Friday, May 25, 2018

Video: The Vastness of the American Southwest

When it comes to vast, wide-open spaces few places can compare with the American Southwest. This is a place of amazing expanses, winding canyons, and unique rock spires that beckons to be explored. In this video, we set out on a journey across this unique landscape, discovering all of the beauty and wonder that it holds. Heading into a long weekend, this seems like a fitting clip to wrap up a busy week with. Enjoy!

The Vastness of America's Southwest from LaioFilms on Vimeo.

Video: The Top 10 Most Beautiful Hikes in the World

This weekend is the long Memorial Day holiday here in the U.S., which often unofficially starts the summer season. No doubt, many of you will be heading outside not only over the next few days, but the next few months too, and you'll be looking for some great trails to hike along the way. This video can help with that, at it lists ten of the most beautiful treks in the entire world, with lots of great video and photos to back-up those claims. Which trails make the cut? You'll have to watch to find out!

Gear Closet: Mountain Khakis Camber 106 Pants Review

One of the best things you can say about any piece of outdoor clothing is that you forget that you are even wearing it. It is so comfortable and natural feeling that you simply put it on before heading out for an adventure and don't ever have to think about it again until your journey is at an end. Such is the case with the Camber 106 pants from Mountain Khakis, which in a very short time have become my favorite pants for all of my travels and adventures.

As someone who has fairly large legs – lots of running and cycling will do that do you – it can be very difficult to find pants that fit properly. Usually when I find a pair that fits in the waist and rear end, they are too tight in the legs, forcing me to size up in order to be comfortable. The problem with that is that the waist ends up being too large, which can cause all kinds of other issues. Because of this, I'm often reluctant to test out a pair of pants, because more often then not they end up not fitting properly. I'm happy to report however, that this was not the case with MK's Camber 106 option, as the provided a perfect fit immediately.

Made from Mountain Khakis' stretch canvas material, the Camber 106 are not only super-comfortable, but incredibly durably too. I've taken them with me on more than a half-dozen trips ranging across the U.S. and Europe, and these pants still look brand new. The cotton-spandex blend hugs the body nicely in al of the right places, but doesn't impeded motion in any way, which is always appreciated whether you're just running down the block to meet friends or setting out on more active pursuits. The material is even surprisingly breathable, making them a nice option even in warmer weather.

Over the course of the past several months since I've owned the Camber 106 pants they have quickly become my go-to travel and outdoor adventure option. Whether I'm on a long flight, hitting the trail for some hiking, or joining friends for dinner, they are equally at home in any environment. I appreciate the fact that Mountain Khakis has created a garment that connects well with its core customers, who tend to be active but want to still look good at the same time. These pants deliver that level of performance and then some. They're so good in fact that I plan on adding another pair or two to my gear closet so that I have some different colors (there are five to choose from) at my disposal. Given the choice, I'm not sure I'd want to wear anything else.

The $74.95 price tag will probably turn some buyers off, but as with all things when it comes to outdoor gear, you get what you pay for. These are the best outdoor adventure pants I've ever used and as such, I think they're worth every penny. I'd recommend them to anyone and based on their quality, I'd recommend MK's other products too. I don't think you'll be disappointed in what this brand has to offer, as the quality shines through in every aspect of the gear.

Find out more at mountainkhakis.com.

Outside Takes Us on an Amazing Journey Down the Grand Canyon

If you're looking for a fun escape to help you get through your Friday, then look no further than this website that is brought to us by our friends at Outside Online. The site, which also happens to be co-sponsored by the gang at Yeti, takes us on an amazing journey down the Grand Canyon, giving us a fantastic look at this natural wonder as it has never been seen before, short of visiting the place itself.

Dubbed "The Greatest Show on Earth," the website is a virtual tour of the canyon, taking us along a 277 mile (445 km) journey through the red cliffs and along the raging Colorado River that give this iconic place so much of its identity.

Using a unique blend of stunning photos, maps, technology, you'll begin the journey at Mile 0, located at Lees Ferry, and then proceed on a virtual rafting trip down the river, before ending some 226 miles (336 km) later at the take-out point found at Grand Wash Cliffs. In between you'll experience more than two dozen other locations throughout the canyon, giving viewers an opportunity to see what makes this such a special place, all without leaving their desk.

Nothing will ever replace actually being in the Grand Canyon itself, but this is one of the best virtual representations I've ever seen of the national park. The entire journey is worth taking and may even inspire you to want to visit – and raft – the park yourself. It isn't quite like being outside and on an adventure of your own, but if you're stuck at your desk today, it will provide some nice relief and take you on an epic journey that is well worth the trip.

Start your Grand Canyon adventure here.

Himalaya Spring 2018: A Record Breaking Season Comes to an End at Long Last

The 2018 spring climbing season in the Himalaya has come to an end at long last. It looks like it has been a record breaking year in the big mountains, particularly on Everest where an unprecedented weather window made for hundreds of successful summits. But now, the weather has shifted once again, bringing the curtain down on what will likely be seen as one of the most successful mountaineering seasons of all time.

So just how successful wast he 2018 spring climbing season? According to Alan Arnette, there were perhaps as many as 715 summits on Everest from the North and South Sides of the mountain. That easily beats the previous record set in 2013 of 667 summits. While this isn't an official number by any means, Alan follows the climbing scene very closely and keeps track of dozens of summit reports. At this time, he estimates that 476 climbers reached the summit from the Nepali side of the mountain, while an additional 239 went up on the Tibetan side.

Those are some big numbers anyway you look at it and the high success rate this year is directly attributable to the 11 days of good weather that created the perfect environment for the teams to get up and down the mountain safely. This provided plenty of time for everyone to schedule their ascents, avoiding overcrowding on the summit and long traffic jams on the approach to the top. In a typical year, the weather window is usually on three or four days in length, which would cause all of the teams to crowd into the same space. This year, there was plenty of time for all of the teams to go up at their leisure.

Yesterday we reported that there was one team still on the South Side of the mountain as Tenji Sherpa and Jon Griffiths summited Everest and were proceeding directly to Lhotse for a double-summit attempt. It turns out, the duo elected to pull the plug on the Lhotse attempt and have now headed back to Base Camp. It seems likely that they'll be breaking camp today or tomorrow and heading home. The weather has now shifted and high winds have hit the region, shutting off the summits of the big Himalayan peaks until fall.

On the North Side, Rupert Jones Warner was set to attempt his second summit of Everest this season after having already completed a summit from the South Side back on May 17. He and his team launched their summit bid yesterday but upon reaching the North Col there was no oxygen to be found there. That scuttled their plans and sent them back down the mountain, where BC is all but deserted. With no one to borrow oxygen from, they were forced to pull the plug as well.

From the sounds of things, the Base Camps on both sides of Everest will be empty by this weekend. Poor weather has moved in and the monsoon will soon follow. That means we won't see too many major Himalayan climbing expeditions until fall and Everest is likely to be abandoned until next spring. It has been one hell of a busy season on the Big Hill. I'm not sure what it can do for an encore in 2019, but we'll be around to find out.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Video: Racing Winter - One Last Mountain Bike Ride Before Season's End

As the end of the mountain bike racing season nears, and winter starts to set in, pro rider Shawn Neer heads out into the wilderness to take one last ride. This isn't the courses that he rides while competing, but is instead the trails that first introduced him to the sport, which now help him get back to his roots too. Before winter sends him home to train in a very different way, he takes one last ride before spring, and lucky for us, we get to come along as well. This is a beautiful video that is amongst the best I've seen in awhile. Enjoy.

Racing Winter. A Yeti Tribe Story. from Yeti Cycles on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing the Highest Volcano in North America

Standing 18,400 feet (5608 meters) in height, Pico de Orizaba is the tallest volcano in North America and a prominent climbing mountain as well. In this video, we'll join a team of climbers as they head to the summit of this impressive Mexican peak, encountering some unexpected challenges, and amazing views, along the way.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 20: Adventure Badass Fedor Konyukhov

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcast is now available to download from Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. You'll also find the episode embedded in this blog post if you'd prefer to listen from your browser rather than a smartphone, tablet, or other device.

On this week's episode we expand our Adventure Badass Hall of Fame by introducing Ukrainian explorer and adventurer Fedor Konyukhov to listeners. He's not someone that a lot of people know, and yet his resume is practically unmatched in terms of depth and variety. This is a man who has gone to the North and South Pole, climbed Everest, sailed around the world, rowed a couple of oceans, and circumnavigated the globe in a balloon, amongst other feats. Of course, as always, we start the show with the latest adventure news and end it with our weekly picks for our favorite pieces of gear that we're currently using.

Don't forget, you can join us online on our Facebook page or Twitter account. You can also drop us an email to let us know what you think or ask questions too. We love hearing from our listeners and answering gear and adventure questions on the show.

As a heads up to regular listeners, we'll be taking next week off as we celebrate Memorial Day here in the U.S., but we'll be back the following week with a new show. Thanks for listening. It is much appreciated!


Ben Lecomte to Attempt 5500 Mile Swim Across the Pacific Ocean

In the world of endurance sports, which sees runners routinely cover 100 mile (160 km) distances and  cyclists ride for thousands of miles, perhaps the long distance swim is the toughest undertakings of all. If that's true, then long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte is about to embark on what could be the most difficult expedition ever, swimming across the Pacific Ocean from Tokyo to San Francisco, covering some 5500 miles (8851 km) in the process.

Ben has dubbed his journey The Longest Swim, and he is nearing the start of this massive journey. He expect the Pacific crossing to take somewhere between six to eight months to complete, during which he'll be swimming eight hours a day, everyday for the entire trip. He'll be shadowed by a support ship of course, which is where he'll rest each night, before taking to the water again the following day. The location from which he exits and enters the water will be closely marked so as to ensure that he actually swims the entire distance and doesn't pick up ground while aboard the ship.

This isn't Ben's first major swimming journey. Back in 1998 he also became the first man to swim across the Atlantic Ocean without the use of a kick board. That journey covered 3716 miles (5996 km) and took 73 days to complete. The Pacific swim will require a minimum of 180 days, with even bigger challenges to face along the way.

Lecomte first announced The Longest Swim back in 2015 but it has taken a few years to get all of the logistics worked out. Now, he is truly ready to get started, although the official launch of the crossing has yet to be announced. The team has arrived in Tokyo and are busy stocking the boat and ensuring that everything is ready to go, but there is no definitive word on when things will get under way. It seems likely that they'll begin soon however.

We'll keep an eye on Ben's progress on what promises to be one of the most amazing feats of endurance imaginable.


Himalaya Spring 2018: Last Teams Head to Summit, Others Cancel, and Further Information on the Hillary Step

The unprecedented climbing season in the Himalaya continues with yet more summits to report and a few remaining expeditions that are still unfolding. It has been a very long summit window this season, although weather reports indicate that it is likely to come to a close tomorrow with high winds returning to the summit. But before things close down for good, there are a few more stories to report.

First off, Tenji Sherpa and Jonathan Griffith have completed their summit bid on Everest, with the 27-year old Nepali climber reaching the summit without supplemental oxygen this morning, while his British partner followed along, filming the entire climb while using bottled oxygen. Both men were climbing in memory of their friend Ueli Steck, who lost his life in the Himalaya last year while training for a Nuptse, Everest, Lhotse traverse. Sherpa and Griffith now intend to head to Lhotse for a second summit before the weather window closes completely.

The initial plan was for this summit push to be live streamed on the National Geographic Adventure Facebook page, but it doesn't seem as if that has happened. Perhaps the video footage will be shared later, once the climb is completed. We'll continue to keep an eye out for it and possibly share it here as well.

Meanwhile, Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hámor were making an Everest-Lhotse traverse of their own, with the intention of climbing along the very difficult West Ridge. Now, the team has announced that it is abandoning those plans due to the shifting weather conditions. They're now heading back down the mountain and preparing to go home.

A few days back we had an update on the current status of the Hillary Step, which apparently was an off-limits topic for climbers with media this year. But now, The Himalayan Times has weighed in on the current status of this iconic point on the mountain, and as suspected it is getting harder and harder to deny that the Step has been altered by the 2015 earthquake. In that article, it is revealed that what was once a 12-meter (39 foot) rock wall is now a snow slope that makes the final approach to the summit much easier and faster. This will likely aid future climbers of the mountain, and probably help reduce traffic jams near the summit as mountaineers come and go, but from a historical standpoint it is sad to see such an important part of mountaineering lore disappear.

That's about it for today. The news from the Himalaya is slowing down to a crawl at this point with very few teams still climbing. By the end of the week, the big mountains will likely be all-but abandoned. The season is nearly at an end. We'll continue to keep a close eye on things to see if any more stories develop, but it is safe to say that this has been one of the more remarkable seasons in reasons memory.

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.