Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 10: Our Favorite Adventure Books

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcasts now available to download and listen to on your favorite platform. As usual, you'll find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, as well as for direct stream at the bottom of this post.

This week we thought we'd tackle a fun topic and share our picks for our all-time favorite adventure books with both Dave and myself brining some great suggestions for listens. Some of the books you've no doubt heard of, others might be a bit of surprise. Hopefully there will be some new ones that you might not have heard of before that you can add to your library. We also talk about the latest adventure news with updates on the Iditarod, a new speed record on Kilimanjaro, and more. And as always, we wrap things up with our weekly gear picks, with both of us bringing some excellent – yet pricey – items to the table.

As always, thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy what you hear. Don't forget to drop us a note on Facebook, Twitter, or email if you want to offer feedback, ask a question, or make a suggestion on a topic you'd like to see us cover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Iditarod 2018: Joar Ulsom First to Nome!

We have a winner in the 2018 Iditarod sled dog race. In the overnight hours, Norwegian Joar Leifseth Ulsom sped into Nome, claiming victory in the race. It is the first win for Ulsom, who first raced in the Iditarod back in 2013 when he was named rookie of the year. He has never finished lower than 7th place, and claimed 4th last year.

The win breaks the stranglehold that the Seavey family has had on the race over the past six years. During that span, Mitch Seavey has won twice, while his son Dallas has gone home with four wins. Currently, Mitch is running in third place out of White Mountain, the second to last checkpoint before reaching Nome. Nicolas Petit is in third, out of Safety and making his way to the finish line.

Ulsom takes home a prize of $50,000, which is a decent sum for a little more than a week's work. But, that's down from the $71,000 that Mitch Seavey took home last year. That is in part because of the pullout of key sponsors like Wells Fargo, which have left the future of the race somewhat in doubt.

While the Norwegian was claiming victory in Alaska, Dallas Seavey is currently leading the Finnmarksløpet, the longest dog sled race in Europe. That event is held in Norway, and covers approximately 1200 km (745 miles). They younger Seavey elected to participate in that race as a protest to a doping scandal from last fall that left some in doubt about how he handles his dogs. It would be fitting however if Ulsom won in Alaska, while Seavey took the victory in Norway, setting up an epic showdown next year.

The Iditarod finished up faster than even I expected. I thought it would take the better part of today before anyone would reach Nome, but Ulsom pushed on through the night and his dogs moved with swiftness over the final miles of the race. We should see several more racers reach the finish line today as well, although others will be straggling in well into the weekend and beyond.

Congratulations to Joar on a fantastic and decisive win.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On the Road: Riding eBikes in San Diego

Another quick note to let everyone know that updates will likely be few and far between for the remainder of the week. I'm on the road starting tomorrow and until Friday as I travel to San Diego to test out a new line of electric bikes. Most of the information will still be under embargo for a bit yet, but I do know I'll be riding as many as four new ebikes from Yamaha, including a couple of cruisers, a mountain bike, and a road bike. I'll definitely share more information when I can.

In the meantime, I'll be keeping a close eye on a few unfolding events and will post a few updates here and there to share news and information. The Iditarod will be winding down in the next day or so, and a new Adventure Podcast should be released tomorrow as well. I'll share those stories for sure, and others if anything major happens.

I"m only on the road this time until Friday, so regular updates will resume next Monday again. As always, thanks for reading and I'll be back soon. In the meantime, get outside and have a few new adventures of your own.

Video: A Look Inside a "Game of Thrones" Themed Snow Hotel in Finland

Probably the most asked about aspect of my recent adventures in Arctic Europe has been my stay at the Game of Thrones themed Lapland Hotels SnowVillage. Lots of people have asked what it is like to stay there (think snow glamping!), how cold it was (not so bad!), and what it looked like inside. I shot this video from the interior to give you a sense of what to expect. Some of the images are a bit washed out due to the color of the lights, but you'll get a good sense of what it is like to wander the halls. The room at the end of the clip is where I spent the night with a giant owl carved in the wall overhead. All in all, it was a great place to get some sleep, and the Game of Thrones theme was great for fans of the books and show. As you'll see, the artists that made the hotel went to great lengths to deliver on the atmosphere.

Iditarod 2018: Lead Mushers Jockey for the Lead Heading to Nome

The 2018 Iditarod is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and closest finishes in the history of the race. The lead mushers have now passed through the checkpoint in Elim, which puts them just 125 miles from Nome. And as we turn towards the finish line it is looking like a three-man race, with the end-result far from settled.

As of this writing, the lead has changed once again with Norwegian Joar Leifseth Ulsom now in the lead. He's followed closely by Nicolas Petit, who had been out front over the last few days. Stalking just behind the two leaders is defending champ Mitch Seavey, who could still overtake his rivals during the stretch run to Nome.

Ulsom was able to grab the lead when Petit took a wrong turn and veered off the trail. Bad weather has made it a challenge to navigate and Petit went the wrong direction. He was forced to backtrack to get back on the correct route, allowing his Norwegian rival to slip ahead. This development was a sharp reminder that the race isn't over until the musher and his dog sled team reach the finish line. With more than hundred miles to go, this is still a wide open event.

The sleep and rest strategy for the lead teams will play a crucial role down the stretch. At this point in the race, everyone is exhausted so knowing when to push on and when to take break is crucial. There will be some strategic moves made in the final run, but it is beginning to look like we'll have a winner sometime late tomorrow or early on Thursday.

To follow all of the action, visit

Want to Join a Trek Across Papua New Guinea for Conservation?

Looking for a grand adventure of your own this year? Have you dreamed of trekking through remote regions of the world? If you answered yes to those questions, we just might have an expedition for you.

Writer, historian, and adventurer James Campbell is looking for six people to join him on a historic trek across the Papuan Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. In June, the team will head to that country to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Buna, which is widely viewed as one of the first major land victories in the Pacific for U.S. forces during World War II. During that battle, American soldiers spent 42 days crossing the region, traversing thick jungles, deep swamps, and 9000-foot (2743 meter) mountains in the process.

Back in 2006, Campbell completed the same traverse in about 21 days. He's hoping to repeat that hike this year in an effort to protect the area that the team will be trekking through. Campbell believes that the government of Papua New Guinea should turn the area into a national park, and he's hoping that the trek will help encourage them to do just that.

Campbell's original trek was completely unsupported, but a company called Getaway Trekking out of Australia now operates int he area. The team at Gateway is also committed to protecting this region, as well as the people and cultures that are found there. To that end, they'll be handling the logistics of the trek.

The journey is expected to take about three weeks to complete. Getaway will handle all of the support needs, and those interested in joining will have to pay their own costs. Their fees will cover all in country transportation, accommodations, food, internal flights, and a porter to help carry gear.

If you're interested, you can find out more information by clicking here or email Campbell directly at

Thanks to Expedition News for sharing this story.

Another British Explorer to Attempt Solo, Unassisted Crossing of Antarctica

One of the last great challenges in polar exploration is a solo, unassisted crossing of the Antarctic. A number of explorers have tried – including Henry Worsley who perished in the attempt back in 2016 and Ben Saunders, who abandon his bid at the South Pole this season. Now, yet another British explorer is preparing to give it another go, targeting the next Antarctic season later this year for his historic expedition. 

Barry "Baz" Gray will start his solo crossing – dubbed Challenge Antarctica – on Berkner Island this November. From there, he'll cross the Ronne Ice Shelf and skit to the South Pole before continuing to the Ross Ice Shelf via the Shackleton Glacier. He expect the journey to take about 85 days to complete, covering some 1200 miles (1931 km) in the process. If successful, it will be the longest solo and unassisted expedition to the Antarctic ever. 

In keeping with the terms "solo" and "unassisted,"Baz will be undertaking the challenge completely alone and will not use kites to help pull him along. Instead, he'll pull his sled filled with all of his necessary gear and equipment behind him as he goes. He will also forgo any outside support, meaning there won't be any supply drops along the way.

Gray is a former Royal Marine Commando who has served in North Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has training in mountaineering and polar survival. His bio on the Challenge Antarctica website says that he also enjoys traveling through remote regions with a minimal amount of equipment and gear. Of course, he won't be able to go fast and light in the Antarctic, where all of his gear and supplies will be needed just to survive the grueling journey that he will undertake. 

In addition to attempting a solo crossing of the frozen continent, Gray is looking to raise $300,000 to support The Baton and the Royal Marine Charities. Those funds will go to help other British soldiers, particularly those who have served in combat situations and are struggling with PTSD or other challenges. 

As of today, Baz says that he has completed about 50% of his training, has acquired 70% of the gear and logistics he'll need for the journey, and has about 215 days until he departs for Antarctica. That may seem like a lot of time at the moment, but when preparing for such an undertaking it can disappear quickly. Of course, we'll be following his expedition very closely later this year and keeping tabs of his progress moving forward. 

For more information visit

Monday, March 12, 2018

Video: Climbing to the Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Standing 19,341 feet (5895 meters) in height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and a major bucket list item for many adventure travelers. This video takes us along on a climb to the top of the mountain, giving us a beautiful view of each stage of the ascent. It took the filmmaker seven days to reach the top, challenging him at every turn along the way. But as you'll see the payoff was well worth it, as he collects some of the best views of the mountain that I've ever seen.

KILIMANJARO from Laurence Hills on Vimeo.

Video: Adam Ondra Climbs Silence, The Hardest Route in the World

Adam Ondra is one of the best rock climbers in the entire world, putting up impressive routes on a regular basis. But none are more impressive than Silence, the climb he completed last fall in a cave in Norway. This route was later rated a 9c (5.15d), making it the hardest graded climb anywhere in the world. The video below gives us a glimpse of that climb and takes us through Ondra's obsession with completing it. When it comes to climbing it doesn't get much better than this. Amazing stuff indeed.

Adventures in Arctic Europe Part 3: Norway

This is the third and final part in my series on my recent visit Arctic Europe. If you haven't read the first two parts yet, you'll find them here (Sweden) and here (Finland). Those two articles also help give a good overview of the region, which has a lot to offer adventure travelers.

When last we left off with the story, my companions and I were spending the night in the Finnish town of Levi where we had the chance to set the Northern Lights the evening before. The next day we would be setting out to the final destination on our three-country tour, but not before making one last stop along the way. En route to our first stop in that country, we would first visit Harrriniva, another Finnish town with a lot to offer visitors.

Harriniva is an adventure hub that is nestled in a remote region of the Finland. It provides visitors with the opportunity to go dogsledding, snowmobiling, and reindeer sledding in the winter, and rafting, fishing, and camping during the summer months. Our schedule only allowed us time to drop by for a brief visit, but we did get to play with some huskies that are part of the sled dog activities, which made it a worthwhile stop indeed.

Before long, we were back on the road and heading towards Lyngen, our first destination in Norway. On the way, the landscapes began to change oh-so subtly at first, but by the time we had left Finland behind, the countryside had taken a dramatic shift. Gone were the tall, rounded mountains that made up the Finnish terrain, replaced instead with sharp, angular, and higher peaks that looked much more rugged and demanding. We also began to see the famous Norwegian fjords making an appearance, clearly signaling that we had most definitely changed regions.

By the time we reached Lyngen, the shift had already occurred, bringing some epic scenery along with it. Both Sweden and Finland were beautiful countries to travel through, but for me Norway was on a completely different level. Dense, low-hanging clouds helped mask the full impact of the amazing landscapes, but it was clear that this was a breathtaking place for those who love outdoor adventure.

Visitors to Lyngen will find plenty do do all year round. The town is a great ski destination for those who enjoy backcountry exploration, while snowshoeing, dogsledding, and ice fishing are also popular winter activities. In the summer, the region offers excellent hiking and mountain biking, while kayaking is also popular on the adjacent fjord. Norway happens to be a "freedom to roam" nation, which means you can camp virtually anywhere, while the mountaineering options abound in Lyngen too. There are even whale safaris on offer during certain times of year and of course the Northern Lights are on display just about anytime, provided it isn't the dead of summer when the Midnight Sun takes over the sky.

Two Ultra Runners Attempting FKT on Great Himalayan Trail

Ultrarunners Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel are up to their old tricks again. A few years back we followed along as they went for a speed record in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, and now they've set their sights on an even more difficult challenge. The duo have embarked on an attempt to set the "fastest known time" on the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal.

As of now, Sandes and Griesel are 12 days into their attempt not he record, which currently stands at 28 days. That's how long they have to complete the 870-mile (1400 km) route which winds its way through some of the more remote villages and mountain regions in Nepal. The record is currently held by Andrew Porter who officially finished in 28 days, 13 hours, and 56 minutes, shaving more than 20 days off the previous record.

Gear Junkie had a chance to catch up with Sandes and Griesel last week and learned a bit about the equipment they're using for the run. For instance, they're wearing Salomon 20L backpacks to carry all of their gear, which includes energy bars and supplements, as well as gear that is specific to the leg of the run that they are on. A 20-liter pack isn't much, but the duo can get by without too much food and water because they are resupplying in the villages that they pass through along the way. They're also staying in tea huts at night as they follow a west-to-east path along the GHT.

The Great Himalaya Trail is less an official route and more of a loose collection of shorter trails have been linked together. As you can imagine, the trail itself remains fairly rugged, although some sections are more developed than others. It also features plenty of altitude gain, as at this point of the race Sandes and Griesel have already climbed more than 35,275 meters (115,731 ft) with more than halfway yet to go.

The entire run is being documented for a potential upcoming film. You can follow the duo's progress online by clicking here. The site contains all kinds of info about their route, current position, and much more.

Iditarod 2018: Lead Mushers Head to Bering Sea Cost

The 2018 Iditarod hasn't been an easy one thus far. Winter weather has tested the mushers and their teams at practically every turn, with heavy snow and cold temperatures impacting the race. In fact, the snow was so bad at the Eagle Island checkpoint that supply planes couldn't land to deliver food, forcing the race to cancel that checkpoint altogether. But as the frontrunners turn towards Nome, we're now getting an idea of who is in contention coming down the stretch.

At the moment, Nicolas Petit of Girdwood, Alaska holds the lead having checked in and out of the Shaktoolik checkpoint. He has about an hour and a half of a head start on Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway and defending champ Mitch Seavey, who are currently in hot pursuit. At this stage of the race, it is beginning to look like one of those three men will most likely arrive in Nome first, although as always with the Iditarod, it ain't over til' its over.

Shaktoolik falls at the 777 mile (1250 km) point, which means there is a little more than 200 miles (321 km) to go until the finish line. Most of the teams have now completed their mandatory 24-hour and 8-hour rest periods, so there shouldn't be a lot of downtime moving forward, although some rest will likely be necessary as they press through to the finish. The strategy of the race will come into play over the next couple of days, with the top musher rising to the top in the homestretch run into Nome.

Meanwhile, four-time Iditarod champ Dallas Seavey, who is sitting out this race in protest over the handling of a doping scandal last fall, is now in Norway competing in the Finnmarkslopet race. The event got underway last Friday, and is now several days into what is the longest dogsled race in Europe at 1200 km (745 miles) in length. So far, Seavey is accounting for himself quite well and is currently running in first place through the first five checkpoints. There is still a long way to go in that event, but it looks like Seavey could potentially win it even as the most experienced rookie Finnmarkslopet has probably ever seen.

We'll keep an eye on both races over the next few days as the mushers head toward the finish line. The Iditarod is shaping up to be one of the best finishes in awhile, so it'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Video: Mountain Fever -Crisis on a Mountaineering Expedition

This short film is a dramatization of what could happen on a mountaineering expedition into the high places of the world. It begins with one climber joining his mates in their tent to inform them that one of the other members of the team has gone missing. From there, things escalate quickly. You'll have to watch all the way to the end to get the full effect, but it is worth the pay off.

Mountain Fever from Kabakon Film & Medien on Vimeo.

Video: Running the John Muir Trail with Endurance Athlete François D'Haene

French ultrarunner François D'Haene is always on the lookout for a new challenge and after completing a run along the grueling GR20 trail on the island or Corsica, he was looking for a new destination to test him physically and mentally. In October, 2017 he found it in the form of the John Muir Trail. In this video, we join François as he sets out to run the trail end-to-end, covering 359 km (223 miles) in the process. As you'll see, it was everything he had hoped for and more. (Note: Be sure to turn on closed captioning to translate from French to English.)

Adventures in Arctic Europe Part 2: Finland

This is the second part of a three part series that I am writing about my recent journey through Arctic Europe. If you haven't read part 1 yet, you'll find here.

After spending the night at Brändön Lodge in Sweden, and a quick snowshoeing excursion in the morning, we were ready to set off on the next stage of our journey. That morning we left the warm and cosy cabins at Brändön behind and hit the road for Finland, our second country on this three-nation tour of the Arctic. Our destination was the town of Kemi, where we would find all kinds of interesting opportunities to explore the Arctic in new ways.

The drive to Kemi took just a couple of hours and we arrived just in time to get a tour of one of the biggest local attractions in the area, the Icebreaker Sampo. The ship began its life in the service of the Finnish government back in 1961, but in 1988 it was retired from service and was purchased for use in tourism instead. The ship makes regular runs out into the frozen sea, taking passengers  to remote areas where the ice is so thick that normal ships can't travel during the winter months. Passengers who take the cruise will find the Sampo is quite comfortable, with several lounges and a dining hall. They'll also find some great views of the Arctic ice as the vessel pushes along the thick crust that forms above the water. There is even an option to take a snowmobile out onto the ice and join the Sampo mid-cruise, which sounds like quite an interesting way to board the ship.

After a tour of the Sampo, it was into Kemi proper where we then explored the local SnowCastle. Rebuilt each year, the SnowCastle is an impressive structure with multiple chambers, dining rooms to seat 200 people, wall carvings, hotel rooms, and even a chapel. This year's theme was animals, and as a result there was some impressive artwork sculpted into the walls around every turn. The structure itself is made from snow that is mixed with sea water, which gives it a bit of extra strength, but nevertheless it is a monumental effort to build the castle each year, which is open from late January into April. 

Researcher Says He Has Solved Amelia Earhart Mystery

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A forensic scientist says that he has solved the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart after more than 80 years of speculation. And contrary to a lot of theories about the fate of the aviator and her co-pilot Fred Noonan, he believes she was right where we thought she was all along.

Back in 1937, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were attempt to become the first people to circumnavigate the globe by air. The trip was going according to plans with the Lockheed Electra aircraft making hops to various stopping points for repairs and refueling along the way. But, the duo ran into trouble somewhere over the Pacific Ocean while en route to Howland Island. They seemed to have made a navigational error, wandered off course, and ended up missing their destination. What became of them after that remains a mystery, with some speculating that they simply ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean, while others have theorized that they crash landed on one of several islands in the area, where they most likely eventually died of starvation and dehydration.

One island that has long been a source of scrutiny is Nikumaroro, which is part of the country of Kiribati. Back in 1940, human bones were discovered on that island leading many to believe that may have been the final resting place for Earhart and Noonan. But, a forensic scientists examined the bones when they were first discovered and came to the conclusion that they belonged to a short, stocky man, and not Earhart at all. That seemed to put to rest the idea that the remains belonged to the aviator, allowing all kinds of other theories about her fate to arise, including the idea that she was captured and taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Trail Runner Sets Women's Speed Record on Kilimanjaro

Danish trail runner Kristina Schou Madsen has set a new women's speed record on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. According to Gear Junkie, she was able to complete the 19,341-foot (5895 meter) ascent in a mere 6 hours, 52 minutes, and 54 seconds. For those keeping track at home, that's even faster than the 7 hours and 14 minutes that it took Kilian Jornet to do the same run back in 2010, but still well off the pace of the men's record, which is held by Karl Egloff and stands at 4 hours and 56 minutes.

Madsen set the record back on February 23, launching her run from the Meek Gate located at 5347 feet (1630 meters). She then managed to beat previous female record holder Fernanda Maciel by about 15 minutes, with her times verified by SPOT, Garmin GPS and the International Skyrunning Federation.

In addition to setting a new FKT (fast known time), Madsen used the speed run to raise funds for the Zara Tanzania Charity, in organization that conducts a number of different projects amongst the Maasai people. Kristina brought in $1000 for the charity, which will use the money to help build a classroom, dining hall, toilets, and a kitchen in a village school near Ngorogoro.

In an interview with Gear Junkie, Kristina talks about why she chose to take on Kilimanjaro, the gear she used for the ascent, and how she trains in her home country where the highest point is just 613 feet (187 meters) above sea level. She also tells GJ what's next on her schedule, with a couple of upcoming ultra competitions to keep her busy.

Congratulations to Kristina on an impressive performance. It never ceases to amaze me how these endurance athletes continue to raise the bar in terms of speed records. To put this in perspective, the rest of would find its challenge to complete a Kili climb in six days, let alone six hours. Well done!