Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Solar Impulse Completes Round-The-World Flight

Solar Impulse, the innovative aircraft powered only by the rays of the sun, completed its historic flight yesterday by landing back in Abu Dhabi, the city from which it departed from back on March 9 of 2015. In doing so, the solar-powered plane became the first to circumnavigate the globe without the use of any form of fossil fuels. 

The entire journey was broken down into 17-stages that covered a distance of more than 42,000 km (26,000 miles). The flight path crossed four continents, three seas, and two oceans, beginning and ending in the United Arab Emirates. The longest leg of the expedition took place between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii, covering some 8924 km (5545 miles) of Pacific Ocean in the process. That stage alone took 118 hours to complete, giving pilot Andre Borschberg the record for the longest solo flight. 

Throughout the flight Borschberg split time at the controls with fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, who was at the helm of the Solar Impulse when it made the final flight from Cairo, Egypt to Abu Dhabi yesterday, bringing an end to the 17-month odyssey that proved clean energy can be used to power an aircraft. The two pilots has hoped to complete the journey in a much shorter timeframe however, but a catastrophic failure of the aircraft's battery system caused it to be grounded for 10 months while repairs and upgrades were made. 

The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 72 meters (236 ft), which is larger than even a 747 commercial aircraft. Those wings contain more than 17,000 individual solar cells, which collect power and store it in onboard batteries. Those batteries can than be used to power the aircraft even at night. 

While this was an impressive demonstration of technology and the steps being taken to improve the use of clean energy, don't expect the Solar Impulse to have a dramatic impact on the commercial aviation anytime soon. Solar cells will need to improve their efficiency drastically before that can happen, as it is currently impossible to power a large aircraft using just the light of the sun. Still, this is a step in the right direction, show us a potential future where clean aircraft could whisk passengers off to remote destinations without having a dramatic impact on the environment. While that vision is still in the distant future, it is good to know that we're taking small steps towards making it a reality now. 

Karakoram 2016: Summits on Nanga Parbat, It's Over on K2

More news from Pakistan today, where we learn that teams are continuing to make summit pushes on several mountains, while operations have indeed come to an end on K2 following the massive avalanche that hit that mountain over the weekend. As usual, the summer climbing season in the Karakoram remains as topsy-turvy and unpredictable as always.

We'll start with an update from Nanga Parbat, where ExWeb is reporting that Ferran Latorre, Helias Millerioux, and Boyan Petrov set off on a summit push yesterday, successfully topping out at 3:30 PM local time. The entire team returned to Camp 4 later that evening, and are now making their way back down the mountain today. For Latorre, this is his 13th 8000-meter peak, all of which have been summited without the use of supplemental oxygen.

It now appears that this may be the only successful climb on Nanga this year however, as most of the other teams are now preparing to head home. ExWeb says that the route just below the Kinshofer Wall is especially unsafe, discouraging any other climbers from proceeding upwards. It looks like Base Camp will be all but abandoned by this coming weekend.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Attempting New Adventure Record

Famed British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is about to embark on yet another mission. This time the many who has been called "the greatest living explorer" hopes to become the first person to cross both polar ice caps and climb the Seven Summits. And thanks to his already long history of undertaking major expeditions, he is already well on his way to accomplishing this goal.

Thanks to previous adventures, Fiennes has already skied across both the Arctic and Antarctic. He has also climbed Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Elbrus as well. That leaves him with Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea (Australasia), Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in Argentina (South America), and Denali in North America to complete the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. He hopes to wrap up each of those mountains within the next year, giving him the distinction of being the only person to accomplish all of these feats.

The 72-year old explorer is undertaking this mission as part of the Global Reach Challenge, an endeavor he has undertaken in an attempt to raise funds for Marie Curie, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting those living with a terminal illness as well as their families. To date, Fiennes' efforts have raised more than £300,000 ($393,000).

First up on the hit list will be Carstensz Pyramid, with that expedition getting underway soon. He'll have to wait until December of this year to attempt Mt. Vinson however, as the austral winter will prevent that climb from happening any sooner. As the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya, Aconcagua will pose a serious challenge, but the ultimate test will likely come on Denali sometime early next summer. Considering Fiennes has already successfully climbed Everest, he shouldn't find Denali to be particularly daunting, but the combination of unpredictable weather and unique technical hurdles still makes it a difficult proposition.

Reaching the North and South Pole and also climbing the Seven Summits is often referred to as the Adventure Grand Slam or Explorer's Grand Slam. Obviously, this has been done by a number of people in the past, but no one has skied across the entire Arctic and Antarctic, via the North and South Poles, before. That will give the British adventurer a leg up on the competition, and set his achievement apart from most others. It should be interesting to follow along with his journey and watch his progress unfold.

Good luck Ran!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Video: More Than Just Parks - Grand Tetons in 8K

Will and Jim Pattiz, the two brothers behind the More Than Just Parks series of videos, continue their run of excellent short films on America's National Parks by releasing this stunning 3+ minute clip shot in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. As usual, the footage is simply breathtaking and will inspire you to want to visit this place for yourself. In the year in which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Park Service, it is projects like this one that remind us just how special these places truly are.

GRAND TETON 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Video: Inside the 2016 Tour de France (Stages 1-7)

Last year, many of the bikes used in the Tour de France were equipped with action cameras from GoPro for the very first time. These tiny cameras captured some amazing footage from inside the peloton, and the videos were so successful, that they were used again this season. In this clip below you'll get an up close and personal look at what it's like to ride in Le Tour, with some scary, crazy, and down-right amazing images from the roads of France. Think it's easy to ride in this world's most famous bike race? Think again!

Chris Froome Wins 2016 Tour de France

Since I was out of the country for the past few weeks, I wasn't able to follow this year's Tour de France as closely as I would normally like. As usual, it was filled with lots of unique achievements, impressive individual performances, and crazy events. But, judging from the reports, it was also a race that lacked much in the way of drama, as Team Sky's Chris Froome rode to a third victory with few challengers emerging.

The biggest challenge to Froome's dominance was expected to come from Team Movistar's Nairo Quintana. The Colombian rider has looked strong in the past two Tour's and seemed poised to break out this year with a performance that would push Froome to the limit. That never happened however, and for the most part it seemed that Quintana struggled to keep pace. In fact, if not for a herculean effort in the final few days, he would have finished off the podium altogether. He did manage to claim third place, finishing behind Froome and Romain Bardet of Team AG2R.

For Froome, this was his third win in four years. His string of dominance began in 2013, although he crashed out of the race in 2014 and was unable to defend his championship. Over the past two years however he has looked untouchable, with every challenger being turned away. His most vulnerable moment came this year however, when the British rider (by way of Kenya) actually ran up the slopes in Stage 12 of the race after his bike frame broke during a crash. It was an odd scene to say the least, but it showed his fighting spirit and unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity – something that has helped endear him to cycling fans who have been slow to embrace the champion. 

In other Tour news, Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan went home with the Green Jersey once again. The current world champion showed why he is one of the most talented and versatile cyclists in the world, easily amassing enough sprint points to outpace his rivals. Russian rider Rafal Majka claimed the Polka Dot Jersey for the King of the Mountain's classification, which is given to the best climber each year, while Aussie Adam Yates took the White Jersey awarded to the best young rider under the age of 25. 

While I didn't get to see much of this year's race, the complaints I've ready mostly center around the fact that there was almost no drama at any point. Froome's rivals didn't challenge him much at all, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he would win the Tour by the midway point of the event. That doesn't make it very interesting to watch. Some of the riders were clearly playing safe since the Olympics are now just a few weeks away, and they'll be competing for gold in Rio instead. But still, it would be nice to see someone – anyone – attempt to unseat Team Sky and their leader. Sadly, we'll now have to wait until next year to see if that can happen. At this point however, it looks like barring an accident, the only person who can beat Chris Froome is Froome himself. 

New Climbing Rules for Everest?

Another story that broke while I was away is the news that Nepal is once again looking to set new rules to govern climbers attempting Everest and other major Himalayan peaks. These rules are often presented under the guise that the Nepali government is looking to improve safety, although often it seems they are mostly meant to give the appearance that officials are actually trying to do something of substance, without really accomplishing much at all. That seems to be the case with these new rules as well, which do very little to alter the climbing scene on the world's highest mountain. 

According to The Himalayan Times, the Nepali government is considering banning solo attempts on its Himalayan peaks, as well as banning mountaineers who are completely blind, have double amputations, or are over the age of 75. Of course, those all sound like reasonable restrictions to make, but when is the last time you've heard of a bling person attempting to summit Everest? After Erik Weihenmayer did it back in 2001, I'm not sure it has even been attempted again. And while double amputees have attempted Everest on several occasions, it isn't a common occurrence either. In other words, those two rules will impact a very small percentage of people. 

As for the age restriction of being under 75, this is a good rule to be sure, even if it also impacts only a handful of potential climbers. The problem is, Nepal has instituted age limits – both minimum and maximum – in the past, only to ignore them when it suits their needs. The 75 years old number has been bandied about several times in the past, and now it is cropping up once again. 

Other proposed changes to the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation include restricting helicopter rides above Base Camp, providing summit certificates to Sherpas, and requiring that all climbers who attempt an 8000-meter peak first have summited a 7000-meter peak as well. Each of these sounds a lot more reasonable and long over due. The use of choppers on the big mountains should definitely be limited, and Sherpas should receive a summit certificate for their efforts as well. The requirement of having experience on a 7000-meter mountain would also go a long way towards improving safety on Everest and other 8-thousanders, and would push some of the crowds off to Nepal's lesser visited peaks first. 

As mentioned, these new regulations are all up for review, and have been submitted to the Department of Tourism in Nepal. How soon they'll decide on the proposal remains to be seen. And if the rules are adopted, how much they are enforced will remain open to conjecture as well. 

Karakoram 2016: Avalanche Ends Season on K2, Summit Pushes Begin Elsewhere

I'm back from the wilds of Mongolia and am catching up on all the news from the world of outdoor adventure that took place while I was away. One of the big stories we had been following before my departure was the unfolding of the climbing season in the Karakoram and Western Himalaya. When I left, the teams were still getting settled into Base Camp, and were beginning their first acclimatization rotations. Now, a few weeks later, the situation is very different, with climbing operations coming to an end on one mountain, while the final summit pushes are underway on others.

The big news from this past weekend is that a massive avalanche on K2 has brought an end to the season on the world's second tallest mountain. The avalanche hit Camp 3 on Saturday morning, destroying the tents that were built there, while also washing away the fixed ropes and cache of bottled oxygen that was put in place for upcoming summit bids. Fortunately, no one was in C3 at the time, although there were several teams in Camp 2 and other points on the mountain. All have retreated back to BC due to bad weather conditions.

Now, it seems the teams have decided that the mountain is too unsafe to climb this year, and it appears that most are packing their bags to go home. The avalanche wiped out a lot of hard work to fix ropes and establish C3. With time starting to run short, poor weather a common occurrence, and a lack of bottled oxygen, it now seems like the season is over, at least for the major commercial teams. There are a few independent climbers who are hoping to rally the troops and have another go at the mountain however. They are currently eyeing an early-August attempt, weather permitting.

Friday, July 01, 2016

On the Road Again - Mongolia Bound



My time at home is about to come to an end again as my busy travel schedule continues. This time, I'm heading out to Mongolia with my friends from Tusker Trail. I'll actually be leaving on July 5, but with the long holiday weekend starting, I won't actually be updating the blog again until after I return to the U.S. on July 22.

This time out I'll be trekking and horseback riding across the Mongolian Steppe, which should be a lot of fun. I'll obviously have a lot of stories to share upon my return, so stay tuned for blog updates and photos from the trip. I've never been to Mongolia before, but it has long been on my list of places to visit, so I'm sure it'll be quite the rewarding experience.

As always, while I'm away enjoying my adventure, I hope you have a few of your own. The opportunities to get outside and pursue your passions have never been better, so don't let those opportunities pass you by. Grab your dram by the tail and run with it. You won't regret it.

Back soon!

Video: Why We Love the Tour de France

It is tough to explain exactly why I – and other cycling fans – love the Tour de France to someone who has no interest. But this video, from Specialized Bikes, goes a long way to explaining it. It is three weeks of intense competition with some of the best back drops anyone could possibly ask for. It is a challenge that requires both mental strength and physical endurance, and it is perhaps the toughest bike race in the world. You'll discover all of this and more in the clip below, which serves as a good introduction to Le Tour to newcomers, but a wonderful reminder to those of us who already love it as to to why it is such a special event each year.

Gear Closet: Vivitar Air Defender X Camera Drone

If you're like me, you've probably been intrigued with the potential of drones over the past few years, but put off by the steep price of entry to buying one. While the prices of drones have continued to come down, and their sophistication and functionality have gone up, it can still be a bit intimidating to think about purchasing one and learning to fly it. Fortunately, there are some new options that make it easier to buy in, and discover what it is like to actually use one of these things in the field. For instance, the Vivitar Air Defender X Camera Drone is an affordable and fun UAV that has a lot of the same options as other drones, but at a fraction of the price.

Okay, before I go too far into my thoughts on the Air Defender, lets be clear what this drone is and is not. For example, it is not a competitor to the DJI Phantom line of drones, which are larger, more powerful and definitely more pricey. Instead, this is a lightweight, easy to fly, and very affordable entry-level drone that you'll probably have a lot of fun with.

Checking out the specs on the Air Defender you'll discover that it has a lot of options for the price. For instance, it comes equipped with 16.1 MP camera that is capable of streaming video and images to your smartphone when it connects to the drone via WiFi. It also has a range of about 200 meters, and a flight time of about 20 minutes when using the two supplied batteries. It is also wrapped in 64 individual LED lights, which makes it easy to spot even in dark conditions. This also gives it a fun, unique look that helps in navigation too.

The 2016 Tour de France Begins Tomorrow!

July is here, and that can mean only one thing for cycling fans – the 2016 Tour de France can't be far off. In fact, the most famous and popular bike race int he world gets underway tomorrow, with some very familiar names expected to battle it out for the win.

The race will officially begin with a 188 km (116 mile) stage that runs from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. This is unusual for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is its length. Typically, the first stage of the race is a short time trial that helps to establish who will ride int he famed Yellow Jersey for the early stages of the race. This long, opening day ride is part of the Tour's attempt to shake things up however, with some changes to the format designed to inject some energy into the early days of the race.

Expect the day to belong to the sprinters. None of the eventual contenders are likely to vie for the stage win, or put themselves in jeopardy in the early days of the race. There are sprint and climbing points to be earned however, so those looking to go after the Green or Polka Dot Jerseys will be in the hunt early on.

And just who can we expect to be in the Yellow Jersey heading towards Paris in three weeks? Two-time winner Chris Froome is the odds on favorite, although the course does favor Nairo Quintana as well. If both men can stay healthy, we can expect some epic duels in the mountains in the later stages of the race. Should they falter or face injury, the race opens up to dramatically, giving a new rider the chance to take center stage.

As long-time readers know, I'm a big fan of Le Tour, and usually cover it extensively throughout the month of July. I know that there are some of you who don't appreciate the race as much as I do however, and simply tolerate my TdF updates. For those folks, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I won't be following the race nearly as closely as I have in the past, so there won't be daily updates on the event. The bad news is, I'm leaving the country to a remote region next week, so there won't be any updates at all for awhile. Personally, I'm bummed I won't be able to watch the race on a daily basis, but duty calls and other adventures await.

Fans of the race will be able to get all the news and information they need at the official Tour de France website. Good luck to all the riders.

Karakoram 2016: Climbers in C2 on K2, Sherpa's Record Bid Denied by Pakistani Government

It is early in the summer climbing season in the Karakoram, but already the teams are on the move as they look to take advantage of good weather in the region. While teams are still getting settled elsewhere in Pakistan, on K2 the acclimatization rotations have begun. Climbers have already gone up to Camp 2 on that mountain, even as Sherpa teams work to install ropes to higher altitudes. 

Madison Mountaineering checked in yesterday with the news that their squad has arrived in C1 after a tough climb up 70º slopes. Today, they'll proceed up to C2, where they'll spend a night or two before returning to Base Camp. By all accounts, the entire team is doing well and proceeding according to plan. 

Also still in C2 is the international team that includes Vanessa O'Brien. They reached that point on the mountain yesterday as well, and will remain a couple of nights before descending. This allows their bodies to get use to the thinner oxygen ahead of an eventual summit attempt in about a months time. 

In other news from K2, The Himalayan Times is reporting that a Sherpa's record-setting bid was thwarted by the Pakistani government after he was sent home upon arriving in Islamabad. 25-year old Lakpa Sherpa had hoped to become the youngest person to scale K2 three times, but he was sent back to Kathmandu a day after arriving in Pakistan. 

Lakpa said that he passed through immigration without incident, but a day after his arrival he was contact by a government official and told he had to go home without any further explanation. Despite not being told why he was being shipped back to Nepal, the feeling is that the move was purely a political one. Pakistan has long hoped to generate a mountaineering infrastructure like that found in Nepal to help bolster its economy and employ more local climbers. But as K2 and other mountains continue to become commercialized, guiding companies are increasingly bringing more and more Sherpas into the country to assist and even lead those expeditions. The young climber, who has already summited Everest four times, believes that he won't be allowed back into Pakistan in the future as well, although he isn't sure exactly why.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Video: Morocco - Gateway to Africa

With this video we travel to Morocco to get a good look at the people, culture, history, and landscapes that exist there. Located in North Africa, the country has been at the crossroads of that continent for centuries, and that lasting influence can be seen in many places found there. This short documentary film takes us to the bustling streets of its most famous cities, to the top of the High Atlas Mountains, to the Sahara Desert, and beyond. If you're in need for a travel escape today, this film will help satiate your wanderlust. Enjoy.

Morocco: Gateway to Africa from Freeze Tag Media on Vimeo.

Video: Walmart Mountain Bike Tested on a Real Trail

Those of us who ride bikes regularly tend to be a bit snobby about the brands we ride. After all, we want a bike that can stand up to our demands. In this video, pro mountain biker Phil Kmetz goes to Walmart to buy a Huffy Carnage and then takes it down a "real" mountain biking trail to see just how well it performs. Would the $179 bike be able to compete with the rides that he is accustomed to? You'll have to watch the video to find out. I will tell you though, just watching his descent was enough to make me fear for his life.

Video: GoPro's Best Bike Line Contest Returns

Last year, GoPro and Pinkbike got together to sponsor a contest in which cyclists and mountain bikers were invited to film and submit their best line. Some of the entries were truly amazing, and as a result over $25,000 in prize money was given away. The same contest returns in 2016, and this video gives us a preview of what to expect. It is filled with some great clips that were part of last year's contest, with some truly jaw-dropping rides. Even if you don't plan to enter the contest, this video is worth a look. It'll leave you awe struck at the places that people will take a bike.

Cold War Politics at the North Pole

If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw my coverage of the North Pole exploration season this past spring. While there were no full-distance expeditions to the North Pole from either the Canadian or Russian side of the ice as there has been in years past, there was still plenty of drama to be had. That's because Norway and Russian got into a bit of a showdown over who gets access to the Arctic. The pissing match between those two countries turned into a bit of a political and logistical nightmare that resulted in some polar explorers, adventurers, and researchers being left in the lurch while attempting to travel to and from the Arctic this spring. And the fallout from this exchange could have long-lasting repercussions for the future.

I reported several times on the fact that flights to the Barneo Ice Camp – the temporary base built at 89ºN each year – were delayed coming out of Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, Norway because of security issues. Those flights are for massive Russian supply planes, which are used to shuttle gear and personnel too and from the Arctic. The aircraft typically fly from Russia to Norway, where they pick up passengers and supplies before proceeding on to Barneo. But this year, this procedure caused a stir when the transport planes carried a team of Chechen soldier who were on their way to the Arctic to conduct training exercises. Norwegian officials say that the Russians didn't inform them that these commandos would passing through their country, and in retaliation they revoked all of the flight permits, and changed the procedure for how the Russian jets come and go.

All of this was further compounded by the fact that the Barneo station had one of its most challenging years ever. Each year, a team of Russian engineers parachutes out onto the ice to build a temporary base that includes a 4000-foot (1220 meter) runway. That camp is then used to facilitate travel throughout the Arctic for a month or so. But this year, the landing strip had all kinds of issues, having to be rebuilt on multiple occasions and even forcing the relocation of the base at one point.

As you can imagine, all of this led to a tumultuous season at the North Pole this year, and will dramatically impact operations moving forward. Just exactly what happened, and how it will change travel in the Arctic in the future, is detailed in this article from Outside magazine. The story goes to great lengths to lay out the facts of what happened and the dispute that it has created between the Russians and the Norwegians. If you followed the events as they unfolded this past spring, or know the logistics of Arctic travel, you'll find it to be a good read.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the future. At the end of the Arctic season, the team that operates Barneo said that they would shift their logistical base back to Russia and travel through Franz Josef Land starting next year. That will work of course, but it means more hassle for the people coming and going from Barneo. Whether or not that has a real impact on travel at the top of the world remains to be seen.

Karakoram Summer 2016: The Arduous Task of Climbing K2 Begins

The summer climbing season is Pakistan is now officially underway. Most of the teams have now arrived in their respective Base Camps, with some already starting their first acclimatization rotations. It'll be a good month or more before they even consider taking a crack at the summit, but the foundation for those ascents is now being put into place.

Most of the focus this summer will fall squarely on K2, where commercial operations have ramped up significantly in the past couple of years. More than 100 climbers have registered for permits on the second tallest mountain in the world in 2016, where the weather usually dictates who actually has a chance of topping out. Traditionally speaking, summit bids won't begin until the last week of July or the first week of August, but for now the climbers are taking advantage of good weather and are preparing for the challenging ascent ahead.

The Madison Mountaineering team climbed up to Advanced Base Camp yesterday, and plan to proceed to Camp 1 at 6096 meters (20,000 ft) today. Once there, they'll spend at least one night before dropping back to BC for a rest. This starts the long process of getting their bodies accustomed to the higher altitudes that will eventually culminate with a summit push. That is still a long way off at this point, but this is the first of many steps in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the International team led by Vanessa O'Brien has already moved up to Camp 2, as her squad continues to make solid progress. O'Brien is looking to become the first American woman to summit K2, and so far everything is going according to plan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Video: Daredevils Climb the Eiffel Tower

It's been awhile since we've seen a good urban climbing video, but this one emerged yesterday. It features a couple of daredevils climbing the Eiffel Tower, and capturing some impressive footage along the way. Of course, this is extremely dangerous – not to mention highly illegal – but it sure makes for an intriguing video. Definitely don't try this at home for a wide variety of reasons. Instead, sit back and let these guys do it instead.

Video: Kilian Jornet Runs Alaska's Mt. Marathon

This video takes us to Seward, Alaska to witness one of the most unique races on the planet. Seward is home to Mt. Marathon, which is described as "one of the oldest, fastest, hardest, toughest… and shortest mountain races in the world." The race is held each July 4, and last year world-class runners Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg were on hand to take place in the event, bringing their own unique skills along with them. You'll get a first hand look at Seward, the race, and these great athletes below. It is something to behold.

On a side note, I was in Seward last year on the day of the race. To say it was an electric atmosphere would be an understatement. I enjoyed reliving it through this clip. I hope you like it oo.

Share Your Inspiring Outdoor Story with Outside TV, Win Big Prizes!

Do you have an inspiring story to share? Looking for a good outlet to do just that? The Climb to the Summit contest from Outside TV just might be what you're looking for. Not only does it give you a platform to tell your tale, you'll also get a chance to appear on the television network, not to mention some great prizes that include a trip to Whistler and a $5000 gear shopping spree.

Entry into the contest is easy and straight forward. Simply visit the Climb to the Summit website, fill out the entry form, and upload a video that is 30 seconds to two minutes in length, that tells your personal story. Then, share your entry on social media, getting your friends and family to vote for your short film. Those votes will count towards the final tally, which will also include a panel of judges who will score the entries based on creativity and storytelling.

The contest runs from June 22 to August 16, after which the winners will be chosen. The grand prize for the contest includes a 4 day/3 night VIP skiing experience in Whistler, British Columbia, as well as a $5000 shopping spree courtesy of Mountain Hardwear. That seems like something worth going for.

Find out more, and enter the contest, by clicking here. And checkout the video below for some insights. Good luck!

13 Pieces of Gear Every All-Around Adventurer Should Own

This article is nearly a year old, but it recently came to my attention when Alastair Humphreys shared it on Facebook. It comes our way from the website Semi-Rad and it provides us with a list of 13 pieces of gear that every all-around adventurer should have in their arsenal. Consider this an inventory of items that all outdoor enthusiasts should have at their disposal.

The list is a comprehensive one, although most of the items are exactly what you would expect. In fact, I suspect that many of you reading this already have a good portion of these pieces of gear. Still, it is a good reminder of the things we should have at our disposal before setting out on an adventure, and as I read through the article, I was also doing a mental inventory of my own gear to make sure I had each of these things on hand.

Some of the items that make the list include a two-person backpacking tent, 30- and 60-liter backpacks, a rain shell, and a down jacket. Author Brendan Leonard also shares his picks for a proper sleeping bag, a headlamp, water bottles, and a variety of other gear as well. If you're looking to build a collection of solid gear to keep you safe and comfortable in the backcountry, this is a good place to start.

So, what do you think of the list? Did Brendan leave anything out? Do you have anything that you would add? Personally, I know I never leave home without a Buff or two, and I think a good watch – such as the Suunto Ambit – is an important piece of gear to have with you as well.

Find out what else made Semi-Rad's list by clicking here.

Did This Indian Couple Fake Their Everest Summit?

By most accounts, the 2016 Everest climbing season was one for the record books. After two years of cancellations, and several years of unusual activity on the mountain, this was about as close to a "normal" year as we've seen in some time. Of course, that doesn't mean that everything went exactly by the book, as we're now discovering. Reports now indicated that one Indian couple may have faked their summit photos, calling into question the validity of their claims.

This story broke on Buzzfeed yesterday, where the captivating story of Dinesh and Tarkeshwari Rathod has been called into question. The couple said that they had reached the summit of Everest back on May 23, realizing a lifelong dream that both had shared. The duo were married back in 2008, and reportedly delayed starting a family until after they topped out on the tallest mountain on the planet. Their story, which includes both serving as police officers back home, garnered headlines across the planet. 

Now, just a few weeks later, cracks have started to appear in their story. The photos that were used to document their summit appear to be doctored, faked, or stolen. One image that was used to show their approach to the summit appears to have been taken directly from the International Mountain Guides website, while others seem to have been obviously photoshopped. As if that wasn't enough, the clothes that the couple are seen wearing on their way up the mountain are different from the outfits that they have on in the summit photos. Anyone who follows Everest closely knows that you don't change your clothing during a summit push.

Even more curious, even though Dinesh and Tarkeshwari claimed to have summited on May 23, they didn't declare their success until June 5. They also reportedly did not arrive in Base Camp until May 4. That isn't nearly enough time to acclimatize and prepare for a summit push, unless they had already done so on another major peak in the area. That doesn't appear to be the case here.

Apparently, there are even indications that the couple have faked summits in the past too, which the Buzzfeed article goes into as well. This all seems to point at yet another Everest fraud, indicating that things have indeed gotten back to normal.