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.


Overcoming climbing fears

February 14th, 2020

At the end of the day of climbing Chris and I were hiking over the mesa towards the car.

“So, on Saturday and Sunday I was climbing rather weakly with Vitaly. I only did eight and nines, wasn’t inspired at all.

I took two rest days, had salmon for dinner last night, got up at the crack of dawn, drove through 4 hours of traffic and led a couple of tens, including George and Martha, which is a real ten.

What is the magic sauce?”

Chris piped up from 20 feet behind me on the trail:

“Me, I’m the magic sauce. You always climb better with me.”

I was thinking she’d say it was the salmon, or the two rest days. But on reflection, she is at least partly right. We’ve been climbing together 13 years. Other than family, Fletch is the only person I’ve climbed with longer…and only by a couple years. We all met within about a year.

There is a bond, or comfort level that comes with a long time climbing partner. You know you can trust them absolutely. But, I trust Vitaly completely too, he is very safe. We’ve been on some long trips.

It’s probably a mix of everything. The salmon (wild caught Alaska Coho) was the perfect ingredient for stoking up on protein and carbs. The two rest days helped loads. Plus there were those two days of cruising with Vitaly  on stuff like Pony Keg, Vantage Point, Whip Saw, Throbbing Gristle and Crossing the Threshold.

Chris and I started on Air Guitar. It’s really just got one move at the bottom. The rest is a standard mix of normal crack and face climbing. Gets big at the top but it’s very safe and climbable.

She led Bob’s Your Uncle with one fall. I think she’ll get it clean this season…didn’t struggle at all until the last 15 feet. She asked if I wanted to clean/top rope it, but I declined. My shoulder has been acting up, and with only one day, I didn’t want to get pumped following something out of my price range. I’m a long way from being able to lead it, and I had bigger fish to fry.

On to George and Martha. She is right, I do climb better when she belays me. She is so confident in my ability. I could see it in her eyes. She had zero doubt I would fail, and said so. Vitaly does the same thing…but maybe I believe her more? I don’t know.

I was pulling up rope to clip my second piece and let out a howl when my bad shoulder tweaked. Close to the ground, clipping the second piece is very dangerous. You pull up so much slack that your belayer can’t keep you off the deck in a fall. She heard me howl and thought I was coming off. I was fine…my shoulder just doesn’t like lifting things.

G & M looks so steep and hard, but really there are a series of bomber jugs and side pulls most of the way up. When there isn’t one of those, there are some rattly jams that are good enough to place gear from. Plus a series of very nice hand jams to rest on. I used her Luco tape and it was great, not too slick at all. In a few spots, you have to use a red hand jam, but only briefly, and the feet are good there. You move off the red jam to either  a huge jug or great yellow jam…so it’s all very doable. Not to mention the stems off right. Basically if you can stay calm you can ace the first 35 feet and then it’s just like any vantage hand crack.

The #5 at the top isn’t really needed, but it’s very reassuring to have a clear top rope. That last move is a layback off two fist jams. Toe jam below the bulge, pulling on the fists, then step or knee jam above the bulge and reach into the back for the hidden edge on the left. Do sort of a jump step up and stand. Chains are in sight. Love seeing George and Martha! Great people those two.


Ever wanted to build a website from scratch?

February 7th, 2020

For the last 18 years I’ve been teaching college students how to build websites, no prior experience required. I’ve written a step-by-step textbook on the process.

My book is not just another pretty face. The design and content has been tested under fire. When something broke, I re-wrote it. My students are quick to call me on errors. They are my best editors!

I had zero desire to write a book. But to do the job, I needed one, and I was tired of buying books from other authors that didn’t work in my classrooms. I needed a textbook that explained, in the shortest possible time,  how to build a state of the art web site…to total beginners.

My computer savvy students can race through it at their own pace. However, the book is written so well that even students who are less confident can still follow along, page by page.

Here is my book on Amazon

I published a book on Amazon!

January 30th, 2020

I’ve been working a lot on my book. I’ve been studying online about the requirements of the Amazon publishing system. I’ve decided on a fixed layout epub book, while simultaneously publishing as a “print on demand” paperback. I was ready to publish tonight but when I tried to login to Amazon, I found that my account uses two factor authentication. The other ‘factor’ is my old cell phone number…which I walked away from 2 years ago.

Amazon requires two factors, and I only have one. I have to call them tomorrow and try to sort it out. Rumor has it that you have to provide proof you are who you claim to be.  There is a facebook group about Amazon publishing. One of the things I learned there was that half inch margins are required. Because I only hand out pdf’s, I got sloppy. I spent an entire day corralling all my pages inside half inch margins.

I got Amazon sorted out by calling a semi-secret number. A real person answered and asked me a bunch of questions to verify my identity, then allowed me back into the account. Uploading the fixed width ebook went smoothly. I had to import the InDesign pdf into an app called Kindle Create, choosing  fixed layout. Kindle Create exported a file with a *.kpf extension. Which I then uploaded to my brand new Amazon KDP account. The book works perfect as an epub in the Apple ‘books’ app…so I guess that’s progress. InDesign has an export as fixed layout epub function.

After the ebook was published, KDP asked me if I wanted to do the paperback version. I said yes but it turns out their standards are much stricter for paper. They need a 5/8″ margin on the inside 0f the two page spreads. 0.5″ is ok on the outside.  So a total of 1.25″ inches of blank paper across the spine before any words or pictures can show. That meant another trip through all 209 pages, nudging the content 5 shift clicks outward. My book has nicely aligned master page artwork all set to half inch margins. If I ever write another book I’m going with 0.75 inch margins all the way around.

Another gotcha was when they ask if your book bleeds. I said yes because my cover does bleed. Turns out they really meant: “Does your manuscript bleed?”, not the cover. There are too separate pdf uploads…but the question was only asked once.

When I went to the online proofer, all 209 pages showed errors. I was frantically going through every single page and saw nothing wrong. What was Amazon complaining about? Then I looked at the cover proof and the light went on. It was all messed up. The cover bleeds natively, if you build it correctly in InDesign. You don’t have to choose bleed up on the Amazon site. So, I unchecked bleed and finally, finally got a green light, 24 hours later.

I learned soooo much in this process. There is a helpful facebook group for self publishing…some really nice people are on there giving out free advice.

I’m waiting on my author copies to arrive in the mail now. I’m hoping they aren’t a total trainwreck. My book has always printed flawlessly on color laser printers in the past. And it looked flawless when I downloaded the PDF proof. So, fingers crossed everything should be fine if they are using quality paper and modern on demand printing presses. I really need a break from all this unpaid work.  The book has taken over my life since I got back from jtree.

I have to say though, seeing my book go live on Amazon put a huge smile on my face. I may have even done a little happy dance.


Speidel Twist-O-Flex watchband for Apple Watch – review

January 11th, 2020

When resizing your Speidel Twisto-Flex watchband to fit your Apple watch, read the PDF directions first on the website. Do not rely on the YouTube video. YouTube is wrong.

I wanted the black band but read reviews that the paint would wear off over time. As a rock climber and back yard mechanic I knew I’d beat up the watchband…so it was a no brainer to get the silver brushed metal band. Paint will always wear down to metal, even if it’s anodized paint. Might as well start with bare metal.

The width is perfect for my Apple Watch Series 5. The ‘slide in and snap’ ends on the band are flawless, right up there with standard Apple quality.

I ordered the XL band for two reasons:
(1) I didn’t want to take a chance on miss-measuring my wrist
(2) I wanted lots of extra links to practice on while resizing it

It arrived with two inches of extra band, I could have warn it on my legs. There are 3 youtube tutorials about resizing a Speidel band. I tried it that way initially using a bright light and magnifying bifocals but it was uber frustrating. I began to wonder if I’d have to give up and take it to a jeweler.

After a long walk to let my brain cool off I remembered there was a scan-able code in the box to directions online. Low and behold, the pdf was amazing! I was doing it all wrong.

This Twist-O-Flex band has a double top side, face plate, that is removable. When you follow their directions and pull that off, it cuts the work down to one quarter of what it was following youtube. You only have to unbend two end tabs, and on reassembly, just one end tab and one u clip. Super easy. A standard small pocket knife, small needle nose pliers and set of mini screwdrivers is all you’ll need.

Once the watch band is in two pieces, lay it on your wrist, pull it snug (not tight) and note where it overlaps. Mark with a sharpy pen where it needs to be ‘cut’. If in doubt, go a link shorter. You can see my fading pen marks in the photos. My band sits on my wrist snug, but not stretched. I nailed it first try. It’s tight enough that all the apps work, such as exercise rings and sleep monitor.

The silver brushed metal looks fabulous on my gray watch, which is covered with a black rubber otterbox. No more fighting with buckles to take the watch off. I can slide the watch up to my elbow to get it out of the way, and putting it on is as easy as pulling on a sweat band.

When I’m climbing at the gym, skiing, or working on cars, I cover the watch with a slide on nike elastic sweat band. Any watch band can get badly scratched or knocked loose, and I don’t want to lose a $600 watch because of my active lifestyle.

A River Runs Through It, Xmas at Joshua Tree

January 10th, 2020

I drove down to Jtree December 14 arriving in 30 hours to camp in BLM land the next 3 nights. Jim’s friend Mark the SAR ranger saw me walking around solo and brought me a partner named…Cole? We had a great two days  of climbing before I ran into John G who had a parking spot in 30. That is the 3rd time John has hooked me up.

I did the dawn patrol the next morning and lucked out with a couple boulderers who were leaving site 15. After that Chad showed up and we were golden. Dennis showed up and immediately hooked up with Angeli, another solo climber. The three of us climbed together for a couple days while Chad got over a cold. After that we played mix and match as more people showed up including Anni, Liz, Ken & Christine and Cam & Carmen.

Weather stayed very nice until Xmas day when I picked up Sue and Lisa at the airport. It snowed 14″ the next day then stayed cold for 4 days. We took one  or two days off at the hot springs, and spent another day at Indian Cove where it was warm. On the third day after the snow we were able to climb Hands Off and Toe Jam but it was frigid! My 5.9 skills were more like 5.6 with frozen fingers under windy overcast skies.

Our ten year old REI winter tent leaked an inch of water in the bottom. We had to buy a tarp to line the floor to keep our down bags out of the lake/river. There are no flat sandy stake-able tent platforms down there. They are either lake beds or rivers, choose one. Both of our tents were literally in rivers of water melting off the nearby formations. When new that tent had a bathtub floor that worked. Now it’s in the dumpster and we are day dreaming about a Four Wheel pop up camper on a Tundra…though that will have to wait until our ship comes in. The people sleeping-cooking in vans and pickup campers looked perfectly comfortable.

Tents normally work great if they are new on a good campspot in light rain. We’ve never needed anything more. But this extreme weather has changed the game. I was very glad I’d driven down with my studs in the RAV4. We saw numerous people get stuck on the compact snow and ice simply driving around the campground. Two funny guys were driving around the snowed in roads of the campground in a jeep towing  a kayak. He was balancing with his paddle on the careening kayak as the whole campground cheered. I’d look up from cooking my eggs and there he’d go around again.


Extraordinary cover band

If you’ve not heard these people, set aside a couple hours, you’re in for a treat:

Editing my book, Apple watch review

December 12th, 2019

I had some great students this quarter. A bunch of them recognized the power of what I was teaching and really ran with it, creating stellar websites. Especially considering that I only saw them 3 days a week for 11 weeks.

After a 3 year delay I finally buckled down and did a huge rewrite on my textbook…or at least the first 150 pages. It was probably 5 full days of work, and I did the editing  on the weekends and evenings after work. The biggest thing was that I learned how to do an automatic Table of Contents. This allowed me to break the book into numbered chapters that matched the lessons I grade in my classes.

All of this work is unpaid overtime of course. I plan to sell the book on Amazon, and my first task (after some time off) is to study some Lynda classes online on how the self publishing industry functions. I’m writing in Adobe Indesign, but many people write books in Microsoft Word. Many years ago McGraw Hill asked to publish my book, but they wanted me to extract all the text out of Indesign and send it to them in Word, double spaced.

I declined their offer. It’s classroom ready, I give the 214 page PDF to my students every quarter, why would I tear it apart? I get that I need an editor…but at the time I would have had to take a summer off to publish it their way…and that wasn’t happening.

As usual all the overtime made me want a reward. We work hard, we get a big paycheck right? Or at least that’s how it worked in the printing industry. Not so much in the book writing business. Not that I’m complaining. I know what I signed up for. If I write it well, I’m confident it will sell.

The only downside of writing is that I stopped painting. I guess there’s only room for one creative outlet at a time in my strange little brain. I’ll be painting in a few day though. It’s going to be awesome.

Now on to that reward

I’ve been saving money and splurged on the Apple Watch Series 5 with cellular. I’m not sure it’s really ready for primetime, but it’s a fun toy.

Cool things the watch does with  iPhone off:

  • While skiing up the Muir Snowfield. I called Sue from 8000 feet on Mt Rainier, with the watch only, Dick Tracy style
  • I worked out on the stairmaster and listened to my songs on bluetooth headphones, while it counted my heartbeats and calories burned
  • I can add and edit tasks using the native Apple Reminders app, which syncs on, my macbook, my phone and the watch…amazing!
  • It has an Electocardiogram function. My ER nurse kids found this fascinating
  • I can get 36 hours of life out of it, easy, if I turn off cellular. Watch cellular is only needed if I don’t want to carry the phone.
  • It has gps, altimeter and compass
  • A vibrating alarm that actually works!
  • Really fun watch faces with infinitely variable ‘complications’ you can add. Like the time, plus buttons for music, reminders, exercise sessons (stair stepper), texting, calling, etc.
  • The Activity app, closing my rings. Seriously, this is amazing! Look it up on youtube. It tracks your exercise and shows you trends, who knew this could be so cool?


  • The battery life
  • The screen is too small to do anything serious, like composing a long email. But I say that about my iPhone too

George and Martha at Vantage

November 18th, 2019

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.

3d modeling

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 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.

This one is showing how you can design a box with parametric variables. It’s a hinged box that can be easily changed to any size, from one inch to 6 inches. The parts all scale up proportionally and continue to fit because they are designed and measured with mathematical formula’s (parametric variables).
For example, the hinge on the bottom of the box is told to be one half the width of the flat side of the box. Flat meaning don’t measure the outer dimension of the box. Instead measure from the inner end of the corner radius…where it’s flat. In other words, the hinge isn’t hard coded at 10 millimeters. It’s told to be a percentage value of the box. I guess another way to say this is the box will look exactly the same proportionally at any size. You can mess about with width, length or height, basically make the box fit anything that well fit in a 3d printer, and it always works.
Pictured below is the first time I had to create a ‘sketch’ on a new plane (y axis). I told the hinge to offset a dynamic amount from the new y plane, shown in blue and orange. He uses some fancy math to position the hinge elements on the top of the box to either side of the hinge element on the bottom of the box. He even builds in clearance tolerance. This is super geeky, and super fun. V. asked me why I haven’t been painting lately…here’s the answer.

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.