Digging Out of Our Snow Cave

February 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

One more month of crazy around our house, and then I think we’ll be back in the realm of “normal.” This month, our family had some pretty radical life-changes, including a move from Fort Collins to about 40 miles south into the Boulder area.

Moving is fun!

Moving is fun!

I started a new job, the kiddo started at a new daycare, and Mark started his new commute all on a snowy Valentine’s Day.

The universe says "Happy first day of work! You should have worn snow boots."

The universe says “Happy first day of work! You should have worn snow boots.”

We have a new house, with our own backyard for the first time in 8 years.

Playing in our own, private dirt

Playing in our own, private dirt

I received a wonderful new camera, a Leice D-Lux 6, as a graduation present, and I’ve been wandering through the snow taking pictures of the mountains around Boulder.

Foggy, snowy morning in Boulder

Foggy, snowy morning in Boulder

We spent most of our free time this month cleaning, packing, moving and unpacking. But we did get up to Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend. Our goal was to go sledding, but there was less snow in the mountains than in our front yard. So, we played in the Sprague Lake area and had a fun day.

After walking didn't work, G decided to stay sitting and let us push him around the lake

After walking didn’t work, G decided to stay sitting and let us push him around the lake

After playing around the lake, we went back to the car, and discovered the 12V battery was dead in our Prius. We had to have a tow truck come up from Estes Park to our trailhead and give us a jump start. If you were curious, it takes about half an hour for Bob’s Towing to make it to Sprague Lake. Not too bad.

Mark fixed the car by himself, during a day of amazing electronic skill. He also created a charger for my camera from a cut-open USB cable, some speaker wire, rubber bands and a coffee mug. The purpose of the coffee mug was to contain any unexpected fires. It worked great! This is why it’s nice to have a hacker around the house.

In Colorado, winter drags on. Our springs seem to oscillate between sunny and snowy on a daily basis. The snow falls, the snow melts, and the snow falls again. Repeat ad infinitum. But it gives us time to sit quietly, snuggle with the kiddo, sleep long, and breathe.

Old Roses and Snow, it must be February

Old Roses and Snow, it must be February

The End of an Era

January 31, 2013 at 9:10 am
My Office at CSU - Where the Magic Happens!

My Office at CSU – Where the Magic Happens!

Last Friday, I successfully defended my dissertation and received my Phd in Atmospheric Sciences!

I’m pretty much elated. It’s been so much fun to tell everybody I meet that (1) I finally finished and (2) they should now call me Doctor Kate. Mark says I’m his favorite Doctor since Dr. Horrible.

It’s been more than eight years since Mark and I arrived in Colorado and I started graduate school in a field I knew almost nothing about. So much has happened in those eight years! Mark has had three jobs, we bought a house, and we had a baby! We’ve climbed at nearly every area on the Front Range, and all over Colorado and Wyoming. We have traveled to Italy, Israel, Thailand and Japan. We camped, hiked, mountain biked, photographed, yoga’d, and crossfitt-ed ourselves through the last eight years and had such a blast doing it all!

So, why am I putting all of this on our blog? Well, the last few months have been a very exciting and very work-centered time for us. We have not been getting outside as much as we would like and we have not been able to keep up with all of our fun hobbies. I know now that I really enjoy blogging about our adventures and travels with our kiddo. But I have become more concerned about his digital footprint, and how my blogging might affect his future. So, I am trying to figure out the best way to keep our blog running and protect his privacy.

Since it’s time for us to move into a new phase of life, it makes sense to move the blog around a bit too. I have not decided exactly what I want to do, yet, and we won’t have much time to mess with the blog in the next few weeks. But I have a new camera and a summer of lower work responsibility ahead of me, so you can bet there will be more blogging!

If you have any ideas for what we should do to keep writing but protect our families’ privacy, let me know in the comments!

What I learned from Little G this year

November 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

It’s hard to believe, but each time I do the math I come up with the same answer. It has been just over two years since the Great G-bini joined our team. Wow, time really does fly when you’re having fun!

We have a friend and neighbor who used to stop every time she saw me laying out on the lawn with G and ask “What have you learned from him lately?” I thought this was a lovely way to shift the baby dynamic. So often we are in awe of all the amazing things that our children have learned, but we rarely stop to think about what we have learned from them.

G is growing like a weed and learning new things every day. Last night he caught a ball for the first time and sang “Twinkle, twinkle little star” while looking up at the night sky. He loves being outside, and playing cars or blocks or snuggling with Mom while watching Cars.

I am still astounded by how quickly he can learn and grow, and how much I am capable of loving him, even in the midst of “terrible twos”!

Last year, I wrote a post describing the top 10 things I learned from Little G in his first year. I thought I should do the same this year for his second. So, here we go!

Let’s hit it!

The top 10 things I learned from G this year:

10. Always buy the good insurance for your expensive electronic devices. And sturdy covers.
9. Sunshine makes everybody feel better.
8. Dirt is still awesome.

Totally awesome

7. Food is more than a simple source of energy. It is also a toy, an art project, a conversation starter, a power struggle, a remedy for crankiness, a way to express our individuality, and a dangerous projectile.
6. You don’t have to dance well to really enjoy it.
5. Saturday is the best day of the week.

Life is pretty awesome

4. The healing power of touch is amazing, and we never outgrow it. Hugs are important, as are kisses for boo-boos, a supportive back rub, being held by strong arms to chase away night-time anxieties and tickles to make us smile when we haven’t in a while.
3. Everybody loves swings.
2. Clothes matter less than I could have imagined. If it makes you feel awesome, wear it. “Appropriate dress” is best judged by the person doing the wearing, and nobody else.
1. The most ridiculously good-looking person in our house is the one with the biggest smile!

Where else can you find true joy?

The Smell of Autumn

October 4, 2012 at 6:59 am

Every season has an associated sense in my mind. The taste of snow and Christmas cookies in winter, the sounds of laughter and loud music on the car radio in summer, the feel of the first warm sun and soft rain in spring, and all of the lovely smells of autumn.

The smell of aspens shivering in a chilly breeze.

The smell of crunchy dead leaves as I hike through.

The smell of rocks and sweat and dirty climbing gear.

The smell of happy, dusty kids.

The smell of flowering sage.

The smell of chilly mornings and distant storms on the wind.

The smell of full moons and campfires. The smell of rocks and dirt and falling leaves and new mushrooms. The smell of roasted peppers and the first frost. The smell of change and life and death and autumn.

Great Hikes for Kids in Northern Colorado

September 14, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hi Everybody! I’m doing my very first guest post today as part of an awesome hiking with kids series on Bring The Kids!

Our kiddo enjoying the Bent Rock Loop in Northern Colorado

Check out my post on the Best Hikes With Kids in Northern Colorado!

How to recruit new Cragfamiles

September 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

This might look like a helpful and informative post, but it’s actually a trip report from two days of climbing in Vedauwoo, with nine adults and five kids under 4 years old, over Labor Day weekend. Shhhh. I’m being sneaky.

The golden rule of climbing with babies and young kids is that there is safety in numbers. Basic math states that you need at least three adults for a climbing trip involving a child: one belayer, one climber, and one to put cookies in the screaming baby hole. But the more people on a climbing trip, the more cookies you’ll find, and eventually, the relative number of screaming baby holes converges towards zero.

However, it may be that your area does not have many families out climbing. What if you’ve been climbing with only one partner for years, and now you need to recruit new people into your group of cragfamiles? How do you go about bringing people into your world? Well, here are some methods that have worked for Mark and I.

1. Be a good example.
Get pregnant and then keep climbing with your old friends. If you can pull it off, they may think that being a parent is easy and fun, and try it for themselves.

2. Be Flexible.
Invite everybody you can think of, but don’t worry about details. Just give everybody a vague description of where to go and when to show up. If you or multiple other families get lost on the way there, you’re probably doing it right.

3. Be generous.
Give away or loan out all of the clothes, gear, backpacks, tents, and toys that your cragbaby outgrew last year. Make sure the “gift” or “loan” comes with the prerequisite that the recipient accompanies you climbing. Then they will owe you for the favor and you can hold it over their heads, with Godfather-like power, for years.

4. Be daring!
When your vague plan for easy topropes falls apart, try leading up a climb that you have no information on, but “looks good” from the ground. Your new climbing partners will love slipping on lichen and moss on their way up a remote and unheard of 40-foot bolt ladder, I assure you. If it rains and then you taunt them into trying the climb on rock so wet it is “like climbing a mountain of soup,” they’ll be fellow cragfamilies for life!

5. Be helpful.
“I’ll watch yours if you watch mine” was never more true than with cragbabies.

6. Be interesting.
Start fires with dry grass and a flint and steal. Give lectures around the campfire about how trees turn air into wood (or bugs turn poop into water). Allow your 22 month old son to cover himself in spaghetti and sauce while everybody watches.

7. Be silly.
There’s no “ego” in “cragfamily”, and there’s no shame in our climbing. There’s no standard, no rules, and no such thing as “too much help!”

8. Be lazy.
Don’t bother to take your own camera out, and then steal photos from all of your new cragfamily friends! People love to feel needed, and despite their complaining, your friends will actually appreciate this deep down inside.

9. Be outside.
The winds, the storms, the lightening, the rocks, the sunshine, the smell of pines, the occasional moose, the coating of dirt on our children… is Vedauwoo.

10. Be happy.
Relax, enjoy your days in the sun, get dirty with the kids, and climb on!

Thanks to all of my friends who let me use their pictures for this post. Love you all! I hope we get lots of great climbing weekends with the kids over the next few years!

Climbing Long’s Peak (14,255ft)

August 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

The 2012 Summer of Summits has ended with a bang! As I (oh so discretely) alluded to in my last post, we had a big plan and a big goal for this summer. To finally, after staring at this mountain for 8 years, climb Long’s Peak.

Our first view of Long’s from below the Boulderfield

Long’s is the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s steep, craggy slopes were carved by glaciers millions of years ago, and each day it casts a long shadow over the tiny houses built along the Front Range.

Mark and I attempted to do this climb a few years go, but were turned back after a series of mistakes ended with a 14 mile hike and me getting sick at 12,500ft. This year, I tried to learn from those past mistakes, and planned and planned and planned for this trip.

First light over the rockies

The crux of the climb for Long’s is really the approach. And for us, the approach started back in June when we started our training. We then had to set aside a weekend, arrange for an over-night babysitter (thank you HiTruck! :), get a backcountry pass to camp at the Goblin’s Forest, borrow a tent, decide on the climbing gear to carry, buy all the food… and you get the idea.

Sunrise on the slopes of Long’s Peak

By the time we rolled into the parking lot at the Long’s Peak trailhead, at 8p on Friday night, we were totally ready to go. We hiked the 1.2 miles into the Goblin’s Forest campsites, set up a tent and slept for 6 hours.

At 3:45a my alarm went off in the darkness. We moved all of the climbing gear into Mark’s bag, and I packed some sunscreen and a hat in my little daypack. I joked that I was really just going to the beach that day.

Hikers on our long trail at dawn

When we got to the trail, we joined a long line of headlamps in the darkness. I have spent more pre-dawn hours hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park than I like to think about, and it still creeps me out. The darkness is thick around you, the wind rushes through the trees above, and mysterious creeks crash through distant dark pools.

We made good time on the upward hike. We tried to recall what locations we hit at what time on our last attempt, but couldn’t really remember. The sun rose slowly over a hazy, clear morning, and we enjoyed the beautiful orange alpinglow as we hiked up the slopes of the Long’s Peak massif.

Wading through a sea of alpinglow

And that’s pretty much where the fun ended. After that, it just got hard. I felt great in the Boulder Field, so we started our scramble up the north slopes. The talus was steep, but stable, and after what felt like an eternity, we were finally at Chasm View and the start of our technical climbing.

Mark on steep talus below the technical climbing

Sitting at this lofty spot was unnerving, and my anxiety started running circles around me. I freaked out when Mark tried to sit on the edge of the rock. My hands were tingling when I took my pack off, and I was suddenly sure that I had MS. Or some kind of altitude-related brain damage. Or maybe I was just an idiot and a terrible mother for setting off on this adventure in the first place. I tried to ignore all of the worry and fear, and focus on the amazing and beautiful place where I found myself that Saturday morning.

Looking North along the Keyhole ridge

Mark led up the two pitches of climbing beautifully. Even with ice coating the cracks and chimneys, without having quite enough slings, and having to dodge pebbles and ice shards tossed down on him from climbers above, he lead the route cleanly and without complaint. I followed with a bit more whining.

Mark on the 5.6 pitch – filled with ice and water!

After 200ft of wet, icy cracks, we sat on a ledge and looked up at more talus and scrambling to the summit. A group of climbers were starting their decent, and they peppered us with advice such as: “It’s not hard, just a pain in the butt. You might get ledged out. If you end up on a scary slab, climb down and head more left. You’ll want to stay away from the Diamond, but the easiest route goes almost to the edge. There’s some cairn’s marking the path, but we lost them after a while. Make sure you pay attention on the way up, so you can get back down. Oh, it will only take you about an hour with some route finding issues.”

So, another hour of steep scrambling over giant granite blocks. This time, they hovered over the edge of a 2,000ft abyss, and mistakes entailed more serious consequences. Mark and I debated heading down, but we got great encouragement from the other climbers to give it a whirl. We had the gear, the skill, and the clear weather to keep going. All that was stopping us was our good sense.

I don’t know how long that last scramble actually took us. Maybe an hour? We followed cairns, and made some new ones to helps us down. We went the wrong way once, but were corrected by another group of climbers. None of the scrambling was difficult or overly exposed, and finally, we crawled up onto the summit!

Batman arrives on the summit!

Of all of my summits on all of my mountains, this one is now probably my favorite. The views weren’t so amazing, the crowd wasn’t so big. But we got granola bars and jerky and high-fives from strangers who were up there with us. I signed the summit log and dedicated the climb to our son. I opened up the sunscreen, which promptly exploded all over the rocks around me. I was happy to have finally, finally, made it.

On the summit of Long’s Peak, Aug 25 2012, 11:30am

After all of the pain and effort of the climb, the trip down was shockingly smooth. We followed new friends Keith and Linda back down through the talus field (much easier on the way down, as you can see where you’re heading). We tied our two ropes together and rapped the entire technical section in one long go. We laughed and joked and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. “Throw the rope towards the cheeseburgers!” “I’ll carry the heavy pack if you carry me!” “Forget that slab, use your MAN MUSCLES!”

The scramble back down to the rappel was much easier

And with smiles and cheer all around, we scrambled down the mountain. We had to jog the last 6 miles out to make it to the car by 5p, and we actually managed a 3 mile per hour pace for the whole way down. My knees were killing me, and my feet were covered in blisters, but we were successful.

Our route to the summit – the Cable Route (5.6 – Grade III)

A few notes on what we did differently this time (better than our last attempt):
1. We didn’t hike 6 miles the day before. In fact, we didn’t do any strenuous activity the week before in an effort to be fresh for the climb.
2. We camped along the trail. This got a mile of the approach out of the way the day before, and meant that we could sleep in a bit.
3. Mark carried all of the gear. Seriously, I had a jacket and some sunscreen, and this worked wonderfully for us. No shame here, I let the strong guy take the weight.
4. I had a liter of water and that was it. We filtered twice on the hike and carried a lot less water.
5. I took a dose of Advil at treeline and every 4 hours after that. No headaches!
6. We brought a lot of tasty snacks, so eating was fun. Choking down foodbars is not necessary, and on Saturday I had chocolate milk, fruit snacks, ritz cheesy crackers, and yogurt covered raisins. Yum.

A beautiful day to be up high in the mountains

So, hooray for the Summer of Summits and finally bagging the peak that got away. I can now stand in my front yard, point at the tallest mountain on the horizon and say proudly “I climbed that!”

Where did my summer go?

August 24, 2012 at 6:39 am

You know that “Author blurb” I have at the bottom of each post? Where I describe myself as a “Scientist, rock climber, adventurista, crazy mom, and administrator of this blog?” Well, last month was devoted to science and mom, and not much of those other things. I had five presentations to give in less than four weeks, two conferences and a week of travel. The good news is, my real-life career seems to be doing well these days. The bad news is, we didn’t get out in the mountains as much as we wanted (or needed) to.

I had all of these awesome plans for Summer of Summits 2012, and we did manage to tick off a few little peaks, but we lost some momentum in the blur that was our August. Hopefully, we’ll make up some of that time in the few weekends of warm weather we have left this year!

Weeks gets taped up!

All is not hotel conference rooms and keynote presentations, though. We did get out for a couple of fun little climbing day trips, and I wanted to share some pictures from these.

We had a friend-of-a-friend, now a good friend, move into town in July. And to protect their privacy a tad, I’m going to give them the fun pseudonyms RockMomma and Charmed. If YOU would like a cool pseudonym, just ask! :)

Mark and I met RockMomma once maybe 10 years ago, when she was living in Chicago and we were in Indianapolis, and we all went on a climbing trip to the Red River Gorge together. None of us remember that meeting, of course.

RockMomma makes this climb look easy

These days, she and her family have moved to Northern Colorado, and we have been busy getting her and her daughter Charmed out to all of our favorite kid-friendly climbing areas.

Our little G-Man and Charmed have a ball when they get together. They spend hours running and laughing and hitting things with sticks. It makes climbing so much easier and more fun than the days of intensive baby care last summer.

G-Man and Charmed spent a lot of time “climbing” this rock

We took HiTruck (long story), RockMomma and Weeks (our mutual friend) up to Vedauwoo for a day at the end of July, taped them up and set them loose on a couple of off-widths. Even though this is not exactly everybody’s cup of tea climbing-wise, we all had a fun day.

Girls are ready to go!

On the first weekend in August, Mark and I took advantage of RockMomma’s Jeep to drive right up to Punk Rock. We ticked off 5 fun pitches that day, and climbed until our fingertips screamed.

Kate cleaning the anchors while everybody plays below

So, there is four weeks of science, family, sun, rocks, mountains, clouds and giggles in one blog post. I can’t wait to see what this fall has in store for us!