Thursday, September 21, 2017

Video: How a Team of Elite Runners Set Out to Break the 2 Hour Marathon Barrier

Earlier this year, a team of elite marathon runners, backed by Nike, set out to break the two-hour marathon mark. That's an ambitious goal, but one that has been just out of reach for sometime now. But with special gear, intense preparation and planning, and a carefully controlled environment, they set out to see if it could be achieved. This full-length documentary dubbed Breaking2 shares their story.

Video: What You Need to Get Started Car Camping

Last week we shared a video from Outside magazine that offered the 7 things you need to get started in backpacking. This week, the Outside team is back to show us how to get started with car camping instead. While hiking into remote backcountry is always amazing, sometimes camping with a few extra luxuries is nice too. That's what car camping is all about, and to see how its done, check out the video below.

Adventure Tech: Venture is the wearable, live-streaming HD camera you can take anywhere

We've seen a slew of interesting new tech products over the past couple of weeks, ranging from new smartwatches to off-grid communications devices. But perhaps the latest gadget that I'm most excited about is the Venture HD camera, which launched on Indiegogo a few weeks back and is already a major success.

Venture comes our way from body camera manufacturer Wolfcom, and true to that heritage it is a wearable device that is rugged enough to take with you just about anywhere. More than that however, the Venture some great specs that make it very intriguing. For example, it can capture HD video at 1080p resolutions, it has a wide 120º angle lens that rotates, it can take still photographs, and it comes with four built-in LED lights that not only serve as a flashlight, but can illuminate a low-light scene when filming. The device even has onboard WiFi, which allows it to broadcast live streams to both YouTube and Facebook.

Wolfcom says that the camera is lighter and smaller than a GoPro, tipping the scales at a mere 2.2 ounces. Despite that however, it offers water resistance, a built-in mic, and a magnetic clip to keep it attached at all times This allows users to clip it on a backpack or jacket, turn it on, and continue recording completely hands free. The device can even be mounted on a dashboard to serve as a car camera too.

The camera reportedly gets 2.5 hours of recording time from its included battery, although Wolfcom plans on offering an extended battery that can add 21 hours of recording time. The Venture supports up to 64GB memory cards and it connects to iOS and Android devices via a specially developed app to adjust settings, watch videos, and more.

When the Venture's crowdfunding campaign was launched the hope was to raise $25,000 to get the camera into production. With more than a week to go before the campaign ends, Wolfcom has brought in more than $70,000, which means we should see the device go into production in early 2018 and begin shipping to customers in February. At that point it will be priced at $359, although early-bird supports can pre-order one now for as low as $149.

What I'm particularly interested in about this camera is its ability to live steam events. I'd love to take one of these with me on my travels and perhaps offer viewers on my Facebook page the chance to see where I'm at and what I'm up to. Or, I could take the Venture with me to Outdoor Retailer to preview new gear live as well. The possibilities are endless and definitely exciting. Hopefully I'll get my hands on one of these cameras in the future to test one out for myself.

To find out more visit the Venture Indiegogo page.

With "National Pride" at Stake, Nepal Prepares to Remeasure the Height of Mt. Everest

Nepal has announced plans to go ahead with a planned survey to remeasure the height of Mt. Everest, citing "National Pride" as a reason it is proceeding with the delicate, time consuming, and costly operation. The surveying expedition is expected to take up to two years to complete, and cost somewhere int he neighborhood of $250,000.

For decades the accepted official height of Mt. Everest has stood at 8848 meters (29,029 ft), although there has been some controversy surrounding that figure. For instance, the Chinese measured the summit in 2005 as 8844 meters (29,015 ft), with surveyors claiming that was the altitude without snow on the summit. Meanwhile, a 1999 GPS survey by the National Geographic Society lists the height as 8850 meters (29,035 ft), further confusing the subject.

So what's the real height? Nepal is embarking on an ambitious plan to find out, and has rebuked any outside help. The country that claims dominion over the South Side of the mountain has never measured the height of Everest on its own, and is now intent on doing the fact that neighboring India has already announced its own plans to measure the mountain again as well.

The impetus behind these recent plans to survey the mountain once again come following the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal back in 2015. It is believed that the seismic forces that caused that disaster may have also caused Everest to shrink in height. Most reports indicate that the mountain probably only lost an inch or so, but that was enough to spur on talks of remeasuring the peak, with India first announcing its plans to send a survey team, and Nepal quickly following.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Duble Amputee Summits Mera Peak, Messner in Base Camp

It has been another active few days in the Himalaya, where we are closing in on the halfway point of the fall climbing season. The teams are in the midst of their acclimatization rotations in anticipation of summit bids to come, but are keeping a close eye on weather forecasts to determine their next move. But, as usual, there is a lot happening, and not all if it is centered around the big 8000 meter peaks.

We'll start with an update on Hari Budha Magar, the double-amputee who set his sights on Mera Peak this fall. The former British Gurkha soldier has reached the summit on that mountain, becoming the first person to do so following the loss of his legs above the knee. He, and four other members of the team, topped out on the 6476-meter (21,246 ft) mountain at 9:02 AM local time on Tuesday.

Magar, who lost his legs while fighting in Afghanistan, used this expedition as training for an upcoming attempt on Everest. He now plans to attempt to summit the world's highest mountain in the spring of 2018. He has now descended off of Mera Peak and is resting before proceeding for home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Video: Under the Midnight Sun

It seems we've had a rash of videos from Norway recently, but when I came across this one, I knew it was too good not to share. It takes us north of the Arctic Circle, where the midnight sun is in full bloom, casting its otherworldly light across the landscapes there. The dramatic scenes of those stunningly beautiful places are accompanied by haunting music that makes a great accompaniment to the visuals on screen. If you've ever wanted to explore the remote regions of Norway, this video will only fuel that desire. I haven't been, but after watching this I know I'll have to go.

Under The Midnight Sun from Pirmin Henseler on Vimeo.

Video: Essential Mountain Biking Skills - How to Do a Bunny Hop

There are few mountain biking sills more useful than the bunny hop. This simple, yet highly effective, move allows riders to clear any number of obstacles on the trail, making it much easier to stay on your bike and continuing to ride. In this video, we learn how to pull off an effective bunny hop, which is an essential part of any rider's repertoire.

Adventure Tech: Gotoky Provides Off-Grid Communications

Over the past few years we've seen several devices released that provide a method for staying in communication with friends and family while traveling off the grid. Gadgets like the goTenna or Beartooth create their own mobile networks to deliver text – and sometimes voice – communications in the backcountry. Now, you can add another such device, and this one brings some interesting options that help it to stand out.

The Gotoky launched on Kickstarter yesterday and has already smashed through its $24,000 goal. The device promises to be a completely secure off-grid communications device for use in remote areas or disaster zones. The gadget pairs with a smartphone (iPhone and Android) via Bluetooth and can connect with other Gotoky units within the area, creating a more robust network and extending the range almost indefinitely.

Once paired, it allows users to send text message or make voice calls either individually or in groups. The system supports voice messages as well, and offers delivery confirmation of messages. Beyond that however, the Gotoky can also be activated to serve as an emergency locator beacon, it can share GPS locations, and it offers navigation with direction and distance shown on detailed topographic maps, even when offline. Location pining makes it easier for users to find one another as well, as the device supports real-time tracking and recording too.

The Gotoky device can be attached to a backpack or belt to serve as an antenna to communicate with other users within range. That range varies depending on the location, terrain, and interference from other radio devices. But, because the Gotoky uses meshing, it can in theory extend its signal over vast distances thanks to its ability to skip messages off other devices that are nearby. Battery life is said to be about 72 hours, which is exceptional for a gadget like this one.

Since Gotoky has already reached its crowdfunding goal, the device should go into production on schedule early next year with a delivery set for April of 2018. At that time, a pair of the communications units will sell for approximately $240, although early-bird supporters can pre-order them now for as low as $140. Individual units can be had for less, but in reality, the device is only useful if you're connecting to a network of other Gotoky units.

Trail Runner Sets New Speed Record on John Muir Trail

Trail and ultra-runner Darcy Piceu has set a new speed record for the 211-mile (339 km) John Muir Trail in California. The endurance athlete was able to complete the entire route in 3 days, 4 hours, and  12 minutes, besting the previous record by more than 11 hours. That means she managed a steady pace of approximately 21 minutes and 40 second miles across the entire length of the run, while also accumulating more than 47,000 feet (14325 meters) of vertical gain.

The John Muir Trail begins in the Yosemite Valley and runs to the summit of Mount Whitney, following a section of the Pacific Crest Trail along the way. It is widely considered to be one of the most scenic routes in the entire U.S., passing through towering canyons, over high peaks, and past countless alpine lakes. The trail also passes through the stunningly beautiful Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks along the way too.

Piceau began her journey on the summit of Whitney and ran to Yosemite, covering the distance from the Whitney Portals to the Happy Isles trailhead in 3 days, 8 hours. She reached her finish line this past Sunday, using a light and fast equipment list that included wearing a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 running shoes.

This is a pretty impressive feat on a rugged and challenging trail. Congratulations to Darcy for completing the run and setting the new speed record. It'll definitely be a tough one to beat.

Team of Explorers Set Out to Map Little Known Siberian Islands

An international team of explorers has embarked on an expedition into the Arctic to go in search of a set of almost-mythical islands located north of Siberia. The team hopes to not only fill in some blank spots on the map regarding this seldom visited place, but will also examine the impact of climate change on the environment north of the Arctic Circle.

The Pax Arctica Expedition was created to not only create awareness of threats to the Arctic but also to help usher in new ecological regulations governing that part of the world. To that end, a squad of French, Russian, and American explorers and researchers have begun sailing north through the treacherous Arctic Ocean in an attempt to reach New Siberia and the De Long Islands, which are generally only accessible in the late summer and early fall, prior to the arrival of the ice pack.

The team consists of expedition leader Luc Hardy, who is joined by a well-rounded research team that features the likes of paleozoologist Alexei Tikhonov and the anthropobiologist Eric Crubezy. They are being guided by veteran polar explorer Victor Boyarsky, who has had numerous expeditions into the cold places of our planet, including Antarctica and Greenland.

The group set out aboard a 437-ft. Russian Arctic research vessel called the Mikhail Somov from the port city of Tiksi a few days back. The ship will make a few stops en route to New Siberia and De Long, delivering meteorologists to remote weather stations throughout the area, and resupplying others. Those stations will generally be cut off from the outside for months at a time due to the arrival of winter, so the Somov is their lifeline.

The ship reached remote Henrietta Island yesterday, which is part of the De Long island chain. They found very little indication that it had ever been visited by man in the past, although polar bear tracks were discovered in the snow. It is likely that as they proceed north, they'll encounter more of those creatures, and yet fewer signs of man.

Ultimately the team hopes to reach their main objective, which is New Siberia. Relatively low-lying  in terms of altitude, the island is covered in vegetation hardy enough to survive in the tundra. The place is renowned for having preserved mammoth bones and tusks, as well as other megafauna, in it permafrost, but it also serves as a good indicator of a place that could be deeply impacted by climate change.

You can follow the progress of the expedition via its blog, Facebook page, and live tracker.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Video: Another Look at the Longest Suspension Footbridge in the World

Awhile back, I shared a video of the Europabrücke Skywalk, which is the longest suspension footbridge in the world. Located in Switzerland, it stretches for 1620 feet (493 meters) and is 282 feet (86 metes) above the ground. Naturally, it has become quite the attraction for trekkers in the area. In this clip, we get another great look at this marvel. I've crossed suspension bridges like this in my travels, but not that quite compares to this one. It is definitely on my list of places I'd love to see. Check it out below.

Video: Airspace - Wingsuit Flying and BASE Jumping in Norway

We've seen some really interesting and beautiful videos shot in Norway over the years, but this one gives us a completely different look at the landscapes found there. In this clip we'll take to the skies with a team of wingsuit pilots and BASE jumpers, who captured some amazing footage throughout their flights. I still think this is a sport I'd never want to try, but I definitely appreciate the spectacular footage these men and women capture while in the air.

Airspace - Norway - A wingsuit BASE odyssé from Staffan Holmström - Oxydive on Vimeo.

Visiting Everest? You'll Soon Have to Pay a Little More

Planning on trekking to Everest Base Camp in the future? If so, it looks like you'll have to pay a bit more as the local government in Nepal has instituted a new fee. But don't panic, it isn't enough to cancel your plans or break your pocket book.

According to The Himalayan Times, the Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality in the Solukhumbu District – which is where Everest is located – had decided to impose an entry fee on all foreign visitors. The new fee will go into effect on October 1 and will set travelers back Rs 2000. That equates to about $20.

According to the new constitution passed in Nepal, local governments now have the right to impose such taxes and fees. This is the first time that any region has taken advantage of this option however, as the local government looks to claim a bit of revenue from the more than 35,000 people that visit the Khumbu Valley each year. Most come for trekking and mountaineering purposes.

The money will be used to create improvements in infrastructure throughout the Khumbu and to promote sustainable tourism in the region as well. But, the fear is that the money will be mismanaged by the local government, with much of the revenue somehow finding its way into the hands of politicians rather than actually being put to good use. There are also concerns about more districts across Nepal following suit, possibly charging an entry fee every time a traveler comes and goes. If that were to become the case, it could get a lot more expensive to visit Nepal, keeping some tourists from ever going there.

For now, plans are moving ahead to impose the new tax, despite protests from within the tourism sector. Just what kind of impact it will have remains to be seen however, but it is important that travelers know what to expect when they arrive. A $20 fee isn't too serious, but multiple $20 fees start to add up quickly. Plan accordingly and take advantage of the time that you spend in a region, particularly the Solukhumbu area. Hopefully, this will be an exception to the rule for traveling in Nepal and not the new normal.

Leaked Memo Indicates Trump Administration May Shrink Bears Ears and Other National Monuments

One of the hot button topics within the outdoor industry this year has been the evolving situation with several national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Both of those areas, along with every national monuments made dating back to the Clinton Administration, have been under review by new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. For weeks we've been waiting to learn the outcome of that review, as the fate of several of these outstanding outdoor settings sits in the balance. Now, a leaked memo indicates that Zinke will recommend shrinking the sizes of the monuments as was first speculated.

A 19-page document posted by the Washington Post appears to be the memo that the Secretary of the Interior sent to President Trump. In it he suggests that four of the national monuments here in the continental U.S. be reduced in size. Those sites include Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada, and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon. The memo also suggests that the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll monuments also be scaled back as well.

At the heart of these suggestions is the idea that the monuments are inhibiting commercial development and the use of the land nearby. Zinke feels that grazing of livestock, mining, and timber production have all taken a hit due to the sizes of these particular places. Of course, conservationists would argue that those are the reasons these places were protected in the first place, although it seems the Trump administration is taking the stance that the monuments weren't created to protect a specific area or item, but were instead designated as public lands just to keep business from developing there.

While it should be noted that the Trump administration has not announced any specific plans yet, this kind of stance shows just how tone-deaf they are on these issues. The land in these monuments was protected for a reason, and because they don't see specific objects within the area that stand out from the others, they are missing the point altogether. It is the landscapes themselves that make these places special, which is why they have been protected from commercial development.

That said, I do think the parties involved are attempting to find some kind of compromise that keeps the monuments in place while also opening up commercial development. The problem with that stance is that those developments can have a negative impact on the environments that they sit adjacent to, and often times it is far to late to see the impact of it before the damage is done. Hopefully there is still time to avoid a change in the size and status of these places, but considering the track record of the Trump administration so far, that seems unlikely.

Himalaya Fall 2017: First Summits of the Season on Manaslu

While we've been busy over the past few days following the proceedings on Dhaulagiri, where it appeared that we'd see the first summits of the season in the Himalaya, a team of Sherpas have earned that distinction on Manaslu instead. According to The Himalayan Times, five men went to the top of the mountain as they completed the task of fixing ropes to the summit. Later, they were also joined by a pair of foreign climbers who claimed early season success too.

The Sherpa team consisted of Karma Gyalzen Sherpa, Nga Tashi Sherpa, Damai Sarki Sherpa and Dawa Chiring from Seven Summit Treks, along with Phurba Tashi Sherpa from Mountain Experience. The group reached the summit at 9:54 AM local time, radioing back to Base Camp that they had indeed reached 8163 meters (26,781 ft).

Not far behind the Sherpa squad were a pair of climbers from Himalayan Experience. That team announced that in addition to placing two of its Sherpas ( Phurba Tashi and Nigma Sona) on the summit, two clients also reached that point. Those men are Dan Home from the U.K. and Frank Seidel of Germany.

Now, with the ropes in place, the path has been set for other teams to soon follow. Manaslu is crowded this fall, with more than 255 foreign climbers currently in Base Camp. Most have just started their initial acclimatization process and are still a few weeks away from starting their actual summit push. While others, like the Adventure Peaks squad, have been on the mountain a bit longer than most, and have now been all the way up to Camp 3 as they adjust to the altitude. That should put them in a good position to potentially launch summit bids in another week or so, weather permitting of course.

In contrast, Adventure Consultants are currently in C2 on the mountain and will head back to BC today or tomorrow. They'll have at least one more rotation before they start to think about a summit push of their own, which would put them about a week behind the Adventure Peaks team.

Finally, over on Dhaulagiri, Carlos Soria and his team are nestled back into Base Camp as they rest and recuperate from their recent attempt on the summit of that mountain. They were turned back due to high winds and poor visibility, but hope to launch another attempt as early as later this week. For now though, they sit and wait and watch the forecasts.

More to come soon.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Video: A Mountain Bike Ride Across an Artists Canvas

Micayla Gatto is both an artist and a mountain biker, finding beauty in both passions. In this video, we join her for a ride down a favorite ridgeline, which she has also created on her canvas. The clip seamlessly blends the real world with Micayla's art, creating a fun and fanciful environment along the way. The ride is nothing short of spectacular, with the artist sharing her story throughout. There is a lot of interesting and creative stuff going on here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Micayla Gatto's Intersection - A MTB ride through artist's canvas from Red Bull on Vimeo.

Video: Saturn 101 With Nat Geo

Last week marked the end of Cassini's 13 year mission to explore Saturn, the sixth planet in our solar system. Over the course of those years, the spacecraft collected a wealth of information about the massive gas giant that is well known for its iconic rings. Scientists and researchers will continue to sift through that data for years to come, but Cassini has already expanded our knowledge in many ways. In this video, courtesy of National Geographic, we get up to speed with Saturn, one of the most mysterious and fascinating planets in our galactic neighborhood.

Adventure Tech: Lifelike 3D Audio Recording Headset

Adventure filmmakers and podcasters looking to capture great sound on the go will want to listen up. A new device called the Lifelike 3D headset offers impressive audio capture performance in a tiny package, producing pro-level 3D sound from an iPhone without the need to use any extra hardware or apps.

The audio-recording headset launched on Indiegogo recently with the hopes of raising $20,000 in crowdfunding money to get the device into production. With more than two weeks to go in the campaign, the team behind the Lifelike 3D has hit that goal, which means that the headset is now scheduled to go into production and begin shipping to customers by December of this year. At that time, it will be priced at $149, although early-bird backers can still order a pair for just $79 as of this writing.

I managed to get my hands on a preproduction model of the Lifelike 3D and put it to the test. I've been planning on launching an adventure podcast for some time now, and I've been searching for a way to capture great audio while on the go. There are of course plenty of mobile microphones to be had, but this headset is compact, lightweight, and promised to provide not just excellent audio reproduction, but also offer 3D sound recording as well.

What is 3D sound you ask? It is a special quality that gives the microphone the ability to capture audio in a relational way, simulating the actual position of the source of the sound that is being captured. For instance, if you're recording sounds coming from all directions, those listening to the playback will actually get the sense that they too are standing in the middle of the scene. To them, it will sound like things are taking place all around them, with appropriate sounds behind, to the left, right, or even in front of them. It is actually a very immersive way to put someone right in the heart of the project. To get a sense of how this works, throw on a pair of headphones and play the YouTube clip below.

Happy 40th Anniversary Outside Magazine!

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Outside magazine, and the venerable periodical has been celebrating all year long with a number of special articles. But now, the Outside website has launched an official anniversary section that is a stroll down memory lane for those of us who have read it for years, serving as an amazing look back at some of the most memorable stories of all time.

On the webpage for the 40th anniversary you'll find reflections on what it was like to publish Jon Krakauer's seminal work Into Thin Air, how the magazine survived a tumultuous time in the late 90's when many of its writers moved on, and much more. You'll find current stories about an antarctic expedition that went terribly wrong, a look at whether or not Lance Armstrong actually regrets doping, and a story about Reinhold Messner and Peter Habler climbing Everest without oxygen for the very first time. You'll also find a nice piece on the the stories that have inspired the Outside team, and a thoughtful letter from the editor reflecting on the past 40 years.

For fans of the outdoors, adventure, and exploration there is a lot to take in on this single webpage alone. In fact, almost every story there is worth a read and you'll probably find yourself finishing up one, just to move on to the next. Some of the articles are classics from Outside's past, while others are fascinating stories of things happening right now. In short, it is a wonderful mix of why we have come to love the magazine so much over the past 40 years. For four decades it has found ways to educate, fascinate, and inspire. Hopefully that won't end anytime soon.

Here's to 40 more years Outside!

Check out the 40th anniversary page here.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Summit Bids Denied on Dhaulagiri

This past weekend saw the first real summit push of the 2017 fall climbing season in the Himalaya, with climbers on Dhaulagiri hoping to claim an early victory. But as usual the weather conditions dictated the level of success and the team quickly learned that Mother Nature isn't any more forgiving in the autumn then she is in the spring.

78-year old Spanish mountaineer Carlos Sora and his seven-person squad left for the summit on Dhaulagiri on Saturday morning. They were accompanied by four Sherpas who helped install fixed ropes up the mountain. Working together the team was able to install lines up to 7800 meters (25,590 ft). From there, they made the decision to keep a bit of extra rope in reserve for the final push to the top of the 8167 meter (26,795 ft) peak.

The weather forecast for the day had called for relatively light winds on the summit and clear skies overhead. But things can change quickly in the big mountains of Nepal, and those conditions didn't last. Precipitation has been an issue for most of the season so far, with rain at lower altitudes and snow up high. As they approached the top, snow began to fall and the winds started to pick up, making it difficult to see where they were going. With the situation quickly becoming dangerous, the team decided to turn back to Camp 3 to seek shelter from the storm.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Video: Chris Burkard Shares the Place that Changed his Life

If you've done any traveling, more than likely you've visited a place that changed your life in some way. For adventure photographer Chris Burkard, that place is Lofoten, Norway. In this video, which is the first of a new series under the #LifeChangingPlaces banner, he takes us to this utterly spectacular and remote place to give us a glimpse of why it is so amazing and just how it impacted his life.

#LifeChangingPlaces - LOFOTEN - Chris Burkard from Vincent Urban on Vimeo.

Video: The Mirnivator - The True Story of a Not-So-Typical Trail Runner

Meet Mirna Valerio a dedicated  runner who will break all of your stereotypes of what a runner should be. In this video, brought to us by REI, we meet Mirna and learn about what motives her to get out an run. But she doesn't just go for casual jogs around the neighborhood. She is an endurance athlete who competes in long distance events, pushing herself to her own physical and mental limits. What makes her different than the other ultra-runners out there? She just so happens to have a body type that isn't typical for runners, and for that she often catches a lot of flack. In fact, the video opens with a stunningly rude and demeaning email she received from someone calling her out as a fraud. But that is just the kind of fuel that gets her going. If you watch one video today, make it this one.

Rare White Giraffes Remind Us How Amazing Our World Can Be

Our world is indeed a special place, but every once in awhile it is nice to have a reminder of just how beautiful it can be. One of those reminders came earlier in the week when a pair of white giraffes were spotted in Kenya. It was there, that visitors to the Hirola Conservation Area were caught completely off guard when they came across a mother and calf, both of which were completely white. Fortunately, they were able to capture some video footage to share with the rest of us. 

But, the creatures don't suffer from albinism as some suspected. Instead, they have a very rare genetic condition called leucism. This trait doesn't allow an animal to create pigmentation in its skin cells, while other organs can continue to form naturally. Albino animals usually have pink eyes, but these giraffes – and other creatures with leucism – have natural looking eyes instead.

Fortunately, this trait doesn't have any lasting impact on their ability to survive in the wild, and in this case the mother obviously passed on the rare genetic defect to the calf. But, as you'll see in the video below, it gives them a unique quality that is simply magical. Something tells me that the Hirola Conservation Area is about to get a lot more visitors.

So Long Cassini, You Will Be Missed!

Today marks a sad and historic day in space exploration. After nearly 20 years of traveling and exploring our solar system, the Cassini space craft is no more. Earlier this morning, NASA sent the probe, which has been collecting data on Saturn and its moons for 13 years, into the atmosphere of that planet. As it plunged through the atmosphere, it dutifully continued to send back information, right up until it went offline, most likely burning up on entry into Saturn's thin atmosphere.

Over the course of its mission, Cassini traveled some 5 billion miles (8 billion km) and gave us some of the most stunning looks at Saturn that we've ever seen. It also discovered numerous additional moons for the gas giant, and helped us to consider whether or not those moons might support life. The spacecraft took a closer look at Saturn's famed rings, helped us examine its composition, and shared data about its atmosphere right up until it went silent. At 7:55 AM ET this morning, NASA confirmed that the little spacecraft that could was gone.

In an era where space travel and exploration is devalued, Cassini was a stunning success. Not only did it provide us with new information about our solar system, but it helped us to evaluate our own place in it. There are wonders to be found in our own galactic neighborhood and all we have to do is go looking for them. I am one of those people who believes man's destiny is to move beyond our own little blue marble and out into the stars. It won't happen in my lifetime, but missions like the one performed by Cassini will help make it a reality in the decades to come.

It is odd to feel sad over the demise of machine. But with Cassini's passing it is an end of an era. And it may be some time before we see another project like this one. Godspeed little space probe.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Tomorrow is Summit Day on Dhaulagiri

The fall 2017 climbing season in the Himalaya is barely underway, and yet we could have our first successful summits as early as tomorrow. While most teams are still getting settled into Base Camps across the region, one squad has already launched their summit bid and it looks like it has a great chance to be successful.

78-year old Spanish alpinist Carlos Soria and his team left BC a few days back and have now put themselves within striking distance of the top. According to his Facebook page, they are now camped in C3 at 7200 meters (26,622 ft) and if all goes according to plan, they'll launch the final push tomorrow. The weather forecast calls for good conditions with wind speeds from 20-25 km (12-15 mph) and high cloud cover. In mountaineering terms, that's about as good as you can expect on an 8000-meter peak.

If successful, this will be Soria's 13th 8000-meter peak, leaving him just one more to add to his resume. That final mountain is Shishapangma, which is a relatively easy climb compared to most of the other big Himalayan mountains. If he knocks of Dhaulagiri as expected, I would anticipate that he'll be back on Shishapangma in the spring, looking to get his final 8-thousander, which would be an impressive accomplishment at any age, let alone in his late 70's.

Elsewhere, teams are proceeding with the acclimatization efforts on schedule. Yesterday, the Adventure Consultants touched Camp 1 on Manaslu, which means they went up to 5600 meters (18,372 ft), dropped off some gear, ate some lunch, and then dropped back down to Base Camp. They spent today resting and organizing more of their equipment in preparation for returning to C1 for an overnight stay in a few days. According to the latest dispatch, that camp is now fully stocked and ready to go, and the Sherpas have begun shuttling gear up to Camp 2 as well.

For most of the climbers the grind is now about to truly begin. They'll be spending their time going higher on the mountain, then returning to Base Camp for some much needed rest while their bodies acclimate to the altitude. We're still a few weeks away from summit bids on Manaslu, which is where the bulk of the action will take place this fall. For now, its just a matter of putting in the work and sticking to the schedule. I'm sure there will be much more to report soon.