Enjoying the Journey

December 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm

New Year's Eve

This year has been one for the books. Everybody is writing their sum-ups and introspections these days, and I’ve been thinking about this for a while too. Mark and I talked about what this post should say while driving across Nebraska last weekend, and I think I may have waited too long to write it.

The basic gist of the idea is that, this year, Mark and I learned that we need to let go a bit. We were very goal-oriented in our climbing this year, and in our lives. We both felt like we spent way too much time and energy on plans that fell apart at the last minute, or goals that we didn’t accomplish. We both realized, while journeying home, that we are happiest when we’re not obsessing about the outcome, but simply enjoying the ride.

Our best climbing days were unplanned. We woke up, got to the trailhead, and then walked up to a climb and decided to give it a try. The days when we attempted big ticks (Mainliner or The Petite Grepon) the plan tended to fall apart, with harsh consequences on our egos and psyches.

So, for 2009 you won’t see any plans, or tick lists on ColoCalders. You won’t see training schedules, or apex trips. Our only goal is to accept life as it comes by us, and enjoy it for what we have, not what we want.

Woo-hoo Wind!

December 30, 2008 at 10:11 am

If you read this blog, you know that I am a huge weather geek. Atmospheric Science is not only my profession, but it’s also one of the things I can’t stop talking about (weather and rock climbing!) So last night we had a great weather night!

700mb vertical velocity plot for 12-30-08

A relatively small trough, or cold front, moved over our area, and hit the front range just right to spark an awesome Chinook wind event. Check out these stats!!

Temperature (ºF) Wind Speed (mph) Relative Humidity (%)
temperature plot for 12-30-08 (degrees F) windspeed plot for 12-30-08 (mph) relative humidity plot for 12-30-08 (percent)

These are the weather conditions at the Foothills campus (my building at school) for the last two days. Check it out! Right at midnight, as the action got started, we recorded a wind gust of well over 80 mph!! The temperature spiked to near 60ºF, and hasn’t dropped down below 50ºF yet. And the relative humidity plummeted to around 10%. It’s dry out here anyway, but today I’m feeling like the moisture is being sucked out of my skin.

As I drove into school this morning, there was damage all over town. Tree limbs on the street, trash cans, gas grills, and lawn furniture scattered about, the construction trailer for our new building was laying on its side! Weather is so cool.

Christmas 2008

December 24, 2008 at 2:10 pm

We had a good week of travel through the midwest for our Christmas celebrations this year. It was an interesting holiday, full of bad weather, surprises, happy families, and some difficult times.

An Icy Christmas

We spent the first part of the week with Mark’s family in Fort Wayne, Indiana. On our trip out to Indiana, we hit bitterly cold temps in Iowa. The next morning, the check engine light came on in the yellow truck, and the engine started noticeably miss-firing. We thought we had gotten bad gas, and after looking for an open mechanic shop in eastern Des Moines for about an hour, we just put in some fuel cleaner and drove off. We found out the next day that our ignition coil had shorted, and we got to drop a chunk of change on car repairs in Fort Wayne.

The day before we arrived, northern Indiana had a horrible ice storm, that knocked out power to over 400,000 people in the region. Mark’s parents were lucky, and when we got there, the power was still on. The only pictures I took during the whole trip were of the ice in Mark’s parents’ backyard the day after we arrived. The ice was beautiful, and there’s a small set of pictures in the gallery.

Lots and lots of icicles

The day before Christmas Eve, though, high winds blew through town and a branch dropped on the neighborhood power lines, leaving us in the dark and cold. We lit candles and read or napped for the as snow fell gently outside. My parents were stuck in an ice storm on I-70 in middle Indiana at this point. They spent 5 hours sitting on the interstate that evening.

Icicles on the tree

On Christmas Eve the power was still out, and Mark, Liv and I all headed to Akron Ohio to see my family. We had a fantastic visit with my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins in the area. Mark’s family continued in the dark and cold for another two days, and their power didn’t come on until about 10pm on the day after Christmas.

We started trekking back west on Friday. Mark’s brother was scheduled to fly out of Fort Wayne early on Saturday morning, but his flight was canceled at the last minute. The family had to drive him two hours south to the Indianapolis airport, where he stayed in a hotel Saturday night and got on a flight Sunday morning. It’s been a year of bad surprises, and it seemed like Christmas was no exception. But the family was together, and celebrating, and we all had a pretty good time regardless.

The 2008 Fall AGU Meeting

December 18, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Every year in December, the American Geophysical Union hosts a meeting in San Francisco. This year, my abstract was accepted, and I presented my work as a poster at the meeting.

The posters took up the entire floor of the Moscone-South building

The meeting is open to all members of AGU, their families and guests, and several vendors and research institutes. It has become more popular in recent years, and this year there were over 16,000 attendees! I’ve never been to a conference so large, and it was a bit overwhelming.

I had a fantastic dinner at Fallon one night

Outside of the conference, I got to spend a little time in San Francisco. I did some shopping in the crowded mall area between the Moscone Center and my hotel. I had one fantastic dinner at a seafood restaurant called Farallon, which was incredible.

Fallon had fantastic, underwater, decore

The place was decorated with tiles and low-hanging lamps that made me feel like I was in Atlantis. I had a Turbot fillet covered in butter and caviar, and it was gooood. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it!

My poster session was over on Friday afternoon, and then I flew home, arriving on time, but late at night. On Saturday morning, we hopped in the car and started our trip to the midwest for Christmas!

Kate’s Free Desktop Image 7

December 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

It’s about time! As much as I like the yellow aspens, I’m getting tired of looking at them. The other not-so-secret purpose for the trip up to Loch Vale was to make a slightly more seasonal desktop background. I had a bunch of great photos (Check out the gallery!), but I liked this one the best. As usual, I’ve saved the image as a few different sizes for the most common screen resolutions. Feel free to down load the one that works for you by clicking on the link to the correct size below the image! Enjoy, and Happy Imminent Boreal Winter Solstice!

Wind over Loch Vale

1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200, 1680 x 1050, 2560 x 1600

Holy Guacomole, It’s COLD Out There!

December 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Temp Graph from CSU

On Saturday, Katy and I went up into Rocky Mountain National Park and did some snowshoeing up to Loch Vale. It was … delightful. I hiked the whole thing in two layers of t-shirt, while carrying many pounds of arctic-worthy gear in my pack (that I used a little at the Loch)

On Sunday the air temps plummeted and inhaling (air) deeply made me cough.

This morning, Mon, my morning dog walk was at -15 degrees F. Thanks Canada for the gift of showing me how much of a wuss I am. Even my dog can’t seem to do more than short walks without picking up her feet and looking at me with a very accusing look as if I forced her to walk. She has never found a set of dog booties that she couldn’t kick off in under 5 minutes. There is exciting news on that front, a coworker has a “bootie retrieval system” composed of an X of elastic cord which is tied to each booty and the X lays (stretches) across the dog’s back. Liv took it for a test drive and it worked. You can expect some hilarious video once I get a similar system rigged.

Snowshoeing to Loch Vale

December 13, 2008 at 8:39 pm

It’s been a horribly busy fall for both Mark and I. I’ve been focusing on school, Mark’s been working hard at the office, and we’ve been spending our weekends catching up or doing more work. Pretty sad, really. So, we decided to make a conscious effort to get some good, quality, mountain time in last weekend.

The snow is coming down in the mountains

We ended up snowshoeing up to Loch Vale in the Glacier Gorge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. We actually hiked this trail twice last summer, and Mark mentioned later that he wasn’t particularly happy with the choice in the morning. But the National Park in the snow is like a whole different world.

About 10 minutes into our hike, we saw a beaten path in the snow head off the side of the trail. Last summer, when we were hiking the approach to the Petite Grepon, we saw climbers head off into the woods in this direction. Mark suggested we try this trail out, and determine if it was actually a short cut, or a trail to a different destination all together. Always up for an adventure, I agreed. And we set off into the woods, off trail, with the promise of a gathering winter storm in the evening, in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The short cut turns out to be a bit long

Despite our joking about how we were destined to end up on “Storm Stories” next year for this decision, the trail was very easy to follow in the deep snow. It headed straight up the hill, and half an hour later we popped out on the marked trail, just below the split to Loch Vale. Success! I haven’t downloaded our GPS data yet, but I think we cut off about a half of a mile from this section of trail, which means we’ll be using this path for future hikes to climbs in the area.

Ice climbing

As we started up the switchbacks below the Loch, we began hearing voices in the woods across the valley. We came upon the tracks of several people leaving the trail, and followed them up the far side of the valley to where a big group of people were ice climbing. Mark and I talked to them for a bit, careful to stay out of the fall zone for the sharp ice that was raining down, or pointy axes or crampons that might be flung about.

Ice climbing on Mo' Flo' Than Go (WI 3-)

The group had top ropes set on various parts of the flow, and, when asked, declared that the route we were looking at was called “Mo’ Flo’ than Go” and was rated, according to the climbers, “um, 3?” “3+, I think” “5!” “1” “20!” “100!”, or something in that range. Mountain project says WI 3-. It looked like a fun, if short, route, and Mark and I watched for a while before heading back to the trail and finally up to the Loch.

Wind and snow blowing across the frozen lake

Last summer, I declared Loch Vale to be the prettiest spot in the park, even when it was crawling with people. It was even prettier when we showed up there at 5:30am a few weeks later, and the place was dead quiet except for the bugs and fish jumping. On Saturday, it was even prettier. The lake was frozen over, the wind tossed snow about in sweeps and gyres. There was nobody else, and no other living creatures, around at all. The whole scene was full of roaring wind one minute, and then desperately silent the next. It felt like the mountains and lake had been encased in crystal, and would remain like this forever.

The wind was pretty brisk

After a lot of pictures, and some time spent soaking it all in, we put the snowshoes back on and headed down the hill. We cruised back to the car in less than an hour, practically jogging down some sections in our lightweight snowshoes. Then it was back to our house for hot coffee and even hotter showers, as the promised winter storm blew in.

Kate at the Loch

Yoga for Rock Climbers

December 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Mountain Pose

I actually started my yoga practice at about the same time as I started rock climbing. It was fall 2001, I couldn’t run outside as much as I wanted to, and I was looking for some fun activities that I could do indoors. I found out that there was a rock gym a few miles from my office and I convinced a few of my friends to go out with me. I also found a fantastic yoga studio near my office and started going to classes about once a week.

Yoga and rock climbing have always been linked in my mind. I can’t imagine doing one without the other. Mark also practices yoga with me on a fairly regular basis. Many climbing pros (Chris Sharma, Lynn Hill, Dean Potter and Steph Davis) have mentioned yoga is part of their fitness and training regimens.

Recently, several of my friends have started to complain about typical over-use injuries (I suppose we’re all getting a little older). There seems to be a large number of elbow, knee, back and shoulder problems floating around. So I thought I would write a quick post answering some of the FAQs I hear about yoga, and encourage everybody, to get out and try something new this winter. You might be surprised how enjoyable it is, and how much it helps your other favorite sports.

What is yoga?
Yoga, in the US, is mainly an exercise regime that simply consists of a series of postures, or poses, and breathing exercises that go along with them. There are litterally thousands of poses and variations on those poses under the general heading of “yoga.” Most involve stretching, balancing, or strength, though some are as simple as sitting or standing with good posture. Which poses are done, how many of them are done, what environment you practice in, and how the poses are connected from one to the other are all details that are varied between different styles of yoga.

Why is yoga good for climbers?
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but most styles of yoga in the US practice poses which increase flexibility, strength and mental discipline. I’ve often thought of climbing as a very interesting sport. It involves maintaining a contorted position on the rock for several seconds at a time, while you feel around with one hand for the next hold or plug in gear or clip a rope.

Yoga can be exactly the same. You move through several postures, and then settle down and hold one for several breaths, and then begin to move through another series. The great thing about yoga, though, is that it is inverted to rock climbing. In climbing, our base of support is in front or above us, and we spend most of our time pulling up. In yoga, our base is directly below us, and we spend most of our time pushing down.

This is the final, and possibly most important, benefit of yoga. It helps prevent injuries by increasing your range of motion, stretching muscles and connective tissue that tighten with time, and strengthening muscles that counter-balance your over-used climbing muscles.

Yoga in the Desert

How do I find a good place to practice?
Yoga has become so popular in the US that most fitness, and even some rock gyms, offer classes. Often, however, those classes can be repetitive or dull, and sometimes the teachers are not as well trained, which can result in yoga-related injuries. A good yoga studio will usually have a wide variety of different class types and different teachers, all of whom should be certified yoga teachers. To locate a studio near you, Yoga Journal has a great directory.

The studios talk about different types of yoga. Which one do I want?
There are lots and lots of different styles of yoga. Most studios offer a free class or week when you first come in, so you can try it out and see if their style matches what you are looking for. Most rock climbers, or outdoor enthusiasts, are people who love movement, so more flowing styles fit their goals. These include styles like Flow yoga, Vinyassa or Ashtanga. If you are looking to build serious strength, styles like Bikram and Iyengar can fit the bill. Bikram, in particular, is seriously intense. It is practiced in a room heated to about 110ºF, for an hour and half, and involves very strength-building postures. If you are looking for something less intense, try finding classes described as Restorative yoga, Hatha, Kripalu or Yin Yoga.

I live in Colorado too! Where do you practice?
I actually have fallen in love with a chain of yoga studios called CorePower Yoga. The studios employ well-trained, excited, enthusiastic teachers, and have locations all over Colorado, California, Minnesota, Chicago and Portland. The classes follow a classic Vinyassa flow style, and, at least here in the Fort, can be very spiritual and physical at the same time. A lot like rock climbing.

My favorite part, though, is that the studio is heated to around 100ºF, which is manageable, and allows my muscles to lengthen and stretch without getting pulled or sore the next day. I don’t think I will ever go back to practicing in a non-heated studio. Plus, they usually stop at some point during class, change the music from flowing chants to rockin’ Madonna, and do 5 minutes of an intense ab workout. I think this has made some of the biggest impacts on my rock climbing so far. I had no idea how much a stronger abdominal region would help make all forms of climbing easier.

Balanced Rock

So, if you’re feeling less than excited about spending the winter in a rock gym, or if your elbows have been killing you, or if you just want to experience the perfect companion practice to your rock climbing, look up a studio near you! Feel free to ask any more questions you might have in the comments below!