Monday, June 30, 2008

Practice Run

Tomorrow Henry has his first swimming lesson. This is the first summer he has actually enjoyed the water, so I am encouraged. Wanting to be just like his cousins, Colton and Dixon, he has been begging me to get him a pair of goggles. So we begrudgingly made the trip to Target (ha-ha!) and made the big purchase. He has been so excited all night that he took his bath tonight with the goggles on. It cracked me up and I had to snap a picture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Oh Yeah, That's Why I Do This."

Yep, I'm old (I guess). Whenever I say this around the 40 somethings they always shoot me looks. Not good ones, mean ones. Either way, 30, 40, or 50 is still not 19, so even if it hurts, it's all true.
I went ahead and left my job about a week ago to take a new one at Solitude Resort. I've been at this job for 7 or 8 years so changing will be a bit difficult but exciting nonetheless. I have a few friends there, but each of these friends are also my employees. I am a bit protective of the manager, employee relationship and thus have not done much of anything with these guys outside of work. As that barrier, real or implied, is now removed, I am free to do as I please. So we all (Brian, Chad, Tim Mike & I) went to IKEA, saw a movie, bought some scented lotion, and went home. Yeah right. We set our sights a little higher - 12,479 ft higher to be exact.

Hayden Peak sits ominously above highway 150 in Utah's Uintah Range. It's western face is made up of imposing rows of cliffs and towers interspersed with hanging snowfields. 13 years ago I climbed this mountain for the first time and have since repeated the trip nearly a dozen times. I suppose it gets into your blood and once there, it doesn't leave easily.

We left Salt Lake late Wednesday night on June 18th and drove through Wyoming & back into the northern flank of the Uintah Range. Though leaving at night sounds a bit absurd, there is sound wisdom behind it. Spring snow is wet & soft and is therefore prone to "punchy" (i.e. falling through the snow up to your crotch) traveling condititions. However at night, even in summer, it freezes and makes traveling much more efficient. We parked the car, donned packs and headlamps and made our way to the base of our route.

The base of the peak is around 10,500 ft. Salt Lake is roughly at 4,500 ft. Every mountaineering manual ever made recommends an elevation gain of 2,000 ft. per day to give the body time to adapt. Sure you can exceed this and be just fine, but it can, and often does, lead to varying degrees of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Our plan was to camp on the ridge at 11,200 ft., a shade less that 7,000 feet above SLC and thats what we were going to do.

Good idea? Maybe.

Maybe not. We topped out on the ridge at about midnight, weilding or 25-35lb packs and then proceeded to shovel tent platforms in the frozen snow. The labor was intensive and exhausting. By 1:00 am we had our tents set up and water boiling for dinner. Food sounded horrible, my head was pounding, my stomach was in knots and fatigue was setting in. The others seemed less affected but not unaffected. I have been through mild AMS before on Mt. Shasta & Mt. Whitney both well over 14,000ft and I began ticking off the symptoms. I took some Aleve, climbed in bed and tried to sleep.
At 3:00 am I was still awake, comfortable but restless. By 3:30 I dozed off. I was awake again by 5:00. The full moon was pounding on the tent at the same time the sun was rising. I knew I wouldn't sleep again so I got up. I figured I might as well take some pictures.

The snow, now completely frozen crunched under my feet. I grabbed my camera and followed the footsteps of a moutain goat who had meandered the ridge the day before, his prints frozen in the snow. In the west the moon was hanging brightly over Baldy & Reids, in the east the sun crested the range, bathing me in warm yellow light. The others were still asleep. I stood there tired and weary and remembered as I looked over this incredible range, "Oh yeah, this is why I do this".

The others woke up one by one and began cooking breakfast. I prepared a few items for the remainder of the climb and an hour after sunrise we left for the summit. By the time we left, I felt much better. My headache had subsided, my appetite was back and once I found my rhythm, I felt great. We made our way up the ridgeline to the first tower, donned crampons and stepped into the frozen shadows of the west face snowfields. The snow & ice was in good form and took the axes with confidence. We made our way up around the tower and into the gully that would lead us to back to the ridge. Brian who broke trail most of the night the day before was now lagging and looking a bit green. Tim slowed down to match his pace, partly to keep an eye on him and partly to keep him company. At the second tower we passed once again to the left, into the shadows and the cold. This time we would be in the cold until we topped out on the summit.

The going slowed as this section contains the most technical aspects of the climb. Loose rock, snow & ice all combine to make safe travel a challenge. Before long we had all managed the 12,479 ft. summit. For the rest of them this was a first, for me it was nostalgic. We sat among the snow & rock, dug the summit register out of the snow only to find it empty. We were indeed the first climbers of the year. We shot a few photos, forced down some food, and relished in the view before heading down.

We reached camp in good time and packed up our things. Brian was feeling better with every foot of descent. With a bit of instruction on how to self arrest on snow, I turned them loose to rocket down the snow to the base of the route. One by one they attempted the technique with apprehension. "Holy hell this actually works," I heard one of them say as they successfully stopped themselves on the steep slope. It wasn't long before we reached the car and each of us grunted ,groaned, and lumbered. The mountain loomed above us.

We drove to SLC and went our separate ways. Them to their respective showers & me to Montana. With 3 days of flyfishing ahead, my shower would have to wait. I would fall asleep in the passenger seat, my brother at the wheel, just hours after our Hayden Peak trip had ended. I was as my wife would say "living the dream", as long as that dream includes complete exhaustion, no sleep, sunburns and body odor - which apparently, mine does.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Top Ropes for Tikes

When I was 8, my old man took me climbing.

He took me to Pete's Rock on Wasatch Boulevard, named after early SLC climber Odell Peterson back in the days of hobnail boots & stoveleg pitons. I didn't know that then & very few know that now. I was young, but I knew falling could kill me so I suppose the age of gravitational innocence was over. For several years it was the same drill, I'd usually rappel once, maybe twice each time we'd get up the canyon. My hands would tense, sweat & shake whilst my stomach would churn with nervousness. Those early years were a mixed bag of emotions. In the end, I was the kid on the block with the dad who climbed, & for some reason, I borrowed a good deal of pride from that.

When I was 16 I began teaching climbing at a local Scout Camp. By 19 I was climbing 3-5 times a week in the CC's, Fergie's, Parley's & The Uintahs. Ultimately I chose climbing over college that year. I soon went on a mission back east & was constantly looking for good quality rock though I refrained from climbing any of it. When I returned home, I began climbing once again at a feverish pace. In a year, I was married & things began to change.

Meg & I climbed together for several years. Smith Rock, The City, the CC's & such, all with a lessening degree of frequency and difficulty. Homes, college, careers & eventally a kid would slow down the habit to a fraction of what it once was. Then it happened.

The biggest reason we had all but given up the sport was now, at age 3, asking to go climbing. We had been given a full body kids harness by a friend in anticipation of this day but didn't figure it would arrive this early. I called a good friend, one in roughly the same position, and we set it up.

One of my first Big Cottonwood climbs, the classic "Epic Wall" is a meager 5.4-5.5 on the first pitch. I looked at the first 20 feet at its base and found it suitable for our pre-school caliber assault. I climbed up, set some cams in a familliar crack and rigged us up a little top rope for tikes. I had my doubts, but they were entirely unfounded. The two scrambled up the chunky face in 4 wheel drive with little thought about fear, mortgages, job security & the like. All that existed were them and the rock. I was envious of that. Although I appreciate the distractions I have acquired (Henry being one of them) I couldn't help but revert back to more simple times when, aside from my life, I didn't have much to lose.

Those days are over of course and rightly so. I had my time on the sharp end and I enjoyed it. I look forward to the days when Henry drags me up climbs that I am no longer mentally capable of leading. That's what I did with my dad & I imagine thats what he'll do to me. Until that time, I sure am going to enjoy teaching him what I know about the sport, in hopes that the sport will teach him what it has me.

& Respect.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

I have fallen into a blogging trap where I think I have to have some fantastic event in order for it to be blogworthy, but the purpose of this blog was to note everyday happenings that I don't want to forget. So I am going to try to get into the habit of writing about the everyday things that make me happy. We'll see how I do.

So I have a few Henryisms that have kept us laughing the past week. Henry has fallen into a routine where he has become lazy and asks us to do things for him that he is perfectly capable of doing himself. For example, when he asks to go outside, I, being the nagging mother that I am, will tell him that he needs to put shoes on before he does. The shoes are downstairs so he will say "Mom, I need you to go downstairs and get my shoes for me." My typical response to this request is "Henry, you are a big boy, you can do that by yourself." So as Kevin and Henry were working side by side in the garden the other day, Kevin asked Henry to be a helper and go get him a tool he needed. You can probably see this coming can't you...the response Kevin got? "Dad, you're a big boy, why don't you go get it." How is it that they can turn on you at such a young age?

The next moment for us came in church on Sunday. Henry has hit the stage that most kids do where he thinks it is fun to call us by our first names. It hasn't become too much of a problem yet so we haven't made a big deal about it. However, I think it's time to put a stop to the practice. Kevin was asked to give the opening prayer and as he finished and walked back down to our pew (the chapel silent) Henry yells to him. "Good job Kevin!" It caught us all totally off guard and provided some comic relief for most of the ward.

And finally, as is the case for most men, the world has now become Henry's toilet. We held off as long as we could as I knew once he realized he did not HAVE to pee in the toilet, the novelty would be too much for him. And it was. We took Henry climbing for the first time on Saturday (we have some great pictures that Kevin vows to post soon) with some friends and while I was busy helping to belay Henry's little friend Erik, Henry suddently had to go. So with no one else around and a tree close by, I told him he could go on the tree and he looked at me like I was crazy, and then grinned, really big. I'm sure it was the most satisfying pee of his short life and I made a mental note that we would need to talk about WHEN this practice was acceptable. Well, I didn't have the talk with him soon enough. About four hours later we were at a family party, a very extended family party with relatives we see about once a year, when all of the sudden the laughter and pointing started and all eyes were on Henry who had dropped his drawers right in the middle of the backyard and was ready to unleash the firehose once again. Oops, bad mom moment. Waited too long to have the talk. Once he realized that everyone was laughing at him, he got embarrassed and I had to take him inside and have the talk that should have happened on the way to the party. Oh well. I think all little boys make that mistake once. Either that or they have more cognisant mothers.