Friday, December 19, 2014

Video: Danny MacAskill Rides the Alpe Adria Trail in Europe

Mountain bike rider Danny MacAskill is back once again with a new video, doing what he does best. For those not familiar with Danny, that means riding some amazing routes, while pulling off some unbelievable stunts, on terrain that few riders would even think about attempting. This time out, he's doing his thing on the Alpe Adria Trail, which runs for more than 750 km (466 miles) through Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. Typically this trail is not accessible by bike, so MacAskill and his team had to take what they could find along the way. The results – as usual – are pretty spectacular. Enjoy!

Video: Sunrise From the Edge of Space

Now here is something that you don't get an opportunity to see every day. This short video captures the amazing view of a sunrise caught from the edge of space. It was shot on a recent test flight for World View, a company that is preparing to take travelers into the upper atmosphere aboard a specially designed balloon. World View is gearing up to start offering flights possibly as early as 2015 or 2016. This is a sneak preview of what passengers aboard their capsule will see.

Help Support the Pacific Crest Trail

With the recent release of the movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, there has been a lot of attention called to the Pacific Crest Trail. In the biographical film, Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who decided to through hike the PCT while she was going through some personal crisis in her life. Now, the real Cheryl Strayed is calling on us to help support the trail in its time of need.

In the video below, we get a glimpse of just some of the outstanding landscapes that the PCT passes along its course, which starts at the U.S.-Mexican border in the south, and runs to the U.S.-Canadian border in the north. In total, the trail is an incredible 2663 miles (4285 km) in length, and passes through some of the most amazing wilderness locations in all of North America. But the PCT is also under constant threat from developers, big companies, and careless people who neglect the environment.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association is a non-profit that works tirelessly to protect the PCT. The organization could use our help to ensure that this great hiking route remains one of the best on the planet. If you can, volunteer some time, or donate some money, to help keep the Pacific Crest Trail a fantastic resource for outdoor enthusiasts now, and in future generations.

Check out the video below for more information, and then take a virtual walk on the PCT yourself.

Kilian Jornet Launches Speed Record Bid on Aconcagua

Last week we reported that Kilian Jornet was preparing for a speed record attempt on Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America at 6962 meters (22,841 ft). At the time, Kilian had just wrapped up  his speaking tour in Argentina, and was departing for Base Camp on the mountain. Over the past few days, he has been acclimatizing and scouting the route, but now it seems he is ready to go at last.

According to a post on his Facebook page, Kilian has set off this morning for his push towards the summit. The post reads:
"Hey guys! Today is the day to try! Wind is stronger than perfect on the mountain but is a window. I will start in 5 minutes. See you soon!"
The time that the mountain runner is trying to beat is 15 hours, 5 minutes from Base Camp to the summit, and back. That unofficial record is held by Jorge Egocheaga and was set back in 2011. That record is widely seen as the fastest time, despite the fact that Jorge did not have an official timekeeper on site.

According to this report, Kilian has been training very well on Aconcagua and even managed to reach the summit in just 4 hours earlier this week. If that is true, he'll be more than poised to smash the record, as he has done on there mountains in the past, including Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and Denali. If all goes well on this latest adventure, he also hopes to go after the speed record on Everest in the spring.

It is likely that it will be late tonight before we get any official word on Kilian's efforts. Hopefully he travel quickly and safely, and makes it up and down without injury. I'll post an update when we know more about this attempt, but history could be unfolding at this very moment. Watch Kilian's Facebook page for the latest updates.

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick Turns Toward the South Pole

As we head into the weekend, the Antarctic explorers continue to press ahead as best they can. Nearly everyone who is out on the ice at the moment now has the same goal – the Geographic South Pole. But no one is particularly close to 90ºS just yet, although several are closing in rapidly.

We'll start with an update on Frédérick Dion, the Canadian kite-skier who just wrapped up his journey to the Pole of Inaccessibility. Fréd reached that point at the start of the week, and for a time it was unclear where he would go next. But with plenty of food and fuel, he has decided to ski to the Geographic South Pole as well. After suffering days without wind, he now finds that the breezes have turned in his favor, and as a result he's making great time once again. Today he knocked off 175 km (108 miles), which must seem incredible after he struggled for so long. That puts him 590 km (366 miles) from the South Pole, so just three days away if the winds hold. But that isn't likely to happen, so it may take a bit longer. Perhaps he will reach the Pole by Christmas. In the meantime, the explorer is said to be in in fantastic spirits and enjoying his time in the Antarctic, having found renewed vigor after finally reaching the POI. In fact, he is enjoying it so much, that he is even pondering skiing back to Hercules Inlet after he has reached the South Pole.

Elsewhere, Faysal Hanneche is also kiting to the South Pole, and finding the winds to be far more fickle at his location. He's managed 150 km (93 miles) for the entire week, and is now 1747 km (1085 miles) from his goal. That is still a long way to go, but he remains confident that he'll be able to cover that distance in good time. Having started at the Novo station, he is approximately halfway to his destination. Hopefully he'll get solid winds soon to help propel him along. For now, he is happy to e out of the whiteouts and enjoying some clear days for a change.

Newall Hunter is also enjoying some much improved weather and surface conditions, which are allowing him to pick up the pace some as well. Now on his 24th day out on the ice, he managed to cover 28km (17 miles) with clear skies and relatively calm winds, and smooth snow. This is in contrast to a few days ago, when he could barely see the tips of his skis as the whiteout enveloped him. Those days are long, difficult, and hard on the morale, but they are part of the process of skiing to the South Pole.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Video: Autumn in the Mountains

There is no question that Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. The changing of the leaves and the arrival of cooler weather is always a welcome change. This timelapse video captures that season very well, offering up some wonderful images of the arrival of the fall in the mountains. We have just a few days left until the official start of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we should cherish it while we can. Winter is coming, and it brings its own special type of beauty along with it.

Autumn in my Mountains from Gabriele Prato on Vimeo.

Video; Trail Running on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

Ever wondered what it is like to go trail running in the High Himalaya of Nepal? Then you'll definitely want to check out this video that was put together by endurance athlete Jeff Pelletier who traveled there last December and ran along the Annapurna Circuit. As you'll see from the clip, the thin air isn't the only thing that is breathtaking along this route. The scenery is as amazing as you'd expect, with snowcapped peaks lining the horizon. Jeff gives us a great look at his adventure in Nepal, but if you'd like to know more about the specific trails he ran, be sure to read his trip report as well. After watching this, you'll want to hit a trail soon too.

Video: To The South Pole and Back - The Hardest 105 Days Of My Life with Ben Saunders

Last year, during the busy Antarctic season, explorer Ben Saunders attempted one of the most difficult and brutal expeditions ever when he traveled to the South Pole, and back to the coast, along the same route that Robert Falcon Scott took back in 1912. The journey covered more than 1800 miles (2896 km) and lasted 105 days, pushing Ben to his very limits. In this fascinating TED Talk, he speaks openly and candidly about that journey, and what he learned about himself along the way. This is some insightful stuff from an explorer who had to deal with everything imaginable on his adventure. Definitely a video you don't want to miss.

BattleFrog Obstacle Course Race Series Giving Away $1 Million Purse in 2015

Obstacle course racing continues to inspire a lot of people to get off the couch, train hard, and have a lot of fun at these unique and challenging events. Earlier this year I got to be a part of the team that launched a new race series called BattleFrog, which made a lot of noise in the industry by bringing unique events with a Navy SEAL theme to the OCR community. The races garnered a lot of attention due to their high level of organization and outstanding courses, making BattleFrog one of the hottest new events to hit the OCR circuit in a very long time. But in 2015, the race management team is taking it to a new level. Yesterday, they announced a new BattleFrog Elite division, and a total prize package of $1 million.

BattleFrog Elite is designed to attract the very best competition possible to these OCR events. As the organization rolls out more events next year, it will also begin tracking season-long points totals, ranking the top 250 elite mail racers, as well as 125 female and masters class racers as well. Those season points will count towards the BattleFrog Elite Series Cup, and at the end of the season, $50,000 in prize money will be warded to the top 30 ranked male athletes, with an additional $50,000 going to the top 30 females as well. On top of that, $25,000 will be awarded to the top 15 ranked competitors in the male masters division, and another $25,000 will be given to the 15 highest ranked female masters competitors as well.

But that is just the beginning. In November of next year, the first ever BattleFrog Series Championship will take place. That event will bring together the top ranked athletes in each of the divisions to race head-to-head to see who will be crowned as the BattleFrog champ. Three other races that will be held throughout the year will provide chances for others to quality for the event as well, giving them an opportunity to get a slice of the $60,000 in cash prizes that will be given away at the event.

Additionally, my friends over at BattleFrog have announced that they are forming Team BattleFrog to compete in events in 2015 as well. The athletes who have already been named to this group include Ryan Atkins and Claude Godbout, both of Canada, as well as Corinna Coffin of the U.S. Atkins and Coffin will serve as team captains.

In 2015, BattleFrog will be showing up in more cities across the U.S., allowing more racers to take part in the Navy SEAL-themed event. In addition to old favorites such as Atlanta and Pittsburgh, which hosted races this year, BattleFrog events are now scheduled in Austin, Houston, and Cincinnati too. For more information, and to view a full race calendar, visit BattleFrogSeries.com.

Forbes Interviews Ueli Steck

It isn't often that a mountaineer gets mainstream press from a source like Forbes, but then again, not every mountaineer is Ueli Steck. The magazine recently conducted a nice interview with the "Swiss Machine," which you can read in its entirety here.

In the interview, Ueli – who is one of the 2015 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year – discusses his admiration for Reinhold Messner, how he compartmentalizes fear on his climbs, and his now legendary solo-summit of Annapurna. He also talks about his approach to speed-climbing in the Alps – comparing those efforts to a game – and his thoughts on the events that went down on Everest this past spring, including the use of helicopters to reach Camp 2.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is in Ueli's discussion of his post-Annapurna plans. He says that immediately following that climb, he felt no motivations what so ever, and he didn't even do much climbing or training last winter at all. He felt like he had achieved the ultimate climb he had been searching for, he was left rudderless afterwards, searching for a new challenge. Fortunately he seems to have found one, although he doesn't say exactly what that challenge will be. It will involve Everest however, although we'll have to be patient to see what he has planned.

As one of the highest profile mountaineers in the world, Ueli always seems to be working on some interesting projects. He has been rather quiet for awhile now, so I suspect he's been working out the logistics of his next big expedition. Perhaps he'll be heading back to the Himalaya in the spring. Considering the events that took place on Everest in 2013 when he, Simone Moro, and Jonathan Griffith got into a very public brawl with the Sherpas, it would be good to see him go back. At the time, a lot of harsh words were said, but it seems that the hard feelings have mellowed some.

To read more of Ueli's thoughts on these topics, and others, click here.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: K2 Permit Issues Resolved, Three Teams Head to Nanga Parbat

With the winter climbing season now just a few days away from officially beginning, things are really starting to get interesting. It now appears that we will have a team on K2 after all, and no less than three squads are headed to Nanga Parbat. Meanwhile, in Alaska, the weather is still dictating the start of the action.

We'll start with an update on K2 today since things have started to improve there. Yesterday I posted the news that Denis Urubko, Adam Bilecki, and Alex Txikon had been denied their climbing permit by the Chinese, just as they were preparing to depart for the start of the climb. Reading Denis' Facebook page, it was clear that he was dismayed over the news, and looking for ways to continue with an expedition that has been planned for months. Fortunately today there is good news for the trio, as the Chinese officials have reissued the permit, although it does involve a two week delay in the start of the climb. This will allow the climbers to remain home for the holidays, and will only minimally alter their schedule. There is no word yet on when they will now depart for China. 

Meanwhile, there are three teams that will now be headed for Nanga Parbat, including a Russian squad that includes Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval which will depart for Pakistan on December 22, and an Iranian team consisting of Reza Bahadorani, Iraj Maani and Mahmoud Hashemi, who will start their climb in early January. 

Polish climber Tomak Mackiewicz is already in Pakistan, where he as been acclimatizing in the Rupal Valley. Mankiewicz has already knocked off a couple of 5000 meter (16,400 ft) peaks, and will be heading to Base Camp in time for Christmas. He'll be joined in BC by Elisabeth Revol and Daniele Nardi, who will bring a film crew along with them. While the trio will share space, Tomak hopes to climb solo to the summit of Nanga. 

There has been no news yet out of Lonnie Dupre, who is in Talkeetna, Alaska awaiting the start of his January expedition to Denali. Poor weather has delayed his flight out to the mountain, although he remains unconcerned at this point, as he doesn't intend to start the climb until January 1 anyway. For now, he sits and waits for things to improve so he begin his fourth attempt at the highest mountain in North America during the coldest, harshest, darkest season of all. 

Finally, lets not forget about Simone Moro. The Italian is also cooking something up for the winter, but he has yet to reveal his plans. We will probably learn more about what he has in store after the holidays as well. Knowing Simone, it should be something very interesting. 

The pieces are now falling into place for the start of the winter season. Things should really start to pick up beginning next week.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Video: Mountain Biking Iceland

We all know Iceland is a fantastic adventure travel destination, but it turns out it has some epic mountain biking trails as well. In this video. Kyle Jameson and friends head to Iceland for some freeriding opportunities, and find plenty of great trails, surrounding by breathtaking scenery, to pedal. I can't think of a better way to explore this country than on the back of a bike, and this five-minute clip is likely to convince you of the same. Sit back and enjoy. Mountain biking doesn't get much better than this.

Video: Katabatic - Episode 4: The First Ascent of Bertha's Tower in Antarctica

If you've been waiting patiently for the fourth episode in EpicTV's Katabatic series, your wait is finally over. The latest video can be found below, and it features explorers Mike Libecki, Freddie Wilkinson, Cory Richards and Keith Ladzinski as they attempt the first ascent of Bertha's Tower in Antarctica. This is challenging climbing in one of the most remote settings on the planet, and if you've watched the previous episodes of the series, you know how far the team has come just to reach this point. The Katabatic series is modern exploration and adventure at its finest, and should not be missed by anyone who reads this blog.

Gear Closet: Armpocket Flash Smartphone Armband for Runners

Still looking for a last minute gift for the runner in your life? Than you may want to consider the new Flash armband from Armpocket, a protective case designed for larger smartphones that comes with a couple of nice extra features that are sure to be appreciated both by you, and the person who uses the armband.

As a daily runner, I like to listen to music and podcasts throughout my workouts. That means taking my smartphone or mp3 player with me when I hit the road. The problem is, I recently purchased a new iPhone 6, which is much larger than its predecessors. Finding an armband case for the phone has been a bit of a struggle, as there aren't many designed specifically for Apple's new devices. I know that there will soon be plenty of options to choose from as more companies release new options, but at the moment there are few good choices for the iPhone 6 or it's even bigger sibling, the 6 Plus.

The Armpocket Flash was built with larger smartphones in mind however, and it has absolutely no problems accommodating the new iPhone, even if it wasn't made specifically for that device. In fact, there is so much room inside that it actually doesn't fit my iPhone quite as snugly as I'd like. For the most part, this isn't a big issue, but  trying to use the phone through the touch-sensitive protective covering can sometimes be an exercise in futility. Since the touch screen window doesn't fit tightly agains the phone, it doesn't register taps and swipes as cleanly as I'd like. On more than one occasion, I've actually had to take the phone out of the case to get it to do what I wanted. That defeats the purpose of using a case in the first place, and was a source of frustration while testing this product. My advice is to set up your music and fitness apps ahead of time, and slide your phone back into the case before you get moving.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Chinese Deny Urubko and Company Climbing Permit for K2

The winter climbing season is set to officially get underway in just a few days, and as I write this, the teams that are planning major expeditions this year are busy putting the finishing touches on their plans. But one squad received bad news yesterday when they learned that the Chinese have denied them a permit to climb on K2 on the eve of their departure. Now, they are left wondering what they can do to salvage an expedition they have been planning for months.

One of the most interesting expeditions that was set to take place this winter was the attempt to complete the first ascent of K2 from the North Side of the mountain. The very experienced team of Denis Urubko, Adam Bilecki, and Alex Txikon were preparing to depart for China this week with the hopes that they could be in Base Camp shortly after the official start of winter. But yesterday Denis posted an update to his Facebook page sharing the news that they had been denied their permit, and as you can imagine, that was a devastating blow.

With no permit, it is difficult to say what the team will do now. They still have a few days before their flight to try to sort through the bureaucracy that prevented them from getting the permit in the first place, but it is hard to know why the Chinese denied their request to climb from the North Side. Perhaps the expedition can still be salvaged provided the communications from Chinese government is forthcoming with their demands.

The other alternative would be to attempt to jump to the Pakistani side of the mountain, although that doesn't seem likely either. This entire expedition hinged on a specific route that Denis had planned from the North Side. The small team was hoping to climb along a new route that would potentially shield them from some of the worst weather that K2 will throw at them in the weeks ahead. The trio of climbers was not training or preparing for the more exposed route along the "normal" path to the summit in Pakistan, which of course has not yielded much success during the winter in the past.

For now, we'll have to just wait to see what will happen. Clearly the team is heartbroken by this news, but hopefully they'll still be able to get something organized for this winter. Time is running short however, and the Chinese bureaucrats are not well known for being flexible. I'll post an update as soon as we know more.

Meanwhile, elsewhere teams are preparing to travel to Nanga Parbat for the first winter ascent of that mountain as well. Expect updates soon. And of course, Lonnie Dupre is already in Alaska, and waiting for the weather to clear so he can travel to Denali in preparation for his attempt at a January ascent of that mountain. The season is just about to really get going, so expect more updates soon.

Antarctica 2014: Teams Progressing Towards the Pole

Earlier in the week I posted an update on the progress of Frédérick Dion, who had just completed his expedition to the Pole of Inaccessibility in Antarctica. While there isn't much new to report on his part, the other teams out on the ice are continuing to make progress, despite difficult conditions. So, while we wait to see what Fréd's next move will be, here are some updates on the other explorers traveling across the frozen continent at the moment.

It feels like kite-skier Faysal Hanneche has had to deal with the worst weather of anyone who is currently in the Antarctic. He has constantly had to battle whiteout conditions on his way to the South Pole, and today was no different. He reports that another storm rolled through his area, cutting visibility dramatically, and making it incredibly difficult just to see the contours of the ground. Fortunately, he wasn't dealing with any sastrugi at this point, and the higher winds allowed him to cover 53 km (33 miles), despite the challenging conditions. He still has a long way to go to reach the Pole however, as his current position puts him 1843 km (1145 miles) from that point. Considering he spent a couple of days tent-bound earlier in the week due to storms, I'm sure he's happy to be making any progress at this point.

Meanwhile, the team consisting of Are Johnson, and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel continues to speed right along. After 33 days out on the ice, they are now just 194 km (120 miles) from the South Pole, as they continue to knock off about 25 km (15.5 miles) per day. If hey stay on their current pace, that would put them at 90ºS sometime around Christmas Day. We'll have to see if they make it to the Pole in time to celebrate the holiday, but they are covering solid distances on a daily basis, despite high winds and incredibly cold temperatures.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Video: Sky Canyons - Stunning Landscapes in Timelapse

This all-too short video features some of the best timelapse imagery you'll see for quite some time. The shots feature amazing landscapes in the American southwest that simply have to be seen to be believed. At just under two-minutes in length, you'll wish this video was much longer by the time you reach the end.

Sky Canyons from Bassem Hamadeh on Vimeo.

Video: Rock Climbing and Bouldering in South Africa

Earlier this year, rock climber Angy Eiter traveled to South Africa with some friends to check out the rock climbing and bouldering scene. This video shares some of their exploits there, while giving us some nice highlights of the South African landscapes. Make yourself comfortable, and enjoy watching these climbers test their skills on some challenging problems.

South Africa Climbs - Moving Pictures from K3-Climbing.at on Vimeo.

Video: Urban Mountain Biking in San Francisco

Here's a cool video that should inspire more of us to get out and ride more regularly. It follows Karl Johnson, an engineer at Mission Motors in San Francisco, as he goes for a bike ride within the city confines. Karl rides his bike to work every day, and as this video shows, he doesn't have to stay confined to just the busy city streets. It is a good reminder that there are often very interesting places to ride all around us, we just have to take the time to look.

ICONIC from Kitsbow on Vimeo.

All-Female Sherpa Climbing Team Turns Attention to Kangchenjunga

One of the best stories to come out of the mountaineering world over the past few years has been the emergence of the Maya Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, and Dawa Yangzum Sherpa as a high profile climbing team. The three women have joined forces to knock off some of the tallest – and toughest – mountains on the planet, and they aren't finished yet. But they have also found themselves struggling not just with the peaks that they have elected to climb, but also plenty of bureaucracy and misunderstanding as well.

The three ladies have already successfully climbed both Mt. Everest and K2. They were part of the very successful climbing season that took place in Pakistan this summer, and were able to summit K2 on July 26. In doing so, they became the first Nepali women to top out on the second highest mountain on the planet – one that is considered much more difficult to climb than Everest itself.

You would think that having knocked off two of the highest profile mountains on the planet, these women would have little problem finding sponsors to assist them in their endeavors. But according to a recent story in the Nepal Times, they are finding very little support for their efforts, even back home in a country that thrives on mountaineering. When they announced that they intended to climb K2, the response from many officials in Nepal was "Where is that?" Never the less, the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal pledged to give the team Rs 500,000 (roughly $8000) to help pay for their expedition. They have yet to receive any of that money, and they still owe Rs 2 million (about $31,600) on their K2 expedition.

Despite these set backs, they are forging ahead with plans to climb another 8000 meter peak. In the spring they hope to make an attempt on Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 8586 meters (28,169 ft). The mountain is located along the border of Nepal and Tibet, which will hopefully aid their cause in finding funding for the expedition. 2015 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain, and the girls hope to be there to commemorate that historic event.

When not climbing, the three women – each of whom is married – works as trekking and climbing guides. They are also very active in Himalayan Women Welfare Society, and organization focused on improving the lives women living in the region. They hope to be a good example for young Nepalis, many of whom don't know much about the mountains that surround them.

Considering all of the stories we've heard about the Nepali government over the past year, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that officials would promise to help this team, only to not deliver on that promise and provide the women with the funds they need. Hopefully they will find a good connection with some sponsors, as they certainly deserve to have some attention drawn to their adventures in the mountains.

The Cost of Climbing Everest: 2015 Edition

Whenever I discuss an expedition to Mt. Everest with someone who doesn't know much about mountaineering, I find that they are always surprised by two things. First, they have no idea that it takes roughly two months to summit the mountain after you factor in travel time to the Himalaya, getting to Base Camp, acclimatizing to the altitude, and waiting for the proper weather window. They are also continually shocked at how much an Everest climb actually costs, as they don't understand all the logistics involved.

To help all of us understand those costs better, each year, our friend Alan Arnette does a detailed analysis of the current going rates for an Everest climb. Yesterday, he posted the 2015 edition of his annual report, and it wasn't good news for prospective climbers. As Alan indicates in his report, costs have gone up substantially for the spring climbing season, and more companies are jumping across the border into Tibet in order to avoid ongoing strife between the Nepali government and the Sherpas in the wake of last year's shutdown on the South Side.

There are several significant factors that are causing the price of an Everest expedition to go up, including a raise in price for the climbing permit. This year, all climbers will be charged a flat-fee of $11,000 to get their name on a permit. In the past, it was usually about $10,000, with the overall price for the permit spread out across multiple climbers. Alan also says that more teams are increasing the amount of life insurance they are carrying for their Sherpa staff as well, going up from $10k to $15k, with the difference being covered by the clients of course. On top of that, Nepal has begun enforcing a 2012 rule that requires all trekkers and climbers to hire a local Sherpa guide for use during their visit. He estimated that will add an additional $4k to the price.

What does all of this mean for climbers wanting to attempt Everest? Alan says that the average price for a climb without western guides is now at $41,700. With western guides, that price rises to $57,000 on the South Side, and $46,000 on the North. In other words, it is a substantial sum of money no matter which side of the mountain you're climbing, and who you are climbing with. Alan is quick to point out that a few high-end guide services on the North Side are also skewing the average to a degree. Alpenglow and Himex have both jumped to the Chinese side of the mountain for 2015, and they charge $79,000 and $64,000 respectively. Without their numbers added into the mix, a North Side climb averages about $37,000.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Video: A Visit to Arctic Norway

This video captures the stunning landscapes of arctic Norway in timelapse, giving viewers an opportunity to truly appreciate this breathtaking part of the world. If possible, you should definitely watch this three-minute clip in high definition and with a good set of headphones or speakers. The music is part of the experience. Enjoy your short trip through Scandinavia.

Arctic Norway: A Time Lapse from Fatih M. Sahbaz Photography on Vimeo.

Video: Highlining the Vajolet Towers in Italy

This video comes our way courtesy of EpicTV and features mountain athlete Hayley Ashburn as she travels to the Vajolet Towers in Italy to make one of the craziest highline attempts that you've ever seen. Hayley tries to walk a 50-meter rope suspended high above the ground, with some incredible scenery from the Dolomites providing the background. This clip will provide a bit of adrenaline, along with great looking mountains.

Dave Cornthwaite Launches Project Origin - Smaller, Shorter Adventures for a Good Cause

Because he doesn't already have enough things to keep him busy, British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite has launched a new adventurous endeavor designed to not only help other would-be adventurers realize their dreams, but also to raise enough funds to plant one million trees as well. This new endeavor is called Project Origin, and it will focus on smaller, shorter adventures by stand-up paddleboard (SUP) with the expressed goal of making the world a better place through adventure.

As you probably already know, over the past few years Dave has been focused on his Expedition 1000 project, during which he is attempting to complete 25 individual journeys of at least 1000 miles (1600 km) or more, without the use of any form of motorized transportation. So far, those projects have taken him across Australia on a skateboard, down the Mississippi River on a paddleboard, and by Hobie Kayak from Oslo to Helsinki. Project Origin will take a similar approach to adventure, but on a smaller scale.

This new undertaking  is expected to be a 3-5 year project that will consist of 25 smaller journeys done by SUP. The first of those journeys has just wrapped up, with Dave leading a team of four other individuals on a circumnavigation of the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. That adventure took 12 days to complete, covering a total of 146 miles (235 km) in the process, and wrapping up just this past weekend.

This first leg of Project Origin begins another fund raising effort on the part of Cornthwaite. This time out, he's attempting to raise enough money to plant more than one million trees. His efforts will aid a variety of organizations across the globe, so that the tree plantings will take place in different locations and environments. To that end, Dave has launched a Just Giving campaign, with proceeds going to the Tree Aid organization.

Project Origin isn't just about conducting smaller adventures to raise funds for the trees however, as there is a sub-component called #Begin that will be of interest to a lot of people as well. #Begin is Dave's attempt to give back to the adventure community by helping 200 other people to get to the starting line of their very first adventure. He'll offer support and advice to those would-be adventurers, and in return they'll help raise funds for the cause as well.

You can learn a lot more about Dave, Expedition 1000, Project Origin, and #Begin on his website and Facebook page. And if you'd like to get a glimpse of what the first SUP journey of Project Origin was all about, check out the video below. This looks like it will be another fantastic endeavor from someone who has a long track record of conducting great adventures, and encouraging others to find their own.


Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Lonnie Dupre is in Alaska

As I write this, winter is now officially just six days away from starting. That means, a number of climbers are preparing to depart to the Karakoram and Himalaya to take on some big peaks during the coldest, most challenging season of all. But not every winter expedition is taking place in those two mountain ranges this year, as Lonnie Dupre has once again returned to Alaska, where he's now gearing up for the start of his latest attempt to climb Denali in January.

Lonnie updated his website over the weekend with a dispatch indicating that he had arrived in Talkeetna, with all of his gear for the expedition. He had hoped to fly out to the mountain today, so he could begin getting settled in Base Camp, but the weather forecasts indicate freezing rain throughout the area for the next several days. So, for now, he'll sit and wait for the skies to clear before he catches his flight out to the Alaskan wilderness.

This will be Dupre's fourth attempt to climb Denali in January. The mountain has seen 16 total summits in winter, with just three of those coming during the coldest month of them all. Of those 16 summits, 6 perished on the descent, which gives you a sense of how dangerous Denali can be during the winter season. Lonnie expects temperatures to fall below -60ºF/-51ºC, with winds howling at speeds in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h). Heavy snow, whiteout conditions, and avalanches are not uncommon either, with the weather being the number one cause of the failure of his previous attempts.

In the past, Lonnie has attempted to climb Denali with the use of tents. Instead, he would dig a series of snow caves up the mountain, which would become his home during the expedition. This time out, he'll be carrying a small tent with him as well, giving him the opportunity to use it as an emergency shelter should the need arise. As with all previous attempts on the mountain in January, he'll also wait until the start of the new year before launching the climb. Any extra time he has on the mountain before that will be spend organizing gear, scouting the route, and acclimatizing to both the weather and altitude.

At 6168 meters (20,237 ft), Denali – aka Mt. McKinley – is the tallest mountain in North America. It is a technically difficult peak to climb, with unpredictable weather all year round. Because it sits at an extreme latitude, the air pressure is higher on Denali as well, making it seem that the mountain is actually taller than it really is. It's 5486 meter (18,000 ft) prominence is greater than any other mountain on the planet as well.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing updates on Lonnie's progress, and we'll be watching his expedition closely throughout the month of January. Hopefully this time luck will be on his side, and the weather will cooperate for once. That hasn't been the case on previous attempts, but the polar explorer/mountaineer seems optimistic that he can complete the expedition this time out. We'll soon find out if that is true.

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick at the Pole of Inaccessibility!

The 2014 Antarctic season is far from over, but one polar explorer wrapped up his journey earlier today by reaching a goal that had eluded him for days. Kite-skier Frédérick Dion has reached the South Pole of Inaccessibility at long last, becoming the first person to travel to that point solo and unsupported. He also managed to achieve the POI in record time, despite having to wait for the winds to return over the past week or so.

Fréd set out from the Russian Novo station on November 10, and arrived at the POI on December 15. Over the course of those 35 days, he crossed 3000 km (1865 miles) of some of the most remote and difficult terrain on the planet. Along the way, he face temperatures that plummeted below -50ºC/-58ºF, intense blizzards, equipment failure, and a fire that nearly burned up his tent. He also has suffered frostbite and numerous other minor physical ailments, just so he could get the opportunity to stand at what just might be the most remote place on the planet.

The Pole of Inaccessibility is a place on the Antarctic continent that is defined as the point that it furthest from the coastline in all direction. In this case, that point sits at 82º06'S, 54º58'E, which is roughly 878 km (546 miles) from the Geographic South Pole. In the past, only two other expeditions have managed to reach this place on foot. They include the team of Paul Landry, Henry Cookson, Rupert Longsdon and Rory Sweet who made the trip in 48 days back in 2006, and Eric McNair-Landry and Sebastian Copeland did the same journey in 55 days in 2011.

Fréd managed to cover much of the distance at a fast pace, using his large kite to capture the wind, and pull him across the ice at a high speed. In fact, he traveled so quickly that by December 5, he was just 100 km (62 miles) from his destination. Unfortunately, the winds disappeared, and all of his momentum came to a halt. For several days he waited for the winds to return, but they were either nonexistent, or blew in the wrong direction. He tried skiing without the kite, but made little progress. This weekend, the winds turned in his favor again, and he was able to complete the final leg of the journey.

In the dispatch announcing his arrival at the POI, Fréd indicated that he has enough food and fuel to survive for another 30 days on the ice, so it appears that he won't be packing his bags for home just yet. Where exactly he'll go has yet to be determined, although it is possible he'll head over to the Geographic South Pole, or could be returning to Novo station. He seems in good spirits, and is eager to continue his adventure on the frozen continent.

Congratulations to Frédérick and his support team on accomplishing their goal.