Off to Utah, No Updates on Monday!

Just a quick update to let readers know there will be no updates on Monday. I'll be heading out to Utah on assignment for a very quick trip, and won't be posting any adventure news while I'm there. I'll be back quickly however, and regular updates should resume on Tuesday.

In the meantime, have a great weekend. Be sure to head outside and enjoy a few adventures of your own.

Video: Hiking to the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trail is a famous hiking route through the Peruvian Andes that culminates with a visit to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. In this video, we get to walk a part of that trail and enjoy some amazing video footage of the ancient Inca fortress. This is a wonderful clip that will inspire wanderlust as we head into the weekend.

Video: Motorcyclists Have Close Encounter with a Bear

You just never know who you might bump into when traveling through the woods. In this video, two motorcyclists in Russia discovered that fact first hand when they nearly hit a bear that runs out onto the dirt road in front of them. Fortunately, the bear and the riders came away unscathed, and we get this cool footage of the close encounter.

Video: Drone Captures Shark Migration Off the Coast of Florida

Here's a short but very sweet video. It was shot off the coast of Florida by a drone, which managed to capture the annual migration of spinner sharks, which are swimming in large numbers towards Palm Beach. But don't panic, these sharks are not aggressive, and the chance of them attacking a person are quite low. Just enjoy this view of another one of nature's great migrations.

Redington ELEMENTS | Migrations from Redingtongear on Vimeo.

Ever Wonder What it's Like to Sail Across the Antarctic Ice?

Have you ever wondered what it's like to sail across the surface of the Antarctic using wind to push you along? If so, then you'll want to check out the video below. It was shot by Charles Werb, the Australian adventurer who is on the frozen continent right now, and preparing to sail his specially built craft to the South Pole as part of the Outer Edge Polar Challenge.

There have been some delays to the start of his journey, but hopefully he'll be headed south soon. Considering the video shows that he can travel as fast as 11 mph (17.7 km/h), he'll be able to cover the distance much more quickly than the Antarctic skiers, all of whom have all completed their expeditions and gone home now. When he does get moving, Werb will be racing against time, as the weather in Antarctica is about to take a turn, and it won't be for the better. Hopefully the winds will get him to the Pole quickly, and back on to home.

Winter Climbs 2016: International Team Completes First Winter Ascent of Nanga Parbat!

Mountaineering history has been made in Pakistan today, where climbers have completed the first winter ascent of the 8126 meter (26,660 ft) Nanga Parbat. Their efforts come after years of perseverance and determination by countless climbers who had hoped to tame the mountain in the most dangerous and difficult season of them all. 

There aren't a lot of details on the final stage of the climb, but we do know that the team set out in the early hours of the morning to make their final push to the summit. According to reports, Alex Tkikon, Ali Sadpara, and Simone Moro reached the summit at 3:37 PM local time. The fourth member of the team – Tamura Lunger – stopped short of the top for some reason, although we're not exactly sure why as of yet. 

The team launched this summit bid on Monday this week, climbing up to Camp 2 in a single push. They were then forced to hold there for a day due to very high winds, but those gusts died down on Tuesday, allowing them to move up to C3 on Wednesday and C4 yesterday. That put them in a position to take advantage of a good weather window, and make the final ascent to the top today. They have now descended back to Camp 4 at 7200 meters (23,622 ft) and will spend the night there before returning to Base Camp tomorrow.

With the first winter ascent now complete on Nanga Parbat there is just one other 8000 meter peak that remains unclimbed during that season. That mountain would be K2, perhaps the toughest and most unforgiving of them all. K2 is incredibly difficult during the best of conditions, and in the winter it turns especially dangerous. No one has really come all that close to completing that climb during winter, although there have been numerous deaths in the attempt. It seems likely that K2 will become the focus of winter climbing in the years ahead, but it could be some time before anyone actually is successful in that effort. 

Congratulations to Alex, Ali, and Simone for reaching the summit, and Tamara for playing an integral role in getting them there. Get down safe. 

Video: Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza

A few days ago I posted a video of an urban climber ascending a tower in Dubai. Today, we have another urban climber, but this time he's going up one of the most iconic structures ever built - the Great Pyramid at Giza. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, but I have some pretty mixed emotions about this one. Hopefully this doesn't become a trend, as these pyramids are over 4500 years old and are the last of the Seven Wonders of the World that remain. Keeping people from damaging them should be a priority.

Video: Biking the 800+ Mile Arizona Trail

In this video, the latest from REI, we follow bikepacker Lael Wilcox as she challenges herself to ride the entire length of the 800+ mile (1287 km) Arizona Trail, which runs north-south for the entire length of that state starting at the border of Utah and ending at the border of Mexico. The route passes through dense pine forests, into the remote desert, and even past the Grand Canyon. You'll see all of this, and more in this great clip that takes us along for the ride.

Fast Forward from REI on Vimeo.

Ripcord Travel Protection Supporst Anti-Poaching Efforts Namibia by Running an Ultramarathon

My friends over at Ripcord Travel Protection have been very busy lately. In addition to lending a hand to travelers all over the world, they've also gearing up for one of the most demanding ultramarathons in the world – the 250 km (155 mile) Sahara Race held in Namibia. But they won't be undertaking this tremendous effort solely for the challenge, as they're also using it as an effort to raise funds to combat illegal poaching in that country too.

The Redpoint team will consist of the company's Vice President, Tom Bochnowski and Operations paramedic Andrea Waters. They'll travel to Namibia at the end of April so they can be at the start of the race on May 1. In the week that follows, they'll travel self-supported through the desert as they push themselves to complete each stage of the race under grueling conditions.

Tom and Andrea's efforts will also serve as an opportunity for Redptoin to help raise funds for the Next Generation Conservation Trust Namibia, an organization dedicated to stomping out the poaching of rhinos and elephants there. The nonprofit has pioneered the use of unmanned drones to combat poachers, but those UAV's are expensive and more are needed to combat the problem. To support this good cause, Ripcord has set up a donation page for those who want to contribute.

Last year while climbing Kilimanjaro, my travel insurance was covered by Ripcord and I had the chance to see them in action. Two members of our team had to be evacuated from the mountain and the professionals at Ripcord took care of the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. I was so impressed that I can't help but recommend them to any adventure traveler looking for the best coverage possible when traveling in remote places. In fact, I'll be using them again when I travel to Mongolia later this year. If you're planning an adventure of your own, visit the Ripcord website for more info.

The Changing Face of Climbing on Everest

We're a little over a month away from the start of the 2016 climbing season on Everest, and as I write this there are climbers from all over the world who are putting the final touches on their planning, and are anxiously awaiting the start of their expeditions. As always, it should be a busy, interesting year on the world's tallest mountain, but as it turns out, it could also be the end of an era as we see a changing of the guard there too.

Last week, Everest blogger Alan Arnette began a new series of articles about how the mountain is changing. You can read part 1 here, which gives us the background of what is happening there, and how it will impact the future of climbing in Nepal, and beyond.

In a nutshell, the business of guiding on Everest is changing dramatically, with more and more western guide services having a difficult time competing with the local outfitters, who are dramatically undercutting them on price. They can do this because they are not subject to some of the same rules and regulations as operators from other countries, and aren't charged the same fees. This is making it impossible for the western companies to compete, and as a result some of those companies are making 2016 their final year on the Big Hill.

One of those companies is Altitude Junkies, who have been a staple on Everest for a decade. But AJ owner Phil Crampon explains exactly why he will abandon future expeditions to Everest, and will instead lead climbers on other mountains in Nepal and other parts of the world instead. This sentiment is echoed by Willie Benegas of Benegas Brothers Expeditions. They've led teams on Everest for years as well, but won't be there at all this season.

Most of what you read in this story is just background information for what's to come. Alan will delve deeper into this story, which should be a very interesting one for those who follow the Everest climbing scene closely. This year, we're told, will be less crowded that in the past, as many alpinists have elected to stay away. That's making the competitive landscape there even more challenging, as some of the bigger guiding companies aren't filling out their rosters as they have in previous years. Uncertainty over the climate on the mountain have left some gun shy, and as a result they're staying way for now. That will likely change in the future, but it is the reality of the situation now.

Of course, we'll be watching the season unfold with great interest as always. It seems like it's going to be quite an eventful year. 

Winter Climbs 2016: Summit Push Continues on Nanga Parbat as Team Reaches Camp 4

More news from Nanga Parbat today, where the international team of Alex Tkikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamura Lunger are in the middle of what could be a historic summit push. Yesterday we reported that they had reached Camp 3 on the mountain after waiting out high winds in C2 the day before. Today come word that the group has continued upward on schedule, and have now reached Camp 4 at 7100 meters (23,293 ft). This sets up a potential final summit push possibly as early as tomorrow.

All four members of the team have now spent weeks on Nanga Parbat, which is one of just two 8000-meter peaks that remain unclimbed during the winter season. There has been some doubt as to whether or not they were acclimatized enough to successfully go up to such a high altitude, but so far the four members of the squad seem to be moving efficiently despite the thin air.

If all goes according to plan, and the weather continues to hold, the team could attempt to reach the summit as early as tomorrow. They appear to be currently planning to do just that, having set up camp at a point that would give them a chance to have a go at the top following a very long day of climbing. It appears as if conditions are as good as they have been all year, which means we could see history made this weekend.

For now, we'll just have to wait and watch to see if this talented team can actually succeed where so many others have failed. There is still a long way to go before they top out, and we all know that the weather can change quickly. But there is cautious optimism surroundings this current summit push, which could very well be the final one of this winter season.

I'll post updates as we get them. Stay tuned for more soon.

Video: Running the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc with the Nike Elite Trail Team

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is one of the most well known and challenging endurance races in the world. It takes place each summer in the Alps, with several route options available. In 2015, a team of Nike Elite Trail runners traveled to Europe to take part in the CCC (Chamonix-Courmayeur-Champex) a 101 km (63 mile) race that starts in Courmayeur, Italy and finishes in Chamonix, France. This race has over 20,000 ft of positive elevation gain, and challenges competitors with unpredictable weather and tough trail conditions too. This short documentary video takes us along for the ride at this epic event, giving us a glimpse of what this amazing race is all about, and what it takes to finish it.

Video: Riding a Fat Bike Up Mt. Washington

At 1917 meters (6288 ft) in height, Mt. Washington – located in New Hampshire – doesn't seem all that intimidating. But outdoor enthusiasts know that this peak – the tallest in the eastern U.S. – is notorious for its bad weather. Because of its extreme conditions, with frequent subzero temperatures and very high winds, there is even a weather station located on the summit.

Recently, pro cyclist Tim Johnson decided to attempt to ride a fat bike up the Mt. Washington auto road, a 7.2 mile (11.5 km) jaunt in -19ºF (-27ºC) temperatures. This video takes us along for the ride, on what turns out to be every bit as challenging as he expected.

Video: One of Those Days 3 - Skiing with Candide Thovex

I don't post a lot of skiing videos here on The Adventure Blog, so when I do, it has to be special. This one is special. It marks the return of Candide Thovex, who is making quite a name for himself with his "One of Those Days" series of video. In this third installment, Candide continues to push the envelope, skiing some improbable lines and pulling off some very impressive stunts. This is pure fun on the hill by a guy who continues to set the bar higher and higher. Enjoy.

Gear Closet: Under Armour Bluetooth Wireless Earphones

One of the most popular running accessories amongst my friends in recent months has been wireless Bluetooth earphones. Most of us run with our smartphones these days, listening to music, audiobooks, and podcasts while we workout. But the cable that runs from our earbuds to our mobile device can be annoying at times, and often gets in the way. Wireless headphones eliminate this issue however, bringing a very high level of convenience, while also introducing some challenges of their own. 

Over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to test several different models of Bluetooth headsets designed specifically for runners. I've come to love the freedom that these types of headphones bring to the table, but have often found battery life to be a bit underwhelming. Recently, there has been a new entry into this increasingly crowded market, with Under Armour and JBL joining forces to release their own take on the wireless sports earbuds, and for the most part I'm very happy with the results. 

The first thing I noticed about the somewhat generically named Under Armour Headphones Wireless is the build quality. These earbuds feel incredibly solid in your hands, which seems fitting for a product that is meant to be used by frequent runners. We all know that we abuse our gear while out on the run, but these earphones are designed to shrug off the rigors of the road. Additionally, they are also water and sweat proof, keeping the tiny electronics inside safe from the elements. 

Paring these earphone with your mobile device vis Bluetooth is just as simple as you would expect, and takes only a few seconds to complete. Once the pairing process is done, the headphones will automatically connect to the audio device when it is turned on in the future, eliminating the need to repeat the process moving forward. The wireless connection between these earphones and my iPhone was strong, with very few distortions or dropouts. On two occasions (out of dozens of times using these earbuds) I actually had them disconnect from my phone, forcing me to turn them off and on again to re-establish the audio link. 

Unlike most other sports earbuds that I've tried, the Under Armour model only came with two sets of silicon covers that are meant to help find the perfect sizing for your ears. Competitors typically come with five or more, so I was somewhat dubious that they would fit correctly. The larger sizers were too large for my ears, but dropping down to the smaller covers did the trick nicely. Once twisted into place inside my ear, they molded to my personal contours and felt great. The fit was snug and comfortable, and exactly what you would expect from your earphones. 

That said, Under Armour and JBL offer a "guarantee" that these earbuds won't fall out no matter how vigorously you're moving. That hasn't exactly been the case for me, as I've had them bounce out on more than one occasion, and I routinely find myself adjusting the fit in my ear to keep them in place. Eventually I find just the right positioning, and they tend to stay in my ears at that point, but it can take a bit of fidgeting at times to make them work as advertised. Of course, everyone's ears vary in size and dimensions, so you may not find this to be a problem at all. 

These earphones are a bit larger than most other wireless models that I've tried, which some may find a bit distracting while out on a run. I equate that extra bulk to a larger battery, which extends the time between recharges out to 8 hours. That's better than most of the competition, and I've found that in real world testing, I could actually extend that battery life even further. Considering one of my least favorite things about using Bluetooth earbuds is having to recharge them all the time, this extended battery life came as a welcome addition. 

In terms of sound quality, the Under Amour headphones offer solid performance, particularly when compared to other wireless models. Vocals and music are clear and distinct, without just a touch of muddling at higher volume levels. Bass is at a minimum however, which is to be expected on earphones of this size. Wired earbuds still provide better all around performance in terms of audio quality, but most of us won't notice a huge difference, particularly while we're working out. 

As with most other headphones on the market these days, these earbuds have an inline remote that allows users to start and pause their music, adjust volume, power off and on, and pick-up phone calls using the built-in mic. Those features come in handy while out on a run, when using your smartphone directly isn't always convenient. 

With a price tag of $180, the Under Armor wireless headphones are definitely on the premium end of the spectrum. You will find other models that offer similar sound quality and battery performance for less money. You'll be hard pressed to find a set that are as durable and rugged however, which is an important thing to consider for runners. Some of those competitors won't survive nearly as long, which means you'll be plunking down more of your hard-earned cash once again. 

Overall, I really like these wireless earbuds. They are comfortable to wear, offer great battery life, and have good sound quality too. If you've been putting off taking the plunge into wireless audio for running, this is as good as any earbuds that I've tried so far. 

Winter Climbs 2016: Nanga Parbat Team Reaches Camp 3

If you've been following the unfolding climbing season on Nanga Parbat you already know that the lone remaining team on that mountain has launched a summit bid. A weather window is expected to open over the next couple of days, and the four climbers are now moving up with the hopes of taking advantage of an opportunity to reach the summit at long last.

On Monday of this week, Alex Tkikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamura Lunger set off from Base Camp for Camp 2, located at 6100 meters (20,013 ft). They had no trouble reaching that point later in the day, but as ExWeb reports, they were unable to go higher yesterday. High winds hit the mountain yesterday, keeping the team pinned down in C2. At times, it looked like they might have to scrub their summit bid altogether, but thankfully the winds quieted down later in the day, allowing them to continue upwards today.

With a quieter day today, the four teammates were able to climb up to Camp 3 without incident and are now firmly encamped there at 6700 meters (21,981 ft). The latest forecast says conditions are calm and beautiful at the moment, with favorable conditions expected to last into the weekend.

When Alex and Ali climbed to C3 a few weeks back they had determined that fixed ropes were not needed above that point. That means they could conceivably move faster on the higher flanks of the mountain, as not much snow has fallen at those altitudes in recent days.

If all goes according to plan, the team should move up to Camp 4 at 7100 meters (23,293 ft) tomorrow. Once there, they'll evaluate the current weather window, their physical condition, and other variables before deciding what will happen next. If everything is going as expected, they'll then proceed towards the summit.

We'll continue to watch this story develop over the next few days and keep our fingers crossed that everyone gets up and down safely, summit or not.

Video: Exploring Undisturbed Places

There are still remote corners of our planet where few people live and the trappings of modern life have yet to extend. It is in these places where we find some of the most spectacular night skies, as light pollution is nonexistent, giving us unfettered views of the heavens. This video takes us to such places in Namibia and Botswana, where the settings are captured in amazing fashion using timelapse photography. Sit back and enjoy four minutes of beautiful images that will inspire you to go to these places yourself.

Undisturbed Places - A Timelapse Film from Maciej Tomków on Vimeo.

Video: Urban Climber Takes on Tallest Residential Building in the World

James Kingston is a British man who has earned himself a reputation for being a bit of a daredevil by climbing buildings and towers in urban settings, filming his exploits, and posting the clips to YouTube. In this case, he captured his climb to the top of a 101-story building in Dubai that is the tallest residential structure in the world. As you can imagine, the ascent is a vertigo inducing affair, and it goes without saying that you shouldn't try this yourself at home. It is awfully fun to watch though.

Gear Closet: Osprey Mutant 38 Backpack

Looking for a great lightweight, versatile backpack for your winter adventures? Than look no further than the new Mutant 38 from Osprey, a pack specifically designed for ice climbing, snowshoeing, and ski mountaineering that offers everything you need and nothing you don't.

I recently carried the Mutant 38 with me on my trip to Canada, where I got the chance to put it through its paces while dogsledding and snowshoeing in subzero conditions. Before I set out I knew that my visit to Quebec would be an active one, and I wanted a pack that would offer plenty of capacity to carry the various gear, extra clothing, and supplies that I'd need for a busy day in the backcountry. The Mutant met that description nicely, and ended up exceeding the expectations I placed on it.

As the name implies, this pack has 38 liters of capacity, most of which is found in its spacious main compartment. I poured all kinds of gear – including camera and lenses, extra layers, food, and more – into it, and it still never felt like it was close to running out of space. That brought a nice level of confidence as we'd head out for the day, as I knew that I had all of the things I needed, and a pack that could carry it all quite comfortably.

When designing the Mutant 38, Osprey was looking to go as light as possible without compromising comfort or durability. Out of the box, the pack weighs about 2.5 pounds, but it gives the wearer the option to shed items they might not need in an effort to cut ounces. For instance, the pack's lid can be removed completely, as can attachment and side straps, aluminum stays, the helmet carry, and framesheet.

With all of that out of the way, the Mutant transforms into an ultralight minimalist pack that weighs next to nothing. Surprisingly though, it is sill capable of comfortably carrying lots of gear for those quick dashes to the summit or fast hiking on a trail. This level of versatility also allows you to dial in exactly what features you need, and do away with the ones that you don't.

At first glance, the Mutant looks like it might not be all that comfortable, particularly when you fill it to its 50 pound (22 kg) capacity. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are thin and lightly padded, and look like they wouldn't provide a lot of support. That is misleading however, as once you have the pack on, it feels great, even with a heavy load. The fact that Osprey has managed to pull off this minimalist approach to design, while still delivering a very high level of performance, is impressive indeed.

Other nice features of the Mutant 38 include two handy bungie tie-offs for keeping your ice tools close at hand, reinforced ski carry loops, crampon attachment loops, and compression straps for maintaining a well balanced load. The hipbeilt is also designed to wrap away from the body so as to not interfere with a climbing harness, while an integrated hydration sleeve can accept reservoirs up to 3 liters in size, and doubles as an adequate laptop sleeve when used for travel.

It is important to point out that the Mutant isn't loaded with a lot of pockets or organizational stashes. The removable top-lid does have two other zippered pockets built into it, but other than that the design of the pack would best be described as spartan. This isn't a knock on the backpack at all, but something to be aware of. If you're looking for a bag that has lots of places to store small items and keep your gear organized, this probably isn't going to work for you. On the other hand, if you know this going in, and organize your gear accordingly, the Mutant will work very well for you.

While putting this pack to use in the Canadian backcountry, I was extremely pleased with how it performed. It was comfortable enough to wear all day long, with the ventilated backpanel helping to keep the air flowing, which was useful even in the cold conditions. The Mutant allowed me to carry everything I needed for a full day of adventure, without even really noticing that it was on my back, and since it is designed for use in the winter, everything inside was well protected from moisture and cold.

I'd be remiss in my review if I didn't mention that this pack is also backed by Osprey's awesome All Mighty Guarantee. That means that the company will fix or replace the pack if it becomes damaged for as long as you own it. It's tough to beat that kind of service, and it is just one of the reasons I happen to love their packs.

The Mutant 38 is just $160, which strikes me as a great price for a technical pack of this quality. It is a very comfortable and versatile bag that has a lot of nice touches that winter warriors will definitely love. That said, it is so well designed, you'll be able to use this pack all year long, no matter what the season.

Extension of Everest Climbing Permits Clears Another Hurdle

It's no secret that the past couple of years have been tough ones on Everest. In 2014, the season was shut down after an avalanche claimed the lives of 16 porters, and last year the massive earthquake in Nepal killed 19 more people, bringing an abrupt end to operations on the mountain as well. Since then, expedition leaders and climbers have been anxiously awaiting word as to whether or not the climbing permits issued last year would be honored moving forward. A few days back, they inched a bit closer towards a resolution, with the outcome looking very positive.

Over the past weekend, it was announced that Nepal's Finance Ministry has approved a plan from the Tourism Ministry that would extend the permits issued in 2015 for two years. That would mean that climbers who purchased a permit last season could return in 2016 or 2017 to attempt Everest once again.

The proposal isn't quite a done deal yet however. It has now been sent to the Nepali governments Cabinet for final approval. It seems likely that they'll rubber-stamp the plan however, allowing mountaineers to return without having to purchase another pricey permit.

This will come as good news for climbers who weren't on Everest as well. Many mountaineers on a variety of peaks in Nepal had their expeditions disrupted or cancelled altogether in 2015, and most of those will see their permits extended too. According to reports, 801 people were issued climbing permits for mountains in Nepal last year, with 357 of those designated for Everest.

I'm sure this news will bring a sigh of relief to many climbers who have been waiting to finalize their plans. The 2016 season isn't all that far off at this point, so if they're hoping to climb this year, they still have a bit of time to get everything together before setting off for Kathmandu in a little over a month.

Arctic 2016: North Pole Team Changes Direction, Now Heading South Instead

Back in January I told you about the Race Against Time team, a group of three polar explorers who were planning on skiing to the North Pole from the Russian side of the ice this season. They had originally planned to set out this month on what promised to be an arduous journey that has become increasingly more difficult in recent years due to climate change. But now, the objective of the expedition has changed, as has the direction they'll be traveling.

This past weekend, the team – which consists of Mark Wood, Paul Vicary and Mark Langridge – announced that instead of setting out from Russia in February, they will now fly to the North Pole in April, and ski south to Canada instead.

The expedition remains aptly named, as the trio of explorers will still be racing against time. If all goes according to plan, they'll set off from the Pole on April 1, and will have just 35 days to reach their pick-up point at Ward Hunt Island, which falls just along the Arctic Circle. Why they tight constraints on the travel? Because after May 5, the Canadian aircraft won't be able to land on the ice as the spring thaw begins. That leaves them no choice but to cover the 470 nautical miles (870 km/540 miles) in just 35 days, which would beat the current record for this route by 3 full days.

I've said for sometime now that the toughest challenge in exploration and adventure right now is a ski expedition to the North Pole. It has only been done once in recent years, and as the Earth's climate changes it is only becoming more difficult. So, when this expedition was originally announced, I was looking forward to seeing how this team would do. Now, their entire journey has changed dramatically, and as a result this will be a very different one than was originally proposed.

That isn't to say that traveling south will be any easier. The team will still face massive challenges on their expedition, including melting Arctic oceans, unpredictable weather, massive ice flows to overcome, and more. But heading south does allow them to use negative drift to their benefit, as they'll often continue to make up ground even while sleeping as the ice they camp on floats away from the North Pole.

As of right now, I'm unaware of any other teams that are planning expeditions to the Arctic this season. If more come forward, I'll be sure to share their stories and follow them as they make their journeys. But considering the costs, challenges, and dangers of such a trip, I don't anticipate too many others joining the party. We'll have to wait to see however, as there will certainly be "last degree" skiers and a few other unique expeditions.

In the meantime, we'll have to wait to see how things unfold.

Video: The Shapes of Winter

Spring is still a month away from arriving here in the Northern Hemisphere, but already winter is fleeting. This video reminds us to take some time to cherish the season while it still lasts. Shot in Sweden, the 2.5 minute clip gives us some beautiful shots of winter landscapes with snow and ice adding a unique touch to the region.

SHAPES OF WINTER (4K) from Marcus Möller on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing Link Sar - A Remote Peak in Pakistan

Last summer, climbers Andy Houseman and Jon Griffith traveled to the Karakoram in Pakistan to attempt a 7041 meter (23,100 ft) unclimbed peak known as Link Sar. The mountain gave them the biggest challenge of their life, testing their resolve and considerable skills along the way. You can see how this expedition unfolded in this fantastic video that comes our way courtesy of The North Face.

Best Hike Takes Us to the Villarrica Traverse in Chile

While I was spending my time snowshoeing and dogsledding in Canada a few weeks back, my friend Rick McCharles, who runs, was returning home from a month of trekking in Chile. While there, he discovered what he calls the absolute best route in the country while hiking along the Villarrica Traverse, an 81 km (50 mile) walk that he deems as quite challenging.

The hike takes visitors through remote wilderness that is dominated by volcanic peaks throughout the region. Not the least of these volcanoes is the active Villarrica itself, which looms 2860 meters (9380 ft) overhead. The walk itself takes place mostly above treeline, which helps to provide beautiful views throughout the trek, which takes roughly 5-6 days to complete.

As usual, Rick does a great job of providing information to readers about the hike, giving us tips about where to start, when to go, and what to expect along the way. He even writes daily summaries of the traverse, each of which offers really great information for those who would like to make the trek themselves. Not only do these summaries give you insight from someone who is a very experienced backpacker, and has walked some of the most iconic routes in the world, but the photos that are included are wonderful and helpful too.

If you'd like to hike the Villarrica Traverse yourself, read Rick's summary of the hike here, and then read his daily dispatches, which begin with Day 0 where we learn how to get Pucón, the start of the hike itself.

Looks like a great trek. Would love to do this myself at some point.

Adventure Tech: Beartooth is a New Communication Device for the Backcountry

Looking for a new way to communicate while traveling in remote places? Then check out the newly revealed Beartooth, a device that creates its own cell phone network, allowing users to stay in contact in place where coverage is normally impossible.

Much like the goTenna, which we reviewed back in January, the Beartooth connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology. A special app is then installed on your device that allows the user to send text messages to other  Beartooth users who are within range. But unlike the goTenna, this device can actually transmit voice messages as well using a push-to-talk option that is part of the app too. There is even group messaging for both text and voice as well.

Other nice features include GPS tracking that allows the user to share his or her location with others. That point shows up on detailed maps that can be downloaded prior to departure for use offline. The Beartooth even has the capability to serve as a USB battery pack for your smartphone too, providing an extra charge via its 3000 mAh battery.

The Beartooth has a range of 2 miles, which is about half that off the goTenna, but the device is smaller and doesn't need to be dangled from your pack or tent via a carabiner. Instead, you simply activate it and put it inside your backpack. From there, you can pretty much forget about it, using just your smartphone to communicate.

When Beartooth begins shipping later in the year, it'll come with two devices, one for you and one for the person you need to communicate with in the backcountry. The MSRP is expected to be $399, but those who preorder now can get the device for just $249. That seems like a small price to pay for what could be the future of communications in the backcountry.

Winter Climbs 2016: Summit Push Begins on Nanga Parbat

It seems that the time is now no Nagna Parbat, one of two 8000 meter peaks that remain unclimbed during the winter season. A team of international climbers that joined forces a few weeks back, and have remained patient over the past two months, has now launched a summit bid as a weather window is expected to open later this week.

Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamara Lunger left Base Camp earlier today and are now in Camp 2 at 6100 meters (20,013 ft) on the Kinshofer route. The team has previously fixed ropes up to Camp 3 at 6700 meters (21,981 ft), and had determined that further rope-fixing would not be necessary from that point on. Whether or not those conditions have changed over the past few weeks, when high winds buffeted the mountain, and heavy snow fell at times, remains to be seen.

Later in the week, a small but – but very stable – weather window is expected to open, giving the team a chance to potentially reach the summit in just a few days time. It seems that conditions aren't likely to get any better than they will at the end of this week, and the climbers are now getting themselves into position to take advantage of the shift in weather.

The biggest challenge that they'll have to overcome will be the high altitude. Alex and Ali have been as high as 6700 meters as part of their acclimatization, but that was weeks ago. Likewise, Simone and Tamara have been up to 6100 meters, but not much beyond that. How that will impact their ability to climb higher will be a key element of their success or failure.

I'll be keeping a close eye on their progress over the next few days. It is possible we could see history made later in the week. The weather and route should be in the best shape of the season, which means it could be now or never. With just a month to go until the arrival of spring, there may not be a better chance in the near future. Keep your fingers crossed for these four climbers to get up and down safely, summit or not.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that Cleo Weidlich has probably left the mountain. She was a late arrival, showing up at the end of January with 5 Nepali sherpas, just as the weather took a turn for the worse. While she shared few details of the expedition, it seems unlikely that she was ever able to get much higher than BC.

If Cleo has indeed left, that means that Alex, Ali, Simone, and Tamara are the only climbers still on Nanga Parbat. If it is going to be climbed this winter, it'll have to be by them.

Good luck to the climbers as they set off on a potentially historic summit bid.

Video: Yosemite's Annual Firefall Caught on Film

Each year in February, the sun hits the upper portion of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park, illuminating it with a golden glow that makes it look like it is on fire. It is quite the site to see, and this year that "firefall" as it is known was caught on video, which you'll find below. This was shot just a few days ago, and as you'l see, it makes an incredibly beautiful place, even more so.

Video: Epic Speedriding Through the Alps

We've seen some good speedriding videos in the past, but it has been awhile since we've come across anything like this one. What's speedriding? It's another name for speedflying, which is a combination of skiing and paragliding that allows people to literally fly down the side of mountains that they typically wouldn't be able to ski. It looks like a lot of fun, and really opens up the possibilities for backcountry exploration.

In this video, we join a couple of speedriders as they blaze down some beautiful mountains in the alps, skiing past small villages, through deep canyons, and across some very steep mountainsides. Don't try this at home folks. It isn't for everyone.

Video: Kayaking with Whales in Maui

Shot just a few weeks back, this video takes us to Maui in Hawaii to go kayaking with whales. The footage was shot with a GoPro camera, and shows just how close the paddlers were able to get to the giant mammals swimming around them. But the best shots came when the filmmakers plunged their camera under the water and captured several whales swimming just below them. Having recently gone whale watching myself, I found this video to be a lot of fun.

Kayaking with Whales from Chris on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Big Agnes Meaden Down Jacket

When you travel to a cold weather destination you quickly learn the value of having good gear. Recently, while visiting Quebec, Canada, the temperatures dipped well below -20ºF/-28ºC, with windchills as low as -45ºF/-42ºC. That's cold, but with the right gear and a good layering system, it is surprisingly easy to not just survive in those conditions, but enjoy yourself too.

To get along in temps that cold, you need warm baselayers, a wind and waterproof shell, and of course a good insulating later in-between. Usually that insulating layer is either a fleece jacket or in colder conditions a down jacket, which provides the best weight to warmth ratio imaginable. On my recent Canadian adventure I took the new Meaden Jacket from Big Agnes, which exceeded my expectations in terms of comfort, warmth, and fit.

In terms of insulation, the Meaden Jacket features 850 fill down from Downtek, which means it is water resistant, virtually eliminating the one fault with using it in an active jacket. In the past, when down got went, it lost its loft, clumped together, and became almost useless. This issue was only exasperated when the down would freeze in cold conditions.

But with hydrophobic down produced by Downtek, this is not an issue. That means the Meaden will continue to perform well, even when it gets wet, which is something that helps to separate it from other jackets that don't bother using water resistant down, and quite frankly if you're in the market for jacket of this type, it is silly to consider anything else these days. Usually it doesn't add much to the cost of the jacket, and what you gain in performance is easily worth the extra money.

The surprising thing about this particular jacket isn't that it is warm, but just how warm it is for the weight. Big Agnes has created an article of clothing that performs incredibly well, and weighs next to nothing. The large version of the Meaden tips the scales at just 11.5 oz. (326 grams), which is incredibly lightweight for jacket that offers this level of performance.

Despite its low weight however, Big Agnes didn't compromise on a durability. The jacket is designed with the active crowd in mind, and so it is built to survive our adventures in harsh conditions. The lightweight ripstop fabrics used on the Meaden are tough, abrasion resistant, and made to last. My test model was used extensively throughout my travels in Canada, and it looks completely brand new.

One of my favorite features of this jacket is its straight, athletic cut. Clearly the designers at Big Agnes know their customers, most of whom are very active in the outdoors. The design of the Meaden is meant to not impede movement in any way, even while serving as part of a much larger layering system. When that design is paired with the lightweight of the jacket, you end up with a garment that you can pull on, feel warm, and forget that you are even wearing it. That's a powerful combination to find in any piece of performance gear.

Big Agnes didn't skimp on the pockets on Meaden either. In addition to two hand-warming pockets on the exterior of the jacket, there is a larger interior mesh pocket as well. This came in handy when trying to keep camera and smartphone batteries warm in the cold conditions, which can zap them of power very quickly. A second interior pocket, located on the chest, is great for stashing small items too, and cleverly converts into a stuff sack for packing the jacket when traveling as well.

The Meaden has a number of other nice features that seem small at first, but add up to make it an exceptional piece of gear. For instance, it has thumb holes that add warmth to the hands and wrists, but also ensure that your sleeves fully extend when donning an outer shell. The main zipper also includes a no-draft flap to help keep the cold winds out, and an adjustable drawcord on the hem helps to lock in warmth too.

With a price tag of $380, the Meaden Jacket is a bit pricier than similar jackets from the competition. But, it also comes with Big Agnes' trademark high quality. To me, that makes the cost of this jacket well worth the price. It is a great combination of thoughtful design, high quality materials, and fantastic performance. That is a rare thing to find in any product, let alone a piece of outdoor gear.

If you're in the market for a new high-performance down jacket, the Big Agnes Meaden is a fantastic choice. it is a bit on the pricer side, but what it delivers makes it well worth the cost. This is a jacket that will be with you for years, and continue provide warmth on even the coldest of adventures.

Explorers Discover Legendary Boiling River in the Amazon

Need proof that we still don't know as much about our own planet as we think we do? Than look no further than this story about a team of researchers that discovered a legendary boiling river located deep in the Amazon. In a new book entitled The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon, Peruvian scientist Andrés Ruzo shares the story of the discovery of this river, which he first heard about from his grandfather, who told him that Spanish conquistadors wandered into the jungle, and returned months later with tales of strange animals, endless rainforest, and a river that was so hot that it boiled from below.

Video: Beautiful Skies From Around the Globe

There is nothing like a beautiful sky hanging over a breathtaking landscape. We're reminded of this by this great video, which was shot at a variety of locations around the globe, including Singapore, Sydney, Big Sur, Yosemite, Death Valley, and numerous other locations. While just three minutes in length, it is a mesmerizing look at something that we all see everyday, but often take for granted.

Skylight from Chris Pritchard on Vimeo.

Video: Snow Leopard Makes Rare Appearance For Skiers in India

The snow leopard is one of the rarest and most endangered species on the planet. So much so that they are seldom captured on video. But a group of skiers and snowboarders traveling through Gulmarg, in the Kashmir region of India, got the chance to spot one in the wild, and captured the encounter on video. You can check it out for yourself below.

Leopard in the snow in Gulmarg, Kashmir from PreviousNext on Vimeo.

Video: Extreme Mountaineering with Reinhold Messner

This video is a full-length documentary about Reinhold Messner, quite possibly the greatest mountaineer of all time. The 45+ minute film is a great introduction to Messner's story for those who aren't familiar with his impressive resume, and a good reminder of just what a trailblazer the Italian alpinist has been. In terms of setting the bar higher for those who followed, it's hard to think of anyone who did more than this man. A true living legend.

Canadian Adventures: Snowshoeing in the Valley of Phantoms

It's pretty widely known that Canada is a great outdoor adventure destination. From the amazing national parks of British Columbia, to the mountain biking and kayaking opportunities that Vancouver has to offer. But as I discovered on my recent trip to Quebec, the opportunities for adventure aren't limited to the western part of this expansive country. In fact, just the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region alone has plenty to offer the intrepid traveler.

A few days back, I wrote about my experiences dogsledding and encountering wolves at a very special place in the Saguenay region. And while that was a fantastic day, it was just one of several unforgettable adventures that I was lucky enough to have while there.

Perhaps my favorite day while visiting Quebec was when I had the chance to go snowshoeing in the unbelievably beautiful Valley of the Phantoms. I've been fortunate enough to snowshoe through some great environments in the past, but none of them came close to the Valley of Phantoms. This very special place is covered in a blanket of 5+ meters (16.4 feet) of snow each year, thanks in part to a unique microclimate that creates extra moisture in the air. When temperatures drop, that moisture turns to snow, which falls almost continually throughout the winter. As a result, the snow is deep, powdery, and fresh. It also tends to cling to the trees of the dense forest found in the valley, shrouding them in white. Those trees are referred to as "ghost trees" or "mummy trees" and walking amongst them is something you won't soon forget.

Our day in Valley of the Phantoms began at the visitor center of the Parc national des Monts-Valin, in which this unique landscape is found. Shuttles depart twice in the morning, taking guests into the starting point of the trail that winds through the valley. With so much snow on the ground, it is impossible to drive to the trailhead yourself, but fortunately there are some special vans equipped with treads that are more than capable of navigating the snow-covered roads.

After collecting our gear, securing are permits, and meeting our guides, we were soon off on the 40 minute drive to the start of the trail. Along the way, it became evident what makes the Valley of the Phantoms so special, as the road you take to the start of the hike is surrounded by thick forests which already prominently displayed the ghost trees that the region is famous for.

Before long, we reached the trailhead. Hopping out of the van, we each grabbed a pair of snowshoes and poles, and went to work getting geared up for our trek. That day it was roughly -23ºC/-10ºF without the windchill, so it was important to get bundled in layers. Proper boots and gloves were necessary too, and even then it was cold enough that when you stopped moving, the chills set in pretty quickly.

The trail through the Valley of the Phantoms winds upwards, constantly climbing as you go. While it is a fairly easy ascent, being in good physical condition will certainly make it less of a challenge. Thankfully, the main trail is groomed all winter long, which makes it a comfortable walk. In fact, if you stayed on the trail it would be possible to hike to the top without the use of snowshoes. But wander off piste at all, and you'll be glad you have them. Even with the snowshoes, every member of my group still managed to fall through deep holes int eh snow, sometimes ended up buried to our chests.

Hiking up the trail, the trees provided good shelter from the wind, and brought a sense of solitude to our walk. When walking alone, the place was nearly silent, with just the sound of your snowshoes in breath breaking the silence. Despite the cold, it was a truly memorable and enjoyable day in the outdoors, with breathtaking scenery around just about every bend.

About halfway to the summit, we stopped to take a break in one of the valley's warming huts. On that day, it was crowded in the small hut, but very warm too. We allowed our toes and fingers to thaw a bit while enjoying a tasty lunch. It was a nice respite from the cold temps just outside, but once we had finished our meal, we bundled up to head back outside in the elements.

From the warming hut, it was just 1 km (.6 miles) to the summit, and with recharged batteries we soon topped out on the 984 meter (3228 ft) peak. The winds at the top were much higher than they were in the shelter of the valley itself, which caused temperatures to drop sharply. Still, the cold was far from our minds, because the incredible views that were found there trumped everything else.

We picked a great day to visit the Valley of the Phantoms. Throughout most of the winter, the skies are cloudy and snow falls almost constantly. But when I was there, it was a clear day with bright blue sky, and the sun shining overhead. That translated to breathtaking views from the summit, allowing us to see for miles in all directions. The ghost trees stretched out around us, showing us the boundaries of the microclimate that make them possible, while offering enticing views of the wilderness beyond. In a word, it was spectacular.

After spending quite a bit of time on the summit taking photos, we decided it was time to begin our descent at long last. But, our guide took us off the trail and into the more remote areas of the park. Here, the snow was deep and treacherous, and far different from the nicely groomed trail. It was during this part of our trek that we all discovered how well hidden holes in the snow can be, as everyone of us plummeted into the deep powder, which acted a bit like quicksand, even with snowshoes on our feet.

Those occasional obstacles only added to the fun though, and exploring off piste was a great adventure. If walking on the trail showed us the beauty of the valley, getting into the heart of the forest displayed its wild side. Walking amongst the trees was real joy, although if you do wander away from the hiking route, it would probably be good to do so with a guide. It is easy to get lost in the forest, and there were plenty of times I was happy that someone else was taking the lead.

By late afternoon we arrived back at the main trail and finished our descent back to where we started. It has been a tremendous day in this amazing place, and we were all reluctant to leave it behind, despite the very cold conditions. Thankfully, that evening was spent in a cabin that overlooked a frozen lake, giving us a chance to experience this pristine wilderness after dark too. We took advantage of that opportunity by heading out in the evening to catch a peek at the stars overhead. By then, the temperatures had dropped even further, but we didn't mind at all. We knew a hot fire was waiting for us back inside, and the view was well worth it.

Next up, ice fishing on Lac-Saint-Jean!

Trio of Adventurers Set to Travel From the Arctic to the Atacama

A trio of adventurers is heading north to start an epic journey that will span more 1500 km (932 miles) under their own power, and take them to environments that range more than 100 degrees celsius in temperatures.

The team consists of ultrarunners Ray Zahab, Jen Segger, and Stefano Gregoretti, who are currently en route to Qikiqtarjuaq, a Canadian island located in the Arctic Ocean, where they will begin the first stage of the expedition. Once there, they'll start heading south over the frozen landscape by fat bike and foot. Their route will take them to Baffin Island, which they'll traverse on their way to the community of Pangnirtung. Along he way, they'll cross 300 km (186 miles) through harsh arctic conditions where temperatures are expected to plummet as low as -50ºC (-58ºF).

Immediately after finishing the first leg of their journey, the three endurance athletes will next travel to South America to begin the second phase of the adventure. They'll be heading to northern Chile, where they'll make a traverse of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on the planet. They'll follow the same route that Zahab used when he ran across the Atacama on foot back in 2011. This time out though, they'll cover the 1200 km (745 miles) on mountain bike. While in the desert, the thermometer will reach 50ºC (120ºF), a stark contrast to the northern stage of the expedition.

The expedition has been dubbed Arctic 2 Atacama, and it should be officially underway in just a few days. The website is still filling in with information, but once things go live, expect daily updates on the team's progress, including status updates and videos from the trail. This promises to be quite the grueling journey, but a fun one to follow.

Good luck to Ray, Jen, and Stefano.

Video: The Eternal Lights of Lofoten, Norway

The Lofoten Islands of Norway are known for their remote location and spectacular landscapes. It is also considered one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights, all of which are on display in this video, which was shot over a 14-day period last year. This is a beautiful part of the world that few of us are ever fortunate enough to see, and this clip takes us on an unforgettable tour of this amazing place.

Lofoten Eternal Lights from Jose A. Hervas on Vimeo.

Video: Meet The Bush Pilots of Ketchikan

Even in the 21st century there are plenty of places in Alaska that remain cut-off from the rest of the world. The wild and expansive landscapes of that state makes it impossible to build a road system that can accommodate everyone. That's why so many people own airplanes there and use them to fly between destinations. In this video, we meet some of the bush pilots of Ketchikan, which have a reputation for being able to fly anywhere, anytime, and do it with style. This short documentary tells their story, and offers some amazing looks at the great scenery that is so common in Alaska. Get comfortable for this one, you're going to want to watch it all the way through.

Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots from Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: BioLite's Energy Kit Brings Tech Solutions to Camping Challenges

One of the members of the outdoor industry that I've watched with great interest over the past couple of years is BioLite. The company burst on to the scene a few years back with their awesome CampStove, which uses wood to cook your dinner, while also harnessing the heat to create power that can be used to recharge your favorite mobile devices too. The CampStove caught the attention of many outdoor enthusiasts, and even spawned a bigger version for use at larger campsites, while allowing BioLite to launch a great project to bring clean cookstoves and power to developing parts of the world.

But those wonderful products were just the tip of the iceberg for this innovative company, which looks for technology solutions to make our camping excursions more convenient and fun. Following their initial arrival on the outdoor gear scene, BioLite has continued to release innovative, eco-friendly gear that often leaves me wondering "why didn't someone think of this sooner?" And now, the ingenious team behind the CampStove has created a full energy system that is affordable, well designed, and easy to use. Here's what they have on top for us.

BioLite CookStove ($99.95)
With the new CookStove, BioLite has taken the tried and true design of the classic CampStove, and tweaked it slightly to make it a more affordable product that meets their customers needs. Essentially, the CookStove operates exactly like its predecessor, without the ability to collect power from the heat generated from burning wood or recharge a smartphone.

BioLite discovered that while many of their customers loved the original CampStove, most of them were already carrying a portable battery pack to keep their mobile devices charged while on the go. So, when they were looking to release a streamlined version of their original product, they decided to remove the ability to collect power from heat and share it via a built-in USB port.

That doesn't mean the CookStove has lost any efficiency however. It still contains a battery operated airflow system that allows it to boil water and cook food very quickly. The battery contained in the stove can be recharged via USB as well, so it is possible to keep it running even on longer camping trips.

The original CampStove runs $129.95, but the new CookStove is just $99.95, making it more accessible to customers who are looking for a basic cook system that works well and is good for the environment too.

BioLite SolarPanel 5+ ($79.95)
As part of their commitment to the environment and clean energy sources, BioLite has also developed a portable solar panel that is lightweight, efficient, and easy to use. The SolarPanel 5+ is capable of producing up to 5 Watts of power, which is enough to recharge smartphones, tablets, and other BioLite gear, including the CookStove.

Solar power has become common throughout the outdoor industry in recent years, but in true BioLite style, the SolarPanel has a couple of features that help to set it apart from the crowd. For instance, it has a built-in kickstand that allows you to adjust the panel's angle to get the maximum amount of exposure to the sun. It also has an integrated sundial that helps with that process too. But perhaps most importantly, it comes equipped with a 2200 mAh battery that allows it to collect energy for use later in the day.

Durable and versatile, this solar panel is a great way to keep your important devices charged while in the backcountry, without breaking the bank. At just $80, this is a more affordable option than most of the competition, with some features that you won't necessarily find anywhere else.

BioLite PowerLight Mini ($44.95)
In addition to making clean cookstoves, BioLite has also been focused on making camp lighting systems as well. Their NanoGrid system is a great option for campers who want to illuminate their campsite in a quick, easy, and efficient manner, and the new PowerLight Mini carries on that tradition. This small, lightweight light comes with a rechargeable 1350 mAh battery that keeps it running for up to 52 hours, while providing as soft light that is perfect for use in dark locations.

The PowerLight Mini also features a built-in kickstand that allows it to be propped up on a table, or wear it in a pocket or from a strap. This level of versatility makes it a nice option, while its slim design makes it easy to carry with you anywhere you go.

Much like the SolarPanel 5+, this device can also be used to recharge your smartphone. BioLite has added a USB port to the side of the light that allows it to share some of its battery life with another gadget. This is a great feature of course, but just be aware that recharging your iPhone will dramatically cut down on the life of the lamp too.

Each of these new BioLite products are designed to work with one another in a way that makes camping not only fun, but good for the planet too. The entire line of products from this company continues to impress, and I look forward to see what they have for us next.

Winter Climbs 2016: Nanga Parbat Climbers Reach Camp 2

It has been a really long and difficult couple of weeks on Nanga Parbat. The teams who are hoping to complete the first winter ascent of that mountain have mostly found themselves confined to Base Camp while waiting out the weather. While things haven't improved completely, conditions have gotten a bit better, with reports indicating that at least one team is on the move again, and taking advantage of the conditions that the mountain is affording them.

The international team of Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamara Lunger have reportedly managed to climb back up to Camp 2 at 6100 meters (20,013 ft) in an effort to resume their acclimatization efforts. The group had turned back on a couple of previous attempts to climb above Camp 1 due to high winds, but were able to push through yesterday. If the current weather window holds, they hope to move up to C3 tomorrow.

After sitting in BC for a couple of weeks, the current rotation not only helps with their acclimatization, but is also giving the team a chance to review the conditions on the route, which have been covered in snow and ice in recent days. If the four climbers do get a chance to make an eventual summit bid, they now have a better understand of what they'll face on the way up.

Meanwhile, there is news from elsewhere on the mountain. Earlier in the week I posted that Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz was on his way back to Base Camp to continue his attempt to climb Nanga Parbat. You may recall that Tomek made a summit push with teammate Elisabeth Revol back in January, but after their bid came up short, the two left the mountain. While Revol returned to France as expected, Tomek hung around in Pakistan and was looking for an opportunity to give the mountain another go. It looks like that won't happen now however, with the Pole turning back once again.

According to ExWeb, Tomek was trekking back to BC and may have reached the huts in Kutgali, which are just a two-hour walk from Base Camp. But, it seems that he won't go any further, and has more than likely turned back and will now head home for good. This makes perfect sense considering his climbing permit is set to expire early next week.

Finally, there continues to be no updates from Cleo Weidlich, but ExWeb is also reporting that unofficial sources say that two members of her team have left the mountain as well. Weidlich reportedly acclimatized in Nepal before leaving for Pakistan, and was climbing with a team of five Sherpas. There is no indication of whether or not she has actually been able to move up the mountain, or the status of the team beyond this basic information.

That's it for now. I'll keep you posted as the season continues to unfold.

Patagonia Expedition Race Now Underway in Chile

The legendary Patagonia Expedition Race returned from a three-year hiatus yesterday when 18 coed teams of four embarked on what promises to be one of the most challenging adventure races of their lives. Over the course of the next ten days, the competitors will run, pedal, climb, and paddle their way across more than 600 km (372 miles) of the most spectacularly beautiful, and incredibly grueling, terrain on the planet.

Anyone who follows adventure racing has no doubt heard about the Patagonia Expedition Race. For years it set the standard for the sport, offering some of the most physically demanding courses ever. The famously bad Patagonia weather often played a role, with cold conditions, heavy rains, rough seas, and high winds often impacting the outcome of the event. Sadly, the race was off the schedule for the past two years, but has now returned bigger, and badder, than ever.

The teams arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile over the weekend where they went through mandatory gear and skills checks prior to the start of the race yesterday. As usual with an adventure race like this one, the competitors received their route information 24 hours before the start of the event, allowing them to plot their navigation points ahead of time. After the gun went off signifying the start of the race yesterday, they'll now spend somewhere between 6-10 days racing non-stop, 24/7 until a winner is crowned.

You can follow the PER on the race's official website or at It should be an interesting race to watch unfold.

Video: More Than Just Parks Presents Zion in 8K

The latest video from Will and Jim Pattiz – the two brothers behind the More Than Just Parks project – is Zion National Park in Utah, a place that is remote, wild, and breathtakingly beautiful. As usual, Will and Jim do an amazing job of capturing the essence of the park, giving viewers a spectacular tour of this amazing place in just four minutes time. If you haven't been to Zion yet, you need to add it to your list of adventure destinations. But then again, after watching this video, you'll want to do that anyway. Enjoy!

ZION 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Video: Introducing the 2016 North Face Speaker Series

For 2016, The North Face has once again assembled a stellar crew for its Speaker Series. This year you'll get the chance to listen to people like Conrad Anker, Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk talk about their adventures around the globe, sharing what they learned and how those expeditions shaped their lives. In this video, we get a preview of what those sessions will be like, with some amazing footage gathered from TNF sponsored expeditions. As usual, the clip looks top-notch, and will probably not only inspire you to want to listen to these men and women speak, but also get out on more adventures of your own. Never Stop Exploring.

Canadian Adventures: Dogsledding and Wolf Encounters in Quebec

Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Quebec, Canada to experience some of the winter adventures that the province has to offer. More specifically, I visited the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, which is dominated by numerous lakes and rivers, not the least of which is its namesake body of water, which is a source for endless possibilities for outdoor activities, particularly during the summer. In my case however, I was looking for chances to explore the regions winter offerings, and I didn't come away disappointed.

Flying into Quebec City, I spent my first night in the area enjoying a fantastic meal and wandering through the streets. There is definitely a European vibe to the place, with the vast majority of the inhabitants speaking only French, and obvious inspirations to the local architecture. Coming from the U.S., this makes it feel like you've traveled a lot further than you actually have, which gives Quebec an unexpected allure. It is also why the local tourism board went with the motto " So Europe, So Close."

As much as I enjoyed my visit to Quebec City, my stay was a brief one. The next day I set out with a few other travelers for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area to begin my explorations. This area is much more rural and rustic, with English-speaking citizens few and far between. That isn't a bad thing at all of course, but if you're expecting a similar experience as you find in other parts of Canada, you may encounter some unexpected bumps along the way. 

We were headed to a remote area of the Saguenay region, but en route we made a couple of stops along the way. The first was in a quaint little town called Robertville, which has made a name for itself locally by creating an ice village on its frozen lake each year. The village includes a walking trail and skating route, as well as a rink to play hockey of course. This is Canada after all. There are also more than 180 small cabins that range from basic escapes from the cold conditions, to elaborate homes away from homes. The locals see the ice village as a way to socialize with friends and family, and over the years it has become quite the popular place with visitors too.

While the Robertville ice village was a nice distraction, our ultimate destination was a place called Adventuraid. There, we would spend the night in small cabins and yurts located in the forest while we waited to meet the site's most interesting inhabitants - three packs of wolves that are kept in very large enclosures that allow them to run free, while still coming in contact with humans on a regular basis.

The following day, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with these creatures when the owner of Advenuraid introduced us to one of his packs. The standard gray wolf and arctic wolf packs remain shy and wild around humans, so we didn't enter either of their enclosures. But one of the packs has been imprinted with humans from an early age, and as a result they are comfortable with visitors. 

Inside the pen, we were given the chance to interact with the wolves, which were very friendly, but still had a wild streak in them. Several of the younger wolves followed us around while we explored the interior of their enclosure, which included dense woods for them to retreat to should they feel the need. It was clear they were just as curious about us as we were them, although some of the older members of the pack remained reserved and at a safe distance. 

The imprinted pack was made up of both gray and arctic variety of wolves, and much of the time they behaved like their canine cousins that we keep at home. They were certainly playful – stealing the hat off one of my companions heads, and refusing to give it back – and highly curious too. They also chased one another around with boundless energy, while still displaying the pack mentality that is well established in the wild, complete with a pecking order and a clearly defined alpha member. 

For me, this was a fantastic opportunity to interact with creatures that I had only seen from afar in the past. I never thought that I'd have the chance to see a wolf this close, let alone pet one. For any animal lover, the experience is deeply moving, and will stay with you long after you've left. But be warned, if you go to Adventuraid to meet the wolves yourself, there are no guarantees that you'll have the same experience I had. If the wolves are shy that day, or aren't feeling particularly accommodating, they may not approach visitors at all. In fact, some never even get to go inside the enclosure, as the safety, health, and well-being of the wolves takes priority. 

If you do go however, staying onsite is the best options. The cabins are located near the pens, so you can observe the wolves in their habitats. I woke up on the morning of my visit, essentially rolled over in bed, and was able to watch them right from the window of the cabin. It was a great way to start the day to say the least. 

After our encounter with the wolves was over, we grabbed a hot meal before launching the second stage of our Adventuraid excursion. The company organizes dogsledding tours which can last for just a few hours or extend to four or five days. Sadly, we didn't have time for the longer style of trip, but we did manage to spend the afternoon exploring the thickly wooded backcountry with sled dogs. 

This was my first time dogsledding, so I was eager to give it a go. We used six-dog teams, and had two people to a sled, a drive and a passenger. After helping the Adventuraid staff collect the individual dogs for each of our teams, we harnessed them in, and were soon off and moving. The dogs were incredibly powerful, and knew the route well, so it was easy to soon find a rhythm, but the initial surge when the dogs first take off is a real kick, and it was fun to see just how much they enjoyed the outing too. 

Steering the sled took a bit of getting use to. The dogs pull it along nicely, but the drive still needs to lean into a turn when making a sharp change in direction. After about 15-20 minutes of mushing I started to get the hang of it quickly, but not before burying my sled in a meter of snow after taking a turn too sharply. It was a harsh lesson to try to get the sled out of the deep powder without losing it altogether as the dogs pulled on it to go. But after a couple of minutes of scrambling, we were back on the trail, and off and running once again. 

Our route took us through the forest and down on to a frozen river, which gave us the opportunity to let the dogs open up a bit. They ran with strength and confidence, while my companion on the sled and I simply enjoyed the ride. Soon, we were back in the woods, and heading for home, but not before navigating plenty more backcountry trails, some of which were narrow enough that the sled could barely pass through. 

My all-too-brief dogsledding adventure was over before I wanted it to be. But, it did provide me with some good experience that I'm sure will come in handy if I ever get the chance to do it again. It was definitely a fun, exhilarating experience, and I know have even more respect for top mushers. 

Late in the day we left Adventuraid behind, but my companions and I continued to talk about our experience there long after we had moved on. It was a place that provided some unique experiences to say the least, and I don't think we'll soon forget them. Both the wolves and the sled dogs were wonderful animals, each unique in their own way. If you're looking for a truly great destination to experience some amazing outdoor adventures, than you should put the place on your radar. You won't come away disappointed in any way. 

Next up, snowshoeing in the Valley of the Phantoms