Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Han's Adventure

Some random Hanmi on my card

Ride On

I've ridden Reach The Beach for several years now, along with a few other local charity cycling fundraisers. They're pretty fun, and always a good measure of your skills on the wheelz, yo!

This year I rode with Christine and some friends. We had good weather, not too hot or cold, and it stayed dry. Hanmi, saint that she is, drove down to the finish line and set up a nice camp where we could flop. It rained the night after the ride, but it didn't wake me a bit. Overall, my legs were just fine the next day.

Some photos...

Christine's legs slowly wore down over the ride. She made it just fine, but had to break several times for a good hearty stretch.

The team, which didn't manage to stick together very much over the course of the whole route. We just all had different paces. But, when Christine and I came down to the final stretch (last 25 miles), we hung out and talked each other through it.

The trooper, who just a few weeks ago hadn't ridden nearly 50 she's a century rider. Can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two chicks at once!

Yes, yes, it's every man's fantasy... laying back on the bed while a pair of chicks work you over. It's all good until one of them poops and the other one starts pecking at your eyes. But in spite of the challenges, we've taken the plunge and adopted a pair of baby chicks.

As you can see, they are already very much part of the family and happily making themselves at home. In fact, as I type this very post, Delilah is burrowing into the crook of my arm and Francine is nuzzling my ear.

Delilah arrived Sunday afternoon, a couple hours before we hosted a birthday party for our friend Christine. It was quite a circus around here in those hours, as Jim and I took turns being the hovering, doting parent and tried to get the house ready for guests. Everything worked out fine, though, and Delilah was a big hit.

She came to us already well socialized and very much attached to people. We could tell, however, that the change was a little distressing as she chattered non stop. And if we left her alone she screamed... So, once all the guests were gone and with Jim's urging, I bunked in the guest room with Delilah. And because just being there wasn't quite enough contact for her, I let her sleep in the bed, under the covers with me. It wasn't a particularly restful night for me, as I was paranoid I would roll over and squish her. But we made it without any issues, aside from my waking up covered in chicken poop.

Francine arrived on Monday evening, and after a brief introduction, the two were inseparable and gleefully exploring whatever environment we put them in. Initially Delilah was the chatty one and Francine was the super sleepy one, which made me think of the adage that says pets resemble their owners... no question who takes after who! Tonight, however, Delilah's a bit more calm and quiet, and definitely more sleepy, while Frannie has perked up and has a bit more to say.

Regardless, they are both delightful and we've been quite entertained by their curiosity and distinct personalities. We know they will grow up ridiculously fast, so we're savoring each day of our latest adventure. :8 [this is the chicks' addition to the blog post...not sure what it means]
Much to Jim's delight, Delilah just attacked a spider on command and killed it. She's well on her way to being Daddy's little girl.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Message From Malo

Dear Bob
Since I've returned from my long trip around the Western US, I've been sitting on the couch and waiting for you to come home. Jim said something like "" but I didn't get the rest, I was busy rubbing my face on the cushion. So, where are you dude? I'd really like some broccoli scraps right now.

After a long day of screaming at the mailman, re-organizing the socks upstairs, and checking the kitchen and dining room for dust particles that may be edible, I like to nap. Every time, I ask myself So where's my nap buddy? Where's Bob!? I guess you're not going to nap with me on the couch until I rent another movie. Each day Jim comes home I scream at him to Go Get A Movie! but he thinks its all about him. What a dork.

Anyway, if you're out having fun, good for you. I'll miss you and defend the house against strange intruders like that infested squirrel that makes faces at me through the window. Each night when dinner gets handed out, I leave a little behind for you Bob, in your honor. Then I eat it. Well, because its food. Duh!

I'll be here when you get back, unless Jim or Hanmi drags me around to their hippy-dippy "park" to play with the stupid dogs. What a lame idea. When will they learn that I really only like stuffed animals. Sheesh.

I'll get a movie and we can nap. Something from the library that was made in the 40's. Oh, I'm feeling tired just thinking about it. Gotta go!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jump On the Bed!

Treats + Hungry Dogs + Two Beds gapped just right

(Take 12)

Bonneville Salt Flats

Slot Canyons

Utah is famous for it's rock formations. After Zion, Bryce and Grand Staircase, we thought it would be fun to get off the beaten path. Some friendly locals directed us to a lesser-visited bunch of slot canyons near the foothills of Escalante, UT. Slot canyons are an interesting phenomenon, and they can seem quite spooky. To get to these, we had drive off-road for about 27 miles across some open grazing land and BLM areas.

We weren't disappointed, and even though the heat poured on during the start of our hike and rainclouds threatened later that day, we thought it'd be fun to take the short (about 1 mile) hike around the washes and canyons next to the access road. We didn't have a map, but there were footprints and some cairns that guided us.

They certainly were fun to walk through, and as they got shallower into the prairie, they narrowed dramatically.

PeakABoo and Spooky both narrowed or curved in such ways that it resembled climbing. We didn't try to push the doggies through all the twists, staying content to reach a safe distance in, let Han shoot photos and then turn around.

There were some guests waiting for us on the way back. First, a rattlesnake was heading across the path. I spotted him before he spotted us, and I got the doggies away and let him continue onward. That rattle, when they do get spooked, sure is an alarming sound! There's no mistaking it. It's so continuous its like hiss.

Also heading out, some cows were grazing along the road. For the most part, they move away from cars but one small group had a stubborn male that faced full-on to the car and I thought we may have a bullfight of sorts. But after about 30 seconds of some yelling and slowly moving forward, he decided he'd rather not head-butt our front fender.

After that we headed on a long rally drive through Utah, into one of the most wild and exciting parts of the trip. You'll have to stay tuned for that one, coming up in a few posts, but I'll give you a hint: Deer, Elk and a Wolf at 9000 feet!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Tons of hummingbirds at this great little shop we found in Escalante, Utah. Several feeders attracted them all evening. It was a great show.


Camping in Zion was fun. It was crowded and a bit noisy, with some interesting "camping" around us, but we had fun prepping for each day's adventure and getting a little R-n-R at night. The doggies seemed to like it. The park has quite a few restrictions on pets, and I can understand why - it's a madhouse of people. Over 3 million people visit each year. Sheesh!

We boarded the doggies just outside the park on the days we spent climbing. We left them at the Doggy Dude Ranch, which was awesome, and the dogs didn't want to leave. They were plenty tired from playing with the other dogs there, but happy to see us when we picked them up and headed out to Bryce Canyon. Cindy, who was taking care of the dogs for us, was fantastic. Turns out she's a climber as well and told us many stories about her adventures in Zion and Yosemite. She was also very understanding when we didn't show up to collect the dogs Saturday night! Thanks Cindy!!

Honey, have you seen the salsa?

Zion was a great time (see the Equinox Epic story) and the climbs were stellar and unique. We won't get to see all popular the Utah sandstone climbing on this trip, but I feel like we got a hearty meal of it this time.

Dad is such a slob.

Equinox : Part III

Please see Part 1 and Part 2 of this story for the complete epic tale.

It got late quickly. Each rap was pretty straightforward, but long and sometimes overhanging, leaving our feet to dangle. Caleb and I simul-rapped for speed, leaving Hanmi had to wait in the pitch black for a bit, then carefully thread the rope into her rappel device and descend in total darkness. She asserts that it was quite exciting. Bats and the occasional ringtail cat kept her company.

Long-exposure shot from the top at night

We had no problems rigging the raps all the way down. We were very tired and dried out, but the cool breeze of the night woke us up and the rappels kept us sharp. Nothing is more dangerous in climbing than the rappel. You’re usually tired and prone to mistakes. Rappelling also relies on fewer redundancy systems than in ascending. There is no climbing ability involved with rapping, which can leave a climber feeling more helpless. So, we were all checking one another and talking aloud and employing auto-blocks on the ropes for addition safety.

Then, some minor disasters: Twice Hanmi’s ropes became tangled in trees, causing her to have to wrestle them free in order to continue down. On the next to last rappel, we descended to a ledge couldn’t find the anchors. After some tense searching, they were found along the ledge some distance away requiring more scrambling on loose rock in the dark. Then, during another overhanging rap, a knot of rope got bound up in my rappel device. I tried in vain to free it, then to set up a system to ascending the rope above to unweight it, but the slings I had didn’t hold. Then Caleb, also dangling next to me in the darkness, grabbed it with his teeth and pulled like a rabid dog until it came out. We got to bottom and quickly loaded up the water bottles from a nearby spring.

Top of the, um, mornin' Mom!
By now it was after midnight with moon almost full and bright across the valley. We thrashed our way to the road, giddy with mineral-water-laden bellies, knowing that the final straw to secure this day as an “Epic” was drawn: The free shuttle into and out of the park was gone. We had to walk the five miles out with the gear.

Looking up, we saw the formations we had descended, now bathed in moonlight. The scale of the wall from the base was so much greater than the hundreds of individual inch-by-inch movements we’d used to go up. Some off-the-cuff calculations put the total ascended gain at over 1300 feet.

After some food and more water – couldn’t get enough – we started marching. Then soreness took over. In a flash at one point, Caleb dropped his pack and yelped “I forgot! I have ibuprofen!” A few animal sightings later, with some strange noises along the creek and amazing moon-shadowed canyon buttresses, we arrived at the lodge.

The lodge was closed. It was locked, with folks were asleep in their rooms at 1:45 AM, as we expected. Caleb managed one bar on his cell phone and called a friend. 20 minutes later, we’re stepping out of the car at our campsite.

I go walkin', after midnight...

Our bodies took a tremendous beating. The off-widths and chimneys were exciting but tiresome. Scratches appeared were normal climbing would never touch. Our hands, although initially taped, had worn down to skin and beyond in many places. I crashed in the tent, with a gear sling still on my shoulder and still wearing my tape gloves. Hanmi and Caleb still had some adrenaline that kept them up for a bit.

Grade IV routes are described as “one long day or two days”. In review, we weren’t organized enough at the belay stations to tackle such a climb in one day – we could’ve done more to snack and rest while someone was climbing. Instead, we chatted and savored the view until we had burned too much time. Route finding and weather also played against us, but ambition and adventure always make climbing the exhilaration we seek – and we got more than enough that day.

Equinox : Part II

Please remove holds before climbing.

Please see Part I of this story if you need to catch up.

This pitch was crackers
The next pitch followed a thin seam that closed in many places on a broken face, my turn to lead. The holds were typical of a varnished face: small and highly incut “plates” all over the wall. However, these were the most friable, delicate holds I’ve ever used. The protection was laughable, with just a few small RP’s in the seam (about the size of 2 or 3 stacked nickels) and a few looped plates and 1 looped little bush. I pushed a bit further than the topo’s stated “anchor” because it was a single old drilled piton that stuck halfway out of the rock as the face eroded from under it, and up to a little crack.

Tarantula hiding from Han as she belays

I had holds break many times, and one time was a full one-armed swing off the rock and a re-grab to new holds, all 20ft off my last looped horn. Dramatic and scary! Caleb had a hold break off on the way up and took a full fall, pulling me sideways a bit – we both ended up with some chewed hands on that one. Hanmi didn’t fall, somehow climbing lightly enough – or perhaps we broke off everything loose already. It was raining rocks, some as big as softballs.

Like a drink from my invisible water bottle?

There was little room for three folks at my anchor, but I had pretty much run out of gear. Caleb came up, took the remaining gear, and passed me climbing to the next anchor. Hanmi came up as I kept belaying Caleb, using the beauty of an autoblocking device and some directional pieces.

All during this time, whenever the lead climber headed straight up, small-to-medium sized rocks fell on the lower ones. There was a lot of yelling, and each rock could shatter into several more on the way down. Some of the larger rockfall could have ended our day (or life) quickly, but thankfully it either missed us or shattered above. Both Han and I had golfball-sized ones hit on our helmets and shoulders. All of us had helmets, and I began to think about wearing one even on the Zion hikes.

The final pitches were about chasing the light as the sun lowered in the sky. We were out of water and all quite sore, especially our feet, as climbing shoes always strain your feet. Climbing moved slowly, with some movements causing cramps to bind your hands, arms and legs into searing pain and strange shapes. Starting at 7AM we were watching 7PM go by while still on the wall. The last few pitches were pretty good, with another scary lead out on tiny gear (I got that one and climbed it almost delirious, singing and placing tiny nuts anywhere – my mouth dry and sticky). This high up, the ledges were full of dirt, rock and scratchy scrub brush, with the occasional cactus for some additional challenge.

Ok, who turned off the lights!?

One of the pitches was an overhanging off-width that constricted, something I had never climbed before. With just a few holds to work with, we all managed to make it somehow, and Hanmi did it dragging the 20lb pack. Above that, it widened into a box chimney, where stemming needed one’s full leg length to reach ass to foot across the chimney walls. I didn’t see Hanmi climbing it, but since Caleb and I are in the 6ft range and she’s 5ft 4, I’m sure she pulled some crazy positions to get through that part. It was almost wider than my arm span.

It the top of these Zion towers the rock levels out, but it is covered with loose plates and rocks, all set in sand. Some of the rocks are teetering, balanced on a wind-swept fulcrum that demands you not touch it. It’s like walking on a chunky dune, but you cannot allow the rocks to side off and kill the folks behind you. It’s nerve-wracking and tiresome. At one point Caleb stopped climbing above us and tried to clean up all the rocks on the ledge and stack them to one side. The sun had set and the last light was leaving us as we reached the summit. We cheered quickly and it was time to descend.

Since none of us had done this route before, and the rappel route was different than the climb, so the pressure was still on to search for the correct path. But now it was dark, and although the moon had risen we were still in the shadow of the buttress next to us. This forced us to all move slowly on some high-angle loose terrain using just the one headlamp we brought.

After some time of searching and steep scrambling to edge of a dark cliff, we found a tree with slings and rappel rings. We looped the ropes through the rings and tossed it into the darkness. Caleb rappelled down first and shouted up that he had found the next anchor. Hanmi and I rappelled next and we felt sense of relief to be on our way. In total, we had 6 sixty meter raps to the base of the wall.

Part 3 of 3 coming up next...

Equinox : Part I

We've been in Zion for a few days. I have other notes, but this climb was awesome. I'm going to break it into several posts...

big wall, little people
While catching some lunch in the small town of Springdale, which lies just outside Zion Nation Park, Hanmi went shopping for a pair of hiking shoes. She met a clerk there and got to talking about climbing in Zion. He mentioned that he knew a bit about climbing, had grown up in Oregon, and that Zion is a great place to climb – and he guides cayoneering trips in the park and climbs elsewhere. So, we thought it’d be nice if we asked him to show us some of the more back country places to climb, not in the typical guidebook.

We met that night for dinner, and Caleb had scoured a few routes that climbers scrawl into the park ranger’s climbing log and had also talked to a friend about routes. He presented us with two choices: A 10-pitch 5.10 climb that topped the Leaning Wall in the Temple of Sinewava, or a series of 2-pitch 5.9 routes in one of the many crags along the walls of the gorge.

The park is endless beauty

We chose the larger climbing day, a grade IV called Equinox. It’s typical for the park at the 5.9 to 5.10 grade: several chimney pitches, some plants to wrestle with and possibly dirty in places. It’s one of the more-standard routes that intermediate climbers play on, but this early in the season and it not being listed in the published guidebooks assured us that it wouldn’t have any traffic. We agreed to meet at 6AM and take the first shuttle into the park (one cannot drive into the park).

All was good as we stepped off the bus and hiked the short distance to the base of the first pitch. We decided to leave our larger packs at the base, nearly empty, and carry just a small day pack for our water, snacks and shoes. It weighed a bit, but as we drank the water it would lighten up.

Gearing up

With three people climbing there’s a risk of moving too slowly to beat the daylight hours, which can strand the party on the wall until light comes around again. Our biggest worry was trying not to dry out, as the weather had warmed up a bit and the afternoon could see 95 degrees in bright sun. The second two on each pitch would climb on individual ropes and nearly at the same time to speed things up, which works well. All taped and roped up, the first pitch started.

The first pitch was a full-on chimney and off-width battle at a solid 5.7 level. The lead was heady (“rowdy” Caleb called it) since there was little protection for almost the whole thing. Hanmi and I followed, with me wrestling the bag up the chimney, dragging it behind me.

Off-width is on the topo as "OW"

Fist jams turned into liebacks, which turned into chicken-wings and kneebars, then a leg in the crack. Footstacks, handstacks, stemming and milking the face for holds all came into the playbook – what a pitch! There were two more, harder off-widths coming. We laughed with delight and awe at the intro pitch and moved over the base of the next.

Han shows off her crack technique

Hanmi lead next. It too was large for her hands, tough to protect, and mostly a run-out solo with a “psychological piece” for confidence (it wouldn’t hold a big fall but could allow her to rest if need be). As she reached the ledge at the top, a tarantula greeted her. Thankfully, it was shy and moved along. I have a thing about spiders, and I would’ve died of fright.

We traded again and I put up the next pitch, a longer crack system that ended in a nice ledge. Then Caleb put up another pitch and we were almost halfway through the route. The sun was ferocious at this point, and we were guzzling our water.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3!

The perspective shifts upward