Thursday, 31 October 2013
Perhaps the most surprising expedition that is still on going is the Korean team's attempt to climb Lhotse. ExWeb is reporting today that the squad is still on the mountain and has launched their summit bid at last. The team moved up to Camp 3 today and are expected to go to C4 tomorrow with the push to the top to follow shortly thereafter. The report says that the Korean climbers attempted to shuttle gear to Camp 4 a few days back but were turned away by excessive snow. If that is the case, I would expect the upper slopes to be very difficult, making the way to the summit a real challenge. If all goes according to plan, it looks like they'll make the final push this weekend. Lets hope it is a safe climb up and back down.
ExWeb is also reporting news from several expeditions to smaller mountains in Nepal as well. A French team is attempting the 7031 meter (23,067 ft) Saipal in the western party of the country, while another French squad has wrapped up a new route on Gauri Shankar, a 7314 meter (23,996 ft) peak on the border of Tibet. British climbers Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden were also able to make the first ascent of Kishtwar Kailash a few weeks back. You can read details of their ascent of that 6451 meter (21,164 ft) mountain by clicking here.
Finally, we're all still awaiting word from Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb on their attempt to make a first ascent of Lunag-Ri. It has been ten days since we received the last dispatch and at that time the boys were prepping for a summit push that was to begin on October 25 and should have taken roughly 4-5 days to complete. Given that they expected quite a bit of snow up near the summit, it is possible they are still working the route or making their descent. Hopefully we'll get news from them soon. At 6895 meters (22,621 ft) it is the tallest unclimbed peak in Nepal. Chad and David aren't the only ones attempting the mountain this fall either. There was another team in BC that was a day or two ahead of them in acclimatization and launching their own summit bid.
That's it for now. Hopefully we'll hear more about these last few expeditions in the next day or two. It seems the season will truly wrap up in the next week or so.
Once inside the cape, the team determined that the entire region, which is encircled by impenetrable mountains, is 9 miles (14 km) long and roughly 3 miles (5 km) across. The region contains remnants of a rainforest left over from Gondwana, a reference to an ancient super-continent that existed millions of years ago. They also discovered a variety of new species as well, including three very unique reptiles. Those species included a new frog that lives under boulders and is capable of hatching its eggs without water and a skink that hunts insects by leaping from rock to rock. A third species was the most impressive however, an odd looking gecko that is unlike anything anyone had seen before.
The initial expedition to explore Cape Melville lasted just four days with the team seeing less than a tenth of the area contained there. The group is already planning a return trip to plumb further into the depths of the region to see what else they can find. The team believes that considering what they discovered in just a preliminary scouting mission, they could find some really unique species of birds, plants and even mammals once they really get the opportunity to check out the forests there. Considering that the Cape has been evolving on its own, almost completely cut off from the rest of the world for millennia, there could be some very unique creatures just waiting to be discovered.
These store always fascinate me. I love that our world is so vast that we still don't have regions to explore, even in the age of satellite mapping, GPS navigation and instant communications. It must have been a humbling experience for these scientists to become the first humans to step into this lost world and lay eyes on the wonders there for the first time. What an amazing world we live in.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
I made it from the casino in Kinder, LA, to Winnie, TX, today by noon. And it was a good thing. It seems every time I near this location the winds along the coast pick up. Today was no exception, and I knew by the forecast that a very wet front with possible severe thunderstorms was approaching. I had a few showers along the way, but I was able to do a basic set-up before the rains began.
As I said yesterday, I won’t be staying at the volunteer village on the refuge. Instead, I set up in one of the two new volunteer sites in the Winnie maintenance complex. This new facility was just finished this past January, and serves several refuges in the area. The fact that I would be the first ever volunteer staying here made me a little apprehensive after Monday’s experience, but I needn’t have worried.
Perhaps Bayou Cocodrie NWR could take a lesson on what a volunteer site should look like. I just may send the volunteer coordinator there this picture. Notice that the pad is paved with cement, has a large patio area, picnic table area, and very easy access in and out. This site is a real beauty! Bayou Cocodrie needs to understand that the site we stay in is our home, and shouldn’t be some hole in the wall place.
I was surprised to see huge chunks of red mud still falling off of the car after I arrived here. I had tried to kick most of them off before I left Delhi. I’m very relieved to be here, and have come to terms with declining the commitment to Cocodrie.
Not all of the facility is paved with cement though. There’s a nice trail with a pond, foot bridge and gazebo.
In the picture on the right, if you look very closely you can just barely see my rig in the distance just to the right of the bridge railing. I certainly won’t be seeing the wildlife at the rig that I would if I were staying on the refuge at the volunteer village, but compared to what my choice was earlier this week, it’s 100% better.
I’ll be meeting with Stephanie tomorrow, and the plan is to get me a refuge truck that I can use to do my bird surveys and other duties. Eventually, I’ll need a little refresher on running the new VIS. I have to admit that it was pleasant for me to recognize familiar places as I made my way here this morning. It’s been two years. Where does the time go?
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
To get an idea of what they have in mind, take a look at the trailer video for the film below. Good luck guys!
Parks left the U.K. on Monday of this week and should be in Punta Arenas now. He is no doubt resting, sorting his gear and preparing for the flight to Union Glacier for the start of his speed attempt. He will be taking on the daunting task of trying to beat Christian Eide's speed record for traveling 1150 ki from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, a distance of 1,150 km (715 mile), that was set in 2011. At the time, Eide managed to make that journey in an astounding 24 days, 1 hour and 13 minutes. To do that, he had to average 47 km (29 miles) per day, which anyone who knows anything about Antarctic travel will tell you is an insane pace. Parks hopes to go faster.
Richard has set a goal of completing his journey to the South Pole in 23 days. That means he'll have to average 50 km (31 miles) per day, which doesn't sound like a lot more but those extra kilometers it can really wear on someone day in and day out, particularly when they are dragging a heavy sled behind them the entire way.
If all goes as expected and the weather cooperates, he hopes to begin the expedition in mid-November. That means he has a couple of weeks to rest and prepare before heading out on the ice. I'll certainly be following his progress once he gets going.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Scott Expedition continues to make progress, albeit at a slow pace. They boys have been on the trail for just five days but pulling the heavy sleds have made it tough so far. Their pace has dropped to as little as 1 km (.6 miles) per hour as they slog through powdery snow when they would prefer to be on hard pack. On top of that, the weather has taken a turn and gotten colder (-40ºC/F this morning!) and windier. They're now getting a real taste of what it is like to travel in Antarctica.
This was all to be expected of course and that's the reason Ben and Tarka set off early in the first place. It is also not uncommon for polar travelers to struggle early on, then find their groove once they've had a chance to acclimatize to the conditions. I suspect that will be the case here as well.
That's all for today. I'll update the progress of both of these expeditions as we get word and I'll post more starts as they come.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
I spent a rather restless night as I couldn’t help but worry a bit about where I was going next since Bayou Cocodrie NWR didn’t work out. I made myself wait until 8:00 this morning to try to give Stephanie at Anahuac another call. As fate would have it, she was attending a meeting in another location, but after pleading my case, the office manager gave me her cell phone number. I left her a message to call me back ASAP, and she did. When I explained my situation she said, “You’re coming to Anahuac now? Whahoo! We really need you!” I was so happy, I thought I’d bust! What a relief.
She also said that the RV pads at the volunteer village on the refuge were all full, but I could stay at their new maintenance facility in Winnie, TX. There are two new paved RV pads there. No caliche, and unlike the volunteer village, the water from the hook-up is potable. I won’t have to haul drinking water from the reverse osmosis tank. I got an address from her for the GPS, and I should be there by lunch time tomorrow.
Stephanie called me back early enough for me to pack up and be on the road by 10:00. After dumping the tanks at the park dump station, I drove about 200 miles to the Red Shoe Park campground at the Coushatta Casino just north of Kinder, LA. It’s my first time staying at a casino. That kind of gambling has never appealed to me, but for $18 I have a paved full hook-up site with an easy off and on from US 165.
When I left Delhi this morning, I wasn’t sure how US 165 was going to be for traveling. You know I prefer the Interstate highways for making time to get somewhere. It turned out to be mostly four lane divided highway through the whole state. I drove through quite a few towns, but it was much better than I had expected when I looked at my map. No rest areas for a pit stop for both Emma and me along the way, but we managed.
After about twenty or so more miles on US 165 tomorrow, I’ll hook up with I-10 and boogie on over to Winnie, TX. Once again, I told Emma, “We’ll be home tomorrow.” I’m not sure she believed me…
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
According to the C&K report, the kayaking team was held overnight after being confronted by locals who warned them if they had proceeded further down river they would have been met by hostile villagers at the next location. Fortunately, the situation was resolved when it was revealed the paddling team's leader – James “Rocky” Contos – is a conservationist who is campaigning against damming efforts and has even made a film about the situation.
Weihenmayer is best known as the first blind person to summit Everest, but if you check out his website, you'll see that is just one of his many adventures. Erik has also climbed the rest of the Seven Summits, raced in the Leadville 100, competed in marathons and adventure races and a host of other activities.
After it was determined that the paddlers were not part of a dam survey team they were allowed to go on their way. But the situation underscores how passionate many Peruvians are about this topic. Commercial organizations have reportedly identified 20 locations to build a dam on the river, which will substantially alter its course and the landscapes around it.
These kinds of water rights issues are major points of contentions in South America at the moment. Chile is also facing similar resistance to several of it's rivers as well.
Yesterday, ExWeb reported that Yannick and Stephane actually had to be evacuated from Annapurna after suffering frostbite on the descent. The details still remain scant but it appears that they struggled on the way back down but were able to reach Base Camp. Once there, it was determined that they would need medical attention and the duo were flown back to Kathmandu, where they are reportedly being treated now.
ExWeb speculates that the injuries weren't particularly serious, although it is sometimes difficult to tell with frostbite, particularly early on. Hopefully Yannick and Stephane won't be losing any digits and they'll be back in the mountain soon. Considering how dangerous Annapurna can be, they should feel fortunate they got away with just a little frostbite.
They are due to return to France sometime in the next couple of days.
Merino Cobra Pullover from Chrome to the test. This great looking garment was created with cyclists in mind but it is so well designed that it can be used for a variety of outdoor sports, including trail running, hiking, mountain biking or even snow sports.
The Cobra Pullover is built to be form fitting without restricting motion in any way. It is clear that Chrome put a lot of thought into its design, making it a great option for outdoor athletes. For instance, the high-quality neck zipper slides down far enough to allow you to pull on this extra layer without even needing to take off your helmet. It also comes with a high neck collar that can be flipped up to help ward off a cool wind. Thumb loops pull the extra long sleeves down over the hand, providing some much appreciated warmth when the temperature starts to drop, while a longer torso keeps warm air trapped close to the body.
As you would expect, the Cobra Pullover benefits greatly from Chrome's version of merino wool. The fabrics so an excellent job of wicking away moisture, helping to keep the wearer warm when out for a ride or a long run. But its ability to breathe allows heat to vent away from the body as well, keeping us cooler when we start to overheat. Temperature regulation is one of the benefits of merino and this pullover does a great job in that regard. The garment also happens to be odor resistant, which means you can go straight from the trail to a restaurant without fear of sending your friends running for the door. Travelers will love that feature as well, as it comes in incredibly handy on extended active trips.
Other nice touches include a large, zippered passthrough pocket along the back that provides ample storage and a smaller key pocket on the right arm just above the wrist. That pocket has an integrated fabric loop that you can attach your keys to, making it even more difficult to lose them.
The Cobra Pullover is one of those rare pieces of gear that looks as good as it performs. Chrome has put a lot of thought into the design and it shows. This is definitely an article of clothing that you won't mind wearing out and about around town, which isn't always the case with performance wear. This pullover has classic good looks going for it and when you put it on, you'll be right at home on the bike, trail, coffee shop or just about anywhere else you may go.
For a piece of clothing made from merino wool, the Cobra Pullover is actually priced quite affordably. Chrome sells it for $140, which is very competitive when compared to similar products from competitors. This is a warm, durable, well built active wear that is versatile enough to be used in a wide variety of activities. I really like what Chrome has brought to the table and think that it will be a favorite with cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts alike. With the holidays just around the corner, it would also make a great gift for the gear hound on your list.
Monday, 28 October 2013
Emma and I were out the door shortly before 10:00 to drive the 75 miles or so to Bayou Cocodrie NWR to check out the lay of the land for our moving in tomorrow. There have only been a few times when I’ve checked a place out with my car before driving in with my rig, but I’m sure glad I made that decision this time. After weaving my way through some challenging turns for a motorhome in Ferriday, LA, I ended up on a non-paved road that was coated in red mud. It was three miles in second gear with the mud flying the whole way. My stomach wasn’t feeling too good about that as I imagined having to drive the rig through it with the toad on back.
Eventually I made it to the headquarters and maintenance building on the refuge. At least there was some gravel on the road there. Charman, the volunteer coordinator, was not there even though she knew I would be there before noon. So, I introduced myself to several of the brown shirts and asked to see the newly constructed RV pads.
My stomach was not doing any better as I was led through the small fenced maintenance area to a small section outside. In my 17 other volunteer assignments on National Wildlife Refuges, I’ve never seen a volunteer site area to compare with this one. On a scale of 1 – 10, this place scored a big fat ZERO! They’ve made a flat pile of about two feet of wet caliche. If you’re familiar with caliche, you know that when it is wet it clumps around your shoes when you walk on it like cement. What a mess! How they ever think two RV’s will fit in this area is beyond me. If, and that’s questionable, I could ever maneuver the rig into this place I’m not sure I’d ever get out if a second rig pulled in. Besides that, the hook-ups were installed on the wrong side so the electrical cord, sewer hose, and water hose would have to go under the rig to the other side. Although they seemed quite proud of what they had built, I had to tell them that I was very uncomfortable with this set up. The more I looked at it, the more I knew I couldn’t do this.
I’ve never backed out of a volunteer commitment, but today was the exception. I emailed Charman after I got home, and told her I was sorry, but I it would be impossible for me to volunteer at Bayou Cocodrie. She was understanding about it. I can’t imagine that any volunteers would be happy with that set up unless they had a little pop-up camper. The brown shirts there did say they thought volunteers would have little trailers. I guess they haven’t done their homework about RV volunteers.
So now I’m on to formulating a plan B for the winter. Only last week I had an email from Stephanie, the volunteer coordinator at Anahuac NWR, asking if I couldn’t please come early to help them out. I was slated to be there after the first of the year. As usual, I told her I was committed at Bayou Cocodrie until the new year. With today’s shocking disappointment, I’ve reconsidered her request. I tried calling her when I got home, but she won’t be in until tomorrow.
All of this does make me wonder why I decided to not just drive directly to the refuge with the rig this morning. As I said, I’m sure glad I didn’t, but it’s a little eerie none the less. Some kind of premonition?
On a much lighter note, I finally beat my son, Daniel, on this last week’s fantasy football competition. I’m still near the bottom of the barrel in this league, but I just wanted to beat him once, and I did it. We had a side bet if I ever did better than he did, and now I have to figure out what to do with that magnificent five cents! Ahh! Life is a wonder, isn’t it?
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
The team, which consists of Fraser Hart, Sam Collins, Colin Parker and James Wight, will be taking part in the first ever New Ocean Wave Great Pacific Race in which they hope to be the fastest team to row from Monterey, CA to Honolulu, HI. Calling themselves Team Pacific Rowers, they'll hit the water next June along with all the other entrants into the event, most of whom will row in shifts for 24-hours per day as they attempt to complete the ocean crossing.
The boys are currently looking for corporate sponsorship and are even holding a contest to name their boat as they gear up for the event next summer. With eight months to go until the race, I'm sure they're also busy training, getting their gear together and prepping for five weeks at sea.
I've written about the Great Pacific Race a time or two when it was first announced. Obviously it is still some time off, but I will certainly be covering it more fully next summer once the teams all gather in California and hit the water. There is a similar race held in the Atlantic each year (in fact, it begins in a little over a month) so it'll be interesting to see how this new event goes over.
Last Monday, Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere of the Scott Expedition flew from Punta Arenas, Chile to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. They spent a few days there getting their gear and supplies organized before they caught another flight out to the Ross Ice Shelf, where they spent another day and a half skiing to their official starting point at the Scott Terra Nova Hut. Since they will be skiing in the footsteps of polar legend Robert Falcon Scott, and hoping to complete the route he couldn't, it seemed only fitting that Ben and Tarka set out from the same place that he did more than a century ago.
The boys have begun posting dispatches from the ice and so far it seems that conditions are good but the work is hard. Their sleds are at full capacity at the moment, which means they are pulling 200 kg (440 pounds) of gear and supplies behind them as they begin their 1800 mile (2896 km) journey to the South Pole and back again. Those sleds will get easier to pull as the food supplies start to dwindle, but for now it is tough going, especially since the snow is soft and powdery.
As a result of these heavy loads, Ben says they are covering about 2 km (1.2 miles) per hour, which doesn't sound very fast but is actually quite good for so early in the expedition. It usually takes a week or two for Antarctic explorers to acclimate to the temperatures and altitudes there and the body must adapt to the work load of skiing all day while puling a heavy sled behind them.
The weather has been great for the lads so far although as expected the temperatures are a bit brutal. This morning they are dealing with -30ºC/-22ºF with wind chills taking those temps down to -40ºC/F. It is a bit unusual to have such good weather at this point in the season, but I'm sure Ben and Tarka are happy to have it. It is not uncommon for Antarctic adventurers to encounter high winds, blowing snows and whiteout conditions as they get underway. In recent years, there have even been delays to the start of the season due to poor weather at the traditional drop off point at Union Glacier.
With the first of November now just a few days away, we should start to see a few more teams making their way to Punta Arenas and preparing to head out on the ice. Because of the extreme distances involved with their expedition, Ben and Tarka set off as early as they could, but most won't be making a return trip from the Pole, so they'll have more to complete their expeditions. It'll also give them more time to allow the weather to be more conducive for travel.
Stay tuned for more soon. The season is just getting started.
The events that took place on K2 during that fateful season are the subject of a new film entitled The Summit, which as been in theaters for the past week. Over the weekend I finally got the opportunity to catch this powerful documentary and although I went into it knowing most of what happened, I still found it to be extremely tense and enthralling.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, on July 31, 2008 a large group of climbers moved up K2 amidst great weather on a summit bid. Over the course of the following days, a series of events led to the worst tragedy that the mountain has ever seen. Everything from logistical errors to late summits conspired to put the climbers in danger, but the situation was made all the worse when a large serac hanging over a portion of the mountain known as the Bottleneck, collapsed down the face, sweeping away the fixed ropes that the teams would need to descend. Some managed to down-climb without the ropes, others fell to their death. By the time the dust had settled, 11 people were killed and several more were injured or suffering from exposure.
The film does a good job of blending actual footage from the 2008 season with scenes that were reenacted for dramatic effect. Director Nick Ryan fills time between those scenes with interviews with the actual survivors, each of whom shares their own very personal experiences from those difficult days on the mountain.
Over the course of the film's 1 hour, 40 minute run time, the tale unfolds in stilted fashion. At times the main focus is on what exactly happened on those disastrous few days but numerous flashbacks to weeks – and in some cases years - earlier help to fill in some gaps. Much of that information provides context and history on the mountain and the climbers, but there were times when it felt shoehorned in to add padding. This was especially true of the scenes that featured legendary Italian climber Walter Bonatti, who was there to discuss the first successful climb of the mountain in 1954. But because his tale isn't told very well, his presence in the film probably left some audience members wondering exactly why he was in the film.
Because I wrote extensively about the tragedy back when it happened, I had a good idea of what went down before I ever set foot in the theater. Still, The Summit did put everything into perspective as the story more-or-less unfolded in chronological order. It helps to put the perspective exactly what happened, which essentially can be broken down to being a series of unfortunate events. There wasn't one or two big mistakes that you could point to that led to the disaster, but instead it was several small choices and decisions that were eventually exasperated by the collapse of the serac.
If you have followed the story over the years, you probably know that some controversy erupted after the fact due to shifting stories by Italian climber Marco Confortola. One of the casualties on the mountain that day was Ger McDonnell, an Irish climber who was much loved in the mountaineering community. In the aftermath of the K2 disaster, Confortola said he and McDonnell attempted to help injured Korean climbers down the mountain but due to exhaustion and the lack of fixed lines, they were unable to help. Marco then claimed that he tried to get Ger to go down together, but he instead inexplicably turned back up the mountain, where he died. McDonnell's friends and family don't believe that is the case however, as they have asserted that the Irishman would have stayed to help the injured climbers. They suspect that he was there, with the Koreans, and that Confortola abandoned him and went down on his own. It was later reported that McDonnell was seen being swept up in another ice collapse.
What really happened that day will remain a mystery, as Confortola is sticking with his story – at least for now. But the film seems to have two agendas, the first is to tell the story of the tragedy and the second is to clear McDonnell's name. It succeeds to a degree in both areas.
So, is The Summit worth seeing in the theater? If you're a mountaineering junkie, then I'd say without a doubt. It puts into context the events that took place on K2 five years ago and fills in some gaps of the story. It also allows us to see the mountaineers that were there in a very real, human light. Watching Ceclia Skog talk about the final moments of her husbands life was incredible moving for example.
I do think the film does a good job of explaining most things for non-climbers to absorb what is happening as well, although it probably won't shed any clarity on why mountaineers go to these big, dangerous mountains in the first place.
It is difficult to say that you actually "like" a film like this one. After all, it is about the real life deaths of 11 climbers. Still, it is easy to recognize that it is a well made documentary that treats the subject matter with respect and reverence. It is a also a powerful film that will stay with you after you've left the theater, which is exactly what it is meant to do I suppose.
Find out more at the film's official website, including where it is showing near you.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
I left Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas, early this morning with a plan to drive about 300 miles further on my journey south. We started in Arkansas, but were shortly driving through Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis on I-55 always puckers me up some because of their low underpasses. I always end up deeply inhaling and crunching down in the driver’s seat as we go under those 13’ 11” passes. Not that it does any good, but I just can’t help it. My rig is just about 13’ 6” tall, and I always worry those roads overhead have sagged some…
Then it was on to a couple of hundred miles in Mississippi. I have nightmares about my last stop outside of Jackson, MS, at Swinging Bridge Campground, so today’s plan was to head over to Louisiana on I-20 at Jackson. To get to I-20, I took I-220 to the west. OMG! What a horrible road that is. I drive at 57 mph, and I just can’t understand why anyone would do this road at the posted 70 mph limit. It’s in terrible condition, and I found myself levitating above my seat because of the severe dips almost constantly. Amazingly, all cabinets and drawers stayed closed during this harrowing section. Thankfully, once I got on I-20 the road smoothed out, and I was able to unclamp my white-knuckled hands from the steering wheel and get some feeling back into them.
By 3:00, I was pulling into Poverty Point Reservoir State Park in Delhi, Louisiana. I’ll post more about this park tomorrow.
Yesterday while I was enjoying a day of no travel and rest, Emma and I spent time watching the barges pass by on the Mississippi River. We also took a couple of walks. One of them was to see the ‘tree house’. It’s a ways back from the river and affords an elevated view of the Mississippi after you walk up a couple of ramps.
There are several wooden benches carved out of trees on the deck surrounding the tree house. Don’t know what this is used for, but there’s electricity up there, and a fridge and bar looking area inside. Maybe things happen there during the summer?
It’s kind of neat how it really is a tree house.
Inside you can see where the high water mark was with the flooding of the river a couple of years ago. That was pretty sobering.
Here’s a shot from the deck of the tree house of the motorhome sites in the campground. That’s the Mighty Mississippi on the far side of the rigs. It seems like the river was quite low at this time of the year. The far side is all sand. Just made me think about how the water can rise in the spring to a point higher than I was standing.
I’ve paid for two nights at Poverty Point State Park. Tomorrow, Emma and I will hop in the toad and drive the 75 miles or so to Bayou Cocodrie NWR to get the lay of the land. If possible, I like to drive to my refuges where I’ll be staying in the car first before bringing the rig. Sometimes that has saved me from getting into some real pickles with the big rig towing the car. Since I’ll be their first ever RV volunteer, I want to feel comfortable with what approach I’ll make to get into the site. Maybe it will be a snap, but I’ve run into situations with low hanging power lines, or dead ends with no place to turn around. I’d rather check it out first to avoid the stress of challenging situations.
So, I’m almost there. I’ll be more than happy to settle in on Tuesday, at last!
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
Friday, 25 October 2013
It was only about a 140 mile drive to Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis today, and I appreciated the shorter drive time. I was closing in on 700 miles the last three days, and was getting a little road weary.
This campground, as many of you know, is located right on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. The cold front has extended this far south and the breeze was brisk, but it was nice to have beautiful blue skies. I was ready for a break and will stay here two nights.
After getting set up, Emma and I enjoyed a walk along the river. The road into the campground over the dike is a little interesting, but once you descend to the campground it’s pleasant. Full hook-ups with the Escapees discount is $32/night. It’s a much nicer place to stay than I had two nights ago for about the same price. I’m parked next to the shower/laundry facilities. Doing your laundry is included in the price, so it’s been quite busy. I think I’ll try to get a couple of loads done in the early morning tomorrow.
Most folks stop here to enjoy the barge travel that goes on just outside your rig. This is one of the smaller barges that are being pushed up the river. The traffic flows both directions, and I must say it’s more relaxing than listening to trains, and all their noise, going by. Of course, I’m not a big fan of trains, so this is more to my liking. The forecast for tomorrow calls for a sunny day, so I’m just going to kick back and sit on one of the many benches along the river.
Had to chuckle this afternoon, as I watched all of the men in the campground out washing their rigs. Apparently you are allowed to do that here. Don’t know what all the ladies were doing inside, but for me the last thing on my mind is washing the rig. Considering the miles I have left to go, I’ll choose to wait until I get to Bayou Cocodrie before I consider washing things. Lots of folks from Ohio here tonight, and it made me wonder if Ohioans always want their rigs sparkling clean? Or is it a way the men stay busy and get away from the ladies inside? They were all like little worker bees. Sure did make me wonder.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
Tip of the hat to Outside Online for sharing this.
The team flew out of Punta Arenas on Monday and were shuttled to the Union Glacier camp for the first stage of their journey. They then spent a couple of days getting organized, prepping their gear and acclimatizing to the Antarctica. Yesterday they again boarded a plane and were taken to the Ross Ice Shelf, where they are now en route to the Scott Terra Nova Hut, the famous launching point for Scott's expedition. Even though it was built more than a century ago, the hut remains an important landmark on the continent.
When they were dropped off on the ice yesterday, the two men had to ski 32 km (20 miles) just to get to their starting point. They are expected to arrive there today and will likely take a brief rest before they start the real meat of the expedition. Once they're ready, they'll then begin moving south, pulling their heavily loaded sleds behind them as they set off across the Antarctic at last.
Once they're underway, Ben and Tarka expect to make daily – or at least frequent – updates from the field. In fact, as I write this they are a bit over due for their first check-in from the hut. Hopefully that update will come soon and we'll be able to follow them closely over the coming week. You can read those dispatches on the team's blog page.
In the days ahead I'll be following the progress of this expedition very closely. Expect to read about it regularly on the Adventure Blog. Other teams will soon join Ben and Tarka out on the ice, but for now most them look like they're a couple of weeks off yet. Since the lads are making a return trip from the Pole, they had to get a jump on the season. They'll also likely endure worse conditions in the early going.
Such is the life of an Antarctic explorer. Best of luck boys!
According to the story, climbers Yannick Graziani and Stephane Benoist topped out yesterday morning local time after spending approximately a week on their summit push. The duo arrived in Nepal in late September and spent some time acclimatizing on smaller peaks nearby before heading over to Annapurna Base Camp. They arrived on the mountain late last week and almost immediately launched their attempt. They had expected to make the push in four days time, but it ended up taking them the entire week instead, although they were finally able to reach the top yesterday.
There is no word yet on whether or not they have gotten back down safely and we all know that is a big question mark on Annapurna. The mountain is known for being very difficult and prone to avalanches. Considering the amount of snow that has been dumped on the Himalaya recently, lets keep our fingers crossed that Yannick and Stephane get back to Base Camp safely.
This was the second attempt on Annapurna for this team. They made a previous go at climbing the mountain back in the fall of 2010. That attempt was thwarted by bad weather and excessive snow on the upper slopes of the mountain.
This is of course the second time this fall that climbers have successfully negotiated the South Face of Annapurna. Swiss climber Ueli Steck made his epic solo summit, in just 28-hours no less - a few weeks back along the same route. Conditions were a bit different then however as Ueli's summit took place before the arrival the cyclone.
Congratulations to the French climbers on a successful expedition. Well done! Now get home safe.
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Not too much going on the last two days other than driving. After 200 miles yesterday, I spent the night in a not exactly stellar campground. Left at 8:30 this morning to head for Sikeston, MO. I’ve stayed at the Hinton RV Park before, so it was a known entity. Due to a couple of little delays, it took me until almost 4:00 to arrive after driving 327 miles.
A couple of folks had recommended not taking I-70 to I-55 outside of St. Louis. They had suggested US 65 to US 60 to Sikeston, but I ignored their idea. I checked it out on line last night, and not only was it a longer route, but it took me through what I think was the Missouri Ozarks. If I had a lot of time, and it was warmer, I might have taken that route.
When I have to get somewhere quickly, I have always preferred interstate highways. I know a lot of people disagree with that, but it’s a whole lot easier for me, with no navigator, to use the interstates. They have been the quickest routes for me, and the best chance of finding fueling stations that I can get into and out of without any incidents.
327 miles is about 127 miles over the top for me for driving in a day, but with the cold air shooting down from Canada, I took advantage of an almost all-day tail wind. Even here in southeast Missouri the temps tonight are predicted to go down into the 20’s. Brr!
On the bright side, I’ve made reservations for at least two nights at Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis, AR. I’ve only read good things about this park, and am looking forward to taking a little break, not determined by the wind, on my dash to Louisiana. Then I’ll make the final push to Bayou Cocodrie NWR. I didn’t want to arrive on a weekend anyway. No one works the weekends…
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
In a blog post that was published today, Strandberg shares his 9 tips on how to become a modern day explorer. These simple pearls of wisdom form a solid foundation for anyone who is considering pursing a life of exploration, something that comes with sacrifices and challenges, but also great rewards and satisfaction.
I won't spoil the list because I think the entire thing is well worth a read. I will say that his final tip is perhaps the most important one of all. It simply reads: "9. Finally: Get out there and just do it!" For many of us, the biggest stumbling block towards pursuing our dreams and goals is ourself. Sometimes we need to take that leap of faith and just go for it. The people that I have known who have been the most successful at whatever it is they do have always been the ones who are willing to believe in themselves and make the leap.
Mikael's tips are excellent ones for just about anything you'd like to do in life. While he puts them into context of pursuing the life of an explorer, they could also be just as easily applied to someone who wants to start their own business, quit their day job to pursue other opportunities or just about anything else. He advocates for having a clear vision, staying focused and believing in yourself - qualities that are important no matter what goals you set for yourself.
To read the entire article and discover all of Mikael's tips, click here.
Next year's TdF will begin a bit later than we're use to, getting underway on July 5 from Yorkshire in the U.K. After two stages across the Channel, the riders will head to Northern France where they'll have no less than nine sections, totally 15.4 km on cobblestones. Fans of the sport know that the cobbles are extremely dangerous and not especially popular with the Peloton. More than one rider has had their Tour dreams smashed on those rough roads in the early going, where most of the contenders just hope to survive.
With the rise of some exceptional climbers over the past few years the route planners are making sure they keep the riders challenged. There will be five mountain top finishes in the Alps and the Pyrenees, giving this year's champ Chris Froome and past champion Alberto Contador – both of whom were on hand for the course reveal – a chance to show off their climbing legs. The toughest of those days may be a slog up the Hautacam. The entire stage is just 145 km (90 miles) in length, but 40 km (24 miles) of that will be spent climbing.
Also a bit surprising is that there is only one individual time trail on the schedule. That leg is 54 km (33 miles) in length and will take place on the second to last day. As usual, the final day will belong to the sprinters on the streets of Paris and along the Champs Elysees.
I know that the race is still nine months off, but it's hard not to get excited when you hear about what's in store. I'm already looking forward to July!
Wednesday, 23 October 2013
In January of this year, he arrived in Hong Kong where he has been working to raise funds to start the next phase of his journey. He intends to set out again before the end of the year, this time heading south towards the Equator and I would assume an eventual ride across Australia. Before he leaves, Rob worked with filmmaker Edwin Lee to release the video below, which tells a bit of his tale and serves as an inspiration for the rest of us to get off the couch, leave the mundane life behind and go find our own adventures. It is a very well done clip that I'm sure many of you will relate to.
Also, be sure to check out some of Rob's photos on his website. He has some really nice shots from his ride so far.
Yesterday I posted an update from Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb who are attempting to make the first ascent of Lunag-Ri, the tallest unclimbed peak in Nepal. If all goes as planned, they'll launch their bid later this week. It won't be an easy climb however, as they report heavy snow now on the mountain with more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) falling in the past week alone.
Over on Lhotse, the last of the 8000-meter peaks to see action this fall, we're still waiting on word from the Korean team. The last update indicated that they were headed up to Camp 2 on that mountain, but the amount of snow that was on the Western Cwm this season, even before the arrival of Cyclone Phailin, was daunting. There is no word on whether or not they are still attempting to summit or are planning on heading home.
ExWeb has shared a couple of other expeditions that are still ongoing as well. For instance, a team of French climbers arrived in country last week and are en route to Saipal now. Their travel has been delayed more than once due to poor weather, but they should arrive in Base Camp soon. Located in extreme Northwest Nepal, Saipal is a seldom climbed peak with an altitude of 7031 meters (23,067 ft).
Ama Dablam is also seeing some late season action. The popular climbing peak is 6856 meters (22,493 ft) in height and is often seen as a good tune-up for other climbs in the Himalaya. Himex has a team there now and a Pakistani group led by Shaheen Baig is also on the mountain. Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke is also hoping to wrap up a busy year in the Himalaya with one final climb on Ama Dablam too.
While these few remaining expeditions aren't as big and sexy as some of the attempts on the 8000 meter peaks, they are still solid challenges, especially when you factor in the late season weather. It should be interesting to see how much success these teams find in the next week or so. These smaller mountains don't take nearly as long to climb and I suspect most of these remaining expeditions will wrap up by the first week of November.
Stay tuned for more updates.
The new watch is called the tactix and it retails for $450. It sports a high-sensitivey GPS sensor with automatically calibrating altimeter and a 3-axis compass. It's built in memory allows the device to store up to 1000 waypoints and 10,000 track points, and allows the wearer to quickly and easily retrace their steps back to previous positions. In a nod to its military roots, the U.S. version of the watch is preloaded with tidal data and all versions include Jumpmaster software for airborne personnel. It also features sun/moon data and a calendar for hunting and fishing. A stopwatch, countdown timer, world clock, and alarm functionality are all built in as well of course, and as with most GPS enabled watches, this one will tell you distance traveled, speed, calories burned, etc. The tactix will also pair with Garmin's heart rate monitor and bike pod to measure performance and will even control the company's VIRB and VIRB Elite action cameras.
The tactix is designed to be rugged and survive in the outdoors. Its case is tough and durable, making it water resistant down to 50 meters. It's all black styling is designed to be non-reflective and subtle in nature, while the built in battery can reportedly go 50 hours between charges with GPS enabled and 5 weeks when being used as a standard watch. That performance is actually quite good for a watch of this kind.
The new watch is available now.
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
The weather guessers got it right for today. The winds were once again whipping around in the 25-30 mph range. I decided not to move on. Instead, I unhitched the toad and took a drive over to the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Center.
Did you notice that National Park Service arrowhead on the entrance statue? Ha! It turns out that the only thing that has to do with our National Parks is that statue! The Center is run by a local non-profit group that has nothing to do with the National Park Service. I thought that was a little misleading.
So, the old farts pass didn’t do me any good here. The center is interesting, and I enjoyed my time viewing the 30 minute movie and the exhibits. The cost for seniors is $4.50 for those that are interested. There were quite a few activities for kids to enjoy, but nothing inside inspired me enough to take any photos. I’ve been to quite a few Lewis & Clark exhibits in my travels, and I would rate this one as mediocre in comparison. I think the movie was the best thing, and it certainly refreshed my memory about the Corps of Discovery Expedition.
The second best part of this visit was the view of the Missouri River outside the back of the center. I took the trail down to the ‘unobstructed view’ of the United States’ longest river, but found that view much less inviting than this view. It was closer to the river, but the whole foreground was railroad tracks. Not very scenic in my estimation.
I had also hoped to visit the Mayhew cabin today. It was an historical cabin for its role as a stopping place in the underground railroad back in the days before the Civil War, but alas, it was not open on Tuesdays. I guess I’ll have to save that for next spring.
Instead, I headed for a couple of orchards. Did you know that Nebraska City is the place where Arbor Day began? Well it is, and I wanted to taste some of the fruit of all those trees. I ended up with a half a peck of Honey Crisp apples, and a small jug of Cherry Jubilee from the orchards of Arbor Day Farm. Honey crisps are one of my favorite apples, and I’m going to try out some of that cherry jubilee tomorrow morning with my breakfast. I would have bought one of their fresh apple pies, but they were just too big. I wish I could have bought just a slice.
I also stopped off in town to get my annual flu shot at Walgreens. The pharmacist recommended that I get the super-dose for folks over 65, so I did. It’s covered by Medicare, so I didn’t need to produce any cash. Next on my agenda will be getting the shingles shot. Have any of you done that?
The winds are supposed to drop overnight, so I plan on leaving here tomorrow. I’ll be going through Kansas City, and heading east towards St. Louis. I have two possible stopping places picked out along the way depending on how it goes. One is 200 miles, and the other is 270 miles. If I did the 200 miles, then I’d see if I could stop at Sam and Donna’s the next night. If I did the 270 miles, Sikeston MO would be within shot for Thursday night. Decisions, decisions…
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy
Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb have checked in from Lunag-Ri, the target of their efforts this fall. As you may recall, the mountain holds the distinction of being the tallest unclimbed peak in Nepal with an altitude of 6895 meter (22,621 ft). When last we heard from the boys, they were on there way to Base Camp after just setting out from Namche Bazaar. The trek to BC was relatively uneventful and duo arrived on the mountain where they were greeted by two other climbers hoping to make the first ascent of Lunag-Ri as well. That team had already established Advanced Base Camp further up the slope and were in the process of wrapping up their acclimatization efforts.
All of this happened early last week before the cyclone made landfall, bringing heavy snows along with it. The forecast indicated that the storm could dump fresh powder on the Himalaya for several days, so Chad, David and their companions all settled into their tents to wait. Before long, a full fledged blizzard was hitting the mountain, burying everything in sight, including the tents they were staying in. It was an uphill battle keeping them from collapsing under the weight, but they managed to make it through relatively unscathed. By the time the snow stopped falling it had deposited 4 feet (1.2 meters) on the ground, which has made things difficult to say the least.
Over the weekend the team started shuttling gear up the mountain towards ABC. They made a cache halfway to that point and plan on going all the way up today. They'll build their campsite there, then drop down to fetch the cache tomorrow. After that, it'll be back to BC for a brief rest and then they'll launch their attempt on the summit. Chad estimates that it will take them roughly four days to make the climb. That ascent could start late this week.
It sounds like conditions will be tough all the way to the top, as the boys will be forced to break trail much of the way. They are particularly concerned about how much snow will be on the summit ridge as they approach the top, provided they even get a chance to reach that point. The weather forecast looks much improved for now however, so it seems they'll at least have a shot at topping out.
Stay tuned for updates.
The run, which David and Katharine had dubbed the 5000 Mile Project, began in Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost town on the continent. From there, they began traveling north, passing out of Chile and moving into Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and finally Venezuela. Along the way, they passed over the Andes Mountains and through the Amazon Rainforest, two natural obstacles that are daunting under any circumstances.
As if running 6500 miles across a continent isn't an impressive accomplishment on its own, the couple also managed to launch their Big Toe Classroom along the way as well. This portion of their website is filled with lesson plans and other educational tools for teachers. These free resources are designed for 7-11 year olds and were created to help them learn more about South America and the plants and animals that live there.
All told, it took David and Katherine 14 months, 23 days, 19 hours and 24 minutes to run from the southern tip of the continent to the northern coastline in Venezuela. That's a lot of time on the road and I'm sure they are relived to be done.
Congratulations to the Lowrie's on the completion of an impressive expedition. Well done!