After 34 years we decided to sell the old family home. We were tired of the drive and wanted to be closer to our jobs, and the kids. Houses are more expensive in Tacoma, but dad left us some money, and we were able to take what we got for our house, plus some of dad’s money and get a new place. I only looked for one day, and it was the seventh house we looked at.
I’ve never spent this much money on anything and was way out of my comfort zone. I probably never would have moved but one of my climbing friends became a realtor 6 months ago. She told me at guitarbcue in June, and I thought: why not? Her husband is also a climbing friend, and I have great respect for his time driving a boomer. Those brave people keep our country safe. She did a great job for a new realtor. I figured she would, as she is, like me, an artist, a musician, and a climber, plus a working mom with two young kids. You can’t do all that stuff well without being very smart.
So now I’m spending the first night in our new house. We decided to tear out the rugs because there is beautiful original wood flooring under the living room rug. I have to rent a sander to polish the floor, then stain it. Then we hope to move in, officially, this weekend.
I climbed at Index Sunday but I was not feeling bold. I think the stress of moving has worn me down. My shoulders feel terrible. I can climb fine, but simple things like lifting my hand to the top of the steering wheel can cause really bad pain. I’m hoping it will go away.
I did a great painting of the Sandman tugboat in Olympia a couple weeks ago, I will post pictures later.
We climbed the Squamish Chief in a day last Friday. Two weeks prior I was at Index with Christine and we met a friendly couple at Private Idaho. Torry said he had some time off. As we were leaving, I gave him my card and said that I was hoping for a long weekend at Squamish.
He texted me last weekend and said he was heading up with three friends and did I want to be the fourth? I said yes and we left Tacoma at 9AM. We climbed Star Chek Thursday afternoon, then got a dawn start on the Chief Friday morning. We started up Diedre at 7:30AM, topping out on the top of Squamish Buttress after 11 pitches at 9:30PM. I also led S&M Delight cleanly, and cruised up Skywalker again, but the highlight of the trip was our journey up the Chief.
I’ve been seriously trying to get up that thing ever since I first saw it in 1979. I have no idea why I finally got up it. I do have a lot of knowledge of the lower approaches now, plus we had a strong and confident team. There was a moment at the top of Boomstick where we gathered together and considered whether we should go up or retreat. Committing to the summit meant we might have to bivy on the cliff in our shirts. We didn’t even have matches…though with the fire ban that was a non-starter. But we all looked at each other and said: “Let’s do this thing!”
The trail was easy enough to find…you simply scramble up from the top of Boomstick along the cliff edge until the trail heads left, joining up with the trail from Memorial Crack. A 20 minute hike through forest leads to the base of Squamish Buttress and a slab with one bolt. It’s rated 5.8, but feels like a 10A. Though that might have just been my heavy full frame DSLR, and the full rack of offwidth gear I carried up it. I was so scared I hung two fours, two threes and the five on the bolt to shed some weight. I felt sorry for Jaclyn, but there was no way I could make it up that loaded down. She was game though, and followed it carrying our water, shoes and all that gear.
She swung through and led the next two seven-ish pitches. I arrived at the start of the Butt Light pitches, which are both 5.9. I was so tired I had to rest on both bolts. I need to remember to eat steak and potatoes the night before, along with a big breakfast. The chimney move on pitch two of Butt Light was easy. I had a #5 and it fit perfect, but there was some decent finger sized cams as well, along with a green camalot slightly higher. I had my left shoulder in and walked my feet up the outside arete edge of the chimney until I could reach the jug with my left hand. It felt delicate and barely possible…but worked great.
After that pitch it was two easy pitches to the walk off. We were all super stoked. For me it was a 40 year goal, but for Torrey and Jaclyn it was their first time on the Chief, and they got to the top.
And then we had to hike down the tourist trail for an hour, in the dark, with all that gear. There was definitely some drinking when we got back to the tents. Man, were were so happy to have that in the bag. The next day we slept in and sat around in the sun until noon before heading to the Smoke Bluffs for some cragging. This was one of my all time best climbing trips ever. It’s funny how you can start a trip with total strangers, but after an epic adventure like this we were a band of brothers (and one sister).
I’ve been hearing about a famous route at Darrington for decades. It is called Silent Running and it’s rated 5.9. I’ve avoided it up until now because I heard it was runnout. After leading the two crux pitches, and following 3 of the others, I have a much better understanding of it. Yes, after one of the nicely bolted 5.9 cruxes, it does have a 40 foot runnout. But if you go left instead of following the seam there are a decent number of normal holds. And if you led the 9 section you won’t fall on the runnout 5.7. And that is the only dangerous section.
The true cruxes are beautifully bolted with nice new shiny 3/8″ inch stainless steel. The bolting was done by our new friend David, and his friend Matt. David followed me and Aaron up the climb, and even led a few of the pitches. We were moving fast with simul belaying. We were in high spirits.
The climbing was as good as it gets. The moves seemed impossibly hard. There were times when I didn’t have a plan at all. I simply placed my feet on imaginary holds and kept moving up.
My fingers were pretty much useless. There was nothing to grab at all. You could step high, you could step low, you could move right or left, none of it mattered. The only plan was to keep moving up.
L. decided to start leading this last Memorial day weekend. Her first lead was up above Penny Lane where she led a short 5.8 crack left of the long 5.8, to the right of Split B. Next she led a 5.6 down to the right of Neat and Cool.
Next morning she led Laughing Crack. It is a long and lovely 5.7 finger crack on a leaning over slab.
Twenty feet up she realized she wasn’t in the mood and started complaining about how her gear was bad. I had been teaching her what a good cam looked like for the last couple days. We had been placing and replacing cams on the ground while I explained the correct lobe angles.
So there she was, 20 feet up up the cliff. It was difficult to climb back down. She was like the proverbial cat stuck in the tree. It’s easy to climb up, not so easy to come down. She had pretty much mastered cleaning anchors…I’d taught her that 6 times over the previous two days. Her thinking was that she could simply keep going up to the good steel anchor bolts and lower off.
Instead of coming down, which would have been relatively safe, she placed more gear, swore it sucked and climbed higher. At about 60 feet up she was still cursing her gear but by that point her hands were sweating in the 84 degree heat. She was frazzled, out of power, and in panic mode. Sue and I were sweating bullets and thinking worst case scenarios.
The rock always wins when you head up a cliff under prepared. She peeled off and took a whipper. As she fell, I had enough time to think that this might be the last time I ever saw her in one piece. My wife started crying. However, I’ve caught a lot of falls over the decades and simply locked off my GriGri + belay device, waiting for a piece to stop her. A Metolius yellow 4 cam TCU caught her fall.
She had slid down on her hip, which wouldn’t have been bad. But because she was wearing running shorts she got an ugly road rash. We call that kind of fall a “cheese grater”. More cursing ensued, but she eventually calmed down. After realizing she was perfectly safe, and the gear was good, she got back on the lead and finished out the route. She threaded the anchor and lowered down.
When I cleaned the route, I was surprised to see that 90 percent of her cams were perfectly placed. She had mastered the art of cam placements in the nick of time. I think her trash talk about their quality was simply her tendency toward perfectionism…which she got from me.
I’ve been back from climbing at Indian Creek for 10 days. Daphney and I had a great time. We spent the first day with
Craig, who was on his way home from working in San Diego. That first day we climbed at the Donnelly crag. I tried to lead a 120 foot route called “Generic Crack”. The rack is one red, 9 yellows, two blues and a 4. I was fresh off a 24 hour drive on two hours of sleep…I bailed early. Craig and Daphney both led it clean. We also did the Cave route…or rather, they led it, while I took pictures. It was all reds, which is my worst size. My hands don’t fit in red cracks. I found out later that, for guys with big hands, learning to master reds is the hardest thing to learn at the creek.
That was Saturday. Sunday we went back to Donnelly and climbed a few things we hadn’t got to the day before. She was super tired from on sighting 5.11’s the day before with Craig. We decided to take a rest afternoon. I offered to teach her how to oil paint.
We each did a nice painting of this rode side buttress in the afternoon light. It was her first oil painting ever and she did a fabulous job! We both started with monochrome wash using Raw Umber. It’s a lot like using pencil, except it’s oil paint. You simply have to do a value study. I got bored with mine and broke out the color to make what you see here. The light was flat…no cast shadows, so the painting turned out almost abstract. Normally I hate painting in flat light, but something about this little painting works.
That night…might have been Sunday or Monday, it poured. We woke up to soaked sandstone and decided it was a good day to drive to town for some shopping and showers. We stopped by to see a hay bale house she had helped to build a couple years ago. It was a standard Ranch style house, one story, but the interior was all done by hand using hay and mixes of special mud. The floor was not concrete, it was mud mixed with hay. You aren’t supposed to ever mop it. The owner can’t hang pictures on the walls with nails because the walls are hay bales covered with 2 inches of adobe plaster. I heard that this style of home construction can outlast standard buildings.
We still had time to kill before some of her other friends got off work so we hiked up to the North Fork of Mill Creek where there is a cool waterfall. There were some folks with a couple slack lines, but we ignored them as we set up our easels to paint. I decided to do this one with palette knife. It was once again flat light, even raining a little bit but we found an overhang under which to paint. I was fully expecting this one to bomb. I still don’t know what to think of it, but it feels very fresh and lively. I use instagram to reach out to other like minded artists. When I posted this little waterfall, I was shocked to see it rack up more “likes” than any other painting I’ve ever posted.
We hung out with Ranger M and his girlfriend J when we were in town on a rain day. My favorite route was “where’s carruthers”. It’s a 10+ left of Scarface that I led clean after following on top rope. As Daphney said, “Learning to accept top ropes when they are offered is part of how you become a creek climber”.
I did 4 paintings down there, all in a three day period where the rains came in at night. We drove to town, and I painted a waterfall up a canyon outside of Moab. When we woke up, I was ready to climb, but she said the rock needed another day. When I found out Delicate Arch was half an hour away, she went hiking and I went painting. I did two paintings that day.
I’ve had the first one on my easel for the last few days. I’m trying to bring it to life. A lot of people liked it, perhaps more than any other painting I’ve done plein air. But I didn’t like it. I felt it was weak in many places. I’ve been slowly building in beauty, but it’s such a delicate process. The light is extremely tricky. It’s all reflected reds and tans. I’m trying to work from the photos I took as I did the plein air work…but I really miss the real light. Cameras don’t capture what I need, so my colors end up being guesses. Still, I was guessing on location, and it’s good practice to work in the studio.
Daphney gave me some great advice for the creek that applies to painting as well. “Forget about all your preconceived notions of how to define sucess. Do the best you can, and if it can’t be perfect, it’s fine to fail. You learn stuff either way, and it’s all fun. We are out here in this beautiful place, living the life we dreamed of. Who cares if the route was climbed perfectly, or if the painting is magnificent. Life is about learning and growing.”
Another cool route was mudslide 10+ over at Optimat0r wall. I followed D up Soulfire 5.11+: 130 feet of reds, capped by 3 greens near the anchor. I did quite well, only hung 3 times. I can’t wait to go back. It is the best crack climbing area I’ve ever seen.
The Vantage forecast looked iffy but James and I went for it. Saturday morning we woke up to a steady drizzle. We took our time over breakfast and decided to hike out and do something easy in the drizzle. When we got there it was dry and we jumped on a crazy hard 10 that looked good to James. After we climbed that I did Pony Keg and Air guitar clean. Can’t remember what we did after that. The fire that night was relaxing and we woke up to still winds and overcast weather. I started the day on George and Martha. I felt powerful on the first 40 feet. My placements were clean, with no time wasting errors. I flowed through the moves easily, nailing the stem rests and side pulls until arriving at the rest jams. I’m normally pumped when I get to the hand jams, but I’d done the start so smoothly I still had some gas in the tank. Still, it was very nice to get up to the first solid rest about 50 feet up. After that James went back to his debacle from the day before. He still couldn’t send it clean, but I have to admire his persistence. I can tell he’s going to get that thing clean. I led the 9 to the right, and it was quite fun. The moves were bold, and the second bolt is loose, but I still enjoyed it. It’s got some great movements though the arete is so thin on top it’s freaky.
Last but not least I led Sunshine Buttress. It is a climb I did with Vladi a few years ago. It starts out vertical but has a number of platforms where you get rests, and where the climing style changes. It goes from vertical aretes to cracks to broken face. It finished on a narrow column with 3 steps notched out of the face. They aren’t positive so you have to hug the column as you mount the steps. It feels super sketchy but is quite safe due to close bolts, 16 on the route. Love that climb!
It was nice to take my mind off work for an entire weekend. The 5 classes I have this quarter have been challenging. It’s fun work but one of my classes burned through my entire book and I’ve had to pull a book off the shelf to finish up the last few weeks. My latest re-write cleaned up some of the old problems, and that meant the book flows better and we got through it faster. They have better websites, but I need to add in a couple more chapters so it has enough content to last the whole quarter without pulling in other textbooks. Other books are fine, but they typically aren’t written as clearly as mine. I would love to find a book that I didn’t have to write.
My problem with textbooks on web design is they rarely make anything pretty. They can be functional, or they can be pretty, but never both. It’s the old “you are an artist or a programmer” problem.
I’m back at work from my Winter Break. I have one class this quarter. The reasons for my low class load are complicated, and best not discussed here. I can say however that enrollment at our college is down 14% across all programs. Enrollment in state technical colleges like ours is directly related to unemployment, which is also very low at 5%. The one class I do have is fully enrolled. I love sharing my passion for the internet and all the clever things you can do with code.
Because of my reduced class load, I’ve decided to stop painting and focus my energies on web design, which has a better chance of earning me money in the short term. Painting full time was a dream I’d always wanted to pursue. And over the last year I got that chance. True, I was working 2 days a week, but that left 5 to paint, and I painted a lot…to the point where making art felt like work. Doing it full time literally took the fun out of it. I felt like every painting had to suceed because of that burning pressure to get good enough for a big show in a gallery. Many, many of my paintings were just plain bad. In my wifes words: “A sixth grader could paint that”.
I did do some really nice work, and I treasure those moments of happiness when my paintings were going well and I knew I had a winner. But I never felt they were good enough for a large gallery. I think a couple years in a fine art program would do the trick, but I really can’t afford to pull that money out of my savings…especially without a guarantee of sucess. So for now at least, I’m spending my days off studying new web technologies, and updating my front end web skills to current standards. I’m not that far off, but my website definitely needs an overhaul.
I have a working demo here, but I can’t link to it because it’s been taken apart when the site when live. (edit 2-27-15)
It is fully responsive to changes in the viewport width, and features some unique transitions between thumbnails and full size images. I used to use a prebuilt jquery slideshow plugin. However this new webpage uses a thumbnail function that I wrote almost entirely from scratch. I’m still working some bugs out, but it’s been lot of fun creating a gallery page using my own code and ideas.
Specifically, the two main new functions I’m using are flexbox and column-count. They enable me to have variable height thumbnails that wrap in columns. I merged that concept with parent columns built with flexbox, and have nailed the classic: “In search of the holy grail of web design“…without using floats, or positioning.
In case you don’t know, the holy grail in web design is to get 2 fixed width columns on left and right, with an expanding liquid center. It’s easy enough to do with floats and positioning. Since tables died out, I’ve been teaching that style of interface design for 10 years.
I’d been hearing from my students that there were new technologies coming online that made it easier. Things like the grid systems, and prebuilt web aplications like WordPress, which I use to manage this bog. They manage the columns for you, so you can concentrate on content.
But when I heard from a student last quarter about Flexbox, I decided it was worth a look. I studied a couple training lessons at www.lynda.com and realized the browsers had finally matured enough to support real graphic design style column functionality.
I’ve got that nailed down pretty tightly, and I’ve got it fully responsive.
My Christmas break was super fun, and we had a great time down in jtree this year. Here are a few pictures, including recent backcountry snowcave camping trip. We got back from Cali’, and immediately went snowcamping.
Fletch and I went climbing at Smith Rocks on Presidents Day. I drew him driving on the way down, and the way back. Before and after the trip I worked on this painting of fruit in a glass bowl.
Starting on the first day Fletch set the tone by jumping on a 5.10a called Karate Crack. Karate and I have a long history dating back to 1983. I never climb it first thing in a trip, but it was Fetches lead. Unfortunately it was dark as I finished the last moves, so I couldn’t see the traverse footholds. His cam protecting that traverse was of doubtfull quality…so I was looking at a possible long fall. I used the very last drop of my strength to pull my way around that exposed corner and nail the stem rest.
The next day we swung leads up Zebra Zion, another 10a climb that I rarely do. We also did Packanimal Direct, both pitches…plus a bunch of easier stuff. Eventually I started to warm up and have fun. I normally start out on easier stuff, like sevens and eights, but jumping on harder stuff at the beginning eventually got me to the same place. Every evening we played guitars around the campfire. It was a great trip.
I wrote the following on a climbing website. Someone was complaining about all the top ropers, and how he couldn’t get on a climb all day because large groups had showed up early and tied up all the climbing routes with beginners. I am posting it here because it is reasonably good writing…for me…and I have been feeling bad about not updating this “blog”.
Here is my post:
Ah we are back to this. Crowded cliffs. Whether it is one leader, with 6 non leading top ropers, or an organized group tying up an entire cliff for top roping. It’s basically the gym mentality coming outdoors.
I hate starting lines with “Used to be…” or “Back when I…”
What used to be doesn’t matter anymore. These people are here, and they aren’t going away.
There are a couple of solutions:
Always carry a trad rack. Many times I’ve been at Smith Rocks where all the bolt lines are tied up. But right next to the bolt lines is an old trad line…and no one is on it. Have you ever done Old Testament? Or both pitches of Lycopodophyta? Fridays Jinx? Pack animal? Or routes that can’t easily be TR’d like Tammy Bakkers face? How about Bookworm? No one ever does bookworm (except me), and it is right next to Bunny face.
The next time you mentor a new climber, teach them to always lead, never, ever top rope. Have them follow you up a few easy cracks, pulling gear, and examining placements.
Then make them lead. This means you will have to search out the really easy 3rd and 4th class cracks, sometimes even short boulders with cracks. Stuff that is so easy they could free solo it. Have them put in their own gear.
Follow them up and critique the placements. Teach them the value of being a leader from day one.
The Icicle canyon in Leavenworth is a great place for that. It’s how I learned to climb, and how I taught my family, and many friends. If I can’t lead it, I won’t climb it until I can lead it. I don’t even like following routes I can’t lead, but I will do it occasionally for a good partner.
If all you are doing is following or top roping, it’s a sign you have the wrong partner.
I can’t stop the top ropers anymore than I can hold back a river. But I can choose not to participate. And anyone I teach to climb learns to lead from day one. If it’s too hard, skip the top rope, find something you *can* lead. You will be a more competent climber for it.
And don’t be afraid to lead trad routes that are too hard. Hang dogging your way up a route is a tried and true technique for learning the moves, refining your gear placements, and generally wasting huge amounts of time. You will anger people waiting in line, but they should have gotten up earlier. Next time you do it you will know the moves, and it might go clean.
Writing here may help clear my head. Going back 3 weeks, Sue and I climbed at the City for 9 days. Marty, Ed and Clint met us there for a few days each. I climbed everyday with partners rotating in and out based on their available time.
Marty and I had an adenture up on the 5.8 on Steinfelds dome. I wore shorts, and forgot my windshirt. At the top of the first pitch it was windy and cold. Marty brought up his extra shell, but my fingers still took another entire pitch to thaw out.
My favorite route of the trip was Batwings on Parking Lot rock. That thing is absolutely awesome. It’s only 5.8 but the climbing is 4 star all the way. The runnout topout turns out to have a number of small hidden flakes for cams, plus it’s only 5.5 there. The crux is at the traverse where you have to leave one crack sytem and faceclimb over to the next one. The moves are not reversible, but they are reasonably secure with good footwork. It’s never runnout, though it looks bad from the ground.
Images from the City.
We drove back, I worked 4 days and drove to Squish for a weekend with Karen, Julia, Chris, Merica and Ritchie, plus their significant others. I was happy with my climbing. My recent long trip helped me to climb confidently. Penny Lane was quite easy, even at the crux. It’s wonderful to get on stuff and feel good, rather than be burdened with fear of falling. I wasn’t able to send the 10a bolt line at burgers and fries until I took a short fall, and then a longer 15 foot practice fall. That was fun.
This last weekend I had to work on 3 cars. The Corolla is leaking oil into the spark plug access tubes. I wasn’t able to get to that one. Our Rav4 needed an oil change, and my truck had bad shuddering during hard breaking. My mechanic had told me it was warped rotors and to drive it until the pads wore out. But the shuddering was so bad I wasn’t able to wait that long.
When I repacked the bearings, I noticed they had linear wear patterns. The truck is at 175k, and whether that is normal wear, or caused by poor maintenance, I don’t know. I bought new bearings and races, plus a bearing press. The parts guy said to tap the bearings out with a punch. Those things were tight! I had to use a sledge hammer on blocks of wood on a concrete floor. There has to be an easier way.
I was careless on the first one and scored the hub with my punch. This required resurfacing the hub with sandpaper…just on the score marks. Bottom line, on our Tacoma, I have new front bearings and races, brake pads, rotors, shocks, and an oil change on the Rav4. Total cost $250 in parts, and one weekend. If I would have paid someone to do all that it would have been closer to 700.
If I put a value on my time, it would have been more cost effective to pay my mechanic. However, I enjoy working with my hands, the logic and trouble shooting of car repair is a nice break from my job working with computers.
Here is a nice video on setting your wheel bearing torque
This quarter I am teaching a class on shooting video with DSLR cameras, including double system sound. I’m including the whole gamet of skills from camera settings and lenses to lighting and sound recording…plus editing in Premiere. Our final goal is to record some professional 2 camera interviews for the college youtube channel. Our talent will be real student sucess stories. It’s a fun class!