Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 15: Did Mallory Summit Everest?

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcast is now available for download. You should be able to find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. As usual, I've also embedded the episode below for you to listen directly from this blog post.

This week we discuss a topic that has spurred debate in the mountaineering community for nearly a century - Did George Mallory summit Everest back in 1924? If so, it would have been 29 years prior to Hillary and Norgay making the recognized first ascent of the mountain. Dave and I go head to head sharing our opinion on the topic, and it is pretty clear where we both stand. (Hint: Dave says yes, he summited, I say no!) We also discuss the latest adventure news, including an exciting new expedition to walk the length of the Yangtze, a change in pricing for National Park entry fees, an interview with Adrian Ballinger, and much more. As always, we wrap up the show with gear picks, which include a new set of hiking boots and a portable campfire!

The Adventure Podcast can be found on social media as well. Join us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and links from the show. And of course, you can always send us feedback via email too. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Puja Ceremonies and Into the Icefall

The spring climbing season on Everest and other big peaks in the Himalaya is proceeding on schedule. Most of the teams have now arrived in Base Camp on both sides of the mountain or will be there very shortly, and the acclimatization process is now underway. But before anyone can go up the mountain for the very first time, they must first complete an important step in the climbing process - the Puja ceremony.

Those who follow the Himalayan climbing scene closely probably already know about the importance of the Puja. During this ceremony, a Buddhist lama comes to Base Camp and performs a ritual in which he asks permission of the mountain for the climbers to safely pass up and down its slopes. The lama will also bless the climbers themselves and the gear that they are using for the expedition. This is a long standing tradition amongst the Sherpa people and most will not proceed up to the higher sections of the mountain they are on until the Puja has been completed. It is not mandatory for the western climbers to attend the ceremonies, but it is part of the Himalayan climbing experience, so most do come and take it all in.

Once the Puja has been wrapped up the teams are now free to start their climb in earnest. Several squads are at that point now, particularly on the South Side of Everest where climbers have been getting settled, making acclimatization hikes, and working on their rope skills for the past week or so. Some have ever gone into the notorious Khumbu Icefall where they've practiced climbing ladders and negotiating their way through that dangerous section of the climb. Reportedly, this year's route through the icefall is as direct, quick, and straightforward as any have seen before. Hopefully this will limit the amount of time spent in that section of the climb, which is widely considered the most treacherous on the Nepali side of the mountain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Video: Around the World in 6852 Birds

I have to admit, I'm not much of a birder. I do enjoy spotting unique, colorful, and unusual species of birds in the wild, particularly when I'm visiting another country. But, Arjan Dwarshuis – the subject of the video below – took birdwatching to an entirely new level back in 2016 when he set a new record for spotting the most species – 6852 in fact – in a single year. To do that, he had to visit 40 different countries, traveled on 140 flights, and was on the go for 366 days. It is quite a story of dedication and commitment. Check it out below.

Around the World in 6,852 Birds from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Video: Up El Cap in Two Nineteen Forty Four

In October of 2017, climbers Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds set a new speed record for climbing The Nose in Yosemite, flying up the route in 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 44 seconds. This video is the story of that climb, offering up some spectacular views and amazing insights into their attempt to break an already impressive record.

Two Nineteen Forty Four from Tristan Greszko on Vimeo.

6 Tips for Taking Better Travel and Adventure Photos

There is no question that photography and adventure go hand in hand. Whether you're traveling to some remote corner of the globe, snapping a summit photo on a big mountain, or just capturing a sunset over the landscape in your own backyard, great photos are an essential part of telling the story. As someone who is lucky enough to get travel regularly as part of his job, photography has long played a crucial role in what I do. That said, I'm hardly an expert and I'm constantly learning new things on how to be a better photographer.

Recently I had the chance to attend a Nikon School class on Landscape and Travel Photography that was taught by professional photographer Reed Hoffman. The course no only reminded me of some of the basics that I hadn't always been thinking about, while also teaching me a few new tricks that I can carry forward on future adventures. With that in mind, here are 6 tips I learned for taking better photos.

Get to Know Your Camera
This may seem like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who buy a camera, charge the battery, shoot a few photos, and end their familiarization there. To get the most out of your camera, you have to really drill down into the menus to figure out where all of the settings are, while exploring what those settings actually do. If you're using a DSLR, you should learn how it performs in a variety of environments, how well it it shoots images with different lenses, and how well it functions in low light conditions. You'll also come to know how fast it shoots photos and get a sense of how it captures color and light. All of those are important things to know before you really get serious about your photography.

At the Nikon School course that I took we actually went through the various menus and examined what the settings actually did. Some of it was very basic and common sense, but others weren't too intuitive and easy to understand. But, the instructors made it easy to figure out what everything did, sending us out better informed about the technology behind the equipment we're using. Also, it is always fun to experiment with different settings to see how they impact your results. 

Think About Composition
I like to say that there is a big difference between snapping pictures and taking photographs. If you're just pointing your camera in a general direction to capture a scene, you're probably just doing the latter. However, if you put the camera up to your eye, think about the shot, frame your subject in an interesting way, and take your time with figuring out what makes it the most interesting, you'll start to take much better photos. For instance, the subject of the photo doesn't necessarily have to be front and center, but actually might be more interesting somewhere else in the image. The Rule of Thirds comes in handy when thinking about competition too.

10 Survival Skills Everyone Needs to Know

We routinely feature interesting lists from other outlets here at The Adventure Blog, but this one might just save your life, particularly if you spend a lot of time in the outdoors. Popular Mechanics has posted a run-down of the 10 survival skills we all need to know, offering up some suggestions that should be common knowledge, along with a few you might not have seen before.

The first couple of items on the list are definitely something that everyone should know in case of emergency situations. They include how to signal for help and how to orient a map. Other good tips inform readers on how to make clean water, what do do if their feet get wet and cold, and how to swim a long distance in freezing water. Other items on the list aren't quite so intuitive, but are helpful none the less. For instance, the article tells you how to make a fire using a gum wrapper and an AA battery and how to turn your car into a battery.

Some of the items that make the list are no doubt things you already know, while others are no doubt things you've never even thought of. While reading the list I couldn't help but wonder when I might use some of the skills listed there, but then again you never know when a situation might arise where they could come in handy. There are definitely some items that every outdoor enthusiast should master, while others are a bit more obscure.

Check out the entire list here.

British Adventurer Olly Hicks Planning Second Attempt to Row the Southern Ocean

Way back in 2009 I followed British adventurer Olly Hicks as he made an attempt to row the Southern Ocean, circumnavigating Antarctica in the process. That expedition was fraught with challenges and Hicks ended up spending three months at sea without really putting a dent in the milage he needed to complete his journey. He ended up pulling the plug soon thereafter, but has never quite been able to shake the idea of going back to this massive undertaking, even announcing plans in 2012 to try again. Now, more than six years later, he's prepping to give it another go.

Hicks has announced that he'll once again attempt a solo row around the Southern Ocean, which he says will be the longest such journey ever undertaken. The plan is to set off from Australia later this and begin rowing in an easterly direction. The entire trip will cover approximately 18,000 miles (28,968 km) and he expects it will take roughly two years to complete, including a 2-3 month stopover on South Georgia Island where he'll wait out the Antarctic winter.

Olly's approach to the expedition is a bit different this time out, as he now plans to have a support ship with him to shadow his progress and lend assistance should the need arise. That vessel won't just be hanging out in the Southern Ocean however, as it will also be on a scientific mission to study the the current health of plankton in the Southern Ocean.

To prepare for the "Row the World" mission, Hicks will first warm-up by rowing from mainland Norway to Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. From there, he'll embark on a 20-city tour, along with his rowboat and scientific support vessel that will end upon his arrival in Australia. Along the way, he hopes to host a series of educational events to not only introduce his plan to row the Southern Ocean but also talk about the science he and his team will conduct while there. Those events will hopefully raise awareness of his plans and may serve as fundraisers to help support the expedition too.

There is no firm date set for when Hicks will begin his Southern Ocean challenge, but I'd predict that it will launch sometime in October or early-November in an attempt to get a jump start during the Austral summer. That season is relatively short, so he'll want to make as much progress as he can prior to the return of winter.

To find out more visit OllyHicks.com.


Olly Hicks Showreel from Olly Hicks on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Video: The Stunning Vistas of Almaty, Kazakistan

Travel to the Almaty region of Kazakistan in this video, which gives us a sense of the natural wonders and beauty that can be found there. The four-minute clip takes us on a timelapse journey across some wonderful landscapes filled with snowcapped peaks, flowing rivers, and lush forests. If you're in a need of an escape today, but just can't seem to find time for a proper one, this video will provide some much needed relief.

ALMATY NATURE | Time-lapse Project from Pavel Tenyakov on Vimeo.

Video: North of Nightfall - Mountain Biking Above the Arctic Circle

What do you get when you send pro mountain bikers Darren Berrecloth, Carson Storch, Cam Zink and Tom Van Steenbergen north of the Arctic Circle to ride their bikes? That's what we'll find out in this amazing looking new film called North of Nightfall. The four men went to Axel Heiberg Island to take on some of the toughest terrain imaginable, while finding some epic mountain bike runs that only reveal themselves during the very brief summer months. The video below is the teaser for the full film, which looks absolutely fantastic.

Open Explorer is Nat Geo's New Tool to Help Us Follow Expeditions in Real Time

Here at The Adventure Blog we're constantly looking for interesting new expeditions to follow, and while we try to keep our ear to the ground, it is often difficult to keep track of everything that is going on in the world. Thankfully, a new tool from National Geographic is promising to make that process much easier.

Dubbed Open Explorer, this new website offers multiple ways to learn about on going expeditions. For instance, the top of the page features a major program that is ongoing somewhere in the world right now. Below that, you'll find an interactive map that indicates where expeditions are currently making place, allowing viewers to zoom in to determine what is happening in the places that they are interested in, while below the map they'll also find listing of yet more expeditions broken down by category. If that still isn't enough however, you can also click on the Expedition Discover page to find other search tools to help you sort through all the options. As I write this, there are currently 438 expeditions to follow.

With building the Open Explorer tool, Nat Geo is hoping to also create a community of like-minded explorers and adventurers who can freely communicate with one another and share ideas. Visitors are encouraged to create a profile, sign in, and follow along as expeditions of interest unfold. Explorers can also post updates to the site, sharing the progress they've made, interesting new findings, and so on. In a sense, the plan is to create a social network for those of us who are enthralled with the exploration and adventure world. You can even add your own expeditions to the list too.

If you read this blog with any regularity, there is probably a good chance you'll find something interesting on the Open Explorer site too. There are literally dozens of expeditions to sift through, all of which have something compelling to offer. If you're like me, you'll probably find far too many of them to follow, and not enough time to keep up with them all. Still, it is going to be a lot of fun trying.

Check out Open Explorer here.

The Most Epic Adventures in All 50 States

If you're looking for some big adventures to occupy your time this spring and summer, then Men's Journal is once again here to help. The magazine has created a comprehensive list of the top adventures to do in all 50 states, offering something for just about every kind of traveler, athlete, and explorer.

With such a diverse number of places and environments to cover, the list of things to do is pretty broad. For instance, the opportunities for outdoor adventure abound in a place like Alaska, where MJ recommends chartering a float plane and visiting Mount Anialkchak, an collapsed volcano in the Aleutian Range. Of course, the hard part about finding something to do in Alaska is narrowing your options down from all of the available choices. That isn't the case in place like Iowa, where those opportunities are fewer and far between. If you're visiting the Hawkeye State, Men's Journal recommends you go cliff jumping in Chickasaw Park.

Other big adventures that can be had in various states include climbing at the Red River Gorge (Kentucky), go paddling on the Upper Missouri River (Montana), traverse the Presidential Range (New Hampshire), and go sailing at dawn (Rhode Island). The list includes options for mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, climbing, and much much more. In short, if you live for outdoor adventures, chances are you'll find plenty to keep you busy here.

Whether you're looking for something to do in your backyard or you're planning a trip across the U.S. this year, this article will give you some things to put on your bucket list. Check out the entire run down by clicking here.

Historic No-Oxygen Climbing Team Returns to Nepal 40 Years Later

While the teams up in Everest Base Camp and on other mountains in the Himalaya continue to get settled in for the climbing season ahead, an historic reunion was taking place in Kathmandu. That's where the surviving members of the first team to summit Everest without the use of bottled oxygen joined one another to celebrate their achievement 40 years after they changed the paradigms of mountaineering forever.

The expedition took place back in 1978 and consisted of 12 members, of which 8 are still alive. They include mountaineering legends Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler, as well as their support team consisting of Wolfgang Nairz, Helmut Hagner, Hanns Schell, Robert Schauer, Oswald Ölz and Raimund Margreiter. The four members of the squad who have since passed include Horst Bergmann, Josl Knoll, Reinhard Karl and Franz Oppurg.

40 years ago when this team gathered on Everest to attempt to climb the world's highest mountain without the use of oxygen, the thought of going to the summit without wearing a mask and oxygen tank was pretty much unthinkable. It was thought at the time that man simply couldn't exist at those altitudes without bringing their own oxygen supply. The entire team proved this theory to be wrong by putting Messner and Habeler on the summit without using supplemental O's.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Video: Rock Climbing Angel Falls in Venezuela

The video below is a clip from the recent National Geographic special One Strange Rock, which explores the unique aspects of our planet. In this segment from the show, a team of rock climbers attempt to make their way up a line that runs alongside the 979 meter (3211 ft) Angel Falls in Venezuela. The climb is not an easy one, but the views are spectacular along the way. 

Video: Who Was the First Person to Reach the North Pole?

One of the more disputed facts in exploration is who exactly was the first person to reach the North Pole. While we know exactly who won the race to the South Pole, who actually reached 90ºN first is somewhat in dispute. This video helps us sort through that question and explains why this subject is one that is shrouded in controversy. Definitely an interesting piece of history.

Explorers Web Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint and Has Relaunched

Last summer I posted a story about venerable adventure and expedition website Explorers Web going up for sale as long time owners Tom and Tina Sjögren moved on to other projects. Later we learned that the site did indeed have a new owner and that this excellent resource for mountaineers, explorers, and adventurers wouldn't just disappear from the Internet. Now, after months of anticipation, the site has relaunched, and it looks better than ever.

Over the weekend, the newly rebranded Ex Web went online with a fresh, modern design. As usual, the latest news stories are front and center on the site, with the most popular stories found along the right side of the page. Scrolling further down reveals articles generated from within the ExWeb community as well. A site-wide search engine is located across the top of the page, while social media sharing buttons are prominently displayed in the upper right corner.

The new site design is clean and easy to navigate, and features several new stories. Since the new transition to ownership began a few months back, updates have been sparse. But, it is nice to see new news stories appearing on the site and hopefully this bodes well for more frequent updates to come in the future. Explorers Web has always been a great resource for me here at The Adventure Blog, and I look forward to visiting it – and referencing it – regularly once again.

It should be noted that a banner across the top of the main webpage reminds visitors that the site is still in the midst of its upgrade process and that we should all have a little patience while the new design is rolled out. From my perspective, everything seems to be running quite nicely however, as the site is noticeably faster and more responsive than in the past. I'm not sure if there are more features yet to come, but so far I give the new rollout a big thumbs up. It looks great and I'm happy to see some life in ExWeb once again.

Check out the redesigned ExWeb here.

Research Team May Look for Shackleton's Ship in the Antarctic This Year

An team of researchers heading to the Antarctic later this year may go in search of a long-lost piece of exploration history. A group of international climate scientists will travel into the Southern Ocean to study the massive iceberg that broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf last summer, but while they're in the neighborhood, they're also hoping to locate Ernest Shackleton's ship the Endurance.

The primary goal of the research project is to visit the giant slab of ice that separated itself from Antarctica last July. That won't necessarily be easy, as thick ice throughout the region has already thwarted at least one attempt to get close to the large chunk of ice. The hope is to study the environmental factors that are causing Larsen C, and other glaciers in the Antarctic to calve off an an alarming rate.

But, a secondary objective of the team is to locate and potentially photograph the Endurance, which sunk back in 1915 after Shackleton and his men became stuck in the pack ice. Eventually, the ice created too much pressure on the hull of the wooden vessel, which had its hull crack, sending it to the ocean floor. The crew escaped of course, but were forced to endure many long months in the Antarctic before escaping to Elephant Island, and famously making an open ocean crossing to South Georgia.

In order to study the ice bergs in the area, the team will take several underwater drones capable of using sonar that can map the shape of the sea floor and other objects in the area. The plan is to use those drones to also find Shackleton's long-lost ship. It is believed that the Endurance is located more than two miles (3.2 km) beneath the surface of the ocean.

All in all, the team will spend about 45 days in the Southern Ocean, most of which will be spent studying the ice. But, given enough time and sufficient access, they hope to catch a glimpse of the famous ship too. Only time will tell if that will actually happen, but those of us who are fans of Shackleton and his story are certainly hoping that will be the case.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Adrian Ballinger Goes for Cho Oyu-Everest Double Header

It continues to be an interesting and busy spring season in the Himalaya, where teams are now steadily filing in to Base Camp on both sides of Mt. Everest as they begin the long process of acclimatization. As reported last week, the Icefall Doctors have completed the route through the Khumbu Icefall on the South Side, and the way is now clear for teams to go all the way up to Camp 2. Meanwhile, on the North Side, the teams are getting settled and shuttling gear to Advanced Base Camp further up the mountain.

Typically it takes a few days for most of the teams to get settled into place and a rest is often in order prior to beginning the actual climb. The first few days in BC are often spent polishing climbing skills and taking short hikes around the area, before setting a schedule to move further up the mountain. On the Nepali side of Everest, a number of teams will make their first acclimation rotation on another nearby peak, thus limiting the number of times the teams have to pass through Khumbu Icefall.

Ahead of the start of true climbing operations on Everest comes some interesting news of things we can expect in the days and weeks ahead this year. For example, I conducted an interview with Alpenglow owner and head guide Adrian Ballinger last week that was posted over at Gear Junkie. In that interview, Ballinger talked about a wide array of topics, but especially his plans for this season. Adrian will lead a team of climbers on a potential Himalayan double-header, making rapid ascents of both Cho Oyu and Everest. To do this, he and the other members of the team have been acclimating prior to leaving for Tibet by using oxygen tents back home, a process that has proven to be very successful in recent years.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 14: The Toughest Adventures in the World

Episode 14 of The Adventure Podcast is now available to download from your favorite podcast source, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. As usual, you an also stream it online or finding it attached to this blog post.

In this week's episode we open with our usual adventure news segment, talking about the Paris-Roubaix cycling race last weekend, some interesting Everest stories to follow this season, and an update on the Barkley Marathons. Then we delve deep into our main topic, during which Dave and I share our picks for the toughest adventures on the planet. As usual, we wrap things up with some gear reviews.

If you like what you hear, drop us some feedback on Facebook, Twitter, or by email. And as always, thanks for listening.