Baked out of Darrington

August 2nd, 2020

Pam and I just got back from 2 days at Darrington. Forecast was for 95 but we thought it would be cooler, it wasn’t. We got three pitches up Till Broad Daylight before rapping off in the extreme heat and bailing for home. The climbing was lovely, I sailed up a runout 5.9. I almost felt like I had my mojo back…until the sun hit me.  There is zero shade at D-town. It felt like standing too close to a roaring palette fire at Jtree. Unbearable heat. Did I mention it was warm?

We ordered a canopy from a local company out in Parkland. It won’t be ready until October. It’s crazy how back-ordered all the canopy companies are. Some of the popup builders have one year wait lists. At least we will have it for the winter months. We are looking forward to having more room in the bigger canopy. I will have room for climbing, painting and a sleeping platform. For decades we had to haul heavy loads to the front seats and roof rack so we could sleep in the back. Now we should have room without a lot of heavy lifting.

I painted Comet Falls at Rainier the day after climbing Rattletail with Christine. It’s a palette knife painting and might be good. Three people asked me where my gallery was. Then the very next day I carried my heavy rock pack with two ropes up to three o’clock rock. That was 4 days of heavily loaded hiking in a row…in the heat. My shoulders hurt from the art pack backpack straps. That is my first hand sewn back pack, and the straps weren’t thick enough for 40 to 50 pound loads. Just tonight I sewed new 3 inch thick padded shoulder straps. They feel awesome, can’t wait to take them on another painting expedition.

Now that we are both getting SS checks I have less pressure to sell my paintings. Now, I paint because it’s fun, not because I need to sell them to make money. It’s kind of freeing knowing that I don’t have to sell my paintings anymore. I mean sure, it’s validating to have them sell, but knowing the good ones can stay with me is cool.

Vitaliy dropped by today with his wife and kid and new baby. So great to see him! He hasn’t climbed outside in a year. He is such a great climbing partner.

I have a bunch of new songs this summer: Difference between Whiskey and You, Cat’s in the Cradle, When you say Nothing at All, Shallow (Lady Gaga). I swore for decades that i could never memorize a song. Fletch persuaded me that I could, so I did. I’ve got Whiskey dialed.

A truck on a train

July 10th, 2020

As we get closer to retirement we’ve been planning how that’s going to look. I clearly remember standing in dad’s sunny laundry room when he was about my age now. He was excited about the plans he’d made  concerning his extra health insurance plan. He predicted (correctly as it turned out) that he’d end up in a nursing home, so he bought a special policy that would cover the cost.

Sue and I, on the other hand, have been looking closely at our  stable of vehicles: a 2010 V6 RAV4, a 2004 two wheel drive Tacoma, and a 1991 Corolla. When we load them up with climbing, camping and painting gear there is no room to sleep inside. Our Corolla wagon is even worse. It’s a 370,000 mile beater for around town that’s drive-able but missing fourth gear.

Many folks in the  climbing community are investing in vans that cost up to $200,000. Some news stories speculate that young people are priced out of the housing market and choose to make car payments instead.  We’ve seen  charming young climbing couples who have fixed up Ford and Chevy vans from last century. We saw dozens of them in our last climbing trip to Idaho. There were also a slew of climbers in vans and trucks with pop up campers on the back. There were even a couple sprinters with popup tops added. Do they really need that much space and luxury?

We camped up in BLM land in the RAV4. We had our little 20 year old 4 season  Bibler backpacking tent. It leaks badly, so I staked out a tarp on top of it. It looked like a legit homeless encampment up there. During two nights of our stay our neighbors in the next campspot drank until 2. There was a drunken woman who had a very annoying  laugh. She brayed, kind of like a drunk donkey with a toothache, and it went on and on. There is no campground host to call up there, and no such thing as a quiet hour.

Boondock  camping has been compared to the wild west.  Truth be told, it’s been me and my climbing buddies talking and playing music late into the night on past trips. So this was a bit of karmic payback.

On the second night, Sue slept in the RAV4 (better sound proofing) while I braved it out in the tent, wearing ear plugs and numbing my brain with whiskey. While climbing in the city, we kept seeing all the van life people driving by in their gas hogs. There were literally trains of them going up and down the rough dirt roads.

My 2004 Tacoma runs like a top, but with 270,000 miles it’s a bit gutless going over the passes with a full load. And it’s far too small to sleep in without a lot of extra luggage shuffling to the front seats every morning and evening. Both cars run fine, but neither serves our needs well.

We are getting older and feel like we’ve earned some luxury in our retirement. We spent a few days looking at new trucks and settled on a very rare model of the Tundra. They are extremely hard to find. Our dealer actually gave up on finding one, but I kept looking and eventually discovered a way to make filter by: new, Tundra, within 50 miles, low to high pricing. Hours and hours of searching eventually revealed the truck we wanted at a heavy discount.

I used the vin number to find the same truck at a much higher price on the dealers website. I called them and told them about the low price on She confirmed the details but said it wasn’t yet available…that it was on a train and expected to be on her lot between the 12th and the 20th. Long story short we placed a deposit on the truck. Once we get the truck in hand we can look into canopies.

I have thought about building my own canopy from fiberglass or poor mans fiberglass (PMF). I just finished a test box to learn the process. I made the food storage box out of 1/8″ plywood…maybe closer to 4mm. PMF is not nearly as rigid as true fiberglass, but it was a good learning experience.

My son and his wife came over last week with some good news, but it’s not my story to tell.

Christine and I climbed at the gym with masks on yesterday. First time since Covid shut everything down. Tod and his family were there running the place. He seemed very happy to see a  couple of us old timers  in there doing our thing. They have a new juggy ten minus in the lead cave for all us rusty has beens to practice on. There is a whole community of climbers in this town who really miss our favorite local hangout.

Marty – Off Belay

July 3rd, 2020

I was on a bicycle ride over to Gig Harbor when I got a text from an unknown number.

Hey Buddy, if you haven’t heard;

Marty died yesterday while running.
Word is a heart attack.
He wanted me to help him on a basic climb of yellow jacket. But covid got in the way (cancelled the trip).

This hurts

Mark Webster:

Who is this…Marty’s gone?

Old Friend from 1976:

It’s Lemon


Old friends die. I guess I have to get used to it. Not saying I like it. But life goes on. Just got back from City of Rocks with Sue. My best  climb was  My Private Idaho rated 5.9. It was either too hot or too wet to climb much else. The trad climbs there don’t have anchors directly on top. They are usually 50 feet off to the side. You need to be able to bring your partner up and walk over to the anchor.

We stayed with Jim for  3 nights, then BLM for 3 nights and Pam for one night. Weather was thunderstorms for three days straight. We barely dodged getting caught in a thunderstorm on Wheat Thin. It had just rained and was drying out. I led up, feeling rusty but ok. As Pam was following a huge black cloud was rushing in behind me. We rapped off in light rain, but as soon as we pulled the rope it began to pour. We rushed over to the dry cave as thunder crashed immediately above us.

In the morning Sue and Connie wanted to bail so we drove home in 11 hours. It was an ok 9 day climbing trip. Not great, but fun to get away. Today I have jet lag, though we did go test drive a Tundra. Covid has made the the 8 foot beds  in short supply.


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June 6th, 2020

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Do dreams have pixels?

May 31st, 2020

My mind clicked awake at 2AM last night.  I thought I might be able to get back to sleep by creating a calming scenario…like sheep jumping over a fence. Who’s in charge here anyway? I went into the menu and chose: file > new. The sleepy part of my mind thought I could create a dream with me successfully singing my latest project: “Love Yourself”, by Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran.

But I got stuck on the file > new  menu. What resolution should the file be? Should it be 1080p? Maybe 4K? So many questions…

We’ve been doing some really complicated projects in class recently. Our project this quarter is to build a portfolio website. It needs to be so good that it can help my students get a job. But the process is sooo complicated that I wrote a book about it,  you can buy it on Amazon.

But back to my dream. I worked on the song after class today…for hours. I must have been driving Sue crazy…obsessively finger picking the chords. Eventually I gave up when Lisa asked us if we wanted to run the stairs at our local stadium. Sue surprised me by challenging me to run them with her. She normally walks up. But there she went, running up, and I followed. We both reached the top…still alive. I couldn’t  believe how strong my 66 year old wife is. I struggled to keep up with her…and the stairs seemed endless.

There were a  dozen people in their teens and twenties running the stairs. Those kids are like electric motors. Definitely wired for 220 Volts on a 20 Amp circuit. They don’t even know the meaning of load.

Annnnd I’m back to the dream.

I discovered this song a couple weeks ago. I think it’s the hardest song I’ve ever learned. I’ve figured out how to play the lead part in the key of C, without a kapo. I still can’t sing and play lead at the same time, but I’ve got the chords and words down.

Here is the tutorial I’m following on how to finger pick the main verses:

I spent many hours studying the song before coming up with these chords. I love the way the words rush along, out of time to the music. It’s the kind of song that gets into your head. I don’t even like the words, they are a bit juvenile. But the melody and rhythm is very compelling, it just works.

F. and I climbed one day over Memorial day weekend. I was so rusty I had to cheat on South Face of Jello. My lack of gym power is making a difference. I got up Midway direct, but barely. I was terrified on the Midway step across move. I’ve had that wired for 30 years.

In other news, I was standing at the sink today and noticed that the soap dispenser bottle was looking particularly fetching. It’s your standard yellow liquid soap for washing dishes…but my artists eye saw it as a painting. I imagined mixing the colors with my palette knife and laying them down thick and juicy on the canvas, gradually building up the shape in thick layers of colored mayonnaise like oil paint.

I didn’t actually paint…but the fact that I thought…even hungered for painting, is in itself promising. I’ve been blocked since November. Doesn’t help that all the parks are closed…though that doesn’t stop my friends who are real working artists. Summer is coming in a month.

I wrote this post a couple weeks ago but have delayed posting it. Since then I’ve been climbing with F. three weekends in a row. Last weekend (yesterday) we went to Private Idaho at Index. I led Senior Citizens and Wild Turkey. He led Battered Sandwich and Istanbul. I might have been able to lead them, but was glad he stepped up to the plate. Battered would have freaked me out at the upper slab. I would have had to hang. I almost fell out on follow. It’s partly my new shoes. I don’t trust them yet. They are very aggressive and seem to have a stiffer than normal insole. I love them for crack…but don’t trust them yet on friction.

SpaceX just put two astronauts in orbit. Those guys are so brave! First US built astronaut launch in 9 years. The technology is much improved over the old space shuttle. I still remember where I was when the first one blew up. I was at JL Darling, working day shift in the bindery where they had a radio reporting on the tragedy.

Chassis Lubrication

May 14th, 2020

I took the studs off today on our 2010 RAV4 V6. We’ve got 120K on the Rav4 so far. It’s been a flawless Toyota. I try to do my own maintenance on our cars as much as possible, this includes brake jobs, air cleaners, oil changes, spark plugs, fuel filters, starters, radiators and rotating tires.

Some extra work I try to do when I swap out winter tires is greasing the suspension. This  involves a grease gun with a needle attachment.  On the RAV4, there are 6 rubber boots on the suspension of each of the rear wheels. Each rubber boot covers the “knees and elbows” of the moving joints that allow the wheel to flex up and down in four wheel drive mode.

Back when I was running printing presses for 28 years we were trained to lubricate any moving parts regularly with either oil or grease via a zerk fitting. Cars have many moving parts but they don’t use zerk fittings.

Long ago I asked a mechanic how to add grease to a rubber boot that covers a ball joint on the steering control arm. He showed me his grease gun with the needle attachment. You stick the needle through the back or top side of the rubber boot and inject grease until it overflows. This packs grease into the joint.

I asked him how this could be safe. You are adding holes to the rubber boot, compromising it’s integrity. He replied that water gets in there anyway…the boots aren’t completely watertight…but by injecting new grease in every six months to a year, you are extending the life of the joint. Plus, the needle hole is so small (one mm) it self seals. In point of fact, I’ve never had one suspension fail since buying my first car in 1975.

We’ve started running the stairs at a local high school. The gate is clearly marked for no trespassing, but there is a steady stream of people climbing over the gate…I mean like literally 2 people every 1o minutes.  Coming out on Friday Sue was making the big moves over the steel fence  when a government SUV with tinted windows pulled up 20 feet from the gate. Sue was like “We are so busted!” I told her to stay calm and not fall. She managed the move…maybe 3rd  class at most and hopped down. I followed and we walked away, right past the school police vehicle.

I think they put the signs up for liability sake. There were 50 people in the stadium. The entire football team was down there running drills, plus all the people running the stairs and the track and soccer drills on the astro turf. It’s lovely down there.

House Calls

April 29th, 2020

I was opening a package recently and couldn’t find a razor blade. I’ve not been sleeping all that well, so my mind was not as ‘sharp’ as it needed to be.

I stuck my finger into the box of razor blades and couldn’t get one out. In frustration, I pushed harder than necessary and discovered that, while they are wrapped in cardboard, they are still very dangerous.

I pulled my thumb out of the box to find a quarter inch deep cut. I had almost cut a lima bean sized chunk off the end of my thumb. I sent a picture to someone and he said it was probably ok…but…well, eventually he decided to come over.

He showed up with some fancy stuff and we got it all sorted out. It’s 10 hours later and it hasn’t hurt or bled since he left. Hopefully I’m in the clear.

As he was leaving, I said to just send me the bill…”You take Premera right?”  He just smiled and waved. Earlier he commented that it would have run about $500 at a doctors office. Sue had wanted me to go to Prompt Care…but with this pandemic that seemed unwise. I’ve had worse flappers 7 pitches up hard routes in Yosemite.

When it first happened I needed some help finding bandages because it was bleeding so bad. I looked all over for Sue. Finally I saw her across the street talking to the neighbor. I walked out holding a huge bloody paper tower.

She saw me coming and said: “Oh God, OMG, what did you do?”

If I had to do a Root Cause Analysis, I’d have to say that we need to keep retractable razor knifes handy. I’ve got 5 of them in various places, but the only one handy had a dull blade. I also usually keep a few razor blades on the window sill. We use them for trimming stuff. Sue apparently thought I never used them and threw them away a week ago.

It was totally my  fault for being impatient.

In other news, I’ve been doing some unusual rube goldberg plumbing. I’m not ready to talk about it yet, but it seems to work great.

The package in question was a Breville food processor. I’ve waited six months to buy one. They are expensive and I’ve been getting by fine without one, cutting raw vegetables for my primarily vegan diet. But now that I’m working…and I have a little spending money…it seemed like a good time to invest in a processor.

Today I discovered that new external hard drives  work on PC’s by default, but not on Macs. To get one to work (read and write) on both operating systems, you have to do quick format on a PC and choose the  exFAT file system. Other options are NTFS, HFS+  and FAT32 but only exFat works on both OS’s. This took me at least an hour to figure out. But I guess it’s all in a days work.


Skiing spring snow

April 18th, 2020

I’ve been out backcountry skiing twice in the last week. Friday I drove up to Dan’s and slept in his driveway. I could have gone in but we are trying to maintain social distancing.

Paradise is closed so Saturday morning Lisa and I drove up to the pass through Morton. It was lovely spring corn. She had her dog on the first run. It did great, but got tired on the last hill. We left it in the car and did another run with lighter loads, but didn’t make the summit. J was supposed to meet me there that night, or in the morning but he bailed. I decided not to paint the next day and drove home.

Thursday Sue and I skied there again and this time I skinned up to the summit twice. Both times the spring corn was uber awesome. On the second trip up, I saw no one at all for the last mile, place was deserted. Not a good time or place to get hurt. I am a careful skier, and even more so when I know I’m totally alone. I called Sue from the last hill, with the summit in sight, letting her know I was half an hour from the top, and then probably 30 minutes down to the car.

I got to the car right on schedule. The turns on the last slope above the road were amazing. On perfect spring corn like that I was able to find my groove. I turn downhill, allow my skis to accelerate straight down, then weight the outside ski. When most of my weight is on that ski, it naturally finds the concave curve on the side of the ski and begins to turn. As it carves, I gently slide my inside ski alongside it, weighting the back ever so slightly. There is a beautiful symmetry that happens in a perfect parallel turn.

I was explaining it to Sue, or trying to, and I think she got it as well. I watched her pull through some smooth turns. She’s been itching to get out of the city. We saw a couple dozen other people up there and everyone was really excited to be outside. Cabin fever is a real thing.

As far as the new ‘stay home, stay safe’ rules. We broke a few of them on those two trips. We made them as safe as possible…using hand sanitizer before and after getting gas (in Tacoma), not stopping anywhere on the way, and we carried all our own food. We didn’t want to  expose or be exposed to any more danger than necessary.

It was super nice to get out and be normal for a while.

Work is good. Zoom seems to work ok.

The pandemic

April 18th, 2020

I don’t even know where to start. March 14th I saw a note online from my buddy J. He asked online if anyone wanted to head for the hills to get away from the on rushing pandemic. I dismissed it at the time because I thought I might have a chance at a part time job with the Census. But that dried up and I realized I’d soon be back at my normal job. If I was going to take a road trip, it was now or wait until July.

We left the 17th and climbed for 6 days at Smith. On Monday, the 23rd, Smith closed for the duration and we drove home. On Saturday parking was a mess. I’ve never seen the parking lot at Smith that crowded. It was like Black Friday at Nordstroms. The climbing wasn’t that bad, but the hikers were out in hoards. By Sunday it was back to normal, and on Monday it was deserted. We climbed all the usual warmups and even climbed the easy routes at Cinnamon. By Sunday I was beginning to remember Smith and got up Honey Pot and Outsiders cleanly.

I almost got Cry Baby clean but took a right instead of left and had to hang.  I’d followed Outsiders earlier in the week and could not have led it cleanly. But Sunday it felt so much easier. Those foot holds through the crux are wide and plentiful. Honey Pot felt the same.

We also did the Fridays Jinx to Spiderman link up. Must remember to take the uphill trail away from Jinx, not the downhill. That was Sunday and all the talk was about Oregon shutting down all the parks. Now I’m home, remembering all the good times. J led Teddy Bears picnic. That route is what I call trad bolting. Run out on some very steep tiny pebble pinching. I guess if you were in the zone and totally dialed in to Smith style climbing it would be ok. I was scared following it. Just thinking about the runout J led made me nervous. Those pebbles are barely the width of a small finger at the crux…and the fall would be a 30 footer or more…on a less than vertical wall covered with small pebbles. A guy with some 5.12 kids said he whipped at that exact spot and tore his Achilles tendon when his toe caught on a nubbin.

I saw some other Tacoma climbers down there. We immediately started teasing each other about how we should have stayed home. That was the main topic all the climbers were talking about. And then all the parks started closing. I wonder where all the vanlife people are going. Everything is closed and traveling is getting more and more restricted. In two weeks it could be even worse. This is going to be a crazy spring.

Backcountry slabs

March 17th, 2020

I took a step out from the safety of the trees into the huge steep avalanche slope, and watched as my ski triggered a 7 inch slab the size of a large car.  It slowly slid downhill about two feet, moving in a solid, connected mass.

Lisa, 50 feet behind me in the last safe trees, saw it too.

“I’m really uncomfortable here! This doesn’t feel safe at all! It was supposed to be moderate avy conditions today.”

The slab had stopped moving, so I slid my ski forward a few inches. My ski triggered more slab and I lurched downhill, my edge skittering down the ice layer under the slab.

“This sucks, we need to go a different way!”

“What do you recommend? It’s the same everywhere.”

“We could turn back and follow those people with the dogs.”

She was referring to the couple with two big labrador retrievers. An hour before we had stopped after coming out the trees and the relative safety of the skin track leading up out of Bullion Basin. We were looking at an exposed avy slope. It was at least 800 feet long, with thick trees at the bottom. The skin track we were following led out across it, but no one had skied it in a few days and it was blown over, barely there.

We didn’t like the looks of it as it was obviously dangerous. A couple had been following us from the basin with the frozen lake. We stepped off the trail as they came up even with us.

“We didn’t realize you guys had been breaking trail. We’d be happy to take over the lead and give you a break.”

“Sure, have at it!”

As he skinned past me I realized they were old for backcountry skiers, probably in their fifties.

“If my lard a$s doesn’t trigger this slope nothing will,” he said.

“Those are some strong dogs!” I commented, looking at the muscles on the large brown lab.

“He just had ACL surgery,” his partner said. She was a strong, sun bronzed skier, clearly this wasn’t her first rodeo.

“Wait, dogs have ACL tendons?”

“Yupp, cost us $5300 for the surgery. They told us that if he needed CPR, it would be an additional $300.”

“He seems to be doing fine now,” I said, watching as the dog leapt through the snow just uphill from the two skiers.

We skied out of that nightmare, finishing the day with a thigh burning run down a long, narrow trail.

Update  March 17.

Skied Paradise with Sue and all the kids, including Dan and Jamie. Jamie skied to Muir for the first time with Clint and Mike. Snow was choppy sastrugi up high, ok down low…spring cement and hard pack.

I tried out my new goretex yellow ski pants. Took me two days to sew them and cost about $50 in materials. They work great.

Edgeworks closed due to Corona Virus (Covid 19). F and I drove to Cirque in Olympia, super chill, well set up gym, no one on the road. Sue and I had the flu 3 weeks ago. 4 days on the couch with aches and low fevers, bad cough.

All the stores are packed with people stocking up for the Coronapocalypse.