By Tetsuhiko Endo
And just like that, it's over. The circus has left the Himalaya and the only evidence that an army of international climbers spent all spring scrambling up and down its forbidding peaks are a few optimistic stragglers and the perennial accumulation of garbage on Mount Everest. As is usually the case, most of the season came down to a weather window that lasted a few precious days and saw 447 people reach the highest point in the world, according to everestnews.com. The summitting started with a trickle last Saturday morning and turned into a torrent, which didn't let up until Wednesday. Explorersweb trained in unflinching eye on four wild days of route congestion, speed climbing attempts, frostbite, disabled climbers, successful rescues, failed rescues, oxygen tank theft, and summit after summit after summit. Of 447 inspiring stories that came out of this past week, two rise above the rest:
Apa Sherpa broke his own world record for Everest summits by topping out for the 20th time. In doing so, he once again proved that despite the well-deserved fame of names like Hillary and Messner, the men who truly own the highest points in the world all go by the name Sherpa. Aside from being one of the undisputed masters of the Himalaya, Apa Sherpa is also one of its greatest stewards. This year, he climbed to raise awareness about the Apa Sherpa Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing educational opportunities in the Himalayan region. To put his achievement into perspective, if he were to combine the vertical miles he has climbed on Everest (nearly 110) into a single ascent, he would pass the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere, to poke his head into the thermosphere. He is undoubtedly feeling pretty high right now.
The other great climbing success of last week was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's ascent of Everest sans supplementary oxygen. What made this particular Everest summit notable was that it was Kaltenbrunner's 13th 8,000er without O2. The only two women to have joined the boys club and climbed all 14 8,000ers, Korean, Oh Eun Sun and Spaniard, Edurne Pasabán did so with the aid of oxygen. The only thing standing in the way of Kaltenbrunner joining the two mountain mavens is a little peak called K2. Stay tuned for her exploits in Pakistan.
Counting this last wave of summits, over 5,000 people have touched Everest's peak. In comparison, zero people have managed to sale through the Northeast and Northwest Passages in the same season (another way of saying "circumnavigate the North Pole). That is what famed polar explorer Børge Ousland (the Scandinavian "ø" is pronounced more like a "u" so our adventurers named sounds like "Burgay") and his alliterative second in command, Thorleif Thorleifsson plan to do this summer, according to explorersweb.com. They will be sailing a specially modified trimaran and hoping for as little ice as possible because hitting any in their speedy, lightweight craft could spell disaster. The catch-22 is that traditional, heavy hulled boats that are designed to cut through errant ice burgs are simply too slow to circumnavigate the pole in a single season. So, it will be a wild summer of dodging ice at high speeds for Ousland an Thorleifsson — follow the action on their blog: http://www.ousland.no/blog/
While the Himalaya and the North Pole are the main arenas for traditional adventuring, a little fishing village called Puerto Escondido is home to some of the scariest waves in the world. Located in the state of Oaxaca on the Southern Pacific coast of Mexico, the name means "hidden port" in Spanish, and is famous for its pristine beach. One in particular, Zicatela beach, sits at the end of a large, underwater canyon that funnels and magnifies swells from the South Pacific onto shallow sandbars resulting in giant, perfect waves. Over the past couple of weeks, Puerto Escondido has come to life with the same series of South swells that have lit up the coast in California. But don't take my word for it, check out this wave ridden last week by the indomitable big wave charger Brian Conley on Surfline.
In equally impressive, but far more sobering news, federal officials have updated their estimates of the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the spill caused by the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig reports the New York Times. The numbers have jumped from 5,000 barrels a day, to 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. These new numbers, if correct, will make this spill the largest in American history. Once again putting things into perspective with a few numbers: the revised rate of spillage means that 30 million gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf over the last 37 days. This is already three times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Still, as the Times, points out, it is still far less than the 140 million gallons linked by the Mexican oil rig Ixtoc in 1979. It's not much, but its something.
But it's not all gloom and doom. One guy looking back to give adventurers everywhere a brighter future is French artist Nils Guadagnin, who just released the Marty McFly special, a working hoverboard. It's not quite ready for riding, but the laser stabilization system means that the electromagnets that keep the board afloat have an easier time dealing with bumps. Until the hoverboard becomes a reality, Gizmodo suggests that you content yourself with a Scarpar Powerboard. Oh, the places you'll go!