Ueli Steck and his climbing partner, Tenzing Sherpa, notched some of the first Everest summits of the season. The speed climber topped out on May 18 without supplemental oxygen. Last year, Steck turned around a few hundred feet from the summit rather than risk frostbite on his toes. Last year, a member of the Peak Freaks team made also the decision to turn around 280 feet from the summit, recording the moment in the helmet cam footage seen above. This year, all members of the Peak Freaks team made it safely back to Base Camp after several of them notched successful summits. Others did not fare so well.
On Saturday, flash flooding on the Seti River destroyed a number of villages in Nepal's Kaski district (near Annapurna), claiming at least 26 lives, according to recent news reports. Around 40 others, however, are still missing and presumed dead.
In March, I reported on a campaign led by the famous porter-turned-professional-climber Apa Sherpa,in partnership with the Himalayan Climate Initiative, that is seeking to draw attention to what it considers the likelihood of increased climate-change-induced flooding across the Himalaya region. The group says at least 20 glacial lakes are close to bursting, and that melting glaciers are exacerbating the dangers.
Let's start with the bad news. Less than half of Americans surveyed by the Outdoor Foundation participated in some form of outdoor recreation in 2011. But here's the good news: Participation in outdoor recreation is at its highest level in the last five years. The annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report estimates that almost half of the United States population over the age of six, or 141.1 million individuals, went outside to run, hike, ski, etc. at least once last year. The total number of outings, 11.6 billion, increased by 1.5 billion from 2010.
Some sports did better than others. Predictably, the most popular outdoor activities for adults were fishing, running, camping, bicycling, and hiking. But you might not be able to guess which sports gained and lost the most in terms of participation. Here's quick look at the five hottest and coldest outdoor sports last year.
Rhode Island School of Design student Cam Brensinger came up with the idea for NEMO (New England Mountain Equipment) and his college senior project, high on the flanks of New Hampshire's Mount Washington. One weekend Cam went camping and got caught in gale force winds.
Cam recalls: “I was up all night inventing new bivy designs, thinking about how to use my Thermarest to make a cube over my head so I could breathe. That was when I figured out where NEMO should start—it was the seed of the inflatable tent.”
NEMO launched in 2002. Since then it has earned an ISPO Brand New Award for its inflatable tent, and it has been featured many times in the pages of Outside magazine, as well as Time and Popular Science.
High-altitude alpinist Hilaree O’Neill is unlike most of her fellow climbers hunkered down at Everest Base Camp this week, waiting for a weather window to make their summit push. For starters, she came prepared to ski off the South Col. And out of some 600 alpinists vying for the top this season, she is one of the only mothers on the mountain.
Photo: The North Face
O’Neill, 39, is a member of The North Face/National Geographic team that’s attempting the Southeast Ridge. (Expedition leader Conrad Anker also plans to try the West Ridge route, to recreate the 1963 first American ascent of the peak; his partner on that route, alpinist and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, had to be evacuated last week after suffering from altitude sickness at Camp II, and Anker’s West Ridge plans remain in flux.) A veteran ski mountaineer, she’s managed to juggle a full expedition schedule—including ski descents of Denali and Cho Oyu—while raising two young sons, four-year-old Quinn and two-year-old Grayden, at home in Telluride.
I talked to Hilaree by cell phone from Base Camp at 17,000 feet last night. It was morning on Mount Everest, and she and the rest of her team were gearing up for a day of ice climbing and team strategizing about how and when to go for the top. It’s hard not to get a huge vicarious thrill when your phone rings, and it’s Everest Base Camp calling, especially when the climber on the other end of the phone is willing to dish about finding the balance between motherhood and mountains, the high risks of climbing Everest this season, and her unorthodox approach to training for the top of the world.