Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Video: A Salute to the Sherpas of Everest

As the climbing season in the Himalaya begins to wind down, it seems only fitting that we take a moment to salute the men and women who make it all possible. Without the Sherpas serving as guides, support, and leaders, very few of us would ever be able to climb successfully in the Himalaya. This video is a short documentary that takes a look at these amazing people and the instrumental role they play on nearly every major climbing expedition.

Video: A Double-Summit of Everest and Lhotse

Last week, while climbing in the Himalaya, alpinists Steve Plain and Jon Gupta nabbed a double-summit of both Everest and Lhotse, and in the process Plain set a speed record for completing the Seven Summits. Along the way, they also filmed their adventure, which you can see highlights of in the clip below. The Everest-Lhotse double is becoming more popular with top mountaineers and you'll get a better understanding of what that entails thanks to this video.

Gear Closet: Pacsafe's 3L Travelsafe and Vibe 28 Backpack are Good for the Environment

Today is World Turtle Conservation Day, which may not seem like a big deal, but when when you consider the amount of waste being dumped into our oceans, it takes on more significance. To help celebrate – and protect the turtles – Pacsafe has launched a couple of interesting products that will not only contribute to conservation efforts, but help clean up the seas too.

Pacsafe has just launched its Travelsafe 3L Econyl portable safe and its Vibe 28 Econyl Anti-Theft backpack, both of which are made from from a revolutionary new fabric that is good for the environment. The company calls this material Econyl and the fibers that make up the fabrics are made from pre- and post-consumer waste that has been taken from the oceans. Most of that material consists of discarded fishing nets and other nylon products, which can create entanglement obstacles for turtles around the world.

The process for creating Econyl is a fairly straight forward one. The waste is pulled out of the ocean, sent to a depolymerization plant, and processed into nylon yarn. That material is than used to create new products, like the Travelsafe 3L and Vibe 28 backpack.

Pacsafe sent me a sample of the Travelsafe 3L Econyl and much like their other products, it is durable, rugged, and built to keep our valuables safe while on the road. As the name implies, this is a portable safe that comes with a TSA-friendly lock to help keep its contents secure. The Econyl is embedded with the company's 360º eXomesh technology, which makes it nearly impossible to cut through, thus keeping would-be thieves at bay. The Travelsafe also comes with a steel cable that allows it to be lashed to stationary objects, preventing anyone from grabbing it and making off with the precious contents inside.

Similarly, the Vibe 28 backpack is made from the same materials and is designed to have anti-theft features that keep its contents safe too. The difference between the two products is that while the Travelsafe is shaped like a pouch that fits inside your existing packs and luggage, the Vibe is a backpack that has been built from the ground up to be completely secure, including lockable zip tabs, built-in sport locks, and slash proof fabrics and straps.

These two products are special limited edition models that have been released to celebrate Pacsafe's 20th anniversary, but they have another purpose too. The Travelsafe 3L Econyl and Vibe 28 Econyl are available today, with 100% of the profits generated from their sale going to Pacsafe's own Turtle Fund.

If you're in the market for a travel backpack, the Vibe is a great option at $129.95, while the Travelsafe 3L is a good choice for frequent travelers who need a bit of extra security while on the road. It retails for $69.95. Both products are helping save the environment and protecting the turtles too.


10 Great Adventure Destinations for Families

Now that summer is nearly upon us, many families across the U.S. and elsewhere are starting to make plans for their vacations. Soon, the kids will be out of school, the weather will be warm, and the days will be long, making it an excellent time to hit the road. To help out with that planning, National Geographic has published a listing of 10 great family-friendly adventure destinations with some fantastic suggestions on where to go and what to see.

As usual, I won't give away all of the entires on the list, but I will say that it begins with one of my favorite places – Custer State Park in South Dakota. This fantastic place is filled with a vast wilderness to explore and offers plenty of attractions for adventurous families. Custer is so good that it is on par with many national parks, making it a must-see for anyone planning a cross-country journey that wanders through the region this summer.

Other places that earn a nod include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Each entry on the Nat Geo list includes a description of what makes that place so special, and this being National Geographic, there are plenty of good photos too. The article is also chock full of links to other websites to get even more information about the destination as well.

The classic family vacation is such an important part in the development of a young child's life. Not only does it foster a healthy curiosity about the world around them, not to mention a love for the outdoors, but it also generates fond memories that will stay with them throughout their lifetime. I know I still have great memories about the vacations my family took together as kids. Any one of these destinations will foster similar feelings in your family too. And if you're a single adventurer, these places are still great as well.

Check out the entire list here.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Season Winding Down But Isn't Over Yet, Avalanche in the Icefall

The end is in sight for the 2018 climbing season in the Himalaya, but it isn't quite over yet. There are still a few teams heading up the mountain as the good weather continues on Everest and Lhotse. This has been one of the longest weather windows in recent memory, and climbers who have remained patient are finding the mountain to be nearly empty, setting the stage for a few late season summits to wrap up what has become one of the most successful campaigns ever.

According to reports, the number of Everest summits this season has now exceeded 600, making it one of the busiest years ever on the world's highest peak. Yesterday, Furtenbach Adventures put 17 people on the summit with few traffic jams or crowds to contend with. They're one of the last commercial teams on the mountain as many of the squads have now packed up and are starting to head home. Base Camps on both sides of Everest are now nearly deserted with only a few last minute groups still there. In Nepal, the Summit Climb team is pushing to the top today, but there is still no word on their status.

The duo of  Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hámor are still on Everest as well and hoping to make an historic ascent. Their still trying to climb the very difficult West Ridge with the hopes of summiting by Friday then traversing to Lhotse before descending. Weather reports indicate that conditions will start to change by the end of the week however, so they may see their window close before they are done.

They aren't the only ones hoping to make a late season summit either. Tenji Sherpa and Jon Griffiths are on their way up to Camp 4 today with the hopes of submitting tomorrow. What could make this climb special is that they intend to live stream it on the National Geographic Adventure Facebook page. Exactly when that is going to happen remains to be seen, so you'll have to watch the page closely.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Video: The Climb to the Summit of Everest

We've been following the success of climbers on Everest closely over the past week or so, with an unprecedented number of teams reaching the summit of the world's highest peak. To see what that journey is like, have a look at this video below, which takes us to the top of the mountain along with Elia Saikaly, a mountaineer and filmmaker who puts both skills to good use here.

Video: Hands On with the Garmin inReach Mini

A couple of weeks back we took a look at the new Garmin inReach Mini satellite tracker/messenger and were intrigued by its size and capabilities. Now, we can get an even better look at the device in action thanks to this video, which goes in-depth with who the Mini works and what capabilities it brings to the table. If you're  tech nerd like me, who find themselves needing a way to communicate from remote areas from time to time, this is definitely an interesting product. Check it out below.

Gear Closet: Outdoor Research Interstellar Rain Jacket Review

It isn't all that often that you pull on a new piece of clothing for use in the outdoors and already recognize that it is something special. That was exactly the case with the Interstellar Jacket from Outdoor Research however, as it was became apparent within a matter of seconds that this was an outstanding piece of gear, particularly for those who need excellent protection from inclement weather during their outdoor pursuits.

Outdoor Research bills the Interstellar as its "most breathable hard shell," although in reality the jacket feels like a soft shell instead. It is soft, stretchy, and pliable, making it a great option for runners, cyclists, climbers, or others who tend to be aerobically active when they're outside. The fact that is it also highly breathable puts it head and shoulders above most other rain jackets on the market, and a considerable step up from anything else I currently have in my gear closet.

The secret behind the Interstellar's construction lies with a new design process that OR uses to make the jacket. It has developed a new approach called "electro spinning" that actually weaves the polyester fibers into a crystal-like structure that creates a waterproof, yet still flexible and breathable, fabric that is unlike anything the company has developed before.

When it comes to performance, its tough to match the Interstellar. I've used the jacket for several months now in everything from light mist to heavy downpours and it has yet to allow a single drop of moisture reach the interior. At the same time, it has also kept me from overheating and getting extremely sweaty, as heat and perspiration still manage to escape. Strategically placed fabrics mesh fabrics aid in this process without compromising durability or integrity at all.

Some Good Environmental News For Once - Marine Mammals are on the Rebound

I've posted a lot of doom and gloom stories about the environment in recent months, including reports of warming oceans, increased greenhouse gasses, and the breaking up of massive ice slabs in the Antarctic. Well, for once, we have some good news to report as a new study indicates that marine life on the endangered species list is actually on the rebound.

According to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Endangered Species Act is having its intended consequences. The organization says that in recent studies a growing number of marine species that are protected by the law have begun to see their population numbers grow as a result. That conclusion came after researchers looked at 23 different marine mammals and nine types of sea turtles to discover the health of the species. What the found was that 78% of the creatures studied saw steady population growth since being placed on the endangered species list.

According to the study, humpback whale numbers along the West Coast of the U.S. have risen to numbers not seen in decades, while sea otters, manatees, and sea turtles have also seen significant gains in recent years as well. In fact, the longer those creatures remain on the list, the better they are doing. Those that are protected for 20 or more years have shown that their population numbers will indeed rebound and recover.

There are obviously still challenges that these species face, but this report is definitely encouraging. It indicates that despite overfishing by man, pollution in their waterways, climate change, and the encroachment on their habitats, these animals can adapt to the situation. That bodes well for the future not only for these creates, but for others who are endangered as well. It is also a good indication that when we as humans take steps to protect the environment and the world around us, we can have a positive impact.

Thanks to Adventure Journal for sharing this story.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Yet More Summits on Everest and Lhotse, Hillary Step Update, Death Toll Rises to 5

The summits just keep coming in the Himalaya where the unprecedented weather window remains open with teams continuing to stream towards the top. I'm not sure anyone can recall such an extended summit season on Everest in particular, where the summit total continues to rise as more and more teams complete the expedition. Meanwhile, next-door on Lhotse, the summits continue too.

Some of the more prominent teams that have wrapped up their summit bids include Alpine Ascents, who put 10 clients and 9 Sherpas on the summit earlier today. Similarly, Shangri-La Nepal Treks put a large group on top of Everest as well, as did Pioneer Adventure, who assisted Doma Sherpa Pinasa in becoming the first Sherpa female journalist to scale the mountain. Beyul Adventures completed their climb by putting at least five clients on the summit, and IMG had successful teams on both Everest and Lhotse.

One expedition to give an update on is Adrian Ballinger's Alpenglow squad, which when we last checked in had elected to abandon their attempt on the mountain after 30% of the teams regulators stopped functioning at 8500 meters (27,887 ft). As you'll probably recall, the squad had to turn around and descend to a safe altitude, and for awhile it looked like their expedition was over. That was true for Alpenglow's group that had already summited Cho Oyu, but not it's Rapid Ascent Team that was only focused on Everest. That group, which included Ballinger himself, went to the summit on Sunday and topped out at long last. That means that Adrian managed to nab his double-summit, getting both Cho Oyu and Everest in a matter of just a couple of weeks.

One of the stories that has continued to be of interest in the past couple of years is whether or not the Hillary Step still exists on the mountain. This prominent landmark was the last major hurdle on the way to the summit and was named for Edmund Hillary, the first man to overcome it back in 1953. But following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, there have been conflicting reports as to whether or not it is still there. Those reports can be put to bed thanks to a new photo posted by Alan Arnette. From that shot, it is clear that terrain has been altered in what Alan is now calling the "Hillary Stairs." I'd vote for simply renaming it the "Hillary Steps" however, as it does not resemble a staircase on the way up. This should make it easier, safer, and faster to negotiate.

Finally, we have more sad news from Everest where it is reported that mountain guide Damai Sarki Sherpa has died after falling into a crevasse. At the time, he was in Camp 2 and was assisting a client to an evacuation helicopter when he slipped and fell. He was retrieved from the crevasse and was alive at the time, with rescuers carrying him down to Base Camp and then evacuating him to Namche Bazaar for treatment. He passed away there last night.

That brings the death toll on the world's highest peak to five this season. Our condolences go out to the friends and family of everyone who passes away in pursuit of their Everest dreams.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Video: A Visit to China's Shaolin Temple

This video brings back a lot of memories for me. My first major trip abroad was to China, where I spent two weeks training kung fu at the Shaolin Temple along with my friends and classmates from my martial arts school back here in the U.S. It was an amazing trip filled with culture, history, and some of the most challenging physical workouts ever. This clip gives us a brief look at this fantastic place, which was instrumental in convincing me that travel was a big part of what I wanted to do with my life.

Gear Closet: Altra Escalante Running Shoes Review

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Altra running shoes. The company's "footshape" design and zero-drop approach fits my running style and comfort level perfectly. In fact, they've become my defect running shoe when I'm not testing something new. Recently, I've had more time for road running than trail running, which meant I was in need of something I could wear on the streets. Thankfully, Altra hooked me up with a new pair of their Escalante shoes, which have been fantastic for use during the spring conditions where I live.

Like all of the other shoes in Altra's line-up, the Escalante has been designed with the same principles  that have made the brand a favorite amongst serious runners – namely a fit that is meant to feel more natural on the foot. The result is a larger toe box that actually allows your digits to spread out as you run, providing better push-off for power and stability. These shoes also adhere to the zero-drop design, meaning that the heel and toe are on exactly the same distance from the ground. Most running shoes have some level of drop from heel to toe, which can actually throw off performance and alter the way they feel on your feet. Altra has given the Escalante a stack height fo 25 mm for those who are keeping track at home.

The Escalante is given a sleek, classic look thanks to its knit upper, which somehow manages to be both durable and breathable at the same time. Even though temperatures and humidity are on the rise where I'm at, these shoes still felt comfortable and not overly warm on my feet. They also show now signs of wear and tear even though I've put more than 100 miles (160 km) on them since starting my test run.

Kiwi Adventurer Rowing Home Across "Roaring 40's" Between Australia and New Zealand

We've followed the adventures of Grant "Axe" Rawlinson here on this blog for some time. He has summited Everest and other peaks, rode his bike over great distances, and rowed his boat over open seas. Now, he's embarking on the final stage of his Rowing From Home to Home expedition, approaching New Zealand through one of the most notoriously rough stretches of water on the planet.

The expedition has always meant to be a human powered journey from Rawlinson's home in Southeast Asia back to his home country in New Zealand, and has involved him riding his bike and rowing his rowboat over extended distances. He started in Singapore, rowed through Malaysia and across the Pacific to Australia, then rode his bike across that country, and is now back in the boat and working his way across the Tasman Sea. When it's all said and done, he'll have covered roughly 12,000 km (7456 miles) completely under his own power.

Now however, he's about to enter one of the roughest stretches of the journey. According to the this article, he'll be rowing through the "roaring 40's" on his way back to New Zealand. That refers to a stretch of ocean that falls along the 40º latitude line just off the coast of Australia. This section of water is notorious for its big waves, choppy seas, and massive storms that can crop up at any time.

This isn't the first time Grant has attempted this crossing. He set out across he Tasman Sea once before but got caught in bad storms that left him cabin-bound for days. He eventually had to pull the plug on that crossing as it was just too difficult to make any progress. Now, he's giving it a go again, and has made the choice to plunge into the 40's, while also focusing on being more mentally prepared to deal with the challenges and the isolation he'll face along the way.

He's just about to set off on this second attempt at the crossing and says that time and his budget are running out. He needs to complete the expedition soon or he may not be able to do it at all. You'll be able to follow his progress on his website here.

Video: More Than Just Parks - Death Valley

It has been awhile since we've seen a new video from the More Than Just Parks project, but the wait has been worth it. Brothers Will and Jim Pattiz once again take us on a spectacular journey through one of America's national parks, this time exploring the grandeur that is Death Valley. As usual, this video is utterly breathtaking and continues to remind us why the parks are such wonderful destinations.

DEATH VALLEY 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Everest-Lhotse Double Summit Done as Good Weather Continues

It has been a remarkable week in the Himalaya where an unprecedented weather window has allowed numerous teams to reach the summit of Everest and other major peaks. Typically, the summit window only lasts for three or four days, and yet here were are, more than a week after the first successful climbs of the season, and the wave of alpinists continue to go up. The is very unusual, and while higher winds are in the forecast for today, it looks like the next few days will remain very good, meaning there are probably more summits yet to come.

There is a lot of news to report from this past weekend, so we'll dive right in starting with an update on Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas. As you'll no doubt recall, these two men got into some hot water with the Nepali government after skiing the Lhotse Face without a proper permits. For a time, it looked like their expedition was in jeopardy, but last week we learned that they would be allowed to climb after all. The duo have taken advantage of this opportunity by summiting Everest yesterday and Lhotse today, knocking off two 8000-meter peaks in quick succession. Matt now has four 8000-meter peaks on his resume while Willie has nabbed his 13th successful climb of Everest. They are both reportedly doing well and are on their way back down to Camp 2 as I write this.

Matt and Willie were just two of the many climbers who were successful over the past few days. In fact, Alan Arnette now reports that more than 500 climbers have summited Everest from the North and South Sides this season. That's a testament to how wide this weather window has been and how many people are on the mountain. Fortunately, this many consecutive days of good weather has helped keep crowding and traffic jams down.

It hasn't been all good news from Everest however. The Himalayan Times is reporting that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki was found dead on the mountain today. He was making his summit bid and last checked in from Camp 2, which is where his body was discovered. He was attempting to make a solo summit of the mountain without Sherpa support or bottled oxygen, and indicated that he had developed a cough and was struggling some, but it didn't seem like he was in jeopardy.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Video: I Train So I Can - Mirna Valerio

Recently outdoor footwear manufacturer Merrell launched a new campaign called "I train so I can..." with various outdoor athletes filling in the reasons why they go out and run, ride, and exercise. Each of them briefly explains why it is they actually workout and focus on their training. For instance, in my case it's because I want to be in good shape, healthy, and be able to enjoy all of the activities that I do outdoors. I do not train for a race. In this video, we'll find out why ultrarunner Mirna Valerio trains as well, as she focuses on not only her health, but educating and promoting diversity and understanding too.

Video: Setting an FKT on Kilimanjaro

In this video, we join Brazilian ultrarunner Fernanda Maciel as she attempts to set a "fastest known time" on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. We'll see her have a go at setting the speed record on one of the most iconic mountains in the world, completing her journey from base to summit in just 10 hours and 6 minutes, a blistering pace on a trail that typically takes 5-6 days to complete at a minimum. Along the way, you'll also get some amazing views of what Kili has to offer. Really a great, inspiring clip.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lhotse Face Skiers Free to Climb, More Summits!

I'm still traveling home from the press event I've been at over the past couple of days, so this might be the only post I get to make today. That said, it's a good one, with lots of news from the Himalaya as the climbing season continues to unfold with more summits, not to mention an update on the two climbers who found themselves in trouble with the government for skiing the Lhotse Face.

Let's begin there. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably already know that Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas climbed up to Camp 3 on Everest back on May 2, then proceeded to ski back down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2. This was a great accomplishment for the duo, who have come to the Himalaya to summit not on the world's highest mountain, but its next-door neighbor Lhotse too. The only problem was, they didn't have a ski permit, which created quite a stir with the Nepali government.

When officials got word of the "illegal" ski descent, they threatened to pull Matt and Willie's climbing permits, putting their expedition in jeopardy. But as the situation continued to play out, we also learned that there was no mention of the need for such a permit in the mountaineering regulations. In fact, the only mention of it is found in another regulatory section, which is in Nepali, making it very difficult for foreigners to even know that such a permit was needed.

Last week we learned that 150 climbers, including many Sherpas, signed a letter to the Nepali government requesting that Matt and Willie be allowed to climb. The group argued that the two skiers did not put anyone in jeopardy, nor did they cause any problems on the mountain. Even better, Willie has been guiding on Everest for 20+ years, contributing to the economic well-being of the country.

Apparently someone in Nepal came to his or her senses, because we have now learned that Matt and Willie will be allowed to climb after all. Yesterday, The Himalayan Times reported that the duo will have to pay for the ski permit, which costs $1000, and a $500 garbage deposit. Additionally, their expedition support team will be charged Rs 50,000 ($465) and the team's liaison officer will be warned for not being on the mountain to oversee these kinds of activities.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 19: Family Camping Adventures

I"m on the road today at a press event, but wanted to share the latest episode of The Adventure Podcast. As usual, the show is available to download on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. I've also embedded the show in this blog post for those who prefer to listen straight from their browser.

In this week's episode, we start things off with an update on what's happening in the Himalaya, the Volvo Ocean Race, and the Giro d'Italia, before delving into what could be the start of the outside industry's #metoo movement. Then we get some great family camping/backpacking tips from Dave who has a lot of experience in this area, before wrapping up with some cool gear news and gear picks for trail running and mountaineering.

Of course, you can join us online at our Facebook Page and our Twitter account, or email us directly too. We always love your feedback and questions, so keep 'em coming. And as always, thanks for listening!