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.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Video: Take a Timelapse Cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula

Most of us won't have the opportunity to visit Antartica ourselves, so we have to find alternate means of visiting that incredibly beautiful place. This video was shot by Andrew Peacock, a medical doctor (and fantastic photographer) who teaches expedition medicine courses. Andrew recently wrapped up just such a course aboard the National Geographic Explorer, a ship operated by Lindblad Expeditions. While he was aboard the Explorer the vessel completed a cruise through the Lemaire Channel, an 11 km (6.8 mile) passage that is just 1600 meters wide at its narrowest point. This leg of his Antarctic journey made for a scenic route, which Andrew captured in timelapse. As you'll see below, this amazing part of the world is simply too beautiful for words.

Thanks to Andrew for sharing this with us. I hope everyone enjoys it.

'National Geographic Explorer' - Lemaire Channel/65ºSouth from www.footloosefotography.com on Vimeo.

Video: The First Ascent of K6 West

This remarkable short film takes us on a journey into the Karakoram of Pakistan, where a team of climbers sets out to climb K6 from the Western Route. The video, which is 20 minutes in length, follows mountaineers Raphael Slawinski, Ian Welstead, and Jesse Huey's 2012 expedition, during which they learn about the now-infamous massacre of 10 climbers in Nanga Parbat Base Camp. This gives them pause for their own expedition, with Jesse electing to return home. But Raphael and Ian Proceed, eventually reaching the summit of the 7040 meter (23,097 ft) mountain, which until that point had been unclimbed. If you're a fan of mountaineering on the big peaks, you'll definitely want to watch this.

K6 West from Latitude Photography on Vimeo.

Video: BASE Jumper Completes First Wingsuit High-Five

Wingsuit pilots continue to come up with some great stunts to add to their repertoire. In this video, we see one complete the first flying high-five in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the Project: BASE, an organization whose motto is "Human Flights for Human Rights." The organization is looking to raise funds for charitable endeavors, although looking at their website, it really isn't clear exactly what those endeavors entail. Still, they make a mean looking video, as you'll see below.

Winter Climbs 2014: Denis Urubko Talks K2 in Winter Prior to Departure to China

In just a couple of short weeks the 2014-2015 winter climbing season will get underway in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and beyond. This year, we know that there will be teams on both Nanga Parbat and K2, as climbers attempt to complete the first winter ascents of both of those mountains. Kazakh mountaineer Denis Urubko, a veteran of winter climbing on big peaks, will lead his team – which includes Adam Bilecki of Poland and Alex Txikon of Spain – to the North Face of K2, the toughest mountain in the world no matter the season. Prior to setting out, he sat down for a two-part interview with Medium.com that offers some insight into what the team has planned.

In the first part of the interview, Denis talks the logistics of K2 in winter, saying it will certainly be amongst his toughest projects while comparing it to the new routes he opened on Broad Peak in 2005 and Cho Oyu in 2009. He says that some of the biggest challenges of this expedition will be to stay healthy and patient, while waiting for the perfect weather window to give the climbers a shot at the summit. Urubko goes on to talk about why he wants to climb K2 in the winter, how he keeps these dangerous expeditions to the big peaks in perspective, and the minimalist approach the climbers will take above Base Camp.

In one interesting segment of the interview, Denis is pressed about the limits of his climbing abilities, to which he replies that he feels he is capable of climbing to 9500 meters (31,167 ft) of altitude without the use of supplemental oxygen. Of course, there isn't a mountain on the planet that reaches that high, so he is essentially saying that he can go up any mountain in the world without using O2. He adds that when he was younger, that limit was closer to 8600 meters (28,215 ft).

In the second part of the interview, the Russian climber talks about the mountaineers he admires (Vlad Smirnov, Eric Shipton, Reinhold Messner, etc.), the importance of every piece of gear that you have with you at altitude, and the importance of meeting the needs of sponsors in the modern age of exploration. He calls climbing on an 8000 meter peak in the summer months "a kind of tourism," and when asked who is the best mountaineer in the world today, he artfully dodges the question by saying you would first have to define the style of climbing, with great athletes attempting very different things.

All in all, both parts of the interview are very interesting and insightful to read. If you have an interest in the upcoming K2 expedition, I'd highly recommend them both.

Denis, Adam and Alex will depart for China on December 16. Once there, they'll sort their gear, work out the logistics and paperwork, and then proceed to the mountain. Winter officially begins on December 21, and they should arrive in Base Camp shortly there after. Stay tuned for plenty of updates on their climb.

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick on the Move, POI Still Out of Reach

Just another quick update from the Antarctic today, where Frédérick Dion continues to struggle on his final approach to the Pole of Inaccessibility. After 31 days on the ice, he is now just 65 km (40 miles) from his goal, but those final kilometers are proving to be the most difficult of all.

Because he is kite-skiing to the POI, Fréd generally made very good time in the early days of the expedition, sometimes covering more than 100 km (62 miles) in a single day. But as he neared the end point of the journey, the winds have either turned against him, or been completely non-existent. For the past week, he has been able to make hardly any headway at all, although on Wednesday he was able to kite for about a half day, making some progress at last.

In yesterday's Antarctic update I mentioned that it was a bit unusual for a polar explorer to simply sit and wait for the winds to return. Most would pack their kite away, and continue under their own power, covering as much distance as they could while pulling their pulk full of gear behind them as they go. Apparently, Frédérick isn't particularly fond of cross country skiing, as is mentioned in his most recent dispatch. He finds it tedious, difficult work, and even back home in Canada it is not one of his favorite activities. Never the less, yesterday he decided to give it a go, and managed to cover about 18 km (11 miles), inching him ever closer to the Pole of Inaccessibility.

Unfortunately for Fréd, the weather forecasts don't bode well for fast progress to the POI. It appears that the winds will remain calm over the next few days, which means if he wants to continue to make progress, he'll probably have to resort to skiing instead. At the moment, it doesn't appear that he'll wrap up the expedition this weekend, although if the winds to shift in his favor, that could change.

For those unfamiliar with the Pole of Inaccessibility, it is a the point that is located the furthest from the coastline on the Antarctic continent. In this case, that point falls at about 82º06'S, 54º58'E, which is approximately 878 km (546 miles) from the Geographic South Pole. The POI is considered one of the most remote places on the planet, and if he is successful, Frédérick will be the first person to kite-ski to that destination solo and unsupported.

But first he has to get there, and at this point it is tough to say when that will happen. Eventually the winds will turn in his favor, and he'll wrap up these remaining miles very quickly. I'll post an update when he does.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video: A Portrait of New Zealand

If you still haven't had your fill of great videos showing the amazing landscapes of New Zealand, then check this five-minute short-film out. It was shot earlier in the year, and gives us some more fantastic images of a country that practically exudes adventure. For hiking, climbing, rafting, and kayaking, it is tough to beat New Zealand as an all-around get outdoor destination. Enjoy this clip, and be inspired to visit the place for yourself.

Portrait of New Zealand from • of two lands • on Vimeo.

Video: The Night Watchman - An Adventure Photographer in Whistler

This wonderful video follows photographer David McColm as he travels into the backcountry near Whistler, British Columbia to capture some fantastic shots of the landscapes there, and specifically timelapse images of the Northern Lights. It gives us a glimpse of the lengths that David, and other photographers like him, go to just to get the best shot possible. In addition to watching him work, which should prove interesting to other photographers, the video also provides some excellent examples of his work as well. Great stuff.

Gear Closet: Camelbak Forge

Do you have a coffee-loving adventurer on your shopping list this holiday season? If so, you might want to consider picking up a Forge travel mug from CamelBak, the same company that makes hydration packs for just about every activity you can think of.

I first got the opportunity to check out the Forge back at Outdoor Retailer in the summer of 2013, and was immediately impressed with how much thought went into the design of the product. CamelBak could have easily just mass produced any-old travel mug, and people would have bought it based on their brand alone. But the design team actually came up with some unique features for the Forge, and went out of their way to ensure that it stands out in a very crowded market.

What makes the Forge so special? Well, for starters, it comes with a leak-proof, self-sealing cap that ensure your warm beverage goes in your mouth, and not down the front of your shirt. A trigger mechanism is integrated into the cap, making it super easy to open the seal when you're ready for  a sip of your drink. Releasing the trigger seals the lid down tight, keeping the liquid in its place, and preventing accidental splashes. A lock-open button allows you to keep the seal open at all times if you choose, which can come in handy when you're wanting to vent out some heat.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Forge is how easy it is to clean. Removing the lid from the canister  allows the cam-arms on the sealing mechanism to flip open, allowing you to clean every nook and cranny of the lid. Other travel mugs have similar caps, but none are this easy to clean, which means they tend to build up grime over time. The Forge is also dishwasher safe, so you can toss it in with the rest of your dishes, and have the forge ready for use whenever you hit the road.

In addition to the cap, there has been a lot of thought put into the cup that actually holds the coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or other liquids too. The metal canister features double-walled vacuum insulation, which CamelBak says will keep your beverage warm for 4+ hours. That's plenty of time to enjoy a hot drink on your commute, or on that cross-country road trip. The bottom the cup also features a break-proof cap that absorbs impact, and keeps the mug looking brand new.

It is easy to think that all travel mugs are created equal, but when you feel the Forge in your hand, you know it is a quality product. Available in two sizes (16 oz and 12 oz), and a variety of colors, the Forge actually looks great too. The 16 oz version sells for $30, while the 12 oz model is $29. Either makes a great gift for the holiday season, and will be appreciated all winter long.

Check the Forge out online at the CamelBak website, or pick one up at a local retailer.

Antarctica 2014: Tractor Girl at the Pole, Frederick Still Stalking the POI

It has been another couple of busy days in Antarctica, where the teams are pressing ahead with their expeditions, despite conditions continuing to be challenging at times. Yesterday we had our first arrival to the South Pole, marking the end of one journey, while a kite-skier patiently waits for the wind to return.

We'll start today's update with news about Dutch adventurer Manon Ossevoort aka Tractor Girl. It has been a dream of Manon's for some time to drive a tractor to the South Pole, and on Tuesday she accomplished that feat at long last. The journey covered more than 2500 km (1553 miles) over 17 days, starting at the Russian Novo Station. Along the way, they encountered incredibly tough weather and surface conditions, which slowed progress to a crawl and extended the trip for a few extra days. Now, they'll take a little breather, before beginning the long journey back to the coast.

This expedition was not only conducted to give Manon a chance to realize her dream, but was also meant to commemorate the 1958 journey to the South Pole by Sir Edmund Hillary. The legendary explorer led the first motorized expedition to that point, after he and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to summit Everest five years earlier.

Congratulations to Manon and her entire team on reach the South Pole. Enjoy the drive back.

Elsewhere, Canadian kite-skier Frederick Dion continues to patiently wait for his opportunity to wrap up his expedition as well. The winds have not been in his favor in recent days, and while he is now just 90 km (56 miles) from the Pole of Inaccessibility, he can't quite reach the finish line. A few nights back, he was awakened by the stirrings of the wind, only to find that they were blowing in the wrong direction. So, for now, he sits and waits for his opportunity to forge on. In the meantime, he rests, reads, and eats.

It is a bit unusual for a kite-skier in the Antarctic to simply wait for the winds. Most explorers would at least continue to make progress by skiing under their own power, although that is much more of a physical challenge, and travel is at a very slow speed compared to when they are kiting. I'm a bit surprised that Fred hadn't prepared for this possibility, and isn't at least covering a few kilometers each day in an effort to get closer to the POI. Hopefully the winds will turn in his favor soon.

ExWeb Mountaineering Round Table Part 2: Cameras, Video, and Staying Powered Up

Explorers Web has posted the second part of their technology round table, in which they discuss how some of the top mountaineers and explorers in the world stay connected while on their expeditions, while also documenting their adventures for sponsors and social media followers back home. If you missed Part 1 yesterday, and have an interest in how expedition technology works, I'd urge you to check it out here.

The panel consists of some big names, including Italian climber Simone Moro, and American Alan Arnette. Wingsuit pilot Joby Ogwyn is also part of the discussion, as is mountaineer and polar explorer Ryan Waters, amongst others. The panel was moderated by Tom Sjogren from ExWeb, who has climbed many big peaks, and skied to the North and South Pole.

Yesterday, the discussion mainly focused on satellite communications and staying in touch while in remote corners of the globe. The various members of the panel shared their strategies for which devices worked best for them, and what they preferred to carry when they go into the field. Today, the discussion shifts to camera equipment, with most of the panelists saying that they now take action cameras with them on their journeys, including a GoPro or the Garmin Virb. One even recommended the new Sony AX100, which is small, lightweight, and shoots in 4K.

Next, the panel moved on to how they stay powered up while at higher altitude and in base camp. Some, like Simone, carry USB battery packs to keep their gear functioning properly when high a mountain, while others turn to solar solutions from the likes of GoalZero and PowerTraveller. Back in BC, gasoline powered generators are still the best source of power, especially as more people travel with electronic gear, including guides and Sherpas.

Finally, the group talked about how they stay connected for high speed Internet while on their adventures. Most said they used the BGAN or Thuraya IP. These lightweight, yet powerful, solutions allow them to post dispatches, share photos and video, and stay in touch with friend and family. In this modern age, many sponsors want to see their athletes sharing the experience from the field, and these devices are crucial to that process.

The panel wrapped things up by discussing other tech gear that they day with them on their expeditions, including such items as foot warming systems, smartphones, and oxygen saturation meter. Some of the gear they touch on in this last section extends to everything from having proper tents, to their favorite climbing harnesses.

All in all, this two-part series from ExWeb has proven highly educational for anyone who wants to learn about the technology that keeps expeditions moving forward. I found it to be a good read, even for someone who stays on top of this kind of information. If you're planning a trip of your own, and want to be able to stay in touch with those back home, I'd suggest reading both part.