After returning from Tahoe, I doubled my focus on climbing. My roommate Colin moved out on March 15th and my new roommate, Ivan, moved in. Ivan is at least a V3/V4 climber, and his influence immediately affected my climbing. Before the end of the month, I climbed my first V2's, which you can check out Here. Here's a picture of Ivan, my climbing buddy and roommate:
***Need Picture of Ivan***
On account of climbing, Ivan and I clicked immediately. He is a Caltech student from France and is brilliant. Among his many talents is an absurd proficiency with the Rubix Cube, which he can complete from a fully random state in less than 45 seconds.
In addition to climbing, I also spent a good deal of time on a new website of mine towards the end of March. It's called www.sourcesofinspiration.com and it's a repository for stories of people and things which are inspiring. I hope to find time to keep it updated and eventually attract a few people to the site.the design is pretty much completed and I think it looks really nice, so please check it out! One of the first sources of inspiration to make it onto the site is the story of Chris Sharma, who is one of the greatest rock climbers in the world. The movie King Lines is predominantly about this amazing climber and his interesting outlook on life. I find it extremely inspiring, not just in my climbing, but in the rest of my life as well, and I highly recommend you check it out, if only for the ridiculous climbing technique and skill that he possesses.
Towards the end of March, Stover invited me to attend a Lakers game with him. The CEO of his company had given him a pair of very nice seats at the Staples Center, and I was going to be the lucky person to check it out with him. The experience was quite a bit less exciting than I expected, and not just because the Lakers lost to one of the worst teams in the league, Charlotte, by a substantial amount. Overall, the play was very sub par for the NBA and quite lopsided. In addition, the superstars on the court, including Kobe Bryant, hardly seemed like they were trying. One thing that was pretty impressive, from the 6th row, was the size of the players. Here's a couple pics:
Stover and I were also playing quite a bit of basketball in Century City on Sundays with a semi-regular group of guys. Although I still had a few issues with my leg, they became less and less prevalent during a game, when my mind was completely focused. I even have begun to get my jumping abilities back.
A couple of days after the Lakers game, Stover, Sasha, Stover's friend John, and I decided to take a trip down to Mexico. We were going to take Stover's car since there were four of us, which I was very enthusiastic about. We started in the same way that Jared and I had a month prior, but intended to camp in different areas, and potentially make it all the way down to Guerrero Negro. While in Ensenada, I intended to pick up some oxy from the local pharmacy vendors, and did so, although it took a lot longer than expected because apparently Mexican shops do not open at the advertised times. Additionally, since I was not crazy about the idea of smuggling them across the border, I decided to ship them, along with some articles that I grabbed at Walmart. I found a DHL, but they refused to send the items because they claimed to be unable to send textiles, so I went to the UPS next door. The most curious UPS office I'd ever seen, this place didn't have packages, mailing items, or even a scale. In fact, the only thing in this office was a desk and a phone, with a person sitting behind it. I asked the clerk how much it would cost to mail my approximately one pound package across the border into the United States. She picked up the phone, dialed a number, spoke to someone briefly, and responded with $45. The process was utterly ridiculous, and I argued and argued, but only managed to negotiate a deal of $35. I payed, reluctantly, and hardly expected my package to arrive at all. I mostly just wanted to get rid of everything to stop holding the others up and continue on our trip.
After passing through Ensenada, we pulled off near a small group of houses, in order to get a better view of the coast. We discovered the ghosts of a previous incarnation of Stover and John, who had been great explorers in their time:
Another incarnation of Stover was buried in a landslide:
A bit further down the coast, we pulled Stover's car off the road and off-roaded a bit to some large sand dunes. We found a beaten up plastic barrel nearby and decided to invent a new sport, Dune Sledding:
Things didn't go so well on the inaugural run though...
We debated spending the entire day dune sledding and setting up tents on the top of the dunes, but ended up pushing on towards Bahia de los Angeles. The group enjoyed the drive through the cactus covered desert immensely, and it didn't take long to arrive in the small fishing town. We set up camp in the same area that Jared and I had previously. Here's Sasha and John making themselves at home:
And here's a view from inside the little hut:
While speaking with some folks at dinner, we learned that Guerrero Negro was not a very beautiful town, and so decided not to continue on the next morning but instead return to the dunes to camp the following night. On our way out of Bahia de los Angeles we ran in to some donkeys that were wandering the desert:
We stopped for lunch at one of the lone buildings that appear every so often along the road in the middle of the high desert in Baja:
The food was surprisingly good, and not very expensive, even by Mexican standards. The main theme of the trip through Baja, this time around, was singing. For some reason, we decided it would be fun to make up new, and typically demeaning words to the melodies of popular songs. More often than not, someone's mom was involved in each limerick. Amidst this singing, we decided to take a stop at one of the more panaramic lookouts along the road. This is in the part of Baja that is lush, by desert standards, and replete with mesas:
Once we made it back to the sand dunes, we had to setup camp quickly as night was quickly falling. The wind was very intense on top of the dunes, something we had not accounted for. However, by using a little space between two mini dunes, and our plastic barrel, we managed to create enough wind shelter to have a fire:
We spent a few hours around the fire, talking and telling stories. At one point, we came up with a very fun game where each person comes up with a term or phrase, and the person to their right has five minutes to invent a new sexual act around that term. For example, 'The Last Eskimo' involves building an igloo in Summer and having sex inside until it melts and drowns you. This is probably how all of those other terms that we shouldn't know where 'discovered'. After a while, we returned to our tents and slept. Here's a picture taken the following morning of our little campground on the dune:
On our way back out of Mexico, we took a number of pictures of roadside Mexican buildings and such. Since I didn't post many pictures of non-landscape in my first section on Baja, I'll put some up here:
The border crossing this time around was miserable. We were detoured away from the main crossing on the 5, and instead had to endure a five hour delay at an alternate location. The traffic was completely halted, to the degree that we spent a few hours outside the car playing catch. When we finally returned home, everyone was completely exhausted.
A week later, Rafaela visited for the second time, primarily to attend some interviews at local architecture, design and planning firms. We managed to sneak away to Joshua Tree one weekend for a chance to relax. While driving through the park, we noticed an interesting Joshua Tree which was half-dead:
Also, while looking for some bolders to climb in the wonderland of rocks, we found a few areas with a bunch of yellow flowers growing:
Most of the time in J-tree this time around was spent climbing, and you can check out pictures of that Here. The best picture was of Rafaela climbing Let's Get It:
Back in Pasadena, Rafaela's interviews went pretty well, although no offers were made on the spot. It was clear that the Industry was suffering quite a bit due to the recent economic downturn. However, in my industry, things seemed to be business as usual, and I even was chosen for a promotion to manager, which was a big step for my corporate persona. The associated raise will help to establish my savings, but I still need to get on the ball about investments, which I have not done at all thus far.
Back at the Arc, Ivan and I were progressing to more and more difficult routes, and I even started working on some legitimate V3's. The first V3 that I climbed was on April 13th. It was a Sunday and I projected the route all day, and luckily had the energy to link it once I figured out each section. A couple of weeks later I climbed my second V3, which was a long blue one with many cruxes. This was definetely my best route ever. For more pics and details on these routes, go Here.
Not long after I started climbing in the V3 range, my fingers started getting really sore. At first, I wasn't too concerned, but it eventually made itself clear that I had some ligament problems, likely from climbing too often and too hard, and weighing as much as I do. This came as a blow to me since I was developing so fast and making so much progress. Ivan explained to me that I wouldn't likely be able to climb hard for another 3-6 months. Bummer. In order to continue making progress, of a kind, I began to climb lightly and utilize my thumbs. I also began doing more core body workouts, and some aerobic work.
In early May I got the opportunity to travel to Madison for a meeting with Epic folks on Web Services. I of course extended my stay through the weekend so that I could spend time with Martin and my other friends. It also turned out to be the same weekend as the Mifflin St block party, so I figured I would make the best of it. After a couple days of work, I moved into Martin's apartment. He now lived with Whitney, who had grown a beard. Colin came down from Minnesota for the weekend. Here's a picture of us pre-partying at Martin's before Mifflin St.:
After Martin's, we went to Mifflin to meet up with Laura Duffy and her friends at her new apartment. Here's Martin and Colin ready to go:
There ended up being a bunch of other girls at Laura's, which was kewl. It was really shaping up to be a fun day. Here's the whole group of them:
The perceptive ones among you may notice that the person in the middle is not a girl. That is true. We got rid of him as soon as the picture was taken. We pre-partied pretty heavily at Laura's before leaving for Mifflin. Just before leaving her place, I grabbed a beer for the road and put it under my button down shirt. This clever method of hiding my beverage did not work, however, and I was apprehended and cuffed as soon as I left her apartment by two police officers. Without even a chance to argue, I was marched through the crowds of people, like a spectacle, and hoarded onto a van, after being registered as having glassy eyes and slurred speech, which I don't even get when I'm drunk, which I wasn't, yet. At the police station, I was taken into the parking garage and my cuffs were secured behind my back to a chain wrapped around a cement column. I was in a plastic chair. My wrists were hurting pretty bad and the wait was almost three hours. While I was waiting to be called, I observed the other souls that were down there. Many of them were far more drunk than I, although some also seemed relatively sober. A few girls were crying, but the crowd was largely guys. I estimated they had a couple of hundred people down there. Once I was called, they explained that I had to pay $400 for bail or they would put me in jail. This seemed fair, so I paid up, and they let me go. They even said I didn't have to come back, but it meant forfeiting my bail money. Basically, the whole thing was a mechanism for the city to pay for the extra cops they needed to hire for this party. As I was leaving, I managed to secretly snap this horrible shot of the parking structure:
Here's a picture of my wrists after I got uncuffed:
When I got back to Mifflin St, the party was still raging:
Colin had gotten a pack of Coors Light and was ready for my return:
After bumming around Mifflin for a while, and meeting up with the others, and telling the story of my arrest several times, we went to Natt Spil for some cuisine:
After Natt Spil we decided to climb the capital building a bit, which I explained to Colin is a pasttime in Madison:
When we started climbing the building, a couple of cops yelled at us and asked us to stop. We quickly circled the building and climbed again. On our way down, the cops turned the corner and spotted us again. Bad Luck. They apprehended us, and put us in cuffs. This was a pretty familiar experience to me by this point. However, after scaring us a bit and having our information checked out (I was scared they would find out about earlier, but they didn't...) they let us go. We went towards State St and decided to drop by a few bars, for nostalgia's sake. Nothing really noteworthy happened, but we did get a picture with some chick with cool hair:
After bar time, we went back to Martins to pass out. My flight back from Madison was the following day, and I was pretty hung over, which made travel less than ideal. Nonetheless, I felt that I had a good variety of experiences on this visit back to Madison, and was looking forward to my next chance to come back.
On my next business trip to Northern California, Jared and I decided to do some hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is a section of California coastline North of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco. There are lots of opportunities for hiking and camping inside the park, although one must be careful of Poison Oak, which abounds here. When we first arrived at the park, the coastal area was surrounded by fog, which is typical of Northern California in Summer. We continued with our hike, hoping that the fog would lift as the day continued. The first stop on our hike was a series of waterfalls that were above the beach:
After checking out the falls, we walked down to the beach itself. The fog was still very prevalent, but had lifted in some areas:
On our way out of the park, we spotted a banana slug. It was the most attractive animal I've ever seen:
In the end, our hike in Reyes was nice and calming, but certainly wasn't the caliber as the other California parks I'd been to. Still, its proximity to San Francisco makes it a nice day hiking or biking area.
In another couple of weeks, Jared and I decided to take another trip to Baja Mexico. This would be my third in three months. Now that I knew the area a bit better, it was clear to me that the ideal 3-day trip down Baja involved hightailing it to Ensenada, shadily buying some Oxycontin from a pharmacy there, and then sprinting down to Bahia de Los Angeles to spend as much of the trip as possible on the coast. Arriving in Bahia, we were more tantalized than ever with the massive mountain that forms the backdrop of the city. We decided to attempt to climb it starting in the early morning on day 2. Without a topographical map, we had to base our approach on a visual survey of the land. We decided to attempt to climb on a ridge beginning near the road about a mile up from the city. Here's a view of our spot, along with the mountain and the chosen ridge in the background:
After we started, we immediately had to descend into a canyon carved out by a wash. This required some limited bouldering to get into and then out of. After this, we made our way up the first incline to the very bottom-most portion of the ridge. Here's this initial incline:
The wind was blowing quite hard and once we reached the ridge, we found ourselves very exposed and the ridge was both narrow and subject to gusts of maybe 30mph. Due to the rocky, unsteady nature of the terrain, we contemplated scrapping the hike for safety's sake. In the end, however, we decided against it, and the trek to the mountain-top continued. The hiking was very different from any other hiking I've done. Instead of working slowly along switchbacks to achieve a singular summit-point, we instead took the direct and exposed ridge from one mini-summit to the next. Often we had to descend over 300 feet prior to starting up the next higher mini-peak. The ridge-tops and a few other spots between them, sometimes flattened out a bit, providing some shelter from the wind. In these flat spots, the ground was usually softer, and there was plain evidence of animal burrows. We commonly rested here.
Here's a look down on our path from maybe the third or fourth such mini peak:
And here is the view up the mountain from here:
As you can see from this picture, our High Point was quite a distance from the summit. To put it simply, the hike was a lot longer and more precarious than we expected. In the end, we settled with a spot marked by a solitary organ-pipe cactus that had striking views of the bay and surrounding area. Here's a view of the nearby Volcano and a small peninsula near it:
The cactus at the top of our high-point gave evidence that people had ventured to this spot previously. In fact, there were sticks stuck into the sides of the cactus by previous parties, and some of these sticks, having grown up with the cactus, were well out of reach from the ground. If you look closely, you can see three of these sticks above my head here:
About three or so hours had passed since we started the hike, and the view of the remainder didn't look terribly promising, especially considering our tired condition. Here's the view we had to the summit at the high-point:
It's the peak in the middle-left of the photo, behind the prominent ridge. After turning around, it took another two or three hours to return to the car. On the way down we snapped a pic of some of the cool looking rocks:
And a feisty looking cactus:
Overall, the hike was enjoyable, but the wind was certainly not ideal. I believe the summit could be attained in a day, if it were a long summer day, and one were to start early and have great stanima. Of course, no impossibly steep sections could be encountered and there was no certainty on that point.
The morning after the hike, Gorski woke up a bit early to take some sunrise pics:
After a couple more days in BdLA, we returned North. On the way out of town, we found a group of desert donkeys. There were two young donkeys in the mix, here's one of them:
We also spotted some Vultures and carrion:
In the mid-morning we stopped in the midst of the rocky Joshua-Tree-esque high desert region to do some rock climbing and practice gri-gri rapelling. Here's me on the first descent:
And here's Jared on his first go:
After rapelling, we climbed a couple of bouldering routes that you can read about Here.
On our way out of Mexico, we stopped at a nice restaurant in Ensenada and had dinner. The waitstaff treated us exceptionally well. Jared ordered the cream of cactus soup, and when the waiter saw that I enjoyed it upon tasting, he brought me one on the house. In addition, they gave us free desert and free bottomless coffee, since he knew we had a long drive ahead that night. The main dishes themselves were perfectly prepared, and this turned out to be the perfect conclusion to another quality trip to Mexico.
Forward to Summer 2008
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