Cow Number 2

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.

Sunset concert at Vantage

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.

 

Darrington for 3 days

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

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.

Canada on an expired passport

I got my passport out of the safe the day before going to Canada. It was expired, by 5 days. A google search revealed several people who had blithely gone thru the border and back with only a friendly warning.

My experience was that no one even mentioned it. I’m guessing that it must be because 10 years is a long, long time. Who keeps a calendar that long? Google calendar hasn’t even existed that long.

My first day I met B and P at Neat and Cool. I followed that little finger crack on the trail in hiking boots. The next day we went to Octopus and I led all my standards cleanly, easily, including the nine on the right. Tuesday we went to Penny Lane which P led.

It was an impressive lead because they’ve not been climbing much due to B’s shoulder surgery. She led that pretty much off the couch, on sight. We met Albert there and he followed us the rest of the day over to Quarry Man which we both led. I sailed up Quarry, must be warmed up from The City and Middle East Wall at Vantage. I also led Ronin’s Corner and the 10c Frog route, with one fall. B and I jammed until 10pm that night, earning a honk from a car.

Next day they left but Albert and I spent a morning at the bluffs. I led Flying Circus and S&M’s Delight very cleanly. I actually ran out both of them at the crux, instead of a sew up job. Albert is only doing 4 routes a day, so at 2 I lost my partner. I posted notes on Mountain Project and FB but got no response.

I hung out for a while watching the kite boarders…I really want to try that sport! Sue was texting me and saying I should come home, and I eventually decided she would be more fun than begging for partners.

Because you can’t take food thr0ugh the border, I dumped $40 worth of food (eggs, brocolli, blue berries, cauliflower, dressing) in the garbage can at Murrin Park. I figured I was already in for a grilling because of my expired passport, no sense making them madder.

30 minutes down the road Cole called me and said he also needed a partner and could climb for several days. I turned around and we did first two pitches of the Smoke Bluff connection, sleeping  below Rock On.

In the morning Cole and I climbed Calculus thru Karen’s Math. I’ve never done Karen’s that cleanly, every move felt solid…only a little unnerving at times, but quite safe, with good rests. I drove back to Rec Center, but it being Friday night it was jam packed. Drove up to Cheakamus and it was over flowing too because of a Netflix movie being filmed. I parked in the “Crew Parking” area, side of the road, right next to the security car and slept peacefully. In the morning he was too tired to climb. These young guys have no stamina. I can climb 15 days in a row, dawn to dusk, and have many times.

Anyway, there went another partner. I dumped another $40 worth of food at Murrin and this time no one called as I drove home to Sue. Her dad’s service was today. The Army played taps and gave Sue’s mom a flag. They were married 78 years. Barb, Tom, Debbie, Aaron, Jason and family, Clint, Sue and Jamie were there. And Claire in the casket of course. He was a very good man.

I remember 19 years ago when I was getting dizzy spells. I called Sue for a ride home, I couldn’t drive. She was home with the kids, who were too little to leave at 11pm on a school night. Claire and Barb came into Tacoma and drove my car and me home. They were so kind….really lovely people. Getting old just sucks, but it’s part of life. You get the young fun stuff, and then you get the old sucky stuff, then it’s someone else’s turn.

Do it yourself DIY passport photos

I’ve been learning a lot about Passport photography. I’m going to film a tutorial. Bottom line is, take a tiff to Walgreens. They are much higher quality than Target. In the tutorial I’ll spell out how to start a new 300 dpi 4 x 6″ document in Photoshop. Set units to inches, and crop the images to exactly 2″ inside the 4 x 6.  Whatever you do, don’t take a pdf to FedEx. They gave me halftone dots! Not acceptable.

The background behind the head has to be pure white, so plan to do some selecting work if your background shows. Better yet, borrow a green screen and use that with “select color range > color adjustment layer > hue/sat > desaturate > lightness to white. I won’t know for a month if this worked…government is slow.

Got it back in 6 days!!! Here is how the photo looked on passport:

City of Rocks 2019

Alex, Kristi, Chris J. and Pam all spent some time at the City of Rocks with me over the last two weeks. I got there early and sketched for a couple days.

I did three pen sketches and two oils. We did a lot of the usual stuff on Elephant rock and the Breadloaves. My four days with Pam were the best as we are both hard core climbers, dawn to dusk.

Alex did do a hard lead on Crack of Doom 11c. I couldn’t get past the boulder move. I also got up Mystery Bolter with one hang. That thing is so intimidating. Those run outs are terrifying, yet the climbing is fine and quite sticky. You just have to stick to the main line, even left a little, as you pass the second to last bolt. Past the last bolt it’s dead easy right up to the anchor. We were surprised to find we could rap off with a 60 meter.

My hardest lead was Aspen Leaf 10a at the upper west breadloaves. I hung all over it, blew all the delicate stem moves. What’s weird is I think I led it clean with Julia ten years ago. Because of my constantly changing partners I never got on some of the harder trad lines like bloody fingers and private idaho. Still, two weeks of climbing in the city may have given me a good start on the rest of the summer at index.

 

The Whippers

“So Chris, you need to be ready, I’m probably going to clip the last bolt, climb up to the top and jump off.”

“Give me a lot of slack, like, have the rope practically laying on the deck. I don’t want it tight because I might whip into the wall.”

I carefully tied my knot with a very long tail so I could do a clean, half a grapevine back up knot. Before I pulled the figure eight tight, I clipped a round bodied metolius locker into the bottom loops of the knot. This makes a locked up knot easier to untie.

Bobbi saw me do it and gave me an evil grin: “I know what that means”.

Chris said: “I’m not really a huge fan of these intentional falls, seems like it’s needlessly stressing the system”.

“Bobbi can belay me, if you don’t wanna’ do it” I said.

“No, no, I’m fine”

“Ok, just be ready, and keep a lot of slack in the rope”.

“Ok, so if at any time you say you want to take or rest on the rope, I’ll just let you fall”

“Yup, that’s only fair” I said.

I climbed smoothly up through the dozen clips to the top of the wall, being extra careful to clip each bolt cleanly from secure stances. I watched each biner clip closed almost in slow motion, my focus absolute. I knew that I could not make a mistake. Every move was calculated and accurate.

As I clipped the last draw I still had some power in reserve on the steeply overhanging white 5.10. I climbed up to the top of the wall where the lowering clips were and simply grabbed on. I looked down at Chris, who I could clearly see was exactly where he should be, in brake position, with a long loop of slack.

I looked down at my tie in knot, with it’s backup knot to make sure everything was fine, and then let go. I quickly accelerated to a speed that felt far too fast, falling freely through the air at least 20 feet. I had very little panic, secure in the knowledge that the system was secure. As the rope caught me 30 feet off the ground, most of the people who were standing around on the floor jerked their heads up, sensing and hearing the noise of the draws banging on the wall as the rope came tight, and the body falling from high above.

Chris lowered me down carefully, to the watching climbers, who slowly turned away now that the show was over.

“I never would have guessed you had that streak of wildness,” he said.

“Yeah, somewhere inside me I’ve got a little craziness going on. But those whippers are really fun!” I said.

Bobbi: “I think it makes you a better climber,  you know you’re safe so you can relax.”

 

Leavenworth and filmmaking

I’ve not written in two weeks and it’s getting hard to remember what I’ve been up to. L. and D. were vacationing Alaska and shared some exciting news, but I won’t write about it here, as it’s not my story to tell.

Sue has gotten into making the yard pretty. She’s been digging up dandelions and replanting grass seeds in the holes. I’m glad she likes doing that because yard work is just not my thing.

My niece and nephew met me at my uncles house in Leavenworth for a few days of climbing. John led a hard offwidth on the left side of Jello Tower and got my number 5 stuck. Normally a big cam like that comes out easily because you can get your hands on it. But this one got fixed. Both he and I worked on it and it was not coming out. By the next weekend it was gone. I haven’t stuck a cam in a decade, so I guess I was overdue. Still, I’d rather lose a cam than a nephew. He was in dangerous territory when he slammed that cam into the 4 inch crack, but as soon as he clipped it he was safe.

V. and I went to Private Idaho at Index the weekend before and I got on Istanbul and Battered Sandwich, both 5.9’s. That was a lot of fun.

My uncle had a cold, and now I’ve got it. Since I was resting over this last weekend, I decided to brush up on Adobe Premiere by posting some DIY tutorials on framemaking. I’d filmed the footage back in November, planning to eventually make some videos on the process.

DIY picture framing

There weren’t many good tutorials online about making pictures frames. It seems the good artists and frame makers aren’t into film making. There are some woodworkers posting picture framing videos…but they weren’t using the simple tools I’m using. Most of those guys have $20,000 woodworking shops. I’ve just got a borrowed miter saw and a couple of $80 picture frame clamps. I also cover the measuring, gluing, nailing painting and gold leafing processes.

What I do have is artistic knowledge and creative troubleshooting skills…plus some low level filmmaking skills. I filmed most of the footage with my iphone and or my little point and shoot camera,  mostly because they have autofocus and built in mic’s. I hand held some of the footage…so that should really be reshot…but most of it was done on tripods and is fine.

I put them up as 1080p, so the quality seems quite adequate. I’ve gotten a lot of help from youtube fixing things such as cars and appliances, so it’s nice to be able to give back to the community by posting some of my own tutorials.

How to measure and cut perfect miter corners to the right length:

Clamping, glueing and nailing with Rockler picture frame clamps:

Assembling the final frame pieces into the finished frame.

Applying gesso, handpainting with acrylic paint and adding gold leaf. It’s kind of like making a miniature painting, a painting of a frame, on wood:

Got past the blank canvas

Great 4 day weekend! Saturday started off with replacing the idler pulleys on my truck. It was making a squeaky noise on start up down in Vegas. I drove it 1000 miles all the way home while worrying about a breakdown. I loosened 2 of the belts and removed the idler pulleys. Water pump and air conditioner bearings felt normal. But on the idler pulleys, one clearly had a bad sealed bearing. When I turned it, it felt a little grabby, though still functioning. I had replaced them once before…so I guess they last about 120,000 miles.

None of the shops in town had it in stock, and quotes ranged from $210 to $23. When things get weird like that I drive down to Lloyd and Wilson Auto repair in Tacoma. He can order parts based on the vin number, they come fast, and are always correct. He instantly felt the bad bearing, which validated my concern. I’ve spent a lifetime working on bicycles, printing presses and cars, it’s good to know I can judge a bad bearing.

Sunday V. and drove to Index and climbed at Private Idaho. A crew of 5 with just one leader headed out of the parking lot 10 minutes ahead of us. They were nice, but took 2 hours on every route.

They had the easy routes locked up (Senior Citizens and Turkey) so I jumped on Istanbul, a nine I’d never led. Two fives would come in handy, though it was still safe enough with one. Love to get that one clean, now that I know what’s there. I sent Battered Sandwich cleanly next, as did V. We were each leading everything. I’d thought I was rusty….but getting Battered cleanly is a great indicator.

Monday I drove up to Paradise at 11 and did a hurried painting. Need to bring skis. The lighter load of hiking in boots is not worth the post holing. And I need to load my pallete in the parking lot to save weight. One bottle of water would be plenty. I poured out an entire bottle.

Tuesday I played pingpong from 8 to 11. Jan hadn’t been there in a month. I’ve been improving and she commented: “Jeez, I leave for a month and you go all pro on me!” Or at least I think that was her. It’s nice to hear stuff like that. At my age, it seems like I’m on a constant slide towards mediocrity…so anything that slows that down is welcome news.

After ping pong Lisa came over and we fabricated some sheet metal to mouse proof the other side of her Corolla trunk. It’s nice to hang out with the kids…though working on cars is not my favorite activity.

Put a biner in a figure eight knot

Climbed with Bobbi and Chris J. at 3:30. I tried my new trick of replacing a Yosemite finish with a round locker biner. Todd thought it would be fine. Before I went up I told Bobbi that he could write the accident report if things went badly, but it worked as planned. I took the big whipper, lowered off, pulled the keylock biner out and had a loose knot…sweet!

It’s kind of scary being your own guinea pig. No one online is doing that, or at least writing about it. Those darn knots are so tight after a whipper. I knew there had to be a solution. The biner in the knot is no different than the strand of rope from the Yosemite finish on the figure eight. Well, it’s slightly different because it’s aluminum, instead of rope. I made sure to tie a double grapevine backup knot after the figure eight. I figured that if the eight slipped due to the slipperyness of the biner in the knot, the grapevine would prevent the knot unraveling under load.

But all was well. I took the whip and was able to pull out the biner with minimal effort, which left slack in the knot and it was easy to untie. My next big project is to sew my own cam slings. I plan to do a bunch of load testing before I trust them. I will write about it later.

Phone case for climbing

Many of my partners are leading with iPhones in their pants pocket. Considering what they cost, I shudder when I see them waving them around with abandon, trying to get the best angle. They do this 6 pitches up in the air…which amounts to a 600 foot drop if something goes wrong.

If the route is too hard I will leave my big camera on the ground or in the car. I have a small camera…but we often bring an iPhone for  emergencies…worst case scenarios. And considering how good they are getting, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But my phone is too big for a pants pocket, and it has a stupid glass back…so it’s fragile.

I already have a metal fronted case, but there is only one bungy snap holding the phone in the case, and the glass side is pressed up against my harness, only protected by the inner plastic case. I considered buying a hardish soft shell case with a zipper, which I have for my point and shoot camera, but I don’t like zippers…hate them with a passion actually. Every zipper is on its way to breaking…it’s only a matter of time.

I wondered if I could make a user repairable, bombproof metal iPhone case.  Yes, it turns out I can.

I started with some concept drawings. I hadn’t really thought it through…but figured if I started working all would become clear. I’m also blocked right now, I wiped off my latest painting…so I needed some entertainment on my four day weekend.

concept drawing

concept drawing

Bending the aluminum was hard because it was wider than my vise. I had to use some 1/4″ iron to extend my vise. I was able to make my right angle bends using this jig and a sledge hammer.

hammering the right angle bend

hammering the right angle bend

partially bent right angle

partially bent right angle

bending jig

bending jig

both angles bent

both angles bent

After that I sewed it together on the bottom with 1/8″ bungy cord. I considered using a hinge, but the bungy cord added cushion and avoided the case having to be overly precise regarding thickness of the phone.

My initial plan was to have the biner seal the case, like the way a binier locks down a grigri. But it turns out that a binier has such a wide bottom that the case is not held closed. I found a way to use a threaded bungy to lock the case closed, supplementing the biner. Getting all that sorted out and debugged took most of a day. Then I showed it to Sue and Clint and they both thought it was stupid…overkill was the term they used. While I think they are right, it was still a fun exercise in the art of inventing. The fact that my invention was mis-guided is irrelevant.

One of the problems I solved in my mis-guided train wreck of an invention was that the 0.040″ aluminum  was too flimsy to make a good carabinier hangar. I glued on a double layer of metal there. This is version 1.0 after all. It’s not supposed to be perfect. I’m thinking I can hang this on my rack or harness next to cams and quick draws and it will be fine.