Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Video: A Drone's Eye View of Australia's Uluru

If there is one iconic image from Australia's outback that is famous the world over it is probably Uluru. This giant stone monolith rises above the surrounding landscape, etching an imposing profile against the horizon. It is a place that has been held scared by the Aboriginal people of that continent for thousands of years, and it is a wonder to behold. In this video we get a look at Uluru that we've seldom seen before – from the air. Shot using a drone, the images in this short clip are gorgeous and impressive. It's the next best thing to going to the Red Center to see it for yourself.

Video: Learn the "Shepherd's Leap" on the Canary Islands

On the hilly slopes of the Canary Islands, the shepherds that once roamed the countryside had to get creative with how they moved across the islands. Most used a technique called "Salto del pastor" which translates to roughly "the shepherd's leap." Essentially, it is a bit like pole vaulting and it was used to cross streams, descend from heights, and slowly make their way to their destination. Today, it is a bit of a dying art, but a few still practice it, as you'll see in this wonderful short clip from National Geographic.

Canadian Adventures: Whitewater Rafting on the Métabetchouan River in Quebec

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to travel back to Quebec, Canada for some summer time adventures. If you're a regular reader of The Adventure Blog, you may recall that I had visited the province in February of this year when I not only had an unbelievable encounter with wolves, I also went dogsledding and snowshoeing in the breathtaking Valley of the Phantoms. But during that visit it was extremely cold (-40ºF/C) in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region so I was anxious to return to see the area for some warm weather exploration too. I did not come away disappointed.

The theme of our trip was "Much Love Water" as many of the activities revolved around exploring the region by some kind of watercraft. In fact, on our first morning in Quebec we decided to get things started by stand-up paddleboarding on lovely lake near La Cooperative O' Soleil – a rural destination about an hours drive from our starting location in the town of Chicoutimi.

Most of the folks I was traveling with had paddleboarded before, so after a brief get acquainted session with our SUP gear, we set off down a placid river that fed out into a large lake. The morning was quickly warming up, but a nice breeze coming off the water kept us cool as we spent about an hour or so getting a morning workout. For those who haven't been on a SUP before, it is a good way to not only test your balance, but also work your core.

Unfortunately, our stand-up paddleboarding experience was an all too brief one, and we were forced to come off the water sooner than we would like. But, there was a good reason for that, as we had to grab a quick lunch before launching into our true adventure for the day – whitewater rafting on the Métabetchouan River.

After turning in our SUP boards we headed over to Microbrasserie du Lac Saint-Jean, a local microbrewery where we had a chance to enjoy a tasty lunch and a flight of beers that are brewed right at the establishment. Both the food and the frothy beverages were delicious, surprising us with their rich and complex flavors. If you're in the area, and you're looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat, this is a spot that comes highly recommended.

Once we had our fill, it was off to H20 Expeditions for our whitewater experience. The company has been leading travelers on whitewater excursions for years, and the level of professionalism and experience showed. Not only were the guides personable and knowledgeable, they did everything they could to get us ready for our river adventure in as short of time as possible. That included safety demonstrations, training us on the best way to paddle, and what to do should you be thrown from the raft at some point.

Belgian Adventurer Completes Solo, Unsupported Trek Across Simpson Desert

A couple of weeks back I wrote about Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke attempt to cross the Simpson Desert in Australia on foot and without the use of a cart to carry his supplies and gear. At the time, he was just preparing to set out for Oz to begin his odyssey, but now just a couple of weeks later, the expedition has come to a successful conclusion, breaking new ground in the process.

Just as polar explorers pull sleds filled with gear and supplies behind them when they head to the North and South Pole, desert explorers often use specially designed carts. These contraptions are built to roll over sand and dirt, and have enough capacity to hold all of the important supplies – including water – that are needed on such an expedition. They are also incredibly difficult to pull for prolonged periods of time, but are a necessary component for anyone traveling "unsupported" in those types of environments.

Loncke, who first crossed the desert back in 2008, was determined to prove that it was possible to walk through the "Dead Heart of Australia" without using a cart to support his efforts. To that end, he elected to use a backpack instead. This forced him to get creative with how he packed and approached this trek, as he had to carry 40 liters of water with him for the journey.

His water alone weighed 40 kg (88 pounds), which didn't leave much room for other gear. In order to save weight he eschewed the use of a stove and carried only 8 kg (16 pounds) of food which consisted mostly of muesli bars, figs, and chocolate. He did carry a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag however, as well as a video camera, several battery packs, and two 360º cameras that captured the Simpson Desert in a way that is hasn't been seen before. All told, his backpack tipped the scales at  60 kg (132 pounds), when he set off on the journey.

While in the desert, Loncke managed to trek 300 km (186 miles) through one of the most inhospitable regions in Australia. The walk began at Old Andado Station and ended at Poeppel Corner, passing through the geographical center of the desert in the process. He had hoped to continue another 135 km (83 miles) to Birdsville, but when Loncke reached the ranger station in Poeppel Corner he was low on food and water and didn't have enough supplies to continue pressing on.

In addition to the usual challenges that the Simpson Desert poses, Loncke experienced something completely unexpected - rain! He says that it rained hard for three days and two nights, with tremendous lightning strikes across the region. The unexpected precipitation made it harder to walk each day, slowing his pace dramatically. He also reports that it led to soaked clothing and wet feet for those three days, which made for a cold, miserable experience at times. But the unexpected rain also brought a wild flower bloom, something else that was unexpected but much appreciated.

You can read more about Lou-Phi's experiences in the Simpson Desert on his blog site dedicated to the expedition. He is currently en route back home to Belgium, but will likely update it with more information going forward.

Congratulations to Loncke for achieving this impressive feat. He has potentially shown us another approach to desert exploration, and it will be interesting to see if anyone else follows suit moving forward.

Travel Channel Announces Six-Part Mini-Series Focused on Everest Rescue Operations (Updated!)

Everest will once again be the center of attention for an upcoming documentary television series set to air this fall. Yesterday, the Travel Channel announced that it will begin airing Everest Air on Wednesday, October 26 at 10:00 PM EST/9:00 PM CST. The show will be an hour in length and run for six weeks.

Everest Air will reportedly take a look at what it takes to climb the highest mountain on the planet, as viewers meet the men and women who traveled to Nepal this past spring to make an attempt on the summit. But beyond that, the show will focus on a high altitude emergency response team called Alpine Rescue Service that led by Jeff Evans, who is described as "an Everest expert mountaineer, adventurer and medic." Evans and his team conducted a number of rescues on the mountain this past spring, some on foot, but most through the use of a helicopter.

The show promises to provide viewers with awesome views of the Himalaya and Everest in particular, while giving them an inside look at expedition climbing in Nepal. But the main focus will be on Evans and his team of helicopter pilots and rescue Sherpas who work on the mountain. Over the course of the six episodes, I'm sure there will be no shortage of drama as the crew goes about rescuing stranded, sick, and injured climbers.

I've spoken to several people personally who were on Everest this past spring, and two who had to be helicoptered off the mountain from Camp 1. Both indicated that when they were loaded onto a helicopter to be brought down to lower altitude they had cameras shoved in their face with someone asking if it was okay to interview them. Neither was in a really good mood to be interviewed at that point, and indicated as much to the television crew. Obviously others were more than willing to share their stories however, as the show has enough footage and content for its six-episode run.

We're still about two months from the show hitting the air, so I'm sure we'll learn a lot more about it the closer we get to its debut. On the one hand, I'm curious as to how the producers of Everest Air handle the mountaineer aspects of the program, while on the other I'm a bit dismayed that the focus is on rescuing those who were unable to complete the climb. All too often the mainstream media takes an alarmist/extremist view of Everest, playing up the danger their for ratings. In reality, the mountain is indeed a dangerous and difficult climb, but it is one that hundreds of people do successfully in any given year. Usually, the general public only hears about the climbers who die during that attempt. Will this show alter that approach in any way? We'll have to wait to see, but at the moment I remain dubious.

Update: I've heard from several people that wanted to clarify that the camera crew that was so invasive on Everest this past spring was actually from the Discovery Channel and not the Travel Channel. I'm told that Everest Air will indeed be a legitimate, and well made, show that isn't as sensationalistic as I have feared. Hopefully that will be the case. We'll find out in October.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Video: The Pacific Northwest in Timelapse

This two-minute clip takes us to America's Pacific Northwest to capture some of the stunning landscapes that exist there. Filmed mostly in Oregon and Washington, the video gives us a beautiful look at some of the snowcapped peaks, pristine mountain lakes, and thick forests that punctuate his part of the U.S., leaving us a little breathless along the way.

Pacific Northwest from ELEMOTION Photo on Vimeo.

Video: Clever Seal Avoids Death by Jumping into Boat

What's a desperate seal to do when being hunted by orcas? Why jump into a passing boat to avoid certain death of course! That's exactly what happens in this video, which was shot by an amateur filmmaker (witness the use of vertical video) who caught a pod of orcas hunting a seal who ultimately decides his best course of action is to leave the water altogether and hitch a ride on their boat. Warning: some of the language in the clip is a bit salty, but it is still amazing to watch nonetheless.

Gear Closet: Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch

As an Apple Watch owner I've come to rely on my smartwatch more than I ever thought possible. Not only does it give me the date and time, but it also provides access to my calendar of events, quick viewing of texts and alerts, the ability to control the music on my iPhone right from my wrist. It also tracks my workouts, provides weather updates, and gives me scores of my favorite college and NFL football teams. Heck, it even holds my boarding passes when I'm traveling, providing a very convenient way to whisk through the airport.

But for all of its strengths, the Apple Watch has plenty of faults too. For instance, its battery life is limited to about one full day of use, which makes it a challenge to keep charged while traveling. It is also designed to be more of a fashion accessory rather than something that is truly built for adventure travel or outdoor activities. In fact, it is rather on the fragile side, which is why I recently used the Apple Watch Case from Catalyst while traveling through Quebec. So, while I love the idea of wearing my smartwatch everywhere, it just isn't always practical to do so. That is, unless you happen to have the Smart Outdoor Watch from Casio, a timepiece built specifically with the outdoor enthusiast in mind.

Officially designed as the WSD-F10, this smartwatch was built from the ground up for adventure travelers and the active outdoors person. As such, it comes equipped with a host of sensors and features that will make our life in wild and remote places much easier. For instance, the watch has a built-in electronic compass, altimeter, and barometer. It also comes with a database of the current times for sunrise and sunset based on your current location, and it even has a tide chart to help you plot the movement of bodies of water. Casio's device even serves as a fitness tracker too, closely charting your movement and calories burned throughout the day.

Despite all of that functionality baked into the Smart Outdoor Watch, there is one feature that is glaringly missing – GPS. Most high-end outdoor watches today come with some GPS capabilities that allow their users to track their routes, follow trails, and keep track of speed, distance, and direction. The WSD-F10 does all of those things, but it uses the GPS chips on the smartphone that it is tethered to in order to accomplish those feats. That means you'll need to carry your smartphone with you everywhere you go, including the backcountry. Considering how many of us already do just that however, it seems like a small price to pay, even if you now have to keep two gadgets – your phone and your watch – charged.

Czech Traveler Survives for a Month in the New Zealand Wilderness After Partner Dies

Here's a harrowing tale of survival that will probably make a great book or film at some point. Last week, authorities found a Czech tourist who had been missing for more than a month in the wilderness of New Zealand. The woman was discovered living in a park warden's hut along the Routeburn Track, one of the country's popular trekking routes. She is said to be in reasonably good physical condition, although she is understandably suffering some physiological stress from the ordeal.

The woman, and her traveling companion set out to hike the trail back on July 26. The Routeburn Track typically takes about three days to complete, but the duo became lost when the trail markers they were following became buried in deep snow.

Things went from bad to worse when the woman's partner fell off a cliff, dying as a result of his injuries. She then spent three long, cold nights out in the open before locating the cabin, which became her home over the past few weeks. During that time she suffered some minor frostbite and hypothermia, but for the most part is in good condition.

Nearly a month past before the Czech consulate contacted authorities in New Zealand, who up until that point were unaware the couple was missing at all. They organized a search party, but held out little hope since it been so long, and so much snow had fallen along the trekking route. But, the couple's car was discovered near the trail head, which initiated a longer search that resulted in the rescue.

In addition to the cold weather and snow conditions, the woman faced a serious threat from avalanches. Most hikers are advised to avoid the higher altitude sections of the hike during the winter months for that very reason. It was because of those dangers that no other hikers discovered her living in the cabin over the past several weeks. She was found last Wednesday and transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Quite a story indeed. She is obviously lucky to be alive. Thankfully this one had a mostly happy ending, although condolences go out to the friends and family of the man who perished on the trek.

Karakoram Summer 2016: The Final Summit Score of the Season

When last we checked in with the summer climbing season in the Karakoram there was team still working hard to complete their climb. That team consisted of Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Ondra Mandula, who were hoping to summit Gasherbrum I along a new route. But poor weather conditions stranded the two men high on the mountain, leaving them waiting for days for a chance to either move up or down. Ultimately they would have to abandon their attempt, which they finally did last week, officially bringing the curtain down on the 2016 season. 

Now that everyone has left Pakistan for home, we can step back and take a look at how things actually went this year. As usual in the Karakoram, there were some triumphs and some disappointments, but thankfully there were no tragedies. 

ExWeb has posted a post-mortem for the climbing season that just wrapped up, providing some insights into everything that went down over the past few months. One of the highlights of the summer was the return of climbers to Nanga Parbat after three years of no teams attempting that mountain. Climbers have mostly steered clear of Nanga since the 2013 attack in Base Camp by a group of terrorists that left 10 people dead. But this year they started to return at last, and three people actually managed to summit.

Over on K2 it was another frustrating season, which is typical of the world's second tallest mountain. Weather often dictates when climbers can go up or down on K2, and this year was no different in that regard. But the real difficult came when a major avalanche destroyed Camp 3 on the mountain, wiping away a large cache of oxygen bottles with it. That left most of the teams no choice but to call it a day and head home. So, while 2016 will be remembered as a year that commercial climbing on K2 increased dramatically. In fact, there were more than 100 climbers on the mountain this year. But in the end the results were typical for the "Savage Mountain" – zero summits on what most believe to be the toughest 8000 meter peak to climb. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Video: The Northern Lights as Viewed From a Drone

What do you get when you fly a drone into the Northern Lights? Why this spectacular video of course. Shot on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, where the stunning landscapes found there are illuminated by the otherworldly light given off by the aurora borealis. This is a fitting way to wrap up another busy week, and a two-minute video that everyone should see. Enjoy!

Northern Lights shot with a Drone from O Z Z O Photography on Vimeo.

Video: Grand Teton National Park as You've Never Seen it Before

We continue our theme of sharing videos from America's national parks today with this amazing clip from our friends over at Teton Gravity Research. They take us deep into Grand Teton National Park to give us a look at the place at it has never been seen before. As you'll see, it is wilderness playground unlike any other, and due to its proximity to Yellowstone, an often overlooked destination for adventure.

Gear Closet: Victorinox Traveller Lite Swiss Army Knife

In terms of outdoor gear, there are few pieces of equipment that come close to being quite so iconic as the famed Swiss Army Knife. This handy tool can trace its roots all the way back to 1891, which is when the company that would eventually go on to be known as Victorinox would begin producing their first knives. Since then, those products have continued to evolve and are now shipped all of the world, with just about every outdoor enthusiast owning on at some point in their lives.

Recently, I carried the Victorinox Traveller Lite with me on my trip through Mongolia, and as usual, it proved itself to be a handy companion. The knife comes equipped with everything you need, and a few things you didn't even know you wanted, making it a useful item to have in your pack or pocket at just about any time.

Sorting through the incredibly long catalog of knives on the Victorinox website will probably leave your head spinning. There are so many choices to examine that it can be difficult to find the one that best suits your exact needs. But, the Traveller Lite was certainly a good choice for me, as it features just about every tool imaginable, including both large and small knife blades, a can opener, screw driver, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, scissors, and more. In short, it has about every tool you wold expect from a Swiss Army Knife, and they are all squeezed into a small enough space that it can easily be slipped into your pocket.

Adventure Travel Briefs: A Cruise Ship in the Northwest Passage and Is Adventure Travel Endangered?

There have been a number of interesting stories to come out of the adventure travel industry lately, not all of which are worth their own post, but together they make an interesting story to share with readers. For those of you out there who enjoy pursing some adventures of their own, here are a couple of things to have on your radar.

Luxury Cruise Ship Sails the Northwest Passage
In recent years, climate change has allowed the famed Northwest Passage – an area of open sea in the Arctic Ocean above Canada – to become far less treacherous and more navigable by boat. In the past, the ice would either stay locked in place even during the summer months, or the route would remain dangerous due to large ice bergs choking the path. That isn't the case any longer, and for several months each year it is possible to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Arctic.

Now, a luxury cruise ship by the name of Serenity has embarked on a 32-day journey across the entire passage. The ship set sail from Seward, Alaska last week, and is now making its way towards New York City. While small ships have made their way along the legendary route in recent years, this is the first time a large ship has done so. The Serenity can carry more than 1700 people.

Hopefully the cruise goes off without any major issues. The Canadian Coast Guard estimates its response time to an emergency at 11 hours. That's a long time should anything go wrong. Fingers crossed this doesn't become a major trend either, as the Arctic Ocean is still a very fragile ecosystem.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Busy Season Ahead in Nepal

It looks like the fall climbing season in Nepal will be a busy one. After seeing a resurgence of climbers on Everest and other 8000 meter peaks this past spring, it now appears that the trend will continue with a slate of climbs scheduled for the fall as well. And with the official start of the season just a few days away, scores of mountaineers are now arriving in country.

According to this story from The Himalayan Times Manaslu will be the favorite target for the climbing teams this autumn. About 100 foreign climbers have received permits to attempt the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) peak, with the first 40 mountaineers departing from Kathmandu yesterday. They'll spend a few days trekking before reaching Base Camp, but should get there sometime late next week, just as the fall season – which traditionally runs from September to November – starts to get underway.

Other mountains that will be seeing some traffic this fall include Dhaulagiri and Lhotse, as well as non-8000 meter peaks Ama Dablam, Himlung and Putha Hiuchuli. Those mountains won't have nearly as many men and women on their slopes however, as Manaslu remains the big draw.

As has become typical for this time of year, there are no reported attempts on Everest from the South Side at this time. That could change as more climbers apply for their permits, but as of now Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet and Japanese mountaineer Nobukazu Kuriki are the only ones who will challenge the world's highest peak this season. Both will make their ascent from the North Side.

According to the story from the Times, some of these groups will be quite large. For instance, Seven Summits Treks will lead four groups consisting of 60 climbers on Manaslu themselves, which may be as much as half of the number of foreign climbers heading to Nepal this autumn.

Following the tragic earthquake last spring, it was good to see mountaineers returning to Nepal this year. By most accounts, the spring climbing season was a highly successful one, and the fall looks to continue that success. Of course, all of these expeditions employ Sherpa guides and high altitude porters, which brings much needed cash to the economy of Nepal as well. We'll of course be keeping a close eye on the proceedings there, and will report any news moving forward.

Gadd luck to everyone heading into the mountains. Stay safe!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Video: Powerful Yellowstone in Timelapse

Most of the videos I've shared this week have centered around America's national parks in some way, and this one is no exception. This time we travel to Yellowstone – the first national park in the entire world – to catch a glimpse of the powerful forces at work there. Through timelapse video you'll see some of the park's famous geothermal anomalies at work, as just below the surface sits one of the most powerful super volcanoes on the entire planet. This is part of what makes Yellowstone so special, and seeing it captured in this manner is incredibly impressive indeed.

SKYGLOWPROJECT.COM : HADES EXHALES from Harun Mehmedinovic on Vimeo.

Video: Celebrating 100 Years of America's National Parks

If you've been reading The Adventure Blog this week, you know that today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of America's National Park Service. This video comes our way courtesy of CBS, and it was made with one purpose - celebrating 100 year of the national parks. This is a momentous occasion indeed, so sit back and enjoy this four-minute clip that will remind you of why these places are so special.

Gear Closet: Catalyst Apple Watch Waterproof Case

I have a confession to make. I absolutely love my Apple Watch. In fact, I pretty much wear it every day. It isn't just a watch for me, but also a fitness tracker, communications device, and a way to keep tabs of my calendar. It also holds my boarding passes when going through the airport, discreetly displays text and alert messages, and controls my music and podcasts when I'm out on a run. In short, it has become an important part of my daily life. 

All of that said, there are times when I wish the Apple Watch were a bit more rugged. Sometimes I'll wear it on my outdoor adventures, and it seems a bit fragile for use in the backcountry. Especially if I'm doing anything that involves being out on the water. Don't get me wrong, the Watch can survive a dunking, but Apple falls short of actually declaring it water proof, and you're on your own if you go swimming with it. Which is why I was eager to try out the Apple Watch Case from Catalyst, a product that promises to add rugged protection to the smartwatch and even protect it from water.

The Apple Watch Case is certified to the IP68 standard, which means it will keep your watch waterproof down to 50 meters (165 ft). It has also been built to the MIL-SPEC 810G standard for protection against drops as well, giving your Apple Watch a suit of armor that protects it from the elements. Those two factors alone make it a worthwhile product for anyone who like to wear their smartwatch in the outdoors, as you'll definitely feel more confident when it is wrapped up in this protective shell. 

Installing the Apple Watch Case is surprisingly easy. There is one tiny screw to remove (Catalyst includes a proper screw driver in the packaging) to gain access to the interior of the case. Before doing so, you simply remove the current watch band that you have on the Apple Watch – a process that takes seconds – and then place the watch housing itself inside a thin rapper seal that provides an extra level of protection from moisture. Then, you place it into the case and reseal it using the same screw and screw driver. 

Use of Helicopters on Everest Rises Dramatically

If you followed the spring climbing season on Everest with any regularity this year, it was evident that the use of helicopters on the mountain had risen dramatically. But a new report gives us an even closer look at the numbers, that now show not just a surprising number of flights to the mountain, but that many of them were unauthorized. 

According to this story from The Himalayan Times, there were more than 150 helicopter flights conducted to Everest Base Camp and higher during the spring 2016 climbing season. Sources at the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla say that six companies operated at least 151 flights above 5000 meters (16,404 ft) in April and May without properly reporting their activities to Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority. Of those, about 30% (roughly 45 flights) were to locations above Base Camp, most notably Camp 1 and Camp 2 on Everest.

Regulations state that helicopter flights are to go no higher than BC unless they are conducting emergency rescue operations. Those types of flights are monitored closely by Aviation officials, but it seems in this case many pilots were indicating that they were flying to Base Camp, only to go higher up the mountain later on. Authorities say that by going to higher altitudes the pilots are risking their own lives and those of their passengers, warning that there could be a fatal accident if such operations continue.

Representatives of the six companies that conduct the flights insist that they only went to the higher camps to rescue climbers who requested assistance and that they weren't doing anything outside of the regulations. The fact that so many of those flights went unreported however would suggest otherwise. If all of the flights were conducted above board, there would be no need to not report them. 

U.S. Creates New National Park on Centennial of Park Service

Today is a landmark day for America's National Park Service. It was 100 years ago to the day – August 25, 1916 – that the NPS was created by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, who charged the organization with the monumental task of preserving the country's best wild landscapes, and making them accessible to the public. That has been a duty that the men and women of the Park Service have taken very seriously for a century, and they are already planning for the next 100 years.

Over the next few days, there will be celebrations held all over the U.S. – including free entry to all parks from today through Sunday – to salute the NPS and the national parks in general. Those places are destinations that are incredibly iconic not just for outdoor enthusiasts like you and me, but for millions of travelers who visit the parks on an annual basis to take in their splendor. After all, who amongst us doesn't recall a family vacation during which you loaded up the car and headed out a on a road trip that passed through at least one national park along the way?

There is of course a no more fitting way to celebrate the centennial than to welcome another national park into the fold. Yesterday it was announced that the 413th entity to fall under the Park Service's care would be Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was established on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NPS.

Katahdin, which is located in Maine, is made up of 87,500 acres of wild backcountry. The land was donated to the Park Service by Roxanne Quimby and her family, who also are known for creating the Burt's Bees line of outdoor products. Their gift includes a $20 million endowment to help protect this area of land, which is nearly twice the size of Acadia National Park.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Video: Amongst the Ancients in California

In need of two-minutes of pure bliss? Than this video ought to do the trick. It is a timelapse clip shot in the Sierra Mountains of California that give us some breathtaking views of that part of the world. Utterly spectacular, I'm sure you'll agree that this is a video that is worth watching beginning to end. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Among the Ancients - California Timelapse 4K from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Video: The Best of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We continue our salute to the National Park Service this week with another great video from America's National Parks. This time, we travel to the Great Smoky Mountains to explore the most visited park in the entire U.S. system. More than 10 million people visit this place every year, and after watching this video, you'll understand why. Wild, remote, and beautiful, and yet still accessible, this is truly a great adventure destination.

Gear Closet: Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Bluetooth Smart Padlock

Keeping your possessions safe and secure while traveling can be a real challenge in this day and age. It seems no matter where you go, someone is looking to steal your stuff. That's why it is a good idea to carry a padlock with you when you hit the road, as it gives you the ability to secure your bags when they aren't in sight. But if you're like me, remember a combination to such a lock can sometimes be difficult, particularly if you don't use it often. And sure, you could always use a lock that requires a key instead. But, in the age of constantly evolving technology and increasingly smarter devices, there seems like there should be something better. Allow me to introduce you to the Locksmart Mini from Dog & Bone.

At first glance, the Locksmart Mini looks like most other padlocks you might come across. It has a thick, durable hardened steel shackle that connects to whatever it is you want to lock up, and its body feels durable and tough in your hand. The exterior is coated in a protective covering that also give is a unique, colorful look too. But upon further inspection, you'll start to notice a few things that separate this lock from others. For example, there is an LED light on the front, and no key hole whatsoever.

Yep, you read that right, this is a lock without a key or combination of any kind. Instead, the Locksmart connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and is controlled by an app (available for iOS and Android). That app allows you to unlock the device when you need access to your belongings, but also gives you the ability to control multiple locks or even share access with someone else from anywhere in the world. That means that even though you're away on a trip, you can still allow someone back home to unlock the Locksmart should the need arise.

Paring the lock with your smartphone takes just a few seconds, and couldn't be easier. The real power lies within the app that you must download and install on your mobile device. It is from there that you can name your locks and turn off and on certain features. The app also allows you to add other users, giving them full or temporary access to your Locksmart.

Gear Junkie Gives Us 10 Gear Trends to Watch for in 2017

It's hard to believe but 2016 is already starting to wind down. Sure, we're still in the midst of the dog days of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, but the final days of August is in sight, and we're only a few short months from the end of the year. With that in mind, our friends over at Gear Junkie have peered into their crystal ball and looked into the future, giving us 10 gear trends to watch out for in 2017.

For anyone who attended the Summer Outdoor Retailer convention a few weeks back, most of these trends won't come as much of a surprise. Walking the halls of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was clear where the industry is headed. But, those same trends aren't quite as clear to the outside observer who wasn't lucky enough to see all of the major outdoor brands collected under one roof.

So what can we expect from our gear in 2017? I won't spoil the entire list, but there are certainly a few items that are worth mentioning. For instance, there is definitely a concerted effort in the outdoor industry to make our gear more "green." Companies are searching for ways to use recycled materials for instance, and they are changing the way they manufacture their products so that they use less water and have a decreased impact on the environment. We've seen a few efforts in this direction in the past, but it is really picking up steam now. Over the next few years, those efforts will not only increase dramatically, they'll also become much more common place.

Other trends that Gear Junkie says we should watch for include more sophisticated drones, boots that grip ice better, and performance apparel that will help keep us cooler. The other items on the list are equally intriguing, and definitely reflect the same things I saw at OR.

If you're a gear nerd like me, you'll probably find GJ's list very interesting. The industry is definitely moving forward with some new initiatives and we'll all get the opportunity to benefit from it.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Japanese Climber Nobukazu Kuriki Heading Back to Everest

We're in a bit of a lull in the mountaineering scene right now. Yes, Kilian Jornet is in Tibet and preparing for his speed record attempt on Everest, but for the most part this is the time of year when there is a brief pause between the summer climbing season in Pakistan and the fall climbing season in Nepal and Tibet. Most of the teams that are preparing for a Himalayan summit in the next few months are waiting for the monsoon to subside before heading to the mountains. Once that happens over the next few weeks, we'll begin to see climbers arriving in Kathmandu once again.

In recent years, the fall season in the Himalaya has mostly concentrated on 8000 meter peaks other than Everest. A lot of mountaineers use this time of the year to gain valuable experience ahead of an Everest attempt next spring, so you're more likely to see expeditions to Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, or even Ama Dablam. But, there are still some climbers who will focus on the world's highest peak, most notably Japanese Nobukazu Kuriki.

If that name sounds familiar it is because this fall Kuriki will be making his sixth attempt on Everest, once again looking to summit solo and without oxygen. He has tried this same feat in the past, and it hasn't always gone well for him. Back in 2012, the Japanese mountaineer ended up getting stranded high on the mountain and head to be rescued, but not before he suffered severe frostbite in his hands and feet. He ended up losing parts of nine fingers in the process.

That hasn't deterred him from attempting Everest however. He climbed on the South Side last year and made a valiant effort before ultimately having to call it quits. This year he'll have a go at the summit from the Tibetan side of the mountain, where he hasn't climbed before. It is unclear whey he decided to make the change, but it could have something to do with Nepal's recently discussed new restrictions, which ban solo climbers altogether.

Kuriki, who is a popular figure back home in Japan, has crowdfunded his latest expedition, easily surpassing his goals to get the money he needs for this climb. He'll now prepare to head back to the Himalaya this fall, most likely sometime in September. That's about when Jornet hopes to be wrapping up his speed attempt, so the two might not even be on the mountain at the same time.

As German adventure sports writer Stefan Nestler points out, there hasn't been a successful fall summit of Everest in nearly six years. That's when Eric Larsen topped out along with five Sherpas as part of the Save the Poles project. Lets hope Kilian and Nobu have more luck this year.