Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Video: A Timelapse Adventure Through Norway

In terms of timelapse videos, they don't come much more beautiful than this one. It is a scenic, wondrous journey through Norway, a country that has more than its fair share of breathtaking landscapes. Sit back and enjoy this 5+ minute short film that will leave you wanting more.

NORWAY - A Time-Lapse Adventure from Rustad Media on Vimeo.

Video: Riding the Red Bull Rampage

Last week I shared a video of some of the nasty crashes from the Red Bull Rampage downhill mountain biking event. Today I have a video from the race, which was held this past weekend in Virgin, Utah. The clip captures a run by Kelly McGarry on a GoPro camera, giving you a first person perspective of what it is actually like to ride this course. I'm not sure about you, but I'm glad I'm watching it on video, and not having to ride it myself.

Gear Closet: Bushnell SolarWrap Mini

Yesterday I posted a review of an ingenious little lantern that came packed with a host of nice features that are sure to make it a hit with adventure travelers and the outdoor crowd alike. Today, I have another product aimed at the same market that is also wonderfully designed, simple in its operation, and incredibly useful in the field. It is the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini, a small and light solar charger to keep our favorite devices operating while we're on our adventures.

Over the past few years, solar panels have gotten more efficient, and as a result, they've also become an increasingly viable way to keep all of our electronic devices charged while in the backcountry. Bushnell has taken a novel approach to the SolarWarp series by actually integrating its solar cells onto a piece of fabric that can be folded up for storage. In the case of the SolarWrap Mini those solar panels actually wrap around a tough, but lightweight, metal tube, that also houses a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, and two USB ports, one for storing a charge, and one for sharing it.

The entire package is 4.3" (11 cm) in length, and about 1.25" (3.1 cm) in diameter. It also weighs just 3.1 ounces (87.8 grams), which makes the entire solar charger incredibly lightweight and compact. In fact, it is so small and light, that you can toss it in a backpack, and completely forget it is there.

When you're ready to charge a device, you simply pull it out, and plug your gadget into the full-size USB port, which is located under the included rubber end caps. Those caps provide a nice level of protection to the delicate ports while traveling, and are a nice addition to the overall package. The built-in battery is capable of providing a full recharge to a smartphone, two charges to an MP3 player, or 2.5 charges to a small camera. The 1 amp output from the USB is fairly speed for such a small solar charger, and while it will work on tablets as well, don't expect it to provide a full charge for those devices.

A mini-USB port is located on the opposite end of the battery tube, which allows travelers to charge the device before heading out into the field. It takes about 4 hours to complete charge the battery from a laptop, although I found that time was considerably quicker when using a USB wall charger. Bushnell says it takes roughly 10 hours to fully recharge the SolarWrap Mini using the sun, but that time can vary somewhat depending on how much direct sunlight is available.

When fully extended, the pull-out solar panel stretches for 18 inches, and includes a conveniently placed eyelet for connecting it to a backpack. This allows the battery to soak up a charge all day long, and be ready for distributing that charge once you reach campsite for the night. To start charging, just locate your device's USB cable, and plug it in. The SolarWrap will take care of the rest.

The SolarWrap Mini carries an MSRP of $89.99, although it can be found online at discounted prices.  For anyone who needs to keep their gadgets charged while on the go, the Mini is a must-have device. It is compact in size, weighs next to nothing, and yet is capable of producing a solid amount of juice to keep our cell phones, cameras, and other small devices running. Personally, when you factor in the size and price, I think this is the best solar charger I've ever used, and I think other outdoor adventurers and adventure travelers will love what it brings to the table too.

Largest Cave Chamber in the World Discovered in China

A team of cave explorers funded by the National Geographic Society has located the largest underground chamber in the world in a remote cave system in China. The group of spelunkers traveled to that country last year to measure the massive Miao Room, as the chamber is known in caving circles, using a sophisticated laser mapping system. The findings from that expedition were announced this past weekend, with some surprising results.

First discovered back in 1989, the Miao Room has long been considered the second largest chamber in the world, behind the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia. Measured using standard methods, the massive room is 852 meters (2795 feet) in length, and 191 meters (627 feet) wide. But the new laser mapping system is able to take into account the full size of the room in three dimensions, and it revealed that Miao is larger than Sarawak in terms of total volume. In fact, the Chinese cave occupies about 10.79 million cubic meters (380.7 million cubic feet), which makes it approximately 10% larger than its Malaysian counter part. Sarawak does cover more surface area however, stretching out across an impressive 1.66 million meters.

Expedition co-leader Tim Allen told Nat Geo that finding out that Miao was bigger than Sarawak was akin to "discovering that K2 is larger than Everest!" It has long been believed that Sarawak held the title for the largest underground chamber, but Miao has now stolen its crown.

In order to reach the massive underground room, the explorers had to first descend more than 100 meters (325 feet) beneath the surface, then navigate an underground river. These obstacle were a hinderance to exploring the cave system in the past, which is why it has taken so long to get a more accurate measurement of Miao itself. In order to properly compare it to Sarawak, the same team used their 3D laser mapping system in the Malaysian cave as well.

It is important to point out that these caves are simply the single largest chambers. In terms of the longest overall cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave in the U.S. still holds that title. It stretches for more than 651.8 km (405 miles) with new chambers and passage still being discovered.

Avalanches Claim The Lives of Adventurers in South America

There was more sad news from the mountains yesterday, when it was revealed that freeskiers JP Auclair and Andreas Fransson were killed in an avalanche in Chile, while climber Liz Daley was caught in a separate avalanche on the Fitz Roy Massif in Argentina, and lost her life too.

Auclair and Fransson were skiing Mount San Lorenzo, a 12,159-foot (3706 meter) peak that falls along the border of Chile and Argentina in the Patagonia region, on Monday when they were caught up in the avalanche that claimed their lives. The two men, both well known in the freeskiing community, were there to make a ski film of their adventure. Outside reports that their deaths were confirmed yesterday when a helicopter flew over the mountain searching for them, but spotted their bodies high on the mountain instead.

Not long after the news of the passing of Auclair and Fransson, reports of Daley's accident surfaced as well. She was a professional climber and snowboarder sponsored by Eddie Bauer, who was in Argentina as part of a production crew shooting a snowboarding/skiing film as well. Liz was part of a team descending from Cerro Vespignani, a 7000-foot (2133 meter) peak that is found near Fitz Roy. The avalanche struck the team, but all other members of the group survived with minor injuries.

It has been a rough week in the mountains to say the least. The news of these deaths due to avalanche follows the loss of Sebastian Haag and Andrea Zambaldi on Shishapangma last week. These three separate incidences are a good reminder of just how dangerous our outdoor pursuits can be at times. It is sad to see so many talented and young adventurers lose their lives in such a short period of time.

My condolences go out to the friends and family of those who were killed in these tragic accidents.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Video: A Look At Jordan Through Ancient Eyes

The filmmaker behind this wonderful short film recently traveled to Jordan, where he had his eyes opened by the history and culture there. It if filled with fantastic scenes from a country that is extremely accommodating to travelers, offering them experiences that can't be found anywhere else on Earth. It is a beautiful country with a rich heritage, and having visited the place myself, I can tell you that it is a wonderful experience. This video will give you just a taste of what Jordan has to offer.

Through Ancient Eyes from Live Free or Die on Vimeo.

Video: Sculpted in Time Teaser Trailer

This video is a teaser for a new series of short films coming our way from Sherpas Cinema. The four mini documentaries, set to release over the next few weeks, were all shot in and around Banff National Park in Canada, and will spotlight a unique individual who has been influenced by the mountains there. The clip below gives us just enough of a glimpse of what is to come to get us excited. The scenery alone will make these documentaries well worth our time. Beautiful stuff to say the least.

Thanks to my friend Kate for sharing!

Must Read: The Good Guide Paradox by Richard Bangs

Legendary river guide and television host Richard Bangs has written a very thoughtful piece for HuffPo entitled "The Good Guide Paradox." The article not only examines the importance of having a good guide on expeditions to remote areas of the world, but also takes a very personal look at how those guides manage to become good at their jobs in the first place. 

The article begins by first mentioning the notorious 1996 spring climbing season on Everest, in which eight people were caught in a storm on the mountain and perished there. Amongst them was Rob Hall, who was widely considered one of the best mountain guides in the world at the time. But Richard asserts that in a bid to get good press (Hall was hosting Jon Krakauer for Outside magazine), Rob had several lapses in judgement that would ultimately cost him, and his client, their lives. In a quote from the article, Bangs says "He put his own self-interest ahead of his client's, and they both paid the price."

Those probably sound like harsh words, but Richard speaks from a place of experience. He goes on to recount a tale in which he made a similar decision that he would ultimately come to regret. At one point, Bangs ahas leading an expedition down the Baro River in Africa, and he allowed an inexperienced person to join the team, mostly because he was offering a substantial amount of money. It was enough money in fact that he could almost fund the entire expedition just on what this one client was offering alone. The promise of quick cash led to a clouding of judgement as well, and when disaster struck on the river, this wealthy, but inexperienced, client was lost. 

Gear Closet: UCO Tetra Lantern

Lighting options for outdoor adventure and travel continue to get more sophisticated and useful. Recently, I was sent to great new lanterns for use while camping, and I briefly flirted with the idea of reviewing them together in one blog post, but after using both of them for a bit, I've come to realize that both products are unique, useful, and worthy of their own individual reviews. The first of those products is the Tetra lantern from UCO, a lighting option that has some great tricks up its sleeve.

Out of the box, the first thing that impressed me about the Tetra is just how incredibly lightweight it is. The lantern tips the scales at just 4.3 ounces (124 grams), and yet it still manages to put out a considerable amount of light. On its highest setting, the Tetra can put off an impressive 170 lumens, which is a surprising amount of light for use in a tent or around a campsite. Holding the power button acts as a dimmer switching, bringing the brightness down in smooth increments. Holding it for eight seconds will switch into a flashing strobe mode used for emergency purposes.

Powered by a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, the Tetra is capable of up to five hours of light on its highest setting, and as much as 120 hours on its lowest output level, which is 6 lumens. That's a solid amount of burn time, particularly since you're likely to actually get closer to 80-100 hours depending on the level of brightness that is most suitable for you. The built-in battery can be recharged via USB, which means the Tetra can be recharged via a laptop, or a portable solar panel. The light also has an extra USB port, that allows you to attach other devices, and charge them up as well. This is a feature that comes in handy when traveling in particular, as you never know when you may need to top off the charge on your smartphone, a camera, or some other small device.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summits on Cho Oyu, Teams Abandon Shishapangma

More news from the Himalaya today, as reports of success on Cho Oyu trickle in as expected. But over on Shishapangma, some teams are calling it quits due to safety concerns, while others arrive on that mountain seeking their second 8000-meter peak of the season.

As expected, the commercial teams that launched summit bids on Cho Oyu topped out amidst good weather this morning. Winds were light and visibility was high on top of the mountain, affording the summiteers great views of Nepal and Tibet, as well as surrounding mountains, including Everest and Lhotse. The latest dispatch from IMG says they team put two guides, seven climbers, and six Sherpas on the summit. Everyone is in good shape, and descending back to C2 today.

The Adventure Consultants summited a few hours behind the IMG team, but had similar results. They managed to put eight Sherpas, two guides, and six climbers on the summit, although by the time they topped out, the winds were starting to pick up a bit more, and clouds were beginning to move in as well. They are all on the descent now too, after spending a half hour on top of Cho Oyu.

Congratulations to all of the climbers who topped out on Cho Oyu. Get down safely.

The news isn't as good from Shishapangma, where ExWeb is reporting that some teams are now abandoning the mountain due to poor weather and unsafe conditions. Following the avalanche that claimed two lives last week, climbers on Shisha have reevaluated the situation there, and most have elected to go home rather than risk their safety. This includes 75-year old Carlos Soria, who had been as high as Camp 2, and even as late as yesterday was working to continue his acclimatization efforts. It appears that the mountain is simply too unstable for safe climbing this fall, and the risks of avalanche on the high slopes are too great.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Video: Himalayan Adventure from Delhi to Beijing

Ever wanted to take a road-trip through the Himalaya starting in Delhi and ending in Beijing? Then this video was made for you. It is a four-minute travelogue through India, Nepal, Tibet and China, that features sweeping landscapes, amazing cultural moments, and a grand sense of adventure. This looks like it was a fantastic journey, and one I would love to make as well.

India | Nepal | Tibet | China from Klaas on Vimeo.

Video: An Alps Travelogue to Mont Blanc

Shot in the Alps near Chamonix, France this past July, this video follows a trio of climbers as they head to Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe. It is a wonderful three-and-a-half minute film of the journey to the summit, complete with mountain lodges, glacial traverses, and spectacular views.

Alps Travelogue - Mont Blanc from Bruno Aretio on Vimeo.

Gold Rush Expedition Adventure Race to Air on Universal Sports Network in October

Adventure racing fans listen up, you're going to want to set your DVRs to record soon. The Universal Sports Network will begin airing a three-part documentary focused on the Gold Rush expedition-length adventure race in October, bringing the sport into the homes of millions of viewers across the U.S. Each of the three self-contained documentaries is 90 minutes in length, and captures some of the top adventure racing athletes from across the globe as they take part in one of best races in North America, and a qualifying event for the AR World Championship.

The first episode will air at 6PM ET on Thursday, October 16 and will feature the 2012 Gold Rush Expedition Race. The following week, at 6:30 PM ET on Friday October 24, the network will premiere the 2013 edition of the Gold Rush documentary. Meanwhile, the film for the 2014 edition of the race, which was greatly shortened in length due to wildfires in California, is currently in post-production, and will air in May of 2015. Additional airings will be announced at a later time.

If anyone has ever been a part of the team that produces adventure races, you probably already know how difficult it can be to capture all of the action out on the course. There are simply too many teams, spread out across too much territory. Throw in the fact that these events usually take place in remote and rugged locations, and it can become a logistical nightmare. But, the team behind these documentaries have taken a unique approach to how they are made, and that is a great story in and of itself.

For the past three years, the Gold Rush AR event has been filmed by a team of University of Cincinnati students, who are studying media production. For the 2014 edition of the race, 16 students, under the direction of professional television director and U.C. alum Brian Leitten, and E-media Professor Kevin Burke, traveled to California to shoot the documentary and witness the incredible sport of adventure racing first hand. As a result, their work is now going to be shown on Universal, and we'll all get the opportunity to see the Gold Rush as well.

I'm trying to remember the last time adventure racing was on television here in the U.S. It has been many years since we actually saw a network air anything AR related. This will be great exposure for the sport, and hopefully introduce a new audience to what adventure racing is all about.

To get an idea of what to expect from the documentaries, check out the promo video below which was shot at the 2013 Gold Rush.


Adventure Tech: GoPro Hero 4 is Official

Last week I posted a story about the rumors of a new GoPro camera that was said to be launching soon. The leaked information indicated that new model would be able to capture video in 4K resolutions, and include a touchscreen for navigation of the device's settings. At the time, we didn't know much more about the product, including price or release date, but today GoPro made the new Hero 4 official, announcing two versions, as well as a new inexpensive entry model as well.

As it turns out, the rumors we were hearing last week have proven to be true. The new GoPro Hero 4 Black edition will indeed capture 4K video at 30fps, and 1080p video at up to 120fps, making it an ideal option for the professional filmmaker. The Silver edition is the model that comes with a touchscreen, and is capable of shooting 1080p resolutions at 60fps. Both models include both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity now, making it easier to connect a smartphone or tablet to monitor what is being shot, and to manage the device itself. The camera are priced at $499.99 and $399.99 respectively, and will begin shipping to stores on October 5.

The new entry-level model is now simply called the Hero. It carries much of the same specs as the previous models, including 1080p video at 30fps, a 5MP sensor, and is waterproof down to 40 meters. The best enhancement on this model is that it now costs just $129.99, a real bargain for those who want to dabble in filmmaking without spending a lot of money.

All of new models feature a few cosmetic changes, but for the most part they resemble previous generation GoPro cameras. That meanest hey'll also fit in the hundreds of accessories and cases that already exist. That is a wise move on the part of the Hero 4 designers, as consumers don't have to start over with all of their gear.

The video below will introduce you further to the new cameras, and give you a sense of what they are capable of. Judging from the early footage, GoPro's competitors are going to have to play catch-up once again, and I can't wait to see what filmmakers do with these new tools.


Himalaya Fall 2014: Summit Push Underway on Cho Oyu

The pace is starting to pick up in the Himalaya, where last week we saw summits on Manaslu, and we begin this week with a summit push on Cho Oyu as well. Meanwhile, teams on other mountains continue to acclimatize and wait for their opportunities too.

The commercial teams on Cho Oyu launched their summit bids this past weekend, and are hoping to top out today. That includes both the IMG squad, as well as the team led by the Adventure Consultants. Both were in Camp 3 yesterday, and should now be working their way towards the top of the 8201 meter (26,906 ft) peak. If everything goes according to plan, we should have news of successful summits later today, or by tomorrow.

Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke is on Cho Oyu as well, and a few days back she reported that high winds and deep snow were thwarting efforts to fix ropes. Conditions must have improved however, otherwise the other teams would not be making a move towards the summit. She also indicated that her team would be spending the weekend at Camp 2 as part of their acclimatization process, so they aren't quite ready to make their own push to the top just yet. Chris was quite dismayed to learn that two climbers had used her, and her Sherpas, bottled oxygen and masks that were stored at C2, which means they must carry more supplies to that point in preparation for their own summit bid down the line. That creates not only an expense for her, but they will also expend more energy having to carry extra supplies with them when they go.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Video: The Living Spree - A Summer of Adventure in New Zealand

What do you do when you have one last summer of freedom following college and before entering the work force? If you're the three young Americans who made the video below, you travel to New Zealand, rent a van, and cover more than 4000 miles (6437 km) in search of adventure. As you can see from this incredibly well done short film, they found everything they were looking for, and more. Great stuff, and wonderful inspiration for a travel adventure of your own.

 
The Living Spree from Four Hills Films on Vimeo.

Video: Filmmaking in the Himalaya with a Drone (Part 2)

A few weeks back I posted a video from my friend Jon Miller of The Rest of Everest fame. In that video, we got a behind the scenes look at a recent trip Jon made to the Himalaya, during which he took a couple of drones along with him to capture some amazing footage from across the region. Today, we have a second video from that trip, which once again not only includes fantastic images from the mountains, but also gives would-be Himalayan trekkers an opportunity to see what it is like to hike through that part of the world. This video will be of interest to other filmmakers of course, but there is a lot to like for the rest of us too. I hope you enjoy.

Sponsored Video: The North Face - The Explorer

We humans are explorers. There is no denying that. There is something innate in our make-up that spurs us to push on into the unknown. We want to see what is over the next horizon, and want to fill in the blank spots on the map. It is what has driven us forward as a species, and I believe it is that same spirit that will carry us forward into the future, as we continue to explore the depths of the oceans, and push further into outer space.

This point is hammered home very eloquently by the video below, thanks to some very eloquent and inspiring narration from astronaut Buzz Aldrin. On July 20, 1969, Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon, as they became the first human beings to walk on Earth's satellite. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a seminal moment in human exploration

In this brief, but incredibly inspiring clip, Aldrin talks about man's need to explore is instilled in us at a young age. He says that he was inspired by the explorers that came before him, and that he hoped at some point to plant the flag someplace where no one else had ever been. He got his chance on the historic flight of Apollo 11.

Aldrin's incredibly poignant words apply not only to his mission into space, but for explorers who are pushing boundaries here on our planet as well. Those words are set over some incredibly breathtaking images of adventurers who continue to carry the torch of exploration forward into the mountains, the oceans, and the other remote corners of our planet. The video is brought to us by The North Face, so it is fitting that their motto is "Never Stop Exploring."

This post has been sponsored by The North Face, but the opinions are all my own.

Adventure Tech: Next Gen GoPro to Include Touchscreen, Capture in 4K?

Aspring adventure filmmakers are no doubt wondering what GoPro has up their sleeve for their next generation camera. After all, the Hero 3 line has been out for several years, and the competition is starting to get a bit stiffer in what has become a very crowded action cam market. Yesterday, gadget website Gizmodo posted a round-up of the latest rumors circulating around the as-yet unannounced Hero 4, as well as a photo that may actually show off the product for the first time.

Amongst the new features expected to be coming to the new camera are a touchscreen LCD that will make it much easier to access, and adjust, the settings, as well as monitor and review any footage that is being shot. Previous models of GoPro cameras only had a small screen on the front which provided information on battery life and memory card capacity. A color LCD would be a significant upgrade in terms of what filmmakers could do in the field without needing to connect to another device.

The bigger news is that the Hero 4 is expected to be able to capture video in 4K resolutions at 30fps, which will greatly improve the quality of the films created using the camera. As Gizmodo points out, the Hero 3+ Black edition had the ability to shoot 4K as well, but at 15fps no one ever really bothered to use that mode. A true 4K capable GoPro will be extremely popular for sure.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Tragedy on Shishapangma, New Speed Record on Manaslu

We have more bad news from the Himalaya today, where tragedy has struck the Double8 team that we have been following so closely this fall. An avalanche hit the squad high on the peak, killing two climbers, and bringing a tragic end to their attempt to summit two 8000-meter peaks in seven days.

As you may recall, earlier this week the team set out for a second summit push on Shishapangma, after being turned back on their first attempt last week. Heavy snows and the danger of avalanches made it impossible for them to top out the first time around, but they were hoping that conditions had improved in the days since. For their second summit bid, they were joined by Ueli Steck, who had set a speed record on Shisha a few years back. The plan was for Ueli and Benedikt Böhm to leave Base Camp on Tuesday, and meet up with Sebastian Haag at Camp1, followed by Andrea Zambaldi at Camp 2. They were also joined by a 5th climber, as Martin Maier joined the squad at the last minute as well. All seemed to go according to plan, and the men headed up the mountain on schedule. If everything were to unfold as they expected, they would top and be back in BC in one day. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

The team found it tough going on the upper slopes of the mountain once again. Deep, heavy snow made it difficult to break trail, and they were still exhausted from their first attempt. Still, they pushed on, and by 6:55 AM local time on Wednesday they had reached 7900 meters (25,918 ft), which put them just 113 meters (370 feet) below the summit. It was at this point that they were hit by an avalanche which dragged Sebastian and Andrea off the mountain, falling some 600 meters over the side of a cliff. Martin was also hit, and buried by the snow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Video: Autumn in Aspen

Autumn has officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it comes cooler temperatures, shorter days, and changing of the leaves on the trees. This all-too short video gives us a wonderful look at fall in the Rocky Mountains. Shot near Aspen, Colorado, the scenery is as breathtaking as you'd expect.

Maroon Bells in Autumn from Mike Kvackay on Vimeo.

Video: Worst Mountain Bike Crashes At Red Bull Rampage

Speaking of Red Bull, the company is gearing up for its iconic Rampage downhill mountain bike race, which will take place this weekend in Virgin, Utah. The event always features some amazing highlights that are a good reminder to leave this sport to the professionals. The video below was released ahead of the start of the Rampage, and features some of the worst crashes in the history of the event. Thankfully, these riders wear plenty of armor and padding, and generally walk away without any real damage. That doesn't make it any easier to watch when they go down though. Ouch!

Video: Introducing the Red Bull Ger Get It Extreme Relay Race

You have to hand it to the folks at Red Bull. They sure know how to put together some epic events, and their marketing efforts are second to none. Take for example the video below, which is a promo for their Ger Get It race, which is a relay that demands teams paddle, run, climb, and mountain bike their way across a tough course. This looks like a lot of fun, and combines some of my favorite outdoor activities into one single event.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summits on Manaslu!

Weather forecasts predicting good conditions over the Himalaya for the end of the week have proven to be accurate, and as a result, we have now seen the first successful summits of the season on Manaslu. Earlier today, the Altitude Junkies posted a brief update on their website indicating that the team had a successful day on the mountain. Their dispatch read as follows:
"Summits! We have had six team members and six Sherpas summit Manaslu this morning. Everyone is safe, with some members descending to base camp today and some descending tomorrow. More details to come."
The AJ squad was working closely with the Himex team, which also had a successful day on the mountain. Team leader Russell Brice posted his own update that indicated that all nine of his clients topped out, along with two guides and nine Sherpas as well. All members of the team are reportedly in good physical condition, with some returning all the way to Base Camp today, while others will rest in Camp 3, before coming down tomorrow.

This weather window is now expected to close, as high winds move over the summit of Manaslu in the next few days. According to Brice, conditions for the climb today were not ideal, as the winds started to pick up as the climbers left Camp 4. Fortunately, things did not deteriorate from there, and everyone was able to get up and down safely.

Congratulations to all of the climbers on a job well done.

Meanwhile, we're still awaiting word on the Double8 team. The trio of climbers, who hope to summit two 8000-meter peaks in seven days, had set out for the summit of Shishapangma a few days ago with Ueli Steck in tow. They had hoped to make a speed ascent to the summit, and ski back to BC in just one day, but there has not been any official updates on their progress just yet. There are some indications that they may have run into heavy snow just below the summit once again, and may have turned back for a second time. If true, they are likely descending and preparing to head to Cho Oyu for an attempt on that mountain.

Elsewhere across the Himalaya, teams continue to acclimatize and look for good weather to go up their respective mountains. For the most part, things continue to play out on schedule, and there doesn't seem to be any major concerns at the moment. Over the next few weeks, there will be more summit pushes to come, as climbers wrap up their preparation, and start their final attempts as well. I'll post further updates as warranted.

Islamic Militants Execute Mountaineer in Algeria

There is sad news to report out of Algeria today where Islamic militants have killed a mountaineer in retaliation for U.S.-led attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 55-year old Hervé Gourdel has traveled to the country just a few days before to begin a 10-day long hiking excursion to the Atlas Mountains in preparation for a future expedition to climb there. Gourdel reportedly had just arrived in Algeria on Saturday, and was captured by the militant group while trekking in the mountains on Sunday. In an apparent attempt to send a message to the French government to withdraw from the attacks on ISIS, the Algerian militants wasted no time in murdering their captive.

The group, which is known locally as the Caliphate Soldiers, reportedly has ties to the Islamic State. Yesterday they released a gruesome video of the murder, which shows masked men beheading Gourdel. The video was released a mere 30 minutes after U.S. President Obama spoke before the United Nations General Assembly calling on the nations of the world to work together to stop the spread of ISIS throughout the Middle East.

Algeria was once a French colony, and the influence of that era, and it remains a popular destination for French tourists. The attack has shocked many, which had seen the country as a safe place to visit, despite some lingering resentment amongst militants. Initially, the group tried to use Gourdel as a pawn to force the French government to withdraw from the attacks on ISIS, but when that ploy had no impact, the Caliphate Soldiers went ahead with the execution, calling it "a message in blood for the French government."

An experienced mountain guide, Gourdel had spent a great deal of time in the Atlas Mountains, particularly on the Moroccan side of the range. He had reportedly traveled to Algeria to scout out some possible climbing destinations for future expeditions.

If anything, this story is an indicator of how far the ISIS influence has spread. Algeria is not all that close to Syria and Iraq, and yet the Islamic State has garnered allies there. The attack on Gourdel is also a reminder of the brutal attack on mountaineers in Nanga Parbat, during which a different group of Islamic militants murdered 10 foreign climbers. It is a shame that peaceful visitors from another country get caught in the middle of these conflicts, but it is a reality that we must consider when traveling to certain parts of the world.

My condolences to Hervé's friends and family in this trying time.