I’ve been off Facebook for a few months now. My account isn’t dead, it’s suspended…like a leave of absence. I shut it down after they were called before congress by a whistleblower. She said they were choosing profit over kindness.
In addition to this blog I’ve long been a fan of online forums about climbing. It used to be, and still can be, a way to meet climbing partners. We also share stories about our trips, discuss what gear is good or bad, read news stories of concern to climbers.
There have been many forums over the years. The first one I hung out at was cascadeclimbers.com, and that was back at the start of this century. There have been others, but the most current one is mountainproject.com. It has turned into a multipurpose website. You can also download it onto your phone and it functions as a gps enabled guidebook, no cell service required.
It’s a very robust app. You can make comments on a route while you are climbing that later get uploaded to the cloud. There is a tick list function for how well and when you have climbed something, and all that gets uploaded and shared.
As with most online forums there are a lot of angry keyboard warriors, but there are also kind and generous souls looking for like minded people to have a discussion about matters of consequence.
Recently there was a 12 page thread where the original poster (OP) asked a sincere question about whether climbing wrecked marriages. His marriage was failing so the post was written from the heart and many people responded in kind. I read about 8 pages before deciding to offer my viewpoint.
Before I get into my online response, I do sometimes wonder how rare it is that we both come from families where divorce is so rare. All 4 children of my grandma had lifetime marriages, as did she, and her parents. Of my 13 cousins, there have been 3 that have been divorced. The rest have lifetime marriages…well, at least so far, but we are all in our 60s. My brothers kids, and my kids seem normal and happily married. My sister’s kids have just started getting married.
So what is it? Is there a thread of relationship integrity that flows down through the family? Some super gene that makes us kinder than the average Joe? I’m certainly not perfect. I can get moody and mean for no reason whatsoever. Sue is usually the only one that sees it. I think/hope she has learned to live with my occasional bursts of rudeness.
I guess you could say, like any married couple, we have arguments occasionally…probably mostly because I’m being a d$ck. Like I say, not a perfect human being. Still, 90 percent of the time we get a long quite well and see eye to eye. We have different passions, but also many in common. I don’t want to hex myself by saying this…but at times it even seems the romance is still alive…well, maybe that’s going too far.
I could link to the post directly…but you can find it easily enough if you are curious.
I put a couple hours into crafting a carefully worded response. I’m posting it here to be sure it gets preserved. I have total control over this website…whereas mountainproject may or may not stand the test of time. Here are the words from my post:
Sorry to hear about the relationship challenges. I’m no marriage counselor, but I did marry my best climbing partner in 1979…and we’re still climbing together…with two grandkids now.
Having a significant other who climbs is the gold standard. Nothing beats seeing those warm eyes looking at you from the other side of the ledge. I’ve got some great climbing buddies, but it’s not the same as ‘friends with benefits’.
I remember a time about 7 years in when I was not real happy in our marriage. She was perfect: smart, fit, strong, funny, a perfect climber babe…but something was off kilter in my head. For some dumb reason I was ready to bail. But Thursday rolled around and I was like: “Dang, I need a partner this weekend. Maybe I can put up with her for a few more days.”
On Saturday we were half way up a multipitch route, sitting on a fat ledge and not saying much. I was racking for the next pitch and happened to look over at her. Something clicked into place in my brain and I realized I was on a ledge with a very beautiful woman…and she was my woman. Climbing basically saved my marriage, over and over.
Things got harder for us when we had kids. But we were lucky to have my mom and dad nearby. They’d come on our climbing trips to babysit in the campsite. Both sets of parents were always happy to babysit for day trips. She and I would climb all day…then come back to the kids.
We had a few partners (team of 3) who could tolerate children and managed to still take our long climbing road trips together. I knew one guy who paid his 17 year old baby sitter to come to Yosemite for a week in the station wagon so he and his wife could still climb together.
When the kids were toddlers I cut back on climbing and did a lot of windsurfing. It was almost as fun, and didn’t require a partner. The kids liked playing on the beach…and she and I could take turns sailing.
When the kids were older, we would do compromise trips where we would climb at Smith for 4 days. The kids would play at the base of the cliff, chasing lizards and stuff. Then we’d head out to the coast. She and the kids hiked or played in the surf while I painted landscapes. We each got what we wanted…and we were together as a family.
Now that we are in our sixties, she’s cut back on hard climbing due to some back and hand problems. Poor old body is wearing out. But she still cruises 5.9 friction and loves jtree.
I still love the dirtbag life style and take several 3 week road trips each year, plus a lot of weekends. She often flies in to join me for the last week. Again, it seems that marriage is about compromise.
She loves puttering around the yard, doing her fitness walks, and helping to babysit our two grandkids. That’s sort of a family tradition at this point. But she starts to miss me after a few weeks…as I do her.
So that’s my story. I have no easy answers…other than that climbing didn’t hurt my marriage, it saved it.
/////*** A few people thanked me for writing, they were very kind. I responded as shown below **//////
To those who commented, thanks. I’ve been incredibly lucky. I sometimes wonder if it helped that my parents, and grandparents all had lifetime marriages. My wife’s family is the same way. We may have absorbed some relationship skills growing up?
Not to say you can’t learn that stuff elsewhere, from books, therapy, life…hell, I don’t know. It’s been sad watching so many marriages fall apart around us. We often know both people. And they’re usually both super smart and kind…good climbers too. Divorce seems to be the norm, and often for the best. We’ve seen many people hook up with new partners and be stronger than ever.
I didn’t mention that we also backcountry ski together, since day one. So we have both a summer and a winter sport we love to do together. She loves to hike, which I find pointless, but she’ll lure me with the promise of a good view, so I bring my easel. It’s something else we can do together.
See you out there climbing!
December 8th, 2021
My Martin and I in 1979
I learned to read music in seventh grade band class: fourth chair trumpet. My brother played the clarinet and my sister the flute. Carrying instruments to school was the norm. Around that time dad bought me a Hohner 64 reed chromatic harmonica…which I still have. He played a little and taught me a few songs.
With the harmonica I was able to join the holiday sing alongs where we’d often have a crowd of aunts and uncles singing Christmas carols around the piano. My grandma and my sister-in-law were both piano teachers, and mom was a decent player as well. Dad was the choir director at our church, and his siblings: my aunts and uncles, had great voices.
No one cared if you were a little out of tune, or forgot the song halfway through and had to restart from the beginning. It was all part of the fun. Though my family was very religious, they were never pushy and tolerated us non-believers with a quiet confidence that eventually we’d see the light.
One memorable afternoon mom had the piano tuner in. Grandma was there, along with the normal relatives that gathered for holidays. The tuner guy was a blind man of color from somewhere way down South in the Bible Belt. Think Stevie Wonder. Olympia at that time was very white…but everyone in town knew this guy was the best piano tuner in the county. The way he manipulated the insides of our piano, you would never know he was blind. He had an “aw shucks” humbleness I remember to this day.
After he finished tuning the piano he said he needed to play a song to be sure it was right. To our families’ astonishment he began playing some of the best boogie woogie blues I’d ever heard. The man could play and he was rocking our tight laced Presbyterian world. It was just nuts watching the room go from shock to foot tapping appreciation.
In my own small way I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of amateur musicianship. Not just because it’s a family tradition but because making music is fun. I have a collection of sheet music going back to the 1960’s. But I always keep my eye out for new songs, or old songs I’ve forgotten about. My latest is Take My Breath Away, made popular by a group called Berlin.
If I know the melody and I have some clean chords in my vocal range I can often play a song right from the website on the first try. Finding a new song is like having a new toy…super fun and exciting.
Many times I’ll find chords online but they are presented in a way that won’t fit on one sheet of paper. When you are playing around a campfire there’s very little room. Typically I’ll adjust the key to fit my low voice, copy the pre-formated text from the website and paste it into Word. Or, since I’m retired and don’t like their prices I use the free Libre Office. Then I work the song over for a couple days, fixing the typical flaws that come down with free stuff on the internet.
This is the first time I’ve been home for Christmas in 10 years. I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying playing the old Christmas carols. Those are some mighty fine melodies. I used to just play them with mom. She’d play the piano, with me on the harmonica, but this year I’m learning them on guitar. They have some challenging jazzy style chords…but my oh my they sound nice.
Here are some of my recent favorites songs in PDF form:
At some point I wouldn’t mind putting these all on a big iPad…but for now I print them out and keep them in a ring binder. I keep 4 copies of each song for handing out at jam sessions.
Tutorial on how to fingerpick Shallow:
Take my breath away
December 5th, 2021
I drove to Smith Wednesday. Traffic was horrible passing Fort Lewis and I getting tired by the time I reached Mt. Hood. I pulled in at a snowy trail head with a single Sprinter van parked in the quiet moonlight thinking it would be a nice calm nights sleep. I was wrong.
I drink coffee and Red Bulls to keep awake. I know it’s not wise…but it seems to be the only way to do long solo drives. Problems come when I push late into the night, trying to reach a destination…in this case, a crash spot down out of the snow…or even Smith itself.
I’d just had my last Red Bull half an hour before realizing it wasn’t helping anymore. My tiredness had overcome the caffeine. At that point I encounter something I joke about called: “Managing your pharmaceuticals”. The situation is this: You finally pull over, too tired to drive safely anymore. Sometimes I can sleep despite the caffeine. But this night I decided a shot of whiskey as a nite cap might help me sleep.
Now, I could have left that parking lot and driven further…but the tiredness and the shot of whiskey made it unwise. I was stuck. The only solution I can see is to leave in the morning. That was my original plan, but we had family over at noon and I like hanging out with the kids.
Anyway, there I was, sitting in the back of my cozy truck until 2 in the morning watching a constant stream of jacked up 4 wheel drive’s drifting donuts in the 8 inches of un-plowed snow. When that got boring, they’d plow thru the two foot berm and hotdog around on the snow covered lawn back by the cement outhouse. There was also a snowed in road out to a campground for the more adventurous.
There were so many of them that it must be a thing. I can imagine these self centered idiots gathering in a nearby tavern talking excitedly about this one plowed trailhead up by Mt. Hood where there is an open outhouse, lots of snow and no law enforcement.
That was a lesson learned. Earlier, on the way up past Sandy, before the snow I had driven past at least 3 normal campgrounds…all dark, calm and quiet looking. I’d hoped I could get over the snowy pass down to some quiet pull outs before Warm Springs…but it was not to be.
I met Dave and Danni at the Overflow Lot at Smith the next morning. We hiked down and climbed the red arête to the right of Purple Headed Warrior…which we also climbed. Then we “did the walk” along the base and got lucky with 5 Gallon Buckets. Someone had led it, top roped a few friends and walked away from the rope, leaving it hanging. It’s typical behavior these days at Smith.
But, to their credit, they kindly offered to pull their rope if I would rescue their draws…since their only leader in the party of 6 was leading a hard ten nearby. That worked out great for us. Danni and I both led it while Dave followed in street shoes. He has a new rule: Everything I lead he follows in street shoes. What’s ironic is I did that with Kena on some trips this summer. Street shoes are more comfortable…and what goes around comes around.
I don’t remember all the routes we did but a few stand out. We did Fridays Jinx, rapping down Pack Animal in the dark. I led the second pitch…feeling tentative but solid. I tried to hand it off to Dave, who had led the more dangerous first pitch.
“Dave, I know you haven’t led this before. If you really want the lead I will happily hand it off. You’re a good partner and I wanna’ keep you happy.”
Danni observed this little exchange: “I call that BS. Uncle Mark is scared of the pitch!”
“I’m 70 percent sure I can lead it…but the 30 percent that says I can’t is making a lot of noise. Alright, I’ll lead it…but you’ll rescue me if I chicken out, right Dave?”
A little of my skill from Indian Creek was still in play, helping me stay focused on the excellent layback and stem moves that keep the grade at 7+. When Dave topped out in the twilight I was surprised to see he wasn’t towing a rope for Danni. She had wisely decided to bail. Dave and I put on our headlamps and walked over to the Pack Animal rappel where Danni was waiting at the bottom to make sure we got off ok.
Dave was interested in multipitch so on the next day we took a trip up White Satin. I’ve done it with Richard and Marty (may he rest in peace), so this was my third trip up. I’ve never got it clean but it’s always exciting with enough exposure to make your knees weak. The hardest move comes right at the end of the third pitch which is an overhanging 5.9 open book. You can get up it with good stem technique but I’m usually so terrified by that point that I’ve forgotten how to climb. The stem foot holds are often on completely vertical smears that don’t look like they’d stick.
But stepping on these vertical smears in the overhanging open book is the only way up. The jams at the crux vanish for a 3 foot section. There is a blue #3 handjam…and a rattly finger jam, but those are out of reach. I think I had to layback on a flaring pod, stembox off to the left then step up on the concealed rail off to the right. That gained me a couple crucial feet.
I pulled Dave’s blue cam out of the hand jam, stuck my left hand in there and underclinged the rattly fingers to gain access to the sandy grapefruit sized knob off to the right. I pulled on the knob and lunged up for a flaring handjam on the left…which ended the crux just as all my power drained away and Dave came into view at the belay…grinning like a banshee. What a climb!
I hate to say it but the best climb of the trip was the newish sport climb: Voyage of the Cow Dog. It starts level with the top of the 600 foot tall Ship Rock and it’s a long approach. By the time you get to the third pitch you are climbing above the massive Picnic Lunch Wall.
I led the first pitch. It got increasingly steep on some of the most uninspiring frozen mud climbing I’ve ever seen. It looked like a vertical wall of cow sh$t got dried out and petrified. Every bolt I checked seemed solid…despite the ugly rock. Even for Smith it’s odd because there are very few embedded stones. It’s not conglomerate like Bunny Face. And despite just being an eight, some of the moves are thin, I had to hang once because stepping on a half inch edge of frozen mud seemed so improbable. After a rest I was able to “commit to the fall”. The bolt was just below my feet…assuming it was good.
This is why I’m not a huge fan of sport climbing. You have to put your life in the hands of the kind strangers who drill the bolts. Obviously we all owe a huge debt to the climbers who put up routes. But this doesn’t mean you should put complete faith in bolts found out in the wild.
Imagine if amusement park rides were put up by average Joe’s who taught themselves welding and engineering. There is no training of the workers, no government inspections, no guarantee it’s safe. Your only comfort is that lots of people have gone before you and found the bolts to be good.
The last pitch on Cow Dog takes you to the rim on an arete with 600 feet of exposure above Picnic Lunch wall. Dave had led it and made it look easy. Following it I found the moves were all there, but you had to move right at both bulges…and right meant moving out to the edge where the exposure was unnerving. I think I can lead it next time…just have to exercise some serious mind control. But you need to get up early for Cow Dog…it’s super popular.
You can often get on trad lines when the sport is crowded. One of my Smith favorites is Lions Jaw 5.7. I told Dave and Danni that it used to be the second route past the bridge. You’d turn left after the foot bridge and the first route you came to was Zebra Zion. Lions Jaw was second. There was nothing else. Now there are at least 40 sport routes before you get to Lion’s Jaw. It’s all ancient history now…but it’s weird to have all those memories…like ghosts in my mind of past trips down there when we were young and pretty. Lions Jaw is a super fun route. You can still lead it with all passive gear.
Twas another super fun weekend at Smiffey!
Humble Indian Creek Fall 21
November 22nd, 2021
The full story is below the photos if you like a written narrative. I like to write about these trips so I can look back in the fullness of time and more clearly remember all the great adventures.
On Sunday October 24th I left for Moab. It’s all hazy now, but I think I slept in one of those truck stops that aren’t quite of the Love’s category. But they can still be good, simple gravel lots with big trucks idling all around in back of a remote gas station somewhere south of Yakima. Those guys are professional drivers and parking near them usually feels safe…as opposed to sleeping on wide spots near freeway exits. It seems like it would be pretty random to have a weirdo encounter. I mean, sure, the odds are there, but low.
The next day a huge ‘atmospheric river’ hit the freeway north of Salt Lake City. I got caught up in it while looking for a crash spot in the evening. I try not to drive at night…especially in heavy rain but all the exits said ‘no service’. It was some of the worst, scariest driving I’ve ever done. Nowhere to stop but too tired to drive. At one point I was following a semi truck and another semi passed on the left. The two of them were throwing up huge sheets of water as we all flew down the freeway at 60. I was totally blinded, might as well have not had wipers. As the big truck passed I couldn’t see any signs of the road…just rain smeared red lights. I swerved to the middle of the red glows…hoping that was the road, and that no crazy person was tail ending the trucks.
They passed, I slowed to 40 and took the next exit. Luck was with me and there was a wide turn around on a side road where I could park and sleep. It poured all night. The next day I managed to drive to Moab, camping in free BLM pland a few miles north of town.
Grand County, UT
Chad caught up to me at 10 that night, and we met Cole the next day. I’ve known Cole a couple years after hooking up at Squamish and Vegas. We stocked up on food and drove down to Indian Creek. We did a few routes that evening and lucked out with a good camp spot about halfway to Beef Basin.
We rolled in to Donnelly at 10AM. As we were packing up I noticed a solo girl sitting on her tailgate. I knew that look, having been solo many, many times back when the kids were little. Sue would babysit while I walked around with a rack and a rope hoping for a party of three that needed a 4th.
I walked near her car as I headed up to the crag.
“Morning! How’s your day going?”
“Not bad, how about you?”
“Oh, we’re headed up to get humbled.”
“Yeah, I heard you guys talking about doing some moderates. Uh, you wouldn’t happen to mind if I tagged along would you? I don’t have a partner, but I do have a rack and a rope…”
“Uhh sure, we’d be happy to have you join us.” Sam turned out to a great climber…better than me actually, especially on the smaller hand sizes. She ended up rescuing me on Generic Crack when I ran out of juice halfway up. She is the second partner I’ve met this season while climbing with parties of 3. I also met Dave in July while climbing with Fletch and Kena. Come to think of it, I met Chad while climbing in a party of 3. You can never have too many partners!
We ended up camping and climbing together for a few days. Sam is good people and blessed with small hands. I envy people with hands that size. They have access to small cracks, whereas people with big hands don’t. We did see an old guy my age down there who had huge mitts like mine. He was climbing red #1 cracks no problem…so I guess there’s hope.
Chad, Cole, Sam and I climbed at Donnelly for a couple days, doing Binou’s, Generic, Chocolate Corner, Cave Route and a couple others.
I was able to haul my big camera since we had a strong team to help carry the Creek rack. My buddy Fletch back in T-town had recently upgraded to new ultralight cams. He was kind enough to loan me a bunch of his older cams. With everyone’s rack pooled, we had 12 each of yellows and blues, 7 reds, 5 greens, four big #4’s, two 5’s and a #9 valley giant.
When we walked into the Cave Route tunnel there was a party going on with a loud boom box. It was a bunch of 20 somethings rocking out, climbing and smoking wacky tabacky. Fortunately their iPhone playlist was surprisingly good music and we hung around until they cleared out. Sam loaded up with a bunch of reds and led the 10D, followed by Chad, who flashed it effortlessly. Watching Chad was frustrating because his hands are not much smaller than mine. He can climb blue cracks and red cracks…the man is a crack wizard.
I had zero chance of leading it so took the top rope for the punishment factor. As expected, I couldn’t get either hands or feet in the crack. I’m simply too big. It’s perfect reds…about and inch and an eighth. (1.125″). I could get a painful ring lock and a foot smear but that was it. With Chad hauling and me grunting up a storm I made it to the anchor. The secret to climbing reds continues to elude me.
We went to Power wall on the third day. We did Batteries not Included and the Unnamed 9+, plus one other mellow 9 off to the right. Fletch and I had spotted the 9+ in the spring, so it was super fun to get on it and find that it’s totally climbable.
Full Disclosure: I didn’t get many climbs clean this trip. After 4 trips I’ve realized that hang dogging routes at Indian Creek is just how you get up stuff. Unless you are a local…or a wizard like Chad…taking rests on long splitters is sort of normal down there.
After Cole and Sam left, Chad and I took a rest day. I painted while he drove to town for provisions. I explored a long dirt road out towards Bridger Jacks. The sun angle cooperated for a few hours and I did a fun Monotone oil painting using mainly Iron Oxide brown.
I also got stung by something bad. It was inside my shirt and bit me twice while I was driving. I never saw it but some locals told me it might have been a scorpion. I swelled up huge and started to worry that I might need an Epipen. Fortunately my inReach allowed me to text my daughter. She consulted her nursing book, and or the internet and told me what to watch out for. I was an hour from a hospital…and it never did more than swell up and blister….but it was ugly for about a week. It’s a month later now and I still have a pea sized lump at the site of the bite.
The day after the bite I tried to lead Chocolate Corner. I’d got it clean in the spring…but hung all over it this time. It was like someone had stolen my brain. I couldn’t find the smears on the right. I don’t know if it was bad shoes or the infection from the scorpion bite.
At the anchors I was wheezing like an old horse, trying to get a full breath of air. The cowboy on the route to my right looked over at me:
“Dude, nice work on that!”
“I didn’t get it clean, not a real proud send.”
“Oh, man, don’t worry about it. Anyone who can walk up to a route at the creek, especially 67 years old, and get up it…you did great man!”
That was nice to hear. Climbers at the creek are kind. The place can be humbling. Chad and I had some great evenings around the propane campfire. He used to be a professional drummer and gave me some tips on how to improve the guitar part on Blackbird. He picked up the guitar a couple years ago and has quite a gift for complex picking patterns.
We went back to Donnelly and led Incredible Hand Crack, Twin Cracks, Triple Jeopardy, Pringles and Super Crack.
I was shocked to lead IHC clean this time. I sailed up to the crux with no problem…placed a yellow and a blue in the overhang, then down climbed about 10 feet to a no hands rest. At no time did I weight the rope…so I’m calling it clean.
Once I committed to the roof moves it was surprisingly solid. There is practically a shelf in the overhanging crack for your feet as you commit. I was glad I’d taped, hands fit perfectly. There is about a body length of overhanging jamming before the crack tapers a bit. I found a perfect wrist lock bone jam there. Plenty good for a rest and to walk up a yellow. A few more moves led to a nice foot stem rest on the left. After that it backs down to vertical 5.7 hand jamming…cakewalk!
Chad led Supercrack later that day at Twilight. I chose not to follow it as I’d led it in the Spring with Cole and found it to be an endurofest. Fun at first…but it’s just so long you run out of juice halfway up. Or maybe that’s just me being so darn old and weak.
I led “Where’s Carruthers” next door, finding it fun but harder than 5 years ago when Daphne and I were here.
We took another rest day after that…sleeping in and driving up to Moab. The next day we climbed at Wall Street right in town. Chad led Bad Moki Roof:
I was nervous following it but the undercling was very positive and helped by a decent foot rail. I think I’ll try leading it next visit. We found some slab climbing a few blocks to the left and did a few routes but the Friday crowds were showing up so we bailed.
I drove to Vegas and picked up Sue. It was so nice to see my little lady standing at Arrivals after two weeks apart. We camped at Lovell which is 40 minutes out of Vegas but very quiet on BLM land. The next day Sue and I climbed everything on Panti Wall. I love those closely bolted face climbs. There are at least 5 routes 5.8 and under. Super fun sport climbing. Sadly though, her thumb was not liking it so we bailed South West toward Joshua Tree where there is more leaning over friction.
On the way across we stopped at an old historic inn on Route 66: Roy’s Motel and Cafe. It’s not open anymore…but it’s weirdly preserved as a sort of museum. We bought a couple coffees from the cafe guy. We’d slept in BLM land just to the North, so it was cool to be back in civilization if only for a short while on the long drive down empty desert roads.
We drove up to Josh at 10 in the morning and did the walk around the campground. We couldn’t believe our luck when we stumbled upon an empty site just uphill from Bearded Cabbage. It was a Monday morning but still, that is real beginners luck to get a Hidden Valley campsite first try.
We hiked over to Penny Lane at Echo in the morning. It has close bolts to start but then becomes a bit run out for that last two bolts to the anchor. It’s standard fare at Josh to have run outs on friction…but that’s not to say I was used to it. Next we did the 8 in Echo Cove before deciding it was time for a shower.
We parked the truck on a dirt road up past Barker Dam. There wasn’t much traffic so we just showered under the solar tube at the back of the truck…one keeping watch while the other showered. Over the next couple of days Sue and I cruised up some of the standards: Toe Jam, Double Cross, Sexy Grandma, etc. It was fun and relaxing climbing, and super fun hanging out with Sue, my oldest climbing partner dating back to 1977. She’s still got the moves.
By Thursday I was looking at 18 days of climbing and decided I’d had enough. Plus the weekenders were crowding into Josh and it just wasn’t as fun as it should have been. I probly needed a rest day…but Sue had commitments at home so it made sense to start the long drive home a little early.
I like climbing in November. I think it might have some advantages over December…mainly being more moderate temps and less crowded.
Always look 2 steps ahead
October 14th, 2021
I’m not much of a planner. I often plan about 30 minutes ahead, or less. Like right now for example. 9 minutes ago I was practicing some songs on my guitar. Fletch and I plan to climb this weekend. So I knew I had to keep my skills fresh. (I plan farther ahead for climbing trips because it involves other people.) As I was playing, I thought, I should write about what I learned, here.
9 minutes ago I was working on “When I was your man” and “Sweet baby James” plus “Shallow”. Those hurt my fingertips. I’ve been spending an hour a day practicing Blackbird. But it only uses 2 fingers, so the other ones got soft. I hate soft fingers! Those steel guitar strings can feel like razor blades. I know, first world problems and all.
So like anyone faced with pain, I switched to Blackbird…using my harder finger pads. As I came into the complexity of the song, which is all played from memory (no sheet music), a little voice in my head said “try looking two chords ahead”. In other words, as you play the current picking pattern on a chord, visualize the next two chord positions on the neck of the guitar.
So I start planning 4 seconds ahead, all while picking an incredible complex chord pattern. I’m seeing the next two finger positions as I’m playing the current one.
There must be a way to put the pattern on paper. I learned it on youtube, and he’s all visual. He says things like fret 5 on the B string, fret 3 on the A string.
But in addition to that, he’ll spec out the picking pattern for that position, which also plays an open G string several times, depending on how long that position (chord) is played. As you can probably tell, I’m having a lot of fun with this.
I’d thought about taking guitar lessons when I retired…but youtube is getting so good….seems like close enough. See my previous post for the youtube link.
Lawn sod and a Black Bird
October 12th, 2021
Got up at 6AM to drive to Yelm for a pickup bed full of lawn sod. The fork lift driver was very, very precise as he loaded a 2000 pound pallet of lawn sod into my Tundra. I needn’t have worried. He missed my canopy lift struts by a millimeter…no harm done.
Clint showed up at 10 AM and we-he put the lawn down where there used to be a rotten deck. 18 x18 plus a 12 x 12 foot square area of dirt was well and fully sodded. Is that a verb?
I’m over halfway through a youtube tutorial on Blackbird.
Both Fletch, Carl and Chad can all play Blackbird. It’s kind of a signature song for serious guitarists. Right up there with Stairway to Heaven. If someone can play Blackbird, you know they are good.
I nailed it in a few hours. I mean I’m literally playing it from memory. It was so satisfying to learn a new and difficult song so quickly. You get to be 67, and you start to wonder if you’re loosing your edge. I mean, it happens. Old people get old. But there I was playing quickly and cleanly with passion, no sheet music. Super happy about that.
Chris and I led Morning (Glory?) over at the tunnel at Index. It was 3 pitches. Then we did GM. Chris led the first pitch. It’s free soloing above a ledge but only about 5.7 friction. I probly could have led it? But I was so glad she was willing. I had to hang twice on the second pitch. It’s got some 5.9 undercling layback moves. There is a really cool no hands knee bar there. Once I hung on the two blues I felt more relaxed. I placed a 4 from the hang, got some slack, clipped it and hung again. I was about to say ‘take’, but Chris already had me. She was like: “We’ve been climbing together a long time. I got this.”
After that, I began under clinging the red crack. It’s just a few moves then you throw for the hand jam above the undercling and you are golden. The rope got stuck in a cam as I was pulling up her line. I had to rap down to clean it. That was scary. She had me on a fireman, and I had a prusik, but I was out of my comfort zone. I had to climb up by french freeing and walking a couple cams while reverse rappelling on a single line. Not fun at all.
She led Heart of the Country in the last light. I bailed on the follow due to the late hour. I let a rap line fall out of reach. I had to short line over to it. These kinds of things never happen to us. So weird to have two bad things happen on one climb. She was like: “We are better than this, what’s going on?”
The grass looks really good. I hope it lives.
free talking books for iphone without the overdrive app
October 10th, 2021
Bypassing Overdrive and Audible
Getting free audiobooks has always been a brain squeezer. Back in the day I used to listen to library books on cassette tapes, which evolved into CD’s and finally the Overdrive system…which now tries to only work via an app with 3 week expiration dates.
Audible is expensive, and the library Overdrive app is annoying. Depending on how many trips I take I might not read the books for a year or two.
Now, I have no desire to rip off authors. This technique is basically bypassing the DRM system. Artists and authors deserve protection and respect. I would never post or share these books online. I’m an author myself.
But, that being said, road trips are boring, and it’s great to have a longer lasting selection of books on the phone to keep me awake. Only one in 10 books is worth reading…so I need a lot to pick from.
If you are on a 2015 macbook running Big Sur, like me, with an Iphone XS, this still works as of October 10, 2021.
A. If iPhone is full, remove books via settings > general > storage > books app > audio book
B. Watch video above and install his thingy (from github?).
C. Log into your library Overdrive account (with safari presenting as chrome windows) and download mp3 books. This actually only gets you *.odm files, which are little 6k files containing your ‘key’ to trigger the download of the actual mp3 audio files. On a computer, you used to be able to import these *.odm files into the desktop Overdrive app…which no longer exists for newer Macbooks.
D. Use terminal to download from library by dragging odm file from ‘Macbook > downloads’ into terminal (see video above)
E. open “books app > Audiobooks” on MacBook and add (audio) books to collection by selecting multiple folders from where terminal downloaded them to.
F. connect iPhone, may have wait for it to stop blinking weirdly in finder
G. Marks iPhone > Audiobooks > sync audio books > selected audiobooks
H. select books (which should be in list of audiobooks imported to Books app on MacBook)
I. click apply.
Mt Shasta wedding
October 5th, 2021
Pam got married last weekend, which was a year after starting her practice. He seems like a great guy, we are very happy for her.
We climbed a lot during her breaks from college and training. For a few months she lived in Tacoma, which made for a bunch of gym and Index trips.
She is the only one of my nieces and nephews with whom I ever spent any serious time. Though I’ve also been on a few 3 day trips with her brother, who is a great climber as well.
David and Beth moved too far away for me to really get to know. We used to see all 7 of the cousins every Thanksgiving back when Grandma was alive. But then we all got older and people spread across the country. I feel lucky to have climbed with Lisa, Clint, Pam and John as much as we could given our busy lives.
Pam asked me to play guitar as she walked down the aisle. I was supposed to start singing when her grandma walked. Because I had to keep looking up at the walkers, I lost my place for a few agonizing seconds, and had one of those awful stage fright moments where nothing made sense. My harp and guitar which had been flowing so well fell into a discordant mess of broken sounds. I saw the two people in the front row looking at me in surprise. I panicked and made a snap decision to switch from instrumental to voice, regardless of who was walking.
I was fine after that, and none of my relatives noticed…or said they didn’t…but it made me frustrated. I’d practiced so hard to nail it down. And to make a major flub like that was…well, at the end of the day…I’m just an average Joe, not a professional wedding performer. I have to cut myself some slack.
We left after the ‘ball and chain’ event and drove out to the Oregon coast where I did too bad paintings. My pen and ink is not practical for fast plein air. I mean, duh. Everyone knows pen is super slow. I need to practice loosening up and drawing more frequently in a sketchy style. Or just go back to pastel. Pastel is so quick on color paper. It’s pretty as soon as you put in the high lights. How did I get sucked down this urban sketcher dead end?
Facebook and Instagram had a 6 hour outage yesterday. I was painting all day and didn’t even notice. That’s how it should be. I have no need to ‘build my brand’ anymore. I’m retired. I should close all my accounts. My new friends from Idaho aren’t on social media at all. Many people aren’t anymore…like Sue, Clint, Pam, Paul and Chad. The entire concept of Social Media is flawed from the get go. I would be wise to let it all go.
More climbing less posting
September 23rd, 2021
Since I wrote last I’ve been on two, week long road trips and numerous day trips to Index. James and I spent 5 days at Index climbing moderates. And just two days ago I returned from a solo trip to the City where I met 10 new ‘over 50’ partners in a Mountain Project event. It was a week long event and I had a great time climbing with new friends, some in their mid seventies.
I led all the standard moderates, both trad and sport. Highlights were Sinocranium with a party of grey and white haired folks. Who needs young people?
My best lead was the run out 5.9 Mystery Bolter route down at Flaming Rock. I also got to dance up Rain Dance, in the rain.
Tuesday I painted the mountain with Sue. She always drags me out hiking the minute I get back from a road trip. I’ll be suffering major jetlag from the drive and she’ll be like:
“Let’s go hiking, you can bring your paints!”
I was hiking with a major bad attitude up there, cursing life in general. But the mountain worked it’s magic. The Red Bull that I hauled up didn’t hurt either. First time I’ve tried to paint after one of those nasty brews.
I was really shocked to see the painting coming to life. We got a late start, so I had to rush the pen work, making copious structural errors. I finished most of it from 2:30 to 4:30. It’s not bad for a 2 hour rush job.
Fenix HM61R Headlamp review
August 29th, 2021
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.
(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!
(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.