Video: Welcome to New Zealand - Home of Middle Earth

Shot by filmmaker Awhile Suhas as he traveled 15,000 km (9320 miles) throughout New Zealand, this short video takes us on a stunning road trip to see some of that country's most spectacular landscapes. You'll see everything from snowcapped mountains to windswept beaches, with pretty much every other type of terrain imaginable in between. If you didn't want to visit this amazing place before, you're likely to want to book a trip now.

New Zealand, the home of Middle Earth from Akhil Suhas on Vimeo.

Video: Hunting a Fox with an Eagle in Mongolia

Last week I shared a fantastic short documentary about the struggle that the eagle hunters of Mongolia face living in a modern world. Today, we have a short clip that shows just how these men (and sometimes women!) actually hunt using those bird's of prey. With a GoPro camera strapped to an eagle, we get a bird's eye view as she goes in search of a fox. If you've ever wondered how an eagle can capture such an animal, look no further than this clip, which features some spectacular views of eastern Mongolia as well.

Gear Closet: Osprey Duro 6 Hydration Pack

Trail runners listen up! There's a great new pack you're going to want to check out, and probably add to your arsenal. The new Duro 6 hydration pack from Osprey delivers the level of quality and thoughtful design that you expect from that company, with a few nice additions that you're definitely going to love out on the trail.

The Duro 6 is just one part of Osprey's new line of hydration products, which also include the Duro 15 and Duro 1.5 packs, the Duro Solo belt, and Duro Hand bottle holder. The ladies version of the packs go under the name Dyna instead, but offer very similar features, just with a more female-friendly design. These packs are designed to be lightweight, comfortable to wear, and offer plenty of storage options for everything from a short training run to a an all-day race.

While Osprey's long heritage of creating excellent backpacks can be easily seen in the Duro 6, one of the first things you notice is that it also includes a design that is closer to a vest-style hydration pack, which have become increasingly popular amongst trail runners in recent years. I personally have come to really appreciate this type of pack as it keeps the bag from jostling around too much while I run, and yet doesn't impede motion in anyway either. Plus, the Duro hugs the body nicely and is so comfortable to wear, that you almost forget that you have it on. That's not something I can say about some of the other running packs I've tested over the years.

Despite it's relatively small size – just 6-liters of carrying capacity – the Duro 6 has plenty of room in its main compartment for carrying an extra jacket, wallet, keys, and a few other spare items for out on the trail. Better yet, the harness itself has a number of well placed, zippered pockets for carrying snacks, gels, and even your smartphone, while larger harness pockets provide room for water bottles too. As if that wasn't enough, there is a larger stuff pocket on the back and two stretch mesh pockets on the sides as well. In short, there are a surprising number of places to carry all of the gear and food you'll need out on your run.


The Duro 6 ships with a very nice hydration reservoir that can hold up to 1.5 liters of water. That reservoir is easy to fill, seals up tight, and slips in and out of its designated sleeve within the pack with ease. It's bite valve offers plenty of water on demand, while Osprey's patented magnetic retention system keeps the hydration bladder's hose out of the way until you actually need to take a drink. This is a feature that another pack I've been testing lately does not have, and I found myself sorely missing it while on longer runs.

As someone who tends to get very warm, and sweat a lot, while on a run, I always worry about how much adding a pack to the mix will potentially increase my discomfort out on the trail. But, I can honestly say that the Duro 6 is so lightweight and easy to run with, that I haven't really noticed much of an impact in this area at all. Granted, I've been running in relatively cooler temperatures so far, but this vest/pack hybrid has been a joy to run in, and has now supplanted Osprey's own Rev 6 as my new favorite running pack.

While this bag is obviously aimed at trail runners, it can also pull double-duty as a mountain biking or light hiking pack as well. In terms of carrying plenty of water and offering a surprising amount of onboard storage, you'll be hard pressed to beat the Duro when you also factor in all around comfort and efficiency. If you're in the market for a lightweight, versatile pack for your favorite outdoor aerobic activities, this is a great choice. And since it comes with Osprey's All-Might Guarantee, you can bet its built to last too.

Priced at $110, the Duro 6 is in my book, a very good value. Osprey has managed to pack a lot of features and design elements into a compact package that trail runners are absolutely going to love. And with spring just around the corner, you know you're going to want a new pack to help you get back up to speed out on the trail. This one will do that, and more.

Buy at now at REI.com.

Osprey Packs | Duro/Dyna Series | Product Tour from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

Space X is Sending Two (Rich) People to the Moon Next Year

The promise of true commercial space travel has been just out of reach and over the next horizon for a number of years now. Every time it seems like we're getting close to making it happen, unforeseen delays, technical hurdles, and outright disasters force us to move the launch of the second space age back by months or years. But, if Space X founder Elon Musk is to be believed, his company is going to send two wealthy passengers around the moon next year.

Winter Climbs 2017: Work Continues on Everest, Lonnie Dupre Launches Winter Ascent in Alaska

Now that the end of February is upon us, there are roughly three weeks left in the winter season, and climbers looking to complete an ascent during the coldest months of the year can hear the clock ticking. But, three weeks is plenty of time, and a lot can be accomplished over that period.

On Everest, Alex Txikon and his team have now completed a second day of work on the Khumbu Icefall. Alex and company have been working to restore the route through the icefall, which was disrupted while they spent eight days in Kathmandu. Yesterday, they worked at 5800 meters (19,028 ft), and seemed very pleased with their progress. Soon, they'll have regained access to the rest of the mountain, and will be watching the forecast for opportunities to launch a summit bid.

Meanwhile, Lonnie Dupre is back in Alaska and preparing to begin another winter expedition of his own. You may recall that he originally had planned to climb Mt. Hunter solo this year but was beaten back by the incredibly tough conditions that he found there. Now, he's launched an attempt to summit the 3825 meter (12,552 ft) Mt. Carpe instead, and this time he's not going it alone.

Carpe sits near Denali, the highest mountain in North America and a place that Lonnie is very familar with. In 2015 he made a solo summit of that peak during the winter, become the first to top out alone in the month of January. This time out, Dupre will be joined by Pascale Marceau, a Canadian climber with lots of experience climbing in the Canadian Rockies, where the duo have been training for the past two months.

The expedition is expected to begin on Thursday of this week, and will proceed as the weather permits. Lonnie and Pascale are expecting brutal temperatures, high winds, and possibly heavy snow while they attempt their winter summit. But before they can ever begin to climb, they must first fly into the town of Kantishna, located at the end of the Denali Park Road, then ski to the Muldrow Glacier via Wonder Lake, Turtle Hill, and McGonagall Pass. That's the same route taken by the team that completed the first ascent of Carpe back in 1913.

It goes without saying that I'll be keeping an eye on both of these expeditions as they develop over the next few days. I'll be leaving town for awhile starting next Tuesday, so I may not be able to update the final status on either of the teams, but hopefully we'll have an idea of their progress before that happens.


Video: Searching for the Perfect Shot with Wildlife Photographer Michel d’Oultremont

What does it take for a photographer to get the perfect wildlife shot? Patience. Lots and lots of patience. In this video we head out into the wilderness with wildlife photographer Michel d’Oultremont of Belgium. He sometimes spends days at a time in the wild hoping to get that elusive image that no one else has seen before. It is often frustrating, demanding, and even boring work, but that moment where his patience finally pays off can be exhilarating and extremely fulfilling.

Video: Meet the 12 Year Old Climber Who Has Set His Sights on the Seven Summits

Meet Tyler Armstrong, a 12-year old alpinist who is attempting to climb all of the Seven Summits. Tyler has already topped out on Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, and Elbrus, and had hoped to attempt Everest this spring. But, the Nepali government denied him a permit based on his age, so he has set his sights elsewhere. In this video, you'll get a chance to see Tyler in his element as he trains on Denali in Alaska, a mountain that he hopes to summit later this year. We've written about Tyler before but it's nice to get an update on his progress and see the young man in action. I think you'll find he's a competent, focused, and experienced climber who will impress you with his focus and determination.

Gear Closet: Vasque Lost 40 Insulated Boots

February is an odd time of the year. We're still firmly locked into winter, and yet we can still catch glimpses of spring on the horizon from time to time as well. Despite those flirtations with warmer weather, it is far too early to put away our winter gear of course, keeping our down jackets, outer shells, base layers and other clothing close at hand. That includes winter boots that can keep our feet warm and dry, even when playing in the snow.

Recently, I've had a chance to test out a comfortable new pair of boots that certainly excel in that area. The Vasque Lost 40 is a mukluk style of boot that feature a classic look that is intermixed exquisitely well with lots of modern technology. The restful is a unique pair of boots that feel amazing on your feet and perform well in the winter.

The Lost 40 use a waterproof suede and soft-shell uppers to create a boot that is surprisingly supple. In fact, when you first see them, you'll probably question whether or not they'll actually be able to keep your feet warm and dry in inclement conditions. But, I've found that they perform exceptionally well, in all but the most west conditions. In fact, they are built to play outside in the winter weather, and my pair of boots didn't get overly damp inside in any way, even after hours outside.

The soft feel of these boots carries over to the interior as well. On your feet, they feel amazing comfortable. So much so that I didn't really feel the need to take them off, even after a few long hikes. The Lost 40 feel like an insulated slipper that can keep your feet warm, even while playing outdoors for one extended period of time in sub-zero conditions. And because they are extremely flexible, they are comfortable enough to wear around town, hiking a trail, snowshoeing in the backcountry, and more. They are not overly technical however, so don't expect to slap a pair of crampons on them and have them perform the same way as a more traditional boot.


When designing this boot, Vasque created a dual-zone lacing system that allows you to dial in the right fit on both the top and the bottom of the boot. This was a fantastic addition, and something I'd love to see incorporated in other winter boots as well. Basically, you can cinch up the section of the boot around your calf independently of a second lacing system that covers the ankle and foot. I found this to be a nice touch when finding a solid comfort level, particularly since the shoes ride so high up your leg. With a tradition lacing approach it can sometimes be difficult to get the boot cinched up properly in all of the right places.

One of the more common complaints that I've seen about the Lost 40 boot is that they can be difficult to get off and on, and I found that to be true when first using them as well. They do fit snugly, especially with a thicker pair of socks, so you end up working a bit harder to get in and out of them. I did find that they loosened up some after wearing them a bit, which helped in this area, but you'll have to discover a few tricks the help you be more efficient in putting them on and taking them off.

Vasque has incorporated a Vibram Overland Sole in these boots with the IceTrek compound. This gives them plenty of traction on wet, snowy, and icy surfaces, griping the ground like a set of lugs. This makes the shoes a good option for a variety of winter outings, although you may want to use something a bit more technical when wandering up into alpine environments. Other than that however, you're likely to find that you not only have good balance and traction in the snow, but plenty of stability too.

Other nice features of these boots include a soft felt inner lining and comfort and a thermal barrier made of aerogel that is embedded in the sole of the shoe. Both of these materials add extra warmth to the boot itself, making it perform much better than its weight would typically imply. In fact, I've worn these shoes in some seriously cold conditions, and have come away with feet that feel warm and toasty, even without adding extra thick socks.

Traditionally, the Lost 40 boots carried a price tag of $179.99, but as we transition away from the winter season, you can find them discounted online for as little as $142. That's a great price for a super-comfortable pair of winter boots that perform surprisingly well in a variety of conditions. If you find yourself in need of some new winter footwear, or simply are thinking ahead to next season, this is a great pair of boots to have in your gear closet. You'll find that they are quite versatile, feel great on your feet, and look good too.

Popular Mechanics Shares the 10 Greatest Wildernesses in the World

Looking to truly get away for awhile? Than perhaps Popular Mechanics can help. The site has published an interesting article that names the 10 greatest wildernesses on the planet, giving us some suggestions on where to go on our next adventure to places that few other people ever get to see.

Some of the destination on the list are classic adventure spots. For instance, both Patagonia and Antarctica make the cut for obvious reasons. Other places on the PM top ten aren't quite so familiar however, which makes them all the more intriguing. For instance, Bouvet Island in the Atlantic Ocean is considered the most remote island in the world, while Annamite Range of mountains in Vietnam are lauded for their inaccessibility as well. Some of the places on the list are a bit too remote however, as I doubt too many of us will ever see the Mariana Trench for instance.

Still, this is a fun list to look at and dream about. The majority of the destinations are certainly within the reach of most of us, given some time, planning, and money. In fact, I've actually been to a few of the places on this list already, and I have no doubt that more than a few of you have been as well. But if you're looking for some ideas on where to go on your next adventure, this isn't a bad place to start.

Read the entire story here.

Winter Climbs 2017: Alex Txikon Back in Everest Base Camp

Spanish climber Alex Txikon hasn't given up on his dream of a winter summit of Everest without supplemental oxygen. After spending more than a week back in Kathmandu, he and his team have returned to the mountain and are now getting ready to make another attempt at the summit. The squad is well rested and ready to go, but now as March approaches the clock is truly ticking. 

In a blog post on his website, Alex says that he and his teammates took a helicopter from the Nepali capital back to EBC on Saturday. The climbers went from an altitude of less than 1000 meters (3280 ft) in Kathmandu to 5250 meters (17,225 ft) in Base Camp in about an hour's time. Thankfully, they are already well acclimated after weeks on the mountain so there wasn't much of an adjustment upon their return. 

The team has spent the past couple of days repairing their route through the Khumbu Icefall in preparation for their next summit push. That has allowed them to get back into the flow of moving on the mountain, and the route had fallen into disrepair while they were away in Kathmandu. The constant shifting of the ice in the icefall causes the ropes and ladders found there to shift or even collapse, but once the route is reestablished, they'll start thinking about the next move. 

The forecast looks promising in the days ahead, but it is unclear at this point when an actually attempt on the summit will begin. Once a path through the icefall is created, the team will be free to begin moving back up the mountain, but they'll still need to keep an eye on the weather to ensure they have a real shot at topping out. The next summit bid is likely to be the last, so careful strategy and planning is required. 

We'll keep an eye on the team's progress and post updates in the days ahead. It shouldn't be long now until the definitive summit push gets underway. 

Video: A Red Octopus Takes on a Swimmer Crab – with a Surprise Ending

This clip has been making the round on the Internet for the past week, but I thought it was worth sharing for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. It was shot by a couple of divers who watched an epic clash between a red octopus and a swimmer crab on the bottom of the ocean, with the octopus being very aggressive. But just before you think you know what is about to happen, nature intervenes in an unexpected way.

Video: Mongolia's Eagle Hunters in a Modern World

Have 15 minutes to spare and want to see a unique way of life from a remote corner of the globe? This video is a short documentary bout the eagle hunters of Mongolia, a group of nomads who have lived in basically the same fashion for hundreds of years. But now, their numbers are dwindling, and modern life is starting to creep in on their corner of the world. How much longer will they continue to hunt and live in this fashion? Watch the video to find out more about these amazing people.

Last year when I was in Mongolia I had the chance to meet one of these extraordinary men. It was one of the highlights of an amazing trip and it is sad to think that these traditions may vanish.

Arctic 2017: The Gear for Skiing to the North Pole

Have you ever wondered what gear is required to ski to the North Pole? How does it vary from what you need when you go to the South Pole instead? That's the subject of an interesting article over at ExWeb, which is examining the equipment needed to ski through the Arctic ahead of the start of the expedition season there. 

To find out just what gear is needed, ExWeb reached out to veteran polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer, who has visited the North and South Pole on more than 30 occasions throughout his illustrious career.  One of those expeditions was – at the time – the longest non-motorized journey across the Antarctic, when he traveled by kite-ski across the frozen continent back in 2012. In other words, if anyone knows a thing or two about traveling in the cold regions of our planet, it's Dixie.

Dansercoer shares his five favorite pieces of gear for going to the North Pole with ExWeb, listing such items as his drysuit (an essential piece of equipment when heading north), safety items, gear for more efficient cooking, and a set of customized trekking poles. Other gear that Arctic explorers take with them include inflatable rafts for crossing the open sections of the ocean and a shotgun to scare away the polar bears, something that isn't necessary in the Antarctic. 

Additionally, Dixie shares some of his experiences with kiting to the South Pole and beyond, offering some insights in that area as well. This year, both Mike Horn and Johanna Davidson made extensive use of kites during their expeditions, with Horn breaking Dansercoer's longest distance record in the process.

As we get ready for the start of the Arctic season, these interviews and stories help us to understand what the teams will be facing when they begin their journey. It will be an incredibly difficult expedition to say the least, and the odds are stacked against them for being successful. Still, we'll be watching and following along closely, hoping for success. The season should get underway next week, weather permitting. Stay tuned for more. 

Off to Denver!

Another quick note to let regular readers know that I'm off to Denver for a couple of days on assignment once again. That means either no updates or limited posts for the next few days, although once again I'll be keeping an eye on a couple of stories to see how they develop and will post news if it is warranted.

Most notably, I'll be continuing to watch the progress of Alex Txikon on Everest as he prepares to return to Base Camp and continue his attempt at a winter ascent of the mountain. The Spanish mountaineer is currently in Kathmandu, but should be headed back to BC any day now. He and his team are rested, acclimatized, and ready to make a final summit push. Right now, all they need is some good weather, which may still be a few days off. Still, we'll keep an eye on things and update his progress if anything changes.

In the meantime, I'll be back soon with more adventure and travel news.

Video: Elephant Chases Visitors For Miles in Kruger National Park

South Africa's Kruger National Park is one of the most iconic safari destinations on the planet, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the most spectacular wildlife imaginable. But recently, a group of tourists found out first hand just how close they can get when a bull elephant decided to chase their safari vehicle for several miles. The massive creature didn't take too kindly to the travelers being there and expressed his feelings quite plainly. I had a similar experience while I was in Kruger a few years back too. The elephants there are very large and quite aggressive, with one chasing our vehicle as well. This can certainly be scary when you're in the moment, so take my advice and avoid the situation altogether. Just watch this video instead.

Video: Footage of the Massive Crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf

If you've read this blog with any regularity over the past couple of months, you've seen me post several disturbing stories about how climate change is starting to have an impact on the Antarctic, including a recent article about a massive crack on the Larsen Ice Shelf that is spreading at an alarming rate. Today, we have video footage of that giant rift courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey. The clip was shot while flying over the crack a few weeks back, and it gives us a bird's eye view of just how large it truly is. In a manner of months, the crack is expected to reach all the way across the ice shelf, at which time it will collapse under its own massive weight, creating what could potentially be the largest ice berg of all time. It will also allow the glacier that is trapped behind it to tumble unfettered into the Southern Ocean, potentially causing rising ocean levels around the world.

Backpacker Lists 12 Big Hiking Adventures for 2017

We are almost two months into 2017 already, and I'm sure by now many of you have already made plans for your adventures for the year ahead. But, if you're still looking for a few suggestions, Backpacker magazine is here to help. In a recently published article, the mag suggests 12 big adventures for the year ahead.

This being Backpacker the list contains lots of places that you can visit and explore on foot. Each of the destinations also comes with an estimated cost, so you can get an idea of how much you might have to spend to undertake these excursions. Some of the suggestions that made the list include hiking the Grand Staircase - Escalandte National Monument in Utah, which comes with an estimated cost of $500.

That turns out to be the only adventure set in the U.S., as all of the rest take place in countries like Canada, Peru. Chile, Nepal, New Zealand, and other great adventure destinations. For instance, Backpacker also suggests hiking the Jungrrau Region of Switzerland ($1500) and the An Teallach Traverse in Scotland ($1100).

None of these suggested adventures are particularly expensive. The most costly is a $4000 trek through the Amphu Lapcha Pass in Nepal. Most are under $2000, with a couple trips priced at less than $1000.

All in all, this is a great list for those who like to hike, trek, or backpack their way through some amazing landscapes. And since 2017 is really just getting started, there is still plenty of time to get a few of these options on your list before the end of the year. Personally, there are at least four or five of these trips that I'd love to do, but I'll just continue adding them to my never-ending bucket list.

Arctic 2017: North Pole Teams Heading to Resolute Bay in Canada

We're on the brink of the start of the 2017 Arctic expedition season, with the planned departure of the two teams heading to the North Pole scheduled for next week. Those teams are now en route to their starting point in Canada, although as usual, their start dates will depend entirely on the weather. 

One of those teams is made up of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George, who have collectively called their expedition The Last Great March. According to the latest update from Copeland, the two men are setting out today for Resolute Bay in Canada, where they will first spend a few days sorting their gear and preparing for their departure, ahead of the a scheduled flight out to their starting point sometime next week. With any luck, they'll be in Resolute by tomorrow and have a bit of time to rest up and get their sleds packed ahead of the launch of the expedition. 

The other team that plans to travel the full distance to the North Pole this year is Martin Murray and this canine companion Sky. In an audio dispatch released last week, Murray says his sled is packed and his gear is ready to go and he'll leave for Resolute Bay on Friday of this week. His gear load tips the scales at 104 kg (229 pounds) and he expects to be out on the ice in the first week of March. 

Both teams will share the same pilot and plane, as it is now very difficult to find anyone who will fly support in the Arctic. A few years back, Kenn Borek Air pulled out of that duty, leaving North Pole teams scrambling to find anyone else who will take them. This year, that pilot is Dave Mathieson, who is an extremely experienced pilot who has flown all over the world. Mathieson will stay on standby in Resolute for 60 days in case either squad needs an emergency pick-up, which is highly likely considering the conditions they'll face as they head north. 

The current departure plan is to fly out to their starting point sometime after February 27. If the weather is good, they could head out as early as Tuesday of next week, but they'll watch the forecast very closely before deciding when to go. Their exact starting point isn't set yet either, as conditions will dictate that as well. But the plan is to either start at Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery, with Mathieson having the final say as to where he can safely land to drop them off. 

Of course, we'll be following the two expeditions closely as they head to the North Pole. As usual, it should be very interesting to follow their progress. Remember, no one has completed the full distance journey to the North Pole since 2014, and the Arctic has only gotten more unstable ever since. Good luck to Sebastian, Mark, Martin, and Sky as they set off on this perilous journey. 

Video: Climbers on the Summit Approach to Everest

The view from the top of the world is not one that many of us will ever get to see, but if you've ever wondered what it is like on the approach to the summit of Everest, you'll want to take a peek at this video. It's obviously not from the mountain in 2017 as the label says, but it still gives you a good idea of what it is like to finally reach the top.

Video: Chaco Presents: The Time Travelers - Chasing a Speed Record in the Grand Canyon

A few weeks back I posted a story about a team of paddlers who attempted to set a speed record for rowing down the length of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. They ultimately came up a bit short do to mechanical issues, but the effort was nevertheless amazing. Now, a documentary of the team's journey is in the works and we have a trailer for that film. As you'll see, this was quite an undertaking as the short clip gives us a brief glimpse of what to expect when the full-length film is released down the line.

Nat Geo Lists 9 Oscar-Nominated Films to Inspire Adventure

If you're a movie buff like I am, you probably already know that the Academy Awards show takes place this weekend, with golden statues being handed out to the best actor, actress, director, film, and so on. While many of us will be tuning in on Sunday night to see who takes top honors (the odds favor La La Land), others will no doubt be wondering what all of the hoopla is about, and why I'm even talking about it on The Adventure Blog in the first place. Well, the truth is, great films can inspire us in many ways, including sending us off on amazing journeys and seeking real-life adventures of our own. As a kid, I longed to visit some of the far flung places that my favorite actors were traversing through on the big screen, and when I got older I've managed to see some of those locations myself. Now, as we prepare for the Oscars to be handed out this weekend, National Geographic has posted a list of nine films that have received Academy Award nominations that will inspire you to go on an adventure as well.

Some of the places that make the list don't seem particularly adventurous. For instance, the aforementioned La La Land takes place in Los Angeles, while Danzel Washington's Fences is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of course, those places still have a lot to offer visitors in terms of culture, history, food, drinks, and even outdoor attractions too. But, some of the other destinations on the list may feed your need for adventure better. For instance, the locations used for shooting the movie Arrival are found near Bozeman, Montana; one of my favorite places on the planet. Similarly, the critically acclaimed Hell or High Water takes place in West Texas, not far from the spectacular, but seldom visited, Big Bend National Park.

As usual with a list of this kind, I won't spoil all of the entires. Needless to say, they offer some interesting places to visit for those who like to travel. In some cases, watching the films alone will inspire you to want to go there. La La Land is lauded for being a visual love letter to LA for instance.

Every one of the films on Nat Geo's list are from this year's crop of Oscar contenders. But, it would also be fun to put together a similar list of classic films from the past as well. For instance, Lawrence of Arabia served as the inspiration for me to visit Jordan, while Raiders of the Lost Ark sparked an interest in Egypt as well. Seeing Rick wander the streets of Casablanca in the film of the same name will certainly lure fans of that movie to Morocco, while Out of Africa is a good way to convince anyone that going on safari might be a good idea.

What are the films that have inspired you to see various parts of the world? What movies have you intrigued about some place you haven't gone yet? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Climb Everest in Virtual Reality on the Oculus Rift

Let's face it, most of us are never going to be able to climb Everest. Not only is it extremely difficult, requiring years of experience and training, it also happens to be prohibitively expensive too. But, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we can now all catch a glimpse of what it is like to stand on the highest point on the planet.

A company called Sólfar Studios, working in conjunction with another firm called RVX, have created a virtual reality experience that allows owners of the Oculus Rift VR headset to climb to the summit of Everest. The software offers Oculus owners a chance to take in the views from the mountain, without actually having to travel to the Himalaya or acclimatize for three weeks before starting up.

The new Everest VR experience is actually an updated version of one that Sólfar created for the HTC Vive headset last year. But, Oculus users get a couple of additional features, including the ability to climb up the Lhotse Face and a new "god" mode that takes them above the Himalaya themselves for a bird's eye view of the tallest mountains on Earth.

I don't own either of these VR headsets so I can't comment on what this virtual climb of Everest is like, but having used the Oculus Rift in the past, I can tell you that it provides a very compelling and realistic experience. We do get a glimpse of the technology at work here in the video below however, which is no substitute for actual VR, but it does serve as a preview of what to expect. This is especially true if your browser supports 360º video, allowing you to pan around in all directions. Check it out to catch a glimpse of this tech in action.

Ueli Steck Training in Nepal Ahead of Spring Everest-Lhotse Attempt

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya is still well over a month from getting under way, but already some of the world's top climbers are preparing for the challenges ahead. Take Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck, who is getting ready for what could be the most difficult undertaking of his illustrious career. And to prepare for that expedition, Ueli is already in Nepal and training for what he expects to be a major undertaking.

This spring, Ueli hopes to summit not only Everest, but its neighbor Lhotse as well. While it is a bit unusual to bag both summits in a single season, it's not completely unheard of with other mountaineers completing that challenging in the past. But, Ueli will attempt to nab both summits in a single go, first topping out on Everest before returning to Camp 4 for a brief rest, and traversing the narrow ride that connects the two mountains, and going straight for the summit of Lhotse as well.

Steck will be joined on this venture by climbing partner Tenji Sherpa, and to prepare for their expedition the duo have already been training in Nepal. Ueli and Tenji recently summited the 6180 meter (20,275 ft) Island Peak. Additionally, while training in the Khumbu Valley, Ueli has also been doing a lot of running, saying that he has covered a distance of 150 km (93 miles) and a vertical climb of around 12,000 meters (39,370 ft).

After spending three weeks in the Khumbu, Ueli will now head home for another three weeks of training in the Alps, before returning to Nepal to attempt the Everest-Lhotse traverse. My guess is that he'll be back in the country early in the season, do some more acclimatization in the valley ahead of the start of climbing season, and will be ready to take on the challenge as early as he can. We've seen Ueli dash up to the summit of Everest before, staying well ahead of the normal crowds, and he is likely to do that again. In fact, a few years back he was amongst the first to summit, following behind the rope fixing team as they installed the lines to the top. I wouldn't be shocked to see him do the same thing again in an attempt to avoid the crowds that would surely slow him down from his normal amazing pace.

It won't be long now and we'll begin to see more stories of training and final prep work for the start of the season. By the first of April, the teams will begin arriving in Kathmandu and things will get really interesting. Right now, it's the calm before the storm, and we still have a winter ascent of Everest to watch closely too.

Video: Take A Wild Ride on the GoPro Winning Mountain Bike Line of 2016

At the end of 2016, GoPro invited mountain bikers from across the globe to share their favorite rides from the past year, promising to pick a winner for their favorite line. The winner, which can be viewed below, was submitted by Stevey Storey and was filmed as he bombed down a trail in British Columbia. This first person ride is fast and wild with a little bit of everything, including narrow, twisty singletrack; obstacles to avoid, and even places to catch some air. This is pretty much a dream trail for most mountain bikers, so sit back and enjoy.

Video: How the U.S. National Parks Are Attempting to Lure More Minority Visitors

The national parks in the U.S. are some of the most dramatic and breathtaking landscapes found anywhere on the planet, and as such they draw millions of visitors each year. Unfortunately, most of those visitors are white, with few minorities sprinkled in here and there. But the Park Service and its partners are trying to change that by creating a more inclusive atmosphere for everyone. In this video, we see how those efforts are being conducted with the hopes of getting more people of color to experience the outdoors as well.


Gear Closet: Garmont 9.81 Speed III Light Hiking Shoes

Looking for some new hiking shoes as spring starts to inch a bit closer? Looking for something lightweight, but stable, that can offer plenty of protection for your feet? If so, then the Garmont 9.81 Speed III hiking shoe just might be what you're looking for. Recently, I've had the chance to give these shoes a go, and now find myself wearing them almost daily. Although, I wasn't sure that would be the case when I first put them on.

While I had met with Garmont over the past couple of summer Outdoor Retailer shows, this was the first time I'd actually gotten the chance to test a pair of their shoes. I always liked the style and design the company's boots displayed, but good looks don't always translate into a comfortable fit. Still, I was very intrigued with what I saw, and was eager to put them to the test. So, when my test pair of the 9.81 Speed III arrived, I eagerly put them on to get a feel for what they were actually like.

I was immediately impressed with how good they felt on my feet. The polymer heel inserts and EVA midsole gave the shoe a stiff – but comfortable – ride that offered a solid level of protection without much bulk. The wide toe-box was great too, especially when wearing a thicker sock, while the mesh upper was durable and breathable at the same time. The 9.81 Speed III felt a bit like a nice cross-over shoe, straddling the line between a trail runner and a light hiker. For my money, that's not a bad space to fill.

But then, I started to walk around in them and my perception of the shoes soon changed. You see, while I really liked they way they looked and felt, as I wore them around the house and while taking the dog for a walk, I started to notice that the shoes were rubbing against my ankle, creating a bit of a hot spot. I soldiered through, keeping them on my feet for a few hours, before giving up and reverting to something in my closet that wasn't causing me pain.


To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I really wanted to like these shoes, but for some reason they were consistently rubbing my ankles, causing them to become quite sore. Thankfully, no blisters actually developed, but it was annoying and painful to say the least. Still, I was determined to give the 9.81 Speed another chance, so over the course of the next few days I wore them several more times, for shorter periods while wearing socks that were a bit thicker around the ankle. Gradually, the shoes started to loosen up a bit, and over time the rubbing on my ankles lessened. Now, it's to the point that I don't have the same issue any longer.

Regarding this issue I would say two things. First, everyone's feet are different, so it is entirely possible that you could put these shoes on and never experience the same level of discomfort that I did. My ankles just might be shaped in such a way as that they were not immediately compatible with Garmont's light hiker. The other thing to keep in mind is that every shoe requires a bit of a break-in period, and for these it took a few days to get them just right. Now, they feel great with no hot spots whatsoever.

In addition to being very comfortable to wear, the 9.81 Speed IIIs also offer a nice level of traction on a variety of surfaces. Garmont has equipped them with a Vibram Fast Trail outsole that is designed to allow the wearer to move quickly and agilely on mud, dirt, sand, and even light snow. These shoes perform well in both wet and dry conditions, and even though they aren't advertised as being waterproof, I found that my feet stayed dry in pretty much everything short of dunking them in a stream, and even then I wouldn't be surprised if they came out just fine.

As I mentioned, this was my first go around with a shoe from Garmont, and ultimately I came away quite impressed. They are very comfortable to wear, provide a nice level of stability, and seem extremely durable so far. In fact, other than being scuffed up with dirt from the trail, they still look brand new and fresh from the box, even though I've been wearing them a lot over the past couple of weeks. During that time, I've found them to be an excellent walking shoe, both on and off the trail. Garmont says that these shoes were designed for fast hiking, subalpine trekking, and Nordic walking, all of which I think they would be excellent for. I also think they'd make a good approach shoe for those who like to move light and fast, although they are a bit heavy for pure trail running.

Priced at $140, I see the 9.81 Speed III shoe as an affordable and versatile option for use in a variety of outdoor activities and settings. The fact that they happen to look good is a nice bonus too. Find out more at GarmontNorthAmerica.com.

Three Trekkers to Walk the Length of the Great Himalaya Trail

Three trekkers are about to embark on a serious adventure that will take them across the length of Nepal, walking through the highest mountains on the planet as they go. Next weekend, the trio will set out on a journey led by World Expeditions that will see them hiking the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail, covering more than 1700 km (1056 miles) as they go.

Made up of a number of smaller trails that have been intertwined, the GHT allows hikers to walk through the highest mountain range on the planet as they traverse Nepal from end to end. The trek is expected to take 152 days to complete, starting on February 26 and ending on July 27 of this year. The hike begins in eastern Nepal in the shadow of Kangchenjunga, and ends in the far western region of the country. Along the way, hikers will pass all eight of Nepal's 8000-meter peaks, including Everest itself.

During the trek, the hikers will stay in small mountain villages or camp along the route. They'll be greeted by locals, many of which don't see visitors all that often. The trail will take them deep into the heart of the Himalaya, to some of the most remote and wild places on the planet, with sweeping vistas, deep ravines, and beautiful peaks abound.

Walking the length of the GHT is a dream trek for many, and so far it hasn't been accomplished by too many travelers. But, World Expeditions has been supporting this trek for six years now, making it a reality for those who have the time and interest to do it themselves. If you're interested in making the hike they can help you sort out the logistics and get you on the trail. You'll find the full details on the company's Great Himalayan Trail trekking page, with info on how you can join next year's edition of this hike.

For me, this would be one of those top bucket-list journeys that I'd love to take at some point. It would be a fantastic trip through one of my favorite parts of the world. 152 days on the trial is a long time, but the experiences you would have along the way would certainly be life changing. The GHT can be hiked independently of course, but there are still some logistical challenges to overcome. Having someone help iron those out would make everything go a bit smoother.

Winter Climbs 2017: Everest Expedition Back in Kathmandu, Vow to Return to Base Camp

It has been a strange and turbulent week for Alex Txikon and his climbing partners. This time last week, the Spaniard, along with Nurbu and Chhepal Sherpa, were waiting for weather window to open to make a push to the summit. But when good conditions failed to materialize, they found themselves retreating to Base Camp to escape brutal winds and cold temperatures. But on the descent, Chhepal was injured by a falling rock, which forced the entire team back to Kathmandu, with the expedition apparently coming to an end. But Alex has vowed to return and says that his dance with Everest is not over just yet.

The unexpected return to the Nepali capital came about when news of Chhepal's injury reached the owners of Seven Summits Treks. Fearing for the safety of its employees, the entire squad was recalled to Kathmandu via helicopter, with Alex going with them. Once there, it seems there was a disagreement with how to proceed – or whether or not to continue with the winter attempt on Everest at all. But Alex says on his Facebook page that they are all preparing to return, and that his business has not yet been concluded. 

The most recent update indicates that the team is still in Kathmandu, but that they intend to return to Base Camp very soon. Exactly when they'll arrive back in BC remains to be seen, but the forecast does not indicate that a good weather window is imminent for the coming week, so they may well take their time before heading back up. They'll travel by helicopter once again as well, so it is possible that the conditions could delay the flight too. Still, Alex and company are as determined as ever to reach the summit, so look for them to be back on the mountain as soon as possible.

As I write this, there is exactly one month left in the winter season. That is plenty of time to still make the ascent as Alex has envisioned it, which is without the use of bottled oxygen. But, the expedition has taken its toll. Living on the mountain for six weeks has been a challenge, with brutal weather conditions at times. Worse yet, the Spanish climber says that he has lost 12 kg (26.4 pounds) so far, which isn't great for his overall health either.

We'll keep an eye on the team's progress and post updates as warranted. Right now, the next step is just getting back on the mountain. From there, we'll have to wait to see what happens.

China - Xi An : Famen Temple 法门寺

Xi An - Sep 2015


On our very last day in Xi An, we decided to pay a visit to Famen Temple which is the no. 2 Cultural Symbol of Shaanxi" - second only to the Terracotta Warriors. 



A tram towards the temple complex

The new complex - Namaste Dagoba





Pagoda





Famen Temple 法门寺
Direction: Take Tourist Bus No.2 at Xi'an Railway Station, get off at Famensi Museum station. The bus departs at 08:00 and back at 15:00. Bus ticket is CNY25.
Location: Famen Temple Scenic Spot (120 km west of downtown Xi'an), Famen Town, Fufeng County, Baoji City, Shaanxi Province.
Entrance fee: CNY120 
Opening hours: 08:00-18:00




Singapore - Japan Rail Cafe

Japan Rail Cafe in Singapore! I have been Shizuoka Prefecture two May ago for their Fuji Shibazakura festival. The next time I go back there is to hike Mount Fuji #IfIamFitEnough. Here I am at the event at Japan Rail Cafe where their region for the February in Japan Rail Cafe is Mt Fuji x Shizuoka Prefecture.


Video: Cape Town by Drone

Cape Town, and the surrounding area, is an incredibly beautiful place, and what better way to explore those landscapes than with a drone? This short clip takes to the skies to give us a bird's eye view of this spectacular section of South Africa. If you've never been there, it needs to be on your list and this will help you to understand why.

Video: Kayaking Along an Underground River

Kayaks can take us to some pretty amazing places that are often unreachable on foot. Case in point, in this video we actually go underground in Mexico to explore a cave with Rafa Ortiz and Leo Ibarra, who discover a waterway that is faster and more turbulent than they expected.

Cloud Walkers - A Documentary About Amputees Climbing Kilimanjaro – Seeks Funding

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a bucket-list adventure for many people, and for good reason. The tallest mountain in Africa is both approachable and a great challenge, with many rewards along the way.

Recently, a team of climbers made up of amputees from San Antonio, Texas went to the mountain to try to scale it for themselves. Over the course of a year of training, and during their time on the mountain, they bonded as a group and found strength and inspiration from each other. The team made the trek to the Roof of Africa together and now their story is the subject of a new documentary called Cloud Walkers, which was filmed throughout their extraordinary journey.

But, if you know anything about filmmaking, you probably also know it takes funds to get a project off the ground and get the final product in the can so to speak. So, with that in mind, the filmmakers behind Cloud Walkers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help make their project a reality. They hope to raise $50,000, which will mostly go to final editing, sound mixing, music licensing, and other expenses.

To get a sneak peek at what this documentary is all about, check out the video below. It gives us a taste of what this journey was about, as well as some of the amazing views and stories that were experienced along the way. To find out more, and contribute to the cause, visit the Cloud Walker's crowdfunding page.

ExWeb Interviews North Pole Skiers Ahead of the Start of the Season

Traditionally, the end of February brings the start of the Arctic Expedition season, although over the past couple of years conditions at the top of the world have prevented anyone from covering the full distance to the North Pole. Not since Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters completed that journey back in 2014 no one else been able to repeat it. As climate change impacts that part of the world, the Arctic ice gets thinner, more challenging, or completely nonexistent. This year, there are two teams who will be attempting that very difficult journey, and over the course of the past week or so, ExWeb has interviewed members of both squads. 

Last week, the site posted an interview with Sebastian Copeland, who along with Mark George, will be one of the teams heading to the North Pole this year. During their chat, Copeland discussed the logistics of skiing to the top of the world, how long they expect to be out on the ice (50+ days), how he and George trained for the upcoming expedition, and his thoughts on the record breaking warmth that has hit the Arctic recently and how it will impact their journey. 

Similarly, the ExWeb interview with Martin Murray discusses his partner as well, who in this case happens to be a dog named Sky. The canine explorer will help Murray pull a sled and will provide companionship on the long days out on the ice. He also talks about logistics, when he'll start (after February 27) and potentially end (first week of May), how long he's been planning this expedition, and how a major expedition works when you have a dog along with you. 

Both interviews are very interesting for anyone who is interested not only in North Pole expeditions, but the logistics of exploration in general. The two teams will set off at the end of February and will begin at either Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery in Canada. We'll of course be following these journeys closely once they get underway. 

Off to Austin, Texas!

Just a quick note to regular readers to let them know that I'll be on the road the next couple of days, so updates may be a bit sparse. I'm on assignment in Austin, Texas where Yeti Coolers is opening its first retail store, which I'll be covering for a couple of different outlets. This is a bit of a homecoming for me, as I lived in Austin for nine years, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the city has changed since I moved away a few years ago.

That said, I should I have some free time to post a few stories while I'm away, although they may not be as numerous as usual. This is a short trip though. Just two days, so I'll be back on schedule again early next week, before heading out to Denver on another short trip.

We're in a bit of a calm period right now, with the spring climbing season in the Himalaya still more than a month away, and a couple of weeks until the start of the North Pole season as well. But, there are still some stories to keep an eye on, so if anything develops I'll be sure to post the news.

And to my friends back in Austin, I'll see you soon!

Video: Sliding Fire - Skiing and Snowboarding on an Active Volcano in the South Pacific

We've seen a lot of skiing and snowboarding films over the years, but none like this one. In this short documentary we travel to Vanuatu in the South Pacific where we join freeriders Xavier de le Rue, Victor De Le Rue, and Sam Smoothy as they test their skills on the side of an active volcano in a place where there is no snow. As you would expect, it turns out to be quite an adventure in a place that looks like paradise on Earth.

Gear Closet: Yaktrax Run Provides Traction on Snow and Ice

As an almost daily runner, I look forward to heading outside to get a workout in, no matter what the season is. In fact, while it is always nice to hit the road or trail in the warmer months, I also relish getting out in the winter, particularly because I know that most of my runner friends have retreated to the treadmill at the gym or in their homes. Heading out into the cold isn't all that difficult, you simply layer up and get moving, and before you know it you're plenty warm. But, the snow and ice can present an entirely different challenge, making an ordinary workout into a challenge just to stay on your feet. Thankfully, their are some lightweight, effective, and easy to use products that can help us overcome this issue as well, with the Yaktrax Run being one of the best I've personally used.

For those not familiar with Yaxtrax, the company makes a variety of product designed to help us stay on our feet in slick conditions. Their traction devices slip over your shoes, and secure themselves into place, providing a much better grip on a variety of wet and slick surfaces. Think of them as performing the same function as a set of crampons, without the long spikes.

As the name implies, the Run model was designed specifically with runners in mind. Made from high quality, durable rubber, the Yaktrax slide over your running shoes and lock into place using Velcro straps. Once properly installed, they stay in place and don't slide around or come loose, even after putting some serious miles on them. But when you no longer need them, they are also very easy to remove until the weather turns nasty again.

The Yaktrax Run provide improved grip on snow and ice thanks to the company's tried and true design. The back half of the product applies steel coils along the sole of the shoe that helps to keep runners from sliding as they plant their foot. But the front section of the Run have a more substantial rubber sole that includes tiny carbide spikes that can really dig into the ground for added stability. With these in place, you can set out on a run with confidence.


Unlike similar products from some of the competition, the Yaktrax Run is made to be anatomically correct for both the left and right foot. Because of this, you have to pay a little extra attention when putting them on, your you may find yourself frustrated and left wondering why they don't want to fit your shoes properly. But this design choice once agains aids in stability on slick surfaces, and makes them more efficient for use when running.

Other nice touches include reflective elements that help the runner to be more visible in low-light conditions, as well as a design that keeps snow and ice from collecting too much in the Run itself. Plus, even though these were designed with runners in mind, they will also fit over light hiking shoes if you want to use them for your walks as well.

Make no mistake, these are not a replacement for a true set of crampons, but then again, they aren't intended to be used in the same environment that a crampon would be needed. But, for runners who want to move more confidently on snow and ice in the winter, the Yaktrax Run is a good investment. I've been impressed with how well they perform and would certainly recommend them to anyone who hates to run inside during the cold months of the year. Adding a pair of these to your gear closet will remove yet one more excuse to do that.

Priced at $40, the Yaktrax Run are a bargain for those of us who run often. And when you consider how much they would save you on buying a decent treadmill, they are a cheap alternative indeed.

Peakery.com Relaunches with New Design, Mobile Support

Way back in 2011 I posted about a new website called Peakery.com that aimed to become an online community for climbers to share their outdoor adventures, gain information about various mountains, and plan their expeditions to summits great and small. Since that time, the site has continued to grow, and now boasts more than 11,000 members, 336,000 peaks climbed, and 117,000 summit posts. But, as is common with websites that are more than six years old, the owners knew it was time for a fresh coat of paint. They got that recently in the form of a site redesign, which brought some much needed new features, including support for mobile devices.

In a blog post announcing the new Peakery, ten of the new features are shared with members of the community, with things like now having the ability to add GPS tracks of your climbs, sharing summit routes, and getting updates on climbing news from your specific region. The site also boasts improved summit logs with more information, as well as better pages for sharing photos. You can even set challenges for yourself, and then check them off as you complete them, while also earning virtual awards for your accomplishments along the way.

But, easily the most important update to the site is that it now features responsive design that makes it accessible on more devices. Site designers say that Peakery 2.0 now has three independent designs, one for computers, another for tablets, and a third for use on a phone. The site also allows you to upload photos directly from your mobile device, get turn-by-turn directions to the trailhead, and more.

If you've been a member of Peakery.com for awhile now, these updates will probably be very welcome indeed. If you're a member that hasn't dropped by the site for some time, perhaps this will lure you back. But most of all, if you're not already a member, go ahead and sign up. You'll find a lot to love on the website, as it is a great resource for climbers everywhere.

Winter Climbs 2017: Txikon Not Done With Everest Yet!

Yesterday I reported that Spanish climber Alex Txikon and his climbing partners Nurbu and Chhepal Sherpa, had abandoned their summit bid on Everest after encountering high winds at Camp 4. At the time, the team was descending back to Base Camp, and it was unclear whether or not they would stay on the mountain or head home, as previously Txikon had said this would be the only attempt at the summit. But now, they're all safely back in BC and it is clear that the expedition is not over just yet.

Once back in Base Camp, Alex sent a Twitter message in which he says that he has not yet given up on the climb, and that he'll wait and see what the days ahead bring before leaving Everest. He also posted a detailed report of the team's summit bid, which includes insights into what they faced while above Camp 3. You may recall that the Spaniard was part of the team that made the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat last year, and he said that was much easier than what they faced on Everest. At times, he and his Sherpa companions couldn't even stand due to the high winds, and with temperatures dropping to -45ºC/-45ºF conditions were brutal. Fortunately, they all made it back down safely, although another member of the team is now going home due to injury.

According to the report, there was an avalanche on the descent that nearly wiped them off the mountain. While Alex came away mostly unscathed, Chhepal suffered a head injury and will depart for Kathmandu today. The team is now down to just five members as this war of attrition with the mountain wears on.

For now, the team will sit and wait, and watch the weather once again. Alex seems determined to give it another go despite his earlier predictions of a single summit push. Despite having to abandon the attempt on the summit, the team did climb back up to C4 and spend another night at C3, which should help their overall acclimatization. If the weather cooperates, they'll make another go of it once they are rested.

Like Alex and his team, all we do is wait for more news too.

Video: Iceland Under a Full Moon

Just when you thought Iceland couldn't get any more beautiful, we catch a glimpse of it illuminated by a big, bright, full moon. Join a group of friends as they go surfing and kayaking in an environment that has to be seen to be believed. Along the way, you'll also get a sense of everything that Iceland has to offer. And chances are, you're going to want to go there yourself.

Iceland under Full Moon from O Z Z O Photography on Vimeo.

Video: Rock Climbing Norway with Magnus Midtbo (Oh! And Alex Honnold Too! Sort of!)

In this video we head to Norway to take on some of that country's big walls with talented rock climber Magnus Midtbo. As you can imagine, the scenery is pretty epic, and Magnus gets a chance to show off his skills on some amazing rock faces. But, the headline for the video also implies that Alex Honnold is along for the ride, which really isn't the case. Sure, he shows up briefly, but then is quickly gone, so don't expect to see these two men doing too much together. Still, it is a nice look at some of the challenges that Norway has to offer.

Just in Time for Valentine's Day Nat Geo Lists the 17 Most Romantic Destinations in the World

World travelers listen up! If you're looking for a place to visit with your significant other, National Geographic is here to help. Just in time for Valentine's Day (Yes, that's today fellas'!) the experts at Nat Geo have given us a list of the 17 most romantic destinations on Earth

As you can imagine, the places that made the cut for this list are all pretty spectacular for a number of reasons. Most offer amazing views, some have a fantastic mix of history and culture, and pretty much all of them have an ambience about the setting that makes them special in very unique ways. You'll recognize some of the usual suspects, but others are a bit more off the beaten path and lesser known, which gives them an allure all their own.

So which destinations earned a spot on this list? As usual, I won't spoil the fun of finding out for yourself, but some of the highlights include the French Riviera, Bruges, Belgium, and Hamilton Island in Australia. Of course, the images that accompany the description of the places are all outstanding and will only increase your desire to visit these places even more. And as usual with any far-flung destination, there should be plenty of adventure to be had along the way too.

The 17 romantic destinations were paired down from a much longer list that is part of National Geographic book The World's Most Romantic Destinations, which is filled with even more suggestions of where to go and what to see with your Valentine. Speaking for myself, quite frankly I can't think of anyone I'd rather explore the world with. 

View the entire list here

Woman Sets Record for Fastest Person to Visit Every Country on Earth

An American woman named Cassie De Pecol has set a new world record for visiting every country on Earth in the fastest time ever, completing her whirlwind adventure in just 18 months and 26 days. Over the course of that time, she managed to see 196 different nations, averaging about one new destination every three days or so.

Cassie's round-the-world journey began back in July of 2015, and while she of course wanted to sample every culture on Earth, she had other plans in mind as well. De Pecol began traveling as an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism, and often met with dignitaries to discuss sustainable tourism as well. She remains committed to that goal even after her recent return home, and says that she'll plant trees to help offset some of the carbon footprint from her journey. "If you say, fly from Bangalore, India, to Colombo, Sri Lanka, you end up killing one tree during that flight, the goal is to plant two trees, for regenerative tourism, not just sustainable tourism," De Pecol told CNN.

While undertaking this goal of seeing the world, Cassie flew more than 255 times, which causes some to call her a hypocrite. She recognizes that criticism however and says that she has plans to plant trees in over 50 countries as part of her sustainable tourism efforts.

De Pecol faced more than a few challenges in visiting every country on Earth. Not the least off which was her American passport. U.S. citizens are not welcome in every country – including North Korea, Syria, and Turkmenistan. But, she found creative was to gain legal entry into all of those places, adding their stamps to her passport as she went.

Her other big challenge was funding the project. When she first started planning, she estimated that it would take $198,000. She managed to save $10,000 of her own, and raised the rest of the cash she needed by gathering sponsors. In the end, she was able to complete the trip, and in record time.

While reading this story, a couple of things came to mind. First, I'm pretty sure I could travel around the world for a lot less than $198,000, so I'd like to see how she came up with that budget. The other things is that my style of travel isn't one where I'd want to knock off a country every three days. I know she had other goals in mind, and that it wasn't about going on a leisurely trip, but I certainly would have liked to have spent more time in each of those places, speed record be damned.

That said, it is pretty amazing that she managed to get into all of these places, and I'm impressed with her persistence and dedication.

Winter Climbs 2017: Is It Over on Everest?

Yesterday, I posted an update on the progress of Alex Txikon and his team, who have been attempting a rare summit of Everest during the winter months, and without supplemental oxygen no less. When last we checked in, the team's summit bid had stalled out due to high winds, and they were forced to retreat to Camp 3 to seek shelter. Now, comes word that they are descending back to Base Camp, and that the expedition may be over.

As reported in that previous story, Alex, along with Nurbu and Chhepal Sherpa had reached C4 at 7950 meters (26,082 ft). But when they got there, the discovered that the winds were so strong that they couldn't even pitch their tents, so they elected to turn around and head back down to C3 to rest. At the time, the plan had been to wait for better weather to make the final push to the top. The winds were expected to remain strong through today, but good weather was in the forecast for later in the week. But now, the forecast may have shifted and the team seems to be heading back to BC.

According to ExWeb, Alex and his companions started back down the mountain this morning with the intent of going all the way back to Base Camp. Once there, they'll weigh their options and decide what to do next. There is a good chance however that they will elect to call off any future summit bids, as when they set off on this attempt the Spanish climber indicated that this would be their final push. If that's the case, it may be just a matter of a few days before they pick up their gear and start the trek home. On the other hand, they may decide that they have enough stamina, determination, and supplies to give it another go, provided the forecast looks promising.

For now, we'll have to wait to see how things proceed. We should know more in another day or two. It has been a long winter in the Himalaya for Txikon and his team, but they have also been climbing very strong and things have looked promising. Perhaps they're not quite done yet.


Video: The Wonders of Yosemite in Winter

There is no question that Yosemite National Park is amongst the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. That's why millions of people visit it every year to take in some of the sights to be seen there. But in the winter, as temperatures drop and a blanket of snow covers the area, few people make the pilgrimage to see this incredible place. That's a shame, as it is probably even more breathtaking during this time of year. In this video, we'll go to Yosemite and see just what it is like during those winter months. I think you'll agree, it is worth the trip.

YOSEMITE WINTER WONDERS from Rudy Wilms on Vimeo.

Video: How to Make GoPro Footage Look Cinematic

I know there are a lot of Adventure Blog readers who own and use GoPro cameras to capture footage of their adventures. So when I came across this video, I thought that it was definitely worth sharing. It is a handy "how to" on ways to make the footage that you shoot look much more epic and cinematic. The GoPro cameras do a good job of shooting the action and the landscapes we visit, but there are some ways we can make those clips look a lot better. And even if you've been shooting on a GoPro for awhile, chances are you can pick up a tip or two from the video. I hope it helps!