Saturday, December 2, 2017


Vanessa O'Brien (Photo courtesy AAC - NY Section)

Vanessa O’Brien, First American Woman to Summit K2, is AAC Guest of Honor

Vanessa O’Brien, was guest of honor at the American Alpine Club - New York Section dinner in New York on Nov. 11. On July 28, 2017, at the age of 52, she succeeded in her three-year mission to become the first American woman (and first British woman) to summit the so-called Savage Mountain located on the China-Pakistan border, the world’s second tallest peak at 8611m/28,251 feet. The summit push, involving 11 other climbers, including six Nepali Sherpas, lasted 16 hours and was met by deep snow, horrific winds, increasing precipitation and extreme cold.

After being stretchered off K2 in 1953 with frostbitten feet, American climber George Bell (1926-2000) famously wrote: “It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you.” In fact, K2 is a mountain known for killing one out of every four that reached its summit peak.

O’Brien estimates total Everest summits at 7,600, while K2 has only been summited 386 times. Of that, only 18 women have survived the climb to the top. In fact, O’Brien says about three times as many women have gone into outer space than have stood atop K2.

O’Brien says she’s in awe of the climbers of the 1930s and 40s. “These were climbers who just climbed. They went up. They didn’t know about the Death Zone, didn’t know about high altitude pulmonary edema.

“Winning in the alpine climbing game may include merely surviving,” she said. “I had to do this for country and I had to do this for women.”

A previous attempt was thwarted by avalanche. “When a mountain has excess precipitation it avalanches,” she told the 100 dinner attendees. “That’s what mountains do. Like a wet dog that shakes. The problem is when you’re on it, in the way.”
Speaking of her historic 2017 expedition, she said, “It was very gracious that the mountain allowed us to summit.”

Opening speaker was high school teacher Greg Morrissey, who was a 2017 AAC Live Your Dream grant recipient for his work bringing outdoor recreation to today's youth. Their Global Opportunities Scholarship enables financially restricted high school students to participate in travel adventures.

“I usually address 16-year-old boys, so it’s great to address people who are actually awake,” he joked.

The AAC dinner was sponsored by the law firm Proskauer. The Arc'Teryx Soho store sponsored a K2 trivia contest.
In a related story, it’s not too soon to consider applying for the American Alpine Club Live Your Dream Climbing Grant, powered by The North Face. The grant funds $200 to $1,000 to individuals or small teams in pursuit of their personal climbing dreams.

The emphasis of the grant is on projects that have significant positive impact on grantees' progressions as climbers, as opposed to cutting-edge or exploratory objectives. The two-month application period is open February 1 through March 31 each year. Recipients will be announced in May.

For more information:


Eclipse Glasses Donation Program

Brilliant idea: Astronomers Without Borders and Explore Scientific are collecting eclipse glasses to be sent to schools in South America and Asia when eclipses cross those continents in 2019. As long as the paper frame is in good condition, the lenses were made to last. The filter material is required to not degrade according to the latest ISO standard.
If you have glasses you want to send in, mail them to:

AWB Eclipse Glasses Donation Program
Explore SciExplore Scientific
1010 S. 48th Street
Springdale, AR 72762

For more information:

First Bud on Mars

Houston, We Could Have a Problem

Budweiser is sending barley seeds to the International Space Station to advance its bid to be the first beer on Mars.
Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company behind the "Great American Lager," announced details about its experiments bound for Earth orbit. Twenty barley seeds will launch on board SpaceX's next Dragon resupply mission to the space station, where they will be subjected to microgravity for 30 days and tested for germination.

First announced at the South by Southwest conference in Austin last March, the Budweiser experiments are the first step in the company's long-term commitment to have beer available for the first astronauts on Mars – whenever they might get there, probably by the 2030s.

Read the story at:


“Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator.


Skis Remain Essential for Polar Exploration - Part II

By Jeff Blumenfeld, editor, Expedition News
(Preview of story appearing in Skiing History magazine, January - February 2018)

In spring 1989,polar explorer Will Steger’s former co-leader on an historic 1986 North Pole Expedition, Paul Schurke, led his own expedition across the Bering Strait, from Anaydr in the former Soviet Far East to Kotzebue in northwest Alaska. It was a project that President George H.W. Bush and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev credited with hastening the opening of the U.S.-Soviet border following the 40-year Cold War.

Bering Bridge Expedition skiing across the USSR – U.S. border, 1989

Using dogs, skis, and traditional 30-ft. kayaks called umiaks, 12 Soviet and American adventurers, including three Eskimos and three Chukchis, visited a string of remote Siberian villages, crossed the International Date Line, and continued the journey to native towns in Alaska.

He recently writes, “Our expedition used extra wide (ed. note: compared to track skis) backcountry skis – 16 pairs of Fischer Europa 99’s with metal edges, and 16 pairs of Exel Arctic fiberglass ski poles, which often doubled as tent poles, antenna masts, and trail markers.”

When asked about the use of polar skis for exploration, Schurke was effusive:

“Mechanical bindings are too prone to ice-up and breakage. Our Berwin strap-on bindings, made of Zytel nylon and invented in my hometown of Ely, Minn., by our friends ‘Wyn’ Hultstrand and his wife ‘Ber’nice A. Hultstrand, accommodated any size snowboot.”

The Bering Bridge boots were made by Red Wing Shoe Company containing waterproof leather from S.B. Foot Tanning Co., both in Red Wing, Minn., according to Schurke’s book, Bering Bridge – The Soviet-American Expedition From Siberia to Alaska (Pfeifer-Hamilton, 1989).

“Simplicity is the name of the game for foolproof gear used for polar travel. With my Berwins, I dispensed with the heel strap and set the front strap for a step-in/step-out fit. That way I could be in and out of my skis in a flash all day long to clamber over pressure ridges, scout routes through a shear zone, or pull sleds over fissures,” writes Schurke.

Stability of sea ice is a constant concern for polar explorers. Because of its elasticity, even sea ice four inches thick is unsafe to walk on, while freshwater ice only half as thick will support a human being. According to Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986), scarcely a substance on earth is so tractable, so unexpectedly complicated, so deceptively passive – as though “walking over the back of some enormous and methodical beast.”

Schurke continues, “If I happen to slip into the drink while skiing over a hidden snow bridge, I could kick my skis off instantly to pull myself out. Sure, Berwins may have been a tad clunky to ski in, but we weren’t trying to set any ground speed records out there anyways. Plus they allowed us to wear the biggest, badass, warmest boots we wanted and were never prone to icing up and locking to our footwear.”

Expedition writer and photographer Jerry Kobalenko from Canmore, Alberta, has photographed Schurke’s expedition to Canada’s Ellesmere Island and generally praises the Berwin binding, which he’s used on 20 sledding expeditions. In a 2010 online post he writes:

“They allow me to ski wearing soft, comfortable mukluks or kamiks. It's how I can trek 1,000 kilometers and never get blisters. When I see all these novices skiing to the South Pole wearing heavy tele boots and bindings and bemoaning their chewed-up feet and cracked boot soles, I wonder why the hell they're not wearing Berwins.”


Steger Team Crosses Antarctica with Dogs and Skis

In 1990, Will Steger continued pioneering polar exploration with skis and dogsleds, this time 3,741-miles and seven months across Antarctica the long way, from the Antarctica peninsula, past the South Pole, to the Soviet scientific research base at Mirnyy. It would become history’s longest-ever non-mechanized traverse of Antarctica.

It is a commonly held misunderstanding that dogsledders simply hitch rides on their dogsleds as they glide across the ice. In fact, pulling a man’s weight on an already loaded sled is an almost inexcusable waste of valuable dog energy, according to an educational guide to Steger’s Trans-Antarctica Expedition published in 1989 (Meredith Publishing Services).

The men skied alongside their sleds, averaging three miles per hour to cover at least 25 miles per day. Traveling in pairs, one man remained tethered to the back handle of the sled, while the other led (the dogs like to follow a human).

An iconic image taken during the 1989-90 Trans-Antarctica Expedition. A ski pole basket is visible in the upper right.

For the grueling Trans-Antarctica Expedition, which achieved worldwide fame thanks to four primetime hours of coverage on ABC-TV, and a spread in National Geographic (November 1990), the team took waxless Fischer cross-country skis with two bindings – on cold days, when the men wore broad mukluks, wide, plastic Berwin bindings were used. On days warm enough to accommodate lighter, specially-designed ski boots, the men relied upon Salomon racing bindings. Exel provided the Nordic poles.

Steger, now a prominent spokesperson for the preservation of the Arctic, says of the use of skis for polar travel, “Ski and dogs are the magic ingredient for long distance polar travel. The dogs pull the gear on sleds, while the team member uses skis to efficiently glide across snow conditions that would otherwise be exhausting to plod through, if not impossible to navigate.”

Skiing Roundtrip To the Pole

In the history of polar exploration, no one has duplicated the 1995 feat of Canadian Arctic explorer Richard Weber, a veteran of more than 60 Arctic expeditions, including Will Steger’s 1986 North Pole Expedition, and Russian Dr. Mikhail Malakhov. Together in 122 days, the two adventurers were the first since 1909 to reach the North Pole and return to land – Ward Hunt Island, Canada – without support or resupply.

No food caches were hidden midway, there was no resupply from the air, and no "reverse resupply" - the process whereby dogs or teammates are extracted by aircraft, as was the case with Steger’s 1986 North Pole Expedition. In fact, the Weber Malakhov Expedition had no sled dogs, resorting instead to manhauling the entire journey on skis.

"Going on an expedition to the North Pole, then taking a plane out is like climbing Mount Everest and getting helicoptered off the top," Weber told EN.

It could not have been accomplished without skis. In this case, Fischer E-99 skis, tailor-made Sorel mukluks, and prototype ski bindings made for the Canadian military that were never sold commercially.

Weber says, “Skis require less energy, they slide or at least can be shuffled across the snow. They can be used to bridge gaps and cross thin ice, and they can be used as tent frames. However, efficiency diminishes greatly if the user doesn’t know how to ski. It requires an expert cross-country skier to cross a field of broken ice on skis pulling a sled. Most people are better off on snowshoes,” Weber says.

Days Are Numbered

The use of skis for polar exploration is still being celebrated, as is evidenced by the Google Doodle celebrating Nansen’s 156th birthday and posted on Oct. 10, 2017. It was seen by millions of computer users in the northern hemisphere.

However, at least in regards to the North Pole, human- and dog-powered surface exploration is nearing an end.
Polar adventurer, expedition guide and educator Eric Larsen, of Boulder, Colo., is one of only a few Americans to have skied to both the North and South Poles. In 2014, he and a teammate skied, snowshoed and swam from Canadian soil to the North Pole, possibly the last expedition of its kind due to disappearing sea ice.

The Arctic is heating up, making polar travel nearly impossible, he believes.

“The story of what is happening in the Arctic is really the story of what is happening to our planet,” he writes in his book co-written with Hudson Lindenberger, On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest Into the Melting Arctic (Falcon Guides, 2016).
“The difference in the quality of ice compared to my last expedition here (in 2010) was shocking.” Later he adds, “It’s like someone pulled the plug, and all of the ice that was previously held together was now spreading apart.”

Richard Weber poses with the ceremonial South Pole marker during a guided trip.

That’s not the case, of course, on the frozen continent of Antarctica. Explorer Richard Weber said in an email recently, “The surface for skiing in Antarctica is good for skiing. No open water, no thin ice, no bears, lots of light, warmer temperatures, strong sun. I used much lighter skis and I waxed in Antarctica. The skis glide better and with less energy.”

The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries. If not at the North Pole, you can be sure skis will still be found in Antarctica, and wherever else there’s a patch of snow or ice to cross, and someplace to explore on the other side.

For one free issue of Skiing History magazine, log onto:


A Mother Belays for Love and Money

Kai Lightner, the 18-year-old climbing phenom, often climbs with his mother who serves as his primary belayer. “There’s no one I trust more,” he tells the 2017 American Alpine Club Guide to Membership. Connie Lightner once told him on a difficult climb, “Go for it. I’ve got you. Think about it like this: I am motivated to keep you safe. Not just because of love, but money. If you fall and get hurt, I will have to pay the expensive doctor bill.”

For her part, she says, “… if you’re a mom belayer who doesn’t mind bringing him and his friends on trips and agree to belay full time, you suddenly become cool.”

See the guide here:

Winners of the 2017 National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA) Announced

One winner in the Outdoor Literature category of the National Outdoor Book Awards is On Trails: An Exploration, by Robert Moor. "Moor's book," said Ron Watters, the Chair of the awards program, "is a little bit of everything about trails: history, philosophy, science. It's about hiking trails, of course, but Moor goes further, expanding upon the normal concept of trails, and taking us on a roller coaster of an intellectual journey, full of surprises at every turn."

Receiving honorable mention in the Outdoor Literature category is a book about the climbing and river running adventures of blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer. Titled No Barriers, it was co-written by Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy.

Weihenmayer was the first blind person to climb Mt. Everest, the subject of a previous book. No Barriers chronicles his life after Everest which culminates with a kayak journey down the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. "There was no disagreement among the judges," said Watters. "It is simply a stirring and inspirational book."

Complete reviews of these and the other 2017 winners may be found at the National Outdoor Book Awards website at:

What Men Said About Women Going to Antarctica

• "There are some things women don't do. They don't become Pope or President or go down to the Antarctic." - Harry Darlington, 1947

• "Women will not be allowed in the Antarctic until we can provide one woman for every man" - Rear Admiral George Dufek, 1957

• "Antarctica [will] remain the womanless white continent of peace" - Admiral F E Bakutis, 1965

For decades, there was a ceiling not of glass but of ice, for women in science - the continent of Antarctica.

The apparent moral peril of mixed accommodation was one argument against including women, writes Mary Halton for the BBC News (Nov. 10). Janet Thompson, the first woman to go south with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), had to informally convince the wives of her teammates that she was going as a serious scientist.

Another application was turned down by BAS as "there were no facilities for women in the Antarctic… no shops… no hairdressers.”

Times have certainly changed. View the story here:


Grant Money Available for Young Explorers

Applications are being accepted at The Explorers Club for the second installment of The Rolex Explorer Grants program which will send extraordinary young explorers age 35 and younger into the field and promote the significant role that exploration plays in addressing cutting-edge scientific questions, understanding our environment and the world we live in, and learning more about our history. In 2018, up to five $10,000 grants will be awarded to young explorers.

The program is open to all field science disciplines. Proposals must contain a field science exploration component and address a novel scientific, environmental, or historic question. In addition to demonstrating a spirit of exploration, candidates must put forward a project or research proposal that has a clear scientific rationale, represents original work, and has the potential for significant impact or new understanding. Fieldwork must be completed by February 14, 2019.

The deadline for submission will be 11:59 pm EDT, January 22, 2018. To apply register at:


You’ve made it through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. But it’s still not too late to find that most unusual gift for the explorer in your life. Our bots have scoured The Google to find the weirdest gifts out there. Boom. Done. Consider these great gift ideas. Thanks internet.

Smile Sea Kittens, You’re on Candid Go Fish Cam

GoFish Cam is a wireless underwater camera that sits on your fishing line and works with a mobile app. Anglers can capture action-packed footage, gain insight into the underwater fishing experience, and review and edit video content of sea kittens that can be shared on social media. (, $189.99)

Wait. What? Sea kittens? Yes indeed, PETA has rebranded fish into “sea kittens” so people will leave our finny friends alone. After all, they reason, nobody wants to eat a sea kitten. We’re serious. See:

Friend on a diet? Your gift recipient can learn how to eat with tiny utensils they carved themselves.

10 Creative Things You Can Whittle with a Swiss Army Knife (Besides Your Thumb)

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book, Gift Edition: Fun, Easy-to-Make Projects with Your Swiss Army Knife (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017) is a hand-sized book that reveals the many unique and also utilitarian items you can whittle with a Swiss Army Knife. It is written by master woodcarver Chris Lubkemann who says, "For the last 25 years I’ve only used a Swiss Army Knife in my whittling.”

Buy this book for your loved one and learn how to whittle sailboats, spoons, keychains, a horse head, and rooster. Lubkemann’s book even explains how to whittle a knife in case, uh, you lose your expensive Swiss Army Knife and need to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse. (, $12.99)

Ted makes the scene at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica on Montmartre

Turn that Teddy Bear into a Parisian Explorer

Furry Toys Tours, based in Paris, is a travel agent that will book your gift recipient’s favorite stuffed animal on a one-week sightseeing tour of Paris. The service will then send daily electronic photos during the whole stay. Two gift packages are available: the Paris Essential Tour (about $119) and the Paris Royal Tours (about $167).

At the end of the trip your gift recipient will receive a hard copy of the trip photos to keep as souvenir and the return of one slightly worn bear covered in poutine. (

Solar, Schmolar. Pint-sized Hydro Turbine Charges Smartphones Day or Night.

Sure, solar is the buzzword these days, but what happens when it rains? Or at night? That’s when your friend or loved one will, well, love you for gifting the Blue Freedom Portable, the world’s smallest and lightest hydro power plant. The turbine and generator covert the power of water in any stream into off-the-grid electricity. Day or night and in any weather. Weighs just 24 ounces. Don’t want to miss a single WTF podcast? Now you won’t have to. (about $357,

(Photo courtesy of

What’s that Smell?

Explorers are an odoriferous bunch and don’t we know it. It’s great to return from an expedition covered in grime said no one ever. The funk of a three-week expedition in the jungle can peel the paint off the wall back home and creeps us right out. Now the explorer in your life has no excuse. No sir. Not with the Road Shower, the world’s first rack-mounted solar shower. It heats up while on the road, ready to deliver a high-pressure hot shower at the end of the day.

Road Shower contains four to 10 gallon to keep people and gear clean. The tank is pressurized at up to 15 psi to dissolve the whole schmegegge of stink out there. (Starting at $299.95,


Wrong Issue of Ski Magazine; Nansen Kept Going

In our November issue, we incorrectly cited the wrong issue of Ski Magazine that contained a story by John Henry Auran about Norwegian polar explorer Bjorn Staib. It appears in the November 1965 issue, not November 1985.

We also incorrectly referred to Nansen’s retirement from exploration in the late 1800s. As late as 1929, one year before his death, he was trying to raise money for exploration by balloon.


Get Sponsored! – Hundreds of explorers and adventurers raise money each month to travel on world class expeditions to Mt. Everest, Nepal, Antarctica and elsewhere. Now the techniques they use to pay for their journeys are available to anyone who has a dream adventure project in mind, according to the book from Skyhorse Publishing called: Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would Be World Travelers.

Author Jeff Blumenfeld, an adventure marketing specialist who has represented 3M, Coleman, Du Pont, Lands' End and Orvis, among others, shares techniques for securing sponsors for expeditions and adventures.
Buy it here:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Exploring Patagonia on Horseback; The Story Behind "Jane"


Now that Patagonia, or as some call it "Patagucci," has become a virtual uniform for outdoorists, it's good to remember that the apparel company is named after a wild, remote, frontier region of Argentina that warrants protection.

To document this vast wilderness, Stevie Anna of Midland, Tex., is using her West Texas rodeo and backcountry guiding skills to cross this unforgiving terrain solo, with just her dog and two horses for company. She calls it a "land that refuses to be explored by any other means." She departed Nov. 3 for the 1,000-mile trek.

Stevie Anna will document Argentina's last frontier. (Photo by

Anna posts: "A wild, limitless place, Patagonia is filled with inspiring tales and unaltered truths from the distant past. Gauchos (cowboys) and their families have turned these lands and estancias (ranches) for generations. My mission for this trip is to discover, document and share these undying formalities during my solo journey covering over 1,000 miles by horseback, with my dog Darcie."

She continues, "While many travelers, bikers and explorers are confined by marked routes or pavement, Patagonia offers one by horseback an exclusive path, that blazed only by the explorer himself. So there is no specific route or trail I will be riding. Even the most desolate areas of Patagonia are quilted with estancia fences. Traveling as a gaucha, working and staying with local gauchos along the way, and speaking the language will allow me to pass through fences, estancias and areas others cannot."

Anna makes her living providing expedition support and public relations services to explorers and adventurers, including polar explorer Lonnie Dupre. She also matches potential candidates to companies for brand ambassador programs, sponsorship, logistics, and fundraising.

She plans to share every step of the journey, and tell the story of the region using solar chargers on the trail, and sometimes going out of the way to find connectivity, which can be miles from her original route.

She travels with awareness of the risks that lie ahead:

"Besides the natural threats of hypothermia, wild dogs, drought, forest fires, injury, storms, raging rivers, puma, heat exhaustion, grazing scarcity, wild boar, hunger, snow storms, horse accidents, lameness, rocky trails, and hail, there is the threat of getting robbed, language barriers, getting lost or even loosing my horses.

"I hold all of these challenges in perspective and have spent years working alongside the local gauchos, learning the language and preparing for the risks and challenges," Anna says.
Learn more about the project at:

To date, she's raised about one-third of her $15,000 sponsorship goal. See her GoFundMe site at:


Himalayan "Gift of Sight" Expedition 2017 Returns to Nepal

A team of leading ophthalmologists will again travel to a remote region of Nepal to tend to the eye care needs of over 1,500 remote villagers in the Upper Gorkha region, near the epicenter of the massive earthquakes and aftershocks in 2015.

The team, assembled by Scott Hamilton, president of Dooley Intermed International, New York, will depart in early December on a two-week mission co-sponsored by members of the elite Operation Restore Vision team of Operation International, Southhampton, N.Y.

Nepal's Pema Ts'al Sakya Monastic Institute will again provide senior monks to serve as Eye Camp assistants and interpreters. They are trilingual and can speak English, Nepali, and Tibetan.
(Photo courtesy

The expedition is focused in the general roadless region of the approach trek to Mt. Manaslu. The team will trek in while transporting equipment using a mule caravan.

The doctors, in cooperation with the Himalaya Eye Hospital, will provide eye examinations, refractions, and perform sight-restoring surgery on those blinded by cataracts. Cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective and gratifying surgical procedures in medicine since patients are "cured" overnight, often with full restoration of their eyesight.

In 2013, members of the same team restored vision to dozens of villagers in Nepal's Lower Mustang region, while providing quality eye care and refractive services to over 700 individuals.

The team will also attend the grand opening of a new Eye Hospital in Bhakundebesi Village, in the Kavre District of Nepal. The construction of the new facility has been sponsored by Dooley Intermed and Operation International. Patients will receive needed eye care, including surgeries, regardless of ability to pay.

This area has a population of over 600,000 and is currently without a dedicated eye care facility. The new satellite eye hospital facility will soon be performing essential ophthalmic services including comprehensive ophthalmic examinations, refractions and treatment. The facility will include an optical dispensary and pharmacy, enabling comprehensive treatment of many common eye and vision problems.

"This new facility will provide vital eye care to a very large marginalized population of men, women and children, year after year, serving an area in great need," Hamilton says.

After the Eye Hospital inauguration ceremony, the "Gift of Sight" doctors and staff will proceed by vehicle for a site inspection of the Dooley Intermed-sponsored Orphanage Eco-Home and "Milk For Kids" program, and new Community Health Clinic in the Saankhu Sharada Valley, before returning to Kathmandu.

Watch this space and the EN blog for a recap early next year.

See the 9-min. documentary of the 2013 Gift of Sight Expedition here:

Learn more about the work of Dooley Intermed at:

New Online Tool Allows Users to Explore Mountains Worldwide

A new tool that gives users the most detailed view yet of the world's mountains is now available from the USGS.

The Global Mountain Explorer (GME) can help a variety of users, from hikers planning their next adventure, to scientists, resource managers and policy makers seeking information that is often sparse in these prominent yet often understudied landscapes. Mountains occupy anywhere from 12 to 31 percent of the land surface of the Earth, but despite their importance, surprisingly few attempts have been made to scientifically define and map these regions worldwide with detail.

"This product allows anyone with access to the internet to explore where mountains are, whether they are low or high, scattered or continuous, snowy or snow-free," said USGS ecosystems geographer Roger Sayre, who led the project. "Mountain Explorer users can visualize and compare in one place and for the first time the three major global mountain maps that have been produced," he added.

Users can select an area by zooming in or by typing a place name like Mt. Kilimanjaro to view its elevation and type. They can also select from a number of backdrops -- such as satellite images, topographic maps or political boundary maps - on which to display the different types of mountain classes.

A tutorial showing the full features of the Global Map Explorer is available here:

Learn more at:


"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."

- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English poet and essayist


Skis Remain Essential for Polar Exploration - Part I

By Jeff Blumenfeld, editor, Expedition News
(Also appearing in Skiing History magazine, November-December 2017)

Throughout the modern era of polar exploration, skis have played an invaluable role, propelling explorers forward, sometimes with dogsled teams, sometimes without, and more recently, with kites to glide across the polar regions at speeds averaging 7 mph.

Modern-day polar explorers including Eric Larsen, Paul Schurke, Will Steger, and Richard Weber, all continue to use skis today, taking a page right out of history.

Were it not for skis, reaching the North and South poles in the early 1900s may have been delayed until years later.

"Stars and stripes nailed to the North Pole"

This long-awaited message from American explorer Robert E. Peary (1856-1920) flashed around the globe by cable and telegraph the afternoon of September 6, 1909. Reaching the North Pole, nicknamed the "Big Nail" in those days, was a three-century struggle that had taken many lives, and was the equivalent of the first manned landing on the moon.

But was Peary first to achieve this expeditionary Holy Grail? Historians to this day
aren't absolutely sure whether Peary was first to the North Pole in 1909, although they are convinced both he and Frederick Cook (1865-1940) came close. Of course, Cook's credibility wasn't enhanced by his conviction for mail fraud in 1923, followed by seven years in Leavenworth Federal Prison.

Surprisingly, it wasn't until 1986 that the possibility of reaching the pole unresupplied and without mechanical assistance was finally confirmed, thanks in part to the use of specially-designed skis.

That was the year a wiry Minnesotan named Will Steger, a former science teacher then aged 41, launched his 56-day Steger North Pole Expedition, financed by a combination of cash and gear from over 60 companies.

The expedition would become the first confirmed, non-mechanized and unsupported dogsled and ski journey to the North Pole, proving it was indeed possible back in the early 1900s to have reached the pole in this manner, regardless of whether Peary or Cook arrived first.

Dogs are the long-haul truckers of polar exploration. For Steger's 1986 North Pole project, he relied upon three self-sufficient teams of 12 dogs - specially bred polar huskies weighing about 90 lbs. each. The teams faced temperatures as low as minus 68 degrees F., raging storms and surging 60-to-100-feet pressure ridges of ice.

To keep up with dogs often pulling 1,100 lbs. supply sleds traveling at speeds of up to four miles per hour, team members used Epoke 900 skis, Berwin Bindings, Swix Alulight ski poles, and Swix ski wax, according to North to the Pole by Will Steger with Paul Schurke (Times Books/Random House, 1987).

This mode of travel was not far removed from the early days of polar exploration.

Norway's Best Skier Crosses Greenland

Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), an accomplished cross-country skier, skater and ski jumper, carved his name in polar ski exploration by achieving the first crossing of the Greenland ice cap in 1888, traversing the island on cross-country skis.

Nansen, something of a Norwegian George Washington revered as much for being a statesman and humanitarian as he was an explorer, rejected the complex organization and heavy manpower of other Arctic ventures, and instead planned his expedition for a small party of six on skis, with supplies manhauled on lightweight sledges. His team included two Finnish Sami people, who were known to be expert snow travelers. All had experience living outdoors and were experienced skiers.

Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

Despite challenges such as treacherous surfaces with many hidden crevasses, violent storms and continuous rain, ascents to 8,900 feet and temperatures dropping to minus 49 degrees F., the 78-day expedition succeeded thanks to the team's sheer determination and their use of skis. In spring 1889, they returned to a hero's welcome in Christiania (now Oslo), attracting crowds of between 30,000 to 40,000, one-third of the city's population.

Nansen later won international fame after reaching a record "farthest north" latitude of 86 degrees 14 minutes during his North Pole expedition in 1895, falling short of the Big Nail by over 200 miles.

In 1890, Nansen wrote: "Skiing is the most national of all sports, and what a fantastic sport it is too. If any sport deserves to be called the sport of all sports, it is surely this one."
Nansen's Greenland exhibition would be repeated, again on skis, by the 27-year old Norwegian Bjorn Staib in 1962. It took Staib and his teammate 31 days to cross the almost 500-mile-wide ice cap.

"The skis served them well," according to a story by John Henry Auran in the November 1985 Ski magazine. He quotes Staib, "There were steep slopes in the west, but we never knew where the crevasses would be. So we zipped across as fast as possible - sometimes I wished we had slalom skis - and hoped that we were safe and wouldn't break through."

Writes Auran, "Skis, always essential for Arctic travel, now became indispensable. Crossing ice that sometimes was only the thickness of plate glass, the skis provided the essential distribution of weight which kept the men from breaking through. And they made speed, the other margin of safety, possible."

In 1964, Staib would attempt to ski to the North Pole but was turned back 14 days from his goal by poor ice and extreme cold. Nonetheless, he had nothing but praise for the use of skis on the expedition. Their simple Norwegian touring skis with hardwood edges performed without difficulty.

Says Staib, "Skiing in the Arctic is not like skiing at home. There's no real variety, there isn't even any waxing. There is no wax for snow so cold and, anyway, there is no need for it. There are no hills to climb or descend."

Scott of the Antarctic

Although Nansen retired from exploration after his return to Norway, his techniques of polar travel and his innovations in equipment and clothing influenced a future generation of Arctic and Antarctic explorers including one whose failure was considered a blow to national pride on par with the wreck of the Titanic.

British Capt. Robert F. Scott (1868-1912) became a national hero when he set the new "farthest south" record with his expedition to Antarctica aboard on the 172-ft. RRS Discovery in 1901-1904. Nansen introduced Scott to Norwegian Tryggve Gran, a wealthy expert skier who had been trying to mount his own Antarctic expedition.

Scott asked Gran to train his men for a new expedition, an attempt to be first to reach the geographic South Pole, while conducting science along the way. After all, who better to teach his men? Most Norwegians learned to ski as soon as they could walk.

British Capt. Robert F. Scott (1868-1912)

Arriving in Antarctica in early January 1911, Gran was one of the 13 expedition members involved in positioning supply depots needed for the attempt to reach the South Pole later that year.

Scott found skiing "a most pleasurable and delightful exercise" but was not convinced at first that it would be useful when dragging sledges.

"With today's hindsight, when thousands of far better-equipped amateurs know how difficult it is to master skiing as an adult, Scott's belief that his novices could do so as part of an expedition in which their lives might depend on it seems bizarre," according to South - The Race to the Pole, published by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London (2000).

Nevertheless, Scott would later find that however inexpert their use of skis was, they greatly increased safety over crevassed areas. But it wasn't safe enough.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)

Scott was bitterly disappointed when he arrived at the bottom of the world on Jan. 17, 1912, only to find a tent, a Norwegian flag, and a letter to the King of Norway left more than a month earlier by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), on December 14, 1911.

Amundsen kicked off his successful discovery of the South Pole by traveling to the continent in the 128-ft. Fram, a polar vessel built by Nansen. He averaged about 16 miles a day using a combination of dogs, sledges and skis, on a polar journey of 1,600 miles.

With Amundsen skiing in the lead, his dogsled drivers cried "Halt" and told him that the sledgemeters said they were at the Pole. "God be thanked" was his simple reaction.

Over a month later, the deity was again invoked, but under less favorable conditions. After Scott reached the South Pole, manhauling without the benefit of dogs, he famously wrote in his diary, "Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority."

On their way back from the South Pole, Scott's expedition perished in a blizzard just 11 miles short of their food and fuel cache. A geologist to the very end, Scott and his men were found with a sledge packed with 35 pounds of ordinary rocks and very few supplies.

In November 1912, Gran was part of the 11-man search party that found the tent containing the dead bodies of the Scott party. After collecting the party's personal belongings, the tent was lowered over the bodies of Scott and his two companions and a 12-foot snow cairn was built over it, topped by a cross made from a pair of skis. The bodies remain entombed in the Antarctic to this day.

Gran traveled back to the base at Cape Evans wearing Scott's skis, reasoning that at least Scott's skis would complete the journey. Today those skis can be seen in an exhibit at The Ski Museum in Holmenkollen, just outside of Oslo, honoring Amundsen's historic discovery of the South Pole. One thinks that Scott, would most certainly roll over in his icy grave at the thought of his skis displayed near those of his polar rival.

Later polar expeditions would go on to combine skis with kites, with snowshoes, and floating sledges. Sometimes they would even attract the attention of world leaders.

Next month we'll examine the use of skis during the 1989 Bering Bridge Expedition, and the 1990 Steger Trans-Antarctica Expedition, and consider the future of North Pole ski exploration.

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It's a Pisser

Astronaut Scott Kelly

American astronaut Scott Kelly shares what it's like waiting for launch in an interview in Costco Connection magazine (November 2017). He tells reporter Steve Fisher, "(Because) the shuttle is vertical, you're lying on your back. It's kind of like sitting in a chair or on the floor, so you're leaned back, your legs are above your head. It's a little bit of a feeling like you're standing on your head. You're strapped into the seat so tight that it gets painful. Depending on the person, you have a lot of back pain. Generally, when you sit in that position it males you have to pee.

"And you get in the suit about a couple of hours before you get into the rocket, so by the time you're launching you've been in the suit five or six hours, so you try to fight those urges off for as long as you can."

Read the interview here:

The Story Behind Jane, the New Jane Goodall Film

Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, 83, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Colorado film producer Michael Aisner helped assemble the archival 8mm footage, some of which had not been seen by Goodall in 45 years.

In fact, it was stored in her family attic and had never been shown in a projector before. He explains the search in his own 2-min. documentary that can be see on Facebook at:

Watch the movie trailer at:

Goodall still lives in her childhood home in England and still has the stuffed chimpanzee her father bought her. She writes in the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 6), that when she explained her young dreams about going to Africa, "Everybody laughed at me and told me I was just a girl. Except my mother. She said that if I really wanted something, I had to work hard, take advantage of opportunities and never give up. I never forgot her advice."

Read the story here:

Don't Leave Home Without It

On Oct. 28-29, the Journal ran an amusing list of six unlikely things that overachieving climbers have carried up a mountain. They are:

* $10,000 Rolex watches belonging to Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Rolex had sponsored the climb.

* A church organ lugged up Britain's highest mountain in 1971 by Scottish woodcutter Kenny Campbell.

* An expresso maker carried by Sandy Hill to Everest in 1996.

* Brussels sprouts pushed up Mount Snowdon in Wales in 2014 by Stuart Kettell - using his nose.

* A 165-lbs. barbell carried up Mount Elbrus by Russian powerlifter Andrey Rodichev in 2015.

* Dinner party furniture hauled to Everest Base Camp in 2016 by former Noma chef James Sharman.


Oboz is Official Footwear Sponsor of Banff Festival

Oboz, the footwear manufacturer based in Bozeman, Mont., is the exclusive footwear sponsor in 2017 and 2018 of the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival and the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

The Banff Festival, which kicked off on Oct. 28, takes place each fall at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta. Following the Festival, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour hits the road to bring the Festival to audiences around the globe. The presenting partner of the Festival is The North Face.

Complete location and schedule information can be found at:

For more information on Oboz:



The use of Instagram to shame the rule breakers, sign ignorers, and idiots with spray paint who defile the outdoors. Best example of Insta-shaming is @trailtrashco which has more than 11,700 followers. It includes images of tree carvings, rock graffiti, feeding Clif Bars to chipmunks, and taking dogs on no dog trails. (Source: 5280 magazine, October 2017).


Climbing World Mourns Passing of Fred Beckey (1923-2017)

The death of famed climber Fred Beckey on Oct. 30 at the age of 94, leaves the climbing world deeply saddened.

Close, long-time friend Greg Thomsen, Managing Director of Adidas Outdoor, shared his thoughts about the loss.

"Yesterday the world lost an iconoclast extraordinaire, a famous mountaineer with more first ascents than anyone, a consummate dirtbag, a prodigious writer, a not-so-great paper salesman, a deep and thoughtful intellectual, a persistent lone wolf, a mentor to so many, a brilliant historian, an environmentalist, a force of nature, and my dear friend for over 47 years," Thomsen tells Kristen Kuchar of trade publication SNEWS (Oct. 31).

In 2013, Beckey was given the Adidas Lifetime Achievement award. In 2015, the American Alpine Club awarded him the President's Gold Medal, a prestigious honor given to only four other climbers in history.

In 2017, he was the subject of Dirtbag, an award-winning documentary film on his life (see EN, May 2017)

Spokane climber John Roskelley posts on Oct. 31, "He wore out partners his own age, so as he got older his partners kept getting younger. They were the only climbers who could stay with him. ... As far as his friends are concerned, he's just off on another adventure."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Landlocked Researcher is Sharks' Best Friend

You couldn't be much further from the ocean, and sharks, than Colorado. Yet it's here that the Ocean First Institute in Boulder has become one of the marine animal's most fervent benefactors.

Leading the charge for the species is Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza, 49, one of the top shark experts in the world and a tireless advocate for sharks and shark habitat. As a shark biologist, her work focuses on the sensory biology and ecological physiology of sharks, skates and rays. She seeks to highlight their global population decline and to frame new directions for their conservation.

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza never met a shark she didn't like.

Inspired by the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie Jaws, she began to read about the animal and became hooked for life, learning to dive so she could spend more time with them underwater. She's now dedicated to, as she told an Explorers Club audience, "sharing the truth about sharks."

She says, "The story of sharks is the story of survival. They have survived five mass extinction events on earth. The over 500 species of sharks predate the dinosaur. When we study them, we're looking back in time.

It's also the story of diversity. She explains that sharks range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark, a deep sea species of only 17 cm (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark, the largest fish in the world, which reaches approximately 12 m (40-ft.) in length.

Her favorite is the hammerhead consisting of over 10 species. Its unique shape is hydrodynamic, extremely maneuverable, and can be used to detect and pin prey, "which is helpful when feeding on stingrays."

Here's looking at you kid.

McComb-Kobza speaks, teaches and conducts research around the world including in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Her outreach efforts have been covered by the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel's Shark Week, and CBC National Radio Canada.
She holds a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from Florida Atlantic University and is the author of numerous scientific publications.

Her current position as executive director of Ocean First Institute allows her to promote research, conservation, and sustainability. The Institute supports expeditions and a variety of education initiatives that reach students of all ages. These days she's active in establishing marine protected areas in known shark nurseries where, she says, "sharks need extra protections to ensure their survival."

One challenge is to help people overcome their deep-seated fear of sharks. "Sharks are timid, they're leery. I found an animal that surprised me," she says.

"For instance, the male sharks bite into females during copulation. As you can imagine, it's a pretty brutal affair."

McComb-Kobza, who admits to not eating seafood and is disappointed about the scourge of shark finning in Asia, adds, "We believe that when people experience how the ocean impacts their lives they begin to understand. When they understand they begin to care, and when they care they begin to act to protect. This is the change we are creating and is the cornerstone of everything we do."

She adds, "Protecting sharks is an uphill battle, but happily, kids think sharks are rock stars, right up there with dinosaurs."

Thanks to her work and that of the Ocean First Institute, to borrow from the iconic movie, maybe we don't need a bigger boat after all.

For more information:,


Bicyclists Pack it Out

Last month, the Granite Gear-sponsored Packing It Out team, Seth Orme and Abby Taylor, completed a 4,500-mile bike tour from Georgia to the Pacific Ocean in Washington state. They picked up 2,100 pounds of trash along their route and held 11 trash clean ups, reaching hundreds of thousands of people, according to a company statement.

The team battled various weather and bug-laden conditions throughout their 18-state journey, plus many smoke-filled miles due to wildfires.

"It has truly been a one of a kind, wild ride," said Abby Taylor, 26, from Toccoa, Ga. "If you want to see America, if you want to meet people, if you want to fall in love with your country again ... go on a long bike ride. I have received more kindness on this trip than I thought possible."

Seth Orme, 27, is from Statesboro, Ga.

Packing It Out was born out of a decision to leave it better. According to the team, "We had forgotten that this land is our land; this land is our responsibility. As a result, many of our scenic areas have become coated with litter." Since its inception, the team has packed out over 4,000 pounds of trash from national trails, national parks, state parks and community parks.

For more information:

Granite Gear, based in Two Harbors, Minn., sells backpacks, adventure travel gear, storage sacks, lifestyle accessories, and canoe gear. (


The late Emma Kelty

British Woman Murdered on Brazil Solo Adventure

In a world full of bad news, this one was particularly sobering to any explorer or adventurer.
A 43-year-old former headteacher, adventurer Emma Kelty, was robbed and murdered last month while kayaking alone in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Londoner was last heard from on Sept. 13, days after posting about her fears of being robbed or murdered in a jungle area in Brazil's remote north used for drug trafficking.

Three people were in custody, according to the AP, including a teenager who had confessed to carrying out the killing with six other people.

Kelty was 42 days into a 4,000-mile trip from the Amazon's source in Peru, through Brazil and to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean, using a GPS, social media and blogging to let friends follow her progress.

Her last known location was around 150 miles west of the jungle city of Manaus, between the towns of Coari and Codajas.

Olie Hunter Smart, an explorer who completed a similar route in 2015 and helped Ms. Kelty plan her journey, said Coari was known to be a dangerous area.

Read more at:

Climbing? Shoes are Most Important

Famed "rock" star Alex Honnold, the 31-year-old free soloist and an ambassador for The North Face (apparel) and La Sportiva (footwear), tells (July 20), "Footwear is super-important for climbing. In some ways, it's the most important. The only things attached to the rock are your hands and feet - your hands you can work on through training, but for your feet, it basically comes down to your footwear choice."

FN reporter Neil Weilheimer later asks about fear.

"If you're in danger, then maybe you shouldn't just overcome your fear and push through it. You don't necessarily want to do something super-dangerous. But if your fear is unjustified, if it's psychological and you're afraid for no real reason, you should push past it and do what you're supposed to be doing," Honnold says.

A bad movie with great climbing.

His favorite climbing movie?

"'The Eiger Sanction,' an old Clint Eastwood movie. It has the best climbing footage ever shot for Hollywood, but it's a terrible movie overall."

Read the story here:

First Seven Summits, Then the Real Challenge: Stand-Up Comedy

It can be argued that stand-up comedy is one of the hardest things you can do, perhaps even harder than climbing the Seven Summits. Shailee Basnet should know. After climbing the Seven Summits, she is conquering the eighth: New York's comedy scene.

After taking a six-week stand-up comedy course in New York, Shailee Basnet made her prime-time debut at the Broadway Comedy Club on Sept. 8, according to a story by Alyssa Roenigk on (Sept. 19).

Nepali Shailee Basnet

"I know I look short," the 5-foot Basnet quipped. "But I'm tall by Starbucks standards."
Basnet is a 34-year-old former Nepali journalist whom espnW readers first met in 2015, shortly after she and six of her countrywomen - some of the first Nepali women to summit the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents - became integral to their nation's relief and recovery efforts after devastating earthquakes hit that April.

What she learned climbing Everest, beside the fact that she is stronger and braver than she knew, is that failure is fleeting and anything is achievable if you focus on one step at a time.

"You don't need to find the courage to do everything at once. You only need to find courage to write your first joke, write your first script, type it out, print it, tell a friend, and then find a platform where people will hear you," Basnet says. "If they laugh, that's the biggest drug in the world.

"I am a very proud Nepali and have my roots in Nepal, but I wanted to spread my branches around the world," Basnet says. "I want to learn more languages and make people laugh everywhere."

Once on stage, she draws connections between her life in the third world, her life as a Nepali girl who is married to a white guy from Colorado, and the lifestyle differences their relationship illuminates, Roenigk writes.

Read the story here:

Time to say goodbye Columbus?

Too Many Statues of Columbus?

New York Times columnist Gail Collins (Oct. 7) weighed in on the Confederate statue controversy by evoking Christopher Columbus.

"The point of Christopher Columbus was exploration. Although people knew the world was round, they had no idea how long it might take to get around it. Columbus's goal was to try to make it to the other side of the planet. He sailed out into the great unknown and brought back word of his discoveries," she writes.

"This was not good news for the folks who were already there. Columbus described them in very positive terms, the way you might tell your friends about a really big bargain at the shoe store: 'No one refuses the asker anything that he possesses, on the contrary, they themselves invite us to ask for it.' You already see the readers licking their chops and ordering up an expedition."

Read the story here:


"Always there has been an adventure just around the corner - and the world is still full of corners."

- Roy Chapman Andrews, 1884-1960, American explorer, adventurer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History.


AAC Cutting Edge Grant

The American Alpine Club is now accepting proposals to fund climbers planning expeditions to remote areas featuring unexplored mountain ranges, unclimbed peaks, difficult new routes, first free ascents, or similar world class pursuits. Awards will typically fall in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, however award amounts will vary based on project and budget.

The Cutting Edge Grant is supported in part by Global Rescue, which provides travel risk and evacuation memberships. CEG recipients are additionally awarded upgraded Global Rescue benefits, a service intended to help AAC members climb hard and return home safely.

Deadline is Nov. 30, 2017. Learn more at:

Explorers Club Student Grants Available

The Explorers Club, as part of its public service commitment, offers exploration grants in the following categories, but the deadline to apply, Nov. 13, 2017, is fast approaching.

* High School Students and College Undergraduates

The goal of this grant category is to foster a new generation of explorers dedicated to the advancement of the scientific knowledge of our world. The average award is approximately $1,500.

* Graduate Students

This category supports exploration and field research for those who are just beginning their research careers. The average award is approximately $2,500.

Research proposals are being sought in a wide array of disciplines, including:

Climate Change, Geoscience, Paleoclimate (i.e. Early Earth, Tectonics, Volcanism, Paleontology, Glaciology, Geophysics, Astronomy); Marine Science, Marine Biology, Marine Life, Fish, Coral, Ocean, Fresh Water, Rivers, Lakes, Estuaries; Anthropology/Archeology; Plants and Molds; Animals; and Conservation Science.

To apply, go to


Bonington documentary is available online starting Nov. 20, 2017

Bonington Movie Chronicles One of World's Most Famous Mountaineers

Stories of friendship, love, risk and devastating loss run deep through this intimate look at the career of Sir Chris Bonington, and his dream to lead the way.

Produced by filmmakers Brian Hall and Keith Patridge, the documentary profiles Bonington's drive for exploration - the first British ascent of the north wall of the Eiger, new routes on Mont Blanc, the ascent of 'The Old Man of Hoy' and then to the greater ranges where he is the first to stand on the virgin summits of Annapurna 2, Nuptse and the Central Tower of Paine, followed by landmark expedition success on the South Face of Annapurna 1 and Everest SW face.

The film looks retrospectively, from his rock climbing days in the UK through to visionary ascents on the high peaks of the Himalaya and shares the remarkable and poignant life of one of the world's best-known mountaineers.

It becomes available starting Nov. 20, 2017 for $13.

Watch the trailer here:

Now Here's a Great Big Story

Erik Weihenmayer, no stranger to these pages, is the first blind rock climber to summit the tallest peak in every continent, Mount Everest included. At a young age, Weihenmayer was diagnosed with retinoschisis, a rare eye disease that left him sightless by age 13. But he didn't let that hold him back from seeking out adventure, proving that what others may see as a hinderance can oftentimes be one's greatest asset.

Erik is the focus of a Great Big Story feature, part of its Frontiers series, introducing dreamers, pioneers, and innovators leading society at the cutting edge.

Great Big Story is a global media company devoted to cinematic storytelling. Headquartered in New York, with bureaus in London and Stockholm, our studios create and distribute micro docs and short films, as well as series for digital, social, TV and theatrical release.

See it here at:



Specially-designed eyeglasses that allow climbers to look straight ahead yet see the crag or pin above them. They look silly, but are still better than having to wear a neck brace. (Source:


An ethusiastic traveler who visits spots where at least three states or three Canadian provinces meet. There are 65 such spots where at least three state borders intersect and another four in Canada, where provinces meet. Some are marked with monuments, others with survey markers, and some aren't marked at all. There are 38 on land, and most are in remote areas. (Source:


Time Marches On

The Pax Arctica - Russian Arctic Expedition 2017 (see EN, September 2017), is being led by explorer Luc Hardy, who is 61, not 58 as previously reported.


Norman Dyhrenfurth, 1918-2017

Norman Dyhrenfurth, a Swiss-American mountaineer and filmmaker who organized the successful American expedition in 1963 to Mount Everest that put six climbers on the summit and inspired generations of Americans, died on Sept. 24, 2017. He was 99 and passed in a Salzburg, Austria, hospital of natural causes.

Dyhrenfurth assembled the historic team of 19 mountaineers and scientists for the 1963 Everest Expedition that practically launched the modern U.S. mountaineering and outdoor industry by putting the first Americans on top of the world's highest peak. The U.S.-led mountaineering expedition included 900 porters carrying about 26 tons of food, clothing, equipment and scientific instruments.

Dyhrenfurth and his team of pioneering climbers - captured in a Life magazine cover story and honored by President John F. Kennedy at a White House Garden reception - came to represent the birth of mountaineering as a popular sport in the United States.

Read more at:


Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme, The Museum at FIT, Sept. 15 - Jan. 6, 2018, New York

Travel to extreme environments is a relatively modern phenomenon. Expeditions to the North and South poles, the highest mountain peaks, the depths of the ocean, and outer space have been widely covered in the press for more than a century. But it was not until the 1960s that these endeavors began to influence fashion.

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) presents Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme, Sept. 15 - Jan. 6, 2018, the first large-scale exhibition of high fashion influenced by clothing made for survival in the most inhospitable environments on the planet - and off of it.

On view are approximately 70 ensembles and accessories from MFIT's permanent collection, as well as a selection of objects borrowed from leading museums and private collections. Collectively, the objects and the exhibition design evoke both the beauty of extreme wildernesses-on land and sea, as well as in outer space-and the dangers these locales present to human explorers.

The parka, for example, was invented by indigenous Arctic peoples; then, during the "heroic era" of polar navigation (1890 to 1922), it was appropriated by explorers. Eventually, the parka was redesigned for sports and the military, before finally finding its way into leading fashion magazines.

The exhibition includes a video that gives visitors more information about expeditions and their cultural impact, as well as details about a number of the concepts presented. The MFIT website, too, provides supplemental information about historical figures, such as explorers Matthew Henson and Robert Peary, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and Sylvia Earle.
The Museum is located at Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York.

For more information:

Explore in London, Nov. 10-12, 2017

Explore, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)'s annual expedition and field research planning weekend is happening on Nov. 10-12, 2017, in London.

It is a weekend for anyone planning an expedition, field research project or an adventurous journey with a purpose. Over 100 field scientists and explorers will give lectures, run workshops and provide practical advice.

For more information:

Sixth Annual Explorers Club Polar Film Festival, Jan. 25-27, 2018, New York

The Explorers Club will host its Sixth Annual Polar Film Festival on Jan. 25-27, 2018, to screen a diverse collection of films about the Arctic and Antarctic.

The festival is open to the public and offers the audience the opportunity to rub elbows with the presenters, special guests, speakers and filmmakers who will share their stories and imagery. The event honors their passion and spotlights their life's work in the Arctic and Antarctic.

The Explorers Club has always been closely associated with polar travel and exploration. During its early years, the Club's prominent members, including Robert Peary, Frederick Cook and Roald Amundsen, to name a few, gradually lifted the veil that covered the ends of the Earth. Less well known, however, are the extensive photographic records, artifacts, and histories collected and maintained by the Club that capture this important period of polar exploration.

The due date for submissions of films ranging from feature length to shorts is Oct. 30.

For more information:


Seeking Everest Expedition Partner

Illina Frankiv, a mountaineer and circus acrobat, is planning to climb Mt. Everest unguided via the North Ridge in March 2018 and is looking for a partner (male or female). She is prepared to go solo on this expedition but would rather form a team. "I'm choosing to climb on the North side of the mountain via Tibet in order to avoid additional danger of the Khumbu Icefall from the South side of the mountain in Nepal," she says.

For more information:,,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pulling for the Planet, Drone Helps Plan Gobi Expedition, Surviving the "Drake Shake"


A one-month expedition will explore a virtually unknown region of the Russian Arctic to create awareness of the challenges affecting this part of the world.

The Pax Arctica - Russian Arctic Expedition 2017 is led by explorer Luc Hardy, 58, of Cos Cob, Conn., founder of Pax Arctica, an organization that raises awareness of the impact of climate change on arctic, polar and glacier regions.

Luc Hardy is ready to roll.

At a time when no place on the planet seems inaccessible, one of the most extreme regions has yet to reveal its secrets. Above the Arctic Circle, the islands of New Siberia and De Long are still terra incognita ... even if ancient and modern maps mention them; even if a few rare explorers trampled the ground of these virtual "white zones."

At press time, the Franco-Russian-American expedition was expected to launch from the port of Tiksi, in Yakutia. This (re)discovery of the islands of New Siberia is supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

Says HSH Prince Albert II, "The entire world needs the Arctic, a living Arctic, rich with the people who inhabit it and preserved from the dangers that threaten it.This is why it is our duty to invent in the Arctic, a new mode of development, an economy respectful of men and nature."

Victor Boyarsky will guide the expedition.

Well-known explorer Victor Boyarsky will be the guide for this expedition. He is Deputy PR Director of the Russian State Museum of Arctic and Antarctic in Saint-Petersburg.

In 1988, Boyarsky crossed Greenland from south to north by ski and dog with an international team; in 1989-1990 he participated in the International Trans-Antarctica Expedition, the longest in history, led by Will Steger. Since then he has participated in more than 30 expeditions to the North Pole on ski and with nuclear icebreaker.

It's hoped that the expedition will provide valuable information on the effects of climate change on these regions and the consequences they can have on ecosystems.Geolocalized measurements will be carried out in order to better understand local signs of climate change.

Inspired by the great adventurers of the nineteenth century, expedition leader Luc Hardy will embark on board the 437-ft. Russian Arctic research vessel - Mikhail Somov - in the company of renowned multidisciplinary researchers including the paleozoologist Alexei Tikhonov and the anthropobiologist Eric Crubezy.

A documentary film about the Pax Arctica Expedition will be directed by Bertrand Delapierre, whose numerous films include The Pursuit of Endurance - on the Shoulders of Shackleton.

See the trailer:

Partners include: Green Cross International, La Francaise, Sigg, and Tag Heuer.

Follow the expedition in real time:

Follow via Garmin inReach:


UK polar explorer Newall Hunter, 53, is 900 km (560 miles) into a bike-based reconnaissance trip in preparation for a solo crossing of the Gobi Desert on foot this November.

At press time he was half-way across, posting about checking inside his boots in the morning before putting them on due to scorpions.

Newall Hunter will tackle the Gobi in winter.

The coming winter trek will take Newall, a resident of Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, England, between 70 and 90 days depending on weather conditions, which will feature temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees F. (- 40°C) and winds of up to 100 mph.

His official 1,600 km (994-mile) solo attempt on foot will stretch from this November into January 2018, according to a story in the Gloucestershire Reporter by Eddie Bisknell (Aug. 18)

However, for the first part of his research for the trek, Newall is going to spend most of September on the bike reconnaissance to identify the best route for him to take and to locate sources of water.

To help him in his search for water he will be flying a drone to obtain on-the-spot aerial images, which may prove crucial to the mission's success since he will only be able to carry two days supplies at a time.

Hunter is an aerial drone operator specializing in technical filming solutions for extreme sports, expeditions, and in mountainous and remote locations where others won't go.

See examples of his work at:

"Water, or rather the lack of it, is going to be the most critical factor, if it can be located then it will probably be frozen," said Newall, who just over two and a half years ago gained the title of the first Scot to ski solo to the South Pole and the first Briton to undertake that particular route.

"If it can't be done on a bike, then I certainly won't be able to walk it pulling a cart with my supplies on it, but I don't think it will come to that," he said.

The word "Gobi" means "waterless place" and the desert which bears its name is a vast and arid region in southern Mongolia and northern China; it is the world's fifth largest desert.

His progress on both the reconnaissance and the full attempt can be followed on

Read the story in the Gloucestershire Reporter here:

Follow him on Facebook:


Apparently, when you're born with an exploration gene, you're always planning your next project, even before your current one is completed. Such is the case with Lonnie Dupre from Grand Marais, Minn. We first met the indefatigable explorer in 1989 during the Bering Bridge Expedition. Since then, the ¬¬¬56-year-old's projects have been covered often in these pages.

His next adventure is a 100-day, 1,000-mi. dog sled expedition in Greeland beginning in January 2019. Based out of Qaanaaq, the northernmost community in the world, the team will share the Inuit culture, the exploration, history and scientific discoveries of a rarely visited place on earth.

Lonnie Dupre keeps going and going and going.

The team will travel to Warming Land, a series of unexplored icy fjords located on the northwestern tip of Greenland. The team then pushes on to the northernmost islands of Greenland, with a mission to discover the cairn built in the early 1900's by Robert Peary - generally recognized as the first explorer to reach the North Pole.

The team will also document three centuries-old Inuit tent rings at the mouth of Bessels fjord - reportedly discovered by Dupre in 2000, during his circumnavigation of Greenland, but never excavated nor measured.

To conduct product testing, the expedition will capitalize on one of most remote and harshest climates in the world. The team will also collect samples of ice, snow, plant life, and the inhabitants themselves for various pollutants.

"Pulling for the Planet pays homage to the Inuit people, unsung heroes of countless Arctic expeditions and pioneers of ingenuity to create rich lives. The Inuit exemplify a low carbon footprint existence-they lead their lives on simple living principles such as valuing strong communities, family, and unified work," Dupre says.

In addition to an educational program that expects to reach thousands of schoolchildren via free educational curricula, Pulling for the Planet, in conjunction with Pale Blue Dot Media, will produce a 1-hour film that shares the journey, discoveries and fascinating Inuit culture.

To accomplish the mission, Dupre has pulled together an exploration dream team including:

Joseph Cook - As a 2016 Rolex Young Laureate in the Exploration category, this glacial microbiologist has made his research a journey of discovery that reveals how ice micro-organisms on the Greenland ice sheet shape our world.

Cristian Donoso - A hardy explorer, Cristian has kayaked countless miles in rough waters in some of the most inhospitable places on earth. In 2006, he was named a Rolex associate laureate in exploration and culture. He plans to study and share the significance of the kayak in Inuit lives.

John Hoelscher - Spent six years in Antarctica before joining Lonnie on their first ever non-motorized circumnavigation of Greenland.

Ulyana Horodyskyj - scientist, adventurer and entrepreneur based in Boulder.

Pascale Marceau - An adventure racing, backcountry skiing and mountaineering athlete, her background is as a chemical engineer in the production and renewable energy fields.

Stevie Plummer - Has led the marketing and PR support for Lonnie's latest expeditions. An avid adventurer herself, she will be joining the team in Greenland and managing all communications and marketing aspects of the project.

The project is seeking $300,000 in sponsorship funding.

Learn more at:


Alan Arnette on K2

Alan Arnette Continues Sponsor Search for Project 8000 for Alzheimer's

Alan Arnette, 61, of Ft. Collins, Colo., is recovering well from a hiking accident earlier this year, well enough that he's resumed a sponsor search for his Project 8000 for Alzheimer's (see EN, January 2015) - an effort to raise $5 million for Alzheimer's and reach 100 million people.

With summits of Everest, K2 and Manaslu under his belt, and good efforts on Shishapangma, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, and Lhotse, Arnette is planning to attempt the 11 mountains above 8000 meters (26,247 feet), he has not yet summitted.

If successful, he would only be the second American and 35th person to climb all 14 of the 8000 meter mountains.

As the 18th and oldest American to summit K2 at age 58 in 2014, the Alzheimer's advocate and passionate climber has reached over 50 million people and raised close to $300,000 for AD research, working with The Cure Alzheimer's Fund, Banner's Alzheimer's Prevention Registry, UsAgainstAlzheimer's and occasionally, the Alzheimer Association.

"Like so many, I find the state of investment, awareness and knowledge of Alzheimer's unacceptable," he says.

With the proper PR backing, he believes 100 million people can be reached during the campaign. His website and social media has over three million annual interactions, and over 30,000 social media followers. Arnette is seeking approximately $35,000 each for exclusive sponsorship of the remaining 11 mountains. The money is to be used for hiring guides, support staff, communications, gear, food, insurance, travel, and permits.

On Feb. 10, 2017, he was swept off his feet by high winds on Twin Sisters (11,428-ft.) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Arnette was on a tune-up climb for an attempt on Dhaulagiri in April. With him was fellow climber Jim Davidson (See EN, March 2017).

"I am making good progress and anticipate being able to climb another 8000'er in spring 2018," he tells EN.

For more information:


"The first time I went to Everest as the lead guide, I reached 28,000 feet, but was forced to stay overnight and slept on the ground after stomping a platform in the snow. If I continued on, I felt I would be risking the loss of fingers and toes to frostbite, or being blown off the mountain because the winds were so high.

"The second time, the trip was cut short because of a lethal rock-fall on the mountain. There is never a guarantee, even if you have the best guide in the world, that you can make it to the summit. So much can happen, and so much can go wrong."

- Vern Tejas, mountain climbing guide from Talkeetna, Alaska. His book, Seventy Summits(Blue River Press/Cardinal, 2017), written with Lew Freedman, is a compilation of his experiences over the last four decades of high altitude mountain guiding.

For more information:


Surviving the Drake Shake

Knowing full-well our propensity for seasickness - mal de mer, tossing your cookies, praying to the porcelain god, saying hello to yesterday's lunch - call it what you like. Under certain conditions, truth be told, we could be incapacitated, or at the very least, the front of our shirts severely stained.

As the saying goes, once afflicted you become afraid you're going to die; then as seasickness gets worse, you worry that you won't.

We wear seasickness as a badge of honor. After all, no less an explorer than Charles Darwin was famously prone to the condition, resting in a hammock and eating only raisins during rough passages, and spending as much time ashore as possible.

Thus we read intently recent advice posted by Quark Expeditions about crossing the dreaded Drake Passage, which you'll recall is the body of water between South America's Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.

The passage is 800 kilometers (500 miles) across, making the crossing from Ushuaia the shortest distance and most direct route to the Antarctic Peninsula.

When rough, it's called the Drake Shake; in calm weather, seasoned travelers call it the Drake Lake. Regardless of the weather, it's best to consider your options.

"Take ginger, don't drink, eat saltines, wear wrist bands, try acupuncture, stare at the horizon, close your eyes... the dizzying array of suggestions to fend off seasickness may have you feeling queasy. But which one really works?" asks the Quark post by Miranda Miller (June 13, 2017).

"It may surprise you to learn that up to 50% of the people in any given passage across the Drake will feel some degree of seasickness.

"In seasickness, your eyes and inner ear disagree about your body's position in space. The resulting conflict can cause drowsiness, cold sweats, dizziness and vomiting," she warns.

"The passengers I spoke with on our expedition had varying degrees of success with their seasick skin patches and tablets. Unless you've been seasick before, you can't tell which solution will work for you."

Dr. Dan Zak, one of Quark's onboard physicians, said, "Once vomiting kicks in, dehydration becomes a risk - and if we determine you are becoming dehydrated, a shot of anti-motion sickness medicine in the buttocks may be in order.

"There's no shame in getting seasick - many veteran sailors admit to an occasional bout. It's almost impossible to tell whether you'll be seasick, but if you are prone to motion sickness, and ounce of prevention could be better than a pound of cure," Miller posts.

Your seasick-prone EN editor found the perfect solution: we moved this publication to Boulder.

Read Quark's advice here:


If not "world's hardest climb," it's certainly hard enough.

Hardest Climb in the World?

It took four years of preparation and seven visits to Norway, but Czech rock climber Adam Ondra has finally completed what is thought to be the hardest climb in the world.

The 24-year-old achieved the 45 meter ascent at Hanshelleren cave in Flatanger in just 20 minutes on Monday. Ondra believes the climb to be the first that can be classified as a "9c" - which would make it the world's hardest single rope-length climb.

"Months and months of my life summed up in 20 minutes. So much time and effort in something so short but intense as hell," he said.

His last triumph was becoming only the third man ever to climb El Capitan's Dawn Wall, the fabled rock in Yosemite National Park. The world champion, who was born in Brno in 1993, climbed his first 9a at the age 13 and went on to became the first climber in history to win both the Lead and Bouldering World Cup titles.

But Everest blogger and climber Alan Arnette of Ft. Collins, Colo., begs to differ.

(Ondra's feat is), "Impressive to be sure, but the grading system is not uniform across the world and this was a single rope, 45 m pitch rated on the French scale at 9b. When compared to the Yosemite Decimal Systems (YDS) it would be 5.15b and there are several climbers according to Mountain Project that meet that level of difficulty.

"Many people still view Alex Honnold's June 2017 free solo climb of of the 915 meter, 3,000-foot, wall of El Capitan-without a rope-to be the most impressive climb of all time. It took Honnold 3 hours and 56 minutes compared to Ondra's 20 minutes but both climbs will go down in history as amazing feats," Arnette tells EN. (See related story).

Ondra's next victory may well be an Olympic medal. Climbing was approved as a sport for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo by the International Olympic Committee last year.

See the story here:

Hillary and Tenzing Team Up on Pluto.

Pluto's Mountains Named after Hillary and Tenzing

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially approved 14 names for surface features on Pluto, according to Mike Wall of (Sept. 8).

The names were submitted for IAU approval by the New Horizons team. The scientists came up with some of those names themselves, while others were proposed by members of the public via the Our Pluto campaign, a collaboration among the mission team, the IAU and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif.
Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes were names given to towering water-ice mountain ranges on Pluto in honor of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.

"The approved designations honor many people and space missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the most distant worlds ever explored," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder.

Alan Stern at the Rocky Mountain chapter of The Explorers Club last May.

Stern and the IAU don't see eye to eye on everything, however. In 2006, the IAU reclassified Pluto as a "dwarf planet," reducing the number of officially recognized "true" planets in our solar system to eight. The decision still does not sit well with Stern and a number of other scientists.

Read the story here:


Lowell Thomas Awardee to be Honored Posthumously

Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Awardee Donn Keith Haglund, Ph.D., passed away peacefully on Aug. 9 at the age of 90. His son Erik is attending the Oct. 28 Toronto dinner and will present on his father's work (See EN, August 2017).

Dr. Donn Haglund was known for his expertise in maritime transport to support Arctic economic development. He was Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where he established an Arctic Winter field course which he taught for more than 40 years. The course "Arctic Winter," inspired countless students with his passion of the far North and his dedication to preserving the Arctic Circle.

Read his obituary here:


Join Science in the Wild

Join Science in the Wild, an adventure citizen science company run by Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj, in the field this year and next. You'll not only learn about the beautiful landscapes you're trekking in and climbing, but also get to participate in important scientific projects.

From November 11-19, 2017: If you're a climber, take part in our snow and ice sampling expedition on Mexico's volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba. We'll be exploring the impacts of city pollution as well as volcanic ash on melting of snow and ice:

From January 15 - 20, 2018: If you love survival stories, horseback riding, and hiking, travel with us to the Andes and explore the site made famous in the book, Alive! in the company of one of the survivors. We'll learn about the science of survival and document how the glacial landscape has changed in the 40+ years since the airplane crash:

From February 4 - 12, 2018: If you love Aztec history, culinary delights, and working with robotics, join us in Mexico to explore Teotihuacan (site of Pyramids of the Sun and Moon), Nevado de Toluca's volcanic crater lakes, and Iztaccihuatl's summit glacier. This trip is not as rigorous as our November Mexican volcanoes itinerary and is focused on a scientific, culinary, and cultural experience: