Adventure in 60 Seconds: This Week in Exploration
See more Everest photos by Jake Norton here.
There is no doubt that mountaineering is one of the great adventure sports. It puts people in concert with the forces of nature in a way that few other pursuits can. However, what the triumphant summit pictures and unforgettable stories often fail to depict is the crushing tedium of it all.
Nowhere was that better demonstrated than at Everest Base Camp this week, while teams on both the north and south sides hunkered in their tents, day after day, as high winds battered the peak. How high? Climbers reported that the south side saw mountain breezes of up to 100 kph (62 mph) and the north side, not to be outdone, reached 138 kph (85 mph). The good people at explorersweb.com put a little perspective on those numbers by explaining that a strong, experienced climber can reliably summit in winds of around 30 knots. For those of you who aren't sailors or pirates, that is about 35 mph. Needless to say, the waiting game continues. The next weather window is forecasted to open on May 22, when the jet stream will release its strangle hold on the region for a few days. Until then, climbers will remain in their tents and literally try to keep them from blowing away (explorersweb.com).
Big-wave surfers know how to wait better than most anyone else in the world. Their main hobby is watching NOAA weather maps until large blobs of red or—even better—purple appear on the storm tracking charts. They then purchase the next plane ticket available to whichever coastline is going to catch a few monster waves. Although big-wave season at Northern Hemisphere spots like Mavericks and Waimea Bay is all but over, it is just beginning in the Southern Hemisphere. This week saw the aptly named South African surf spot "Dungeons" sputter to life (where Brazilian Maya Gabeira surfed her way to a record last year–see our popular photo gallery). Located a long mile off coast of Cape Town, right next to an offshore seal colony that also happens to be a snack bar for great white sharks, Dungeons consistently produces some of the biggest thrills and spills of the Southern Hemi winter. Although it wasn't at its most terrifying last Saturday, it still proved its name. Check out the photos on surfline.
Australian Jessica Watson, 16, is poised to complete her solo, non-stop, unsupported circumnavigation on Saturday morning, Australia time. While her accomplishment is undeniably admirable, the World Speed Sailing Record Council and other record-keeping organizations recently decided to stop acknowledging "youngest" feats, partially in response to the age race going on in the oceans as of late. Too bad for Watson, who is the youngest solo, non-stop, unsupported circumnavigator thus far. What's more, the WSSRC has taken issue with the length of the voyage, saying it falls just short of a true circumnavigation. Still, bravo to Watson for dreaming, planning, and doing it (cnn.com).
A man who has seen a lot of things go right recently is the Japanese boulderer Dai Koyamada. This week in Cresciano, Switzerland, he climbed the Story of Two Worlds, a problem that some have given the semi-mythical grade of V16, reports Climbing Magazine. The notoriously subjective and mercurial climbing community is always flirting with the next number on the "V-scale," which begins at V0 and is pretty trustworthy through V14. However, climbers have just begun to haul themselves up boulders in the range of V15 and V16, so there is still a lot of debate around problems that are given such high grades. What isn't in doubt is that Koyamada has bouldered and sport climbed many of the hardest problems and routes in the world, so if he starts talking V16, it may be worth listening (climbing.com).—Tetsuhiko Endo
- Nat Geo Expeditions