Friday, September 26, 2008


Wow. Having been to northern India last year, I remembered much of the idiosyncrasies and chaos inherent in doing anything here, but trying to participate in an "organized" event such as a mountain bike race is a whole other ball game.

We arrived in Shimla from Delhi yesterday after a 11-hour drive that was supposed to be 8 (only 11 due to Ram's creative driving and explanations - I've never been a diplomat from the embassy before, at least not since last year), and I crashed out after we reassembled our bikes, still a little jet lagged despite a wonderful yoga session in Delhi. Today we had a nice short ride down and back up some hills here with a posse of other (Indian) riders, feeling good and excited about starting the race tomorrow. Following that, a little frisbee and a puja blessing ceremony for the ride. Then Lin and I were asked to accompany one of the organizers to the residence of the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh State for an audience asking him to be at our start tomorrow morning (international delegation here to see you, sir) only to be turned away. Bummer. Then off to tonight's orientation (two hours late, much to a German rider's dismay in waiting punctually) and headed for some good sleep.

Essentially, nothing is on time, even for an event such as this. Leading up to the ride, the schedule was for a rest day on Day 5, Sept 31. When we all finally realized that September only has 30 days (huh...), the decision was made to just push back the end of the race a day - something that would never fly in the States, but didn't cause much notice here. Essentially, whenever I start to wonder whether something will actually happen in any sort of functional fashion, the advice is to just wait - eventually it will get itself ironed out. And crazily enough, it usually seems to. Not necessarily on time - in fact, that's nearly guaranteed - but eventually. Hmm. We start the race tomorrow, landslide detours and all, and I'm sure, in the end, we will get there. Not quite sure how, never quite sure how, but here goes nothing... More in 10 days!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Closing down the mountain

Two last trips up the hill to finish off the Rainier season. The first was in beautiful weather, the wind dying down just as we got up at 1am. A beautiful full moon, and a good pace to the top with a nice crew. What more can you ask for?

After a day off, my second trip started with more great weather, and an entertaining group of people. By the time we were at high camp, only four climbers and three guides were left (one twisted his knee a few days before, one turned around above Paradise, one reached her limit on the snowfield, and the fourth spent all he had getting to Muir and stayed there). Alas, the weather turned as we went to bed, with wet snow and fog throughout the night. We got to the top of the DC and turned there, happier to get down safely than get up in dangerous shape. A few hours sleep, then down to Paradise in the spitting rain. Summer, officially, is over - India, here I come!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hike for Discovery

If you ever want a really neat group of people, find some folks with the heartfelt goal of helping others while succeeding at something they've never done before. This weekend was the culmination of a summer of hiking for those to whom it was completely new, raising money for cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. This program started with marathons and triathlons (Race for a Cure, etc), participants training toward a personal challenge, and has expanded to activities like hiking to allow those who might not run a marathon to reach the same goals of personal achievement and helping raise funds for cancer research.

Guiding through Cascade Adventure Guides with good friends Kim and Kelly, I took some of the 40 hikers on outings ranging from 7 to 24 miles - that's a big day! Under beautifully clear skies, we followed a newly-completed section of trail from White River campground to the Wonderland trail, then up through deep forest to the high alpine of Panhandle Gap. Perfect weather, a great crew, and mountain goats to boot!

Thanks to the organizers for an amazing weekend, and many thanks to those who are contributing time, energy, and money to make a difference in research, care, and a cure.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More summer!!

Just got done spending a few days in Ashford at the house Alpine has for guides to use. Went biking - on the Elbe Hills ATV paths, Osborne Mountain, and today up to Paradise and back. Since the India ride isn't a hardcore mountain bike course, I'm calling it good with road, logging road, and some trail riding.

Hiked up to a lookout near Osborne Mountain, High Rock Lookout (very imaginative naming), at the high point of my ride for a beautiful view and the first ripe blueberries and huckleberries of the season! (It has been such a cold wet summer that flowers and berries are very late this season, hence the bears still actively looking for food.)

Today's ride from Ashford to Paradise and back was long, but not as hard as I expected for 50 miles. The 12 miles from Longmire visitor center (2700' elevation) to Paradise (5400') took 2 hours to ride up and 30 minutes to ride down!! It's a good ride when you've got bugs in your teeth from grinning all the way down...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Summer redemption

Wait, it's back! Summer has taken pity on us poor Northwesterners after months of being coy (ie non-existent) and given us a redemptive week of beautiful weather.

Not without working for it however. Our 6-day hike of the Northern Loop trail started with a hike out of Sunrise in the sideways-blowing snow. Welcome to Washington! Ten folks from around the country joined Kim and I for a week of deep forest and alpine meadows and generalized mountain appreciation. Unlike many groups, this one had no decompression time, no day or two of wondering where their Blackberry was or learning to look around. And (coincidentally or not) many of them had never been backpacking before, ever! But also unlike many groups, this didn't seem to make a difference - those who were new dived right in and came up looking like they'd been doing it for years.

After that first day, the weather was cold at night but otherwise nearly perfect. The summer was so cold and wet that wildflowers are still in full bloom and we even had to cross a patch of snow! This also meant that the blueberries were late in arriving, so we not only got to see amazing flowers, but lots of bears! Presumably they're still looking for food as autumn approaches and their berry supply has yet to materialize, keeping them searching closer to trails. Everyone in the group saw at least 6 bears, and one near Mystic Lake put in several appearances. Marmots, a deer, and the occasional pika - a good week.

On the last evening we hiked up to Skyscraper Peak for sunset, which has been an amazing after-dinner adventure every time I've led this trip. True to form, the mountain drew clouds around her to accent color and contour, obscuring and revealing for the hour or more that we watched the light change and fade. It's nice to see the mountain from below occasionally - sitting in a field or on a lower peak, looking at the snow slopes of camp and crevasse. A nice change, and beautiful end to a beautiful trip.