Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 7)

If you've been watching the fantastic series of "Unclimbed" videos from Discovery Canada, you'll definitely want to catch this latest episode. In this latest installment of the mountaineering series the team of Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa are reunited in Kathmandu before setting out to the Himalaya to the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks. But before they go, they must face down a mountaineering legend who has never summited a single peak – the indomitable Miss Elizabeth Hawley.

Video: What Exactly is Adventure Racing?

I write about adventure racing regularly on this blog, but not everyone knows exactly what the sport consists of. Thankfully, the fine folks over at the Adventure Racing World Series have put together this excellent and helpful video to help explain the sport to newcomers and to remind long time fans just how awesome it is. For my money, adventure racers are amongst the best endurance athletes in the world. Don't believe me? Check out the clip below to find out why I feel that way.

Video: Stunning Wingsuit Flight Ends in Nasty Crash

Wingsuit pilots take their lives into their own hands every time they take flight. Case in point, in this video a flyer named Eric Dossantos starts off with a leap from the top of a mountain with stunningly beautiful views all around him. His descent down the slopes of the peak looks fantastic too, with snow covered ridges zipping by at warp speed below him. But once he soars low enough to encounter the treeline things start to go wrong with Eric ultimately crashing into the forest below. Fortunately, he survived the flight, although he did end up with fractured ribs, multiple bruises and lacerations, head trauma, and a lacerated kidney. Dossantos has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical bills but it is going to be awhile before he's fully back on his feet.

The flight took place above Chamonix, France, which has recently banned wingsuit flying because of these types of dangers. This video underscores why they decided to make that decision, but thankfully Eric survived. Others haven't been quite so lucky.

How not to fly a wing suit unless you want to crash from Eric Dossantos on Vimeo.

Donations to the Himalayan Stove Project Doubled Through Giving Tuesday

I know it may be hard to believe, but the holiday season isn't as far off as we'd like to think it is. With Halloween just a few days off, and Thanksgiving closely rapidly behind it, the busy shopping period will be on us before we know it. But as you gear up for Black Friday and Cyber-Monday, there is another day that follows along closely that you should also keep in mind. That's "Giving Tuesday" which is when we take a step away from all of the consumerism and decide to give a little back to those around us instead. And this year, Giving Tuesday is special for another reason too.

One of my favorite nonprofits is the Himalayan Stove Project, an organization that is replacing old, inefficient, and dangerous cookstoves in Nepal with clean burning, healthier models. Over the past few years, the HSP has distributed and installed more than 3000 stoves, impacting the lives of thousands of people as a result. Many of the families that have received these stoves have seen their lives transformed. The air in their homes is cleaner than ever, and they can now enjoy a meal indoors together, often for the very first time. In short, the Himalayan Stove Project is having a direct, and measurable, impact on the quality of life for the people that it helps, which is something I appreciate and admire greatly.

Heading into the holidays we can all do something to help the HSP and see our contributions to the program stretch even further. Between now and Giving Tuesday – November 29, 2016 – all donations to the project will automatically be doubled thanks to a generous anonymous supporter. That means that if you give $50, the HSP will receive $100. No donation, no matter how big or small, is exempt, which makes this the perfect time to contribute to the cause.

I personally love what the Himalayan Stove Project does for a number of personal reasons. The fact that the not-for-profit is having such a dramatic effect on the lives of the people it helps is inspiring to say the least. There are a lot of other foundations like this one that aspire to help people in the developing parts of the world, but they often struggle to actually deliver on their promise. That isn't so with the HSP, which has done a wonderful job of staying focused on its mission.

The other reason I'm a fan of the Himalayan Stove Project is that it is helping people who live in Nepal, a country that I dearly love. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and the people there are incredibly warm and generous, despite the fact that they often have little of their own. It is a place that has left its mark on everyone that has visited it, and it is understandable why those of us who have been there would like to have a positive impact on their lives.

If you're looking for a great charity to contribute to this year, the Himalayan Stove Project is a fantastic option. Take a look at the HSP website to learn more, and click here to donate to the cause. Remember, anything you give between now and November 29 will be doubled.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summit Push Begins on Ama Dablam

The fall climbing season on the 8000-meter peaks in the Himalaya are all but over, but there is still plenty of action taking place in Nepal on other mountains. Most of the ongoing expeditions are small and relatively off the radar, with some squarely focused on putting up the first ascents on several unclimbed peaks. But, one popular mountain is about to get extremely busy as a large number of climbers launch their summit push.

Yesterday, the rope-fixing Sherpas on Ama Dablam reached the summit after waiting out poor weather conditions all of last week. The team of six mountain guides worked from Camp 2 on the mountain all the way to the 6812-meter (22,349 ft) summit in a single push, clearing the way for commercial teams that have been waiting in the wings. Now, with the ropes installed, it looks like there will be a mass summit push will begin in the next few days.

According to The Himalayan Times, more than 400 climbers will now move up from Base Camp to get into position to reach the summit. 200 of those alpinists are foreign climbers, while the others mostly consist of guides, high altitude porters, and the like. 

It is unclear at this time exactly when the summit push will be completed, but with good weather in the forecast it seems like it should take place within the next few days. Unlike expeditions on other big Himalayan peaks, it doesn't take weeks to acclimatize on Ama Dablam, nor does it take numerous days to top out. Once the push begins, the summit should be very busy  a few days later. 

Ama Dablam is one of the most distinct mountains in the Khumbu Valley, with climbers and trekkers passing by on their way to Everest Base Camp. The beautiful peak is a good place for climbers to get valuable experience for what it is like to climb in the Himalaya prior to moving on to one of the 8000-meter peaks. For my money, it is still one of the most beautiful mountains that I have ever personally seen with my own eyes, creating a very memorable view on the trail to EBC.

Good luck to everyone heading up the mountain in the next few days. Get up and down safely and quickly, and enjoy the walk. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Video: Exploring Japan's Spiritual Connection with the Mountains

The Japanese practice of Shugendo is a spiritual practice of seeking a connection with nature, particularly in the mountains where Japan's forefathers believed their gods resided. This connection can bring on a zen-like state, with the person seeking a oneness with the natural world around them. In this video, Salomon athletes Rickey Gates and Anna Frost make the journey to Japan in search of their own unique connection with the natural world. As you'll see in the video below, what they find there is a powerful attachment to nature that is unlike anything found in other cultures. Be sure to turn on subtitles to get the entire story.

Video: Base Jumper Sets New World Record by Leaping Off Cho Oyu

Standing 8188 meters (26,684 ft) in height, Cho Oyu is the 6th highest peak in the world, and a popular climbing destination during the fall season in the Himalaya. A few weeks back, climber/BASE jumper Valery Rozov went up the mountain in an attempt to fly off the summit. He didn't quite make it to the top, but he did manage to don his wingsuit and leap from 7700 meters (25,262 ft), setting a new world record in the process. You can learn about his expedition, and see his flight in the video below.

Gear Closet: Haibike Xduro AllMtn RX Electric Mountain Bike

One of the hottest trends in cycling over the past couple of years has been the rise in prominence of the electric bike – more commonly known as the e-bike. At first glance, most of these bikes look like just about any other that you might encounter on the road, although they have a hidden secret. They come equipped with a battery-powered motor that can help you maintain higher speeds with less effort or climb tough hills that would normally leave your legs crying out in agony.

This little speed-boost has made e-bikes especially popular with commuters, many of whom find that the onboard motor helps them travel along with traffic better and allows them to arrive at their destination relatively fresh thanks to not having to exert as much energy.

An avid biker myself, I've been intrigued with e-bikes for some time, but hadn't gotten the chance to try one out for myself. That changed recently when Haibike sent me one of their electric assisted mountain bikes to take for a spin, and I have to say I came away impressed. The bike delivered on everything that was promised – and more – allowing me to power through a ride like never before. But in the end, it also left me reevaluating why I like mountain biking so much in the first place.

For my little e-bike test drive, Haibike sent me a 2015 model known as the Xduro AllMtn RX. The current model that fits pretty much the same specs is the Xduro AllMtn 7.0. Both versions sport Shimano components, 27.5" tires, a full-supsenion, and a slick looking design that looks aggressive and fun to ride. Hidden inside the aluminum frame however, is a 36-volt motor that is powered by a 500 Wh battery that help this bike truly stand out from the crowd.

Before we go too far into this review, it is important to point out that while most e-bikes provide an electric assist, but you still have to do all of the pedaling. You simply don't have to pedal quite so hard in order to get the bike up to speed nor to maintain that speed. Likewise, when climbing a hill, the speed-assist kicks in to lend a hand, making it surprisingly easy to shoot up steep grades, although you still have to put in some work to get to the top.

Everest Air Premieres Tonight and I've Seen the First Episode

The Travel Channel officially debuts its much anticipated new show Everest Air tonight, broadcasting the first episode of the six-part series starting at 10 PM Eastern/9 PM Central time. The show promises to take viewers to Nepal to give them a first-hand look at helicopter medical rescue operations in the Khumbu Valley near Mt. Everest. It was shot on location there this past spring.

Over the past several weeks you've read my post announcing the show as well as my interview with Jeff Evans, one of the key players on the program and an emergency first responder who helps provide medical aid to climbers, Sherpas, and a variety of other people living in the mountains of Nepal. Naturally, after speaking with Jeff and receiving a number of press releases from the Travel Channel regarding Everest Air, I've been anxious to see how the show turned out. Now, after getting the chance to watch the first episode, I can assure you that it lives up to its billing as a realistic depiction of life in the Khumbu, and what it is like to conduct a rescue above 20,000 feet (6096 meters)

One of my biggest concerns when ever there is a reality show based around Everest is that the climbing scene there will be exploited for ratings. We've seen it time and again on various networks, which only seem to focus on the relatively few deaths that occur on the mountain each year, rather than the hundreds of successful summits. There have even been reports of another network filming on the mountain this past spring that was taking a similar approach. I'm happy to say that Everest Air does not fall into this category and while watching the show I didn't feel like it felt exploitative at all. 

The first episode does a good job of introducing the viewer to the primary characters that we'll be following over the next six week, of which Jeff Evans is only one. We also meet other medics, communications coordinators, helicopter pilots, and support crew that all play a vital role in running the air rescue operations and saving lives on Everest and throughout the Khumbu Valley. The team isn't there just to rescue wealthy western climbers, but to lend a hand to the Nepali people too. In fact, some of the more interesting and dramatic medical emergencies revolve around the Sherpas who live and work in the shadow of the tallest mountain on Earth.

Endurance Athlete Sets New Record for Running Across the U.S.

Ultrarunner Pete Kostelnick has set a new speed record for running across the U.S., smashing the previous mark that had been in place for more than 36 years. The endurance athlete arrived in New York City on Monday of this week, bringing an end to his six-week odyssey that began in San Francisco back on September 12.

Officially, Kostelnick covered the 3067 mile (4935 km) distance between San Francisco and New York in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes. That beats the old record – set by Frank Giannino Jr. back in 1980 – by 4 days, 2 hours, and six minutes. That means that he had to average more than 72 miles per day – every day – to set the new mark.

While in the midst of this record setting run, Kostelnick set a brutal schedule for himself. He would sleep in a support vehicle until 3 AM, then run 40 miles (64 km) over the course of 7 or 8 hours. He would then take a break to refuel and rehydrate at lunch, before hitting the road once again. The second leg of his daily mileage would usually be another 30+ miles (48 km).

Only twice throughout the course of the journey did he fail to hit the 70 mile mark on any given day. He also took one full rest day along the way too. And on his final push into New Your City, he ran 87 miles (140 km) nonstop.

Kostelnick is no stranger to difficult runs, although he's never done anything like this one before. He is a two-time winner of the Badwater Ultra however, and holds the course record for that event at 21 hours, 56 minutes, and 32 seconds. That is a brutal race of course, but not much can compare to the daily grind of a transcontinental run like the one he just finished.

Congrats to Pete on amazing job. Breaking a 35+ year old record is never easy, and he just lowered the mark to a point that it could take another 35 years before someone else gets close.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Video: Expedition to the Valley of the Dinosaurs

The Badlands of North Dakota are the site for this video, which takes us on a dinosaur hunting expedition with Tyler Lyson, a man who seems to have a knack for finding fossils hidden in the Earth. In this short documentary, Tyler is attempting to recover a rare, intact skull from a triceratops with the help of a group of amateur fossil hunters that he has invited along for the ride. While working on that discovery, he comes across another one that is equally astounding. Enjoy.

Valley of the Last Dinosaurs from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Video: GoPro Celebrates One Year Anniversary of the GoPro Awards

Last October, GoPro announced a novel program in which they paid users of their Hero cameras for sharing epic clips of their adventures. The program has become an overwhelming success to say the least. Over the course of the past 12 months, they have received submissions from 196 countries and paid out over $1 million in cash. To celebrate the first anniversary of the GoPro Awards, they've put together this short but sweet video comprised of clips from some of the best submissions the company has seen. The program still continues, so if you have awesome footage to share, find out how you can submit it here.

Video: What Was the Last Place on Earth to be Discovered?

Here's an intriguing question. What do you think was the last place on Earth to actually be discovered by man? Most researchers now believe that human life on our planet can be traced back to Africa, with man spreading out across the planet from there. Over thousands of years we migrated across the planet, settling in various places along the way. But have you ever stopped to think what part of the planet was the last to actually be found by humans?

That is exactly the subject of this video, which uses an animated map to show you exactly when certain destinations were discovered, with the timeline for many of them actually being quite surprising. For instance, who would have thought that North America was reached before Portugal for instance? There are plenty of other interesting little tidbits like that to be learned along the way too, with some remote places obviously taking longer to find than others.

So just what was the last place found by humans? I won't spoil the answer, but I will say that it will be quite logical once you learn where it is. There is definitely a lot of interesting things to learn here.

REI Invites Us to #OptOutside Again This Fall

Last fall, gear retailer REI made headlines when it announced that it would close all of its brick and mortar stores, as well as online shop, on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. Instead of chasing the almighty dollar on a day that should be about spending time with your family, the company elected to give all of its employees the day off, and encourage them – as well as the rest of us – to head outside for an adventure. They even used the hashtag #OptOutside to promote the movement, which was adopted by several other outdoor brands like Outdoor Research as well.

Yesterday, REI announced that it will again be closed on Black Friday, and that it is encouraging its employees and customers to skip the crazy shopping madness that is typical for the day, and instead head outside to enjoy some time with nature. That means that on November 25 all 149 REI stores will be closed, and the company's more than 12,000 employees will be free to spend time with friends and family, as well as pursue their favorite outdoor adventures.

In addition to that, over 275 national and local organizations are joining in on the fun this year as well. Those entities will also be encouraging their communities to #OptOutside on Black Friday too, as this movement seems to be picking up even more steam heading into its second year.

REI has also launched an activity finder on the #OptOutside website to help you find organized events, and other things to do, on November 25. That search engine lists local hikes, trail running outings, organized mountain bike rides, climbing excursions, skiing trips, and more. If you're at a loss for things to do where you live, this will surely help.

Obviously REI received a ton of publicity for its decision to close its doors on Black Friday last year. The company more than made up the revenue it would have made on that day with the exposure it received with the #OptOutside campaign. But it would be easy to dismiss this as just a marketing scheme if I hadn't met some of the representatives of the company a few weeks back. It is clear that the gear retailer genuinely cares about helping its staff, members, and customers to get outside and enjoy their time in nature, and while #OptOutside has been a good marketing campaign, the people who run the company definitely believe in the message they are sharing too. You don't find that in too many companies these days, and it is refreshing to say the least.

This attitude also makes it easy to want to support REI too. Which is exactly what I'll be doing on November 25. Hopefully you will too.

Antarctica 2016: Italian to Attempt Traverse of the Frozen Continent Again, Researcher Dies in the Field

Preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is now underway, with the advance team from ALE now arriving on the ice to prepare the permanent campsite at Patriot Hills for the arrival of the first skiers of the season. It will take them a few days to get the camp ready, and they'll spend a considerable amount of time preparing the runway that will allow the big Ilyushin aircraft to begin transporting supplies, crew, and explorers out to site. That typically begins around the end of October, although the weather ultimately decides when those flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile actually begin.

Elsewhere, the McMurdo Station on the Ross Iceshelf has started to return to life. The station is an important research outlet for the U.S., and during the Antarctic winter it is manned by just a skeleton crew. Now, essential personnel are arriving there to prepare for another busy season ahead as a full compliment of scientists, researchers, and military crew have started to flow in.

Similarly, the Russian base called Novolazarevskaya is also starting to come to life with its crew scheduled to begin arriving later this week. That station is manned and supplied out of Cape Town, South Africa, with the first flight planned for Friday, weather permitting of course. If all goes as planned, one of the passengers on that flight will be Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo, who will once again attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole.

Last year, Pontrandolfo made the same attempt, hoping to use his kite to cover large chunks of ground at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, he never was able to capture the winds like he had expected, so as a result his expedition was much slower than planned. He never managed to get much momentum going, and eventually had to pull the plug. Now, he's back for another go. Hopefully this season he'll have better luck. We'll of course be following his progress in the days ahead.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Video: The Mists of the Pyrenees in Timelapse

Shot over the course of four days, this clip takes us into the Pyrenees where we catch a glimpse of some of the beautiful landscapes found there. The timelapse photography used to make the video shows us the ebb and and flow of the clouds and mist that shroud the peaks of the mountains. At just a minute and a half in length, this is one of the most tranquil videos you'll see all week.

And to visit these settings for yourself, checkout this amazing travel opportunity from my friends at Mountain Travel Sobek.

To the Mist - 4K Timelapse from Mathieu Stanić on Vimeo.

Video: Zipline Base Jumping in Utah

In this video, a group of extreme athletes traveled to the amazing landscapes of Utah to attempt a version of BASE jumping that I've never seen before. It's called Zip-BASE and it involves first ziplining down a long line before letting go and parachuting back to Earth. In this case, that long zipline is spread out across a large canyon and looks like quite a ride in and and of itself. But, mid-way through the descent things get even more interesting. Looks like fun, but I never want to try this.

Ultimate Playground 4K (Zip-BASE jumping) from Negative4 Productions on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Altra StashJack Lightweight Running Jacket

Fall is here, which means cooler weather and unpredictable conditions that can make it much more challenging to know how to dress for our favorite outdoor activities. On some days you need a jacket, and on others you don't. And then of course there are those times when unexpected rain showers strike, making you wish you had brought a jacket with you even though you didn't think it was needed. That's exactly where the new StashJack from Altra comes in handy. It is a super lightweight option that has been so well designed that you won't ever have to decide whether or not you should bring it on your adventures.

A quick look at the technical specs for the StashJack provides some insights into why it is such a nice piece of kit. For example, it weighs just 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams), provides protection from both wind and rain, and it features a loose, tapered fit that gives your body room to move while taking part in fast-paced activities. It also includes some reflective highlights to help keep the wearer more visible in low conditions, and it is made with trimmed and flat locked seams that make it more comfortable to wear.

But, that is really just the beginning. Because what makes the StashJack so special is its ability to be stuffed into a tiny carrying pouch that comes complete with a built-in adjustable belt. This gives you the ability to wear the jacket around your waist until you truly need it, at which time it can be deployed in a matter of seconds without ever having the need to stop moving at all. The jacket even features an open back that is designed to wrap around your pack so you won't even have to remove it to put the jacket on.

The First Woman to Summit Everest Has Passed Away

Sad news for the mountaineering community, as the story broke late last week of the passing of Japanese climber Junko Tabei. While not as well known as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Tabei left her own mark on the world of mountaineering by becoming the first woman to summit Mt. Everest back in 1975 – some 22 years after Hillary and Norgay. She was 77 at the time of her depth.

Tabei was instrumental in opening up the sport of mountaineering for other women to follow, both in her home country and internationally. Back in 1969 she established a ladies-only climbing club back in Japan and began promoting the idea of women-only mountaineering expeditions. At the age of 35 she led a squad of Japanese women to Everest in an attempt to make the first female ascent of the highest mountain on the planet, proving that women could indeed reach that point in the process.

Throughout her climbing career, Junko visited more than 60 countries, scaling the highest peaks in each of those nations. In 1992 she became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits as well, as she stood on top of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she continued to pursue her dreams in the mountains right up until the end.

My condolences go out to Junko's friends and family. She was a towering figure in the mountaineering community who broke new ground for female climbers everywhere. Her visionary approach to climbing helped open the door for many other ladies to follow, and she will be missed.

Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Making Steady Progress on the Toughest Climb in the World

Remember last week, when I shared the news about Czech climber Adam Ondra preparing to make an attempt on the incredibly difficult and demanding Dawn Wall in Yosemite? At the time I had said that it seemed unlikely that he would be able to take on that epic ascent considering it was his first visit to the valley, and he hadn't even touched the rock there yet. On top of that, the Dawn Wall had only been completed once in the past, having famously been free-climbed in January of 2015 by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. But, it turns out I couldn't have been more wrong however, as Ondra is proving what many in the outdoor world already knew – that he just might be the best rock climber in the world today.

Ondra began his climb of the Dawn Wall last Monday – October 17 – and has been making steady progress up the face ever since. On his first day out, he managed to knock off seven quick pitches as he rapidly ascended the route, which falls along the southeast face of El Capitan, quite possibly the most famous rock climbing spot in the entire world.

But, being primarily a sport climber, Ondra found the Dawn Wall to be a different beast than he is use to tackling. By the time he finished those first seven pitches he was exhausted. Despite those challenges however, he did manage to reach the top of pitch 10 before darkness fell Tuesday, making it a very productive first couple of  day for sure.

Over the following few days of last week, Ondra continued to make progress, albeit at a slower pace on more difficult pitches. Heading into the weekend, he had reached pitch 15, which is rated a 5.14d and is considered the crux of the entire climb. There hasn't been update yet as to his progress on that particular challenge, but if he didn't get past it over the past couple of days, it will certainly be his primary focus as he starts his second week on the Dawn Wall.

If the 23-year old Czech climber can get over the next three pitches – and there is no indication that he won't – it is relatively easy sailing to the top from there. That means we could see a second ascent of what many consider the toughest rock climbing challenge in the world by the end of the week. Stay tuned for more updates. It's going to be fun to follow Adam's progress.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Video: The Living Landscapes of Colorado

We'll end the week with this beautiful video shot in Colorado where the stunning colors of autumn are in full display. We all know that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., but this is a great reminder of just how amazing the landscapes there can be. All it takes is one clip like this one, or a brief visit to the state, to understand why the people that live there love it so much.

Colorado - A Living Landscape 4K from Jason Hatfield on Vimeo.

Video: Riding Through an Enduro Playground in British Columbia

This short clip is part of Red Bull's "Raw" series, which is essentially a video that has been created to give viewers a great experience, but hasn't been heavily edited and lacks much in the way of special effects. In fact, this video doesn't even have any music. It is simply two-minutes of pure bliss as pro mountain biker Brandon Semenuk spends a day riding a beautiful trail in British Columbia. The results are spectacular.

Gear Closet: Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, I'm always looking for ways that I can shed weight from my pack without sacrificing functionality. Often that comes from packing more wisely, leaving behind nonessential items, and choosing the proper gear for any given trip. But sometimes those gains can come from discovering an item that is designed for those who like to travel fast and light, but don't want to have to make compromises along the way. The Stash water bottle from Hydrapak is just such a product.

Made from durable and flexible materials, the Stash is a collapsible water bottle designed to shrink down to a highly packable size when not in use. This makes it super easy to stow in your pack until you're ready to use it, at which time it expands back to its full size in a manner of seconds.

I carry the 1-liter version (it is also available in a 750 ml size) of the Stash with me when I hit the road, and I've found it to an excellent traveling companion. It is lightweight (3.1 oz/88 g when empty), and yet still plenty durable enough to survive plenty of use and abuse in the backcountry. My Stash bottle is capable of holding up to 32 oz of water when full, but can reduce down to just 1/5 its normal size when you're ready to tuck it away.

As if that wasn't enough, the bottle can be used to store both hot and cold beverages. It is rated for use at temperatures as high as 140ºF (60ºC) or it can withstand its contents being frozen too. That versatility makes it a great option for the trail or campsite, allowing you to take it anywhere you want to go, and still stay hydrated along the way.

The 1-liter version comes with a wide-mouth (63 mm) cap that makes it extremely easy to drink from. That cap has also been designed to fit most backcountry water filters too, allowing the Stash to be refilled directly from a stream or lake. That same opening comes in handy when you're pouring water out as well, for instance when you're filling a pot to boil water for dinner.

Team of British Explorers Heading to Bhutan in Search of the Yeti

The existence of a strange ape like creature living in the Himalaya is one of the more enduring (and endearing) myths of the past century. The animal, which is commonly known as the yeti or the abominable snowman, has been a part of the local lore for centuries, but managed to capture the imagination of westerners as explorers from other parts of the world delved deep into the mountains looking to climb peaks like Everest and Annapurna. Over the years, men like Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner have gone looking for this mountain ape, but other than uncovering a few stories and legends, everyone who has searched for it has come up empty. That hasn't stopped others from trying of course, including a new team of yeti hunters that is heading to Bhutan to find mythological beast.

According to this article in the Daily Mail, the team will be led by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who will take the group into Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary on a trekking expedition with the hopes of spotting the elusive creature. The remote setting, which is situated at 3530 metres (11,581 feet), is believed to be one of the yeti's habitats amongst the Bhutanese people. The rugged mountains there would be the perfect place for a rare animal to remain hard to spot.

For his part, Humphreys tells the Daily Mail that while he would love to find the yeti, he is a realist when it comes to these kinds of expeditions. He compares the Himalaya creature to Britain's own Loch Ness monster, which has continued to spark interest for decades as well. For him, this is just another chance to head out on an adventure, and to visit a place that is difficult for independent travelers to visit on their own. From the interview in the article linked to above, it seems that experienced traveler and adventurer is looking forward to the local cuisine as much as he is the thought of finding an animal that most believe doesn't exist. As far as excuses for launching an adventure, I've certainly heard of worse.

The expedition is being sponsored by the car manufacturer Škoda, with updates being posted to @ŠKODAUK or with the hashtag #YetiBhutan. I'm sure Alastair will also post updates to his website  and Twitter as well.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kuriki Calls it Quits on Everest, Vows to Return

One of the more interesting expeditions of the fall climbing season in the Himalaya has come to an end. Japanese alpinist Nobukazu Kuriki has announced that he is leaving Mt. Everest and will return home, bringing an end to his latest attempt to summit that mountain solo and unsupported.

You may recall that Kuriki launched a summit bid on the North Side of Everest on October 6, only to be turned back a couple of days later due to deep snow high up on the mountain. In that attempt, he made it as high as 7400 meters (24,278 ft) and was preparing for the final push to the top, but the route was covered in snow that came up to his waist. That heavy snow made it impossible to break trail on his own, so he wisely decided to descend back to Base Camp to reassess his options.

After spending a few days back in BC watching the mountain and regaining his strength, Kuriki took a look at the weather forecast and found it to be very unfavorable. The jet stream was moving over the summit of the mountain, making it impossible to summit for the foreseeable future. He realized that his chances of climbing Everest in 2016 were coming to an end, and his home team reports that he broke down in tears with the realization.

This was Nobu's sixth attempt at climbing Everest solo in the fall, and apparently it won't be his last. He has already said that he plans on returning next year to give it another go, and considering the level of determination we've seen out of him in the past, I would expect to see him back on the mountain again next year if at all possible.

Kuriki is an enormously popular figure in his home country, and in order to fund this expedition he launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Whether or not he can do that again remains to be seen, but part of the disappointment he has felt in not completing the expedition comes from the feeling of disappointing all of those who have supported him. As we all know however, mountaineering is not an exact science, and conditions have to be just right to be successful. Particularly on a peak like Everest when you are completely alone. Something tells me that his supporters understand this as well, and will be willing to back him again in the future.

To my knowledge this is the last expedition taking place on an 8000-meter peak in the Himalaya at the moment, although there may be a few smaller teams that have slipped below my radar. There are some ongoing climbs on 6000 and 7000 meters peaks however, so stay tuned for more updates as they happen.