Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Few Days in the Rockies

After our mini-epic on Mount Brock we took it easy for a few days, doing some hiking and some renting bikes to ride some of the trails.

2009-07 Kanaskaskis

And in case you're looking for the restaurant reviews, we did fit in a nice supper at Grappa in Kananaskis Lodge :-) And, of course, a few cold ones at Woody's

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Long Day on Mount Brock

This last weekend we headed out to the Rockies. On our first day of climbing we decided to tackle the South-East Pillar of the West Rib of Mount Brock (map), as described in Selected Alpine Climbs by Sean Dougherty.

The route goes up the left hand pillar on the edge of the sun and shade.

We got up at 5am in the dark and were on the trail by 6am, headed up King Creek. It's a nice canyon, but the trail criss-crosses back and forth across the creek on makeshift log bridges so it's a little slow.

In typical guidebook speak we were to follow the north fork past five gully systems until below a prominent drainage. We counted and recounted gullies and I think in the end we went up the right one.

The gully below the climb was still full of steep snow and we were in approach shoes without ice axes. The snow was just soft enough to kick steps. It would have been a long slide if we'd slipped.

We reached the bottom of the pillar about 9 am - 3 hours and the guidebook said 3 -4 hours so we were doing ok. We probably should have started a bit further up the gully but we'd had enough of the snow.

The climbing was reasonable, loose in places but that's to be expected in the Rockies. Some sections were nice and solid. According to the route description there should have been a ledge cutting across the face after two or three pitches where we figured the normal start would join up with us. We never found anything that fit the description.

That's Shelley highlighted, heading for the sun.

We were moving way too slow, mostly because of searching for protection and belay anchors. The rock tended to be either solid, but no cracks, or loose mounds of rubble. Neither are very amenable to placing protection.

According to the guidebook after about 6 pitches we should have reached easier 3rd class climbing. After 8 pitches, it had eased a bit but it still wasn't 3rd class scrambling. We started to wonder if we were on the right pillar. There'd been some signs of other climbers lower down but nothing after the first few pitches. And what we did see were signs of people rappelling off in retreat. Was that because they realized they were on the wrong pillar?

9 pitches took us six hours. It was 3 pm. The top still seemed a long way away. And it wasn't clear how we'd get to the descent ridge, which was supposed to be "easy downclimbing", but who knows what that meant. We had to make a decision whether to go for the top and hope for an easier descent, or cut our losses and try to descend the way we'd come up. At the speed we were going, either way we'd be lucky to get off by dark.

We decided to retreat. On the way up I'd been thinking I was glad we weren't going to have to come down this way. So much for that idea.

10 rappels later we reached the ground at 9 pm. Again, way too slow. Again, mostly because of searching for anchors. And, of course, trying to find the way down, keeping a clear line to pull the rope without snagging it. It meant leaving gear behind. A few spots we were able to loop horns. We rapped off single anchors more than I'd like. Not to save money, but to save enough gear for the rest of the descent. We always backed them up for the first person, but it's still riskier than I'd like.

After 12 hours of climbing on loose crap without either of us getting nailed, Shelley got hit in the leg by a rock I knocked off trying to straighten the ropes on the very last rappel. Luckily it wasn't bad enough to stop her walking out.

Damage from falling rock.

We made it down the steep snow and headed downhill to the creek in increasing darkness. Surprisingly, and thankfully, we found an easier route down than we'd taken on the ascent. I think there were a lot of nice wildflowers but it was hard to tell in the dark. And we actually found a path down the north fork of the creek that we'd missed on the way up.

By the time we reached the car it was almost 1 am - close to 19 hours since we'd set out. We hadn't taken more than a five minute break the whole day so we were pretty bagged. Amazingly, we'd had perfect weather all day. A bit windy in the afternoon, and a few high clouds, but nothing threatening. It would have been a miserable descent in the rain.

Looking at the mountain the next day, I think we were on the right route. It was hard to tell how high we reached. It might have been quicker to continue up and over the top, but I think we made the right choice. At least descending we knew the route.

In the end it all worked out ok, other than not reaching the top. We underestimated the length of the climb, and weren't in practice to move quickly enough. And I should have done a little more research, for example this report rates it 5.8 not 5.6 and they ended up having to bivy (didn't make it in a day). At least we avoided a cold bivy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

iPhone Photos

A few of the photos I've taken with the iPhone. I like the macro (close-up) ones best.

If you click on the slideshow to go to the album you can see how the photos are geo-coded (their location is automatically recorded). You can even see miniature photos at their location on a map.

Garter Snake iPhone Video

I was walking to work and I saw something up ahead on the path. As I got closer it started to look like a snake but it wasn't moving. I figured it was dead, probably run over by a bicycle or a maintenance vehicle. But when I got close enough, I could see it's head up and watching me.

I had my new iPhone in my pocket, listening to a podcast, so I pulled it out. I shot a still photo but I knew it wouldn't look like much. Then I realized that I could shoot a video clip. It was lucky that it was a cool rainy morning - on a warm day the snake would have been long gone before I could video it. I'm not sure what he was doing out and about in the cold weather, maybe he was snacking on the worms that were out on the sidewalk due to the rain.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Dominant Animal

"It would indeed be the ultimate tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more noble that the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump."
-- William David Ormsby Gore, 1960

I just finished reading The Dominant Animal by Paul and Anne Ehrlich. I have to admit I'm starting to avoid these kinds of books. I don't need any more convincing and they just make me depressed.

Nonetheless, it's a good book, worth reading.

Step One: Change Government ?!

I just watched this video of a talk by Lawrence Lessig about the problems with the US political system, especially congress. Most of it also applies to our Canadian system, in the basic ideas if not the details.

I tend to agree that if we're going to get anywhere on the big problems of environment, climate, etc., first we have to change how our government works.

But I'm afraid that's not really a very encouraging conclusion. It just adds another impossible task to the growing list.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Dave Matthews - Digging a Ditch

Sometimes my current programming project feels like "digging a ditch" :-)
and the current state of the world certainly "weighs down on me".

Digging a Ditch
by Dave Matthews

Run to your dreaming
When you're alone
Unplug the TV, turn off your phone
Get heavy on with digging your ditch

Cause I'm digging a ditch where madness gives a bit
Digging a ditch where silence lives
Digging a ditch for when I'm old
Digging this ditch my story's told

Where all these troubles
That weigh down on me will rise
Run to your dreaming
When you're alone
Where all these questions
Spinnin' around my head
Will die, will die, will die...

Run to your dreaming
When you're alone
Unplug the TV, turn off your phone
Get heavy on with digging your ditch

Cause I'm digging a ditch where madness gives a bit
Digging a ditch where silence lives
Digging a ditch when I am through
Digging this ditch I'll dig in for you
Where all these worries
Weighing down on me will rise
Where all these habits
Pull heavy at my heart
Will die

Run to your dreaming
When you're alone
Not what you should be or what you've become
Just get heavy on with digging your ditch

Cause I'm digging a ditch where madness gives a bit
Digging a ditch where silence lives
Where all these disappointments, grow angry out of me
Will rise...
Will die...
Will die...
Will die...

Run to your dreaming
When you're alone
Unplug the TV
And turn off your phone
Get heavy on with digging your ditch


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Souleio - A New Restaurant/Deli/Shop

Shelley and I went to Souleio for lunch today.
Souleio Foods embodies the true meaning of the word “organic” - authentic, artisanal foods produced with care and attention to the natural environment, encouraging both pride of place and pride in people within our own community and other communities around the globe.
The food was great (we shared a salad and a panini) and the store section had some interesting items. They're also selling some wine which is a brand new experience here, since until very recently you could only buy at government liquor stores.

But ... I was very disappointed to first get our food in a disposable takeout container, and then get our drinks in disposable plastic cups. Just to be clear, we were sitting in the restaurant area, there was no confusion that we wanted takeout.

For a place that makes a big thing about "sustainable" and "care and attention to the natural environment" I expect better. I emailed them to urge them to consider alternatives.

Wikimedia Pictures of the Year

Commons:Picture of the Year/2008 - Wikimedia Commons

Some great photographs. Even one of Mt. Yamnuska near Calgary.