Sunday, February 28, 2010

More snow!!

Funny - I haven't been in Seattle this much in a while, though in reality I haven't been in Seattle much this time either. A lot of skiing, including a road trip with Dave up to Canada - we took three days to explore the Coquihala area, about an hour northeast of Hope, BC.

It's still not a great snow season in the Northwest, but it was really fun to explore a new area and see some new mountains. There were many discussions about how much terrain is nearby, just over the border in Canada, and in many cases closer (to Bellingham) for climbing and skiing than driving south to Rainier or deep into the North Cascades. Funny how our maps show blank space above our border, and we somehow internalize that and forget to go check it out!

One thing you have to love about Canada - they expect people to be out there. Unlike most places in the US, we were allowed to camp out at a rest area in the mountains (or at least, weren't chased off). Dave's truck provided a good base camp, and with bathrooms and a little heated picnic room mere meters away, what more could you ask for? He's got a great system worked out for cooking, storage etc, and for a low-budget trip, it was pretty posh. A great way to get out there!

But now it's off to India, where it's hot and humid and has way more people than Canada. Plans changed suddenly a little bit ago, and instead of working with the government climbing institute in India, I'll be working for Alpine Ascents on the Everest Base Camp trek and Island Peak climb in Nepal. An opportunity I'm very excited about! But it does throw my India plans into chaos. Too much gear to bring for skiing, perfectly wrong timing to work with the climbing institute, and too early in the season to climb in the Himalaya here. So I'll basically just be taking up time here until it's time to go to Nepal. A little biking in Bangalore, perhaps some down time in Ooty's cooler hill station, and maybe, just maybe, I'll actually go see the Taj Mahal this time! Or not - we'll see...

Monday, February 22, 2010


Two whole weeks in Seattle! It's been a warm winter, but the dedicated skier can sniff out some good turns - sun-softened snow on those warm days, powder that's been blown into a gully and hidden from the sun's warmth, that secret area that no one knows about.

I've been spending a lot of time with Dave while here in Seattle/Bellingham, and he thankfully provides the motivation that I lack, post-expedition, to actually gear up and get out. But once I'm out, I love being in the mountains - the Northwest is so beautiful, and so quiet, in the backcountry.

We went on a short tour by the Mt Baker ski area on Sunday, and hiked up past some snowboarders who had smoothed out a jump for the afternoon's entertainment. It's been a few years since I was at Alta, but remember the feeling of being intentionally airborne on skis. As we watched, one of them offered to let us jump in, but didn't expect me to actually start taking off my pack! The first attempt merely demonstrated that the launch wasn't what I expected, but the second attempt resulted in a good launch, if slightly less-successful landing. Dave, who is still learning to telemark, just enjoyed the show with a good laugh. I can't upload videos here, but if you're on Facebook, check it out there.

A little more skiing this weekend before heading to India again, and to Nepal - I'll be leading Alpine's treks to Everest Base Camp and up Island Peak. Lots to write about, I'm sure!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Which time zone?

Back in Mendoza, I managed to change my ticket to Seattle and return a few days early, then headed to the east coast to see some friends and family, readjust to English and healthy vegetarian food!

First stop, Boston, and some old college friends who are now married and had their first child last summer. He is, of course, beautiful, now 9 months old. And more astoundingly, seemed to actually like me! I've always been someone who doesn't do much with kids, and frequently seems to alarm them (though perhaps it was the shaved head). So to have him be comfortable with me was something new!

The most amazing thing about visiting was how much these two have continued to be themselves. So often, it seems, people have kids and settle into domesticity, and change into these unknown people who can only talk about how cute their baby's spit is and when to paint the living room.
Nice for them, tough for previous friends. But instead, these old friends put him to bed, then had actual functional adult time - we made dinner and talked about normal things and enjoyed being friends with 12 years' history. Beautiful in so many ways.

Through Philly to visit briefly with another old rowing friend (no pictures, sadly), then on to see my parents in Maryland. On the way, the conductor of the train noted that if the door nearest you doesn't open, it has simply frozen shut - please go to the next door! I managed to sneak into and out of Maryland in between major snowstorms that were shutting down much of the east coast.

We spent a quiet few days near home since DC and much of the surrounding area were not equipped to deal with the amount of snow that had fallen. But good to spend some quiet days with my folks. My sisters were not there (they live in Colorado), but here's a great picture of my mom and sisters from last summer. I love that my parents didn't put us into boxes or dictate the direction that our lives would go. As a result, you get some pretty different results! *grin*

Back in Seattle now for two weeks, looking forward to some skiing and re-organizing before India again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

14 up, 2 down

Crazy - it takes 14 days to climb all the way to the summit of Aconcagua, just under 7,000 meters, and only two days to get all the way down and out, back to a shower and clean sheets. This is because of acclimatization, of course, not muscular ability to climb fast or slow. But it's still crazy to think that all that work can be reversed with only two days of walking.

This trip enjoyed incredible weather. Four days before our scheduled summit day, I started to get nervous because the weather was... still. Practically NO wind at 17,500' on one of the windiest places on the mountain! Can't last, and we're going to get pinned down later.
Well, no, amazingly, the weather held, at least enough - clear and calm in the mornings, but snow and some thunderstorms in the later afternoons!

Three of our four summitted; one climber had been slightly sick for the past couple of days and just didn't feel like fighting that all the way up the mountain. But the others of us climbed up in perfect warm weather, the snow starting only an hour before we reached camp again. When the extra trekking poles strapped to my pack started buzzing with electricity in the air, I decided I'd go on ahead and start the hot water...

One of our climbers is the founding force behind Climb for Cancer, which raises money and distributes it directly to help families dealing with cancer: buying exercise bikes for the local cancer treatment center to improve the recovery of bone marrow transplant patients, or paying for the gas, parking fees, and food for families coming to the center for treatment, so they can afford to come. Keep your eye on this one - Ron (not the guy in this picture) is an incredibly passionate and compassionate head of this charity who raised $32,000 (independent of climbing costs, all paid out of his own pocket) with his young neighbor who also climbed with us and did very well.

Edited now with a few pictures from John (thanks!!). The pig one is pretty random - that particular swine had been Christmas dinner at base camp a few weeks before and was being memorialized by the cold weather. And the last picture is with John and Lhakpa Gelu, the other Alpine Ascents guide on this trip. He's still on the mountain, working with three more summit climbs. Sometimes I'm glad I'm not a Sherpa...