How did my (CO) rep vote on the bailout?

September 30, 2008 at 9:12 am

We don’t post political stuff here, and I’m going to do my best to keep it that way. Please follow the links to let your congressional representative know how you feel about their recent vote on the financial bailout package. In Stephen Colbert’s words, the brink of financial meltdown is getting “brinkier”.

Visit this page at to contact your rep (or see a map of the districts and find how who represents you).

I heard on the radio that some reps are getting 100 to 1 feedback against the plan and as of Fri-Sat, the Zogby polling numbers show 46% to 46% at the National level. Those numbers don’t jive.

Anniversary Weekend in Colorado Springs, Part 2

September 28, 2008 at 6:09 pm

So, I’m a bit behind in blogging this, but there are some nice photos from our second day in Colorado Springs up in the Gallery.

Mark and Kate at the Silver Falls overlook

On Sunday morning, Mark and I woke up late, packed up, checked out, and hit the road. We were due to meet my bro Kev in Denver at around 2pm, so we didn’t really have time to climb. The hotel, and many billboards in the region, extolled the amazing, unforgettable, unimaginable, fantasmagoric beauty of the Seven Falls area. We thought that sounded like a fun way to spend a Sunday morning, so we headed up to check out the Falls after breakfast.

Helen Hunt Falls - $18 dollars cheeper than the others!

That’s not a picture of Seven Falls. Nor is it a photo of two of seven falls. No, when we got to the canyon where the waterfalls were, signs lined the road declaring that we were about to drive down the “Most beautiful mile of road IN THE WORLD!” This sounded pretty good.

We rounded the bend and the toll booth appeared in front of us. Ah. Such is the way of tourist traps in the mountains. They wanted us to pay $18 ($9 each) to drive down a mile of road and see the waterfalls. We didn’t think it was worth it.

It reminded me of the classic Grandfather Mountain U-Turn of 2003 (We wouldn’t pay $24 dollars to drive up the side of the mountain), or the legendary Royal Gorge reversal of 2005 (definitely never going to pay $40 to walk across a bridge).

Just another side waterfall in the autumn

So, following years of precedent and tradition, Mark swung the Prius around and we drove off in search of free waterfalls. We headed up the next canyon to the north, which was free and very beautiful. At the top, we checked out Helen Hunt Falls (very pretty, and a pioneer woman). There was a short trail, and we hiked up to Silver Cascade falls and enjoyed the view of the canyon and the long, lovely water fountain that slithers from the top of the rocks.

Silver Falls has a wild little standing wave

After the waterfalls, we headed down the Goldmine Road – a narrow two-way traffic dirt road that winds down the rim of the canyon and back to the Springs. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and the trip home was too quick.

Anniversary Weekend in Colorado Springs, Part 1

September 27, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Following our anniversary tradition, Mark and I headed out of town for the weekend and spent a few nights at a nice resort along with a weekend of climbing and hiking. In past years, we’ve gone to Steamboat Springs and Estes Park. This year, we decided to head down to Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods

It seems we may have been a little early for fall color viewing, but we did get a chance to sample some lovely sport climbing at the Red Rocks Canyon Open Space, just west of town.

This area is unique for the thought put into planning routes and working out access issues with the city. The rock is smooth, eroded sandstone, similar to the well-known fins of Garden of the Gods. Except in this area, there are many fewer cracks and almost no options for traditional gear. Climbers in the region worked out a plan with the city, which allowed a handful of very experienced and talented climbers to come in and bolt more than 90 routes. After they were finished cleaning and setting the routes, the park opened to climbing in 2004.

View Larger Map

I know many people who would frown or scorn a “pre-planned” climbing area, or throw it in the same pile as the “outdoor gyms” at North Table Mountain or Cactus Cliffs. And they might be right to do so. Having a climbing area that was not grown organically, but designed and built from the ground up, gives it a bit of the fake-ish feeling of planned suburban communities or Disney-World wildlife parks. But it also gives almost 100 interesting, well thought out, appropriately protected (not too many bolts, not too few), appropriately spaced, well cleaned, safe, and very fun rock climbing routes.

It’s really hard to complain about a climbing area where several greats of the Colorado climbing community have worked together to produce a fantastic sport climbing spot. The end result, though it might seem contrived, is a beautiful climbing area, in town, with awesome routes of nearly every grade.

Reflections in the old quarry

On Saturday, Mark and I had a big breakfast at the resort, and then mosey’d over to the Garden of the Gods to register to climb and buy the guidebook. The gentleman at the counter made no attempt to cover up the fact that he thought we, as rockclimbers, were completely insane. Especially when we bought a “guidebook” that was no more than about 20 photocopied and stapled pages for $12.95.

We found ourselves in the parking area at around 10:30a, and set out for the day’s climbs. There was almost nobody else climbing at that hour of the morning, and the park was being generally used by joggers and people walking dogs. We started with the three routes on the Whale’s Tail.

Our first three climbs - the Whale's Tale

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of each climb, suffice to say I was proud of my lead of the 5.7 slab (The Rose). The rock is classic red sandstone, which does not lend itself to any sort of foot or hand holds. And as you smear up the steep face, sand forms between your shoes and the rock, reducing your friction. The first route felt creepy. But we both lead it, and got our slab feet under us. Our next routes (Pockets a’ Plenty (5.9) and Jason’s Argonaut (5.10a)) didn’t seem so hard. The rock and the slab felt so foreign, but became more comfortable quickly.

We then wandered south along the Whale, and climbed Blow Tube Envy (5.7) and Mister MIA (5.9+).

Oh, did I mention many of these climbs were LONG? Pockets ‘a Plenty (which really only had like 4 pockets on it), Blow Tube Envy and Mister MIA were all almost exactly 100ft long. For each one, we were tying knots in the back end of the rope, and tying in on tip-toe to make our 60m rope stretch. So the routes were slabby, lacking holds, a little sandy, and very, very long. With an range of 5 to 8 bolts in those 100ft, they were very interesting, and a little spicy.

Is it establishing routes or big rock graffitti?

At around 2p, the rest of the Colorado Springs climbing community showed up. Mark and I started to get annoyed with the big group of guys barking at each other to our left, so we wandered across the canyon to Ripple Wall. Here we finished off our day (basically) by climbing Wake to Wake (5.10a) and Current Event (5.10b). The first route was super fun, and seemed easy for the grade. The second route was HARD. It started with a sloper and slab-o-licous traverse with protection sparse enough to make us both nervous, but close enough to keep us working the route. Mark, of course, got the red point, and I took a number of falls before I was able to commit to the delicate end of the traverse.

As I cleaned the last climb, dark clouds were filling the sky to our north. I could see lightening striking the ground a few miles away from us. Of course, as we hiked out of the canyon, we passed a group of college-aged kids (two cute girls and a guy) that had just pulled their rope all the way up to the anchors with the knot left in it. Mark, being the secret super hero that he is, couldn’t help himself. He threw on his harness, pulled out our rope, and ran up Pikes Peak (5.7) (5 perfectly placed bolts in about 90 ft of climbing), untied their knot, and rapped down while cleaning. The whole thing took less than about 15 minutes, and we made it back to the car before the storm hit.

It was a great day for both of us, with committing and fun leads, new and exotic-feeling rock, and well protected sunny slabs. My toes, arches, ankles and calves ached for days, but it was totally worth it!


September 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

Tomorrow is our 5th wedding anniversary, and it feels like a bit of a milestone. This morning, the blog of Niffgurd got “tagged” and his recounting of past events inspired me. Here’s what’s happened to me so far.

20 Years Ago:
1. I was in the 5th grade at Tilman Elementary School in Kirkwood, MO. I had already been to four different elementary schools and lived in 6 different towns.
2. My two best friends at the time, Katie Unland and Beth Brown, have both since passed away.
3. I danced ballet, tap and jazz three times a week, and I knew I was going to grow up to be a famous ballerina in New York.
4. I’m pretty sure it was almost exactly 20 years ago this week that my Mom came into my bedroom one night before bed and told me I was likely to have another little brother next summer. My first thought at the time was “Oh my God! My parents had sex!”

10 Years Ago:
1. I was starting my sophomore year at Rose-Hulman Inst. of Tech. in Terre Haute, Indiana.
2. I was learning to program in Java and C++.
3. I knew I was going to grow up to be a famous dot-com entrepreneur and CEO.
4. I went rockclimbing for the first time ever as part of a Pike rush event at a gym in Indianapolis that fall.

5 Years Ago:
1. I was on the Outer Banks with my closest friends and family as I prepared to marry Mark Calder.
2. A week before the wedding, our beach had been hit by Hurricane Isabel.
3. On the morning of our wedding we went boogie boarding in 6 foot waves, and I got a little beaten up.
4. It started raining about an hour before the ceremony, but we had it outside anyway. Everybody had umbrellas except Mark and I, who stood out in the rain and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. As soon as the Rev. said “I now pronounce you Man and Wife,” it stopped raining.

There’s quite a few fun pictures of our two-week long wedding odyssey on my old Pbase site.


3 Years Ago:
1. Mark and I were living in Fort Collins, Colorado, as I started my second year of grad school.
2. Mark’s contracting job with our old company in Indianapolis was drying up and he was beginning life among the unemployed.
3. I knew I was going to grow up to be a famous climatologist and save the planet. I was hoping to have a weather phenomenon named after me.
4. After three solid years of rockclimbing, I was starting to have anxiety issues and was not climbing as much. Mark and Tom were climbing together constantly, and it was about this time of year, three years ago, that Mark and Tom climbed the 5.10 variation of Yellow Spur, with Mark leading the technical cruxes.

1 Year Ago:
1. I had recently started on medication for my anxiety, and was sleeping through the night for the first time in 9 months.
2. I was working hard on my Master’s Thesis.
3. Liv was in a cast after slicing clean through two tendons on her back left leg.
4. We had just spent a great day climbing Baobob Tree in Vedauwoo with Dylan, Ann, Sean, Doug and Liz.

So Far This Year:
1. I’ve received a Master’s Degree in Atmospheric Science and I’ve been accepted into the Phd program at CSU.
2. I taught a college-level class on Global Climate Change at Colorado College.
3. I managed to keep a consistent yoga practice throughout the year.
4. Mark and I took our trad climbing to new heights by pulling off clean ascents of 5.9 crack climbs at Lumpy Ridge and Vedauwoo.

1. I finished my half of a presentation of my work for several famous climate and atmospheric scientists (to be presented on Monday).
2. I received notice that I am accepted into the Workshop on Reducing the Uncertainty in the Prediction of Global Warming in Jerusalem next January!
3. I scheduled an interview for a part time job doing photography for a local rafting company.
4. Mark and I made a tasty pasta sauce from the tomatoes that are just ripening in our garden.

1. I put a whole bunch of cool songs on the green iPod Shuffle that Mark got for me as an anniversary gift.
2. Jim sent me his half of the presentation and I’ve put them together and delivered them to the meeting organizer.
3. I went to my interview and told them I couldn’t work for them until next March. They kicked me out and said “Then contact us next March!”
4. I went through all of the old photos of our wedding for this post.

In the next year …
1. I’ll submit my first paper to a scientific journal.
2. I’ll have presentations and conferences in San Francisco, New York, and Jerusalem all before the end of January.
3. I’ll take the prelims – a whole week of rigorous testing – and be started on my Phd work officially.
4. Mark and I will start trying to make a baby.

Spore! is fun.

September 24, 2008 at 7:37 am

So, on release day (two weeks ago?) I bought the PC game Spore. For those not following PC games, this is a game where you start out as a single-celled organism and evolve your creature until it grows legs, forms a tribe, builds cities and then ventures out into the galaxy. It also has an internet community component where you can encounter other players’ creations while you play the game. But don’t start imagining yourself as the ultimate core wars player whose organism will crush other players worldwide. What you do see other creatures/buildings/vehicles as a flavor element which you then crush/befriend on their way to galactic dominance.

It received so much hype that I had to try it and find out for myself. Does it stand up to all the hype? No, of course not. Is it fun… yes. I’m a huge fan of all the Civilization style games and galactic exploration/conquest so this is right up my ally. I think this review is fair where they describe it as the ultimate casual game.

The Reel Rock Film Tour

September 16, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Last night, Mark and I went to the 3rd annual Reel Rock Film Tour, as it stopped in Fort Collins for an evening. While I’ve never been one to give movie reviews on this site, I thought I would give a few impressions of this event, more as an evening with the local Northern Colorado climbing community than anything else.

We convinced Doug and Liz to come out as well, and evidently Alpinist Adam was in attendance too, though we didn’t meet up with him until afterwards. The auditorium was nearly full, with several hundred people in attendance. Even though the movies were being shown in the student center theatre at Colorado State Univ, the crowd was diverse, and we saw people of all ages in attendance.

Doug, I think, summarized most of our feelings about the movies at the end by saying “Wow, that was a lot of Dean Potter.” I felt the whole film festival could be renamed The Many Hairstyles of Dean Potter or maybe Check it out yo! Dean Potter is crazy/beautiful and Tommy Caldwell is missing a finger! Ok, that last one kind of sucks, but it sums up the general feel of the shows.

We all really liked Peter Mortimer’s new film, The Sharp End. Each of his movies seem to get bigger, better and prettier. This one had great production, and cool computer generated segments. It was full of typical Sender Films humor, drama, suspense and really big falls. In this movie, they either mic’d the climbers or had one of those Sonic Earz, because you could hear the breathing of the leaders clearly as situations got desperate. It was a wonderful effect. Listening to somebody else’s breath makes me breathe along with them, and then really draws me into the tension of the moment. Then there was always that moment, one sucked inhale, one “F—.” and we’re off!

Definitely head over and check out the big version of the trailer on their site, because the one from YouTube (shown here) is pretty grainy and hard to see.

The crowd was great. Everybody would gasp and then give a big “Oooow!” when the climber lands. I thought it was fun to hear the different people in the audience cheering for the boulderers, the crazy German trad climbers, or the insane big wall aid climbers. A large group of girls cheered each time Steph Davis graced the screen, and the crowd erupted when her line on Long’s Peak (Pervertical Sanctuary 5.10c) was drawn across the Diamond.

Probably for me, one of the highlights of the evening was the gear-give-away at “intermission.” While I didn’t win anything, the guy just to the left of Mark won a GIANT block of chalk. I’ve never seen so much chalk in my life. They called out the number, and he actually groaned.

“Oh great. I won chalk” he grumbled dismally. He didn’t get up to accept the prize, just sunk down in his chair and passed the ticket to the end of the row for the runner to check. They passed the chalk down the row to him. Mark was laughing.

“Wow, that’s a lot of chalk,” said Mark.

The guy next to him looked up hopefully and said “Do you want it, man?”

“Sorry, I don’t use chalk,” Mark replied honestly.

“Me neither.” He glanced hopelessly around for a minute and then sat back in his chair to watch the second movie. Mark and I were both quietly laughing like mad. It’s so easy to think everybody in the Fort boulders. After all, we have Rotary Park, Carter Lake, and the 420’s. But there are lots of other climbs around here, and lots of other climbers. And last night, we all celebrated the sport together.

Climbing Sugarite Canyon: Part 2

September 14, 2008 at 6:08 pm

I love the state motto for New Mexico: Land of Enchantment. You just can’t walk around the desert and mountains in this place and not feel some kind of mystical connection with the land, the sky, and the ancient Native Americans that also walked through these mountains. Maybe it’s the low population density, or the beautiful mesas and desert rock formations. Whatever it is, every time we visit the state, I feel like I’ve gone someplace beautiful and remote, a wild and exotic land, that is barely part of the world I live in every day.

Sunrise at Sugarite

I woke up early and energized on Sunday morning. Mark and I had to leave by noon to make a Sunday evening commitment, but nobody was stirring when Liv and I set out on the trail. Even though the sky was deeply overcast, I took the dog and hiked up to the top of the mesa we had been climbing on the day before, in the hopes of getting some pictures of the sun rising over the canyon, or the desert beyond.

A distant desert beyond the morning clouds

The trail to the top edge of the mesa was about 2 miles long, and probably took Liv and I about an hour to do. The clouds were breaking up as I reached the edge, and the sun had long since risen. There were no incredible sunrise pictures for me that morning, and judging by the moist, cool breeze coming over the the mesa, there would be no climbing before we had to leave at noon either. But it was really nice to sit on the edge of the cliff, in the quiet desert morning, and watch the clouds slowly roll over the canyon and lands far beyond.

The day gets sunny and beautiful as we leave the canyon

Eventually, I left my little perch and hiked back down to camp. The rest of the gang were hanging out in Dylan and Ann’s camper, drinking lots of coffee, making biscuits for breakfast and doing crosswords. I really suck at crosswords. Evidently, “creative spelling techniques” are not part of the challenge of the puzzles.

The clouds slowly burnt off, and Dylan and Ann decided to head up the hill for another day of climbing. Mark and I packed up camp and reluctantly headed home to our normal lives. It was a very nice, if too short, weekend away from reality.

Climbing Sugarite Canyon: Part 1

September 13, 2008 at 8:13 pm

Mark and I have climbed a little bit in New Mexico, and each time, we’ve been impressed with the quiet, secluded nature of the crags, even if they are just off the road. Last weekend, the stars aligned, plans came together, and we were able to meet Dylan and Ann in the Land of Enchantment.

View Larger Map

We drove down to Sugarite Canyon State Park on Friday after work. We got caught in a bit of traffic in Denver, but made it into the campground just before the gate was locked at 10pm. Following the pattern from the previous few days, it rained for most of our drive down.

Pictures from the weekend are up in the gallery.

Dylan, Ann, and Liv on the edge of the mesa

On Saturday morning, we rolled out of bed a little later, made breakfast, and hung out with the ranger who had spent the previous evening dealing with rowdy campers for a little while. Eventually, we packed up and hiked up to the lovely, south facing basalt cliff. The approach felt relatively short, and we enjoyed the hike up to the rim of the mesa through high desert forests and prairies.

The day turned out to be clear and beautiful. The rock was sunlit, warm, and the views from the cliff-line were incredible. We were on the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, in the high country of northern New Mexico. To our south, we could see distant deserts and open lands, with peaks, mesas and wind-blown sand sculptures. The summer has been feeling late, and the desert climbing season will be starting soon. Looking out at the beautiful landscape below us, I started to get excited about new adventures this winter! But for now, we were having a great day in the mountains.

Looking up at the pink basalt cliffs

Pete’s Downclimb (5.6) – Mark and I started the day on a nice crack suggested by Dylan. We had brought a light rack, with gear up to one #3.5 cam. Mark got about 10ft up this route and realized that the whole thing was going to take much bigger gear. He climbed back down, grabbed all of Dylan’s Vedauwoo big gear, and then headed up again. The climb was lots of fun, and Mark even found a perfect little placement for the smallest Big Bro about 3/4 of the way up. I followed, and enjoyed the nice little ledges and pockets covering the climb.

Crack Head (5.8) – Dylan lead up this route while we were figuring out gear on Pete’s. And we began our day of free-loading off of Dylan’s TRs. Why not? It was a fun day with good cracks. After each of us climbed and enjoyed the perfect hand crack on Crack Head, we’d clip a few of the top draws on Sangre Verde (5.10a), and then run up that nice arrete on TR. The pockets were lovely, the moves were smooth and the traverse back to the anchors at the top was spicy.

Salt Mother (5.8) – Another Redpoint feather in Dylan’s cap, and another TR for Mark, Ann and me to enjoy. The climb starts with a tricky thin fingers crack, that felt creepy and insecure. It ended with thin hands that were perfect for me, and quickly became my favorite route of the day.

And he finds the easy way!

Great Roof Left (5.9) – This intimidating roof hung over us all day, and Dylan attacked it on lead. Mark and Ann followed happily, and everybody seemed to agree that this route was not as hard as Salt Mother. I hung out in the sun with the dog, resting my now aching wrist and hoping that this pain wasn’t a resurgence of the tendinitis I dealt with a few years ago. Eventually, I decided that it was the end of the day for me, but enjoyed cheering everybody else up their routes.

Motengator (5.8+) – I guess 4 pitches just weren’t enough for Dylan at the end of the day. We had all started talking about cold bear and ice water, but we had plenty of time left to get one more in. Dylan lead up this route, which seemed much longer than any others so far. Perhaps it was the heat or exhaustion from a long day, but it also seemed harder than the 5.8 grade would suggest. Careful, but strong, crack technique got Dylan, Mark and Ann to the top of the route without any problems.

Ok, without many problems. Mark lowered Dylan off of his belt, which was not set up well and resulted in a few minutes of apparent agony for Mark as his belay device dug into his crotch and the rope ran over his leg. Evidently, the usual belay set-ups that Mark uses for me, don’t work as well when your climber weighs 50 more pounds.

Kate and Mark in New Mexico!

By the end of the day, we were all smiles, sunburns and sore muscles. We hiked down the mesa and spent a cool evening camping out with our friends.

Mark raps down into the evening light