Video: On the Road in New Zealand with Photographer Chris Burkard

Chris Burkard is a professional photographer who travels the globe to capture athletes in remote and extreme places. In this video, he takes us along on a journey to beautiful New Zealand, giving us a glimpse of some of the exceptional landscapes found there while his subjects hike, climb, windsurf, and paddle their way through that amazing place. This clip is so beautiful it will inspire you to get outside and go on an adventure of your own.


Video: Climbing the White Mountain in China

With this video GoPro takes us to the White Mountain of China, where we meet climber Ting Xiao and her boyfriend Abond. Both wear GoPro cameras as they scale the rock faces of the White Mountain along a rock climbing route that is estimated to be a 5.14B in terms of difficulty. Of course, the clips gives us an up close look at the challenges of the climb, which this former city-girl works hard to overcome.

Mammut's #Project360 Takes Us Up Iconic Mountains Without Ever Leaving Home

An ambitious new undertaking from Mammut is giving armchair mountaineers an opportunity to climb some of the most iconic mountains in the world without ever having to leave those armchairs.

The gear company sent top climbers up major peaks such as the Eiger, El Capitan, and the Matterhorn while wearing specially built camera systems that captured their routes in full 360º images. Those images were then stitched together and placed online, allowing us to take a virtual expedition up those same mountains from the safety of our homes.

Dubbed #Project360, the website hosting these virtual climbs is now online and accessible by the general public. In addition to the mountains listed above, it also offers a virtual climb of Mt. Elbrus – the tallest peak in Europe – and Rübezahl, a massive frozen waterfall in Switzerland. The Mönch – another iconic European peak – is listed as "coming soon."

These virtual climbs work much like Google Street View in that it gives viewers the opportunity to move up and down these mountains, and pan the camera around 360º to get a better view of the landscapes. The result is an opportunity to see what these climbing routes are like, and just how high up they actually are, to better appreciate what climbers must overcome on the way to the top.

This is definitely a fun and impressive way to kill some time on your computer without fear of altitude sickness or vertigo. You can check it out for yourself by clicking here. And if you want to know more about how the project was created, watch the video below.

Mudslides Claim 30 Lives in Nepal


The monsoon season has brought yet another tragedy to the beleaguered people of Nepal. Yesterday, heavy rains caused massive mudslides near Pokhara, which caused damage to numerous villages and claimed the lives of at least 30 people

Sadly enough, the mudslides mainly occurred in the Annapurna region of the country, where the popular Annapurna Circuit was just reopened for visitors. Fortunately, the summer monsoon season is not a popular one for foreign visitors, and few travelers are on the trail at this time. Still, the last thing Nepal needed at the moment was the loss of more life due to a natural disaster. 

It has been a very difficult year and a half in the Himalayan country. In 2014, the climbing season on Everest was halted after an avalanche claimed the lives of 16 workers on the mountain, which at the time was the single deadliest day in the mountain's history. Then, last fall, a freak blizzard descended on the mountains, killing more than 40 trekkers and stranding hundreds of others. That was followed up by the deadly April 25 earthquake – and its aftershocks – that took place this past spring, killing nearly 9000 people in the process. That disaster triggered another avalanche at Everest Base Camp which killed an additional 19 people there. These tragic mudslides are now just extending the misery even further. 

According to the article linked to above, search and rescue teams are combing through the mud today in search of survivors and bodies. But their work is being hampered by the fact that they don't have any power tools to help speed things along. Instead they are forced to use shovels and even dinner bowls in their efforts. For a country that is already stretch thin in terms of resources, this type of challenge was the last thing it needed. 

One has to wonder at what point the Nepali people have suffered enough. It has been a trying 15 months or so, and it doesn't seem like things are going to get better anytime soon. There is still a lot of damage that needs to be repaired from the earthquake, which will take years to completely overcome. Hopefully the embattled nation will catch a break at some point, and can start to get on with the process of getting back to normal life. 

Summer Climbs 2015: More Teams Depart the Karakoram, Success Elsewhere

The long and difficult summer climbing season in Pakistan looks like it may be truly finished now. Earlier in the week numerous teams announced their intentions to leave Base Camp on K2 and Broad Peak, but there were still a few holdouts who were hoping to summit those mountains. Now, it seems that those teams have packed and left as well, bringing the curtain down on the season at last.

A few days back we noted that Nick Cienski's 6 Summits Challenge team was still in BC and hoping to have another crack at Broad Peak before calling an end to the expedition. But yesterday, Nick and his squad succumbed to the inevitable, calling off their plans to attempt one more summit bid. In a dispatch posted to the 6 Summits Facebook page it was revealed that conditions remain incredibly bad above 25,000 feet (7620 meters), with deep snow making it impossible to reach the summit.

While on Broad Peak this summer, Nick made three separate attempts to top out, but he and his teammates were turned back each time. Heavy snows up top and unseasonably warm temperatures at lower altitudes have simply made the mountain too dangerous to climb, and with time running out on the summer season, it is time to head home at last.

Nick's original plan for the year was to climb six different 8000-meter peaks, but bad luck has prevented him from claiming any at all. His spring climbing season in Nepal was cut short by the massive April 25 earthquake, and now extremely poor weather in the Karakoram has killed his chances of nabbing any summits this summer too. Where he'll go with his project remains to be seen.


The 6 Summits Challenge crew aren't the only ones who have decided to pull the plug on their expeditions. Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke has also left BC for home. She said that her team was living in denial the past few days, waiting beyond home for a chance to summit. But it simply isn't in the cards this year, so she has already begun the journey back to Skardu as well.

This summer season stands in stark contrast to last year, when more than 40 people were able to summit the mighty K2. This year there were no summits it all on that mountain, and just one on Broad Peak. It was certainly a reminder of just how difficult it typically is to climb on those mountains.

The season hasn't been a complete loss however. ExWeb is reporting that Jon Griffith and Andy Houseman achieved the first ascent of the West Summit of Link Sar, a 6938 meter (22,762 ft) peak in the Karakoram range. The climb took seven days to complete, and the initial objective was the main summit, but when conditions proved too dangerous to complete that plan, they switched to the West Summit instead. Climbing.com has details on the expedition, and what it was like for them on this remote mountain where the weather was just as bad as elsewhere, but they had a few more variables go their way.

Congrats to Jon and Andy on completing a great climb. It is good to see that the mountains didn't turn everyone back this year. The rest of the teams are now making their way home, and our attention will start to turn to the fall climbing season back in Nepal and Tibet.

Video: The Hidden Beauty of Slovakia

Eastern Europe is filled with some of the most breathtaking landscapes that you could ever hope to see, although many of them are unknown to outsiders. This video takes us to once such location. Known locally as Janošik´s Holes, this place is tucked away inside Mala Fatra National Park in Slovakia. As you'll see, it is a place of indescribable beauty, which happens to derive its name from a legendary bandit by the name of Juraj Janošik who reportedly used this remote location as a hideaway. After watching this clip, you'll get a better understanding why he escaped to this amazing destination. Enjoy.


Video: The Best of the Tour de France - Stages 15 - 21

Return to the roads of France one final time with GoPro, which brought us some amazing footage from this year's Tour de France thanks to bike mounted cameras. The result was images from within the peloton like nothing we've ever seen before. If you want to know just what it is like to ride in the greatest cycling event in the world, just have a look at this video. You'll come away with even more respect for these amazing athletes.

Video: Whitewater Stand-Up Paddleboarding

I hate to admit it, but I have yet to try stand-up paddleboarding. I know that it is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports around, and it looks like a lot of fun, but I simply haven't had the opportunity to give it a go yet. I hope to change that very soon. In the meantime, I have gained a new respect for some of the folks who do SUP, thanks to videos like this one. It shows pro paddleboarder Paul Clark as he makes a short whitewater run on a SUP board. While this isn't Class V rapids by any means, it still requires some great strength and agility to complete the descent over some tricky rapids while surrounded by rocks. I don't think I'l be doing this my first time out, but it is impressive none the less.

Nepal Reopens Annapurna Circuit

One of the best trekking routes in the world has reopened in Nepal after being closed for the past three months following the devastating earthquake on April 25. Earlier today it was announced that the Annapurna Circuit is ready to receive hikers once again after an independent inspection team certified it safe for foreign visitors.

In the wake of the disaster, the Nepali government hired a California-based structural engineering company called  Miyamoto International to survey the Annapurna trail, as well as villages, tea houses, and other structures along its length. After an exhaustive study, the firm says that it found that less than 1% of the route, and 3% of the teahouses, had suffered any damage from the earthquake.

The news shouldn't come as much of a surprise, although it is good to know that the Annapurna Circuit is safe. The initial earthquake took place in the Kathmandu Valley, destroying homes, historical sites, and sometimes whole villages in the process. But the epicenter was far from the Annapurna region, which obviously suffered very little from the natural disaster.

A major aftershock hit Nepal just a few days after the April 25 quake. That one had its epicenter in the Khumbu Valley region, which is closer to Everest. Miyamoto is still surveying the trail to Everest Base Camp – the other popular trekking route in Nepal – and will release its results on that inspection soon. It is expected that the damage will be greater in that area, but that the trekking route will be reopened as well.

Nepal sees about 140,000 visitors each year just to hike these two routes. As the country struggles to rebuild, you can understand why it would want to reassure travelers that these areas are safe. Tourism dollars will play a big role in getting the country back on its feet, and this is a good step in rebuilding that industry. With the fall trekking season now just a couple of months away, it will be interesting to see how many people return, and how many stay away.

Summer Climbs 2015: Controversy Brewing in the Mountains

There isn't much new to report in terms of the movements of the teams in Pakistan. Most have either left Base Camp for the return home, or are preparing to do so in the next few days. A few remain behind, holding out hope that they'l still get a crack at the summit on Broad Peak or possibly even K2, although the chances of either happening seem remote. But even as the summer season winds down, there is now controversy brewing in the mountains with the ethics of some climbers being called into question.

ExWeb has posted a disturbing article today that I'm sure will leave some members of the mountaineering community very disappointed. Apparently, in a video posted to Mike Horn's Facebook page the body of a fallen climber can be seen, which goes against the code of conduct that most climbers will abide by while documenting their expeditions.

According to the ExWeb story, the warm weather on K2 this year has melted a lot of the snow and ice there, possibly revealing the body in question. The fact that it appears in one of Horn's video has upset some other mountaineers, including Louis Rousseau, who wrote the Swiss climber an impassioned letter about the inclusion of the dead body in a video promoting his K2 climb. ExWeb has a copy of that letter, and has posted it in the article that I linked to above.

I have to say that while I haven't seen the video that Rousseau is referring to, so I don't know what context the body was shown. It could have been an inadvertent shot, or it could have been done on purpose. Either way, Rousseau is right that it is disrespectful to the climber, and his friends and family, to show images of the body, and I'm sure that the Swiss climbers would agree with that sentiment. I have no doubt that Horn will take the video down when given the opportunity. I don't know him at all, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would try to capitalize on the misfortune of others.


Unfortunately, this isn't the only story that is brewing up controversy in the mountains of Pakistan at the moment. In the same article, ExWeb says that there are accusations coming from climber Andrzej Bargiel of climbers failing to assist in the search for Olek Ostrowski, who went missing on GII last weekend after attempting a summit bid and ski descent. Apparently just there high altitude porters went up to look for the missing man, with none of the other teams in BC offering to lend a hand.

Bargiel says that he had just descended from Broad Peak when he heard that Ostrowski had gone missing, and immediately left for the Gasherbrum Massif. In an interview with a Polish climbing magazine, Andrezej says the he feels ashamed for those who did not lend a hand, adding that they felt a summit bid was more important than trying to locate a missing compatriot. Worse yet, he says that there were climbers not just in BC, but in Camps 1 and 2 as well. None came to their aid.

Both of these stories are hard to read, and generally not indicative of the mountaineering community as a whole. Still, the latter story does give an indication of the attitude that climbers had on the Gasherbrums this year, and it is very sad that they wouldn't help search for Olek.

Hopefully this is just an anomaly and not a trend in attitudes.

Video: An Awesome Kilimanjaro Montage Video

My friends at Tusker Trail – who I climbed Kilimanjaro with back in February – shared this great video on their social media outlets. It is a montage of clips and photos of a climb up the tallest peak in Africa, with some fantastic shots from about every stage of the journey. If you've ever wanted to give Kili a go, this is four-minute look at what to expect. And if you've been there before, it'll bring back some powerful memories.

Video: Trailer for Teton Gravity Research's Paradise Waits

Do the dog days of summer have you yearning for a bit of cooler weather? Are you counting the days until the first snowfall? Than Teton Gravity Research is here to help. They've just released the trailer for their latest full-length ski and snowboard film entitled Paradise Waits, which is scheduled for release this fall. It follows a team of tops winter athletes for an entire season, giving viewers a look behind the scenes as these skier and snowboarders travel the globe looking for the best powder. As usual with TGR, this looks like it will be fantastic.

Video: Climbing Poumaka with Mike Libecki and Angie Payne

This past February, climbers Mike Libecki and Angie Payne spent 16 days climbing a 1500-foot (458 meter) rock spire known as Poumaka. Located on a remote island in French Polynesia, the tower proved to be an 8-pitch challenge that involved heavy rains, slick surfaces, and plenty of mud. This video takes us behind the scenes of that climb, as 3 Strings Productions looks to document the expedition. The result is a great look at an amazing climb, and a sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes to capture these adventure films. Great stuff.

The 2015 Badwater Ultramarathon is Underway

The 2015 edition of the Badwater Ultramarathon got underway yesterday with 90 runners setting out from the tiny town of Badwater in Death Valley. The classic race takes endurance athletes across 135 miles (217 km) of some of the harshest environments imaginable as they run to the Mt. Whitney Portals in temperatures in excess of 100ºF/37ºC.

As with most ultramarathons, the distance is a big part of the challenge. But with the Badwater, it is also about the vertical gain. The race starts 280 feet (85 meters) below sea level, and rises to 8300 feet (2530 meters) above sea level at the finish line. Along the way, runners must negotiate their way across demanding desert landscapes, through difficult valleys, and up mountain passes. Those that complete the grueling run will end up with a cumulative vertical gain of more than 14,600 feet (4450 meters), with the fastest runners completing the run in less than 24 hours.

The runners departed last night in three different waves, with the first setting out around 8:00 PM local time. The second set of athletes took to the course at 9:30 PM, with the final wave hitting the road at 11:00 PM. Traveling at night helps to lessen their exposure to the heat, but today temperatures are expected to hit 113ºF/45ºC out on the course.

If you have followed the Badwater over the past couple of years, you probably remember that in 2014 the race was forced to take an alternate route because the National Park Service had implemented a bad on endurance events taking place within national parks while it evaluated safety requirements. This year, the Park Service allowed the runners back in, but mandated the overnight start to help mitigate the danger.

Some critics have said that this could put the athletes under more stress however, as now they'll be heading into the hottest part of the day already fatigued. In the past, runners would start fresh, but take on the heat early, with the cooler temperatures arriving just at the most opportune time to refresh the runners. That won't be the case this year however, as they'll now be 50 miles (80 km) into the race when things really start to get hot. How this impacts the results remains to be seen.

If things go according to form, the first runners should reach the finish line as early as this 7:00 or 8:00 PM this evening. Others will stagger in over the next day or two. As always, it'll be interesting to see how things play out in an event that has been called "the toughest footrace on Earth."

Summer Climbs 2015: 6 Summits Challenge Team Awaits Opportunity on Broad Peak

I've written about Nick Cienski and his 6 Summits Challenge a couple of times in recent months. In case you're not familiar with the expedition, Nick has set a goal of reaching the top of no less than six 8000-meter peaks in a single year – a difficult proposition to say the least. But he hasn't exactly had a lot of luck go his way so far, as his original plans were to summit Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu this past spring. That didn't happen due to the horrendous earthquake that took place in Nepal, and the plan had to be quickly altered to deal with the situation.

In recent weeks, Nick has been in Pakistan, where he has been preparing to climb Broad Peak and K2 in an effort to keep the 6 Summits Challenge on track. But if you've been following the season there, you already know that it has been a difficult one. Poor weather and unstable conditions on both of those mountains have limited access to the higher portions of those peaks, and to date there has been only a single summit on BP, and none at all on K2.

But Nick is a patient man, and despite the fact that most teams have now abandoned Base Camp on K2 and Broad Peak, he seems as determined as ever to reach the top of one, if not both, of those mountains. There has been no indication from his Facebook page, Twitter feed, or journal entries that he is preparing to depart with the rest of the teams, and the latest update on FB says that he and his climbing partners are waiting for better weather to launch a summit bid on Broad Peak.

If a weather window does open, the push to the top will not be easy. You might recall that earlier in the week, the Himex squad made an attempt on the summit of BP but were turned back due to incredibly deep snow near the top. Those conditions aren't likely to have improved much, and breaking trail at such high altitudes is never easy. Still, Nick and his team are committed to the 6 Summits Challenge, and are hoping to at least get a legitimate shot at topping out.


Meanwhile, there are other climbers who have yet to indicate just what their plans are for the days ahead. For instance, Chris Jensen Burke hasn't updated her blog in a few days, but in her last dispatch she indicated that she and her teammates were in a holding pattern on Broad Peak and were waiting for better weather. There hasn't been a word out of Canadian climber Al Hancock all season, so it is unclear exactly where he is on the mountain. Presumably there are a few smaller teams still on BP awaiting their opportunity as well.

Traditionally, the climbing season in Pakistan runs through the first week of August or so, which indicates that there is still some time for conditions to improve and climbs to be completed. While the majority of teams have now left their respective Base Camps, there is a chance that we could still see some summits on Broad Peak in particular. K2 wouldn't be completely out of the question, but judging from reports, it seems highly unlikely.

Stay tuned. I'll continue to keep an eye on the situation, and post updates as warranted.

Video: Lose Yourself in Nature and Adventure

This video is a reminder to all of us of the importance of getting outside, communing with nature, and finding our own adventures, wherever they might take us. It is filled with amazing images from the world around us, including mountains, hills, and streams. But it is the words of the narration that will hopefully stick with you long after you've watched the three-and-a-half minute clip. Those words urge us to explore our planet, and they are wise words indeed.

Lose Yourself from The Monday Mountaineers on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking Down a Bobsled Run

Mountain bikers are certainly adaptable if nothing else. Case in point, in this video a pair of riders race down an old bobsled track on Mt. Trebevic near Sarajevo in Bosnia. The course if fast and looks like a lot of fun, even if it was never meant for bikes. Obviously we've seen more amazing trails in videos in the past, but there is something about the joy of flying downhill that makes this very satisfying.

Get Fresh Gear Delivered to Your Door with BivySak.com

Who amongst us doesn't love getting new gear? There is nothing quite so satisfying for an outdoor enthusiast than getting new equipment for use on our adventures. But what if you could have that new gear delivered directly to your door on a regular basis without ever having to go to the store? Better yet, what if the contents of that box was tailored for a specific season, with gear that is meant to be used at the time of year that it is delivered.

That is the premise behind a new service called BivySak that not only curates outdoor products for members, but delivers high quality goods to their door four times a year. The company works directly with top gear manufacturers – including the likes of Patagonia, Salomon, and GSI – to collect some awesome products that we'd all like to have in our gear closets. Things like jackets, water bottles, camp cooking utensils, and so on. Those products are matched up based on seasonal activities, and shipped to BivySak members in time for use during the season ahead.

As an example of what the contents of a certain box might contain, I recently received a sample of the BivySak shipment for the fall. Inside my box I found an excellent soft-shell jacket from Salomon, as well as a beanie for cool weather activities. There was also a FairShare mug from GSI, some a spork, and a nice assortment of energy bars from Honey Stinger. All told, a pretty good haul for someone who likes to be outside, even when temperatures start to drop.

A BivySak membership costs $24.99 per month, which means each of your individual boxes will set you back approximately $75. But the company guarantees that the contents of that box will be worth more than your membership fee each time you receive a new package. Looking at the sample that I was sent, I would say that the jacket alone was worth more than $75, with the extra contents just being icing on the cake.


BivySak is working off a popular business model on the Internet these days, with other companies sending monthly boxed subscriptions of clothing, collectibles, and other items as well. Those companies include the likes of Mancrate and Birchbox, both of which offer a similar service but not focused on outdoor gear. That's what helps separate Bivy from the crowd, as they are actually selecting items that are more likely to be of interest to us. The sample box that I received contained items that I will certainly use moving forward, which is not something I can say about the other services of this type that I looked at.

On top of offering monthly memberships, you can also give BivySak as a gift as well. I know we're a long way off from the holiday season at this point, but this is definitely something that you should keep in mind for the outdoor love in your life. It is high quality gear delivered to their door once per quarter, truly making it the gift that keeps on giving.

To find out more, check out BivySak.com. The site has several reviews of the product, information on their gear partners, a list of contents from previous boxes, and a countdown clock for when their next box ships. All in all, I'm impressed with what the BivySak team has put together here, and it is a fun service that I'm sure many will appreciate.

Summer Climbs 2015: More Teams Depart K2, Summit Push on Broad Peak Thwarted, Tragedy on Gasherbrum II

The summer climbing season in Pakistan is quickly coming to an end as numerous teams prepare to depart their Base Camps for the long trek home. It has been a frustrating year in the Karakoram, where deep snow and generally poor weather have prevented most climbers from achieving their goals. But it isn't over just yet, and there are still a few teams in holding patterns, although their chances of success don't look great at this point. 

We'll start today back on K2, where more teams have called it quits. Yesterday I noted that some of the big commercial squads had elected to pull the plug on their expeditions due to safety concerns high on the mountain, and today we learn that others have decided it is time to go home as well. They include the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen, who were the first squad to arrive in BC this year. They made two attempts at the summit, and were turned back by heavy snow both times. They now feel that their best opportunity is behind them, and have begun preparing to start the trek back to Askoli. 

The Swiss team isn't the only ones who are leaving. The Seven Summits Treks commercial team is also preparing to depart as well, as is Philippe Gatta who announced on his Facebook page that he'll hit the trail starting tomorrow. Essentially, just about everyone is now abandoning K2 Base Camp, which means there will likely be no summits on the mountain at all this year. That stands in stark contrast to the amazing summer of 2014 when more than 40 climbers stood on top of the "Savage Mountain." 

Over on Broad Peak, one day after abandoning their attempt to climb K2, the Himex team launched a summit bid early today, setting out for Camp 3 in light snowfall. Later that would turn into a full-blown storm, with heavy snow falling on the upper slopes of the mountain. The climbers attempted to wait out the storm, but as they pressed forward they found deep, unstable snow that convinced them it was time to turn back. Everyone is back in BC now, and the Himex expedition is over on Broad Peak too. The entire team is now preparing to leave.

There are still a few teams in Base Camp on BP that are waiting to see if they'll get a chance to summit. The weather forecast into next week is not promising, but there is a chance that things will improve after that. The remaining squads are just holding on for a glimmer of hope, but at the moment it appears that there just might be only one summit on Broad Peak for the entire season. 

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that efforts to locate a missing climber on Gasherbrum II has been called off. Polish mountaineer/skier Olek Ostrowski went missing this past weekend when he was descending from Camp 2 to Camp 1. He had been attempting to summit the mountain, and then make a ski descent, but bad weather forced him to turn back. It is believed that he fell into a crevasse on the descent, but all attempts to find him came up empty. Continued bad weather and deteriorating conditions have hampered any further efforts to find Olek, who is now believed to have lost his life on the mountain. My condolences to his friends and family. 

That's all for today. It is now safe to say that there won't be many more updates from Pakistan this summer. The season is almost at an end, and it has been a difficult one to say the least. I'll continue to monitor the situation on the ground there, but for the most part there will be few teams left to report on as of tomorrow. 

Seven Summits Mountaineer Richard Bass Passes Away at the Age of 85

Richard Bass, the first man to climb the Seven Summits, has passed away at the age of 85. He, along with his friend Frank Wells, came up with the idea of climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents back in the early 80's, and both men set out achieve that feat. Bass did so in April, 1985 when he nabbed the final peak on his list by summiting Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia.

A Texas oilman, Bass is also the founder of the famous Snowbird ski resort in Utah. His efforts to climb the Seven Summit made that pursuit a popular one with mountaineers across the globe, and helped to commercialize climbing on some of those mountains. At the time that he completed his quest, the list of mountains included Everest (Asia), Elbrus (Europe), Denali (North America), Aconcagua (South America), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Vinson (Antarctica), and Kosciusko. The list has since been amended to include Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, as some climbers have expanded the Australian continent to include more of the Pacific region.

Long time friend and documentary filmmaker David Breashears made the announcement of Bass' passing on his Facebook page. The note simply said:
“It is with great sadness that I convey the news of the passing of Richard D. Bass late in the evening of July 26. Dick passed away peacefully in the company of friends and family; he was eighty-five-years old.”
Dick Bass wasn't as well known as climbers like Reinhold Messner or Ed Viesturs of course, but he certainly left an indelible mark on the mountaineering community. Even today, there are hundreds of people attempting the Seven Summits at any given moment, and his achievement is still considered an impressive accomplishment for any adventurer.

Bass' tale of his endeavor, simply called Seven Summits, was one of the first mountaineering books that I ever read. It left quite an impression on me when I started thinking about my own adventures, and for that I am eternally grateful.

My condolences to Dick's friends and family. He will be missed.

Video: More Beautiful Drone Footage From Iceland

Just in case you need further prodding to visit Iceland, this video may help in that regard. It features more stunning landscapes captured by a DJI Inspire drone and filmed in 4k. As usual, the footage features some of the most beautiful and wild places imaginable, in a country that is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty.

One of these days I'll go to Iceland myself. As with most places I haven't been to just yet, it is definitely on my list.


Video: Life Above 5000 Feet

Shot in western Colorado and parts of Utah, this video captures some of the most spectacular timelapse imagery you could ever hope to see. It features beautiful night skies and amazing landscapes filled with snowcapped peaks, tranquil lakes, and wondrous rock formations. For my money, Colorado and Utah are two of the most beautiful states in the U.S., and that more than shines through here. These are two places that exude adventure, whether you're hiking, climbing, mountain biking, or simply just enjoying scenery. Here is just a taste of what to expect there.

Life Above 5,000ft: Colorado + Utah 2015 from Star Mountain Media on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Fishpond Westwater Carry-On Duffle

Duffle bags have been a staple of adventure travel since before it was even deemed a category. For decades climbers, explorers, and hunters have carried duffles on their expeditions, thanks in no small part to their ability to provide a convenient way to carry a lot of gear to places where normal luggage isn't suitable, or simply wouldn't survive. In recent years, the duffle bag has evolved dramatically, incorporating some welcome new features, while retaining the classic design that has made them so popular amongst travelers for decades. That is exactly what you get from the Westwater Carry-on from Fishpond – a classic duffle bag with modern sensibilities that extended its functionality in new directions.

At first glance, the Westwater gives the impression that it is simply another travel duffle bag amongst the hundreds to choose from on the market. But upon further inspection, you'll start to see all of the great features that help to set it apart from the crowd. For starters, the bag is made from Fishpond's proprietary CLYCLEPOND fabrics, which are not only incredibly durable, but provide a high level of water resistance too. In fact, it is safe to say that this bag is built to keep your gear dry in the worst conditions imaginable. With extremely high quality zippers, welded seams, and water-repelling materials, the Westwater is duffle that is made for being around the water, or at the very least surviving heavy rainstorms with its contents completely safe and dry.

The Westwater's ability to resist moisture is just the tip of the iceberg however, as this duffle also takes some cues from more traditional luggage that help to make it an even better travel companion. For example, Fishpond's designers have incorporated a set of rugged wheels, as well as a hide-away telescoping handle, that make it a breeze to roll this bag through the airport when rushing to catch your next flight. And if you're in a real hurry, you can actually pull out the built-in backpack straps and throw the bag across your shoulders if you like. These multiple ways of transporting the Westwater come in vary handy depending on the situation, and are a good example of how versatile it can be.


Inside, the Westwater has a gigantic main chamber that is the equivalent of a 53-liter backpack. That is a great deal of space when you also consider that it meets most airline specifications for a carry-on. For those of us who don't like to check their bags, this is a great option for being able to take a lot of gear with us on our trips, without ever letting that precious cargo out of sight.

The interior of the bag also has a organizational pocket that is perfect for keeping small items close at hand. The designers at Fishpond wisely made this pocket from transparent plastic materials, which not only protect from the elements as well, but allow us to see exactly where certain items are at any given time.

Putting this duffle bag through its paces on recent trips I've come to appreciate how durable and versatile it truly is. The CLYCLEPOND fabrics aren't just great for keeping moisture out, they can also take just about any punishment you throw at the bag too. On top of that, the spacious main compartment, combined with zippers that open wide, allow for easy access to all of your gear stored inside. Add in the multiple ways of transporting the bag from one destination to the next, and you have duffle that is right for just about any adventure.

If I had one complaint about the Westwater it would be that it is on the heavy side, particularly when you are generally use to traveling with a backpack. This duffle tips the scales at 5.75 lbs before you even begin to load it up. For those who like to travel fast and light, that extra weight will most certainly be a turn-off. But when you consider the high level of protection the bag provides – particularly from moisture – you begin to understand that a bit of extra weight is a trade-off that will be more than worth it for those who need this level of water resistance.

All in all, I am extremely impressed with the Westwater duffle bag. With its bomb-proof construction,  versatile design, and ability to repel moisture, it is a great option for those traveling to remote destinations where protection from the elements is a chief concern. The bag was originally designed with anglers in mind, but it performs so well that any adventure traveler would be happy to have it in his or her gear closet. This is a convenient way to carry your gear to just about any destination, both on the water and off.

The Westwater Rolling Carry-On comes with an MSRP of $239.95, which makes it an expensive option when compared to other duffle bags. But again, if you factor in everything that it brings to the table, it is – in my mind – priced accordingly.

If you're in the market for a new piece of luggage to carry with you to demanding places, the Westwater should be on your list to consider. It will haul all of your gear with ease, and make sure it stays dry at every step of the journey. There simply isn't much more you can ask for from your travel bags.

Summer Climbs 2015: Teams Pull the Plug on K2 Expeditions

It has been a busy and eventful week on the big mountains in Pakistan. When I last posted an update a number of teams were getting ready to make summit pushes on Broad Peak and K2 in anticipation of a weather window opening up this past weekend. Now, the situation has changed dramatically, with a number of major teams calling it quits for the season amidst potentially dangerous conditions on both mountains.

When last we checked in, the Swiss team of Mike Horn, Fred Roux, and Köbi Reichen were high on K2 and preparing to push towards the summit. The team had gone up to Camp 3 at 6800 meters (22,309 ft) and were expecting good weather. But as they climbed higher, the team ran into unstable conditions and deep snow, which convinced them to decide to turn around and return to Base Camp. At the moment, it is unclear whether or not they'll make another attempt, although there have been rumblings that the team is preparing to leave the mountain.

What is clear however is that the major commercial teams on K2 are calling it quits for the season. ExWeb is reporting that both Himex and Madison Mountaineering have decided that conditions are too unsafe to proceed up the mountain, and so both squads are preparing to head home. There are reports of deteriorating conditions, with rock falls, avalanches, and deep snow all making it difficult to climb up. Considering the reputation K2 has for being incredibly dangerous under the best of conditions, it seems wise to move on without endangering any more climbers.

To make matters worse for some teams, there was an avalanche a few days back in ABC that wiped out several camps there, and buried gear and supplies. Some of the teams have gone up to see if they can locate their equipment, while others have seen this as a sign to head home. That avalanche was another reminder just how unstable things are on the mountain this season, which could result in zero summits. Considering the level of success last year, the 2015 season is a stark reminder of why K2 is considered the most difficult mountain in the world to climb.


Over on Broad Peak, a smilier story is being told. A major summit push was launched late last week, with some teams hoping to reach the top this past weekend. Unfortunately, as they neared heights of 7800 meters (25,590 ft) the teams discovered extremely deep snow that made it impossible to continue climbing. The squads were forced to break trail at an excruciatingly slow pace, which ended up leaving them exhausted. Most turned back without ever getting close to the top.

There are some teams that preparing to go up in the next day or two, depending on weather. Amongst them is the Himex team, which is now on a deadline. Their porters are scheduled to arrive back in BC  on Friday of this week, which means that climbing operations must be wrapped up by then. Right now, the team gives itself a "50/50" chance of summiting, with weather conditions and the heavy snow on the slopes ultimately determine their fate.

Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke is taking a "wait and see" approach to continuing her climb on Broad Peak. She says that the difficult conditions there have turned back all summit pushes thus far, and that she is uncertain of whether or not her team will have an opportunity to go up. At the moment, the squad is waiting for an appropriate weather window and will assess the situation should one open up.

Curiously, Burke says that there has been a lack of cooperation and teamwork on BP this summer, which has led to general disorganization amongst the teams. As a result, it has been more difficult for anyone to launch a summit bid since there has been no organized approach to fixing ropes or planning for shared trail breaking efforts.

After reading all of these reports, the bottom line is that it isn't looking good for the K2 and Broad Peak expeditions this season. From the sounds of things, this isn't just about waiting for good weather, as conditions on the upper slopes of both mountains are incredibly treacherous right now. The summer season will rapidly come to an end in the next week or two, with little chance of anyone reaching the top after that. Patient teams are trying to give themselves the best opportunity they can, but it simply might not be in the cards for anyone to top out this year. Like those climbers, we'll have to be patient too, and hope for the best. At this point, lets hope everyone gets off the mountain safely.

Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome Claims Second Tour Victory

The 2015 Tour de France came to an end yesterday on the streets of Paris, where the peloton arrived after three weeks of racing, covering more than 3000 km in the process. During that time, there were a lot of ups and downs for the riders, with plenty of high drama and incredible feats of strength and endurance. At times, it seemed that this was a race that was going to go exactly by the numbers, with little in the way of excitement. But the final days in the Alps proved that to be completely wrong, and gave us a new contender for future editions of Le Tour.

Heading into the weekend, Chris Froome continued to hold on to the Yellow Jersey worn by the race leader, and for the most part it seemed like he'd ride into Paris with little resistance. The Tour had moved into the Alps, and once again the British rider was showing his strength in the mountains. But on the final two days, two riders rose up to challenge the Froome, and in turn showed that he was a bit more vulnerable than we suspected.

On Friday of last week, 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali went on the attack and showed that his legs still had plenty of strength in them. He ended up winning the stage and gaining back precious time on his rivals, although it didn't help to get him on to the podium in Paris. Still, it gave fans an idea of where Froome stood, and showed that he could be dropped on a major climb by a determined rider. That was something that Nairo Quintana took to heart on Saturday, attacking on Alp d'Huez – the most storied mountain stage in the sport. Quintana wasn't able to overcome the 2+ minute difference between him and Froome, but he did make it interesting, while managing to put the Sky rider in a world of hurt on the final climb.


In the end however, Froome proved once again to be too much for the peloton, and on Sunday's ceremonial ride into Paris, he claimed his second win in the Tour in three years. It was a strong performance once again by the Brit, although it also showed that he wasn't unassailable. The young man has quite a career ahead of him on the Tour, but his rivals will be emboldened by the fact that he showed vulnerability in the final days, proving that some will be able to ride with him given the chance.

For his part, Quintana showed that he has a bright future ahead of him as well. At the age of 24, he rode away with the White Jersey for the Tour's best young rider, finishing second overall. Probably most importantly, the Colombian rider seemed to gain confidence as well, and I would expect him to give no quarter next year when he and Froome meet again.

Peter Sagan managed to claim the Green Jersey that is awarded to the race's best sprinter, despite the fact that he didn't win a single stage for the second year in a row. This is the fourth consecutive year that Sagan has won this competition, although I suspect he'd like to get a few stage wins too. The big German sprinter Andre Greipel was clearly the fastest man in the peloton this year, but Sagan was easily the most consistent over the three weeks of racing.

In another display of just how good Chris Froome is as a rider, he also managed to win the Polka Dot Jersey given to the winner of King of the Mountains competition. That means he was the best climber in the race this year in addition to leading the General Classification for most of the past three weeks as well. No rider has managed to claim both the Yellow and Polka Dot Jerseys in the same year since the great Eddy Merckx did it back in 1970. So while Froome may have shown some signs of vulnerability, he still managed to put on a show for the ages.

The Tour is always one of my favorite events each year, and I'm always sad to see it end. Unfortunately for me, my schedule this year didn't allow me to see as much of it as I would have liked, nor cover it as completely as I typically do. Still, it was fun to watch where I could, and catch up with race reports on the days that I could not view the stage in its entirety, if at all. Now, on the Monday after the final stage of the 2015 Tour, I am already going through withdrawal and starting the countdown to 2016. The make-up of that race will be very different, and it will be a fascinating one to watch for sure.

Vietnam : 3D2N cruise on Halong Bay

Halong Bay - Feb 2015


3D2N Phoenix Cruise. 

We waited at our hotel lobby for the complimentary pick up to Halong Bay~ Journey is around 3-4 hours so prepared to bring lots of snacks otherwise be ready to get chop from the one and only stop. 

It was still winter season during early Feb so it was already freaking freezing in Hanoi. I could not imagine how was the weather in the middle of the sea. Totally underestimated the weather~


Finally we reached the dock!

 We had to take a speedboat to our cruise.


 This was our Phoenix Cruise. This looks well maintained than we thought! 

 Our twin room! The two bad thing are that they do not have TV (ok maybe no reception) and no wardrobe. Other than that, we were very satisfied especially the cleanliness! 

Toilet

Walkway just outside our rooms.



Rooftop. Nobody because it was freezing cold.. lol weather forecast said only 12 degree celsius but we felt it was lying. 

After settling down our luggage, our cruise brought us to our first stop - Sung Sot Cave. While we were on our way to Sung Sot Cave, our tour guide told us a little bit history of Halong Bay.

"Ha Long Bay" means "Bay of Descending Dragons" (in chinese: 下龍灣). Long long ago, the gods from heaven sent dragons to help defend from foreign invaders from the north. When the dragons were descending, they spit jewels and jades which immediately turned into limestones upon hitting the sea. These limestones formed a fortress against the invaders.


Stone steps towards the mouth of the cave.



This is the biggest cave I have been. Ok lah, I only been to the bat cave in Malaysia before this.

 

This is the deepest point where they called as“royal garden”. Similar to other palace, this appears to has a clear pond and a fascinating landscape of small mountains

This turtle lookalike has a saying : It gives good luck to those touches its head. 


Sung Sot cave is the most famous and the most spectacular cave in Halong Bay which is in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage area. 



Our next destination: Ti Top island.

 What an amazing view at the beach! 
We could also climb the stairs up to the top of the mountain to see panoramic scenary. 

 Pretty cool, isn't it? Winter mist please go away. 

We proceeded back to our cruise after this for our dinner and night prawning later~


We had some time to spare before dinner so we went to the rooftop to chill and take pictures.

  


Fooled around on the rooftop where nobody was there. Apparently, balancing on the sea is very hard to maintain.

Our dinner! The dishes repeated themselves for the next two days too.

This is how it looks at night.

Second day~

Our breakfast! It did not has a wide variety but good enough already. #samebreakfasttomorrowtoo

We had to take another boat for about 2-3 hours away from the overcrowded water area to the Southern end of Halong bay where we can kayak around the limestones. Initially, I was a little afraid that the kayak would not be stable but I was totally relieved when I saw the sea was very calm.



We were initially a little worried that the weather would be too cold to kayak but it seemed quite ok after we started to move our oars.

Group pic before we start!

This is quite a #yolo for me who does not know how to swim to kayak in the middle of the sea. Bf gave me lots of security as he is so damn good on kayaking. I pretty much sitting in front lying back and enjoying the scenery lol!

The most hardworking person behind. I gave him my towel as his reward lol




Then our tour guide brought us through this narrow canal to the gorgeous shallow shore. 

It was really shallow that we had to push against the rocks to move forward.

Then we took a short break. That was our tour guide on the left helping the little girls to stop the kayak. He was a very humble person and we really liked him alot. 


Then we continued to kayak through caves. Every time we got past a cave, it is as if we have gone to another paradise. Definitely the best way to feel the beauty of the lime stones in Halong Bay that could not be seen from the cruises. The atmosphere was so serene and soothing as if the whole sea belongs to you.

Let's go explore together~ You and me~


Yays~

Mobile convenience stall lol

Private beach in the middle of nowhere.

Our shag faces~


Back to the boat for lunch while heading back to the main cruise. We were very dumb enough not to bring extra clothing. Our clothes were already drenched when we kayaked and the freezing weather made it worse! We were practically shivering the whole journey back..... #smartass

Good night Halong Bay~

Third day!


Today's itinerary is to visit floating village to see how they live and work.






This village specialized in pearls whereby they plant the pearls into oyster to grow.


Tons of other seafood. Some looked very creepy.


After this, we went back to the cruise to pack our luggage.

My way to say goodbye lol

Winter is not the best season to go Halong Bay as it may get a little misty.