Thursday, February 22, 2018

Video: How a Drone Helps One Veteran Deal with PTSD

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

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

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

The Adventure Podcast Episode 9: More Adventure News!

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

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

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

Temperatures in the Arctic Climb 45º Above Normal

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

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

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

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

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

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


Winter Climbs 2018: Summit Big Begins on Everest

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Video: Why We Need Quiet (and Wild) Spaces

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

Laser Scanning Reveals Massive Hidden City in Mexican Jungle

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about this story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Video: Beyond Trails in the Atacama Desert

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

Beyond Trails Atamacama from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

Friday, February 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

How to Beat Cold Conditions While Winter Camping

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

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

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

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

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

Kayaker Paddling From Maine to Florida to Support Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Video: Love in the Tetons

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

Video: Kilian Jornet's Path to Everest

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

The Adventure Podcast Episode 7: Adventure News

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

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

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


Pakistani Officials Weigh in on Nanga Parbat Rescue Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Video: The Sweeping, Breathtaking Landscapes of Mongolia

It is difficult to put into words just how utterly beautiful the country of Mongolia actually is. Thankfully, I don't have to because this video does the job for me. Shot this past fall using a drone, it captures the breathtaking vistas that are found throughout this amazing country that I was lucky enough to visit a couple of years back. This serves as a great reminder of how wild and open this place truly is, making me want to return to experience it again. If you haven't gone yourself, Mongolia definitely needs to be on your bucket list, and this clip will show you why.

MONGOLIA - Cinematic Drone Film (4k) from Michael Roberts on Vimeo.

Video: Wild and Wonderful Climbing in West Virginia

This wonderful little film takes us to West Virginia to learn the story of PsicoRoc 2016, a deep water soloing competition that almost didn't take place. The event was held on Summersville Lake, which had been shut down to climbing back 2007 due to accidents unrelated to the sport. But, a persistent group of people thought it was a great place to organize an event and get it off the ground, leading to a one-day permit to host the competition. This is there story and its a good one.

Volvo Ocean Racing Team Finds Abandoned Ship on Stage 6 of the Race

In October of last year I shared the unbelievable story of two women who were adrift at sea for five months before finally being rescued by a fishing ship from Taiwan. Their initial plan was to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti, but a series of poor decisions and bad luck left them stranded. When they were finally rescued, their 50-foot ship, the Sea Nymph, was abandoned at sea and its fate was unknown. Now, the ship has been spotted once again, this time by competitors taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race.

The ships taking part in the race are now heading south to Auckland, New Zealand as they compete in the sixth leg of the event. But yesterday, Team Turn the Tide on Plastic spotted a ship drifting in the ocean without any signs of life whatsoever. The vessel didn't respond on radio and appeared to be dead in the water, so the team contacted Race Control which confirmed that there were no search and rescue operations underway in the area.

Not wanting to pass by without rendering aid if necessary, the crew fired up a drone that is onboard and flew it over to inspect the vessel more closely. It turns out that it was indeed the Sea Nymph still floating on the ocean completely alone, but little worse for wear from when it was abounded.

Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari says they discussed salvage rights for the ship and momentarily considered towing it along with them to Aukland, but decided it probably wasn't all that feasible. So, the Sea Nymph is still adrift, creating a hazard to other vessels in the area. In other words, if you're in the market for a 50-foot yacht, it is out there waiting for you to claim it.

The video below provides more context and footage. This is definitely an interesting side note to the story from last fall and just another day on the job for the Volvo Ocean Racing teams.


25 Places to See Before They are Gone

There is little doubt that climate change, economic upheaval, continued industrial and commercial development, and other factors are leaving an indelible mark on our planet. Things are changing, and if reports are to be believed, they are changing at a faster rate than we once thought. That means in the decades to come the world around us will start to look very different and some of the places that we cherish now might not be around in the future. To that end, the team at Men's Journal has put together a list of the 25 places you should see before they disappear.

This list features a number of iconic and well known places, some of which are located on or near water, where rising sea levels will potentially reclaim them or alter our access. For instance, one such place is the Dry Tortugas off the coast of the Florida Keys. This 19th century fort located there is expected to be battered by increasing storms, stronger tides, and rising sea levels, putting the entire place at risk. The masonry that was put in place at the fortress was never intended to be submerged, yet rising water has already begun to encroach on its walls.

Other locations that earn a dubious spot on this list include the Dead Sea, which is shrinking in size dramatically, and the Alaskan Tundra, which is being altered by changing weather patterns which see the ice that typically covers it melt at a faster rate, altering the ecosystem there. Other places at risk include the Great Blue Hole in Belize, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Each of the entires on the list includes an explanation as to why it appears there, outlining the threats to these places. There are also suggestions on how to get to these places yourself to witness them first hand. Of course, that begs the question as to whether or not our travel is actually contributing to the demise of these locations, some of which are already quite frail.

Check out the entire list here.

Where Are the North Pole Skiers for 2018?

Typically about this time of year we begin to turn our attention north to the Arctic and the North Pole. Late February and early March are usually the time of year when skiers are preparing to set out on expeditions to the top of the world, a long and arduous journey that requires a great deal of strength, determination, and focus. But this season I have yet to hear of any expeditions undertaking such an excursion, which leaves me to wonder whether or not we have indeed seen the last of such ventures.

The Antarctic and Arctic expedition seasons use to be staples on the adventure calendar, with a few intrepid explorers setting off in both directions each year. But while the Antarctic has probably seen increased numbers of skiers in recent years, the Arctic has seen its numbers dwindle, and for good reason. Skiing to the South Pole remains a great challenge, although it is manageable for anyone who prepares properly, has the right gear, and doesn't mind spending a month and a half out on the ice.

Going to the North Pole is a completely different beast though, with much bigger challenges to overcome. Since skiers are actually traveling over a frozen ocean, there is a measure of instability involved that often leads to massive rubble fields that can take days to cross. Climate change has also caused the ice to thin, and created wide sections of open water as well. What was once frozen pack ice is now liquid, forcing skiers to go around or swim across instead.

Because of these changes, we haven't seen a successful full distance expedition to the North Pole since 2014, when Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters completed that journey. Over the course of the ensuing years, a number of people have tried, but most have had to give up very early in the expedition. Massive storms have become the norm this time of year, bringing fierce winds and frigid temperatures to the Arctic. Worse yet, those conditions have made it difficult for aircraft to operate in this part of the world, which forced Kenn Borek Air – a company whose motto is "anytime, anywhere" – to stop supporting expeditions to the North Pole.