Thursday, October 18, 2018

Video: Nat Geo Takes Us on a Tour of Angkor Wat

Cambodia's famous stone city and temple complex Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mixing history, culture, and unbelievable craftsmanship into one sprawling location. For many of us, a visit to this place is extremely high on the bucket list, although National Geographic has made such a visit a bit easier thank to this clip. In the video below, you'll get an epic tour of the Angkor complex, not only getting up close and personal with some of the important structures and sculptures there, but aerial shots of the region that help to give it a sense of scale. If you've always wanted to visit Angkor Wat but haven't quite made it there yet, this clip will help tide you over until you can get there in person.

Video: North Face Team Finds Discomfort in Antarctica

As we steam straight on towards the start of the 2018-2019 Antarctic ski and climbing season, this video takes us back to last year when a team of North Face climbers traveled down to Queen Maud Land to make some first ascents on several rock walls and snowcapped peaks. TNF has slowly been releasing short teaser videos about this expedition and today they bring us one that shows just how difficult and demanding the weather conditions there can be. Climbing in the Antarctic isn't easy, even for the likes of Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Alex Honnold.

Nat Geo Has the Inside Scoop on Skiing the Dream Line on Lhotse

A few weeks back we shared the news that Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison has accomplished one of the last great feats of ski mountaineering by conquering the so called "Dream Line" on Lhotse. At the time, there weren't a lot of details about the climb to the summit of the 8516 meter (27,940 feet) peak and the ski descent that followed, only a few social media posts that hinted at the challenges and exhilaration that came with the experience. Now, we're learning a lot more about what this impressive expedition was like directly from Nelson herself.

National Geographic has posted an article that offers an inside look at the first ski descent of the 4th highest peak in the world. That article takes the form of an interview with Nelson, who shares insights into what its like to be in Everest Base Camp in the fall when no one else is around and the challenges that arise from having the mountain all to yourself. She also discusses safety on Lhotse in the off-season, the length of the expedition, what it was like to summit Lhotse in the fall, and what it was like when she and Morrison, along with a few support team members, topped out.

Of course, what we really want to know about is the ski descent itself, which is considered to be amongst the most dangerous and difficult in the world. Unsurprisingly, she and Morrison were a team going up and stayed close together going back down too. The most challenging section was a drop through a long and technical couloir which eventually fed out into the wider and more forgiving Lhotse Face. They had already skied part of the Lhotse Face while acclimatizing, so that section was well known to them after the Dream Line descent.

Hilaree wraps up the interview by trying to put this latest accomplishment into perspective with some of the other things she has done in her career. For instance, she has also skied down Cho Oyu as well as Makalu, so this was another 8000-meter peak to add to her resume. But she has also branched out into other areas too, including endurance racing and other sports. Now, it feels like she's firing on all cylinders and really finding a high level of success in the mountains.

To read the entire interview click here.

ExWeb Interviews Controversial Mountaineer Denis Urubko

If you're looking for some interesting reading today, check out Explorers Web's great interview with climber Denis Urubko, an extremely talented mountaineer who also has a bit of a controversial side. The Russian-born climber, who is now a Polish citizen, is known for his blunt approach to dealing with teammates and the press. Last year, as part of the Polish Ice Warriors team that made a winter attempt on K2 he also famously went AWOL when he disagreed with team leader Krzysztof Wielicki's approach to the expedition, striking off on his own for the summit. That bid ultimately failed, and Urubko was dismissed from the squad and went home. Now, he's telling his side of the story while sharing wisdom from his numerous expeditions.

For those not familiar with Urubko, he has climbed 8000-meter peaks on 21 different occasions, including two in the winter. Most of his expeditions are done without supplemental oxygen as well, and he is amongst the strongest alpinists in the world without question. In fact, during the K2 winter attempt with the Poles, he did the bulk of the work in terms of installing ropes, establishing high camps, and scouting the mountain. That was part of his level of frustration as Denis felt that some members of the team weren't pulling their own weight.

In the interview, which is the longest and most in depth that I've seen with Urubko since the K2 expedition, the Russian-turned-Pole mountaineer talks at length about what went right and what went wrong on that climb. He also talks about the logistics of climbing K2, which is an extremely challenging peak in the best of conditions, but it remains the only 8000-meter mountain yet to be summited in winter.

Urubko also discusses his plans for the future –– including a return to K2 at some point –– as well as a wide variety of other topics. He talks about his relationship with the other members of the Polish team, the ethics of leaving them behind and striking out on his own, future plans to climb Cerro Torre in Patagonia, and much, much more. For those who know Urubko and his history, it is a fascinating interview indeed.

Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

Himalaya Fall 2018: Ama Dablam Opens for Business, Tragic Loss on Mt. Gurja

I'm back from the 2018 Outdoor Blogger Summit and working on catching up on the news from while I was away. A lot has happened over the past few days with climbing expeditions in the Himalaya continuing to unfold and a tragic accident on one of the lesser-known peaks in the region.

We'll start with the bad news. Last weekend, nine climbers lost their lives on Mt. Gurja, a 7193 meter (23,599 ft) peak located in western Nepal, not far from Dhaulagiri. The group consisted of five climbers from South Korea and four Sherpa guides, all of which were caught in a massive landslide while in Base Camp. Apparently, the team was waiting out bad weather there before proceeding up to high camp, but heavy snow accumulated on the mountains flanks. Eventually, that snow gave lose, burying BC in a wall of ice, snow, rock and dirt.

Amongst those who lost their lives was Korean climbing legend Kim Chang-ho. He was the first person from his home country to scale all 14 8000-meter peaks and was the leader of the expedition to Gurja as well.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the team. This story is a sharp reminder that even Nepal's "lesser" peaks are still dangerous and that Mother Nature can be cruel. This is one of the worst accidents in the Himalaya since the earthquake of 2015.

Elsewhere, teams are preparing to climb a variety of sub-8000 meter peaks as the autumn season continues to unfold. Our friend Alan Arnette is in the midst of his expedition to Island Peak for instance, and The Himalayan Times reports that rope fixing on Ama Dablam was completed a few days back, clearing the way for teams to begin scaling that famous and unique mountain. The 6812 meter (22,349 ft) peak is a popular one for climbers looking to tune up prior to a major 8000-meter climb in the spring, and apparently most teams are still getting settled into Base Camp and acclimatizing.

Last week, a team of three climbers consisting of mountain guide Jyamchang Bhote, Belgian Martin Paul Discors and Swedish alpinist Manuel Alejandro Jimenez Carrosa scaled Ama Dablam before the ropes were installed. They went up in alpine style in a fast and light descent a few days ahead of the rope fixing Sherpas. Now that the stage has been set however, we can expect more summits to come.

As mentioned previously, the fall climbing season is kind of winding down. The big 8000-meter peaks have been scaled and those squads have gone home. There are still several ongoing expeditions on smaller mountains however, so we'll continue to keep an eye on things for interesting news.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Heading to Outdoor Blogger Summit

Just another quick heads up to let regular readers know that I'll be on the road again for most of next week. This time out, I'm heading to Outdoor Blogger Summit in Roanoke, VA where I'll not only get the chance to hang out with other content creators in the outdoor industry, I'll be speaking on a couple of topics too. 

I've been a part of this event for the past four years and it has been fun to watch it grow and evolve over that time. For the next version of the summit things are going to change up some, but it's too early to talk about that just yet. This time out though, attendees will learn about how to make money from their online publications, work better with editors, balance their time as a freelancer, and so much more. The line-up of speakers (yours truly excluded) are fantastic as well, with some really interesting and innovative things to talk about.

The conference runs from Sunday through Tuesday of next week, but I'll be sticking around Roanoke on Wednesday to do a little fly fishing while I'm in the neighborhood. I'm back home that evening and should be back on schedule with blog updates (and new episodes of The Adventure Podcast) after that. Until then, enjoy your weekend, get outside and have an adventure or two. As always, thanks for reading. 

Video: Climbing an Unclimbed Peak in the Indian Himalaya

Back in May o this year, three British climbers –– Malcolm Bass, Paul Figg and Guy Buckingham –– travels deep into the Indian Himalaya to attempt the first ascent of a Janhukot, a difficult and demanding peak that has turned back all attempts for decades. The three men filmed their expedition and soon we'll be getting a full documentary about their experience there, but for now we'll have to settle for the trailer below. If this is any indication of the final product, we could have the makings of another classic mountaineering film. The scenery and setting looks spectacular and there appears to be no shortage of drama either. Add this to the growing list of documentaries we'll need to see in the near future, as it looks like a good one.

Janhukot - Trailer from Pertex on Vimeo.

Tusker Trail Shares a Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro for Beginners

Climbing Kilimanjaro –– Africa's highest peak –– is a bucket list adventure for just about any adventurous traveler. The non-technical trek to the summit is a challenge, in no small part due to the increasingly thin air as you approach the top. But, the hike is an amazing one for so many reasons, including the unique ecosystems –– five in total –– that you pass through on your way up and the amazing views you'll discover along the way.

If you've been considering a Kilimanjaro climb yourself, but aren't sure what to expect of where to being, my friends over at Tusker Trail have a blog post you may want to have a look at. It is a First Timer's Guide to Climbing Kili that shares some great information that I wish I had known before my first go at the mountain.

Some of the insights shared in the post include putting the climb into perspective with a reminder that the mountain may be daunting, but it is far from impossible to climb. The article also emphasizes that you won't be climbing alone, as others will be along to share encouraging words and provide support when things get challenging. The routes are also clearly marked, well traveled, and easy to follow, taking some of the mystery out of the trek, even for those making their first major trek.

The story also touches on the importance of training for the climb and not just in the gym. You can help increase your chances of success, and limit the amount of suffering you endure, by hitting the trail with a full pack to help your body prepare for the climb. You'll also want to wear in your boots and check out your gear prior to leaving. We're also reminded that reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is a major life-goal for many, requiring perseverance and focus. It isn't easy, but it is very rewarding.

I've said on more than one occasion that for my money, Tusker is the best operator on Kilimanjaro. If you're considering making the climb yourself, take a look at the options that they have to offer. The company's guides are top notch, extremely well trained, and very friendly. You'll also be hard pressed to find better meals from any other guide service as well. Check out their Kilimanjaro itineraries –– as well as their other amazing trips –– at

So Far This Year the Arctic Sea Ice isn't Reforming as it Should

When it comes to climate change and warming temperatures on a global scale, one of he canaries in the coal mine has always been the Arctic and Antarctic ice. These cold regions of the planet have withstood the changes in temperature that seemed to be impacting other parts of the planet for a long time, but now they are starting to feel the impact of warming conditions as well. Case in point, the sea ice in the Central Arctic basin, which melts off during the summer and like clockwork begins to reform in the autumn and winter. But this year, that isn't happening and it could be a harbinger of the further impact of climate change.

The Central Arctic basin is a stretch of the Arctic Ocean that covers an area of about 4.5 million square kilometers (1.7 million sq. miles). Typically by late August, this section of frigid water has usually reached its lowest point of the year in terms of the amount of ice that is found in that region. Warm temperatures throughout the spring and fall causes the ice to retreat to a degree before temperatures begin heading the other direction late in the summer and the ice rapidly starts to regenerate. That isn't happening this year and usually warm weather is to blame.

At the moment, temperatures over the high Arctic have been hovering around 18ºF (10ºC) above their normal readings for this time of year. That is preventing the ice from forming and filling in this large area as it has typically done in the past. According to meteorologists, a massive high pressure front that stretches across Alaska all the way to the North Pole is keeping the warmer temperatures in place, This is having an adverse effect on the regrowth of the ice. But climatologists are also quick to point out that ocean temperatures are also warmer than usual, which isn't something that changes quickly with the weather. That is the result of years of climate change slowly bringing water temps up. The two factors –– warming oceans and an Arctic heatwave –– are stalling out the ice growth.

According to historical records, the Arctic sea ice is at its second lowest point ever recorded for this time of the year. Back in 2007, conditions were also warmer there and the ice failed to regenerate as quickly as it should. If the heat wave moves on and temperature return to normal, the growth of the ice should pick up again. Just how much of it will rebound remains to be seen and of course it could have an impact on anyone who is considering skiing to the North Pole early next year. I know of at least one or two such expeditions that are in the planning phases, but the lack of ice could make such a journey all but impossible.

Again, this isn't solely the work of climate change, as a massive weather front is playing its part too. But, clearly the warming ocean temperatures are having an impact on the Arctic. Hopefully this is just an anomaly, although as more and more data continues to mount, it is starting to look more like a trend.

Outside Magazine Posts 2019 Winter Gear Buying Guide

If you're in need of new gear to keep you warm, dry, and moving during the cold months of winter, then you'll definitely want to head on over to Outside Online, the website for Outside magazine A few days back the publication posted its 2019 Winter Gear Buyers Guide, and as usual it offers a cornucopia of new products to sift through as we inch closer to that season here in North America.

This time out, the team at Outside sifted through hundreds of pieces of outdoor gear to narrow down their buyers guide to a mere 331 items. They've conveniently broken down those products into a few broad categories to make it easier for the rest of us to pour over. For instance, readers will find a Ski & Snowboard section that is further subdivided not only into the actual skies and snowboards themselves, but also boots, bindings, poles, helmets, goggles, and more. Similarly, there is a Layers section that contains jackets, base and mid-layers, ski pants, and even a category for "adventure blankets."

Next up, we have the Essentials category, which is a broad one that covers things like backpacks, winter travel gear, cameras and drones, camping equipment, hats, gloves, safety gear, and a bunch of other items that don't necessarily fit into the regular headings. As you would guess, the Fitness heading offers running shoes and gear, fat bikes for riding on snow, hiking equipment, snowshoes, watches, workout clothing, and cycling equipment. Finally, the Après category provides insights into the best sunglasses, clothing, grooming products shoes, and other items you'll need while hanging out at the lodge.

As usual, this guide is deep, well designed, and fun to read. There are so many things to go through here that you can easily lose a few hours chasing your gear fix down the rabbit hole. As such, you'll definitely want to set aside some time to check out everything that made the cut, as there are too many interesting and promising items to even begin to list them all here. Gear nerds are going to love it however, so head on over and start shopping here.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Video: GoPro Takes Us to the Great Barrier Reef

One of the more intriguing technologies that GoPro has been touting in its Fusion camera is something called Overcapture. Essentially, this is the action camera company's take on shooting 360º video, but up until now we haven't seen a lot of great clips that take advantage of this feature. But the video below illustrates its effectiveness nicely, taking us to the Great Barrier Reef to shoot some spectacular underwater footage. Throughout the video you'll glide through the pristine blue waters of the GBR while colorful fish and other sea life swim around you. It is a stunningly beautiful clip to be sure and a good reminder of how GoPro became so well recognized in the action camera space.

Video: Alex Honnold Writes a Note to His Teenage Self

Climber Alex Honnold continues his media blitz in support of Free Solo, the documentary that shares his amazing climb up El Capitan last year without the use of ropes. In this clip, made for CBS This Morning, Honnold talks about that feat while also sharing a bit of advice for his teenage self in a segment that the show calls "Note to Self." As usual, it is an interesting bit that offers some insight into the mind of this groundbreaking athlete.

Gear Closet: Suunto 9 Fitness Watch Review

As an avid runner, cyclist, and outdoorsmen in general, I love wearing a watch that can keep track of my activities levels on a daily basis, but especially during a workout. For me, my day-to-day timepiece of choice is an Apple Watch, in part because it does a great job of reminding me to stay active, but also because of all of the other features it brings to the table, most notably displaying notifications, granting me access to my calendar, allowing me to respond to texts, and a host of other things. So when I got the opportunity to test out the new Sunnto 9 fitness watch, I was worried that I'd miss all the things that Apple Watch provided for me. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about at all, as the 9 offers much of the same functionality, along with more features for fitness tracking and much better battery life.

Suunto is well known for creating excellent watches for use in the outdoors, and the 9 is no exception. It is built tough enough to survive in the harshest of conditions and still keep on ticking. This device is waterproof down to 100 meters (328 ft) as well, which means you don't have to worry about using it in or around water. I've worn this watch on numerous workouts while running, mountain biking, and hiking and it has come away with nary a scratch. I've even taken it on a number of trips where its dual time and auto-adjusting features have come in very handy.

At its core, the Sunnto 9 is a fitness-focused watch that was built for outdoor athletes. It comes preloaded with more than 80 sport modes, allowing it to track a run at the gym, on the road, and the trail, just as easily as it monitors a swimming, cycling, or rowing workout. The watch's built-in GPS is fast, accurate, and easy to use, tracking distance, speed, location, and a variety of other features, while the onboard barometer does a fantastic job of measuring vertical gain and loss along the way. Of course, the 9 is also equipped with a heart rate monitor as well, which plays an important role in determining the intensity of a workout, calories burned, recovery time, and other important factors.

While the Suunto 9 doesn't compete directly with the Apple Watch in terms of "smart" features, it is by no means lacking in the area of connectivity. The watch pairs with a smartphone and can provide wrist notification for text messages, app alerts, phone calls, and a variety of other info. This helped me to get past my reliance on my Apple Watch while testing, and while Suunto's device doesn't offer all of the features of Apple's, most of the time I never missed any of the functionality. I suspect dedicated outdoor athletes and fitness focused individuals will feel the same way, trading a bit of tech features in favor of improved tracking and onboard GPS navigation, complete with route info displayed right on the screen.

Jax Mariash Finishes First in Female Division at Grand 2 Grand Ultramarathon

Courtesy of Grand 2 Grand Ultra
I'm a little late in posting this news, but I haven't seen it shared too many other places and I definitely thought it was worth a mention. Back in August, I shared the news that ultrarunner Jax Mariash was gearing up for three extremely difficult challenges over the course of the following month or so. Those tests of her endurance included the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado,  the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Europe, and finally the Grand 2 Grand Ultra, which was held in Arizona and Utah at the end of September. After surviving that demanding gauntlet of difficult races over such a short period of time, she also managed to write her name in the history books as well, taking first place in that final event.

The Grand 2 Grand Ultra is a 170 mile (273 km) race that begins at the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and ends at the summit of the Grand Staircase in Utah. The event is broken up into six stages over seven days, with competitors remaining self-supported for the entire race. It is not only a test of any runner's strength, speed, and agility, but also their mental toughness and determination too. Of the eight ultra events that Jax has participated in, she says that this one was the most difficult.

Mariash completed the race back on Saturday, September 29, in seventh place overall and becoming not only the first female to cross the finish line, but the first American as well. She dominated the women's division, completing the course 3 hours and 20 minutes ahead of her next closest competitor.

This year's Grand 2 Grand saw 135 runners take to the starting line with 111 eventually finishing. The demanding course includes more than 18,000 feet (5480 meters) of vertical gain with the temperatures ranging from 80-95ºF (26-35ºC). Altitude plays a major part as well, as the entire route runs between 5200 and 8100 feet (1584-2468 meters). To get a sense of what this ultra is all about, check out the video below. You'll find the scenery is remote and spectacular, but very demanding too.

9-Time Everest Summiteer Lhakpa Sherpa Seeks Sponsorship for Next Expedition

This past spring, Lhakpa Sherpa summited Everest for the ninth time, extended her own world record for the most summits of a woman on that mountain. In fact, she was recognized by the Guinness Book of Worlds Records for her achievement, which put her in rarified company even with the male Sherpas in Nepal. Now, she's gearing up to make her tenth summit on Everest in 2019 and yet she still doesn't have a proper sponsorship despite her accomplishments in the Himalaya.

This story as brought to my attention by the Expedition News, which reports that this past spring climbing season, Lhakpa received some support from Black Diamond, which provided gear and money for her climbing endeavors. But for 2019, she is seeking additional support from the outdoor industry, as well as management and public relations assistance too. So far, there hasn't been many takers.

When not climbing in Nepal, Lhakpa lives in Hartford, Connecticut here in the U.S. where she works at Whole Foods earning $11.50/hour. Her duties include washing dishes and taking out the trash, and while the job provides enough to help support herself and her two daughters, it leaves little money –– or time –– to dedicate to training and climbing. The challenges that Sherpa faces in her day-to-day life were chronicled in detail in a recent profile done by Business Insider, which offers some insights into why she loves to climb. In the story, Lhakpa says that she believes that women are better climbers than men, in part due to their patience and demeanor.

It hasn't been until recent years that female Sherpas (known as Sherpani) have been allowed to play more pivotal roles in terms of guiding and expedition leadership. To that end, Lhakpa has launched her own company known as Cloudscape Climbing. The organization offers expeditions to "any mountain in Nepal," with detail intermarries available for Everest, Manaslu, and other major peaks. She also offers guided hikes in the New England area as well for those looking to take a walk with a famous mountaineer.

The odd question to me is, why doesn't Lhakpa Sherpa have more prominent sponsors in the outdoor industry? Would a man who has summited Everest nine times have difficulty getting support for his tenth attempt? In an era where we're looking for more female role models and leaders, she is an example of someone who has persevered through many challenges and continues to pursue her dreams. That seems like someone who deserves more support and attention in my opinion. Hopefully she'll get the sponsorships she needs to return to the mountain once again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Video: Saying Goodbye to Hayden Kennedy

One year ago to the day the climbing community was shocked and saddened by the death of Hayden Kennedy and his partner Inge Perkins. The loss was felt far and wide, opening deep emotional scars in those that knew them. In this video, fellow climber Josh Wharton sets out to honor their memory by climbing a new line in Eldorado Canyon. This is the story of that climb and perhaps finding a bit of peace.

Video: Climbing in Antarctica Brings a Sense of Awe

The North Face continues its series of videos about the team of climbers that went to the Antarctic last year with another short, but sweet, clip giving us a glimpse of their experience. This time out, we get a sense of the awe and wonder they felt in this expansive place, far from civilization, and about as remote and wild as you can get on our planet. The sense of scale is incredible, even in the short clip. Most of these videos are just a tease for what will likely be a much longer documentary, but they are still wonderful to watch. Check it out below.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 36: An Interview with Joel Einhorn of HANAH

If you're looking for your midweek dose of audio adventure, then The Adventure Podcast is here to accommodate. As usual, we talk about all kind of things in the outdoor and adventure world, including the latest news from the Himalaya, an update on an epic swim across the Pacific Ocean, dire new reports on the impact of climate change, and the latest on the return of a legend to the sport of adventure racing. We also share a couple of new pieces of gear that we've been using recently, giving listeners some thoughts on how these products can be of use in their own adventures.

Our main topic of the week is an interview with Joel Einhorn of HANAH, a company that makes nutritional supplements based on centuries old formulas that use natural ingredients, most of which have been sourced from India and Bhutan. Joel tells us about how he was in a serious accident while training for an Ironman triathlon that left him unable to sleep and about at the end of his rope. Doctors were unable to help him, but he turned to an ancient approach known as Ayurveda to find relief. This led him on a life-altering journey that not only set him on the path to recovery, but has helped him to remain healthy, strong, and vibrant ever since. It is fascinating tale that I think a lot listeners will really appreciate.

I've embedded the audio for the show in this blog post so you can listen to it straight from your browser. You can also find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Sticher, and Spotify if you prefer listening on one of those platforms. You can also reach out to us directly via our Facebook page, Twitter account, and by email. Drop us a note to let us know what you think, ask a question, or provide a suggestion. We always enjoy hearing from our listeners.

Himalaya Fall 2018: More Updates From the Mountains as Season Winds Down

There is no doubt that the bulk of the autumn climbing season in Nepal and Tibet is behind us, with most of the teams already come and gone. But there is still news to share from across the region as a few squads continue to wrap up their expeditions and take advantage of a few good remaining weeks before the onset of winter. With that, here are a few news items worth mentioning from the past couple of days. 

ExWeb is reporting that a Polish team on Manaslu has pulled the plug on their climb. The group has stayed on the mountain long after the big commercial squads have completed their expeditions and have gone home. Nepali officials say that more than 220 foreign climbers summited the peak this fall, but the eight Poles who were currently there won't be among them. 

Shifting weather conditions and increased avalanche danger are to blame for the end of the expedition. Apparently, more than a meter of snow fell on the mountain earlier in the week, which is making it very difficult to climb. The team reports that it took more than 15 hours to reach Camp 2 a few days back, while experiencing several close calls from avalanches. That was enough to prompt them to go home, likely bringing an end to season on Manaslu. 

Speaking of Manaslu, The Himalayan Times has a story about Jeanette McGill, a geologist from South Africa who recently climbed that mountain. In doing so, she became the first woman from her home country to summit the 8163 meter (26,759-foot) peak. It was her first 8000-meter peak, but you get the sense it won't be her last. Perhaps we'll see McGill on Everest next spring or sometime in the near future.

ExWeb also has a story about a team of Austrian climbers who have completed the first ascent of an unclimbed peak in the Indian Himalaya. The group consisted of Hansjörg Auer, Max Berger, Much Mayr and Guido Unterwurzacher, who spent three days climbing the 6050 meter (19,849 ft) peak after acclimatizing in the region for several weeks. The squad made their final push in alpine style, climbing a 3200 meter (10,498 ft) wall on their way to the summit. Once at the top, they rappelled back down the same route to wrap up their adventure late last week.

Finally, if you read Alan Arnette's blog with any regularity you probably already know that he suffered a major accident while training in Colorado a few years back. During that accident he broke his leg, setting back his plans to climb in the Himalaya. It has been a long road to recovery for the former Everest and K2 summiteer, but he has finally gone back to Nepal, where over the next couple of weeks he'll be climbing Island Peak. You can follow his progress through his regular updates

That's all for now. More news to come I'm sure. 

Couple Plans to Drive Solar Powered Electric Vehicle to the South Pole

Now that the fall Himalaya climbing season is starting to wind down, we'll turn our attention south to Antarctica where in a matter of a few weeks the first skiers will be setting out for the South Pole. As with every Antarctic season there will be a number of fascinating expeditions to follow, some more traditional than others. But this year, there will be an interesting vehicle-based journey to follow as a husband and wife team set out to drive an electric vehicle to the very bottom of the world.

Dubbed the Clean2Antarctica expedition, the plan is for Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde to travel 2400 km (1491 miles) on a round trip journey that begins at the Antarctic coast, goes to the South Pole, and then back again. They are expecting the entire trip to take about five weeks to complete, with plans to get underway sometime in November, which is traditionally when the Antarctic season truly gets underway.

But what makes the Dutch couple's adventure such a unique one is that they'll be driving in an electric vehicle dubbed the Solar Voyager. This unique machine was custom built to survive in the Antarctic while creating its own source of fuel along the way. The team will use large solar panels, mounted on trailers pulled behind the main vehicle, to generate the power they will need to push the Solar Voyager along. And since it will be 24 hours of daylight throughout the drive to and from the South Pole, they should be able to collect energy at a constant pace.

The Solar Voyager's main component is a buggy that has been designed to roll over the ice and snow with relative ease. But adding two trailers carrying the solar panels does increase the length of the vehicle to 16 meters (52 ft). That's fairly long and could be quite ponderous, particularly when trying to avoid crevasses or even sastrugi, which can grow quite large and thick too. How the Voyager handles the conditions in the Antarctic will be interesting to watch.

While driving in an electric vehicle to the South Pole is a big enough adventure in its own right, the duo aren't doing it solely for that experience. They are also hoping to raise awareness of the impact climate change is having on the frozen continent. That's a big reason they've launched this "zero waste" expedition, along with drawing attention to renewing the Antarctic Treaty by 2048, which if allowed to expire would open continent to commercial development.

Find out more about this undertaking on the Clean2Antarctica website and thanks to my friend Lou-Phi for sharing this story. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Video: Meet the 97-Year Old Who is Still Running Mountains

Yesterday we had the inspiring story of a 91-year old man who climbed Devils Tower in Wyoming. Today, we have an amazing video about George Etzweiler, a 97-year old runner who summits Mt. Washington in New Hampshire every year, even though the challenge only continues to grow. Why does he do it? You'll just have to watch the clip below to find out.

Video: Climbing Helmcken Falls in British Columbia with Dani Arnold

Last February, speed-climbing phenom Dani Arnold traveled to British Columbia in Canada to attempt a new route on the frozen Helmcken Falls. This video takes along for that adventure as Arnold makes his way through a frozen wonderland. We know that he is good at setting speed records in the Alps and on other big peaks, but here we see his skill on ice too.

Gear Closet: Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station Review

If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that Jackery makes some of my favorite portable battery packs and power stations for keeping our devices charged on the go. In fact, I reviewed the company's Explorer 240 back in June and found it to be one of the lightest, toughest, and most versatile chargers around. But just when I thought they couldn't make a more appealing portable power station, along comes the new Explorer 160, an even smaller and more affordable option that doesn't compromise on performance.

I first got a look at the Explorer 160 at the Outdoor Retailer show back in August. When I laid eyes on it the first thought I had was "its so small!" At first glance, the Explorer 160 looks a lot like the Explorer 240, and that's by design. Jackery is creating a family of products that share many of the same features and capabilities, but in varying degrees of sizes and batteries. To that end, the 160 weighs in at just 3.7 pounds and comes with a battery pack that offers 167 watt-hours (46,400 man) of power. That's enough to recharge a smartphone in the neighborhood of 18-20 times, meaning you'll have plenty of juice to keep you going on your outdoor adventures.

In terms of power ports, the 160 is equipped with a built-in AC wall outlet that accommodates just about anything you want to plug into it. With up to 100 watts of power available, it can recharge laptops, drones, cameras, or even run small LCD televisions. The power station also includes two standard USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a DC 12-volt 6mm port as well. Each of those charging ports can be active at the same time too, allowing you to power multiple devices at once.

Apparently one of the biggest uses for these portable power stations is for CPAP users who want to be able to go camping in the outdoors but still get a decent night's sleep. The Explorer 160 has no problem running a CPAP device I'm told, making it a great option for those who need such a device to assist with sleeping. And since the 160 is so small and light, it is ultra portable, making it easy to take car camping or even into the backcountry provided you aren't lugging it too far.

Our Outdoor Gear Gets Eco-Friendly

It's no secret that the outdoor industry is looking to get more eco-friendly. Gear manufacturers big and small have launched initiatives to make their products better for the environment by using fabrics made from recycled materials, employing manufacturing processes that require less water, and launching initiatives to repair and recycle older gear. Heck, I even wrote a whole piece on eco-friendly gear for Popular Mechanics recently that included 13 unique items from across the industry.

Now, Backpacker has followed suit, posting an article on the best eco-friendly gear for hikers as well. Their list isn't quite as extensive as the one that I put together, offering up just five choices. But, the products that they selected are good ones that deserve a spot in your closet.

Without giving too much away, the Backpacker story includes a set of hiking boots from Keen, a shell jacket from Marmot, a shirt from Vaude, pants from Fjällräven, and an environmentally friendly backpack from Trew. Each of the different pieces of gear was selected not only for being good for the planet, but for also offering a high level of performance too. It is not enough for our gear to be eco-friendly, they also have to provide the same level of quality that we've come to know and expect from the brands that we trust too.

Moving forward, it's likely that we'll continue to see these initiatives take center stage in the outdoor industry. The companies that make up this space are highly committed to ensuring that our outdoor playgrounds are well protected and around for future generations to enjoy too. That starts with making good gear that doesn't leave a lasting impression on the planet, and I salute their efforts in this area.

All-Star Team of European Climbers to Attempt K2 in Winter

The autumn climbing season in the Himalaya isn't even officially over yet and already we're turning our attention towards the winter. The harshest season of all requires a tough, determined team on pretty much any mountain, but when it comes to climbing the last 8000-meter peak to be summited in winter, it demands a higher level of focus and the ability to endure plenty of suffering.

ExWeb is reporting that a team of all-star climbers from Eastern Europe are preparing to travel to Pakistan in December to make an attempt on the first winter ascent of K2. The squad will be led by Vassily Pivtsov from Kazakhstan who has summited all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks. He'll be joined by fellow Kazakhs Vitaly Akimov and Ildar Gabbasov, as well as Russians Roman Abildaev, Vitaly Akimov and Eugeny Glazynov of Russia, and Mikhail Danichkin from Kyrgyzstan.

The group is filled with veteran climbers who have not only spent a lot of time on big mountains all over the world, but have endured some cold winter climbs too. They'll need all of that experience if they want to summit the world's second tallest peak in winter, as conditions are notoriously bad on K2 during that time of year. Climbers who have ventured to the mountain during the coldest months have experienced prolonged periods of weather during which temperatures drop to -40ºF/C, with high winds and heavy snow making it difficult to launch a summit bid or making any meaningful progress at all.

The team's biggest challenge at the moment may not be the mountain however. In a press release announcing their intentions to climb K2 it is also noted that they are still seeking sponsorship to defray some of the costs. It is likely they will secure the funding, but it could mean they will have to scrub the attempt before even leaving for Pakistan.

ExWeb also indicates that there are rumors that Spanish climber Alex Txikon will forego another winter attempt without oxygen on Everest to give K2 a try instead. If that's the case, we could see two teams in Base Camp this winter. Txikon has had plenty of experience the last two seasons on the world's highest peak in winter as well, which should translate nicely to K2, even though the climbing is much more technical on the Pakistani peak.

Looking beyond 2019, we already know that the Poles intend to return during the winter of 2020 to have another go at the first ascent, that is if no one else has cracked the mountain first. This is one of the last great prizes in all of mountaineering, and it seems that there are a number of alpinists who are getting serious about solving it.