Thursday, June 16, 2016

Everest Corpses Get Nicknames; Solar Impulse Nails JFK Landing Without Fuel


Solar-powered Airplane Aces Nighttime Landing at JFK

EN was there when a solar-powered aircraft, like a giant dragon fly - to some it looked like a UFO - slowly descended from the skies above JFK's Hangar 19. The Solar Impulse 2, piloted by André Borschberg, arrived in New York City on June 11, the latest leg of an around-the-world journey powered by solar energy stored in a bank of batteries charged by 17,000 photovoltaic cells.

Solar Impulse crew celebrates historic landing at JFK

The 2.3 ton, 236-ft. wide plane (slightly wider than a Boeing 747), landed at 4 a.m. local time after first circling the Statue of Liberty for a photo shoot.

This latest flight marks the completion of the trans-America portion of the quest to circle the globe on no fuel (see EN, September 2012). It has the weight of a car, the power of a small motorcycle, and flies about the speed of a car in heavy traffic (30 to 40 mph).

Solar Impulse 2 must now prepare for a daunting crossing of the Atlantic.

Bertrand Piccard will pilot the Atlantic leg.

Deciding when to cross the ocean will be a tricky decision. The slow-moving, ultra-light plane needs benign winds, and the team concedes that the right conditions may not present themselves for several weeks. "Patience will be the word," said flight director Raymond Clerc. "I expect the flight to take 3 to 4 days."

The team would like to aim for the French capital, Paris, to reference the historic first solo Atlantic plane crossing made by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. But the weather systems may simply not permit this, and take Solar Impulse instead further south, perhaps to Toulouse, or to Seville in Spain.

The record-breaking plane has traveled 18,540 miles without a single drop of fuel since setting off on the first leg of the trip from Abu Dhabi to Oman in March 2015. It expects to arrive back there later this summer.

Learn more at:


This year was going to be different. After almost 22 years covering expeditions to Mount Everest, we were ready to take a break. After all, to really impress a fellow climber it's not Everest you should brag about. It's Meru, K2, Nanga Parbat, or literally dozens of other tougher mountains, assuming you are skilled - and lucky enough - to summit.

Yet Everest's siren call lures us back every year. So bear with us again this year. Here are some highlights of the 2016 climbing season to date:

Melissa Arnot Summits Without O's

Professional mountain guide and high altitude climber, Melissa Arnot, 32, became the first American woman to summit Mount Everest six times, and the first to successfully complete the climb without supplemental oxygen on May 23. Arnot broke her own record for the most summits completed by an American woman, which she set in 2013. Since 2001, she has also summited Rainier more than 90 times. Francys Arsentiev, also an American woman, reached the summit without oxygen in 1998 but died during the descent.

During an appearance on the Chelsea Show on NetFlix, Arnot tells host Chelsea Handler (season 1, June 9 episode) that she lost 15 lbs in a month. Handler jokes, "That would totally motivate most viewers."

Everest is Natural Selection at Work

"Some feel good news from Mount Everest," writes Alex Proud in the UK Telegraph (June 6). "Last week, British climber and former serviceman Leslie Binns abandoned his own summit attempt, 500 meters from the top, to save the life of Sunita Hazra, an Indian woman; she survived, albeit with severe frostbite.

"It's a rare ray of sunshine. Last month the world's tallest mountain killed five people in the space of seven days - and that was by no means its most deadly week. Everest's record for mortality is 18 in a single day. It is very good at killing people."

He asks, "Why would I stump up £35,000 and suffer for two months on a mountain with a one in 27 chance of never seeing my kids again?"

Later he writes, "Well, Everest is not that 'technically difficult' compared to many 8,000 metre plus peaks and so climbing it has become a trophy for rich people.

"This is why I sort of like the way Everest kills people, regardless of wealth. It's deeply democratic. It's a reminder that, sometimes, money can't buy everything - and that the bauble-collecting of the tacky rich sometimes backfires horribly on them."

Proud continues, "But when Everest claims another wealthy egomaniac who has run out of normal things to buy I just shrug. It's an annual cull - a weird form of natural selection at work."

Read the full story here:

Everest Corpses Get Nicknames; Don't Expect a Burial Back Home

At least 100 corpses are still on the mountain, perhaps 200, according to Binaj Gurubacharya and Tim Sullivan of the Associated Press (May 28).

"Most of the bodies are hidden in deep crevasses or covered by snow and ice, but some are visible to every climber who passes by, landmarks in heavy plastic climbing boots and colorful parkas that fade a little more every year.

"The most famous corpses get nicknames - 'Green Boots,' 'Sleeping Beauty,' 'The German' - becoming warnings of what can go wrong on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak, even as they become part of the mountain's gallows humor," according to the Associated Press.

It can take 10 Sherpa more than three days to move a body from Everest's South Col, at 8,000 meters or 26,300 feet, to Camp 2, a rocky expanse at 21,000 feet where helicopters can take over. It's a painful, exhausting process, with the bodies, which are normally carried in sleeping bags or wrapped in tents, often much heavier because they are covered in ice, according to AP.

Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a Boston-based agency, tells AP retrieving a body from Everest is a massive logistical operation that can cost from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on the difficulty and helicopter flights.

Ang Tshering, head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, predicted that warming temperatures will reveal many new corpses.

"In the next 10 years or so, these bodies could begin turning up," he said.

Read the story here:

Tenzing Calls for Everest Restrictions

Nepal mountaineering associations should lobby the government to put greater safety measures in place on Everest, Norbu Tenzing says. Tenzing, the son of Sir Edmund Hillary's climbing partner and the vice president of the American Himalayan Foundation, told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon that organizations like the Nepal Mountaineering Association should be taking the initiative for making changes.

Norbu Tenzing Norgay (Credit: AFP)

"Some things obviously you can't control, but I think if the government of Nepal is going to (try) - (they need to) take the huge step of controlling the number of people who went up there, qualify the climbers, decrease the kind of risk to the Sherpas, increase the amount of insurance for the families after one of them dies on Everest."

"Everest is an industry, and Everest is big business," he said.

"Part of the Sherpa community will always rely on the mountain. But the business of undercutting - Sherpas want a bigger piece of the Everest pie."

Read the full story here:

"Icefall Doctors" Honored

Nine Sherpa "icefall doctors" who risked their lives to fix ropes on the Mount Everest after last year's devastating earthquakes, were honored on May 29, the 9th International Everest Day, according to the Times of India (May 26).

Said Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA),
"Had they not fixed the ropes before this climbing season, scaling Everest after last year's devastating earthquake would not have been possible. They staked their lives to fix the ropes working hard day and night."

"Icefall doctors" build bridges using aluminum ladders to cross deep crevasses and set ropes for mountaineers to clip their harnesses into over dangerous sections. The nine Sherpas were the first persons to climb Everest on May 11, after a gap of two years.

In 2014, 16 Sherpa guides were killed in an avalanche near base camp. In 2015, 18 climbers died while attempting to scale Everest as they were swept away by a powerful avalanche triggered by earthquake that left 9,000 dead elsewhere in the country.

Read the full story here:

Everest Climb Turns Tragic for Two Vegans

Everest has been a literal proving ground for decades for climbers who want to show that their disabilities can be overcome, that if they can climb Everest despite all odds then, well, the challenges of everyday life could be overcome.

This strategy ended badly for two vegans last month, according to Travis M. Andrews writing in the Washington Post (May 23).

For Maria Strydom and her husband, Robert Gropel, climbing Everest while adhering to a strict vegan diet was their "own personal Everest."

The 34-year-old Strydom, a lecturer at Monash Business School in Melbourne, Australia, had a message she wanted to share with the world: Veganism is not a handicap. Strydom and her husband had set out to climb the mountain to prove a vegan diet can sustain extreme physical challenges.

She and her husband, a veterinarian, both stuck closely to their vegan diet - no animal products whatsoever, which extends from scrambled eggs to most chocolate chip cookies - and they experienced criticism because of it. Some thought they didn't receive enough iron and protein in their diet for such strenuous physical activity.

"It seems that people have this warped idea of vegans being malnourished and weak," Strydom said in an interview.

"Everest, though, proved unscalable for them," Andrews writes.

The couple reached Camp 4, the final camp, at 3,000 feet below the summit, before both suffered from altitude sickness. It caused fluid to build up in Strydom's brain, which killed her. Gropel, alive but fighting a fluid buildup in his lungs, had to be taken down the mountain by sled, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

He was taken to a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. Later he said he blames himself for his wife's death. Her body was later flown to Kathmandu.

Read the story here:

A Shower at Base Camp

Duluth freelance writer Stephanie Pearson posts about her 2010 trip to Base Camp, the "surreal, Skittle-colored pop-up city perched on rock and ice."

Base Camp visitors get themselves into hot water. (Photo credit: Stephanie Pearson)

Over her month-long stay at Base Camp, she lived in a tent next door to the ice doctors, a team of Sherpas who woke at 4 a.m. and played Buddhist chants on their boom box to gather strength and focus before setting out to fix ropes and ladders up the ever-shifting Khumbu icefall (see related story).

One mystery she wanted to unravel during her stay was how the hot water arrived
as if by some miracle - in the rubberized 30-liter container in the camp shower. She explains how one Sherpa sat down on a rock, strapped the tumpline around his forehead, and, using massive quad strength, stood up and started hauling a 75-pound water jug over boulders.

"This was at least his fifth water-hauling trip of the day," she posts.

Thinking about how Sherpa toil for their clients, Pearson writes, "Cleanliness may be next to godliness, as they say, but I decided that a little down-to-earth dirt and sweat for the duration of my stay would feel even better."

Read the post here:


National Outdoor Book Awards Accepting Nominations

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2016 National Outdoor Book Awards. The program recognizes the work of outstanding writers and publishers of outdoor books.

Books may be nominated for awards in one of nine categories including:

History/Biography, Outdoor Literature, Instructional Texts, Outdoor Adventure Guides, Nature Guides, Children's Books, Design/Artistic Merit, Nature and the Environment, and Natural History Literature. Additionally, a special award, the Outdoor Classic Award, is given annually to books which over a period of time have proven to be exceptionally valuable works in the outdoor field.

Application forms and eligibility requirements are available on the National Outdoor Book Awards web site ( The deadline for applications is August 25, 2016.


"Am I the only person who struggles to feel sympathy when someone dies on Everest?"

- Writer Alex Proud, UK Telegraph, June 6, 2016 (see related story)


Dive Manufacturer Exonerated

In a verdict that was closely watched by underwater explorers throughout the world, a Palm Beach County (Fla.) jury last month cleared a Lake City diving equipment manufacturer of wrongdoing in the 2010 drowning death of underwater photographer Wes Skiles off the coast of Boynton Beach, according to Jane Musgrave in the Palm Beach Post (May 20).

After four hours of deliberation, jurors rejected a request for $25 million to compensate Terri Skiles and the couple's children for the loss of their 52-year-old husband and father. Instead, jurors found that Lamartek Inc., which produced the rebreather Skiles was wearing during the shoot for National Geographic, wasn't responsible for his death.

"This is a win for the entire diving industry because people have to take responsibility for their actions," said Skiles' friend Lamar Hires, owner of the 32-year-old family-operated dive equipment business, which does business under the name Dive Rite.

Hire's Philadelphia attorney, David Concannon, a diver himself and vice president of Flag & Honors of the Explorers Club, has developed a specialty in sports and recreation law.
Not only was Skiles a celebrity diver, but other underwater adventurers were worried about what would happen if Dive Rite was held responsible for his death, Concannon said.

"It would have destroyed this branch of the diving industry," he said. "If a company could be held responsible for someone who was not certified, not trained, was on drugs and borrowed the equipment, everyone would have been at risk. It's a high stakes game for the entire diving industry," according to the Palm Beach Post story.

While Skiles had used other types of rebreathers while diving beneath icebergs in Antarctica and exploring blue holes in the Bahamas, he hadn't been certified to use the Dive Rite device and didn't own one. Instead, he borrowed one from a friend.

"Here was a man who made a name for himself making dangerous dives into caves and in sub-zero water," Concannon said. "Yet, his life was snuffed out on what is known as a 'baby dive' into 80 feet of water on a beautiful day."

"It's a sad, sad tragedy," he concluded.

Read the trial coverage here:


Become a Brand Ambassador

One way explorers and adventurers can gain funding is by becoming a brand ambassador for an corporate sponsor. According to a story by Shauna Farnell of the Outdoor Industry Association, Longines began enlisting ambassadors about 15 years ago - they range from actress Kate Winslett, former tennis stars Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf, and Norwegian ski champion Aksel Lund Svindal, to lesser-known personalities from Australia to Lithuania.

Yeti coolers, the 10-year-old, Austin-based company, originally sought hunters and fishers to add personality to its brand and has expanded its fleet of outdoorsmen and women to include mountaineers, surfers, whitewater mavens, climbers, rodeo riders and, soon, a slew of winter athletes.

Yeti selects individuals who exemplify the same characteristics as its products. In Yeti's case, this means they are "durable, seasoned and the best at what they do."

"It's not scientific at all," says Yeti's Director of Community Marketing, Bill Neff. "It's just a feel. The criteria is that the individual needs to be doing extraordinary things."

Many of Eddie Bauer's athletic representatives are working guides - whitewater, mountaineering, climbing, skiing and snowboarding - and they have the final say as to whether a product is suitable to hit the shelves.

If need be, Eddie Bauer lends a hand in "media training" and "empowering" the guides and athletes to tell their stories. Ultimately, though, the story is not about what gear they're using or what outerwear they're sporting, and it's certainly not about crossing the finish line first.

"For us it's not about tagging the summit or hanging from one finger off a cliff," Elliott says.

"It's about inspiring and enabling people to live their experiences. For me it might be running around the block. For you it might be climbing Mt. Rainier."

Read the entire story here:


Continental Divide - A History of American Mountaineering

By Maurice Isserman (Norton, 2016)

Reviewed by Robert F. Wells

When talking about the history of the U.S., one thinks of immigrants landing on shores inhabited by wild natives - pushing West, seeking opportunities as a wilderness slowly surrenders. Scaling heights was a different matter. And it did matter, even to some of our earliest settlers. Like Darby Field, who in 1642 buttonholed a couple of natives and climbed "White Hill" (now known as 6,288 foot Mt. Washington).

Field was known as being a bit "eccentric, if harmless"... and a few years later after he died, others claimed his life was one of "merriness marred by insanity." You see, current European lore held mountains as "abodes of witches and dragons" - which was why Field couldn't convince any other colonists to climb with him.

Yet, altitudes beckoned. Why? Because they were there. To get west, one had to get up. The Appalachians. And further west, Lewis & Clark's venture - blunted by the insurmountable Rockies (towering up to 14,000 feet in the air - and in places, 350 miles wide). Soon the notion of insurmountable steadily became akin to laughing in the wind... breeding a new kind of rugged. John Colter. Jedediah Smith. Kit Carson. John Muir (the Thoreau of California). A countless group who could call themselves "mountain men."

Sprinkled between these hardy souls were others like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau who fancied themselves as nature-loving. "Conquering" sometimes involved hills of a different nature... mere bumps in the ground. But before long, mountaineering clubs sprouted like weeds. The Appalachian Mountain Club in New England. The White Mountain Club. The American Alpine Club. The Mazamas Club in Oregon. And Muir's Sierra Club in California.

Then came the dawn of American mountaineering - in the first half of the 20th Century. Brad Washburn. Fritz Wiessner. Paul Stettner. Paul Petzoldt. Charlie Houston. Where the 19th Century was marked by loners marching up mountains... the 20th Century introduced "the brotherhood of the rope" - where groups turned ventures into ambitious "social" endeavors. A climbing industry was born - as were companies like REI (Lloyd Anderson), EMS, Patagonia (Yvon Chouinard) to supply enthusiasts' growing needs.

During World War II, mountaineers truly made differences in the rough terrains of Europe ­- from Norway to Italy. The 10th Mountain Division became legendary ­- as it helped secure victory for the Allies through snow and ice. After the war, peak after peak became conquered statistics - from "The Nose" of El Capitan in Yosemite to far off vertical challenges on each of seven continents.

Records are still being smashed - using new techniques, routes and equipment. Continental Divide - as a book, and as complete as it is - will stand as only as a "piton in a wall" of a continuing American history of mountainous feats yet to be recorded. But grab your ice ax, it's worth the climb.

Robert Wells, a member of The Explorers Club since 1991, is a resident of South Londonderry, Vt., and a retired executive of the Young & Rubicam ad agency. Wells is the director of a steel band (see

With Tomorrow in Mind: How Athelstan Spilhaus Turned America Toward the Future

By Sharon Moen (Minnesota Sea Grant, 2015)

Reviewed by Jennifer Kimball Gasperini

NOAA's National Sea Grant Program was conceived in the back of a taxi speeding through Minneapolis in 1963. This backseat origin story is one of many startling tales relayed throughout the pages of the biography of Dr. Athelstan Frederick Spilhaus by Sharon Moen, science writer for Minnesota Sea Grant.

Moen spent years piecing together the vast and varied accomplishments of Dr. Spilhaus, a Renaissance man whose lifework involved oceanography, aeronautical engineering, public policy, public art, America's space race, a syndicated comic strip, international relations and an extensive mechanical toy collection, among other pursuits.

The book is a page-turner. Readers will be surprised to learn how Spilhaus's invention of the bathythermograph during graduate school aided Allied troops during WWII to the point where Winston Churchill wrote Spilhaus a personal thank you note.

Outraged by the surprise launch of Sputnik, Spilhaus authored a syndicated comic strip called Our New Age that ran weekly for 15 years, reaching five million readers in 19 countries. This was only one of his efforts to improve the average American's knowledge of science. When Dr. Spilhaus met President Kennedy in 1962, JFK told him, "The only science I ever learned was from your comic strip in the Boston Globe."

In 1936, he and his wife drove in an open roadster from Cape Town to Cairo. Here is a link to a 28-min. interview with Spilhaus about the trip:

Order the book here:

Here is a link to some of his comics:


Irish-born explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton waves good-bye as his ship leaves Millwall Docks for the Antarctic in early August 1914. (Hulton Archive | Getty Images 1914)

Like Walking Out of History

Just over 100 years ago, on June 2, 1916, the world learned that Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team were safe. It was like they walked out of history, presumed dead for two years. The story of these explorers, the astronauts of their era, was originally recorded in 1999. It was recently reposted by Minnesota Public Radio. The 58-min. radio documentary features interviews with polar explorers Will Steger and Ann Bancroft. Says narrator John Rabe, back then "you can be an explorer by making it to an unknown place."

Listen here:

Exploration is Never Done

Wonder why you've been reading Expedition News all these years? We're guessing it's because you - like us - are in awe of the world's explorers and revel in their badassery. Exploring is another way of saying curiosity in action.

The video that kicked off the 112th Explorers Club Annual Dinner - "Oceans: Current of Life" - on March 12, 2016 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City was recently posted. It highlights recent work by Club members on flag expeditions across the world, and features expedition luminaries James Cameron, Sylvia Earle, John Glenn, Brian Greene, David Gruber and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others.

Says one explorer, "Exploration is never done."

The 2-1/2 min. video was produced by dinner co-chairs, Emily Driscoll, Nancy Rosenthal, and Gaelin Rosenwaks. It can be seen at: