Wednesday, January 28, 2009

George's Tree

Last week we had some incredibly nice weather so Molly and I decided to head up to Lumpy to try a crack called George's Tree which I spied on an earlier trail run. Now, it should be noted that the climbing at Lumpy has always intimidated me. The routes tend to be long and slabby with flaring cracks, which spotlights my two weaknesses: slab climbing and tricky gear. I have climbed at Lumpy a handful of times, all of which have ended with bailing early. Plus the approaches tend to be a major workout on their own! However, there is something about Lumpy that keeps me coming back. I can see the Twin Owls taunting me from my front yard. Somehow I feel that if I can successfully climb at Lumpy then I can successfully climb anywhere, which is probably pretty accurate. The grades here are very stiff and traditional. Anyway, on with the climbing.

The approach was as we expected, long and steep. I think it took about 1.5 hours of toiling under heavy packs. I knew setting off that I would likely aid the route so I packed a ton of gear: 3 full sets of cams, 2 sets of stoppers, two ropes, etc. Very heavy! Here is Molly getting through the steeper section.

At the top I asked Molly what she thought of the approach. Here was her reaction...

We had planned on keeping it pretty casual, so the first priority was to make some lunch. Here is Molly making my favorite sandwich of all time. Tomato, basil, mozzarella, and kalamata olives. Oh so good!!

Our lunch view

Basking in the warm sun with an awesome sandwich.

After lunch there were no more excuses so I started to rack up. The plan was to aid up 70 feet of classic Lumpy flared crack to a pair of bolts, and then work the route on top rope. Aid climbing is when you place a piece of gear in the rock, then clip some webbing ladders to it, climb up as high as you can in the ladders and place another piece of gear. Repeat until you reach your goal. I have never been a big fan of aid climbing. In fact, this was to be my first actual aid climb. I prefer to free climb. This is when you climb the rock itself without using gear to move upwards. The gear is just there to catch you if you fall. However, aid climbing is a good skill to know in case you get stuck on something that is over your head. Plus it helps you learn how to place gear and what will hold you. Here I am racking up

The climb itself went slow. It took me about an hour to get to the bolts. However, in that hour my confidence in Lumpy rock grew exponentially. Molly did a lap on top rope and also learned a lot about climbing this new type of rock. It was fun to watch her progress. The first 10 feet involved much flailing and grunting but then she started to develop her technique and by the end of the route she was cruising. Once down, she rewarded herself with one of Tom's homemade shortbread cookies.

I jumped back on it and climbed it again on top rope, this time free and felt surprisingly secure. Cookie for me!

By this time the shadows down in the valley were racing up towards us so packed it up and headed back to the car with high spirits.

It felt so good to finally leave Lumpy feeling successful and I have to say that I am even more hooked. I finally found the confidence I needed to have fun climbing at Lumpy. Everything feel possible now and I anxiously wait to head back out there and climb some more. Unfortunately, the weather has turned back cold so I have to sooth my jitters with trail running and skiing. But when spring hits.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Newbies attempt to go Backcountry Skiing

A couple weeks ago I talked Molly into heading out into the back country for a little skiing. Considering we both know nothing about how to do this, it turned out as one would expect. But hey, how are you supposed to learn if you never get out?

Our biggest concern was avalanches. We went to an avalanche awareness clinic a few days prior that convinced Molly that certain death awaited us. I managed to get a very reluctant Molly to consider a route that would be considered more of a cross country ski trail as opposed to a downhill ski tour. Plus the avalanche forecast was favorable. The plan was to take off from Bear Lake TH and head towards Notchtop, keeping a sharp eye out for open 30-40 degree slopes to avoid. Here is a shot of us just leaving the parking lot.

Right off we knew we were in for it. It was cold with a gale force wind coming off of Bear lake. Plus Molly pulled a neck muscle while putting on her skis. I felt clumsy, cold and pretty silly falling down in front of all the tourists walking around in boots and snowshoes. We skinned away from the lake as fast as possible, hoping to leave the crowds (and wind) behind.

It did not take long to figure out that this was hard work! Like any new sport, this was using muscles that apparently did not get used much because we were beat after about 20 minutes. Here is Molly when we decided to turn around.

So I made the silly decision to strip the skins off my skis before heading down. For those not familiar with bc skiing, to get up a the hill you stick this felt like stuff on the bottom of your ski. Then when you are ready to ski down a hill, you pull it off. Well, I grossly overestimated my skiing skill, especially on a narrow packed hiking trail. Molly was able to snowplow like a champ. My method involved desperately grabbing tree limbs.

We made it back to the TH feeling a bit dejected. Next time will hopefully go better. Be the hammer!!

Music this week

Yes, it is time again for my album pick of the week. This week I am going nearly polar opposite from last week's pick. Now I have a real love-hate feeling towards rap. I love the energy and flow of rap but I have very limited capacity for two major themes in mainstream rap: disrespect for women and chest thumping. I really could care less how cool, tough or rich you think you are. Anyhow, a few weeks ago we watched a somewhat disturbing Christian Bale movie called Harsh Times. One of the songs in it was Return of Tres by Delinquent Habits. After a little poking on iTunes I found the album with this song on it, downloaded it and have not been disappointed. It definitely has that Hispanic LA/Cypress Hill feel to it. Many of the lyrics are in Spanish so I really don't know what the songs are about, which may be why I like it so much. I enjoy not being able to understand what they are saying. It makes the vocals flow by like another musical instrument. Plus it is nice background music for frenzied programming.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A weekend with Eric and Tracey

Last weekend Eric and Tracey were able to make the trip up to Estes from the Spring to spend a weekend with us. Due to work schedules, they ended up getting here pretty late on Friday but we still rocked the night away with Rock Band. If you haven't tried Rock Band yet I recommend that you quit reading this blog and immediately make friends with someone who has it. It is a great party game. We need to pick up one more guitar and then 4 people can play at a time (vocals, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar). Anyhow, here is Eric tearing up on on lead vocals with his attractive band in the background.

Molly playing some blues riff

This pic makes me think of Animal from the muppets

After much persuasion we even talked Tracey into singing a song. Next time you see her ask to hear "Eye of the Tiger".

Saturday we woke up late and wandered up to the Mountaineer for breakfast, where Bernie (the waiter) was sure Eric had been there a few days ago with a different girl. The original plan was to go snowshoeing up in the park but the late start and beautiful weather lured us to warm granite rocks instead, so we decided to check out an new area called Big Elk Meadows which is about 10 miles out of town. We packed the crash pads and headed out.

After hiking about 10 minute through the cold woods we found ourselves climbing a steep hill into the warmth of a blazing sun, thanks to an old forest fire that destroyed all the trees.

Note that I gave Eric the new monster sized crashpad to carry. I got it a few weeks ago with my Christmas money and this was it's maiden voyage. The tag is still on it!

Enjoying the hike

The steep hill dropped us off in the middle of a granite boulder playground known as the Dragons Nest. I am guessing the name has something to do with all the burned trees. Layers were quickly removed and shoes quickly applied. We warmed up on a few easy slab routes near the Gill boulder.

We spent some time working a sweet V3 on the Gill boulder involving bad feet and a huge throw to a crystal. I stuck the move and then chickened out on the top-out. Next time up my feet popped during the throw and I managed to simultaneously flapper both hands (def: flapper is somewhat common in bouldering where a chunk of flesh is dug out of a finger by a sharp hold and left flapping and bleeding). Glad Eric had some tape! Eric sent it handily on his next go and was man enough to pull the top-out. After all, he knows John Gill, the guy this boulder was named after. We moved on to a large boulder with a crack but it was pretty uninteresting. There was a great line on it but the landing was smack dab on a nasty pointy rock, so we moved on to the Y boulder around the corner.

The Y boulder is built for bouldering. Flat landings with a variety of routes on good rock. And the top is high enough to feel serious but not desperate. We started on the awkward center route, on which I am ashamed to admit that I used my knee. Poor form, unless you are Jimmy. Here is Molly working the awkward section

We moved on the the left arete. Here is Eric beasting his way up. It looks like Tracey just stuck a gymnastic move in the Olympics.

This expression is not posed. I literally heard a growl.

Pulling over the top

Here is Molly working another route on the right side the the Y boulder

We were fortunately to catch a fleeting glimpse of the infamous Rocky Mountain Sasquatch

The day continued as a blur of frenzied bouldering that ended in raw finger tips, sore abs, and stinky feet. Here are an assortment of shots...

We rounded out the night with dinner at Ed's, Rock Band, Tropic Thunder, and part of Oh Brother Where Art Thou before we fell asleep.

Sunday we woke up to cloudy skies and wind. Bummer. So we rolled down to the Big Horn for a leisurely breakfast while we discussed our options. We settled on some moderate roped climbing up at Lily Lake. At home we packed the gear and layered up, knowing it would likely be a cold day.

Eric got the day rolling by leading an real nice slab with an incredible view of Longs. It was a great route that we could all enjoy. Here are some shots.

The only bummer about that route was that is was right in the wind and cold! So we moved down the hill a bit to a new rock that seemed to be a little more sheltered. Eric promptly busted up another beautiful slab route with with some spicy gaps between the bolts. Here I am keeping Eric off the dirt

Here is Tracey sending the route with a frozen Lily Lake way down below

Molly sending

Me heading up

In the crux. It is hard to tell but the run out between the bold at my knee and the one below was pretty substantial. The climbing was easy between the two but a slip would not of been pretty. As I was nearing the clip the peanut gallery below started talking about how nasty a fall would of been, how high I was and generally messing with my head. Not cool. Fortunately, the crux was well protected.

After this route, the wind started back up so we decided to end the day on a couple hard routes, which Eric easily onsighted with frozen fingers. Unstoppable.

We closed the weekend down with some Indian food at the Thai Kitchen (yeah, I know) before Eric and Tracey headed back the the Front Range. It was a great weekend and we both look forward to hanging out a lot with those guys.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The most beautiful song

I hope everyone experiences what I am feeling right now. It is that profound feeling that is stirred up from the soul when you hear a particular song that resonates with your being. It is that song that you put your headphones on, set the iPod to repeat, turn it up and close your eyes. Or, in my case, feebly attempt to translate your feelings into words.

I am sure how a particular song hits you is like tasting wine. The reaction is highly dependent on your taste, the mood and what is happening around you. That bottle we passed around the campfire with old and new friends in the cold Moab desert night would probably be horrible served with individual glasses and a table cloth, but that night it was unbeatable.

The same is true for this song that has now starting it's fifth repeat. I just finished watching Obamas inaugural speech which filled me with hope and patriotism. To avoid working I started surfing iTunes, looking for the song I heard last night on the movie Little Miss Sunshine. The artist is DeVotchKa and unfortunately, the song I liked from the movie could only be purchased with the entire album. However in looking through other music by DeVotchKa, I came across the song How It Ends.

This is by far the best $0.99 I have ever spent.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Climbing Cat

I came across this video and it made me laugh so I though I would see if I can embed it in my blog. Here goes nothing!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Music of the week

I listen to a lot of music while I work and a lot of it is kind of off the radar. After some discussions with friends over the Christmas holidays I decided to start mentioning what bands are currently getting played on my computer. This week I keep flipping back and forth between Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake and It's Morning" and Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago". Both are very mellow. I'll start with Bright Eyes.

Bright Eyes perfectly captures the "bare your soul" type of music. In that sense, it reminds me of some of the early Dashboard Confessions stuff. His voice sounds frail and the lyrics seem to come straight from his diary. Songs like Poison Ivy and First Day of My Life get me all sappy.

Bon Iver was suggested to my by Tony. Apparently this guy spent a winter of seclusion in a hunting cabin up in back country of Wisconsin, during which he recorded this album (he added background vocals and other instruments later). It is emotional and somewhat raw. He sings falsetto for most of the record, which threw me at first. His lyrics do not touch me like Bright Eye's do but I am definitely drawn to his style. It reminds me of Band of Horses, which I listened to for nearly the whole summer. My current favorite track is Skinny Love.

Well, hope you enjoyed this and I welcome any suggestions. You can stream music from both bands at MySpace. Here are their links:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Couple of Hikes in Lumpy Ridge

Over the past couple days, Molly and I have rediscovered the beauty of hiking at Lumpy Ridge. We hiked up to the Twin Owls last Friday and then up to Gem Lake yesterday (Sunday). Wow is it beautiful up there. The orange granite contrasting against the green trees, white snow, and blue sky. The rock has a certain shape to it that I find almost soothing. A lot of rock giving a hard, cold, edgy feel but this rock seems warm, smooth and rounded, almost sexy. OK, this is starting to feel a little weird so I'll move on to the pictures.

Like I said, these pics are from two different hikes. The Twin Owls day was extremely windy, somewhat overcast and in the mid 20's. The Gem lake was sunny, still and cold (15 degrees). And the pics...

Twin Owls hike

Gem Lake hike