Monday, April 13, 2015

One more Red Rock

Jason and I were at Red Rocks this past weekend. On Saturday we started by doing a mish-mash of a trad route: Jason led most of the first pitch of Splitting Hares to the first belay of Too Many Tantrums. I then led the second pitch and most of the third pitch of Too Many Tantrums, back to the roof and traverse of Splitting Hares. Got lost a bit above the roof, downclimbed and traversed. Super fun!

Then we moved to my old friend, Pauligk Pillar. There I had to over-protect the first few moves, resulting in a mid-route belay stop, and Jason led the second portion of the pitch. We weren't feeling the second pitch, AGAIN, so we hiked out to make the 8pm exit time.

On Sunday we played on Panty Wall, then went down to the Hamlet, got schooled on one of the lower tier sport routes, did an upper tier 7, and tried for a lower tier toprope, which proved uninspiring. Overall a good day to stretch out the soreness!

Monday, January 5, 2015

A paragraph about suffering

I enjoyed this article in Outside magazine about Misogi. This paragraph about what my older mountaineering friends call "suffering" struck me as particularly accurate:

But something funny happens once you’ve been in the grip of a painful ordeal for a certain amount of time. Namely, the body and mind—inured to the unwelcome task they’ve been set upon—mostly stop fighting it. Resisting takes too much energy. It cannot be sustained. And, gradually, in place of my instinctive resistance came an active kind of relaxation and acceptance.
This definitely happens to me when backpacking or approaching climbs in the mountains. Invariably I'm in pain of some kind -- my knees, my shoulders from the pack, altitude, it's always something -- and I just grind on and on. It's slightly different from paddling, which puts me in a distinct zone I call "machine" mode, where I'm lustily pounding at some physically exerting thing for hours with my brain finally shut up.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Climbing recap for most of 2014

Wow, I look back and realize I owe more than a year's worth of climbing updates. Yikes!

So, last summer and fall I remember doing the following:  
  • climbing Summer Sojourn with Anil, me getting really bad nausea from wearing new, distorting sunglasses, and him getting a food allergy after we got down, but not before encountering a massive rattlesnake on the descent trail!
  • training to increase my knees' endurance and my altitude tolerance on the Cathedral lakes trail, 
  • climbing on Dozier Dome (was it Holdless Horror?) with Josh, 

  • making another attempt on BCS with Josh and Terri,
  • climbing (and getting hailed on!) at Clark Canyon with Theresa.


Then I started a new job right after BCS, and late fall 2013 and winter is a blur.

In spring Theresa and I started training a bit more in earnest, and went out to New Jack City a few times.

In early summer we made a trip to Dome Rock and I took Theresa up her first trad multi-pitch, Tree Route. We also did Permanent Income Hypothesis a couple times, with T. leading, and all the time I was training in the gym with Jason and Anil.



Jason, Theresa and I teamed up for a Tuolumne weekend in which I led West Country on Stately Pleasure Dome, and then we practiced crack climbing at guide cracks the next day.

And in October Theresa and I went to Red Rocks where we played on the Panty Wall the first day, T. led Big Bad Wolf on day 2, and I led the first pitch of Ragged Edges on day 3. We were having too much fun to take pics :)

So, it's been a slow year, mostly due to the new job and due to the project of moving Koan up to the Bay Area taking up so many weekends, but not altogether a bad year!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fall & Winter recap

Dima on the approach to Purblind

Lest the reader (hi, all 3 of you!) think that there has been no climbing this past fall and winter, I would like to submit that I did do two trips. One was to Red Rocks in early November with Dima, then hooking up with the Minnesota crew, and the second was to JTree with part of the aforementioned MN crew.

In Red Rocks we climbed Purblind Pillar on Angel Food wall. It was great, but the whole time I was thinking how we should have been doing Tunnel Vision, because that looked amazing. Stilgar's Wild Ride and Group Therapy also looked awesome, so they are definitely on my tick list. The descent was quite Olympus-like, though. Definitely plan some extra time for that. On the second day I screwed up our approach beta and we overshot the area where we were supposed to meet the MN crew (wherever Great Red Book is, which is now also on my tick list). So after a bunch of wandering around and figuring it out, we decided to head to Ice Box canyon to investigate, since it seemed like a reasonably warm day. We got on Shady Ladies (meh) and Cold September Corner (insane!), and it *was* really cold in the shade. The trip was topped off by a huge thing puncturing my brand new Yoko tires, which irked me to no end. But thankfully by Monday morning I was able to find a place that could patch it, for free, to boot, and head on home.

The second trip to JTree was a bit impromptu, when I found out that my peeps from MN were heading out there for a weekend. We did the Eye, Stichter Quits, whatever the route with the one bolt is a bit to the left of that, and top-roped Battle of the Bulge. And had glorious glorious Indian food, which was at least as good as the routes.

So, in spite of two long international trips, getting sick three times, and shit-tons of work, I did manage to get out twice. Score!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

False positives suck

I've been holding out on writing about my recent sailing trip from the Galapagos to Panama City, because during the trip there was an occurrence that seriously rattled me, disturbed my crew-mates and generally marred a trip that had begun and promised to continue in a very chilled out atmosphere. I was dealing with the aftermath of that event until just now, when I got off the phone. Not wanting to tell an incomplete story, I suppose that now that that aftermath has concluded, I can go ahead.

On the second day of our passage my SPOT satellite messenger malfunctioned. I am frankly exhausted hearing about, re-telling, writing down and trying to intellectually and emotionally process what ensued, so I cannot bring myself to put it all down in detail one more time here. I'm sorry. I'm sure if I were a good journalist, it would spin an excellent yarn. And there are obviously a number of very very serious implications, so maybe we can talk about those in the comments, or on twitter, or something -- I'm pretty sure I know all of the 4 people who follow this blog personally -- because it's the implications that matter.

I had been using the SPOT the way I usually do, pressing OK once a day, to let my partner (via text & email) and my parents (via the website) know that all was well. I've used the SPOT this way for about 14 months, maybe 3-4 trips. Well, on New Year's Day, instead of transmitting an OK, the SPOT freaked out and started transmitting a spurious stream of "Help" and occasional "Cancelled" messages. Take a second to think about that. Deep breath. Continue. 25 minutes later, unaware that anything was amiss, I tried to turn off the device, as I always do, to save the batteries. It wouldn't turn off, so I thought, "wtf?", popped off the back and took out the batteries. That did it. That's when the random stream of "Help" messages stopped.

Several hours later, via a call from US Coast Guard to the boat's sat-phone -- which was not configured to take incoming phone calls, thereby blowing the skipper's mind -- we found out that my partner, my parents, the US, Ecuadorean and Greek Coast Guards and my private medevac insurance provider, Global Rescue, had all spent the previous few hours trying to ascertain my well being, looping in a half dozen additional minor players in the process. Had the USCG not magically been able to raise us on a sat-phone (one that has never in the past had and never in the future will have another incoming call -- magic!) the next step that was being proposed was to scramble a C130 spotter plane. Once the USCG reached us, the situation was put to sleep quickly and in an orderly fashion.

So, some distilled thoughts:

1) My partner and I have a protocol that we discuss in advance of each trip for how to respond to each of the possible SPOT messages (OK, Help, SOS and "custom", which we use as "cancel the protocol"). The protocol is basically the same in most use-cases (sailing on my boat, sailing on other boats and climbing), with small changes for what agencies to loop in. The protocol we had in place worked perfectly, so in hindsight we can look at this as a fire drill. Our agreed "Help" response is to wait two hours for an OK (thereby canceling the "Help") or an SOS (thereby immediately escalating it). That is, "Help" is what I'm supposed to push when there's something going wrong, and I am worried that I will not have a chance to press SOS later, but I'm working the situation at the moment, so there is no immediate need for assistance. E.g. the boat is heading for the rocks, but I'm trying to get an anchor down; or I've gone overboard, but I'm tethered and trying to get back on; or my partner's slid down a couloir, and I'm glissading down to check them out myself. If everything works out, I will press OK later. If things go to hell, I will press SOS. If I don't press either, two hours after the Help, my partner will assume that things have not gone well and that help is needed, and escalate to the SOS protocol. Even though in this case the "Help" message was sent as a result of hardware malfunction, there was no way my partner could have known, and there was nothing that he could or should have done differently. Our escalation strategy (first confirm the message with SPOT, then start looping in agencies and Global Rescue one by one, and follow their instructions) was correct. I would highly recommend that anyone who seriously uses SPOT plan their protocol in advance, together with the people who will have to enact it.

1b) I did learned something from a mistake I made. The moral: consider not having Help and SOS messages appear in your public mapping page. I normally don't have them appear, but I stupidly enabled them just for this trip, for no reason at all. The only person familiar with the abovementioned protocol was my partner, who was receiving messages directly, but my parents were also following along on the mapping page. Ideally, in case of Help and SOS, my partner should have been the only one to act. But through a time-zone vagary, my parents happened to look at the mapping page right after the spurious Help messages began. Thankfully, they contacted my partner first and he was able to more or less restrain them from taking actions outside the protocol. Mostly. The looping in of Greek Coast Guard was of their doing. In the end it proved invaluable in getting in touch with the UK Boat Registration Authority, through whom the sat-phone number was located and passed to US Coast Guard. But that's neither here nor there. I suppose my point is: choose whether you want just your protocol people, or the whole world to know about your Help and SOS messages, and set up your mapping page accordingly.

2) The agencies that my partner and parents contacted (US, Greek and Ecuadorean Coast Guard, Global Rescue) treated the SPOT "Help" message as credible. Nobody at any point suggested that the device had a track record of false positives or was unreliable in the least. That, at least, is heartening.

3) These agencies are AMAZING. They are total pros. They apparently did an incredible job sorting it all out, and interfacing with each other, and they were completely unfazed (the same cannot be said of some of the private parties involved) when it turned out to have been a malfunction. Treat these first responders with courtesy and respect, and they will save your hide. As first world citizens, we are so fortunate to have them available to back us up.

4) In the end, while the OK-mode for the SPOT is convenient and nice to have, I WILL NEVER USE IT AGAIN. I can understand how a device might fail to work, that is, how it can fail OFF. But I now know that an un-abused, un-wetted, comfortable SPOT can, for no apparent reason at all, fail ON. I cannot possibly take the chance that, while I'm just trying to say "Hi, I'm here, I'm OK", it will accidentally report me as being in distress, distressing all my people, in turn, and potentially launching a rescue. Screw the convenience and novelty of saying "I'm OK". The bottom line: I cannot do without SOS. I can do without OK. But then why own a SPOT instead of, say, a Personal Locator Beacon of some kind? But also, is the implication that people must personally experience a false positive before they realize that the risks associated with OK-mode are not worth it? And are false positives like this not bound to erode first responder confidence, in the long run? The answer to these questions depends on the specifics of the statistical distribution of false positives -- i.e. are they rare events, or are they significant (my data point: ~1/40 OKs turned into a false stream of Helps; that is *horrible*, statistically)? I hope, for the sake of those of us who may have to use a SPOT in a real emergency some day, that SPOT is doing its homework.

The final chapter in all this is SPOT's response. I wrote them a report of the incident, and said I wanted two things: a) for them to investigate the incident and learn something from it, and b) a replacement device, even though mine was 2 months out of warranty, and even though I vowed never to press OK again. Two days later a customer service agent called me who was obviously completely unaware of the implications of my story. She suggested that I pay $50 for a replacement device and initially had no comment on my sending it in for an investigation. I said that they could either send me a new device for free or cancel my account. She acquiesced and promised they would be sending me a warranty RMA email, with an address to which to mail the faulty device, and would be sending new a device. I pressed her on what kind of investigation they would conduct on the old device, but didn't get anything other than an assurance that they, in fact, would conduct one.

I think a chunk of the serenity prayer is relevant here...

Serene sunset, near the equator.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pregnant ... with project

At the canyon by slampoud
At the canyon, a photo by slampoud on Flickr.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. “
– Patanjali (borrowed from Mayan Smith Gobat's blog)

So heart-full, and so much to catch up on, and how to put it in words?

A bit over a year ago a clock started ticking. I think of it as somewhat equivalent to some women's "biological clock": insistent, persistent, looming large. In my case the yearning was, simply, for a place of my own. And not just to own it, but to *own* it, to know every molecule, preferably to have been responsible for the location of most of the molecules! I am very fortunate to have a beautiful rented roof over my head, and my dream sailboat as my woman-cave. But I gluttonously craved a bit of outside, a dry spot under a big rock, a gazebo, a dilapidated cabin, a big hearty tree, *someplace* on dry land to call my own.

After about a year of searching, waiting, and hand-wringing, I finally took the leap. That's the spot in the photo. I knew it was the place the minute -- near sundown, in late winter -- I stepped out of the car and inhaled the view. My citicard's unreasonably high credit limit, and post-holiday 0% financing ("to pay for Christmas indiscretions") did the rest.

So this is my new obsession: a bit of dirt, and what to do with it. I've decided to build a "cabin" (a shed, really), and I've spent the last three weeks or so obsessing full time (though I've been obsessing part time since I bought the land).

So I know this blog is usually about climbing, but I think building a shed (close to one of the world's best climbing locations, the Needles, to boot) is also well within the "little did I know..." class of things for me. So in the next few days I'll be sharing some thoughts about how I picked the location (e.g. climbing considerations!), how I've been going about getting from 0 to 60 on the subject of sheds and building (with links), and other stuff along this vein.

And before I forget, an attribution for the quote: I was reading Mayan Smith Gobat's blog this morning, and she had this (and another quote by Leo Buscaglia, a favorite of mine!) on her "philosophy" page. It suits me very much at the moment!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sherman Peak

Huckles on Sherman Peak by slampoud
Huckles on Sherman Peak, a photo by slampoud on Flickr.
This past weekend my goal was to spend some time hiking with my pooch, and to do it at altitude, so as to acclimate for an upcoming (I hope) high altitude ascent project a friend and I have in the works (wink wink!). Indeed Hucks and I made it up Sherman Peak, which is 9909 ft tall, via the 5 mile r.t., ~1000 ft elevation gain trail from Sherman Pass Rd. The trailhead was full of mountain bikers, so for a moment I was terrified it would be a very unpleasant experience, but they went downhill and we headed uphill and it all worked out! A big question in my mind was whether dogs feel altitude the same way humans do, and I think the answer is: yes. Huckles slowed down considerably as we progressed on the trail. I was huffing and puffing very badly myself. So now I have to think about acclimating the dog as well as myself for any future shenanigans.