Video: A Look At Jordan Through Ancient Eyes

The filmmaker behind this wonderful short film recently traveled to Jordan, where he had his eyes opened by the history and culture there. It if filled with fantastic scenes from a country that is extremely accommodating to travelers, offering them experiences that can't be found anywhere else on Earth. It is a beautiful country with a rich heritage, and having visited the place myself, I can tell you that it is a wonderful experience. This video will give you just a taste of what Jordan has to offer.

Through Ancient Eyes from Live Free or Die on Vimeo.

Video: Sculpted in Time Teaser Trailer

This video is a teaser for a new series of short films coming our way from Sherpas Cinema. The four mini documentaries, set to release over the next few weeks, were all shot in and around Banff National Park in Canada, and will spotlight a unique individual who has been influenced by the mountains there. The clip below gives us just enough of a glimpse of what is to come to get us excited. The scenery alone will make these documentaries well worth our time. Beautiful stuff to say the least.

Thanks to my friend Kate for sharing!

Must Read: The Good Guide Paradox by Richard Bangs

Legendary river guide and television host Richard Bangs has written a very thoughtful piece for HuffPo entitled "The Good Guide Paradox." The article not only examines the importance of having a good guide on expeditions to remote areas of the world, but also takes a very personal look at how those guides manage to become good at their jobs in the first place. 

The article begins by first mentioning the notorious 1996 spring climbing season on Everest, in which eight people were caught in a storm on the mountain and perished there. Amongst them was Rob Hall, who was widely considered one of the best mountain guides in the world at the time. But Richard asserts that in a bid to get good press (Hall was hosting Jon Krakauer for Outside magazine), Rob had several lapses in judgement that would ultimately cost him, and his client, their lives. In a quote from the article, Bangs says "He put his own self-interest ahead of his client's, and they both paid the price."

Those probably sound like harsh words, but Richard speaks from a place of experience. He goes on to recount a tale in which he made a similar decision that he would ultimately come to regret. At one point, Bangs ahas leading an expedition down the Baro River in Africa, and he allowed an inexperienced person to join the team, mostly because he was offering a substantial amount of money. It was enough money in fact that he could almost fund the entire expedition just on what this one client was offering alone. The promise of quick cash led to a clouding of judgement as well, and when disaster struck on the river, this wealthy, but inexperienced, client was lost. 

The tragedy sent Bangs into a tailspin, and for months he questioned many of the things that he had felt so strongly about prior to the expedition to the Baro. For a time, he turned his back on guiding and exploration altogether, as the entire experience left a bitter taste in his mouth. His own failure as a guide stung on numerous levels, and he no longer trusted the instincts that had served him well on many first descents and river trips in the past. 

It took a long time for Richard to recover, and it wasn't until he returned to the activities that he so dearly loved that he began to make sense of the situation. But it was then that he realized the "guide paradox" that is referenced in the title of the article. In order for a guide to become good at his or her job, they must first gain experience, and sometimes that experience will come as a result of bad judgement calls. As Bang himself says in the story, "you have to risk and fall down to get to that high place of judgment that is sound."

If you're looking for perspective on what separates good guides from poor ones, and what drives them to do the job they do, then this is certainly an article you don't want to miss. Richard has years of experience in the field, with rich stories to share. In this particular article, he shares a couple of very personal ones, as well as the lessons he learned along the way. There is something we can all learn from those experiences, whether we are serving as guides ourselves, or traveling with someone who is. 

Gear Closet: UCO Tetra Lantern

Lighting options for outdoor adventure and travel continue to get more sophisticated and useful. Recently, I was sent to great new lanterns for use while camping, and I briefly flirted with the idea of reviewing them together in one blog post, but after using both of them for a bit, I've come to realize that both products are unique, useful, and worthy of their own individual reviews. The first of those products is the Tetra lantern from UCO, a lighting option that has some great tricks up its sleeve.

Out of the box, the first thing that impressed me about the Tetra is just how incredibly lightweight it is. The lantern tips the scales at just 4.3 ounces (124 grams), and yet it still manages to put out a considerable amount of light. On its highest setting, the Tetra can put off an impressive 170 lumens, which is a surprising amount of light for use in a tent or around a campsite. Holding the power button acts as a dimmer switching, bringing the brightness down in smooth increments. Holding it for eight seconds will switch into a flashing strobe mode used for emergency purposes.

Powered by a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, the Tetra is capable of up to five hours of light on its highest setting, and as much as 120 hours on its lowest output level, which is 6 lumens. That's a solid amount of burn time, particularly since you're likely to actually get closer to 80-100 hours depending on the level of brightness that is most suitable for you. The built-in battery can be recharged via USB, which means the Tetra can be recharged via a laptop, or a portable solar panel. The light also has an extra USB port, that allows you to attach other devices, and charge them up as well. This is a feature that comes in handy when traveling in particular, as you never know when you may need to top off the charge on your smartphone, a camera, or some other small device.


The Tetra's list of features doesn't end there however, as it has few other tricks up tis sleeve. This lantern can also convert to a flashlight simply by pushing its outer opaque covering up into an extended position. When that cover is down, it diffuses the light like a lantern, but when slid into the up position, it focuses it into a beam. This is turns what could have been a simple, but handy, lantern into a far more versatile piece of gear.

UCO has put a lot of thought into the design of the Tetra, with some features that travelers and outdoor enthusiasts are sure to appreciate. For instance, a D-ring is incorporated across the top, making it easy to hang the light in a tent. The dimming switch and the base also give off a slight glow, making it easy to locate and operate in the dark, while the power button serves as an indicator of how low the current charge is, alerting you when it needs to be connected to a USB port for charging.

I love how small and lightweight the Tetra is. It can be easily tossed into your backpack, and used in a tent, mountain hut, hotel room, or just about anywhere else you might need it. It has long battery life for use on an extended trip, and it is easy to recharge when necessary. On top of that, it provides plenty of light, and is versatile enough to be used both as a lantern and a flashlight. Throw in the ability to recharge other devices, and you have a real winner. This is exactly the kind of gear I like to have with me when I'm traveling, and I think you will too.

The Tetra retails for $49.99, and considering how much functionally it packs into such a small package, I feel that's a great price. This is one of those pieces of gear that you don't realize you need until you start using it, and I'm glad to have it my gear closet for future adventures.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summits on Cho Oyu, Teams Abandon Shishapangma

More news from the Himalaya today, as reports of success on Cho Oyu trickle in as expected. But over on Shishapangma, some teams are calling it quits due to safety concerns, while others arrive on that mountain seeking their second 8000-meter peak of the season.

As expected, the commercial teams that launched summit bids on Cho Oyu topped out amidst good weather this morning. Winds were light and visibility was high on top of the mountain, affording the summiteers great views of Nepal and Tibet, as well as surrounding mountains, including Everest and Lhotse. The latest dispatch from IMG says they team put two guides, seven climbers, and six Sherpas on the summit. Everyone is in good shape, and descending back to C2 today.

The Adventure Consultants summited a few hours behind the IMG team, but had similar results. They managed to put eight Sherpas, two guides, and six climbers on the summit, although by the time they topped out, the winds were starting to pick up a bit more, and clouds were beginning to move in as well. They are all on the descent now too, after spending a half hour on top of Cho Oyu.

Congratulations to all of the climbers who topped out on Cho Oyu. Get down safely.

The news isn't as good from Shishapangma, where ExWeb is reporting that some teams are now abandoning the mountain due to poor weather and unsafe conditions. Following the avalanche that claimed two lives last week, climbers on Shisha have reevaluated the situation there, and most have elected to go home rather than risk their safety. This includes 75-year old Carlos Soria, who had been as high as Camp 2, and even as late as yesterday was working to continue his acclimatization efforts. It appears that the mountain is simply too unstable for safe climbing this fall, and the risks of avalanche on the high slopes are too great.


Not everyone has given up on a Shisha summit this season however. After topping out on Cho Oyu earlier in the week, Bo Belvedere Christensen is now headed to Shishapangma in an attempt to claim a second 8000 meter peak in a relatively short span of time. Whether or not he'll change his mind once he surveys the mountain remains to be seen. ExWeb reports that Ivan Braun, a climber from Denmark, will be attempting the same feat.

Elsewhere in the Himalaya, the Korean team on Lhotse reports slow progress due to continued poor weather. They have reportedly finished stocking Camp 2, and are working to establish C3 at the moment, with the hopes of pushing up to C4 sometime within the next week or so. The team is counting on a change of weather soon, so they can begin planning the summit push, but at the moment, conditions remain difficult.

It turns out that the British military team won't be alone on Makalu this fall. They've been joined in Base Camp by a team led by Garret Madison of Madison Mountaineering. The squad only just arrived in BC this week, and have spent the past few days making acclimatization hikes throughout the region. They should start moving up the mountain within a few days however, so expect to hear more about their efforts as well. Garret is coming off a successful K2 expedition this summer, and will now lead this team in Nepal.

That's it for this Himalayan update. The season is already starting to wind down, and while there are still teams to follow, some of the bigger commercial squads are already preparing to head home. I'll continue to post updates as the news warrants it however, as there are still some exciting expeditions taking place.

Video: Himalayan Adventure from Delhi to Beijing

Ever wanted to take a road-trip through the Himalaya starting in Delhi and ending in Beijing? Then this video was made for you. It is a four-minute travelogue through India, Nepal, Tibet and China, that features sweeping landscapes, amazing cultural moments, and a grand sense of adventure. This looks like it was a fantastic journey, and one I would love to make as well.

India | Nepal | Tibet | China from Klaas on Vimeo.

Video: An Alps Travelogue to Mont Blanc

Shot in the Alps near Chamonix, France this past July, this video follows a trio of climbers as they head to Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe. It is a wonderful three-and-a-half minute film of the journey to the summit, complete with mountain lodges, glacial traverses, and spectacular views.

Alps Travelogue - Mont Blanc from Bruno Aretio on Vimeo.

Gold Rush Expedition Adventure Race to Air on Universal Sports Network in October

Adventure racing fans listen up, you're going to want to set your DVRs to record soon. The Universal Sports Network will begin airing a three-part documentary focused on the Gold Rush expedition-length adventure race in October, bringing the sport into the homes of millions of viewers across the U.S. Each of the three self-contained documentaries is 90 minutes in length, and captures some of the top adventure racing athletes from across the globe as they take part in one of best races in North America, and a qualifying event for the AR World Championship.

The first episode will air at 6PM ET on Thursday, October 16 and will feature the 2012 Gold Rush Expedition Race. The following week, at 6:30 PM ET on Friday October 24, the network will premiere the 2013 edition of the Gold Rush documentary. Meanwhile, the film for the 2014 edition of the race, which was greatly shortened in length due to wildfires in California, is currently in post-production, and will air in May of 2015. Additional airings will be announced at a later time.

If anyone has ever been a part of the team that produces adventure races, you probably already know how difficult it can be to capture all of the action out on the course. There are simply too many teams, spread out across too much territory. Throw in the fact that these events usually take place in remote and rugged locations, and it can become a logistical nightmare. But, the team behind these documentaries have taken a unique approach to how they are made, and that is a great story in and of itself.

For the past three years, the Gold Rush AR event has been filmed by a team of University of Cincinnati students, who are studying media production. For the 2014 edition of the race, 16 students, under the direction of professional television director and U.C. alum Brian Leitten, and E-media Professor Kevin Burke, traveled to California to shoot the documentary and witness the incredible sport of adventure racing first hand. As a result, their work is now going to be shown on Universal, and we'll all get the opportunity to see the Gold Rush as well.

I'm trying to remember the last time adventure racing was on television here in the U.S. It has been many years since we actually saw a network air anything AR related. This will be great exposure for the sport, and hopefully introduce a new audience to what adventure racing is all about.

To get an idea of what to expect from the documentaries, check out the promo video below which was shot at the 2013 Gold Rush.


Adventure Tech: GoPro Hero 4 is Official

Last week I posted a story about the rumors of a new GoPro camera that was said to be launching soon. The leaked information indicated that new model would be able to capture video in 4K resolutions, and include a touchscreen for navigation of the device's settings. At the time, we didn't know much more about the product, including price or release date, but today GoPro made the new Hero 4 official, announcing two versions, as well as a new inexpensive entry model as well.


Himalaya Fall 2014: Summit Push Underway on Cho Oyu

The pace is starting to pick up in the Himalaya, where last week we saw summits on Manaslu, and we begin this week with a summit push on Cho Oyu as well. Meanwhile, teams on other mountains continue to acclimatize and wait for their opportunities too.

The commercial teams on Cho Oyu launched their summit bids this past weekend, and are hoping to top out today. That includes both the IMG squad, as well as the team led by the Adventure Consultants. Both were in Camp 3 yesterday, and should now be working their way towards the top of the 8201 meter (26,906 ft) peak. If everything goes according to plan, we should have news of successful summits later today, or by tomorrow.

Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke is on Cho Oyu as well, and a few days back she reported that high winds and deep snow were thwarting efforts to fix ropes. Conditions must have improved however, otherwise the other teams would not be making a move towards the summit. She also indicated that her team would be spending the weekend at Camp 2 as part of their acclimatization process, so they aren't quite ready to make their own push to the top just yet. Chris was quite dismayed to learn that two climbers had used her, and her Sherpas, bottled oxygen and masks that were stored at C2, which means they must carry more supplies to that point in preparation for their own summit bid down the line. That creates not only an expense for her, but they will also expend more energy having to carry extra supplies with them when they go.


Over on Shishapangma, the teams are saddened by the deaths of Sabastian Haag and Andrea Zambaldi in an avalanche last week. But of course, the climbers are there to summit the mountain themselves, so the work in preparation for a summit push must continue. 75-year old Carlos Soria, is in Camp 1 today as he turns his eyes towards the summit. The weather conditions are said to be favorable at the moment, but deep snow has made it a challenge so far. We'll have to wait to see if the team can continue towards the top later in the week, or if they'll have to wait a bit longer for things to settle.

The British military team on Makalu is making progress. In their latest dispatch they indicate that the Sherpa team has fixed ropes to Camp 1, and the entire squad is heading up to ABC, and then proceeding higher as they acclimatize as well. The team has only been in camp a little over a week, and they have a great deal of work ahead of them yet, but progress so far has been steady.

Finally, there was more sad news from the Himalaya over the weekend when it was revealed that 59-year old Japanese climber Yoshimasa Sasaki fell to his death on Manaslu last Friday. He reportedly lost his footing at 7300 meters (23,950 feet) while on the descent after a successful summit. A recovery team is working to collect his body, and return it to Kathmandu. My condolences to his friends and family.

That's it for the Monday morning update. We should have more news in the next day or two on possible summits on Cho Oyu, and other teams moving about. The fall climbing season is definitely in full swing now, with things heating up nicely.

Video: The Living Spree - A Summer of Adventure in New Zealand

What do you do when you have one last summer of freedom following college and before entering the work force? If you're the three young Americans who made the video below, you travel to New Zealand, rent a van, and cover more than 4000 miles (6437 km) in search of adventure. As you can see from this incredibly well done short film, they found everything they were looking for, and more. Great stuff, and wonderful inspiration for a travel adventure of your own.

 
The Living Spree from Four Hills Films on Vimeo.

Video: Filmmaking in the Himalaya with a Drone (Part 2)

A few weeks back I posted a video from my friend Jon Miller of The Rest of Everest fame. In that video, we got a behind the scenes look at a recent trip Jon made to the Himalaya, during which he took a couple of drones along with him to capture some amazing footage from across the region. Today, we have a second video from that trip, which once again not only includes fantastic images from the mountains, but also gives would-be Himalayan trekkers an opportunity to see what it is like to hike through that part of the world. This video will be of interest to other filmmakers of course, but there is a lot to like for the rest of us too. I hope you enjoy.

Sponsored Video: The North Face - The Explorer

We humans are explorers. There is no denying that. There is something innate in our make-up that spurs us to push on into the unknown. We want to see what is over the next horizon, and want to fill in the blank spots on the map. It is what has driven us forward as a species, and I believe it is that same spirit that will carry us forward into the future, as we continue to explore the depths of the oceans, and push further into outer space.

This point is hammered home very eloquently by the video below, thanks to some very eloquent and inspiring narration from astronaut Buzz Aldrin. On July 20, 1969, Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon, as they became the first human beings to walk on Earth's satellite. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a seminal moment in human exploration

In this brief, but incredibly inspiring clip, Aldrin talks about man's need to explore is instilled in us at a young age. He says that he was inspired by the explorers that came before him, and that he hoped at some point to plant the flag someplace where no one else had ever been. He got his chance on the historic flight of Apollo 11.

Aldrin's incredibly poignant words apply not only to his mission into space, but for explorers who are pushing boundaries here on our planet as well. Those words are set over some incredibly breathtaking images of adventurers who continue to carry the torch of exploration forward into the mountains, the oceans, and the other remote corners of our planet. The video is brought to us by The North Face, so it is fitting that their motto is "Never Stop Exploring."

This post has been sponsored by The North Face, but the opinions are all my own.

Adventure Tech: Next Gen GoPro to Include Touchscreen, Capture in 4K?

Aspring adventure filmmakers are no doubt wondering what GoPro has up their sleeve for their next generation camera. After all, the Hero 3 line has been out for several years, and the competition is starting to get a bit stiffer in what has become a very crowded action cam market. Yesterday, gadget website Gizmodo posted a round-up of the latest rumors circulating around the as-yet unannounced Hero 4, as well as a photo that may actually show off the product for the first time.


Himalaya Fall 2014: Tragedy on Shishapangma, New Speed Record on Manaslu

We have more bad news from the Himalaya today, where tragedy has struck the Double8 team that we have been following so closely this fall. An avalanche hit the squad high on the peak, killing two climbers, and bringing a tragic end to their attempt to summit two 8000-meter peaks in seven days.

As you may recall, earlier this week the team set out for a second summit push on Shishapangma, after being turned back on their first attempt last week. Heavy snows and the danger of avalanches made it impossible for them to top out the first time around, but they were hoping that conditions had improved in the days since. For their second summit bid, they were joined by Ueli Steck, who had set a speed record on Shisha a few years back. The plan was for Ueli and Benedikt Böhm to leave Base Camp on Tuesday, and meet up with Sebastian Haag at Camp1, followed by Andrea Zambaldi at Camp 2. They were also joined by a 5th climber, as Martin Maier joined the squad at the last minute as well. All seemed to go according to plan, and the men headed up the mountain on schedule. If everything were to unfold as they expected, they would top and be back in BC in one day. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

The team found it tough going on the upper slopes of the mountain once again. Deep, heavy snow made it difficult to break trail, and they were still exhausted from their first attempt. Still, they pushed on, and by 6:55 AM local time on Wednesday they had reached 7900 meters (25,918 ft), which put them just 113 meters (370 feet) below the summit. It was at this point that they were hit by an avalanche which dragged Sebastian and Andrea off the mountain, falling some 600 meters over the side of a cliff. Martin was also hit, and buried by the snow.


Ueli and Benedikt immediately contacted Base Camp and called for help, and then proceeded to try to search for their missing companions. According to reports, they attempted to find an approach to the avalanche zone for four hours, but could not find a way to descend to where their friends had fallen. Exhausted from their efforts, they eventually descended to Camp 3 to rest.

Yesterday morning, after spending a night out alone on the mountain, Martin wandered into C3 as well. He had survived the avalanche, although he is beaten and battered. Several members of other teams on Shishapangma climbed up to assist in bringing him down. He, Ueli, and Benedikt should be back in BC by now.

Sadly, Sebastian and Andrea are missing, and presumed dead at this time. My condolences go out to their friends and family.

In other news, as I previously reported there were a number of successful summits on Manaslu yesterday, with commercial squads putting their clients on top. But there was also a new speed record set on that mountain when Andrzej Bargiel managed to go from BC to the summit in a mere 14 hours and 5 minutes. Ironically, he broke the previous record which was set by Benedikt Böhm back in 2012. At the time when Bargiel was making his ascent, Böhm was probably wrapping up the search for his missing friends.

Andrzej had planned on making a ski descent of Manaslu, but heavy fog made that impossible. instead, he descended all the way back to BC in a round-trip time of 21 hours and 14 minutes. Certainly impressive work.

That's all for now. I'll post updates on the events on Shishapangma as the story becomes more clear, and I'll continue to monitor the progress of the teams on other mountains as well.

Video: Autumn in Aspen

Autumn has officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it comes cooler temperatures, shorter days, and changing of the leaves on the trees. This all-too short video gives us a wonderful look at fall in the Rocky Mountains. Shot near Aspen, Colorado, the scenery is as breathtaking as you'd expect.

Maroon Bells in Autumn from Mike Kvackay on Vimeo.

Video: Worst Mountain Bike Crashes At Red Bull Rampage

Speaking of Red Bull, the company is gearing up for its iconic Rampage downhill mountain bike race, which will take place this weekend in Virgin, Utah. The event always features some amazing highlights that are a good reminder to leave this sport to the professionals. The video below was released ahead of the start of the Rampage, and features some of the worst crashes in the history of the event. Thankfully, these riders wear plenty of armor and padding, and generally walk away without any real damage. That doesn't make it any easier to watch when they go down though. Ouch!

Video: Introducing the Red Bull Ger Get It Extreme Relay Race

You have to hand it to the folks at Red Bull. They sure know how to put together some epic events, and their marketing efforts are second to none. Take for example the video below, which is a promo for their Ger Get It race, which is a relay that demands teams paddle, run, climb, and mountain bike their way across a tough course. This looks like a lot of fun, and combines some of my favorite outdoor activities into one single event.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summits on Manaslu!

Weather forecasts predicting good conditions over the Himalaya for the end of the week have proven to be accurate, and as a result, we have now seen the first successful summits of the season on Manaslu. Earlier today, the Altitude Junkies posted a brief update on their website indicating that the team had a successful day on the mountain. Their dispatch read as follows:
"Summits! We have had six team members and six Sherpas summit Manaslu this morning. Everyone is safe, with some members descending to base camp today and some descending tomorrow. More details to come."
The AJ squad was working closely with the Himex team, which also had a successful day on the mountain. Team leader Russell Brice posted his own update that indicated that all nine of his clients topped out, along with two guides and nine Sherpas as well. All members of the team are reportedly in good physical condition, with some returning all the way to Base Camp today, while others will rest in Camp 3, before coming down tomorrow.

This weather window is now expected to close, as high winds move over the summit of Manaslu in the next few days. According to Brice, conditions for the climb today were not ideal, as the winds started to pick up as the climbers left Camp 4. Fortunately, things did not deteriorate from there, and everyone was able to get up and down safely.

Congratulations to all of the climbers on a job well done.

Meanwhile, we're still awaiting word on the Double8 team. The trio of climbers, who hope to summit two 8000-meter peaks in seven days, had set out for the summit of Shishapangma a few days ago with Ueli Steck in tow. They had hoped to make a speed ascent to the summit, and ski back to BC in just one day, but there has not been any official updates on their progress just yet. There are some indications that they may have run into heavy snow just below the summit once again, and may have turned back for a second time. If true, they are likely descending and preparing to head to Cho Oyu for an attempt on that mountain.

Elsewhere across the Himalaya, teams continue to acclimatize and look for good weather to go up their respective mountains. For the most part, things continue to play out on schedule, and there doesn't seem to be any major concerns at the moment. Over the next few weeks, there will be more summit pushes to come, as climbers wrap up their preparation, and start their final attempts as well. I'll post further updates as warranted.

Islamic Militants Execute Mountaineer in Algeria

There is sad news to report out of Algeria today where Islamic militants have killed a mountaineer in retaliation for U.S.-led attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 55-year old Hervé Gourdel has traveled to the country just a few days before to begin a 10-day long hiking excursion to the Atlas Mountains in preparation for a future expedition to climb there. Gourdel reportedly had just arrived in Algeria on Saturday, and was captured by the militant group while trekking in the mountains on Sunday. In an apparent attempt to send a message to the French government to withdraw from the attacks on ISIS, the Algerian militants wasted no time in murdering their captive.


Video: Ueli Steck - Mountaineering Legend

As I write this, we're awaiting word from Shishapangma on the success of the Double8 mountaineering expedition, which is attempting to summit two 8000 meter peaks in 7 days. After being turned back on Shisha last week, the three man team has expanded to include Swiss climber Ueli Steck to help get them over the top. Why would they add Ueli to their squad at the last minute? Watch the video below to find out why he is known as the "Swiss Machine." The 14-minute clip is an excellent profile of Ueli that will give you insights into what drives the man to do the things he does in the mountains.

Video: Very Technical Mountain Biking in the Austrian Alps

Warning: If you have a heart condition, you may not want to watch this video. It features mountain biker Johannes Pistrol riding the Steinerne Rinne, a limestone peak located in the Northern Alps of Austria. But there is no mountain biking trail on the mountain, and our intrepid hero is forced to navigate his way down in a slow, very technical, and very exposed manner. This one will leave you squirming in your seat as he makes his way along some very narrow routes. Don't try this at home kids.

Thanks to Adventure Journal for sharing.

Wilder Kaiser extreme from Big Col on Vimeo.

Video: Pedal the World Documentary Teaser

Last June, German adventurer Felix Starck set out to ride his bike around the world. He spent the next 365 days covering more than 18,000 km (11,185 miles), crossing through 22 countries in the process. Now, he is preparing to release a documentary entitled Pedal the World that will share that experience. The video below is a teaser for the full-length film, which will be available soon. The two-minute clip gives us a sense of what to expect from the full movie, which follows Felix's globe-spanning adventure from start to finish.

U.S. Rotarians Climb Kilimanjaro to Eliminate Polio

Earlier this month, a team of climbers representing Rotary Clubs from all over the U.S. launched a charity climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa in an effort to raise funds for the End Polio Now foundation. The group hopes to raise as much as $300,000 through their efforts, with the goal of stamping out polio worldwide once and for all.

The group climbed Kili, the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,340 ft (5895 meters), along the Rongai Route a few weeks back. They were led by guides from Zara Tanzania Adventures, including American Macon Dunnagan, who was making his 35th ascent of the mountain. It took the nine climbers six days to reach the summit, along a path that is known for being one of the less used, and more difficult routes to take to the summit.

This Kilimanjaro climb has become somewhat of a tradition over the past few years. Members of the Rotary Club have undertaken treks to the summit in both 2012 and 2013. Two  years ago, their efforts allowed them to raise $106,000 for the End Polio Now fund. This year, they have set their sights much higher, and they expect to reach their goal, even though the climb is over.

Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. The dormant volcano draws thousands of adventurous travelers each year, as the climb is a non-technical one that mostly involves acclimatizing to the altitude, and trekking to the summit over  6 or 7 days. For many, it is a good introduction to hiking in rough terrain at altitude, which could lead to similar adventures elsewhere in the world, such as the Himalaya or the Andes.

I want to congratulate the Rotary team on achieving one of their goals by reaching the summit. They continue working towards their other goal, which is raising funds to stamp out polio across the globe. Certainly another worthy cause.

Outside Magazine's Builds the Ultimate Survival Kit

Outside magazine continues to provide readers with lists of great gear that we should all own. This time out, they have put together the ultimate survival kit, which consists of 35 items that will get you through just about any situation. This kit won't come cheap however, as it would set you back more than $9300 if you were to purchase everything on the list.

While that number is sure to cause sticker-shock amongst some, there are a few items that drive up the price significantly. They include a fat bike from Cogburn ($1899), and Iridium Go satellite communications device, and a rifle from Kimber ($2040). These big ticket items make up a significant portion of the total price, even though they will probably come across as a luxury to a lot of people.

Most of the other items on the list are actually fairly affordable. They range from Duct tape ($5) to a Goal Zero Yeti solar powered generator ($460). Other items include things like a comfortable cot ($300) to sleep on, a rechargeable headlamp, a sturdy pair of hiking boots, energy bars, and a host of other gear that any outdoor enthusiast would love to have in their gear closet. Some of the items are even a bit whimsical, including a deck of playing cards, and bunny slippers for your feet.

If you're preparing for the impending zombie holocaust, than this would indeed be the ultimate survival kit. But, it also consists of some excellent outdoor gear from a number of great companies. While it is unlikely that any of us will ever assemble this complete survival package, there are plenty of items that make the list that would come in handy while hiking, backpacking, climbing, or traveling.

Video: Beautiful Scotland

Ever wonder what Scotland has to offer visitors? Then wonder no more. This short, three-minute clip serves as a lovely introduction to a country that has plenty of adventure to offer those who visit. This video was shot over seven months there, and is a fantastic argument for why we should all put it on our bucket lists. Great stuff!

Beautiful Scotland from John Duncan on Vimeo.

Video: One Extreme Athlete, Five Extreme Activities, One Hour

Only in New Zealand is it possible to cram five extreme activities into a single hour. In the video below, we watch as outdoor athlete Chuck Berry (I'm not making this up folks!) skydives out of a helicopter, lands on a mountain, then snowboards down to another helicopter, to catch a lift to a nearby trail, which he then descends on a mountain bike. Eventually he reaches a bridge with spans a a massive canyon, which is of course the perfect place to bungee jump. At the bottom of that jump, he boards a waiting jet boat, then flies down the canyon at break neck speed. It all looks like fun of course, even if I'd prefer to do it in a shorter timeframe so I can actually enjoy the activity.

Peak to Peak 2014 Expedition a Success!

Back in August, I posted a story about the Peak to Peak 2014 Expedition, an attempt by adventurers Grant "Axe" Rawlinson and Alan Silva to climb the highest mountains in the U.K. and France, while traveling between those two peaks completely under human power. I'm happy to report that they were successful in their endeavor, and had a heck of an adventure along the way.

The two men began the expedition by first climbing Ben Nevis, a 1344 meter (4409 ft) mountain located in Lochaber region of the Scottish Highlands. If you know anything about Ben Nevis, you probably know that there is a popular tourist trail that leads to the top. But Grant and Alan weren't planning on taking that route. Instead, they wanted to go off the beaten path, and scale the North Face of the mountain, which actually requires some technical rock climbing to complete. Unfortunately, a late start didn't allow them the time to go that intended climb however, so they elected on an alternate route known as the CMD arete. This wasn't as technical, but did involve quite a bit of rock scrambling instead.

After successfully reaching the highest point in the U.K., the two men climbed aboard their bikes the following day, and started to ride south. They peddled their way through the Scottish Highlands, past Glencoe Valley, into Glasgow, and eventually across the border into England itself. Their cycling journey continued through the Yorkshire Dales, in and out of quaint little English villages, and includes a fair share of stops at popular pubs along the way.

Eventually, the duo arrived in London, where the next phase of the journey would begin. They had to face the daunting task of crossing the English Channel, which they did by kayak, although there was a hitch. French regulations prohibit paddling across the channel, to Grant and Alan completed most of the journey under their own power, then boarded a support ship to take them across a French shipping channel so that they would be compliant with the rules and regulations. This was a 5-6 mile stretch of water, which prohibited them from making the entire journey under their own power. While it is okay to swim across the English Channel, the French don't want any unseemly paddlers coming to their shores.


Once safely in France, they returned to their bikes and started their ride towards the Alps, and Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. It took them 8 days to do so, following back country roads, as they were not allowed to cycle on the main highways. They once again enjoyed scenic, pastoral, countryside, along with inviting French villages, good food, and lovely places to stay.

By the time they arrived in Chamonix, and were preparing for their final challenge – a summit of Mont Blanc – the boys were starting to run out of time. They had set aside just 24 days for the entire expedition, and they had been on the road for more than 18 already. They needed good weather, and some luck on their side, if they hoped to complete the Peak to Peak adventure on schedule.

Climbing the mountain would take a couple of days, as they made the ascent in traditional Alps fashion, going hut-to-hut, until they could launch a final push to the top early one morning. A successful summit came later in the day, and Grant and Alan would eventually descend back to Chamonix with their mission accomplished.

I have given you just a brief overview of the journey. If you really want to hear what it was all about, you should read the full account that Grant posted to his website. It contains far more details and good information for anyone who would like to make a similar expedition in the future.

Congratulations to Axe and Alan on competing this adventure. It is a good example of what is possible when you have just a few weeks vacation to play with, but want to do something adventurous, without requiring a lot of money. This is definitely an inspiration to adventurers everywhere.

Smart Gear for Travel from Outside Magazine

Outside magazine has yet another good list of gear for us today, this time presenting the smartest gear for travelers. The list includes some large, overarching categories, of items that all travelers should have with them when they hit the road, as well as their top pick for items in those categories. These items tend to be small, light, versatile, and vital for anyone making a trip – short or long.

Amongst the categories they address is the luggage that we carry. Outside rightly points out that wheeled carry-on bags sacrifice space in order to give travelers the convenience of those wheels. They recommend the Thule Crossover, a 40L pack that offers plenty of protection for all of your important gear. The Outside editors also recommend that you never leave home without a good pair of noise canceling headphones. In this case, they suggest the Bose QuietComfort 20's, which are small, comfortable, and work extremely well.

Other categories include a small tablet (they give the nod to the iPad Mini), a travel water bottle, comfortable and highly packable underwear from Icebreaker, comfortable travel shoes, compression socks, a neck pillow for use in flight, and a few other items.

All in all, this is not an incredibly comprehensive list, but it does suggest some fantastic items that are great for travelers. A  number of these items are things that I carry with me when I'm traveling somewhere, and I'd recommend to others as well. For instance, I can't imagine boarding a long flight these days, and not having my iPad with me. It's just such a versatile piece of gear, allowing you to watch movies, listen to music, play games, read books and magazines, and more. The fact that it doesn't weigh much at all, and has incredible battery life, is just a bonus.

If you're planning any trips in the near future, this looks like a good list of items to choose from to make it a better experience all around. Just like in our outdoor pursuits, the right gear can make all of the difference.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Ueli Steck Joins Double8 Team on Shishapangma

While a host of new arrivals continue to get Base Camps across the Himalaya, a few teams have wrapped up their acclimatization rotations, and are about to launch their summit bids. A good weather window is projected for later this week, and it should allow some of the climbers to make a push for the top, although their remains some concerns about heavy snow and potential avalanches.

We'll start on Shishapangma, where the Double8 squad re-launched their attempt to summit Shishapangma yesterday, but ended up getting turned back once again. They're off to give it another go later today, with the hopes of reaching the summit tomorrow however, and this time they've recruited some world-class help to assist with the process. Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine himself has joined the team, at least for their speed attempt on Shisha, and he will help lead them to the summit. Ueli will set out from ABC with  Benedikt Böhm, and they'll be joined by Sebastian Haag at Camp1, then and Andrea Zambaldi at C2.

Reportedly, the team is exhausted from their first attempt on the mountain last week, and hasn't recovered fully just yet. They are also feeling a bit under the weather, with all three members dealing with nasty coughs, and pulmonary issues. What that means for the future of the expedition remains unclear, as they have bigger plans beyond just a speed attempt on Shishapangma. As you may recall, they also intend to ski back down the mountain, then mountain bike 106 miles (170 km) to Base Camp on Cho Oyu, where they intend to make another speed climb to the summit of that 8000 meter peak. Whether or not they'll be physically able to achieve this goal remains to be seen.


It is also unclear what this means for Ueli's plans on Shishpangma. He is in Tibet to climb that mountain with his wife Nicole, but it does not sound like she will be a part of this summit push, nor would I expect her to take part in a speed climb on the mountain. It is possible that Steck will help the Double8 team get to the top, then return to BC, rest and make another climb with his wife. He certainly has the skills and physical strength to climb the mountain twice, but we'll have to wait to see if that is his intention.

Meanwhile, over on Mansaslu, several teams are preparing to make a summit push as well. Both the Altitude Junkies and Himex teams began their ascents yesterday. The two squads have been working together all season long, and that cooperation seems to be continuing now. Sherpas from both teams are leading the way, breaking trail in deep snow, and if all goes according to plan, they should top out on Thursday of this week, and return to BC on Friday. We'll monitor the situation closely and provide updates along the way.

Other teams appear to be a part of this summit push on Manaslu as well, as they scramble to take advantage of the good weather coming over the next few days. But not all is good on the mountain, as ExWeb is reporting that French and Italian climbers have had their food stolen from their tents at C1. It is unfortunate that these incidences happen in such remote places, but they are more common than you would think.

Good luck to the climbers who are on the move. Hopefully they'll get up and down their mountains safely, and perhaps with a successful summit to add to their resumes.

Video: Across a Peninsula in 4K

Shot in Jutland in western Denmark, this video features an amazing set of timelapse images that were captured over a period of about seven months. It is two-and-a-half minutes of pure natural beauty that has to be seen to be believed. There are some truly fantastic landscapes on display here, both dramatic and breathtaking. I never cease to marvel at these wonderful timelapse clips. Truly great stuff.

Across a Peninsula 4K from Jonas Høholt on Vimeo.

Video: Above Sea Level (Climbing Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro)

Here's a fun and creative video that follows two climbers as they go up both Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Africa. The men carried a GoPro camera with them on their trek, and shot some funny video at various points along both mountains that captured their mood at each step of the climb. It is a not-so-serious look at scaling both peaks that is good for a few chuckles along the way.

Above sea level from Miguel Campos on Vimeo.

Video: Mammut Lights Up the Matterhorn to Celebrate 150 Years of Climbing

2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn, a mountain that is iconic both in physical profile, and stature in the mountaineering world. To celebrate this event, gear manufacturer Mammut created special tribute to the mountain, and the men and women who have climbed it. The video below, gives you a behind the scenes look at this project, and what it looked like when it was completed.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Teams on the Move

It was a fairly active weekend in the Himalaya, where the commercial teams continue to acclimatize in preparation for eventual summit bids. For the most part, things are going according to plan, and while we're still a couple of weeks away from the first major pushes of the season, each day brings the climbers closer to their goal.

We'll start on Makalu, where the British military team reached Base Camp yesterday at long last. It took them 8 days of trekking from the time they left Kathmandu, until they arrived in BC. Now, they are taking a few days to get settled before they'll move up the sloes to Camp 1, and begin their acclimatization process. Over the next few weeks, they'll establish several high camps while they let their bodies become accustomed to the altitude, before launching a tough, alpine-style push to the summit along the very difficult Southeast Ridge. This will be one of the more fascinating expeditions to watch this fall, and it should be interesting to see if they can pull of this big climb.

Over on Manaslu, the teams are starting to talk summit bids. According to the Altitude Junkies, the Sherpas fixed the ropes to just below Camp 4 on Friday, clearing the way for the teams to start planning for their final push. The weather will dictate exactly when that will happen, but if a good window comes in the next few days, we could see the climbers on the move shortly.

On Cho Oyu, the Adventure Consultants have checked in with a regular progress report. The team is in the middle of another acclimatization rotation, and will spend tonight at Camp 2 before heading back down to BC. Sadly, two members of the team were forced to head home after experiencing some health issues. This is not uncommon on expeditions to the big mountains, but it is always a sad to hear that someone has to abandon their dream of climbing in the Himalaya.


75-year old Carlos Soria is attempting Cho Oyu this fall, and he arrived in BC last week. After attending his Puja ceremony, Sora's team has been acclimatizing on some of the smaller mountains near by, while they wait for a chance to move up and start the process of climbing their intended peak. They should get that opportunity in the next few days.

ExWeb is reporting that the Korean team climbing Lhotse this fall had a close encounter with an Avalanche. They were fixing rope between Camp 1 and 2, at around 6200 meters (20,340 ft) when the avalanche struck. Fortunately, no one was injured, and it turned out to be yet another challenge for the  Koreans to overcome. The team has faced poor weather the entire time they have been in Base Camp, but they continue to move upwards, despite the conditions.

Finally, the Double8 team is getting ready to launch their second attempt on Shishapangma. The trio of Benedikt Böhm,Sebastian Haag, and Andrea Zambaldi took a shot at the summit last week, but heavy snow high on the peak turned them back. After spending the weekend resting in Base Camp, they're ready to go again. They'll launch their second bid today with the hopes of a speed attempt to the summit, and a ski descent back to BC. If successful, they'll then get on their mountain bikes, and ride for approximately 100 miles (160 km) to Cho Oyu Base Camp, where they'll then attempt another speed climb, and ski descent. Their aim is to knock off two 8000 meter peaks in just seven days. I'll keep you posted on their progress.

More updates to come over the next few days. The teams are truly on the move now, but summit bids are not really in the cards just yet. Stay tuned however, as it won't be long now.


Thailand - Bangkok : #FoodHoppingBKK Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant. "This is the most unusual restaurant theme I ever went.". The main concept of this restaurant is to promote better understanding and acceptance of family planning as well as to generate income to support various development activities of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). #notPublicDisplayofAffection. In short, is to promote safe sex. This topic has been the sensitive and taboo in the past, but now is widely discussed even by school children before we knew it.

Video: Beautiful Queenstown, New Zealand

Ever wonder why New Zealand is sometimes referred to as the "Adventure Capital of the World?" Then look no further than this beautiful short video shot in, and around Queenstown. It not only features some breathtaking landscapes, it also shows adventurous people doing some of our favorite activities, like mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, and more. The video is an excellent reminder that I still need to visit this amazing-looking country.

HELICAM FILMS - QUEENSTOWN - NZ from TONY YOUNG on Vimeo.

Video: BASE Jumper Completes 49 Jumps in 19 Days

BASE jumper and wingsuit pilot Ian McIntosh traveled to France and Switzerland recently, where he was able to complete an astounding 49 jumps in just 19 days. The video below captures some of the action, as well as some of the other hijinks that occurred along the way. The best shots from the jumps come near the end of the video, but it looks like the entire trip was amazing.

Archeologists Uncover "Huge" Structure in Israel that Predates the Pyramids

Archaeology fascinates me. I love the fact that we're still uncovering hidden things from our past, and learning about early civilizations. That's why this story caught my attention when I came across it yesterday. It seems that archaeologists working in Israel have unearthed a massive structure near the Sea of Galilee that is is believed to have been built sometime between 3050 BC and 2650 BC. That would make it older than the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and even Stonehenge in the U.K.

 The structure was previously mistaken for a defensive wall of some sort, although no settlement was known to have existed in that part of the country. It is immense in size, stretching for 150 metes (492 ft), and has a volume that is said to be roughly 14,000 cubic meters (500,000 cubic ft). It is believed to have been a standing monument of some type, although what it was used for remains a bit of a mystery. Researchers speculate that it was used as a landmark built to "mark possession or assert authority."

The crescent shaped structure may have been built by a local chieftain in the Mesopotamian civilization. Its shape could have held some significance within the lunar cycle, or  it could have also been a monument built to Sin, the culture's moon god. The closest settlement is a town called Bet Yerah, which translates to "House of the Moon God." It is just 29km (18 miles) away, which is about a days walk for ancient travelers. There is some speculation that the monument was built to mark the borders of the city's territory, and to potentially ward off would-be invaders.

The age of the structure was determined by dating fragments of pottery that were found at the site. The monument is so old, that it actually predates the Old Testament, and provides clues about life in the region that is often referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization." Researchers say the site would have required a massive amount of labor to build. They estimate that it would have taken between 35,000 and 50,000 days working days to construct the monument, which translates to a team of 200 people working for roughly five months straight just to achieve the lower end of that estimate. In an agrarian society dependent on food production, that would have been incredibly tough.

Reading a story like this one, it makes you wonder what else is out there, just waiting for us to stumble across it.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Double8 Team Back in BC, No Summit on Shishapangma Yet

I wanted to post a quick update from the Himalaya today on the Doube8 expedition. The team, which consists of Benedikt Böhm, Sebastian Haag, and Andrea Zambaldi, launched their bid to summit two 8000-meter peaks in seven days on Wednesday, and had hoped to have topped out on their first mountain – Shishapangma – yesterday. Unfortunately, the trio are back in Base Camp, and did not manage to summit as they had hoped. But the expedition is not done yet, and they'll be giving it another go in a few days.

According to an update posted on their website, the team ran into deep snow high on the mountain. Reportedly, the snow was several meters deep, making it exhausting to try to break trail and continue upwards. Additionally, they felt that there was a great deal of risk for avalanches as well, so they felt it was best to turn back. The men reached as high as 7700 meters (25,262 ft) before they made a ski descent to Advanced Base Camp. For the record, Shisha is 8013 meters (26,289 ft) in height, so they were closing in on the summit, but still had a good deal of work to do before they would have topped out.

The three climbers, as well as Norbu Sherpa, are all said to be in good health and spirits. They are most assuredly disappointed by the result of their efforts, but they are now resting for another attempt. The dispatch on their website says that that second attempt will get underway "within the next few days," but the countdown time on the front page has been reset, and it would appear that they'll try again starting next Monday.

As you may recall, Böhm, Haag, and Zambaldi hope to first make a speed climb up Shishapangma, then descend back to BC on skis. From there, they intend to ride their mountain bikes 100 miles to reach Base Camp on Cho Oyu, their second 8000-meter peak. They will attempt another alpine-style climb up Cho Oyu, which tops out at 8201 meters (26,906 ft), before once again making a ski descent. It will be an incredibly tough week in the Himalaya, as they are already discovering.

The video below was posted to the team's YouTube Channel as I was prepping this post. It offers more insights.


Gear Closet: Olympia EX550 Headlamp

One of the most difficult categories to break into in the outdoor gear space has to be the headlamp segment. There are literally hundreds of different lamps to choose from, they all do very similar things, and they can range in price from just a few bucks, all the way up to hundreds of dollars. For any company looking to break through in that environment, they need to deliver a product that dependable, durable, and affordable. That's exactly what Olympia has done with their EX550 model, a headlamp that delivers fantastic performance in a tough, lightweight package.

The list of features for the EX550 is pretty much exactly what you'd want out of any good headlamp. It feature five settings on the light (low, medium, high, max and strobe), and on its brightest setting it is capable of putting out a stunning 550 lumens of light. At its lowest setting, that number drops to a still-ample 25 lumens, with a long burn time of over 60 hours. The headlamp is certified IPX-7 waterproof, which means it is can survive being submerged in up to 1 meter of water, and still continue working just fine. It has a rugged aluminum case that not only gives it a substantial feel in your hands, but also allows it to be used in the most demanding of environments without fear of it falling apart. The EX550's pivoting head rotates 180º up or down, allowing you to shine the light where you need it most, and when its switched off, a lock-out switch ensures that you don't accidentally burn out your batteries while the headlamp is in your backpack. All of this comes in a lightweight 5.4 ounce (153 grams) package that isn't bulk in any way.

I found the EX550 to be extremely comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. Olympia has generously included a soft, wide, and very comfortable head strap that not only holds the light firmly in place, but does so in a way that makes it easy to forget you're even wearing it. Some headlamps skimp on the headband, and as a result, you really don't enjoy wearing them for very long. That is not the case here though, as the entire package is designed to be worn for as long as you need it. The headband also expands enough to stretch over a helmet as well, which will be good news for climbers, mountain bikers, and adventure racers.


One of the things that I like most about the EX550 is its aluminum body. It feels incredibly solid and durable, which is something I value greatly in all of my gear. Other manufacturers offer headlamps that are lighter in weight, but they often achieve this by using a plastic body, which can be quite fragile. I'm probably not the only one who has dropped a headlamp at some point, only to see it break in numerous pieces. I don't feel like that would happen with the EX550, and I'm willing to sacrifice an extra ounce or two, to have a product that will survive in demanding conditions. But as I mentioned above, this is not a heavy lamp by any stretch of the imagination. At 5.4 ounces, I feel it is the perfect balance between weight and durability.

Any headlamp that you take with you on your adventures needs to be able to provide plenty of light, while also being able to balance a good burn time. The EX550 certainly offers incredible brightness, but it could perform better with its battery life across a number of its settings. As mentioned earlier, the "max" brightness level is a powerful 550 lumens, and the lamp is capable of providing that level of brightness for 3.5 hours. That is actually an impressive amount of burn time considering how much light is being put off. Dropping down to the "high" brightness setting, reduces the light to 250 lumens, which is still very, very bright. But that is less than half of the "max" setting, so you would think that you'd see greatly improved battery life. On the EX550 you'd be wrong however, as it gains just one extra hour over the higher setting. On "medium," the light output is 100 lumens, and the burn time extends to 12 hours, while the "low" setting gives off 25 lumens at runs for 60 hours.

To be fair, you're likely to have your lamp on the "low" setting the majority of the time, as 25 lumens is plenty bright when you're in a dark area. But I would have liked to have seen an intermediate mode, perhaps in the 50-75 lumen range, that offered 30-40 hours of burn time, as a good trade off for brightness and battery life.

Speaking of batteries, the EX550 uses 2 CR123A Lithium batteries to power the lamp. They help to give it such a high level of output, but they also add extra weight to the package when compared to AA batteries, which are more common in other lights. The weight of those batteries are includes in the 5.4 ounces that I've mentioned before, but had Olympia chosen to use AA batteries instead, they could have probably shaved off some extra weight, albeit at the expense of brightness and burn time. The only real problem I have with their choice of battery is that they are a bit harder to find, so you'll want to make sure you have a spare set with you before setting off on any expeditions.

Olympia has delivered in the area of pricing. The EX550 carries an MSRP of $69.99, which I feel is a solid price point for a light that is this comfortable and durable, and is capable of putting out so much light. This is a headlamp that should last you for years, and is capable of surviving a number of demanding environments. Yes, there are less expensive headlamps on the market, but few offer all of the features of this one, and wrap it up in such a sturdy and lightweight case, at such an affordable price. If you're in the market for a new light, this should be on your list of contenders.

Video: Nature and the Aurora Borealis in Finland

Last week, the Earth experienced some of the most intense solar activity that we've seen in recent memory. Solar flares from our sun buffeted the planet, causing disruptions to radio signals, satellites, and other communications equipment. It also made for some of the most intense displays of the Northern Lights that we've seen in some time. There have been a number of good videos showing off this natural phenomenon making the rounds lately, and this is another one. Shot in Finland, it includes some fantastic images from the incredibly beautiful landscapes, as well as wonderful views of the Northern Lights.

Nature and Aurora Borealis in Finland timelapse // Henri Luoma Photography from Henri Luoma on Vimeo.

Video: Teaser for unReal - A New Mountain Biking Film

Our friends over at Teton Gravity Research have released a teaser video for a new mountain biking film called unReal that is scheduled to be released next summer. Judging from the clip below, it's going to be a long wait. The teaser starts off a bit slow, with some poor, down-trodden worker sitting in his cubical, but once breaks out, things get moving with some amazing looking clips of mountain bikers riding through some fantastic landscapes. It is just enough to really get you amped, so hopefully we'll see more soon.

Video: Wingsuit Flying in Brévent, France

Brévent is a mountain near Chamonix in in France that has become one of the top destinations for wingsuit pilots looking to test their skills. It is popular in part because it is easy to access, but also because it gives wingsuiters multiple routes to explore. The video below is a good introduction to the place, and features some great shots of the pilots doing their thing.

Jens Voigt Rides Off Into the Sunset by Attempting to Break Cycling's Hour Record

With the end of the 2014 pro cycling season nearly upon us, one of the sport's most beloved stars is about to say goodbye. But just as he was throughout his career, Jens Voigt will not be going out quietly. Tonight in Switzerland, he will take to the track in an attempt to set a new "hour record" for the  sport that has defined his life for the better part of three decades.

The hour record is basically a cyclist attempting to see just how far he can ride in a single hour. It is set on a track, with a lone rider facing off against the clock. The current record is 30.9 miles (49.7 km), and if he is going to break that mark, the man who so famously told his legs to "shut up," will ask them do just that one more time.

While riding on a track is easier and more protected than out on the road, racing the clock will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination. In order to have a crack at the record, Voigt will need to push himself to the limit, cranking out a consistent 370 watts, while ignoring the pain and fatigue in his legs – something he has done consistently throughout his career as well.

Once he takes to the track, the hour will certainly be a lonely one. Jens is not allowed an earpiece to give him updates on his progress, although a coach can stand alongside the track to offer encouragement. It will be just him, lost in his thoughts, along with a custom made playlist of songs on his iPod to keep him moving along. That list includes tunes from Metallica, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath, amongst others.

This is a fitting way for Voigt to step away from cycling, and his many fans will certainly be cheering him on. His training has been reportedly very good, and he feels that he has a legitimate chance at setting a new record. How long that record might stand remains a mystery however, as both Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara have also talked about going for the hour record. Both of those men excel at individual time trials, and possess skill sets that would allow them to do well in the hour record chase.

After this attempt is done tonight, Jens says he is finished with cycling. He has given the sport everything he could, and now it's time to step aside. He will be missed by his many fans, that much is certain.

Update: And he's done it! Jens has broken the hour record for cycling. When I originally wrote this piece, he hadn't yet launched his attempt, but now it is over. The new record is 51.115 km, or 31.76 miles. That translates into 205 laps around the track. Well done and congratulations. The legs can scream all they want now.

National Geographic Announces "Expedition Granted" Finalists

Way back in June, I posted about National Geographic's Expedition Granted, a program that asked us – the general public – to submit our best ideas for adventurous projects that we've always dreamed of accomplishing. The goal was to find a worth project that pushed exploration in new directions. Applicants were asked to submit a short two-minute video explaining their expedition, and upload it to the Nat Geo website. This submissions have been collected throughout the summer, and now a team of judges has selected their finalists, and are asking us to vote for our favorites.

You can checkout all the finalists on the Expedition Granted website. They include all kinds of interesting projects, such as a plan to make a documentary about how climate change is creating massive floods in Bhutan, an attempt to end rhino poaching in Africa, and an examination of the health of the reef systems near some of the top surfing destinations in the world. The submissions were extremely varied, with ideas in a wide variety of fields including oceanography, medicine, education, technology, and more.

From here, Nat Geo is asking us to help select the winner. Between now, and September 29, we can all visit the Expedition Granted website to vote for our selection for the most deserving project. On September 30, the winner will be announced, and awarded the $50,000 prize to help fund the expedition.

The website has a leaderboard of which projects are currently getting the most votes, and as of this writing, it is a submission by a photo journalist named Josh Garcia to examine the most unique bioluminescent creatures on our planet. This includes things like blue squid, giant fireflies, glowing termite mounds, and so on. Josh's video is quite entertaining, so it is easy to see why he is out in front at this stage.

But there is still plenty of time for everyone to cast their votes, with more than ten days left until the winner is decided. So, drop on by the website, take a look at the different projects, and help decide who will get the funds to launch their adventure.

Video: Twofold Nature - Timelapse From Abruzzo, Italy

This incredibly beautiful timelapse video was shot in Abruzzo, Italy over a period of about a year. It took more than 50,000 photos to put it together, but the result – as you can see for yourself – are spectacular.

Twofold Nature - Abruzzo Sublime and Beautiful from Alessandro Petrini on Vimeo.

Video: Double8 Expedition Begins Final Preparation on Shishapangma

Earlier today I posted an update on the progress of teams in the Himalaya, including the Double8 squad who hope to summit two 8000-meter peaks in a seven day period, mountain biking and trail running between the two mountains. They are currently on Shishapangma, and preparing for their first summit push, releasing this video to give us an update on their progress. The clip features some fantastic looks at the mountain, where they have been climbing and skiing for awhile now. It also has a guest star in the form of none other than Ueli Steck, who is on Shisha to climb with his wife. According to the video, the Double8 team is just about ready to go, although they may spend one more night at Camp 3 before they launch their challenge.

Video: Powering the Reel Rock Tour with Goal Zero

Keeping your electronic gear powered up while you're in the field is always a challenge, especially if you're shooting some of the fantastic adventure films that we've seen in recent years. Fortunately, solar power has come a long way, and is now a viable option for any expedition. Goal Zero is one of the companies that has led the way in this category, and the video below gives you an idea of what their products are capable of. While this is a promo video of sorts, it also features some amazing shots of some of our favorite outdoor athletes in the field as they are being filmed for the upcoming Reel Rock Tour. It also gives us a glimpse of how these filmmakers work in the field. Very interesting stuff all around.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Ueli on Shishapangma, Double8 Expedition Set To Begin

The fall 2014 Himalayan climbing season is now in full swing, with most teams either already in Base Camp, or well on their way. For many, the acclimatization process has begun, and the first steps towards reaching the summit have been taken. But there remains a lot of work to be done, and autumn hasn't even officially arrived just yet.

We'll start today on Shishapangma, where Swiss climbing legend Ueli Steck has checked in. Ueli has returned to a peak that he has already climbed in record time (10.5 hours!) to give it another go, this time climbing with his wife Nicole. As usual,  Ueli's dispatches are short, and to the point, so few details have been shared on their progress so far. I'm sure we'll get more updates in the days ahead, and something tells me this won't be another speed attempt this season.

75-year old Carlos Soria is on Shishapangma as well, and earlier today his team completed its Puj ceremony. That means the they are free to begin climbing the mountain, and will probably begin their first rotation up to Camp 1 tomorrow as well. Carlos is going for his 12th 8000-meter peak, which is an impressive accomplishment at any age.

The countdown on the Double8 expedition website says the team is expected to launch their speed attempt on Shishapangma tomorrow. According to their latest dispatch, the team of  Benedikt BöhmSebastian Haag, and Andrea Zambaldi have been above 7000 meters on three occasions, and have spent the night in Camp 3. That means that they are acclimatized and ready to go for the summit, provided the weather cooperates. They report that there is lots of snow high on the mountain, which has made for slow, exhausting progress. But, if everything goes as planned, they'll launch their speed attempt tomorrow. If successful, they'll then descend back to BC, and mountain bike and trail run to Cho Oyu, which they also hope to summit in a fast and light style. The ultimate goal? Two 8000-meter peaks in just seven days.


Speaking of Cho Oyu, the commercial teams on that mountain have wrapped up their first acclimatization rotations. Both the Adventure Consultants and IMG teams have been up to Camp 1, and report that all is well. Progress has been sure and steady, and the squads are now happy to descend back to Advanced Base Camp for some rest. The fixed ropes are now in place up to Camp 2, so they'll probably start back up the mountain this weekend. Daily afternoon snow showers are common, but for the most part the weather is good.

Chris Jensen Burke is on her way to join the teams on Cho Oyu. She reached Tingri Village two days back, and spent some time acclimatizing there before moving higher. She is expected to arrive in BC today however, and will proceed immediately up to ABC, with a possible stop over at an interim camp to help with the adjustment to the altitude. Chris is fresh off a successful summit of K2 this summer, and is eager to add yet another 8000-meter peak to her resume.

ExWeb reports that the Korean team on Lhotse has made progress as well. Bad weather had kept them in Base Camp, but the skies cleared long enough for the team to move up to C1 and establish their first camp on the mountain. They are climbing along the South Face of course, sharing the same route to the summit of Everest up to Camp 3.

Over on Manaslu, the Altitude Junkies have returned to BC after spending a night at both Camp 1 and Camp 2. They report that light snow buried their fixed ropes, but they were able to proceed up none the less. The team is splitting the rope fixing duties with the Himex squad, and as of their dispatch, that work was completed to just below Camp 3. Poor weather forced the Sherpas to turn back from that point, although they are expected to return in another day or two to complete the work.

Finally, the British military team heading to Makalu is now en route to Base Camp. They are expected to reach that point on Saturday, when they'll begin their climb at long last. Their attempt on the long, and very difficult, Southeast Ridge will be interesting to follow, as the final approach will be done in alpine style along a route that is 15 km (9.3 miles) in length. This will be one of the more challenging climbs of the year, and it will be quite an accomplishment if they can pull it off.

That's all for now. I'll have another progress report soon.