California Bound!

As we head into a long three-day weekend here in the U.S., I wanted to share a few plans of my own. Tomorrow I'll jet off to California to spend a few days with friends and family before heading off to a whirlwind tour of three national parks. Next week, I'll be spending time in King's Canyon and Sequoia, as well as Yosemite. All three are spectacular outdoor playgrounds, and I'm looking forward to enjoying some time at each location.

While I'm there, I'll also be staying at three different national parks lodges along the way. While in King's Canyon I'll be the guest at the John Muir Lodge, and when I move over to Sequoia the following day I'll be staying at the Wusachi Lodge, both of which look suitably rustic and inviting. Finally. I'll head over to Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite to round out my trip.

I have quite a few activities planned while I'm in the area, and intend to do some hiking, horseback riding, and stargazing. It should be a wonderful little escape to some beautiful natural settings. I am especially excited to be visiting Yosemite in particular.

As a result of my travels, there will likely be no updates next week, pending any major stories breaking. Considering the way things have gone over the past month or so, that seems like it could be a possibility, but lets hope for the best. I'll be back soon, and posting regular updates once again.

Video: Planet Patagonia in 4K

It is often said that Patagonia – the wild region in southern Argentina and Chile – is one of the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes on the planet. It is difficult to argue with that sentiment after watching this clip, which features three-and-a-half minutes of stunning footage from this amazing place. Timelapse images of the Patagonian mountains, rivers, and glaciers show us an almost otherworldly destination that remains as alluring today, as it ever has in the past. To view this lovely clip in its full 4k resolution click here.

Planet Patagonia 4K Time Lapse from HD Nature Video by LoungeV on Vimeo.

Video: Paddling the Jura Mountains on a Rainy Day

Located in the Western Alps, the Jura Mountains are known for being remote and rugged. The region falls into the watershed of both the Rhine and Rhône Rivers, making it an excellent place to go kayaking, particularly on a rainy day. That's exactly what the team of paddlers in this video found when the set out to explore some of the waterways there. The discovered some epic drops – including some beautiful waterfalls – and great whitewater to test their skills. The four-minute video is filled with some excellent action, set in a beautiful location. What more could you ask for?

Just another rainy day in the Jura mountains from No Travel Without Kayak on Vimeo.

Kayakers to Paddle 9000 KM From Canada to Mexico

A trio of adventurers from Canada has embarked on an epic journey that will take them from Montreal to the tip of the Yucatan in Mexico by sea kayak. Along the way, they expect to cover more than 9000 km (5592 miles) as they spend up to a year completing the expedition, which they call the Go Fetch Challenge.

Luc Labelle, Nika De Jocas-McCrae and Julien Granger are preparing to set out on their journey in the next few days as they have now reached the northernmost location of their route. From here, they'll be southward bound, as they paddle along the eastern coasts of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. They'll kayak along the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico, before ultimately reaching their goal at the Yucatan Peninsula. 

The boys say that they are undertaking this expedition at a crucial time in their lives, and it will help set them on a course both personally and professionally as they move forward. This is a journey that is as much about the adventure they find along the way as it is reaching a destination. The three friends have known each other for more than 10 years, and have been planning to undertake a challenge of this scope for some time. Now, they're ready to get underway at last, and it should be fun to see what they discover about themselves along the way.

You'll be able to keep up with their progress at the Go Fetch website, which features GPS positional tracking, a frequently updated blog, and more information about the team, and their goals. They have quite a journey ahead of them, and it will interesting to see it unfold. I wish them luck as they begin paddling south at long last. 

Archaeologists Discover 3 Million Year Old Tools that Pre-Date Man

I love stories that show us that we don't know as much about our planet as we think we do. Earlier this week it was revealed that archaeologists have discovered ancient tools in Kenya that date back more than 3.3 million years. That's amazing of course, but what is even more mind blowing is the fact that these artifacts actually pre-date man, indicating that another species once inhabited the Earth that possessed the knowledge and ability to create and use tools too.

This discovery turns some preconceived notions about early man on its ear. While we have seen apes and monkeys use tools to solve problems and acquire food, it has been widely assumed that one of the things that separated humans – those species designated as Homo Sapiens and Homo Erectus for instance – is our ability to make and use crude tools to our advantage. These latest findings date back to a time before and of those early humans walked the Earth, making us expand our thoughts on what other species were capable of, and change some theories as to why Homo Sapiens grew to be the dominant species on the planet.

Until now, the oldest stone tools found have dated back about 2.6 million years. Those artifacts were also found in Kenya, and included axes made out of volcanic stone that were used for hunting. But this new find predates those instruments by as much as 700,000 years.

Just who made these tools remains a bit of a mystery. There are some researchers who believe that they were made by an as-yet unknown species that we haven't discovered yet. Others are attributing them to a species early man known as Kenyanthropus. Back in 1999, a skull belonging to this species was discovered not far from the site where these tools were uncovered. It too dated back 3.3 million years.

The Live Science article that I linked to above has more information about how these tools were discovered, and what the region of Kenya was like back when those who made them still lived there. The instruments were found in the badlands located in the northeast section of the country, which is now very dry and arid. That helps to preserve the artifacts found there. But when those tools were being used, it was a forested area with plenty of shrub plants, making it a good place for animals to live and graze too.

This is fascinating stuff, and I love that we're still continuing to uncover these discoveries.

Video: Nat Geo Drone Footage of Nubian Pyramids

You'll have to forgive me for being a bit Egypt-obsessed at the moment. Since returning from the country a few weeks back, I've been thinking about it a lot, and writing about my experiences there. This video of course caught my attention, as it features footage of Nubian pyramids in Sudan, that were captured by a drone operated by National Geographic engineer Alan Turchick. It is a great way to view these ancient monuments, which have a certain grandeur that is best when taken in from a bird's eye view.

Update: It has been pointed out that the sites in this video are actually in Sudan, and not Egypt. Sudan was actually a part of Egypt for hundreds of years, and the Nubians were a people that lived in that part of the world. It is important to make that distinction, so I thought I'd clarify the text some.

Video: Mountain Biking Squamish

Located in the heart of British Columbia, Squamish is well known for being a spectacular outdoor playground that happens to get a fair amount of rain each year. In fact, it can get as much as 238 cm (94 inches) of rainfall, which can make for sloppy conditions at times. Those conditions are prominently on display in this video, which features mountain biker James Doerfling bombing down a wet trail near Squamish. The slick conditions add a level of challenge to the ride, which is through a spectacular forest worthy of exploration. If you want to check-out the world class mountain biking that is available in the region, give this clip a look. It is both beautiful and inspiring.

Fairweather - James Doerfling from OneUp Components on Vimeo.

Everest Guide Dave Hahn Shares His Thoughts on the Nepal Earthquake

As the days go by, and the incessant news cycle pushes the stories about the Nepal earthquake further off the radar, it is easy to lose sight of the ongoing struggle that is currently taking place in the Himalayan country. After all, it is only natural for us to turn our attention elsewhere, even though the real work to rebuild has only just begun. A few days back, Rainier Mountain Guide Dave Hahn – who has 15 successful summits of Everest on his resume – wrote a blog post that shared his experiences on the mountain this spring, and the aftermath of the tragedy that occurred there. His words are a sharp reminder of the human loss, and the far reaching impact of this natural disaster.

Dave says that his RMI team was one of the first into Everest Base Camp this spring, after spending 10 days hiking up the Khumbu Valley. He reports that their acclimatization efforts were going well, and everything was proceeding as expected, even though snowstorms had disrupted the schedule some. On April 23, the group moved up the mountain to Camp 1 as they started an acclimatization rotation. Two days later – the day of the earthquake – they had ascended to Camp 2. That is where they were when the ground started rumbling, causing the earth to move under their feet, and shaking snow, ice, and rocks off of the mountains that surrounded them.

When things had calmed down, the team discovered that BC has been hit, and that numerous camps had been flattened. Their Sherpa and support staff in Base Camp immediately went to work helping those who were injured and searching for the missing. Ultimately the avalanche that swept through that part of the mountain would claim the lives of 19 climbers, and send a shockwave through the entire mountaineering community. 

Dave says that the RMI squad found themselves stranded at Camp 1, and all they could do was wait. Rebuilding the route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall was "out of the question," as that notorious section of the mountain had been devastated by the disaster. On top of that, the Ice Doctors who maintain the route were focusing their efforts elsewhere. 

On April 27 – two days after the earthquake – the RMI team was airlifted by helicopter back to Base Camp. It was there that the magnitude of what happened truly began to set in. The climbers started to realize exactly what had happened, and reports of the widespread devastation were only just starting to creep in. There was no hesitation about canceling the climbing season, as everyone's attention was elsewhere. This was particularly true for the Sherpas who only wanted to get home to check on friends and family. 

Over the next three days the team descended down the Khumbu, getting a first hand look at the destruction as they went. Tea houses, restaurants, homes, and at times, whole villages, were destroyed. And yet Dave says that the climbers were still greeted with warmly by the people they met along the way. 

The guide says that the trek out was incredibly quiet, with all of the tourists already long gone. It was than that he, and the rest of the team, began to realize that an economic disaster lay ahead. On top of all of the destruction the earthquake had brought, it had also driven away the business that rural Nepal needs to survive. 

Dave's account of the disaster is a sobering one, and well worth a read for anyone who is interested in the ongoing struggles that Nepal faces. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This is going to take years to recover from, and there are certainly places in the country that will never be the same again. 

Two Ocean Rowers to Attempt Record Crossing of the Indian Ocean

Two British adventurers are about to attempt a speed record for rowing across the Indian Ocean. The duo – James Ketchell and Ashley Wilson – plan to set out from Perth, Australia next week with the intention of rowing to Mauritius in just 85 days, covering approximately 3600 miles (5793 km) in the process.

When they do set off on this ocean crossing it will be their second attempt. A few days back they launched their rowboat but experienced technical difficulties with their navigation system and had to be towed back to shore just one day into their speed attempt. That issue has apparently been resolved now, and they hope to return to the water and restart sometime next week, although no specific date for the relaunch has been given just yet.

For Ketchell, this will be his second go at rowing an ocean. He successfully crossed the Atlantic back in 2010, and has a successful summit of Everest in 2011 on his resume as well. In 2013 he also made an unsupported round-the-world cycling journey, covering more than 18,000 miles (28,968 km) along the way.

Wilson, on the other hand, is not quite as an experienced adventurer. He does, however, suffer from epilepsy and is hoping to use this row as a platform to help spread better understanding of the affliction, and inspire others with the same disability to chase their dreams and do great things.

This journey isn't just about the speed record of course. James and Ashely are hoping to raise £100,000 ($156,000) that will be spread amongst three different charities. Those charities include Young Epilepsy, an organization that supports children with the conditions, the Scout Association, which is an outdoor group for kids, and the Elifar Foundation – a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with severe learning disabilities. All worthy causes for sure.

The current record for an Indian Ocean crossing is 85 days, 2 hours, and 5 minutes. Kettle and Wilson will take shifts at the oars for 24 hours per day while out on the water in the hopes of besting that time. Along the way, they'll face unpredictable weather, potentially large storms, and swells that could exceed 4 meters. They are of course hoping for calm conditions to aid them on the crossing, but as always with an ocean rowing journey, their fate is in the hands of nature.

You can follow their progress at the expedition's official website.

Outside Profiles Graham Hunt - Dean Potter's BASE Jump Partner

The headlines this week have been filled with stories about Dean Potter, the climbing legend who lost his life in a fatal wingsuit accident in Yosemite National Park last Saturday. A number of those stories offered only a passing mention of Graham Hunt, Potter's companion on the ill-fated BASE jump. But Outside Online looks to rectify that by posting an article that profiles the Other Man in this tragic story.

The 29-year old Hunt is described as someone who was known within the BASE jumping community, but not so much outside of it. He had very little online presence, and did almost nothing to promote the dangerous stunts that he was gaining a reputation for. That meant that when news of his death broke, there was little information that would come up in a Google search. That helped the narrative of the story to become "Dean Potter died, and there was someone else with him."

But Outside says that those who knew Hunt well describe him as a man who had a lot of confidence in his own skills, which were considerable to say the least. He was known for being incredibly calm and reliable on the walls, and someone that other climbers wanted to have with them, particularly in Yosemite. That probably shouldn't come as a surprise considering he was climbing and jumping with Potter, who was known to be selective of the company he kept on his own adventures. The pair made an epic jump of the Eiger back in 2013, although Dean was the one who made headlines, while his partner remained characteristically in the background.

Through quotes from friends and snippets of news on Graham, the Outside profile gives us a better understanding of who the "other guy" truly was. By all accounts, he was an excellent climber and BASE jumper himself, but perhaps even more so he was a good person and friend. His death hasn't gotten nearly the same attention as Potter's, but from the sounds of things, that is exactly how he would have wanted it.

Meanwhile, Outside is also reporting that video footage from Potter's GoPro camera has been recovered as well. It likely holds some clues as to what went wrong on this flight, and what ultimately cost the two men their lives. Preliminary reports say that Hunt may have hit a rocky outcropping and that Dean swerved out of the way to avoid a collision, only to hit another rock on the other side. The two men were jumping from Taft Point in Yosemite and were attempting to navigate through a narrow slot in the rocks when the accident occurred. It now seems likely that they both hit part of the rock face, causing them to crash to the valley floor below.

Obviously  the investigation is ongoing at this time, and more details are likely to be known in the future.

Video: Patagonia Dreamin' - Climbing the Torre Massif

This short film takes us to Argentina with climbers Jason Kruk and Marc-Andre Leclerc as they take on the legendary Torre Massif in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The 8-minute documentary feature some fantastic climbing, as they two talented individuals show off their skills in amazing locations. The video is actually about a year old, but I hadn't come across it before. It is so good, I felt that it was definitely worth sharing. Fans of climbing films will certainly find a lot to love here.

Video: Extreme Athletes Ski and Climb Seven 4000 Meter Peaks in 24 Hours

Speed skiing is a sport that is gaining in popularity, particularly in the Alps in Europe. Recently a pair of extreme athletes – Beni Hug and Tony Sbalbi – decided to test their skills by speed climbing and skiing seven 4000 meter peaks in a single day, setting a new record in the process. Over the course of the day, they climbed an amazing 7000 meters (22,965 ft), as they chained together a route that passed over ten total mountains, including the famous Moench and Jungrau peaks in Switzerland. The video below gives us a brief look at what turned out to be a very long day. As you'll see, it was exhausting work.

Video: Trailer for The Great Shark Hunt - Climbing in Greenland

Last August, a trio of climbers – Matteo Della Bordella, Silvan Schüpbach and Christian Ledergerber  – traveled to Greenland to attempt a new route on a peak called the Shark Tooth. Prior to their expedition, the 900 meter (2952 ft) rock face had only been climbed one other time, and this team hoped to do it in alpine style without fixed ropes. On August 18 they managed to reach the top of a route that they named "The Great Shark Hunt."

The video below is a trailer for an upcoming documentary of that expedition. As you'll see, the men had to travel on foot, and by kayak, just to reach the mountain itself. Then, they faced a challenging climb on a sheer face that required skill, strength, and daring to overcome. The views along the way are spectacular, the climbing phenomenal, and the outcome inspirational. Everything you'd want out of a good adventure film.

Adventures in Egypt: Into the White Desert

This is the latest post in a series I've been doing about my recent journey through Egypt. If you're interested in reading the other stories I've shared from that experience, you'll find them here: Part 1 - Quiet and Calm in Cairo, Part 2 - The Great Pyramid of Giza, Part 3 -Abu Simbel, Aswan, and Luxor – the Other Ancient Wonders, and Part 4 - The Valley of the Kings and Queens – By Donkey!

As always, thanks to G Adventures for sponsoring this trip. If you find that you'd like to follow in my footsteps and do the same things that I did in Egypt, you can join their Absolute Egypt tour and experience it all yourself.

Over the first week or so of the journey through Egypt I visited a lot of ancient monuments, many of which I had seen the first time I visited the country more than a decade ago. Those monuments, which includes the Pyramids and Sphinx, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the amazing Abu Simbel, are certainly awe inspiring and amazing to behold. So, even though I had visited most of them in the past, it was refreshing to see them once again, particularly since crowds were nonexistent, providing a different experience. But, as the trip wore on, I was eager to see a side of Egypt that I hadn't had a chance to experience just yet. That came when at long last we left the well-worn tourist route, and made our way out into the desert. Here, we would see very few other travelers, but Egypt's ancient wonders gave way to its natural beauty, which is fantastic in its own right.

The journey into the Sahara began by setting out bright and early from the city of Luxor to the small town of Dakhla Oasis. It is a long day on the road, broken up by a number of military checkpoints that stopped our vehicle often to check passports, search bags, and have a look at the travelers. These checkpoints turn a long drive into a real slog, but they are necessary to maintain peace and security throughout the country. This leg of the journey was nothing compared to what would come later however, as the trip from Bahariya to Siwa would take nine hours to complete, with 34 checkpoints to pass along the way.

Arriving in Dakhla it was clear that we were far from the more tourist destinations that we had been visiting. This was rural Egypt, with few amenities for foreigners. The hotels and restaurants are simple, and there is little to do in the town itself. It was fascinating to see a different side of Egyptian life, but the village is not one you'd want to spend too much time in.

But Dakhla does provide access to an amazing natural setting. The nearby White Desert is a national park that spreads out for hundreds of kilometers across the Sahara. It gets its name from the chalk rock formations that cover the area, making it seem like their is snow covering the desert itself. Over the centuries the winds have carved those rocks into unique formations, creating a landscape filled with stone mushrooms, spheres, and even one shaped like a rabbit.

The White Desert is only accessible by 4x4, and we were led into by a team of excellent and knowledgeable guides from Egyptical Tours. They took us through some of the more interesting areas of this natural wonder, while giving us a glimpse of the natural forces that have shaped the landscape there. 

All of Egypt is dry and warm of course, but the deep desert even more so. It was a challenge to stay properly hydrated while visiting this section of the country, despite the fact that we were constantly drinking water. The air is so dry there that any moisture evaporates very quickly, and even stepping into the shade of one of the many rock formations brought a noticeable change in temperature. It is a rugged, arid place that is captivating in its stark beauty. At times, it looks otherworldly, and it is a major contrast from the more popular tourist destinations that Egypt is known for.

Because the White Desert is a protected area, we were allowed to travel through it only at a cautious pace. The rock formations are fragile, and the Egyptian government is doing what it can to protect them. At one point, when we had stopped for lunch, a local ranger dropped by and sternly admonished our guides for parking one of the vehicles atop a rock formation. A fine was even issued – and paid – on the spot. Apparently they enforce the rules very sternly there.

After lunch we drove out of the White Desert and into a more open section of the Sahara. Here we were able to open up the engines on the 4x4's and go plunging up and down some steep stand dunes. That brought a much appreciated jolt of adrenaline before we drove off into a remote corner of the desert that would serve as our campsite for the night.

While the guides went about setting up camp, the rest of us settled in on top of a towering sand dune and watch the sun set. The temperature dropped nicely as we watched, and the many hues of red, yellow, and orange that make up the landscape were on display nicely.

That evening was one of the true highlights of the entire Egyptian trip for me. Camping in the desert may have provided the best nights sleep I had on the entire trip. While most of the group huddled together near the vehicles, I grabbed my sleeping mat and bag, and dragged them off a short distance from the camp for a little solitude.

The quiet of the desert was simply wonderful, but not nearly as amazing as the night sky overhead. As the night wore on, the moon set behind the horizon, wrapping the Earth in darkness. But the sheer magnitude of stars overhead brought the Milky Way to life in stunning fashion. It was an impressive sight to say the least, and easily one of the best views of the heavens I have ever seen from any of the places that I have visited.

The next day we would break camp and head out on more desert adventure. We'd climb a few Egyptian "mountains" – a term I use very loosely – and explore other remote areas on our way to Bahariya Oasis. All of which was quite refreshing after the busy cities of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. But nothing could quite compare to that evening in the desert, which will stick with me for a long time to come. If you're going to visit Egypt, it is definitely worth it to see if you too can camp out in the Sahara.

From here, our trip itinerary took us on to Siwa, which was another highlight of the journey. There is more to tell about that place, which is another destination travelers should make time for. It is a place that also contrasts sharply from the rest of the country, and I will share more of that in a future post.

Adventurers Complete First Circumnavigation of Lake Baikal in Winter by Motorbike

Awhile back, two adventurers complete a journey through one of the coldest environments on Earth when they circumnavigated Lake Baikal in Siberia by motorbike in the dead of winter. The expedition was undertaken as an exploratory mission for a potential new extreme trip sponsored by The Adventurists, but also to raise funds for charity, and to prove that it could be done.

Matt Prior, Dennis Malone, and a team of other crazy travelers embarked on the 2000 km (1242 mile) journey around the frozen lake beginning and ending in Irkutsk, Russia. It didn't take them long to discover what they were in for, as they faced temperatures that plunged below -30ºC/-22ºF, as they battled winds that approached 80 mph (128 km/h). That would be challenging enough under any circumstances, but to do it on a motorcycle is unthinkable.

Located deep in Siberia, Baikal is the largest and deepest lake on the planet. It covers more than 31,000 square kilometers (12,248 sq. mi), and plunges to a depth of 1642 meters (5387 ft). It is also know for its extreme weather, which is owed much to its location. The lake was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1996 due to its value as a natural resource.

Despite the harsh conditions, it was actually an unseasonably warm winter along the lake, which made ice conditions challenging at times. Matt and Dennis had to cautiously move forward at points, as certain sections weren't even safe for walking, let alone driving a motorcycle. At one point, one of the bikes even broke down, forcing major repair work to be done in the field in order to keep moving forward. It didn't help much that the motorcycle was a vintage Russian Ural with a sidecar that was left over from World War II.

Despite the challenges, the expedition – which was sponsored by GoPro, Klim, and Powertraveller – was a success in more ways than one. The duo managed to raise funds for some important charities, including Help for Heroes, Soldier On, Plan UK, and Cool Earth.

If the name Matt Prior sounds familiar, it's because I've written about his initiative to launch the Adventure Academy in the past. That is his brilliant idea of providing would-be adventurers with the skills they need to launch their own expeditions by taking them on a journey that is equal parts learning experience and cultural immersion. You can learn more about the concept in the video below.

Congrats to Matt and Dennis on completing this Siberian odyssey.

Matt Prior Adventure Academy Main Promo from Matt Prior Adventure Academy on Vimeo.

Video: A Journey Through Nepal

Earlier today I made a post about the lack of a climbing season on Everest once again this year, and the challenges that Nepal faces on its road to recovery. In that post I remarked about how it is difficult to not fall in love with the Himalayan country, whose natural beauty and welcoming people are just so inspiring. This video will give you a first hand look at those aspects of Nepal. It is an hour-long documentary that takes you through the streets of Kathmandu, into the Chitwan National Park, and on the entire trek to Everest Base Camp. If you've never been to Nepal, this film will inspire you to want to go. If you've already been there, it will be a reminder of that beautiful place, and some of the things that were lost as a result of the earthquake. Either way, this is a video that you should get comfortable for, as it is a wonderful journey through Nepal without ever leaving your home.

Video: Clouds Over Kilimanjaro

Whether you're looking up, or looking down, the views from Kilimanjaro are always spectacular. Case in point, this brief – but oh so sweet – timelapse of clouds passing before the mountain. It was shot from Moir Camp by friends at Tusker Trail, who for my money are the absolute best guides on Kili. The one-minute clip doesn't wow you with the fantastic views from the summit, but instead gives you a sense of what it is like to look up toward the peak as you make your approach. It is a beautiful sight, and one that every adventure traveler should experience. 

Clouds Racing over Kilimanjaro from Tusker Trail on Vimeo.

The State of Outdoor Participation in the U.S.

The Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts, has released its annual report examining the level of participation in outdoor activities witin the U.S. That report has both some encouraging and disappointing findings in terms of how engaged people are with the outdoors, and what the outlook is amongst young people today.

During their research the Outdoor Foundation discovered that nearly half of all Americans claim to have taken part in some outdoor activity in the past year. That number is 48.4% to be specific. While that sounds like a reasonably high  number on the surface, the fact that respondents only needed to take part in a single activity over that 12-month span indicates to me that most people aren't engaging with the outdoors in a meaningful way on a regular basis.

A deeper look at the numbers tells a similar tale. According to a press release from the Foundation, these numbers are down .8% from 2013, which doesn't sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things. But, this is also the lowest level of outdoor participation since the organization began tracking the data back in 2006. In other words, fewer people are getting outside and taking part in these activities.

The report says that there are some bright spots however, particularly in waterspouts. Stand-up paddleboarding continues to grow substantially, up 38% in 2014 over the previous year. Snow sports are also doing well with telemarking, snowshoeing, freestyle skiing and cross-country skiing all showing significant gains.

Sadly however, both running and cycling saw a drop in numbers. As the report says, these are often "gateway" activities that lead people to engage with the outdoors more fully, but both saw fewer participating. Well, that is, less people were doing them outside. Research indicates that more people were running on treadmills and stationary bikes inside however. Poor weather and shifting climate conditions was blamed for this drop.

The complete report isn't due out until later this summer, and it should have more details about outdoor participation as a whole. But obviously it is disappointing to hear that fewer people are heading outside. I'm not sure what can help reverse this trend, but hopefully something will come along that can do that soon. I can't imagine not going for a daily run outside, hiking some trails. paddling a river, or camping under the stars. Finding ways for others to fall in love with those experiences is one of the goals of this blog, and so I am a bit disheartened to say the least.

Dean Potter Remembered

The loss of climbing and BASE jumping legend Dean Potter has obviously hit the outdoor and adventure community very hard. His death in Yosemite over the weekend while BASE jumping with Graham Hunt has left many stunned and in mourning. As the news spread across the Internet there has been an impressive number of tributes, profiles, and articles written about Dean, who was at times a controversial figure both in life and death. Here is a round-up of some of the stories.

As you'll see as you read through these articles there are some very common threads. First, Dean was widely admired and respected for his climbing abilities and adventurous spirit. But beyond that, he was also much loved because he was a genuinely good human being. Yes, from time to time he did some things that caused a stir both in and out of the climbing community, but his good natured enthusiasm, and boyish love of life, made him a hard man not to like. That is why there has been such an amazing response online to his death, and why he will be missed greatly.

Once again, my condolences to Dean and Graham's friends and family on this loss.

Himalaya Spring 2015: Another Lost Season on Everest

This is the time of year when I should be posting about summit bids on Everest and other big Himalayan peaks. Historically speaking, this week is one in which all of the variables come together to allow the climbers on the world's tallest mountain to go to the top at long last. But for the second straight year we're left contemplating a tragic event that has brought a halt to those proceedings, although this year it is on a much grander scale than we could have ever imagined.

The Nepal earthquake continues to have far reaching consequences on a country that struggled to provide reliable services and good infrastructure even in the best of times. Now, it is a nation in ruins, and many people are without homes, jobs, food, or water. The road to recovery is going to be a long one, and it is surely going to be made all the more challenging thanks to the Nepali government's track record of internal corruption and a history of making dubious decisions.

Obviously my heart goes out to the people of Nepal in their time of need and suffering. But I also can't help but lament the fact that we have another lost season on Everest too. This is a time when exhausted – but overjoyed – alpinists should be returning to Base Camp having completed a climb that they have spent years dreaming about, months planning for, and weeks preparing to finish.

At this point in the season, most would have been on the mountain for about six weeks, and after days spent acclimatizing and waiting patiently, they would get their shot at the summit at long last. Instead, most of those climbers have long since left for home, their dreams shattered along with the Nepali countryside. Some remain in the country however, working hard to lend assistance where they can. Most people who visit Nepal – either as climbers or trekkers – feel a deep connection with the place, and the people who live there, which is part of the reason there has been such an impressive outpouring of support from the outdoor community. It is a very special place, where adventure, nature, and spirituality all come together in a perfect union that is hard to explain if you haven't experienced it for yourself. But when you do, it is something that you never can forget.

2014 will be remembered as a year when the Sherpa people mourned the loss of their brethren on the slopes of Everest. 2015 will be remembered as the year that we all morned the loss of our brothers and sisters in Nepal. It is hard to think about mountaineering expeditions when you consider all of the challenges that lie ahead for that country, but believe it or not climbing will help heal the people there. The return of climbers and trekkers will be a sign that things are returning to normal, and it will bring a much needed influx of cash to the economy. Those days are still a long way off at this point, but I think we are all eager for them to arrive.

Perhaps next year we'll see climbers make their way to the summit once again. It will be a sign that stability has returned at long last. But the Nepal will never be the same again, no matter how many people summit Everest.

Video: The Northern Lights Over Iceland

March of 2015 brought one of the greatest displays of the Aurora Borealis – AKA the Northern Lights – ever seen over the country of Iceland. That light show is captured in stunning fashion in this video, which features six minutes of mesmerizing still and timelapse photos of the skies ablaze with brilliant colors. The Northern Lights remain one of the greatest natural phenomenon found anywhere on the planet, and it never ceases to inspire a sense of awe and wonder. Enjoy.

Litríkur Stormur from Stephane Vetter on Vimeo.

Video: A Profile of Dean Potter

You're likely to see a lot of videos featuring Dean Potter in the days ahead. His tragic death is going to leave the climbing community in state of mourning for some time. This video is a profile of Dean, and his desire to push the envelope to achieve bigger and better things. It shows not only his climbing ability, but adventurous spirit, which will be missed greatly. If you're not aware of Dean's contributions to that community, this clip will help to put it into perspective.

New Endurance Boat Race Challenges Competitors to Race to Alaska

We cover a lot of endurance events here on The Adventure Blog, with most of them focusing around running, cycling, or mountain biking along remote trails in beautiful locations. But this summer a completely new, and unique event, will take place in the Pacific Northwest, as the inaugural Race to Alaska prepares to get underway. In this event, competitors won't be traveling on foot or bike however, as they'll instead be challenged to sail, row, or paddle their way along the route.

This 750 mile (1190 km) long event will get underway from Townsend, Washington – located not far from Seattle – on June 4. Participants will proceed up the coast, with the eventual finish line located in Ketchikan, Alaska. Along the way, competitors will face fierce winds, cold conditions, potentially large storms, and turbulent waves. How they deal with those conditions, and exactly which route they take along the way, is completely up to them, as navigational choices will certainly play a role in determining the eventual winner.

There are ten classes of boats that are allowed to compete in the Race to Alaska, none of which are motorized. Those boats include multi-hull sail boats and row boats, kayaks, and even stand-up paddleboards. Exactly which means of transportation will be the best choice remains to be seen, as the sailboats have an edge when the wind is blowing, but if the winds are calm, other vessels may have an opportunity to steal the win.

The first stage of the race, which runs from Townsend to Victoria, Vancouver in Canada, serves as qualifier of sorts. All of the racers must cover that 40 mile distance in 36 hours or less, or they will be disqualified. If they complete this initial challenge however, they'll be allowed to continue on to Ketchikan. There are currently 23 boats competing in the race, which is an impressive turnout for the first running of an event of this type. It'll be interesting to see how the competition unfolds, and who ends up taking home the victory.

I heard about this really unique event from Steve Price, who is one of the competitors on Team Angus. He, along with teammate Colin Angus, will be taking to the water in a specially designed rowboat. Their plan is to take turns at the oars, going 24-hours a day in 2 hour shifts. Since calm weather is expected, the team duo feels like it has a real shot to win the race, even over the sailboats.

We're just a couple of weeks away from the start of this race, and it should certainly be interesting. Good luck to all the competitors, and enjoy the journey.

Outside Picks the Best Gear of Summer 2015

It's that time of year again. Time for Outside magazine's annual look at the very best gear for the summer ahead. As usual, the 2015 Summers Buyer's Guide includes some of the best new equipment available for hiking, biking, running, and travel. If you're in the market for a new tent, pack, camera, or other gear, you might want to take a look at the products that Outside is recommending before plunking down your hard earned cash.

Amongst the new gear that made the list are an amazingly comfortable new jacket from The North Face, an impressive all-mountain bike from Giant, and an innovative new tent from Big Agnes. Hikers will love the new lightweight boots from Chaco, while the Osprey Atmos 65 continues to lead the way in backpacks. The Nikon 1 V3 gets the nod as one of the best new cameras available, while fans of waterspouts will find a list of the best paddleboards and kayaks available as well.

As usual, Outside isn't ignoring the ladies either. The magazine has dedicated an entire section to women's gear, with suggestions ranging from the best running shoes to the essential gear that every woman should take with her when she travel. There are even female-specific selections for biking, hiking, and SUP-ing as well.

Whether you're shopping for some new gear for yourself, or just want to keep up on the latest trends, be sure to drop by Outside Online to see what gear is coming highly recommend. I'm personally about to purchase a new tent, and their reviews and suggestions helped me to pick the one that I am going to go with. There are more than 365 products listed in the guide, so chances are you'll find something you'll want/need, even if you didn't know it yet.

Climbing Legend Dean Potter Dies in Yosemite

There was incredibly sad news in the climbing world this past weekend as the story broke that climbing legend Dean Potter died in a BASE jumping accident in Yosemite National Park. The 43-year old Potter was known as much for his free spirit and sense of adventure, as he was his incredible climbing and athletic skills.

The details of what exactly happened still aren't clear, but on Saturday evening Potter was making a BASE jump with with Graham Hunt from Taft Point in Yosemite. Hunt was killed int he accident as well, and when neither of the two men showed up at a rendezvous point following the jump, their ground support crew didn't panic. It was thought that they might have made their way out along a different route, or may have been arrested. BASE jumping is illegal in Yosemite, but the two men had made hundreds of jumps in the past, and were very experienced in the sport.

By Sunday, friends and family began to worry about the Potter and Hunt's whereabouts, and a search and rescue operation was mounted in the national park. Their two bodies were discovered later in the day. Both men had fallen to their deaths without opening their parachutes, which only deepens the mystery.

Potter was a well known figure in the climbing and BASE jumping community. Back in 2006 he made a controversial climb up Delicate Arch in Arches National Park which drew the ire of many. He also raised eyebrows when he made a video of a wingsuit flight with his dog – Whisper – last year. But he was incredibly well respected for his fantastic climbing ability that allowed him to free solo some of the toughest routes in the world, and his athletic prowess was displayed only recently when he set a new speed record on Half Dome.

It is impossible to overstate just how much of a luminary Dean was in the adventure sports community. He has been a fixture in the Yosemite climbing scene for decades, and was known for pushing the boundaries of the activities that he loved, which included slacklining as well. To say that he will be missed will be an understatement, and my condolences go out to his friends and family. Dean's ability to follow his own path, pursue his own dreams, and accomplish great things along the way was unmatched. We may never see the likes of Dean Potter again, and the climbing community has lost one of its brightest stars.

Video: Hong Kong by Timelampse

When we think about Hong Kong, many of us conjure up visions of a massive, thriving city jumping with traffic and millions of people going about their busy lives. While that is true of the Hong Kong's urban center, the city also happens to be surrounded by an incredible amount of natural beauty as well. This video captures some of that setting, showing us that although HK is one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, it is also just a short distance from some outstanding wild spaces too. This timelapse gives us a glimpse of those places, and the beauty that exists there.

4K / UHD "Seen By My Eyes", Hong Kong Time-lapse from Francis So on Vimeo.

Video: The Peak - A Visual Tribute to the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn stands 4478 meters (14,692 ft) in height, and is one of the most iconic mountains in the entire world. Its distinctive look has served as an inspiration for adventure for centuries, and even though it was first climbed back in 1865, it still lures many mountaineers to this day. This video is a visual love letter to that peak. It features striking imagery from the mountain itself, and the surrounding landscapes. While we often cover far flung expeditions to the Himalaya, the Andes, and other mountain ranges on this blog, the Alps remain one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet with plenty of fantastic adventures still taking place there to this day. Enjoy this short film, and marvel at one of the most famous mountains on the planet.

Thanks to the Adventure Journal for sharing this.

the Peak from Christian Mülhauser on Vimeo.

Video: Cycling Filmmakers Want to Hear Your Story

This clever and entertain video outlines the plans of two cycling filmmakers who are about to hit the road in search of great stories to tell. In fact, if you have a great story to share, they want to hear from you. In exchange for crashing on your couch for a few days, they'll make a video about your story, and share it with the world.

Max and Tom are two filmmakers who live and work in Amsterdam. In June, they are going to strike out on their bikes looking for amazing stories from average, everyday people living in countries from all over the globe. At this point, they don't even know where their travels will take them, but they want to hear from us so they'll get some idea. The duo is accepting submissions on their website – – and will be plotting their course in the days ahead. So, if you have a great story to share, be sure to let Max and Tom know. Perhaps they'll pay you a visit, and help share your tale with their audience.

This is a unique and creative journey for sure. I can't wait to see some of the stories that they discover.

Freewheel Stories - The Cycling Filmmakers from Freewheel Stories on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing the Bugaboos with Alex Honnold

This all-too-short video takes us to Bugaboo Provincial Park in British Columbia,  Canada where we join free soloist Alex Honnold on an incredible line up a mountain there. Sadly, the short clip only teases us with the amazing scenery, and Alex's fantastic skills, although it is enough to understand that he is climbing in a beautiful setting. The clip comes our way from National Geographic, which has launched a new adventure video of the week series. If they're all like this one, they'll certainly be worth watching.

Trek the Himalaya and Help Rebuild Nepal this Fall

Are you looking for a way that you can help contribute to the efforts to rebuild Nepal, while also getting the opportunity to explore the natural wonders that the country has to offer? Than you'll want to check out a new trek that is being organized for this fall that will give travelers an opportunity to hike in the Himalaya and help rebuild some of the shattered villages there.

Online gear sales site The Clymb has teamed up with adventure travel company Ace the Himalaya to organize a unique trip to Nepal that is scheduled to take place this September. The 13-day journey will take participants deep into the mountains on an amazing trek through a remote region of Nepal, where they'll first spend a few days helping to rebuild the village of Gorkha, one of the most hard hit towns in the earthquake. After four days of building houses and helping to construct other facilities, the group will than drive to Pokhara to begin the trek which will go as high as 3210 meters (10,532 ft) on Poon Hill.

This is a "voluntourism" effort, and as such, all proceeds will go to the Sambhav Nepal organization, an NGO that is dedicated to rebuilding the country. That means travelers on this trip will not only be helping to rebuild the country directly, the money paid will continue to aid in reconstruction long after they've gone back home.

The trekking tour costs $1199 with the first departure set for September of this year, and others to follow later in the fall, and into 2016. For more information, and to join the trek, click here.

This is of course a great way to contribute to the rebuilding effort in Nepal. We'll know doubt see similar trips offered from other organizations in the near future as well, but this is the first that I've come across so far. I wanted to give a tip of the hat to The Clymb and Ace the Himalaya for organizing this tour so quickly.

With the monsoon season coming rapidly, some of the work to rebuild will be stymied by the weather I'm sure. But there is much to be done, and time is of the essence. All efforts are most certainly appreciated.

Video: The Pale Blue Dot

Want to take a humbling look at our place in the Universe? Than watch this 4 minute animated clip which features Carl Sagan's famous "Pale Blue Dot" speech set to a series of images that help put his words into stirring context. Our planet is a small one, and really just a very insignificant place in the wide Universe. And yet, we still continue to have a hard time rising above our petty differences and just finding a way to get along. Sagan's words echo that sentiment so eloquently, and they hold as much meaning now as they did when he first wrote them more than 20 years ago. This Pale Blue Dot is our home, perhaps someday we'll all find a way to share it.

Pale Blue Dot from Chin Li Zhi on Vimeo.

Video: On the Frontline of the Nepal Earthquake

Over the past week or so since my return from Egypt, much of what I have written about has centered around Nepal, and the suffering that is taking place there in the wake of the April 25 earthquake. But my words can only convey so much, which is why this video is so powerful. It not only gives us a look at the widespread damage there, it features first hand accounts from survivors about what that day was like, and the aftermath that has followed. This 7 minute clip will really bring the level of devastation home, and it is hard to overstate just how bad conditions there are at the moment. Watching this makes my heart ache for the Nepali people, who continue to face uphill battles to their recovery.

On the Front Lines: Nepal Earthquake from Samaritan's Purse on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Granite Gear Cross-Trek Travel Duffel

Years ago I came to the conclusion that when I traveled I prefer to carry a backpack. I found the ability to just throw my bag over my shoulder and go was incredibly liberating, and since I don't particularly like to check my bags if I can help it, a backpack has always been the best way to get al of my gear on and off an airplane in an efficient manner. But, carrying a backpack isn't always the best option depending on the type of travel you are embarking on. Sometimes you need something that is a bit more versatile and can carry your gear in a more efficient manner. After all. stuffing a suit into a backpack isn't usually the wisest thing to do, and keeping all of your gear organized can be a challenge too. Enter the Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffels from Granite Gear – a set of luggage that is designed with the outdoor adventurer in mind that manages to provide all of the advantages of both a suitcase and backpack.

I took the 26" Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel with me on my recent trip to Egypt, and found that it performed marvelously. Not only did it have plenty of room for a 2.5 week trip, it made it very easy to organize the things I carried with me as well. My duffel – which is the second largest that Granite Gear makes – offered 4800 cubic inches of space, which translates to 78.5 liters when comparing it to a backpack. In other words, there was plenty of room to carry lots of things, which is a luxury I don't always have with a pack.

When I first started using the Cross Trek I was immediately impressed with its build quality. Not only is it made from very durable fabrics designed to protect its contents from the elements, the duffel's wheels, zippers, handles, and various other components were all incredibly sturdy too. That was good, because the bag would certainly be put to the test in Egypt, where it would endure three flights just to get there, only to be tossed on and off multiple buses, loaded on top of 4x4's, carried across sand dunes, and up countless flights of stairs in hotels. After all of that, I'm happy to say that my Cross-Trek duffel came home little worse for wear. In fact, it barely looks like it has gone anywhere, other than collecting a bit of sand from the Sahara.

If you've read any of my gear reports in the past you probably already know that I value versatility out of any product that I use. Granite Gear has certainly delivered in that category, as this duffel has multiple handles for lugging it around, including a telescoping stow-away handle that can be used to pull the bag through the airport on its sturdy and dependable wheels. Best of all, the bag can be converted into a backpack in a pinch, as it also has a set of hidden shoulder straps and a hipbelt that can be employed in an emergency. This comes in very handy when you're in a hurry, and you'd rather strap your gear to your back rather than pull it along on wheels or lug it by the various handles.

The interior of the Cross-Trek is no less versatile either. It features multiple compartments for storing your gear, including one that comes in handy for stowing dirty clothes that you no longer want to use. Each of the different pockets and compartments proved useful throughout my trip, and they are so well laid out that I never once got confused as to what items were in which location. There is even an expandable drop bottom compartment that can provide extra storage should you find your bag getting full. Granite Gear says that it will offer up to 18% more space when needed, but it can also be zippered shut to keep the bag as svelte and streamlined as possible when not in use too.

Once you've loaded up the duffel with all of your gear, two large compression straps – with very durable buckles – help to secure the load inside the bag further. In my case, I packed light enough that this wasn't really necessary, but I did use the straps to help keep the duffel as small as possible, and it was a good way to seal up the interior while traveling.

One of the things I like best about the Cross-Trek Duffel is that it deftly mixes the ability to be very civil with the option to get adventurous too. This is a bag that I could take with me on just about any trip, since it can easily survive a weekend getaway with the family, as well as a journey to more remote and demanding areas in far flung corners of the globe. There are still plenty of expeditions that will require the use of a backpack of course, but this duffel is capable of going just about anywhere. And since it is so durable, it can survive just about anything you throw at it.

The version of the Cross-Trek that I carried to Egypt carries a price tag of $189.99. For a trip of that length, it was just about the right size, although it may have actually been larger than I actually needed. I am a notoriously light packer however, so I'm sure most people would appreciate the additional storage that the 26" model affords. The Cross-Trek also comes in a 22" wheeled carry-on version ( $169), a 22" wheeled carry-on with removable 28L pack ($189), and a gigantic 32" model ($209). In other words, there is pretty much a size for just about everyone, with each filling a specific niche.

The Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel is adventure luggage at its finest. It provides all of the options adventure travelers need, and can be quickly converted into a backpack when necessary as well. If you're in the market for a piece of luggage that is rugged, versatile, and spacious, Granite Gear has just the thing for you. I look forward to carrying my duffel with me on many future journeys, as I know it will be the perfect companion.

Outside Takes Us Into the Secret Life of Guides

The life of a mountain and travel guide seems so glamorous to those of us on the outside. After all, these dashing men and women get paid to take us on grand adventures. Who wouldn't want to lead a group of climbers to the summit of some remote mountain, or take them on a journey down a beautiful river? But shockingly, it turns out that these experiences aren't always a bed of roses. In fact, they can be quite challenging in many ways, straitening with the clients.

Outside Online has posted an article that takes us into the Secret Lives of Guides. The story collects the testimonials of a number of different professional guides to give us an idea of the the kinds of things that they have to deal with while leading us into the wilderness.

Some of the stories talk about the difficulties they have being able to lead a normal life when they are away from home for extended periods of time. Some are about the grueling schedules that the must sometimes keep. Others are simply humorous anecdotes about lessons they learned along the way, while the worst tales of all typically center around some client who is not necessarily behaving in the best possible manner. No names are used to help protect the innocent, but in some cases we've all probably experienced a fellow traveler who is not unlike some of the characters described here.

If you've ever had thoughts of becoming a guide yourself, you'll certainly want to read this story. It'll open your eyes to what their life is really like, and may serve as a cautionary tale for you as well. But if you read it, get a good chuckle out of the mishaps that are shared, and still want to pursue a life as a professional guide, than you probably have the disposition and demeanor necessary to be good at that job. It certainly isn't an easy one, but many of us appreciate those who are very good at it.

Nepal Earthquake Causes Himalaya to Sink 3 Feet

If you're looking for an indication of just how powerful the earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25 truly was, than look no further than this story. According to reports, the 7.8-magnitutde quake, which destroyed buildings and claimed the lives of more 8000 people, was so strong that it actually caused some parts of the Himalaya to drop by as much as three feet (1 meter). In geological terms that is an extraordinary shift in plate tectonics, and would help explain why the devastation has been so far reaching.

Satellite imagery taken by the European Space Agency has confirmed the massive shift along the Indian and Eurasian Plates, the two tectonic forces that created the Himalaya in the first place. Those mountains have continued to grow at a steady pace over the millennia because those two plates are colliding with one another. Seismic instability often occurs along the fault lines where two plates meet. In this case, the original earthquake took place at a point in the Earth that isn't far from Kathmandu. The article describes the plate found under that point snapping like a rubber band under the extreme pressure.

The massive quake even had an impact on Mt. Everest itself, although it wasn't quite so dramatic as the three foot drop seen elsewhere. It is believed that the mountain lost about an inch (2.54 cm) of height following the tremors. That change would obviously be imperceptible to anyone on the mountain, but is still an indication of just how strong the quake was.

It is incredibly scary to think about these tectonic forces at work, and just how much damage they can cause. We only need to look at the images that have come out of Nepal over the past few weeks to get an understanding of just how much damage has been done. Those images show a country completely devastated by this disaster, with so much infrastructure wiped out that it will take years to rebuild everything.

Over time, the Himalaya will rebuild as well. In the case of Everest, it will probably regain the lost inch in about a year or so. The other places that have been hit more heavily will take far longer to recover their lost height. But while the Indian Plate continues to push against he Eurasian one, the mountains will continue to grow. And similar earthquakes to this one will continue to happen.

Video: Defined by the Line - Fighting to Protect the Bears Ears in Utah

This short film is brought to us by the fine folks at Patagonia and the Bears Ears Coalition, a group that was formed to protect a region in the state of Utah that holds particular cultural and historical significance. The site, which features breathtaking landscapes, is also home to Native American dwellings and artwork that date back as much as 12,000 years. The video below gives us a glimpse of that place, and the efforts of climber Josh Ewing to try to save it from careless visitors and oil drilling on nearby lands. The 7+ minute documentary is filled with gorgeous landscapes and amazing archeological sites that have to be seen to be believed. The video is worth watching for the eye-candy alone, but the message it conveys is an important one too.

Defined by the Line: A Film About the Fight to Protect Bears Ears from Patagonia on Vimeo.

Video: "Jetmen" Make Dramatic Flight Over Dubai

We've featured "Jetman" Yves Rossy, and his impressive looking jetpack, here on the Adventure Blog before. But now he's back, and he's brought a friend along for the ride. In this video, Rossy is joined by his protege Hetman Vince Reffet on an impressive flight over the city of Dubai. The two men fly in formation while the "City of Dreams" makes for a dramatic backdrop. The personal aircraft the two men use during their flight looking incredibly fun to fly, and while I'm not ready to give it a go just yet, it sure makes for a fun video.

Thanks to my friend Rick for sharing!

Gear Closet: Keen Uneek Shoes

One of the things I've always liked about Keen shoes is that they tend to be exceedingly comfortable, feature eye catching designs, and are usually built for adventure. That would sum up my thoughts completely on their Uneek sandals, which certainly live up to their name with their unusual look and design.

Over the years I've owned a number of shoes from Keen, and some of them have been amongst my favorite footwear ever. Their classic Newport sandal has been a mainstay in my gear closet for years, and has accompanied me on many trips around the world, including my recent visit to Egypt. But when I first saw the Uneek shoes I wasn't sure what to make of them. They aren't exactly unattractive, but they also don't look like anything you've ever seen before. They take an almost minimalist approach, although saying that would sell-short the amount of support and comfort they provide. This is a shoe that lives up to Keen's outstanding reputation, but just happens to look a bit different than anything they've produced before.

Any qualms you may have about how the Uneeks look are quickly dispelled once you put them on. They mold to your foot perfectly, creating a nice cushion that cradles your arches and provides plenty of support for long days or walking around town, or simply lounging at the beach. The lightweight, airy design feels amazing, and you'll be left wondering how a shoe that is so simple in design can feel so good when worn.

Part of what makes these shoes so unique – for lack of a better word – is how they are constructed. They're built out of just two cords and a sole, with everything weaved together in a way that is so simple, you'll wonder why no else had thought of it first. That construction method is what gives the Uneek shoes their special identity, setting them apart from the crowd in so many ways.

But don't think for a moment that Keen skimped on performance when created this footwear. They make an excellent water shoe for example, quickly draining away moisture and drying rapidly as well. This helps to make them a great option for kayaking and canoeing, hanging out at the beach, or just running errands around town. They make an excellent travel shoe too, as they are not only lightweight, but highly packable.

I have had one issue when wearing my pair of Uneeks for an extended period of time. The ankle straps tend to irritate the back of my feet when they are worn for longer periods, and it gets to the point that I have to take them off or run the risk of developing a blister. It should be noted that this only occurs when I've had them on for several hours, and usually if I've been particularly active. This seems to be more of an issue of how they fit on my feet, and is not a widespread issue. No other reviews that I have seen have mentioned this, but it is important to be aware of none the less.

That said however, it is easy to recommend these shoes. They are so comfortable in every other way that it is almost as if I'm going barefoot when I have them on. Their unusual design illicit comments and questions too, so don't be surprised if others ask you about them when you wear them out in public.

The Keen Uneek is available in six different color schemes and carry a price tag of $100. If you're in the market for a comfortable, lightweight, and unusual shoe, this one will certainly fill those needs very nicely.

Body of Missing Arctic Explorer Recovered

Last week I shared the sad story of Dutch Explorers Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo who had gone missing while conducting research in the Arctic. At the time, it was uncertain what had happened to the two men, although it was speculated that they may have fallen through the ice and drowned. Now, the body of one of the men has been recovered, providing some clues as to what might have happened.

According to ExWeb, a team of Royal Canadian Mounted Police conducted a dangerous recovery mission above the Arctic Circle in an effort to retrieve the body. It was later identified as being Cornelissen, and the cause of death was determined to be "drowned by hypothermia." The body was found at the location where the explorers had set off an emergency beacon on April 29, but by the team rescue squads could get to that position a few days later they found only two sleds – one floating in the water – and a highly trained support dog that had been brought along on the expedition.

The dog was later rescued from the ice and returned home, and further investigation revealed the body of Cornelissen in the water. There was no sign of de Roo however, and it is believed that he suffered the same fate as his companion.

This latest news is sad of course, but it may bring a sense of closure for the two explorers' friends and family. ExWeb says that Cornelissen's body has been received by the Dutch embassy in Canada, and it is being transported home to the Netherlands soon.

This story underscores my feelings that the Arctic is an incredibly difficult place to travel, and remains one of the most dangerous environments on the planet. It is because of these challenges that we will see fewer people attempting to explore the Arctic in the near future. It is simply too hazardous to venture into that wilderness, and thanks to ongoing climate change, it is probably only going to get worse in the years ahead.

Nepal Update: U.S. Helicopter Goes Missing

The news out of Nepal continues to be sobering today as the country struggles to recover from a second major earthquake that brought widespread damage once again yesterday. Meanwhile, a U.S. aid helicopter has gone missing as well, with eight people aboard. That news underscores the challenges and dangers of the recovery efforts, as well as the difficulties that relief workers face.

The helicopter was delivering emergency supplies to the Dolakha district on Tuesday when it disappeared. There were six U.S. Marines onboard, as well as two Nepali soldiers, at the time. Their condition is unknown as of this writing, but there is hope amongst search and rescue teams that at least some of the team is still alive.

It is believed that the helicopter sat down in a river in a remote part of Nepal. Considering the mountainous terrain that is prevalent throughout much of the country, just about everywhere is "remote" however. Hundreds of ground troops and other helicopters have joined the search, but the whereabouts of the downed aircraft and its crew remain unknown at this time. There is hope that they will be found alive and waiting for pick-up however.

The search efforts for the missing aircraft have temporarily pulled resources away from true mission which is delivering aid and support to the villages and towns that have been hit hard by the April 25 earthquake and the follow-up quake from yesterday. According to reports, yesterday's 7.3 magnitude quake destroyed even more buildings – particularly those weakened from the original disaster – and claimed the lives of more than 65 people and injured another 2000.

While those numbers pale in comparison to quake from two weeks ago, they are only adding to the pain and suffering felt by the Nepali people. Worse yet, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey says that the country could continue to feel aftershocks for six months to a year. That is bad news for those living in Nepal, as panic often ensues when those aftershocks are felt at the moment. Continuing to live on edge for months to come would have an even more devastating effect on their mindset.

With thousands of people displaced from their homes, hundreds still missing, and on going challenges to distributing relief aid, Nepal is facing a long uphill battle toward recovery. At the moment, no one is thinking about mountaineering expeditions or trekking routes as the focus is clearly on rescues and rebuilding. It will be years before the country returns to any state of normalcy, and rebuilding efforts could take even longer. Fortunately, there seems to be a vested interest by a number of parties to see Nepal get rebuilt. While the task ahead is a herculean one for sure, there will be opportunities for the country to come out of this stronger than ever before.

Video: Winter in Lofoten, Norway

Lofoten is an archipelago located in Norway's Nordland district. It is remote, rugged, and beautiful, particularly in the winter. In this video, filmmaker Tommaso Maiocchi takes us to that stunning place and gives us a glimpse of the landscapes found there. His timelapse images show mountains, valleys, coastlines in spectacular fashion, while dramatic skies, complete with rolling clouds and the aurora borealis, hover overhead. This is an enchanting look at a stunning destination that promises adventure for any who visit.

Winter in Lofoten from Tommaso Maiocchi on Vimeo.