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Serious climbers, here’s a serious goal for 2011 that will give you all kinds of bragging rights: Reaching the top of the 121-foot Excalibur in the Netherlands, a climbing wall that bills itself as the highest in the world.
Perhaps named for its curving, sword-like shape, this 50-ton monster, which is part of the Bjoeks climbing center, towers more than eight stories over the town of Gronigen, in the northeastern corner of the country. If the height isn’t imposing enough, here’s a breakdown of Excalibur by the numbers: a 500-ton concrete base, a foundation of 36 nine-meter poles, and an imposing 33-foot overhang that only experienced climbers should attempt.
But even if you never set a (chalked) hand onto Excalibur, it still makes for some pretty incredible photos. Another enticing reason to add it to your itinerary? You’re not likely to encounter hordes of visitors, as the wall is more of a landmark for the city and surrounding community than it is well-known among tourist circles.
Actor James Franco as solo hiker Aron Ralston, whose incredible survival story culminated in the amputation of his forearm after he was trapped by a boulder, was outstanding. As were the movie’s script and cinematography, a mix of rock-and-roll headiness and emotional reflection. And the setting – Utah’s breathtaking rock formations and clausto-inducing canyons – had me itching to book a flight.
Which is exactly what the folks at Utah’s Office of Tourism have been hoping for, with promotional trips in place to capitalize on all the buzz.
Shortly after the film’s release, Travel Utah announced five 127 Hours-themed excursions to the state (visit www.travel.utah.gov/127hours), whose stunning landscape plays its own starring role in the film. Says Tracie Cayford, spokesperson for the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, “The premise is if you had 127 hours to spend in Utah, what would you do?”
With no long lines, parking hassles, or expensive lift tickets involved, it’s no wonder snowshoeing has become the fastest-growing winter sport. This centuries-old mode of transport – according to some figures, the first snowshoes were used by migrating cultures around 3,000 or 4000 B.C. – has enjoyed an unprecedented surge as of late, with millions of enthusiasts strapping on their shoes every year.
Unlike its downhill cousins, snowshoeing is relatively cheap (you’ll pay less for your own pair of shoes than two lift tickets) and accessible (anybody with an adventurous spirit can do it) – you simply strap on your shoes and go. Plus, you’ll still get the exhilaration of communing with nature and amazing views, not to mention a killer workout.
Snowshoeing is an ideal option for anybody who’s ready for a change from the slopes (or the sliding motion of cross-country skiing). In addition, because you only need about a foot of snow, you can do it just about anywhere there’s white stuff (though make sure to follow trail etiquette). Here, a few ideal destinations where you can get trekking. Read more
Scotland has long been a draw for hard-core adrenaline junkies, but for the average traveler, trying to spot the Loch Ness Monster was about as adventurous as a trip here would get. Not anymore. This small island country has exploded in popularity among a wide range of adventure travelers, with more than $1.4 billion spent annually on trips there. Forecasters are also predicting a 70 percent jump in visitors over the next three years, according to figures from the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
If you haven’t yet been, why not add Scotland to your 2011 travel calendar? Here, some popular excursions in what is fast becoming the newest go-to destination for outdoor adventures.
This weekend, TLC’s newest reality show will debut, featuring ex-Alaska governor Sarah Palin exploring – where else? – her beloved home state. Palin may be one of the most polarizing figures in recent political history, but whether you love the gun-slingin’ maverick or love to hate her, it’s hard to argue with a passion for such an adventure-packed, breathtaking wilderness as the Last Frontier.
Now through the next few weeks is an ideal time to visit – summer tourists are long gone, and winter has yet to get into full frigid swing. Plus, rates tend to be lower on everything from accommodations to transit (the Alaska Marine Highway System, the state’s extensive ferry, is offering big discounts; more info on that below.).
Here, I’ve rounded up some cool offerings to explore this rugged outdoor paradise – Palin sightings not guaranteed (but please do let me know if you can see Russia from your hotel). Read more
If you need any extra incentive to add a dash of adrenaline to your next trip, consider this: Americans came in dead last in a recent survey designed to gauge travelers’ taste for adventure, behind Kiwis, Canadians, Australians and Brits (in order of most to least adventurous).
The survey, done by adventure travel specialist Intrepid Travel, asked 1,000 respondents from five countries to reveal how likely they were to try a variety of travel experiences. The “intrepid” survey choices included eating a deep fried tarantula, sleeping in village hut, going on safari, haggling at local markets and exploring ancient ruins.
Of course, surveys like this should be taken with a grain of salt, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t consider haggling in a local market or traipsing around ancient ruins all that intrepid (though yes, eating a hairy arachnid, deep-fried or not, would certainly earn you that honor in my book). But the survey did provoke a fun trip down memory lane to some of my most exciting – and, therefore, cherished – travel moments. Here are a few: Read more
Even with newfangled GPS gadgetry out there in increasing numbers, a good, old-fashioned map remains a staple for any self-respecting adventure traveler.
To that end, the National Geographic Society, the gold-standard source for maps for nearly a century, recently announced plans to expand its AdventureMaps line. The expansion will bring travelers a slew of new options for finding their way in increasingly popular adventure destinations such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Thailand. Countries and cities in Africa, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and Europe are also on deck for a total of 60 new destinations by the end of 2012, and 30 more by summer of next year.
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