Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts

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.

Winter Climbs 2017: Icefall Route Restored on Everest

Alex Txikon and his team of Sherpas continue to make progress on Everest as they attempt one more shot at the summit. The squad arrived back on the mountain earlier in the week, and have been working on restoring the route through the Khumbu Icefall ever since. Now, with that job done, they are turning their attention upward with the hope of making a final push to the top soon.

In all, it took three days to completely rebuild the path through the icefall. According to reports, more than 60% of the route was destroyed while Txikon and his crew were back in Kathmandu for eight days. Bad weather and shifting ice took its toll on the path, which is mostly made up of ropes and long aluminum ladders that are used to cross open crevasses.

With the icefall now tamed once again, the team is planning their next move. Yesterday was a rest day, but today they intend to get back on the move. They'll climb straight up to Camp 2 and 6400 meters (20,997 ft). Since the group should be fully acclimatized at this point, this could indicate that they are prepared to make a summit bid now, although it could simply be a recon mission to check the status of the camps prior to resting for a few days. That said, time is now of the essence. With just three weeks left in the winter season, and their endurance starting to be tested, we're closing in on a "now or never" situation. And of course, as always, it is the weather that will ultimately decide when they can have a go at the top again.

To get an idea of what it is like to work in the Khumbu Icefall, check out the video below. We'll have more updates as we learn more about Alex's plans moving forward.


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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Winter Climbs 2017: Waiting Out the Weather on Everest

A summit push is underway on Everest, where Alex Txikon and his team are attempting a winter ascent of the highest mountain on the planet. But the current ascent hasn't been an easy one, and although a weather window is still expected to open later this week, the team is currently in Camp 3 at 7400 meters (24,278 ft) waiting for an opportunity to climb higher.

Posting on Twitter, Txikon says that the team actually made it all the way up to Camp 4 at 7950 meters (26,082 ft), but because the winds were so high he, along with Nurbu Sherpa and Chhepal Sherpa, were forced to retreat. Winds in excess of 70 km/h (43 mph) made it impossible to build their tents and take shelter there, so they have dropped back down to C3 to rest and wait out the current storm. That may take another day or two, as conditions are expected to remain the same through Tuesday, meaning they could move back up to C4 by Wednesday, with a final push to the top coming on Thursday.

Alex is attempting to summit the mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen, which is hard enough during the prime climbing season in the spring, let alone in the winter. This feat has only been accomplished once in the past, so we could potentially see history in the works. Of course, there is a lot of climbing to be done yet and the weather has to cooperate, but the team is reportedly fit, in good spirits, and ready to go. They have said however, that this will be there one and only summit bid, so hopefully everything comes together to give them a legitimate chance of topping out.

We'll continue to keep an eye on Alex's progress. If the weather forecasts are true, it seems likely that he'll hold in place tomorrow as well, although if the winds do subside, the team could move up to C4 and be ready to take advantage of the anticipated weather window that is coming later in the week. I'll post more news as it comes, but for now, take a look at the video below to get an idea of what Everest is like during the winter.


Winter Climbs 2017: Alex Txikon Launches Summit Bid on Everest Tomorrow

It has been a very busy month and a half in the Himalaya for Spanish climber Alex Txikon. He has worked extremely hard since his arrival in Everest Base Camp in early January, and now all of that hard work is about to come to a head. According to reports, Txikon will set off on his summit bid tomorrow, with an eye on topping out sometime next week.

At the moment, the weather on Everest is still a bit dicey, but that is expected to change early next week when a period of relative calm is expected to settle in across the area. To take advantage of this rare winter weather window, Alex, along with Nurbu and Cheppal Sherpa, will leave Base Camp on Saturday, Feb. 11. The following day, the trio will be joined Nuri, Pemba, and Furba Sherpa, and the entire team will progress up the mountain together.

If they are able to stick to a typical Everest schedule, they should be in Camp 4 by next Tuesday,  just as the weather window is set to appear. That would give them the opportunity to summit on Wednesday and get back down the following day. However, the current conditions may not allow them to reach C4 at 7950 meters (26,082 ft), so that schedule may be a bit too optimistic. That said, good weather conditions are expected to arrive early in the week and extend until next Saturday.

A winter summit of Everest is rare enough these days, but Alex is making an even rarer attempt by going to the top without the use of bottled oxygen. That has only been accomplished one time in the past, when Ang Rita Sherpa did it back in 1987. That summit was made on the first full day of winter however, and not in the heart of the season.

It appears that this may be the one and only summit bid however. In the article linked to above, Alex is quoted as saying, "The die is thrown, there will only be one attack on the summit." If that is accurate, than this truly is it. We'll all know how it turns out in a few short days.

Good luck to Alex and the entire team.

Winter Climbs 2017: Txikon Back in Base Camp, Ready for Summit Attempt

At the end of last week I wrote that Spanish climber Alex Txikon had set out from Everest Base Camp to take advantage of a brief weather window that had opened on the mountain. At the time, there was some speculation that he might be making an attempt on the summit, although I suspected it would be his final acclimatization rotation instead. Now, after a very busy couple of days on the mountain, we know two things: The weather window has closed and Alex is ready to make history once again this winter. 

Txikon and his band of Sherpa climbing partners left BC last Thursday to make a push up the Lhotse Face. The team made solid time as they enjoyed good weather on their way up the mountain, first staying in Camp 2 for the night, before proceeding up to C3 the following day. Ultimately, they would establish Camp 4 at 7950 meters (26,082 ft) on Saturday, where they would deposit gear that will eventually be needed for the coming summit push. Once they dropped off the equipment, they immediately turned around and descended back down the mountain, with the Sherpas remaining in C2 while Alex himself continued back to Base Camp.

Now, all the members of the team have safely reached BC, where they are awaiting a storm that is expected to arrive early this week. That storm will bring high winds, lots of snow, and very cold conditions. But, it isn't expected to be a large weather pattern, and the forecast says it will move on later in the week. That means that another weather window could open within a few days, giving the team a chance to go for the summit at long last. 

Alex says that he is now full acclimatized but he needs rest before launching his summit bid. He'll get time to regather his strength while the weather is bad. Once the storm passes and he's had a few days to recuperate, the final push will begin. The Spaniard says that he is now ready to go and the stage has been set. All he needs is a stretch of good weather conditions and he will have a go at the summit. 

As if climbing Everest in the winter isn't challenging enough, Alex is also doing so without the use of bottled oxygen, something that has only been accomplished once in the past. You may recall that the Spanish climber is use to making history during the winter, as last year he was part of the squad that put up the first ascent of Nanga Parbat during that season as well. 

For now, just like Alex and his teammates, we have to sit and wait. But the next time he leaves BC, it should be for an attempt on the summit. I'll let you know when that happens and will have regular updates on his progress in the days ahead. 

Gear Closet: DryGuy Force Dry DX and Travel Dry DX - Never Have Wet Boots Again!

Winter can be an amazing season for playing outdoors, provided you have all of the year you need to keep you warm and comfortable in the snow and cold temperatures. That includes a good set of baselayers, a warm coat, and of course a great pair of boots. But even the best boots can get soaked through after hours of fun in the snow, which can make putting them back on the next day for another outdoor excursion a dreadful affair. Fortunately, there is away to avoid that, and always have warm, dry boots at all times.

A company called DryGuy makes some excellent solutions for keeping your shoes and boots dry and comfortable all year round. Yes, their products are fantastic for use in the winter, but I've also found that they come in handy for drying my running shoes after a run in the rain or even a humid workout during the summer too. I've been using a couple of their products for awhile now, and have come to appreciate the simple joys of never having to worry about wet footwear ever again. Here are two devices that can help you achieve the same feeling.

Force Dry DX ($80)
DryGuy's flagship product is the Force Dry DX, a device that was specifically built to not only warm your boots, but dry-out your gloves and other gear too. This handy little machine uses the company's signature "forced air" process to blow heated air into your boots as a way to remove moisture without harming the shoes in any way.

It does this by first drawing air into the Force Dry DX, where it flows past a heading element, before being expelled into the shoes that are placed on its extension tubes, which have vents on the end. That heated air (warmed up to 105ºF/40.5ºC) then goes to work removing moisture from your boots, running shoes, or gloves, making them far more comfortable to put on again when you need them. The process takes between 1-3 hours to complete depending on the garment being dried and how soaked it is. But, once complete, the device not only removes the dampness, but also prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi that could lead to foul odors too.


The Force Dry DX includes four individual pillars built into the device, each of which can accept a show, glove, or other item. That means you can dry as many as two pairs of shoes at any given time. DryGuy even offers several accessories, such as a helmet holder or an adapter to dry your fishing waders, to extend the functionality of the machine a bit further. This helps to make this product an all around solution for keeping you warm and dry, no matter what your favorite outdoor activity happens to be.

The DryGuy team says that dry garments are 25 times warmer than wet ones. I don't know if that number is accurate, but anyone who has spent any time outdoors in wet shoes, socks, or gloves can tell you how uncomfortable that can be. Chances are, if you're outside in the winter, you'll experience this at some point in your life. But thanks to the Force Dry DX, you don't have to start your day out with wet feet before you've even gone outside. Simply set this gadget up in your garage or some out of the way corner, and let it work its magic. You'll be amazed at how useful it is not just in the winter, but all year round. And price at $80, it might be the best investment you've made in a long time as well.

Travel Dry DX ($40)
Of course, our outdoor adventures aren't just confined to when we're close at home. We often have to endure wet footwear while on the road too, which is why DryGuy has invented the Travel Dry DX, a portable version of the Force Dry DX that you can take with you anywhere.

The Travel Dry DX works under the same principle, but rather than placing your shoes on the drying pillars, it actually comes with two small devices that slide into your boots to help remove moisture in the same way. A small fan efficiently and silently draws air into a heating element, which then pushes it into the shoe to help dry it out. While not quite as warm as the more powerful Force Dry DX, the Travel Dry does accomplish the same task, albeit at a bit slower pace.

DryGuy thought ahead while designing the Travel Dry, allowing it to be powered by either AC wall outlet or by plugging it into the 12V DC outlet (read cigarette lighter) port in your car. This makes it easy to warm your boots while on the road, allowing you to even arrive at the ski resort or tail head with dry shoes. I would have liked to have seen an option to power this model with USB as well, which would make the use of a portable battery pack a viable one. But, I'm not sure how efficient that would be for using the Travel Dry DX for extended periods of time.

I had a chance to use this product last week while I was on the road in Aspen, Colorado attending the X Games, and have to say I was extremely glad to have it with me. At the end of a long day outside in the snow, my boots were indeed cold and damp. But, I simply dropped the Travel Dry DX heating elements into each shoe and let them run over night. The next day, they were dry and comfortable and ready to go once again. And at just $40, this is once again a very affordable option for frequent travelers.

On its website, DryGuy offers a few other options, including the Simple Dry, which is a basic boot dryer for $40. I haven't used that particular model, but from what I understand, it uses simple convection drying methods rather than the forced air method employed by the Force Dry DX. That means that it will remove the moisture from your footwear, but it isn't quite so fast and efficient. But unless you're on a strict budget, I'd recommend purchasing the flagship model, as you'll likely to be happier with its improved performance.

Find out more about these products, and all of the DryGuy line-up, at DryGuy.com.

Winter Climbs 2017: Txikon Leaves Everest BC, Possible Summit Bid This Weekend

We have an update from Everest this morning, where Alex Txikon is proceeding with his winter ascent of the tallest mountain on the planet. The expedition is proceeding according to plan, and after nearly a week in Base Camp resting and recuperating, the Spanish climber has now headed up the mountain to take advantage of a small weather window that could potentially provide just enough of an opening to give him access to the summit.

Alex, along with his Sherpa climbing partners, left BC yesterday at 4:30 AM with an eye on reaching Camp 2 at 6400 meters (20,997 ft). From there, the plan would be to move up to Camp 3 today at 7300 meters (23,950 ft). From there, they'll survey the weather to determine where they'll go next, but there is some speculation that he might make a summit bid while the weather holds.

Personally, I believe Txikon and his team are possibly looking to establish Camp 4 and may even spend a night at around 8000 meters (26,246 ft), before descending back to Base Camp for one more rest. This weather window isn't a very big one, and the team may not quite be ready yet to make a dash for the top. If they do build C4, and then descend they'll be acclimated for the next weather window, which could come as early as next week. Time is on Alex's side right now, as winter will last another six weeks. He's likely to play it safe, be patient, and give himself the best possible chance at achieving his goals, which is a winter summit of Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen. That is something that has only been done once before by Ang Rita Sherpa, who did it back in 1987. The big difference this time around is that the entire expedition is taking place during the winter season. When Ang Rita did it, it was on the first day of winter.

Will Alex make a dash for the summit during this period of calm weather? Possibly. But my instincts say no – not yet. We'll just have to wait and watch to see what happens. He is a strong climber and may see this as his best opportunity. For now, we wait for further news on his progress.

More soon!

Two Explorers Launch Arctic Extreme Expedition in Canada

Two ultrarunners are about to embark on a challenge expedition through the Canadian Arctic to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Today, ultrarunners Ray Zahab and Stefano Gregoretti set out on an adventure that will take them through three separate regions of the country, covering approximately 1000 km (621 miles) during the coldest, harshest conditions of the year.

Dubbed the Arctic Extreme Expedition, the two men will begin their journey in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador and Quebec, where they will traverse this amazing landscape – Canada's newest national park – on foot. The endurance runners will be running and fast packing their way through the wilderness, hauling all of their needed supplies behind them on sleds as they go. Along the way, they'll face Canada's brutal winter weather conditions, snow, winds, cold temperatures, and perhaps the occasional polar bear.

From here, Ray and Stefano will head to Unavut to traverse Baffin Island on skis. Once again, they'll carry their gear behind them on sleds, hauling all of their needed equipment and supplies with them as they go. During the heart of the winter, they'll face extreme weather once again, as well as very long nights and incredibly short days as they traverse one of the most remote and rugged places imaginable.

For stage three of the expedition, the two men will head to the Northwest Territories where they'll ride the length of the Arctic Ice Road on custom made fat bikes. During that stage of the journey they expect to face temperatures as cold at -60ºC/-76ºF as they travel along on a route covered in ice that will require studded tires just to keep them upright.

The expedition is set to get underway today – Feb 1 – with Ray and Stefano hitting the trail this morning. You'll be able to follow their progress – which will include live updates most days – on the team's official website for this adventure. If you like to follow challenging expeditions through extremely cold places, you won't want to miss this one.

Some Final Thoughts on the 2017 Winter XGames

If you've ready my blog over the weekend, you saw that I posted a couple of stories from the 2017 Winter XGames (part 1 and part 2). After an eventful day again on Sunday, I'm now back home and ready to dive into our usual updates here at The Adventure Blog, but before I did that I wanted to share some final thoughts on this amazing event held in Aspen, Colorado.

Yesterday was the final day of the competition, with only three events on the schedule. But because all three received air time on ESPN, there was plenty of energy around those competitions. The first of which was women's ski slopestyle, which was won by 14-year old Kelly Sildaru, who simply looked amazing on the slopes. At 14 years of age I was barely able to keep myself out of trouble, but this young lady is already dominating the freestyle skiing world circuit. Don't believe me? Consider this: it was Kelly's second XGames gold medal in this event in a row, which means she started winning last year at the age of 13.

From there it was on to the men's snowboard slopestyle final where an another amazing young athlete took center stage. Norway's Marcus Kleveland, who is just 17 years old, showed off moves that are going to make him a force to reckoned with for years to come as well, winning the event in impressive fashion. With just over a year to go until the next Winter Olympic Games, I think it is safe to say that we're going to see both Marcus and Kelly on that very big stage next year.

The final event of the XGames with the snowmobile best trick competition, which was won by Daniel Boden. Unfortunately, I wasn't around to see this event go down, as when it was getting underway I was heading to the airport to start my trip back home. The big story around this event was the attempt by two of the riders – Colten Moore and Heath Frisby – to do the first ever double backflip in a competition. Neither man was able to accomplish that feat however, leaving the door open for others to show off their moves instead.

So, after a very busy weekend filled with some great athletic performances – not to mention a few dramatic moments – my main takeaway from my first ever XGames competition was just how approachable and relaxed the athletes all were. Everyone was having a great time, with these world class skiers and snowboarders mingling casually with fans, speaking freely with the media, and generally having a great time. I've been to similar events in the past, and it isn't always so relaxed or easy to enjoy the proceedings, but the entire vibe of the XGames is so positive, its hard not to get caught up in what's happening there. It doesn't hurt that Aspen is a great place to hold the competitions, with plenty to offer spectators and athletes alike.

I want to thank my friends at LifeProof for inviting me to take part in the event. It was a great experience, and I was happy to be a part of the crowd that saw everything go down over the past few days. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go back again in the future.

Winter Climbs 2017: Txikon in BC After Reaching Camp 3

Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon has set a blistering pace for himself so far on Everest this winter, but he is currently back in Base Camp after reaching a milestone in his current expedition to that mountain. And while things have been going well so far, the biggest challenges are yet to come, and he hasn't accomplished all of his goals just yet. 

After arriving in Nepal a little over a month ago, and spending the first week and a half of the expedition trekking to Everest Base Camp, Alex and his climbing partner Carlos Rubio, along with a small but very dedicated team of Sherpas, began their expedition in the early part of January. Since then, the squad has completed a route through the difficult Khumbu Icefall, and shuttled gear up to several high camps as part of their acclimatization efforts. With good weather aiding the cause, things were evolving rapidly and surprisingly well early on.

But as we learned last week, Rubio was forced to leave the mountain when he developed a medical condition that was serious enough to prevent him form continuing the climb. That dealt a severe blow to the team's morale, but Alex is a seasoned alpinist and has soldiered on without his friend. In fact, while Carlos was getting evacuated from the mountain, Txikon was on his way to Camp 3, and even higher. Last week he reached that point, and 7300 meters (23,950 ft). Once there, they deposited some gear and spent the night, allowing their bodies to grow accustomed to the thin air. Later, they went up even further, reaching 7800 meters (25,590 ft), before returning to Base Camp for a much deserved rest. 

Since then, Alex has stayed in BC and is regaining strength while watching the weather closely. He also wrote a blog post in which he discusses the team's efforts so far, and provides some insights into what they've been going through. While from the outside, it seems they've had a fairly successful and relatively easy go of it so far, the reality is that climbing Everest is hard work, and doubly so during the winter with limited support. The mere fact that this team has to build and maintain its own route through the Icefall speaks volumes of the challenges that they've faced. During the regular climbing season in the spring, an entire team of very experienced Sherpas are dedicated to that very task. 

Alex also expressed his appreciation of the team that he has around him. It isn't large, but it is very dedicated, with everyone working very hard and focused on achieving their goal – a summit of Everest in winter without the use of supplemental oxygen. 

As of now, there is still more than a month and a half to go to achieve that goal. To do that, they'll need to overcome extremely cold temperatures, poor weather conditions, and sheer physical exhaustion. Can they do it? We'll just have to continue watching and waiting to see if it happens. If Alex and his team do summit however, it'll be the first time in decades anyone has done without oxygen during the most difficult season of all. 

Winter XGames 2017 Day 2: A Well Oiled Machine

Yesterday was my second day at Winter XGames 2017 in Aspen, Colorado and much like Day 1, it was filled with lots of energy and excitement, not just from the athletes, but from the spectators too. With great weather, relatively warm temperatures (25ºF/-3ºC), and lots of things to do in and around the XGames arena, the fans turned out in large numbers to cheer on their favorite actions sports athletes, who didn't disappoint.

The first competition of the day got started early was some of the best skiers in the world hitting the slopes for the men's slopstyle skiing final, which was won by Øystein Braaten of Norway. He started a bit slow on his first run, crashing out early on some rails. But but his second attempt was nearly flawless, giving him a solid win agains some great competition, which weren't far off in terms of scoring.

Next up, was women's snowboard slopestyle finals, which went Julie Marino of the U.S. This competition wasn't quite so hotly contested as the men's ski final, but the ladies did put on a good show, with a large crowd starting to gather in the XGames village. With music, food, contests, entertainment, and plenty of fun booths to visit, the fans had a lot to do between competitions.

The big draw for the daytime events was without a doubt the snowmobile freestyle final. This is the crazy event in which snowmobile riders attempt to push their powerful - but heavy and ponderous – machines through some amazing stunts in the air. Each year, this competition seems to get more intense, and 2017 was not different. This is one of those sports where I'm much happier watching than actually participating, as on more than one occasion I thought to myself "these guys are crazy."

As the event rolled along, the riders continued to push the envelope, with Colten Moore setting the pace with some high-flying stunts that wowed the crowd. But at the end of the day, the gold medal went to Joe Parsons, who on his final run strung together an impressive set of tricks that impressed the judges enough to just edge out his rival.


Following the crazy antics on the snowmobiles, we had a bit of time to catch our breath before the start of the next competition. During that period, I had the chance to chat with a couple of different athletes, including skier Kevin Rolland and snowboarders Sebastian Toutant and Christy Prior, who wasn't on hand to compete as she recovers from injury. The take away I got from chatting with each of them was that the XGames are as big for these athletes as the Olympics, and that they all look forward to competing with their friends in Aspen. This is a tightly knit group of friends who also happen to be rivals, and it was clear that they all knew each other well and enjoyed going head to head with one another.

In speaking to with Rolland in particular we chatted about the number of crashes that had been occurring on the superpipe over the course of the week. I mentioned this yesterday, and said that it marred the competition to a degree, as not everyone got the chance to truly shine. Kevin told met hat the edges of the pipe were not quite what the athletes were use to, and it was making it very difficult to stick the landings after coming off some of their high flying antics. He had crashed badly on one of his runs the night before, but fortunately was just a little bruised and shaken up the next day. After we chatted, he was getting on a plane to fly to Europe, where he would be skiing at the World Cup next week. Fortunately, he should be ready to go for that competition.

Early in the evening, the focus of the games shifted back to the slopes, where the ladies gathered once more for the ski Big Air finale. That competition was won by German Lisa Zimmerman, who is amongst the best big air competitors in the world. She edged out the competition with some serious height and tricks that had the crowd cheering, even as they regathered for the evening's events.

After that, the snowboarders returned to the superpipe once again, with the ladies final in that event. American Elena Hight took her first ever gold in that event, fending off some stiff competition from a who's who list of female snowboarders. Fortunately, there were fewer crashes in the pipe for this event, although the same problems that had caused the men issues the night before were still somewhat common for the ladies too.

The final event of the night was the men's skiing Big Air final, which got off to an auspicious start when Swiss rider Luca Schuler crashed badly on his first run of the night. That accident brought a hush to the crowd, which looked on with obvious concern as medical staff slowly stabilized him, placed him on a stretcher, and rushed him off the snow. The prognosis later would be that Schuler suffered a concussion, and he spent some time in a local hospital where tests were negative and he was later released. It seems like he'll be just fine, but it was a scary moment for the games for sure.

Once the competition resumed, the rest of the field put on quite an aerial show. The skiers flipped, tumbled, soared, and spun through the thin Aspen air, quickly reenergizing the crowd. In the end, it was Brit James Woods who took home the gold, the first person form his country to earn that honor at the XGames.

After the competitions wrapped up for the evening, the crowd moved over to one of the music stages to listen to some of the bands booked to entertain them at the XGames. For me, it was time to head home and get some rest. It had been another fun, but long day, during which I had yet another chance to see these athletes not only shine in their field, but interact with their fans too. The one thing I'll definitely take away from my XGames experience is how down to Earth and grounded all of the athletes are, and how happy the are to be here. That includes meeting and greeting their fans, who find them accessible and accommodating at every turn. There are other pro athletes that could learn a thing or two from that.


The XGames Bring Winter Fun and Excitement

I'm on the ground in Aspen, Colorado at the moment, where I'm attending the 2017 Winter XGames. After a full day of watching a wide variety of competitions, it is easy to see why this event has grown into one of the premiere skiing and snowboarding showdowns on the winter sports calendar each year. But beyond that, there is plenty of other fun to be had in the snow too, including a new event that looks to have a big future, both at the XGames and beyond. 

Held each year at Buttermilk Mountain, the XGames attracts some of the top winter athletes from all over the world. The resort is a good one to serve as host, as it has all of the facilities needed for the wide variety of events that take place over the course of this long weekend. That makes it a popular place not just for the athletes, but also the fans in attendance, who turned out in droves last night for the women's Ski Superpipe final,the LifeProof Ski Superpipe men's final, and the men's Snowboard Big Air final, despite the fact that the temperatures hovered around 0ºF (-17ºC), with windchills dropping it even further. 

Likewise, Aspen is a great host city as well, in part because it is such a popular winter playground. The quintessential mountain town, Aspen is well situated right in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and other amenities to keep skiers, snowboarders, and XGames attendees very happy. 

When I arrived at Buttermilk yesterday afternoon, the XGames village was already jumping. Crowds were already gathering to watch snowboard qualifying runs, while also visiting various booths, tents, and interactive displays from event sponsors. A steady stream of music played throughout the area, and there was an electric excitement in the air. Blue skies and a warm sun made it very comfortable to enjoy watching the athletes, although it was just as fun to watch attendees compete in various games, cheer on their favorite XGames personalities, and queue up for athlete autographs. 
One of the first competitions that I had the opportunity to watch in its entirety was the first ever Snow BikeCross final, which was one by Brock Hoyer. During this event, the competitors ride Snow Bikes, like the Timbersled that I had the chance to ride and write about last year. For those not familiar with these machines, they are a cross between a dirt bike motorcycle and a snowmobile, with some of the best elements of both of those vehicles. 

As I mentioned last year when I had my test ride, these bikes are fast, agile, and fun, which is what the crowd saw yesterday during a wild and crazy final. I think it is safe to say that the snow bikes were very popular with XGames attendees, and I could see them taking a more prominent role in future editions of the event. 

I had the chance to talk to one of the riders – Darrin Mees – following the event, and it was clear that he was excited about the possibilities of the sport. He told me "This is just the beginning. The future looks really bright for snow bikes, which are just incredibly fun to ride." Judging from the crowd's reaction to the race, I think that is very astute prediction. 

After the Snow Bike Cross final, I had some time to before the evening's festivities. During that time, the afternoon crowds began to swell to larger numbers, but once the sun dropped behind the mountain, the temperature plummeted. By the time the ladies Ski Superpipe competition got underway it was getting down right chilly. That event was won by Marie Martinod in an event that set the tone for things to come. 

Most of the attention on Friday night centered around the superpipe, which several athletes indicated was the fastest half-pipe they had ever skied on. That speed and challenge was evident, as there were a number of missteps and outright crashes for both the men and women, which marred the competition to a degree. The winners were certainly deserving, but it quickly became evident that the medals for the evening would be won by the athletes who could survive.

This was especially the case for the Lifeproof Ski Superpipe men's final, which was won by Aaron Blunck, who definitely put down the best run of the night. But some of his competition took themselves out of the running with frequent crashes. I think the crowd would have liked to have seen the skiers get a chance to show off their skills without so many missed maneuvers. 

The evening was rounded out with the men's Snowboard Big Air competition, which is a rapid-fire event that involved the 8 competitors pulling off their biggest and boldest tricks, then racing back to the top of the mountain in an effort to get as many runs down the slope as they could in a 25 minute time limit. This event turned into a highlight reel with the boarders pulling off some amazing stunts, many of which had never been done in competition before, including 17-year old Marcus Kleveland of Norway completing the first quad-cork ever completed in competition. 

This event was eventually won by Max Parrot, but it was certainly a spirited event that also featured a number of crazy, and painful, looking crashes. In this case however, it was more due to the athletes pushing the envelope as far as they possibly could in an effort to win the event, rather than the course being too fast or icy. 

This was my first day ever at an XGames event, and it was a lot of fun. These winter athletes are incredibly gifted, but all of the ones I met and talked to are also very down to Earth, accommodating of fans, and are just happy to be here. They are great ambassadors for their various sports, and the kind of person you'd enjoy spending a day exploring the backcountry with. 

I can't think of a higher compliment than that. 

Video: The Seasons of Norway in Timelapse

We all know that Norway is home to some incredibly beautiful landscapes, but in this amazing timelapse video we get to see some of those places as they are transformed by the passing of the seasons. The timelapse images are incredible to behold, as spring turns to summer, which passes into fall, heralding the arrival of winter not long after. This is one captivating clip to watch unfold, and well worth a few minutes of your day.

 
SEASONS of NORWAY - A Time-Lapse Adventure from Morten Rustad on Vimeo.