Posts Tagged ‘Italy’


Time to dust off your mountain bike

April 16, 2009

As we move into mid April it is time to be thinking of putting away the skis and snowboards and at the same time dusting off the mountain bike. A little time spent at this time of year ensuring you have the right kit will help you to avoid disappointment when you get a sudden call from a mate to go out to the mountains only to find you never had the brake fixed on your bike. So here are a few reminders.

Body protection and your helmet

You may well have grown an inch or so since last year so it is as well to check out the kit you wear. 

The single most important item of personal clothing for downhill mountain biking your helmet –  ensure you always wear a helmet to protect your head against accidental falls. It is not enough to assume that you are talented and very competent to perform downhill mountain biking because safety is a very important issue as well. On no account must you put your life in peril and so wearing a helmet at all times is the best downhill mountain biking tips that you can get. 

Other kit will include shoes, gloves and knee and elbow protectors – again you will have probably grown and there is nothing more uncomfortable than forcing your feet into a pair of shoes half a size too small. We also recommend that you take a light weight back pack – so important for carrying that Mars Bar or other essential sustenance which is so appreciated after an hours biking. We also recommend you ensure your body is well hydrated whilst mountain biking so take along enough liquids and water to ensure that you don’t get thirsty.

Your bike

Maybe Santa crammed a brand new mountain bike down the chimney but whatever the situation and this applies to new bikes as well it is very well worth your while giving your bike the once over. Check nothing is loose, the saddle, the handle bars, the chain – check the brakes are working properly and the gears are sliding from one to another in the right manner. Oil the chain, check the pedals, make sure the tyres are in good order and you have no punctures, check the tyre pressure. Nothing too onerous here – just some basic common sense.

Where to go

It pays to search for relevant downhill mountain biking tips. One place where you can find useful downhill mountain biking tips of where to go is through online sources and via mountain biking forums. We also suggest (if you are not already) that you become a member of a downhill mountain biking club. Never be afraid of asking a question: mountain bikers are on the whole a friendly crowd and always willing to share their tips and experiences

So get ready for what will be a wonderful summer of mountain biking and we thought you would like to see the video below from XTremeVideo of some great action shot in South Africa, Andorra, Spain, the UK , France and Italy.

Ok so that was rather extreme, but that is what we are all about – whatever you skill levels we hope you have a great time.


Europe’s extreme threat to the United States

April 9, 2009

We were talking with friends last night about the tsunami which struck south east Asia on December 26th 2004 killing an estimated 150,000 people – the worst natural disaster in modern history. ‘That will be nothing’ chirped up our friend, ‘it will be the collapse of Cumbre Vieja that will leave in its wake a death toll of more than a million people’.

OMG – what is that we thought and having been given a rudimentary explanation by our friend we decided to do some further research when we got home and what follows is a brief synopsis of why it is western Europe which poses the most extreme threat to human life on the east coast of the United States.

Researchers at Benfield Hazard Research Center have identified a potential Atlantic Ocean tsunami threat from large-scale landslides at the Canary Islands. Surface and submarine investigations show a long-term history of mega-landslides at multiple locations in the Canary Island chain.

Recently, scientists have realised that the next Mega Tsunami is likely to begin on one of the Canary Islands, off the coast of North Africa, where a wall of water will one day race across the entire Atlantic Ocean at the speed of a jet airliner to devastate the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean and Brazil.

Dr Simon Day, who works at the Benfield Greig Hazards Research Centre, University College London, says that one flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, is unstable and could plunge into the ocean during the volcano’s next eruption.

Dr. Day says: “If the volcano collapsed in one block of almost 20 cubic kilometres of rock, weighing 500 billion tonnes, it would fall into water almost 4 miles deep and create an undersea wave 2000 feet tall. Within five minutes of the landslide, a dome of water about a mile high would form and then collapse, before the Mega Tsunami fanned out in every direction, traveling at speeds of up to 500 mph. A 330ft wave would strike the western Sahara in less than an hour.”

After six hours it would reach Britain, where waves up to 40 ft high would hit southwest England at 500 miles per hour, travel a mile inland and obliterate almost everything in its path.

However, the destruction in the United Kingdom will be as nothing compared to the devastation reeked on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Dr. Day claims that the Mega Tsunami will generate a wave that will be inconceivably catastrophic.

He says: “It will surge across the Atlantic at 500 miles per hour in less than seven hours, engulfing the whole US east coast with a wave almost two hundred feet high, sweeping away everything in its path up to 20 miles inland.

Boston would be hit first, followed by New York, then all the way down the coast to Miami, the Caribbean and Brazil.” Millions would be killed, and as Dr. Day explains: “It’s not a question of “if” Cumbre Vieja collapses, it’s simply a question of “when”.

Of course you will all want to know the answer to that question – when – we know no more than the boffins but we think you might like to think twice before closing on that beach front property in the Hamptons.

By definition natural disasters are not predictable – reference the terrible loss of lives in the earthquake in Italy this week but as you will see in the video below from the thomgoddard the devastation will have no precedent.


Equipment failure to blame for McConkey’s fatal crash?

March 30, 2009

The tragic news of Shane McConkey’s death on Thursday while skiing/wingsuit flying in the Italian Dolomites would appear to have its root cause in failure of the equipment that McConkey was using. This is according to an emailed statement released by JT Holmes who was with McConkey at the time of the accident and reported by Tim Mutrie.

The statement is reproduced below:

‘Yesterday, March 26, 2009, Shane died while skiing in Italy. There are some technical aspects that are left out from this statement, and it does not touch upon the beauty of the Dolomites and the skiing we shared before the accident or Shane’s typical shining persona, full of adventure, humor and life experience.

We chose to ski off of a cliff with our wingsuits and fly them away from the cliff wall before opening our parachutes for landing. We skied and hiked off of the Pordoi cable car to a spot Shane had base jumped once before, in the summer. We spent a bunch of time preparing for the jump, building a kicker, helping each other gear up, and finally we were pleased and prepared and went for it.

Shane did a double back flip in perfect McConkey style. As planned, afterwards, he went to release his skis in order to fly away from the wall and safely deploy his parachute. This is where the jump went wrong. He was not able to release either of his skis. He remained focused on releasing them by reaching down towards his bindings. This put him into a spin/tumble/unstable falling style, that may have appeared out of his control, but in reality, Shane was not concerned about flying position or style; just concerned with reaching those skis so that he could get them off and fly or deploy his parachute. He succeeded in releasing both of skis and immediately transitioned into a perfect flying position; then he impacted the snow, and died at that moment.

The whole thing took place in about 12 seconds. Once he released the skis, he was immediately in control of the flight and would have only seen the ground and imminent impact for a tiny fraction of a second before he hit. Shane’s parachute did not malfunction; it was never deployed.’

Shane McConkey was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and became a professional skier based out of Squaw Valley, California. He won numerous awards and competitions. McConkey started as a competitive freestyle skier, but moved on to be featured in a long line of extreme skiing movies. McConkey was known for combining BASE jumping with skiing, as seen in such feats as skiing into a BASE jump off the Eiger. He had more recently taken to winsuit flying and believed there was nothing better than skiing down a mountain, launching himself off a cliff and flying like a bird.

He is survived by his wife, Sherry, and 3-year-old daughter, Ayla.

Shane McConkey

Shane McConkey

And as if we could ever forget we have included just one short video footage of Shane in action where it is self evident to see a master of his chosen profession at work – a combination of balance, grace, skill and courage.

We send our most sincere condolences to Sherry and Ayla.


The best 20 bungee jumps in the world

February 9, 2009

Our thanks to sanela who posted this great guide in  to the top 20 places in the world to bungee jump – so good we could make no improvement but knew we just had to let you have this information.

Bungee jumping – dive from the giddy height of a towering fixed structure while an elastic cord secures you and keeps you suspended just inches above the ground level at the end of the leap. What leaves most people breathless during a bungee venture are the rebounds that occur due to the stretching and snapping of the cord. Bungee jumping was first practiced as a rite of passage for the youths of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Since the modern times, several records have been made and broken by bungee-jumpers world over. The Guinness Book of World Records of the highest bungee jump was by AJ Hackett from Macau Tower of China from an altitude of 233 meters.

Below follows a brief guide on the places to bungee jump

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Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, USA – 1053 ft (321 m)

Hanging above the Arkansas River, this suspended bridge is an all-time favorite bungee-jumping spot because of its amazing height. It spans over the Royal Gorge Route Railway and has a wooden plank-way for a breathtaking walk across the river.


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Bloukrans Bridge, South Africa – 710 ft (216 m)

This unique highest single span arch bridge adds much to the giddy raptures of bungee jumping. Look ahead to the instructions by the jump experts, the tantalizing countdown before the plunge and the smoothest recoils owing to the pendulum bungee technology that makes it the highest commercial bungee jumping venue internationally.

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Verzasca Dam, Val Verzasca, Switzerland – 721 ft (220 m)

Ever since the famous James Bond stunt in the movie ‘Goldeneye’, this high arch hydroelectric dam has been one of the favorite haunts for bungee jumpers. You require an advance reservation, a medical check and of course, the proper height and weight proportions for stepping into the shoes of 007.

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Corinth Canal, Greece – 260 ft (79 m)

The Corinth Canal works as a connector between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese. If you like to plunge down to the canal’s depth, just take a bungee jump from the bridge. This is a regular weekend sport organized by the Zulu Bungy in the summer months.

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Ponte Colossus, Italy – 500 ft (152 m)

You will find this 350 m long bridge awe-inspiring and an inspiring spot for an energetic sport like bungee jumping. It will take you an average of almost 4.5 seconds for the first fall. You need a lot of nerve power to sustain the 100 km/hr vertical velocity of the free fall.

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The Pipeline Bungy, New Zealand – 335 ft (102 m)

As you undertake the four seconds of free fall from the longest single span suspension bridge over the raging Shotover River, your heart skips a beat. At the close of these four second, you hang dangerously close to the foamy waters only to be secured in a boat and brought to the shore at the end of the oscillations.

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Colorado River, Costa Rica – 279 ft (85 m)

The Colorado River is chiefly the haunt of the hobby fishers though its bridge is an excellent bungee jumping site as well. There are both normal and special all-day long bungee jumping schedules offered by Tropical Bungee to give you diverse ranges of experiences at the highest safety levels.

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AltaVila Tower, Brasil/BH – 233 ft (71 m)

The Alta Vila Tower of Nova Lima attracts site seers and bungee jumpers alike since it commands a breathtaking view of the mountain-surrounded Belo Horizonte.

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Navajo Bridges, USA – 467 ft (142 m)

Navajo Bridge of Marble Canyon spans across the Colorado River right over the Grand Canyon. The autumnal beauty of its natural setting makes it a lovely bungee jumping spot in late September. The advantage of the superb elevation of the Navajo Bridge is coupled with a unique sense adventure that you associate with bungee jumping.

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Macau Tower, China – 764 ft (233 m)

This 338 m tall tower holds the provisions for an observation deck for relaxing as well as for undertaking daring sports like bungee jumping or ‘sky jumping’ as it actually feels like. It counts among one of the giddiest entertainments that Macau has to offer to its visitors and locals.

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Nevis Highwire Bungy, New Zealand – 440 ft (134 m)

The jump pod overlooking the roaring Nevis River holds an irresistible attraction for the lovers of bungee jumping. This incredible 8.5 seconds of freefall offers you an exciting scope to span the Nevis Valley. Nevis Highwire Bungy shuttles the jumpers to the glass-paneled jump pod to help them have an unforgettable experience.

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – 120 ft ( 37m )

Puerto Vallarta is more than a resort with its countless scopes for adventure sports in its jungles, beaches and cultural getaways. You can accept the allure of the lush-green waters of Banderas Bay by taking a bungee jump from the adjacent cliffs for $55.00 between 10 am to 6 pm. The superior quality of the jumping equipments allows you to enjoy a safe thrill.

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Graskop Gorge, South Africa – 197 ft/262 ft (60 m/80 m)

As a potential bungee jumping site, Graskop Gorge offers you a peerless freefall from a height of 18-19 stories of Foefie slide. As you leap off, the cord will take you across the entire width of the gorge in a single sweep. Catch the spectacular beauty of the Graskop Falls as you trail across in the super-fast zipline like a bird.

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Pont de Ponsonnas, France – 338 ft (103 m)


If you deem suspension bridges as the most exciting bungee jumping spots, this is something you can positively rave about. The old dilapidated Pont de Ponsonnas Bridge has been now replaced by concrete-built arch Ponsonnas Bridge to give you an even safer bungee jumping experience.

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Ledge Urban Bungee, Queenstown NZ – 154 ft ( 47m )

Queenstown offers a perfect combination of wild adventures and serene beauty. The Ledge Urban site is known for its unique runaway jumping style whereby you can catch a glimpse of the nighttime beauty of Queenstown. The bungee harness helps you to adopt any posture during the free fall and enjoy a maddening rush of adrenaline.

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Perrine Bridge, USA – 486 ft (148 m)

You do not need a permit for year round bungee jumping from this bridge connecting the Twin Falls area to the Jerome County. You can find several BASE jumping compeers to share the excitement.

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The Last Resort, Nepal – 525 ft (160 m)

It gives you a scope to look and jump off from the longest Nepalese suspension bridge across one of the scariest tropical gorges, with the Bhote Kosi River rumbling below. You can remain in air for a long time during your free fall amid the charming valley sights.

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Niouc, Switzerland – 623 ft (190 m)

Niouc holds the record for the highest bungee jumping spot in Europe. Discover the wild side of Switzerland as you go for an entire array of holiday activities, with bungee jumping topping the list.

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Longqing Gorge Bungee, China – 164 ft ( 50m )

With its green mountains, caves and clear water, Longqing Gorge of northeast Yanqing County is an amazing natural spot for trekking and cruising. However, nothing matches up to bungee jumping. Just gear up some courage and take the plunge. Let your friends capture your action in a camera that you can treasure for a lifetime.

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Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia – 500 ft (152 m)

The Victoria Falls Bridge over Zambezi River connecting Zimbabwe and Zambia is reckoned a perfect spot by bungee jumpers to get a close brush of the spraying falls. Once you jump off, the fall may seem to rush up to you at a maddening pace but you can trust the ankle and body harnesses for their full-proof security.

Wow – sure is quite a list and if you have skalped all of these death deying adrenaline rushes we send you a big shout of respect – must be some kind of world record!


Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

December 3, 2008

Europe’s answer perhaps to all these other ulta and extreme marathons about which we have been writing -The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is without doubt one of the toughest and most challenging events you could imagine.

The course distance of 163 kms, or 102 miles, starts in Chamonix, France and runs through both Italy and Switzerland, around the Massif du Mont Blanc with a total ascent of over 9,000 metres, or 29,500 feet, and should you be thinking of winning you should be aiming to complete the race, back in Chamonix, in about 21 hours. One massive physical and mental challenge. The race has a 46 hour time limit and maximum 2300 starters.

For those of you without such lofty ambitions there is the less daunting CCC challenge – Courmayeur, Champex and Chamonix which still takes in the three countries but is a mere 96 kms, 60 miles, and with a 5,500 metre, 18,000 feet, positive altitude change. The race has a time limit of 25 hours and a maximum 2000 starters.

For 2009 a new event – Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie – will be staged: distance 105 kms, 66 miles; positive altitude change 6,700 metres, 21,976 feet;  31 hour time limit.

Finally there is La Petite Trotte a Leon – a misnomer if ever there was one for this little ‘trot’, for teams of 3 who must not be separated during the course of the event is an extravagant 220kms, 138 miles, with 17,000 metres, 55,760 feet, of positive altitude change. Wow – the good news: it is non competitive!

For further information on rules, regulation and enrolment, which starts mid December for the 2009 event, to be held 27th/30th August, go to As places are limited you are advised not to delay if you want to enrol.

Here is a video from SkinetsCom of the 2008 race won by a Spaniard in 20 hours 56 minutes. The first lady home was British who came home in 27 hours.


Europe’s Toughest and Most Challenging Mountains to Climb

August 20, 2008

“It isn’t so much a matter of doing something dangerous as being master of that danger.”

 Sir Chris Bonington

Matterhorn, Switzerland. 4,478m (14,687ft)

The Matterhorn is probably one of Europe’s most recognised landmarks, visible from miles away. Chiseled distinctively by both time and the elements, the Matterhorn is shaped as a culminating pyramid, almost even on all sides. Technical climbing of the Matterhorn is a long-loved tradition luring many, from novices to professionals and is best arranged between mid-July and mid-September. Peak physical condition is necessary for those who want to participate in more than just a leisurely hike. An added benefit to visiting the Matterhorn is that there is year-round ski-ing there with nearly always pristine conditions.

The rising sun illuminates the Matterhorn mountain, seen from ...

Many mountaineers have lost their lives climbing the Matterhorn. In fact the death rate is one of the highest for climbing in the world. Part of this is due to the fact that at any given time the sheer number of climbers on the mountain can cause rocks to loosen and become a threat to other groups.

Mont Blanc, France/Italy. 4,810m (15767ft)

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe. The first recorded ascent was on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard. This climb, initiated by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering. The first woman to reach the summit was Marie Paradis in 1808. Now the summit is ascended by an average of 20,000 mountaineer-tourists each year all striving to stand on top of the roof of Europe and look down on all of the major summits of the Alps including the Eiger, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. It could be considered an easy, yet long, ascent for someone who is well trained and used to the altitude. It presents one of the great challenges of the Alps, requiring a high level of fitness and adequate acclimatisation.


However, every year the Mont Blanc massif takes many victims, and in peak weekends (normally around August) the local rescue service flies an average of 12 missions, mostly directed towards people in trouble on one of the normal routes of the mountain.

Piz Roseg, Switzerland/Italy.

Piz Roseg (pronounced as peetse rawzech) is a mountain in the Bernina Range between the two countries. Not enormously high, the south-east and higher summit is 3,937m and the north-west summit, known as Schneekuppe is 3,920m high. It does, however, offer some good and difficult climbing. There is also a prominent top on the east-north-east ridge, called the Roseg Pitschen at 3,868m. The first ascent of the mountain to the Schneekuppe was by F. T. Bircham with guides Peter Jenny and Alexander Fleury on 31 August 1863. The highest point of the mountain was reached two years later by A. W. Moore and Horace Walker with guide Jakob Anderegg on 28 June 1865. The 700-metre north-east face of Piz Roseg was first climbed by Christian Klucker and L. Norman-Neruda on 16 July 1890; the face – with a notable serac band halfway up – sports a number of difficult routes. Klucker, together with M. Barberia, also made the first traverse from the Italian side of the Porta da Roseg on 21 June 1898.

if there are a lot of climbers in this route, you could have a lot of waiting time in the rock passages but this will give you the chance to admire the great iceface!  The development of “ski extreme”, which began between the world wars, has reached Piz Roseg as well. The terrifying northface was downhilled on skis by Kurt Jeschke and Martin Burtscher on 4 June, 1978. It is extremly dangerous. Heini Holzer, a very successful ski-mountainer fell to his death here in the Roseg-NE-face one year ago. The slightest mistake on this face will probably be your last one!

Piz Badile, Switzerland/Italy. 3,308m

Piz Badile is a granite mountain range in the Bregaglia range on the border between the two countries running along the summit ridge. It lies in a unique area of granite horns and spires reminiscent of the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming. For big mountain routes, the Piz Bernina, Piz Palu and Piz Roseg all offer fantastic climbing, arguably better than many more well-known peaks to the north and west. And for alpine rock routes, there is no equal to the superb granite peaks of Bregaglia, a cluster of fantastic spires just west of St Moritz and the Engadinet. Its north-east face is considered one of the six great north faces of the Alps. The two classic routes on Piz Badile are the north ridge and the Cassin Route on the north-east face. The north ridge – the Badilekante – was first prospected solo by the Swiss guide Christian Klucker in 1892. After several unsuccessful attempts by Italian parties in 1911, the ridge finally fell to Alfred Zürcher with the guide Walter Risch on 4 August 1923. F. l’Orsa and André Roch found a more direct line on the ridge on the second ascent (18 July 1926).

The most popular route on the north-east face is the Cassin Route so-called after the first ascentionist Riccardo Cassin, who climbed it with V. Ratti and G. Esposito, together with the Como team of Mario Molteni and Giuseppe Valsecchi on 14–16 July 1937. Molteni and Valsecchi were already on the face when Cassin and his party started out, but the climbers subsequently joined forces. In this famous alpine epic, Molteni died of exhaustion and exposure on the summit, whilst Valsecchi died on the descent by the south ridge just before reaching the hut.


Wingsuit flying in Italy

August 3, 2008

Here is some footage that I thought you would like to see from Chris McNamara who is currently in Italy filming for the new Sender Films movie The Sharp End. Great stuff Chris, we look forward to the release of the film.