Fenix HM61R Headlamp review

Posted by on August 29th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I’ve been rock climbing, backpacking and back country skiing since 1976. I’ve seen a lot of headlamps come and go over the decades. My latest was a $100 Black Diamond Icon with 500 lumens. It is still working, but like many of these new chip embedded plastic lights, it has so many functions that it will refuse to turn on occasionally, and my only recourse is a reboot by removing the battery. It’s also heavy with 4 double AA cells. This new Fenix HM61R weighs much less at 5 ounces, has over twice the lumens and is built much better. The engineering on this light is remarkable. Even down to how the threads are milled. Top notch manufacturing.
Pluses:
(1.) It has a lockout safety feature…you just unscrew the cap three quarters of a turn;
(2.) It has 7 different lighting modes including the red;
(3.) It has a magnet for attaching to a car hood;
(4.) The battery lasts forever in low light mode;
(5.) It will also run on disposable CR123 cells;
(6.) Press the button and it tells you the charge level;
(7.) It rotates smoothly and securely to a much wider range of angles than any BD or Petzl headlamp.
(8.) Crazy stupid bright on the highest setting. Who needs that much light?
(9.) Only weighs 5 ounces…lighter without the top head strap
(10.) Lens seems hardened…likely to resist scratching
(11.) Really pretty to look at…beautiful machining
(12.) Has a cool magnetic charger. Like a Macbook magsafe plug. So much better than a mini usb!
Cons:
(A.) The rubber strap that keeps it snapped in seems weak. As a rock climber descending a cliff at night, my life may depend on the headlamp. Easily solved with a zip tie, see photos.
(B.) It’s a tiny bit uncomfortable on the forehead if worn for hours. Easily solved with a glued on piece of foam.

On my last trip, I read for several hours a night for 5 days in a row on the lowest setting. It still had a full charge. That is one heck of a good battery, I bought a spare. Amazon does not sell just the battery, but Fenix does. My wife got the smaller Fenix headlamp…the one without the magnet and red function. It also seems great. I would buy these again in a heartbeat. If you are looking for the best headlamp, you found it.

August adventures

Posted by on August 27th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue and I backpacked up to Van Trump for one night to paint. It was buggy, smokey and hot. I was unable to paint. It was one of those painting days where aliens steal my brain and I’m unable to see the train wrecks I’m creating. The sunset views were super pretty due to the smoke in the air. I took cell phone shots but wished I’d brought a real camera instead of my paints.

We hiked up a week later to Comet Falls. On the way up we passed a lovely old foot bridge upstream from Christine Falls. I could have painted both the foot bridge or the river chasm below and saved myself the hike to Comet. But we persevered up to Comet where I discovered the aliens had stolen my brain again. Next time the mountain isn’t out, I’ll just paint at the footbridge. Comet falls is way to hard to paint. I can paint the falls fine, but the cliffs on the side are just too hard.

We went car camping with Lisa and Dan at Rialto Beach by LaPush. They’ve changed it from a first come first served campground to a reservation system. This reduces covid exposure to the park staff but makes spontaneous camping harder for the general public. We were able to find a RV campground for $33 a night…but the darn aliens seem to have my painting brain on a long term library loan. I did two bad paintings in a row. The hiking was fun, and the views were great. I just couldn’t paint them.
I’m thinking I need to give up on gouache and go back to oils. Rather than changing mediums, I need to exert some discipline and do some practice work:

    • copy a master painter
    • use a limited palette
    • do a large studio palette knife painting of Rainier to practice mixing

What’s weird is I can draw great. My plein air pen work was very accurate. I fall to pieces  when I go to color. I also spent 5 days climbing at Index with James. Didn’t take a single picture and climbed mostly 5.8 and under with a few nines. I couldn’t seem to get inspired. We had fun, and gradually I warmed up. I really need to get up to Canada and shake off the rust properly.

Covid delta variant is making all the un-vaccinated people sick. It is true that due to the rushed delivery of the vaccine there could be problems out in the future for those of us who submitted to the rushed vaccine. But at a certain point you have to balance the very real risk of getting sick from covid with the slight chance that the vaccine could be dangerous. Those vaccine companies have no reason to make a bad product. And it’s not their first vaccine. It’s what they do. For me and everyone I climb with getting the vaccine was worth the risk. Those that choose to not get it are, in many cases, paying with their lives.

We did hear of one of our vaccinated nurse friends who got mild covid symptoms in a ‘break thru’ case. But she said it was more like a cold and she missed two weeks of work. No harm done.

As my buddy said: “We may find that 20 years down the road we will all be getting some weird cancer because we took a vaccine that hadn’t gone through the full rigorous testing procedure.” But at least we get 20 years. And they did test it on 60,000 people for at least short term reactions.

Fleeing from a wildfire while climbing on Washington Pass

Posted by on July 27th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue and I used to alpine climb in the early eighties but gave it up after some near miss epics and the tragic loss of some close friends. I’ve been hearing how great Washington Pass was becoming. It’s even got a glossy guidebook and has been described as: “Like Castle Rock, but with a 2 hour approach”. I figured, hell, I haven’t used crampons and an ice ax in 36 years, time to get back on the horse.

Kena and I met our new friend D.  at noon at the Silverstar Mountain, Wine Spires trailhead, 3 miles east of Liberty Bell. Four hours later after 2500 vertical feet of the worlds worst climber trail we arrived at the mosquito infested Bench Camp. It was flat, with a nice water supply and would have been idyllic if not for the bugs.

Remembering my shiver bivys of the 1980’s I’d brought a down coat with a space blanket for my legs. It was hot until 1 AM, at which point I was too tired to unfold the space blanket. Seriously, has anyone ever tried to unfold one of those half asleep and freezing?

We left high camp at 6 AM and arrived at Burgundy Col a couple hours and 1400 vertical feet later. I didn’t think the trail could get any worse…but it did. At the Col, Kena put on crampons for the first time, while I put on my son’s crampons.

D. belayed us both down the couloir with his 7.5mm 60 meter twin. We roped up glacier style for the rest of the ascent up to the base of the climb, passing several 60 foot cliff bands. Kena was a natural on snow, and it gradually started to feel familiar to me as well.

We climbed two pitches of the East Face of Chablis before bailing around 2:30. Kena and I were worried about the long descent to high camp. Plus the fire below was getting much bigger despite the efforts of a fleet of water bombers and helicopters.

Much of what was slowing me down was caution. There’s no cell service up there. If there had been an accident, someone would have had to rappel and then hike solo across steep snow and bad trails for at least 7 hours to reach a car. Then it’s 17 miles to cell service. It’s a far cry from a casual day at Index.

After a couple hours of up and down ‘glacier travel’, we arrived at Burgundy Col where we could unrope and take off our crampons. As an amusing side note, we were passed on the steep snow by an unroped one legged guy who was descending from a successful ascent of a 10B climb called Rebel Yell. He had both legs, but one was metal from the hip down. The dude was freaking amazing!

In the twilight we could see huge bright orange California style flames racing up the mountain side below us. They were on a ridge coming down off of Silver Star…which was adjacent to Chablis Spire. It looked like a wind change could have the fire on top of us long before we could reach the car.

We guessed that the fire wouldn’t cross to our side of the ridge and started down the awful trail towards high camp. We were dead tired when we reached our tent at 10:30 PM, but right there on the main trail was a brand new sign. The rangers had hiked 2500 vertical feet up from the road to post it: “Leave immediately, do not delay! There is an uncontrolled fire approaching Burgundy Col. The road will close soon, you could be trapped.”

We discussed maybe sleeping until the fire arrived, then running for a nearby boulder field where there weren’t any trees. Common sense prevailed. We packed up and stumbled down, getting lost multiple times where trees had fallen over the trail and arriving at the road at 2:30 in the morning.  It appears that alpine climbing hasn’t gotten any safer over the intervening decades.

 

Sprinkler system

Posted by on July 14th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue has been doing 24 hour shifts at her moms for 11 days. Swapping days with Tom. I was moping around this morning when Lisa dropped by. She was on her way to a preggers appointment. 3 weeks to go. Sue got home, and then Lisa dropped back by. Her dog was in daycare so she didn’t want to just drive home. We all went out running errands. I dropped off my UE Fit’s earbuds at UPS store. They didn’t fit. Let in a ton of wind noise.

I’m planning to get some custom musician style in ear monitors. For decades now when I jam with other musicians, I can only hear myself. Occasionally I’ll hear bits and pieces of the other musicians, but it’s mostly lost now. These IEM Audiologist fitted ear buds will be hard wired to a belt pack, which has a mixer. That in turn can be hard wired to a mixer board, or a ZoomH4N, or Tacam DR-40, any one of which will allow me to channel the whole band, mixed to my liking into a mono track in my one good ear.

I can also use them like a normal hearing aid, as the ear buds have microphones. I can mix the ambient noise to be full on hearing aid, or completely isolated. The custom fit will prevent all sounds from getting to my ear, except the ones I choose. I can also wire them to my phone.

Later Clint came over and we laid pipe to add 4 sprinkler heads to zone 2 in the southeast portion of the back yard. I read that too many sprinklers per zone causes them to spray weakly. We may have to add a zone…won’t know until the glue dries.

It was nice to see the kids. Rose is getting quite cute at 6 months.

DIY pickup sleeping bed platform 2.0

Posted by on June 24th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I had a nice permanent 2×4 bed built into my long bed Tundra. But when my daughter needed to move I realized I faced 3 hours of disassembly before my Tundra was back to a normal empty truck.

On to version 2.0 . My priorities were:

  1. It had to be removable in minutes, not hours.

  2. It had to be light and lean, the 2×4 bed was bulky

  3. I needed fold up bed platforms so I could easily walk back to access a rear box, and avoid crawling up the tunnel under the permanent bed.

  4. It needed to be compact, in case I had to disassemble and store it while carrying something large, like a fridge, or some 4 x 8′ sheets of plywood.

Bridge poem by Ted Kooser

Posted by on June 24th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I was recently at Vantage with a friend. We are old friends going back 14 years, but she prefers to climb with women. We met a really nice climbing couple by Air Guitar. The girl was burly strong and super fit so my friend asked if she ever climbed with other partners. She mentioned that she usually climbs with women.

Then she glanced at me and said: “Well, except for Mark here, but he’s almost a girl anyway, so he doesn’t count.”

“That’s going in the trip report!” I said with a chuckle.

Fletch and I were talking about growing older at the gym and I remembered this old poem.

Again this morning, in a cold wind from the future, I walked all the way to the end of the long bridge of my life, having a look at its cables, its rods and rivets, its perforated metal flooring through which I could see whitecaps slamming the pylons. Then I turned and came back, inspecting it all from the other direction, fretting about every hex nut and bolt though they seem sound enough to hold things together. I ought to give the long bridge of my life a little rest, but every day it seems I’m walking from past to possibility and back to past with my brush and aluminum paint, hiding the rust, the deepening cracks, dabbing a shine here and there.
~ Ted Kooser, November

Hag Crag – Free sheet music

Posted by on June 23rd, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Climbed z  corner at hag crag. It’s a tough 5.7 on which I should bring many more hand sizes from #5 to green.

Got up Toxic Shock cleanly and Battered Sandwich. Super fun climbing with Ben, Kena and D. Wood.

I’ve nailed down Perfect by Ed Sheeran. It does need a capo (up 1) if you wan to play along with Ed.

I keep all my sheet music guitar chords up on my server. If you search online, you can find chords that are quite close, but they always have problems. It’s a crowd sourced website, meaning people like you and me upload what they think are the correct chords. Consequently, there are usually errors, and almost always the chords don’t fit on one sheet of paper.

I fix all the problems. Anything up on my website has been tested multiple times around climbing campfires.

Here is the link to my sheet music folder:

https://websterart.com/songs-pdf/

UE Fits Earbuds review

Posted by on June 14th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I just got a pair of these UE Fits. For reference, I’ve had the original Air Pods, which always fell out, and some sound isolating ISOTunes Pro.
Bottom line is I think they are worth the money…especially if you have had trouble with ear buds falling out and or hurting. I’ve worn them for 4 hours straight, very little pain, and the sound is fine. I’m not an audiophile. I’m mostly deaf in one ear, and the other one has some age related loss. I do love music though…who doesn’t?

Now the bad:
I could only get one bud at a time to pair on my iPhone XS. I was sweating the ‘light exposure’ warning for about an hour as I tried to get both buds to pair simultaneously. Finally both right and left paired, but there was a ghost right and left showing up that couldn’t pair. I had 4 buds showing in my iPhone settings, two of them paired, two not paired.

Fortunately the UE Fits app said they were both found so I went forward to the next step. Then the app said the battery was dead. Arg!!
Back in the charging case they went for 10 minutes.

Finally I was able to get all the way thru the fitting process.

Back to the good:

That was quite cool…warm actually. And they passed the head shake test…like, really shaking…gave me a headache shaking…didn’t fall out.

After that initial pairing weirdness I’ve had no problems. The app is a bit slow to reflect whether they are in my ears…it has to ‘scan’. But the buds themselves play music as soon as they are in my ears, and they stop playing when I put them in the case. I can also do one bud playing music, the other charging.

I do like the way I can see charging levels of both buds and the case…3 values.
They stop music (or talking book) when a call comes in, and resume music when I hang up. Wife said my voice sounded normal.
So far they are the best buds I’ve owned. I sew backpacks on an industrial machine, and I like the way they mute the hum of my machine. I haven’t tried them next to my drill press…but the profile is so low I suspect I could wear shooting muffs over them.
I’ll edit this review if I change my opinion.

Rose at the point

Posted by on June 11th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I’ve been climbing every three or four days for weeks now, basically since returning from Utah. Yesterday Chris and I went to Index. It was raining hard so we continued over to Domestic Dome where we both led Ranch Style. Then she led the 9 to the right. It’s the one that has an undercling beneath a one foot overlap. You shove a 9mm cam under the roof, 6 feet above your last bolt. Then you undercling the thin crack with sketchy feet on a steep slab. You keep inching your feet up while the fingertips get worse and worse. Finally you can reach the bolt above the roof and you have to do a horrible cross though…but your stance is so unstable I could barely touch the bolt. I have know idea how she kept it together clipping that bolt.

Later I led Dogleg cleanly. I love that move! You place your gear, rest on the fingerlocks, then step up with the left toe into the toe jam. Stand, then reach high to an ok, but not great hand jam. You pull, bump up the left foot on the crack, then throw for a high hand jam. This  barndoors you off to the right, but the friction right foot is do-able as you grab for a yellow cam. At that point you are 6 feet above the last cam…it’s rather intense climbing. Super fun route!

I have a photo of Sue leading it in 1979 with hexes.

Clint and Jamie invited us to hike Point Defiance. They brought Rose down the steep dirt trails on the bluff to the beach.

Didn’t see Elvis

Posted by on May 26th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I started my Spring trip by driving solo down to Vegas. There was a long stretch where 93 turns to 6 south of Ely where there was no cell service. I remember pulling over at an intersection. My maps app had died, the no stoplight town was long dead and abandoned. I had no idea which road to take at the Y junction. I got out my paper Atlas map of the country and figured that South was a good guess and drove. Fortunately I had a full tank of gas.

I got up on a pass where it was snowing lightly and pulled over. Still no cell service. Before leaving town I’d installed my HF ham radio in the Tundra. I got out, tuned the antenna to the twenty meter frequency band and spun the dial on my Icom IC-7300. I heard a couple guys in New Hampshire having a friendly competition to talk to every grid square (sort of like counties) in the country. It’s  like Bingo, they color in their paper map as they talk to the grid squares. I told them I was in Nevada and they got all excited.

“Where are you in central Nevada? We don’t have any grid squares  because no one lives there!”

“I know, I’m driving down a random highway and haven’t seen a soul for hours!”

“Can you look up your location on your phone?”

“No cell service, I’m glad I have this ham radio.”

I continued to talk to those guys, and a dozen others as I racked up the dusty deserted miles in my trusty Tundra. It was really cool to be able to reach out into the invisible airwaves in the absence of a cell signal.

As I pulled into Vegas Aaron invited me to drop by for dinner and some music. He plays banjo and is an old Tacoma friend going  back 8 years. We got up in the morning and climbed the 5.7 Group Therapy route to the left of Purblind Pillar. It had a long 7 inch chimney that had me wishing for more big gear.

The next day I hooked up with Kena, Tony and Cole for Cat in the Hat. The last two pitches were intimidating as I was so rusty. Cole led the last (4th?) pitch with the bolted runnout. That took me to Monday and I needed a rest day. Two days of driving followed by two, long approach multipitch routes had me hammered.

I did a bad painting in the afternoon, and activated Red Rocks in the morning with my Icom 7300, making about 25 contacts. The next day the four of us hiked up to do Johnny Vegas. We found a slow moving party of 3 women doing a NOLS training climb and bailed to Solar Slabs Chimney. It turns out they weren’t that slow, but you have to go with your gut in those situations. The chimney was super fun and relaxing climbing. At the top the sun was blazing down and we bailed.

I’m having trouble remembering what I did every day now, it being 5 weeks in the past. Kena and Tony and I continued climbing. We had a splendid day at Physical Graffiti, one of the best 3 pitch 5.6’s anywhere. We also did one of the pitches of Big Bad Wolf 5.9 sport.  Then Tony left Thursday to be replaced with Pamela, another OB/GYN doctor and we three climbed at Panty Wall.

On the weekend, Aaron was off again and we climbed Ragged Edges, a two pitch 8? that was uber cool. By Monday, everyone had flown home or gone back to work so I drove toward to Moab to meet Fletch who was off work Wednesday evening. I stopped near St. George and activated a random state park on the way. Ham radio is a fun diversion. The wind almost broke my antenna again.  I picked up Fletch at Grand Junction airport in Colorado after camping two nights at Courthouse Rock. We met up with Lisa and Brian and drove to Beef Basin. I led Generic Crack with some hangs…it’s so long! I should have taped. My crack gloves were too thick. I followed Chocolate Corner  and a few others.

In the morning we drove all the way back through Moab to the famous Fisher Towers Ancient art route. I’d been hearing about Fletches adventures with our friends there for at least a decade. It looked extremely intimidating in photos. I’d heard it described as climbing mud, rotten everywhere, with loose bolts a plenty. But it was actually reasonably safe, for a  desert tower.

Fletch backed off the last pitch. I couldn’t blame him, it looked extremely dangerous. I decided to go take a look, since he’d already clipped the first 3 bolts. There was no way I was going to stress those bolts on that weak tower with a lead fall. I french free’d all of them, even added two cams to get to the top.

That took us to Sunday and Fletch decided to go to work. I dropped him in Moab and met Cole. This was kind of a pattern. I’d wear out a couple partners and new ones would drive or fly in to replace the old ones. I never stopped climbing for 3 weeks. Well, I did take a few rest days to paint, and one was forced on me by rain…but yeah, I basically never stopped hustling the whole trip.

Cole and I climbed at Donnely where I led Chocolate Corner clean (Yes!) and Supercrack not clean. Then it rained and I did a nice painting at Beef Basin. Next day I painted Delicate Arch, Cole left and I picked up Fletch from work and we climbed Castleton Tower in a 17 hour day. Young people do Ancient Art and Castleton in a day…but wait until they are 67…well see how many linkups they can pull then.

We were tanked after that and headed home with a brief stop at The City where I led (finished) Rye Crisp. We were both clearly done with climbing. When I got home I started to spend some time with my grandaughter Rose. Sue likes to babysit her. I’m starting to warm to her also. She seems to tolerate me fairly well.

I’ve been up to Rainier once and did a great painting with pen and Gouache.