Friday, September 30, 2016

Video: The Art of Climbing

This video takes us to the Rätikon Mountains of Switzerland where we join professional climber Kilian Fischuber ons a tough route known as Headless Children. As he makes just the second free climb of this mutli-ptich 250-meter (820 ft) wall, he begins to see an intersection of his two passions, climbing and art. On this wall, he sees colors that are not unlike a painting, adding a surreal element to the entire experience.

Video: Climbing Downpatrick Head Sea Stack in Ireland

Located just 80 meters off the coast of Ireland, the Dún Briste sea stack is an indelible part of one of that country's most iconic landscapes – Downpatrick Head, where St. Patrick himself is said to have built a church centuries ago. While certainly an enticing challenge, the sea stack is seldom climbed, but last month that's exactly what Iain Miller and Paulina Kaniszewska did. In this short video, you'll see them paddle out to the rock face, make their ascent, and take in the views at the top, which include the remains of an old lookout post from World War II.

You can find out more about their experience by reading their account of the climb here. It looks like it was quite a fun adventure. Thanks for sharing Iian!

Gear Closet: Gear Aid Flux LED Light and Power Station

When I traveled to the 2016 Outdoor Retailer convention in Salt Lake City this past summer I had the opportunity to meet with a number of companies who are making great gear for use in our outdoor pursuits. As usual, there were a number of trends that shone through, including gear getting lighter, more eco-friendly, and improving performance in inclement weather. But, there was also another trend that was easy to notice with numerous gear manufacturers putting an emphasis on better lighting solutions for use around our campsites. In the weeks ahead, you're going to see some of these products begin to make their way onto the market, and several of them are truly going to revolutionize the way we illuminate the campgrounds. The first of these to cross my desk is an incredibly bright and powerful LED lantern from a company called Gear Aid, whose new Flux light will prove very handy in a wide variety of situations.

The first thing you'll notice about the Flux is that it is extremely rugged and durable. Gear Aid spared no expense in creating a light that can survive in just about any environment, including a campsite, warehouse, or garage. Housed in a tough plastic suit of armor, my test unit has survived several serious drops onto a variety of hard surfaces, and has come away without nary a scratch. On top of that, the Flux is also water resistant, which means you should have a bright source of light no matter the weather conditions.

Did I mention that this lantern was bright? With 82 individual LEDs onboard, it can crank out as much as 640 lumens of light on its highest setting. At that level of brightness, the Flux's built-in rechargeable battery – which is rated at a whopping 20,800 mAh – can power the light for up to 13 hours. Turn it down to a much more modest 20 lumens – the Flux's lowest setting – and the burn time increases to an impressive 192 hours. That should be enough to get you through just about any camp outing. And since it has 10 brightness settings, and three color temperatures, you'll always be able to find just the right lighting for to meet your needs.

Adventure Racing World Series a Success in China

Earlier this week an epic adventure race took place in a remote region of China, marking the debut of the the Adventure Racing World Series in Asia. By all accounts it was a successful first race with just minutes separating the top teams in what promises to be an exciting new addition to the ARWS in the years to come.

The Xtrail Expedition race took place in the Altai Mountain region of China, not far from the border with Mongolia. The event covered 300 km (186 miles) or rough terrain, which the top teams were able to complete in just a few days time. In fact, in a sport that requires hours and days to complete, the three podium finishers were separated by less than 20 minutes, which is a testament to how strong the 28 teams competing in the race truly are. Of those 26 were international squads, while the other two were local Chinese racers.

The winners of the race were the Thule Adventure Team, which completed the grueling route in just 36 hours and 16 minutes. They were followed closely by Team Adventure Medical Kits, who were 14 minutes back, with Haglofs Silva coming in third another 4 minutes behind. The rest of the teams staggered in over the hours that followed, with the course officially closing on Wednesday of this week. Yesterday, the coed teams of four left the region and began the long journey home.

After such an auspicious debut, it seems that the Xtrail race may be a great new addition to the AR World Series. Having visited the part of the world where the event took place myself this summer, I can attest to how beautiful, rugged, and remote it truly is. With the addition of this race to the schedule, the ARWS now has events on six continents, which is an impressive feat in and of itself, and an indication of just how healthy the sport of adventure racing is at the moment.

Now, all eyes will turn towards Australia in November. That will be the host country for the Adventure Racing World Championship, where the 2016 world champs will be crowned. At the moment, it looks like it could be quite an interesting showdown between the best teams on the planet, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summits Cho Oyu and Manaslu, Himex Cancels Expedition

As expected, the end of the week has brought a flurry of activity to the Himalaya, where the fall climbing season continues to unfold at a busy pace. A few days back poor weather conditions had stalled out most summit attempts, but just a few days later a number of teams are now finding success, with more to follow suit soon.

We'll start with news from Manaslu, where The Himalayan Times reports that at least 60 people topped out today. Of those, 25 are said to be foreign climbers while the remaining 35 are Sherpas and guides. The Seven Summit Treks squad is one of the teams that is operating on that mountain at the moment, and their latest update indicates that more than 80 climbers from their group alone have topped out today amidst good weather. With more than 151 climbers issued permits for Manaslu this fall, others are sure to follow.

Sadly, the Himex team will not be amongst them. Expedition leader Russel Brice made the move to cancel the entire expedition two days back after the team was turned around between Camp 3 and 4 due to very deep snow along the route. With a narrow weather window only open today and tomorrow, he felt that it was too risky to go for the summit, especially since there were several avalanches taking place over the course of the past few days. The entire squad will depart for Kathmandu tomorrow.

Over on Cho Oyu the Adventure Consultants report a successful summit bid as well. Heavy snow on that mountain caused several teams to turn back from C3 yesterday, but three members of the AC team – including two Sherpas – waited in Camp 2, then went directly for the summit from there. They report absolute calm and quiet on top of the mountain, which has emboldened several other members of the group to make a second summit bid later today.

Other teams on Cho Oyu have been waiting out the weather. For instance, the IMG squad says that they "pumped the breaks" on a summit bid with their clients waiting at Camp 1. Reports of sketchy conditions between C2 and C3 have slowed progress for now, but with the news that things are improving, they'll likely be back on the move today as well. Look for more summits over the weekend.

It has been a few days since the Altitude Junkies posted any news from Dhaulagiri, but that might be a good thing. The last we heard, the weather was dicey but a summit window was expected to open at the end of the week, giving them safe access to the top. If all goes according to plan, the team should summit tomorrow. Look for an update after that.

That's all for now. More news soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Video: Welcome to the Birthplace of Extreme

This video takes us to the French town of Chamonix, which is widely regarded as one of the best outdoor playgrounds in the entire world. Renowned for its exceptional skiing and mountain biking, Chamonix is also the launching pad for trekking and climbing expeditions in the Alps, as well as the most popular BASE jumping and wingsuit flying destination on the planet. Here, we'll see a group of wingsuit pilots taking flight over the iconic village, while some work to overcome their fears. Chamonix is quite an impressive place to do just that.

Video: Mountain Biking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

As a mountain biker myself, I can't imagine a better place to ride than in the Himalaya. In this video, we travel to the famed Annapurna Circuit where riders go from Manang to Mustang, passing by Tilicho Lake – the world's highest at 4920 meters (16,141 ft) and crossing over the Mesokanto La Pass at 5121 meters (16,801 ft) as well. As you can imagine, the scenery is spectacular and the riding looks exceptional, even if the trails aren't specifically made for a bike. I'm going to need to add this to my every-growing bucket list of things to do at some point, and after watching this you probably will too.

MTB Lines of Tilicho from Bimal Gurung on Vimeo.

Adventure Tech: goTenna Extends Backcountry Communication with New goTenna Mesh

Earlier in the year I took a look at an innovative method for staying in communication while in the backcountry called goTenna. This simple, but effective device, connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology, and allows you to send text messages and share your GPS location with others who are equipped with a goTenna of their own. In a sense, the device creates its own data network for use in places where shell service is nonexistent, and while it doesn't facilitate voice comms, I found it very useful for staying in touch nonetheless. Now, the team at goTenna is back with a new product, and while it works in much the same way as its predecessor, it has the potential to extend the range of the device much, much further.

Dubbed the goTenna Mesh, this new unit launched on Kickstarter yesterday. A bit smaller than the original model, this new device brings some interesting new technologies to the table that should make it more useful to travelers, backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. For instance, the Mesh now operates on UHF radio frequencies, which have brought it's out-of-the-box range down slightly, but make it more adaptable to a wider variety of environments, including both the outdoors and interior spaces. Switching to UHF has also allowed goTenna to bring their product abroad too, opening it up for sale in foreign countries where the previous generation's VHF radio waves were not allowed.

But more importantly, as it's name implies, the goTenna Mesh brings "meshing" technology to users as well. This allows the device to relay data that is sent to it on to other users, thereby extending the range almost indefinitely. Where as the original goTenna simply blasted out the messages that it broadcasted to all other goTenna users in range, the Mesh can analyze the data, and then rebroadcast it to others too. In this way a message that is sent can potentially reach a recipient, even if they weren't in range of the original sender.

World's Deepest Underwater Cave Discovered in Czech Republic

Earlier this week a team of explorers discovered the world's deepest underwater cave in the Czech Republic. The group – led my Polish diver Krzysztof Starnawski – located a limestone cave that had previously been unplumbed, determining that it reached a depth of 404 meters (1325 ft). That's 12 meters (39 ft) deeper than the previous record holder, which was found in Italy.

For Starnawski it was a return to a cave that he had first dove into back in 1999. While there he had noticed that the limestone formations in the interior of the cave had formed in a unique and unusual way. This led him to believe that it might drop to a great depth, although he had no idea that it would be a record breaker. The cave was apparently created by hot water, rich with carbon dioxide, that was bubbling up from below. This makes the interior of the cavern unlike most others that he has explored in the past.

Over the past two years, the Polish diver has spent time searching the cave for clues as to just how deep it truly went. He discovered a narrow passage that gave him a glimpse of the deepest recesses of the cavern, but it wasn't until another diver found that that passage had widened that they could actually go further down. On Tuesday, the team dropped an automated ROV into the cave and maneuvered it to the bottom, accurately determining its depth in the process.

National Geographic has posted an interview with Starnawski about the process of exploring the cave, and what he and his team discovered inside. You can read his thoughts on the this 25+ year odyssey and just how he went about recording the depth of the cave, here.

It is stories like this one that remind us about how little we truly know about our own planet. I'm sure there are plenty of other discoveries just like this that we have yet to stumble across. It is also a reminder of how important exploration remains, even in the 21st century.

Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer Scales El Cap in a Day

Just when we think we've seen it all from blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, he comes up with new ways to surprise us. Yesterday, we learned that he not only managed to climb the iconic El Capitan in Yosemite, but he did so in under 24 hours, an impressive accomplishment with or without sight.

Climbing with some of the sport's biggest names – including Hans Florine, Timmy O’Neill, Geoff Tabin, and Charley Mace, Weihenmayer went up the East Buttress route. While that is the shortest path to the top of the famous wall, it still involves 11 pitches and 1500 feet of climbing. He told National Geographic  “I wanted something I could free climb, and the length of East Buttress made me feel somewhat confident that I could do it in a day.” That turned out to not be a problem at all, as the squad finished the route in about 8 hours, even passing another team along the way.

This is just the latest in a series of impressive accomplishments by Weihenmayer. His resume also includes a successful climb up Mt. Everest – along with the rest of the seven summits – and a descent of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon by kayak. Over the years he has climbed numerous mountains, competed in adventure races, mountain biked some tough trails, and generally did a number of very adventurous things that even those of us with full use of our eyes would be lucky to do. He has also served as an inspiration for millions around the world, who have seen the boundaries of what a blind person can accomplish redefined again and again.

This isn't even the first time Weihenmayer has climbed El Cap. He did it 20 years ago with Florine as well. But that time they went up The Nose route, taking four days to complete the 32-pitch, 3000-foot wall. This is the first time any blind climber has knocked off El Cap in a single day however, which is pretty much the mark that all climbers are looking for when they take on the massive wall.

At the top of the East Buttress, the team was met by friends who had cold beer and snacks waiting. It didn't take long for Erik to start talking about his next Yosemite climbing adventure, with Florine chiming in that they should try The Nose again, but this time do it in a day as well. Perhaps that will be the next major challenge for Weihenmayer to undertake. We'll just have to wait to see how he surprises us next.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Video: Moments in the Italian Dolomites

This video takes us to the Italian Dolomites with professional photographer Gürel Sahin as he captures some of the beautiful landscapes that exist in that place. Over the course of the clip, he shares with us his love for nature and passion for photography, two things that come together to create lasting memories of the places he visits in his journeys. Those are the moments that stay with us for the rest of our lives, and are captured in the images that he takes. He finds plenty of them in these mountains.

MOMENTS with Gürel Sahin - Dolomites, Italy from Palatina Media Group on Vimeo.

Video: Mountain Biking Revelstoke

Primarily known as a ski destination, Revelstoke has quickly become a great place to mountain bike too. In this video, we travel to British Columbia with our friends from Teton Gravity Research to explore the possibilities of riding the many trails that can be found at the mountain resort, and beyond. If you love beautiful scenery and great mountain biking, you'll certainly appreciate this clip. And remember, it's not winter yet. There is still time to ride Revelstoke this season.

British Explorer Walking the Length of the Zambezi River in Africa

British explorer and adventurer Chaz Powell has embarked on quite an expedition. The experienced traveler and guide is in the middle of a journey during which he is attempting to walk the entire length of the Zambezi River in Africa - covering some 1600 miles (2574 km) in the process. His journey began in August in the Kalene Hills in North Western Zambia, where the source of the Zambezi lies. From there, his route will take him through Angola, Zambia and Mozambique where the river empties into the Indian Ocean.

Powell set out on what he calls The Wildest Journey last month, and has been making steady progress so far. In fact, just a few days back he posted that he had completed 1000 km (621 miles), which is about a third of the way towards the finish line. Along the way he has faced difficult weather conditions – including heat and humidity – , rough terrain, wild animals, and health issues, mainly due to dehydration and exhaustion. But, he has also trekked through some of the most remote and seldom visited sections of Africa, all the while sharing the experience on the expedition's Facebook page. That is a great place to get updates on his progress and see what it is like for him as he marches through this section of the world.

Chaz says that he expect the journey to take about six months to complete, and judging by his pace right now I'd say that he is pretty much on schedule to finish in that amount of time. That means he should reach the Indian Ocean sometime in early February, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Considering the challenges he faces along the way, injury or illness are certainly not out of the question, as is succumbing to exhaustion, equipment failure, or lack of supplies. So far however, he's been able to overcome or avoid those issues, and is pressing onward.

While The Wildest Journey is indeed quite an adventurous undertaking, Powell isn't doing it just for the safe of the journey alone. He's also using the expedition as a platform to raise funds for the David Sheperd Wildlife Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to saving endangered species in Asia and Africa. You can donate to that cause here.

Good luck to Chaz on the rest of his journey. I'll be following along with his progress and keeping tabs of how he's doing. Hopefully he'll reach the Indian Ocean safely and on schedule.

Men's Journal Gives Us the 50 Most Adventurous Men

If you're looking for something to read today that is equal parts inspirational and educational, than have a look at Men's Journal's list of the 50 Most Adventurous Men on the planet. You'll find more than a few names that get mentioned here on The Adventure Blog on a regular basis, as well as some that you may not have encountered before.

The list reads like a "who's who" of adventure, with guys like Alex Honnold, Kilian Jornet, and Conrad Anker all making the cut. Others who earn some recognition from MJ include Ueli Steck, Eric Larsen, and Mike Horn, all of which I've written about and covered their expeditions extensively on this very website.

Of course, those well known names are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, with numerous other interesting, daring, and downright visionary individuals making their way onto the list as well. The article spotlights mountaineers, rock climbers, ocean rowers, explorers, and more. Each of the profiles includes a brief introduction to the person's accomplishments, some insights into their career highlights, and a glimpse of where they may be headed next. All in all, it is a pretty great way to learn about some of the men who are shaping the way we explore the world today.

While 50 individuals is a fairly lengthy list, there are always some who are left off. I'm sure that like me, you'll be able to think of a few individuals that probably deserve to be mentioned with this group such as Simone Moro for instance. There are others as well, but this is still a pretty interesting list and well worth a look for sure.

Now, when is someone going to do a list of the 50 most adventurous women?

Elon Musk Unveils Ambitious Plans to Colonize Mars

Yesterday was an interesting day for those of us who dream about space travel. Thats because Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled his plans for the future, which include sending humans to Mars within a decade and establishing a colony on the Red Planet before the end of the century.

Musk took the stage at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico to share his vision of where SpaceX – and manned space travel – is headed in the years to come. It was an ambitious one to say the least.

Getting to Mars will involve a multi-stage rocket not unlike the Falcon 9 that Space X is currently using, although much larger in size. A second stage booster will help catapult the so called "interplanetary module" – which could carry as many as 100 people – out of orbit and on towards its eventual destination on Mars. Other booster rockets could also be placed in orbit for future use, allowing the module to refuel and make multiple journeys throughout the solar system. For Musk, Mars isn't the only place he sees humans eventually heading.

For the visionary billionaire this isn't just some frivolous ego project. He sees the potential future of the human race on the line. He said the human race now faces two different paths. “One is that we stay on Earth forever and then there will be an inevitable extinction event. The alternative is to become a spacefaring civilization, and a multi-planetary species.”

Musk says that he believes manned mission to Mars could begin as early as 2022, which is sooner than his previous estimates had indicated. SpaceX is dedicated towards building and testing the rockets and other technology that will allow that to happen, but he admits there are some big obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is cost. Musk says he estimates that it will currently cost about $10 billion per person for a manned flight to Earth's neighbor. Where the funding will come from to pay for such a journey remains a bit of a mystery.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Video: How Would You Describe America's National Parks?

In this video, photographer and filmmaker Corey Arnold traveled to America's national parks where he challenged the next generation of travelers and explorers to describe the landscape there. Some of their responses were surprising, others were revealing, and some were downright insightful. The result, is this short clip which not only includes lovely shots of the landscapes they saw, but these individuals sharing their thoughts on the natural spaces around them.

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.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summit Pushes Begin, No Liaison Officers on Manaslu, Climber Missing After Avalanche

As the fall climbing season continues to unfold in the Himalaya, there isn't a lot of new news to report today, although what we do have is certainly interesting. As the weather improves, teams are about to go back on the move with summits in sight, while we also learn that the more things change in Nepal, the more they stay the same.

First off, now that the weather forecast has begun to improve teams on both Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri are gearing up for their summit bids. Earlier today, the Adventure Consultants launched their push to the top of Cho Oyu and safely arrived at Camp 1 where they were enjoying a break and airing out their gear in preparation for heading to C2 tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Altitude Junkies – the only team on Dhaulagiri – has announced their schedule as well. The team will leave Base Camp for C1 tomorrow with an eye on topping out on Saturday, October 1 weather permitting.

Other teams are no doubt getting ready to do the same on Manaslu and Shishapangma too. I'll be keeping a close eye on their progress to see how things unfold.

Meanwhile, we have another story from The Himalayan Times that remind us once again just how inept the Nepali government truly is. As you may or may not know, all climbing expeditions that take place in that country are assigned a liaison officer with them that serves as a regulatory advisor and a communications conduit to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. This is a role that should be taken very seriously, as the "LO" is expected to play a part in organizing rescue operations and coordinating with medical and search and rescue staff back in Kathmandu. Unfortunately, in the past most LO's never bother to go to Base Camp with their expeditions, who are charged a fee that pays for his services.

Historically speaking, most expeditions to the big mountains never even see their liaison officer at all. This became a major issue on Everest in 2014 and 2015 when massive avalanches claimed the lives of 16 and 22 people respectively. The lack of LO's in BC made it more challenging to coordinate search and rescue operations, and helped to expose this problem, which had been a well-known secret in mountaineering circles for a very long time.

Nat Geo Gives Us the Best Outdoor Towns in the World

Looking for a great town to serve as base camp for your next outdoor adventure? Thinking about relocating to a place that offers more opportunities to pursue the things you love? Why not let National Geographic help with their picks for the world's best towns for outdoor thrills.
Some of the places earning a nod include towns that you would expect. Places like Moab, Utah and El Chaltén, Argentina. Others are a bit more unexpected, such as Niseko, Japan or Ely, Minnesota. It isn't as if those places weren't known for being great outdoor destinations, but to see them ranked amongst the very best (Nat Geo names nine places in total), is refreshing to say the least.

Each place is also accompanied by a nice description of why it deserves a spot on this very distinguished list with details on what it has to offer for visitors. Nat Geo even provided information on when it is the best time of the year to visit to take advantage of the opportunities that each place has to offer. For instance, summer can be hot in Moab, so September is a good time to go, although the author says not to overlook winter as well. Meanwhile, if you're planning on going to Niseko it is probably for the skiing, which is best between December and February.

Of course, with such a short list some places had to be left off, but there were a few surprises for towns that do not appear here. For instance, Chamonix, France is considered one of the great outdoor meccas of the world and yet it doesn't appear on Nat Geo's radar. Similarly, you could just as easily have substituted places like Boulder, Colorado or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, amongst other great mountain towns in the U.S. Still, the places that were selected are very deserving, and bring a nice exotic flair to the list with places like Australia, South Africa, India, and Peru enticing travelers.

To find out which places made the cut, read the entire list here. Then come back and leave a comment with the places that you think should have made the cut. After all, some of your favorite places probably didn't make it.

Karl Meltzer Sets New Speed Record on Appalachian Trail

Last week while I was away, the news broke that ultra-runner Karl Meltzer had broken the record for the fastest time on the Appalachian Trail, besting the time set by Scott Jurek just last year. The two top endurance athletes are both friends and rivals, so naturally they would compete against each other on the AT too. This was Meltzer's third attempt at a record, and this time he finished at 45 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes, which put him roughly at 13 hours ahead of Jurek.

According to Outside, Meltzer began his assault on the record book back on August 3, starting on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. That's the northernmost terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches for 2190 miles across 14 states before ending on Springer Mountain in Georgia on September 20. That means that Karl had to average roughly 47.6 miles each and every day just to get into the conversation with Jurek, something he was able to do on his way to setting the new mark.

Amongst ultra-runners, Meltzer is considered one of the most successful endurance athletes of all time. Over the course of his career he has racked up more than 38 wins in races of 100 mile (160 km) distances or longer – including 5 in the legendary Hardrock 100 ultra-marathon. That's more than anyone else in history. Still, he did want to take on the AT and nab that record too, something he was finally able to do last week.

Considering that it takes most of us a good six months of hiking to complete the AT, doing it in just 45 days is quite an impressive feat. Congratulations to Karl on pulling off this accomplishment. I am in awe of the strength, stamina, and speed necessary to set this kind of record.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Episode 3)

We continue the excellent series of mountaineering videos from Discovery Canada entitled Unclimbed: Reaching the Summit today with episode 3. As you may recall, this set of clips follows mountaineers Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa as they prepare to take on two unclimbed peaks in Nepal this autumn. In this episode we see how Gabriel and Elia train for the high altitude conditions that they'll face on their expedition. Extreme may not be a good enough word to describe their approach.

Video: Introducing the GoPro Karma

Last week, just before I left for my backpacking trip to Bryce Canyon, GoPro introduced its first drone, the Karma. I barely had enough time to share some thoughts on this new UAV before I skipped town, but this video does a great job of showing off what it can do. While it doesn't look like a revolution in drone technology, it does appear that it will be an affordable solution that has a lot to offer those looking to add a drone to their collection of gear. From what I've heard, the footage that it captures is quite good, and the fact that it can fold up and be easily transported makes it a good choice for use in remote locations. Looking forward to learning more about it in the days ahead. It should go on sale on October 23. Here's a sneak peek at what to expect.

Gear Closet: Merrell Capra Venture Hiking Boots

As many of you know, last week I traveled to Bryce Canyon in Utah to test out a bunch of new gear from my friends at REI. I knew that while I was out there we would be backpacking through remote sections of the national park and camping in the wild. I saw that as the perfect opportunity to try out some new hiking boots as well, thinking that a couple of days on the trail would make the perfect testing grounds. Turns out the weather we encountered in Bryce was wild too, ranging from light rain to heavy downpours, followed by hail, gale-force winds, flash floods, tornadoes, and the occasional bout of sunshine. In short, it was exactly the kind of weather you need to see just how good your gear truly is. Thankfully, I made a good decision when it came to footwear.

For this trip, my boot of choice was the new Capra Venture from Merrell. These lightweight and very comfortable boots are a new addition to the company's line-up this fall, and being a big fan of the footwear that Merrell produces, I was eager to see how well they performed on what was expected to be a challenging, but dry, hiking trail in Bryce. It was far from that however, and over the course of two days of backpacking, we encountered conditions that would test the resolve of any boot. Thankfully, the Capra Venture met that challenge nicely, and kept my feet well protected the entire time.

This boot features a couple of new components to the outdoor industry that I was looking forward to putting to the test. Those included the new Gore-Tex Surround materials and the Vibram Megagrip outsole. Gore-Tex Surrounded as been specifically designed to create a more breathable, yet still waterproof, boot that can be worn in warmer environments. That's exactly what I had in mind when I chose it to take with me to Bryce Canyon, but due to heavy rains and cooler temperatures, my Capra Ventures were forced to deal with far more water and moisture than anticipated.

So how did they hold up? Very well for the most part. The shoes kept my feet warm and dry for the bulk of the trip, which included crossing through swollen streams, walking in lots of mud, and hiking in incessant rainstorms. Late in the afternoon on our first day out in Bryce my feed did start to get a little damp, but considering the amount of moisture we were facing on the trail this was more of a case of the boots soaking out, and possibly getting some moisture in over the top from y saturated shell pants, more than anything else. Either way, it wasn't a great deal of water that made its way inside of the boots, but it was worth noting nonetheless.

Couple Completes a Year of Living in the Wilderness

Remember Dave and Amy Freeman? They're the couple that not only were named Nat Geo Adventurers of the Year back in 2014 for their 11,000 mile (17,700 km) journey across North America, but last year they embarked on a 12-month odyssey that saw them living in the wilderness in an attempt to raise awareness of threats to the environment in Voyageurs National Park. I even wrote about the start of that adventure last September. Now, a year later, they have emerged from the wilderness at last, bringing an end to this stage of their project.

Last Friday, September 23, Dave and Amy paddled their canoe up the Kawisihiwi River in Minnesota, finishing their epic 12-month journey near a sulfide-ore copper mining operation, which is exactly the threat they've been battling. Those mines have the potential to spoil the natural environment of the Minnesota Boundary Waters, something they've shared a great deal of information about on their Save the Boundary Waters website.

During their year in the wilderness the Freemans travelled more than 2000 miles (3218 km) by canoe, dogsled, on skis, snowshoes, and by foot. Over that period, they paddled more than 500 lakes and rivers, and called 120 different campsites home. Along the way they faced steamy hot days in the summer, and frigid nights in the winter, when temperatures dropped to -30ºF (-34ºC). Those extremes were to be expected of course with the changing of the seasons, but it was a challenge for them to maintain the correct gear and stay focused nonetheless.

Now, the married couple will begin reintegrating back into normal life, where they'll welcome being home for a while and enjoying the luxuries of civilization. But they weren't completely cut off during their year in the wilderness. They often made blog posts while they were exploring the Boundary Waters, and more than 300 visitors helped to keep them fully supplied or spent a few days traveling with them as well. Still, the return to the daily life will be both welcomed and challenging at the same time.

Of course, their fight against the mining companies is far from over, and the duo are urging government officials to not renew the leases for the Twin Metals company that is operating in the area that the Freemans are trying to protect. To that end, they'll head to Washington, D.C. today to talk with lawmakers, and are already planning both a book and a documentary about their experience. After a year in the wilderness, I'm sure they have some good stories to share.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Bad Weather Delays Summit Bids, Sad News From Manaslu

When last we checked in with the big commercial teams in the Himalaya this fall most were in the process of wrapping up their acclimatization efforts and had started planning their summit bids. Some were even expected to top out on their respective mountains by the end of last week. But as usual, mother nature had other plans, with bad weather hitting the region and delaying any attempts to reach summit on several of the big peaks. But, the forecast calls for improved conditions in the days ahead, and details are starting to emerge on a new schedule.

Over on Cho Oyu, the Adventure Consultants report heavy snow over the past few days. But yesterday, the storm finally broke, and it now appears that they will have five solid days of good weather ahead which should serve as summit window. No word on exactly when they'll depart Base Camp, but it would seem that the team is ready to go and may leave as early as today. That means they should reach the summit over the next few days provided the forecast is accurate and the weather holds. The entire squad is rested, acclimatized and ready to go.

On Manaslu, the teams have pretty much wrapped up their acclimatization rotations and are now preparing to summit as well. That includes the Seven Summits Trek squad and the contingent of Himex climbers too. Interestingly enough, it appears that the teams haven't finished fixing ropes to Camp 4 yet, and there is some dispute over how that process is being handled. Typically, the Himex team – which is amongst the most experienced on the mountain – takes the lead, but with Seven Summits becoming more prominent, their Sherpas have played a role too. Unfortunately, they apparently got lost in whiteout conditions last week and installed ropes to the wrong location – something that has annoyed Himex boss Russel Brice. You can read about that here. Otherwise, the teams seem to be well acclimated and ready to go once the weather improves.