MCI MCI (P) (P) 134/03/2013 134/03/2013
8 Days / 7 Nights
Sapporo + Rusutsu including transfers
for 21 Dec 2013 departure only Check our Facebook page app for more!
Mountains Issue INCLUDES
Japan | Andes | Rwanda
Shiga Kogen, Nagano
PLUS: Classic Resorts Japan
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High on Life
With the coming of winter, many tend to hit the mountains for some ski action, which brings us to our theme this issue. And thanks to the rather unusual weather pattern we're having this year, snow has arrived early on many slopes around the world, prompting many ski resorts to open their doors earlier than usual.
While it is the ski season, the stories we're running this issue aren't all about hitting the slopes. We kick off with India's Uttarakhand state, which is known for its majestic mountains at the foothills of the Himalayas. Here, you can tackle some legendary trekking routes, or ride downriver on a rafting trip. Then we cover 3 countries that straddle the Andes mountains: Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia. From the mistcovered tepuis of Mt. Roraima and Angel Falls to the soaring peaks of the Sierra Nevada National Park, the beauty of Venezuela's landscape definitely surpasses its Miss World pageants. Neighbouring Colombia may be famous for its coffee, but head off the beaten tracks to discover its volcanic origins and glacier-capped peaks. Further south is Bolivia, the cradle of the Incan civilisation that's centred around the Inca Trail. Here you can tackle one of the world's most dangerous roads, or explore the wilds of the upper Amazon River Basin. In the USA, we hit New York State's Adirondack region, which is home to the northeast's largest track of protected natural landscape, and a mountainous region dotted with lakes and rivers, making it ideal for outdoor adventure. Then we head to Australia's island of Tasmania for some of the best places to bushwalk, mountain bike and climb, from the famous Cradle Mountain (home of the Overland Track) to Mt. Wellington and Tasman National Park. Closer to home, we hit Japan's 3 highest mountains – including the iconic Mt. Fuji which was recently crowned a World Heritage Site – for a spot of hiking and trekking. Last but not least, we visit Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park which is realistically the easiest place in the world to get up close to gorillas in the wild. Check out our bumper Gear Guide as well – we've got a pretty quirky selection of electricand human-powered personal transports that you can use for your commute within Singapore.
Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writers Konrad Clapp Samantha Pereira Creative Director Lynn Ooi Designer Marilyn Wong General Manager Aaron Stewart
Media Rep Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd 242A River Valley Road Singapore 238299 Tel 6732 0325 www.sportsandtravelonline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sports and Travel Limited Rm. 1104 Crawford House 70 Queen’s Road Central Hong Kong Tel +852 2861 8746 Fax +852 2961 4800 email@example.com
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Contributors Annabelle Jeffrey, Chai Meng Woei, Ken Berg, Lakshmi Ganesan
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Until then, Happy Trails! OUR WEBSITE: www.sportsandtravelonline.com
ILLUMIRUN | 7 DECEMBER 2013 Join Sports + Travel and thousands of other runners at this year's inaugural Illumi Run, organised by Infinitus Productions, with Mink. Starting at 8pm, the 5km run sets out from the F1 Village, winding through themed "music zones" and DJs – with runners getting doused with specially created illumi "glow" water along the way. For more information, check out www.illumirun.com.
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Pipedream Cycles Skookum 29er
BIGFOOT UNCHAINED Critically acclaimed Pipedream Cycles' Skookum 29er, with a Reynolds 853 tubeset (a super-steel with a tensile strength more than double that of titanium) and Alfine/Gates transmission, offers cutting edge technology in a classic steel hardtail bike. The system of 8-gear Shimano Alfine internal gear hub (for toughest climbs or steady cruising) and a Gates Carbon Drive belt system is virtually maintenance free and ‘unchained’. Key features like sliding dropouts, versatile cable routing and a coupling which allows the seat-stay to be ‘split’ at the dropout, means this ‘bigfoot’ 29er frame can be configured in a number of different ways. Offered in 3 sizes and custom colours, the Pipedream Skookum is available as a frame-only package at S$819. For a customised bike, visit www.pipedreamcycles.com.
STICKS AND SHOOTS Multi-functional and lightweight (274g), the Leki Micro Vario Titanium features the innovative Aergon grip (with a padded strap) with an edgeless shape for comfortable gripping, while the non-slip mid extension guarantees a variety of gripping options. Perfect stability is guaranteed by a high-performance tensioning rope with Kevlar reinforcement and PE coating for lifelong protection of the fibres. The Push Button Release ensures quick and easy assembly and collapse, while the Speed Lock enables a smooth change of length by 20cm. A spring in the lower shaft compensates the length automatically, thus keeping the rope in ideal tension at all times. Now available at Adventure 21 at S$399.
Leki Micro Vario Titanium
SWEAT GUTTER CHEWABLE ELECTROLYTE Made for athletes who experience cramps during their long workouts, Kramp Krusher Eletrolyte Chewz are a chewy, tangy solution composed of sea salt, dextrose and calcium lactate. Made in the USA without any gelatin, caffeine or allergens (it’s also gluten-free), these vegetarian gummy electrolytes are ideal for cyclists and runners looking to sustain energy and reload electrolytes lost during long training sessions and races. Simply chew 5 pieces prior to exercise and 5 pieces every hour during exercise. Now available in 49gm packs at S$7.50/pack at Outdoor Life Velocity and Wheelock Place. Natural Dynamix Kramp Krusher
Made for those who are susceptible to having sweat in their eyes during a workout, race or strenuous job, the Sweat GUTR Headband is a simple way to avoid that annoyance – it collects sweatdrops in the mini ‘gutter’ and directs it away from your eyes. This soft gel-like sweatband is fully adjustable to fit all sizes and fits comfortably under any helmet or hat. Made of 100% PVC, it never saturates and is easy to clean. It is available at S$29.90 in 4 colours at Outdoor Life Velocity and Wheelock Place.
The new LifeProof fre for iPhone 5s features a thin, transparent film that seals against water, dirt and dust while still allowing fingerprint registration with its revolutionary Touch ID. The patent-pending case is engineered to withstand challenging environments, allowing users the freedom to use their devices without worrying about an unexpected rain shower or a sudden shock. It’s also designed to optimise every function of the device, including speakers, volume controls, touch screen and cameras. The LifeProof fre for iPhone 5/5s will be available in black or white at S$129 at any EpiCentre and Nubox stores islandwide by December.
Tired of the usual bicycle, kick scooter or even Segway? Here are some fun alternatives that will put fun back into your ride - and with the yearend gift-giving season around the corner, you won't be short of ideas. Wheelman
ELECTRIC-POWERED BEST WHEEL FORWARD Reminiscent of a pennyfarthing, this decidedly modern take not only functions like an electric bicycle, it is also foldable (in 20 seconds) and transportable. The trick is to getting used to the handles (which are located on either side of the seat rather than in front) and the fact that the rear wheels are smaller than your dinner plate. Plus you need to be between 5’4” - 6’4” to ride it. However, this nifty bike is motorised, and provides up to 10km of mobility (top speed of 23km) with 1.5 hours or charge – in fact, it actually charges while you're on the go, thanks to its anti-skid regenerative brakes. The Yike Bike is available in 3 different weights (11.2kg - 14kg), ranging from S$3,388 S$5,388, YikeBike available at the FSG Showroom at EV Hub.
Ideal for sidewalk users who want to get somewhere fast without the sweaty mess, Israeli brand Myway Quick Scooter is a foldable electric scooter that charges easily from a regular socket. With an adjustable speed of 1225km/hour, the scooter has a range of 25kms with a single charge (6 hours) and even manages going up slopes of 12º or more. The larger rear wheel disc brake and front wheel caliper brake ensures safety, while its lightweight (15kg) portability means easy loading in 5 seconds. Its maximum load capacity is 110kg, and the 10" wheels give you stability and clearance over potholes or bumps. You can now test ride and preorder them at Falcon PEV at S$2,000 (2-week delivery period).
MULTI-TERRAIN RIPPER Functioning like a cross between a motorcross, skateboard and snowboard, the Wheelman is a centre-engine-mounted skateboard that is designed to tear through streets, grass, beaches and plenty of other terrains. The vehicle is supported at each end by a spokeless wheel in which your feet can be inserted while standing upright. The board uses a 29cc 2-stroke engine that can be controlled with a handheld throttle and brake which is connected to the vehicle. With a maximum speed of 26mph, it weighs a pretty hefty 26kg. It's not available in Singapore, but you can get the Wheelman online at US$549 from www.wheelmanskateboard.com.
UNI-CYCLING The Airwheel is an electric self-balancing unicycle, which is stabilised with gyro sensors and a computerised balancing system. Basically, you step on the 2 footrests that pop open from the sides of the wheel and you can cruise up to 18km/hour for up to 15kms (with a charging time of 45 minutes). The size of a bicycle wheel, this light (9.8kg) vehicle has a max load of 120kg. The Airwheel is currently available at Airwheel Singapore at S$858.
ELECTRIC BOARD The Evolve Skateboard is basically a longboard with an electric motor attached, allowing you to cruise without having to kick. The boards are designed to be quiet and discrete with a top speed of 36km/hour, equipped ABS brakes and a step-less throttle (with 2 speed settings) that is controllable with a wireless handheld Bluetooth controller. The battery provides up to 2 hours' riding time with 1-4 hours of recharging. The lightweight Bamboo Series boards (8.5kg) come in Pintail (ideal for long cruises) and the Snubnose (lighter/smaller with faster turning angles) versions. Both are available online from Evolve Skateboards at S$1,400 each.
Evolve Skateboards Pintail
Performer Low Racer Caliper
PEDAL TO THE METAL The ElliptiGO combines an elliptical trainer (that you find in gyms) and a bicycle – so instead of pedalling the traditional way, you stand upright and 'jog' on the pedals. It is tailored for fitness enthusiasts, helping you burn calories while cross-training (and travelling) in a lowimpact way. The ElliptiGO 3C has 3 gears that are optimised for flat terrain and mild inclines (up to 5% gradient), getting up to speeds of over 37km/hour (sprint speed). The stride length and height is adjustable to suit the height of the user. The ElliptiGO 3C is available at S$2,600 (details at ElliptiGO Singapore's Facebook page). ElliptiGO 3C
LOW RIDER Part GoKart and bicycle, the KMX Kart is an adult recumbent trike that is designed for performance on or off road. The KMX Tornado model is a good entry point for beginner trikers, offering a good balance of quality and affordability. The frame angles also give you increased ground clearance while maintaining a low centre of gravity, while the direct steering (on the sides) gives you easier handling. The adjustable hard-shell seat with a cooling vent gives you comfort, and the seat frame can be adjusted for angle and position (so it's good for all heights). It's available via KMX Asia (Malaysia) at around S$1,580 excl. shipping.
ROCKING AROUND The Rockboard features 2 versions of propulsion: in the Rock Mode, you are propelled forward via a rocking/pumping action on the specialised board, while in the Kick Mode, it reverts to a normal kick scooter. Reaching speeds of up to 16km/hour, it is also foldable into a compact size for easy storage, and is equipped with a rear spring-enhanced technology for a smooth ride even on bumpy pavements. Weighing in at 9.4kg, it handles a maximum weight of 90.7kg. It is available in 3 colours from Rockboard Singapore at S$298.
RECLINER ON THE GO Performer produces a range of recumbent bikes and trikes, including a Racing series. The Low Racer Caliper is a low-riding recumbent bike built for speed, minimal wind resistance and easy handling. The bike is customisable; you pick the handles, the brakes and the wheels, plus it comes in a variety of colours. Due to the lower seating position, you’ll need extra caution if riding on roads, as you’ll be riding below the eye level of car drivers (a high racer option is also available). Riders need to be at least 170cm tall to ride, as the seat is not adjustable. The Performer Low Racer is available in Singapore from Bike Story (www.performer.com.tw) from S$2,900.
KMX Kart Tornado
SWINGERS Swing scooters have always been seen as children’s toys, but Fliker 3’s handles extend to 102cm, making it suitable for taller riders. With your feet on both footrests, motion is achieved by twisting your hips and moving your body side to side. The sturdy and light steel frame with strong caster wheels make it suitable for users of up to 100kg in weight, and reaches speeds of up to 25km/hour. The Fliker 3 also folds flat for easy storage, and is available via Fliker Singapore at S$188.
Fliker Fliker 3
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Uttrakhand is many things. Birthplace of the Ganges. Wildlife haven. Spiritual land. Mountain playground. Bordering Tibet to the north, and Nepal on the east, Uttarakhand is often referred to as the Land of Gods, thanks to its profusion of some of India’s most ancient Hindu temples and holy pilgrimage sites. The state is also blessed with abundant natural beauty. Lying on the southern slopes of the Himalaya range, snowy peaks and verdant forested hills dominate most of the northeast while the southwest is characterised by dry, flat plains. There are protected forests all around the edges of the state, some of which hide India’s most elusive wildlife like tigers and musk deer.
Kumaon region, however, has soaring hill towns surrounded by verdant forests rich in flora and fauna, and is home to the famed Corbett National Park. The capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun, is also the gateway into the state. Located in the west, its airport has regular services from Delhi (1-hour flight), and rail links to other major cities including Mumbai and Kolkata.
North Bordering China (Tibet) and Nepal, this mountainous region of Uttarakhand is a popular trekking ground, where you'll find lofty mountain peaks of over 6,000m, as well as glaciers that are the birthplace to some of the holiest rivers in India. Favourite treks include Har-Ki-Dun (a remote area with good chances of seeing wildlife), Chandrashila (a ridge hike that passes a lake and ends at an ancient temple), Gangotri (the glacier that is the source of the Ganges) and the Kuori Pass (a mountaineer's favourite, which offers a mix of village life, wilderness and culture with views of Nanda Devi in the distance).
Divided into 2 regions – the western Gharwal region and the eastern Kumaon region – each has a distinct personality and landscape. The Gharwal is home to some of the holiest sites in India, and the most visited region in the state. The
Northwest Home to the holiest sites in Hinduism, the four mountain temples of Char Dham (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) see millions of pilgrims every year when the temples open from spring to fall. Nestled in the snowy Himalayas, the trails that lead to these temples make for some of the most dramatic hiking routes.
AT A GLANCE
Valley of Flowers
UTTARAKHAND Mt. Nanda Devi
KUMAON Corbett National Park Southwest Thanks to easy air and rail access, this region is well-visited by tourists. Famous for their nightly riverside ganga aarti (a Hindu fire and water ceremony), both Haridwar and Rishikesh are packed with worshippers who come to get blessed, and to bathe in the holy Ganges. Rishikesh is also a renowned world yoga capital, which sees a large number foreign tourists who come for yoga courses. A principle adventure activity in the area is whitewater rafting along the Ganges, where the river is graded at Class I-III+. Currently, over 40 operators provide whitewater trips, where you can end the day at one of the many riverside campsites along the way.
Southeast Surrounding a teardrop-shaped lake is the hill station of Nainital (1,938m), where you can see a smattering of Colonial-era buildings. It is also a good base for visiting the surrounding heavily-wooded mountainous regions like Mukteshwar (2,286m) and Pangot (1,900m), both boasting vistas of snowy peaks and home to fruit orchards. This area is a wildlife haven, rich in birdlife, as well as a variety of deer and the occasional predator, which can be seen at Corbett National Park (part of Project Tiger).
Nestled at the base of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand is blessed with splendid mountain scenery that is sliced through by mighty rivers and dotted with picturesque villages. One of the best ways to enjoy the state is on foot along the myriad hiking trails that criss-cross this undulating landscape. For an alternative view of the Himalayas, you can tackle the mighty Ganges on a whitewater rafting trip, camping along the riverbanks along the way.
MOUNTAIN TREKS Uttarakhand's multitude of mountains makes for some of the most breathtaking treks, combining amazing scenery of snowcapped peaks, snapshots of traditional village life as well as a glimpse into some of the holiest places in India. Chandrashilla Trek For amateur hikers, the 4-day trek to Chandrashilla gives you a good snapshot of what the region has to offer. Beginning from the small traditional village of Sari (where there are homestay options), a stone-paved trail leads you up the mountain past pastures and quaint villages, and through deodar forests before reaching the Deoria Tal lake (2,443m). It's not uncommon to come across villagers in their traditional garbs herding sheep, or collecting firewood along the way.
UTTARAKHAND'S MOUNTAINS From here, the vistas of the nearby snowcapped peaks of Choukhamba and Kedarnath come into view. You can camp by the lake (the campsite and snack stall are run by local villagers) before pushing on towards Chopta after a 5-6 hour trek. Here, the scenery is of dense, cool forests and beautiful alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers. After an overnight, the hike summits the top of Chandrashilla, where there is a 360º view of the surrounding mountains like Nanda Devi (the highest peak in the Indian Himalayas), Trishul and Kedarnath. Har Ki Dun Another popular trek is the Har Ki Dun Trek, which also passes through traditional villages with their lush green terraced fields where
you can see villagers going about their daily lives. This valley in the Gharwal region is known for its polyandrous family system where 2 or more brothers can share one common wife. Here, trekkers have a high chance of encountering rare Himalayan birds like the Paradise Flycatcher or the Himalayan Monal amidst birch, spruce and pine forests. The daily treks are tough but short (at around 12km), traversing vast valleys with alpine meadows of rare wildflowers, terraced mountain fields and waterfalls along the way. Most treks have an option of going to Jaundhar Glacier (4,300m) along the way. From the grassy knoll at Har Ki Dun (3,556m), the massif of Swargarohini can be seen overlooking this “Valley of Gods”.
Rishikesh Rafting in Rishikesh has made a splash amongst adventure seekers in the last decade or so. Plenty of rafting operators (at last count, there were around 40) line the streets in town, offering combinations of rafting, riverside camping and trekking. In fact, Rishikesh is also a meeting ground and starting point for most trekking trips into the Himalayas as it has the most ground logistics, and plenty of hardcore adventurers rub shoulders with spiritual seekers here (Rishikesh is a renowned mecca for yoga afficionados, with many ashrams dotted around the town).
PHOTOS BY Vipin Sharma / Red Chilli Adventures
Depending on the operator and the rafting option (ie. the full or half day), you will put in upriver at different points from Rishikesh. The level of operators vary, but there are plenty that offer excellent services and equipment. After the preliminary safety briefing, guides would normally get you acquainted with the river – which means an icy cold dip off the raft. As spring is the best rafting season, you’ll essentially be rafting in meltwater, which is kept icy cool by its location high in the mountains. A typical rafting trip begins with a few small rapids before the real whitewater begins (these are at Grade III-IV depending on the season). Some of these rapids, like Three Blind Mice, involve 3 rapid successions of whitewater.
Raft turnovers aren’t uncommon in challenging portions of rapids, but most adept guides are good at what they do. Besides, rafts are accompanied by spotters on kayaks at all times. The season for rafting is from September to June, so adequate warm clothing is advised.
If trekking is taking a toll on your legs, you can opt for a whitewater rafting trip down the Ganges.
River Camping If you want to stay near the river but away from the din of the town, plenty of river camps line the Ganges. These basic campsites (no electricity or plumbing) are full board, as it’s hard to get in and out of the site at night.
GETTING THERE From Delhi, Uttarakhand is easily accessible by a 1-hour flight, rail (to Rishikesh) and road. For more on India, visit incredibleindia.org.
Angel Falls Pico Humboldt
A wall of peaks that run along the spine of South America, the Andes Mountains span across 7 countries and is the world’s longest mountain range (7,240km). Enveloped in contrasting terrains ranging from towering snow-clad summits and cloud forests, to rain shadow deserts which are habitats to a multitude of wildlife, the Andes not only stacks up with breathtaking scenery, it is also a mecca for outdoor activities.
Canaima National Park
Beyond adventure sports, its unique history and culture (influenced by the Inca Empire – one of the world’s most studied civilisations) live on to this day, which makes the Andes stand out as it offers everything from virgin forests and bustling towns, to unique indigenous peoples and more.
VENEZUELA Hugging the northern end of the Andean chain, the Venezuelan Andes cover the states of Trujillo, Merida and Tachira, encompassing the southwest portion of the country. Dotted with tropical cloud forests, jungle-covered valleys, tepuis (tabletop mountains) and lagoons, most of Venezuela’s Andean peaks range from rocky to snow-clad summits.
SIERRA NEVADA NATIONAL PARK The highest peak in Venezuela, Pico Bolivar (5,007m) sits in the Sierra Nevada National Park in Merida, the only state in Venezuela with partially alpine conditions. The trek to reach Pico Bolivar involves traversing across bamboo forests veiled in clouds, meadows and lagoons like the Laguna El Suero which rests at the foot of a giant glacier (one of Venezuela’s five expansive glacial areas). The snow-capped peak is not advisable for inexperienced climbers because of its steep, rocky ridges. Pico Bolivar has various routes for intermediate climbers, the most popular being the well-marked but challenging Weiss Route, which involves scrambling up south face of the peak. Most routes take 5 or more
days, which actually helps to acclimatise on the way to the summit. From the summit, trek to nearby Loma Redona and take the world’s highest and largest cable car for a bird’s eye view, or head back to Merida to visit villages like the striking San Jose, wedged between several steep hills and dotted with well-kept little streets, colonial buildings and churches. Within Sierra Nevada National Park are several other lofty peaks like Pico Humboldt (4,942m) and Pico Bonpland (4,883m). Surrounded by glaciers, the climb up both mountains involve less technical skills, as they are less rocky and steep. Both Pico Humboldt and Pico Bolivar are also popular springboards for other adventure activities like paragliding or whitewater rafting down mountain streams, which lead to wild rapids on the Acequias and Siniguis rivers.
CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK Situated in Bolivar State, the Canaima National Park – a World Heritage Site – is
the second largest national park in Venezuela. Dappled with rugged terrain from towering tepuis to craggy cliffs, imposing waterfalls and rippling rivers, the park’s two main attractions are the towering Angels Falls and Mt. Roraima. One of the world’s oldest mountain formations, at 2,810m Mt. Roraima (or Roraima Tepui) is the highest peak in the Pakairama range. The majestic summit now serves as a natural border separating Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. The ascent up the plateau involves passing cloud forests, waterfalls and villages, taking about 4 days. Looming nearby is Mt. Auyantepui (2,450m) – known as Devil Mountain to the indigenous locals – and cascading over its edge is the world’s tallest waterfall, Angel Falls (979m). Along with breathtaking views, the waterfall is also a starting point for a variety of activities, from swimming and kayaking to trekking across the mountaintop, or rock climbing along the precipitous cliffs.
Apart from the main coffee regions of the Colombian Andes (which lie in the heart of the country), there is a dramatic mix of rolling valleys, deep canyons, expansive plateaus and snow-covered peaks that form the South American edge of the famous Ring of Fire – a ring that’s capped by the Tolima Peak and runs all the way down to Argentina. There are also over 20 peaks that range from 2,900m to 5,800m nestled within the area, as well as several national parks and numerous colonial towns around the area.
LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK Covering the western section of Colombia and located in the highest part of the Colombian Andes range at altitudes of 4,500m+, the Los Nevados National Park’s backdrop is dominated by snow-capped
volcanoes – like Mt. Quindío (4,760m) and Mt. Tolima (5,216m) – and forests housing the world’s tallest palm trees, Colombia’s own national tree, the 70m tall Wax palm. Within this park there are a variety of adventure sports to try, from biking and trekking through montane grasslands, scenic villages and waterfalls to ascending peaks like the Nevado del Ruiz (5,311m), which is the only mountain in the park with vehicular access. Upon reaching the summit, there are plenty of the areas to explore, including craters (formed by past eruptions), hot springs and snowfields. Alternatively, sport fishing can be done at the adjacent Otun and Green lakes, both brimming with trout and other species.
EL COCUY NATIONAL PARK Stretching across the eastern portion of the Colombian Andes, the El Cocuy National Park has massive glaciers, high-altitude lakes and over 30 towering, snow-clad peaks, including Ritacuba Blanco (5,330m) and La Aguja (5,000m). Relatively isolated compared to the other national parks dotted across the region because of its rugged, hilly terrain, El Cocuy National Park is best explored on foot.
El Cocuy National Park
El Cocuy National Park
Some adventure activities to try include climbing Pulpito del Diablo (4,900m), which has multiple routes to scramble up the north wall or El Concavo (5,200m), an easily accessible mountain that rises right next to Laguna Grande de la Sierra lake. There is also the option of trekking across the expansive and remote Lagunillas Valley, or various other routes that teem with fauna like chinchillas and pumas across the traditional territories of the U’wa Indians. Besides trekking, you can also explore the park on horseback.
Nevado del Ruiz
ANDEAN VENEZUALA, COLOMBIA AND BOLIVIA
The ‘Death Road’
BOLIVIA Besides being the cradle of the Inca civilisation, Bolivia is also known for its rugged terrain as a country. Home to one of the world’s highest cities, La Paz (4,060m), merely acclimatising to the elevations might be tough on some, but there are several local remedies to try. Bolivia has plenty of rugged terrain to explore from heavily glaciated volcanoes over 5,000m high and alpine meadows in the west, to rainforests, savannahs and the expansive Altiplano - the world’s second largest plateau and its highest lake, Lake Titicaca (3,811m), in the east.
MADIDI NATIONAL PARK Situated in the northwest of Bolivia occupying parts of the upper Amazon River basin and even glacial mountains, Madidi National Park is regarded as one of the world's most diverse landscapes - combining flora and fauna from both the Andes and the Amazon. It is also one of the most popular parks in the region because of its eco-friendly tourism and its high concentration of wildlife, from herons and caimans to the titi monkey
(a newly-discovered species) and over 1,000 types of birds. Readily explored on foot, 4WD or canoe in the case of nearby Chalalan Lagoon, the park's a showcase of Bolivia's rich biodiversity.
LA PAZ - COROICO Regarded as the world’s most dangerous road, the ominously-named ‘Death Road’ that links Coroico and La Paz is a 75km dirt track that snakes perilously around the side of a steep mountain. Roughly taking 2 hours from Coroico to La Paz, only hardy (and experienced) mountain bikers should tackle this perilous route, which plunges more than 3,000m.
INCA TRAILS While the Inca Trail in Peru is undoubtedly the most famous, the Bolivian portion offers several options of ‘Inca’ trails without the herd of trekkers. The most popular trails include the Choro Trail (3-4 days, 47km) and
the Takesi Trail (2-3 days, 40km). Both routes are relatively easy to hike along Incan stone paths, and both offer a wide variety of attractions ranging from traditional mountain villages to pretty lakes and views of soaring mountains, dotted with ancient Incan artefacts.
LAKE TITICACA Stretching across the heights of the Altiplano (itself the second largest mountain plateau in the world after Tibet) – is the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca (3,812m). With its distinct turquoise water, Titicaca offers visitors a range of exploration options – you can trek across eucalyptus groves and willow trees that surround the lake while passing sheep-grazing fields, or kayak across the lake to enjoy a vista of the Apolobamba mountain range, or even arrange a homestay on one of the lake’s distinctive manmade reed islands.
MOUNTAIN TRAINING Climbing requires preparation, and the more serious the climb, the more intensive the preparation should be. Here are some tips: Trek with a Pack Trek wearing a moderate-weight pack. Go for longer treks, and steadily pick up the pace over several hours. Aim to build your body's progressive endurance. Change Your Metabolism Alternate your calorie intake from session to session. Be fully fuelled some sessions, and partially on others. It takes time to change your metabolism, but this technique will help partially mitigate the energy-sapping effects of thin air and cold weather during a real climb. Train Your Back Wearing a pack forces you to maintain your posture – if your supporting muscles aren't strong, maintaining that posture with a heavy pack slowly saps energy. Ideally your skeletal system bears your pack weight, otherwise your muscles compensate to keep things comfortable. Over time, muscles tire and demand energy. Bones don't. The better your posture is, the more efficiently you move encumbered with a pack.
If you’re looking to take on a mountain adventure, layering properly is a key to remain both comfortable and safe. There are 3 different parts to layering: base layers, insulation and a shell. By adding and removing different layers you can better adapt to changing conditions and different activity levels throughout a day.
BASE LAYERS This is the layer that’s right against your skin and its primary purpose is to move moisture away from your skin. The secondary purpose is warmth. You should be choosing between wool and synthetics for this layer. Though there are many types of synthetic base layer materials, it is almost always made mostly of polyester, usually with slightly different weaves. Synthetics are great for being quick drying, wicking moisture away and usually cost less than wool; the best choice for shorter duration and/or high output activities. Most wool baselayers are now made from merino wool; the fibres are very long which helps eliminate the itchy feeling. Wool is still a very good wicking material and most people find it more comfortable when it’s wet and over a wider range of temperatures. It also has the added advantage of not absorbing
INTO THIN AIR
ing, there are lots When it comes to mountain climb when you live on of hurdles to overcome, especially sea level. challenge you're Let's first look at the biggest the compared with facing: oxygen. Roughly speaking, at 5,500m (300m sea level, there's 50% less oxygen o for instance). below the summit of Mt. Kilimanjar m (just below the There's 70% less oxygen at 8,800 ise if you're summit of Everest). So it's no surpr 's half the oxygen struggling on an ascent where there you're used to at sea level.
e for altitude, but In mountaineering you acclimatis symptoms. To only to avoid a drastic onset of AMS o and training, really "acclimatise" in terms of cardi altitude (example: you can train (or live) at a higher but only if you do 1,500m+) to get cardio benefits, . so continuously for weeks or more
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GEAR GUY: Ken Berg
Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada's premier outdoor retailer for over 10 years, putting gear to the test whether it's cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.
GAME odour as easily, although it doesn’t dry quickly. It’s recommended for activities where you’ll be in a variety of temperatures, high moisture situations and/or be out for long periods.
that’s filled with yarns of a manmade fibre (such as prima loft) or the classic fleece. It’ll perform better when it’s wet and usually costs less than down.
Avoid cotton as it holds moisture and dries slowly. Also stay away from polypropylene as it’s hydrophobic so it doesn’t truly wick moisture (it absorbs and retains odour well).
INSULATING LAYER Obviously this layer is all about trapping in heat. In a nutshell, the more loft you have, the more heat that you’ll trap in. Once again it is synthetics versus natural fibre (down). Down has an amazing warmth to weight ratio and will last a long time if cared for properly. The higher the fill power of down, the better warmth to weight ratio, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s warmer. For synthetics you’ll either be using a garment
The primary purpose of the outer shell is to block wind and moisture. You’re typically choosing a waterproof breatheable jacket. waterproof jacket (rain jacket) is inexpensive and easy to clean but its lack of breathability make it a poor choice for cold weather or high output activities. The most well-known waterproof breathable material is Gore-tex. Properly caring for your shell is essential. Dirt, oil and grease will affect the water repellency of the garment, causing it to “wet out”, where the face fabric gets wet and results in less breathability and a cooling effect as the water evaporates.
While New York State is more famous for its capital city, just a few hours' drive north takes you to the Adirondack region. The largest natural wilderness area in eastern US, the Adirondacks is home to 46 high peaks dotted with over 3,000 lakes (and ponds), most of which are accessible via its 3,200kms of hiking trails. Then there are 10,000kms of rivers and streams feeding the many waterfalls throughout the region. The mountains, forests, lakes and rivers provide myriad options for river cruising, hiking, mountain biking and scenic drives. Apart from outdoor activities, the region is also known for its Adirondack-style crafts and antiques which you can explore at more than 100 towns and villages scattered throughout. The most popular time to visit the Adirondacks is during autumn, when fiery hues of fall foliage make this area famous (hence steeper accommodation prices).
PHOTOS FROM VisitAdirondacks.com
EASTERN ADIRONDACKS ROUTE This route takes on some of the most popular lake regions of the Adirondacks, starting from south at Lake Luzerne and ending at Tupper Lake. Lake Luzerne With Lake Luzerne as a starting point, you can access both the Hudson River and Sacandaga River for a spot of whitewater rafting, with guided whitewater rafting trips on Sacandaga (Class II-III) as well as a more relaxed tubing session down more peaceful sections. Those looking for Class III-IV rafting adventures can tackle the Hudson River Gorge through the 'Last of the Mohicans' historic region, which is a 3-4 hour trip (offered from early April to late May).
Lake George Lake George offers plenty of options for outdoor recreation from whitewater rafting on the Hudson River to a stint at one of several dude ranches. The Warren County Bikeway and Sacandaga Outdoor Center provide road and mountain bikers opportunities for exploration, while the Gore Mountain's downhill mountain biking trail features 500m of vertical descent. The foothills of the Adirondack Mountains around Lake George are lined with a system of hiking trails, with options for leisurely strolls along Glen Falls' historic 14km-long Feeder Canal Towpath Trail or hiking along Lake George Wild Forest's vast trail system. Popular tracks include Tongue Mountain
(with 30km of marked trails), Black Mountain (a challenging 9km route with stunning views) and Berry Pond Preserve (an easy walk through wetlands and open water wilderness). Nearby Lake George is Bolton Landing, the location of the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course which is an elevated obstacle course set up to 15m high amidst the treetops, all against the scenic backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains. The Lake George Region is also home to plenty of charming towns and villages; there are over 300 cafes, restaurants and pubs for you to relax in.
For an alternative view, you can take a scenic raft or tubing adventure through the maze of rock formations that have been sculpted over thousands of years by the river's currents.
High Falls Gorge Just beyond the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington is High Falls Gorge, a spectacular 210m-tall waterfall along the base of Whiteface Mountain. You can hike along the paths and steel bridges along the gorge, with astonishing views of the falls. Lake Placid Thanks to its Olympic history (the 1939 & 1980 Winter Olympics were held here), the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain area is known for winter sports. A ride on the scenic 8-seater gondola called the Cloudsplitter whisks passengers to the top for spectacular views of the surrounds in all seasons. Come winter, Whiteface transforms into a premier ski destination. Crosscountry skiing on well-groomed tracks and snowshoeing (to the top of Mt. Van Hoevenberg) are popular activities. You can also try your hand shooting through icy chutes
Paul Smiths Adirondacks Saranac Lake
NEW YORK STATE
Ausable Chasm Wilmington
NEW YORK’S ADIRONDACK PARK
Lake George Lake Luzerne
on a bobsled or a skeleton for an exhilarating experience. (until October 18), the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park offers 27 diverse trails for hardcore experts to zoom down. The Cloudsplitter Gondola provides access to the top of Little Whiteface where these trails begin. For beginner to intermediate riders, a shuttle bus takes riders and their gear to a drop-off point for a selection of trails to suit all levels of bikers.
Ausable Chasm Further north along Lake Champlain is Ausable Chasm, a scenic 3km-long gorge carved by the Ausable River. Year-round walking tours follow nature trails that pass wild waterfalls and gorges, in addition to nighttime guided lantern tours. During winter, the walks take you through spectacular ice formations. There are also self-guided walking trails – like the Promenade Trail from Rainbow Falls to Grand Flume – that lead to waterfalls that tumble between 45m-tall cliffs.
At the Olympic Jumping Complex, you can get to the observation deck of the K-120m jump from where you'll get a panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks and you'll also be able to see ski jumpers launch themselves over the length of a football field. At the Lake Placid Freestyle aerial training centre you can see freestylers defy the laws of gravity on a daily basis. In summer, the 30km+ trails that climb, twist and dip through the stands of trees are open to mountain bikers – the trails cater to all levels of riders (there's even a training centre). Bike rentals are available.
Saranac Lake Train enthusiasts can relive the golden age of railroading by boarding the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a 32km round trip from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake, which meanders through splendid mountain scenery and over rustic railroad bridges. Saranac Lake is also a stopping point along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail – a 1,190kmlong watery highway that traverses 22 rivers and streams, 56 lakes and points, totalling 62 portages. One of the most challenging canoe trips in northern US, the trail runs all the way to Canada via Vermont and Maine.
Paul Smiths From the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center, there are a number of well-marked trails offering ample opportunities to explore the local bird- and wildlife. Trails take you through a variety of landscapes – from marshes to forests and remote mountain peaks – where you can also visit several rare historic firetowers (steel towers built in the early 20th century to monitor forest fires). Located along a secluded lake at Paul Smiths, White Pine Camp is an elegant historic Great Camp that served as a Summer White House in the 1920s. You can rent
cabins here year round – they include the free use of canoes, kayaks and rowboats. Tupper Lake Further west is Tupper Lake, a village of about 5,000 residents, which is a peaceful retreat amidst virgin forests, replete with camping, fishing, swimming and boating (during summer), as well as skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice fishing in winter. Once a booming lumber town, Tupper Lake continues to honour its heritage during the annual Woodsmen's Days, which features a plethora of logging events and competitions.
GETTING THERE For international travellers, the Adirondacks are most easily accessible via New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. From here, it's about a 4-hour drive. There are also trains (Amtrak's Adirondack Service) and buses that serve NYC and the Adirondacks. For more on the Adirondacks, check out http://visitadirondacks.com.
© Tourism Tasmania / JP & ES Baker
Located 240km south of Australia and separated by the Bass Strait, the island of Tasmania is known for its rugged nature, topped with wild rocky mountains and surrounded by pristine ocean. An island that’s ideal for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing, Tasmania often gets overlooked by travellers due to its distance from mainland Australia; however its isolation means that it rarely gets crowded.
© Tourism Tasmania & Andrew Harris
TEXT BY Annabelle Jeffrey PHOTOS FROM Tourism Australia & Tourism Tasmania
© Tourism Tasmania and Garry Moore
While it is the smallest state in Australia, the island has very distinct landscapes; the central and western areas of the island are mountainous forests (most of which are protected), the east coast is home to pristine beaches, the midlands and northern areas are used for agriculture while the majority of the population is centered around Hobart (southeast) and Launceston (north).
BUSHWALKING Cradle Mountain National Park Cradle Mountain, which forms the northern part of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, is a wild landscape of jagged contours dotted with ancient forests and rolling grasslands. Icy streams flow from rugged mountains and their glacial lakes are surrounded by stands of ancient pines. This Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area provides a range of environments to explore, and remains one of Tasmania’s most popular natural destinations.
buttongrass moorland and then takes you into the cool rainforest along the edges of Pencil Pine Creek.
Wombats are plentiful throughout the park, especially along the boardwalks, and telltale signs include cube-shaped dungs. The best way to explore this area is on foot – there are numerous hiking tracks (ranging from 20 minutes to 6 days) that criss-cross the park, each with its own personality.
The 2-hour Dove Lake Circuit is a boardwalk which takes you around the Dove Lake and below the tall steeple of Cradle Mountain itself. Glacial features like the Glacier Rock and Lake Wilks (a cirque lake) can be found along the track, and wildlife like echidnas can be spotted waddling around wooded areas. The route takes you into the cool Ballroom Forest, with ancient moss-draped myrtle beech trees that tower over a moss carpet.
The Enchanted Walk is designed for hikers of all ages – the 20-minute walk passes cascading rivers, wombat burrows and dense rainforests. It starts off through the
For a challenging day-trip, the Cradle Mountain Summit Bush Walk (6-8 hours) starts off from Dove Lake and travels via Lake Lilla and Marion’s Lookout, taking you
through Tasmania’s unique alpine vegetation and an assortment of dark, dolerite (volcanic rock millions of years old) boulders and columnar pillars. There is a considerable amount of scrambling over huge boulders near the summit, which should not be attempted in poor weather as it can get icy. A number of descent options are available; the quickest route down is via Wombat Pool. One of the most iconic Australian hiking trails is the Overland Track, a 65km-long track that starts from Cradle Mountain and ends at Lake St. Clair. Taking about 6 days to complete, the route offers everything from dolerite peaks and rocky gorges to alpine lakes and grassy plains, with most hikers tackling a side trip to Mt. Ossa (1,617m), the tallest peak in Tasmania.
Ben Lomond National Park For a major downhill mountain biking experience, Ben Lomond National Park offers riders a downhill track with a total vertical drop of 1,050m. With a distance of just over 20km, this trail has dramatic switchbacks, rocky rides and scenic forest singletracks. Ben Lomond, situated east of Launceston, is also Tasmania’s premier alpine ski location and a favourite for hikers all year round. Its precipitous cliffs are visible over much of the north midlands of Tasmania, and it’s the focus of downhill skiing in the state – hence when it’s not winter, the slopes are for downhill biking. The trail starts off from the ski village of Legges Tor (1,450m) within the park, and travels down Jacob’s Ladder (a sharply winding, intestine-like and precipitous
descent from the plateau) and later connects to a track which takes you through a eucalyptus forest. Bikers will also experience a single-track section which continues on fire trails (normally used for fire-fighting access) through the forest and other single tracks that lead to the end destination, Blessington Road, a tarmac road which connects to Launceston. Half-day downhill biking tours from Launceston are customisable for all levels of bikers (from AUD195). Wellington Park Wellington Park is home to one of the most well-designed and maintained bike tracks in Tasmania – the 10.5km North South Track. Linking the Springs and Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park, it passes terrain ranging from lush, damp rainforest to rock scree sections and hard-packed dusty trails lined with scrub and native ferns. The trip down takes about
an hour, with a 550m descent, providing a challenging route for experienced cross country riders. The mostly single-track trail starts downhill from the Springs with a sequence of twisting turns, great descents and a lot of fun. It takes you through an eucalyptus forest before reaching the Junction Cabin – a small cabin at the centre of several walking trails on Mt Wellington which is a place for both hikers and bikers to catch their breath before continuing on their journey; this multi-use trail is accessible to both bikers and hikers.
At Glenorchy MTB Park, bikers have the their pick of trails, including cross country, downhill, mountain cross and dirt jumps.
© Tourism Tasmania & Will Brown, Vertigo MTB © Tourism Tasmania & John De la Roche
© Tourism Tasmania & Nick Hancock
ROCK-CLIMBING Tasman National Park Tasman National Park is famous for its dolerite towers and cliffs that rise dramatically from the ocean. Along the coastline, its main attractions include the sea stacks of Candlestick and Totem Pole, which are located north of Fortescue Bay (at Cape Hauy) and are popular for rock climbing and abseiling. There is no land access to either of the stacks – the bottom of these columns start from the ocean, and necessitate access via kayak or boat. At 130m high, the Candlestick is a multi-pitch rock split into 4 climbing portions, with a huge chimney at the second pitch and steep cracks on the higher portions. The Totem Pole (at only 4m wide) rises 65m like a vertical needle above the Southern Ocean, and is thought to be one of the hardest rock climbing routes in Australia. Mt. Wellington At 1,217m, Mt. Wellington is a nationally and
internationally recognised rock climbing venue which makes it a hot spot for climbers in Tasmania. The mountain’s climbing routes are split into 2 major areas: Organ Pipes (the prominent upper portion of Mt. Wellington) and Lost World (on neighbouring Mt. Arthur). The Organ Pipes area is the most popular, with over 400 climbing routes (all types from trad to sport), while the Lost World is a quieter climbing area with around 50 routes. Climbing during summer will ensure less icy wind and snowfalls, but due to its mountainous location, sleet, snow and strong winds can be encountered at any time.
by Lakshmi Ganesan
KAILASH, TIBET CROAGH PATRICK, IRELAND Considered the most sacred mountain in Ireland, Croagh Patrick or "the Reek", is climbed by pilgrims every year on Reek Sunday (last Sunday of July) – originally a pagan ritual dating back over 5,000 years, now done in honour of St. Patrick. More than 25,000 people undertake the annual pilgrimage on Reek Sunday and on Garland Friday (last Friday of July); some walk barefoot or on their knees on the way to the summit where there is a small chapel (built in the early 1990s) and open in summer. You can see Clew Bay and County Mayo’s countryside as you climb Croagh Patrick – at 762m high, it is one of the highest mountains in the west of Ireland.
This 55 million year-old mountain, part of the Trans-Himalayan mountains in Tibet, remains sacred to 4 major religions: Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Bon. Rising to an altitude of 6,714m, Kailash’s 4 sheer walls denote the cardinal directions of the compass – with Kailash itself being the source of 4 spiritually significant rivers. It’s considered sacrilege to climb Kailash – pilgrims of all four religions walk in a clockwise direction around it – one 54km round (a kora), is believed to remove the sins of one's current life; 108 koras help one to attain Nirvana. Some pilgrims even perform the kora with body-length prostrations all the way.
MT. ATHOS, GREECE
MT. SINAI, EGYPT Restricted to only male travellers since its early days, Mt. Athos has been an Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054. Deeply rooted in Greek mythology, Mt. Athos is currently home to about 20 monasteries (with 1,400 inhabitants) which cling to the steep rocky slopes around the Chalcidice Peninsula facing the Aegean Sea. Backed by beautiful chestnut and Mediterranean forest that rise to 2,033m, Mt. Athos is a showcase of orthodox monastic architecture and agrarian lifestyle. Travel to Mt. Athos is only possible by ferry, and men (no women or children allowed) require special permission in the form of a Byzantine Visa written in Greek, with Orthodox Christians given priority.
Situated in the Sinai Peninsula, Mt. Sinai is cited in the Bible, Quran and Torah as the place where the Ten Commandments were received, making it an important landmark for Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. At 2,285m, Mt. Sinai can be climbed via two routes. The first, Sikket Saydna Musa (Path of Moses), passes numerous chapels and structures honouring saints and the Virgin Mary, and involves climbing a flight of 4,000 steps – taking approximately 3 hours – to reach the top where Moses’ Cave is located. The longer, less scenic Siket El Bashait has a camel-riding option. At the summit is a mosque and a Greek orthodox chapel (closed to the public).
Since time immemorial, mountains have been regarded as sacred sites, thanks to their high altitudes which kept them close to the skies – the perceived abode of the gods. Year after year, these sacred mountains are climbed by pilgrims, devotees and other curious souls, thanks to the spiritual energy – and a sense of peace – that surrounds these landscapes.
MT. RORAIMA, VENEZUELA
Known as one of the 4 sacred sites of the annual Char Dham pilgrimage, Badrinath towers over the state of Uttarakhand at a height of 3,100m. Badrinath is known for being the seat of Shiva thanks to the Jyothirlingam (symbolic form of Shiva) – it is the most significant of all the 12 Jyothirlinga located in different parts of India. Open only from the end of April to the beginning of November, the temple and the town get very crowded during the pilgrimage season. Although the temple is accessible by road, you can also hike to Badrinath from Kedarnath (another temple along the Char Dham route) or from the famous Valley of Flowers.
At 2,772m high, the iconic Mt. Roraima is one of many mountains in Venezuela categorised as tepui (flat-topped mountain). Attracting botanists, zoologists, explorers and mountain climbers alike, Mt. Roraima is known for its rare and newly-discovered flora and fauna (thanks to its isolation for thousands of years), as well as its climbability - no mountaineering gear or skills are required to climb this mountain. The mist-cloaked Mt. Roraima, with its majestic falls that plunge from precipitous cliffs, remains significant to the indigenous people here as it is mentioned in native myths and legends, and was the location for the award-winning documentary “The Lost World”.
MT.RAMELAU, TIMOR LESTE The tallest mountain in Timor Leste, Mt.Ramelau (popularly known as Tatamailau), is revered by the Timorese and is considered sacred as it is believed to be the residence of the souls of Timorese ancestors. On its summit stands a 3m-tall statue of the Virgin Mary, which was erected in 1997. Towards the end of March, pilgrims make the trek up the mountain for the Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin Mary. There are 2 routes to the top: via Hato Bulico (4 hours) and the more scenic Aimeta (6 hours). Camping is possible at the summit plateau, and wild horses can sometimes be seen galloping around the area.
There’s more to Japan than sushi, shopping and shinkansen. Every summer after the ice melts away, the Japanese Alps come alive with throngs of hikers and climbers. Coupled with its well-run mountain lodges (so trekkers need not worry about lugging up tents and food), as well as extensive train and bus networks, Japan’s mountain ranges become a climber’s paradise in the summer. A hike up Japan's 3 tallest mountains not only offers convenient, spectacular views (with the access points all not far from Tokyo), but also takes you through 3 distinctly different destinations in Nagano, Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. MT. FUJI (Fujisan) Affectionately known to the Japanese as Fuji-san, it is Japan’s tallest mountain (3,766m) and a UNESCO-listed heritage site, and open for climbing only during the months of July and August. An enduring symbol of Japan, Mt. Fuji has four ascents, with the most popular being the Fuji 5th station, which itself serves as a tourist attraction as it is dotted with shrines, restaurants, souvenir shops and even pony ride stations. To trek Mt. Fuji, it is best to start the hike in the early morning as a midday hike can get quite crowded with numerous hiking groups that are usually made up of school students. For trekkers, the most popular trail is the Yoshida Trail, which is easily accessible because of the numerous buses connecting Shinjuku (Tokyo) to the highland. It is also a favourite among beginner hikers as it isn’t as steep as the other trails. On the climb to the top, hikers will pass several huts speckled across the mighty mountain. Some of these huts provide basic facilities – like a futon and toilet – while others
TEXT & IMAGES BY Chai Meng Woei The author lectures on China’s development and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
are decked out with eateries. A hike along Mt. Fuji is also never a lonely experience, as you’ll be surrounded by Japanese trekkers of all ages. Upon reaching the summit, the vista is incredibly breathtaking with views of the Fuji Five Lakes to the north of the mountain. It is worth noting that Mt. Fuji is not a dormant volcano – seismologists say it is 300 years overdue for an eruption – but the possibility of a current eruption is low.
MT. KITA (Kitadake) Japan’s second highest mountain, Mt. Kita (3,193m) is located in the Minami-Alps. Known for its postcard views and with less of a crowd compared to Mt Fuji, the climb up Mt. Kita can be accessed from Yamanashi prefecture’s capital, Kofu, which is a 2-hour bus ride from Shinjuku. Suitable for beginners to advanced trekkers, no technical skills are needed for the climb, but as the hike is rather steep, it can be arduous and energy-sapping. For the climb
SUMMITING JAPAN’S 3 HIGHEST up Mt. Kita, trekkers will pass towering trees that form a dense canopy (which assist in shielding trekkers from the heat), plenty of summer flowers and giant rock formations. Trails on Japanese mountains are also clearly marked, which helps greatly with getting around on your own. Painted signs on the rocks indicate where to and more importantly, where not to go. “O” marks the correct path and “X” means “Do Not Follow”, with arrows generally used to show which directions to follow. A common practice among hikers in Japan is that everyone greets each other with “konnichiwa” as they make their way to the top. During the climbing season, there are plenty of regular buses that take trekkers from the highlands to Mt. Kita’s base camp at Hirogawa. As it takes 5 to 6 hours to complete the climb, it is best to start the trek early in the morning. A multi-day hike from Mt. Kita to other peaks like Mt. Hotaka is an option for trekkers with more time to explore the region.
Situated in Kamikochi, a popular highland resort and also the starting point for the trek, Mt. Oku-Hotaka is Japan’s third highest mountain (3,190m), and the highest peak in the Hotaka Mountain Range. A peak best suited for intermediate trekkers due to its steepness, it takes about 9 - 10 hours to reach the summit. Often seen cloaked in clouds, Mt. OkuHotaka is extremely striking for its summer as it is covered with eye-catching
flora, including the Ikagawami flower. To prevent trekkers from trampling on the beautiful flora, circuits on Mt. Oku-Hotaka are well-marked with wooden planks, chains and ladders. The hike up the mountain starts from Kappabashi (a suspended bridge) crossing over Japan’s longest river – Shinano river – which leads to the Dakesawa Valley, after which there are several ridges to hike over, and several mountain huts that serve up a good
feast, before reaching the summit. With plenty of overnight buses from Shinjuku, there are several ways to get to Mt. Oku-Hotaka. One option is to overnight at Matsumoto town in Nagano prefecture, which is 3 hours from Tokyo by train, after which you can travel to Kamikochi on the first train. Matsumoto Tourism’s office (welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp) has English-speaking staff and good information on the Kita Alps.
Mt. OKU-HOTAKA (Hotakadake)
T MOUNTAINS A WINDOW INTO JAPANESE CULTURE Climbing the Japanese Alps is more than just brawn and stamina, it also offers insight on the Japanese culture, and their demeanour. Habits – like everyone cleaning up after themselves, hiking groups arriving on time, and dressing similarly – are all part of the Japanese landscape. Trip planning The summer climbing season typically starts in July and ends in early November (Mt. Fuji’s climbing season is shorter than Mt. Kita or Mt. Hotaka). Outside the climbing season, huts are closed and extreme weather conditions make it dangerous except for professional mountaineers. Accommodation in a mountain hut is around ¥8,000, with dinner and breakfast provided. It is not cheap, but bear in mind that supplies are all delivered by helicopter or hikers. Typically, lights go out at 8pm at the lodges so that everyone can have enough rest.
Innsbruck, Austria © 2010 | TVB Innsbruck
Nestled between high mountains, Innsbruck is a winter sports hub. This 800-year-old city has played host to various Winter Olympics (1964, 1976) as well as winter sports tournaments. In the summertime, the Nordkettenbahnen (Cable Railway) takes you from the city to mountainous ridge of Nordpark which offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, via ferrata, as well as some exhilarating downhill mountain biking.
Innsbruck caters to a wide array of ski © TVB Innsbruck enthusiasts with slopes suited to all levels of experience. Beginners can head over to Igls resort, while the more adventurous skier might want to tackle challenging areas in Nordpark, such as Skyline Park and Superpipe. Snowboarding, cross-country skiing and sledding are also also popular here. You can also try bobsleighing, which zooms you at 100km/h down a 1,270mlong track. Ski season is from mid-Nov to mid-April.
Christchurch, New Zealand Thimphu, Bhutan
Hemmed in by mountains, Thimphu is a veritable gem for culture vultures; here you’ll find plenty of centuries-old monasteries and temples perched precariously on cliff edges, handicraft markets, as well as colourful villages. There are numerous hiking trails that originate from Thimphu, ranging from day walks/hikes lasting about 1-3 hours, to multi-day treks that cater to the more adventurous. One of the most popular trails is to the “Tiger’s Nest”, also known locally as the Taktshang Goemba – a legendary monastery that is perched at the very edge of a cliff. The 900m trek to the monastery is steep, offering amazing views of Paro Valley. Speckled along the climb are meditation caves such as the Singye Phu Lhakhang (Snow Lion Cave).
© Miles Holden
SEA AND MOUNTAIN
Known as the "Garden City", Christchurch is a 2.5-hour drive away from New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki (Mt. Cook) – at 3,754m, it’s nestled within the Southern Alps. Despite being hit by an earthquake in 2011, Christchurch is back on its feet; with dozens of parks and events, it is a busy place year-round. In addition to sports, you can also observe the marine wildlife here, where dolphins, whales and penguins are a common sight. Christchurch is a base for various hiking routes, © Rob Suisted ranging from gentle beginner trails to hardier treks for the adventurous. Intermediate hikers can tackle the Aoraki Mount Cook trek which takes about 2 days (12-16 hours). The more adventurous hiker can try the Ball Pass Crossing which is a 3 day hike with magnificent views of Aoraki, Mt. Sefton, the Copland Pass and more. Other activities include abseiling, paragliding, skydiving, jet boating and bungee jumping.
Vancouver, Canada © Tourism Vancouver/Albert Normandin
When it comes to high altitude trekking, skiing or visiting secluded mountain monasteries, they all begin with one thing: a city that is a bridge between the mountains and the rest of the world. More than just gateways into their mountainous backyards, allow a few days in each city to take in their unique personalities.
Host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver has been named as one of the top 10 livable cities in the world. About 125km north of Vancouver, or a 2.5 hour drive away, lies Whistler Blackcomb – an internationally-renowned ski resort. Boasting the largest uphill lift capacity as well as one of the highest vertical skiable distance in North America, Whistler Blackcomb is a resort that is catered to skiers of all levels.
With the longest ski season (from late Nov till late April) in North America, Whistler offers a variety of activities, including heli-skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, as well as ice skating. After a long day on the hills, you can soak in the Scandinave Spa. In summer, they offer glacier skiing & riding, biking, hiking, horseback riding as well as fishing.
© Paul Morrison
Sapporo, Japan © JNTO
SKI AND SOAK
Known worldwide for hosting the first-ever Olympic Winter Games held in Asia, Sapporo is not only a hub for sports – it’s also home to Sapporo Beer and miso ramen, and come winter, the Sapporo Snow Festival takes centre stage. As one of Asia’s major ski hubs, Sapporo is the jumping-off point for Niseko, a renowned ski town centered around Mt. Yotei. Niseko consists of 4 ski areas: Niseko Grand © JNTO Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri and Niseko Hanazono which are all connected via shuttle buses. With a range of slopes, Niseko caters to the beginner as well as more advanced skiers and snowboarders. Famous for its light powder snow, Niseko is known in Japan for backcountry skiing, cat skiing as well as night skiing, with a ski season from December to May. After skiing, a soak in one of the many hot spring baths is a ritual for most.
With the Beagle Channel to the south and backed by the Martial Mountain Range to the north, Ushuaia is recognised as the southernmost city in the world. The entry point into the Tierra del Fuego National Park with its dramatic scenery of waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers, Ushuaia is also a vital port of departure for scientific explorations to the Antarctic. The Cerro Castor Ski Resort is 26km from Ushuaia, and is the southernmost full-fledged ski resort in the world, catering to beginner and intermediate skiers during ski season from June till October. Thanks to the excellent snow quality, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing are popular here. The Tierra del Fuego National Park offers a range of trekking routes (with plenty of options from seaside to mountain trails). In addition, the Beagle Channel is popular for wildlife watching (orcas, whales, dolphins and birds can be spotted) and kayaking.
Part of Africa's oldest national park, Volcanoes National Park or P.N.V. (founded under the Belgians as "Albert National Park" in 1925) is the gem in the crown of Rwandan wildlife. Home to the world-famous Mountain Gorillas – when it was first brought to worldwide attention by eminent primatologist Dian Fossey – it has gone on to become an instantly recognisable icon for the country and region. Located in the country's far northwest, the park encompasses the Rwandan side of the Virungas, a towering chain of ancient volcanoes stretching across central Africa. Ranging from 3,000m to over 4.500m, over half the peaks are in Rwanda and make up most of what remains of the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla's tiny habitat. Surviving precariously in ever dwindling numbers over the border in neighbouring DR Congo and Uganda, it's Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park that represents the species' last, legitimate chance at survival.
FLORA Ranging from 2,400m-4,500m over a comparatively tiny area just 1/5 the size of Singapore, the park is home to a vast range of plant species and forest types, each of which colonises its own unique altitudinal niche. While the lowest parts of the park are a mix of farmland and second-growth woodlands, above 2,500m, they give way to dense bamboo forests and the native African Hygenia trees favoured by the gorillas. While further up, vegetation grows sparse, giving way to short bush and finally grassland above 3,500m.
OTHER WILDLIFE While gorillas are by far the biggest attraction, Volcanoes National Park also boasts at least 16 of the Albertine Rift's endemic species of bird, including the extremely rare Grauer's rush warbler and Rwenzori turaco. Meanwhile, terrestrial species from buffalo to the golden monkey, spotted hyena and even elephants can be found in the park.
RWANDA’S VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK © Steve Turner
GETTING THERE AND ACCOMMODATION While just 1.5 hours' drive from Kigali, given the compulsory 7am briefing, it's unrealistic to try and make a daytrip to Volcanoes National Park. There are no organised accommodations or camp sites inside the park, with most visitors favouring either the Virunga Park Lodge on nearby Lake Burera not far from the park HQ, or any of the clean, basic options in local towns like Musanze or Kinigi.
31 © Steve Turner
KWITA IZINA Now in its 9th year, the annual baby-naming ceremony was begun in 2005 to name each and every gorilla born in the park, with 161 baby gorillas named thus far. The Kwita Izina usually falls on June every year; this year’s event took place on 23rd June, with 12 baby gorillas and one family named. Visitors have the chance to join the 4-day Kwita Izina Caravan tour from Kigali to Kinigi to discover some of the country’s sites and heritage, before culminating at the naming festival. To participate in next year’s ceremony, you can register your interest on their website from next year at www.rdb.rw/kwitizina.
GORILLA Needing substantial amounts of food, diurnal gorillas spend most of their waking hours from dawn to dusk on the move, foraging the mid-altitude Hygenia forests. Living in small family groups of 10 to 40 individuals, gorillas primarily eat leaves, shoots, bark and fruits, and when not eating, spend their time grooming or sleeping. Led by a dominant male silverback, gorillas can easily reach nearly 2m tall and 200kg+, consuming over 30kg in vegetation per day. There are numerous factors that conspire against gorillas as a species. Long-lived and slow to reproduce, juvenile gorillas often stay with their mother for 4-6 years, meaning a mature female may only raise 3-4 offspring during her lifetime. That slow reproductive cycle, combined with more immediate threats like poaching (especially in neighbouring countries) and their close genetic links to humans (which makes them susceptible to infections like the flu, to which they lack any
natural immunity) are all ongoing challenges to the species' future. Despite all these challenges, thanks to aggressive conservation tactics, growing international awareness and responsible tourism, gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, are making a small but crucial comeback with the latest gorilla census in 2012 showing a 10%+ population increase since last year alone, spread across 36 "family" groups, as well as some solitary young males. And while global numbers remain perilously low at roughly 880 individuals worldwide, these statistics are a promising indicator that the gorillas' future lies in responsible tourism initiatives and greater public awareness. Gorilla Guidelines Not surprisingly, the park enforces strict guidelines for both human and primate protection. Trekkers must follow their guides' directions at all times, and maintain a
personal distance of 7m from the gorillas. As they're highly susceptible to human illnesses, sick trekkers are not allowed to join a gorilla tracking group. While there are 5 main family groups in the park that are habituated to humans, visits are kept to a 1-hour maximum to keep gorilla stress levels at a minimum, and trekkers should remain as quite as possible and not make direct eye contact. There is a limited number of trekking permits issued per day by authorities (which sell out quickly), meaning advanced booking is highly advisable. Permits can be booked in person (through the Rwandan Development Board's Tourism and Conservation office) or via email (email@example.com), and cost US$750 per person. Treks begin with an early-morning 7am briefing, and set out from the park HQ. Treks generally last 3-4 hours, with each group (max. 8 pax) assigned a specific gorilla family for that day.
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EVENTS: RACE CALENDAR
Listing for all types of sporting events and challenges in Singapore and the region. For a listing of your event, email us at email@example.com.
Illumi Run 2013
Marina Run 2014
5km | 7 Dec, 8pm | City Area (registration closed) A party-themed fun run with DJ-spun music where runners get splashed with glow-in-the-dark water along the course. illumirun.com
5km, 10km & 21km | 15 Feb, 4.30pm | Gardens by the Bay | Registration: $25-50 Includes 'Wet & Wild' run (using water pistols) and a costumed run. www.marinarun.com.sg
Terry Fox Run 2014
4km & 12km | 15 Dec, 7am | Singapore Green Corridor (registration closed) A 12km and 4km off-road course with obstacle challenges along the way. www.commandochallenge.sg
5km & 10km | 16 Feb, 7am | East Coast Park | no set fee A run to raise funds for cancer research, based on donations from participants. www.canadians.org.sg
MR25 Ultra Marathon 2013
New Moon khcycle MetaSprint Aquathlon
51km or more in 12 hours | 29 Dec, 7am | MacRitchie Reservoir | Registration: $65 (entries close 1 Dec) Following a 10.2km loop through MacRitchie, with winners completing the most circuits in 12 hours. mr25.org.sg
5km run & 750m swim | 16 Feb | Sentosa | Registration: $81 A swim+run challenge with 4 categories from beginners to athletes. metasprintseries.com
2XU Compression Run 2014
Run For Your Lives Singapore 2014 5km | 11 Jan, 1pm | The Padang | Registration: $89.90 Choose your role as a runner or a zombie through this fun run obstacle race. runforyourlivesasia.com
OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 24km & 48km | 17-19 Jan | Dataran Merdeka | Registration: MYR126 With 9 entry categories include The Challenge (48km) and Foldies (24km), in addition to timed runs. www.ocbc.cyclemalaysia.com.my
MARCH 2014 10km, 21km & 42km | 2 Mar, 4.30am | Registration: $45, $55 & $72 A classic marathon in its 3rd year with options for half and 10km runs. www.2xucompressionrun.com.sg
APRIL 2014 Challenge Taiwan 2014 113km & 226km | 19 Apr | Taitung, Taiwan | Registration: USD225 An iron-man challenge with half- and full-distance for individuals and teams. www.challenge-taiwan.com