Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 7 – A Celebrity Event

I arrived in Boulder yesterday afternoon, where I am visiting my good friends Gary & Bibi. In anyone's book, Gary is one of the pioneers of climbing and is a world-class mountaineer. In fact, meeting Gary Neptune in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1989 was the catalyst to the start of my climbing career.

Today I got to meet Jens Voigt. Oh, so you say who the heck is that? Well, if you were a cycling enthusiast such as myself you would be excited for me. Known as a great all round rider, he is a legend in the world of cycling. German born, he has competed in 17 Tour de Frances, completing 340 stages in his career. Yesterday he retired from competitive cycling at the age of 42 upon the completion of the USA Pro Challenge race, which ended on Sunday in Denver. The race passed right through Boulder. Read about Yens.

So this morning Gary and I went to a local bike shop where Jens appeared before a crowd to speak about his career, and to sign autographs. It was especially fun for me, because unlike most people toting cycling jerseys and posters to be autographed, I only had my sketchpad with me. He asked if I was an artist, to which of course I said yes. He then took my pad back again and drew a flower. It was pretty funny. Below is a snippet from Jens' talk.


Descent of Mt. Massive

I have a few more photos to share, from my hike down.

By the time I was heading down, about 2:30 PM, the temps had dropped pretty quickly.

My backpack with remnants of snow
The little streams which were running freely on my way up, were now freezing over.

There was quite a variety of wildflowers on the mountain, and I thought this one was particularly interesting because I had never seen it before, so I looked it up - Arctic Gentian. I saw many more but needed to focus more on hiking down rather than taking photos.
Arctic Gentian 
Yellow (Sulfur) Paintbrush
This parting shot was a really nice end to my day on the mountain.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Colorado / Mt. Massive Adventure

I have already been on this trip for almost 6 days and just now have time to report in.

Day 1 started with an uneventful flight into Denver. My cuz and his wife picked me up at the airpost and after a lovely dinner we headed to a pavilion in a big Denver park for Ukelele practice. I expected to be a little bored, which was not the case. Besides the immaculate flower (and kale) gardens, the music was a real treat – I had no idea they were so wonderful. Be sure to watch the video – cousin John and wife Ann-Marie are on the left. I had to shorten it a little to add it.

Uke Practice

Day 2 - Not so much to report. Jet lagging and adjusting to the mile-high city. Picked up my 1999 Toyota 4Runner ride ($308 for 10 days - yippee!), bought some groovy yoga mat sandals at REI (they feel soooooo good), did some work on my laptop, and hung out with John and Ann-Marie.

Day 3 – More work on the laptop (hard to get away :->). I checked out the beautiful ukeleles my cousin handcrafts. They are a work of art. (I promise to add some pics later). That night the ukelele group performed at the Adrift Bar & Grill to celebrate their 2nd anniversary. It was great fun, enjoyed by all (another short video below). I also got to see my 2nd cousins, John's son Ian (center) and another 2nd cousin, Jeff, I had never met before, and his wife, Shannon. It was like a mini-family reunion.

Day 4 – Headed to Halfmoon Camp at the base of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, the two highest peaks in Colorado. My goal is the summit of Mt. Massive (14,421'). I climbed Elbert, 8 ft. higher, 25 years ago as my first peak ever. I found a cozy campsite, organized my gear for an early morning start, built a little campfire as the temps dropped into the 40's, and enjoyed my dinner and a beer before an early bedtime.

Day 5 – Summit day
7:30 AM start – not as early as I had planned, but after a somewhat fitful night of sleep in the back of the SUV, and morning temps in the 30's, it was the best I could do. A 3/4 mile hike to the trailhead and I was on my way up. There were maybe 3 dozen people on my side of the mountain that day, with most of them getting an earlier start. The first 2-3 miles was an upward hike through Aspen, Hemlock, and various wildflowers and yellow mushrooms. There were Clark's Nutcracker (that's a bird by the way), grey squirrels with black tipped tails and of course cute little chipmunks. I started off with a bruised left heel from the day before (not sure how I did that), and soon had a big blister on my right heel from favoring my left foot. Time to turn back. But nooooo.. add a little mole skin and keep going.

I was hiking slower than I wanted, but adjusting to the now 10,000' plus altitude was a challenge for this flat-lander. With almost 7 miles all uphill to go, and 2 sore heels, it was going to be tough.

As I got up to about 12,000', I started meeting people heading back down. I thought "I am REALLY slow - they have already summited", but each group said they turned back because when they got to the saddle the wind was blowing too hard and it was sleeting. Yikes! Another good reason to turn back. But I wasn't about to turn back... not yet.

At about 13,000' I finally met a guy, and a dog, who had made the summit. He looked at me and said, "I know you can do it - you have the right stuff (gear that is) and you seem committed. Good luck." Finally, some encouraging news. I later met 3 others who had made the summit, plus about a dozen more who all turned back due to the weather. I put on all my layers, tightened down my hood, put on my wrap around glasses, and headed into the wind... and sleet... and snow... and freezing "you know what" cold. There is nothing quite as painful as sleet hitting your face driven by a 30 mph+ wind. It was not enough wind to blow me over (unlike the Boy Scout troop in blue jeans and plastic ponchos I passed on their way down) but it really saps your energy.

Okay, so now we get to the "am I gonna keep going, or be sensible and turn around?" phase. I had done all the training, come all this way, had all the right gear (or mostly) for the unexpected weather, had my eye on this peak for a very long time -– was I ever going to come back if I turned around? No. No way. I needed to deal with the pain and adversity now, and continue on. Not to the point of risking my life. But that which I had to endure was worth the goal.

My fingers and toes were numb, my cheeks stung from the blowing sleet, and the altitude and wind were exhausting me. Maybe I could just say I made it - who would know? Me, of course. Somehow I just kept moving forward, now climbing up and over boulders, thinking I was almost there, only to find another false summit. Where is it?!!

But then - Summit! At last!
There was not another soul up there. I was completely alone at 14,421 feet.
I took only 5 minutes to enjoy a bite of a Luna bar, a couple of quick photos, then carefully, oh sooooo carefully, headed down. There is no room for mistakes alone at the top of the world. Oh, but what an amazing place to be.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Training Hike for CO Trip

Last Saturday I did my first hike in over a year - in the hot humid wet soggy buggy Ocala National Forest. I know it sounds terrible, but it was a nice adventure and key for getting me geared up for a Colorado 14'er. And as usual, the people were the best part. I met up with a group of hikers from (hence the name) and didn't know a soul but made some excellent new acquaintances.

This morning I was back to the AM training session with 40 flights of stairs, two at a time, and a tromp through the park, all in my boots. I wish I had started a little earlier because... well... it was hot humid August in Florida. Can hardly wait to feel that dry CO mountain air!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Heading down

This morning the new shift arrived amid high winds and snow. I guess since they managed to get here, we will be able to get down. I have packed up, loaded my gear on the Snowcat, and Steve and I have given the next volunteer the full kitchen tour. All that is left is to say goodbye to Marty and join the departing crew for the ride down the mountain.

By the way, Marty snuck into my room again this morning - no idea how he got past me. He was so proud of himself and happy, but ultimately I did have to evict him.

I took advantage of the opportunity to submit comments on the MWOBS website, which should be posted sometime today, so take a look.

Below are a few misc. photos from my time up here.
Next stop, Waterbury Center, Vermont for my flight out of Burlington in the morning.

Official Chef for the night

Hanging on for dear life - my first time in high winds

 After my first attempt at 65 - 80 mph winds

Fajita night

Fighting the wind to reach the summit

My ride awaits

Bye bye Mickey

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Last full day at MWOBS

It warmed up quite a bit last night - into the upper 30's and this morning up to 47. All the rime ice melted as did much snow, which turned to slush and now is frozen again. We had sleet, then rain, then back to snow in a matter of a few hours. I went for a walk earlier today in the snow. It was only about 35 - 40 mph winds so it was not so hard to get around. We had winds of 74 this morning with a 94 mph gust. The highest wind we've had since I arrived here was 105.2 mph. Now we are at 65 mph with 72 gusts. Guess I'll stay in for now :)

The Chicken Picatta turned out great last night and the Gingersnap Whoppie Pies were delicious - yum. This morning I made a big pot of Chicken and Rice soup with lots of veggies. Right now Steve is busy making pizza dough. He'll be setting it in the furnace room to rise. So we'll have fresh pizza tonight - no pizza delivery in the winter, although I hear it has happened in the summer. I have already cut up onions, portabella mushrooms, black olives and red bell peppers for topping. We have some pepperoni as well (not on my share, please) Steve is also making crepes for tonight - spicy dessert crepes (made with cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses) with a creamy center and warm tart cherry glaze topping.

Busy day today, getting ready for the next shift, as we head down tomorrow. Our chores include cleaning the bathroom (thank you Steve) cleaning both fridges (my job today) cleaning the stove and hood - a big job made small by doing it together yesterday. I don't mind all this, especially since it's not keeping me from a hike. When we do a good job it is appreciated.

I forgot to show you a couple of other photos from yesterday morning's sunrise. There is an effect of the shadow of the mountain on the landscape made by the rising sun. It's called a summit shadow. Pretty cool to see in person.

Summit shadow at sunrise

Observation Tower with Mt. Washington's shadow

The Stage Shop - next to the Cog Rail - closed for Winter. Photo courtesy of my fellow volunteer, Steve Hill.

The true summit - 6,288 feet. I'm actually hanging on the sign so the 60+ mph wind doesn't blow me off!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Marty, the summit cat

Marty is a Maine Coon mix, with beautiful shiny black fur, green eyes, big feet with at least one extra toe. He is a lot more social this winter than he was in the summer when I first met him. They said he relaxes more in the winter when there aren't bunches of tourists around wanting to take his picture. He has been know to smash a few cameras.

But, Marty has become my buddy this winter. Maybe because I play with him, fluff his food (against the rules), freshen his water (and don't fill the bowl because he loves to splash it out) and I give him good back scratches.

Yesterday he snuck into my room. Also against the rules, much to my disappointment as I had hoped he could sleep with me. Our room doubles as linen storage and it's not good for his dander to get on the linens, in case someone is allergic to cats. But back to him sneaking into my room (and remember I said sneak - that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) He immediately jumped up to my bunk at the top and made himself at home. He especially loved my down sleeping bag and snuggled right down into it. I had a heck of a time evicting him, which neither me nor Marty were happy about.