George and Martha is a 10a route at Vantage with which I have a love hate relationship. The bottom 40 feet is full throated 10a climbing and if you are rusty it’s going to be very much in your face. Craig belayed me on it this weekend and I surprised myself.
The bottom 20 feet is a series of fairly small ladder steps that protect easily. Then there is a very welcome double hand jam with good feet.
From there you are looking up at unfriendly red and green hand jams for another 20 feet. There are a couple good small ledges on the left, and some of the rattly green jams can be grabbed on the top of their blocks for better grip. It’s just solid enough to place gear and keep moving. It helps to have your hands as skinny as possible (use tape) so you can get deeper into the bad jams.
Some of the moves are very barn door-ish. You must lean left or right to be able to move up and maintain the hold. As with most tens, you have to embrace the fall. By that I mean you have to place plenty of good gear and trust it’s ability to catch a fall as you move up through insecure territory.
The jams get better and better the higher you go and at about 40 feet there are awesome yellow hand jams. The top crux takes just one #4 and #5 with a yellow beyond. It’s a matter of doing a layback off a double fist jam while walking the feet up the crack high enough to get a knee or hip above the bulge. Then you can grab a ledge up to the right of the offwidth section and the climbing gets easier.
I did it well, and I was climbing with my bad homemade Frankenstein shoes. I definitely let out a whoop at the top. After we finished we watched John Plotz do a very clean lead of Red M&M’s. I’ve never seen that led cleanly before.
Fusion 360 and a teardrop trailer
November 12th, 2019
Sue is coming into some money in June so we are daydreaming about getting a bigger rig for road tripping. I looked into the whole vanlife thing but that looks like over kill. Plus none of the vans are as reliable as our Toyota’s. We are spoiled by cars that never break down. We do all the scheduled maintenance on our ‘yodas’ and they last well into the 200,000 mile range on original engines and transmissons. My Corolla is at 374K. My Tacoma is at 242K and is still on the original everything, even the clutch.
So the thought of getting a Sprinter or Promaster or Transit and paying thousands in repair costs when they reach 100,000 is not appealing. We could get an old Ford Econoline and have it inspected, maybe replace a tranny or engine. But we’d still be stuck with an old van that gets 14 mpg.
So that got me looking at ways to make road tripping easier. I looked at roof top tents for a while because they could be mounted on our RAV4. But those things just move the wet tent to the top of the car, where it will start to smell like all old wet tents. And that’s after you put down $3000…for a tent!!
People who like them cite their safety. For example, they say that bugs, bears and cougars can’t get you up in the rooftop tent. Well, that’s not exactly a real life kind of problem. Only someone who’s never backpacked would think that way. We’ve slept in tents our entire lives. I’ve had ants in my tents, but nothing else. My buddy Fletch did have a bear wander into his tent in Yosemite, but only because he left the door open. They scared it out quickly and love to tell the story.
I moved onto to teardrop trailers, which our old friend Jim has had for decades. We could get one of those and tow it behind the car, instead of on top of it. We’d keep our trusty Toyotas, and move the sleeping platform to the trailer behind us. It’s like sleeping in my pickup canopy…no wet tent or wind noise to deal with. The light ones (500 Lbs) barely increase your gas mileage because they draft in the wind behind the car. New commercial ones run from $5000 to $20,000. But this guy sells a kit that gets you one for about $2300 plus shipping:
I like the looks of that teardrop because we made a stitch and glue kayak 16 years ago and Clint still uses it today. We all know the process and remember how fiberglass works. Only thing is, I might hate towing a trailer. We don’t really have to move from our ground tents into a trailer. The only time we really need a quick, dry sleeping area is on a 24 hour road trip at rest areas and truck stops when Sue is with me. The RAV4 or Tacoma are always too full with climbing and painting gear to stretch out in the back, so we have to doze in the front seats.
We can still do that just fine, it’s the nature of a road trip. But I was trying to buy luxury for the future Mark and Sue, the couple who is 5 years older in their seventies, slowing down, body falling apart…etc. I can’t predict who we will be, we all age differently.
A much simpler solution is to wait for the new Toyota Tundra to come out. It’s rumored to be a hybrid, with mpg figures approaching the hybrid RAV4…or at least in the thirties. With that, we could sell our trusty Tacoma, put a tall canopy on and sleep sideways in the huge 8 foot bed. It would be a one size fits all. No trailer to pull, no broken down Sprinter van to deal with 40 miles up a dirt road in Utah. But waiting a couple years for something we could use in June will be frustrating.
Sue is advising me to be patient. To just keep doing what we are doing…what’s the big hurry? She is right, as usual.
You may not have noticed but I’ve been messing about with my custom WordPress theme. I just put that new mountain graphic up in the masthead banner today. One of my students was trying it and it looked so nice I had to do it too.
I got frustrated with sketchup for a couple reasons:
It costs a lot of money to have the full blown program, and
It has some severe limitations that are deeply frustrating for someone used to the precision of Adobe Illustrator.
So I switched to Fusion 360. It’s free to use if you make less than $100,000 a year, or you have a education email address. Fusion is so much more precise than sketchup. It’s a steep learning curve…so steep that it will have you pulling your hair out. Nothing makes sense when you first start out. You can’t just jump in like with Sketchup. I tried to study it on lynda.com but must have started with the wrong series. I switched to youtube and hit gold.
I worked through about 8 of this guys lessons, he is a great example of how old guys rock. He has the teaching experience to step outside himself and see the gotcha’s from the perspective of a newbie. That’s a rare gift.
Cow Number 2
October 28th, 2019
I drew this a few weeks ago. I’ll let the work speak for itself. It’s 9 x 12 ink on paper. These climbing images are almost a month old. It’s Lisa and Pam following Plum pudding at the mid wall at Index.
50 years of working
October 22nd, 2019
Sue is retiring next year and it got me thinking about how long I want to work. I really like my job. Doing and or teaching web design has been my passion for almost 20 years. And that followed a 32 year career as a printer, starting in 1968 when I quit my paperboy delivery job to work after school at the Sherwood Press.
I got a lot of respect as a printing press operator. Printing back then was like nursing is now. You could work anywhere. I was never unemployed in 28 years of full time printing. I got fired or laid off a couple times, but easily found new jobs in a week or two. I worked at 9 different printshops, each one had either better hours, a better machine, or higher wages. We used to say that the only job security in printing was the skills in our hands. Similar to a gifted auto mechanic now, there was always work.
With all that being said, I still plan to keep teaching for a while. This job is so perfect! I love the passion my students have for learning web design. Even after all this time I still enjoy working on my website, and sharing that enthusiasm with my students is fun. I work every other quarter, and then have 3 months off. How cool is that? I typically play during my time off, but working part time somewhere is an option also.
I did seriously look for work recently during a recent quarter off, even had a couple of great interviews. But, sad to say, age discrimination is a real thing. That won’t keep me from trying to find work though. As one of my friends said: “They don’t know what they’re missing!”
I’ve been daydreaming on the weekends about maybe getting a bigger car that makes road tripping less painful. I can road trip just fine in my little 2004 Tacoma pickup. I love that old truck! With a canopy on the back it’s a hotel on wheels. But when Sue is with me, I think it’s reasonable to ask for a little more comfort. We are in our mid sixties after all.
I wanted to explore possible interior van builds on a used van we might get somewhere in the future. I’ve never done 3D modeling before so I watched a tutorial on www.lynda.com about SketchUp. It’s super cool software, and the online version is free. Here are some screen shots of what I built. It can also do animated transitions and make an mp4 video. I built it all from scratch based on the dimensions of a high roof 148 inch wheel base Ford Transit. The figure, bags, faucett, bikes and chairs were free components I downloaded.
Smith with Chad
October 22nd, 2019
My best lead was Tammy Bakker face. I was terrified. Especially at the first bolt. It’s overhung there and only one bolt is keeping you safe 25 feet up. The stainless steel glue in ring bolts are at least as old as my daughter. They look perfect, but when you are rusty, one bolt that high up is just plain scary.
I had to stop and focus on calming my mind. Moving up was mostly irreversible, and the higher I climbed the bigger the fall. I told myself that I’d climbed it before and I was the same climber on the same moves. All I had to do was stay calm and be the best climber I could be. Those moves at the start are hard to read. It feels like a 30 foot whipper most of the time. We stick clipped the first b0lt. Most of the climbs rarely led to that feeling of “in the zone”. I got occasional flashes of grace, but they were rare. I don’t know if it was a diet fail, or I’m just getting old. Tons of vans on display. Very tempting to go down that path.
We saw some 25 year olds trying the 10a to the left of Phone Call. The girls were very bold, taking whippers casually. It was super awesome seeing them climbing something over their head with such confidence in the process. Normally on a 3 day trip I’m ready for Karate by day 3. It’s puzzling why it didn’t happen this trip. The only thing different was eating salads every night. I need to try a steak and potato dinner. This new salad diet is great at home, but if it messes with my climbing all bets are off.
October 18th, 2019
I’ve been to smith and vantage with Chad and James over the last two weekends. I wasn’t climbing especially hard on either trip. I did sail up Air Guitar and Whip Saw quite cleanly. I felt a little bit of the elusive ‘zone’ come over me on both climbs.
Air Guitar is always scary at the start. It’s tiny finger jams and crimps on the first move, but it quickly turns into friendly stems and huge jugs. There are just a few true crack climbing moves in the bottom 30 feet. After that it turns into one red hand jam which is easily moderated with good face foot holds. Then it’s all yellow hand jams to the top…with a few fists at the end. I felt entirely in control and very well protected as I climbed higher and higher toward to anchor.
Also got into the zone on Tammy Bakker. Getting there seems harder than it used to be. It might just be that weekending is much less focused than my longer summer trips.
I’m teaching WordPress this quarter for a few days. It makes me miss the years past when we could dive deep into the application over 11 weeks. It’s such a huge application and I know so much about it. For example building this custom theme was a lot of fun, and I’ve never taught it.
I’ve been looking into van life. It’s an interesting idea in that it would allow us to take painting-climbing trips more easily as we get older. But sleeping in my little Tacoma pickup these last two weekends reminded me that the vehicle I drive does not make me a better climber…or painter. Getting more luxurious wheels might just make me soft.
This is a progression I’ve watched as climbers get older and softer:
instead of sitting on a rock or a log, they bring a lawn chair for the campfire
they upgrade to a stand up tent
They upgrade to a camper on a pickup
They buy a camping trailer
They buy a Winnebago
They stop climbing altogether
It’s a slippery slope that all starts with a lawn chair. If roughing it in my little Bibler tent and or pickup canopy bed keeps me from getting soft, I need to forget about van life.
Sunset concert at Vantage
September 22nd, 2019
Fletch and I drove to Vantage Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday morning. I had just been there on Tuesday with Christine and Emily where I led Steel Grill cleanly and followed Bob’s Your Uncle, with one fall.
Fletch and I climbed Pony Keg, Air Guitar, George & Martha, Seven Virgins and Ride Em’ Cowboy. It got so hot we almost fell asleep resting in the chimney after the Virgins route. I walked out into the broiling sun to switch out my climbing shoes for boots but quickly retreated back to the cool shade of the chimney where Fletch and his dog Winston were zoning off.
I brought my second 40 oz water bottle back to the shade. As I took a sip of the almost empty bottle Fletch asked if he could have some, that he was out of water. He’d brought one quart for both him and the dog.
“Dude, I depend on you to be organized and have extra water!” I joked. Later we hiked out dry through the sage scented air, enjoying the endless views of the mesas and cliffs surrounding Vantage. The weekenders had begun to show up, it being Friday night and our neighbor was running her minivan to power an electric pump for her 10 inch queen sized air mattress.
She had 3 kids who were climbing at the Feathers with her brother, plus a little girl who was still wearing her homemade swami harness made from 1 inch tubular. The full size standing room tent and air mattress made it clear she wasn’t a regular climber. We don’t bother with all those luxuries. Still it’s always great to see people enjoying the outdoors though the droning of the air mattress pump was annoying.
We were surprised to see her suddenly in our campsite holding out two cold beers.
“Hey guys, sorry about my dog and the dumb air pump. Here’s a couple beers for your trouble.”
“Oh, jeez, you didn’t have to do that, but thanks a lot, we forgot to bring beer, this will help a lot!” we said.
She was super friendly and a very fit young mom. She hung out with us for a while, talking climbing and where we were all from.
“Don’t worry too much about the noise,” I said, pointing at our two guitars, “We’ll be making some noise of our own after dinner. But don’t worry, we won’t play late.”
“Oh, no worries, we’re not going to bed early, we’ve got teenagers.”
Fletch and I had forgot to pack a can opener so I had to jab my can of beans with a bendy knife and saw it open. By the time I’d done that to my tuna and black beans I was so hungry I decided to eat them cold. As Fletch said “Why heat them up? They don’t taste any better and it’s more dishes to wash.”
As we sat there in the fading light, eating dinner out of our cans I got out a small brick of greasy sun warmed goat cheese. Every couple bites of tuna and beans I took a bite off the cheese. Fletch noticed my eating process and commented that we were really living the dirt bag life. We didn’t have camp chairs, just sitting on boulders strewn around the fire pit.
Fletch the (fire whisperer) soon had a nice fire crackling and we broke out our guitars. We started with a couple songs on which I could add harmonica: “To make you feel my love” (Adele & Dylan) and “Sweet Carolina” (Ryan Adams).
As we finished Carolina, we heard applause and saw 5 of our neighbors lined up nearby, watching us play and soaking in the vivid red sunset over the distant hills above the Columbia River. We’ve worked hard over the last 12 years refining and polishing our sound. We’re far from great musicians, but for a couple of old climbers we have a decent sound.
The brother walked over with his teenage son: “That was awesome guys, I love that song! We really hit the jackpot with this camp spot. Spectacular sunset and live music!”
We thanked him and continued through our usual routine, playing all our favorites as the evening light faded into darkness lit only by our little fire and headlamps. Fletch had seen Elton John at the Tacoma Dome two nights before so of course we played Your Song & Goodbye Norma Jean. We knocked off when the whiskey ran out around 8. I’d only brought a little hip flask…just enough to warm the belly.
We talked quietly for a while after that, discussing all the usual topics climbers yarn about: the meaning of life, hard climbing moves, future trips, etc. Soon the stars were out in all their glory, lighting the way for a half moon.
I crawled into my old Bibler mountaineering tent feeling thankful for good friends and amazing hobbies. At 65, I know I can’t keep climbing forever. There is an end game coming where my body will start objecting to pulling hard on 5.10 crack climbs. It seems to take a little longer each year to warm up.
I’ve spent 5 days drawing cows with pen and ink. I’ll post them later. It’s more fun to show my drawings in person. When my friends see them online first, their reactions are muted on seeing them live. They’ll say: “Oh, yeah, I saw that online, very nice.”
I love that expression of wonder in peoples faces when they see my artwork for the first time live and in person…especially the good stuff. I’ll never sell a cow drawing, but the experience of watching it come to life under my hands is worth all the trouble. There are moments with a great drawing or painting where I can step outside myself and simply stare in wonder. This latest pen drawing might be my best work yet.
Drawing a cow
September 13th, 2019
I’ve always loved cow paintings. They are such an integral part of our culture going back a thousand years or more. I’m mostly vegetarian, though I will have a steak once in a blue moon. I’ve been sticking with the Plant Paradox diet for a couple months and have lost 7 pounds, keeping it off easily, even when not climbing. It’s more of a sustainable life choice than a diet. I’m not starving at all.
I do have to carefully calibrate now much carbs I eat. If I’m climbing hard, I will supplement the diet with some canned black beans and tuna. I’ve had a few “diet fail” days at the crags where I just hit the wall (The Dreamer route at Darrington). I can’t climb on a brocoli salad.
Darrington for 3 days
September 9th, 2019
Hooked up with my old friend James for a great trip to Darrington. We left Wednesday at 2 and returned Saturday at 6pm. We did three new routes:
Urban Bypass 10b, 4 pitches on Green Giant Buttress, 3 hour approach up a vine maple avalanche slope, no trail for most of it, then 4 pitches of slab, 50 foot runnouts on the easy stuff.
Shake Rattle and Roll on 3 o’clock Rock, 4 or 5 pitches of super fun and casual 5.8 mostly bolts (rack of singles up to blue). Runout up to 20 feet.
Till Daylight, a lovely 5.8 expedition starting right of the big arch, then veering left above it. All shiny new bolts, singles up to yellow, doubles on purple, amazing chicken head climbing for days. A couple 20 foot runs, but I never slipped. Calmness and/or careful calculation is a virtue.
I made this video on my iPhone XS using the google photos app. It allows you to choose which photos and edit how much of the 3 seconds of video in each live photo will be used in the final edit.
Here are some of the original high res photos. Google Photos is good and convenient, but I’ve found a better, quicker way to get photos off my iPhone. I’m using the PNY duo link. No waiting for google photos to upload to the cloud. Transfer original photos from phone to flash drive, then from flash to laptop. I have to convert them from *.HEIC to jpg before uploading them to WordPress.
4 days in late August
September 3rd, 2019
Thursday Chris and I climbed all 7 pitches of Silent Running at Darrington. We left Tacoma at 6:30, hiked up the one hour approach and got on the rock around 11. She led pitch 1 and I finally mastered the runnout moves on pitch 2. The mid section has some blank, runnout 5.8 friction. It’s about 20 or 30 feet and I’ve backed off it before. This time I climbed the flake section on the right to a high black alien. Traversing from there felt 5.10 so I down climbed until I could step left onto the runnout section, more in line with the last bolts. From there I saw a pattern of very slight black friction dykes. With the top rope to the alien, it was easy to stay calm as I motored up to the next protection. I was glad she reminded me that if it feels like 5.10, it probably is, meaning I was off route.
She swung through onto the crux 5.9+ third pitch and did fine. About 80 feet up I heard her comment: “Uh oh, the bolts are getting close, it must be getting hard again!”
Pitches 4 and 5 were either easy and fun, or relatively well bolted. Following was harder than leading because we were dragging the 9.8 rap line. We should have put it in a back pack, with a pint of water. Chris could have used a long sleeve shirt. It goes into shade at 3: hence the name, 3 o’clock rock.
I sailed up pitch 6, slowing down at the usual places and Chris swung thru to pitch 7, leading it with one tiny slip, which I didn’t even feel. My feet were killing me following pitch 7, though I did it cleanly, no slips in 7 pitches, which amazed me. The rap down was long and tiring. We started out sharp, but by the 4th rap neither of us could remember which rope to pull. I’d get to the anchor where I needed to thread and holler up at Chris: “Which rope are we pulling, red or blue?” She was there, and could tell me for sure…since I’d forgotten. It was a long, but very fun day with one of my favorite climbing partners. Good, reliable and skilled climbing partners are hard to find. Mike is a lucky man.
I drove home, then met Fletch at his house at 7:30 AM to drive to Careno. I led two pitches on his 5.9 parkway route, then he worked on his new route, which may get named: “Mad dogs and Englishmen”. Saturday I led South Face of Jello, Short and Sassy and Angel. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed Angel clean, but it’s always interesting.
Fletch and I jammed two nights in a row. Ken and his wife, plus two random English dudes joined us the second night. It was fun having a crowd for our out of tune music. Sunday I got pitch 3 of Bale Kramer clean. Key seems to be committing to the under cling with the right hand, plus bracing toes in the crack off the the right. Once you do that you can reach out and sink the excellent hand jam.
Then it’s a series of jams up to the thin fingers section where a black alien goes in. Then you pull on the manky hand jam to reach past up to the first sinker finger lock. Sink in a purple and motor up to the hand jam, which takes a great red. There are tiny left foot crimpers and smears which helps keep the weight off the hands.