Category Archives: Active Travel

World’s 10 best places to climb

Over ice and iron girders, shinnying up temples and scaling rain forest trees — tackle the world’s most worthwhile ways to reach the top. We’ve gathered together 10 things to go up, from the somewhat gentle to the downright difficult. Let’s just hope you can get down.

1. Tikal, Guatemala

Ascending the steps of a 1,250-year-old temple at the ancient Mayan megacity of Tikal to climb above the Petén jungle is one of Central America’s greatest experiences. During the first millennium AD this site was the main metropolis of the Maya, one of the mightiest pre-Columbian civilizations. There are a clutch of ruins to roam, but tallest and most tantalizing is Temple IV at the west of the complex. From the top, Tikal’s three other temples can be seen soaring out of the treetops — more unexcavated ruins lie hidden in the jungle. Stay virtually on the edge of Tikal’s temple-flanked central plaza at Jungle Lodge, with one of Petén’s best pools.

2. Sossusvlei, Namibia

The world’s highest dunes, the world’s oldest dunes…you won’t be here long before the record-breaking sand statistics rear their heads, but Sossusvlei certainly boasts among the most mesmerizing dunes on the planet for clambering over. Dunes here reach as high as 1,000 feet, but as sand-walking is around two-and-a-half times tougher than it would be on a normal surface, climbing is far from simple. The park Sossusvlei sits in, a swath of sand covering a good third of Namibia, fans out in all directions from the dune summits in a kaleidoscope of colors from bloodred to amber to mauve. Stick to the dune’s crests for the easiest ascents. Dawn is ideal dune-viewing time: stay inside the park boundaries for those early starts.

3. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Heartening in these times of global warming, this glacier is among the few on the planet not actually retreating. Forming a 9,842-foot icy frontier against the lake it abuts, Perito Moreno advances only for lake water to periodically undermine and, in spectacular style, collapse it. Five-hour glacier treks bring you up close and personal to the glacier’s myriad peaks, fissures and, if you’re lucky, the ice cavern the lake hollows underneath, all effusing an ethereal blue glow. If the trek isn’t a sufficient vertical challenge, try the ice climb, 65 feet up a sheer ice wall, and the ice abseil back down. El Calafate is littered with agencies offering glacier tours.

4. Old Man of Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Gather your grappling hooks, fasten your crampons — you’ll need technical gear to scale this iconic sea stack, standing just offshore from some of Britain’s highest cliffs on the wild island of Hoy. Flat, fertile Orkney isn’t renowned for rock climbing but the Old Man is a big exception. The 450-foot rock tower thwarted attempts to climb it until 1966, way after Everest had been conquered. Scale soon to avoid disappointment: one of the Old Man’s “legs” was washed away in 19th-century storms; geologists reckon the rest of the stack will ultimately follow suit. Get detailed information on climbing Orkney sea stacks at www.ukclimbing.com. Guided ascents of the Old Man are possible: try http://northernskies.webs.com.

5. Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Five volcanoes rise in a veritable smorgasbord of ruptured, frequently fiery peaks out of the lunar-like massif which makes up this World Heritage–listed national park: lava junkies should head here for a phenomenal fix. Not only are the world’s most dramatic volcanic vistas located on Big Island (try the most active, highest and largest volcanoes) but the craters are easily accessible (a road runs round the rim of Kilauea). Roads shouldn’t discourage climbers from hitting the trails — 149 miles of paths take the intrepid out to less-visited parts of the park. Check out offerings to Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, en route: gifts from seashells to gin are left to appease her fiery wrath. Plan climbs and keep tabs on lava sightings in the park at www.nps.gov/havo.

6. Crac des Chevaliers, Syria

It’s not particularly tough climbing this 12th-century Crusader castle, but the challenge of ascent isn’t everything, especially once you’re greeted with the view from the parapets. Dubbed the “most wholly admirable castle in the world” by T.E. Lawrence, the fortress stands atop a 2,132-foot outcrop on an historically important through-route to the Mediterranean coast. Crac was defensively sound enough for the Knights Hospitaller to make the castle their Crusade headquarters in 1142, and is famous for its walls never having been breached (despite multiple attempts by the Saracens). Reaching the battlements is easier for visitors today, but the surrounding lush, ancient-monument peppered Orontes Valley has changed little over the centuries. Scale early to avoid tour busloads. Hama is the prettiest base for visiting Crac.

7. Canopy Walkway, near Iquitos, Peru

For a long time, this 1,640-foot walkway, strung between trees in the Peruvian jungle, was difficult to visit, with access largely restricted to researchers. It’s easy to see why they flocked — this is one of the best ways to appreciate jungle bird life on the planet. Now the intrepid traveler, too, can scramble up above the rain forest canopy to be put into prime viewing position for a visual feast of tropical avian activity. Public walkway access is exclusive to guests of Explorama. Their ExplorNapo Lodge is a half hour walk away.

8. Stok Kangri, India

One of the world’s only non-technical climbs in excess of 19,600 feet, the peak of Stok Kangri often yields better views of the Great Himalayas than the Great Himalayas themselves. Allowing for acclimatization, it’s a four- or five-day trek to the summit. This is about as high as non-professional mountaineers get on the planet: a clear day sees exquisite views of K2, with the huge Ladakhi capital of Leh a mere speck on a horizon, hemmed in by the imposing mountains of the Karakoram Range. Pamper yourself after your mountain exertions with a stay at the luxurious Grand Dragon Ladakh.

9. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia

Ever seen Roger Moore’s Bond in A View to a Kill and fancied climbing one of the world’s largest bridges, girders and all? Your best bet lies in Sydney, not San Francisco, where scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge takes you to a dizzying 439 feet above the photogenic harbor. Three types of climbs are offered on the planet’s biggest steel arch bridge; wedding ceremonies have even been conducted on top. Vertigo-sufferers can content themselves with ascending the Pylon Lookout at the southeast end of the bridge: a modest 285 feet, climbed via steps rather than hair-raising catwalks. Bridge-climbing is a popular activity in Sydney these days: visit www.bridgeclimb.com for details. The Pylon Lookout is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m daily.

10. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Not featuring Africa’s highest mountain in a compendium of great climbs, with its bird’s-eye views of the wildlife-studded savannah way below, would be a travesty. At 19,340 feet this clocks in as the highest freestanding mountain in the world, with a stunning variety of routes to the summit. One way up sees you accompanied part-way by a ranger to protect you against Big Game; others take you past Kilimanjaro’s glaciers and have you camping overnight in a volcanic crater. Climb above the Serengeti savannah without donning hiking boots on a safari by balloon.

This story, Ten best things to climb, originally appeared on LonelyPlanet.com.

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© 2011 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Ultra-lightweight camping: Carry less, do more

Whether you’re an experienced camper or are just starting out, you might be weighing yourself down with extra baggage. Instead of carrying a traditional pack that weighs 50 or 60 pounds, ultra-lightweight and super ultra-lightweight campers are carrying packs that weigh under 12 pounds and 5 pounds, respectively. It may seem like very little, but that’s the point.

True ultra-lightweight backpackers share an extreme attention to detail. They choose lithium over alkaline batteries because of the difference in weight. They cut the corners off maps, the handles off toothbrushes, and extra straps off backpacks to shed weight. Every ounce counts when you are going for the lightest pack possible.

Carrying less enables you to go farther since you don’t tire as quickly, and it can be better for your body, too, as Gregg Spoering, who has been camping since he was 11 years old, discovered.

“It has saved my knees. I thought I was going to have to give up backpacking 10 years ago,” he said. “I’m just as comfortable in the woods now than when I carried a ‘traditional’ pack.”

But for the average camper looking to go lighter, there are a few main tips to follow. First, adjust your big three: tent, backpack and sleeping bag. Consider using a tarp to replace your tent. Choose a simpler backpack; extra padding, pockets, and zippers can add up. (If you have less stuff, you probably won’t need a heavy-duty backpack anyway.) Consider spending a little more on a down sleeping bag. They are light and warm.

Second, scrutinize. Think about what you want to bring, then decide what you actually need. Do you need a fresh shirt each day? Can you simplify your first-aid kit based on what you have used in the past? Know how to use what you take. Make cuts like you mean it and be honest about your skill level; let that guide what you bring.

Third, use one item for multiple purposes. Spoering suggests using a bandana as a potholder, headband, towel and even a map, since some are printed with maps of popular hiking areas. There are others: make a beer can cooking pot, fashion a Betty Crocker frosting container into an insulated mug, or use a disposable water bottle instead of a heavy metal one.

If you’ve made all the cuts you can but want to shave off more weight, let’s get technical. The difference between a not-so-heavy tent and an ultra-lightweight tent comes down to materials and design. Brandon Davey, senior designer at NEMO Camping Equipment, explains the evolution of tent frames.

“In the past 20-30 years, everything has gotten lighter through material choices, especially, but also design decisions,” he said. Tent frame designs have evolved from A-frames, to dome tents, to bivy sacks and hammock tents, and new fabrics are always being developed to be more durable, breathable and lightweight, he added. NEMO uses computer-aided design software to find the minimum amount of poles and material they can use to still have a comfortable tent.

“It’s common in the industry to believe that lightweight is synonymous with not as durable, smaller volume for tents, and less features,” Davey said. That’s not necessarily true. However, gear made from ultra-light fabric — fabric that isn’t designed to carry 50 pounds —- does have to be treated more carefully.

So, how much will it cost you?


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At larger companies, ultra-light gear can be more expensive than standard gear. “It’s a case where less is more,” said Davey. NEMO, for example, factors in additional costs for improved materials and extra time spent on the design process. However, gear from smaller companies devoted to ultra-light gear, like Six Moon Designs and Granite Gear, often costs less.

Pride in self-made equipment is sewn into the ultra-lightweight philosophy. Gossamer Gear, a homespun company, began when its founder, Glen Van Peski, wanted a lighter pack, couldn’t find it, and designed it himself. As other people wanted to buy his packs, he enlisted his wife and some neighborhood women to make them. The company grew from there.

This grassroots beginning makes sense when you consider one of the movement’s forerunners, a woman named Grandma Gatewood whose hiking adventures have been mythologized. She is reported to have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 1955 in her 60s, wearing tennis shoes, eating berries along the way and carrying her belongings in an old shower curtain. Whether the details have been embellished or not, her minimalistic approach to hiking embodies the philosophy.

Providing more concrete tips to follow, in 1999 Ray Jardine laid out the details in a book about going ultra-light, “Beyond Backpacking.” It was published during a time when heavy gear provided a sense of security to hikers, if a false one. Although the book has its detractors, the points he makes — about the value of carrying less, much less — have affected many, including Van Peski, who was introduced to the book during his time as a Boy Scout leader. Experience with scouting seems to be a rich breeding ground for the move to ultra-lightweight.

Like Van Peski, long-time hiker Joe Pokorny was “awakened to the light side of things” when he was a Boy Scout leader.

“I quickly realized the beauty of not carrying everything I own. Since then, I have never looked back,” he said.

Pokorny is no purist, carrying a 20-pound pack before consumables, but he does have some good tips for what to eat on the trail.

“Breakfast is always oatmeal with freeze-dried fruits and pre-cooked bacon. Coffee and tea are light to carry and good for the soul,” he said. Try cheese, tuna fish and flat breads for lunch, and freeze-dried tortellini with powdered sauces for dinner. Pokorny even has an evening cocktail recipe: hot tea, powdered Tang, lemon, a cinnamon stick and scotch.

Online:

http://www.backpackinglight.com

http://www.backpacking.net

http://www.lightweightbackpacking101.com/

http://www.sectionhiker.com

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A wild safari adventure — in Ohio

You dine by the light of an outdoor fire, sleep in a yurt and wake up for a safari to see antelope, zebras, rhinos, giraffes and camels.

When your adventure ends, you return to your car for the short trip back to the world outside — in Ohio.

It’s all part of an experience offered at the Wilds, a sprawling wildlife conservation center on nearly 10,000 acres, or about two-thirds the size of Manhattan, about 80 miles east of Columbus.

Two years ago, the Wilds opened Nomad Ridge, an encampment of yurts — circular tents, perched on stilts anchored into the side of a wooded ridge.

The inspiration came from more portable, nomadic dwellings observed by former executive director Evan Blumer and other members of the Wilds’ staff while working on projects in Mongolia.

“It was just an interesting structure that we thought tied a lot to our field work, tied a lot to our programs, fit the landscape, and was something that would be really different for people, particularly in this part of the world,” Blumer said.

The difference is, these yurts, unlike those found in Mongolia, are luxury tents with all the comforts of an upscale hotel room, including running water and electricity.

The Wilds’ nine “woodland yurts” are available for booking throughout the week, May through October, plus one larger “grand yurt” with heat and air conditioning that the others don’t have, allowing it to be used year-round.

An overnight stay is packaged with dinner the night of arrival and breakfast the following morning — meals created by the facility’s professional chef and featuring Ohio game, produce and wines — plus a guided safari around the grounds to see a wide array of animals from either an enclosed bus (the Wilds prefers the term “transport”) or an open-air vehicle. The experience is limited to adults 21 or older.

If you go

  1. THE WILDS: 14000 International Rd., Cumberland, Ohio; http://www.thewilds.org/ or 740-638-5030. Overnight yurt stays for two, $325 plus tax including dinner, breakfast and safari. Prices for daily tours (without the yurt stay) lasting 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours range from $10 to $30. Daily tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays May, September and October, and every day in June, July and August, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (last tour departs at 4 p.m.) New additions in 2011 include horseback riding tours and zip lines.

The evening is relaxing and informal, with guests sipping drinks around a fire and watching from a deck as the sun goes down on bison and deer clustered in the pastures below. At night in the yurt, the canvas outer wall is whipped by winds slapping against the ridge, and in the morning after breakfast, you depart for the safari. The free-roaming exotic animals are observed over the course of a couple of hours.


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The Wilds is a partner with the Columbus Zoo, and conservation of endangered species is part of its mission. Its animals include onagers, endangered horse-like animals native to Iran and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Two onagers were born at the Wilds last summer.

“I felt as if I had traveled a long way and was transported to another place even though it was only 2 1/2 hours from my home on the outskirts of Circleville, Ohio,” said Carolyn Seitz, a former teacher who enjoyed a yurt stay and safari last year with her husband, to celebrate his birthday.

Seitz’s reaction is common, Blumer said.

“We’re not fooling ourselves, you’re not in Africa, you’re not in Asia, but it’s sure a heck of a lot easier, a whole lot faster and doesn’t require a whole bunch of vaccinations,” he said, adding that the experience is “an amazing escape” without having to go too far from home.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top 10 whitewater rafting destinations

If you’re keen to beat the sweltering summer temperatures and embrace adventure you might consider cooling off with a whitewater rafting trip. Online travel adviser Cheapflights offers its top 10 whitewater rafting destinations to experience the thrills and chills of this splashy adventure sport. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Grand Canyon National Park, United States

Sign up for a single- or multi-day excursion on rivers that wind through America’s most astounding natural wonder — the Grand Canyon. Spend hours, days — even weeks — on a professionally guided tour of waterways that range from placid to downright wild. Start at Glen Canyon Dam at the northeast part of the gorge and, from there, let your tour director — or your own paddle, should you choose — be your guide.

2. Ottawa River, Canada

The Ottawa River does a lot more than distinguish the border between Quebec and Ontario. The behemoth waterway is also Canada’s most popular destination for rafting and kayaking. Luke-warm waters attract families and die-hard rafters each summer to steer through a valley thought to be more than 175 million years old. Take the kids for a leisurely paddle, or put on helmets with more competitive friends and race down the wondrous archipelago at top speed.

3. Glacier National Park, United States

Travelers aiming to combine whitewater rafting with other outdoor excursions need look no further than Flathead River in Montana’s Glacier National Park. More than a million acres of preserved ecosystem and 700 milesof walkable trails make this nature lover’s paradise an ideal spot for hiking and, of course, rafting. Pilot your inflatable vessel along the 158 miles of pure, unadulterated water, sourced directly from the Rocky Mountains.

4. Magpie River, Canada

It’ll take you eight days to steer the escalating rapids of Quebec’s Magpie River. Pitch a tent along this scenic stretch of river and savor its splendor, including the northern lights, in between day-long floats. Grade V rapids — the toughest classification recommended to raft — will greet you at the end of your week-long journey at Magpie Falls, a 125-foot vision of cascading water.

5. Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Also known as the Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica’s Pacuare River is a delightful escape with varying degrees of difficulty that last approximately 67 miles. Divided into the Upper Upper, Upper, and Lower sections, the river’s range of difficulty spans from Grade II to V – perfect for novice and veteran rafters alike. Surrounded completely by acres of lush rainforests, sailing down the Pacuare toward the Caribbean may mean introducing yourself to Costa Rica’s wildlife, like monkeys, exotic birds and jaguars.


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6. Futaleufu River, Chile

Arguably the best river in the world for experienced rafters to tackle, Chile’s Futaleufu River offers both spectacular views and intense rapids. The stream, which cascades from lakes in the Los Alerces National Park and the Andes Mountains, is renowned for its deep-blue waters and Grade V drops. Recommended for skilled rafters with years of experience, the Futaleufu serves up long stretches of excitement at a time like the Wild Mile, a series of rapids that’ll keep any athlete on his or her toes — scratch that — seat.

7. Apurimac River, Peru

Earning bragging rights for rafting part of the world’s largest river is reason enough to fly to southern Peru for a rafting trip this year. The Apurimac River sources the Amazon, providing kayakers and whitewater rafters a chance to see South America’s magnificent wilderness up close. Grade IV rapids — and a four-day commitment — attract skilled rafters with an appreciation for camping and the great outdoors.

8. Zambezi River, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Only expert rafters should attempt to tackle the intense swells and challenging rapids that the Zambezi River is so wildly famous for. Separated into the upper and middle Zambezi by Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the river is nearly 1,600 miles of nature at its finest. Look for hippopotamuses and crocodiles along calmer stretches of the river, and brace yourself for massive drops and death-defying rapids along the no-nonsense parts, including the Batoka Gorge.

9. White Nile, Uganda

Maneuvering a boat full of rafters along the Bujagali Falls near the mouth of Lake Victoria is an adventure you’ll never forget. The White Nile, a tributary of the actual Nile River, flows through Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Inexpensive rafting companies have set up shop near the most exciting part of the river in Uganda, combining world-class rafting with an introduction to Africa’s astonishing landscape. Grade V rapids ease into harmonious currents, promising rafters both relaxation and thrills in a single afternoon.

10. North Johnstone River, Australia

The four- or six-day expedition along the North Johnstone River in North Queensland’s World Heritage rainforests is considered one of the best travel adventures in the world. Ride a helicopter to the beginning of your unforgettable journey and wind your way through Grade V rapids and truly amazing scenery. Not for the faint of heart, North Johnstone offers days on end of the most demanding — and rewarding — whitewater rafting out there.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Tent camping banned at 3 Yellowstone sites

Gallatin National Forest managers, on recommendations of grizzly bear experts, have banned tent camping at three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July.


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      AP


      Dedication of King Memorial postponed


      Sunday’s dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been postponed due to the looming threat of Hurricane Irene, organizers announced.


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The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, forest officials said Wednesday.

Following the mauling death of Kevin Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and an attack on two others at the Soda Butte campground last July 28, forest supervisors for the six national forests in the Yellowstone region asked grizzly bear experts to recommend how to manage campgrounds in the area.

The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicle camping at the three campgrounds is in effect this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy, forest spokeswoman Marna Daley said. The experts also will review and make recommendations for other campgrounds in the area.

The forest is allowing hard-sided vehicles made of metal or strong composite plastic to be used at the three campgrounds. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible, but tents and pop-up campers are excluded, as is camping without a shelter.




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Soft-sided and tent camping opportunities will continue in other areas around Cooke City because of a lesser concentration of people and bears in those areas.

The grizzly bear involved in last summer’s mauling was captured and euthanized. Her three cubs were taken to a zoo in Billings, but ZooMontana recent lost its accreditation. The bears have been taken to a facility in Buffalo, N.Y., for up to four months while an enclosure can be built for them at Salt Lake City’s Hogle Zoo.




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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.