Video: Scenes from the Arctic

The Arctic is one of those places on our planet that few of us ever get the opportunity to see in person. But, thanks to this video, we can all travel to this frozen region of the Earth and experience for ourselves. The scenes shown here are beautiful, tranquil, and amazing to see. It is quite an experience and one that I think you'll enjoy greatly. Sit back and soak this one in, as it is indeed a wonderful short film set in remote place.

Video: Renan Ozturk - Obsessed or Devoted?

This video comes our way courtesy of The North Face and is part of the company's new #QuestionMadness marketing campaign which celebrates TNF's 50th anniversary. The clip focuses on sponsored athlete Renan Ozturk, who is amongst the best mountaineers/climbers in the world today. As with the other videos in this series, the question is where or not Renan is obsessed or devoted to his passion projects, which is a valid one for anyone who has seen the film Meru. But Renan isn't just trying to push the envelope in the mountains, but has other aspects to his character as well as you'll see here. Like most other outdoor athletes of his caliber, he is driven to be the best in whatever undertaking he sets his mind upon.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Controversy on Manaslu - 150 Summit without Actually Reaching the Top

The climbing season on Manaslu may be long over, but the 8163-meter (26,781 ft) mountain continues to garner headlines thanks to this article from The Himalayan times. The story says that of the 150 climbers who summited the mountain this year, only a fraction actually reached the true summit, which is typically defined as the highest point on the mountain. That's because Manaslu's highest point is incredibly dangerous to reach, which calls into question whether or not you actually did get the summit after all.

Those in the know in the mountaineering world understand that there is a narrow ridge that is covered in a snow cornice that runs out to the actual summit of the mountain. That ridge is unstable and difficult to cross, particularly in high winds or other poor weather conditions. As a result, about 90% of the climbers this season turned back approximately 5 to 10 meters below the actual top of the mountain, but still claimed a full summit anyway. This has sparked some debate as to whether or not those claims are actually true.

In writing about a slew of climbing expeditions this fall, Alan Arnette also weighed in on the topic, sharing some of his own experiences. He also reminds us that a Japanese climber perished on Manaslu this year when he fell through the cornice while trying to reach the true summit. That's an indication of just how dangerous the final approach to the top truly is. Although as Alan points out via a quote from Himex boss Russel Brice, the blame is square placed on the team that was put in charge of fixing the ropes to the summit, but failed to complete the final 20 meters, which directly led to this fatality a few weeks back.

When considering where to actually give credit to someone for making the summit on Manaslu, it is important to also note that the incredibly narrow approach to the top serves as a significant bottle-neck for those going up and coming down. It would literally take hours for everyone to shuffle across the approach ridge, even if it were completely safe. That would leave climbers standing in line at the top of the mountain while they waited their turn, leaving them exposed to the elements the entire time. Most of the operators on Manaslu aren't willing to put their clients through that kind of difficulty, so they certify summits at the lower point on the mountain.

On the other hand, getting credit for a summit has always been about reaching the highest point. To take that away from experience doesn't seem completely fair either. Yes, it would mean fewer people climbing Manaslu if they actually had to negotiate that tough final portion of the ascent, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing either. There is a part of me that feels that if you want to actually receive a summit certificate you should have to reach the actual true summit to get credit. Anything else, just comes up short. It is up to the climbers themselves if they actually want to complete those final 20 meters or play it safe and turn back below that point. But if they don't get all the way up, the wouldn't earn full credit either.

Obviously this is a tough call. For safety sake, I understand why they turn back. But for the pure mountaineering aspects of it, they should actually touch the highest point in my opinion.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Patagonia to Close All Stores in the U.S. for Election Day

Last week I posted the news that REI would once again close all of its stores – and website – for Black Friday here in the U.S. Now, we have word that another major gear manufacturer is following suit for another very important day in America. Last week, Patagonia announced that it would close all of its retail outlets, its cooperate headquarters, and important distribution centers to on November 8, which is election day in the U.S.

The move comes as part of Patagonia's Vote Our Planet initiative, which encourages us to support candidates that take a tough stand on environmental issues, something that should be of major concern for all outdoor enthusiasts. The idea is to rally around men and women who are running for office that are looking to preserve the planet for future generations and protect wildlife and wild spaces.

“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “As a business, we have a unique ability to take a stand and choose to prioritize the health of the planet over profit, and I think it’s important we take that opportunity when it truly matters. We want to do everything possible to empower citizens to make their voices heard and elect candidates up and down the ballot who will protect our planet.”

Obviously the presidential election to be held next week is an important one for many reasons. I don't often use this blog as a place to make a political statement or support any one candidate over another. But I will say that the future of the country, and perhaps the world, rests in the hands of who will be elected to the White House on November 8. While I have my own opinions on who should or should not be in charge, what is most important to me is that everyone get out to vote. Patagonia is making that a little easier, at least for its own employees and customers. 

If you care about the environment, do a little research on the candidates in your area and get out and vote for the ones that are looking at ways to make things better moving forward. We are at a critical point when it comes to climate change and other environmental factors, and now is the time to have our voices heard. Vote on November 8 to at least play a role in that process. 

Antarctica 2016: Interactive Map Explains Ski Routes to the South Pole

This week intrepid men and women from all over the world are putting the finishing touches on their preparation and planning for a slew of upcoming ski expeditions to the South Pole. In a matter of days they'll be jetting off to Punta Arenas, Chile or Cape Town, South Africa where they'll then catch a flight to Antarctica to begin a journey that will take them weeks to complete. Most will begin at Hercules Inlet and will cover approximately 1130 km (702 miles) on their way to 90ºS. But others will take alternate routes that offer different levels of difficult and unique paths to that same goal. Now, on the eve of the start of the new Antarctic season, we have an interactive map that shows all of the various routes that are used to ski across the frozen continent.

The map is hosted at and includes 9 different paths that explorers use when traveling to the the South Pole as well as 1 path to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility. Clicking on any of the routes will provide information about its length, who first pioneered it, and the year in which it was traveled. For instance, both Amundsen and Scott Routes are marked on the map, which were first opened back in 1911-1912, when the two legendary explorers were battling one another to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Explorer House included some text with the map that provides context on what exactly a "valid" expedition truly means. In this case, that is defined as starting anywhere along the Antarctic coast and skiing all the way to the South Pole. This rules out a "last degree" journey of course, which  is exactly what it sounds like – a short ski expedition from 89ºS to 90ºS. Those "tourist trips" are typically only about 100 km (62 miles) in length, while a full expedition covers more than 1000 km (620 miles).

As we head into the start of a new Antarctic season, you'll find that the vast majority of the skiers are using the Hercules Inlet Route, which has become the standard for these types of expeditions. They'll fly out of Punta Arenas and land at the ice camp that is built and maintained by ALE at Union Glacier. From there, they'll catch another short flight to ferry them out to their starting point. If they are going solo and unsupported, they'll all be dropped off at unique locations to begin the journey, as the rules for adventure state that they can't have any contact with another individual along the way in order to maintain that status.

Later this week – weather permitting – the first teams will begin their march to the Pole. Once they're underway, we'll provide regular updates on their progress. There are a number of goods stories to follow, so it should be an interesting year in the Antarctic.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 7)

If you've been watching the fantastic series of "Unclimbed" videos from Discovery Canada, you'll definitely want to catch this latest episode. In this latest installment of the mountaineering series the team of Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa are reunited in Kathmandu before setting out to the Himalaya to the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks. But before they go, they must face down a mountaineering legend who has never summited a single peak – the indomitable Miss Elizabeth Hawley.

Video: What Exactly is Adventure Racing?

I write about adventure racing regularly on this blog, but not everyone knows exactly what the sport consists of. Thankfully, the fine folks over at the Adventure Racing World Series have put together this excellent and helpful video to help explain the sport to newcomers and to remind long time fans just how awesome it is. For my money, adventure racers are amongst the best endurance athletes in the world. Don't believe me? Check out the clip below to find out why I feel that way.

Video: Stunning Wingsuit Flight Ends in Nasty Crash

Wingsuit pilots take their lives into their own hands every time they take flight. Case in point, in this video a flyer named Eric Dossantos starts off with a leap from the top of a mountain with stunningly beautiful views all around him. His descent down the slopes of the peak looks fantastic too, with snow covered ridges zipping by at warp speed below him. But once he soars low enough to encounter the treeline things start to go wrong with Eric ultimately crashing into the forest below. Fortunately, he survived the flight, although he did end up with fractured ribs, multiple bruises and lacerations, head trauma, and a lacerated kidney. Dossantos has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical bills but it is going to be awhile before he's fully back on his feet.

The flight took place above Chamonix, France, which has recently banned wingsuit flying because of these types of dangers. This video underscores why they decided to make that decision, but thankfully Eric survived. Others haven't been quite so lucky.

How not to fly a wing suit unless you want to crash from Eric Dossantos on Vimeo.

Donations to the Himalayan Stove Project Doubled Through Giving Tuesday

I know it may be hard to believe, but the holiday season isn't as far off as we'd like to think it is. With Halloween just a few days off, and Thanksgiving closely rapidly behind it, the busy shopping period will be on us before we know it. But as you gear up for Black Friday and Cyber-Monday, there is another day that follows along closely that you should also keep in mind. That's "Giving Tuesday" which is when we take a step away from all of the consumerism and decide to give a little back to those around us instead. And this year, Giving Tuesday is special for another reason too.

One of my favorite nonprofits is the Himalayan Stove Project, an organization that is replacing old, inefficient, and dangerous cookstoves in Nepal with clean burning, healthier models. Over the past few years, the HSP has distributed and installed more than 3000 stoves, impacting the lives of thousands of people as a result. Many of the families that have received these stoves have seen their lives transformed. The air in their homes is cleaner than ever, and they can now enjoy a meal indoors together, often for the very first time. In short, the Himalayan Stove Project is having a direct, and measurable, impact on the quality of life for the people that it helps, which is something I appreciate and admire greatly.

Heading into the holidays we can all do something to help the HSP and see our contributions to the program stretch even further. Between now and Giving Tuesday – November 29, 2016 – all donations to the project will automatically be doubled thanks to a generous anonymous supporter. That means that if you give $50, the HSP will receive $100. No donation, no matter how big or small, is exempt, which makes this the perfect time to contribute to the cause.

I personally love what the Himalayan Stove Project does for a number of personal reasons. The fact that the not-for-profit is having such a dramatic effect on the lives of the people it helps is inspiring to say the least. There are a lot of other foundations like this one that aspire to help people in the developing parts of the world, but they often struggle to actually deliver on their promise. That isn't so with the HSP, which has done a wonderful job of staying focused on its mission.

The other reason I'm a fan of the Himalayan Stove Project is that it is helping people who live in Nepal, a country that I dearly love. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and the people there are incredibly warm and generous, despite the fact that they often have little of their own. It is a place that has left its mark on everyone that has visited it, and it is understandable why those of us who have been there would like to have a positive impact on their lives.

If you're looking for a great charity to contribute to this year, the Himalayan Stove Project is a fantastic option. Take a look at the HSP website to learn more, and click here to donate to the cause. Remember, anything you give between now and November 29 will be doubled.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summit Push Begins on Ama Dablam

The fall climbing season on the 8000-meter peaks in the Himalaya are all but over, but there is still plenty of action taking place in Nepal on other mountains. Most of the ongoing expeditions are small and relatively off the radar, with some squarely focused on putting up the first ascents on several unclimbed peaks. But, one popular mountain is about to get extremely busy as a large number of climbers launch their summit push.

Yesterday, the rope-fixing Sherpas on Ama Dablam reached the summit after waiting out poor weather conditions all of last week. The team of six mountain guides worked from Camp 2 on the mountain all the way to the 6812-meter (22,349 ft) summit in a single push, clearing the way for commercial teams that have been waiting in the wings. Now, with the ropes installed, it looks like there will be a mass summit push will begin in the next few days.

According to The Himalayan Times, more than 400 climbers will now move up from Base Camp to get into position to reach the summit. 200 of those alpinists are foreign climbers, while the others mostly consist of guides, high altitude porters, and the like. 

It is unclear at this time exactly when the summit push will be completed, but with good weather in the forecast it seems like it should take place within the next few days. Unlike expeditions on other big Himalayan peaks, it doesn't take weeks to acclimatize on Ama Dablam, nor does it take numerous days to top out. Once the push begins, the summit should be very busy  a few days later. 

Ama Dablam is one of the most distinct mountains in the Khumbu Valley, with climbers and trekkers passing by on their way to Everest Base Camp. The beautiful peak is a good place for climbers to get valuable experience for what it is like to climb in the Himalaya prior to moving on to one of the 8000-meter peaks. For my money, it is still one of the most beautiful mountains that I have ever personally seen with my own eyes, creating a very memorable view on the trail to EBC.

Good luck to everyone heading up the mountain in the next few days. Get up and down safely and quickly, and enjoy the walk. 

Video: Exploring Japan's Spiritual Connection with the Mountains

The Japanese practice of Shugendo is a spiritual practice of seeking a connection with nature, particularly in the mountains where Japan's forefathers believed their gods resided. This connection can bring on a zen-like state, with the person seeking a oneness with the natural world around them. In this video, Salomon athletes Rickey Gates and Anna Frost make the journey to Japan in search of their own unique connection with the natural world. As you'll see in the video below, what they find there is a powerful attachment to nature that is unlike anything found in other cultures. Be sure to turn on subtitles to get the entire story.

Video: Base Jumper Sets New World Record by Leaping Off Cho Oyu

Standing 8188 meters (26,684 ft) in height, Cho Oyu is the 6th highest peak in the world, and a popular climbing destination during the fall season in the Himalaya. A few weeks back, climber/BASE jumper Valery Rozov went up the mountain in an attempt to fly off the summit. He didn't quite make it to the top, but he did manage to don his wingsuit and leap from 7700 meters (25,262 ft), setting a new world record in the process. You can learn about his expedition, and see his flight in the video below.

Gear Closet: Haibike Xduro AllMtn RX Electric Mountain Bike

One of the hottest trends in cycling over the past couple of years has been the rise in prominence of the electric bike – more commonly known as the e-bike. At first glance, most of these bikes look like just about any other that you might encounter on the road, although they have a hidden secret. They come equipped with a battery-powered motor that can help you maintain higher speeds with less effort or climb tough hills that would normally leave your legs crying out in agony.

This little speed-boost has made e-bikes especially popular with commuters, many of whom find that the onboard motor helps them travel along with traffic better and allows them to arrive at their destination relatively fresh thanks to not having to exert as much energy.

An avid biker myself, I've been intrigued with e-bikes for some time, but hadn't gotten the chance to try one out for myself. That changed recently when Haibike sent me one of their electric assisted mountain bikes to take for a spin, and I have to say I came away impressed. The bike delivered on everything that was promised – and more – allowing me to power through a ride like never before. But in the end, it also left me reevaluating why I like mountain biking so much in the first place.

For my little e-bike test drive, Haibike sent me a 2015 model known as the Xduro AllMtn RX. The current model that fits pretty much the same specs is the Xduro AllMtn 7.0. Both versions sport Shimano components, 27.5" tires, a full-supsenion, and a slick looking design that looks aggressive and fun to ride. Hidden inside the aluminum frame however, is a 36-volt motor that is powered by a 500 Wh battery that help this bike truly stand out from the crowd.

Before we go too far into this review, it is important to point out that while most e-bikes provide an electric assist, but you still have to do all of the pedaling. You simply don't have to pedal quite so hard in order to get the bike up to speed nor to maintain that speed. Likewise, when climbing a hill, the speed-assist kicks in to lend a hand, making it surprisingly easy to shoot up steep grades, although you still have to put in some work to get to the top.

The motor installed on this bike has five different settings, including Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo, as well as off. Yes, you can ride the bike without any type of electrical assist, but since it tips the scales at 49.2 pounds, it does feel a bit slow and ponderous. Eco mode provides the least level of assistance, which doesn't feel like much, although it is there to lend a hand when you need it. Turbo is bit like strapping a rocket to your bike, although it comes at dramatically reduced battery life.

While testing the Xduro, I only switched over to the highest level when tackling a big hill, otherwise I tended to stay in Tour mode most of the time. This allowed me to easily maintain a good rate of speed over a variety of terrains without having to expend a lot of energy in the process. The result was that at the end of my ride, I still felt like I had a good workout, but I wasn't completely wasted, even after riding a tough trail.

The Xduro AllMtn has a built in cycling computer mounted on its handlebars that provides information such as your current speed and time, as well as offering a trip odometer, and life-time odometer all in a digital format. That same display also provides constant updates of how much battery life remains by showing not only a battery indicator but also the amount of range the bike has before it runs out of juice. The screen also has an icon that indicates which level of power that the motor is set too as well.

Getting on the bike for the first time, I was unsure exactly how things worked. The motor was engaged, but there is no throttle that you can control, so I wasn't exactly sure how I'd know if it was working properly. It only took a second to figure that out however, as when I started to pedal you could feel the electric assist kick in with a very noticeable boost, even in Eco mode. That boost only became more noticeable as increased the level of power generated by the motor.

Before too long, I found myself testing the bike to see what it could do in a variety of different conditions, and for the most part it performed very well. It wasn't quite as agile and responsive as my Trek mountain bike back home, then again that bike doesn't power up big hills as easily either. I have to admit, the Xduro AllMtn is fun to ride, and is quite capable of tackling a wide variety of trails types.

Now, all of that said, I have to say that I have a few reservations about this e-bike as well. For starters, it is a heavy beast. As mentioned, it is nearly 50 pounds (22.68 kg), which makes it more than twice as heavy as my normal ride. That added weight becomes more evident on tougher trails where agility can be an important factor. And heaven forbid you should run out of battery power while riding, as it would definitely be quite a workout to get Xduro back to the trailhead without the electric assist.

Despite how much fun I had riding the bike, I also couldn't help but feel like I was cheating a bit out on the trail. Part of the allure of mountain biking for me is taking on the challenges of the route with just my bike. That includes all of the challenges, such as climbing hills and maintaining a good speed. This bike made that so easy to do that it almost felt like an entirely different sport. At the end of my test run, I came to the conclusion that while I wouldn't mind an e-bike for commuting around town, I'm not sure I want one to replace my mountain bike.

That said, for riders who are a little older, or aren't quite as physically fit, the Xduro AllMtn is a good solution that allows them to ride challenging trails much more easily. I can definitely see the allure of this bike under those circumstances.

Durable and well-built, the Haibike Xduro AllMtn 7.0 is competitively priced at $5299. It has quality parts and components at every important spot, and a tough aluminum frame with solid geometry. It also happens to have a secret weapon hidden away in the form of an electric motor. All of that design and technology doesn't come cheap, although I've seen plenty of standard mountain bikes that fall in the same price range, even without a motor. Of course, those bikes are likely to have even better components and a carbon frame, just to put things in perspective.

If you've been considering an e-bike for your mountain biking needs, I'd certainly encourage you to give the Haibike Xduro AllMtn a look. It is a great machine for the right rider. I'm just not sure if that rider is me.

Find out more at

Everest Air Premieres Tonight and I've Seen the First Episode

The Travel Channel officially debuts its much anticipated new show Everest Air tonight, broadcasting the first episode of the six-part series starting at 10 PM Eastern/9 PM Central time. The show promises to take viewers to Nepal to give them a first-hand look at helicopter medical rescue operations in the Khumbu Valley near Mt. Everest. It was shot on location there this past spring.

Over the past several weeks you've read my post announcing the show as well as my interview with Jeff Evans, one of the key players on the program and an emergency first responder who helps provide medical aid to climbers, Sherpas, and a variety of other people living in the mountains of Nepal. Naturally, after speaking with Jeff and receiving a number of press releases from the Travel Channel regarding Everest Air, I've been anxious to see how the show turned out. Now, after getting the chance to watch the first episode, I can assure you that it lives up to its billing as a realistic depiction of life in the Khumbu, and what it is like to conduct a rescue above 20,000 feet (6096 meters)

One of my biggest concerns when ever there is a reality show based around Everest is that the climbing scene there will be exploited for ratings. We've seen it time and again on various networks, which only seem to focus on the relatively few deaths that occur on the mountain each year, rather than the hundreds of successful summits. There have even been reports of another network filming on the mountain this past spring that was taking a similar approach. I'm happy to say that Everest Air does not fall into this category and while watching the show I didn't feel like it felt exploitative at all. 

The first episode does a good job of introducing the viewer to the primary characters that we'll be following over the next six week, of which Jeff Evans is only one. We also meet other medics, communications coordinators, helicopter pilots, and support crew that all play a vital role in running the air rescue operations and saving lives on Everest and throughout the Khumbu Valley. The team isn't there just to rescue wealthy western climbers, but to lend a hand to the Nepali people too. In fact, some of the more interesting and dramatic medical emergencies revolve around the Sherpas who live and work in the shadow of the tallest mountain on Earth.

Having been to Everest Base Camp it was a lot of fun for me to see some of the more memorable landscapes throughout the region. The crew that filmed the show never appear on camera, but they are some of the unsung heroes of the show for sure. The Himalaya look impressive on screen and while the production team was there to film the med team in action, there is still plenty of eye-candy in the form of jaw-dropping scenery too.  

Everest Air gets off to a fast start, with some daring operations by the helicopter pilots and the rescue squad in the first episode. I don't want to spoil too many of the details, but I can tell you that each of the missions are a good indication of what the remaining episodes will be like. You'll get a first hand look at the effects of altitude sickness, as well as some of the other injuries and afflictions that anyone living in – or visiting – the Khumbu Valley face. Seeing some of the symptoms of pulmonary and cerebral edema manifest in patients is highly sobering, and will help you gain even more respect for the men and women who attempt to climb the big mountains. It'll also provide plenty of respect for Jeff and his team as they deal with the consequences too. 

Whether you're someone who follows the Everest climbing scene closely each year, or just have a passing interest in the Himalaya in general, you're likely to really enjoy Everest Air. But beyond that, if you want to see a real-life drama, played out on a massive and grand stage, this show will keep you riveted as well. This is true reality TV, where the decisions that are made are literally a matter of life and death. It is hard to top true human drama, and this show has that in spades. 

Check out the preview for Everest Air below, and catch the show starting tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern time. 

Endurance Athlete Sets New Record for Running Across the U.S.

Ultrarunner Pete Kostelnick has set a new speed record for running across the U.S., smashing the previous mark that had been in place for more than 36 years. The endurance athlete arrived in New York City on Monday of this week, bringing an end to his six-week odyssey that began in San Francisco back on September 12.

Officially, Kostelnick covered the 3067 mile (4935 km) distance between San Francisco and New York in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes. That beats the old record – set by Frank Giannino Jr. back in 1980 – by 4 days, 2 hours, and six minutes. That means that he had to average more than 72 miles per day – every day – to set the new mark.

While in the midst of this record setting run, Kostelnick set a brutal schedule for himself. He would sleep in a support vehicle until 3 AM, then run 40 miles (64 km) over the course of 7 or 8 hours. He would then take a break to refuel and rehydrate at lunch, before hitting the road once again. The second leg of his daily mileage would usually be another 30+ miles (48 km).

Only twice throughout the course of the journey did he fail to hit the 70 mile mark on any given day. He also took one full rest day along the way too. And on his final push into New Your City, he ran 87 miles (140 km) nonstop.

Kostelnick is no stranger to difficult runs, although he's never done anything like this one before. He is a two-time winner of the Badwater Ultra however, and holds the course record for that event at 21 hours, 56 minutes, and 32 seconds. That is a brutal race of course, but not much can compare to the daily grind of a transcontinental run like the one he just finished.

Congrats to Pete on amazing job. Breaking a 35+ year old record is never easy, and he just lowered the mark to a point that it could take another 35 years before someone else gets close.

Video: Expedition to the Valley of the Dinosaurs

The Badlands of North Dakota are the site for this video, which takes us on a dinosaur hunting expedition with Tyler Lyson, a man who seems to have a knack for finding fossils hidden in the Earth. In this short documentary, Tyler is attempting to recover a rare, intact skull from a triceratops with the help of a group of amateur fossil hunters that he has invited along for the ride. While working on that discovery, he comes across another one that is equally astounding. Enjoy.

Valley of the Last Dinosaurs from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Video: GoPro Celebrates One Year Anniversary of the GoPro Awards

Last October, GoPro announced a novel program in which they paid users of their Hero cameras for sharing epic clips of their adventures. The program has become an overwhelming success to say the least. Over the course of the past 12 months, they have received submissions from 196 countries and paid out over $1 million in cash. To celebrate the first anniversary of the GoPro Awards, they've put together this short but sweet video comprised of clips from some of the best submissions the company has seen. The program still continues, so if you have awesome footage to share, find out how you can submit it here.

Video: What Was the Last Place on Earth to be Discovered?

Here's an intriguing question. What do you think was the last place on Earth to actually be discovered by man? Most researchers now believe that human life on our planet can be traced back to Africa, with man spreading out across the planet from there. Over thousands of years we migrated across the planet, settling in various places along the way. But have you ever stopped to think what part of the planet was the last to actually be found by humans?

That is exactly the subject of this video, which uses an animated map to show you exactly when certain destinations were discovered, with the timeline for many of them actually being quite surprising. For instance, who would have thought that North America was reached before Portugal for instance? There are plenty of other interesting little tidbits like that to be learned along the way too, with some remote places obviously taking longer to find than others.

So just what was the last place found by humans? I won't spoil the answer, but I will say that it will be quite logical once you learn where it is. There is definitely a lot of interesting things to learn here.

REI Invites Us to #OptOutside Again This Fall

Last fall, gear retailer REI made headlines when it announced that it would close all of its brick and mortar stores, as well as online shop, on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. Instead of chasing the almighty dollar on a day that should be about spending time with your family, the company elected to give all of its employees the day off, and encourage them – as well as the rest of us – to head outside for an adventure. They even used the hashtag #OptOutside to promote the movement, which was adopted by several other outdoor brands like Outdoor Research as well.

Yesterday, REI announced that it will again be closed on Black Friday, and that it is encouraging its employees and customers to skip the crazy shopping madness that is typical for the day, and instead head outside to enjoy some time with nature. That means that on November 25 all 149 REI stores will be closed, and the company's more than 12,000 employees will be free to spend time with friends and family, as well as pursue their favorite outdoor adventures.

In addition to that, over 275 national and local organizations are joining in on the fun this year as well. Those entities will also be encouraging their communities to #OptOutside on Black Friday too, as this movement seems to be picking up even more steam heading into its second year.

REI has also launched an activity finder on the #OptOutside website to help you find organized events, and other things to do, on November 25. That search engine lists local hikes, trail running outings, organized mountain bike rides, climbing excursions, skiing trips, and more. If you're at a loss for things to do where you live, this will surely help.

Obviously REI received a ton of publicity for its decision to close its doors on Black Friday last year. The company more than made up the revenue it would have made on that day with the exposure it received with the #OptOutside campaign. But it would be easy to dismiss this as just a marketing scheme if I hadn't met some of the representatives of the company a few weeks back. It is clear that the gear retailer genuinely cares about helping its staff, members, and customers to get outside and enjoy their time in nature, and while #OptOutside has been a good marketing campaign, the people who run the company definitely believe in the message they are sharing too. You don't find that in too many companies these days, and it is refreshing to say the least.

This attitude also makes it easy to want to support REI too. Which is exactly what I'll be doing on November 25. Hopefully you will too.

Antarctica 2016: Italian to Attempt Traverse of the Frozen Continent Again, Researcher Dies in the Field

Preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is now underway, with the advance team from ALE now arriving on the ice to prepare the permanent campsite at Patriot Hills for the arrival of the first skiers of the season. It will take them a few days to get the camp ready, and they'll spend a considerable amount of time preparing the runway that will allow the big Ilyushin aircraft to begin transporting supplies, crew, and explorers out to site. That typically begins around the end of October, although the weather ultimately decides when those flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile actually begin.

Elsewhere, the McMurdo Station on the Ross Iceshelf has started to return to life. The station is an important research outlet for the U.S., and during the Antarctic winter it is manned by just a skeleton crew. Now, essential personnel are arriving there to prepare for another busy season ahead as a full compliment of scientists, researchers, and military crew have started to flow in.

Similarly, the Russian base called Novolazarevskaya is also starting to come to life with its crew scheduled to begin arriving later this week. That station is manned and supplied out of Cape Town, South Africa, with the first flight planned for Friday, weather permitting of course. If all goes as planned, one of the passengers on that flight will be Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo, who will once again attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole.

Last year, Pontrandolfo made the same attempt, hoping to use his kite to cover large chunks of ground at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, he never was able to capture the winds like he had expected, so as a result his expedition was much slower than planned. He never managed to get much momentum going, and eventually had to pull the plug. Now, he's back for another go. Hopefully this season he'll have better luck. We'll of course be following his progress in the days ahead.

There is some sad news coming our way from the Antarctic today as well. ExWeb is reporting that an Antarctic researcher has died in the field while collecting scientific data. Gordon Hamilton, who was on the frozen continent as part of a climate research team from the University of Maine, was killed when the vehicle he was driving fell into a crevasse. The accident occurred this past Saturday as Hamilton and his teammates were exploring an area known as the "Shear Zone" not far from McMurdo Station. According to the report, that region is known for being heavily crevassed, with ice that is as much as 650 feet (198 meters) thick at some points.

Hamilton's body was recovered from the crevasse and is being prepared to be taken back home to his family in Maine. My condolences go out to his friends and family after this tragic accident.

That's all for today. As we get closer to the start of the season, we'll have more updates. Most of the South Pole skiers are now preparing to depart for Punta Arenas, and head to Antarctica, which will soon be a very busy place once again.

Video: The Mists of the Pyrenees in Timelapse

Shot over the course of four days, this clip takes us into the Pyrenees where we catch a glimpse of some of the beautiful landscapes found there. The timelapse photography used to make the video shows us the ebb and and flow of the clouds and mist that shroud the peaks of the mountains. At just a minute and a half in length, this is one of the most tranquil videos you'll see all week.

And to visit these settings for yourself, checkout this amazing travel opportunity from my friends at Mountain Travel Sobek.

To the Mist - 4K Timelapse from Mathieu Stanić on Vimeo.

Video: Zipline Base Jumping in Utah

In this video, a group of extreme athletes traveled to the amazing landscapes of Utah to attempt a version of BASE jumping that I've never seen before. It's called Zip-BASE and it involves first ziplining down a long line before letting go and parachuting back to Earth. In this case, that long zipline is spread out across a large canyon and looks like quite a ride in and and of itself. But, mid-way through the descent things get even more interesting. Looks like fun, but I never want to try this.

Ultimate Playground 4K (Zip-BASE jumping) from Negative4 Productions on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Altra StashJack Lightweight Running Jacket

Fall is here, which means cooler weather and unpredictable conditions that can make it much more challenging to know how to dress for our favorite outdoor activities. On some days you need a jacket, and on others you don't. And then of course there are those times when unexpected rain showers strike, making you wish you had brought a jacket with you even though you didn't think it was needed. That's exactly where the new StashJack from Altra comes in handy. It is a super lightweight option that has been so well designed that you won't ever have to decide whether or not you should bring it on your adventures.

A quick look at the technical specs for the StashJack provides some insights into why it is such a nice piece of kit. For example, it weighs just 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams), provides protection from both wind and rain, and it features a loose, tapered fit that gives your body room to move while taking part in fast-paced activities. It also includes some reflective highlights to help keep the wearer more visible in low conditions, and it is made with trimmed and flat locked seams that make it more comfortable to wear.

But, that is really just the beginning. Because what makes the StashJack so special is its ability to be stuffed into a tiny carrying pouch that comes complete with a built-in adjustable belt. This gives you the ability to wear the jacket around your waist until you truly need it, at which time it can be deployed in a matter of seconds without ever having the need to stop moving at all. The jacket even features an open back that is designed to wrap around your pack so you won't even have to remove it to put the jacket on.

This clever design comes our way from the team at Altra, a company focused on making excellent products for runners and hikers. Already this year I have reviewed both their Superior 2.0 trail running shoes and Lone Peak 3.0 hiking boots. In both cases, I came away very impressed with how comfortable and well made those products are. The StashJack doesn't disappoint in anyway either, only further increasing my confidence in Altra gear.

I've worn the StashJack on several runs this fall when I thought there was a chance of rain. On a couple of those occasions I managed to put in my milage before the bad weather set in, which normally would have annoyed me since I had brought a jacket along for no reason. But in this case, the StashJack attached securely to my waist, and because it is so lightweight, I pretty much forgot that it was even there. The included belt kept the jacket from bouncing around while I moved and it did nothing to impede my natural running movements.

On a couple of other occasions dark clouds did decide to open up and drop some rain on me while I ran. It was at those times that I was very happy to have this jacket along for the ride. I was able to quickly and easily pull it out of its stash pouch and put it on, taking just a few seconds to wrap myself in lightweight protection from the elements. This allowed me to happily continue with my workout without getting soaked to the bone.

It should be pointed out that the StashJack is made to be wind and water resistant, which means in more severe storms it can soak through, and heavy winds will still bring a chill to your body. But considering the fact that it weighs just 3.3 ounces, it performs quite well, even in those more demanding situations.

You don't have to be a runner to appreciate what the StashJack brings to the table. Hikers will certainly find this an appealing product as well. It's combination of convenience and svelte design make it a great choice for travel too, allowing you to wear it where ever you go, and instantly have a light jacket that you can pull on at a moments notice.

Priced at $130, the StashJack is more expensive than many will probably want to pay. But it is surprisingly durable for its size and packs in a high level of performance. If you're a daily runner (like me), you'll find this is a jacket you'll want to own. Having it in your gear closet for other occasions, like going on a day hike or traveling to a foreign city where rain is in the forecast, extends its value beyond just my regular workouts. Yes, it is possible to find a rain jacket at lower price, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that offers such versatility as well. For me, that makes the asking price well worth it.

Get one for yourself at And don't forget to grab one for the runner on your holiday shopping list too.

The First Woman to Summit Everest Has Passed Away

Sad news for the mountaineering community, as the story broke late last week of the passing of Japanese climber Junko Tabei. While not as well known as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Tabei left her own mark on the world of mountaineering by becoming the first woman to summit Mt. Everest back in 1975 – some 22 years after Hillary and Norgay. She was 77 at the time of her depth.

Tabei was instrumental in opening up the sport of mountaineering for other women to follow, both in her home country and internationally. Back in 1969 she established a ladies-only climbing club back in Japan and began promoting the idea of women-only mountaineering expeditions. At the age of 35 she led a squad of Japanese women to Everest in an attempt to make the first female ascent of the highest mountain on the planet, proving that women could indeed reach that point in the process.

Throughout her climbing career, Junko visited more than 60 countries, scaling the highest peaks in each of those nations. In 1992 she became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits as well, as she stood on top of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she continued to pursue her dreams in the mountains right up until the end.

My condolences go out to Junko's friends and family. She was a towering figure in the mountaineering community who broke new ground for female climbers everywhere. Her visionary approach to climbing helped open the door for many other ladies to follow, and she will be missed.

Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Making Steady Progress on the Toughest Climb in the World

Remember last week, when I shared the news about Czech climber Adam Ondra preparing to make an attempt on the incredibly difficult and demanding Dawn Wall in Yosemite? At the time I had said that it seemed unlikely that he would be able to take on that epic ascent considering it was his first visit to the valley, and he hadn't even touched the rock there yet. On top of that, the Dawn Wall had only been completed once in the past, having famously been free-climbed in January of 2015 by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. But, it turns out I couldn't have been more wrong however, as Ondra is proving what many in the outdoor world already knew – that he just might be the best rock climber in the world today.

Ondra began his climb of the Dawn Wall last Monday – October 17 – and has been making steady progress up the face ever since. On his first day out, he managed to knock off seven quick pitches as he rapidly ascended the route, which falls along the southeast face of El Capitan, quite possibly the most famous rock climbing spot in the entire world.

But, being primarily a sport climber, Ondra found the Dawn Wall to be a different beast than he is use to tackling. By the time he finished those first seven pitches he was exhausted. Despite those challenges however, he did manage to reach the top of pitch 10 before darkness fell Tuesday, making it a very productive first couple of  day for sure.

Over the following few days of last week, Ondra continued to make progress, albeit at a slower pace on more difficult pitches. Heading into the weekend, he had reached pitch 15, which is rated a 5.14d and is considered the crux of the entire climb. There hasn't been update yet as to his progress on that particular challenge, but if he didn't get past it over the past couple of days, it will certainly be his primary focus as he starts his second week on the Dawn Wall.

If the 23-year old Czech climber can get over the next three pitches – and there is no indication that he won't – it is relatively easy sailing to the top from there. That means we could see a second ascent of what many consider the toughest rock climbing challenge in the world by the end of the week. Stay tuned for more updates. It's going to be fun to follow Adam's progress.

Video: The Living Landscapes of Colorado

We'll end the week with this beautiful video shot in Colorado where the stunning colors of autumn are in full display. We all know that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., but this is a great reminder of just how amazing the landscapes there can be. All it takes is one clip like this one, or a brief visit to the state, to understand why the people that live there love it so much.

Colorado - A Living Landscape 4K from Jason Hatfield on Vimeo.

Video: Riding Through an Enduro Playground in British Columbia

This short clip is part of Red Bull's "Raw" series, which is essentially a video that has been created to give viewers a great experience, but hasn't been heavily edited and lacks much in the way of special effects. In fact, this video doesn't even have any music. It is simply two-minutes of pure bliss as pro mountain biker Brandon Semenuk spends a day riding a beautiful trail in British Columbia. The results are spectacular.

Gear Closet: Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, I'm always looking for ways that I can shed weight from my pack without sacrificing functionality. Often that comes from packing more wisely, leaving behind nonessential items, and choosing the proper gear for any given trip. But sometimes those gains can come from discovering an item that is designed for those who like to travel fast and light, but don't want to have to make compromises along the way. The Stash water bottle from Hydrapak is just such a product.

Made from durable and flexible materials, the Stash is a collapsible water bottle designed to shrink down to a highly packable size when not in use. This makes it super easy to stow in your pack until you're ready to use it, at which time it expands back to its full size in a manner of seconds.

I carry the 1-liter version (it is also available in a 750 ml size) of the Stash with me when I hit the road, and I've found it to an excellent traveling companion. It is lightweight (3.1 oz/88 g when empty), and yet still plenty durable enough to survive plenty of use and abuse in the backcountry. My Stash bottle is capable of holding up to 32 oz of water when full, but can reduce down to just 1/5 its normal size when you're ready to tuck it away.

As if that wasn't enough, the bottle can be used to store both hot and cold beverages. It is rated for use at temperatures as high as 140ºF (60ºC) or it can withstand its contents being frozen too. That versatility makes it a great option for the trail or campsite, allowing you to take it anywhere you want to go, and still stay hydrated along the way.

The 1-liter version comes with a wide-mouth (63 mm) cap that makes it extremely easy to drink from. That cap has also been designed to fit most backcountry water filters too, allowing the Stash to be refilled directly from a stream or lake. That same opening comes in handy when you're pouring water out as well, for instance when you're filling a pot to boil water for dinner.

Made from 100% BPA and PVC free materials, the Stash is perfectly safe to drink from. It also doesn't absorb the flavor of liquids other than water either. On occasion, I like to fill the bottle up with water and add a couple of nuun tablets, but after rinsing the bottle out the taste from those tablets usually disappears. You will have to occasionally wash the bottle out however, which is another time when the wide-mouth opening comes in handy.

I have been carrying this bottle with me on numerous trips over the past year, and have come to truly rely on it. I love that it weighs less than half that of a hardshell bottle, and that it compresses down to such a small size. It also draws a lot of attention from fellow travelers and guides, all of whom comment on what a clever and useful product it is. Most want to add it to their own gear collection once they head home.

If I have a criticism of the Stash it is that it often takes two hands to drink from it properly. Because it is a flexible bottle, it will start to bend out from the weight of the liquid inside as you start to empty it.  Other bottles will allow you to drink with one hand, as their hard shells prevent this from happening. For me, it is a small price to pay for the other conveniences it brings however, but it is worth pointing out nonetheless.

Speaking of small prices to pay, the Stash bottle is incredibly affordable too. Priced at just $22.99 for the 1-liter version, and $17.99 for the 750 ml model, this is an inexpensive option for adventure travelers, backpackers, and campers alike. It also makes a great stocking stuffer gift for the holidays too, as just about any outdoor enthusiast would love to receive this bottle. It's even available in five different colors.

Versatile, durable, affordable, and just downright cool. The Hydrapak Stash is one of my favorite pieces of gear that I've used in a long, long time.

Buy it at, CampSaver, or Backwoods.

Team of British Explorers Heading to Bhutan in Search of the Yeti

The existence of a strange ape like creature living in the Himalaya is one of the more enduring (and endearing) myths of the past century. The animal, which is commonly known as the yeti or the abominable snowman, has been a part of the local lore for centuries, but managed to capture the imagination of westerners as explorers from other parts of the world delved deep into the mountains looking to climb peaks like Everest and Annapurna. Over the years, men like Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner have gone looking for this mountain ape, but other than uncovering a few stories and legends, everyone who has searched for it has come up empty. That hasn't stopped others from trying of course, including a new team of yeti hunters that is heading to Bhutan to find mythological beast.

According to this article in the Daily Mail, the team will be led by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who will take the group into Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary on a trekking expedition with the hopes of spotting the elusive creature. The remote setting, which is situated at 3530 metres (11,581 feet), is believed to be one of the yeti's habitats amongst the Bhutanese people. The rugged mountains there would be the perfect place for a rare animal to remain hard to spot.

For his part, Humphreys tells the Daily Mail that while he would love to find the yeti, he is a realist when it comes to these kinds of expeditions. He compares the Himalaya creature to Britain's own Loch Ness monster, which has continued to spark interest for decades as well. For him, this is just another chance to head out on an adventure, and to visit a place that is difficult for independent travelers to visit on their own. From the interview in the article linked to above, it seems that experienced traveler and adventurer is looking forward to the local cuisine as much as he is the thought of finding an animal that most believe doesn't exist. As far as excuses for launching an adventure, I've certainly heard of worse.

The expedition is being sponsored by the car manufacturer Škoda, with updates being posted to @ŠKODAUK or with the hashtag #YetiBhutan. I'm sure Alastair will also post updates to his website  and Twitter as well.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kuriki Calls it Quits on Everest, Vows to Return

One of the more interesting expeditions of the fall climbing season in the Himalaya has come to an end. Japanese alpinist Nobukazu Kuriki has announced that he is leaving Mt. Everest and will return home, bringing an end to his latest attempt to summit that mountain solo and unsupported.

You may recall that Kuriki launched a summit bid on the North Side of Everest on October 6, only to be turned back a couple of days later due to deep snow high up on the mountain. In that attempt, he made it as high as 7400 meters (24,278 ft) and was preparing for the final push to the top, but the route was covered in snow that came up to his waist. That heavy snow made it impossible to break trail on his own, so he wisely decided to descend back to Base Camp to reassess his options.

After spending a few days back in BC watching the mountain and regaining his strength, Kuriki took a look at the weather forecast and found it to be very unfavorable. The jet stream was moving over the summit of the mountain, making it impossible to summit for the foreseeable future. He realized that his chances of climbing Everest in 2016 were coming to an end, and his home team reports that he broke down in tears with the realization.

This was Nobu's sixth attempt at climbing Everest solo in the fall, and apparently it won't be his last. He has already said that he plans on returning next year to give it another go, and considering the level of determination we've seen out of him in the past, I would expect to see him back on the mountain again next year if at all possible.

Kuriki is an enormously popular figure in his home country, and in order to fund this expedition he launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Whether or not he can do that again remains to be seen, but part of the disappointment he has felt in not completing the expedition comes from the feeling of disappointing all of those who have supported him. As we all know however, mountaineering is not an exact science, and conditions have to be just right to be successful. Particularly on a peak like Everest when you are completely alone. Something tells me that his supporters understand this as well, and will be willing to back him again in the future.

To my knowledge this is the last expedition taking place on an 8000-meter peak in the Himalaya at the moment, although there may be a few smaller teams that have slipped below my radar. There are some ongoing climbs on 6000 and 7000 meters peaks however, so stay tuned for more updates as they happen.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 6)

Discovery Canada has released another episode of their fantastic series of mountaineering videos entitled Unclimbed. If you've been following along with the series, you know that it has been following climbers Gabriel Filippi and Elia Saikaly as they prepare to attempt the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks in Nepal. Up until now however, we've seen very little of the third member of the team – Pasang Kaji Sherpa. That changes with this episode however, as we are introduced to Kaji and learn more about his way of life. Born and raised in the big mountains, he is an expert mountaineer, and a crucial part of the team. Learn more in the clip below.

Video: First Person Ride From the Red Bull Rampage

The 2016 edition of the Red Bull Rampage was held last week in Virgin, Utah,  and as always it provided a host of spectacular video clips from this crazy downhill mountain bike event. To get a sense of what the riders face as the take on his crazy trail, take a look at the video below. It was captured by the helmet cam of pro rider Darren Berrecloth, who made a memorable ride along a route that I'd be reluctant to walk, let alone take my mountain bike on. This is two minutes of sheer terror for those of us who don't ride downhill on a trail that is anywhere close to this.

Gear Closet: First Look at Upcoming Gear From REI

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to Bryce Canyon where I would be treated to an early look at some new outdoor gear coming our way courtesy of REI. Typically, Bryce is a dry, warm place that is perfect for hiking and backpacking, but on our trip it turned out to be pretty much the exact opposite. The weather mixed in a little of everything, including sun, rain, sleet, hail, heavy rain, high winds, mud, snow, and yet more rain. And just to make things more interesting, there were even tornadoes and flash floods in the area too. In other words, it was the perfect conditions to test out new gear, even if the team wasn't especially comfortable, warm, and dry at all times.

Gear Closet: First Look at Upcoming Gear From REI

Casting Call: Adventure Capitalists is Looking For Outdoor Entrepreneurs

Do you have a great idea for a product or business that revolves around the outdoors or adventure travel? Are you looking for funding to get that idea off the ground? If so, the Adventure Capitalists want to hear from you. 

If you're not familiar with Adventure Capitalists, it is a television show on CNBC that features three hosts – Jeremy Bloom, Craig Cooper, and Dhani Jones – who also happen to be businessmen who are looking to invest in great ideas that revolve around the outdoors. They bring on potential partners to pitch them on their idea, and if they like what they hear they just might buy in and help get the project funded. The format is similar to ABC's Shark Tank, which has been a popular show for a number of years now. 

As Adventure Capitalists gears up for a new season, the producers have put out a casting call for new guests to have on the show. The team is looking for outdoor entrepreneurs who are looking for investors to help them take their products from a simple idea to reality. If that sounds like you, you can apply to be on the program by clicking here.  (Before applying, you may want to first check out the list of eligibility requirements as well. Those include being over 18 years of age, and a citizen of the U.S. or hold a visa to work within that country)

If you haven't seen the show before, it really is quite interesting. Some of the products that are pitched to the hosts are quite remarkable, while others are bit silly. It is fun to see what kind of ideas are floating around out there, and you might even recognize some of the people who are sharing their ideas. For instance, on one episode the founders of SlingFin tents appeared looking for funding on some new projects that they are working on. 

This is a legitimate opportunity to turn your great idea into a legitimate product. If you think you have what it takes, head on over to the Adventure Capitalists website now and apply for your chance to be on the show. Good luck! 

Australia to Host the Biggest Expedition Length Adventure Race Ever

In about three weeks time, the best adventure racing teams in the world will make the pilgrimage to Australia to take part in what is shaping up to be biggest adventure race of all time. That's because this year, the country plays host to the Adventure Racing World Championship, and the entire AR community is looking to get in on the action.

The XPD Expedition Race is this year's ARWC event and is scheduled to run from November 8 - 18. It will take place in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, and will cover approximately 600 km (372 miles) of tough backcountry terrain. As usual, coed teams of four will have to run, mountain bike, paddle, climb, and trek through a challenging course that most will be happy to simply complete, but the teams looking to stand on the podium will finish in about 4.5 days.

Of course, this is all standard fare for the world of adventure racing, which has been staging some of the toughest endurance competitions on the planet for years. But what makes this year's AR World Championship so special is that the starting list for the race includes 99 teams – the largest field ever for an event of this kind.

According to reports, those teams hail from 20 different countries across six continents. What's more, at least three of the four members of a given team must be from their country of origin in order to claim that home country. That means that this race isn't just about winning the championship, it is truly a competition between rival nations as well. With the tops teams coming from the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil, this should indeed be one of the most competitive races ever as well.

While the course for the race won't be revealed until just before the start of the race, we're told that it is a very straight forward affair. The course designers promise "no mandatory stops, no dark zones, no optional controls – pure adventure racing at its best!" Because of this, the race course will be open for just 8 days, making it one of the shortest and fastest World Championship events ever.

Right now, the teams that are competing in the race are in wrapping up their training, planning their travel, and packing their gear. They still have a couple of weeks before they set out for Australia, but those weeks will go by quickly, and the'll be setting off before they know it. It should definitely be a fun race for fans of the sport to follow. With so many great teams on hand, the competition should be fierce. Of course, I'll share updates once the race is underway as well.

Good luck to all of the athletes, event organizers, volunteers, and support crew who will be at the event. I know from first hand experience how challenging and demanding these races can be for everyone involved.

Video: Danny MacAskill's Wee Day Out

This video was released while I was away in Majorca, but it is so good that I thought that it was still worth sharing anyway. (And if you've already seen it, it's worth another look!) It follows biking phenom Danny MacAskill on his day off exploring the rural landscapes near Edinburgh. Travel along with Danny as rides through a series of pastoral settings in unique ways that only he can. Definitely a fun and entertaining video.

Video: The North Face Athletes Question Madness - Conrad Anker and Alex Honnold

Yesterday, I shared a video that launched a new brand campaign from The North Face that invited us to "Question Madness." The campaign celebrates the 50th anniversary of the company, which has become synonymous with outdoor adventure and exploration. Today, I have two more videos from that exemplify what the company is going for by introducing viewers to some of their sponsored athletes. In this case, those two people are mountaineer Conrad Anker and rock climber Alex Honnold. Check them out below.

Gear Closet: Catalyst iPhone 6/6S Waterproof Case

Okay, I'll admit it. For a very long time I was very resistant to putting a case on my iPhone. I always appreciated the sleek, thin lines that Apple had designed for the device, and adding a case usually changed that aesthetic drastically. On top of that, most cases I saw added weight and bulk that took away from the look and feel of the phone too. And some of the cases designed for use in the outdoors ended up impacting sound quality and ease of use as well. So, as a result, my iPhone went unprotected for years, and usually when I traveled to a remote location, I'd end up leaving it at home or somewhere safe where it couldn't be harmed.

But, as the speed and functionality of the device increased, and the camera continued to improve year in and year out, I've now started taking my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere. It serves as my mobile command center, allowing me to take notes, share images and impressions of the place I visit, snap amazing photos, keep in contact with friends and family, and navigate foreign cities with ease. And since the device is now a constant companion during my adventures, I found that I needed a case to help protect it from the elements too. Finding the right one however, took some time and plenty of trial and error. But finally, I've found what just might be the perfect match for my particular needs in the form of the Catalyst Case for iPhone 6S.

As mentioned, one of the things I have always disliked about most iPhone cases is that they change the look of the device, and add a lot of bulk as well. This is especially true of a case that has been designed for use in the outdoors, which typically brings a measure of protection from dust, accidental drops, and water. The Catalyst Case does all of that, but manages to do so without turning your elegant-looking device into a massive brick. That's because it has been unique designed to provide a high level of protection with the most minimal amount of material necessary. In fact, it is easily the thinnest and lightest protective armor I have ever seen for a smartphone.

That doesn't mean that Catalyst skimped on the specs however. This case can keep your iPhone safe from water down to a depth of 5 meters (16.4 ft). It is also dust, sand, and snow proof, and is rated to survive a drop of 2 meters (6.6 ft) onto a hard surface. In other words, it was built for use in rugged, demanding environments, and should be able to keep our precious devices from suffering an untimely demise.

The case is also comfortable to hold and provides users with a firm grip at all times, which makes it far less likely that the phone will slip out of your hand in the first place. It also comes with external buttons that allow you to adjust volume and power the device on and off as easily as you could without any type of case at all. At Catalyst has even integrated a special rotating crown that allows you to flip the mute switch just as easily as well. The case allows full access to the camera and flash, and even the Touch ID fingerprint scanner functions normally too. In short, once this suit of armor is in place, you won't lose any of your normal functionality.

Installing the case on your iPhone is about as easy as it could possibly be. Everything snaps precisely into place, and fits as snugly as you would expect. It took me just a couple of minutes to take the product out of its packaging and have it installed on my smartphone, which is not something that I can say about some of the competing products that I've tested over the years. Best of all, the case comes off easily too, for those of you who only want to use it when absolutely necessary.

One of the issues with many cases like this one is that the thick armor that is installed ends up having a detrimental effect on the sound quality from both the microphone and speaker of the device that it is installed upon. This can make it difficult for you to hear the person you're talking on the phone with, and it can muffle your voice for them too. Thankfully, that isn't the case here, as Catalyst has found a way to deliver a high level of protection without interfering with audio performance in any way.

Inside the box you'll find a couple of additional items that could come in handy. For instance, Catalyst includes a special adapter that allows headphone users to more easily access the standard 3.5mm audio jack. This port may be gone from the new iPhone 7, but it is still in use by many who haven't made the leap to Bluetooth wireless headphones just yet. But some earbuds have an tough time of locking securely into place when a case is on the phone. This adapter makes sure that that isn't a problem. There is also an included lanyard that can be used to further secure the device when carrying it around as well.

Catalyst sells this case for $69.99, which is actually quite competitive for something that turns your iPhone into a waterproof and durable gadget. Similar cases from the competition can cost nearly twice that, and often add a lot of bulk to the phone in the process. But considering how sleek, well built, and easy to install this product is, it is easy to recommend it to those of you who – like me – are reluctant to add a similar layer or protection to your phone as well. If you happen to fall into that category, or are simply looking for a great case to keep your iPhone safe during your travels, this is the option for you. Once you have it installed, you'll wonder why you ended up waiting so long.

Researchers Discover Two Hidden Chambers Inside Egypt's Great Pyramid

It seems the discoveries just keep coming in Egypt, a civilization thousands of years old with plenty of monuments to prove it. Researchers in Cairo now say that they have discovered "cavities" inside one of the most well known and iconic structures on Earth – the Great Pyramid itself.

The discovery was made using imaging technology called muography. This technique uses special equipment to analyze radioactive particles known as muons. Analysts can detect where the particles are most dense or least dense to help create an image of the interior of spaces. In this way, it works much like ground penetrating radar, providing a map of the interior of the pyramid itself. 

According to reports, the team conducting the study says that they are "now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the North Face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid.” The team added that “The precise shape, size, and exact position of this void is now under further investigation. It should be done with the help of 12 new Muon Emulsion plates that are installed in the descending corridor, and will be collected by the end of October 2016.”

The same researchers say that they have also located a second "void" in the structure that is located behind the descending corridor inside the pyramid as well. This corridor is the one that leads directly down into the structure to the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu, who had the pyramid constructed as his burial chamber some 4500 years ago. 

What does all of this mean? We'll just have to wait for further information to know for sure, but it could confirm the existence of hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid. What those chambers could contain would be open to speculation of course, but anyone who has ever been inside these structures can tell you that they are unimpressive other than from an architectural/construction sense. Unlike the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the walls are not covered in hieroglyphs or painted in ornamental styles. Instead, they are bare, smooth, and colorless. The corridor and chambers are relatively small, and even a bit claustrophobic. But, it is possible that important items for Khufu were stashed in these spaces to prevent them from being looted by thieves.

Of course, it is also hard to get too excited about these "discoveries" considering the hype that was made last year about possibly finding the tomb of Nefertiti hidden inside that of the boy-king Tut. Those claims later seemed to have been proved false, although archaeologists continue to research the findings. Will this be a similar story? If these chambers inside the Pyramid are real, will they hold anything of value? Or are they just part of how the structure was made? It will likely be months before we know for sure, but it is definitely intriguing to think about. 

Antarctica 2016: A New Season Set to Begin

It may be hard to believe but the calendar now reads late-October, which means the 2016 Antarctic season is set to begin in just a few short weeks. Typically, the arrival of November also marks the start of another busy season on the frozen continent, where once again this year we'll find plenty of interesting stories to follow, including several full-distance ski expeditions to the South Pole and beyond.

A few days back, Explorers Web posted a good rundown of the expeditions to keep an eye on. Two of the more interesting attempts at crossing the Antarctic this year are being made by women with Emma Kelty and Johanna Davidsson both making solo and unassisted ski trips along the traditional route to the South Pole, which begins at Hercules Inlet. Both of the ladies also plan on getting resupplied at 90ºS, before returning to their starting point as well. Kelty will ski the same route back, while Davidsson will use kites to cover the return trip much more rapidly.

They'll be joined out on the ice and along the same route by Canadian Sébastien Lapierre, who is attempting to become the first person from his country to make the journey solo and unassisted as well. As ExWeb points out, Lapierre is not stranger to the colder regions of our planet, as he traveled through part of the Northwest Passage in a Kayak back in 2013.

A Swedish man by the name of Aron Andersson is also heading out on the ice, and although he won't be going solo or unsupported, his story will likely be quite an inspiring one. Andersson is a quadriplegic, so he'll be making the journey in a specially designed sled that he can push along using his arms. He'll be guided to the Pole by Doug Stoup, and they'll follow a shortened route that begins at the Leverett Glacier and ends at the bottom of the world. They estimate it will take about 30 days to complete the 510 km (316 mile) journey.

Other expeditions include a group of skiers being led by veteran polar explorer Ryan Waters, and another being guided by Eric Phillips, which will actually begin at a new starting point on the Reedy Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf. Similarly, a team of Brits will be skiing to the South Pole to raise funds for charity as well.

ExWeb also says that Mike Horn is headed back to Antarctica this season and is currently sailing south aboard his ship the Pangea. What his exact plans are have yet to be revealed, but he is expected to continue his journey all the way to the South Pole.

Finally, another team of Brits led by Lou Rudd will attempt a traverse of the continent. He'll be joined by Oliver Stoten, Chris Brooke, Alex Brazier, Alun George, and James Facer-Childs on a 1770 km (1100 mile) journey that begins at Hercules Inlet and ends at the base of the Shackleton Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf via the South Pole. They'll receive one resupply at the Pole to provide food and gear to keep them moving.

In anticipation of the start of the new season, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions – more commonly known as ALE – had launched a new website. The company handles all of the logistics for nearly every expedition to Antarctica, including South Pole skiers, climbers heading to Mt. Vinson, and just about every other point on the continent. Without ALE providing support, things would be a lot more difficult there. Additionally, the company also has been guiding commercial teams since the 1980's, and still sells its own excursions on the site as well. If you want to plan a trip to 90ºS, this is a good place to start.

Much more to come in the days ahead as the season fully gets underway.