Embrace the Chaos

July 12, 2013 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

Sometimes, life will get a little chaotic. It’s a good thing. Go with it. Unfortunately, when life gets a little crazy, things tend to slip through the cracks. And once things start to slip, it can be painfully difficult to get back on track.

That’s why I am sitting here, over a month since my last post, struggling to figure out what to write. So I guess I will write about struggling to write. But it’s not about just writing – it’s about getting back into anything that you let slip when life get’s a little bit chaotic.

About a month ago I parted with my beloved home in the PNW (don’t worry, I am going back). I packed up my car and headed to San Jose for a summer internship with a very large tech company.

As a side note, I can assure you, if you find yourself in a similar situation; when looking longingly at your splitboard trying to decide if it is worth throwing in the car to take with you the answer is unequivocally no. THERE IS NO SNOW. Okay, that is an exaggeration – thin white strips speckle the peaks and if you are willing to make the 6+ mile trek at over 10,000 feet, you might be able to connect 2-3 turns. For all I know, I may find myself doing just that at some point this summer as well.

The point is, I found myself heading to anew place, with a lot of unknowns. It’s not the first time – but every time is a little different. Just getting to San Jose was a wild adventure. Fueled by newfound friends and a desire to make the absolute most of the whole experience, I was so busy enjoying life that I kind of forgot to write any of it down.

Then I arrived in San Jose, met a couple of my new awesome roommates and before I had a chance to get comfortable or unpack, I found myself at my first day of work. I quickly found that the “real” job lifestyle eats away at your day, and by the time you eat dinner and unwind from the day, it’s already time for bed. At least that is what it felt like at first. The day’s flew by and soon it was Friday afternoon.

I’d let a few things slip, but I was going to make the most of this summer and that meant exploring all that this magnificent area has to offer. Dammit, I wasn’t going to let everything slip. Re-invigorated, I made a quick inventory of what I would need, and packed my car as fast as humanly possible the second I got home from work. I made it out to Yosemite in good time.

By good time, I mean I gave up trying to find somewhere to camp around 11:30 and accepted that I was going to sleep in my car with a bottle of wine to pass the hours. Of which there weren’t many – backpacking permits in the park are an interesting endeavor that involves waking up at the crack of dawn so that you can wait in line with fellow last-minute adventurers. To think that the only thing I’d forgotten was my hiking boots was rather impressive.

The drive to Yosemite is a doable weekend – but a long one. I found myself getting back late Sunday. A new roommate had appeared at some point over the weekend and, if anything, I was less unpacked than the week before. Another week came and went. My daily routine of walking to the office had been replaced by a stuffy car ride. Long overdue for an oil change, the AC on my car conveniently stopped working just as the heat picked up. Add that to the cracked windshield and the ever-growing list of things I know I should fix but never make the time for.

At the end of the week, I was a little more prepared, having packed in the morning so that I could leave straight from work. This time, the destination was climbing near Tahoe. Another amazing weekend, another late return.

Yes, that is what I wore to work they day before. And yes, I found these rad guys on the internet. And yes, we are chilling at the top of the second pitch on Haystack (a classic 5.8 on the East Wall at Lovers Leap). Oh and yes, I lugged my damn camera up this wall, who knows why I did that.

Not only am I still unpacked at this point, but now dangerously out of clean (I use the term clean loosely here) laundry as well. So it seems completely reasonable that writing is the last thing on my mind.

That’s where you would be wrong. I have had some incredible experiences. Seen incredible places, met incredible people, and learned interesting things about the world and myself. If anything, I should be writing more, not less! I don’t go off on adventures looking for interesting topics to write about. But when you remove yourself from the distractions of everyday life, you give yourself time to dwell on your thoughts. And when you surround yourself with nature, its beauty inspires imagination.  It is damn near impossible to come back from an adventure and not have some thought that I want to write down.

It started to bother me – Not writing, that is. Instead of writing, I would make mental notes and try to remind myself that I should write. But I never would.

So the fourth came around. Taking advantage of what turned out to be a paid holiday, I yet again disappeared to Tahoe. Not four days since my last time making the trek.  I had no plans, other than to relax. After three full days camping, I woke up in my tent and decided it was time to get back on track.

Nearly a week later I am finally sitting down to write. And for the record, I did finally unpack, and I have done laundry. And yes, I am packing my car (still no AC) so that I can leave for Yosemite after work tomorrow afternoon.

I am bummed that it has taken me so long to get back to writing. I have stories that are worth telling. The new friends who made a lasting impression, all because of a little whiskey. The backpackers who were kind enough to let me join them – from whom I learned so much about the Jewish religion and hiking the PCT. Even the holiday of solitude, where my thoughts turned inward. All are stories worth sharing.

So, let life get a little crazy. Embrace it and go with it. I promise you will have some memorable experiences if you do. And when life gets a little crazy, accept that you might drop the ball on something. But recognize that the hard part isn’t derailing your life – that’s as simple as hopping in your car on a Friday afternoon with zero plans, or drunkenly booking a plan ticket to that far away place that you always wanted to visit. It’s getting back on track that is tricky, because life doesn’t stop, or even slow down and wait for you. It can be overwhelming and easy to put off.

But make yourself get back. You will be happy once you do. I may not walk to work anymore – but I’ve managed to replace the walk with a pleasant bike ride (a fair substitute in my opinion). I still have a lot to write: nomadic pursuits, insights into earning trust, and an enriched world perspectives are just a few things I’ve delved into and hope to share in the near future, along with some rad adventures all over the place!

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Mt Adams on a Whim

July 24, 2012 | Posted in Snowboarding | By

Upon returning from Yosemite, I was having a hard time focusing at work. I made it almost two days before my mind started to wander to what my next adventure should be. The weather was fantastic and it had been a few weeks since I had last snowboarded. It was Wednesday afternoon when it hit me, Mt Adams. I had been talking about climbing Adams for a while, and now seemed as good an idea as any. I shot off a few texts to friends, and before long I’d found someone interested in a last minute trip up the second highest mountain in Washington.

Finn, Tristan and I set off Friday afternoon, getting in to camp late at night. The campground was overflowing, mostly because the road in was still covered in snow and most people didn’t want to try dealing with getting through it. Finn wasn’t deterred by a little snow, so instead of trying to wedge our car into makeshift parking spots down the road, we found ourselves digging out his car so that we could get it into an open spot while narrowly avoiding sliding into a tree.  The good news was our campsite was right at the trailhead.

We woke up early and got started bright and early (well, 6:45 seems early to me). We hiked through off-and-on snow for nearly half an hour before the trail turned to solid snow and we could switch to skins. From there, it was a long, slow slog up to the summit. Adams, like the other volcanoes in Washington, is just an endless snowfield of nearly a constant pitch. It makes for a thrilling climb as the scenery stays amazingly constant the entire way to the top, or at least to the false summit.

We knew there was a chance of adverse weather and had already encountered brief showers near the beginning of our climb. Joking around, Tristan informed us, “you know what to do if you start to feel tingle-y right?” We looked at him curiously, “what do you mean?” Tristan continued, “Well, when your are about to get struck by lightning, you will build up with static electricity. Your supposed to kick off your skis, throw your poles, and make yourself as small as possible on the ground.”

I looked at him laughing, “Well that sucks for me, I can’t kick my skis off nearly as fast as you.” While the thought of lightning was a possibility, we clearly weren’t too concerned about it. Besides, as the forecast we briefly glanced at had said, after the first drizzle, the clouds were starting to part.

The false summit stays looming above nearly the entire hike. We made good time to Lunch Counter, where we stopped and each enjoyed a section of Finn’s giant Safeway sandwich. (Who carries a pound of sandwich up a mountain anyways?) It was a nice supplement to Tristan and my Euro-style lunch of bread, salami, and cheese.

Unsurprisingly, the false summit was still a long ways off. After lunch, we continued our slog to the summit. We were greeted with some welcome weather. Slowly but surely, we were making progress. The closer we got to the false summit, the harder the climb got. It had already been a long day, and as we were hitting the 10,000’ mark the elevation was starting to become noticeable.

Unfortunately, by the time I dragged myself to the top of the false summit, I caught a fleeting glance of the true summit off in the distance before the clouds rolled in and visibility was reduced to no more than 20’. We took advantage of the weather to take a break and discuss our plan. I was pretty well exhausted and the weather was not cooperating. We had reached the Southwest Chutes, and I was the only one in our group who had never summited. Thankfully, Finn pushed that it was worth it, and we had already come so far. The cloud pushed through and we had a nice break. There was the summit, looking much larger and further away than I was really hoping.

Despite the disheartening size of the final push to the summit, we set off. Not long after we began climbing an ominously dark cloud appeared around the corner. We started hearing the feint roll of thunder coming from the cloud. I couldn’t help but think back to what Tristan had told us earlier. At least now I knew what to try to do in case of impending lightning strike. We stopped to figure out the best course of action. We were about level with the cloud, and it looked like it was heading straight over the false summit.

We really didn’t want to spend any more time around the storm cloud than we had to. We decided the best course of action was to just keep pushing on, getting above the cloud as far away as quick as possible. It was much closer to lightning than I ever really desired. Thankfully, the cloud passed and we were able to enjoy the summit for a few minutes. I was surprised from the top how small Rainier looked in the distance. From any other viewpoint, Rainier looks like a monolith rising above all other peaks in the area. From Adams, Rainier seemed dwarfed in size and no larger than the peak we were currently standing on.

As we got ready for the descent, another ominous cloud rolled in. We decided to hurry. After a brief hike back to the false summit, we were at the top of the Southwest Cutes. 3000’ of continuous, steep corn skiing. I looked over at Finn and Tristan and let them know I would see them at the bottom. I was exhausted, but adrenaline helped fuel me into making turns from top to bottom. The snow was still smooth and the sun had warmed it up nicely. I can say without a doubt that those were the best turns I have ever made in July.

Once we all made it down the chutes, we navigated our way down the bottom of the snowfield, getting in a few more good turns as we went. Eventually we hit the trail back, and began the long traverse back to camp. Finally, we made it back at around 6pm. With a car full of beer, fried chicken, pasta, and various other snacks, we opted to enjoy the evening, spend the night and wake up early Sunday to drive home.

All-in-all, not a bad day. Over 7000’ climbed, over 3000’ snowboarded down, and some interesting weather. 

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Defining Life Moments

June 10, 2012 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

It isn’t often that I do something that I consider “defining life moment”. It is even less common that I can identify these fleeting moments while they are happening. Most of the time, I do not realize a moment was in some way life-shaping until well after the moment has passed. These realizations hit after my life has changed and I am reflecting on what spurred the change.

This moment was a rare exception.
While I was fully immersed in what I can easily describe as the most physically and mentally challenging experience of my life, I had a brief instant of clarity that enabled me to see just what I am capable of, shattering previous notions of my own limitations. It was in this instant that I acknowledged this experience, a pursuit of adventure, was the most challenging thing I had ever accomplished. In the same moment I realized that it was also a gateway, the tip of the iceberg if you will, for more challenging forays into the mountains. I have been knocking on the door to a world that was intriguing yet unfamiliar and it has finally flung wide open. Stepping inside is both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

Enough with the metaphors, when I explain this “defining life moment” the sensation I felt should become clear.
It happened over Memorial Day weekend, on Sunday morning as I had just stopped to wait for my partner, ice axe still in-hand, after having made a handful of turns off of the summit of Eldorado Peak. Sitting at just over 8,800ft Eldorado was by no means the highest place I had snowboarded, but it was the tallest mountain (and only true non-volcanic mountain) I have summited. It was also the first moderately technical climb I have ever attempted. Cutting a shelf into the knife-edge ridge so that I had a place to stand and put on my splitboard, then dropping onto the face of the mountain from the highest point possible, was an exhilarating experience to say the least.

I am getting ahead of myself. What made this trip so spectacular was not merely the summit, but the approach as well. True to form, I found my partner on TAY Thursday evening, just two days before the trip. I was able to borrow and ice axe and crampons from my buddy, and Kevin agreed to teach me how to use them on the approach. We left Seattle around 5 am on Saturday so that we could get an early start. Kevin planned this trip, a non-standard approach to Eldorado. Instead of taking the typical climbers trail that ascends almost directly up Eldorado’s east face from the valley floor, we started well to the west of Eldorado in the Hidden Lakes area. After a quick skin up the logging road, and a brief jaunt bootpacking through the woods, we were quickly past the dense growth and were skinning up a large open snowfield.

Skinning up the hill, I stumbled into a little luck. Someone had dropped a pair of crampons in the snow. The way the snow had melted out, the looked as if the had been there for quite some time. I did a quick search of the area to make sure there was nothing else (or no-one) left buried in the snow and, while still puzzled, threw the crampons on my pack pretty stoked about my find and of course the extra weight dangling from my pack.

We made it up to the saddle in the Hidden Lakes area in good time. From the saddle, I could see up the ridge to Hidden Lakes. What was surely a fun and rewarding tour. This was not our intention. We instead had our eyes fixated to the east, at Eldorado Peak that was standing prominently in the distance. As Kevin promised, our approach was indeed much longer but offered views that were unparalleled. The jagged and exposed west face of Eldorado looked nearly insurmountable (at least given my abilities) and the winding ridgelines we intended to traverse seemed to meander endlessly into the distance.

However, we pressed on making good time, stopping shortly for a lesson in self-arrest on a steep face with low consequences. I should point out that the sun was out in full force. It was an absolutely beautiful day, though the heat was not making the travel any easier. The ridgeline varied from mellow and flat to flip-flopping sharp ridges forcing us to switch between skinning and boot pack numerous times. There were ups and downs, averaging out to a steady climb in elevation. As the day wore on, the traversing was starting to take its toll.

The wet, heavy snow did not make the going any easier. But we pressed on. Finally, around 4 pm we had finished most of the traversing. We had just descended a bowl below the Triad, a distinguishable set of three points nestled together on the ridge, and climbed up a chute to the top of a spine that was separating us from the east snowfield on Eldorado. For those of you keeping track, yes that means we wrapped a fair ways around the mountain from west to east. Finding a patch of exposed rock, Kevin and I treated ourselves to a little nap before making our final approach to camp up on Eldorado glacier (the largest glacier in the cascades not attached to a volcano). It was at this point, laying on a rock under the sun that reality began to set in. We had been hiking for nearly 8 hours with a minimal net amount of elevation gain. I was tired. That meant the car was nearly 8 hours away and there was no way of going back. Not in the state that either Kevin or I was in. We were past the point of return and the only thing to do was press on to camp, make dinner, try to sleep and hope that we would have enough energy the next day.

After our nap, Kevin and I felt slightly refreshed. Our bodies actually had a chance to process some of the calories we had consumed and were energized by the sight of our destination. We had a fun couple of turns from our napping spot to a safe point on the snowfield to start our final ascent to camp. As vast snowfields often are, the distance to the top was regrettably further than either Kevin or I anticipated. After a seemingly endless climb, we finally reach the glacier around 7:30.

We met up with a couple of Kevin’s friends who had made the standard Eldorado approach. For what it is worth, it took them two days to get to the glacier from the standard route, granted they were not skinning so their progress was much slower. Our evening consisted of building camp, cooking food, and an arsenal of DSLR’s snapping shots (three cameras for the four of us) of our 360 panoramic views. Amidst the gusts of wind, snow, and hitting the ski that was propping up our makeshift 4-man circus tent, I think I managed a couple hours of sleep.

To my surprise, I woke up feeling refreshed and not nearly as sore as I was expecting. Kevin and I made the decision to follow the standard route off of Eldorado, virtually straight down to the valley floor. Knowing this, Kevin and I decided we had enough energy left to make the final push to the summit.

In all fairness, this final ascent was fueled mostly by adrenaline for me, which I found works way better than the cliff bars I was relying on the day before. Not to mentioned we left all of our overnight gear below us on the glacier. The actual summit was better than we were expecting. The recent snow made the ridge up to the peak soft enough to kick in a nice boot pack. As mentioned before, the euphoric feeling upon getting to the summit was un-paralleled. In the context of the previous days approach, reaching the summit was such an incredible sense of accomplishment.

After snapping a myriad of pictures (none of which turned out particularly well in my opinion) we began the descent. Riding off of the summit was a thrill. You feel like you are standing on top of the world and dropping in to your line is more satisfying than any rollercoaster I have ever been on.

We had a solid 4-5,000 feet of snow to ride down, broken up by an occasional pesky uphill. While very wet and reactive, Kevin and I both got in some fantastic corn skiing.

When the snow ended, our journey wasn’t quite over. We had to down-climb a boulder field that was absolutely miserably. In any context it was not an easy route to follow, having to navigate through knee to shoulder high boulders is never fun. When you throw an overnight pack with skis sticking off the ends, it is downright terrifying. Just when you though you had cleared a boulder, a ski would catch, throwing your weight forward, causing you to hold your breath and praying that you can find somewhere to plant your foot to stop you from careening out of control down the hill.

The boulder field eventually cleared and the trail seemed to mellow out with each step. It was only a couple of hours before we were crossing a river on logs and were back at Kevin’s friend’s car.

This trip pushed my physical limits and showed me what I am capable of accomplishing. While I still have a long ways to go before I would consider myself a true mountaineer and I still have a lot of skills to learn, at the heart of this adventure, I began to discover the sheer power of will to truly push yourself. 

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Climbing with the Doctor

April 18, 2012 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

Climbing is one of the best decisions that I made in a while. I have decided that everybody that climbs is incredibly nice. Based, of course, on my limited couple of weeks of climbing. You can walk up to pretty much anyone and start a conversation, or if you are just standing around, people will come over and start talking with you. So, I have met some really interesting people in the last couple of weeks. For example, the doctor.

I knew from the second that I noticed him that he was a doctor because he was still wearing his scrubs. It became more apparent when a girl walked up and thanked him for helping her last year when she tore basically everything in her knee while climbing. It turns out the Doctor is actually a neurosurgeon (how badass is that) and a really nice guy. I never did catch his name though, hence me calling him the Doctor.

It turns out the Doctor is a really good climber, at least according to my entirely un-founded opinion, or perhaps it was the scrubs that just made him appear to move gracefully across the wall. I, on the other hand, am an absolutely terrible climber (give me a break! I’ve only been at this a couple weeks). That didn’t stop the Doctor from coming over, giving advice and several times even demonstrating the moves I should make.  I ended up progressing a lot yesterday. I can tackle most of the V2’s now and I am incredibly proficient at ripping off blisters on my fingers. I contribute a lot of my progress to the Doctor.

He was just one of those personalities that makes an impact and you tend to remember. The great part is that the climbing wall at the IMA is full of people exactly like the Doctor – each with their own unique memorable personality, outgoing, and friendly.

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Goals for the quarter

April 1, 2012 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

I am approaching my life here in Seattle with a different attitude that I have in the past. I have always enjoyed being active (though not strictly excersizing) but am often bad at motivating myself to get out as often as I would like. So, I have set a few goals for myself this quarter and I am hoping the rationale behind each one is enough to stick with it.

1) Go climbing 3 times per week – I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out a nice way to remain active without living 10 minutes from a mountain. I’ve put in a earnest effort to go snowboarding lot still (3 times in the last week is not bad), but I can’t keep that up all quarter. I’ve never really gotten in to climbing, mostly because I never put in the effort to stick with it. I’ve always heard that climbing gets more enjoyable the more you do it. I always have fun when I go, and the people in the gym are all really cool and super friendly. The ima is really convenient, and I think I can afford and hour or two every day. So I am going to try to stick with it. Besides, the fake rock wall seems about the closest thing I can get to a mountain without actually leaving the city.

2) Walk/bike as many places as possible – I just got a sweet new rain shell, so now I have no excuse even if it is pouring down rain outside. Campus is only about a mile away and I enjoy the walk. Taking my bike is actually faster than riding the bus, so really there is no excuse. Walking and biking are nice ways to get outside even if it is just a means of getting from one place to another.

3) Cook better/healthier/more frequently – This one has been on my ‘list’ for a long time and I always end up failing. I often find that cooking for myself is more expensive than eating out, at least for a “real” meal. But I know this is wrong and if I plan better I should be able to eat better food for cheaper. I enjoy cooking too. I am going to try to plan 3-4 meals a week on Sunday, go to the store and buy all the ingredients. I will schedule time every day or so, ample for preparing and enjoying a good meal. You might ask, “well you have tried this before, what makes you think now is any different?” Really nothing special. I am trying to schedule my time better and this will be a part of it. Also, I have helped make some delicious meals in the last week, so I am off to a good start.

4) No more candy! – I will be the first to admit that I love candy. But I am really bad at using restraint when eating it and I always end up feeling gross afterwards. I hardly ever ate candy when I was in Montana, which leads me to believe that I eat it more out of convenience than anything else. Also, I find that the more active I am, the less craving I have for sugar. Plus, I am always way more satisfied eating a good meal than a bag of candy. (All of these things are tied together!)

5) Structured schedule – I am terrible at structuring my time. But then, I am also really good at wasting time. I am going to try to make a detailed schedule for each week and hopefully alleviate some of the wasted time.

6) Creativity journal – I’ve had this awesome sketchbook, for a few years that I randomly put ideas in. I am going to take 30 minutes a day to sketch out any ideas that have been in my mind. It seems like a fun excersize and who knows, maybe something useful will come of it.

This seems like a long list of goals to set for myself, but it covers a wide range of my lifestyle and I have spent a long time trying to figure out how I can live my life in a way that makes me happy. These are all a part of that goal, so hopefully this will make for a good quarter.

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