place that looks like this in the next few days, but I'm sure we can still find an outside setting that can captivate us none the less. Don't miss this video. It is well worth your time.

An Aerial Perspective of Nordland from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Video: Paragliding Over Rio de Janeiro

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in full swing the eyes of the world of turned towards Rio. If you've been watching the events unfold in Brazil, you've no doubt seen some beautiful shots of the surrounding landscapes along the way. But in this video we join paragliders Nader Couri and Joe da Silva as they soar high above the city and Conrado Beach, giving us an adrenaline filled look at the surroundings. We haven't seen Rio from this vantage point just yet.

Belgian Adventurer to Attempt Simpson Desert Crossing in Australia

Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke is about to set out on another expedition across Australia's Simpson Desert. Back in 2008, he mad a similar journey spending 36 days traversing the "Dead Heart" of the continent solo and unsupported. This time out, he hopes to repeat his success, although he is taking a completely different approach.

Stretching out for more than 176,000 sq. km. (68,000 sq. miles), the Simpson Desert covers parts of Australia's Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australian states. Marked by a dry, sandy red plain and towering dunes, it is one of the most forbidding places on the planet, and home to the longest parallel sand dunes on Earth.

When he completed his crossing back in 2008, Loncke pulled a specially built cart that carried his gear and supplies, including water, behind him the entire way. This time out, he'll leave the cart behind and carry all of his equipment in his backpack instead, something he did while crossing Death Valley last year. His route will be a bit different this time out as well, as he'll travel west to east starting from Old Andado station in the Northern Territory and ending at Poeppel Corner via the geographic center of the desert itself. All told, he expect the expedition to cover about 280 km (174 miles).

The challenges that Loncke faces on this journey are numerous. The desert is extremely hot and dry, so dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion are real possibilities. Since he's carrying all of his supplies and gear with him on his back, equipment failure is a serious concern too, as is the fear of potential injuries. On top of that, he'll have to contend with snakes, dingos, and wild camels too, not to mention a host of annoying biting insects. In other words, this won't be a walk in the park, but a seriously difficult expedition through an unforgiving environment.

Loncke says that if he crosses the desert successfully, and still has enough supplies to continue on, he plans to push another 135 km (84 miles) past his end point to the town of Birdville instead. That would bring the entire journey up to 415 km (258 miles), although he'll have to wait to see how he feels physically before making that decision.

Loncke departed for Australia from Belgium yesterday and will spend a few days preparing for the journey before setting out. He should get underway next week, and have quite an adventure in the desert. Stay tuned for updates on his progress.

Good luck Lou-Phi!

Karakoram 2016: Czech Climbers Launch Summit Bid on Gasherbrum I

Earlier in the week we said that the climbing season in the Karakoram was grinding to halt, with most teams now long gone. But, one team remained in the mountain holding out home that they would still get a chance at the summit on Gasherbrum I, and along a new no less.

Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Ondra Mandula are now in the midst of a summit push along a route that Holecek has already attempted on three previous occasions. According to ExWeb, the duo set out from BC on Tuesday with the hopes of being into position to complete their climb today. Poor weather has momentarily stalled their attempt however, although they are hoping for conditions to improve this weekend so they can finish the ascent.

When the duo launched this summit push they climbed up to 6000 meters (19,685 ft) on Tuesday, setting up their first camp after a long day in mixed weather conditions. On Wednesday of this week the weather had improved and they set out to climb higher, but as they went, conditions once again deteriorated. Snow began to fall on the mountain, and several avalanches occurred, cutting off their ability to safely descend. Instead, they went up and found shelter near a serac, pitching their tent at 6800 meters (22,309 ft). That is where they have stayed for the past two days, waiting for things to improve. The plan is to wait out the weather, then move up to 7400 meters (24,278 ft) for one last campsite before moving on to the summit.

The new route is one that Holecek has scouted in the past, going up Gasherbrum I's southwest face. As mentioned, the Czech climber has failed to complete his ascent along this new path on three separate occasions, but he now believes that his persistence will pay off and he and Mandula can top out. At this point that all depends on the weather, and the amount of supplies that they have left. Summiting this late in the season is a bit uncommon in the Karakoram, but not unheard of. They will need some luck to go their way however.

We'll be keeping an eye on their progress throughout the next few days. Hopefully they'll find success along this new route, but if not it will be more important that they ascend safely. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Video: BASE Jumping Through the Clouds in Switzerland

BASE jumping can be a scary enough proposition on its own, but throw in some clouds and it gets even more difficult. That's what skydiver Felix Lorentzen and friends discovered when they made a recent jump in the mountains of Switzerland. Putting aside their trepidation they decided to go for it anyway, and the result is the video below. After all, they knew that the ground had to be down below them somewhere. Right?

Video: Tusker Trail's Mongolia Trek - Episode 3

Today we have Tusker Trail's third and final video of their Mongolia Trek, bringing a close to the journey. This video is a strong visual companion to the articles I have written recently about my own experiences on this amazing trip, and watching the three videos over the past few days has brought back some fantastic memories of our ride through the Altai Mountains. If you've read those stories and wanted to see what this part of Mongolia looks like for yourself, you can watch these videos to get a sense of the place. Better yet, you can sign up and go yourself. Check out the final clip yourself, and start planning your own Mongolia adventure.

Gear Closet: Solartab Portable Solar Charger

Now days it is not uncommon to travel into the backcountry with an array of electronic devices. Most of us will take a smartphone and sometimes even a tablet. We carry rechargeable headlamps, GoPro cameras, GPS devices, and a variety of other gear. The problem is, it isn't always easy to keep the batteries in all of those gadgets charged up, and without power they mostly become dead weight. But, thankfully there are some handy methods to carry extra power with us wherever we go, and improvements in the efficiency of solar panels has made them a viable option too. Which is why the Solartab portable charger was so intriguing to me as an option for backcountry power. Recently, I had the chance to put the device to the test, and came away fairly impressed.

At its core, the Solartab is a 5.5 watt solar panel that covers the front of the device. That panel is paired with a 13,000 mAh batter that can store the power collected from the sun for future use. That's a sizable battery in its own right, and enough to recharge an iPhone six times over, with power to spare, or fully recharge an iPad with enough juice for a smartphone too. When you pair that with the built-in solar panel, you have a  way to keep your gadgets running indefinitely, at least in theory.

The Solartab – which is roughly the size of a standard model iPad – also comes equipped with a custom made case that not only protects the solar panel, but also allows the user to adjust its angle to ensure that it is always drawing the most power possible from the sun. A handy light on the side of the device even tells you when it is actually generating energy, which is automatically stored in the battery pack.

Two 2.1 amp USB ports can then be used to transmit that power to any gadget capable of recharging via USB. That includes just about any small electronic device today, including headlamps, action cameras, GPS devices, UV water purifiers, and so on. A micro-USB port on the Solartab can be used to charge up the internal battery from AC wall outlet before you leave home, ensuring that you always have enough power on the go. Indicator lights on the side of the panel are a handy indicator to let you know just how much juice is in the Solartab at any given time.

The two USB ports are actually quite fast, although when a device is plugged into both ports you'll see a drop in speed. Still, an iPhone 6S can be powered up in about an hour and a half, and my iPad Mini was restored to full strength in under three hours. That's about on par with plugging those devices into the wall.

As with most small solar panels, the Solartab can be a bit of a mixed bag at times. In direct sunlight it can charge fairly quickly, and since you have the ability to turn it to face the sun, and shift the angle to get the most exposure, it works well on clear, sunny days. But, when the clouds come out its ability to draw a charge can be severely hampered. The designers of the device say that under the best of conditions it can take about 12 hours to fully recharge the device's battery, but don't expect those conditions to come around all that often.

Olympics Add Adventure Sports for 2020

As the 2016 Olympic Games continue to unfold in Rio, there was big news about the 2020 games this week – at least for the outdoor community. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had officially announced that climbing, surfing, and skateboarding will all be a part of the next Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan.

For some, the announcement came as good news, with professional climbers, surfers, and skateboarders applauding the decision. Others have shrugged it off as a non-event, saying that the Olympics are far from the venue that they want to use to promote their sports. Alex Honnold, for instance, told Reuters hat he probably wouldn't even be able to qualify, as "Competitive climbing is basically a whole different sub-sport.” He went on to add that he'll probably be on a solo expedition somewhere instead.

The surfing community has expressed a similar sentiment as outlined in this story from Outside magazine. Surf legend Kelly Slater says he'd love to compete, while others have not been so quick to embrace the Olympic spirit. Owen Wright eloquently summed up his feelings on the matter by saying “Fuck the Olympics.”

Either way, these sports will be a part of the games in four years, and it should be interesting to see how they play with a larger, more mainstream audience. I don't expect to see climbing televised, but both surfing and skateboarding will hold an appeal for sure. Whether or not viewers embrace these additions remains to be seen, but at least they are getting some recognition, even if the best athletes in each sport may not actually be there to take part.

As for the current Rio games, it has been a bit of a mixed bag for me so far. On the one hand, it is always great to see these world-class athletes competing on such a big stage. But on the other hand, the amount of trouble that has been taking place in and around the Olympic venues is a bit disturbing. Athletes getting robbed, dignitaries held up at gun point, violence in the streets. Not a lot of those stories are making it to the mainstream press, but they are happening on a regular basis. If you haven't seen the current episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumble on HBO yet, I would urge you to do so. It'll give you an entirely new perspective on the games, the IOC, and the process of determining where the Olympics are held every four years.

Lets hope things go better in Tokyo.

Miranda Oakley Sets New Female Speed Record on the Nose in Yosemite

It has been good couple of days for female climbers. Yesterday we had word that Maddie Miller set a new speed record for nabbing all of the high points in the U.S., and today we learn that Miranda Oakley has managed to break the record for climbing The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite in the fastest time ever by a woman. What's more, she didn't just break the record, she smashed it, setting a new high water mark in the process.

A few days back, Oakley completed a solo summit of Yosemite's most iconic route in 21 hours and 50 minutes. That shaved more than 2.5 hours off the previous record, which was set by Chantel Astorga back in 2014. Astorga went up the nose in 24 hours, 39 minutes, which means Oakley is also the first woman to break the 24-hour mark as well.

The Nose has a long and storied history in climbing. It is considered one of the most famous routes in all of rock climbing, requiring equal parts skill, strength, and stamina to complete. Rated a 5.9 C2, the classic ascent is a 3000-foot monster that tests the dedication and determination of any climber. Oakley did it solo for the first time last year, completing her climb in a little under 27 hours.

For reference sake, the current speed record on The Nose for a two-person team is held by Hans Florine and Alex Honnold. That talented duo managed so complete the route in 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds. The solo record for men is held by Tommy Caldwell, who topped out in just under 12 hours.

Congratulations to Miranda for an impressive display of skill and strength. Well done!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Video: Squirrel Grabs GoPro, Makes Own POV Movie

What happens when a squirrel grabs your GoPro camera and runs with it up into the trees? You get a squirrel's eye view of what it is like to hop along on branches high above the ground of course! That is exactly what happened in this video, with the little rodent picking up the camera and setting off on his merry way. The entire time the video is recording, giving us a unique perspective that we wouldn't normally see. Fortunately the squirrel was kind enough to give the camera back to the footage could be uploaded to YouTube. Check it out below.

Video: Tusker Trail's Mongolia Trek - Episode 2

Today we have our second video from Tusker Trail's amazing Mongolian itinerary, the same one that I've been writing about so extensively recently. This second clip takes us into the heart of the journey, giving you a great look at the Altai Mountains, the route we took, and the people who inhabit this remote part of the country. If you've ever had an interest in visiting Mongolia for yourself, this video will give you an idea of what to expect, and more than likely will only fuel your desires to go yourself. It is a truly magnificent place filled with unique experiences.

Karakoram 2016: Body Found on K2, Help Required to Identify

Sad news from K2 where a team of researchers have discovered the remains of a fallen climber, but no one has been able to identify him or her just yet. A request for help has been sent out to the mountaineering community in the hopes of determining just who was found on the mountain.

According to this story at Montagna.tv, Michele Cucchi and Paolo Petrignani – working in conjunction with Pakistani guides – were in Base Camp on K2 a couple of weeks back. The team had traveled there to record the current state of the glaciers in that area, and the impact of environmental change on their health. The group climbed up to ABC and could see the damage done by a massive avalanche that hit Camp 3 back in July, sweeping away tents, fixed ropes, and a cache of bottled oxygen. The avalanche effectively brought an end to the K2 climbing season, sending all of the teams there home without a single summit.

Amongst the rubble Cucchi discovered a few oxygen bottles, the remains of several tents, and a human body under a thin layer of ice. The corpse was wearing a Millet boot that was reportedly a size 8 (pictured here). The boot is a recent model, which suggests the accident took place fairly recently as well, but the person who was found remains unidentified at this time. If you can potentially ID this person, you're urged to contact Montagna.tv as soon as possible.

As is tradition on K2, the remains of the climber were taken to the Gilkey Memorial where all of the victims of the "Savage Mountain" are laid to rest. This has been the case sine 1953 and it continues to this day.

Hopefully someone in the mountaineering community will see this story and help identify the unknown climber.

Canadian Adventurer Completes Solo Atlantic Crossing in a Rowboat

Back in June I wrote about Laval St. Germain, a Canadian adventurer who was preparing to embark on a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. He was using his ocean crossing as a platform to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and set out from the coast of Nova Scotia back on June 15. This past weekend, he wrapped up the journey at long last, reaching the shores of France on Saturday.

It took St. Germain 53 days to complete the Atlantic crossing, which he said he was able to do thanks to the good weather he had throughout the voyage. He told the Canadian media that he had plenty of time to become accustomed to his boat and the daily grind of rowing before bad weather and difficult seas set in. By that point, he was much better prepared to deal with the conditions, which were expected even during the summer months when the North Atlantic is at its calmest.

All told, St. Germain covered approximately 4500 km (2796 miles) on his aquatic journey, which began along the eastern coast of Canada and ended in Brest, France. That is the opposite direction of most Atlantic rowers, who tend to start in Europe or at the Canary Islands, and head west to the Caribbean.

Laval says that he is happy to have completed the journey, but he is disappointed in his fund raising efforts. He had hoped to bring in $200,000 to support the Cancer Foundation, but has raised just $51,000 to date. That is still an impressive number, but far short of the goal that he had set for himself. He promises to continue with those efforts even though the ocean crossing is now complete.

Despite not raising as many funds as he would have liked, this was still a fantastic effort. Rowing an ocean as part of a team is a heck of a challenge, and doing it solo even more so. Congratulations to Laval for completing this undertaking and doing so for a worthy cause at the same time. He should be very proud of what he has accomplished on both fronts.

Maddie Miller Sets New Speed Record for U.S. High Points

A couple of weeks back I posted a story about the efforts of mountain guides Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller, who were attempting to reach the highest point in each of the U.S. states. They had dubbed their expedition the 50 Peaks Challenge and the original plan was to try to get all 50 high points in just 50 days. It turns out that the ladies were a bit faster than that, and in the process Miller actually set a new speed record.

All told, it took the 21-year old climber 41 days, 16 hours, and 10 minutes to climb all 50 of the high points, making that the fastest time ever. Miller also became the first woman to nab all of the summits in under 50 days as well, something that has been accomplished by a handful of male climbers too.

Unfortunately, Arnot can't share in the record because she only reached 49 of the high points. The 50 Peaks Challenge actually began on Denali back in June, but Melissa was unable to climb that mountain. She had suffered an injury on Everest earlier this spring and wasn't ready to make the arduous trip to the top of the toughest mountain in North America. Instead, she had to join Miller after that expedition and accompany her to the top of the other high points. The two ladies wrapped up their efforts by summiting Mauna Kea in Hawaii last week. Arnot has previously summited Denali, giving her all 50 high points as well, just not in record time.

Congratulations to both Melissa and Maddie on this great accomplishment. While many of the high points are easy walk ups or barely a challenge at all, several of them are serious mountaineering challenges. On top of that, to reach all of them in such a short period of time is an impressive feat indeed. That certainly makes for a busy summer and one hell of a road trip.

What did you do with your summer?