Thursday, April 27, 2017

Video: Rare Drone Footage of a Blue Whale

Blue whales are amongst the rarest and most elusive animals on the planet, and while they had been brought to the brink of extinction, they seem to slowly be making their way back from the edge. This video gives us an amazing look at one of these creatures from a drone's eye view. The clip shows us how the blue whale eats as it goes about its life in the ocean. As the largest creature ever known to inhabit the Earth, it is quite a sight, and one that I was fortunate enough to see on my recent visit to the Southern Ocean. Check it out for yourself below.

Gear Closet: EcoFlow River Portable Generator Review

The options available to us for keeping our electronic devices charged while in remote regions continue to grow. A couple of weeks back I took a look at the Renogy Phoenix Solar Generator and found it to be a powerful and full featured – if a bit heavy – method for staying charged while on the go. Now, I've gotten my hands on another portable generator called the EcoFlow River that will be available soon, and it brings some more intriguing possibilities to the market.

Currently, the River is only available for preorder on Indiegogo, but the device is already fully-funded and should begin shipping in July of this year. In fact, the River has been such a success on the crowdfunding site that it's designers had hoped to raise $30,000 to get it into production, but have already raked in more than $400,000 with more than two weeks to go before the campaign ends. In other words, people already want this gadget and it is a major success before it even goes on sale.

I've been lucky enough to get to test out a pre-production model of the River, and have found it to be an incredibly well made product. Everything about the generator screams high quality, from the excellent case (complete with handle on top), to the LCD screen that provides info on the amount of power in the device, and how it is being used, to the plethora of ports to keep our gadgets charged. In terms of lightweight, portable generators with lots of power, this is the most well thought out and best designed version I've seen yet.

With its 116,000 mAh battery and 500-watt output, the River is capable of recharging a smartphone up to 30 times and a laptop as many as 9 times depending on the model. Additionally, it can power a projector or mini-refrigerator for 10 hours, and recharger a drone 4-8 times as well. This makes it a great tool to have at base camp, whether you're working in the field or spending an extended amount of time in the backcountry. And since it is waterproof resistant, offers built-in surge protection, and weights just 11 pounds, its an excellent companion for use on our adventures.

Reinhold Messner on the Future of Climbing Everest

Italian climbing legend Reinhold Messner has weighed in on the current state of affairs on Everest, and where mountaineering on the world's highest peak is headed, and as usual his thoughts are quite fascinating. Messner recently spoke with The Diplomat about these subjects and more, bringing his years of vast experience and knowledge to the table. In his typical style, the iconic climber doesn't mince too many words.

In the interview, Messner talks about the crowded conditions on Everest, and the guided climbs to the summit that are now very different than when he made his famous ascents on the mountain. In describing what it is like there, the Italian says that it is not alpinism but is instead tourism. A very different game than previous generations. He also says that with the path more well prepared and set out for the climbers to follow, the sense of adventure and exploration is gone. It is simply a guided trip to the top of the world.

The Italian also discusses the growing sense of resentment amongst Sherpas and how that has led to more locally owned trekking and climbing companies in Nepal. Those companies are able to offer less expensive trips into the mountain, and as a result they are slowly but surely eroding the business of foreign operators. That will have a dramatic impact on the future of climbing on Everest. Those same Sherpa are also now very experienced and talented mountaineers in their own right, and no longer need to follow the foreign climbers up the slopes.

Messner goes on to touch on the dangers of climbing the mountain, the fact that no one listens to the danger signs until it is too late, and the fact that so man inexperienced climbers are traveling to the Himalaya. He also talks about his relationship to Buddhism and his hopes for a free and autonomous Tibet, amongst other topics.

Most of what Messner talks about isn't especially new, and anyone who follows the climbing scene on Everest probably is aware of the things that are going on there. Still, it is always interesting to hear a man of his prominence and stature share his opinion on where mountaineering was, where its at now, and where it is heading. Check out the full text of the interview here.

Missing Trekker Survives 47 Days in the Himalaya

The Himalayan Times has published quite a story of survival. The newspaper is reporting that a trekker who had been missing in the mountains of Nepal has been found after 47 days, although his 19-year old companion has died. The duo were traveling in the Langang region of the country without a guide when they disappeared, leading to what must have been a harrowing month and a half in the wilderness.

21-year old Taiwanese traveler Liang Shang Yuen and his companion Liu Chen Chun had come to Nepal to trek in the mountains there. On February 21, they had gained the permits necessary to enter Langtang National Park, and were part of a home stay program for three days in early March, before setting off on the next phase of their trip. Unfortunately, heavy snow set in and the duo hadn't been seen since.

According to the story, it seems that the two young men took refuge in a cave, and may have gotten disoriented and lost. Over time, they ran out of food and were surviving just on drinking water, while they waited for rescue.

Search and rescue teams spotted Liang a few days back laying unconscious on the banks of a river. The body of Liu was nearby, with rescuers saying they believed that both travelers had fallen from a cliff. Liang is understandably in poor condition, but has been airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment. His family will be arriving there from Taiwan tomorrow.

At the moment, the young man can't recall much of what has happened over the past 47 days. His story is likely to be quite a tale of survive however, as it isn't easy to live in the mountains without food for so long. It must have been quite the ordeal to say the least. Thankfully, at least one of the trekkers was found alive and he'll be going home soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Video: The Colors of Africa

It's no secret that Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, and if you wonder why, you only need to  watch this video. It is a colorful, majestic place that is filled with life and energy. In this clip, you'll catch a glimpse of the people, landscapes, and wildlife that make Africa such a special place. Just watching it makes me long to go back. Enjoy.

Colors of AFRICA by Avichai Wechsler from אביחי וקסלר צילום on Vimeo.

Video: Traversing the High Sierra with Kalen Thorien

What do you do in the off season if you're a professional skier? In the case of Kalen Thorien, you set out on an 18-day, 270-mile solo traverse across the High Sierra Mountains. In this video, we join Kalen on this adventure as she goes in search of adventure and solitude. She finds all of that, and a lot more, as she makes the hike through some very remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes.

Gear Closet: Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Flex Rain Jacket Review

Over the past few years there has been a very noticeable trend in outdoor apparel. Most of the big name manufacturers have begun offering products that are less "technical" in appearance in favor of a more natural look that blends in nicely when not on a trail. This clothing offers the same high level of performance and comfort, but it doesn't look like traditional outdoor gear, extending its appeal beyond the traditional outdoor market. When I received the new Eddie Bauer Cap Flex Rain Jacket, my first thought was that it looked like something I would wear around town or while traveling, rather than on a tough hike on the trail. But, as it turns out, those looks were a bit deceiving. While this jacket does indeed give off the appearance of being designed for city slickers, it is actually a solid solution for use in the backcountry too.

Made from 100% nylon, and sporting an athletic cut, the Cap Flex fits snugly without being restrictive. The jacket comes with an adjustable hood, waterproof zippers, secure hand pockets, adjustable hem and cuffs, and pit zips for venting excess heat. Individually, each of those features isn't especially groundbreaking in any way, but together they add up to a nicely equipped jacket designed for use in the rain when temperatures aren't especially hot or cold.

While putting this jacket to the test, I've worn it as a rain jacket while running errands around town, hiking trails, and even running. In most cases, it worked exceptionally well, keeping moisture at bay with its sealed seams and DWR coating. In fact, despite getting caught in some serious downpours, the interior of the jacket stayed exceptionally dry and comfortable, which is a good testament to how well it performs.

Men's Journal Names the 25 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 25 Years

Here's another list for those of you who enjoy these articles. This time, it comes our way from the good folks over at Men's Journal, and it names the 25 most adventurous women of the past 25 years, giving us a look at a group of ladies who are tough, determined, and downright inspiring too.

Each profile of the ladies includes a few paragraphs about why they are deserving of a spot on the list, as well as a brief rundown of their noteworthy accomplishments. These women are explorers, pioneers, athletes, and activist, and in most cases they are all of those at once. I have written about the exploits of many of them right here on this very blog, with more than a few pulling off some of the most daring and impressive accomplishments we've seen in the outdoor world.

So who made the cut? As usual, I won't spoil the list too much, but I will reveal a couple of the women who earned a place on MJ's honor roll. That list includes the likes of polar explorer Sarah McNair-Landry, Nepali climber Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, and Appalachian Trail hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis. They're joined on the round-up by filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and mountaineer Melissa Arnot Reid, just to hame a few.

To find out who else is part of this hall of fame, and to learn more about the ladies mentioned above, check out the full article by clicking here. Chances are, you'll come away with a few new heroes to follow and a lot of respect for some of the most impressive women who are out their pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Season Progressing On Schedule

So far, the spring climbing season in the Himalaya has been a textbook one, with schedules and plans unfolding exactly as expected. That's good news for all of the expedition teams, which are now spread out at various points along their respective mountains working on their acclimatization process. For the most part, things are going about as smoothly as one could expect with some squads already eyeing summit bids in the days ahead.

We'll start with an update on Ueli Steck and Tenji Sherpa, who are preparing to make an attempt at an Everest-Lhotse Traverse. Ueli has been in Nepal for several weeks now, and has been focused on training for the upcoming climb. According to reports, he and Tenji climbed as high as Camp 2 on Everest and spent two nights there before April 12, which is two weeks ago at this point. We're still awaiting a new dispatch to give us an indication of what they've been up to since then, but it is safe to say that the duo have now spent more nights at altitude and may have even touched Camp 4 at this point. It is believed that Ueli will want to begin the traverse ahead of the massive summit push that will come around mid-May so that he can avoid the traffic jams, although the weather will ultimately decide when that happens.

Also on Everest, the big commercial squads are spread out across the mountain. International Mountain Guides has three different teams moving on the mountain with the first descending from C2, while another moves up to that point, and the third treks up to Camp 1. Likewise, the Adventure Consultants team went up to C2 this past weekend and touched the Lhotse Face, while RMI's climbers are currently safe and sound in Camp 1.

On the North Side of Everest, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is getting settled in and will be making his sixth attempt on the mountain. Previously he has climbed solo in the fall, but due to shifting politics on permits he's back for a go in the spring. The #EverestNoFilter team of Corey Richards and Adrian Ballinger are also climbing from that side of the mountain and have now been as high as 7010 meters (23,000 ft).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Video: The Life and Legacy of John Muir

John Muir was a tireless advocate for protecting and preserving outdoor spaces for others to enjoy. In fact, without his efforts, we might not have places like Yosemite and Yellowstone designated at national parks. Muir was a forward thinking naturalist in a time when that wasn't a popular thing to be, and yet he wrote about the need to ensure that our wild spaces didn't vanish completely from the Earth. In this video, we learn more about the man and his work, and we see first hand the places that he worked to protect. It is a powerful and inspiring tribute to that legacy.

John Muir - The Last Oasis from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

Video: Scary Footage From Everest Base Camp During 2015 Earthquake

Today marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that rocked Nepal, killing nearly 9000 people and leaving countless others injured. The disaster leveled homes and building, leaving thousands without a place to live, with food, water, and other supplies difficult to find. Even now, we're still hearing new stories about what it was like on that day, and in this video we get some new footage, including shots from Everest Base Camp, where more than 20 people were killed in an avalanche. Nepal, and the mountaineering community in general, are still struggling to recover from this event, which has left an indelible mark on everyone connected with that place.

Adventure Elevated in Coeur d'Alene

It has been such a busy couple of weeks that I've barely had time to get caught up from all of my recent travels. Having only just returned from the Southern Ocean in March, I was home for only a couple of weeks before heading out to Idaho to attend the Adventure Travel Trade Association's (ATTA) AdventureElevate event in Coeur d'Alene. I got back from there, only to hit the road once again this past week on a kayaking trip in Oregon. This week, I'm staying in one place at long last, and taking the opportunity to share some stories, starting with my experience with the ATTA.

For those that aren't familiar with the organization, the ATTA is a fantastic group of people, destinations, and organizations who are deeply immersed in the adventure travel industry. It is made up of more than 1000 members spread out across 100 countries, and is supremely focused on promoting adventure tourism in a safe, sustainable manner. I've been lucky enough to be peripherally involved with the ATTA for several years now, and even spoke at one of the organization's events in Mexico a few years back. But, this was the first time I had the chance to attend one of its AdventureElevate events, so I went in with a lot of excitement. I came out with even more.

Scheduled to run for two days starting on April 12, the adventurous activities actually began 24 hours earlier, with a "Day of Adventure." This gave attendees a chance to experience the region that hosted the event by allowing us to get outside and go hiking, biking, or paddling in different areas. In this case, Coeur d'Alene served as the perfect backdrop, offering up breathtaking scenery, wonderful amenities, and access to some outstanding outdoor opportunities.

Nat Geo Posts 2017 Spring/Summer Gear Guide

Now that April is all but behind us, it is pretty safe to say that spring is in full swing and summer isn't all that far off either. Of course, that means it is time to head back outside an enjoy all of the activities that the warmer months have to offer. Of course, the changing of the seasons is also the perfect excuse to add some new gear to your arsenal as well, and National Geographic is here to help.

The Nat Geo Adventure website had posted its Spring/Summer 2017 Gear Guide, offering up 20 new products that you'll want to have at your disposal this year. As usual, the list includes a wide variety of items ranging from clothing to shoes to tents and much more. If you're in the market for some gear, chances are you'll find a good suggestion here on what you should consider buying.

Amongst the items making the cut are the new Suunto Spartan GPS watch, the Sugoi Zap cycling jacket, and  the Voormi River Run hoody, which I've also reviewed on this blog. Other products that earned a spot on the Nat Geo list include the Nano-Air jacket from Patagonia, the Nemo Wagontop 4P tent, and the Gregory Paragon 48 backpack.

This is, of course, just a taste of the items that are recommended by Nat Geo's expert gear tester. There are plenty of other products on the list for you yet to discover. So go gear up and head outside. I'm sure you'll find plenty of good ways to put your new toys to the test.

North Pole 2017: Barneo Closes for the Season, More on Polar Bear Shooting

The 2017 North Pole expedition season has come to a close. The Barneo Ice Camp, which is temporarily built on an ice floe in the arctic each year, shut down once again over this past weekend, with all staff, visitors, gear, and supplies now evacuated from the ice. By all accounts, it was another successful season, with a number of teams using the base as a gateway to and from the Arctic. And while there were no full-distance skiers to the North Pole this year, there were plenty of "last degree" expeditions that covered the final distance to the top of the world.

For the most part, the Arctic season came and went without too much to report. It was generally business as usual this season, with only groups of travelers and some researchers coming and going from Barneo. But, if you read this blog with regularity, you may recall that last week I wrote a story about an incident that left a polar bear wounded (and potentially dangerous) in the Arctic. That story had now blown up into a full-fledged controversy with clients accusing the guide of wrongdoing, contradictory statements from those involved, and a lot of questions as to what actually happened.

When I posted the article last week, the news was that a bear had wandered to close to a last degree ski team and that in an attempt to scare it away, they actually shot the animal, leaving it injured. A wounded bear can be extremely dangerous, and there were conflicting reports as to whether or not the guide for the expedition – polar vet Dixie Dansercoer – actually reported the incident to the team at Barneo, who could then relay that info on to other teams on the ice. At the time, the base manger Irina Orlova claimed that Dansercoer had failed to disclose the info fully, creating a bit of a stir as a result.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Video: A Relaxing Hour in Yellowstone

Have you had a rough start to your week? Did Monday come way too quickly? Perhaps this video can help. It comes our way courtesy of National Geographic and is just over an hour in length. I'm sure that sounds way too long, but it is an hour of life in Yellowstone National Park, which is always a place worth visiting, either virtually or in real life. So, if you're in need of a bit of relaxation, sit back and soak it all in. You won't be disappointed.

Video: Alex Megos Completes First 5.15 Climb in Canada

Rising rock start Alex Megos has just completed an epic and historic first ascent in Canada. The German rock climber has completed a route that he calls Fight Club, which is rated as a 5.15b on the Yosemite Decimal System. For those that don't know, that's hard. Really, really, hard. In the video below, you'll learn more about this climb and what it took for Alex to complete it. It was quite an impressive accomplishment as you can probably imagine.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Reveals Plans, Sherpa Injured on the Everest

It has been a very busy couple of days since I last shared any updates from the Himalaya. The spring climbing season is proceeding pretty much according to plan, with teams now settled in their respective base camps across the region and now diligently working away at becoming acclimatized. This particularly true on Everest, where the squads are stretched out from BC to Camp 2, and everywhere in between. This is all part of the process of course, and later in the week I'll provide a more detailed update on where some of the bigger teams currently stand, but in the meantime we have some other news that is of particular interest.

I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear what Kilian Jornet is up to this spring. We know that he intends to go for a speed record on Everest, and that due to permit issues on the North Side he was forced to move his expedition up from late summer as he had originally planned. But other than that, we haven't heard a lot of details. Over the weekend, that changed some.

In an email sent out to members of the media yesterday, the Spanish mountain runner indicated that he would first travel to Cho Oyu with partner Emelie Forsberg where the pair will attempt a summit on that 8201 meter (26,906 ft) mountain. This will serve as acclimatization and training for Kilian, who now intends to head to the North Side of Everest in mid-May to attempt his speed record. The benefits of doing it from that side of the mountain being smaller crowds and a more direct route that doesn't include the Khumbu Icefall.

Jornet just left for Kathmandu yesterday after competing in one last race before setting out to the Himalaya. He and Forsberg will likely spend a few days in the Nepali capital before heading out to the mountains.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On the Road in Oregon

I've been home just three days, but its already time for me to hit the road again. This time, I'm off to Oregon to spend a few days paddling with some fellow journalists on a sponsored trip from Oru Kayaks. This time, I'll only be gone until the weekend, and should resume regular updates next Monday.

I first wrote about Oru Kayaks back in 2012, when the company launched its first foldable boat. Since that time, I've always been intrigued with how their kayaks performed out on the water, since they promise to give paddlers the speed and agility of a hardshell with the convenience of an inflatable. In a few days, I'll get a chance to find out for myself, as we'll be paddling a 47 mile (75 km) stretch of river in one. That means I should have some good stories to share when I get back next week.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great end of the week and has some good adventures of their own planned. Spring is here in the northern hemisphere, and its time to be outside and enjoying it. If you haven't taken advantage of the shift in seasons just yet, now is the time for sure.

When I get back, we'll get caught up on everything happening in the Himalaya. Considering how the season has gone so far, there should be plenty of interesting things to talk about.

Nat Geo Celebrates National Parks Week With 10 Big Adventures

This week is National Park Week here in the U.S., which is dedicated to recognizing the amazing places that have been set aside as protected spaces for the public to enjoy. Those locations include iconic destinations like Yosemite and Yellowstone, as well as some lesser known spots like the Dry Tortugas and Isle Royale. To help us celebrate the occasion, National Geographic has posted a list of the top 10 national park adventures, giving readers a seres of challenges and epic activities, all of which take place inside one of the parks.

Some of the adventures that Nat Geo recommends include searching for a great stargazing spot in Death Valley, scuba diving in the Channel Islands, and camping in the backcountry in Denali. Other options include climbing, hiking, horseback riding, and paddling through other top parks in the U.S. system, including some of most famous and popular places that the Park Service oversees. Of course, I won't spoil them all, and let you find out for yourself, with each adventure paired with an equally great photo from a National Geographic photographer.

As a huge fan of the national parks, I always enjoy reading lists like this one. I've been fortunate enough to visit a lot of these places, but there are still a few more that I need to get to at some point. If I had to choose a favorite, for me it would probably be Yellowstone. My recommendation for a big adventure there would be to go in winter, when it is peacefully empty, the landscapes are covered in snow, and the wildlife has all come down from altitude. There won't be any bears, as they're all in hibernation, but it is time when you can truly enjoy the primal nature of the park.

What is your favorite national park? Do you have any major adventures to share from your time there? I'd love to hear about them. Leave a comment below!

Video: Get a Whale's Eye View of Antarctica

As part of a research project to study and protect whales in the Southern Ocean, researchers have attached noninvasive cameras and sensors to some humpbacks. This has allowed them to track the animals and learn more about their habits. It has also allowed them to capture footage like that found in this short clip, which follows a whale as it zips through the water just off the coast of Antarctica. It is a unique and beautiful way to get a look at that part of the world as only a whale sees it.

Video: The Atacama Night Sky in Timelapse

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest place on Earth. It also happens to be one of my favorite places on Earth. It is an amazing destination filled with stunning landscapes and fantastic opportunities for adventure. The Atacama is also home to the most breathtaking night skies I have ever seen in all my travels. This video gives us a glimpse of this special place and what it is like there at night. Nothing can truly prepare you for the sights that you'll discover in the desert, but this clip comes about as close to anything else that I've found, save going there yourself.

ATACAMA from Adhemar Duro on Vimeo.

North Pole 2017: Skiers Shoot and Wound Bear Near the North Pole

It has been a relatively quiet and non-eventful season at the North Pole. With no full distance skiers on the ice, the expeditions to the top of the world have been limited to first and second degree ski journeys to 90ºN. But, just as the season is starting to wind down, comes some disturbing and potentially dangerous news out of the Barneo Ice Camp.

According to an update posted to the Barneo Facebook page, a team of skiers on their way to the North Pole encountered a polar bear while en route. That isn't completely uncommon, as the bears have been known to stalk explorers in the Arctic. One of the skiers was carrying a gun and felt threatened enough to shoot the bear, which is pretty unusual for these kinds of circumstances. Usually just firing into the air is enough to scare off most bears that wander too close. In this case however, the skier in question pointed the gun directly at the animal and shot it. The bear then limped off, wounded but not fatally so.

Nearly everyone knows that a wounded bear is a dangerous one, and there are now reports of others in the area seeing bear prints and blood on the snow. The animal appears to still be following teams as they make their way north, and could cause a potential safety hazard to others. To make matters worse, the guide for the group that shot the bear – Dirk Dansercoer – failed to inform the Barneo team, which could have warned North Pole skiers to be more vigilant while on their way to that destination.

At the moment, the incident is still under investigation, which is made all the more challenging since Dansercoer has already depart the Arctic for the season. Hopefully the teams that are still skiing will stay safe as they wrap up the remainder of their journey.

Encountering polar bears is one of the challenges that comes with travel in the Arctic. The creatures live and hunt in that environment, and nearly every veteran explorer of that part of the world has at least one or two tales to tell of encountering the massive animals in the wild. Guns are often carried to scare them away, but rarely are they used to actually shoot the creatures. This is a very rare case where the bear was actually shot for one reason or another.

In other news, Barneo is getting close to wapping up for the season. According to ExWeb, the team there has begun breaking camp and disassembling unused tents, packing gear, and so on. That means that the season is nearly at an end. That may be a good thing with a wounded bear in the area.