King Anthony and Lava Canyon
A big part of why I made such spiritual gains at Burning Man was due to one person, Anthony, who I met there. A sort of spiritual guide for me, Anthony is much further along the path, remarkable considering his age of 21 years. After already having many profound experiences guided by Anthony I learned that he too lives in Portland. This was pretty mindblowing. He was excited about continuing to spend time together outside of Burning Man, and of course I was too. Our first such experience turned out to be hiking Lava Canyon on the following Sunday near Mt. St. Helens. A few of Anthony's friends decided to come along as well. The four of them took a separate car and Anthony and I rode in my car. The drive to Lava Canyon provided an opportunity to talk to Anthony at length once again. I cherish these opportunities because I have harbored so many questions for so long and Anthony is remarkable in his ability to simply answer them. After driving for about two hours we arrived at the Lava Canyon trailhead. After starting on the trail we soon arrived at the beginning of the canyon. Here's a picture of this section of the trail taken later on from the other side:
I soon discovered that this group of hikers, starring Anthony, Adinah, Colten, Haley and Julie were very non-goal-oriented. They enjoyed scrambling around and exploring the nooks of every part of the trail. In my good humour I found this enjoyable as well. For me everything was a bonus after getting the chance to talk with Anthony again. In many ways he is a physical manifestation of my second awakening at Burning Man, having been central to it. In my mind he reinforces my good fortune for having come to these realizations and so his presence is very agreeable to me. So we spent a great deal of time scrambling on the rocks and getting the best possible views of the many cascades of arctic blue water. After about a mile we came upon a cable bridge. Here's the group crossing it:
And here's the view up the canyon from the center of the bridge:
Further along the trail we found several places where the trail came very close to the watercourse. Here's a video that Anthony captured with my camera of the river running through a tight chute:
Later we found a good overlook where the river dropped into a deep cleft. Not being satisfied with the view from afar we decided to down-climb the basalt cliff to get a closer look. Here's a video of this section of water:
Notice Anthony's feet on a tiny ledge off the cliff. This kid is fearless. Here's a picture of Anthony sitting on his ledge along with Colten and Adinah up above:
Nearby there was an area of padded moss covering the ground:
I picked up a piece of lichen and handed it to Colten, who decided it was time for a new moustache:
After this we descended a ladder and the path meandered past some basalt columns:
And then it passed through an aspen? grove:
At the end of the trail there was a steel bridge over the river. I took this picture from the center:
After this we turned around and returned to the trailhead. Overall I found the hike to be very pleasing. It was not difficult but was highly scenic. There were many things to explore and the water itself was beautiful. Remarkably my knee was relatively well behaved and I didn't feel much pain at all. The ride back was much like the ride there. I got so caught up in conversation that I went on auto-pilot. After an hour or so I wondered whether we were still on the right road. Fortunately we were :-) That evening Jared and I hosted the whole group at our place. Jared had baked fresh bread that day and made a delicious blueberry pie as well. Once we got back we prepared a spaghetti dinner with a salad. For appetizers we had broccoli with chipotle cheese dip and the most AMAZING blue-cheese bruschetta you've ever tasted (made with Jared's fresh baked bread). I am normally not a fan of time consuming fancy dishes, but this bruschetta transcended its ingredients here's a picture:
We made two kinds. Colantro/Red/Yellow Pepper and Plain Tomato, all with melted blue cheese. Yum! After dinner we had ice cream with the blueberry pie and everyone left feeling quite a strong food coma. I consider that a sure sign that Jared and I put on a successful dinner. It was really nice to meet new people in Portland and I have a feeling that the relationships I made at Burning Man will continue to give, just like this.
Fivefingers, New Teeth and Dubstep
Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time with folks that I met through Anthony. His family even threw a sort of mini-Burning Man party where they loaded their 8 month old Christmas Tree with fireworks and set it on fire in their backyard! At this party I met Saph, Anthony's cousin, and his roommate Romi who were both clearly very spiritual like Anthony. I also went with Adinah and Colten to a corn maze gathering on Sauvie Island a few days later and guided a decent-sized group climbing trip to Beacon Rock one weekend. When Adinah heard about my shoulder trouble she offered to give me a free hour session of message therapy. As it turns out she runs her own practice and I was very excited to take her up on her offer seeing as I'd never really had a professional massage before. Another thing that I gleaned from this group of friends was the value of Fivefingers shoes when it comes to hiking and scampering around on rocks.
Although I had seen these shoes on many people before, I always remained skeptical. When I saw how much easier they made the Lava Canyon hike for the others I felt like it would probably be worth it to check them out. Before long, I had my own pair, and I was excited to give them a try! More on this later...
Another change that occurred during this time was some cosmetic dental work that I had done. Since childhood I have had a habit of grinding my teeth during nighttime. Even though I've been wearing a guard for a few years now, my front top teeth were getting to the point where they needed to be built back up. Since I was so happy with the dentist I'd found in Portland, I decided to get it done here. The procedure was pretty intense. They basically grind your teeth down into little posts that the veneers can be cemented to. This process involves some heavy drilling so I listened to some Bassnectar in my headphones at maximum volume and that helped to keep my mind sufficiently placated until they were done. For one week afterwards I wore plastic temporary veneers but eventually I was fitted into my legit porcelain ones. They impressively look like real teeth as advertised, and although it has taken some adjustment to get used to having larger incisors I now feel fully comfortable with them. Unfortunately I never took before/after pictures but next time you see me, I'd be glad to show off my 'pearly whites'! :)
Speaking of Bassnectar, there's one more thing that I got from Burning Man that deserves mention here. DUBSTEP! For some reason about half of the music played at Burning Man is either dubstep or some similar style. For those of you who've never heard it, Dubstep is an electronic music genre from the UK that emphasizes 'drops', which are moments where a song breaks from the melody or chorus into a very bass-heavy, sometimes dischordant, and potentially drone-y refrain. These drops are typically remixed in where the hooks fall in pop songs and are preceeded by a good amount of build-up and tension. Because of how massive these drops and their attendant tones can be, dancing to dubstep music usually involves big movement. I loved dancing to it at Burning Man and am totally hooked on it as a genre. Here are a few example tracks that I've plucked from Youtube listed in order of intensity from least to most:
So check out those tracks and let me know what you think. Generally dubstep is best listened to on a system (or headphones) that can handle a LOT of bass. For this reason, nothing can compare to a live dubstep show at a place like Burning Man where camps such as Temple of Boom have million-plus watt sound systems.
Kevin, Claire and Gus
In late September Jared's friends Kevin and Claire moved to Portland from Seattle. Kevin had secured a job with Intel and they were moving down just before his job started. Jared and I spent a couple hours helping them move in and in exchange they treated us to dinner and beers at a nearby food cart pod. Not long after arriving in Portland they decided to get a dog and settled on a lab mix named Gus. I got to meet him when they all came over one day and he is one of the cutest and most playful puppies I've ever seen. Here's a picture of Gus and Claire in our kitchen:
Supposedly Gus is going to grow to be about 70lbs within a year or so. Crazy!
The last thing that happened in September before I left on vacation was another visit to my hand doctor to hopefully schedule my surgery. My finger had become pretty crooked from climbing and other activities over the summer, and I was hoping to have the surgery done ASAP. When he looked at it he immediately remarked that surgery could no longer be performed because of how crooked it was!! I was surprised because he had previously said that I couldn't do any more damage to it, but apparently he didn't know me very well. Fortunately the process of straightening the finger wouldn't require anything too painful or time intensive. He set me up with a physical therapist who gave me a compression sleeve and spring-loaded splint:
Wearing this thing was pretty painful at first, but it clearly was doing the job. I scheduled a follow-up so they could check on my progress and then left.
Sometime in July, Nick (from CyPace) got married to his sweetheart Alyssa and they had a wedding in Colorado that I had to miss because of my planned camping trip with my family in the Adirondacks. To make up for it, I decided to visit Nick for four days from September 29th to October 2nd. Yaacov Silberman, a lawyer that worked with CyPace and was friends with Nick decided to come as well. I had met Yaacov for dinner in Berkeley one night in 2010 but otherwise had only known him from conference calls. Our flights arrived in the Denver airport at about the same time, so we met in the concourse and caught the bus to the rental car agency together. I had scheduled a car for the four days and Yaacov had taken care of the hotel. We drove directly to the Westin and settled in for a good night's rest. The idea was that we would leave the following morning to pickup Nick and head to Utah.
In the morning we received word from Nick that something was wrong. His wife, who at this point was seven-months pregnant, was having complications and needed to go into the hospital. When we met Nick there he didn't have any new information from the doctors so we let him take care of things without worrying about us and left. Since we couldn't go to Utah just yet Yaacov and I decided to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. This would allow us to pass through Boulder on the way and see the mountains up close. I had heard about the scenic beauty of Colorado for years and was really excited to finally get to explore it. The drive up to RMNP was beautiful, especially around the city of Estes Park. When we arrived at the entrance we asked the ranger what his favorite hike that could be completed before dark would be (we only had 5 hours). He responded that we should check out Emerald Lake, and we set off in that direction.
Much like Zion Nat'l Park, you could park your car in a lot and take shuttle busses around to the various trailheads. We did this and before long arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead. The hike up to Emerald Lake was incredibly scenic. We had arrived at the right season, and all of the Aspens were turned a bright yellow. There were many high peaks around as well. Here's a picture of Yaacov discovering a few of them:
As we approached Emerald Lake we passed several others, including Dream Lake:
Emerald lake itself was surrounded by granite outcroppings. The pass between them reminded me a bit of Aasgard Pass in the Enchantments. This time, however, we wouldn't be expected to hike up it! Here's a picture of the pass behind Emerald Lake:
After finishing the hike to Emerald we still felt energetic and decided to go off trail a bit and explore. There was a small hill close to some of the higher peaks that looked like it would make a good vantage point so we decided to head for it. Once we got down into the forest it became hard to keep our bearings, but there were plenty of obstacles around to keep us occupied. Since we were at around 10,000 feet everything felt quite a bit harder, but that didn't stop me from attempting some impromptu rock climbing:
After failing at this particular spot we walked around the large rocky outcropping it was on and found an easier, slabbier way up. Here's a picture of me standing at the top:
And another of me discovering the same mountains but from quite a bit closer this time:
Although be probably only hiked a total of seven miles or so, Yaacov and I felt sufficiently tired (thanks to the elevation) and soon returned to the car. On the way back to Denver we decided to go a different way with the intention of seeing Long's Peak, which is one of Colorado's most accessible 14'ers. On the way I snapped this picture of a nearby peak with fields of yellow aspen on its flanks:
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a good shot of Long's Peak or the famous diamond on it, but we did pass by this absolutely stunning church:
After grabbing some Himalayan food in Boulder we returned to Denver for the night. At around midnight we received a text from Nick with some pretty incredible news. Alyssa had given birth to their daughter, Addison, two months early! Fortunately, Addison was completely healthy and in incubation. Alyssa was also doing well. Of course this meant that Nick had more important things to do for the weekend than hang out with us, so he politely excused himself and we got ready to leave for Utah the next day.
The following morning we left at around 8:30 for Utah. We decided to take the quickest route through the rockies, which is highway 70 for the majority of the trip. We made very good time in our Toyota Rav 4. The scenery was beautiful, with the area around Breckenridge being the most scenic, in my opinion. The highest point of the trip was the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,158 feet, spanning the Continental Divide! We stopped at a restaurant called the Route 6 Cafe and grabbed some yummy breakfast. Here's Yaacov pondering what to order:
After stopping we continued through the rockies and eventually came out into the high desert. The drive from Grand Junction to Moab was essentially devoid of life and scenery, but once we got closer to Moab some interesting rock formations began to appear. Although it was already 3pm we decided we should make the most of our time and headed towards Arches National Park in an attempt to get a hike or two in. When we entered the park the ranger told us that the best hike was to Tower Arch and it required driving along a five mile dirt road to access it. With our 4x4 rental car we figured this sounded perfect! Here's some pictures of the first few formations we saw after entering the park:
After taking a few wrong turns we found the entrance to the dirt road and drove along it to the Tower Arch trailhead. I put on my fivefingers to give them a trail hiking test-run. The trail itself consisted mostly of walking on either hard, gritty sandstone or sand. Both of these surfaces were a pleasure in my fivefingers, especially the sandstone, which was ultra grippy with the vibram soles. Here's a picture of the terrain on the hike:
After hiking for about an hour I could no longer contain my urge to climb some of the formations and I started up an interesting looking one. I managed to get about forty feet up before it got a bit precarious:
The shoes made this scramble a lot easier than it would have been in sneakers! Not long after this we arrived at Tower Arch, and it was truly incredible. Surprisingly the tower and the arch were two separate formations:
After exploring the area around the arch thoroughly, I decided to do some impromptu climbing to setup a great photo opportunity:
The photo itself is pretty epic, and certainly may be one of the more incredible photos on this site. Kudos to Yaacov:
Here's a closeup that shows the detail of the background:
After finishing the hike we drove back towards the most famous arch in the park, Delicate Arch. On the way we noticed some clouds brewing above a nearby mountain range. Notice the small rainbow on the left shoulder of the peaks:
The hike to the delicate arch overlook was really short and gave us a great perspective on this unique formation:
After looking at the arch for awhile we decided to head back to the car. Meanwhile the setting sun cast an interesting light on salt valley, highlighting the green and red hues of the rocks there:
After leaving Arches we drove through Moab looking for motels. Surprisingly almost the entire town was booked. We ended up finding a room for $100 at a place called Redstone Inn. The room was cozy and rustic and close to a supermarket as well as a pizza place and brewery. We went to the pizza place and ordered a pie and then went to the market to shop for victuals for the next day. Once we were done shopping we sat down to enjoy the pizza and then headed next door to the Moab Brewery. I was excited about getting a tasting tray but after finding out that all of their beers were required to conform to the state-wide 3.2% maximum I decided against it. Instead we got some ice cream and took a dip in the hot tub at the apartment complex. We got to be pretty early and were looking forward to driving through Indian Creek and visiting Canyonlands National Park the next day.
Overnight I had some of the most intense dreams I'd had in a long time. One was lucid and another non-lucid one was incredibly creative and beautiful. I wont recount them here, but whenever I have good dreams it allows me to start the day on a bright and positive note. We left the hotel at around 9am and drove South toward Indian Creek. The drive was really scenic, especially once we turned onto the 211 and dropped into the Indian Creek canyon:
Before long the massive sandstone walls of the canyon appeared close to the road. One of the first things to see in this area was a spot called Newspaper Rock where native american petroglyphs were located. Here's a look at the rock:
A couple of miles further there was a parking lot with climbing access trails. As it turns out Indian Creek is one of the most famous climbing destinations in the US, with the splitter sandstone cracks drawing people from all over the states and even internationally. While we were there we got to see a strong climber pull the crux on a famous route called the Incredible Hand Crack:
After passing through the Indian Creek area we entered a large valley that had many standalone towers in it. I had never seen this sort of landscape before and found it incredibly inspiring. Here's a look:
Before long we arrived in Canyonlands and once again asked the ranger at the entrance what the best hike was. This time he responded with 'Druid Arch' and this was to be easily the longest and most difficult hike of the trip thus far. Once again it required a bit of dirt road to access the trailhead. The trail was about six miles each way. Towards the beginning we walked on top of sandstone outcroppings and headed towards an area called the Needles:
At the point where we were to drop into Elephant Canyon the trail ran between two large rock walls. I decided to practice my chimney technique here:
At the entrance to Elephant Canyon Yaacov decided to do his 'Asian' pose. Now, I don't want to come across as racially intolerant or anything, but I do find it strange how many pictures in asian blogs have this character:
Of course there's nothing at all wrong with a smile and a peace sign, I just prefer my explorer pose instead. To each their own! As we continued along, the walls of Elephant Canyon became taller and taller:
Towards the end of the hike the character changed dramatically. Instead of simply hiking in washes we found ourselves scrambling on slickrock and climbing over obstacles. Here's a couple pics from this section of the hike:
Finally as we neared the culminating theatre the walls loomed overhead and the dimensions of the canyon became more immediate. This view from the bottom was incredibly impressive:
But the view from the bottom could not compare to the view looking out of the canyon from above. From this vantage point the canyon had an entirely different character that was impossible to see while walking along the bottom:
I felt like this place was even more beautiful than the Tower Arch area, and was certainly one of the most beautiful places I'd ever been. Perhaps the craziest thing is that in the middle of this rocky amphitheatre is a massive, 200 foot tall double arch:
The entire area was breathtaking and we spent about an hour exploring it. I also found some time to meditate underneath Druid Arch itself. On our way out of the park we met a young man named Jon who was working for the park service and a true outdoorsman. He had lots of interesting stories and livened our discussion greatly. Talking to him helped pass the hours on the way out and before we knew it we were in the car and driving back towards Denver. After a long day of hiking we expected the drive back to be pretty brutal. I purchased a couple of five-hour energy drinks (I'd never had one before) but in the end we didn't need them. Yaacov stayed awake and kept the conversation lively so I never felt the need to sleep. Once we arrived at the Westin, however, I passed out hard.
The next day Nick was tied up so we were unable to say goodbye before our flights left. Nonetheless we still made the most of it by exploring the city of Denver. We spent about three hours walking around downtown. Here's a picture of the Colorado capitol and other government buildings:
We also stopped into an urban park called Washington Park which had a really nice lake and a TON of geese:
After checking out the park we grabbed lunch at a nice restaurant called Watercourse before heading to the airport. The time spent in Colorado and Utah was pretty interesting. Although much of the trip didn't go as planned (with Nick AWOL, especially), it ended up being a really wonderful time. Yaacov and I became great friends and I really enjoyed travelling with him. His personality was a lot like mine when it came to befriending complete strangers and trying to treat everyone genuinely. Now I look forward even more to visiting San Francisco, where it seems like the bulk of my friends are accumulating! While Yaacov was travelling back to catch up on business, my vacation had just begun, and my flight was to Los Angeles, where Ivan was waiting to meet me for a week back in Southern California.
Return to SoCal
I arrived at LAX late on Sunday night and Ivan was waiting to bring me back to Pasadena. I excitedly told him about all of the new developments in my life, of which Burning Man was a large part, and one that I felt he could also benefit from experiencing. I was glad to hear that Ivan had gotten into the Animal Collective while I was away. It's very rare for someone to be able to pick up this band and I was happy to find that Ivan had done it. When we arrived back in Pasadena Max and their new roommate Carlos were around. We ended up staying up really late, till about 5am, discussing interesting personal topics.
The following day the weather was really nice and Ivan and I decided to head to the Riverside Rock Quarry to get some climbing in. It turned out to be a really good idea, and very much a confidence booster for me. You see, I had not yet done a climb that was the same as anything I'd done prior to my surgeries. So ultimately I still didn't know how strong I had become or where I was compared to Colin from two years prior. At the quarry we climbed three routes that I had done before and I felt pretty comfortable on all of them. In fact, I believe that I am just slightly less strong than I was prior to my injuries. I think that my muscles are not as developed but my tendons and ligaments are improved, meaning I am climbing in a more relaxed fashion. I also think my endurance is good. The last climb we attempted before leaving was a 5.12a/b called Balrog. Ivan was really set on trying it, and once we were able to get a top-rope setup I was psyched as well. The route turned out to be really really hard, but both of us managed to figure out the crux after a few tries. It was one of the most interesting hard sequences I've ever done, and I thoroughly enjoyed figuring it out, even though I felt like I had spent myself several times before I got it.
For the next few days in SoCal I spent time chilling with Ivan, Max, Ryan Tomaz and Brian Luther. I was really glad to meet up with Ryan and Brian again and it seemed that there were many positive developments in both of their lives. Ryan had recently sold his house and moved into a new place with Brian Cornelius, Liz, and his girlfriend Pru. This new house is off the hook! It's large, has a massive backyard, and has 14 different tropical fruit trees. I ended up spending a good amount of time this house and I also helped Ryan move some stuff from his old house to the new. Here's a picture of the the patio in their awesome backyard:
The original plan was to head up to Idyllwild on Wednesday to check out properties but due to bad weather this had to be moved to Thursday after Colin arrived. In the end, Ivan, Colin and I headed up there on Thursday morning and Ryan came out Friday. We rented a cabin for lodging and I spent Thursday afternoon with the realtor, Joe.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Idyllwild is a small town of about 3000 people situated at 6000 feet elevation in the San Jacinto Wilderness. The town is located in a cirque of mountains, with San Jacinto to the North and Tahquitz Peak to the South. Here's a picture of Idyllwild in Fall:
There are a few small lakes up there, but the main draw is the pine forests, the rock formations (Tahquitz and Suicide) and the remote feeling. In many ways Idyllwild feels like the high sierra, except that it's a bit drier. Nonetheless, you still get all four seasons and during winter some pretty major snowstorms roll through. During my appointment with Joe he showed me about eight properties. Four of them were just plots of land, and another four had houses on them. I soon determined that my ideal of buying land and building myself was not going to work out, for several reasons. The main issues were that permits were expensive, the town required a minimum of 900 sq ft on new buildings, and material costs were very high. In addition, the prices for existing properties were so low that it was crazy to build when such deals could be had. Of the four properties that Joe showed me, I really liked the last one. More than this, I could really see myself living there. It was a small cabin in the area of Pine Cove that was up on a small hill near an area of exposed rock. It got a lot of sun and had a peekaboo view of Tahquitz Rock (which I loved). Inside it was very rustic, with lots of exposed wood and a very large riverrock fireplace that could heat the whole place. There were two bedrooms and a very nice bathroom. The view of Tahquitz was clearly visible from the kitchen. One of the nicest things is that the property was quiet and the neighbors were not in plain view. I was able to show Ivan and Colin the place and they both really liked it as well. Unfortunately, later that night I got a call from Joe and discovered that someone else had put a bid on the property and the bid was accepted THAT DAY! This was a huge bummer but I couldn't really feel too bad since I had just looked at the market so recently. The main take-away for me was that I really fell in love with the community of Idyllwild and am pretty sold on getting a property up there. It has the right mix of elements that appeal to me and is not too touristy or overrun with corporate chains.
For the next two days, Ivan, Ryan, Colin and I focused on preparing and eventually climbing a route called Whodunit on Tahquitz Rock. Here's a picture of Tahquitz with the route highlighted in yellow:
The route, by the guidebook, is an eight pitch 5.9 that covers 800 feet of vertical terrain. Since Ivan and Ryan were relatively inexperienced trad leaders we spent that Friday practicing in the vicinity of the climb. First I climbed a 200 foot 5.8 while Ivan and Ryan setup some example anchors for me to critique. This route was called The Wong Climb and was a great warmup, although a bit long. The temperatures were also a bit on the chilly side, and there was a bit of ice cascading down from high on Tahquitz, which made it feel more alpine than usual. Anyway, here's a picture of me belaying Colin up the route:
The two of us can be seen above mid-center in the photo. After I finished leading the Wong Climb Ivan and Ryan started taking turns on it. Colin and I went over to climb the first pitch of Whodunit to give ourselves a head start the next day. Since the first pitch was supposed to be the crux, I figured this would be a great opportunity to practice and get the gear down. The lead turned out to be a bit more heady than I expected. The crux involved a 20 foot section of slab protected by small nuts. After placing the top nut you had to climb about eight or ten feet above the gear before getting to the next place where protection was possible. After taking a practice fall I felt really comfortable and ended up sending without too much trouble. I really enjoyed the crux actually. Once I finished Colin ran up it and then I rapidly did it on top-rope before Ryan and Ivan sent. Here's a picture of Ryan at the top of the first pitch:
Once everyone had a chance to top-rope it, Ivan decided to attempt a lead before it got dark. He moved slowly and deliberately and I could tell the route was challenging for him to lead, but definitely within his abilities. Here's a picture of him starting the crux:
Everyone agreed that the practice climbing was really helpful in preparing us for Whodunit. There was also a lot of excitement among the group because the route was so LONG and committing. Looking up Tahquitz you could tell that it was a long way to the top and it would be a challenge to go fast enough to finish before nightfall. That night we got dinner at a mexican restaurant and then returned to our cabin to prepare our gear for the next day. Here's a picture of our two gear racks:
And here's a shot of Ryan's homemade energy bars that would prove to be our main sustenance during the climb:
The next morning we awoke at 7:45 and made it out of the cabin by 8:45. We arrived at the start of the climb at 9:15 and although there were several other teams of climbers around, it appeared we were the only group interested in Whodunit! I started climbing at exactly 9:25am and made relatively quick work of the bottom half of the 1st pitch thanks to the previous day's practice. The next half of the pitch, which we had not rehearsed, turned out to be harder than expected, and it was also challenging to get my rack to last for over 200 feet of climbing. In the end I climbed about 68 meters before building an anchor at a ledge below the 2nd pitch's chimney. Here's a picture of Colin climbing the second half of the pitch (Ryan is in black towards the bottom of the climb):
As soon as Colin started climbing, Ivan started leading for his team. The plan was that I would lead all the pitches for the Colin and Colin team and Ivan and Ryan would swing leads for their team. Here's a picture of Colin belaying me on the second pitch:
In this picture you can clearly see the chimney which by this point I had already surmounted. The chimney was really thrilling, although a bit wet. To exit the chimney you had to pull some exposed jams and work your feet up. Both the section before the chimney and afterward were pretty sustained. Here's a picture of Colin in the middle of the chimney as I belayed him up:
This next picture is basically the same thing but from my perspective looking down. Colin has just started the second pitch, and Ivan, in red, is belaying Ryan up the first pitch far below:
After Colin reached the second belay I started up the third pitch which would be the third straight pitch over 60 meters in length. It was the hardest pitch in terms of routefinding, with a couple of spots where the path was not completely obvious. At one point the main crack widened to about six or seven inches and seemed precarious. At this point I followed the correct path to the left up a small finger crack which eventually traversed on a short ramp back to the main crack when it had thinned again. This section was pretty exciting because the gear was not great and the traverse was kind of sketchy. After this the next 50 feet on the main crack was pretty easy. I setup the next belay about 30 feet before the final roof. Here's Colin approaching this belay:
On the 4th pitch I found some jugs on the roof and decided to take some pictures here where the exposure was really great. Here's a look down at Colin at the 3rd belay and Ryan making his way up the third pitch below:
As you can see it's a loooong way down at this point, something like 650 feet to the ground. After I pulled the roof it was another 150 feet of easy climbing to the very top of Tahquitz. I arrived while the sun was setting:
Here's a picture of San Jacinto Mountain (~11,000 feet) from my belay:
When Colin finished the sun had just finished setting, and when Ivan finished it was twilight. Here's Ivan and Colin at the top:
Unfortunately Ryan had to finish the last pitch in pitch black with his headlamp on. It must have been pretty scary! Before the sun set 100% Colin snapped this picture of me discovering the area:
In the end the climb was quite an adventure for everyone involved. I was very happy with myself for leading each of the pitches clean and I was proud of the rest of the team for succeeding in their own right. The downclimb took about two hours with headlamps but was completely safe. After getting down we grabbed food in town and drove all the way back to Pasadena. The following day we organized everyones gear back at Ryan's place:
Unfortunately I had lost a #2 Camalot somehow but otherwise my rack survived alright. The next day Ivan dropped me off at the Long Beach airport super early and I returned to Portland.
When I was in Colorado with Yaacov, he related the story of how he met his wife, and I was surprised to hear that they had met online, via a site called OKCupid. Since Burning Man, and even before, I had been feeling a resurgent social and romantic urge in myself. I actually expected to have more intimate experiences at Burning Man, but it was not meant to be part of my experience there. Nonetheless, some of the people I met there certainly kindled the fire even further, and after returning from SoCal I decided to sign up for OKCupid and see what it could do for me.
So I signed up and created a profile that highlighted the qualities I like about myself and ignored all the others. I then set to work answering questions that were intended to help the system match me to other people in Portland. I was actually quite surprised by the nature of the questions and the efficacy of the matching system. Although most of the questions did not concern me, many were very central in identifying traits in someone I might get along with. It was not surprising to me that the system-generated matches were commonly interesting to me. Once I started reading profiles things rapidly changed from a 'casting the net' approach to a much more specific, and surprisingly individual search. As it happened, on the first night that I was on OKCupid I ran across a very unique and interesting profile. The young lady in question was clearly very spiritual, confident, and well travelled. Her language was very direct and lucid. I immediately knew I needed to contact her, at least to cultivate a friendship at minimum. Although I was concerned that she would not respond, I wrote my email in an earnest and straightforward tone. Later that night I sent several more emails to other interesting people, but Janel was foremost on my mind. I was very excited to find a response sitting in my inbox late the following day. After a short back and forth I learned that she was very comfortable meeting people in person and we resolved to go for a quick hike that Sunday (only three days away). Que rapido! So anyhoo, here's the picture of Janel that she had put on her OKCupid profile:
After getting to spend some time with Janel I feel that it is very fortunate that we met. We are similar in our approach to the world and in many other viewpoints. In terms of our paths, however, we certainly come from different places. She is more free-spirited and artistic, whereas I am more rigorous and logical. I seek to connect with my free-spirited and artistic side, and Janel is somewhat jaded with the bohemian lifestyle and seeks more balance and possibly more structure/routine. So we are trending toward one another in many respects. Janel is more travelled than I am and her experiences have given her a lot of perspective for her age. In contrast, I have spent much more time in the professional and business world of the US, and while I do not value this experience too highly, I suppose it has also given me perspective as well. Now that winter is coming it is nice to be meeting more people to spend time with in the Portland area.
Halloween and My Birthday
For most of October I was getting back into the groove at work and focusing on my last month of climbing. I scheduled my surgery for the 11th of November and was spending an average of three days per week climbing at the gym. I found an opportunity to go to Ozone for some sport climbing but generally stayed indoors as the weather turned. In late October the focus was squarely on Halloween. I wanted to make a new costume but procrastinated too much and ended up just wearing my Burning Man costumes. On Halloween proper I wore the 1980's spandex outfit and Jared, Mike and I went to Janel's for a small gathering before going out. Jared dressed as a wizard and Mike wore what remained of my James Joyce outfit. People didn't start showing up until around 10pm but most of Janel's friends were really great company. After chilling in her apartment for awhile we went to a bar called the Tube and had some beers and danced for awhile. As usual it was fun to gawk at everyone's costumes. I had never been out in this part of town before and felt there was a pretty interesting vibe. Most of the establishments were clubs with five-letter names, like Dirty and Candy. As is always surprising to me, these places had long lines of people waiting to get in. I didn't mind, though, because this provided more energy out on the street.
A week later it was my birthday, and also the same day as the 'Halloween is Not Over Yet, Dammit!' party that Adinah and Coulten were hosting at their house. I had a good call with my family in the morning and then spent much of the day exploring Portland with Janel. We also listened to some Panda Bear and Animal Collective together on a pair of new headphones that I got for my 29th :-) Once it started getting dark we returned to my apartment to meet Jared and get ready for the party. I decided to wear my James Joyce remnants and my glitter hat and around 10pm we arrived at Adinah's. Our hosts for the evening were Clay, Alisa, Adinah and Coulten. Here's a picture of Alisa and Adinah:
When we arrived I was really surprised by the quality of the decorations. Here are a few examples:
In addition to all of the props, they also had a bartender and full bar:
They also had a DJ lineup and many other amusing things. Two things were particularly trippy. The first was a projector/hookah setup that managed to synergize in a super cool way. They had the projector pointed at a seat near a hookah table:
The idea was that you sat in this chair and then people would blow smoke through the projector's rays and it created really psychadelic smoke patterns. This photo fails to capture the effect. You really have to be there to experience it:
The other super trippy thing that they had was a unique Fire Table. It was a home built table that had sand on top and borders around the edges to keep the sand in. There was flammable gas being fed to the bottom of the table that would rise through the sand and then catch fire. When the sand was smoothed out, the fire was uniform over the table, but when you took a stick and drew patterns in the sand, the fire would keep to the areas where the sand was thinner, allowing you do draw in fire. It was incredible and also provided much needed warmth outdoors. Some people spent a few hours just staring at the table as people created patterns in it. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of it in action.
As the party was heating up the music was actually not terribly ideal and Janel and I decided to go for a walk to the park across the street. After returning we met up with Romi, Saph and Anthony. I was really excited to see these guys again but unfortunately they couldn't stay too long. We ended up hanging out by the hookah table and listening to the new DJ who was playing some awesome dubstep tracks. I danced a bit and discovered the wonderous effect of putting my sparkling hat in front of the projector. It basically created a mini-galaxy on the ceiling from all the sparkles. For the rest of the evening we chatted and listened to Anthony tell his story about being a bum on the streets of San Francisco for two weeks. At around 3am we returned home, exhausted. What a great birthday!
Finger Surgery and Dubstep Brunch
On the following Friday I finally had finger surgery. Jared dropped me off at the surgery center in the South Waterfront district at 10am and I was shortly assigned a bed and asked to put on a surgical gown. At this point I was visited by various nurses, doctors, residents and anesthesiologists to prepare me for surgery. They put a nerve block into my upper arm that was far less painful than the neck one done at Kaiser. The case before mine ran long so I ended up waiting about two hours before I was wheeled into the OR. Once there I switched onto the operating table and they soon put me into the twilight zone. Although I was not under general anesthesia I blacked out for almost the entire procedure and only remember brief glimpses. After I came to in my bed I felt great and Jared came to pick me up. They had put me in an aluminum splint and bandage:
On the following Monday I got the bandage off and here was the damage:
Although it looks pretty gruesome I've haad almost no pain whatsoever and I'm already working on exercises to maintain my range of motion. The doctor says that I should be able to climb lightly with that finger in 6 months, but I am hoping to climb sooner by splinting or otherwise keeping that finger unused.
A couple of days after surgery Jared and I decided to host brunch for a few friends. At the last minute I decided to theme it a dubstep brunch, just cuz. Our guests were Janel, Romi, Saph and Janel's friend Natali. We had lots of fresh fruit and berries and Jared made waffles. It took a couple of hours to get everything ready, but everybody pitched in and the preparation was part of the fun. After we ate and were content we engaged in a great conversation at the table. I am incredibly fascinated by the spiritual nature of the people I've recently met in Portland and bringing a few of them together for an early afternoon dialogue was a lot of fun! I expect that in the near future we'll be hosting Ambient Brunch and maybe others down the road. (Emo Brunch anyone?!)
After coming home from Burning Man, I felt strongly like commemorating the experience somehow. Although it's impossible to really capture or symbolize such a profound experience, I thought it might be nice to do something that would serve as a permanent reminder of the impact the event had on my life. In this same vein I felt like Burning Man was really the second such experience, the first being my original spiritual awakening that happened in 2005 when I envisioned life as a Buddhist monk during a trip. In the end I decided to get two tattoos, one representing each of these two major events. I came up with both designs and had the work done at Above the Pearl tattoo which was only a few blocks away from my apartment. The experience of being tattooed was not as painful as I remember. In fact, I quickly adjusted to it, and actually enjoyed the experience start to finish. In the end my two calves were properly branded:
I am really happy with how they turned out! I plan on augmenting the burning man with smaller elements for each year that I go. After next year's burning man I'll add the first two.
Portland in Autumn
In Portland the fall is more colorful than I expected. Although the days are mostly grey the trees change color dramatically, much like Upstate New York where I'm from. Here's a picture I took from my office of the NW corner of Portland:
After Burning Man I felt a strong desire to free myself from my work stress and push myself more fully along my spiritual path. Now that I had met more like-minded people in Portland, I felt this was happening socially, but I was still in the same basic situation at work and was looking for a way to change that. I still wasn't sure whether I should totally cut loose or simply look for a more limited role in my field. One option that became apparent was the potential to get into a full-time remote consulting position focused on technology and development. In an attempt to enter into this sort of an arrangement around the CyPace technology, Nick and I engaged a company called Top-Tier Consulting that is interested in purchasing the CyPace assets and bringing on Nick and I to do exactly that. The amount of freedom that this sort of arrangement offers is very enticing (imagine working from a European cafe or a mountain cabin!). Anyhow, these negotiations are still ongoing, but looking very optimistic. More to come in Winter...
Forward to Winter 2011
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