Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Video: Hands On with the Garmin inReach Mini

A couple of weeks back we took a look at the new Garmin inReach Mini satellite tracker/messenger and were intrigued by its size and capabilities. Now, we can get an even better look at the device in action thanks to this video, which goes in-depth with who the Mini works and what capabilities it brings to the table. If you're  tech nerd like me, who find themselves needing a way to communicate from remote areas from time to time, this is definitely an interesting product. Check it out below.

Gear Closet: Outdoor Research Interstellar Rain Jacket Review

It isn't all that often that you pull on a new piece of clothing for use in the outdoors and already recognize that it is something special. That was exactly the case with the Interstellar Jacket from Outdoor Research however, as it was became apparent within a matter of seconds that this was an outstanding piece of gear, particularly for those who need excellent protection from inclement weather during their outdoor pursuits.

Outdoor Research bills the Interstellar as its "most breathable hard shell," although in reality the jacket feels like a soft shell instead. It is soft, stretchy, and pliable, making it a great option for runners, cyclists, climbers, or others who tend to be aerobically active when they're outside. The fact that is it also highly breathable puts it head and shoulders above most other rain jackets on the market, and a considerable step up from anything else I currently have in my gear closet.

The secret behind the Interstellar's construction lies with a new design process that OR uses to make the jacket. It has developed a new approach called "electro spinning" that actually weaves the polyester fibers into a crystal-like structure that creates a waterproof, yet still flexible and breathable, fabric that is unlike anything the company has developed before.

When it comes to performance, its tough to match the Interstellar. I've used the jacket for several months now in everything from light mist to heavy downpours and it has yet to allow a single drop of moisture reach the interior. At the same time, it has also kept me from overheating and getting extremely sweaty, as heat and perspiration still manage to escape. Strategically placed fabrics mesh fabrics aid in this process without compromising durability or integrity at all.

Some Good Environmental News For Once - Marine Mammals are on the Rebound

I've posted a lot of doom and gloom stories about the environment in recent months, including reports of warming oceans, increased greenhouse gasses, and the breaking up of massive ice slabs in the Antarctic. Well, for once, we have some good news to report as a new study indicates that marine life on the endangered species list is actually on the rebound.

According to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Endangered Species Act is having its intended consequences. The organization says that in recent studies a growing number of marine species that are protected by the law have begun to see their population numbers grow as a result. That conclusion came after researchers looked at 23 different marine mammals and nine types of sea turtles to discover the health of the species. What the found was that 78% of the creatures studied saw steady population growth since being placed on the endangered species list.

According to the study, humpback whale numbers along the West Coast of the U.S. have risen to numbers not seen in decades, while sea otters, manatees, and sea turtles have also seen significant gains in recent years as well. In fact, the longer those creatures remain on the list, the better they are doing. Those that are protected for 20 or more years have shown that their population numbers will indeed rebound and recover.

There are obviously still challenges that these species face, but this report is definitely encouraging. It indicates that despite overfishing by man, pollution in their waterways, climate change, and the encroachment on their habitats, these animals can adapt to the situation. That bodes well for the future not only for these creates, but for others who are endangered as well. It is also a good indication that when we as humans take steps to protect the environment and the world around us, we can have a positive impact.

Thanks to Adventure Journal for sharing this story.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Yet More Summits on Everest and Lhotse, Hillary Step Update, Death Toll Rises to 5

The summits just keep coming in the Himalaya where the unprecedented weather window remains open with teams continuing to stream towards the top. I'm not sure anyone can recall such an extended summit season on Everest in particular, where the summit total continues to rise as more and more teams complete the expedition. Meanwhile, next-door on Lhotse, the summits continue too.

Some of the more prominent teams that have wrapped up their summit bids include Alpine Ascents, who put 10 clients and 9 Sherpas on the summit earlier today. Similarly, Shangri-La Nepal Treks put a large group on top of Everest as well, as did Pioneer Adventure, who assisted Doma Sherpa Pinasa in becoming the first Sherpa female journalist to scale the mountain. Beyul Adventures completed their climb by putting at least five clients on the summit, and IMG had successful teams on both Everest and Lhotse.

One expedition to give an update on is Adrian Ballinger's Alpenglow squad, which when we last checked in had elected to abandon their attempt on the mountain after 30% of the teams regulators stopped functioning at 8500 meters (27,887 ft). As you'll probably recall, the squad had to turn around and descend to a safe altitude, and for awhile it looked like their expedition was over. That was true for Alpenglow's group that had already summited Cho Oyu, but not it's Rapid Ascent Team that was only focused on Everest. That group, which included Ballinger himself, went to the summit on Sunday and topped out at long last. That means that Adrian managed to nab his double-summit, getting both Cho Oyu and Everest in a matter of just a couple of weeks.

One of the stories that has continued to be of interest in the past couple of years is whether or not the Hillary Step still exists on the mountain. This prominent landmark was the last major hurdle on the way to the summit and was named for Edmund Hillary, the first man to overcome it back in 1953. But following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, there have been conflicting reports as to whether or not it is still there. Those reports can be put to bed thanks to a new photo posted by Alan Arnette. From that shot, it is clear that terrain has been altered in what Alan is now calling the "Hillary Stairs." I'd vote for simply renaming it the "Hillary Steps" however, as it does not resemble a staircase on the way up. This should make it easier, safer, and faster to negotiate.

Finally, we have more sad news from Everest where it is reported that mountain guide Damai Sarki Sherpa has died after falling into a crevasse. At the time, he was in Camp 2 and was assisting a client to an evacuation helicopter when he slipped and fell. He was retrieved from the crevasse and was alive at the time, with rescuers carrying him down to Base Camp and then evacuating him to Namche Bazaar for treatment. He passed away there last night.

That brings the death toll on the world's highest peak to five this season. Our condolences go out to the friends and family of everyone who passes away in pursuit of their Everest dreams.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Video: A Visit to China's Shaolin Temple

This video brings back a lot of memories for me. My first major trip abroad was to China, where I spent two weeks training kung fu at the Shaolin Temple along with my friends and classmates from my martial arts school back here in the U.S. It was an amazing trip filled with culture, history, and some of the most challenging physical workouts ever. This clip gives us a brief look at this fantastic place, which was instrumental in convincing me that travel was a big part of what I wanted to do with my life.

Gear Closet: Altra Escalante Running Shoes Review

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Altra running shoes. The company's "footshape" design and zero-drop approach fits my running style and comfort level perfectly. In fact, they've become my defect running shoe when I'm not testing something new. Recently, I've had more time for road running than trail running, which meant I was in need of something I could wear on the streets. Thankfully, Altra hooked me up with a new pair of their Escalante shoes, which have been fantastic for use during the spring conditions where I live.

Like all of the other shoes in Altra's line-up, the Escalante has been designed with the same principles  that have made the brand a favorite amongst serious runners – namely a fit that is meant to feel more natural on the foot. The result is a larger toe box that actually allows your digits to spread out as you run, providing better push-off for power and stability. These shoes also adhere to the zero-drop design, meaning that the heel and toe are on exactly the same distance from the ground. Most running shoes have some level of drop from heel to toe, which can actually throw off performance and alter the way they feel on your feet. Altra has given the Escalante a stack height fo 25 mm for those who are keeping track at home.

The Escalante is given a sleek, classic look thanks to its knit upper, which somehow manages to be both durable and breathable at the same time. Even though temperatures and humidity are on the rise where I'm at, these shoes still felt comfortable and not overly warm on my feet. They also show now signs of wear and tear even though I've put more than 100 miles (160 km) on them since starting my test run.

Kiwi Adventurer Rowing Home Across "Roaring 40's" Between Australia and New Zealand

We've followed the adventures of Grant "Axe" Rawlinson here on this blog for some time. He has summited Everest and other peaks, rode his bike over great distances, and rowed his boat over open seas. Now, he's embarking on the final stage of his Rowing From Home to Home expedition, approaching New Zealand through one of the most notoriously rough stretches of water on the planet.

The expedition has always meant to be a human powered journey from Rawlinson's home in Southeast Asia back to his home country in New Zealand, and has involved him riding his bike and rowing his rowboat over extended distances. He started in Singapore, rowed through Malaysia and across the Pacific to Australia, then rode his bike across that country, and is now back in the boat and working his way across the Tasman Sea. When it's all said and done, he'll have covered roughly 12,000 km (7456 miles) completely under his own power.

Now however, he's about to enter one of the roughest stretches of the journey. According to the this article, he'll be rowing through the "roaring 40's" on his way back to New Zealand. That refers to a stretch of ocean that falls along the 40ยบ latitude line just off the coast of Australia. This section of water is notorious for its big waves, choppy seas, and massive storms that can crop up at any time.

This isn't the first time Grant has attempted this crossing. He set out across he Tasman Sea once before but got caught in bad storms that left him cabin-bound for days. He eventually had to pull the plug on that crossing as it was just too difficult to make any progress. Now, he's giving it a go again, and has made the choice to plunge into the 40's, while also focusing on being more mentally prepared to deal with the challenges and the isolation he'll face along the way.

He's just about to set off on this second attempt at the crossing and says that time and his budget are running out. He needs to complete the expedition soon or he may not be able to do it at all. You'll be able to follow his progress on his website here.

Video: More Than Just Parks - Death Valley

It has been awhile since we've seen a new video from the More Than Just Parks project, but the wait has been worth it. Brothers Will and Jim Pattiz once again take us on a spectacular journey through one of America's national parks, this time exploring the grandeur that is Death Valley. As usual, this video is utterly breathtaking and continues to remind us why the parks are such wonderful destinations.

DEATH VALLEY 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Everest-Lhotse Double Summit Done as Good Weather Continues

It has been a remarkable week in the Himalaya where an unprecedented weather window has allowed numerous teams to reach the summit of Everest and other major peaks. Typically, the summit window only lasts for three or four days, and yet here were are, more than a week after the first successful climbs of the season, and the wave of alpinists continue to go up. The is very unusual, and while higher winds are in the forecast for today, it looks like the next few days will remain very good, meaning there are probably more summits yet to come.

There is a lot of news to report from this past weekend, so we'll dive right in starting with an update on Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas. As you'll no doubt recall, these two men got into some hot water with the Nepali government after skiing the Lhotse Face without a proper permits. For a time, it looked like their expedition was in jeopardy, but last week we learned that they would be allowed to climb after all. The duo have taken advantage of this opportunity by summiting Everest yesterday and Lhotse today, knocking off two 8000-meter peaks in quick succession. Matt now has four 8000-meter peaks on his resume while Willie has nabbed his 13th successful climb of Everest. They are both reportedly doing well and are on their way back down to Camp 2 as I write this.

Matt and Willie were just two of the many climbers who were successful over the past few days. In fact, Alan Arnette now reports that more than 500 climbers have summited Everest from the North and South Sides this season. That's a testament to how wide this weather window has been and how many people are on the mountain. Fortunately, this many consecutive days of good weather has helped keep crowding and traffic jams down.

It hasn't been all good news from Everest however. The Himalayan Times is reporting that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki was found dead on the mountain today. He was making his summit bid and last checked in from Camp 2, which is where his body was discovered. He was attempting to make a solo summit of the mountain without Sherpa support or bottled oxygen, and indicated that he had developed a cough and was struggling some, but it didn't seem like he was in jeopardy.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Video: I Train So I Can - Mirna Valerio

Recently outdoor footwear manufacturer Merrell launched a new campaign called "I train so I can..." with various outdoor athletes filling in the reasons why they go out and run, ride, and exercise. Each of them briefly explains why it is they actually workout and focus on their training. For instance, in my case it's because I want to be in good shape, healthy, and be able to enjoy all of the activities that I do outdoors. I do not train for a race. In this video, we'll find out why ultrarunner Mirna Valerio trains as well, as she focuses on not only her health, but educating and promoting diversity and understanding too.

Video: Setting an FKT on Kilimanjaro

In this video, we join Brazilian ultrarunner Fernanda Maciel as she attempts to set a "fastest known time" on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. We'll see her have a go at setting the speed record on one of the most iconic mountains in the world, completing her journey from base to summit in just 10 hours and 6 minutes, a blistering pace on a trail that typically takes 5-6 days to complete at a minimum. Along the way, you'll also get some amazing views of what Kili has to offer. Really a great, inspiring clip.

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lhotse Face Skiers Free to Climb, More Summits!

I'm still traveling home from the press event I've been at over the past couple of days, so this might be the only post I get to make today. That said, it's a good one, with lots of news from the Himalaya as the climbing season continues to unfold with more summits, not to mention an update on the two climbers who found themselves in trouble with the government for skiing the Lhotse Face.

Let's begin there. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably already know that Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas climbed up to Camp 3 on Everest back on May 2, then proceeded to ski back down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2. This was a great accomplishment for the duo, who have come to the Himalaya to summit not on the world's highest mountain, but its next-door neighbor Lhotse too. The only problem was, they didn't have a ski permit, which created quite a stir with the Nepali government.

When officials got word of the "illegal" ski descent, they threatened to pull Matt and Willie's climbing permits, putting their expedition in jeopardy. But as the situation continued to play out, we also learned that there was no mention of the need for such a permit in the mountaineering regulations. In fact, the only mention of it is found in another regulatory section, which is in Nepali, making it very difficult for foreigners to even know that such a permit was needed.

Last week we learned that 150 climbers, including many Sherpas, signed a letter to the Nepali government requesting that Matt and Willie be allowed to climb. The group argued that the two skiers did not put anyone in jeopardy, nor did they cause any problems on the mountain. Even better, Willie has been guiding on Everest for 20+ years, contributing to the economic well-being of the country.

Apparently someone in Nepal came to his or her senses, because we have now learned that Matt and Willie will be allowed to climb after all. Yesterday, The Himalayan Times reported that the duo will have to pay for the ski permit, which costs $1000, and a $500 garbage deposit. Additionally, their expedition support team will be charged Rs 50,000 ($465) and the team's liaison officer will be warned for not being on the mountain to oversee these kinds of activities.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Adventure Podcast Episode 19: Family Camping Adventures

I"m on the road today at a press event, but wanted to share the latest episode of The Adventure Podcast. As usual, the show is available to download on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. I've also embedded the show in this blog post for those who prefer to listen straight from their browser.

In this week's episode, we start things off with an update on what's happening in the Himalaya, the Volvo Ocean Race, and the Giro d'Italia, before delving into what could be the start of the outside industry's #metoo movement. Then we get some great family camping/backpacking tips from Dave who has a lot of experience in this area, before wrapping up with some cool gear news and gear picks for trail running and mountaineering.

Of course, you can join us online at our Facebook Page and our Twitter account, or email us directly too. We always love your feedback and questions, so keep 'em coming. And as always, thanks for listening!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Video: New Zealand Ascending

Travel to New Zealand's South Island in this amazing video which captures the landscapes and lighting of that destination in all of its glory. Along the way we travel across the country's highland, through the rainforest, and up into the Southern Alps where the scenery just gets more and more breathtaking as we go along. If you're in need of a mid-week escape to someplace beautiful and adventurous, this will definitely scratch that itch.

NEW ZEALAND ASCENDING | EXTENDED CUT from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

Video: Want to Change the World? Take a Vacation!

We all want to have a positive impact on our planet, but who knew taking a vacation might be a good way to do just that? In this video. Shannon Stowell, the CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, tells us why travel can do great things for the world, fostering better understanding, connecting people, and promoting conversation too. Shannon manages to tackle those weighty topics while remaining entertaining, funny, and insightful. Want to change the world? Go on vacation!

REI's Outessa Announces Dates and Locations for 2018

Sorry guys, this post is just for the ladies!

REI has announced the dates and destinations for its 2018 Outessa retreats. These three-day long adventure camps are designed just for women, encouraging them to not only get outside and enjoy their favorite activities (along with some new ones), but also meet and make new friends along the way. The program has been a highly successful one so far, with hundreds of women attending each of the weekends getaways this year. Those numbers are expected to grow in 2018 as more ladies learn about Outessa and everything the camps have to offer.

This year there will be two Outessa retreats, the first of which will take place in Squaw Valley, California near Lake Tahoe from August 2-5. The other will be held September 13-16 at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. Both locations will play host to great yoga and exercise classes, rock climbing, mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding, backpacking seminars, hiking, and much more.

Outessa is part of REI's Force of Nature program, which his specifically designed to get more women interested in the outdoors. The gear retailer knows that not everyone can attend Outessa, so it is holding a virtual join-in for the first time too. This will allow women to take part in organizing their own outings and pledge miles towards achieving their goals.

You can find out more and sign up to take part in a retreat on the official Outessa page.


Outside Magazine Reveals 2018 Summer Gear Buyers Guide

If you're looking for new outdoor gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and happy this summer, than Outside magazine has you covered. The publication has just launched its 2018 Summer Buyer's Guide with more than 360 products to sift through. That ought to be enough to satisfy even the most voracious of gear nerds, providing everything you need to enjoy your favorite activities in the busy season ahead. 

All of that gear is broken down into some large categories, which include Hike, Travel, Float, Bike, Run, and Fitness. Each of those categories is further subdivide with pertinent gear falling under the most applicable. For instance, you'll find the best trail shoes and sleeping bags under hiking, while the best cameras fall under travel, the best SUP boards are under float, and so on.

As usual, Outside has done an excellent job of sorting through all of the thousands of outdoor products that are available and filtering down to the best in each category. You'll generally find five or six products under each heading, with a brief description of why those items are considered to be amongst the best. You'll also find links to buy each of the products online once you've made up your mind as to which ones you need to add to your gear collection.

No matter what your favorite outdoor pursuit is, chances are you'll find some great new gear to support your outings on the Outside list. You can read the entire thing starting here

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lots of Summits, New Records on Everest, Oxygen Regulators Fail on North Side

The day we've all been waiting for is finally here. The first major wave of summits are upon us on Mt. Everest, where a number of teams have now reached the top. The weather is reportedly very good at the moment, with low winds making it a good day to top out on the world's highest peak. Even better, the forecast looks good for the next few days, setting the stage for several more good summit days to come.

The South Side of the mountain in Nepal has been a hive of activity with teams either heading to the summit or moving up to the various camps to get into position to do so. The Adventure Consultants have put several members of the team on the summit, including lead guide and owner Guy Cotter. Jagged Globe has also sent its team up, but there is no official word on their success yet. Kaitu Everest Expedition reports 100% success with 8 Sherpas and 6 clients standing on top. Meanwhile, the IMG team is now heading up the mountain to take advantage of the weather windows.

On the North Side of Everest in Tibet things are also moving quickly, although with significantly fewer climbers it isn't quite so hectic from that direction. Furtenback Adventures is reporting 100% summit success today too with all clients and Sherpas reaching the top around 5:00 AM local time. It seems that a number of the other North-Side teams are lining up behind them to follow.

Unfortunately, Alpenglow isn't one of them. The team was on the move this morning and looked like they were about to summit when they started to have a rash of failures on their oxygen regulators. The equipment apparently quit working when the team was at 8500 meters (27,887 ft). In fact, Adrian Ballinger tells Alan Arnette that 10 of the team's 39 regulators inexplicably malfunctioned, forcing everyone to turn around and head back to C3. On the descent, another four regulators stopped working as well. Apparently the initial set of breakdowns all occurred within four minutes of one another, while the second set all happened between 8300 and 7700 meters (27,230-25,262 ft.) on the descent.