Wednesday, November 25, 2015

#OptOutside for Black Friday

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., and most of us are gearing up to have a few days off to spend some time with friends and family. Of course, Thanksgiving brings another annual tradition along with it – Black Friday. That's the day that holiday shopping kicks into high gear, most major stores offer significant discounts, and shoppers head to the malls in droves in an attempt to get an early start on their holiday shopping. In short, it is madness, and most sane people try to stay as far away from the experience as possible.

This year, outdoor gear retailer REI has done something that to many was unthinkable. The company has decided to close its doors on Black Friday, and actually give its employees a paid day off to go outside instead. Using the hashtag #OptOutside, the company has encouraged its customer base to do the same. As of now, nearly 1 million people have pledged to follow suit.

REI isn't the only organization that has pushed to turn Black Friday into a day to enjoy the outdoors either. Gear company Outdoor Research has jumped on the bandwagon as well, as have some state and national parks as well. In Tennessee, all state parks will be free for visitors,  and Oregon is doing the same. In the state of Washington, Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks will be fee-free as well, and if you look hard enough you'll probably find similar offerings where ever you are too.

The point is to avoid the massive shopping frenzy and head out to enjoy the great outdoors, which is a great message to send. The holiday shopping will be there in the days ahead, but we don't always get a day off to enjoy being outside. So, if you're like me, and would much rather be on a trail than standing in line at the store, take advantage of this new unofficial holiday, and #OptOutside yourself. Chances are it'll be a far more rewarding experience.

Video: The Harmony of Fall

Autumn is a transitory season, fast moving and fleeting. It marks the time between summer and winter, warmth and cold. But for many of us, it is one of the best times of the year, as mountainsides are ablaze with all the colors of nature's palette, and the crisp air is refreshing and welcome.

Shot in Croatia and Slovenia, this beautiful video gives us a glimpse of the fall in eastern Europe. It is three minutes of amazing shots that celebrate the season, but also remind us that it will soon be gone. Enjoy it while you can.

The Harmony of Fall from Enrique Pacheco on Vimeo.

Video: Wild Scotland

Think Scotland doesn't have epic wild spaces? This video will convince you otherwise. Shot with a drone in some of the country's most remote locations, it captures the landscapes of Scotland in beautiful fashion. The Highlands in particular look very enticing, inviting us to come explore their expanse. Sit back and enjoy, this short clip is only a little more than three minutes in length, but it is well worth the watch.

Wild Scotland from John Duncan on Vimeo.

The Adventure Blog 2015 Holiday Shopper's Guide (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted the first part of my 2015 Holiday Shopper's Guide with ten suggestions of gifts aimed at the adventure traveler and outdoor enthusiast in your life. Today I have even more gear ideas that the explorer or adventurer in your life will sure love.

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO Tent ($350)
With its integrated LED lights, the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO tent isn't just a great camping shelter, it is a fun place to sleep in the backcountry. This two-person, three-season model is lightweight, sturdy, and easy to assemble. It comes equipped with a rainfly, two doors and two vestibules, integrated media pockets, and more. And at the end of the day, those built-in LED's give create an ambient light that makes this tent even more cozy and comfortable inside.

Osprey Atmos AG 50 Backpack ($230)
Rated amongst the best backpacks currently on the market, the Atmos AG 50 from Osprey is comfortable to wear, offers plenty of capacity, and is durable enough to withstand all the punishment you can throw at it. On top of that, it comes equipped with Osprey's amazing anti-gravity suspension, which makes wearing this pack a joy, even when it is fully loaded. Great for camping, backpacking, or adventure travel, this is a backpack you can take with you just about anywhere, and know that it is going to serve you well.

Base Camp Power Solutions from EnerPlex ($350 - $1400)
For those who need plenty of power while on the go, EnerPlex has the solution. They offer a pair of lightweight generators that can be recharged by solar panel, and are a source of electricity even in remote locations. The Generatr 100 is small enough to be slipped into a backpack and carried anywhere, providing a charge for your smartphone, tablet, camera equipment, or even laptop. The larger Generatr 1200 is built for use in base camp, and is even capable of powering a television set or a small refrigerator. Best of all, this model is less than half the weight of competing products, which makes it far easier to use on extended expeditions.

South African Mother-Son Team To Pedal Across the Atlantic

Yesterday I posted a story about a Frenchman who is preparing to cross the Atlantic on SUP board. Today we have word of another Atlantic crossing, this time under pedal power.

South African Davey Du Plessis and his mom Robyn Wolff plan to set out in the next few days, depending on the weather conditions. They'll leave from Cape Town with the intention of pedaling their custom made boat all the way to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Their journey will cover an estimated 6450 km (4007 miles), and is expected to take anywhere from 90-150 days to complete.

The mother-son crew are obviously in for a big adventure out on the high seas, but they are undertaking this epic journey to help raise awareness of how man is causing the mass extinction of life across the globe. Through our own actions, we are having a deep, and lasting, impact on the planet that is resulting in a sever loss of life that will be irreversible. Davey and Robyn hope to bring this cause to the forefront of world issues through their efforts. You can find out more about his issue at

If Davey's name sounds familiar, its because he made world-wide headlines back in 2012 when he attempted to travel the length of the Amazon River, but was attacked by gunmen, shot, and left for dead. His story was a brutal reminder that not all of the challenges that we face while traveling through remote areas are due to Mother Nature. Other humans can still be a major threat too.

Davey and his mother intend to set out before the end of November, so they are starting to run low on days. But they are prepared to be begin when the weather allows them to, and they know that the ocean may not be all that accommodating to their schedule. They'll make their Atlantic crossing in  a boat that has no sail or motor. Instead, it has been outfitted with a specially created pedal drive that will allow them to make progress as if they were pedaling a bike. The boat was also made from sustainable materials to help make it safe for the environment as well, and it it is outfitted with the standard equipment you would expect on an ocean crossing, including water purification system, GPS navigation, and emergency radios.

Good luck to Davey and Robyn on this voyage. It should be an amazing one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Video: Finland in Timelapse

We've seen some impressive timelapse films over the years, with several of the Scandinavian countries being well represented. But somehow Finland seems to get left out of the fun, as I'm not sure I can recall ever posting a video from there in the past. But that changes now, as this is a beautiful clip shot in the Finnish landscapes, giving us an all-too-brief glimpse of what the country has to offer. The scenery found in this four-minute video was shot all over Finland, starting in the north and ending in the south. In between are some spectacular images of a place that is breathtakingly beautiful.

FINLAND | Timelapse from Riku Karjalainen on Vimeo.

Video: Matterhorn Obsession with Herve Barmasse

Earlier this year the Matterhorn celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first ascent. This video was made to honor that occasion, and it features climber Hervé Barmasse sharing his thoughts on a peak that has been so integral to his life. For Hervé, the Matterhorn is not just one of the most iconic peaks in all of Europe, it is his home mountain. One that he has known since he was a teenager, and one that remains important to him, even as he has scaled much bigger peaks in other parts of the world. Hervé has put up more first ascents on the mountain than any other climber, and in this video he shares his relationship with the Matterhorn, while giving us incredible insights into a peak that has been important to the mountaineering world for nearly two centuries. Powerful stuff.

Frenchman to Attempt Atlantic Crossing on a SUP Board

A Frenchman by the name of Jarossay Nicolas has set quite a goal for himself. In January, he intends to launch a specially built stand-up paddle board from the African Coast on which he will attempt to become the first person to SUP across the Atlantic Ocean. He expect to spend 75 days at sea as he paddles towards the Americas, covering approximately 4000 km (2500 miles) of open water.

The key to his survival on the Atlantic Ocean is the 21-foot long, custom built SUP board. Large and ponderous looking, it has never the less been built to help him survive for two-and-a-half months at sea. It features a host of high tech gadgets to help with the crossing, including GPS navigation, emergency beacons, radios, and a water purification system that is capable of producing 3.5 liters of fresh water per hour. The board also includes a 7-foot long storage compartment that will be packed with freeze dried food for Nicolas' meals, and an emergency suit in case he experiences bad weather along the way. It is even large enough for the man himself to squeeze inside in dangerous situations.

It appears that the Frenchman will be paddling alone and without a safety boat on this voyage. He will be in daily contact via satellite phone with a friend back home, but will not have the luxury of a boat following along to help avert disaster. Should he run into problems, he could be days away from anyone who could assist him. Tropical storms are less common during the time of year that he'll be crossing the ocean, but they can happen, and this tiny craft would have a difficult time surviving such an onslaught.

You can find out more about the SUP crossing of the Atlantic at Nicolas' official website, and on Facebook. Big thanks goes to the Gear Junkie for sharing this story.

The Adventure Blog 2015 Holiday Shopper's Guide (Part 1)

Do you have an adventure traveler or avid outdoor enthusiast on your list this holiday season? Are you struggling to figure out what you should get for them? I've got more than a few suggestions for the best gear for hiking, backpacking, climbing, or just plain having fun around home. So, without further ado, I present The Adventure Blog's 2015 Holiday Shopper's Guide (Part1).

Ex Officio Storm Logic Vest ($125)
It's hard to find a more versatile piece of outerwear than the Storm Logic Vest from Ex Officio. Not is it comfortable to wear, and will keep your core plenty warm, but it comes equipped with seven interior pockets, each designed for a specific purpose like keeping your smartphone close at hand, protecting your passport, or storing your sunglasses. If that wasn't enough, the vest even transforms into a travel pillow for use on those long flights to your next destination.

Limefuel Rugged Portable Battery Pack ($85)
Need portable power to keep your smartphone and tablet running in the backcountry? Than checkout the Limefuel Rugged, a battery pack that is built to survive in the worst of conditions. This waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof product has a built-in battery that packs a whopping 15,000 mAh of power. That's enough to recharge your iPhone nearly eight times over. With dual-USB ports you can charge multiple devices at once, and the Rugged is even capable of powering a full-sized tablet. Just the think for the modern adventurer on the go.

Sugoi Zap Run Jacket ($170)
Have a runner on your list? Want to keep them warm, dry, and safe on their winter workouts? Than the Sugoi Zap Run Jacket is the way to go. Made from water resistant fabrics, this jacket reflects light on an insane level, making the wearer highly visible, even on very dark nights. It also comes with two hand pockets, a chest pocket, and a headphone management system built right into the collar. Sugoi's signature quality is a given of course.

Antarctica 2015: Bad Weather Has Everyone in a Holding Pattern

The 2015-2016 Antarctic season is slowly starting to get rolling, but bad weather is once again causing problems for a number of teams. In the case of some of the South Pole skiers, it is preventing them from even reaching the ice, while others are struggling to make progress towards their goals. It is a long season though, and these delays are not completely unexpected, although they are never the less frustrating.

Henry Worsley is experiencing this to the fullest at the moment. Not only did he have to patiently wait out a long delay in Punta Arenas before he could even begin his solo traverse of the Antarctic, he is now caught in a massive snowstorm on the continent itself. For the second day in a row he is tentbound while he waits for the weather to calm down. Considering the fact that he is already on a fairly tight schedule, and only has enough food and fuel to barely get him through the 80 days he expects are needed to complete his expedition, any days spent in one place are costing him time and resources. Hopefully the storm will fade out later today, and he can return to skiing towards the South Pole, and finishing the first stage of his expedition. He still has a very long way to go.

Meanwhile, several other teams are still stuck in Punta and waiting for a flight out. The four-man squad of the Shackleton 2015 Live team loaded their gear on a plane on Saturday, but continue to wait for the call letting them know that it is time to fly out the Union Glacier camp. Similarly, the three-person team that includes both Emma Kelty and Khai Nguyen are in a holding pattern too. In an updated posted to his blog yesterday, Khai reports that conditions at the camp are good enough for planes to take off, but not for landing. So, they wait for an opportunity to fly to the frozen continent and begin their expeditions to the South Pole.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanks Again to Mountain Khakis

As we start another week here at The Adventure Blog, I once again wanted to extend my appreciation to Mountain Khakis for sponsoring the site for the month of November. I appreciate the support, and have been very happy to have them onboard for the past several week.

If you're not familiar with MK and their line of products, now is a great time to change that. With the holidays now just around the corner, you'll no doubt be searching for the perfect gift for the adventure traveler or outdoor enthusiasts on your list. Mountain Khakis has plenty to choose from, for both men and women, including their signature line of pants of course, but also shirts, jackets, and a complete line of accessories, amongst plenty of other things.

Do me a favor and click on over to the Mountain Khakis website to checkout everything they have to offer. Chances are you'll not only find something to help out with your holiday shopping needs, but you'll probably find something for yourself too.

Video: Capturing the Silence of the North with Photographer Morten Hilmer

Danish photographer Morten Hilmer goes to great lengths to capture his amazing wildlife photos. Morton routinely ventures into the Arctic completely on his own, enduring harsh conditions, sub-zero temperatures, and difficult terrain just to get the perfect shot. In this video, we travel with him to get a sense of what it takes to be a world class photographer. As you'll see, he faces a number of challenges along the way, but the results can be incredibly rewarding.

Silence of the North from Morten Hilmer on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: ECOXGEAR EcoPebble Powerbank Bluetooth Speaker

There is no denying that technology has brought a level of convenience and enjoyment to nearly every aspect of our lives, and that includes the outdoors. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets have put a great deal of information right int he palm of our hands, not to mention plenty of options for entertainment, navigation, and communication. It has gotten to the point now that we rarely leave home without these gadgets, whether we're setting off to run errands around town, or flying to the far side of the planet. 

One of the more popular accessories for these smart devices is a Bluetooth speaker, which allows us to listen to our favorite music, news reports, or podcasts while on the go. And over the past few years, few companies have produced speakers that are more well suited for the active, outdoor lifestyle than ECOXGEAR. Their products are rugged and durable, easy to use, have been designed to take anywhere with us. But of all of their devices that I've tested so far, none compare with the new EcoPebble Powerbank, which brings some much appreciated new options that make it a more valuable both at home, and on the road. 

For many of us who like to travel light, carrying a Bluetooth speaker on our adventures is a luxury that we often can't often afford. After all, these devices do take up extra room in our backpacks, and add unnecessary weight. But ECOXGEAR has decided to counter these arguments by making a device that is more versatile and useful, eliminating some of the reasons why we might not want to take a speaker with us when we hit the road. In this case, the Powerbank not only cranks out our favorite tunes, it also has the ability to recharge our other gadgets, and comes equipped with a built-in flashlight capable of producing 200 lumens of light when necessary.

If you've ever used one of ECOXGEAR's other speakers, you probably already know what to expect from the Powerbank in terms of build quality. The device is built like a brick, and feels nearly indestructible in your hands. It has been ruggedized against the elements, and is IP67 rated. That means it is waterproof, dustproof, and impact resistant, making it a great choice for use not just around home, but the backyard and campsite as well. In fact, the speaker is so durable, I wouldn't hesitate to take it with me just about anywhere. 

Team Seagate Wins Adventure Racing World Championship

Last week, the Adventure Racing World Championship was held in Brazil, where the top teams from around the world went head to head to decide just who is the best in this grueling endurance sport. The teams tested themselves on a course that was 720 km (447 miles) in length, and after seven days of nonstop racing, it was a familiar team that stood atop the leaderboard.

Team Seagate from New Zealand was the favorite coming into the event, and they did not disappoint. The squad took first place at Patanal Pro, the host event for this year's AR World Championship. The Kiwi's finished with a time of 6 days, 16 hours, 44 minutes, which fast enough to put them seven hours ahead of second place team Haglöfs Silva of Sweden. Third place went to team SAFAT, also of Sweden, who finished another five hours back.

At the start of the race back on November 15, there were 30 teams set to compete. Only five managed to run the entire course, with 17 other teams continuing on a short course, while 8 others retired from the event. Two additional teams continued on unranked after losing one of their four-person squad.

As usual with adventure racing, the ARWC required coed teams of four to trek, mountain bike, and kayak through a remote course using only a compass and map to navigate between checkpoints. In this case, that remote course ran through the Patanal region of Brazil, which is the largest wetlands area in the world. The dense forests found there are reminiscent of the Amazon, although the terrain varies to a higher degree.

Congrats to the champs who have proven once again that they are the top team in the world. Hopefully we can lure them to come compete in Expedition Alaska in the future.

Winter 2016 Climbs: Nanga Parbat Will Be Busy, K2 Will Be Empty

Last week I shared the news that Spanish climber Alex Txikon would lead an expedition to Nanga Parbat this winter in an effort to complete the first ascent of that mountain during the coldest, most difficult season of all. Turns out that group won't be alone, as ExWeb now reports that as many as five teams could be on the mountain, all trying to achieve the same objective.

In addition to Txikon's mix of climbers form all over the world, there will be a Polish-Pakistani team attempting the Rupal Face all on the Schell Route. That squad is already in Pakistan and according to ExWeb is preparing to acclimatize now ahead of the actual official start of winter on December 21.

Meanwhile, the team of Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz will be back on the mountain this year, along with Arslan Ahmed. They will be attempting an alpine style ascent along the Diamir side of the mountain. Reveal and Mackiewicz spent considerable amount of time scouting the route last year, and are hoping to return to complete unfinished business.

ExWeb doesn't have many details yet, but they are also reporting that Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger will be on Nanga Parbat this winter as well. Their route, schedule, and plans have yet to be revealed however. Hopefully we'll get more word on their intentions soon.

And finally, Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech will acclimatize on Ojos before heading over to Nanga for the season. They'll be the fifth confirmed squad on the hill this winter, although ExWeb doesn't have any information on their intended route yet either.

At 8126 meters (26,660 ft) in height, Nanga Parbat is just one of two 8000-meter peaks that have yet to be climbed in winter. And while there will be quite a few teams attempting to put up the first winter ascent of that mountain, at this time it appears that there are no plans for anyone to attempt the other unclimbed eight-thousander this winter. That peak is K2 of course, which is perhaps the most dangerous and deadly of all of the big mountains. It's summit remains elusive in the best of weather conditions, and in the winter it is nearly unclimbable. I'm sure some day someone will reach the top, but it doesn't look like the winter of 2016 will be that time.

Of course, we'll be following these expeditions closely as the winter season approaches. This just might be the year that someone finally summits Nanga in winter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Video: The Spectacular Landscapes of Canada

What better way to wrap up the week than with a stunning tour of the amazing landscapes of Canada? This video takes us into British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon to show us just how outstanding the outdoor settings of Canada truly are. This is nearly four minutes of breathtaking footage, much of which was captured by drone, that will leave you eager to go explore the Canadian wilderness more fully.

And for those who would like to visit these places for themselves, Mountain Travel Sobek has a wide variety of excursions to Canada to help you discover everything that country has to offer.

Canada - The True North from Man And Drone on Vimeo.

Video: The Best of Olympic National Park with National Geographic

Yesterday I posted a video that shared the best of Yosemite National Park, and today we have another video from National Geographic that puts yet another one of America's national parks in the spotlight. This time we travel to the Pacific Northwest, where we take a visual tour of Olympic National Park, which is a truly spectacular wilderness setting. These videos serve as promos for Nat Geo's upcoming special on the national parks, which is set to debut on December 6. Enjoy.

Video: Ueli Steck Sets New Speed Record on the Eiger

Earlier in the week I wore about Ueli Steck's new speed record on the Eiger. On November 16, he managed to climb the mountain in 2 hours, 22 minutes, and 50 seconds, shaving five minutes off the previous record held by Dani Arnold. In this video, we not only get to hear Ueli talk about this new record, we also get to see him climbing along the famous Heckmair Route. As usual, he makes the climb look almost effortless, and when he talks about his accomplishment he is quite humble too. Watching the video will help you understand how he earned the nickname "The Swiss Machine," as he moves with such speed and grace on one of the most iconic mountains in the world.

Nat Geo Presents the Best Trips of 2016

As the year begins to wind down, it is time to start looking ahead to 2016, and making plans for some adventures of our own. To help us out with that process, National Geographic Traveler has announced their picks for the 20 best trips for the year ahead, with some classic places earning a nod alongside some surprisingly new destinations as well.

Some of the more adventurous places that earn a spot on Traveler's list include Eastern Bhutan, Greenland, South Georgia Island, and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Some of the other destinations don't necessarily qualify as adventure travel per se, but they do still offer plenty for visitors. Locations like Côte d'Or in the Burgundy region of France or Bermuda for instance. But then again, travel is an adventure in and of itself, so just about any one of these places will help satiate your wanderlust to a degree.

Each of the entires on the list not only include a brief description of why that destination earned a spot in this exclusive travel club, but also offers good travel tips for anyone heading there. Those tips include the best places to stay, what to eat and drink, and how to efficiently get around. There are also cultural tips, suggestions on what to buy, and even movies and books you should watch or read before you go.

If you're looking for some suggestions on places you should visit in 2016, The Traveler list is a great place to start. Not only will it remind you of some classic places that may have fallen off your radar, it will also provide some fresh new suggestions that you might not have thought of before. For me, the Okavango Delta remains extremely high on my places to get to, as I can never get enough of Africa, and the landscapes and wildlife found there are said to be unbelievable.

So? What's your 2016 travel bucket list? Where would you most like to go next year?

Antarctica 2015: Shifting Weather Taunts Henry Worsley, Others Prepare to Begin

As expected, the 2015-2016 Antarctic season is now starting to ramp up. Weather conditions at Union Glacier remain spotty at times, but regular flights to and from the frozen continent are expected to resume shortly. That means more expeditions will be setting out very soon, and over the next few days a number of explorers will be putting the final touches on their prep work before starting towards their goals at long last. But first, an update on Henry Worsley, who has now been skiing for a full week, and has yet to reach the Antarctic coastline.

As you may recall, Worsley has set the unenviable task of making the first solo and unsupported traverse of the Antarctic continent. His journey is expected to take upwards of 80 days to complete as he sets out from Berkner Island with the intention of skiing to the Ross Ice Shelf, via the Geographic South Pole. Along the way, he'll cover 1100 miles (1770 km) while hauling a very heave sledge behind him all the way.

The past few days have not been easy ones for Henry, as the weather has been extremely challenging. For nearly two days he skied in almost complete whiteout conditions, with low hanging clouds creating a shroud around him in all directions. That makes navigation difficult, and can be hard on the spirits too, but he has managed to perceiver and continue pressing forward. But today, the sun came out, lifting his spirits even as temperatures plummeted. The British explorer reports that it was his coldest day yet, with the mercury dipping down to -30ºC/-22ºF, although Henry is generating enough heat from his physical labors that he hardly noticed until it was time to make camp.

To give you a sense of scale for the Antarctic, Worsley set out from Berkner island last Saturday, and has been making good progress most days so far. After a week, he is now on the Ronne Ice Shelf, and can see the Pensacola Mountains in the distance. But it will still be four more days before he even hits the actual coastline and gets off the frozen sea ice. From there, he'll be steadily heading south on his way to the Pole. There are still many hundreds of miles to go before he reaches that point however, and even then he'll only be half-way to the finish line.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Video: Go Seek - An Ode to Exploration and Adventure

When I first started The Adventure Blog oh-so many years ago, one of my goals was to hopefully inspire others to get outside and seek adventures of their own. That seems to be the case with this video as well, as it encourages us to  not let the opportunity for exploration pass us by. But instead, we need to look for those opportunities and seize them when they come our way. That message is hammered home in beautiful fashion with some fantastic landscapes that simply beg to be explored. Go seek your adventure, and the rewards will be more than you could ever imagine.

Go Seek // By Live Unbound from LiveUnbound on Vimeo.

Video: The Best of Yosemite National Park with National Geographic

On Sunday, December 6, National Geographic will premiere a new show dedicated to America's National Parks. In preparation for that debut, Nat Geo has started release shorting videos of some of the more famous, and beautiful, parks. This one takes us to Yosemite and gives us glimpse of the very best that park has to offer, including El Capitan, giant sequoia trees, and epic views of one of the most spectacular valleys on the entire planet.

Video: A Packrafting Adventure in the High Sierra

Recently, adventurer Hank Leukart – who writes about his travels at the website Without Baggage – gathered up two of his best friends and headed out on a hiking trip into the Ansel AdamsWilderness Area in California. The trio were looking for an adventure, and were hoping to find some pristine alpine lakes to packraft while they were there. As with all good adventures, not everything goes as planned, but the journey is at least as important as the destination. Read Hank's rundown of the trip here, and check out the short film he made of their three-day expedition below. It looks like the guys had a lot of fun in the High Sierras.

Packrafting the High Sierras from Hank Leukart on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Risk and Reward on Manaslu - A Review of the Season

As the fall 2015 Himalayan season slowly grinds to a halt, it is good to reflect on the events that have transpired. If you've been reading my reports with any regularity, you probably already know that the weather has been unpredictable, and generally bad, all season long. As a result, it has been difficult for any teams to summit their intended mountains. This has been particularly true on the 8000 meter peaks, where success has been fleeting this autumn. But way back in late September and early October, there was a lot of action taking place on Manaslu, the 8156 meter (26,759 ft) mountain that saw the most climbers this season.

If you were reading my updates back than, the situation probably seemed a bit confusing. As the climbing season was unfolding, the teams on Manaslu seemed to be making progress, despite poor weather conditions. But as they grew closer to the time when they would potentially make their summit bid, several high profile teams (Himex, Altitude Junkies, Adventure Consultants, and others) decided to cancel their expeditions and head home. It appeared that the mountain simply wasn't safe enough to climb, as heavy snow made the risk of avalanches extremely high.

But as these big commercial teams departed for Kathmandu, a funny thing happened. The weather improved, conditions on the mountain got better, and just a few days after they left Base Camp, other teams went up to the summit. In fact, 80 people managed to top out, although sadly one lost his life and another had to be rescued from Camp 4.

So what exactly happened on the mountain that caused some teams to head home, and others to say and find success? That is the subject of the most recent blog post from Alan Arnette, who monitors the climbing seasons in the Himalaya very closely. Alan has heard directly from a number of people who were there, with each weighing in with their thoughts on how things developed. The article isn't meant to point fingers or cast blame in any way at all, but is instead a study of how teams weigh the risks of the climb, and decide whether or not they should go for the summit, or pull the plug altogether and go home.

For those of us who follow these kinds of expeditions closely, reading Alan's article is very interesting. It offers some insights into how decisions are made in these situations, particularly when the lives of clients are at risk. His conclusion is that the larger commercial teams will be more conservative in their assessments, while the smaller teams may be willing to accept more risk for the chance of successfully summiting.

Read the entire article here and draw your own conclusions. It is definitely a good report on what happened on Manaslu this season, and the thought process that went into making those choices.

Want to Ride a Bike to the South Pole in 2016?

The 2015 Antarctic season is just barely getting underway, but there is already a reason to start looking ahead to next year. That's because TDA Cycling – a company that specializes in long distance trips by bike – has announced the first ever guided bike expedition to the South Pole.

The new trip will launch in December of 2016, and will cover the last degree to Pole. Riders will be flown to the 89th parallel to begin their journey in Punta Arenas, Chile where they will first spend four days prepping for the challenges they'll face out on the ice. After that, it'll be on to Union Glacier Ice Camp for a brief stay before proceeding to the 89th parallel, which is where they'll start pedaling to the Pole. It is expected to take nine days to cover the distance to 90ºS, with the team covering approximately 20km (12.4 miles) per day.

The ride will be conducted on fat bikes, which are the only ones that are suitable for the Antarctic terrain. These types of bikes are big, and heavy, but the wide tires are very forgiving on snow and ice. There have already been a couple of people who have ridden to the South Pole, so the usefulness of the fat bike has already been proven in these conditions.

Before you can sign up for this one-of-a-kind tour, TDA is requiring all participants to first take part in a training ride in Lake Winnipeg this coming February. That tour will be used to get everyone accustomed to riding in the snow, and get acquainted with their bikes. Successfully completing the training ride will demonstrate to the TDA guides that you are ready for your polar expedition.

As you can imagine, a trip like this one doesn't come cheap. The price is $70,000, which doesn't include flights to Punta Arenas, travel insurance, gear, the Lake Winnipeg training session, or even a bike. In other words, this is one expensive adventure. But if you have the cash, it looks like it would be the experience of a lifetime.

Check out this tour, and all of TDA's cycling expedition, on the company's website. And watch the video below for more information.