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EXPEDITION NEWS, founded in 1994, is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.


December 2015 - Volume Twenty-Two, Number Twelve 

Celebrating Our 21st Year!                                           


The Swiss Machine Sets Eiger Record

Mountain Hardwear athlete Ueli Steck clocked a successful two hour, 22 minute summit of the Eiger Heckmair Route, breaking his previous record and regaining the fastest climb to date.
Dubbed "the Swiss Machine," Steck's latest climb becomes the fastest solo speed ascent of the North Face of Switzerland's famed Eiger, located in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, according to SGB magazine (Nov. 18).
The climb took place on Nov. 16, as good weather and clear climbing conditions helped Steck push to the summit.
"We can never compare ascents in a place like the Eiger," said Steck. "Conditions and weather are always different. But this is what makes alpinism interesting and unique. For me it is the personal challenge and your own experience that really matters."
Read the story here:
Icelandic Airline Loftleidir Opens Antarctica to Passengers
We're not sure we like making Antarctica too accessible, so it's with mixed emotions that we report Iceland Airline Loftleidir made history when it landed a Boeing 757 on the Antarctic ice sheet in late November, the first time a Boeing commercial passenger jet has landed on the frozen continent.
Previously the Royal New Zealand Air Force had landed a 757 in Antarctica. Historically the transport planes have been Hercules L-282G and Ilyushin IL76-TD.

 Would you like peanuts, pretzels or puffin? 
The entire crew of the plane was Icelandic, and 60 passengers were on board.
The purpose of the flight was to study whether traditional passenger jets could be used to fly passengers and cargo to Antarctica. The trip was made in collaboration with the tour company Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), which specializes in trips to Antarctica. Annually the company takes 400-500 travelers to Antarctica. The company hopes that by using passenger jets it will be able to increase the number of passengers and offer them more comfort during the trip. 
The plane landed by the Union Glacier, which is in Western Antarctica, where an airstrip had been prepared on the ice. ALE operates a camp near the airstrip.
ASC Names Free-Fall Jumper and Ex-PepsiCo CEO to Advisory Board 

The ASC, which provides conservation partners with difficult to attain data, grassroots support, and outreach by leveraging the specialized skills of the adventure community, has named new members to its Advisory Board. 

They include Alan Eustace who set the world record for the highest-altitude free-fall jump, leaping from 135,889 feet in 2014. Also named is Roger Enrico, chairman/CEO of PepsiCo from 1996-2001, and chairman of DreamWorks Animation from 2004-2012. 

ASC executive director Gregg Treinish tells EN, "The addition of these new members to our advisory council provides an invaluable group of supporters and advisors who will help ensure that ASC remains a sustainable and forward thinking organization for decades to come. We are fortunate to have some of the world's greatest business minds working so closely with our developing organization." 

Death Valley Unsupported North to South

Belgian adventurer and explorer Louis-Philippe Loncke, 38, walked alone and completely unsupported from the northern to southern border of Death Valley National Park in Death Valley in early November. He claims that no one has ever succeeded in this challenge to walk this 150-mi. route, but such claims are hard to verify. 

He had no resupply, no vehicle support, no pre-placed food drops, carried his supplies on his back without a man-hauled wagon, and had never visited the park before starting his trek.

Death Valley Days: record or not, this was one thirsty walk.

Loncke planned six days to cover the distance but it took him eight days to cover the harsh terrain and weather. Temperatures ranged from 50 to 95 degrees F.

Why this particular feat? "I love to prepare for such challenges, the pain in the knees and feet, and lack of food and water is compensated by this immersive experience with the desert and having the privilege to witness all its beauty," he said.

"My body didn't need the planned water and calorie intake and I could stretch all supplies to eight days and even finished the expedition with over half a gallon of water and three pounds of food."

He saw this project as message for the world:

"I used less than a gallon of water per day to trek Death Valley. It's a personal challenge and effort. I believe we all can do a personal effort to decrease our water consumption. Water is life, this blue gold must be protected and conserved. With a small individual effort of a 10 to 30% decrease in our consumption we would save a lot of our water resources."

His top three sponsors were: Clif Bar, Leki and Millet. Read about the trip here:

See his route here: 

"But when I say our sport is a hazardous one, I do not mean that when we climb mountains there is a large chance that we shall be killed, but that we are surrounded by dangers which will kill us if we let them."
- George H.L. Mallory (1886-1924). Source: The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest by Conrad Anker and David Roberts (Simon and Shuster, 1999) 
He returned to Everest for a third time in 1924 with a dark fatalism. He presciently told his Cambridge and Bloomsbury friend Geoffrey Keynes, "This is going to be more like war than mountaineering. I don't expect to come back."
The Last Race to the Pole?
Polar explorer Eric Larsen and extreme mountaineer Ryan Waters were featured in an Animal Planet documentary earlier this month that covered their harrowing attempt to make it to the North Pole faster than anyone else in history - unsupported and unassisted, pulling everything they need on two 320-pound sleds.
Videotaping their own footage, the experienced explorers discovered a rapidly melting ice cap leaving thinning ice, deep trenches and more open water - the result, they believe, of global warming.
During a Nov. 19 preview in Boulder at a Zeal Optics store, Larsen explained that due to melting polar ice, he felt this 481-mile journey from Cape Discovery on Ellesmere island to the geographic North Pole, was the last full expedition in history that will ever reach the pole as they did.
At one point, they used shotgun cracker shells to keep polar bears at bay. In another instance, they donned dry suits to actually swim across leads with a rope to pull their floating sleds across. With only a thin layer of tent nylon protecting the team from the worse weather in the world, they both agree it was "nuking" outside.
Larsen also admits to Day 40 Syndrome - "when your other life fades away and you don't care anymore. You're in survival mode. I wasn't a father or husband any longer," he told the audience at Zeal Optics. "I'm a guy trying to get to the North Pole and live."
Adds Larsen, "Telling the story of the North Pole and a melting Arctic Ocean has been the primary mission in my life for over 10 years ... This is a journey that may soon become impossible."
While the show aired Dec. 9, you can see excerpts here:

Getting Low is the Best Cure

To use the words of Lady Gaga, who posted a photo of herself in an oxygen mask on Instagram last year after being hospitalized in Denver: "Altitude sickness is no joke."

Gaga had a monster of a headache.

That's the conclusion of a story by Karen Schwartz in the New York Times (Dec. 13) that explains it's impossible to predict who will be affected by altitude sickness, though research has found that those who are obese tend to be more susceptible. Meanwhile, those over age 60 have a slightly lower risk.

The article questions the efficacy of "High Altitude Body Oil" made by ISUN Alive & Ageless Skincare that claims it "supports adaptation to high altitudes."

Schwartz writes, "The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to ascend gradually, and either stop at a lower altitude for a night or return to one to sleep.

Read the story here:

Top 10 Old School Explorers

We usually ignore the listicles we see online, but this one caught our eye. You'd expect to read the usual names appearing on any list of the 10 Toughest Old-School Explorers and Adventurers. Sure, there's Nansen, Mawson, Norgay and Shackelton. But when writer Andrew Moseman set out to identify others for PopularMechanics.com (Nov. 23), he came up with some surprises.

Things did not work out well for one wallaby.

Moseman's list includes Englishman Ernest Giles who trekked across the Australian Outback not just once, but four times in all, starting in the 1870s. At one point he was so ravenous that he grabbed a wallaby and ate it raw - "fur, skin, bones, skull and all."

Also on the list was the French Geodesic Mission - 20 French and Spanish scientists who set out in 1735 for what is today Ecuador. Their mission: survey the expansive vistas of the Andes to determine the exact distance of a single degree of latitude at the equator. A one-time project leader blew money on a diamond for his mistress. The weather was terrible. They ran out of money. Nonetheless, "their mission opened up eyes in Europe to a strange and wonderful new world of plants and animals in a faraway continent," Moseman writes.

Read the top 10 list here:

Ladakh Documentary Completes Kickstarter Campaign
Of Woman and Earth ended a successful Kickstarter campaign and is back in the field documenting the ever-changing lives of the last generation of Ladakhi nomads.

 A Ladakh documentary will now be completed thanks to Kickstarter.
Set in the heart of the Tibetan Plateau in the Indian province of Ladakh, Of Woman and Earth tells the story of three elderly women whose lives are transforming in the face of many cultural and climatic changes spurred by modernization. The filmmakers explore themes of spirituality, ancient traditions vs. modern education, the value of family, and women's changing roles within the nomadic Ladahki community.
Irie Langlois (Director/Producer) and Aje Unni (DP/Director) used rewards such as Ladahki handicrafts and photographic prints from the region to raise $10,307 AUD ($7,565 USD) with 136 backers. They were assisted by Backercamp, established in 2012 and based in Barcelona.
Backercamp is an international team with experience in online marketing, graphic design, web development, engineering, and law, that has been partnering with individuals and companies to make their projects happen, gathering valuable insights about the do's and dont's of crowdfunding. They say they've helped over 4,000 projects in 30-plus countries raise more than $40 million. 
See the Kickstarter campaign here: http://kck.st/1LNUKs4
Learn about their campaign consultants here:  www.backercamp.com
Mastering the Art of Not Falling
"Climbing well is when you don't fall off," renowned free solo climber Alex Honnold told a Boulder audience on Nov. 18. His Boulder Bookstore-sponsored talk was part of a book tour for Alone on the Wall (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015), wherein Honnold recounts the seven most astonishing climbing achievements so far in his meteoric career. He narrates the drama of each climb, along with reflective passages that illuminate the inner workings of his mind.

 Honnold has free-soloed the longest, most challenging climbs ever.
A 30-year-old climbing phenomenon, Honnold pushes the limits of free soloing beyond anything previously attempted, as he climbs without a rope, without a partner, and without any gear to attach himself to the wall. If he falls, he dies.
He says his secret to climbing success is to take baby steps, expanding his comfort zone bit by bit, a tactic that has earned him the nickname, "No Big Deal" Honnold.
Later he said, "There's a creative side to climbing, but I choose not to focus on that. I'm not an artist."
Of the recent ascent of the Dawn Wall by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, Honnhold said, "It hurts my fingers just thinking about spending seven years to climb it like Tommy did. It's the hardest climb that has ever been done."
Greatest Cave on Earth
Talking a mile-a-minute in a 30 min. documentary, world renowned cave explorer Bill Steele recounts his spring 2015 expedition of the deepest and longest cave in the Americas - Sistema Huautla. 

Proyecto Espeleológico Sistema Huautla or PESH was an international group of deep cave explorers, primarily from the U.S. and Mexico, devoted to the exploration and scientific documentation of Sistema Huautla, the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere, located in the Sierra Mazateca in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
First explored in the 1960s, Sistema Huautla is known to have 20 entrances and over 40 miles of interconnecting passageways reaching a depth of 5,069 feet. PESH has undertaken a ten-year program of exploration that will expand and refine the map of Sistema Huautla as well as study the geology, hydrology, archaeology and paleontology of the caverns and the biology of creatures and organisms living deep within the earth.
Bill Steele, the expedition co-leader, described Sistema Huautla in Men's Journal last year as "probably the greatest cave on Earth. It's already the 8th deepest cave on the planet, and it's longer than the top 16 deepest caves, which means it's huge. And there's so much more we haven't discovered. This is just the tip of the iceberg."
Whole Earth Provision Co. was among the supporters of the 2015 expedition and provided the expedition with two GoPro Cameras, batteries and mounts, fuel for camp stoves, and small items, both useful and fun, for children in the communities near the cave system. Y

You can see the documentary here: 
Steele speaks about risk in an interview conducted by Jane Falla for the Blueprint Earth blog (Oct. 26). It reads in part, "I've probably had 15 close calls. When things happen they happen fast, and you don't have time to think; you act. It hasn't always been safe; there can be extreme hazards. But you address them in a calculated way and minimize the risk as best you can. If you do the right thing and survive, you have a good story to tell."

Drone Art

Eye in the sky.
Say what you will about drones, but many come back with awe-inspiring images. Arctic Watch photographer Nansen Weber undertook the mission of filming on the Northwest Passage with the use of a $2,700 DJI Inspire 1 drone. 

He spent four weeks filming in the vicinity of the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, on Somerset Island, Nunavut. His video shares some of the magical wonders of the Northwest Passage - one of the last beluga nurseries on earth, the polar bears living in the environment and the unique landscapes of this hidden gem in Canada.
Watch it here: 

For more information: www.ArcticWatch.ca
Let's see now. There's Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Give-back Tuesday. These are all thinly veiled attempts to separate you from your hard-earned shekels on one specific day of the holiday period. But every day this month is a good time to remember that explorer or adventurer in your life. 

That's where our annual holiday gift guide comes in. No cookie-cutter gifts will do for the multi-day-underwear-wearing trekkers or climbers on our list. We go the extra mile for truly unique gifts.

Consider these gems:    
Fire Fishing Pole

Weiner on!
We hate it when our marshmallows fall into the fire while trekking across Death Valley, or summiting Denali. Here's a hot dog or marshmallow roaster that looks and feels like a fishing pole. With a quick flick of the wrist, watch food flip for an even roast. Someone is going to make a fortune on this one. (www.firebuggz.com)
No Bull

We've seen happier faces on bulls.

Nothing worse than trekking eight days to Everest Base Camp, then suffering a sleepless night due to altitude and a tentmate snoring like a buzzsaw. Thank the stars for Mute, the latest in breathing technology from Rhinomed of Australia. Looking like a plastic bullring, it stents (holds open) and dilates the nasal airways. This allows the snorer to - wait for it - breathe more easily through the nose, keep the mouth closed and reduce the vibrations that cause disruptive snoring.

It's said to increase airflow an average of 38% when compared to nasal strips. We're buying these suckers by the gross for a few, er, loud explorers we know.

Green with Envy

It's not easy being green.

That's how their friends will feel when you give your gift recipient a supply of RecoveryBits plant-based nutrition. Throw away those energy drinks, gels, bars and supplements. EnergyBits, Inc., of Boston claims one can recover quickly and naturally with the most nutrient-dense, eco-friendly, sustainable superfood on earth, namely chlorella algae.

We've tried these little green tabs. It reminds us of eating seaweed. Or more accurately, eating a schmear of seaweed scraped off a jetty. Bleh? Maybe. But at least it's non-GMO. (www.energybits.com)

Urine the Money

A sock full of urine isn't the first thing you think about when planning what to place under the tree. And this gift isn't exactly ready for market. But urine luck. Urine-powered socks will soon be available to delight the adventurer in your life. Researchers from the University of West of England have developed a pair of socks that, they claim, can generate electricity using a person's urine.

They're going to need a bigger sock.

According to its makers, these extraordinary socks can store up to 648 milliliters of urine - almost 22 ounces. This urine is stored in the socks using integrated tubes, said researchers.

Explaining the working of the socks, researchers said when the user walks, the liquid is forced through microbial fuel cells that contain bacteria. These bacteria consume the nutrients in urine and thus create electricity during this process.

Slosh-slosh-zap. Now all they have to work on is the ick factor.

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 new 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: 
Advertise in Expedition News - For more information:  blumassoc@aol.com
EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 1877 Broadway, Suite 100, Boulder, CO 80302 USA. Tel. 203 326 1200, editor@expeditionnews.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2016 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through www.paypal.com.  Read EXPEDITION NEWS at www.expeditionnews.com. Enjoy the EN blog at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com





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