Adaptive Ocean Rower Completes Pacific Crossing

Ocean rowers Tara Remington and Angela Madsen wrapped up an impressive crossing of the Pacific Ocean a few days back, completing a 4000 km (2485 mile) journey that began in Los Angeles and ended in Waikiki, Hawaii. The two women were out on the water for 60 days, facing rough seas, high winds, and treacherous storms in the process.

Traveling in their 6 meter (19.6 foot) long row boat, dubbed The Spirit of Orlando, the duo set out to not only cross an ocean, but to raise funds for worthy causes in the process. Remington, who hails from New Zealand, was attempting to raise money to send a young girl to a special summer camp for amputees, while American Madsen rowed to support the California Adaptive Rowing Program, an organization that holds special meaning for her.

Throughout the voyage, the two women took turns manning the oars, making slow, but steady progress across the northern Pacific. The rough seas made for tough going at times, and exhaustion from 60 days of rowing certainly took their toll. But the scariest moment came when they were ten days from reaching the finish line. A big wave struck the boat, nearly sending Remington overboard. Fortunately, she was able to stay on the Spirit, and avoid what would have been a life-threatening situation.

Both women are accomplished rowers and athletes, each having rowed across the Atlantic in the past, amongst other great adventures. But in this case, Angela has other physical challenges that makes her accomplishment standout even more. The former U.S. Marine suffered a back injury while on active duty, and a botched surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down. Madsen hasn’t let that slow her down much however, as she has rowed oceans, and competed in sporting events, despite lacking the use of her legs.

With this successful crossing of this leg of the Pacific, Angela has become the first adaptive rower to complete a section of that ocean. Clearly she has not allowed her physical challenges to prevent her from chasing after her dreams, and that should serve as an inspiration to all of us.

Congratulations to both Tara and Angela on completing this amazing feat.

Thanks to TA Loeffler for sharing this story.


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Ever Wonder What a $20,000 Bike Looks Like?

With the Tour de France in its final stages, and the riders turning towards Paris at last, I’m sure there are more than a few of us who are climbing aboard are road bikes, and dreaming of riding on the Champs Élysées in the Yellow Jersey. While that is an impossible dream for most of us, that doesn’t mean we can’t at least ride a bike that is fitting for the toughest cycling event on the planet. Outside magazine has posted a profile of five of the most advanced bikes that are currently in Le Tour, including a $20,000 ride that is unlike any other.

If you’re in the market for a new bike, or the TdF has inspired you to get into cycling, than any one of these five bikes will make for an impressive ride. While the high end models have been built specifically for the best riders in the world, there are consumer models designed for you and me that are more than adequate fore our needs, not to mention much easier on our wallets.

Amongst the bikes that Outside spotlights are the Trek Émonda, which is the lightest production bike at the planet, tipping the scales at just 10.25 pounds (4.6 kg), a full 4 pounds (1.81 kg) lighter than the minimum requirements for the Tour de France. The top end version of Émonda will set you back $15,750, but the entry level model costs just $1650, although it isn’t quite so svelte.

Other bikes on the list include Pinarello Dogma F8, which defending Tour champ Chris Froome was riding before he crashed out of the race, and the Lapierre Aircode, which is being ridden by rising star Thibaut Pinot, who is currently riding in third place at this year’s race. The Fuji Transonic also puts in an appearance on the Outside list. Its claim to fame is that it is extremely efficient out on the road, shaving watts off the rider’s effort, which translates to better times, particularly when time trialing.

Perhaps the most intriguing ride in the bunch is the Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac, a bike that was designed in conjunction with the McLaren super-car company. It has been built for speed and performance, and comes with a price tag to match. The bike, which is shown in the photo above, costs $20,000, and only 250 of them have been made. Two riders in the Tour are aboard this bike – Jacob Fuglsang and Nicolas Roche – and it is truly a thing of beauty to behold.

Of course, most of us can’t afford the high end modes of these bikes, nor would we see the performance gains out of them that would make them worth our while. But like a high performance sports car, it is fun to dream about them none the less. The consumer models of these bikes are still fantastic rides however, and certainly well worth considering if you’re in the market for a new bike.


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Pakistan 2014: Summit Push Begins on K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II

While I was off on a little adventure of my own on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the climbers in Pakistan have been busy preparing for summit bids in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Most have now wrapped up their acclimatization efforts, and have launched their summit bids in ernest. Over the next few days, they will be pushing themselves to the limit with the hopes of reaching the summit on their respective mountains, including the most difficult peak in the world – K2.

Over the past few days, Alan Arnette has continued to release a string of dispatches sharing his experiences on K2. He reported that heavy snow and high winds have made things challenging, even in Base Camp, where avalanches were a regular occurrence. But the weather is expected to improve starting today, with favorable conditions expected to last into next week. That is an unusually long weather window for K2, so everyone is hoping to take advantage of it, even if they haven’t had a chance to complete their full acclimatization rotations.

Alan, and the rest of his team, will leave BC today to begin their summit push. Over the next few days he’ll be proceeding upwards to each of the successive camps with the hopes of reaching C4 on Saturday, then going for the summit in the early hours of Sunday. He’ll provide brief updates on his progress while he can, but all of his efforts will be focused on climbing this “Mountaineer’s Mountain” over the next few days.

He won’t be alone in his efforts to reach the summit. Al Hancock and Adrian Hayes have also began their summit bids. They have had the opportunity to fully acclimatize, and are now ready to stand on the summit. Since they have spent some time at Camp 3 already, they’ll have an accelerated schedule, with the hope of topping out on Friday or Saturday of this week. The duo will release no further dispatches until they return from the summit push, as they’ll now leave behind any unnecessary gear to move faster and lighter, and carry more important items with them.

Chris Jensen Burke has also launched her summit bid. You may recall, she warmed up on Broad Peak, acclimatizing on that mountain, and moved over to K2 last week after a failed summit bid on BP. With her acclimatization process wrapped up however, she now feels strong enough to go for the top of K2. Chris will leave for the summit today, with the hopes of reaching that point on Saturday. She reports that rope fixing efforts on the Bottleneck and the Traverse are still underway, but there is good cooperation amongst the teams. Good weather will make things a bit more secure, but she says there are still some concerns about soft snow around Camp 3, which could cause issues.

Over on Broad Peak, the climbers are ready to take advantage of the long weather window as well. Unlike on K2, the teams are well acclimatized, and have been waiting for this opportunity for some time. BP being a much less challenging mountain has allowed them to use an abbreviate schedule, and as a result, most of the teams hope to be in Camp 3 today, and make their summit bid tomorrow. If successful, it will be the first summits of the season on the mountain, which has had some poor weather early in the season, but condition seem to support plenty of success in the days ahead.

On Masherbrum, there has been little word from David Lama and his squad. Presumably, they are busy working away on the very difficult face they have chosen to climb, but there is little to report on their progress. The few dispatches that they have released have hardly mentioned their status. Hopefully they’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of the weather window too, and we’ll learn more about their efforts in the days ahead.

Finally, Turkish climber Tunç Findik has already launched his summit bid on Gasherbrum II. He, and his teammates, left Base Camp yesterday and are hoping to top out on Thursday. Their weather window is not quite so long, but the team is ready, and they are looking to take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way. Once this climb is wrapped up, Findik also hopes to make an attempt on Gasherbrum I as well.

Stay tuned. It should be a very busy week in the mountains of Pakistan. Lets hope everyone gets up and down the mountains safely. The weather will be in their favor, but these are still some difficult peaks.


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Video: Bike Mounted Camera Capture Tour de France Action

Ever wonder what it is like to ride in the Peloton at the Tour de France? Than this video is definitely for you. It shows some harrowing footage on the now infamous Stage 5 of this year’s race. That’s the stage that was marred with crashes due to steady downpour, and the riders passing over the always-dangerous cobblestone roads of northern France. The footage was captured by a bike mounted camera, and provides a bit of perspective on what pro riders face in the biggest cycling event in the world.


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Badwater Ultra-Marathon Begins New Era with 2014 Race

The annual Badwater Ultra-Marathon, one of the toughest foot races on the planet, is scheduled to get underway next Monday, July 21. It will be the 37th running of this event, which draws runners from all over the planet each year to test themselves along a 135 mile (217 km) route through the hottest place on the planet – Death Valley. But this year, the race will have a slightly different look than in the past, as new regulations by the National Park Service have banned athletic competitions from taking place inside the parks while it conducts a review of safety for such events.

As you can probably imagine, this change in policy has not sat well with Badwater competitors, many of whom have been taking part in the event for years. The name of the race is derived from the Badwater Basin, which sits inside Death Valley National Park, but won’t even be a part of the route this year. That starting point was part of the tradition that has made this ultra-run such a special event, and these changes, brought on by a new park superintendent, have left some runners frustrated.

This year, organizers of the event have been forced to alter the traditional course to meet the new requirements from the park service, and as a result, the runners will now set off from Lone Pine, California, although they will still have the finish line on the slopes of Mt. Whitney. Along the way, they’ll cross over Horseshoe Meadow, at an altitude of 10,000 feet (3048 meters), before traveling through Owens Valley on a dirt road at 5500 feet (1676 meters), before proceeding on to Darwin, as they approach the Mt. Whitney Portal at 8360 feet. Over the course of the 135 mile run, competitors will face 17,000 feet (5800 metes) of vertical gain, and 12,700 feet (4450 meters) of cumulative descent.

For their part, the National Park Service says that they are continuing to receive more applications and requests to hold endurance events inside the parks, including Death Valley. In order to ensure that those events are safe, the agency has elected to study the viability of holding athletic competitions on government managed public lands. Their concerns aren’t just about the safety of competitors, as they also want to examine the impact of such events on traffic flow, and access to other the park by other visitors during the events. The environmental impact of these events are also being evaluated as well.

The door is not closed on the Badwater returning to its original course in the future. It is possible that the NPS will decide that the event is safe, and has minimal impact on the park. But for this year, the race will have a different course, and a different look. One that keeps it out of Death Valley National Park altogether.


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Outside Recaps The Deadliest Season in Everest History

As most of you probably already know, this past climbing season on Everest was the deadliest in the history of Mt. Everest, despite the fact that the South Side of the mountain was shutdown for most of the spring. On April 18, a massive avalanche rolled down the slopes of that section of the mountain, not far from Camp 1, claiming the lives of 16 Sherpas who were shuttling gear and supplies up the slopes at that time. It was a disaster of epic proportions that will continue to resonate with the climbing community for years to come, and even now, months after the accident, we’re still learning new details about that tragic day.

In the latest issue of Outside magazine, resident Everest expert Grayson Schaffer shares his insights into the lost season on Everest. His article, entitled “Black Year: Everest’s Deadliest Season” is now available online, and it is a long, and exhaustive look at everything that happened on April 18, giving us the most detailed account of the rescue efforts, which eventually turned into a mission to recover the bodies of the fallen. The article takes us step-by-step through that day, starting early in the morning before the avalanche hit, and continuing on until search and rescue operations ceased.

Of course, no story about this Everest season would be complete without looking at the fallout that followed the tragedy, and this one does that as well. It explores the politics and tensions that led to the cancellation of climbing operations, particularly those that were brought to bear on Joby Ogwyn, the BASE jumper who was planning to fly a wingsuit off the summit of the mountain.

The article also looks at the meeting that took place in Base Camp on April 20, which would ultimately lead to the demands of the Sherpas on the Nepali government, and eventually contribute to the shutdown of the mountain. What followed has been the subject of numerous stories, with a small, but very vocal, group of Sherpas applying pressure on their compatriots, the climbers, and guides, to call of the climb, and go home.

This is a long article, and will require some time to get through the entire thing, but it is probably the best, most complete, look at the situation that we’ve seen to date. It incorporates first hand accounts from Sherpas, climbing team leaders, guides, and others who were on the mountain. The further we get away from the tragedy, the more likely we are to get a clearer picture of the accident, and the days that followed. I’m sure the entire story still isn’t known, but we are getting closer.


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Video: Pushing the Limits of Adventure with Cory Richards

National Geographic photographer Cory Richards has some unique perspectives on exploration and adventure, and in the video below he shares them with an audience at a National Geographic Live event. In the 13+ minute clip, which is a lot like a TED Talk, Cory discusses what drives him to do the things he does, and his constant quest to tell great stories through his photographs, as he goes in search of adventure. This is a fantastic video, filled with laughs, insights, and inspiration. Don’t miss it!


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Video: The Desert Challenge Ultra-marathon

While we’re on the topic of ultra-marathons today, I thought I’d share a video that was released on Facebook over the weekend. It is a promo for the The Desert Challenge TransArabia Race, which is scheduled to take place in Jordan later this year, and will cover distances of 100 km (62.1 miles), 200 km (124.2 miles), or 300 km (186.4 miles) depending on the challenge you want to undertake. It is a non-stop race through that passes the Dead Sea, crosses through the desert of Wadi Rum, and ends at the ancient site of Petra. It promises to be quite an amazing event, and will set the stage for the TransOmania race that will follow next year.


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Kilian Jornet Sets New Speed Record for the Hardrock 100

Writing about Kilian Jornet is starting to sound a bit like a broken record. This past weekend, the ultrarunner/mountaineer set a new speed record, this time while competing in the Hardrock 100 ultra-marathon, one of the toughest long distance races in the world. As the name implies, the race, which takes place in the San Juan Mountain Range of southern Colorado, covers a distance of 100.5 miles (161.7 km), and mixes in nearly 34,000 feet of vertical gain, and descents. 

The previous record for the Hardrock was set back in 2008 by Kyle Skaggs, who covered the course in an impressive time of 23 hours, 23 minutes. Since then, no one has really come all that close to equalling that mark, at least until Jornet took to the course this past weekend. He not only managed to beat Skaggs’ mark, he completely smashed it, crossing the finish line in an unbelievable time of 22 hours, 41 minutes, 35 seconds. 
For his part, Jornet says that the Hardrock was the last ultra-marathon on his list that he had yet to conquer. While the Spanish endurance athlete is always looking for new challenges, over the past few years he has managed to notch wins in nearly every major ultra on the planet. But in recent months, his attention has turned increasingly towards his alpine pursuits, looking to set speed records on the tallest mountain on each continent. Just last month, he set a new record for climbing Denali, the highest peak in North America, and he already has plans to attempt Elbrus in Europe, and Aconcagua in South America, before going for the record on Everest as well. 
At this point in his career, Kilian isn’t just making a case for being the best endurance athlete on the planet, as many would say that he has already done that. He seems to be simply increasing the gap between himself, and everyone else. It is difficult not to be impressed with the accomplishments of this man, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of times he posts on the remaining seven summits, especially Everest. 
Congratulations once again to Kilian. He continues to be an inspiration to outdoor athletes everywhere. 


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Tour de France 2014: A Photo Finish in Nancy

In terms of finishes in a 145.7 km (90.5 mile) cycling states, they don’t come much closer than they did today at the Tour de France. We knew that today’s stage would test the legs of the riders for the first time, and that it would take a good, all-around cyclist to claim the victory. What we didn’t anticipate was that just a few centimeters would be the difference, and that is exactly what separated Stage 7 winner Matteo Trentin of Omega Pharma-Quick Step from Peter Sagan of Cannondale.

The day featured the first real climbing challenges that we’ve seen so far, but they still pale in comparison to what is to come, starting this weekend. A few breakaway attempts failed to result in much drama for the peloton, and it wasn’t until riders crewed the final hill, just a few kilometers from the finish, that the pressure was really felt. Sagan was part of the group that slipped away, as he looked to claim for points in the Green Jersey competition, and possibly earn himself a stage win for the first time this year. Unfortunately, it seems he left the pack just a bit too early, and was caught by a chase group not far from the finish. Saving his energy for one final push, he upped his tempo at just the right time. But Trentin had just a bit more power left in his legs, and literally caught the Cannondale rider at the line. The photo finish showed only the slights difference between first and second place.

Sagan has continued his string of good days, as the Slovak rider has failed to finish in the top 5 yet this year. As a result, he has increased his point standing in the chase for the Green Jersey, as he looks to take that classification home for the third year in a row. There was no change in the overall standing of the General Classification, as Vincenzo Nibali continues to ride in Yellow. Likewise, Cyril Lemoine kept the Polk Dot Jersey of the King of the Mountains, although serious challenges for that will likely come this weekend. The White Jersey for the best young rider under the age of 25 still belong to Sagan as well, although it is on loan to Michal Kwiatkowski to wear out on the road.

The weather was more cooperative today for the riders, and the predicted rain held off, making it less dangerous to ride the roads of northern France. Despite the improved conditions, there were still a number of crashes, including one that involved Tejay Van Garderen, who ended up losing time to Nibali. He now sits 3 minutes and 14 seconds off the lead. American’s looking for their best hope to win the race, may want to keep an eye on Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp. He was in the mix heading to the finish line before he crashed as well. Due to the location of the crash however, he didn’t give up any time, and now sits in 7th place overall, 2 minutes and 5 seconds off the pace.

Tomorrow, the riders will face a 161 km (100 mile) ride from Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine that will feature steady climbing throughout the day, with two Category 2 climbs near the end, followed by a Cat 3 climb to the finish. On Sunday, things get even more challenging not he 170 km (105.6 mile) Stage 9 that runs from Gérardmer to Mulhouse. It will include a series of tough climbs along the entire route, including the first Category 1 climb of the year. It has a downhill finish however, which should bring the peloton back together. Monday will also feature some big climbs, including a Category 1 to the finish, before heading into the first rest day on Tuesday.

The GC should really start to sort itself out some tomorrow, and by Monday we’ll have a good idea as to who is in form to challenge for the Yellow Jersey this year. Nibali is riding well, and doesn’t look to be having any problems, but his strength in the mountains versus the really great climbers has yet to be seen. On the other hand, with Chris Froome gone from the race, and Alberto Contador looking vulnerable, it seems the Italian is as good a choice to win the race as any. There are still two weeks of riding to go however, and a lot can happen between now and Paris.


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