Nepal Reopens Annapurna Trail

Annapurna Sanctuary, a trek in north-central Nepal.     Photo: Andrew and Annemarie/Flickr

Nepal Reopens Annapurna Trail

Safety assessment finds little damage

Three months after two earthquakes and resulting avalanches killed 8,897 people in Nepal, the country’s government reopened the trekking trail on Annapurna last week. Most trekking routes in Nepal were closed after the earthquakes.

According to Reuters, California-based structural and earthquake engineering firm Miyamoto International carried out a safety assessment of the most popular tourist trails in the Everest and Annapurna regions at the behest of Nepal’s government. The two areas draw 70 percent of the country’s climbers and trekkers, with 140,000 of them visiting annually.

Miyamoto found that along Annapurna’s 149-mile trail circuit, less than 1 percent of the route was damaged, Reuters reports. Also, only 3 percent of guesthouses sustained any damage. The firm will release its Everest report soon.

Despite the reopening and Miyamoto’s report, the Nepal government worries that tourist arrivals may drop by 40 percent this year due to safety concerns. “There has been a decline in foreign tourists since the earthquake,” Suresh Man Shrestha, secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, said in a statement. “Tourism is very important for Nepal’s economy and for the Nepalese people. But we needed to assess which areas of the trekking regions have to be reconstructed for the safety of our visitors.”



Haze affects visibility in all of the parks most protected by the Clean Air Act.     Photo: Nick Mealey/Flickr

National Parks “Under Threat” from Air Pollution

Researchers show health, visibility effects

A study published on Tuesday by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) found that a majority of national parks are subject to significant levels air pollution, posing a direct risk to public health. The report, “Polluted Parks: How Dirty Air Is Harming America’s National Parks,” asserts that 12 of the 48 national parks with the highest standards under the Clean Air Act earned low marks for air quality.

“As Americans flock to our national parks this summer to enjoy the great outdoors, they expect and deserve to find clean, healthy air. Sadly that is not always the case,” Ulla Reeves, manager of NPCA’s Clean Air Campaign, said in a press release. “Our parks remain under threat from air pollution, harming visitors’ health, reducing visibility, and driving the impacts of climate change.”

Crediting the use of fossil fuels as the main source of air pollution, the report counts four parks—Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite—as having air that is unhealthy to breathe. As much as 90 percent of parks were found to be affected by climate change, resulting in hotter, wetter, or drier conditions than those parks have had in the past 100 years.

Envisioning ways to reverse this trend, the NPCA report urged states to follow the Regional Haze Rule, a program meant to preserve high air quality in the national parks. But enforcement rules under the Regional Haze Rule have been criticized as being vague.

“States can claim that reducing pollution is just too challenging while ignoring commonsense opportunities for progress,” the report reads, citing North Dakota and Nebraska as examples of loopholes in the Regional Haze Rule in the face of much-needed change. “Nebraska opted to allow its biggest polluter, the Gerald Gentleman power plant, to continue operating without basic emission controls, despite a clear demonstration of damage to Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks. These parks aren’t expected to have clean air for more than two centuries.”


Blue Skies with Clouds

Photo: Mark Stevens/Flickr

July Brings Snow to Montana, Wyoming

Blankets northern Rockies

An unseasonably strong cold front swept over the northern Rocky Mountains on Monday, resulting in uncommon July snowfall in parts of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, according to the Washington Post. Glacier National Park and Big Sky Resort in Montana, as well as Jackson Hole in Wyoming, reported snow shortly after the cold air moved in. Up to several inches of it appeared in areas above 8,000 feet in elevation. 

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in Billings, Montana, classified the cold front as “exceptional” after comparing its strength to past events. 

“This pattern should not happen in July,” stated the Billings NWS office in a Facebook post. Tuesday was the “windiest July day ever in Billings,” NWS added.


North Korea Plans Surf Camp

A group of tourists will visit North Korea's beaches in September. Pictured: Wŏnsan Beach.     Photo: stephan/Flickr

North Korea Plans Surf Camp

Opening in September

North Korea’s authoritarian government has given its blessing to a group of tourists and North Koreans to visit the country’s uncharted breaks in September, according to the Guardian. The move represents a rare opportunity to surf in the country.

The trip will be organized by Uri Tours, a New Jersey–based travel company that specializes in trips to North Korea.  

“Our goal is to evaluate the resources and make them available to local surfers in a sustainable and safe way,” Nick Zanella, an Italian surfer who will be making the trip, told the Guardian. “We are not there to simply go surf, brag about it, and then bail.”


WATCH: Big Wave Wipeout at Teahupo’o

Niccolo Porcella was sucked back up by the wave after falling from his board.     Photo: WSL Big Wave Awards/Flickr

WATCH: Big Wave Wipeout at Teahupo’o

“I got annihilated,” says Porcella

Professional kiteboarder and big-wave surfer Niccolo Porcella took a huge wipeout at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, on July 22. After dropping in, the 27-year-old Maui native fell off his board, only to be sucked up by the wave and hurled toward the reef.

“It was the most violent thing—I got annihilated,” Porcella told Surfing Life. But he said it won’t be his last time at Teahupo’o. “The best day of my life was marrying my wife, but this, for sure, was second best. I’m coming back every year.”

Tim Pruvost, who took the video of the wipeout, already submitted it as an entry in the TAG Heuer Wipeout of the Year category of the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards, according to Time.

Check out the wipeout below: