Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

Alex Honnold and Renan Ozturk To Attempt One of the Toughest Free-Climbs in North America

While we're obviously still gearing up for a very busy Himalayan climbing season in the days ahead, there are other interesting expeditions in the planning stages as well. Take for example the new project from Alex Honnold and Renan Ozturk, which will send them to Alaska to take on one of the toughest free-climbs in all of North America.

According to Men's Journal, the two climbers will attempt the first free ascent of Wine Bottle Tower on the East Face of Mt. Dickey in June. In terms of altitude, Dickey is a modest climb at best, topping out at a mere 2909 meters (9545 ft). But, its East Face is a spectacular big wall built to test the skills of any climber, including ones as talented as Honnold and Ozturk.

The route they'll take up Wine Bottle Tower is extremely technical, requiring plenty of skill and talent to even consider undertaking. It also happens to be 1600 meters (5250 ft) of sheer vertical granite, which makes it about 609 meters (2000 ft) taller than El Capitan in Yosemite.

The first – and only – ascent of this route was done back in 1988 by Austrians Thomas Bonapace and Andreas Orgler. But those two men made the climb using aid to help them up the incredibly difficult rock face. Honnold and Ozturk will try to free the wall instead, something they attempted back in 2013 with Freddie Wilkinson, only to turn back less than 15% of the way up the route.

Men's Journal says that the two men haven't shared their exact plans yet, but it seems likely that in June they'll have to ski to Mt. Dickey to begin the climb and decide from there what their strategy will be. Since the route is mostly unscouted by either of the climbers, it seems likely that they'll spend several days on the project, setting up portaledges as they go. A straight shot up the wall in a single, massive push seems very unlikely, even for two guys as talented as this.

Either way, it should be interesting to see how this one develops. We'll have to wait for June to get further updates.

Iditarod 2017: The Race Resumes in Fairbanks Today

Over the weekend, the 2017 Iditarod got underway in Anchorage Alaska, with 74 mushers setting off following the ceremonial start. But, as I reported last week, the regular restart point at the Campbell Airstrip isn't suitable for use this year because of a lack of snow. So instead, the the sled drivers ant their dogs had to be relocated to Fairbanks, where they'll restart the race today.

This is the third time in Iditarod history that the restart point has been moved to Fairbanks, and once again it is due to poor snow conditions on the trail. While Alaska as a whole has seen plenty of snow this year, the area around Anchorage hasn't been getting the necessary dumps of fresh powder to allow the sleds to run efficiently. Up north in Fairbanks, things are much better however and when the race gets back underway today, the dogs will have plenty of snow to play in.

Since Saturday's start was just a ceremonial send-off, there are no rankings yet. As of this posting, it is still about two hours until the race officially gets going, but don't look for the true contenders to start to emerge for a few days. The race to Nome will cover 980 miles (1577 km), and it is as much a test of endurance as it is speed. For now, the veterans will be mostly content to lurk in the middle of the pack, waiting for the right time to truly get going. By Friday of this week we should have a better idea of where things stand, and who will be the teams to watch heading into the Yukon.

You can follow the entire race on the Iditarod website, which posts all kinds of updates on the standings. Keep in mind when you look at those rankings however that they tend to be a bit skewed  until everyone has taken their mandatory 8 hour and 24 hours breaks. Still, if you know what to look for, it is easy to see who is running well and has a good strategy.

"The Last Great Race" should be interesting to follow once again this year.

Winter Climbs 2017: Messner Visits Txikon in Base Camp on Everest

The winter climbing season continues unabated in the Himalaya and elsewhere. The days are now ticking away rapidly, and with just two weeks to go in the season, the climbers on Everest are beginning to eye the finish line with the hopes of making one last summit bid before spring actually arrives. Meanwhile, in Alaska, another expedition is about to truly get underway.

Alex Txikon and his team have been on Everest since early January now, and have had all attempts to summit the mountain turned back due to bad weather. The team has seen its share of bad luck as well, with a couple of members being sent home after suffering injuries. In fact, the entire squad was recalled to Kathmandu a few weeks back, but after spending eight days in the Nepali capital, they returned to Base Camp last week to begin preparing for another summit push once again. They spent most of that time rebuilding the route through the Khumbu Icefall, but did manage to climb up to Camp 1 before going back down to BC.

It has been a very long and difficult season to say the least, and Alex and company are probably more than ready to wrap up this challenge and head home. If they have been feeling dejected in any way, it hasn't come through in their dispatches however, and the Spaniard has always maintained an optimistic demeanor, even when things looked like they were at their worst. Still, today he received a major shot to his morale when legendary alpinist Reinhold Messner paid them a visit in Base Camp. Just judging from his dispatch it is clear how excited Alex was to meet his idol, and it may just be the shot in the arm he needed to finally get him up the mountain.

There is not indication of when the next (and likely last) summit push will begin, but with two weeks to go in the winter, time is definitely starting to run short.

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Lonnie Dupre and his climbing partner Pascale Marceau are en route to Mt. Carpe, a 12,552-foot (3825 meter) peak located near Denali. The duo flew into their starting point on Friday and skied 8 hours pulling heavy sleds to make their first camp at Wonder Lake. Yesterday, they reached Turtle Hill after another long day, and are now about 15 miles from where they will set up Base Camp.

One of the major challenges of this expedition is the remoteness of the mountain, with the unpredictable nature of the Alaskan winter also making things tough. But, if all goes as expected, they should be on the mountain later today, and will begin the climb tomorrow, weather permitting of course.

That's it for now. We'll continue to keep an eye on these expeditions moving forward. It won't be long until the curtain falls on another winter climbing season.

Video: The Last Great Race - A Lieutenant Colonel's Iditarod Tale

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Roger "Snowdog" Lee has been training for the 2017 Iditarod for the past three years. Tomorrow, he'll take to the starting line in Anchorage to being "The Last Great Race." His life-long dream will come true, but the real challenge is still ahead. Find out more about Lee and his Iditarod ambitions in this great video, which gives us an idea of what the mushers go through in preparing for the race and endure while out on the trail. Just 1000 miles to Nome!

The 2017 Iditarod Begins Tomorrow

One of my favorite events of the year gets underway tomorrow in Anchorage, Alaska. That's where the ceremonial start of this year's Iditarod sled dog race will get underway. This year there will be 73 mushers heading to the starting line with the intent of racing nearly 1000 miles (1609 km) to the finish line in Nome. The race is a test of determination and endurance not only for the men and women who enter, but their teams of sled dogs as well, with the route passing through remote sections of Alaska wilderness where conditions in March are often harsh.

For the third time in the race's history the course has been altered. A lack of snow in the Anchorage area this year has left the trail in a sorry state heading into the start of the race, which was the case back in 2003 and 2015 as well. So, after the teams have their ceremonial start tomorrow, they'll travel 350 miles (563 km) to the restart point in Fairbanks, where conditions are already predicted to be extremely cold, hovering around 0ºF/-17ºC on Monday when the race will resume. Usually the race restarts in Willow instead.

Fortunately, the rest of Alaska hasn't been without its fair share of snowfall. Moving north to Fairbanks will give the racers, and their dogs, a much better trail to run on. And, conditions have been colder this winter too, which bodes well for the race too. In recent years, warmer temperatures have often left the trail soft and wet, which is harder for the sleds to run on. That will likely make the 980 mile (1577 km) dash to Nome a bit easier and faster.

Normally when writing a post about the start of the Iditarod I would run through a list of mushers who are the leading contenders heading into the event. But, let's face it. After winning the race four of the last five years (only losing to his dad), Dallas Seavey is the clear favorite once again. At the age of 29, he's poised to rewrite all of the records in this race. His father Mitch will probably be amongst the leaders as well, and look for racers like Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle, and Hugh Neff to be in the mix too.

As usual, it will take a few days into the race to see who is running well and to watch the strategies play out. There will probably be a few surprises at the top of the leaderboard as things first unfold. But, by the midway point it will be obvious who the contenders will be. Once racers get through their mandatory 24 and 8 hour rest periods and start to turn for Nome. But at this point, that is a long way off, so for now, we'll just have to watch the ceremonial start and let things play out. It should be an interesting race once again.

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: 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.

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.

Video: The Problem of the Wilderness in Alaska

Take a scenic journey through Alaska with this video, which is set to a famous quote from Bob Marshall called The Problem of the Wilderness. His words are extremely fitting as we wander through some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. Alaska is an amazing place, with a wilderness like no other. It is a place that anyone who values truly wild places should see but for today, we'll just have to settle for this video. Enjoy.

The Problem of the Wilderness from Tom Welsh on Vimeo.

Video: Exit Glacier in Alaska - A Tale of Shifting Fortunes

Located in the Kenai Fjords of Alaska, Exit Glacier has been a beautiful fixture for adventurers for decades. But, the glacier is now in full retreat, and as you'll see in this video it is doing so at an alarming rate. What once took years to accomplish now takes just months, and the changing nature of the surrounding area is having a profound impact of the environment there. At this rate, Exit will shrink to a mere fraction of its former size well within our lifetime, and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it.

This video seems appropriate for Inauguration Day, when a President who isn't exactly committed to stopping climate change is taking office.

GLACIER EXIT from Raphael Rogers on Vimeo.

Video: Kite Skiing in Alaska

If you've read my updates on the progress of the explorers in Antarctica this season, you've no doubt seen a few mentions of kite skiers out on the ice. What is kite skiing actually? It is the use of a large kite to catch the wind, and pull you along across the snow and ice. If wind speeds are good, it can provide a lot of speed, allowing skiers to cover surprising distances in a short amount of time.

In this video we travel to another frozen landscape, as we follow skier Damien Leroy to Alaska where he does some kite-skiing of his own. In the two-minute clip you'll get a chance to see how kite-skiing works, and just how fast it can propel someone along. The results just might surprise you.

Winter Climbs 2017: Climbers in Base Camps and Moving Up

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I've managed to move to a new house, and the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show is behind us, we can finally return to some sense of normalcy around here. To do that, we'll get things started with an update from the major winter climbs that are now taking place in various parts of the world, beginning on Everest where Alex Txikon and his team are making solid progress.

Last week, the small group of climbers, support staff, and documentarians arrived in Base Camp on Everest, and immediately went to work establishing a base of operations there. It did't take them long to get ready however, and within a few days they were already moving up the mountain to begin their acclimatization efforts. The team then spent four days building a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, before they were then presented with favorable weather conditions that allowed them to move up further.

Taking advantage of these good conditions, the climbers moved through the Icefall and up to 5870 meters (19,258 ft), where they spent the night at a provisional location. The following morning, they continued up to 6050 meters (19,849 ft), where they established Camp 1. Since then, they have climbed a bit higher as they scout the route, install ropes, and work to reach Camp 2 further up the slopes.

Reportedly, the climbing is even more difficult and demanding than they had thought, but things are proceeding according to plan. They should return to BC for rest shortly, but are continuing to try to make progress while the weather cooperates. For now, they are happy with how things are going, and the idea of a winter ascent of Everest remains a very high possibility.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Revol is now in Base Camp on Manaslu too, where she reports heavy snow making progress very difficult. In fact, she says that it has snowed there everyday since the start of January, with 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) of accumulation over that time. Despite that however, she says that everything is going well and as expected on a winter expedition to the Himalaya. There is now indication yet of how much progress they are making in moving up the mountain however.

Finally, the last time we checked in on Lonnie Dupre he was just arriving on Mt. Hunter in Alaska in preparation for a solo winter ascent of that difficult peak. In the brief time I was away, he has already called off that attempt however. It seems that Lonnie made two attempts on the summit, both of which were thwarted by conditions, before taking a nasty fall. That was enough to convince him that it was time to pull the plug and consider some other projects instead. The polar explorer and mountaineer is currently in Canmore, Alberta where he is regrouping, considering what he could do differently, and preparing for some other adventures. Hunter won't be climbed during the winter this season it would seem.

You may recall that Lonnie made a solo ascent of Denali in January a few years back, going up that mountain in alpine style. During that expedition he eschewed the use of tents and used snow caves instead. He had hoped to make a similar approach to Hunter, which isn't as tall as Denali, but is considered more technical. Unfortunately, the mountain was able to win this round, but something tells me Dupre may be back to give it another go in the future. For now though, one of the winter expeditions that we were watching closely is already over.

More updates to come as the remaining teams make progress.

Video: Lonnie Dupre Approches Base Camp on Mt. Hunter

One of the winter climbs that we'll be following closely in the days ahead is Lonnie Dupre's attempt to summit Mt. Hunter in Alaska. Yesterday, he arrived in Base Camp, having been delivered there by bush plane. He also posted this video of the approach so you can get an idea of what he'll be facing in the days ahead. Hunter is a technically difficult mountain to climb, and as you can see there is plenty of snow to contend with too. This isn't going to be easy, but that's why he's doing it. More updates to come soon.

Winter Climbs 2017: Expeditions Now Underway

Winter is here, and that means we'll have some interesting expeditions to follow closely over the next few months. A few weeks back it seemed like there would be little winter action this year, but there are a couple of good stories to watch unfold, including some in the Himalaya, including the first winter expedition to Everest in quite some time. Let's start there. 

Spanish climber Alex Txikon and climbing partner Carlos Rubio, along with a small support team, spent the New Year in Nepal, where they are currently trekking to Everest Base Camp. They plan to climb the highest mountain on the planet during the toughest season of them all. Alex and his team arrived in the Khumbu Valley on December 29, and have slowly been making their way towards Everest ever since. The trek is the start of the acclimatization process, but they should reach Base Camp later this week. Once there, they'll likely spend a day or two getting settled and surveying the landscape before they start the process of moving through the Khumbu Icefall and traveling up to Camp 1 as the climb truly begins.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Revol has set her sights on climbing Manaslu during the winter. She trekked to BC on that mountain last week, and arrived there on December 28. Since that time, she's been focused on acclimatizing and getting settled in preparation for her first rotation up the mountain, which should come soon. Elisabeth says that conditions are cold and windy, as you would expect in the Himalaya during the winter months. 

Solo climber Lonnie Dupre is preparing to depart on his winter expedition as well. Dubbed Cold Hunter One, he plans to climb the 4441 meter (14,573 ft) Mt. Hunter in Alaska, which is a cold, remote, and technically difficult mountain in just about any season, let alone winter. You may recall that Lonnie made a solo summit of Denali in January a couple of years back, and he expects this expedition to be just as challenging, despite the big difference in altitude. He is preparing to depart for Base Camp today, weather permitting. As usual, he'll catch a bush plane out to this starting point when conditions allow.

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that a pair of climbers have launched a winter expedition in the Karakoram as well. Qudrat Ali and Samiya Rafiq first planned to take on an unclimbed 6200 meter (20,341 ft) peak in the region near Khurdopin Pass. The two climbers will then push on up through that pass as well, which is the highest in the mountain range at 5790 meters (18,996 ft). Conditions are expected to be brutal with temperatures dropping as low as -30ºC/-22ºF, with high winds and heavy snow likely. The expedition began back on December 24, and is set to wrap up on January 12, so it is a brief but tough excursion into the mountains. 

That's it for today. Expect more updates on these expeditions as the season unfolds. 

Lonnie Dupre Headed Back to Alaska for Winter Climb of Mt. Hunter

Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre has announced his next expedition, and it will once again take him to the extremes of Alaska during the winter. Dupre famously climbed Denali – the tallest peak in Norther America at 6190 meters (20,310 ft) – solo and in January in 2015, and now will head back to Denali National Park to climb yet another difficult mountain.

In January, Dupre will travel to the Alaska Range to attempt to scale Mt. Hunter, perhaps the most technical of all the peaks within the national park, and one of the toughest in North America. The 4441-meter (14,573-foot) mountain is known for its very steep slopes and heavily corniced ridges, which can make an ascent at any time of the year treacherous. In winter, climbers also face harsh weather conditions as well, including heavy snow, high winds, and subzero temperatures.

Those conditions are nothing new for Dupre however, who has traveled in many of the extreme locations of out planet during the winter. His experience on Denali (it took him several attempts to complete that climb) will pay off here as well, although he'll be facing even more difficult climbing conditions, although the Mt. Hunter isn't nearly as tall.

Dupre has dubbed this expedition "Cold Hunter One," and he aims to head toward the mountain in the first week of January. From there, he'll begin making the ascent in alpine style, carrying all of his gear and supplies with him as he goes. Of the expedition he says: “This project is the culmination of all my years of experience wrapped into one challenge, where every ounce of food, fuel, gear and clothing matters.” He goes on to add, “All calculations are based on the absolute minimum my body needs to survive. I’ve allowed 4 days for storms; weather will be a leading factor to the success of the climb."

We can add this expedition to our list of major winter climbs this year, along with the just announced attempt by Alex Txikon on Everest without bottled oxygen. Both should be interesting to watch unfold.

Video: Expedition Alaska Adventure Race Trailer

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that organized and ran the Expedition Alaska Adventure Race, a 300+ mile (482+ km) multi-sport, multi-day race that attracted 20 teams from across the globe. It was an amazing event with some of the best endurance athletes on the planet taking on a course that ran through some remote and rugged areas. The entire race was filmed by a dedicated and tough team, and a full-length documentary about the event has now been completed. It will be making the rounds of the adventure film festival circuit and will eventually be available to purchase as well.

To get a taste of what Expedition Alaska was all about, and what I was working on up north last summer, check out the trailer for the documentary below. It will give you a sense of what adventure racing is all about, while showing off the amazing landscapes in Alaska. It's pretty epic, and well worth a watch.

EXPEDITION ALASKA TRAILER from Hyperion XIII Productions on Vimeo.

Video: Exploring the Last Frontier of Alaska

Alaska has long been called "The Last Frontier," and for good reason. It is – for the most part – a massive wilderness that remains largely untamed. In this video, we travel north to this spectacular setting to get just a small taste of the beauty that is has to offer. If you haven't been there yet, chances are you'll want to go after watching this.

The Last Frontier from Colin Skillings on Vimeo.

Video: Alive in Alaska with Photographer Alex Strohl

Join adventure photographer Alex Strohl has he takes us deep into the Alaskan wilderness to show us how he does his job. For many, the idea of making a living as an freelance photographer sounds like a dream, but it is also a lot of hard work and sacrifice too. But when the landscapes that you see here are your office, you can understand why Alex and others are so passionate about the possibilities. This is a great video to wrap up the week. It is filled with not only stunning scenery but plenty of wisdom too. Enjoy!

Alive in Alaska from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

Video: Exploring Alaska from Above with Paraglider Paul Guschlbauer

Paul Guschlbauer is an Austrian paraglider who traveled to Alaska – one of the world's last great frontiers – to explore the region from above. What he found there was an epic wilderness that remains remote and untamed, even in the 21st century. Paul flew across this amazing place in a 60-year old airplane, finding beautiful landscapes and amazing adventures along the way. This short video takes us along for the ride, and will leave you wanting more. See Alaska the way the famous bush pilots do, and marvel and just how spectacularly beautiful the state truly is.

Video: Adventure Travel in the Alaskan Arctic

I came across this video on Richard Bang's YouTube Channel and thought it was worth sharing. It is a short film made be adventure traveler Connor Callaghan, who takes us along with him to Alaska where we enjoy a taste of some of the amazing scenery and activities that are available there. Alaska happens to be one of my favorite destinations, as it is brimming with great opportunities for outdoor adventure. Take a look at the clip, then put it on your list of places to see.