Video: A Visit to the Scottish Highlands

We'll wrap up the week with an all-too-brief visit to the Scottish Highlands. This video was shot on 1300 mile long trip around Scotland that began in Glasgow, ran to the Isle of Skye and back again. Stops along the way included Loch Lomond, Loch Ness and Glencoe, with the results being nothing short of spectacular. This is a beautiful and enchanting part of the world, and a place that should be on every traveler's bucket list. I hope you enjoy.

Highlands. from Joren de Jager on Vimeo.

Video: Dropping the 115-Foot Puma Falls in Chile

At the age of 19, pro kayaker Aniol Serrasolses became the first person to drop over the 115-foot Puma falls in Chile. The impact of that drop was so strong that it actually ejected him from his boat. Recently, he decided to go back and give it another go, this time looking to paddle a clean line. This video takes us to this extremely difficult and technical waterfall with Aniol as he takes the plunge once again.

Mongolia on Horseback Part 2: Dirt Roads, Mongolian Hospitality, and the Ride Begins

If you read part 1 of my series on my recent travels in Mongolia you already know that I arrived in Ulaanbaatar to discover a thoroughly modern, well kept, and orderly city that served as the perfect place to rest and recover before actually launching into the meat of this adventure. I had traveled halfway round the world to join a group of like minded adventurers taking part in a fantastic itinerary that is offered by my friends at Tusker Trail each year. And while I certainly enjoyed my time in UB, after a day or two of recouping from the long flights, I was more than ready to see what Mongolia had to offer us.

On our third day in country we caught an early afternoon flight for the town of Ulgii, which is the capital of the Bayan-Ölgii Aimag province. The city is home to about 28,000 people, and would serve as the true launching point of our journey, which would eventually take us into the heart of the remote and spectacular Altai Tavn Bogd National Park that falls on the border with China and Russia.

When we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, my fellow travelers and I were warned about something called the "Genghis Factor." Much like when you visit Africa and everything runs on "Africa Time," there are often factors that are beyond your control that can keep everything from running on a tight, efficient schedule. That means that when a flight is scheduled to leave at 2:00 PM in the afternoon, don't be too concerned if it doesn't actually begin an hour or more later. That's just the way things roll sometimes in Mongolia, and the Genghis Factor isn't just confined to flights. It can impact all kinds of other things as well, and it is best to just accept it, be patient, and roll with it while you're there.

That happened to be the case with our flight to Ulgii, which was about three hours in length with a brief stop over to pick up fuel and passengers at an intermediate point along the way. Ulgii was starkly different than Ulaanbaatar in that it was much more quiet and relaxed. The rural town has plenty of restaurants, markets, and shops for visitors, but it is definitely far from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Our accommodations for our night Ulgii were at a local Ger camp, where we stayed in the traditional yurts that are common amongst the nomadic people that inhabit the remote regions of Mongolia. The gers found there were basic and comfortable, but would seem like palaces once we struck out for the Altai Mountains. We enjoyed one last night's sleep in a bed before we'd be relegated to tents and sleeping bags for the majority of the trip.

After an overnight in Ulgii it was time at last to hit the road. The entire group was eager to strike out for the backcountry, and we knew we had a long journey ahead. Outside of the major cities in Mongolia, most of the roads aren't paved. That means we had to take Toyota Land Cruisers on seldom traveled jeep routes just to reach the starting point of our trip. That would prove to be quite an adventure in and of itself.

We made severals stops while en route to our first campsite, including visiting a Mongolian army base where we all checked in with the local authorities. But the most interesting stop was early on in the journey, when we met one of the legendary eagle hunters that call the region home. These hardy men use specially trained eagles to hunt down foxes that are found in the countryside. That activity typically takes place in the winter, and since we were visiting in the summer no one was heading out on a hunt. Still, were were able to not only get to see one of the hunters in his traditional gear, but also meet one of the enormous birds he uses for this task.

Our destination for the first day in the wild was a lake called Khoton Nuur. We would camp along the banks of that body of water for two days, allowing us to get accustomed to life in pastoral Mongolia while also meeting the horses (and horsemen!) who would see us through this adventure. But reaching Khoton Nuur would not be easy. It involved navigating narrow dirt roads for hours on end with only our guides' knowledge of the way to get us there safely. Along the way we would cross through rivers that were swollen with the summer melt-off following a snow winter and rainy spring. At one point, one of the vehicles even got bogged down in the middle of the water and had to be pulled out by another Land Cruiser. But eventually, after about six or seven hours of driving, we reached our destination, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Camping along the banks of the lake we could spot the Altai Mountains off int he distance. Snow glistened from their high peaks, while the tranquil waters of Khoton Nuur lapped lazily at the shore. The campsite sat on a wide open grassland, while the ger of a local family sat on a hill overlooking the proceedings. We all agreed that the site would be an amazing place to spend the first few nights in the field, and was an amazing scenic way to begin the first stage or our expedition into the mountains.

After getting settled into our tents and making ourselves at home, the entire group gathered in the two dining tents that Tusker has erected for us. These large, spacious, and comfortable shelters would become a refuge for all of us travelers in the days ahead, giving us a communal place to share stories, talk about the days events, and generally enjoy one another's company. They would also give us a warm place out of the elements where we could enjoy our meals too. Having climbed Kilimanjaro with Tusker last year, I knew that we could expect some exceptional food on the trip, especially considering our remote locations. Tusker cooks receive training from the Culinary Institute of America, and as a result they are often able to delight their guests with some delicious entrees that you would normally think would be possible so far from a "real" kitchen. Such was the case on this Mongolia trip as well, as Alex – one of Tusker's top cooks from Tanzania – was flown in just to ensure we had great meals each day. He achieved that mission throughout the journey.

After a good night's sleep along the banks of Khoton Nuur, we were all eager to get started the next day. Tusker's Mongolia itinerary is mainly aimed at exploring the Altai Tavn Bogd National Park by horseback, although clients can elect to hike the route as well. Most would choose one or the other over the course of the two-week trip, but a few of us mixed things up, sometimes riding and sometimes trekking depending on how we felt on any given day. This flexibility was nice as well, as not everyone was completely comfortable on a horse, much preferring to cover the distance under their own power instead.

On our second day along the lake we were introduced to the mounts that would be our companions throughout the trip. The family ger that overlooked our campsite was home to a group of exceptional horsemen who have carved out a living on the steppe for generations. They also happen to have a large herd of horses that have been born and bred to deal with the challenges that are found there. On that morning, they brought those horses to our camp, were we discovered that each of us had been assigned a mount that was suited for our physical stature and personality. My particular horse was a strong, sturdy, and sure-footed animal who tended to start out slow in the morning, lagging behind the group, but would have a little extra skip in his step later in the day. That suited me just fine, because I often feel about the same.

That morning we had a nice orientation ride with our horses, taking them out on an easy trail that allowed us to get comfortable with one another. It didn't take long to discover that these creatures knew their way around quite nicely, and were adept at carrying their riders safely from one destination to the next. When paired with a comfortable Australian-style saddle, it took only minutes for me to feel at home on the back of my steed, and as the days past my skill and confidence only grew as well.

After riding for a couple of hours we found ourselves approaching the family ger. The lead horseman – a large good natured man by the name of Karbi – invited us all to dismount and come inside their home. It was our first opportunity to see the traditional yurt as an actual nomadic family lived in it, and it was one of the early highlights of the trip. Inside, we found snacks that included fried bread, local cheeses, and various other snacks. We were also offered milk-tea, which was graciously accepted.

As you can imagine, the nomadic Mongols live a simple life free from lots of material goods. Still, there home was decorated with a variety of tapestries, photos, and other items, and their sturdy furniture was comfortable and accommodating. The ger was warmed by a single cookstove that used yak dung for fuel, and there was plenty of room – and food – for all of the guests inside.

Mongol tradition says that the nomads won't turn away even strangers when they show up at their door. Their sense of hospitality is such that they will extend every courtesy to anyone that approaches. We saw that first-hand with the wonderful way the welcomed our group into the ger, offering food, conversation, and entertainment. At one point, Karbi pulled out a traditional stringed instrument from the steppe and proceeded to play and sing several songs. It was one of those priceless moments that only comes through travel when you find yourself at the perfect spot, at the perfect time.

After spending an hour or so enjoying the company of our new Mongol friends, we remounted our horses and made the brief ride back to our campsite. That would be all for the day, but we would be setting out early the next morning for our next destination, and on the first actual horse ride of the trip. While we had gotten acquainted with our mounts, and gotten to know the horsemen who would guide us some, the following day would be very different. It was time to begin the real trip, and I for one couldn't wait.

We camped one more night on the shores of Khoton Nuur, dreaming about the adventures to come. It had already been an amazing experience in Mongolia, and the real journey was only just about to get underway.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Outside Takes Us to the Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Looking for an engaging read to keep you occupied heading into the weekend? Then look no further than Outside Online, where you'll find a great piece by Jason Motlagh that takes us into the "World's Most Dangerous Jungle."

In the article, Motlagh travel to South America to explore the infamous Darién Gap, a 160 km (100 mile) long and 50 km (31 mile) wide stretch of land between Panama and Colombia that has remained remote, wild, and completely untamed for centuries. A haven for drug-runners and rebel guerrillas that are a part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Gap is known for its thick forests, murky swamplands, and twisting rivers that have all conspired with one another to make it a nearly impassable barrier for those traveling through what is best characterized as one of the most impenetrable places on Earth.

Just how challenging is it to cross the Gap? Consider this. The 30,000 km (19,000 mile) Pan American Highway runs nearly unbroken from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina. I say mostly unbroken, because the one stretch of road that has never been completed is the section that is encompassed by the Darién Gap. That isn't to say that it can't be crossed however, as a 1960 expedition led by Land Rover proved. But it took the team 136 days to do so, covering an average of just 201 meters (220 yards) per hour.

Today, the Gap is also a major highway for smugglers looking to move immigrants across South America and north towards the U.S. Unfortunately, the way through the jungle is incredibly difficult, and many who enter never come out the other side. Over the years, explorers, journalists, researchers, and even adventure travelers have been swallowed up by the jungle there, never to be seen again. To say that this is one of the most dangerous places in the world would be an understatement, which is why it remains utterly fascinating as well.

Motlagh's story is a long, but incredibly interesting one, as he travels into the Gap to meet with FARC officials and to witness first hand the human trafficking that takes places there. His tale provides some perspective on this unique place, and just how difficult it is to travel through. It will also give you some idea why most people who travel along the Pan American Highway avoid it altogether, choosing to take a ferry around the jungle instead.

Read the entire story here and ponder what exactly it must be like in this dark, dangerous corner of our planet.

Swiss Climber Sets New Slackline Record on Kilimanjaro

This past weekend, Swiss alpinist Stephan Siegrist set a new record for the world's highest slackline by walking across a highline that had been set up at 5700 meters (18,700 ft) on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. His efforts weren't without their challenges however, as gusting winds, low oxygen levels, and even snow conspired to make his walk a difficult one.

The 43-year old Siegrist set up a 21-meter length of line between two rock towers located at the Arrow Glacier Camp on Kili. The rope was set at a height of about 150 meters (492 feet), which left it exposed to the elements, which included a rise in gusting winds as the day went along. The weather forecast even included snow, which doesn't happen often on Kilimanjaro, but is possible when conditions are right just about any time of the year.

While slacklining balance is always a key, but at such high altitudes the body reacts slower to just about any physical challenge. That was the case here as well, as Siegrist found it difficult to make progress, even though he is very experienced at the sport. Eventually he did manage to cross the line successfully however, officially establishing the new record.

Slacklining has continued to grow in popularity in recent years, particularly as more people like Stephen put up impressive results in remote places. The previous record had been set last year in the Ladakh region of India. That mark was established by Hungarian climber Bence Kerekes who walked a line at about 5300 meters (17,388 ft). These records are most unofficial of course, as there is no real governing body to that oversees the claims.

While I'm not much of a slackliner myself, I can't help but be impressed by these attempts. One only needs to look at the image above to get a sense of great the view was where Siegrist was walking. I suspect we'll only continue to see these daredevils push the sport to new heights, both literally and figuratively. I'm sure someone is already planning such an attempt in the Himalaya.

Congrats to Stephen on his new record.

Video: In the Land of Emperors

This video takes us to the Canadian Rockies, where it attempts to give us a sense of scale by dropping humans into the landscape as a point of perspective. The results are often mind-blowing, as our brains begin to process just how immense the mountains, forests, rivers, and other natural wonders truly are there. I had a similar experience while visiting Alaska a few months back. The landscapes are of epic proportion, and it is impossible to convey that in a normal photograph. But this video does a valiant job of letting us know just how small we really are. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that those landscapes are also incredibly beautiful too.

Land of Emperors - 4K, 2.35:1 from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Video: Getting Up Getu with Alex Honnold and Felipe Camargo

In this video, you'll travel to Getu, China with Alex Honnold and Felipe Camargo as they attempt to climb Corazon de Ensueno, an 8-pitch, 14b rated roof route that has only been completed successfully once in the past. The short film takes us through their efforts to repeat that climb, with fantastic imagery shot by none other than Jimmy Chin himself. Check it out below. It is definitely one of the better climbing videos we've seen in some time.

Mongolia by Horseback Part 1: Ulaanbaatar, Genghis Kahn, and the Start of an Amazing Adventure

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably noticed a distinct lack of posts over the course of a couple of weeks earlier in the month. That's because I left the friendly and comfortable confines of my home to fly halfway round the world to take part in a fantastic adventure in the wilds of Mongolia. A few months back, I received an invite from my good friends at Tusker Trail – an adventure travel company without peer – to join them on a once-a-year outing into the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. The trip is a combination of trekking and horseback riding in a part of the world that is seldom visited by outsiders they said, which was about all I needed to hear to convince me to join in on the fun.

Located in Central Asia, Mongolia is a completely landlocked nation that shares borders with both Russia and China. It is home to approximately 3.1 million people, of which about a third live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Outside that city there are a number of other smaller urban settings, but for the most part the country is punctuated with wide-open landscapes, snow-capped peaks, and the sweeping vistas of the Gobi Desert. In short, it is an adventure traveler's dream destination, with plenty to see and do. The fact that the country also has a rich culture, and a deep history only adds to the allure.

They say that when setting out on any great adventure, the journey is half the fun. In this case, that means flying to Ulaanbaatar – often referred to simply as UB. Getting to UB isn't particularly difficult, although it does require flying through either Beijing, China or Seoul, South Korea.  In my case that meant hopping a short 1.5 hour flight to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where I would then load onto a larger plane that would travel 12.5 hours to Beijing. None of that is particularly challenging for an experienced traveler who has done this many times before, but the 8+ hour layover in China on the other end was on the grueling side. Particularly so since I arrived in the afternoon, and had to wait until nearly 2 AM to catch my next flight, which would ultimately take me to Ulaanbaatar. I whiled away the time as best I could, and eventually I found myself on yet another aircraft, this time bound for my final destination.

The flight to UB from Beijing was approximately three hours in length, which meant I arrived in Mongolia early in the morning and desperate for some sleep. Still, I was intrigued with the setting and eager to see more of the place which I had heard so much about but had never experienced for myself. What I discovered was a surprisingly modern city that was neat, clean, and orderly. Sure, there was plenty of traffic, and the sidewalks were filled with pedestrians hustling too and fro, but Ulaanbaatar had a nice sense of calm about it that came in striking contrast to a place like Kathmandu for instance, where chaos, noise, and the constant threat of rolling blackouts are the norm. The Toyota Prius also seems to be the vehicle of choice for those living in UB as well, as there were an inordinate number of the cars choking the streets of the capital.

Over the course of the next couple of days, I'd get a chance to explore UB a lot further, taking in its unique architecture (Soviet style buildings blend with thoroughly modern structures), meeting some of its people, and visiting a number of cultural centers, including the National Museum and Ganging monastery, a Buddhist temple that should not be missed. I also had the opportunity to attend a performance of local dancers and musicians that featured traditional instruments, demonstrations of the legendary Mongol throat singing, and a colorful display of costumes. The highlight of the show for me was its closing act, which included the 60+ piece Mongolian State Orchestra playing classical music from the country's long historical past.

Speaking of history, it is impossible to ignore the influence that Mongol legend Genghis Kahn still has on the country. The image of the man who established the once massive and powerful Mongol Empire more than eight centuries ago can be seen just about everywhere. Not only is he on the local currency, there are statues of him at the main government building, and banners commemorating his deeds handing in the Ulaandbaatar international airport, which also happens to bear his name. There is even a massive sculpture of the Great Kahn on horseback that stands 40 meters (131 ft) in height that is found nearby.

For Mongolia, Genghis is the equivalent of George Washington, which is to say the man who founded what would become a modern nation. In the 13th century he created the building blocks for the largest geographical empire in human history, which is why he still revered there today. Some of his sons and grandsons (most notably Ogedei and Kublai) are also seen in statues and on banners throughout the capital as well. These signs of a bygone era aren't simply examples of Mongolians clinging to their once-great past however, but are instead a sign of pride in their heritage, which has helped to shape who they are as a people today.

Genghis isn't the only major influence on the country's history however, as both China and the Soviet Union played major roles in its development during the 19th and 20th century. Those influences can still be felt throughout Mongolia as well, particularly in the way that the cities have been built, and the style of architecture that is common there. In 1990, the country threw off the yoke of Soviet control however, and has been an independent, democratic nation ever since.

My first few days in Mongolia were spent in UB getting my feet back under me and shaking off jet lag from the long trip. That chance to catch my breath was a welcome one, as I knew that the journey ahead would be physically demanding, but incredibly rewarding at the same time. By our third day in country my group was preparing to leave the modern setting of Ulaanbaatar behind and set out for decidedly more rural and remote locales. What we would find would exceed all of our expectations, and deliver a once in a lifetime adventure that was befitting any Mongol nomad of the past.

Stay tuned for more. I'll be following up this story with second part of the tale soon. I hope you've enjoyed the start. More to come!

Extreme Paraglider Breaks 8000 Meter Mark in Pakistan

Here at The Adventure Blog we cover a lot of interesting stories about people climbing 8000-meter peaks. It isn't often however that we share a story about someone who found another way to reach the mythical 8000-meter mark that doesn't involve ropes, crampons, and down suits. Earlier this week it was revealed that French extreme paraglider Antoine Girard managed to do just that when he sailed above the summit of Broad Peak in Pakistan, rising to some 8100 meters (26,574 ft) in the process.

According to Brad Sander, an American adventure pilot living in Pakistan, Antione approached him a few weeks back inquiring about renting oxygen bottles for the flight. Sander called Girard's accomplishment "the flight of the century," while helping to fill in some of the details about how all of this came together.

Apparently, Antoine shoed up in Pakistan with a friend in tow. Unfortunately, that friend was part of the French military, so his entry visa was denied. This caused Girard to scramble his plans some, but he met up with some other paragliders in country that helped get him acclimated. After that, he took off for the Karakoram, where he spent three weeks exploring the area and making flights around the mountains there, including the 8126 meter (26,660 ft) Nanga Parbat.

Once he learned how the thermals in the area worked, and became accustomed to the weather conditions there, the Frenchman hatched a plan. Climbing up to the Baltoro Glacier, he camped for a couple of nights while he made his preparations. On July 23, he took flight, gliding over the famous Trango Tower on his way to Concordia, a place where few paragliders have ever flown before. From there, he could see Nanga Parbat, K2, and Broad Peak.

After he got the lay of the land, Antoine was ready to go for it. He climbed above 6500 meters (21,325 ft), then set off in his paraglider. Catching thermals he was able to rise higher and higher, eventually reaching the summit of Broad Peak itself, which sits at 8051 meters (26,414 ft). This makes him the first person to actually fly to the summit of an 8000 meter peak in this manner.

Antonie is currently in transit back to France, but we're told that he has GoPro footage of the flight. You can bet that we're eagerly waiting to see how that turns out. It should definitely be very interesting. In the mean time, you can read all about his adventure here.

Kilian Jornet Officially Announces Everest Speed Record Expedition

We've known that it was coming for some time, but today Spanish ultrarunner/mountaineer Kilian Jornet has officially announced his attempt to set a new speed record (Fast Known Time (FKT) in his parlance) on the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest. And as usual, he'll be making the attempt in his own unique, unorthodox, and challenging way.

In a press release sent out this morning, Jornet says that he'll be making the climb throughout August and September. But prior to leaving for the Himalaya, he'll first begin to acclimatize in the Alps closer to home. For the next few weeks, Kilian and his support team will live and train in the European mountains as they begin to get their bodies ready for the demands that they'll face once they head to Tibet.

The plan is to attempt to summit Everest from the North Side, along a route that sees little traffic. The exact route hasn't been made clear yet, as the intention is to scout the mountain once they are there. What they find on the slopes of the mountain will ultimately decide which way he will go to the top.

The final summit push will begin at Rongbuk monastery and will continue all the way to the top of Everest, and then back down again. In all, Kilian will have to run about 30 km (18.6 miles), which is a short distance for a man who is use to competing in 100 mile (160 km) long races. But, he has never tested himself at such high altitudes before, so it is unclear how his body will respond. This will be the Spaniard's first attempt at an 8000-meter peak, but despite that he still intends to have a go at the FKT in alpine style and without the use of bottled oxygen.

Additionally, one has to wonder how much of an impact acclimatizing in the Alps will have on his progress. The highest peak in that mountain range is Mont Blanc, which stands 4810 m (15,781 ft) in height. That is not insignificant of course, but it is not even the same height as Base Camp on Everest. In other words, he'll still have a lot of work to do once he arrives in the Himalaya.

Right now, the plan is to depart Europe on August 7 to start the expedition. Kilian and his crew will then spend the next eight weeks prepping and planning for the run. Will he be able to set a new speed record on the highest mountain on the planet? Only time will tell, but I wouldn't doubt the man who set speed records on other mountains like Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, Denali, and Kilimanjaro. Still, Everest is an entirely different beast, and it will be interesting to watch this all unfold.

Stay tuned.

Video: Mongolia with Tusker Trail in 100 Seconds

I'll begin sharing the tale of my Mongolia adventure tomorrow, but in the meantime I wanted to share a sneak peek at what my journey was actually like. I traveled to the remote Asian country with my friends at Tusker Trail. For about two weeks I explored the Altai Tavn Bogd National Park on horseback and foot. To say that this was unlike any other travel experience that I have had before would be an understatement, but as you'll see in the clip below it was an incredibly rewarding experience, and one that you'll want to have on your bucket list too.

Video: GoPro Camera Captures Hyperlapse Images of Solar Impulse Flight

Yesterday I posted a story about the Solar Impulse aircraft completing its round-the-world journey using nothing but the rays of the sun to power the flight. Today, I have a great video that was captured by GoPro camera throughout the expedition. The short clip is a hyperlapse of final legs of the excursion, giving us some impressive views of the trip as seen from atop the plane itself. This was a wonderful achievement to say the least, and this video helps to put the accomplishment in perspective.

Russian Adventurer Sets Record For Fastest Circumnavigation By Balloon

I'm still working hard to catch up with some of the big stories that broke while I was away in Mongolia. Most have been covered now, but there was at least one more that I wanted to share. This past weekend, Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov completed an epic round-the-world journey in a hot air balloon, covering some 33,000 km (20,506 miles) while setting a new speed record in the process.

Konyukhov first set out on his journey back on July 12, taking to the air at 7:30 AM local time at a point located just north of Perth, Australia. He touched down just 11 days later in the town of Bonnie Rock, located in Western Australia at about 5:00 PM in the evening.

In completing the journey, the 64-year old Russian becomes just one of four people to successfully circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. He is the second to do so solo. Konyukhov circled the planet in a carbon fiber pod that was not pressurized, as he cruised along at speeds in excess of 150 miles (240 km) per hour, at an altitude that often reached to 30,000 feet (9144 meters). His speed record is two days faster than the previous mark, which was set by Steve Fossett back in 2002.

This latest achievement is just one of many for the Russian, who has scaled Everest twice, climbed the rest of the Seven Summits, and has skied to both the North and South Pole. He has even visited the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, and crossed the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat. An accomplished sailor, Konyukhov has sailed around the world four times, a skill that served him well in the balloon too.

Some of the challenges that he faced while flying around the globe in a balloon included bad weather, a frozen valve on his oxygen tanks, and a storm that froze over the balloon, adding enough additional weight that the flight was in serious jeopardy for a time. At one point, he even strayed far enough south that he was nearing Antarctica, just as his onboard heater was struggling to continue working. This put him into "survival mode" as he strayed into serious jeopardy for a time. Thankfully, he was able to overcome all of those obstacles, stay in the air, and still set the new speed record.

Congrats to Fedor on such an impressive accomplishment. Truly a great adventure for the modern age.

The Adventure Racing World Series is Coming to China!

Over the past few years the Adventure Racing World Series has taken some of the best adventure races in the world and brought them together to create a unified set of events that works towards crowning a world champion in the sport each year. The system has brought order to AR, which in the past has generally consisted of numerous races that operated independently of one another without any type of consistency or cooperation.

While the current state of adventure racing is very different from what it was a decade ago, I'd venture to say that the sport is as healthy now as it has ever been, which much of the credit for that going to the ARWS. If you're looking for further proof of this, one only needs to look to the recent announcement that adventure racing is coming to China this September in the form of the Xtrail Expedition Race.

For now, the Xtrail is operating as a demonstration event for the ARWS, but it is the first officially sanctioned race to be held in Asia. The event will be held in the remote Altay region of the Xinjiang province, in far northwestern China. It will feature the usual disciplines of mountain biking, kayaking, and trail running, all set in a place unlike any most of the competitors have seen before.

In order to lure teams to the event, the organizers of the Xtrail are offering a number of great incentives. Those include a reduced price entry fee of $1,000 USD per team, free transfers to/from Urumqi (arrival city) to Altay (race city), all accommodations and some food in Altay, and a $600 USD cash payment per international athlete on arrival to assist with travel expenses in China. In other words, they are serious about attacking top teams and want to make the process has simple and painless as possible.

Entry into the race is listed to just 25 international teams and 25 Chinese teams, so if you're interested in joining in on the fun, you'll want to sign up soon. The Xtrail will take place on September 23-28, and will cover roughly 300 km (186 miles). Need further incentive? The prize purse for the event is expected to top out at $50,000 USD.

Find out more at the ARWS website.

Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller Undertake 50 Peaks Challenge

One of the true adventurous undertakings in the U.S. it to attempt to reach the highest spot in each of the 50 individual states. If one wanted even more of a challenge they would try to do so in just 50 days as well. That's exactly what mountaineers Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller are attempting to do at the moment, as they are currently in the midst of the 50 Peaks Challenge, as they strive to become the first women to nab each of the high points.

The list of high points across the U.S. is quite diverse. At one end of the spectrum you have Britton Hill in Florida, which is a mere 345 feet (105 meters) above sea level and barely a challenge at all. On the other hand, Denali in Alaska is a stunning 20,308 ft (6189 meters), and a true mountaineering challenge. In between you'll find all kinds of other mountains and hills, most of which are mere walk-ups. Still, nabbing all of them in under 50 days remains a significant achievement in no small part because of the travel time involved.

Melissa and Maddie began their challenge by summiting Denali earlier this spring, and have now been slowly but surely ticking off the other high points as they go. At this point, they've now reached the highest elevation in 43 different states, with Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii yet to go. Each of the mountains in those states are above 10,000 feet (3048 meters), which means they will all present a unique challenge. But, considering the resumes that these two ladies bring to the table, they should certainly not have too much of a problem claiming them all.

You can follow their progress on Melissa's website as they close in on the end. Check out the video below for a preview of the challenge as well.

50 Peaks Challenge - Trailer from Eddie Bauer on Vimeo.

Video: Taking the Tour de France Off Road

There is no question that the riders in the Tour de France are amongst the best cyclists in the world. Still, even those guys would be hesitant to attempt some of the things that freestyle rider Sam Pilgrim pulls off on his road bike in this video. Everything from hopping up stairs to riding along the sides of high bridges are fair game for Sam, who seems to know no fear or have any cares about the road bike that he is abusing along the way. Even Peter Sagan would be jealous of some of these moves.

Video: Kayaking a Newly Discovered Canyon in Alaska

Thanks to the quick retreat of the Logan Glacier in Alaska, a new canyon along the Chitina River has been uncovered. Recently, pro kayaker Todd Wells and a team of friends traveled to this remote region in the Wrangell Mountains to attempt a first descent of the waters rushing through that canyon. This video takes us along with them as they visit a gorge that until recently remained completely unknown to man. Check it out below.

Solar Impulse Completes Round-The-World Flight

Solar Impulse, the innovative aircraft powered only by the rays of the sun, completed its historic flight yesterday by landing back in Abu Dhabi, the city from which it departed from back on March 9 of 2015. In doing so, the solar-powered plane became the first to circumnavigate the globe without the use of any form of fossil fuels. 

The entire journey was broken down into 17-stages that covered a distance of more than 42,000 km (26,000 miles). The flight path crossed four continents, three seas, and two oceans, beginning and ending in the United Arab Emirates. The longest leg of the expedition took place between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii, covering some 8924 km (5545 miles) of Pacific Ocean in the process. That stage alone took 118 hours to complete, giving pilot Andre Borschberg the record for the longest solo flight. 

Throughout the flight Borschberg split time at the controls with fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, who was at the helm of the Solar Impulse when it made the final flight from Cairo, Egypt to Abu Dhabi yesterday, bringing an end to the 17-month odyssey that proved clean energy can be used to power an aircraft. The two pilots has hoped to complete the journey in a much shorter timeframe however, but a catastrophic failure of the aircraft's battery system caused it to be grounded for 10 months while repairs and upgrades were made. 

The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 72 meters (236 ft), which is larger than even a 747 commercial aircraft. Those wings contain more than 17,000 individual solar cells, which collect power and store it in onboard batteries. Those batteries can than be used to power the aircraft even at night. 

While this was an impressive demonstration of technology and the steps being taken to improve the use of clean energy, don't expect the Solar Impulse to have a dramatic impact on the commercial aviation anytime soon. Solar cells will need to improve their efficiency drastically before that can happen, as it is currently impossible to power a large aircraft using just the light of the sun. Still, this is a step in the right direction, show us a potential future where clean aircraft could whisk passengers off to remote destinations without having a dramatic impact on the environment. While that vision is still in the distant future, it is good to know that we're taking small steps towards making it a reality now. 

Karakoram 2016: Summits on Nanga Parbat, It's Over on K2

More news from Pakistan today, where we learn that teams are continuing to make summit pushes on several mountains, while operations have indeed come to an end on K2 following the massive avalanche that hit that mountain over the weekend. As usual, the summer climbing season in the Karakoram remains as topsy-turvy and unpredictable as always.

We'll start with an update from Nanga Parbat, where ExWeb is reporting that Ferran Latorre, Helias Millerioux, and Boyan Petrov set off on a summit push yesterday, successfully topping out at 3:30 PM local time. The entire team returned to Camp 4 later that evening, and are now making their way back down the mountain today. For Latorre, this is his 13th 8000-meter peak, all of which have been summited without the use of supplemental oxygen.

It now appears that this may be the only successful climb on Nanga this year however, as most of the other teams are now preparing to head home. ExWeb says that the route just below the Kinshofer Wall is especially unsafe, discouraging any other climbers from proceeding upwards. It looks like Base Camp will be all but abandoned by this coming weekend.

Yesterday we reported that all commercial teams were also departing from K2 after a large avalanche wiped out Camp 3 over the weekend, destroying all of the tents erected there, while also sweeping away the fixed ropes and a cache of oxygen bottles. At the time, there were some independent climbers who were hoping to regroup and make another attempt on the summit sometime next week. Apparently, those climbers have now changed their mind, and will also be leaving BC over the next few days, making it now two years in a row without a single summit on K2.

Over on Broad Peak, poor weather has turned back the latest summit attempt by Spaniard Oscar Cadiach, but his work on the mountain is far from over. After descending yesterday to escape the conditions, Cadiach has now headed back up the mountain and is reportedly in Camp 3 and waiting for a chance to go higher. If he successfully climbs BP, this will be his 14th and final 8000-meter peak, all climbed without supplemental O's.

Finally, on both Gasherbrum I and II, current summit bids have been turned back due to poor weather. Teams are starting to leave those two mountains as well, although ExWeb says there are other climbers who are in Base Camp and waiting for their attempts on the mountain. While summit bids are certainly not imminent, there will be more attempts coming in the days ahead.

That's it for now. More to come soon.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Attempting New Adventure Record

Famed British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is about to embark on yet another mission. This time the many who has been called "the greatest living explorer" hopes to become the first person to cross both polar ice caps and climb the Seven Summits. And thanks to his already long history of undertaking major expeditions, he is already well on his way to accomplishing this goal.

Thanks to previous adventures, Fiennes has already skied across both the Arctic and Antarctic. He has also climbed Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Elbrus as well. That leaves him with Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea (Australasia), Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in Argentina (South America), and Denali in North America to complete the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. He hopes to wrap up each of those mountains within the next year, giving him the distinction of being the only person to accomplish all of these feats.

The 72-year old explorer is undertaking this mission as part of the Global Reach Challenge, an endeavor he has undertaken in an attempt to raise funds for Marie Curie, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting those living with a terminal illness as well as their families. To date, Fiennes' efforts have raised more than £300,000 ($393,000).

First up on the hit list will be Carstensz Pyramid, with that expedition getting underway soon. He'll have to wait until December of this year to attempt Mt. Vinson however, as the austral winter will prevent that climb from happening any sooner. As the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya, Aconcagua will pose a serious challenge, but the ultimate test will likely come on Denali sometime early next summer. Considering Fiennes has already successfully climbed Everest, he shouldn't find Denali to be particularly daunting, but the combination of unpredictable weather and unique technical hurdles still makes it a difficult proposition.

Reaching the North and South Pole and also climbing the Seven Summits is often referred to as the Adventure Grand Slam or Explorer's Grand Slam. Obviously, this has been done by a number of people in the past, but no one has skied across the entire Arctic and Antarctic, via the North and South Poles, before. That will give the British adventurer a leg up on the competition, and set his achievement apart from most others. It should be interesting to follow along with his journey and watch his progress unfold.

Good luck Ran!

Bengaluru, the top performing city in the real estate market

If you are looking to acquire a new home in Bengaluru, then you are at right place at the right time. Post the drop in the overall real estate market; Bengaluru sturdily held its number one position in India in the first six months of 2016. This course is expected to go on for the rest half of the year with the new launches likely to rise by 4 percent in comparison to the last six months of 2015.

Video: More Than Just Parks - Grand Tetons in 8K

Will and Jim Pattiz, the two brothers behind the More Than Just Parks series of videos, continue their run of excellent short films on America's National Parks by releasing this stunning 3+ minute clip shot in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. As usual, the footage is simply breathtaking and will inspire you to want to visit this place for yourself. In the year in which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Park Service, it is projects like this one that remind us just how special these places truly are.

GRAND TETON 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Video: Inside the 2016 Tour de France (Stages 1-7)

Last year, many of the bikes used in the Tour de France were equipped with action cameras from GoPro for the very first time. These tiny cameras captured some amazing footage from inside the peloton, and the videos were so successful, that they were used again this season. In this clip below you'll get an up close and personal look at what it's like to ride in Le Tour, with some scary, crazy, and down-right amazing images from the roads of France. Think it's easy to ride in this world's most famous bike race? Think again!

Chris Froome Wins 2016 Tour de France

Since I was out of the country for the past few weeks, I wasn't able to follow this year's Tour de France as closely as I would normally like. As usual, it was filled with lots of unique achievements, impressive individual performances, and crazy events. But, judging from the reports, it was also a race that lacked much in the way of drama, as Team Sky's Chris Froome rode to a third victory with few challengers emerging.

The biggest challenge to Froome's dominance was expected to come from Team Movistar's Nairo Quintana. The Colombian rider has looked strong in the past two Tour's and seemed poised to break out this year with a performance that would push Froome to the limit. That never happened however, and for the most part it seemed that Quintana struggled to keep pace. In fact, if not for a herculean effort in the final few days, he would have finished off the podium altogether. He did manage to claim third place, finishing behind Froome and Romain Bardet of Team AG2R.

For Froome, this was his third win in four years. His string of dominance began in 2013, although he crashed out of the race in 2014 and was unable to defend his championship. Over the past two years however he has looked untouchable, with every challenger being turned away. His most vulnerable moment came this year however, when the British rider (by way of Kenya) actually ran up the slopes in Stage 12 of the race after his bike frame broke during a crash. It was an odd scene to say the least, but it showed his fighting spirit and unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity – something that has helped endear him to cycling fans who have been slow to embrace the champion. 

In other Tour news, Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan went home with the Green Jersey once again. The current world champion showed why he is one of the most talented and versatile cyclists in the world, easily amassing enough sprint points to outpace his rivals. Russian rider Rafal Majka claimed the Polka Dot Jersey for the King of the Mountain's classification, which is given to the best climber each year, while Aussie Adam Yates took the White Jersey awarded to the best young rider under the age of 25. 

While I didn't get to see much of this year's race, the complaints I've ready mostly center around the fact that there was almost no drama at any point. Froome's rivals didn't challenge him much at all, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he would win the Tour by the midway point of the event. That doesn't make it very interesting to watch. Some of the riders were clearly playing safe since the Olympics are now just a few weeks away, and they'll be competing for gold in Rio instead. But still, it would be nice to see someone – anyone – attempt to unseat Team Sky and their leader. Sadly, we'll now have to wait until next year to see if that can happen. At this point however, it looks like barring an accident, the only person who can beat Chris Froome is Froome himself. 

New Climbing Rules for Everest?

Another story that broke while I was away is the news that Nepal is once again looking to set new rules to govern climbers attempting Everest and other major Himalayan peaks. These rules are often presented under the guise that the Nepali government is looking to improve safety, although often it seems they are mostly meant to give the appearance that officials are actually trying to do something of substance, without really accomplishing much at all. That seems to be the case with these new rules as well, which do very little to alter the climbing scene on the world's highest mountain. 

According to The Himalayan Times, the Nepali government is considering banning solo attempts on its Himalayan peaks, as well as banning mountaineers who are completely blind, have double amputations, or are over the age of 75. Of course, those all sound like reasonable restrictions to make, but when is the last time you've heard of a bling person attempting to summit Everest? After Erik Weihenmayer did it back in 2001, I'm not sure it has even been attempted again. And while double amputees have attempted Everest on several occasions, it isn't a common occurrence either. In other words, those two rules will impact a very small percentage of people. 

As for the age restriction of being under 75, this is a good rule to be sure, even if it also impacts only a handful of potential climbers. The problem is, Nepal has instituted age limits – both minimum and maximum – in the past, only to ignore them when it suits their needs. The 75 years old number has been bandied about several times in the past, and now it is cropping up once again. 

Other proposed changes to the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation include restricting helicopter rides above Base Camp, providing summit certificates to Sherpas, and requiring that all climbers who attempt an 8000-meter peak first have summited a 7000-meter peak as well. Each of these sounds a lot more reasonable and long over due. The use of choppers on the big mountains should definitely be limited, and Sherpas should receive a summit certificate for their efforts as well. The requirement of having experience on a 7000-meter mountain would also go a long way towards improving safety on Everest and other 8-thousanders, and would push some of the crowds off to Nepal's lesser visited peaks first. 

As mentioned, these new regulations are all up for review, and have been submitted to the Department of Tourism in Nepal. How soon they'll decide on the proposal remains to be seen. And if the rules are adopted, how much they are enforced will remain open to conjecture as well. 

Karakoram 2016: Avalanche Ends Season on K2, Summit Pushes Begin Elsewhere

I'm back from the wilds of Mongolia and am catching up on all the news from the world of outdoor adventure that took place while I was away. One of the big stories we had been following before my departure was the unfolding of the climbing season in the Karakoram and Western Himalaya. When I left, the teams were still getting settled into Base Camp, and were beginning their first acclimatization rotations. Now, a few weeks later, the situation is very different, with climbing operations coming to an end on one mountain, while the final summit pushes are underway on others.

The big news from this past weekend is that a massive avalanche on K2 has brought an end to the season on the world's second tallest mountain. The avalanche hit Camp 3 on Saturday morning, destroying the tents that were built there, while also washing away the fixed ropes and cache of bottled oxygen that was put in place for upcoming summit bids. Fortunately, no one was in C3 at the time, although there were several teams in Camp 2 and other points on the mountain. All have retreated back to BC due to bad weather conditions.

Now, it seems the teams have decided that the mountain is too unsafe to climb this year, and it appears that most are packing their bags to go home. The avalanche wiped out a lot of hard work to fix ropes and establish C3. With time starting to run short, poor weather a common occurrence, and a lack of bottled oxygen, it now seems like the season is over, at least for the major commercial teams. There are a few independent climbers who are hoping to rally the troops and have another go at the mountain however. They are currently eyeing an early-August attempt, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that the final summit pushes are now underway on Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak. Fern Latorre, Helias Millerioux, Boyan Petrov are all pushing to the top of NP today, while Spaniard Oscar Cadiach and his team are hoping to top out on BP. ExWeb says that if Cadiach is successful, this will be his 14th and final 8000 meter peak for his resume, all of which have been climbed without the use of bottled oxygen.

Finally, over on Gatherbrum II, a Polish team has been struggling with poor weather all season. They had hoped to reach the top early this week, but deteriorating conditions on that mountain were enough to keep them confined to their tents over the weekend. There are no updates on their progress at this time, but hopefully we'll know more soon.

That's it from Pakistan for today. I'll continue to keep an eye on the mountains for further updates. The season is rapidly coming to close once again, but there are still a few stories to come I'm sure.

16 Super Uber Tips on Finding the Perfect Flatmate

It’s probably one of the most serious problems dogging the 21st century working professionals in the country. In fact, it’s pretty much like finding a new boyfriend/girlfriend, only a little more complicated. Why is that? Well, because you can part your ways with your partner when things go awry, but it’s not as simple with a flatmate. Since you will have signed a lease agreement, you will need to stick with them till the contract runs out.

#SG50 NDP 2015

#SG50 NDP 2015. Year 2015 was a special year for Singapore as it has been independent for 50 big fat years already! As we did not manage to get the tickets (*sad), instead of watching the parade at home, we went down personally to celebrate the day with our fellow Singaporeans. This post is very late but #latebetterthannoshow lol

Decoding Hinjawadi – The Locality that's Revolutionized Western Pune

Pune is such a laid-back city, it's easy to it call home. Located on the Deccan Plateau and 560 meters above sea level, it enjoys impeccable weather all through the year. However, it's not just the temperature that makes Pune cool, but also the people and its blend of traditional values and modernity. The infusion of these two elements brews a vivid cosmopolitan attitude that defines this city.

On the Road Again - Mongolia Bound

My time at home is about to come to an end again as my busy travel schedule continues. This time, I'm heading out to Mongolia with my friends from Tusker Trail. I'll actually be leaving on July 5, but with the long holiday weekend starting, I won't actually be updating the blog again until after I return to the U.S. on July 22.

This time out I'll be trekking and horseback riding across the Mongolian Steppe, which should be a lot of fun. I'll obviously have a lot of stories to share upon my return, so stay tuned for blog updates and photos from the trip. I've never been to Mongolia before, but it has long been on my list of places to visit, so I'm sure it'll be quite the rewarding experience.

As always, while I'm away enjoying my adventure, I hope you have a few of your own. The opportunities to get outside and pursue your passions have never been better, so don't let those opportunities pass you by. Grab your dram by the tail and run with it. You won't regret it.

Back soon!

Video: Why We Love the Tour de France

It is tough to explain exactly why I – and other cycling fans – love the Tour de France to someone who has no interest. But this video, from Specialized Bikes, goes a long way to explaining it. It is three weeks of intense competition with some of the best back drops anyone could possibly ask for. It is a challenge that requires both mental strength and physical endurance, and it is perhaps the toughest bike race in the world. You'll discover all of this and more in the clip below, which serves as a good introduction to Le Tour to newcomers, but a wonderful reminder to those of us who already love it as to to why it is such a special event each year.

Gear Closet: Vivitar Air Defender X Camera Drone

If you're like me, you've probably been intrigued with the potential of drones over the past few years, but put off by the steep price of entry to buying one. While the prices of drones have continued to come down, and their sophistication and functionality have gone up, it can still be a bit intimidating to think about purchasing one and learning to fly it. Fortunately, there are some new options that make it easier to buy in, and discover what it is like to actually use one of these things in the field. For instance, the Vivitar Air Defender X Camera Drone is an affordable and fun UAV that has a lot of the same options as other drones, but at a fraction of the price.

Okay, before I go too far into my thoughts on the Air Defender, lets be clear what this drone is and is not. For example, it is not a competitor to the DJI Phantom line of drones, which are larger, more powerful and definitely more pricey. Instead, this is a lightweight, easy to fly, and very affordable entry-level drone that you'll probably have a lot of fun with.

Checking out the specs on the Air Defender you'll discover that it has a lot of options for the price. For instance, it comes equipped with 16.1 MP camera that is capable of streaming video and images to your smartphone when it connects to the drone via WiFi. It also has a range of about 200 meters, and a flight time of about 20 minutes when using the two supplied batteries. It is also wrapped in 64 individual LED lights, which makes it easy to spot even in dark conditions. This also gives it a fun, unique look that helps in navigation too.

Inside the box, you'll find the Air Defender itself, a full-featured remote control, complete with smartphone holder, two rechargeable batteries for the drone, a set of regular AA batteries for the remote, and a USB recharging cable.

It takes about 2 hours to charge one of the batteries using the proprietary USB cable, so when you get the drone home, you'll have to be patient for a bit before you start using it. I'd recommend charging both batteries before making your first flight, because you'll burn through the rechargeable battery pack quite quickly, and you'll want to be able to put the second one in and fly some more before you run out of juice.

Piloting the Air Defender takes a bit of time to master, in part because it is surprisingly quick. There is a switch on the remote that allows you to limit the speed on the aircraft to 30, 60, or 100% and I definitely recommend keeping it on the slower speed when you first start. I expected the 30% setting to be slow and easy to master when starting out, but it was surprisingly quick even on that setting. At 100% power you'll want to have plenty of room, because it is fast, fast, fast.

After some practice you'll start to get the hang of flying this drone, as the controls work as you would expect for the most part. The only issue I had was getting the drone to fly at a level hight, as the joystick on the remote that controls vertical doesn't have a "return to zero" setting. This would have come in very handy, but instead I often find myself having to make minute adjustments to the stick just to get the drone to fly at a height that I would like.

If you don't want to use the included remote to pilot the drone, you can also connect it to your Android or iOS device via an app as well. This gives you the ability to fly the UAV as well, and activate its camera. In fact, you can actually get a drone's eye view of the flight right on your mobile device's screen. This is of course a lot of fun, and gives you the option to snap photos or capture video footage as well. Personally, I preferred using the actual remote control, but would have still like to have been able to use my iPhone as a screen and to control the camera. I haven't figured out if it is possible to do this however, as it appears that only one of the remotes can be used at a time.

As you've probably noticed, there is one word that keeps appearing in this review over and over. That would be the word "fun." That's because it is the best way to describe what it is like to fly the Air Defender, and judging from the crowds that gather when I break it out, a lot of people seem to find it enjoyable to watch as well. While it may be true that this isn't a professional grade drone used for filmmaking and photography shoots, it is still just a blast to fly it around, capturing images of your own.

As fun as it is to fly, the absolute best part of the Air Defender just might be the price. The drone costs just $99, which is well below the entry fee for most other drones that have a decent set of features. Basically, for $100 you can get a UAV that gives you a taste of what the more expensive drones can do, allowing you to consider investing in something more sophisticated, or simply enjoying the aircraft for what it is. That alone makes this worth consideration.

You can probably tell that I have really enjoyed flying the Vivitar Air Defender X Camera Drone. Yes, it has some limitations, but it also has a surprising amount of technology packed in as well. As long as you go in knowing that, I'll bet you'll have fun with this drone too. Honestly, it's hard not to like it.

The 2016 Tour de France Begins Tomorrow!

July is here, and that can mean only one thing for cycling fans – the 2016 Tour de France can't be far off. In fact, the most famous and popular bike race int he world gets underway tomorrow, with some very familiar names expected to battle it out for the win.

The race will officially begin with a 188 km (116 mile) stage that runs from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. This is unusual for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is its length. Typically, the first stage of the race is a short time trial that helps to establish who will ride int he famed Yellow Jersey for the early stages of the race. This long, opening day ride is part of the Tour's attempt to shake things up however, with some changes to the format designed to inject some energy into the early days of the race.

Expect the day to belong to the sprinters. None of the eventual contenders are likely to vie for the stage win, or put themselves in jeopardy in the early days of the race. There are sprint and climbing points to be earned however, so those looking to go after the Green or Polka Dot Jerseys will be in the hunt early on.

And just who can we expect to be in the Yellow Jersey heading towards Paris in three weeks? Two-time winner Chris Froome is the odds on favorite, although the course does favor Nairo Quintana as well. If both men can stay healthy, we can expect some epic duels in the mountains in the later stages of the race. Should they falter or face injury, the race opens up to dramatically, giving a new rider the chance to take center stage.

As long-time readers know, I'm a big fan of Le Tour, and usually cover it extensively throughout the month of July. I know that there are some of you who don't appreciate the race as much as I do however, and simply tolerate my TdF updates. For those folks, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I won't be following the race nearly as closely as I have in the past, so there won't be daily updates on the event. The bad news is, I'm leaving the country to a remote region next week, so there won't be any updates at all for awhile. Personally, I'm bummed I won't be able to watch the race on a daily basis, but duty calls and other adventures await.

Fans of the race will be able to get all the news and information they need at the official Tour de France website. Good luck to all the riders.

Karakoram 2016: Climbers in C2 on K2, Sherpa's Record Bid Denied by Pakistani Government

It is early in the summer climbing season in the Karakoram, but already the teams are on the move as they look to take advantage of good weather in the region. While teams are still getting settled elsewhere in Pakistan, on K2 the acclimatization rotations have begun. Climbers have already gone up to Camp 2 on that mountain, even as Sherpa teams work to install ropes to higher altitudes. 

Madison Mountaineering checked in yesterday with the news that their squad has arrived in C1 after a tough climb up 70º slopes. Today, they'll proceed up to C2, where they'll spend a night or two before returning to Base Camp. By all accounts, the entire team is doing well and proceeding according to plan. 

Also still in C2 is the international team that includes Vanessa O'Brien. They reached that point on the mountain yesterday as well, and will remain a couple of nights before descending. This allows their bodies to get use to the thinner oxygen ahead of an eventual summit attempt in about a months time. 

In other news from K2, The Himalayan Times is reporting that a Sherpa's record-setting bid was thwarted by the Pakistani government after he was sent home upon arriving in Islamabad. 25-year old Lakpa Sherpa had hoped to become the youngest person to scale K2 three times, but he was sent back to Kathmandu a day after arriving in Pakistan. 

Lakpa said that he passed through immigration without incident, but a day after his arrival he was contact by a government official and told he had to go home without any further explanation. Despite not being told why he was being shipped back to Nepal, the feeling is that the move was purely a political one. Pakistan has long hoped to generate a mountaineering infrastructure like that found in Nepal to help bolster its economy and employ more local climbers. But as K2 and other mountains continue to become commercialized, guiding companies are increasingly bringing more and more Sherpas into the country to assist and even lead those expeditions. The young climber, who has already summited Everest four times, believes that he won't be allowed back into Pakistan in the future as well, although he isn't sure exactly why.

As The Himalayan Times story points out, Lakpa's story isn't a unique one this summer. Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke had a similar experience when she attempted to enter Pakistan a few weeks back. She was forced to cancel her expedition as well without any clear-cut reason as to why she wouldn't be able to enter the country. It seems others have been sent home too. 

Meanwhile, over on Broad Peak, the Mountain Professionals have checked in and report that they have reached Camp 1 at 5600 meters (18,372 ft) on that mountain. They report snowy routes up steep slopes to reach that point, but everyone was able to climb up without much trouble and spent two nights there to begin their acclimatization process. Now, everyone is back in Base Camp and resting before preparing to head up to C2 in a few days time.

The report also indicates that a second team has now arrived on Broad Peak, but it is a small squad consisting of just four climbers. They won't be particularly helpful in fixing ropes, so it will fall on the Mountain Professionals squad to complete that work. They are currently installing the lines between C1 and C2, with the hope that another commercial team will arrive in the days ahead to help with the work. 

That's it for today. More news from the Karakoram soon.