Month: January 2012

Snorkeling with Churchill’s Beluga Whales

The chilly subarctic waters of Churchill, Manitoba is the summer home for over 3,000 white beluga whales that migrate from the frigid Arctic in July and August to feed and birth calves.  It is a perfect opportunity for snorkelers to have personal interactions with these friendly creatures.

Belugas are highly intelligent yet curious cetaceans and do not seem to mind sharing the Churchill River with snorkelers, often coming extremely close to humans to check them out.  It has been said that it is the humans, not the whales, who seem to be on exhibit, especially since the belugas have the ability to move their flexible necks for a better look.

The following Canadian tour companies will get you into the water to experience these gentle giants:

Whether you are in the water for twenty minutes or over an hour, let yourself feel the vibrations of the bat-like echolocation, songs and chatter, and experience an amazing encounter with thousands of “sea canaries”.

The Best Time To Climb Mt. Shasta Is…

According to the experts at Shasta Mountain Guides the best times to climb Mt Shasta are the spring and summer months.  Here they break down the weather patterns and conditions on one of California’s most climbed big peaks:

The main factor is we want to climb Mt. Shasta when there is adequate snow coverage and a reasonable chance for high pressure and good weather.  The current winter snowpack depths and weather patterns will ultimately determine when that is.

Unlike peaks to the south in the Sierra Nevada Range, we need the snow depth for safe and efficient travel.  The old notion to wait for the snow to melt is a potentially dangerous solution and certainly a tedious challenge of uphill scrambling on loose, steep, rocks.

Shasta is a volcanic mountain in Southern tip of the Cascades – which is part of the Pacific ring of fire.  As a volcanic mountain, underneath the snow, there is very loose rock and scree.  At best, it is annoying to slog through, at worse, it is dangerous a big chunks of rock can come dislodged and fly down the mountain at high speeds.  Also, because Shasta is by itself towering over anything in the vicinity, it creates its own weather.  Always keep your eye on the latest forecasts at the Mt Shasta Avalanche Center.

Due to the small-ish window of ideal conditions to bag Mt Shasta, expect crowds on the weekends.  Also don’t forget to pick up your summit permit at the kiosk at the base of the mountain.


Discover Genghis Khan’s Mongolia Webinar

Mongolia, the Land of Blue Skies, is comprised of the massive Gobi desert, the mountains of Bayan-Olgii and the dense forests & crystal lakes of Khövsgöl.  Take a vitural journey to this ancient empire of Genghis Khan.

Asia360° Travel Co. is hosting a free webinar on January 31, 12:00 pm PST.  Anna Griswold, an expert in Asia travel, will lead you on this virtual adventure to an expansive land where a nomadic culture still relies heavily on horses.  Here’s your chance to meet traditional eagle hunters, experience folk dancing and sip tea with herding families.  Register here.

First Winter Ascents of K2 & Gasherbrum Attempts (Current Update)

With all the mountaineering feats that have been accomplished, a winter ascent of Pakistan’s two giants, K2 and Gasherbrum, remain allusive.  Winter has grasped Pakistan’s Karakoram mountain range with no intention of letting go anytime soon.  Adventure Blog is tracking the progress of the Russian team on K2, the Polish team attempting Gasherbrum and Dennis Urubko on Nanga Parbat.

On K2, the Russian squad has now felt the full force of the winds on that mountain.  The team has now established Camp 2 at 6350 meters (20,833 ft) and even begun to fix lines above that point, but yesterday they were hit by high winds (120km/h/75mph) that destroyed BC and more than likely shredded C1 and 2 as well.  The entire group was safely in Base Camp at the time, and the plan is for them to begin heading back up the mountain today to rebuild their camps – that is if the weather allows it.  The forecast says that the week ahead should be better, with winds dying off and little snowfall.  Hopefully that will provide the weather window they need to continue their work.

Check back in to see how these expeditions are advancing.  Let’s hope the Russian team can claim the title as the first to summit K2 in winter.  The Polish team wants that same glory on Gasherbrum.  Best of luck teams.

Summer Activities in the Arctic Circle

Once winter leaves and takes the snow with it the land of the midnight sun has loads to offer in the way of summer activities. As Sartenada, a PathWrangler commenter in Finland, points out:

There is life also during summer at Arctic Circle and beyond it.

Thanks for the great comment, Sartenda!  The Arctic Circle’s summer is accented with nice weather and long hours of daylight, plenty of time to experience road trips, nature and culture. In Finland, and most other Arctic Circle countries, the more adventurous can partake in kayaking, kiteboarding, cycling, hiking, rafting and fishing.

Winter or summer, the Arctic Circle is a haven for adventure.

Winter Mushing in the Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle, the geographic crown of the world, is rich in unspoilt land. Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Norway and Sweden are part of this area and have some of the best picturesque playgrounds in which to experience dog sledding.

From its humble beginnings thousands of years ago as the only transportation to get over the frozen tundra, dog sledding has evolved into a popular winter activity.  It’s not just for professionals who run in such races like the well-known Iditarod in Alaska.  It’s for those who can appreciate the excitement of gliding along in nature’s pristine winter wonderland, but can test the physical and mental limits in a hostile terrain and environment.

Huskies bark and howl into the cold air with intense anticipation as they wait impatiently for the last anchor rope to be untied.  With sled in tow, the team is unleashed upon the arctic’s snow packed landscape.  These beautifully strong, yet collaborative animals have been bred for this activity since their early days of providing pre-Columbian natives with transportation across the vast polar distances.

Hike! Gee! Haw! Easy! Whoa!
These are some of the commands that all the dogs must know, especially the fast running leader of the pack.  Where he/she goes, the others must follow.  What about Mush?  Actually it is considered to be too soft a command word and therefore rarely used.

This activity is not just for the professional Iditarod racer, but something anyone can enjoy.  Whether you go for two hours, two days or longer, you can experience the scenery of the Arctic Circle through forests, over frozen lakes and along open terrain surround by mountain peaks as those who have been doing so for centuries.  Take your experience up a notch by taking charge of your own team of dogs and go on this adventure between December and February when the Northern Lights and Aurora Borealis are more visible.

Here are a few companies that can provide you with the thrill of mushing your own dog team in the great white north:

North America:


Following in the Picks of Caroline George

With ice climbing season in full swing, Outside Magazine wrote an article focusing on tips from an expert ice climber.  Much to my pleasure, I found that the article was about a friend of mine: world renown ice climber, Caroline George who, along with her husband Adam, runs a mountain guide company called Into the Mountains.  Aside from Caroline being a confident hard woman on the sharp end of a rope, she is also a fully certified UIAGM-IFMGA mountain guide and is a sponsored athlete with First Ascent/Eddie Bower.

I have had the fortune of crossing paths with Caroline in the mountains as well as many international departure gates.  I’ve always admired her drive and ease of well being as she is a great ambassador for the sport.  If you hadn’t had the opportunity, please check out this more recent article where Caroline gives ice climbing tips to Outside Gear Girl Guru Stephanie Pearson .

Caroline George

Caroline George Photo By: ANDREW BURR

Caroline George is a professional climber and guide based in Salt Lake City, Utah. On Friday, she’ll be in Hyalite Canyon to teach a women’s-only ice-climbing clinic with Kitty Calhoun as part of the Arc’teryx Bozeman Ice Festival. We caught up with George to get some advice for new and prospective ice climbers.

What’s the appeal of ice climbing? 

For me it’s the people and the fun community aspect of the competitions. I also like the medium, even though it’s somewhat less accessible because you have to learn about the structure of the ice and avalanche hazards.

There’s also a masochistic aspect to ice climbing, of course. It’s cold and you’re always in the shade. But it’s one of the most rewarding sports I’ve ever taken part in.

Read the whole interview at Outside Magazine Online.