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Sunny climbing on Halloween 2011

Phil and I had an awesome weekend at Vantage. Saturday we climbed the Seven V…. route. Phil wanted to warm up on something easy and Seven V… is a nice 5.7. After that we walked over to the Air Guitar area where we did a nice fist crack called Pony Keg. We had both Phils rack and my rack so I was able to bring up 4 blues and 4 yellows, plus a couple greens and reds for the bottom. With enough big gear, Pony Keg feels just like Classic Crack: a fun cruise up a lovely crack climb.

After that we both led Air Guitar, which felt harder, but still very do-able. I was expecting it to be a give-away, but had to fish around for the correct moves at the bottom. Pony Keg is very straight forward. You climb the crack and go, but Air Guitar starts out with a combination of thin finger jams on tiny cams combined with not so obvious face holds. I soon got myself sorted out and sent the rest of it fine.

We led a few sport routes that day as well, with Phil finishing out the day on Bushido 10C. That thing was very pumpy. I don’t think I will ever have the muscle power to lead something that long and pumpy. I also need to take some practice lead falls outdoors to get my head ready for falling on bolts.


Sunday we walked up to the Sinsemilla area. We did a two pitch sport route there as a warm up and noticed a nice looking crack climb off to the left. I inspected it on the rap down and realized it might be within my abilities. We pulled our gear off the sport route and I led Corner Pockets cleanly. It was rated 10B trad and had a one very difficult move where you had to move up on a ring lock. It was a one inch crack, green camalot sized: too small for a hand jam, too big for fingers. The only thing I got was a ring lock where you wrap your thumb around your index finger. I had to pull down on that and a bad hand jam, friction my feet in the tiny crack in the corner of the dihedral and throw for manky jam higher up. The move felt very insecure. I was almost certain I was going to fall, which seems to be normal on 10b. I had good gear at my waist, and as soon as I moved up, I stuffed in a perfect yellow #2 camalot. It’s so cool to onsight new hard climbs.

click for video
click for video

After that I led Throbbing Gristle. I shot this video while I was chimneying up Shady Corner, a very cool 5.7 like the 7V…. route, but much cleaner. You are in between three columns, over a lot of air. It’s a fun route, worth doing again with a better camera. My Lumix does not handle extremes of light and dark well.

On the rap down we inspected Split Beaver 5.9 and found it to be a lovely hand and finger crack. We both led it and loved it. It starts out with 60 feet of user friendly hand jams and good stems across to the Gristle column. Then it changes to very clean finger jams in excellent rock for another 35 feet to the top. Several of the moves in the finger section are committing, but there is always protection above you if you need it.

On the way out of the campground we saw a couple campsites where people were cooking dinner around their campfires, getting ready for another night under the stars, followed by more climbing under the sun. I’m thankfull to have a cool job that pays the bills, but it does always seem like the weekends are too short, especially when I am climbing as well as I did this last weekend.

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10-24-2011 A Promise

Sue and I had a relaxing weekend at home. She washed the car, I waxed it. Sunday I pulled the ham radio antenna wiring harness off the bottom of the truck. I’d had antenna wires traveling under the body of the car from the cab to the back bumper where the antenna was mounted.

Getting that ham radio installation finished took me 5 days of full time work, scattered over a few months last winter and spring. And then when it was finally finished, I got bored with it. It is a sad ending to an exciting childhood dream. Turns out there is a reason why there are very few hams: it’s boring. Or, I should amend that: it’s boring if you like your hobbies to combine exercise and adrenaline.

I do enjoy some hobbies that involve sitting still: painting could be considered very boring to some people. It doesn’t get any lazier than sitting at an easel. But there is something so full-filling about creating a painting from scratch that I feel it is worth the stillness.

My pencil drawing from Grandmas photo
My pencil drawing from Grandmas photo

To have a gift and not use it is simply wrong. I was driving my grandma home from a family dinner back in 1992. She was 99 and still in very good health, living alone with her dog, listening to talking books and sending letters out to her extended family. I had showed my paintings to the family that evening, and grandma was very happy to see me finally taking my art seriously. This pencil drawing from a photo of grandma is one I showed to the family. I had painted in my teens, but hadn’t picked it up again until I was 40.

“Mark,” grandma said, “Will you promise me something?”
“Sure grandma, what is it?” I said.
“Don’t ever stop painting! Life is too short and you have a gift, promise me you won’t stop painting again.”
“Ummm, ok grandma.”

Grandma had a favorite aunt named Florence Carpenter (1842-1920). Florence took my 16 year old grandma to Europe where grandma studied to be a concert pianist. You can find Florence on the internet. She acheived some minor fame as a watercolor landscape painter. She is listed in a book in the library named “100 American Women Painters of the 19th Century”.

Blue Girl, painting by Florence Carpenter (1842 - 1920)

I inherited one of great Aunt Florences watercolor paintings. We call it “the blue girl”, though rumor has it that grandma posed for it.  I doubt it’s ever been seen in public before. It sits above my mantel as I write these words. She was the last painter in our family. Of all the people in our huge extended family, I am the first descendent since Florence to paint. It’s strange to think of that slender thread of talent weaving down through the generations, like a recessive gene. Why did her talent finally surface, and why did it pick me?

I have a painting underway at my easel. It’s another self portrait: three quarter view this time. I’m tired after work, and not really in the mood, but sometimes the act of painting puts me in the mood, and if I don’t at least try, I’ll be breaking my promise to grandma.

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10-19-2011 New climbs, Pinnacles

New routes, Peshastin Pinnacles

Sue, Lisa and I drove to the Peshastin Pinnacles last weekend and climbed Yoder’s new routes on Sunset Slab with our old friend Jim. J.Y has done a really nice job on these 3 new routes. The bolting is just right, not too close, and not too run out. A fall from anywhere would be reasonably safe as long as you were able to start the fall by sliding, rather than tumbling.

Sunday we hiked up to Bathtub dome. Sue and Lisa weren’t happy with my routefinding skills. I’d forgotten the guidebook and they thought we were going to climb into a  dead end, or get lost on something really hard. At the ledge below the top tier, everything looked run out and dangerous. Without the guidebook we could have had an epic, so we hiked back to Skid Row and did a promising bolted route. I thought it was a nine, but when we got home I was surprised to find it was an 8.

We spend Friday night with my Aunt and Uncle. They have an amazing hand built earth home filled with grandma’s old furniture. Visiting them is like a little slice of home, and they are poster children for how to grow old graciously.

I could write more, but work is calling. I came across an awesome climbing photography website yesterday.

Quote of the day:

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
– Jack London

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10-14-2011 Leader fall

Washboards, Peshastin Pinnacles Leader Fall

Last weekend I tried to lead Washboards in the Peshastin Pinnacles and fell off. The first bolt is 50 feet up, so you have to free solo up some rotten sandstone. You can place some imaginary pro in the rotten flakes for comfort, but they are of iffy value. When I got to the traverse left, I realized I didn’t bring the three eighths inch pro needed in the only good placement.


I was too high to have Phil toss me the cam, and, running out of options, I went for it. The move is only 5.4…but 40 feet up is not the time to be hesitating. I climbed up and clipped the bolt, then changed it to locking biniers for a little more safety.

I tried to make the move but just couldn’t stick it. You have to pull a hard 10-ish friction mantel 5 feet above the single bolt, 50 feet up. I was not happy to be making the move that high with only one old bolt…but I’d done it many times before, though usually with stickier shoes.

My shoes peeled off and I tried to run down the cliff, as I was falling, which sometimes works. I should have done some shorter practice falls, sort of like ice ax arrest practice to get used to sliding/falling in control. I can climb, but I’m not good at falling. I ended up doing a half cartwheel onto stiff legs and slamming into my left hip and elbow. It was  about a 12 foot fall, and wouldn’t have been bad except for my bad technique.

I lowered off and Phil tried it, same result, though when he fell I ran backwards and shortened his drop. We top roped the climb to get our gear off the route. On the drive home my hip hurt so bad I got the chills every time I stood up.

Five days later I’m still sore, but I think it is just bruising. The day before, Saturday we climbed Bale/Kramer, pictures here.

This quarter started out hard. I’d forgotten how challenging it is to teach programming to a room full of new students. But gradually everyone figured it out and we are now moving along nicely. It’s always fun when the whole class gets that first website online and they realize the power of what I am teaching them.

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Lumix DMC-TS3 Review

Lumix DMC-TS3 Review

Lumix DMC-TS3 Review
Lumix DMC-TS3

I broke my little point and shoot camera while climbing an overhang in Leavenworth last weekend. I bought the Lumix DMC-TS3 to replace it. I needed a camera that did not have any moving parts outside the body. Moving parts get banged up when the camera is hanging from your wrist on a cliff. The internal lens structure on the TS3 looked very attractive. I didn’t really need  it to be waterproof since I have a couple Pelican cases already, but the fact that the TS3 was waterproof down to 40 feet, and shockproof to 6 feet sounded great though, as that would mean two less things to worry about.

I’ve tested it underwater now, though just in the kitchen sink. You can view the video here: underwater_test_lumix_DMC_TS3

I was very careful to inspect the seals before I put this beautiful new camera underwater. There are detailed instructions in the manual on how to clean the gaskets. They even ship a gasket cleaning brush with the camera, which I used rigorously. I also wore magnifying spectacles and a bright light. I was not looking forward to sending it back to Amazon if it leaked due to my negligence.

Lumix DMC-TS3 twilight from the Narrows Bridge
Lumix DMC-TS3 twilight from the Narrows Bridge

I’ve also had it on a couple bike rides. I’ve shot at night, indoors, and even below decks on a ship. I’ve been using it in iA mode (Intelligent Auto Mode). The camera picks the shutter speed and aperture for you. There are many scene modes, and I’ve used them a little with good results. With this type of point and shoot, they assume you will be shooting in difficult environments, like, underwater, or skiing with gloves on. The assumption is that you don’t want to mess with settings.

I would prefer to have some choices for manual settings, but for that I can always carry my SLR: a Canon 50D. This Lumix DMC-TS3 is meant to be used when I don’t want to pack my heavy SLR up the cliff, or out on the top of a sea kayak.

The Adventuress Schooner
The Adventuress Schooner

Sue and I pedaled around Olympia on the weekend and found this really cool one hundred foot, one hundred year old sail boat giving free tours. This boat, The Adventuress, was built in 1913 for the millionaire who started the Yellow Cab business in New York. I took my TS3 down on the pier to shoot some images of the beautiful old boat as climbed on board and explored.

The Adventuress Schooner
The Adventuress Schooner

The camera did a stand up job. I couldn’t have done much better with my SLR. I would have needed two lenses to shoot the images the TS3 was able to capture, and I would have been worried about getting my SLR wet…no worries here. Plus, my SLR is so big I don’t bring it for a casual bike ride…but the TS3 is a pocket camera. The camera you use is the one you carry 🙂

The Adventuress Schooner
The Adventuress Schooner

They let me walk down belowdecks where I found 24 sleeping births, a full galley with a cook preparing meals. The engine room was open, as was the front of the ship, and the above deck “house” though that was too crowded to see. If I’d had more time, I could have paid $50 for a sail that afternoon.

All of the following images were shot with the Lumix DMC-TS3. I can’t comment yet on the battery life, but most reviews say it is good, especially if you leave the GPS off. I think this camera is quite comparable with my Cannon sd1100. Both are point and shoots aimed at the “keep it simple and light” camera market. I have noticed that the TS3 over sharpens a bit when you view the pixels at 100%. So if this is your only camera, and you are shooting a once in a lifetime wedding, you may want to keep looking, and get one that shoots in raw…but for the market this camera is aimed at, I’d say they hit the mark. I will update this post if things change as I get deeper into the functions.

The Adventuress, shot with Lumix DMC-TS3
The Adventuress, shot with Lumix DMC-TS3
photographed with Lumix DMC-TS3
photographed with Lumix DMC-TS3


photographed with Lumix DMC-TS3
Macro mode Lumix DMC-TS3


Macro mode Lumix DMC-TS3
Macro mode Lumix DMC-TS3


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9-31-11 Facebook free, 6 days and counting

I quite facebook 6 days ago

Facebook is a great invention, but it’s very easy to get addicted. I only had about 40 friends, but they were mostly all climbers, so there were always interesting photos to enjoy. I only “friended” people I knew and climbed with in person. I saw cool pictures from all over the world on facebook. It was endlessly fascinating…but therein lies the problem.

If I was bored, or unmotivated, I would surf facebook. It’s a whole fascinating world in there that opens up to the world wide web. It was a black hole of wasted time. I saw the writing on the wall, and realized I needed to quit, I do have a website, after all.

In the six days I’ve been off facebook, I’ve added at least 2 hours of productive time to every day. I do enjoy writing. It clears my mind, and having the freedom to write in long form, as opposed the the “twitter/facebook” form of writing, is awesome. Most of the “communication” I was doing on facebook was in the form of a couple sentences, so it was practically meaningless.

By getting off facebook, I am removing another reason to get the new iPhone. Or, on the flip side, I may just get it to reward myself for not having facebook…still can’t decide. I love the idea of getting a slim dumb phone and gluing it to the back of an iTouch. It would be a “poor mans iPhone”, without the data contract. I like the idea of anything that simplifies my life, and saves me money at the same time.

I never, ever use data on my 2 year old droid. I don’t surf the web, I don’t check my emails, and I really don’t need to use the navigation function, though I sometimes do because it is convenient. They make paper maps that work almost as well.

Here is an interesting article about  smart phone addiction.


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Jim and his 1953 Willys

1953 Willys

Jim is an old climbing buddy of ours from Leavenworth. He was one of my mentors when I was first learning to climb in 1977, and he has stayed a friend over all these years. He lives in climbing paradise now and has lots of cool toys, including this amazing Willys. When Sue and I went climbing over there recently he picked us up in the Willys and took us climbing to one of his secret spots up the Icicle canyon.

This old car is such a classic vehicle. It has a dipstick instead of a gas gauge, and the 4 wheel drive system under the car is unlike anything you will see on a modern car. The engine is super simple, with a carburetor the size of a pop can…you could easily rebuild it.

Jim and his 1953 Willy
Jim and his 1953 Willys
Jim and his 1953 Willy
Jim and his 1953 Willys

Jim,  Sue and his 1953 Willy

Jim, Sue, and his 1953 Willy
Jim, Sue and his 1953 Willys
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9-28-11 Easter Overhang

Easter Overhang, Midnight Rock

I’ve been looking up at Easter Overhang on Midnight Rock in Leavenworth for 27 years now and wondering if I still had what it takes to climb it. Back before we had kids Sue and I used to hike up there regularly to climb it’s steep walls.

Easter Overhang looking down at Fletch

I stopped going there when my knees got tired of the hike, but whenever I was climbing on Castle Rock,  it’s little brother down on the highway, I would look up at Easter Overhang and think back on the desperate moves at the roof, and the exhilaration of pulling through that overhang successfully. Was I still good enough to climb that hard? The new guide books had raised the difficulty rating from 5.9 to 5.10c. I wondered if a key handhold had broken off, because I have never been able to enjoy climbing routes rated at 5.10c. But I used to love Easter Overhang when it was 5.9.

Fletch is always game for anything, and when I suggested Easter Overhang he loved the idea. He’d tried to climb at Midnight Rock with Melanie and got lost, though he may have put up a new route by accident when he started climbing on the lower walls of Midnight.

Fletch Midnight Rock

The trail is long and arduous. You are lost in the forest the whole time and can’t see whether you are hiking in the right direction. You have to trust that the rough climbers trail, and the occasional cairns are leading you in the right direction.

At almost two hours we finally emerged at the base of the cliff and began searching for the aptly named “dead end ledge” that accesses climbs in the upper cliffs of Midnight Rock. The trail leads across some very exposed sandy slabs with dangerous drop offs awaiting a careless step. We belayed this section on the way down as it was simply too dangerous.

Once we arrived on “dead end ledge”, I felt like I had arrived at a family reunion of people I’d not seen in a quarter century. All my old favorite climbs were waiting for me: Yellow Bird, Easter Overhang, The Flame, and many others. Nothing appeared to have changed, other than some moss  growing on some climbs that hadn’t been done in a while.

Fletch led the first pitch up through the moss at the start of the “Wild Traverse” that leads to the start of Easter Overhang. It is rated 5.8, but with the moss it was more like 5.10a. I followed up to his belay and was finally able to see Easter Overhang clearly.

Easter Overhang itself is a lovely 5.8 hand crack up to the roof. There it starts to overhang as the crack widens to fists. I climbed strongly up to the fist section but missed the perfect right foothold and had to hang once 4 feet below the roof to rest. I blame tunnel vision and general incompetence. You can walk your camalots 2, 3 and 4 through this section.

Our gear on the ledge below ROTC

After my avoidable rest/hang, I continued fist jamming up to the true overhang where it gets bigger than fist. There are very nice face foot holds on the right, plus a hidden flake back in the crack that make all this work.

At the true overhang I was getting tired and was very happy to see an old fixed pin. I normally don’t trust old fixed pins, but the exposure of the overhang was getting to my head and I was happy to clip that old relic. Once I stood up on the face holds on the right, I saw that the pin isn’t really needed, as there is also a bomber yellow #2 camalot there, along with a great handjam and a perfect ledge to grab.

But then it gets tricky. The crack is spitting you out, like a bomb bay chimney, it’s bigger than fist, there is nothing to grab, I think it was even bigger than a number 5 camalot.

I ended up combining a mantle on the ledge at the lip by the piton with a chicken wing to get through that. My feet cut loose and I was hanging there…secure, but dangling over all that freaking air.

Such a cool move! I chicken winged my way up, getting stuck several times until I remembered how to chimney climb again. I was glad to have two four, and five camalots, and two big bros. I used my green (8 inch) and purple big bros in the section above the roof…nothing else would fit unless you hauled up a valley giant up that two hour approach.

The trail is in horrible shape. Back in the day I led it with hexes and just 2 number 4 friends…wouldn’t want to do that now in my dotage.

Don’t know what to say about the rating. I normally can’t climb 10c at all, so I don’t think it’s 10c. It’s not as hard as Breakfast of Champions, which goes at 10a…so maybe it is still 5.9, though only if you are good at all flavors of crack, including fist and chimneys. It’s definitely harder for me than Damnation crack, but that really only has the one hard section off the deck.

Fletch above ROTC

At any rate, it’s a stellar climb, 4 stars in my book. That transition move at the lip of the roof is just fabulous.

Instead of walking off, we traversed sideways to the rap station above ROTC, the famous 5.11c crack  climb, known as the best crack in Leavenworth. We rapped down the route and Fletch climbed it on Top Rope. It was getting late by then and we did one more rappel to arrive back on “dead end ledge”. We arrived back at the car at twilight and drove up to camp for a well deserved beer. What a great day!

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Back at work again

Work starts again today and I’m looking forward to it. We have a lot to share here at CPTC and feel we have a great program for a very reasonable tuition. I’ve been having so much fun on my vacation I’m almost at overload.

It started with a trip to Squamish for 4 days, Labor Day weekend. I was home one day and then left for a 3 day sea kayak trip with my son to the San Juans: long, lazy, and semi-scary crossings on shipping lanes, and between tiny islands. My son even remembered to bring along a six pack of Mikes. That’s a smart boy we have there, all 26 years of him. He is hiking the Wonderland Trail as I write this with another friend from the ER department. 90 miles in 7 days, hopefully he has his moms knees, and not mine.

Then Sue and I went to Leavenworth for 4 days. I am so lucky to have a spouse that climbs. We met Jim the last day and climbed some cool new routes that he knew about on Cate Rock, up toward Bathtub dome. I’ve known Jim since 1978, he is 73 and still climbs very well…an amazing man we are lucky to know.

self_portrait9-2-11, 15 x 20 inches, pastel on rives BFK watercolor paper

In between all of this I have been painting and finally finished this self portrait, my second one ever in color. I’m already started on another one, which will be a three quarter view. I love the colors in this painting.

I’m seriously considering stopping facebook again. I loved being off it on my vacation, didn’t miss it at all. It is a black hole of wasted, non-recoverable time that is completely unecessary. Several of my friends and family aren’t on it at all, and somehow lead perfectly normal lives. I think it’s time.

Being off facebook would also give me more incentive to buy a dumb phone in November, instead of the iPhone 5, to replace my Droid. I never, ever use my data plan. I don’t want to be that person who is always staring at his phone, on the street corner, in the car, at the office…uh uh. Don’t want to be that person, not ever.

I like to communicate with people in person, face to face, not over some electronic device. When I feel like going the electronic route, I have this website.

There is still some sunny weather left in the season. I’m hoping to climb Easter Overhang. It used to be rated 5.9, but was raised to 10c. I’ll be finding out whether something broke off to raise the grade. Off to work for now.

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9-13-2011 vacation

Just returned from a few trips with family and friends. First I went up to Squamish, BC climbing with a bunch of friends for 4 days. I was home for one day, then drove north

Clint paddling his Pigmy sea kayak in the San Juans

again, this time with my son and his two sea kayaks. We paddled out into the San Jauns for 3 days east of Bellingham. When I returned from that trip, I immediately packed for painting and drove to Cannon Beach with my wife and daughter. They hiked the beaches while I painted.

Cannon Beach has changed a lot in the 6 years since my last visit. It’s now all condos, restaurants, art galleries and no parking signs. We paid $36 for the worst campsite we’d ever seen. It was on the shoulder of a gravel road that led to better spots. There was just room for the car, a broken down shattered picnic table (missing one bench), a tiny fire pit and the tent. Everything fit on the shoulder of the gravel road. But I shouldn’t complain too much, we were lucky to get it. And it was within walking distance of the beach where I painted in the afternoon, and morning.

During the morning painting session it was hazy, with only a mile of visibility. By 11 AM, the clouds rolled in and I couldn’t see the top of Haystack rock anymore, plus the wind was very close to knocking down my easel. The tourists liked my painting, one even asked me if I was selling, but I’m thinking it needs work.

We checked out of the campground and drove up to North Head light on the Columbia river where I painted this old lighthouse.

North Head Light across from Astoria, Oregon

They’ve run out of money to paint the lights, or do maintenance. The old sandstone in the base of the light is shattering like a rotten cliff. There are yellow stains of rust and mold showing through the peeling paint all over the lighthouse. It’s sad to see, as just 6 years ago they were in great shape. This painting was done in the fog, so lighting was challenging.

We drove home that night and in the morning drove up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier where I painted the north side of the mountain from Second Burroughs, while Sue, my daughter and her friend hiked to Third Burroughs. The light changes very fast on the north side of the Mountain and I’m unsure of this painting so I won’t post it immediately.

I’ve got about 5 hours into a self portrait. I’m a big fan of wild colors. Normal color bore me, and

self portrait unfinished, 5 hours in

I love painting something with the correct values, but the wrong hues. Like a forest of evergreens fir trees, painted red. Avatar for example has blue people, but they still look real. And I’m teaching myself the art of portraiture, and knowing how far I can push the color seems important.