Thursday, July 19, 2018

Video: Everyday is an Adventure

This video takes us to the Alps with photographer Tom Klocker in search of adventure, both in the cities and the mountains. The message that is conveyed is that the Alps are a tremendous outdoor playground, with so much to offer everyone who lives or visits there. But, that same message can be applied to our own backyards too. Seek out the adventures around you and make everyday an adventure.

Everyday is an Adventure from Martin Venier on Vimeo.

Video: Building and Riding Mountain Bike Trails in South Africa

Specialized bikes has an ongoing video series called Trail Hunter, which spotlights the efforts of dedicated individuals and groups around the world who are building and maintaining mountain bike trails all over the world, while also serving as ambassadors for the sport. In this video, we head to South Africa, where there is a thriving mountain biking community that feels connected to the land in ways that are not always found elsewhere. In this case, trail builder Hylton Turvey has managed to construct an impressive network of riding routes while staying true to his African roots. An inspiring and interesting story to say the least.

Two Runners Set Record on Nolan's 14 Challenge in Colorado

The Nolan's 14 challenge in the Sawatch Range of Colorado is one of the toughest in all endurance sports. It tasks ultrarunners with covering 100 miles in just 60 hours, bagging 14 summits of 14,000-foot (4267 meters) peaks with a total vertical gain of more than 90,000 feet (27,432 meters). Anyone attempting the feat can choose any route between the 14 mountains that they choose, but they have to get them all within the designated time period. It is so tough that very few people have actually done, with only about 15% of those who try finding success. But on June 29, not just one, but two runners completed the Nolan's 14, with both achieving records in the process.

According to Gear Junkie, Alex Nichols and Joe Grant ––both of Colorado–– managed to finish Nolan's 14, with Nichols finishing in 46 hours, 41 minutes, while Grant was able to do it in 49 hours, 38 minutes. The fact that the two men both managed to finish the incredibly difficult challenge is news alone, but both doing so in the "fastest known time" is also intriguing.

So just how did Nichols and Grant achieve records? One did it with a support crew, while the other did it unsupported. Nichols set a new record for a runner using support, besting the previous mark held by Iker Karrera by about an hour. Meanwhile, Grant buried the old mark by more than four hours.

According to GJ, Grant started about 12 hours before Nichols, but the second runner got wind of the new unsupported record while out on the trail. He told Gear Junkie, “I was able to get an update once [Grant] had finished and set the unsupported record. When I heard that, it really motivated me to keep pushing when I was feeling terrible.”

The duo approached the summits of the 14 peaks from different directions and only saw each other out on the course one time. Still, they now share a kinship both on the trail and in the record books. Congrats to both of them.

Ski Mountaineer Hilaree Nelson Replaces Conrad Anker as North Face Team Captain

Interesting news from the world of outdoor gear and exploration, as the Gear Junkie is reporting that ski mountaineer and all-around badass Hilaree Nelson is taking over the position of "team captain" for The North Face, a title that has been held by Conrad Anker for 26 years.

Anker and TNF created the Global Athlete Team back in 1992, and the mountaineering legend has served as its one and only captain ever since. But earlier this week, The North Face announced that Nelson would take over in that role moving forward. She has been a member of the team for more than 20 years and has completed some impressive climbs and ski descents in the Himalaya and elsewhere. Her amazing expedition resume includes summits of both Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours of one another and a ski descent of Cho Oyu in Tibet.

In the Gear Junkie story, Anker is quoted as saying “It is my great honor to hand the reins of Team Captain to Hilaree Nelson.” He goes on to add, “Hilaree has a long and storied career with The North Face and is well-suited to help make the athlete experience at The North Face meaningful for both the athletes, individuals, and the brand.”

There is no question that Nelson is amongst the best high altitude mountaineers in the world, male or female. She is a great choice to take over the role of team captain for North Face. In recent months, she has also played a prominent role in the company's Move Mountains campaign, which has focused on creating a bigger role for women in the outdoors and world of exploration. 

While the role as team captain may seem mostly ceremonial, Hilaree will play an important role in providing communications between The North Face and its sponsored athletes. She'll also help select and manage new team members moving forward. According to GJ, Anker will serve as co-captain through the end of 2018 before Nelson takes over completely starting in 2019. 

Congratulations to Hilaree on this honor. She is a great choice for sure. 

Golden Globe Race Sends Solo Sailors on Round-The-World Adventure

If you thought the Volvo Ocean Race was tough and interesting to watch unfold, than you haven't seen anything yet. Another round-the-world sailing race is now underway and it promises to be even more brutal and demanding, because this event is a solo, nonstop affair that will test the resolve of any adventurer.

The Golden Globe Race got underway back on July 1 and already it has taken its toll on the racers. Three weeks back, 18 sailors set out from Les Sables D’Olonne on the coast of France with plenty of optimism and ambition in their hearts. Now, just 19 days later, the race is officially down to 12 participants after a number of boats have been forced to stop or make landfall to get repairs. Remember, the rules of this race say it is a nonstop circumnavigation, and outside help is strictly forbidden, so any repairs need to be made on the ship. For several racers, that hasn't been an option, hence the high level of attrition less than three weeks in.

Currently most of the ships can be found off the western coast of Africa, having passed the Canary Islands and heading south towards the Cape of Good Hope. From there, they'll turn east towards Australia, staying north of Prince Edward Island, the Crozet Islands, and Kergulen Islands, before passing Tasmania. After that it is across the extreme South Pacific towards Cape Horn in South America. Once they've rounded that point, they'll turn north into the Atlantic and return to the starting point in Les Sables D'Olonne. All told, the sailors will cover some 30,000 miles (48,280 km), provided they can stay in the race from start to finish.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Video: The Wild and Crazy Mount Marathon Race in Seward, Alaska

It may not be particularly long, but you'll be hard pressed to find a race that is more challenging and grueling than Mount Marathon, held on an annual basis in Seward, Alaska. The run started as a challenge between two friends to see who could get to the top of the 3022-foot (921-meter) Mount Marathon, which sits just outside of town. The entire run is only 3 miles, but as you'll see in the clip below, they are some of the toughest 3 miles you'll ever run. Going up is really hard, coming back down is another animal altogether. I had the benefit of being in Seward for this run a few years back, and it is a sight to behold.

Video: Made of Mettle - The Stories Behind the Leatherman Multitool

One of the most iconic pieces of outdoor gear is, without a doubt, the Leatherman multitool. But, as with a lot innovations, the road to success wasn't as smooth and straight forward as one would think. This great little documentary –– which I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at back at winter Outdoor Retailer ––shares the story of how Tim Leatherman came up with the idea to create such a tool, while also documenting the challenges he faced in bringing it to market. It also shares some stories of everyday people who quite literally had their lives changed by these tools. The clip is certainly well worth a look, even if you're not an outdoor gear nerd.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 26: Turning Micro-Adventures into Macro-Adventures`

It's Wednesday, which means only one thing –– a new episode of The Adventure Podcast. This week, we're exploring the idea of micro-adventures and how to turn them into bigger, macro-adventures too. The idea is to look for small, simple things right in your backyard, with the idea of doing something everyday for your overall health and to foster a spirit of adventure. Of course, my co-host Dave Adlard and I share a few of our own adventures –– and misadventures –– too.

Before deviling into this topic, we share some news from the world of exploration and expeditions, as well as an update on what's happening in the Tour de France. If you've listened to our podcast in the past, you know our ability to predict what is happening in the sport of cycling isn't exactly great, but we have fun with it nonetheless. And as always, we wrap up our show with a couple of gear picks for the week.

If you want to check out the show, we're available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter, or email questions and feedback too. For those who have given the show a listen, thanks for checking us out. We hope you're enjoying what you hear.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail Adds 400 More Miles

The longest mapped, off-road mountain bike trail in the world has just gotten a little longer. The Adventure Cycling Association, the original designers of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, are celebrating the 20th anniversary of that iconic bike trail by releasing improved maps that include better routing, more detail, and more than 400 miles (643 km) of additional paths to explore.

The GDMBR follows the Rocky Mountains along the Continental Divide and crossing through five states en route. The path, which serves as the route used in the Tour Divide mountain bike race, now covers more than 3000 miles (4828 km) in total, starting in Jasper, Alberta in Canada and wandering south to Antelope Wells in New Mexico, close to the U.S.-Mexican border.

Riding the entire route requires more than 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) of vertical gain, which is the equivalent of climbing Everest about 7.5 times. Along the way, riders will pass through some of the most remote, beautiful, and wild places that the western U.S. has to offer.

Some of the new additions to the trail include additional riding outside Jasper heading towards Banff along the historic Overlander Trail and an additional 80 miles (128 km) riding the new Elk Valley Trail as part of the existing The Great Trail, which has been dubbed the "Gateway to British Columbia." New additions have been added in the U.S. as well, with an additional 65 miles (104 km) near Missoula, Montana that leads to the Adventure Cycling headquarters. In total, the new additions scattered throughout the length of the trail add 427.5 miles (688 km).

The new map data that the ACA has released includes some serious upgrades, like turn-by-turn navigation, bidirectional narratives for the entire route, elevation profiles, remote riding guidelines, and much more. The maps are obviously still available on paper, but Adventure Cycling is also offering all of this data in its Bike Route Navigator app available for iOS and Android.

This is good news for adventure cyclists looking for a true challenge. The GDMBR had always been a beautiful and demanding ride, but now it has gotten even better. If you've set this ride as a bucket-list item, your challenge just got a bit longer and tougher. Find out more by visiting the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route official site.

Trash is a Common Sight on Ben Lecomte's Pacific Ocean Swim

When Ben Lecomte set out on his attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean last month he knew he'd be facing some big challenges. Swimming in an ocean brings dangerous currents, encounters with sea creatures, plenty of big waves to battle through. But what Lecomte didn't anticipate was how much trash he would have to swim through along the way too.

Lecomte is now 42 days into his swim, which is expected to take somewhere in the neighborhood of six months to complete. The journey has already been a challenging one, with he and the crew having to make regular repairs to the ship, while also waiting out inclement weather. Still, Ben is making slow but steady progress when he can, even if there are many days and miles still ahead.

One of the reasons that Lecomte took on this epic undertaking was to raise awareness of the challenges that the oceans face from over pollution. As he makes his was across the Pacific, he's getting a first hand look at the impact humans are having on the environment there. He's found plenty of plastic floating in the water in the form of bags, water bottles, and other items. He's also seen things like large coolers, shoes, balloons and a lot more too.

Yesterday, Ben and his team posted the video below to Facebook, sharing some of the encounters with plastic trash that they have had so far. And troubling as all of that garbage is, the crew have also found something interesting ––microbiomes starting to grow on the plastic itself. Throughout the swim, they plan to examine the impact that plastic is having on the environment and it appears that one of the changes is that these tiny organisms are starting to adapt to the foreign elements that have made their way into the ocean.

You can get daily updates on Lecomte's progress on his own website, as well as further insights, news, and information at Seeker.com/theswim. I've long maintained that this is one of the toughest, most demanding undertaking that any human has ever attempted, and that is proving to be true in more ways than one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Video: Searching for Christmas Tree - Looking for an Iconic Ice Climb in China

Here's a beautiful and inspiring story of adventure in an unexpected place. It tells the tale of He Chuan, a college professor in China who spends his days in academia and his free time searching for some of the most challenging ice climbs his country has to offer. In this case, he goes looking for a challenging and remote wall that is 140 meters (460 ft.) in height that is called Merry Christmas. What he finds is so much more than just another problem to conquer.

Searching for Christmas Tree from Lie Feng on Vimeo.

Video: Trail Running the Longest Fjord in the World

At 303 km (188 miles) in length, the Sogenfjord in Norway is the longest fjord in the entire world. Ultra-runner Malene Blikken Haukøy lives on the shores of that fjord and has always wanted to run its length. A few weeks back she did just that, taking on more than 20,850 vertical meters (68,405 ft) along the way. This video takes us along for the run, with some stunning scenery to take in en route.

Gear Closet: Altra Duo Running Shoes Review

Lightweight and agile running shoes are fairly common in the athletic footwear industry with nearly all of the major players offering something that fits into the category. But often times designers shave ounces at the expense of comfort with the idea that runners who want to go fast are willing to sacrifice a little to achieve their goals. That isn't the case with new Altra Duo, a shoe that manages to be nimble out on the road without making you pay the price. 

If you're already familiar with Altra, you probably also already know that the company has made a name for itself by designing shoes that have a shape that conforms to the natural contours of the foot. This includes a toe box that allows the toes to splay out as you run, increasing power and stability in a more natural way. Altra athletic shoes also feature zero heel drop too, which keeps the foot in a more neutral position and lessens the impact of foot strikes. This approach can feel a little unusual at first, but most runners who have given Altra shoes a go come away as complete converts, this reviewer included. 

The Duo sticks closely to the Altra formula and as a result, the shoes feel great on the foot. This is of course a bit subjective, but for my money the company delivers the most consistent fit and support of any running shoes that I've tried, and I've pretty much tried all of them.

Built for the road, the Duo tips the scales at just 7.9 ounces, although they often feel lighter than that on foot. The cushioning is perfectly shaped and places as well, providing plenty of shock absorption without loss of stability. Surprisingly, even after running 10+ miles, my legs and feet still came away feeling refreshed and strong. That hasn't always been the case when I've tested minimalist shoes in the past. 

Backpacker Shares Tips For Hiking the Summer Heat

We're in the dog days of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and if where you live is anything like my home, it is hot, humid, and challenging to be outside at the moment. Of course, that won't keep us inside for very long, it just means we have to be a bit smarter about how we approach our active adventures during the hotter months. To help out with that, Backpacker magazine has published some tips on how hike in the summer heat, offering up some good reminders to take care of ourselves on the trail.

Backpacker's article is actually filled with some really useful information, even for those of us who think we have summer hiking all figured out. For instance, the story provides tips on how to properly acclimate to the heat, suggesting that much like climbing we should slowly get use to the change in temperature 10-14 days ahead of any planned long-distance hikes. The best way to do that, unsurprisingly, is to train in the hot conditions and even wear extra layers to help the body adapt.

Other useful tips include not just to stay hydrated, but how to do so effectively. Backpacker even suggests eating carbs as they convert to much-needed energy at a faster rate. Also, don't be afraid to get wet when you can, as the water will help keep your body cooler and more comfortable. The article also reminds us to protect our skin, take breaks, and watch for the symptoms of heat stroke.

It is extremely easy to overlook the challenges that excess heat brings on, but it can be just as dangerous and deadly as extreme cold. Obviously we want to carry plenty of water with us on a hike, as well as food to keep our energy levels up. Sunscreen is a must if you're going to be outdoors for any length of time, although clothing with built-in sun protection is an even better choice. Regular rest breaks will help the body to recover too, making it easier to cover all of those trail miles, even when things get hot.

Even though we're well into July at this point, there are still more than two months of summer to go. If you've got some good hikes coming up on your schedule, be sure to give this article a look before hitting the trail. As I said, a lot of the information is stuff we probably already know, but there are some good tips and reminders nonetheless.

Read the entire story here.

Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits on Gasherbrum II, K2 Push Begins

It seems that it is now "go time" in the Karakoram with teams on the move all over the region. Yesterday we had word of summits on Broad Peak, and today there is news of successful climbs on Gasherbrum II. Meanwhile, the first attempts at the summit of K2 have begun with the chance of possible summits as early as Friday of this week.

Following up on yesterday's news of summits on Broad Peak, Furtenbach Adventures reports that all the members of their squad got up and down the mountain safely and are now back in Base Camp. The climbers who summited as part of this push include Fredrik Sträng, Mark Mueller, Afi Gigani, and Davide Roeske. Their support crew included Mingma Sherpa, Ram Nurbu Sherpa, Nima Sherpa, Delaware Hussain Adil, and a guide identified as Hassan. Now, most of the team will move over to K2, where after a bit of a rest they'll attempt that peak as well.

Jumping over to Gasherbrum II, Alan Arnette is reporting that Adam Bielecki and Felix Berg topped out on that mountain yesterday. Their companions Jacek Czech and Boris Dedeszko turned back short of the top however. All members of the team were climbing without the use of supplemental oxygen. Bielecki and Berg traversed the peak, going up the West Face and descending along the normal route. They were back in Camp 3 last night and will likely descend back to BC today.

In other news from the Gasherbrum massif, Dávid Klein and Szilárd Suhajda launched their summit bid a few days back as well and are now approaching the summit. If all goes as planned, they should complete their climb today, although their has been no word from them yet. Meanwhile, two other squads –– one French, the other Ukrainian –– have abandoned their attempts on the mountain.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Video: Nat Geo Shares One Woman's Fight to Protect Lions in Africa

Today we get another inspirational video courtesy of National Geographic. This time, it comes in the form of a short documentary that introduces us to Moreangels Mbizah, a lion conservationist who lives in South Africa, works in Zimbabwe, and continues to pursue her education in England. Her goal is to find ways to protect lions and conduct research in Hwanga National Park, and as one of just a handful of female scientists in sub-Saharan Africa, she faces a number of challenges.

Video: Peter Sagan Describes 2018 Paris Roubaix Win (Without Words)

This video is actually a short commercial that debuted at the Tour de France over the weekend. It shows world champ Peter Sagan describing his win at the Paris Roubaix spring classic back in April, without using any words. For those that don't know, this race is notorious for it's incredibly difficult cobblestone roads, which present a number of challenges to riders. The Tour visited those same roads yesterday and the results were carnage. Today's rest day couldn't have come at a better time, although they'll likely be feeling the effects for a fews days to come. Sagan, in his typical funny fashion, shares his experience here.

Outside Tells Us How to Save Money on Gear on Amazon Prime Day

On last week's episode of The Adventure Podcast we dedicated an entire show to tips on how to save cash when buying outdoor gear. Two of the tips we shared included buying strategically and buying online. Today's a day where you can do both, because it is Amazon Prime Day, which means big savings on tons of things on Amazon.com, including products we can use on our outdoor adventures. To make the most of this once-a-year occasion, Outside magazine has put together some helpful hints of their own, explaining what makes Prime Day so special and how you can use it to your advantage.

Before we jump in too far, it is important to point out that Prime Day is for Amazon Prime subscribers only. In other words, you need to be a Prime Member to take advantage of the big deals. A Prime subscription costs $119, so the barrier for entry is a little price from the get go. But, members receive free shipping and better deals throughout the year, making it a very good option for regular Amazon users. Plus, you get access to Prime Day, where you can easily save that money back depending on what you order.

The Prime Day deals are hidden until the event actually launches, which won't take place until about 3:00 PM ET here in the U.S. today. But, as Outside points out, some of the deals from last year were pretty outstanding. For instance, the Garmin Fenix 3 HR watch –– which normally sells for $450 –– went for $385. Luggage was also on sale for 30% off and there were great deals to be had on a variety of fitness products, tents, backpacks, and more. The hardest part is actually trying to sort through everything, as the deals do start to come fast and furious.

As this post publishes on the blog, there will still be two hours to go before Prime Day officially begins, but it is your cue to start getting ready. There is no telling what Amazon has in store for us, but chances are there will be saving on drones, electronics, clothing, and a host of other things that can come in hand during our travels. To find out what will be available at a discount, watch the official Prime Day webpage. If I come across any especially great deals, I'll be sure to share them here as well.

Update: Here's a link to all of the sales going on in the Outdoor category. Some big brands have good specials going on, including Yeti, Garmin, and others.

Trekker Completes Epic Journey From Patagonia to Alaska

Here's a story that I missed while I was off in Africa a couple of weeks back. In November of last year, I shared the tale of long-distance hiker Holly Harrison –– aka "Cargo" to his friend. Harrison was in the middle of an epic walk that had started in Ushuaia, Argentina at the very southern tip of South America and wouldn't end until he reached Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, covering a distance of roughly 22,530 km (14,000 miles) while en route. Well, it seems Cargo has completed that journey at long last, becoming just the second person to do and setting a record time in the process.

It took Harrison 530 days to make the journey, which has only been done by British adventurer George Meegan. It took Meegan six year from 1977 to 1983 to finish his hike, but Harrison did it in a fraction of that time.

Harrison originally set out to make this walk back in 2015, but an injury sidelined him and sent him home to North Carolina. But he didn't give up on the idea of finishing this expedition, so once he was healed he returned to the project. But rather than starting where he had left off, he actually returned to Ushuaia and restarted the trek from scratch. He knew that he could go faster than Meegan had, but he wanted to do it in a single push.

In order to cover the distance between the tip of South America and Prudhoe Bay in just 530 days, he needed to average 26 miles (42 km) each and every day. That's a fast and challenging pace to be sure, particularly day-in and day-out. That alone put a strain on his body, causing issues with strained tendons and pulled hamstrings. He also suffered a mild heart attack while en route, but persisted through nonetheless.

ExWeb has posted an interesting profile of Harrison and his journey and shares some of the details from the trip. For instance, he actually trekked across the treacherous Darien Gap along the border of Panama and Colombia, a place where the Trans-American Highway even routes around. This place has been called one of the most dangerous areas in the world due to the guerrilla insurgents, drug runners, and hostile indigenous people that live there. But Harrison found that he had a warm welcome, with a local guide hired to see him safely through.

This is a fascinating story and I'm sure Cargo so a lot of really unique things on his hike. He has reportedly already been contacted about a potential book deal, so I'm sure more of the story will come out over time. I know I'm a couple of weeks late on reporting the successful conclusion of the expedition, but I wanted to congratulate him anyway and share the news. Amazing stuff.

Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits on Broad Peak, Missing Climber Found by Drone

While the teams on K2 sit, wait, and watch the weather, things have been progressing in other parts of the Karakoram. In our last update from the end of last week we knew that a couple of teams were preparing to launch summit bids on nearby Broad Peak, where things have seemingly stabilized and improved in recent days.

One of the teams preparing to make a second summit bid was Furtenbach Adventures, who were thwarted in their earlier attempt on the summit due to unstable conditions above Camp 3. But at the end of last week they announced that the team was fully rested and ready to give it another try. This morning we learn that an unknown number of clients, guides, and Sherpas reached the top after fixing the ropes from Camp 3. As of this writing, the team is now descending and will likely be back in C3 later today and Base Camp tomorrow. From there, at least some members of the squad will head over to K2 to attempt that mountain as well.

Meanwhile, Fredrik Sträng and his team launched a summit bid at the end of last week too. Presumably they were also able to top out today, but so far he hasn't updated his Facebook page with any information. Sträng and his squad also turned back on Broad Peak early last week due to high risks of avalanche danger above C3. When they're done on BP, they'll also jump over to K2.

Alan Arnette is reporting an interesting story from Broad Peak involving a drone that was used in the rescue of a lost climber. It seems that famed Alpinist Rick Allen had attempted a solo summit of the mountain and went missing on the descent. He, and a group of other climbers that included Casper Tekieli, Sandy Allan, and Stanislav Vrba were attempting a new route and apparently were successful in their bid, reaching the summit a few days back. But after that, things start to get a bit nebulous.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Video: Ultrarunner Hillary Allen Finds Strength After Near Fatal Accident

If you're looking for a healthy dose of inspiration as we head into the weekend, look no further than this video. It features ultrarunner Hillary Allen, who fell off of the edge of a cliff while competing in a 100-mile (160 km) race in Norway. Badly injured, she was lucky to be alive, let alone ever run again. But during her road to recovery, she learned a lot about herself and what true strength is all about. Now, she shares that story with others, helping us all to understand ourselves a bit better too. This is the first in a series of "Mentor" videos coming our way from The North Face, and if this clip is any indication, I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Video: The Tour de France Explained

Regular readers of The Adventure Blog know that I'm a big fan of the Tour de France and follow it closely each year. Inevitably, I find myself explaining the race to those who don't follow it and don't really "get" what it is all about. The video below does a really good job of introducing new viewers to  Le Tour, which can be a bit confusing to figure out if you don't know the terms, the various jerseys, the race strategy, and so on. The animation used in the clip is a lot of fun, and while the narrator's voice is a bit difficult to understand at times, the video does a great job of bringing newbies up to speed. If you've ever wanted to know what the big deal over the Tour was all about, this will give you an idea.

Adventures in Malawi: On Safari in Liwonde National Park

Over the first two stories I've written about my recent trip to the African country of Malawi I've done my best to stress how different this destination is compared to the other places found on the continent. For instance, I found the people of Malawi to be exceptionally welcoming and friendly, even by African standards. The country certainly lives up to is moniker for being "the warm heart of Africa," making it easy to recommend to travelers looking for new adventures. Beyond that however, I also shared my experiences on Lake Malawi, a massive lake that provided tranquil waters, warm beaches, and a sense that you had left Africa behind for the Caribbean. That was certainly an unexpected detour that truly helps this country stand out from some of its neighbors.

All of that said, Malawi also offers some traditional travel experiences you would expect when visiting sub-saharan Africa, most notably a true safari experience. And while I was absolutely delighted by my early days in the country, I also couldn't wait to get into the bush for some encounters with the wildlife that Africa is so well known for. I found that, and so much more, Liwonde National Park, a game preserve located not far from the Mozambique border.

Established in 1973, Liwonde is located just south of Lake Malawi along the Shire River. It covers roughly 548 square kilometers (212 sq. miles) and is home to an abundant amount of wildlife, including elephants, antelope, baboons, warthogs, monkeys, and crocodile. Over the past few years, black rhinos have also been added to the mix, and last year cheetahs were reintroduced to the park as well. And just a few months ago –– in May, 2018 –– lions were brought back too. The big cats remained elusive while I was there, but we did hear them roaring in the forests and other travelers did catch a glimpse of them on their game drives.

One creature that isn't in short supply in Llwonde is the hippo. The banks of the Shire River are swarming with them, with dozens to be spotted at any given time. The creatures thrive in the environment found there and it was not uncommon to see six or eight of them huddled together in the water, escaping the warm sun. At night, they'll wander up on to the shores as well, sometimes even sauntering into the safari camp itself. On all my trips to Africa, I've never seen so many hippos in one place and if you have a particular affinity for these creatures, Malawi has to be on your list of places to visit.

Adventure Tech: goTenna Mesh Gets Even Better With New Update

I've been a big fan of the goTenna Mesh for awhile now, first writing about it when it was announced nearly two years ago. But thanks to a new update, this off-the-grid communications device is getting even better, bringing new features to users looking to stay in touch while in the backcountry or traveling in foreign countries.

For those not familiar with goTenna, it is a device that pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth technology, allowing it to send text messages, GPS coordinates, and other information to other goTenna users in the area. The gadget creates a local peer-to-peer network that doesn't require cell phone data or satellite connection to send messages. The second edition model added mesh networking, which greatly extended the range by allowing messages to skip off other goTenna devices until it reached the intended recipient.

According to Gear Patrol, goTenna has updates the software that runs the Mesh model, bringing a couple of nice new features to the gadget. The first of those features is the ability to send an SOS alert out to anyone else using the device in the area, letting them know that someone is in need of help. This could obviously come in very handy in the backcountry, although the goTenna has proven itself useful in urban settings too, particularly in emergency situations.

The update also brings a new beta feature that will definitely be appreciated by Mesh users. The new software upgrade the device allowing messages to "hop" six times, rather than three, effectively doubling the range that data can be sent. Previously, any text messages sent could pass through three Mesh units in search of the proper recipient. With this new feature, it will be able to go much further, at least in theory.

I've found the goTenna to be a great device for use not just in the backcountry, where cell networks don't exist, but also when traveling in other parts of the world. If you don't want to pay for a costly cellphone connection, the goTenna will allow you to stay connected with others in your group for free. This can come in very handy when looking to meet up or just making plans.

The goTenna Mesh sells for $179 and includes two units. Find out more here.

Karakoram Summer 2018: K2 and Broad Peak Summit Schedule Begins to Take Shape

It has already been a long and challenging season in the Karakoram, where poor weather and heavy snow have made things challenging so far. This is especially true for the Japanese team led by Akira Oyabe, who were the first ones to reach the mountain this year and have been waiting the longest for a clear weather window. But if the forecasts are to be believed, things will start to improve late next week, clearing the way for potential summit bids at last. 

Our clearest picture of the schedule ahead comes from Dawa Sherpa at Seven Summits Treks. He tells us that the support Sherpas have fixed the ropes up to Camp 4 today after coming within 150 meters (492 feet) yesterday. The weather has reportedly been very good over the past few days and is expected to remain that way for two more days, after which things get a bit unstable again. 

Looking into next week however, the forecast calls for high winds reaching 60-80 km/h (37-50 mph) higher up on the slopes. Those conditions are expected to last through the weekend before things start to calm down a bit at the start of next week. By next Thursday, the weather looks to improve dramatically, potentially opening the door for the summit push to get underway. Dawa says that all summit bids will take place no earlier than the July 19, setting the stage for the traditional late-July, early-August window.