Friday, February 23, 2018

On the Road Again: Heading to Arctic Europe

This week has been a strange one here at The Adventure Blog. I spent the first part it with an unexpected trip to visit family and the second part playing catch-up after I got home. Now, I'm preparing to leave once again, this time on a journey that promises to be a grand adventure.

Later today I set out for Arctic Europe and over the course of the next week I'll be traveling across Finland, Norway, and Sweden above the Arctic Circle. My journey will take me out onto the frozen Arctic Ocean on both a snowmobile and an icebreaker. I'll also be dogsledding and riding in a sleigh pulled by a reindeer. There will be polar plunges, hot saunas, and a host of other activities. I'll even be staying in a snow hotel with a Game of Thrones theme along the way too.

While I'm away, updates to the blog will likely be few and far between. I will be keeping a close eye on the winter expedition unfolding on Everest, as Alex and company close in on their summit attempt. I'll also watch the Polish team on K2 as well for signs of progress on their part. My trip to the Arctic will last a week, and I'll be back in the States on March 2, with updates to resume chortler thereafter.

Thanks or your patience while I'm away and I hope you have some last-minute winter adventures planned for the final weeks of the season too. Back soon!

Video: How to Ski Steeps by REI

Our friends from REI are back today with another "How to" video. This time out, they share some tips on how to effectively and efficiently ski steep slopes. Here, we get a look at the basic skills needed to take on these challenges, helping beginner skiers to master the techniques to help them not only get down safely, but have a great time doing it. And if you like this clip, the team has also put together a second video on how to ski moguls too.

Gear Closet: TheraGun G2Pro Review

As a runner who puts in quite a few miles each week, and mixes in both road and mountain biking on a regular basis, it is safe to say that my legs sometimes take a beating. It is not uncommon for me to walk around with sore muscles on an almost constant basis. In fact, it has gotten to the point that I almost don't notice anymore and have just learned to deal with it in day-to-day life. But, a new tool has shown me that there are ways to help manage this pain and even prevent injury and soreness in the process.

The TheraGun G2Pro is a device that somewhat resembles an electric drill, but with hard rubber balls – called "AmpBits" – on the end. When turned on, the AmpBits rhythmically move up and down like a small, yet powerful, jackhammer. And when they're placed against your muscles and joints, they provide a deep tissue treatment that can help relieve soreness, fatigue, and chronic pain.

Physical therapists have used similar tools as the TheraGun in the past, but they often have proven ineffective simply because they are so painful to use. But, this device uses a unique form of both frequency and amplitude to trick your brain into shutting off its pain receptors, allowing you to use the TheraGun for far longer than you normally would be able to tolerate. The result is that you can give yourself a deep tissue message just about anywhere and at anytime.

When I received a test unit to review, I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical. The TheraGun has garnered quite a following with NFL, NBA, and Major League Soccer players, but I wasn't sure exactly what it could do for me. After using it for a month however, I've come to appreciate what it brings to the table and how it can help outdoor endurance athletes too.

The New Yorker Publishes Riveting Story About Henry Worsley's Doomed Antarctic Expedition

In 2016, British polar explorer Henry Worsley lost his life while attempting a solo, unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent. He was attempting to become the first to make such a journey, which remains one of the biggest challenges that remain for adventurers traveling in that part of the world. It is impossible to know exactly what that journey was like, but now – thanks to an unlikely source – we have a bit more of an idea. 

Recently The New Yorker published an amazing article about Worsley and his expedition to the Antarctic. Entitled "The White Darkness," the story is written by David Grann, who also wrote the excellent Lost City of Z. It takes us out onto the ice with the British explorer, providing us with some impressive insights into what that journey was like and what must have been going on in Worsley's mind as spent days on end skiing across the frozen continent. 

Many of us who follow these types of expeditions have some idea of at least the logistics behind such a venture. But unless you've done such a journey yourself, it is difficult to truly understand what it is like to grind out every mile, day-in and day-out, in such a cold, inhospitable place. This article will help you to understand what that is like just a bit more. 

The story is a long one, so prepare yourself and get comfortable. This is best read on a tablet in comfy chair with a drink or even a snack close at hand. You'll be going on a journey along with the Worsley, but it is definitely one that you'll want to take. And when you come out the other side, you'll have learned a lot more about this man and what drove him to push himself to his very limits, and beyond. It is sad, inspiring, joyous, and humbling all at once, and I highly recommend that anyone who enjoys reading my stories gives this a thorough read too.

Check it out here.

Winter Climbs 2018: Everest Weather Window Looks Good Heading into Weekend

It is go time on Everest at long last. Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, and the rest of the crew are now on their summit push with a favorable weather forecast heading into the weekend. But conditions on Everest are fickle and since they are climbing without the use of supplemental oxygen, this ascent into extremely cold temperatures is far from a sure thing. Still, this is the opportunity that Alex has been waiting two years for, and it looks like it will be now or never on the world's tallest mountain. 

As we reported yesterday, the team launched its summit bid mid-week and was already in Camp 2. Their last update indicated that they were still there at 6400 meters (20,997 ft) preparing to move up. They may already have moved to Camp 3, but haven't updated their status yet, which would put them in position to climb to C4 with an eye on summiting on Sunday morning. This is all according to plan, as Alex predicted that the final summit push would happen on either Saturday or Sunday. Exactly when they'll make the ascent remains to be seen. 

Alan Arnette has had a look at the forecasts – courtesy of EverestWeather.com – and says that winds are expected to subside both Saturday morning and Sunday morning, which means the team will be climbing throughout the night to take advantage of those conditions. Alan also points out they are on a typical schedule for a spring expedition to the South Side of the mountain, with Alex and company not feeling a particular need to rush things. 

While conditions do look good and the stage is set for this dramatic climb to unfold, keep in mind that the weather can shift quickly in the Himalaya. With the jet stream on the summit dying down in the mornings, this is a fairly narrow weather window. On top of that, a true winter ascent of the mountain – meaning the expedition took place entirely in the winter season – is a rare feat, let alone doing it without the use of oxygen. Alex and Ali Sadpara are both experienced climbers who will no doubt take every precaution, but this will be a struggle even with the weather conditions in their favor. 

We'll keep a close eye on the proceedings and bring you an update when when know more. Alex has said this will be the one and only summit bid, so lets hope everyone gets up and down safely, regardless of whether or not they reach the top. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Video: How a Drone Helps One Veteran Deal with PTSD

Most of the time we see a drone as a tool that helps us capture amazing photos and video from the air or for use in some other job. But, they can simply be fun to fly too, which is what David Daly discovered. As a combat veteran, Daly has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years, although he has learned to keep the symptoms at bay by taking his DJI drone for flight on a regular basis. His story is a fascinating one and another indicator that drones can play a number of roles in our lives.

Video: Get a Whale's Eye View of the Antarctic

The Minke Whale is one of the least studied and understood species in the whale family and in an effort to get to know them better, researchers recently attached a camera to one of the creatures as it swam in the waters of the Southern Ocean. The video below gives us a whale's eye view of the Antarctic, providing a brief glimpse into the Minke's world.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 9: More Adventure News!

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcast is now available for download. Like last week, this is a solo effort that strays from our usual format. It is also shorter than most of our other episodes as well, concentrating on just four or five important news stories that took place in the past week.

As usual, you can listen to the show online, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher. I've also embedded the episode below for those who don't use any of those formats. We're currently working on getting the show syndicated in Spotify too, but we are still in the process of getting approval.

Last week our show as an abbreviated one because my co-host Dave Adlard had a few things to deal with on his end. This week, I have been dealing with some family issues as well, which prevented us from being able to record at our regular time. Next week, both of us will be traveling, but we may do yet another short "news" episode before hopefully getting back to our regular routine after that. Thanks for your patience and for listening.

Temperatures in the Arctic Climb 45º Above Normal

In another indication of how climate change is having an impact on the polar regions of our planet, the Arctic is currently experiencing some of its warmest weather ever for this time of year. According to reports from the Cape Morris Jesup weather station in Greenland – the northernmost of its kind in the world – temperatures soared 45ºF higher than normal. And while this spike has been unusual, it appears to be part of a growing trend.

Since the first of the year, temperatures in the Arctic have been about 10ºF (6ºC) above normal, with regular spikes of 25ºF (14ºC). Typically, the temperatures should hover around -22ºF (-30ºC) in January and February, but that hasn't been the case for most of 2018 so far. The warming trend has gotten so widespread in fact that temperatures are expected to climb above freezing at the North Pole starting today and running through the weekend.

These conditions are pretty much what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades, with fears of the arctic ice retreating now becoming a true concern. For the first time ever in January, a tanker ship was able to navigate the Northeast Passage above Russia without the assistance of an icebreaker. While the ship did encounter plenty of sea ice, it wasn't thick enough to cause concerns.

Typically this is the time of the year when the pack ice is at its thickest, making it a real challenge to navigate through this part of the world. But thinning ice will mean these waterways will be wide open during the warmer months, which simply wasn't he case just a few years ago.

Last week I wrote a piece wondering where all the North Pole skiers have gone. With the ice getting this thin even in the heart of winter, it is easy to see why no one wants to take on the challenge of skiing to the top of the world. Without a solid surface to ski on, they would end up spending most of their time in rafts and dry suits while swimming across open leads of water. What was already an incredibly difficult journey is now only getting that much harder to complete.

As if this news wasn't bad enough, in December the annual Arctic Report Card was released by NOAA, with researchers coming to the conclusion that the “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.” That should be sobering news indeed.


Winter Climbs 2018: Summit Bid Begins on Everest

The moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived on Everest. After months of planning and weeks of preparation on the mountain, Alex Txikon, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, and the rest of the team have launched a summit bid on Everest, and things are already going well. But, as with all things involving the highest mountain on the planet, it won't be an easy ascent.

The attempt on the summit – the first so far this season – got underway yesterday with the Alex and company reaching Camp 2 in a single push. They'll likely move up to C3 today and be in their final position tomorrow for a potential push to the top on Saturday or Sunday (February 24/25) of this week.

The forecast calls for a good weather window over the next few days. That is a relative forecast of course, this being winter in the Himalaya. Temperatures on the summit are expected to hover around -40ºF/C, with windchills approaching -80ºF/-62ºC. In other words, it will be brutally cold on the way up, and remember Alex is attempting this summit without the use of supplemental oxygen.

In a post on Facebook Alex has called this the "first and last chance to get to the summit of Everest," indicating that he expects this to be their only real chance at topping out this winter. With about a month to go yet before the end of the season, I would have expected the team to at least consider a second summit bid should they not make it this time. But, it has been a long couple of months on the mountain and the entire squad is probably ready to get the expedition over with. Hopefully that means they'll come home with their mission completed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Video: Why We Need Quiet (and Wild) Spaces

Anyone who loves the outdoors knows how valuable and invigorating it can be to spend some time in the backcountry. This video captures the essence of that very well as we follow a young woman into the mountains where she reflects on modern life and the importance of disconnecting from time to time. Something we can all appreciate.

Laser Scanning Reveals Massive Hidden City in Mexican Jungle

The same technology that reveled a gigantic hidden city under the jungle canopy in Guatemala a few weeks back is being put to good use in Mexico too. New LiDAR scans have provided archaeologists with a more revealing look at an ancient city from the Purépecha Empire, and once again they have been astounded by what they've found.

LiDAR is a high-tech laser imaging system that can penetrate thick jungle coverage to get a look at what lies beneath. The system works like radar, mapping the terrain and any man-made objects as well. It has been used to great success in a number of environments, providing very insightful looks into an ancient world that we thought we knew quite a bit about, only to discover we've just been scratching the surface. Literally!

In the case of this most recent finding, LiDAR scans have revealed that the Purépecha city of Angamuco is actually twice as large as what researchers previously thought. The latest images show that it covers 26 square km, with far more structures shrouded underneath. In fact, archaeologists believed that the city had about 1500 total buildings, but now they have counted more than 40,000, making it larger than Manhattan.

The Purépecha Empire is lesser known than the Inca, but existed at about the same time. The capital of the empire existed in western Mexico and was called Tzintzuntzan. It was believed to be the largest city in the region at the time, but these new scans show that Angamuco was actually considerably larger, at least in area. The imperial city is believed to have been more densely populated. It also indicates that the Purépecha people existed in larger numbers too.

These kinds of discoveries continue to astound researchers and LiDAR is helping to reveal things that have been hidden from the eyes of man for centuries. I can't wait until they use this technology in the Amazon to see what mysteries are hidden there.

Find out more about this story here.

Winter Climbs 2018: Continued Progress on K2, Still Waiting on Everest with One Month to Go

It will be an unusual week here at The Adventure Blog in terms of updates. I'm on the road a couple of days and then leave the country on Friday. But until then, we'll share any news we can on what's happening in the outdoor world of exploration and adventure, including the ongoing winter expeditions that we've been following on K2 and Everest, where one team is making steady progress, while the other continues to wait.

On K2, the Polish Ice Warriors are continuing to take what the mountain gives them and are slowly and steadily working their way upward. In the latest update on the expedition it was revealed that Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko have now established camp at 7200 meters (23,622 ft), while other teammates are following behind in regular rotations. The entire squad continues to work on acclimatization and are shuttling gear and supplies up the mountain.

After making the change to the Abruzzi Route the team has had to reinstall fixed ropes and redo some of the work they had already done elsewhere. But, as of today, they still have one month to go to complete the first winter ascent of K2, so there is still plenty of time for them to put everything together, adjust to the altitude, and look for a weather window. But in another week or two, things will start to get tight, so making steady progress is important. Weather will ultimately dictate the final schedule, but the team is putting in the work to get them into the right position to potentially have a shot at reaching the top.

Meanwhile, over on Everest, Alex Txikon and crew continue to wait. High winds further up the mountain are preventing them from making a summit push. The team is ready to go but need a proper window that stays open for several days, before they can leave Base Camp. Some forecasts predicted that would happen early this week, but for now conditions have not improved enough to allow them to go up.

While in BC thins aren't completely without incident. Yesterday, Alex posted the video below on Facebook showing an avalanche that occurred above camp. These happen all the time and aren't dangerous provided you're not close to them, but the noise keeps everyone on their toes and watching the glacier above them.


Video: Beyond Trails in the Atacama Desert

If you're looking for a great adventure documentary, look no further. This beautiful and inspiring short film takes us to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile where cyclists Lorraine Blancher and Robin Munshaw embark on a bikepacking trip across one of the wildest and demanding landscapes around. What they thought would be a grand adventure turned into something more than they ever imagined. Beautifully shot, wonderful to watch, and completely unique, this is one you won't want to miss.

Beyond Trails Atamacama from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Video: The Sun, the Moon, and the Truth in Nepal

This thoughtful video takes us to Nepal, where we are left to ponder our place in the Universe, with the sun, the moon, and the stars overhead. Along the way, we get to enjoy some stunning scenes of the beautiful landscapes found there, as well as some wonderful shots of the amazing people that inhabit this country. For those of you who have been to Nepal, this clip will no doubt spark some memories. For those who have yet to visit, it will hasten your desire to go.

The Sun, The Moon, and the Truth | Nepal from Neal Howland on Vimeo.

Video: Ice Climbing Frozen Waterfalls on Michigan's Upper Peninsula

When you think about the best places to go ice climbing in the U.S., Michigan isn't always the first place that comes to mind. But the state's Upper Peninsula is one of the best wilderness destinations east of the Mississippi with some outstanding places get outside and play. That's exactly what Angel VanWiemeersch and Sasha DiGiliuan discovered when they went there, and as you'll see in this video, they found some amazing frozen waterfalls to climb.

How to Beat Cold Conditions While Winter Camping

For most of us, winter is just another season that brings new opportunities for outdoor adventure. But, it is still true that you have to take extra precautions during the season to stay warm and safe out in the cold conditions. To help us do that, Men's Journal has shared 4 ways to beat the cold while winter camping.

Most of the tips are ones that experienced winter campers already know, but are good reminders none the less. For instance, MJ says that you should consider the location of your camping trip before setting out. Some destinations require a bit more thought and planning to enjoy a comfortable outing. In their example, they mention hat the Adirondacks are actually better for camping at 0ºF/-17ºC than it is at 30ºF/-1ºC thanks to the snow being dryer. Wet conditions, as in any season, are the bane of any camper's existence.

Other tips include staying hydrated throughout the trip, as you'll dehydrate at a rapid rate in the winter too. Also, wear googles to keep blowing snow from your eyes and prevent damage from sun glare, and finally consider the location of your campsite carefully.

The tips presented int he article come our way from John Gookin, who has trained thousands of U.S. Marines on survival and warfare in arctic conditions. If anyone knows a thing or two about staying comfortable in cold weather, it is probably him. That said however, I would have liked to have had a bit more depth in each of these tips. There is more to be said for sure, but this is a fairly superficial look at how to stay warm.

Still, it is worth a read for sure. To check out John's suggestions click here.

Kayaker Paddling From Maine to Florida to Support Veterans

A 65-year old disabled Veteran has embarked on what promises to be quite an impressive adventure by kayak. Last year, Joseph Mullin set off on a 2000 mile (3218 km) journey from Maine to the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys in an effort to raise awareness and fund for Mission 22, an organization dedicated to help prevent veteran suicide. 

The idea for the expedition came about when Mullin learned that 20 American vets commit suicide each and every day. That's a staggering number. Mullin himself suffers from PTSD and can understand the challenges that these men and women face. So, to try to help out, he has set out on this kayak expedition, which is now about a third of the way complete. 

Dubbed the "One Man, One Mission to Save Thousands" expedition, the journey started at the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine on April 30, 2017. The lighthouse marks the easternmost point in the U.S., jutting out into the Atlantic ocean. From there, he started paddling south along the East Coast with plans to ultimately finish in Key West, Florida. 

Mullin says that he had to suspend his expedition temporarily when he reached Rhode Island where his original kayak started to lose buoyancy and stability. He went from covering 30-40 nautical miles per day down to just 10, so he knew he had to find a replacement. He tells Canoe & Kayak magazine that it took some time to research the right boat for the trip but eventually he found one that should do the trick. Now, he's waiting out the winter before he resumes the voyage, which should start again in April. 

Joe says that on Day 1 he ran into trouble thanks to an overloaded kayak. After two hours on the water, he capsized but because his boat was so heavy, he couldn't self rescue. He called for help from the Coast Guard, but it took them an hour to get to him. He spent that time in 38ºF (3.3ºC) water and developed hypothermia. He ended up spending some time in the hospital while he recovered, but soon resumed the paddle. 

He's also faced poor weather conditions, heavy seas, and high winds along the way, all of which have caused delays at times. He's also had some positive experiences along the way too, including watching an orca whale breach just a meter off of his kayak and meeting some helpful and friendly people throughout the trip. 

Hopefully, Joe will be back on the water in a couple of months and resuming his journey south. He is doing it for a good cause and it is quite the impressive undertaking. Find out more in his interview with Canoe & Kayak

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Video: Love in the Tetons

In the spirt of Valentine's Day, we have another wonderful short film courtesy of REI today. This one tells the story of Juan Martinez, who traveled to Grand Teton National Park 15 years ago and fell in love with the landscapes there. As a kid from Los Angeles, he had never seen stars before and this was an outdoor wonderland he didn't know existed. Then, he met a park ranger named Vanessa Torres, and fell in love all over again. This is there story, and it is wonderful.

Video: Kilian Jornet's Path to Everest

Last spring, mountain runner Kilian Jornet completed his Summits of My Life project by reaching the top of Mt. Everest not once, but twice. Now, a documentary film about that expedition is about to be released and we have the teaser trailer for it below. That's really all the set-up you need. Can't wait to watch the full film.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 7: Adventure News

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the latest episode of The Adventure Podcast is now available for download. As usual, you'll find it on the web, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher. I've also embedded the show in this post so you can listen to it as well.

In this episode I am flying solo, so rather than boring everyone too much, we just picked a few important adventure news items from the past week or so and shared them with listeners. This is a much shorter episode  than usual too, running just 17 minutes in length. Next week, we'll be back to the usual format, before we goin on hiatus for a bit while I travel and Dave takes care of a major project on his end too.

As always, thanks for listen. If you have any feedback, be sure to drop us a note at theadventurepod@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Pakistani Officials Weigh in on Nanga Parbat Rescue Controversy

The rescue operation that took place on Nanga Parbat a few weeks back continues to be a source of frustration and controversy. While climbers from K2 were able to rescue Elisabeth Revol, they weren't able to climb higher to save Tomek Mackiewicz, which has created a contentious environment to say the least. Revol has expressed her anger over how slowly the operation came together, saying more than once that Tomek could have been saved had search and rescue teams responded more expediently. She has even said the company operating the helicopter raised the price of the flight in an effort to make more money off of the situation. While that remains under investigation, Pakistani officials have responded to criticism not just from Revol but the media as well, providing some insights into their side of the story.

In a post made to the Pakistan Mountain News page on Facebook officials made four points that they thought were important enough to share. Those points were as follows:
1. First, Pakistan is a developing economy and ‘Tourism’ sector receives much less attention. Despite, it has world’s best wonders. Neither there are institutions for high-demanding-skills rescue operation on mountain nor has it modern resource and equipment.
2. Second, these mountaineers go on Nanga Parbat at very economical package. Such economical packages do not cover many essentials. It is only their bravery and audacity that make them to summit in the winter.
3. Third, Askari Aviation does not have high-tech helicopters that can hover around in inclement weather condition. As it was coordinated rescue operation, nobody could help Tomek and Elisabeth in private capacity.
4. Lastly, Poland or French official authorities did not contact State of Pakistan officially after this rescue. However, Eisabeth was given utmost care and attention. The Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan enquired after her in hospital. She did not utter a word.

Winter Climbs 2018: Is it Almost Go Time on Everest?

Since our last update on the winter climbs there hasn't been a whole lot of progress, but the future schedule is starting to become a bit clearer. Meanwhile, over on K2, things remain contentious, with one member of the team clearly unhappy with the current situation.

We'll start in Nepal, where Alex Txikon and his team have been relaxing and waiting in Base Camp. Everyone seems to be in good spirits while they watch the weather forecasts for an opportunity to make a summit push. Currently there is a projected weather window that could come next week on February 20, which means that everyone could be on the move as early as tomorrow to get themselves into position for a dash to the summit. The weather models predict that the wind speeds will die down at last, granting access to the top.

Of course, Alex, Ali Sadpara, and the rest of the squad will carefully pour over the data to ensure that it is safe to make the ascent, otherwise they'll just end up wasting energy. But, if there is a chance that they could complete the climb, it seems like they are poised to do so. Remember, the Basque climber will be going up without the use of supplemental oxygen, so this winter climb is far from a sure thing.

Over on K2, the Polish Ice Warriors continue their work on the Abruzzi Route. According to reports, Denis Urubko has now been as high as 6500 meters (21,325 ft) before being forced back down due to poor weather. The team has shuttled gear up to their new campsites but are now forced to stay in Base Camp while they wait for their next opportunity, which coincidentally could come on February 20 as well.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Poles at the moment is team unity. Urubko continues to criticize his teammates, the group's leadership, and even their selection of a climbing route. As usual, he seems like the strongest climber in the group, and has been shouldering much of the work up high, but he also hasn't held back in his critique of how things are going either, taking shots at the other climbers for things like not properly hydrating or assisting with the fixing of ropes. This discord can't be good for morale and could eventually lead to issues between the men. On the other hand, Urubko might be the team's best chance for getting to the summit, so it is a fine line to walk for sure.

We'll continue to keep an eye on things to see how they develop. Right now, the weather is keeping everyone in place, but it seems we're on the verge of summit bids on Everest, and possibly K2 as well. There are still four more weeks of winter to go however, so there is time for both teams to be patient and wait for the right opportunity.