30 December 2010

29 December 2010

25 December 2010


Vertical Panorama of the moon, sunset, and a massive glacier.
Mt. Tranador, Argentina. January 2010.

24 December 2010

23 December 2010


Continental Ice Shelf, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile. 

20 December 2010

17 December 2010

Icicles and the Andes

One last adventure in the Andes with our friend Carlos, near Santiago, Chile. June 2010.

16 December 2010

Siberian Cities

Overlooking an old wooden church in Tomsk
In September, we traveled from Lake Baikal to Moscow on the TranSiberian Railroad, with a detour to the Altai Mountains. Here are my impressions of the Siberian cities that we explored on our journey:

14 December 2010

New Publication in Backpacking Light Magazine

News of the Day:

Kristin and I are very excited to announce our second publication in Backpacking Light Magazine. It is such an honor for us. The article, Valley Hopping in the Cordillera Huayhuash, details an arduous seven-day high-altitude trek in Northern Peru that we accomplished in May 2010. We have several articles in the pipeline to be published by Backpacking Light Magazine this year. If you want to read our articles, you will save money with the year subscription, over the pay-per-article basis.

On other news, I'll continue publishing the Year In Review Daily Photo, as well as back-blogging from our last adventures in Russia (Siberian Cities, Altai Mountains, Moscow), Istanbul, and about our current break in Bulgaria. 

Lastly, it is snowing today and it feels like Christmas!! Next Monday, we are renting a car for 2-3 weeks to drive around Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Our friend Beth, from the States, is joining us for this road trip. 

We're still hanging out in the empty, remote village of Kosharitsa in Bulgaria. We are 7km from the Black Sea, and near the UNESCO World Heritage City of Nesebar. Keep checking back with me for more stories and photos of our three months in Bulgaria. 

The Mighty Altai

Altai Mountains, Russia.  October 2010.

11 December 2010

Three Lives

I stood still while Kristin kept hiking. I stitched together these shots afterwards to make one huge photo with three Kristins. Thanks Todd for the help!
Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru. May 2010.

Tatoo Photo Competition

I entered a few photo competitions in the last month. One of them is being hosted by Tatoo, a South American outdoor gear company.  One of my photos is published on their gallery page. I haven't won anything, but it's kinda neat seeing the photo up there.

To see the photo, go to their competition gallery, then scroll down to "FOTO 45" in the Trekking category.  It is a self-timed picture that I took at sunrise of Fitz Roy, in Los Glaciares National Park.

06 December 2010

Lake Baikal

The list of superlatives for Lake Baikal is as long as the lake itself, (636km). Baikal is the deepest, oldest and second largest lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's fresh water and is home to nearly 1200 endemic organisms, including the world's only freshwater seal, the Nerpa.

Do all of these unique qualities make Lake Baikal one of the world's best hiking places?

04 December 2010

02 December 2010

Walking Home

Passing through a village at the end of a hike near Huaraz.
Cordillera Blanca, Peru. May 2010.

01 December 2010

Running to the Sun

Still catching my breath from this run.
Kosharitsa, Bulgaria. November 2010

I will publish a new photo every day for the month of December, to celebrate this year of traveling around the world.

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30 November 2010

Olympic Corruption

Where do you think the most expensive road in the world is located? And how much did it cost to build, per kilometer?

Would you believe that Russia has spent $145 million per kilometer to build a road from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana? That is $145,000 per meter. So, you could buy a house in California or a few meters of asphalt. How is that even possible?

29 November 2010

The Fish Spa

On a hike in Rio de Janeiro last February, we happened upon a pond with these tiny fish that nibbled at our feet. It tickled and was an odd sight. Later that day, we researched the fish online and discovered that they were feasting on our dead skin. Yummy.

27 November 2010

Two Movies of Elbrus

To watch these in HD, or to see other videos from our journey, please visit my YouTube site.

To see all of our photos from the Caucasus Mountains, check out my Picasa Photos.

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6 Months Ago: Machu Pichu, Peru

25 November 2010

Where Were We . . .

One year ago, Kristin and I were in Los Glaciares National Park. The park is world renown for the impending spires of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

We camped in the park for nine glorious days. We resupplied our food and fuel in the town of El Chalten, only an hour's hike from our basecamp.

I distinctly remember hiking out on Thanksgiving Day last year so that we could email our family. We played Rummikub while warming up inside a friendly restaurant. Kristin and I shared a large pizza and a glass of Malbec. The weather during the prior week had been sunny but extremely windy and cold. We were very grateful for the cozy respite.

I'm thankful for our current comfortable and warm living situation in Bulgaria. (Thanks Mark and Marie for making this possible!)

However, it's not as scenic here as where we were last year. So I've included a few photos from Los Glaciares. These were taken just prior to when we hiked back to town for Thanksgiving.

I do look back at the photos with awe. I can't believe we were there!

Wishing I could fly.

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6 Months Ago: Cusco, Peru

Thanksgiving Again

As Kristin and I enjoy our Thanksgiving together in Bulgaria, we are thinking of you - our friends and family throughout the world.

If there is one thing I am most thankful for, it is all that I have learned from Kristin this year. An important lesson she taught me was that all relationships take time and energy, regardless of how strong the bond. Relationships don't maintain themselves.

So, tonight I will raise my wine glass to my wonderful wife and to my renewed relationship with an old best friend.

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6 Months Ago: Cusco, Peru

23 November 2010

Our Russian Holiday in Sochi

(This is a recap of our travels in Russia from early September)

After our two "exciting" backpacking trips in the Caucasus Mountains (see posts 1 and 2), we knew that it was time to hit the road again. Or tracks, as is often the case in Russia. Train tracks.

Our overnight train from Mineral Waters to Sochi was not the most pleasant - we took the platz kart wagon, which was the cheapest and most crowded. Our bunk beds were next to the door that led to the bathroom and the smoking room. Perfect.

17 November 2010

Small Pleasures in Big Mountains

Enjoy this selection of miniature natural wonders from our treks in the Caucasus Mountains, Southern Russia.

10 November 2010

Elbrus - Tallest Mountain in Europe

High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of EverestThe most famous story in Everest history should be the first ascent, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

You may be more familiar, though, with the events of May 1996. That was when a storm came down on several climbing teams, stranding them in a whiteout that left 8 dead. It was easily the worst day on Everest. You have likely heard about this fatal day because of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
In this book, Krakeuar describes the lead guide of another company as reckless for not using bottled oxygen, among other things. That lead guide, however, was the only person to go back into the storm, rescuing two climbers, and led the only commercial group that didn't lose any clients. 

The ClimbThat lead guide was Anatoli Boukreev. He wrote The Climb in response to Krakauer's version of the Everest tragedy. Prior to that Everest season, Boukreev had already established himself as the most accomplished Russian mountaineer. He won Soviet climbing competitions on Mt. Elbrus by running up the solid snow in sprinting cleats. You know, those thin little shoes that have small spikes on the sole and are designed for track sprinting events? Most climbers would be in waterproof, double-insulated boots with a steel shank in the sole. Boukreev redefined hard-core.
I have been dreaming about Elbrus ever since I read that book in college.

And now I can finally say "Here I am."

08 November 2010

Backpacking and Bribes

(This is a recap of our travel in Russia in late August)

Our first trip in to the Caucasus Mountains was a mild hike over Epchik pass. We could have done this in two days, but the transportation alone took 4 hours each way. We turned it into a three-day trek and enjoyed the down time.

Now, it seems like I am getting into the habit of starting a blog by writing a horror story from our travels in Russia. I wish I could tell you that this blog will be different, but it's not. This trip had three exciting stories.

04 November 2010

(Don't Drink the) Mineral Waters

(This is a recap of our travels in Russia, dated August 19)

Our arrival in Mineral Waters remains to be the beginning of one of the worst travel experiences I have suffered anywhere in the world. And this was just a forewarning of a few more unpleasant situations in our near future.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I can do this story justice . . .

After spending the night in the Moscow Airport during our layover between Murmansk and Mineral Waters, we finally arrived at our terminus on a beautiful sunny morning. We took three steps into the airport and a police officer pulled us over and demanded to see our passports.

02 November 2010


(Recap from Russia #3 - August 17)
After recovering from our debacle in the Khibini Mountains, we walked several blocks to Lenin Square to meet our bus. We arrived at 10:20 and our bus was supposed to swing by at 10:30. Of course this didn't happen, so Kristin waited there while I ran to the ticket agent a few blocks away.

In the usual soviet attitude, the ticket agent told me that the bus left at 9:30. Russia has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. It runs deep and 20 years of capitalism have not changed much. Anyways, the lady said I would have to pay more to get the 5:30pm bus. I asked about a train, and she said it left at 11:05 but she couldn't sell us tickets and we couldn't get to the station in time anyways.   

29 October 2010

Backpacking in the Arctic

(Recap from Russia #2 - August 14)
 6:05am and we're standing in the empty parking lot in front of the train station. We are 4km outside of the city of Apatity. Even though it was summer, we had moved so far north that the temps still dropped below freezing at night. We donned our down jackets as we scurried along, trying to figure out how to get into town. We found the proper bus and paid our 40 rubles each (about $1.35, which seemed high) and rode. And rode. And rode. 

We were tired and cold and kept riding straight through town, eventually traveling down an empty road out of town. I looked around the bus and realized that there were only middle-aged women on the bus. Peering outside the smudged windows, I could make out a few stack pipes. A factory! We had missed our stop and were joining these fine ladies on their morning commute to work. 

I hustled up to the bus driver and asked him to stop. Right there, on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Perfect. 

Well, at least we could still see the town. We walked all the way back and  in doing so, slowly warmed up. We also enjoyed a very peaceful sunrise over the forest, a pleasant buffer between the city and the factory.

<=This is the only Stalin statue that we found in Russia. It was in front of a school,  decidedly unkempt and hidden by trees. Lenin, on the other hand, is still everywhere. I say with absolute certainty from having visited every corner of Russia: in every city the main street is Lenin St. and the central plaza is Lenin Square, which inevitably features a large Lenin statue. Talk about cult of personality!

Apatity is a pretty boring town and we only stopped there to catch another bus, one that would take us to the smaller city of Kirovsk. Kirovsk had the only tourist center that we found in Russia, outside of St. Petersburg, though we didn't know it at the time. We made friends with the guy who worked there, and he helped us rent an apartment for the night. 
One of the "highlights" of Kirovsk according to our tourist map. The area is known for mining and skiing.

We wanted to go hiking in the nearby Khibini Mountains and so we spent much of the day in preparation. Little did we know, that the two nearby shopping markets would have the best chocolate selection anywhere in Russia and the best Napolean Cake. I kid you not. This was our lifeline to sanity and happiness, and we struck gold on our first try?!? Kristin and I must have investigated more than 300 super markets in all parts of Russia. Even in Moscow and Petersburg we did not find a selection as spectacular. 

It was a blessing and a curse. We had a few really great days of cake and chocolate. But then it kind of ruined the rest of our two months in Russia because never again were things this good. How were we to know?

(From Kirosvk - factories, lake, and the mountains in which we would later backpack. In Russia, there is a vast amount of wilderness but also an utter lack of environmental concern. Industrial pollution is the worst I have seen in the world, with the possible exception of China.)

Our hiking in the Khibini mountains was, well, challenging. This easily became our theme for our travels in Russia. We found a good map, which turned out to be the exception in Russia. We took a bus out of town to a run down sanatorium, from where we began our walk on the gravel road. Families passed by in their tiny Soviet-made Ladas, with trunks crammed full of buckets of wild berries, apples, and potatoes. 

After literally walking around an open-pit gravel mine, we entered "wilderness." For the next three days we only saw one set of campers, but we came across several remnants of soviet industrial exploration. We also learned that Arctic weather is brutal. The creeks dried up at times. There was almost no vegetation. And trails, well, lets just say we had to use our imagination. 

We returned on day three after our tarptent became a pancake, with two trekking poles poking through the roof fabric. I had done my best to make sure the tent was bomb proof, but the wind shifted and the broad side of our tent acted more like a kite. It was a really, really horrible start to the morning. Piercing rain and sleet, inconsistent but strong winds, no time to make breakfast, and we were walking into the wind and storm.

The rain stopped and we warmed a bit, but the sun never came out. We walked back down the lonely gravel road, took the bus to town, took another bus back to Apatity, and spent two days there. We rented an apartment (500 rubles, or $17) and ate a lot of cake and wrote a few emails and caught up on sleep. Next stop? Murmansk, the largest city in the Arctic. 

Walking past the Sanatorium as we stared the "hike." It appeared to still be operational, but maybe people come here in the winter for skiing?

Perhaps the only flat spot in the valley.

I *think* this is the trail.

On top of the mountain plateau.

Near the summit. Not sure what the Russians were trying to do here.

The clouds provided us with constant excitement.

The only form of life that we found on our trek.

Good morning world! Kristin likened this place to Mars.

Now let's go home.

So we can have our cake and eat it too.