Archive for January, 2009

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A little more on kitesurfing…

January 31, 2009

A great kitesurfing video. Amazing what you can get up to! Thanks prayfawind for posting this. Love your pseudonym as well – perfect.

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Kite Surfing in Canada

January 30, 2009

“The potential for kite surfing is mind blowing!”
Don Montague, Naish Sails

Well here we are – back on the subject of kite surfing again. It was kite surfing that originally got us started on this blog. Fast growing and simple to learn, kiting is one of the newest and most rewarding adventure sports out there, but in time the lure of other extreme sports proved too much and we broadened our field somewhat.

however, they still talk of kite surfing being the newest adrenaline sport taking America by storm. Europeans have already been hit hard by the kitesurfing bug. Some say it is the newest water sport of the millenium…

I know, I know – it’s not THAT new. However, it has taken a while to grow in popularity.

“LET’S GO FLY A KITE….” – remember that song? how long is it since you watched Mary Poppins, or did you ever watch Mary Poppins? not that it matters much, it’s just that kites have grown up a bit since those halycon days…

Although it is still mid-winter here, and probably frozen and bitterly cold in Canada – I decided to choose that country, and its wide choice of kitesurfing, kite skiing, kite snowboarding and kite mountainboarding, as my topic on this bright, sunny and crisply cold morning…

Canada has two coasts – the Pacific and the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and  hundreds of  small lakes which makes Canada the perfect year-round kitesurf playground – despite their extremely cold winters. Remember, if you don’t fancy braving the freezing waters, all  you need do is swap your kiteboard for a snowboard or skies – or even blades to make the most of the frozen lakes and huge areas covered in deep winter snow.

Of course, the fact that canadiantourism dropped a broad hint that I should go and have a look at the following video of kitesurfing in New Brunswick, had something to do with this article too!

Shippagan, on the mainland, and Lameque, an island just off the coast in northern New Brunswick is said to be one of the best kitesurfing locations in Canada. The regular wind, the deep-water lagoon, and the warm water of the Baie des Chaleurs give perfect condtions for learners and keen participators of this sport.

From New Brunswick to Newfoundland … why not?  Would you ever have thought of kitesufing in such cold spots? But you can, and you can also discover the freedom of kite-skiing or kite-snowboarding in total synergy with the wind. Deer Lake, however, is a 50km stretch of water that separates the Upper and Lower sections of the Humber River. It offers some great recreational potential and is often used by canoeists, kayakers, boaters, windsurfers and kiters – beware of errant golf balls from the nearby resort though!

Slowly making our way west, we come to Brittania Bay near Ottowa where you can rely on experiencing this region’s strongest winds. They are generally north-west and this allows for some excellent kiting and surfing. In fact, they have perfect conditions for kite boarders and windsurfers who launch from a special 2nd beach at the end of a long rock pier. The waters are quite shallow on either side of the pier, allowing beginners to wade in shallow water.

We shall now take a rather large step across the interior of Canada and come to another halt in the Rocky Mountains – Canmore, Alberta to be exact. this is the home of kiteboarding, kitesurfing, snow kiteboarding, kite skiing and mountainboarding in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They look at the combination of the above sports as a ‘lifestyle’ and are keen that others view them in the same favourable way.

Alberta is perfect for round-the-year kitesurfing. They, too, have  numerous lakes to choose from and lots of windy days during the summer. Kitesurfing in the winter,as you can imagine, is ideal:  miles and miles of snow-covered terrain and if you head up to the ski areas – no need to buy a ski pass.

In my rush across Canada I did rather step over the Saskatchewan. I hope you can picture, in your mind’s eye, the vast acreages that reach out to the horizon in every direction. Now give all this a coat of snow and imagine the fun you can have. And in summer you can exchange your skis or board for all-terrain rollerblades or a mountain board and keep that adrenaline pumping.

There is also Lake Diefenbaker – 125km south of Saskatoon. Lake Diefenbaker is a reservoir shaped like a T with a dam at each end. Water levels change depending on the season and beaches can be big at times making it the perfect place to learn and upgrade your kiteboarding skills. You can come in and land almost anywhere along the 300km shoreline. Diefenbaker is a premiere kiteboarding destination for all levels of kiters and is well worth a trip.

And of course, across on the west coast is British Columbia. Not only do they have the ocean but they also have plenty of inland lakes and reservoirs and, too, the Okanagan valley which is Canada’s California, a beautiful region of fruit trees and lakes. Kitesurfers in BC have a choice of ocean, lake or snow kiting. The world’s their oyster.

Remember that kitesurfing is a unique experience for real adrenaline lovers and people who wish to try something different and exciting!

And just to remind you that this is not a tame sport, watch Sebastien Cattelan break the world speed kitesurfing record on 3rd october 2008, thanks to ikraal for posting it, and congratulations to Sebastien.

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The Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt

January 28, 2009

Yesterday I waxed lyrical about an extreme vacation in southern Peru, and today I’m going to suggest another one – this time in Europe: the Haute Route between France and Switzerland.

The High Level Route was the name given to a route (with several variations) undertaken on foot or by ski touring between Chamonix, France and Zermatt in Switzerland.

First charted as a summer mountaineering route by members of the Alpine Club (UK) in the mid 19th century – 1861 to be exact, the route takes around 12+ days walking (or 6+ days skiing) running the 180 km from the Chamonix valley, home of Mont Blanc to Zermatt, the home of the Matterhorn.

The route was successfully skied for the first time in 1911 and became known by the French translation of its name: the Haute Route.

In this picture you can see two alpinists following the trail in the snow.

The Haute Route ski tour is probably the most famous and coveted ski tour in the world. It is certainly extreme. Using high mountain huts to allow skiers to stay overnight and cover substantial distances, it winds through the highest, most dramatic peaks of the Alps. It requires good weather, favourable snow conditions and strong effort to complete the route. Because of this, only 50% of the skiers who begin the tour complete it.

This famous ski tour justifies its popular reputation on account of the fabulous mountain scenery, the tough climbs, the exhilarating descents and the enormous sense of achievement when arriving in Zermatt.

For an advanced skier it really is a “must do” trip, one that you’ll never forget.

Skiers  must be able to ski in variable snow conditions. You should be able to ski “off piste” in all types of ungroomed snow. Also, for the climbs, skiers should be able to execute uphill kick-turns without difficulty. This is a challenging tour which requires skiers to be in excellent shape not just for the downhill skiing but also for the uphill sections. A basic knowledge of general mountaineering techniques is helpful but not necessary.

Thanks to chamonixguiding for posting this video:

There is occasionally a danger of collapsing glaciers which can render the path virtually impassable. However, if there is a problem, a lower level variation exists that crosses no glaciers.


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Scuba world’s top destination

January 27, 2009

With another dump of the white stuff yesterday the Alpes Maritimes seem to be getting ever closer but today our attention is drawn to the underwater world where once again the island of Bonaire has again been voted the place to go for your scuba diving experience.

 Bonaire has swept a majority of the top honors and continues its domination as the world’s top dive destination. Bonaire received the number one rating in the following categories:

  • top dive destination
  • top marine life
  • top marine environment
  • top macro life
  • top underwater photography
  • top value
  • top shore diving
  • top snorkeling
  • top beginner diving

Scuba Diving magazine’s Readers’ Choice awards are selected by subscribers and web visitors who rate their dive experiences on a five point scale. The results of the 2009 awards will be featured in their January/February 2009 issue.

Bonaire is located eighty-six miles east of Aruba and offers year round sunshine, low annual rainfall, and was designated as having the most pristine coral reef environment and most species of fish in the Caribbean by the NOAA in 2008.

It offers a plethora of diving and snorkeling opportunities in addition to eco adventures, windsurfing, kite boarding, bird watching, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, nature tours, hiking, and deep-sea fishing.

Check out the excellent video from wetlensproductions of not only the incredible underwater world of ski-fi like creations but also the rather cool blowcarting (a subject we will persue) and the graceful flamingoes – what an extreme destination.

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White-water rafting and hiking in the Cotahuasi Canyon

January 27, 2009

Another extreme location, another extreme vacation…

The Cotahuasi Canyon in southern Peru is the deepest canyon in the world – 3501m or 11,488 ft.  It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, but the canyon’s walls are not as vertical as those of the Grand Canyon.

The  Canyon is covered with unexplored Incan and Wari ruins. In antiquity, this canyon was the most direct route from Cusco to the Pacific and was used by the Inca for trade with the coast. There are many Inca and pre-Inca terraces remaining, and still cultivated, along the less precipitous canyon walls.

The Village of Cotahuasi

Over the years the old Inca trails have deteriorated and now the best way to explore the canyon is by rafting down the class 3-5 rapids that separate the ruins – this will take 6 days.

You can drive down to the village of Cotahuasi, an extreme journey in itself with its torturous switchbacks, but, since we are into extreme sports and extreme vacations – we would prefer to hike down – following old Inca trails where possible. It is about a 10-hr hike down to the bottom of the canyon and be prepared for the heat – 40 degrees at the bottom.

Inca Trail to Quechualla

The large network of ancient trails that connect all the villages makes a wide variety of day hikes or multi day loop hikes possible, depending on your interests and style of adventure. There are challenging climbs up steep ridges, craters and 16,000 to 17,000 ft peaks. And then of course, there’s the opportunity of white-water rafting.

Very little was known about this area and even less about the canyon until a kayak/raft expedition first ran it in 1994. It is considered one of the most dangerous rivers in the world with its combination of icy cold waters and Class 5 rapids.

Very few people have rapided this river, which makes it that much more of an extreme vacation and an extreme challenge. The river flows from 12,000 ft in the Andes, West to the Pacific Ocean. The Canyon was the only link between Cusco, the ancient Inca capital, and the Pacific Ocean.

The adrenaline rush experienced during a 6-day Class IV-V white water rafting trip on the rapids of the Cotahuasi River will be an experience indeed – a non-stop, heart pounding descent, through 80 miles of continuous class 4 technical whitewater. The class 5’s are scouted before running them and some are walked around.

An added bonus is that the canyon is a place of great natural beauty. As stated above, it is the deepest canyon in the world and yet, just 24kms (15 miles) to the southeast, the Nevado Ampato, a snow-capped extinct volcano, rises to 6,288m (20,630 ft). It is also home to the endangered Andean Condor.

This challenging expedition encompasses real adventure with the natural wonders and fascinating ancient history of the region. If I have given you any ideas for an extreme vacation – bon voyage!

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Ski Jump extreme rebuilt in New Hampshire

January 26, 2009

Our attention was grabbed this morning by news that the ski jump at Brattleboro, Vermont, New Hampshire has been restored to its former glory.

For decades, ski jumpers from around the world launched themselves off the ski jump at Brattleboro’s Harris Hill. The 90-meter wooden jump built by Fred Harris in 1922 was an extreme sports mecca before there was such a thing as extreme sports, but it was deemed unsafe in 2005.

Since then, the community has pitched in to regrade the hill, erect new steel towers and spectator steps and put up a new inrun for skiers to speed down before taking off.

As ski jumping is an extreme that we have rarely covered in the XtremeSport4u blog we thought it might interest our readers to learn a little more about this sport – as ever we are indebted to Wikipedia who have kindly provided some information.

Ski jumping originates from Norway when a soldier launched himself 9.5 metres in the air in front of an audience in 1809. By 1862, ski jumpers were tackling much larger jumps and travelling longer. The first proper competition was held in Trysil in 1862.

Today world ski jump competitions are held on one of three types of hill:

Normal hill competitions
for which the calculation line is found at approximately 80–100 metres (260–330 ft). Distances of up to and over 110 metres (360 ft) can be reached.
Large hill competitions
for which the calculation line is found at approximately 120–130 metres (390–430 ft). Distances of over 145 metres (480 ft) can be obtained on the larger hills. Both individual and team competitions are run on these hills.
Ski-flying competitions
for which the calculation line is found at 185 metres (610 ft). The Ski Flying World Record of 239 metres (780 ft) is held by Bjørn Einar Romøren, and was set in Planica, Slovenia in March 2005.

We can only hope that with the restoration of the ski jump at Brattleboro that U.S. ski jumpers will start to challenge for medals in a sport that has always seemed to be the preserve of Scandinavian and Central European athletes with the only exception to this group of countries being Japan.  

The video below from RafalStrek shows six of the biggest ever ski jumps in history with individuals flying through the air for up to 150 metres – awesome, inspiring and frightening but deserving so much respect.

And if you ever wondered why this sport is so extreme take a look at Bjorn Einar Ramoren crashing in competition last year – with thanks to TheFinnKingVIII for the video. Thankfully Bjorn was able to walk away from the incident but it does show that you have to be a certain kind of person to launch yourself into the air – good luck et bon courage to those Vermonters brave enough to let go!

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Please heed the warnings if you are planning on climbing in Scotland over the next few days.

January 26, 2009

Buachaille Etive Mor, near Glencoe in Scotland, was the scene of a  triple tragedy on Saturday. Three other triple fatalities have happened in the area in the past 15 years.

Avalanche tragedy

9 people in total, in at last 2 separate parties,  were caught up in the avalanche in the Scottish highlands.

Buchaile Etive Mor is known for its distinctive shape, which looks like a pyramid. The mountain’s highest point is at 3,352 feet (approx. 1.020m).

Mountains of Glencoe Scotland

The route the  climbers took yesterday is a popular walk in the summer for amateur hill walkers but in winter it is more difficult to ascend and is normally only tackled by experienced climbers.

The 3 climbers who died,  brothers Eamonn Murphy, 61, from Carrick­fergus, Co Antrim, and John Murphy, 63, from Portrush, Co Antrim, and Brian Murray, 46, from Monifieth, Tayside, were experienced climbers who were taking the “easy” way up Coire na Tulaich, a gully about 10 metres wide by 20 metres deep, when the avalanche struck at about midday on Saturday. The snow could have been moving at up to 75mph. They, along with 6 others, were engulfed by thousands of tonnes of snow.

Experts said last night that although the climbers had not been reckless, the deaths were a reminder of the dangers of the mountain. Hamish MacInnes, 78, a founder of the Avalanche Board, which assesses the risks of avalanches in Scotland, said: “There are a lot of avalanches on this particular mountain.”

“It’s a miracle we survived. We have never experienced anything like this in all our climbs on the mountains”, said Jim Coyne, who, along with his friend, David Barr were climbing together when the avalanche swept down the mountain. David was taken to hospital with a shoulder injury.

Police warned people to keep off the mountain amid fears of more avalanches. The avalanche risk at the time was “considerable”, a category 3 out of 5, according to Scotland’s official Avalanche Information Service. It rose to 4 today.

The mountains of Glencoe are built from some of the oldest sedimentary and volcanic strata in the world. They were subsequently moulded, sheared and repositioned by a geological event known as a ‘cauldron subsidence’ which took place 380 million years ago. The mountains which first greet the visitor arriving from the south are the strikingly beautiful and instantly recognisable peaks of the Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, – ‘The great’ and ‘The little’ Shepherds of Etive.

Glen Coe is a very popular tourist destination; partly because of its scenic qualities and historical associations, partly because it is on the main road north, and also because of its attraction for walkers and climbers. It is famous for the quality, and variety of its winter climbing, most of its routes being comparatively easy of access from the main road.

Rock climbers concentrate on the Buachaille Etive Mor (1018 m), often called simply “The Beuckle”, and on the various routes on the Three Sisters (shoulders of Bidean nam Bian). For adventurous experienced walkers, the finest mainland scramble in the UK is the  Aonach Eagach.

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of everyone affected by this tragedy.