24 February 2008

Four days of fun

Even though I am plagued by coughing still, it's safe to say I am healthy again, otherwise I wouldn't have had the energy for the past four days. It started with two days of skiing on Thurs and Fri, followed by some rock climbing Saturday and bouldering and hiking on Sunday.

So a big thank you goes out to Jason, Chad, Steve, Leigh, Kathryn, Ian and Andy, and well, me. It was good to get out and enjoy life for so long a period.


Jason and I head up to Loveland for some skiing. The forecast had called for a few inches in the mountains and being eager for some powder, I packed my backcountry skis which have better float and better control in the fluffy goodness. Boy was I wrong.

No snow fell, making skiing on the 4-day-old base a little bouncy and rough. Took one spill that caught me by surprise. Apparently got bounced, caught an edge and got a half-blurred look down to see my skis not completely parallel before I instinctively bit it. I apparently was going at a good clip cuz I slid farther and more out of control - skis wound up facing uphill - than I thought.

Jason hitting a drop with reckless abandon

Made a mistake and took us down an icy chute on one run; we needed ice skates more so than skis at a constriction. Needed to edge down one section which was too narrow for me to feel comfortable with jump turns and way too icy to point the tips down. After that, it was better than I thought. Apologized for my mistake to Jason - he likes big wide open spaces.

Kathryn, the PR and Marketing manager at Loveland joined us for some turns after lunch. As would be expected, she put us to shame. My skiing was off and I really couldn't hold an edge. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to be the guy making excuses, but things definitely felt off compared to before lunch.

When we got done with our final run and it was time for me to head into work, I took the skis off at the base, and went to switch my boots into walk mode. Ah-ha!! I don't suck after all. I skied the entire second session without my boots locked, meaning my ankle was loose and I could flex forward. That would explain the difficulties and why I skied conservatively.


The mistake of heading down the icy Sunburst Chute didn't scare Jason away. That's always a good sign. Same bat time, same bat channel, we headed up to Arapahoe Basin. I've been wanting to return and sample Monezuma Bowl ever since I went and shot it for a story. My two runs down in on a very frigid day - read minus-15 - wasn't really skiing as much as, don't fall and break the expensive video camera in your backpack.

It was awesome. Beautiful bowl runs, trees, rocks to avoid, wide open spaces, you name it, it had it all. A wonderful day of hitting black runs in the sun and with great views.

On our final run on the backside of the ski area, I saw a sign pointing to another black through some trees. Knowing Jason's aversion to tight spaces, I checked it out first. Traversed over and dropped in, I spied it didn't look that bad. Jason followed. I went halfway down and waited, and waited some more. Uh-oh, Jason isn't having a good time.

I believe the first words to me when he got to me was, "I hate you. I hate this sh**. I don't want to be one of those people on the news that dies from hitting a tree."

Not good. I looked for the easiest way down through the bumps and trees for him to follow, hitting bumps, jump turning when needed and wishing the run was longer. Jason probably wished the run was non-existent.

On the way back down to the base, I spotted another sign for a black down a gully with a warning sign about rocks and possible dangerous conditions, etc. Sounds like fun to me. Looking back up at Jason though, I didn't want to push my luck. Everybody has their own type of skiing they like. Jason likes open and wide and going fast down that. I enjoy features and having to turn RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW or it's gonna get ugly.


After running some errands and giving the truck a much-needed shower, went out to Table Mtn and met the guys for some rock climbing. Had miscommunication with Chad and missed out on a good 1 1/2 hours of crimping and cussing.

Ian playing switcheroo between a 5.10b and a 5.11a variation of an arete

It had been since the second week of September since I last tied into a rope and really the first climbing of any kind I had done since the beginning of December. And it felt so bloody wonderful and natural! It was great being able to think about nothing more than how am I going to get from here to there. None of the irrational fears that had plagued me during my marriage. It was climbing freedom and I want more!!

Steve ambling past the crowds on a beautiful Saturday afternoon

A ride up Lookout Mountain, an uphill ride from his house to the trailhead, a hike uphill to the base of the cliffs and several more climbs, Steve is what I refer to with much admiration, a freak. Downhill leads to burgers and beer

The crew: Ian, Andy, Steve (check out the coffee cup holder on the handlebars) and Chad

Sunday or Where's my boulder?

Body is tired. That was the realization I had waking up a little after 8 am. Too late for ski tour. My original intent was to make a backcountry ski tour up the St Mary's Glacier, maybe glide over to one of the puny peaks on the flats and then get some runs in on the slope back to the lake.

Those plans went up in smoke because I woke up too late to beat the traffic and wouldn't have enough time to beat the ski traffic as it returns down I-70.

So bouldering it was. Headed over to O'Fallon Park to my little cliff circuit. On the drive I remembered a hidden gem of a boulder that would offer some really fun climbs. Psyched about getting thrown off some new problems, I got to the area quickly to find, I can't find the rock. I looked this way, I looked over there, I looked off the ridge crest, I looked on it. I spent an hour looking before settling on some problems I've climbed in the past.

But it didn't satiate me. An analogy I made to one of the many hikers I saw who asked about the big rectangular crash pad strapped to my back, was it's like going to a nice restaurant and seeing it has salmon on the menu. You think that sounds perfect and you order the salmon. A little while later the waiter comes back to say a rogue band of alley cats broke through the back door of the kitchen and ran off with all of the salmon. It doesn't matter what you order after that, it's not going to taste so good because you had your heart on salmon.

So after a short uninspiring bouldering session I decided to take the crashpad for a hike. The good news is I hiked farther than the backcountry hut I plan on backpacking to in Costa Rica is. Hiked for three hours actually with stopping for a sole water break.

Somewhere up there is my missing boulder. If found please return to where I think it is so I can climb on it my next trip out

16 February 2008

The best two paws you could see

Coming up Sunday on News2 at Nine:

Saturday I got up at the way-too early hour of 5:15 am to meet up with one of our photogs Dan and shoot a story on avalanche dogs at Copper Mountain Ski Resort. The pro patrol put three dogs through drills and during the training for the second dog, Dan and I both volunteered to be buried. Dan did it to get video for an anchor package which will run on Sunday. And I did it because I've never been buried before.

It's a blue grave. What it looks like being buried alive.

It wasn't nearly as scary or claustrophobic as I thought it would be. It was a small snow cave I was in, as opposed to being suffocated by avalanche debris. The interesting thing was how blue and how quiet everything was. The only sound I heard was footsteps from the patrol guy John when he got close and when his dog Tracker marked me.

She then went on to extricate Dan first and then came back to me. It was an interesting sound hearing her dig and then lunge into my tiny shaft of freedom with two furry paws.

Cascade finding the third, and deepest victim

- Snow Patrol. Ok I admit it, really corny for me to choose this group given the nature of the post. It is interesting listening to a song that was so identifiable several months ago yet has no meaning now. I've moved on.

15 February 2008

Love is in the thin air

It was a long day yesterday; 13-hour work day actually. I volunteered to go up and shoot an anchor package on a mass wedding at the top of Loveland Ski Area. And I'm glad I did. It was a good learning experience as I discovered a few things I need to work on.

I just wished my camera worked without breaking. For some reason half of the footage was fine and the other half was blurry. And I can be sure that this time it actually was the gear and not the photographer. The auto focus must have froze. It was rather surprising because it was calm and probably about 15 degrees - not too cold.

Fifty couples said I do - 10 of them for the first time. I did resist the urge to shout out, "Don't do it! It is the biggest mistake of your life." Actually it was rather touching, seeing couples gaze into each other's eyes and you could see true love. I remember what that felt like.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Copper Mountain to do a story about avalanche dogs. I have volunteered to get buried in the snow. While I am sure I will freak out, I figure it is something I should experience, just in case it does happen while backcountry skiing or doing a winter climb.

ARTIST OF POST - Flobots. Catchy song by a local band. Props to anybody who squeezes in the word metronome into their lyrics.

13 February 2008

I have great friends

First off, I finally fixed the link to my work blog. On the top of the left-hand side you can now see a reader that has the latest web feature. You can just click on it to go to the page with the article and pictures.

Second off, some of you read about the loss I suffered in my life. Yes I am talking about losing my pair of liner gloves and forgetting my gaiters in Washington state after my trip there in the beginning of December.

However yesterday was a good mail day. I received two rental DVDs from Blockbuster, a card from my considerate mother, a bill for only $75 from my emergency room visit last month, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and a box. When I opened the box, well in the lyrics of Peaches & Herb, "Reunited and it feels so good."

Yes, that is authentic Tiger Mountain mud right there

Hurray! I won't have wet ankles when I go to Costa Rica now. And even better, the gaiters had a travel buddy.

Mike and Mary felt bad for my loss and got me a new set of liner gloves, and they are really soft too. Thank you so much guys, you didn't need to do that.

My friend Gayle has been taking some ribbing for at work, well for this:

Apparently Texas gets cold easily at night, so Gayle used an old sweatshirt to keep her warm. Nothing wrong with that. Now she just must resist the urge to buy a rhinestone collar.

10 February 2008

Just what the doctor wouldn't order

Lo and behold, the grip of Ralph the virus still wraps it's bony fingers around my throat like the morbid tentacle touch of a Kraken. Yes, I have named my virus. When you spend more than three weeks with an entity, you wind up giving it personality, and I've always hated the name Ralph - rather drab and uninspiring.

But alas, is that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel which I spy with my proverbial eyes?! Last night something miraculous happened, I slept. I slept uninterruptedly. I slept beautiful, nurturing sleep for eight solid hours. No waking up coughing, no interrupting painful throat interludes, no nothing but blanketing blackness of the back of my eyelids.

And that led to... my throat only hurting part of the time today?! Could it be Fred is getting tired of my company? Have someplace more important you have to be you annoying little bug?

What exactly did I do to bring on such blissfulness? Was it the bike ride yesterday? Was it the few beers guzzled at Chad's last night? Was it the Tylenol and Nyquil chaser I downed before laying my head down?

With renewed vigor and the sun shining over the foothills, I loaded up and set out for some cardio. There is a short but steep hike I know of that would be a good litmus test of how far I've dropped. And boy have I dropped far. The first time I did the 1000-foot hike it was in more challenging snow conditions. I made it to the summit boulders though with a steady pace and didn't stop. Today, I needed to pause for three breathers.

One of the less steep sections

When I broke out from underneath the forest canopy and got brushed with sun at the saddle, I knew the grueling climbing was over. All that remained was a traverse and some scrambling. But those rocks to my right look awfully alluring. The snowshoes came off and the scrambling began until I reached a place of pause.

I know, it doesn't look intimidating

It's only a little snow right? Snow-covered slab, ah yes, how appearances can be deceptive. Nothing is more treacherous and unnegotiable. I gave it a feeble effort, going up about my height until I came to an impasse. I was stuck. Even quivering a foot would send me sliding down. There were no large holds to yard up on. And down I slid.

Thankfully I found a small gully to the side and was able to find some dripping, but cleared-of-snow granite to scramble up. Finally I was able to traverse over to the slab.

Oh look, there is a crystal there I can get my left foot on, and there is a small depression for my right foot. Oh sweet blissful granite I could kiss you!! I forgot about the simple yet purely innocent pleasure of slab climbing on clean granite. I could have used another 50 feet of that goodness.

Instead I got to flat top too soon for my liking.

Looking back east

Denver's rather anemic skyline

A beautiful day and a good short outing. I'm glad I didn't choose my original intentions and go skiing around Brainard Lake. I would have died.

Off to Loveland Ski Area Monday morning and then the doctor on Tuesday morning. Hopefully I won't have any ailments any longer when I finally see him.

ARTIST OF POST - Hooverphonic. Just a fun remake of a Depeche Mode song.

05 February 2008

He's almost human again

I have never been a conspiracy theorist. True I believe the odds mean there is extraterrestrial life. But as far as the government bugs every home, there was a second shooter and the government is covering up the truth in 9/11; my reaction is, "Nobody is that important." and "Cut down on the Ho-hos, the sugar is getting to your brain".

However, my view might be shifting. Let's say some drug company decided to create a designer virus, something that is immune to any drug out there. And let's say the drug company decided to release said designer drug on an unknowing subject. And let's say that unknowing subject is ME!!

In the slightly-distorted lyrics of a New Order song Truth Faith, "I never thought the day would ever come that my life would depend on not coughing blood."

Yesterday was the first day I didn't hack up blood causing mild celebration and rumors of a ticker-tap parade down the festive streets in Englewood. OK, maybe I embellish a little. But nearly three weeks later and I am still not normal. My throat still is scratchy and cause for sudden interruptions of sleep at night. Hell, I have worked out twice in the past two days in an attempt to gain back the weight I've lost.

So that would explain the lack of posts and adventures lately. I don't really believe people want to read about the number of times I coughed, the average temperature of my fever nor the color of the phlegm my throat has produced.

Work Feature up

It is about three weeks tardy from when I first envisioned it being posted, but you can now read my outdoor feature for work here. It feels good to get out and report again, though my feature-writing abilities have definitely been tarnished by the 4-year layoff.

Every week I will post on something new. I'm looking at the life of a ski patroller, a giant avalanche drill, nordic skiing, avalanche dogs and of course, there will be some climbing posts done. I will soon start incorporating video clips in the feature as well as soon as my Final Cut Pro skills grow.


Incubus - A good reminder to all of us; don't take life for granted, it will evaporate quicker than you know.