Monday, May 29, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Summits Everest for Second Time in a Week

It is a long holiday weekend here in the States at the moment, so as a result I won't be posting a full round-up of stories today. That said, I did want to share this story before getting back to a normal schedule tomorrow.

On Saturday (May 27), Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet added to his already impressive accomplishments on Everest. Last week he set a new speed record by running from Base Camp to the summit in 26 hours, all without oxygen, fixed ropes, or Sherpa support. Now, he's done it again, bagging a rare second summit in a single season, once again without the uses of bottled oxygen.

For his second summit bid, Jornet set out from Advanced Base Camp, and traveling to the summit in 17 hours, which is just shy of Hans Kammerlander's record of 16 hours, 45 minutes. But while this isn't a speed record, to be able to summit a second time in such short order, and without using oxygen, is an impressive accomplishment nonetheless.

In a statement sent out to the media Kilian had this to say:“I’m so happy to have made the summit again! Today I felt good although it was really windy so it was hard to move fast. I think summiting Everest twice in one week without oxygen opens up a new realm of possibilities in alpinism and I’m really happy to have done it”

While making his fast attempt last week, Jornet suffered stomach cramps and vomiting on his way up the mountain. That slowed him down considerably, and forced him to stop at ABC while making the descent. He had hoped to go all the way back to Base Camp. While recovering throughout the week, we started to hear rumblings that he might try a second summit bid, and try to go even faster. He wasn't able to quite set a new speed record, but very few climbers are ever able to summit twice in the same season, let alone do it without supplemental oxygen.

Now, the spring climbing season is winding down, and the teams are wrapping up their work. Most have left the mountain although Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is still on the South Side and attempting a final push to the top, weather permitting.

I'll post a full update on the final weekend tomorrow, along with an update Kuriki's position as well. It has been a long, eventful, and exciting season to say the least, but it is almost time to close up Everest for another year. More to come soon.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video: A Visit to Yosemite National Park Circa 1938

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., which marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season. Of course, many families will be headed to the country's national parks this year to take in the amazing sites that can be had there. Yosemite is always amongst the most popular destinations, and anyone who has ever been there already knows why. But this video, which comes out of the U.S. national archives, shows that it was a hotspot even back in 1938. Shot in black and white, and without sound, it is a fantastic look back at an adventure film from a bygone era. You'll definitely get a sense of nostalgia as you watch.

Video: Up Denali's West Buttress Route

As climbing operations begin to wind down in the Himalaya, things are starting to heat up on Denali, where teams of other climbers are now starting to set their sights on that major peak. As the highest mountain in North America, Denali gets plenty of attention each year, as it serves as a good training ground for Everest and other big peaks. In this video, we get a look at the most commonly used route on the mountain up the West Buttress. This is a tough, technical ascent, with weather always a concern. But, it is also a rewarding climb as well. Here's what alpinists face on the way to the top.

Forbes Gives Us the 30 Cheapest Places to Travel in 2017

If you're still making travel plans for 2017, we may have an article that can help you out with your decision making process. Forbes has posted a list of the 30 cheapest places to go this year, giving readers a wide variety of destinations to chose from that won't break the bank.

The list is set up in a slideshow format, with each destination given an excellent photo to help sell us on the aesthetic value of the place. The text that accompanies each of the images tells us which travel expert selected that particular location with details on why it earned a place on the Forbes list. Since this is an article about cheap destinations, things like good exchange rates, affordable accommodations, and cheap food are all part of the consideration.

So, which places made the cut? A few of the destinations that are deemed hot spots for budget travelers in 2017 include South Africa, Chile, and Morocco. All of the place of course offer outstanding value, not to mention history and culture too. Some are also fantastic destinations for outdoor adventure as well, although not all fall into that category. The three I mentioned above are prime examples, but other spots that Forbes recommend are aimed more at those interested in relaxation rather than exploration.

Of course, as alway when it comes to travel, any destination is what you make of it, and you'll find outstanding options in each of these place. The other 27 that I haven't revealed are up to you to discover, but I assure you you'll find everything from hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path recommendations, to well-trodden locales that are classic travel spots for a reason.

Check out the entire list here.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Reports of Dead Climbers at Camp 4 Untrue

We have another story from Everest today that I felt was once again worth giving its own post to just to make sure that it wasn't buried with the other news of current summit pushes. A few days back, it was widely reported that four dead bodies were found in a tent at Camp 4 on the Nepal side of the mountain. It appeared from the accounts that we received that the climbers were part of a new, smaller team and that they had suffocated in their tent, perhaps because they had used a stove without proper ventilation. Now, it appears that the story is completely false, and possibly the result of miscommunication.

The original story broke in an article posted by The Himalayan Times, but soon was picked up by major news outlets around the world. The story, as usual, was one about how dangerous and deadly climbing Everest truly is, which was lapped up by an eager audience. The original narrative had a team of Sherpas climbing up to C4 to retrieve the body of another mountaineer who had died during a summit push. But, when they reached the campsite, there were claims of four new bodies found inside of a tent instead. That was what was told to The Times, and that is the story that most of us shared as well.

However, Alan Arnette is now reporting that the story is not true. His sources, which include Mingma Sherpa from Seven Summits Treks and Rajan Pokhrel from The Himalayan Times, have now retracted the story and say there was an error on the part of the Sherpas who mistook what they saw. Alan has checked with several other sources who say there are no new bodies on the mountain, including Willie Benegas who personally checked all of the tents at Camp 4.

Exactly how this mistake was made remains a mystery, and of course the brain can do funny things at 8000 meters. But, thankfully no one else died on the mountain. Yes, there have been several noteworthy fatalities this year, but at least four more weren't added to the mix. That is good news at least.

Now, the question I have is how many of those mainstream news outlets will pick up on this story and report the error? I'm guessing not very many of them will follow-up with a correction, and audiences will once again be left with the impression that these four people died in their tent, underscoring the narrative that Everest is an incredibly dangerous and deadly place. By the time that this season ends, hundreds of people will have stood on the summit of the world's tallest mountain, with only a minuscule number perishing in the attempt. Every death is tragic and sad of course, but the fatality rate on Everest is also grossly over exaggerated at times.

I'll get off my soapbox for now, but I definitely wanted to share this news to make sure the story was set straight.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Summit Pushes Continue with End of Season in Sight

The current – and probably final – weather window on Everest continues today with more teams heading to the summit. At this point, the number of climbers on the mountain is starting to dwindle, but there are some key players still making their way up the mountain. The season isn't quite over yet, and now looks to stretch into next week for at least one climber, but the end is now in sight as the last teams make their way up and down the mountain. 

Amongst the teams currently on their push are Alpelnglow, who are accompanied by Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards with the hope of Ballinger getting his no O's summit of Everest. The team is steadily making their way upward and should be in position to summit tomorrow provided everything goes well. Adrian reports a bit of gastrointestinal distress on the climb today, but seems to have sorted things out. The team is in good spirits and doing well. 

Also eyeing a summit for tomorrow or Sunday are the Alpine Ascents team who are now on their way up, and report good weather and no major crowds. Himex is also on the move and eyeing the same window as they close out the season too, as is SummitClimb, who were turned back by poor weather on their first attempt but have now regained their strength and are heading up to give it a go one more time. 

Other notable climbers currently on the move include Ralf Dujmovits who is attempting a summit without bottled oxygen, something that has been on his "to do" list for several years now. He reports exceptional weather on the North Side for the days to come, and looks to summit this weekend as well. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Video: Take a Tour of the Rockies (by Drone)

If you're in need of an escape today, than allow this clip to be of assistance. It is less than two minutes in length, but takes us on a whirlwind tour of some amazing national parks, including Jasper and Banff and Canada, and Glacier and Grand Teton here in the States. The landscapes are epic and beautiful, and probably more interesting than what's outside your window today.

The Rockies - (Jasper, Banff, Glacier, Grand T├ęton) by Drone from Ludoc on Vimeo.

Video: Adventure Not War - Healing the Wounds of Iraq

Adventure can be the cure for a lot of things, not the least of which is the horror and trauma of war. That is expressed incredibly well in this amazing short film, that travels to the mountains of Iraq with three U.S. veterans who have returned to that country to experience it without the shadow of conflict hanging over them. There story is a powerful and moving one that gives viewers a sense of the pain that they've felt, and how they are finding ways to deal with it. What ever you do, don't miss this one.

Gear Closet: Glovax Adventure Gloves Review

Finding a good pair of gloves for use on your outdoor adventures is a bit like searching for the right sock. It isn't something you put a whole lot of thought into, until you find the ones that truly stand out. Than you realize how much of a difference it can make and just what you've been missing.

Such is the case with Glovax gloves, which are currently seeking crowdfunding on Indiegogo. What makes them so special? Well for starters, they've been built from the ground up for use in the outdoors, which makes them durable and resistant to wear. But, beyond that, they're also cut resistant, water and oil resistant, and abrasion resistant too. They also have an anti-skid fabric that helps you hold you grip on a variety of surfaces, without compromising fit and flexibility in any way.

I was sent a couple of pairs of Glovax gloves to test out, and I have to admit, when I first saw them I was skeptical. They seemed like a colorful, lightweight option that was ill-suited for use in the outdoors. The, I put them on and my opinion quickly changed. Not only do they fit your hands extremely nicely, the stretchy fabrics that are used in their construction feel extremely comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time, and while they are quite snug, it isn't in any kind of restrictive way.

You'll find that the palm of the Glovax has a different texture than the rest of the glove. That's where the anti-skid materials are found. And while it felt a but odd at first, the value of this material soon proves itself when you begin to realize just how well it holds a grip on a variety of surfaces, wet or dry.

Adventure Tech: DJI Introduces Tiny New Spark Drone

If you've been holding off on buying a drone until they were smaller, smarter, and more affordable, your time may have come. Yesterday, DJI took the wraps off of its latest creation, giving budding filmmakers a look at the Spark for the very first time. That drone is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet delivers a lot of the features that you would expect from the leading drone maker.

Despite its diminutive size, the Spark is packed with all kinds of features. For instance, it has auto-tracking of its subjects, the ability to avoid obstacles completely on its own, and a variety of other autonomous features. It also comes with quick editing options, a "selfie" mode, and an onboard camera capable of capturing video at 1080p/30 resolutions.

But the best thing about the Spark is that it is tiny (weighs just .6 pounds) and easily transportable, plus it costs just $499, making it one of the most accessible products that DJI has ever produced. It can be flown using a smartphone or an optional controller, and can produce quick clips for easy sharing on social media too. Flight times are 16 minutes with speeds of up to 31 mph (49 km/h), with easy options for recharging the battery in the field.

The video below will give you a glimpse of this fantastic looking new tool. It begins shipping in mid-June with preorders available at DJI.com now.


Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits on Everest and Dhaulagiri, Near Miss on Shishapangma

The second big summit push is underway on Everest, and teams are now reaching the top with regularity as good weather has arrived once again. Expect a steady stream of climbers topping out over the next few days as the seasons begins to slowly grind to a halt. The days are most definitely numbered, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

IMG reports that they had 100% success with their team, putting 25 climbers on top of Everest from the South Side yesterday. They have another small squad making a summit push without oxygen and a lone climber heading up Lhotse today, so their work isn't quite done yet.

The Alpenglow team is on the North Side in Tibet, and are in position to summit today. Going with them will be Adrian Ballinger and Corey Richards, who are making a no O's ascent as part of the #EverestNoFilters project. Everyone is reportedly in good spirits, moving well, and ready to finish what they came to do. Also preparing to go for the summit today or tomorrow is German climber Ralf Dujmovits, who is attempting to complete his quest to stand on the summit without bottled oxygen as well.

Blind climber Andy Holzer is amongst those who summited earlier in the week. He made the final push to the top in just 8 hours, and spent 5 more descending to Camp 3. Holzer is now the second vision-impaired climber to reach the top of the tallest mountain on the planet, with Erik Weihenmayer accomplishing the same feat back in 2001.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Video: Official Trailer for Blood Road - Riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam with Rebecca Rusch

If you're looking for an amazing adventure documentary to get excited about, we may have just found one for you. This video is the trailer for a new film called Blood Road, which follows endurance athlete and mountain biker Rebecca Rusch as she travels to Vietnam to ride 1200 miles (1931 km) along the Ho Chi Minh trail. But this isn't just a trip to explore a country by bike. Rebecca's father was shot down and killed while flying a fighter plane during the Vietnam War, and she goes there in search of closure and answers. The film looks incredibly personal and well made. I can't wait to see it.

Video: Kilian Jornet Tells Us Why Everest is So Different

While we're all still marveling over Kilian Jornet's latest accomplishment on Everest, and waiting to see what he does next, this video comes our way to help explain the challenges he faced in preparing for Everest and making his epic speed ascent of the mountain. Obviously shot before he left, the clip gives viewers some insists into what makes this mountain so different from others.

Gear Closet: Kora Holocene Yak Wool Vest Review

Over the years, the vest has gone in and out of style on a number of occasions. Currently, it is enjoying a comeback, serving as a mid-layer as part of a larger layering system or as a stand-alone piece designed to keep the core warm on active days. For the most part, I've never been a huge fan of vests in general, but have to admit that I've reluctantly come around to their value, particularly as designs have improved and the materials used to make them have gotten better as well. But now, I've become a full-blown convert, thanks to the Holocene vest from Kora.

If Kora sounds familiar, its because I reviewed the company's baselayers awhile back. What I loved about their products is that instead of using merino wool like the rest of the industry, Kora instead used wool from Tibetan yaks. The result is a very similar level of performance when compared to merino in terms of breathability and comfort, but with more warmth. That's because yaks have adapted to living in higher altitudes and in more demanding environments when compared to sheep, and the wool harvested from those animals reflect that.

The Holocene vest uses the company's proprietary Hima-Layer Stratam 350 fabrics, which are also made using yak wool. In theory, this makes it just as comfortable as a mid-layer that uses merino, but with more warmth as well. Those fabrics are soft to the touch, easy to clean, and share the same anti-microbial properties of sheep's wool, which means they don't absorb odors – something that certainly comes in handy on longer trips.

Himalaya Spring 2017: So What's The Story with the Hillary Step?

There has obviously been a lot of interest over the past week or so on the current status of the Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest. Last Thursday, it was widely reported that this iconic section of the route was now gone from the mountain, leaving many to ponder how it would impact future expeditions, while others mourned the loss of one of the most well-known landmarks on the most famous mountain on the planet. But, is the news of the Hillary Step's demise premature? Apparently, that depends on who you believe.

As I pointed out in my story from last week, speculation of the collapse of the Hillary Step following the 2015 earthquake first appeared last season. Those reports were quickly dismissed however, with Nepali officials, climbers, and guides saying that it was still there, it just happened to be covered in snow and ice, making it appear different than it had in the past. Now, that seems to be the same story being weaved once again this season.

According to this story from the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Nepalese climbers say that he Hillary Step is once again still there and intact, but is just covered with snow. The story quotes Ang Tshering Sherpa – chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association – as saying "The Hillary Step is in its old position. [It is] intact, except that there’s lots more snow on it so the rock portion is not easily visible."

This runs directly counter to reports that have come in from other mountaineers, including the Brit Tim Mosedale who was the first to break the story when he summited last week. He left little doubt that the step was no gone and that it would eventually have an impact on the route to the top of Everest.

Himalaya Spring 2017: New Round of Summit Pushes Begin, Illegal Traverse, 4 More Deaths on Everest

As expected, yesterday was a windy one on the summit of Mt. Everest, but conditions should improve today, allowing another round of climbers to launch their summit bids. The next couple of days should be extremely busy, with some large groups now on the move. This will likely be the last weather window of the seasons, as May is starting to run short of days. Still, the forecast is good and things look promising heading all the way into the weekend.

Despite high winds yesterday, The Himalayan Times is reporting that 30 more people managed to top out on Everest. Conditions on the summit were reportedly challenging, but the climbers were able to get up and down safely. This brings the total number of summits from the Nepali side of the mountain so far this season to over 220, with more yet to come.

Amongst the climbers who summited earlier this week was Ang Dorjee, a Sherpa guide from the Pangboche region of Nepal. It was his 19th successful trip to the top of Everest, putting him within striking distance of the record, which currently stands at 21 summits, and is held by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi.

Some of the teams that have now launched their summit bids include IMG, Himex, and Alpenglow, all of which have waited for the winds to subside before making a push. A number of teams are eyeing tomorrow – May 25 – as the day they stand on the top, and right now it appears the weather will cooperate for a safe climb and descent. Expect large numbers of mountaineers and potential traffic jams on both sides of the mountain.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Video: SalomonTV Takes Us on a Dream Trip to Nepal

If you could go on a dream trip, where would it be? For trail runner Tyler Courville, it would be a visit to Nepal to go running with National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Mira Rai, and thanks to SalomonTV, that dream actually came true. In this great video, you'll join Tyler as he travels to the Himalaya, meets Mira, and sets out on an adventure in the mountains. It is an epic journey for sure.

Video: 10 Female Adventure Icons Tell Outside About The Moment That Shaped Them

Outside magazine put ten of the most inspiring, impressive, and adventurous women of all time on its May cover, giving readers a chance to learn what drives them in their particular arena. Those ladies included the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Diana Nyad, and Melissa Arnot, and if you haven't had a chance to read the issue yet, I highly recommend it. In this video, we get to meet these ladies once again, while each of them shares with viewers the moment that shaped their lives. For a daily dose of inspiration, check it out below.

5 National Monuments at Risk From the Trump Administration

A few weeks back, the Trump administration sent an executive order to the U.S. Department of the Interior instructing Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of sites that were designated as national monuments over the past 25 years under the Antiquities Act. That order is expected to be carried out in three months, with some outstanding outdoor environments now at risk of losing their protected status, and potentially opening them up for commercial or even industrial development.

Recently, Men's Journal covered this story and compiled a list of the top five national monuments that are now on the chopping block. This list is filled with some very popular outdoor playgrounds that have received protected status under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. But now, thanks to other outside interests, they could be in danger.

So which sites earned a spot on the list? For once, I'm going to go ahead and spoil all five of them, as I think this is a topic worth spreading the word on and getting more people involved in speaking out against the move. So, without further adieu, the top five most threatened monuments are is as follow:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah)
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters (Maine)
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts (Massachusetts)
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico)
  • Bears Ears (Utah)
The MJ article gives readers a sense of why each of these places was designated as a national monument to begin with and what makes it a target for losing that status now. For instance, the Bears Ears has been at the heart of this controversy for months, first because it was protected by the Obama administration in the waning days of its tenure, and because oil and gas interests have been lobbying for access to the area for years. In other words, there are natural resources under the site, and commercial interests are paying a lot of money to try to rescind the protections placed on the monument. 

Have strong feelings about these places? Be sure to express your opinions by going to this website and entering "DOI-2017-0002" into the search bar. From there, you'll be able to not only find out more about this issue, but share your views as well. As of this writing, there have been nearly 75,000 comments to date. 

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Preparing For Another Go at Everest?

Once again, I know we've been posting a lot of news from the Himalaya lately, and already have one article about ongoing expeditions there from earlier today, but considering the general interest in this story, I thought it was worth giving it its own post.

Yesterday it was widely reported that Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet has set a new speed record on Everest. While that record comes with a number of qualifiers, there is no doubt that Kilian's 26 hour ascent is an impressive feat to be sure. Especially when you consider that he began having stomach issues at around 7700 meters (25,262 ft), but pressed on anyway. But, it seems Jornet might not be down with the mountain just yet, despite having already put on such an amazing performance.

On his descent, Kilian still suffered from his bout with the stomach illness, so rather than going all the way back to Base Camp, he stopped in Advanced Base Camp for some much deserved rest. While there, he ran into Adrian Ballinger, who reported on the encounter on his Facebook page. This is what Adrian had to say.
"#pro - if you don't follow @kilianjornet, stop reading this caption and go follow him. I'm lucky to be surrounded by some amazing athletes on a daily basis. But Kilian...wow. Today he made a 26-hour push from Base Camp to the summit of #Everest, without supplemental oxygen. This is superhuman. But three things make it even wilder. First, he suffered gastro distress throughout the summit push but somehow suffered through and still stood on top. Second, he thinks he can do it faster and hopes to recover in time to make another attempt before this season ends. Third, after 30+ hours awake and enduring real suffering, he still graciously signed autographs in ABC before sleeping or eating. I am so blown away, humbled and inspired for my attempt. Congratulations Kilian! #everestnofilter #everest201"
In other words, it looks like Kilian is already thinking about making another run at the summit and improving on his time. But, he's not thinking about coming back in the fall or returning for Spring 2018, but will instead try to recover now, and if the weather window is good, make another attempt at the speed record in the next few days. If that happens, it would be even more remarkable than his first summit.

Before he can do this, he'll first need to rest and fight off the gastro distress he's been dealing with. With high winds on the mountain today, he wouldn't be able to go up anyway, and with massive summit pushes now underway, it would probably be best for the endurance runner to wait for the crowds to clear out. That would make Friday or Saturday a perfect time for another push, provided he's feeling up to it. Will it happen? We'll just have to wait around to find out.

Stay tuned!

Himalaya Spring 2017: More Summits on Everest as Others Line Up For Second Weather Window

More updates from Everest today as the seemingly never-ending summit window continued to stretch out for a third day yesterday. And while winds are likely to briefly quiet things down, there appears to be more summits to come as the week unfolds.

Yesterday we wrote that more teams were reportedly on the move to take advantage of the current weather window before the jet stream shifted today. At the time, it was unclear how many had reached the top, as things were still influx, and the climbers could have been turned back from the summit if conditions changed suddenly. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and now there are various reports indicating that more than 100 climbers topped out in good weather on Monday. Of those, 45 were said to be foreign climbers, while the others were Sherpa guides.

As usual, Alan Arnette has a complete rundown of the proceedings, with good information on where the teams are currently at on the mountain and who successfully reached the summit. Among those finding success yesterday were 7 Summits Club and Asian Trekking, as well as a few smaller squads as well.

Alan also points out that Polish climber Janusz Adamski pulled off a rare traverse of Everest by first summiting on the North Side and then descending along the South Col route into Nepal. This was not only a solo climb, but Adamski made the traverse without the use of bottled oxygen, something that has only been done once in the past, by Jozef Just, who perished in the process.

While congratulations are in order to all of the summiteers, those of us following along at home barely have time to breathe before the next wave of climbers heads up. After today, the winds are expected to die down once again, and so there are numerous squads getting ready to make their ascent between Wednesday and Friday of this week. That wave will include another round of IMG climbers, Himex, Alpenglow, Alpine Ascents, and others. All told, the next few days could be just as busy as this past weekend.