Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Princess

Today is Angie's Birthday and I was looking for some cute memory of her to post here. Found this, from the Polish Festival in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Aren't my two Polish Princesses darling?

Come to Momentum on Friday, Dec. 19 to enjoy climbing and a really cool cake. See her blog for details.

Click Here for Angie's Blog

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Error in a previous link

Lol, checking my stats report I noticed a bad link for Momentum Climbing. I found and fixed it.

Should be:

Sorry about that...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

FIrst Lead Rope Solo - Saturday December 6, 2008

Draper Red Rock, Gum Cheese 5.6. 10 AM.

Anne came to watch Tan and Bren while Angie is in China with Dallin, so I took off right away and got to the parking lot at about 8:30. There was another car there - larger SUV with no obvious stickers or racks, so that was odd. No one was obviously on the rock.

I set off up the trail with my Osprey Exposure 50 pack (my favorite climbing pack - can even hook up fruit boots and leashless tools on the back panel fairly easily). It was a chilly 28 degrees and I had on smartwool light weight top and bottom, REI Mistral shoeller pants, my Mountain Hardwear Windstopper vest, my Oakley Softshell hoodie (alas, they don't sell them this year), my TNF Apex Bionic Aerobic jacket (the one I lived in every single last day of Ecuador - it's been washed - doh!), and once I got to the crag, I put on my Red Ledge Primaloft belay jacket (total clearance from a store in Breckenridge where I also got my TNF stuff, like the Oakley I got on - if you want stuff like 90% off that's the place)

At the top it was obvious someone was there, but they had some saws and shovel type gear. A guy was fixing the fence where people were hanging gear and leaning on it. He seemed to think that people were vaulting it and running downhill, so he was going to put a stop to that by gathering up brush and making an obstacle course for them. If that's the case it's an admirable cause. He also mentioned that vandals frequently stole the route name plaques (which I really appreciate and wish were more common) but since you'd have to lay in the dirt to get to them, they leave the bench plaques alone. Lazy vandals.

I wasn't sure what to do, since my plan had been to lead rope solo something just to test it out, but I didn't know if that would be okay or not with a spectator, so I hiked up top and checked out anchors and all, noticing that the tiny crag to the East had some interesting routes reminiscent of the Traverse Wall at Swan Mountain Road outside Breckenridge/Keystone in Colorado. I also found two variants of anchors for the section between the 5.11 and the Eastern 5.8. Have to try that as well sometime.

I also found what I think would be an interesting new 5.8 on the Red Rock proper, just in a place between stuff that isn't developed yet. Interesting indeed ...

So I decided what-the-hey and started building the foundation of any Lead Rope Solo system - a bomber mult-directional bottom anchor. I slung a keyhole, got an upward-pull nut in solid, and got a very solid tricam in (lots of people don't like tricams, but they work great for this application) all semi pre-equalized, but then added a sliding x to it as well, so it should do the job. I think.

About that time the guy left (wondered if I should ask if he is the dentist). He said that if no one was coming to be my partner I could just top-rope solo. So nice when people are open-minded.

I harnessed up, shoed up (madrock flash lace with socks on!), set up my belay system and headed up.

I had a slew of minor issues, the most annoying of which is my belay system kept locking up on me, which wasn't too bad until the 2nd to last bolt was an odd clip, and mantling the little bulge by the offwidth crack I got hung up when it locked on me, so I had to wedge myself in the crack and hang by my stomach while I pulled up slack. About then my fingers got really cold (still in the shadows, crag facing roughly Northwest) so I stopped atop the bulge where it gets flat and pocketed my hands for a bit. Maybe if I wore fingerless gloves?

I clipped the right set of top anchors and just threaded them, then dropped the rope down the route and undid my belay system and threaded my Petzl Reverso3 (love that one). I tied into the end of the rope for safety, undid my daisy and stowed it, then started rapping down.

I cleaned on the way down, which is the first time I've cleaned rapping. I had a tiny hassle undoing a backup clove hitch at the 2nd bolt hanger. It was a hassle to set too. Oh well, it's all good edumacation. And my hands thawed inside my leather rapping gloves.

At the bottom I paused to take my pic, then while I had a toprope set up for myself, started on the very vertical bouldery start to what may become a new 5.8. It was a blast for the first 10' or so, then I had to downclimb since with my current solo belay system it is a pain to manually take up slack, which was difficult with the overhang. I'll have to get that worked out down the road if I'm going to keep this up. My toes were pretty cold so I put my running shoes back on with both pair of socks on.

I checked out a few other routes for possible bomber anchor setups, then since I had to be home at noon I packed up and headed to the car.

It was a ton of fun, and a great way to learn and grow. More later....

Friday, December 5, 2008

ECUADOR - Monday, November 24, 2008

Got up at 5:30, made a protein shake, rinsed out all my containers and packed them, packed dirty clothes from last night, took a shower, and hauled all my stuff down at 6:30 to the lobby. I had the breakfast, then went up to the room for last-minute cleanup, and checked out. My ride was waiting and I had an easy trip to the airport.

There I had typical Latin-American issues with customs and immigration, and to the tune of "last call" I ran to the gate, only to hear them announce it every 5 minutes for the next half hour. lol.

The plane was half-empty (or half-full) so we all got our own rows. I stretched out and snoozed some here and there, and took some cool pictures along the flight.

I remember how impacted I was on the way down by Panama - after reading a book about the Darien Gap earlier in the year. I got some shots of the Key West Airport in Florida.

In Atlanta customs and immigration were merely annoying and slow, but otherwise not bad. And here I am sitting typing waiting to fly to SLC.

(this whole series was typed on my Acer Aspire I purchased from Amazon while sitting in hotels, haciendas, and in the airports - the batteries really did last the whole trip)

ECUADOR - Sunday, November 23, 2008

Got up at 7, had breakfast in the hotel, then packed my stuff up. In the hall I noticed out the window that there was a street behind the hotel with some mountain outfitter type stores, so I decided to give them a looksee. They were closed, so I went out to the market, and it was barely open as well. Sunday morning is lazy day in Quito. I walked a bit further and discovered art being sold along the sidewalk in a city park, and saw green tents lining the sidewalk so checked them out. Another market!

I bought some more gifts, and had tons of fun experimenting and learning with my limited Spanish. Great fun. On the way back I ran into Mike and Chuck and told them about the other market. I ducked back into my room to drop off stuff and went out to eat. I found a sandwich place and had a Sanduach de Cubano (had one in Mexico and loved it) and Jugo de Banana y Pina.

I went back out to the market and ran into Chuck who thanked me for finding the city park market. I went to the outfitters and they were open this time and one of the store managers/owners knew Javier and we talked for a bit. I went back to the hotel to prepare for the evening. We were going to a much fancier place this time, so I "dressed up" a bit.

We met in the lobby at 6:45 to pool tips etc. for the guides and staff, then Javier and Sebastion came in and we talked for a few minutes. I gave Javier the tent stake I found in my stuff, then off we went for the drive to the edge of town in the hills to the hacienda. It was a really nice restaurant owned by a former guide who married a client, quit guiding, sold his business to Javier, and opened the restaurant.

After ordering we got the grand tour (his friend wasn't there that night, but the staff knew Javier) and hung out for a while by a 8' wide fireplace (not lit, but impressive nonetheless). We saw some pictures of the owner's mountaineering days. Dinner was served. I had the potato soup, and shrimp with rice noodles. The sauce was wonderful, sweet and spicy at the same time with a light but thick breading. Really good end to a great trip.

Back at the Isabel we talked for a few minutes more (I was elected to be photo-central and manage that). Eric and I will most likely do something alpine in Washington this coming year.

I did my final packing, then went to bed.

ECUADOR - Saturday, November 22, 2008

I got up to pouring drizzle, and Javier was the only other one up. I sat in the cook tent with him (warm) and we talked a bit. We figure the rain made the snow just that much worse, since it would melt the crystals under the slab while making the slab that much heavier. Much more dangerous. We decided it would be best just to go to Quito and try checking into the Reina Isabel early if possible and do a day of shopping. As everyone finally got out of bed, we talked and all agreed (especially when I mentioned that the Isabel had heat and we could dry out our crap).

We ate some great eggs and then packed up our stuff in the rain and took off down the road. As we took off we ran into a school group that had walked up and it was fun with Pepe and the kids running along beside, behind, and ahead yelling directions and advice.

At one point Javier asked some kids to stand on the bumper for balast, we when we offered, he refused. I explained "if we fall off the back and get dead, our wives will be very rich, if they fall off the back and get dead, their parents will be very sad". We thought about the sad truth of that for a few seconds.

When we got down to the pavement the van that had brought the kids was waiting for them. We took off down the pavement and saw some more condors.

Beautiful. At the final checkpoint the police were there for some obvious permit dispute, and no one looked happy. They moved to let us through, and we headed down to town.

We drove into Quito and stopped at a mall, all decorated for Christmas (according to Javier since September) and ate at a Crepe place. We sortof pooled our resources and ate a bit of this and that and split the bill (since it was off the itinerary).

Javier called and got us all single rooms at the Isabel, and we drove in to check in around 3PM. Chuck talked them into allowing us to keep the rooms til Monday by paying a single supplement. Overall pretty reasonable for what we got. We all went to our rooms and spread our stuff out to dry. I rinsed out some stuff and hung it to dry so I would have some clothes for the party Sunday night.

I went out then about 4PM to check out the neighborhood and found the market, and a spiral mall (totally cool).

I bought a few things and then went back to the hotel, ate some of my stash, and got ready for bed. Just as I was about to fall asleep Chuck called. He and Daniel were going out on the town and asked if I wanted to go. I said sorry I'd rather sleep, then crashed.

ECUADOR - Friday, November 21, 2008

In the morning, I had some clothes I rinsed out that didn't dry, so I packed them in a ziplock and put them in the tent bag.

Antisana is unusual because it's harder to get to than most other peaks in Ecuador (except for El Altar, which requires a three-day jungle trek). There is a private road that requires a permit from the landowner (though on the internet no one claims to have been refused a permit it is another layer of hassle). We had to pass through three checkpoints. Finally the road stopped being paved and turned straight to crap.

We got stuck in the mud several times (Javier driving the Toyota), requiring us to be towed out by Sebastion (in the Mitsubishi). Pepe climbed up on the roof and started yelling directions. He jumped off and on several times without us stopping, so he could run (run, fast, at 14,000' or more) ahead and look for a path.

We finally got to the end of the road, where another guide that Javier knows had a client in a huge center-pole type tent (the classic cook tent like on expeditions). We went a ways past and set up camp there. Sebastion offered that we could trade a training hike for setting up the tents, so we agreed and went to work.

When we were done it was nearly 2 PM so several of us wanted to get to sleep, but we had a snack and hit the trail to take our crampons and axes up to a cache at 15,500' (camp was at 14,900') to make the night a bit easier. So much for the swap ;)

When we got back we ate and watched Antisanna, finally peeking out of the clouds and looking so amazingly huge! We had a final pep talk, and went to our tents to pretend to sleep til 10 PM, when we would be roused out of our stupor and set up the trail at 11.

I put in my contacts early so I wouldn't have to do it at 10, which would take a bit longer than I would have, and tried sleeping. I think I did a little, since I was fairly rested at 10. I had cereal with yogurt again, and tried the Cliff Recovery Apple Cider ( a bit thick for me ). We headed up in a thick mist, and were amazed that Sebastion took us right to the cache. We grabbed our stuff and stuck it on our packs, then went the last few hundred feet to the foot of the glacier, where we put on our crampons, stashed our poles, and switched to axes.

We roped up, Daniel, Chuck and Javier on one. Pepe and Eric on another. Mike and Sebastion and I on the last. We began climbing up the not-too-steep foot of the glacier where it was very hard freeze-thaw consolidated rime. Huge crystals glowed in the ice. Cracks ran every which way, but they were only about 4" across and not a big deal.

As we climbed higher, the snow turned to hard-pack that we broke through constantly (worse for me as the heaviest climber in the whole group). Under the slab were large loose crystals of unconsolidated snow. My nightmares from the day before? Eric got spooked and Pepe stopped to dig a pit. Just then we began breaking through deep. Sebastion and I both broke through to our hips into crevasses, and Chuck went in up to his armpits and Javier did as well, though I didn't see how deeply. Daniel went into arrest, classic first response. Good training.

We all pulled ourselves out then went up to see the pit. Sebastion tapped the 4' square block of snow with a foot deep trench around it, and the whole slab slid down. Ouch. Eric said no way and he and Pepe boogied. I tried yelling "wait for me" but Sebastion said we would go up another few hundred feet and do another pit. Bob, the client from the other guide went past us and on up with his guide.

The next pit proved bad as well, so we all turned around. One thing between us and Bob was that as a group of eight we had a bigger impact on the snowpack, while if it was only two, the odds were slightly better.

We headed down and quickly entered a whiteout. We seemed to wander in the hills of the moraine, finally seeing a spotlight that Javier left on in the Toyota (good thinking). We got back to our tents at 3 AM and crashed. I pulled my contacts and slept til 7 nonstop. Great.

ECUADOR - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sure enough, I tossed and turned half the night, and at 2AM I was so stiff and sore I could hardly move - what a tough day yesterday was. I went to the hut and got some hot chocolate (Swiss Miss) and drank some, then decided to give it a shot. Chuck decided to bail, so it was two teams of two and one team of three.

I had my stuff pretty much ready, so it didn't take long, and I had some corn flakes and yogurt and then headed up with my rope-mates Mike and Sebastion. We hiked up the same beginning as for Norte, then angled off toward the glacier, at the foot of which we cramponed up. Amazingly, the very first thing we had to do was climb a narrow chute at about AI3, single-tool French style. It was a lot of fun, even at 16,000'. Overall it was steep, but the snow was fantastic. Near the top was another section of lower angled AI3, maybe 3- if there is such a thing. In the guidebooks it's rated AD (French for "a bit difficult") and I'd say that's about right. We made the summit under goal, hung around for a bit enjoying our speed and success.

Fantastically, it turned out that Mike had lost a crampon somewhere along the way, so it was a good thing I'd been kicking good steps (I was in the middle of our rope, so he followed me). We swapped out ropes so I was in the middle with Javier and Daniel. We had to immediately downclimb the steep section, again, French Style, and it was great fun. I kicked solid steps so Mike could come down with Sebastion, and they hand-over-hand went down our rope like a fixed rope, then after they passed us Javier, Daniel and I simulclimbed the rest of it to the flats where we rested, drank, and stripped down some.

We had good, but steep, walking down, and got to the top of the chute in good time. Mike found his crampon there (Pepe had found it and placed it at the top of the chute). Mike and Daniel got lowered, and I got to climb down, which again, was great fun. I got to pull a few downclimbing mixed moves, using my axe in a narrow band of rock, and taking some rock hand and crampon holds. I can hardly wait for Liberty Ridge now.

We walked down the rest of the way to the hut and variously napped or ate and packed up our stuff. The horses were there waiting for us, so we got our bags in a pile for them, and I changed to my running shoes. We headed all the way down to the trucks at 13,000'. We got in one and left the other for Pepe to pack when the horses got down.

We drove to "La Estacion" where we ate, and picked up our baggage from storage. Pepe caught up to us quickly (everything he did was quickly btw). We continued on to "La Carrion" our hacienda for that night. I ended up with the single room, which was cool, since I got to lay all my stuff out and plan for two bags for Antisana - one I could just leave in the SUV and the other I could bring into my tent.

We ate in a much fancier environment there. Really nice, then went to bed early. I had nightmares about disaster on Antisana and was pretty freaked for the first part of the night.

ECUADOR - Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Starting from Iliniza Base Camp (our camp near the "end of the road" at 13,050' near the shrine). Sebastion and Javier were guiding us on this trip - Pepe would pack up camp and haul it to the Hut at Iliniza, at about 15,500'.

Along the way we got a great view of Cotopaxi.

We hiked up to the hut, where we paused for a hot drink and snack (Javier's cooks were there, having hauled our stuff up) then headed up for Iliniza Norte (North) approximately 16,800' (having started at the lower camp at 13,000').

It was a long hard climb, and the top couple hundred feet have some low 5.3-6 moves.

It was great to hit the small summit and then we down-climbed (on rappel) and lowered through the 5.x (hard to climb harder at 16,000') and then made the horrible slog through the loose rock to the hut.

Javier was taking pictures of us for his guiding brochures, so I showed off some, doing a great lieback with a foot-smear on crystals descending a slight roof, then taking a small-hand crack. In my Baturas. Fun fun.

We ate, rested, ate again, and made plans for that night - to wake at 2AM, hit the trail around 3AM, and head up Iliniza Sur (South) at about 17,400'. The guides explained it was a tough itinerary, and that we could bail if we wanted to. No hard feelings. We were all tempted, but I said "Just be honest - when they wake you at 2AM just tell them how you feel."

Again, bed-time around 6PM, since the sun goes down then.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

ECUADOR- Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

We had breakfast at the hacienda, then packed up stuff we would not be needing at Iliniza to leave there in storage, and got in our two SUV's. I left my big backpack, since on this trip we would never use them, and I left my hotel and flight bag inside it.

We drove to the gate to the national preserve and started hiking, while they took our stuff up.

We hiked up to 13,000' and found our camp all set up and waiting for us. We picked tents and I got a loner - good deal since I spread out so badly.

After lunch we set out up the trail to about 14,000' just to stretch our legs. We saw on lone condor. Cool and unusual (they usually travel in groups of two or so).

We got back, had supper, and since the sun goes down around 6pm every day of the year, turned in early.

I need to point out that the food was outstanding. Pepe and Javier were the main cooks and especially the "sopa de pepe" everything was excellent, tasty and appealing - even at altitude.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ECUADOR - Monday, November 17th, 2008

Today we had breakfast at the hotel again, and packed up to leave. We threw all our stuff, except our passports which we left in the hotel safe, into two SUV's and headed out down the road.

Today we set out up Guagua Pichincha, approximately 15,700'. It wasn't too bad, I think we all did pretty good.

We then drove to a hacienda on the way to Iliniza (La Estacion), had supper and crashed in our rooms.

Supper was classic old-school several courses by attentive staff, and an employee of the hacienda banked a nice fire in the adjoining section between our two rooms (Chuck and Eric in one, Daniel and I in the other). I rinsed out some clothes and hung them to dry by the wood stove overnight.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ECUADOR - Sunday November 16, 2008

We met each other at breakfast. Mike, Eric, Chuck (who originated this trip), Daniel and me. After a breakfast of eggs, juice, little rolls, and cereal with yogurt, we met in the lobby with Pepe and Javier, two of the guides. The third, Sebastion, was doing some continuing education credit and would hook up with us later.

After our meeting, Pepe took us out on a road trip to the two equators. One was discovered by the French in the 1700's and is not accurate, since back in the day they thought the Earth was round. DOH! It's about 10,000' fatter in the middle. But sea level is still sea level and Quito is about 9300' above sea level. It rolls over the hills, so it varies some.

The second Equator was surveyed totally scientifically and because of the water-down-the-drain test, you know it's the real one. There was also a little gag test about walking down the equator with your eyes closed - most people can't do it. I did, but it was real tough and I blamed Tai Chi. The tour was great and I highly recommend it to anyone - there were recreations of tribal ruins and lifestyle and our guide was really fun.

After the "REAL" equator we went to the theme park area developed around the "OLD" equator and ate. I just had a chicken sandwich and fanta. We got to watch some dance exhibition and I got some cool pics.

Then we had to make a choice - walk downhill to a housing development in an "extinct" crater, or ride the tram. We voted to ride the tram. The top is around 13,000' and we walked up the trail about 1200' higher then returned and got back on the tram. On the tram Pepe asked if we wanted to climb a church. Well duh! So we went to an old church with a 300' bell tower you could go up (later I learned it is known as "The Basilica"). It was really cool and gothic and pretty scary in places going up a narrow spiral staircase then finally up rebar ladders slippery from the misty rain.

Finally we headed to Javier's office for his Ecuadorian guide service, which was on the floor above his apartment in a really nice gated community. He presented a slide show about our itinerary, then his wife brought in his two kids and three plates of Ecuadorian pizza. It was pretty good. His wife is Dutch, his kids have dual citizenship, and one is going to the American School and the other to the German School. Amazing world.

We headed back to the hotel and slept, another long day in Ecuador acclimatizing.