Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Good and The Bad News for Everest Climbers

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Mt. Everest will soon become more accessible to adventurers with the construction of a 65-mile highway linking the village of Jiri to Lukla—considered the gateway to Mt. Everest. Despite the good news, however, the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, continues to suffer the side effects of climate change.

And, as Kathmandu is the nation’s production and consumption center, any climate-related hazards impacting daily life there will have a spillover effect on the rest of this poor Himalayan nation.
Nepal’s glaciers have lost about a third of their ice reserves since 1977, according to Bloomberg News. The ice melt is having a serious impact on the weather, as glaciers impact climate dynamics such as the high-altitude jet streams that can bring monsoons or prolong droughts.

“It’s affecting daily life,” said Ram Sharan Mahat, Nepal’s finance minister, who projects just a one-half percent economic growth this year due to the effect on crops from erratic monsoons. “I’m sure that’s largely attributable to climate change,” he said.

Aside from the instability of the weather and its effect on the nation’s economic health, Kathmandu is plagued by smog that obscures the distant snow-capped Himalayas, the main attraction for adventure travel to Nepal.

Unfortunately, Nepal lacks the resources to do much about climate change. It is the second poorest country in Asia after Afghanistan, according to World Bank figures, and it lacks the network to forecast complex changes in rainfall, snow and temperatures linked to ice melting.

The U.S. Department of Defense states that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that escalates the risk of internal conflicts and uprisings. This has become a concern for government officials in the U.S. and Nepal, which suffered a decade-long Maoist uprising that ended in 2006. Yet, conflict could easily resurface as the glaciers continue to melt, causing a shortage of water that could threaten the ability to feed the nation’s 70 million people.

Meanwhile, the government’s plan to build the highway from Jiri to Lukla could cut out as much as four days’ walk for trekkers and mountaineers, or allow them to avoid taking a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.

“Tourism will increase enormously once the new road is built,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Webster Groves Man Certified as Oldest to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro


Bob Wheeler, right, and his son, Jack Wheeler, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Bob Wheeler, right, and his son, Jack Wheeler, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

WEBSTER GROVES, MO (KTVI) – The Guinness Book of World Records certified an 85-year-old Webster Groves man as the oldest person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.

Bob Wheeler reached the top of the 19,340-foot mountain on October 2, 2014, along with his son, Jack. Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, is the highest peak on the African continent and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. It took him five days to make the trek, according to the Guinness World Records website.

Wheeler has also climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan and Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. He published a book on mountain climbing in 2010.
Wheeler is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

8 Travel Memoirs that will Inspire You to See the World in 2015


It’s a new year, and that means it’s time to find new travel inspiration. With topics varying from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to volunteering around the world to back-alley Vietnamese adventures, we found eight travel memoirs coming out this year you won’t want to miss.

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley – February 8, 2015

displacement
Lucy Knisley is a graphic memoirist and travelogue cartoonist with all the witty charm of a modern, twentysomething woman. In this story, Knisley paints the adventures of her volunteer travels aboard a cruise ship to watch over her ailing grandparents.

Wide Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family’s Lives Forever by John Marshall – February 10, 2015

wide open world
John Marshall, a middle-aged man in a deteriorating twenty-year marriage and father to two teenagers lost in their own worlds, decided to take his family on a trip around the world to reconnect again. To keep the trip affordable, they decided to volunteer their way around the globe, and the experience made their travels more meaningful than Marshall could have imagined.

Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday – March 17, 2015

eating viet nam
Graham Holliday, an English journalist and blogger, was so inspired from a single picture of Hanoi that he decided to pack up and move halfway across the globe to live the life contained in that picture. In this book, Holliday takes the reader on a journey through the mouthwatering back alleys of Hanoi and Saigon, where he finds a bit of love as well.

Life is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America by Bruce Weber – March 17, 2015

life is a wheel
Bruce Weber is an obituary writer for the The New York Times who, at 57, decided to take a lone cross-country bicycle ride from the Oregon coast to New York City’s George Washington Bridge. His mid-life-crisis-inspired travelogue and memoir chronicles his meditations and reservations, as well as all of the adventures and people he met along his 90-day, 4,122 mile journey.

Around the Country in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth by Albert Podell – March 24, 2015

around the world in 50 years
Albert Podell is a record-setting traveler; he recently became the first American to visit every single country in the world and has also set the record for completing the longest automobile journey of all time. In this memoir, Podell recounts his most memorable travels, such as those during riots, revolutions, civil wars, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, animal attacks, child soldier encounters, and, of course, those with beautiful women.

Gorge: My 300-Pound Journey Up Kilimanjaro by Kara Richardson Whitely – April 7, 2015

gorge
In this memoir, Kara Richardson Whitely recounts her third journey up the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro—at 300 pounds. Richardson Whitley openly describes her struggles with food addiction, something she refuses to let stop her from reaching the top of the highest freestanding mountain in the world. She had successfully reached the top on her first try years prior, but after a failed second attempt, she gained up to 360 pounds and became discouraged from trying again. This inspiring story details the way she decided that the only way out of her rut was to stop waiting for her weight to drop and just climb the summit once again.

Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City by Elizabeth Helman Minchilli – April 7, 2015

eating rome
Based on her blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, this memoir allows readers to follow Minchilli on her stroll through the city’s monuments to discover Italy’s food culture. She not only describes the best places to go to, she explains why Italians love them. This book is filled with detailed descriptions of the best trattorias, cafes, pizzerias, and gelaterias of Rome, and also mouthwatering recipes you can try at home.

My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts – May 12, 2015

my paris dream
Renowned fashion journalist, and one of the youngest people to ever serve as the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Kate Betts is a woman well-versed in all things style. My Paris Dream is an insightful memoir about the trials and tribulations of advancing her high-profile career in Paris as well as her thoughts on what great style means in the City of Light.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

GU-Q Student Becomes FIrst Qatari Woman to Summit Mt. Kilimanjaro


GU-Q student becomes first Qatari woman to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro 

Dana al- Anzy, a Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) student has become the first Qatari woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the world’s tallest free standing mountain.

The Culture and Politics sophomore was part of a 12-person team of young Qataris and expats, including 3 guides, working to raise money for the “Elevate to Educate” expedition to build and renovate schools in Gaza through Reach out to Asia (Rota). The team was organised by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al- Thani, who last year became the first Qatari to climb Mount Everest.
“Dana's climb demonstrates one of Georgetown's core values: "women and men for others". Her selfless climb to raise funds for Rota's Elevate to Educate exemplifies commitment to improving our shared world. The entire GU-Q community is proud of Dana’s achievement, and we look forward to continued leadership from her in the years ahead,” said the dean of GU-Q, Dr. Gerd Nonneman.
When she joined the team, she was asked to commit to raising a minimum of QR 50,000. Instead, Dana raised over QR 200,000. “It was a competition between the climbers to see who would raise the highest amount of donations for our cause. My personal target was 200K, but I had no clue how I was going to raise it. In the end, I passed that goal, so the lesson I learned was really to set your goals high even if they seem unachievable,” explained Dana.

From her university, Dana cites Dr. Christine Schiwietz, assistant dean for Academic Affairs, for her empowering support. “I took her class on gender roles, and when I wanted to back out of the climb, she pushed me to stay, and to take on the challenge,” said Dana. More support came from Heather Kerst, assistant dean for Academic Affairs, Uday Rosario, assistant director Student Activities, and other staff members who helped with funding ideas, social media awareness, and encouragement.
The Georgetown student decided to approach local schools for the bulk of her fundraising. “I went to schools in Doha, I knew capacity was there. Youth are passionate about the cause, and I reached out to them. I told each school that I would carry their flag to the summit, and they were in.”
But fundraising wasn’t the only thing she had to do to prepare for the climb. “I joined a gym 2 months before our trip. We also practised in the fire exit of the Torch building in Aspire, which has 51 floors and over 1000 steps. Plus, the fire exit has low levels of oxygen which was good preparation for the climb.”

Despite her physical preparations, Dana’s climb was not free from challenges. “I twisted my wrist on the second day, endured knee pain, and had breathing problems that led to fainting requiring oxygenation at 4600 metres elevation.” said Dana.
For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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Monday, December 1, 2014

Would You Ride A Hot Air Balloon Over Mt. Everest?

A Hot-Air Balloon Ride Over Mt. Everest Will Cost You $2.6 Million

Seriously?! A Hot-Air Balloon Ride Over Mt. Everest Will Cost You $2.6 Million
The Everest balloon ride would cost two people $5.215 million. (Courtesy: IfOnly)
Is the garden-variety hot-air balloon ride not an exciting enough date for you? Got a few million dollars stashed under your mattress? If so, one man is offering the adventure of a lifetime – possibly a short lifetime.

Chris Dewhirst, the man who in 1991 completed the first hot-air balloon ride over Mount Everest is looking for two passengers for his second attempt: it costs over $2.6 million per person. And lest you get cold feet, the trip is non-refundable, with no guarantee of a successful crossing.

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Pilot Chris Dewhirst, who was aboard the first successful balloon ride over Everest. (Courtesy: IfOnly)

Looking down on the frosty peaks of the world’s highest mountain from over 30,000 feet is bound to be worth the price for someone – people are paying $250,000 a head just for the possibility of flying into space with Virgin Galactic. The expedition is being advertised on the luxury site, IfOnly and boasts, “This is not only a remarkable endeavor, it is also an invitation to join one of the most elite fraternities on Earth.”

This isn’t just a joyride, though. Passengers will need to prove they’re physically able to make the crossing, and they’ll need to commit to up to a month of training. No surprise, there’s a detailed liability waiver you’ll need to sign as well.

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The original Everest flight.(Courtesy: IfOnly)
The objective is to spend up to several weeks in Nepal, waiting for the right conditions to go airborne for a daylong flight. Himalayan weather is notoriously fickle, and climbing Everest is a dangerous endeavor, and over a dozen climbers were killed in one accident there earlier this year.

Says the ad, “While Chris will make completing the journey a priority, safety is of course the top concern.  If the weather is uncooperative at the time of the attempt, Chris will make every effort to reschedule though this may come at additional expense.”




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Monday, October 20, 2014

World Record Climb Up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Webster resident Robert J. Wheeler becomes oldest person to reach mountain's summit




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Robert J. Wheeler and his son Jack at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. photo courtesy of Robert Wheeler (click for larger version)

What do octogenarians do to keep in shape? Swim? Run marathons? Not Webster Groves resident Robert J. Wheeler. He climbs mountains.

Wheeler, 85, recently returned from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19,340, and will soon be listed in the Guinness World Records as the oldest person to reach the summit.

Enjoying a well-earned rest in his Webster Groves century home, Wheeler, who returned Oct. 7, said he wanted to "demonstrate to people that they don't have to become couch potatoes just because they're old."

Wheeler gave two reasons for doing this particular climb.

In 2010, he published a book, "Mountains and Minds," that alternates chapters with mountain climbing stories and his work in psychology.

"It has to do with why people do ridiculous things like climb mountains," he said. "I'm preparing a second edition and added chapters so I had to have another mountain climbing story, and that's how I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. That was the first reason.

"The second is that I wanted to demonstrate that elderly, frail old people like me can get to the top of something like Kilimanjaro," he said. "I'm not a special person and I don't have athletic abilities."

Because of osteoarthritis, Wheeler has had both knees and shoulders replaced.

"I'm working on a new set of joints," he said. "My last knee replacement was in January, so I think it's interesting that in nine months, a frail old man can climb to the top of Kilimanjaro."



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Robert Wheeler in his Webster Groves home following his trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
Kilimanjaro was not Wheeler's first climb.

Some of his climbing experiences include Mt. Fuji in Japan; Mt. Aconcagua, which is the highest peak in South America; Heipori Mount in Tibet; and Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, in California. His son, Jack, who lives in Philadelphia, has accompanied his father on these climbs.

"Dad admitted to me that he had his last hurrah on Kilimanjaro," his son said. "He wants to concentrate on his book now. I'm just glad I was able to join him on his last mountain. Not many get to share those experiences with their dad."

Wheeler learned his mountaineering skills while he was an Army Ranger, or "a gung-ho young soldier" as he described it.

When he was in Japan, he and a companion decided to climb Mt. Fuji.

"Everyone said not to do it because it was November and the weather was bad," he said. "We did it anyway, and as we got toward the top, we started suffering from hypoxia because we weren't acclimated to high altitudes, then we started suffering from hypothermia because it was so cold. We couldn't move fast enough to keep our body temperature up."

They ended that attempt, but Wheeler and his son returned in July 2008 to conquer the 22,398-foot peak.

Wheeler prepared for his Mt. Kilimanjaro climb by strapping on his 10-pound pack and hiking the Chubb Trail in Tyson Park.

The climb uo Mt. Kilimanjaro took seven days – five days going up and two days coming down. Each day they covered 3,000 feet. Normal mountaineering is 1,000 feet.

"The first two days we hiked in a rain forest," he said. "On the way up, we stayed two days in camp at different points to get acclimated to the altitude. After the third day, it was pretty steep. The tradition is to climb to the summit at night to arrive at sunrise, then start down."



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Base camp at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Webster Groves resident Robert J. Wheeler achieved a world record climb accompanied by his son. photo courtesy of Robert J. Wheeler (click for larger version)
One would think climbing at night would be a bit dangerous.

"Frequently people get discouraged when they look up and see where they have to go, so it's more comfortable for them to climb if they can't see it," Wheeler explained. "Also, the precipice dropping off the mountain gets scary when you can look down. I personally think that's kind of silly!"

The climb was "arduous" he said. "My lungs were hurting, my legs were sore, my back was hurting, but as long as I could get one foot in front of the other, I went on. It was probably nice to be at night so I could concentrate on walking and not look at the scenery."

After reaching the summit, he said he was "so cold and so tired and hurting, all I could think about was 'Let's get down.'"

For the Guinness record, he had to get two independent witnesses and pictures, and that took some time.

The trek down, he said, was terrible because of the fast pace and having to step around the rocks.

When he is not climbing mountains, Wheeler is a research psychologist at St. Louis University, where he is interested in personality characteristics that contribute to health, well-being and performance.

Now, having conquered the formidable task of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, he will devote his time to writing the second edition of his book detailing his experience and telling oldsters that age should not make a difference in the level of activity.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quadruplets to Climb Kilimanjaro


'I'm incredibly proud' says father of Wembley quadruplets set to climb Kilimanjaro for disabled children charity

Bindya, Vanisha, Urvashi and Vinay, all 17, are setting off for Africa this month and have already raised thousands of pounds.


The four 17-year-old Wembley-based Varsanis who are quadruplets about to climb Kilimanjaro.
Quadruplets are to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a disabled children’s charity.
The four 17-year-old Wembley -based Varsani’s, named Bindya, Vanisha, Urvashi and Vinay set off for Africa on August 22.

To date, they have raised £2,108 for Friends of Kera, a charity which works to help disadvantaged and disabled children in providing them with wheel chairs, hearing aids, braille and organises events to raise awareness of their needs.

Their father and IT technician Jay said: “I am incredibly proud of them.

“At their age, to go to Africa and climb Kilimanjaro, it is a big challenge.
Big challenge: Mount Kilimanjaro
 “They are not usually all very active, but they have been training hard, running up Harrow on the Hill, so they are becoming well prepared.

“They have been doing running and walking together each day to get ready.

“I am very excited for them, but I think my wife is a bit nervous.
 
“This is not typical of them to do this sort of thing, it really is a first so it will be tough.”

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, coming in at 5,895 metres tall, and the children’s preparation comes while also revising hard for their A-level exams.

Each of the children attend Preston Manor School, in Carlton Avenue, Wembley apart from Vanisha, who attend Harrow College, in Brookshill, Harrow Weald.

While climbing the mountain is not easy for anyone, there is a 97 per cent success rate, with most people reaching their target after six days of travelling 1,500 meters daily depending on which route is taken, all while acclimatising to the altitude.

“It is very nice because they usually do their own thing,” Mr Varsani added, “but for them to do this together will be a great memory.

“They are doing it with a small group who they did not know before, but they have since become good friends.”

Jay and his wife Jaya will be left with their only other child, the 9-year-old Kareena, as the foursome journey up the mountain over the court of nine days before returning home.

The children are close to their fundraising target of £3,000 before the depart.

You can support them and donate to the charity by visiting http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/varsaniquads.

For more information about Friends of Kera , visit www.friendsofkera.com.


For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
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