Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Video: Lose Yourself in Nature and Adventure

This video is a reminder to all of us of the importance of getting outside, communing with nature, and finding our own adventures, wherever they might take us. It is filled with amazing images from the world around us, including mountains, hills, and streams. But it is the words of the narration that will hopefully stick with you long after you've watched the three-and-a-half minute clip. Those words urge us to explore our planet, and they are wise words indeed.

Lose Yourself from The Monday Mountaineers on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking Down a Bobsled Run

Mountain bikers are certainly adaptable if nothing else. Case in point, in this video a pair of riders race down an old bobsled track on Mt. Trebevic near Sarajevo in Bosnia. The course if fast and looks like a lot of fun, even if it was never meant for bikes. Obviously we've seen more amazing trails in videos in the past, but there is something about the joy of flying downhill that makes this very satisfying.

Get Fresh Gear Delivered to Your Door with BivySak.com

Who amongst us doesn't love getting new gear? There is nothing quite so satisfying for an outdoor enthusiast than getting new equipment for use on our adventures. But what if you could have that new gear delivered directly to your door on a regular basis without ever having to go to the store? Better yet, what if the contents of that box was tailored for a specific season, with gear that is meant to be used at the time of year that it is delivered.

That is the premise behind a new service called BivySak that not only curates outdoor products for members, but delivers high quality goods to their door four times a year. The company works directly with top gear manufacturers – including the likes of Patagonia, Salomon, and GSI – to collect some awesome products that we'd all like to have in our gear closets. Things like jackets, water bottles, camp cooking utensils, and so on. Those products are matched up based on seasonal activities, and shipped to BivySak members in time for use during the season ahead.

As an example of what the contents of a certain box might contain, I recently received a sample of the BivySak shipment for the fall. Inside my box I found an excellent soft-shell jacket from Salomon, as well as a beanie for cool weather activities. There was also a FairShare mug from GSI, some a spork, and a nice assortment of energy bars from Honey Stinger. All told, a pretty good haul for someone who likes to be outside, even when temperatures start to drop.

A BivySak membership costs $24.99 per month, which means each of your individual boxes will set you back approximately $75. But the company guarantees that the contents of that box will be worth more than your membership fee each time you receive a new package. Looking at the sample that I was sent, I would say that the jacket alone was worth more than $75, with the extra contents just being icing on the cake.

Summer Climbs 2015: More Teams Depart K2, Summit Push on Broad Peak Thwarted, Tragedy on Gasherbrum II

The summer climbing season in Pakistan is quickly coming to an end as numerous teams prepare to depart their Base Camps for the long trek home. It has been a frustrating year in the Karakoram, where deep snow and generally poor weather have prevented most climbers from achieving their goals. But it isn't over just yet, and there are still a few teams in holding patterns, although their chances of success don't look great at this point. 

We'll start today back on K2, where more teams have called it quits. Yesterday I noted that some of the big commercial squads had elected to pull the plug on their expeditions due to safety concerns high on the mountain, and today we learn that others have decided it is time to go home as well. They include the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen, who were the first squad to arrive in BC this year. They made two attempts at the summit, and were turned back by heavy snow both times. They now feel that their best opportunity is behind them, and have begun preparing to start the trek back to Askoli. 

The Swiss team isn't the only ones who are leaving. The Seven Summits Treks commercial team is also preparing to depart as well, as is Philippe Gatta who announced on his Facebook page that he'll hit the trail starting tomorrow. Essentially, just about everyone is now abandoning K2 Base Camp, which means there will likely be no summits on the mountain at all this year. That stands in stark contrast to the amazing summer of 2014 when more than 40 climbers stood on top of the "Savage Mountain." 

Over on Broad Peak, one day after abandoning their attempt to climb K2, the Himex team launched a summit bid early today, setting out for Camp 3 in light snowfall. Later that would turn into a full-blown storm, with heavy snow falling on the upper slopes of the mountain. The climbers attempted to wait out the storm, but as they pressed forward they found deep, unstable snow that convinced them it was time to turn back. Everyone is back in BC now, and the Himex expedition is over on Broad Peak too. The entire team is now preparing to leave.

Seven Summits Mountaineer Richard Bass Passes Away at the Age of 85

Richard Bass, the first man to climb the Seven Summits, has passed away at the age of 85. He, along with his friend Frank Wells, came up with the idea of climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents back in the early 80's, and both men set out achieve that feat. Bass did so in April, 1985 when he nabbed the final peak on his list by summiting Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia.

A Texas oilman, Bass is also the founder of the famous Snowbird ski resort in Utah. His efforts to climb the Seven Summit made that pursuit a popular one with mountaineers across the globe, and helped to commercialize climbing on some of those mountains. At the time that he completed his quest, the list of mountains included Everest (Asia), Elbrus (Europe), Denali (North America), Aconcagua (South America), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Vinson (Antarctica), and Kosciusko. The list has since been amended to include Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, as some climbers have expanded the Australian continent to include more of the Pacific region.

Long time friend and documentary filmmaker David Breashears made the announcement of Bass' passing on his Facebook page. The note simply said:
“It is with great sadness that I convey the news of the passing of Richard D. Bass late in the evening of July 26. Dick passed away peacefully in the company of friends and family; he was eighty-five-years old.”
Dick Bass wasn't as well known as climbers like Reinhold Messner or Ed Viesturs of course, but he certainly left an indelible mark on the mountaineering community. Even today, there are hundreds of people attempting the Seven Summits at any given moment, and his achievement is still considered an impressive accomplishment for any adventurer.

Bass' tale of his endeavor, simply called Seven Summits, was one of the first mountaineering books that I ever read. It left quite an impression on me when I started thinking about my own adventures, and for that I am eternally grateful.

My condolences to Dick's friends and family. He will be missed.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Video: More Beautiful Drone Footage From Iceland

Just in case you need further prodding to visit Iceland, this video may help in that regard. It features more stunning landscapes captured by a DJI Inspire drone and filmed in 4k. As usual, the footage features some of the most beautiful and wild places imaginable, in a country that is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty.

One of these days I'll go to Iceland myself. As with most places I haven't been to just yet, it is definitely on my list.

Video: Life Above 5000 Feet

Shot in western Colorado and parts of Utah, this video captures some of the most spectacular timelapse imagery you could ever hope to see. It features beautiful night skies and amazing landscapes filled with snowcapped peaks, tranquil lakes, and wondrous rock formations. For my money, Colorado and Utah are two of the most beautiful states in the U.S., and that more than shines through here. These are two places that exude adventure, whether you're hiking, climbing, mountain biking, or simply just enjoying scenery. Here is just a taste of what to expect there.

Life Above 5,000ft: Colorado + Utah 2015 from Star Mountain Media on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Fishpond Westwater Carry-On Duffle

Duffle bags have been a staple of adventure travel since before it was even deemed a category. For decades climbers, explorers, and hunters have carried duffles on their expeditions, thanks in no small part to their ability to provide a convenient way to carry a lot of gear to places where normal luggage isn't suitable, or simply wouldn't survive. In recent years, the duffle bag has evolved dramatically, incorporating some welcome new features, while retaining the classic design that has made them so popular amongst travelers for decades. That is exactly what you get from the Westwater Carry-on from Fishpond – a classic duffle bag with modern sensibilities that extended its functionality in new directions.

At first glance, the Westwater gives the impression that it is simply another travel duffle bag amongst the hundreds to choose from on the market. But upon further inspection, you'll start to see all of the great features that help to set it apart from the crowd. For starters, the bag is made from Fishpond's proprietary CLYCLEPOND fabrics, which are not only incredibly durable, but provide a high level of water resistance too. In fact, it is safe to say that this bag is built to keep your gear dry in the worst conditions imaginable. With extremely high quality zippers, welded seams, and water-repelling materials, the Westwater is duffle that is made for being around the water, or at the very least surviving heavy rainstorms with its contents completely safe and dry.

The Westwater's ability to resist moisture is just the tip of the iceberg however, as this duffle also takes some cues from more traditional luggage that help to make it an even better travel companion. For example, Fishpond's designers have incorporated a set of rugged wheels, as well as a hide-away telescoping handle, that make it a breeze to roll this bag through the airport when rushing to catch your next flight. And if you're in a real hurry, you can actually pull out the built-in backpack straps and throw the bag across your shoulders if you like. These multiple ways of transporting the Westwater come in vary handy depending on the situation, and are a good example of how versatile it can be.

Summer Climbs 2015: Teams Pull the Plug on K2 Expeditions

It has been a busy and eventful week on the big mountains in Pakistan. When I last posted an update a number of teams were getting ready to make summit pushes on Broad Peak and K2 in anticipation of a weather window opening up this past weekend. Now, the situation has changed dramatically, with a number of major teams calling it quits for the season amidst potentially dangerous conditions on both mountains.

When last we checked in, the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen were high on K2 and preparing to push towards the summit. The team had gone up to Camp 3 at 6800 meters (22,309 ft) and were expecting good weather. But as they climbed higher, the team ran into unstable conditions and deep snow, which convinced them to decide to turn around and return to Base Camp. At the moment, it is unclear whether or not they'll make another attempt, although there have been rumblings that the team is preparing to leave the mountain.

What is clear however is that the major commercial teams on K2 are calling it quits for the season. ExWeb is reporting that both Himex and Madison Mountaineering have decided that conditions are too unsafe to proceed up the mountain, and so both squads are preparing to head home. There are reports of deteriorating conditions, with rock falls, avalanches, and deep snow all making it difficult to climb up. Considering the reputation K2 has for being incredibly dangerous under the best of conditions, it seems wise to move on without endangering any more climbers.

To make matters worse for some teams, there was an avalanche a few days back in ABC that wiped out several camps there, and buried gear and supplies. Some of the teams have gone up to see if they can locate their equipment, while others have seen this as a sign to head home. That avalanche was another reminder just how unstable things are on the mountain this season, which could result in zero summits. Considering the level of success last year, the 2015 season is a stark reminder of why K2 is considered the most difficult mountain in the world to climb.

Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome Claims Second Tour Victory

The 2015 Tour de France came to an end yesterday on the streets of Paris, where the peloton arrived after three weeks of racing, covering more than 3000 km in the process. During that time, there were a lot of ups and downs for the riders, with plenty of high drama and incredible feats of strength and endurance. At times, it seemed that this was a race that was going to go exactly by the numbers, with little in the way of excitement. But the final days in the Alps proved that to be completely wrong, and gave us a new contender for future editions of Le Tour.

Heading into the weekend, Chris Froome continued to hold on to the Yellow Jersey worn by the race leader, and for the most part it seemed like he'd ride into Paris with little resistance. The Tour had moved into the Alps, and once again the British rider was showing his strength in the mountains. But on the final two days, two riders rose up to challenge the Froome, and in turn showed that he was a bit more vulnerable than we suspected.

On Friday of last week, 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali went on the attack and showed that his legs still had plenty of strength in them. He ended up winning the stage and gaining back precious time on his rivals, although it didn't help to get him on to the podium in Paris. Still, it gave fans an idea of where Froome stood, and showed that he could be dropped on a major climb by a determined rider. That was something that Nairo Quintana took to heart on Saturday, attacking on Alp d'Huez – the most storied mountain stage in the sport. Quintana wasn't able to overcome the 2+ minute difference between him and Froome, but he did make it interesting, while managing to put the Sky rider in a world of hurt on the final climb.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Video: The Best of the Tour de France - Stages 8 - 14

With GoPro cameras attached to their bikes, the riders on this year's Tour de France are providing us with some unprecedented footage from out on the road. Last week we got a great look at some of the best shots from Stages 1-7, and now we have a new video that does the same from Stages 8-14. Take a look at what it is like to ride in the peloton with some of the most amazing clips from Le Tour ever.

Summer Climbs 2015: Summit Push Begins on K2!

It has been a long, and difficult, week in the big mountains of Pakistan, but it appears that the patience and persistence of the climbers may be about to pay off. After weeks of acclimatizing and waiting for a weather window, a summit push has started on K2 at long last.

The Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen have been on the mountain longer than any other team. As a result, they have wrapped up their acclimatization rotation days ago, and have been waiting for a weather window to open. In fact, the trio tried to summit last week, but were turned back when conditions took a turn for the worse. Now, they have started up once again, and the forecast calls for good weather over the next few days.

According to their most recent dispatch, Horn, Roux, and Reichen have reached Camp 3 at 6800 meters (22,309 ft). That means that they are almost within striking distance of the summit, and if all goes well they could complete the climb within the next couple of days.

At the moment, the Swiss team appears to be the only one in motion, as the other squads seem content to stay in Base Camp and wait for a longer, and safer, weather window. Some are still recovering from their latest acclimatization rotations, while others are still getting their bodies accustomed to the thin air. For them, there could be a chance at another summit bid next week, but it all depends on how things play out.

For now though, I'll be keeping a close eye on three men who are currently moving upwards. Hopefully they'll have a bit of luck go their way, and they'll manage to get up and down the mountain safely.

Tour de France 2015: Van Garderen Exits Race, Froome Tightens Grip on Maillot Jaune

With the second rest day now behind us, and the Alps taking center stage, the Tour de France continues to race towards the finish line in Paris. And while it is beginning to look like a win by Chris Froome is once again a forgone conclusion, nothing is settled until the peloton rides down the Champs-Elysées on Sunday. And if you don't believe that, ask Tejay Van Garderen. 

Yesterday, the American rider was sitting in third place in the General Classification at the start of Stage 17. But a short time after the start of the day's activities, he was forced to abandon the Tour altogether, citing illness. It was clear early on that Tejay wasn't up to the task of chasing Froome, or the other Tour front runners. He tried valiantly to stay with the leaders, but lost power on the first climb, and quickly exited, driving away in a team car in tears. 

The young American wasn't the only one to see their chances of glory slip away. Alberto Contador was part of a crash on trick descent near the end of the race, and ended up ceding two additional minutes to Froome. That puts him out of striking distance, barring some unforeseen miracle of course. 

But the stage also brought the Alps at long last, which could have been the undoing for the race leader. Instead, he looked as strong and poised as ever, as he calmly fended off all challengers. Heading into todays stage, he still holds the Yellow Jersey, with a 3 minute and 10 second advantage over Nairo Quintana and a 4+ minute lead on third place rider Alejandro Valverde. For Froome to lose the race now would require an epic collapse on his part, and at this point he doesn't seem to be showing any signs of weakness. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Video: Conrad Anker and David Lama Complete New Route in Zion National Park

25 years ago, climbing legend Conrad Anker attempted a new route in Zion National Park, and while partially successful, he was unable to complete his intended line. Recently, he returned to that iconic setting with David Lama in tow, and the two men were able to finish that ascent at long last. They called it Latent Core, and this video shows you what it is all about. Truly spectacular.

Ueli Steck Attempting 82 Peaks in 80 Days

It has been awhile since we've heard anything out of Ueli Steck, the Swiss climber who never ceases to amaze with it daring mountain expeditions. But if you know anything about Ueli, its that he's always planning something, and often it is a project that is unexpected. Take for example his latest pursuit, during which he is attempting to summit 82 European peaks in just 80 days.

Ueli calls this undertaking his #82summits project. Together with German climber Michi Wohlleben, Ueli is spending his summer attempting to reach the top of all of the 4000 meter (13,123 ft) mountains in the Alps, which number exactly 82. But simply climbing those mountains isn't enough for the "Swiss Machine." He is also traveling between them by mountain bike, paraglider, and skis.

Steck and Wohlleben are currently a little more than half-way done with their summer-spanning expedition, having knocked off about 50 of the peaks so far. If they are successful in their bid, the duo will have biked more than 965 km (600 miles), and climbed more than 91,400 meters (300,000 ft) in just 80 days. As National Geographic Adventure points out, thats the equivalent of summiting Everest 26 times in less than three months.

Of course, Ueli knows the Alps very well, having grown up there, and climbing in them since he was a boy. It is also where he made his reputation for going fast and light on his climbs, perfecting his style on some of the most famous mountains in the world.

The #82summits project may be one of the last of Steck's storied career. In the Nat Geo article he talks about moving on to other things. He says that he'll always climb, but that he doesn't have the desire to try things like his solo-summit of Annapurna from a few years back. Steck says that he thought he might die on that climb, which is not something he is willing to risk again.

You can follow Ueli and Michi on their adventure on Ueli's website and on Facebook. The two-men aren't done yet, and there are still plenty of mountains to go before the end of the summer. It should be interesting to see if they can complete this epic project on schedule.

Summer Climbs 2015: Update on Broad Peak Avalanche

On Monday I posted the news that an avalanche had claimed the life of a climber on Broad Peak, and injured at least two others. At the time, the story was still developing, and there weren't a lot of details to be had. Since then, we've learned a bit more about the situation, and we now know more about the mountaineers who were involved with the accident.

According to reports, the avalanche occurred at about 11:00 AM local time on Monday morning. A group os seven climbers were moving up the mountain near Camp 1 when the accident occurred. The avalanche swept down the mountain and hit the group, claiming the life of a Pakistani high altitude porter in the process.

As it turns out, there were three climbers who were injured in the accident as well. One is Japanese, another is Chinese, while the third is a Nepali sherpa who was helping lead the team. The nature of their injuries isn't clear however.

The incident took place following a night of heavy, wet snowfall that has made for unstable conditions in recent days. That poor weather has persisted in the days that have followed, making it impossible to evacuate the injured climbers from the mountain. Hopefully things will improve soon so that these men can get the attention they need, and the mountain has time to settle before summit bids begin. We're now approaching late-July, which is traditionally when teams start to look for an opportunity to summit both BP and K2. But unless the weather improves, it could be a really dangerous time to be high up on either mountain.

My condolences go out to the friends and family of the fallen Pakistani climber. Hopefully the rest of the summer climbing season will pass without further casualties.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Video: Official Trailer for Meru

Back in 2008, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk traveled to northern India to climb the infamous Shark Fin on Mt. Meru. That expedition turned into the challenge of their lives, as the three men faced the massive task of scaling a 1500 foot (457 meter) rock face on a 21,000 foot (6400 meter) mountain that is legendary for its degree of difficulty. The story of that climb has been made into an documentary that has been winning high praise at a number of film festivals in recent months, ahead of its release in theaters on August 14. The trailer for the film, which is simply entitled Meru, can be found below.

After watching this, I can honestly say that it is instantly on my "must-see" list. The level of intensity is so high here that even the trailer will leave you on the edge of your seat. It looks like we could have a modern mountaineering masterpiece on our hands here, and I can't wait to see the final product.