Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best and Worst of 2007

January - Return from PA to darkness and piles and piles of snow!

Leading Ripple! (I don't actually have a picture of my lead, but here is the climb)

Also, adopting the Tasmanian Devil, oh no wait, that's our kitten Migsy

February - Laura Z. visits and we try to sway her to move here from NYC (Still pending...)

March - Cat Skiing...

...and Ski train!

April - The amazing Eklutna Traverse

...with a scary ending

May - Moving into the new House! With a hot tub!

June - Sitting on top of Bold Peak (3rd times a charm)

...and Whithorse for the Solstice, my first drive on the Alcan Highway AND mountain biking for 24 hours... well not really.

July - Mom and Angie visit!

.. and Brian catches a KING!

Mount Marathon - best race evah...

... worst hat evah.

August - Brian finishes the Soggy Bottom 100

Rock climbing!

September - Visiting Brian's brother and his wife, Christine in Michigan

October - Adopting Niko("Lucky")

November - Winter Biking!

December - First Christmas that we stayed in Alaska and a visit from the Garcias

Yesterday... skiing in Eagle River


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Movin' on up

Last night was the first ice race of the Frigid Bits season. Carlos had plowed a mile long track into the ice on Goose Lake and we had the option of doing 5 or 10 laps. I considered doing the 10 laps but then thought about being out there by myself long after all of the guys had finished and having to watch them party at the burn barrel while I trudge through my last laps. So I chose to do five.

And five was enough. The first lap was great, I took my position in the back with about 25 guys in front of me and one behind. The only reason the one was behind me was because he was hauling a generator on his trailer to power some sort of monster headlights that he had mounted on his bike. After the second lap they started to pass me. Passing on the ice around a curve is kind of hairy. At any moment your bike could slip out from under you and take out the other guy.

I had one bad spill and it happened to be right in front of the crowd around the finish line. There was a complete 180 degree turn within a 5 foot area and I decided not to slow down on lap 3. Maybe I could just swing my back tire out and straighten it out and go. Well, I got the swing out the back tire right, but it kept swinging right out from under me.

I ended up finishing second to last! Woohoo, I am totally moving up in the pack. I mean just last month I was talking about, "I'm in last" this, and "I'm in last" that, and look at me now. I came in like 24th out of 25. Now that's progress.

All joking aside I do feel like I'm gaining fitness. Even if I haven't been riding much I seem to be able to take more pain than I used to. Or maybe it was the couple of glasses of wine I had with dinner before the race. I even got an award for being a good sport! A 22 ounce beer with 9.2% alcohol to top off my buzz and make the burn barrel extra special! Thanks Carlos!

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Lay off me, I'm starving!"

These days I cannot eat enough. I have lost weight over the past few weeks, despite the fact that I feel like I am constantly stuffing my face with food. I am usually a fairly healthy eater. I love all fruits and vegetables, salads, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. But lately I have been eating pretty bad. It's not because I am being lazy, but because a salad just does not satisfy my screaming appetite.

I guess it's because I've been running a lot now on top of all of the recreational stuff. But I'm not running that much. I think about all of the ultra endurance racers. They must have to eat sooo much to stay fueled for their training. I am a bit of a food addict, so it's kind of fun to be able to eat more. I also don't feel guilt when the inherent sweet tooth rears it's ugly head.

This morning I went out for an hour run and halfway through I felt really weak. I had only eaten one GU before I left. I had to stop and walk after 3 miles and that was even difficult for me. I have done many hour long runs now on only a GU, but I guess that is not going to cut it anymore. My body seems to metabolize food the instant I swallow it.

Later in the afternoon Brian and I took his parents (they are visiting from back East) out for a ski. We skied for about two hours and didn't take any food. Halfway through the ski I started to feel really hungry. I couldn't get my mind off of it. When we finally got home I pushed everyone out of the way and went right to the fridge and cut off a big hunk of cheese and ate it. I stood there with the fridge still open and proceeded to eat cheese hunk after cheese hunk, not even bothering to put it on a cracker, ready to bite off anyones head who made a comment. Lovely.

It reminded me of a Saturday night live skit I saw once. It was back in the days of Chris Farley and David Spade. They were dressed up like teenage girls and sitting at the mall eating french fries. Chris Farley, donning a blond wig and makeup, was stuffing his face with the fries, when David Spade says, "Tiffany, I thought you were on a diet?". Chris Farley pushes him out of the way growling, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"

Dark days linger on

A friend of mine said January is the most depressing month in Alaska. You arrive at the solstice and think that it is suddenly going to be light out. But it's not. It is still very dark and doesn't seem to be getting much better. The short days are stressful. Even though the time that I am awake is the same, there is something about the sun setting at 3pm that makes you think the day is over. I have a problem with trying to get too much done. I keep trying to tell myself that "tomorrow is another day", and that I can finish what I was dong tomorrow, or the next day, but I still get stressed. And when the sun sets it feels like, thats it, days over, your out of time.

This week marks the second month of Team in Training finished. Despite the darkness, I feel really good about meeting my goal now. With my 1 hour and 45 minute run on Sunday, I now know I can run for my goal time. Now I need to work on speed.

After Sunday's run, I felt some pain in my knees. Having broken each of my legs over time, I have two bad knees and my doctor told me that arthritis is inevitable. I don't believe that nonsense about running ruining your knees. Except for the pain this week, my knees have never felt stronger. I believe running strengthens the muscles and tendons around your knees and helps to protect them. As long as you don't over do it.

So I took a few days off. We got almost a foot of snow on Christmas so I have been taking Niko out for a ski here and there. It's nice to be able to ski right out my front door at any time. I ski down the street one block and hop onto the lighted Chester Creek Trail.

Fund raising is going well, but I am a little nervous about it. I have about $1100 raised so far, which seems like a lot, but is only 1/4 of my goal. We'll be having a wine tasting and silent auction sometime in January or February so that should help. I hear my company may be setting up a corporate sponsorship as well.

Ok, I'm off to run for an hour. Now that there is more snow, my times have been much slower. I'm trying to not pay attention to distance and just run for time. Seeing how slow I am in the snow is frustrating, but once the snow melts in April, I am going to be super fast!

Monday, December 24, 2007

And the winner of the iPod Shuffle is....


Congratulations Mark! I'll be contacting you to find out what color you want. Being the geek that I am, I put all of your names into a database, one time for each dollar you donated since November 30th. I ran a random number generator to select the winner!

Keep an eye out for future raffles. I am at about 30% of my goal right now. Thanks to everyone who sponsored me so far!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

University Lake

Today was longer than yesterday, and tomorrow will be longer than today. It's great to be on the other side of the darkness. It no longer feels like it is closing in on us, and we can look forward to the longer days of February and March.

My Team in Training practice was supposed to be yesterday at Westchester Lagoon, but they moved it inside again to the Subway track. I didn't go. Our long run was 1 hour 45 minutes this week and, of course, I did not want to do that inside at a track with no windows. The sun is a rarity these days. I spend most of the light hours during the week in an office. So naturally on the weekends I want to try and get out every chance I can to see the sun.

So I took Niko out for an hour and 45 minute run, to University Lake, around a few times and then back home. I think we ran a little over 10 miles with a few stops to drink water and take some pictures. Running at University Lake is great because it's an off leash dog zone. There are anywhere from 30 to 50 dogs running around this park at all times and Niko loves it. I enjoyed it to because it kept my mind off the fact that I was doing the longest run that I have in a few years.

I ran an hour and 45 minutes, which is pretty much my goal time for the race. I feel good about meeting that goal. I've already got the time covered, I have put my base miles in and after New Years it is time to start getting faster. I have already started to add some pickups to my hard runs during the week. I also plan on doing at least one tough "hill" workout a week, to build strength and in case I actually do qualify for Crow Pass.

Two great days in a row! Here are some more ice pictures from yesterday... my stance is lacking in style, but there was a great ledge there for me to stand on and put in a screw!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Success on the Solstice

Today was a fantastic day. It came at the right time. Sometimes you just have to have a bad week in order to really appreciate a perfect day.

Being the shortest day of the year, we decided to sleep in. No use going out in the dark anyway. Rolling out of bed around 9:30 felt great. Around 10:30, Kim, Brian and I left town to go climbing at Candyland. Candyland is just what it sounds like. A playground for ice climbers. Off of the Seward Highway, cut into the side of the mountain there are rows and rows of ice to climb. As a bonus, the view from the climbs of the Turnagain Arm are not bad.

The cold snap last week fattened up the ice everywhere around Anchorage. Then it warmed up Friday night to make it just that perfect consistency like swinging your tools into firm butter. This is the kind of ice that makes you believe you can't do anything wrong. Completely the opposite of the ice on our attempted climb two weeks ago.

Kim and I warmed up on the ice at the bottom of the climb. Kim was psyched to do her first waterfall lead. I was psyched to get back into leading after a seven month break from waterfall ice. I was also a little nervous after the attempt a few weeks ago. Did I still have the guts to lead? Or had I completely lost my nerve?

Kim led up first and did an awesome job. Clean lead, no problems. I followed her up, and felt little more than awkward. I hadn't really followed anyone lately either, so I found the rope above me constraining, and downright annoying. I had to go in the direction that the rope led me which meant getting myself in some awkward positions. At one point I was totally straddling this bulge, with the worst form ever, and felt so insecure. But the ice was nice, and it was just great to be out there.

The three of us did laps all afternoon. It warmed up to somewhere in the upper 20s it felt like and we relaxed, ate, climbed and took in the view. I was ready to lead again.

I geared up and kept staring at the climb. I felt pretty confident at this point, but there is always that thought in the back of your mind. What if this is the day that I am going to fall. I started climbing and 10 feet off the ground, my fears just vanished. I was leading again and felt amazing. No more rope in front of me directing me where to go, getting in the way of my swings and constricting my movement.

There is a certain freedom in leading. Of course you are putting in protection, but each screw is quickly behind you and it becomes just you and the ice. The possibilities are endless. It becomes a kind of dance. You swing your tools with a rhythm and use your footwork to slowly and gracefully move up the side of an enormous frozen mass of ice. I felt more comfortable on this lead than ever. It helped that ice was super sticky, but I have my leading confidence back and am ready to move on bigger and better climbs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An different kind of track run

This has been a really cold week with temperatures from 10 below to 10 above. The high today was supposed to be minus 5. Finally we have a cold streak to get some ice in the Anchorage area. Tomorrow I'm going to head back down to the highway climbs at lunch to check them out. They've gotta be in by now!

Last night Brian and I decided to go check out the next Frigid Bits course that was set up on Goose Lake. Carlos, the organizer of the winter bike races in Anchorage, shoveled about a 1 mile track that curves and twists around the frozen surface of Goose Lake, which is right around the corner from our house.

I needed to do a 45 minute run and Brian wanted to bike the course. So he biked, I ran and Niko ran back and forth across the lake trying to find his owners in the dark. It was just what I needed to spice up some of my weekly runs. It was so clear out that I even could see the skyline of mountains in the darkness. It was really peaceful running out there on the lake, away from the roads, away people passing by, away from the same old trail I've been running on. The middle of the lake was a little piece of solitude right in the middle of the city.

I'm trying to change it up a bit though. If I run on Goose Lake every day, I'll most likely get bored of that too. So I'm going to try to do a different run every day of the week. And that means I may be even hitting the treadmill once a week to get out of the cold! This has definitely been the most difficult training I have done because of the conditions (dark, below zero temperatures, and boredom). The running is easy, but getting out the door is the hardest part. Sometimes, drinking hot chocolate or baking cookies sounds much more appealing.

But I know I can get through it. I've been feeling really good on my runs and that is giving me the momentum I need to keep up with my running every day. I have gotten to a certain fitness level and do not want to lose it now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cold, cold run

I stepped into our entryway this morning at 7:30 and felt a rush of cold come over my body. Niko cowered behind the door, hesitating to join me. You know it's cold out when a Husky does not want to go outside for a walk. I'm guessing it was about 5 degrees. When the temperature drops below 10, running outside is very different.

Running in 5 degrees causes sensations I have not felt before. It took a long time for my muscles to warm up, and as soon as I would stop, I would instantly stiffen up and become cold. Halfway through the run I felt this tingling, stinging sensation on my skin that I could not put my finger on. I figured out it was my sweat freezing as it hit the surface. At one point I tried to spit, and then realized ten minutes later that I was running with a frozen icicle of drool hanging from my lip. I couldn't feel it because my face was numb. My eyelashes started to freeze up and I got the usual burning feeling in my fingers. The effort I had to put in just to maintain a 9 minute mile pace was intense.

I read an article this week about running and temperature. It said that runners perform their best when the temperature is between 36 and 52 degrees. So you will perform better when it is 36 degrees, then, say when it's 60 degrees. But when it drops below freezing the cold starts to effect your performance, due to the fact that you need to bring in a lot more oxygen.

I felt that today. I was trudging along trying to keep up what felt like a swift pace, but when I reached the first mile marker my watch said it took 9 minutes. I felt like I was running a 6 minute mile! The article only mentions temperatures down to 25 degrees. It says that at 25 degrees your performance drops by 2%. I wonder how much performance drops when it is 5 degrees?

So the challenge continues. One of the things that has been keeping me motivated lately is my increased performance. I come in from every run feeling like I've improved. I'm running stronger, faster and longer. But that was when it was in the 20s and 30s. I hope these cold temperatures don't slow my progress. But the article also mentions that you can adapt to running in the cold. So we'll see. If it means the ice is forming I am happy to run in the cold.

This weekend I'm taking the entire weekend off, except for my long run on Sunday. I have Christmas parties to go to and was planning on putting up our tree and baking cookies. There is supposed to be wind chill of -20F, so sounds like a good time to stay inside. But part of me wants to get in in -20 just to see what it feels like to run. Next week I hope to get down to some of the highway climbs at night after work. We'll see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dark days

I'm sitting at my desk at 10 am and the sun has not yet risen. Soon we'll be entering the last week before the winter solstice and man it is dark. This will be my first year to be in Alaska on the solstice. The past two years I have left around December 16th to go home for Christmas.

My runs have been uneventful this week. I'm now running about 4-5 hours a week, but except for the weekend runs, I run in the dark. I leave my house sometime after 7am and run into the darkness, return in the darkness, shower and get ready for work, still darkness. Get to work, dark. Lunchtime, it looks like dusk. Around 3pm it starts to get dark again.

But for some reason it has not bothered me. For the past two years I remember starting to get some mild depression sometime around the 10th of December (this week) and that has not happened this year. I attribute that to my running and being really busy. Until today I hadn't really thought about the lack of sunlight. What kicked it off today was that I have become bored with my morning run. When you run in the dark, it doesn't matter where you go, it all looks the same. I know the Chugach Mountains are sprawled out in front of me as I pass under the Lake Otis bridge, but I can't see them.

I need to push really hard through this period in my running, because boredom is the number one motivation crusher for me. Right now I'm running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Next week I'll add Monday, so I'll be running 5 days a week. The only time that I can run during the week is before 8am and after 7pm. I need suggestions on how to spice up my running routine! Can anyone help?

Aside from running, I am quite enjoying the darkness. After coming in from the cold at night, I make a cup of tea and snuggle up on the couch to watch a movie, or snuggle up in bed to read a book. The darkness makes it cozy. I think I'm ready for the solstice. My cat Migsy is also curling up in the darkness of her house made of Alaskan Winter Ale boxes...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Defeated by the kid

Sunday brought more temperatures in the 30s in Anchorage, so Kim and I decided to get out of town. We drove 2 hours out to Caribou Creek to try our hand at a climb called Kid's Corner.

I had my eye on this climb for the end of the season, after I had warmed up on some easier climbs, but I figured we might as well give it a try. The climb is five pitches of solid Grade III ice, which would make it the hardest climb I have tried to lead thus far. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best choice for my first lead of the season.

I have to warn you now that I am pretty new to ice climbing. This will be my second full season. This blog for the next 5 months is NOT going to be a heroic checklist of all the awesome climbs I conquered, adventurous new routes I've discovered or first ascents of climbs in remote places. And there will NOT be pictures of me standing on top of mountains that no one has been on before, or pictures of me climbing crazy overhanging icicles that look as if they are about to detach from the rock. That is an entirely different blog.

What I hope it will be is a totally honest account of my trials and tribulations, and hopefully some successes, in learning how to lead ice. Last year I realized that on the way to succeeding, I am going to encounter some setbacks. So, I tried to keep this in mind after yesterdays climbing fiasco.

The entire climb is in a narrow canyon that never sees any sun. The temperatures are usually below 10 in the canyon during the day and drop below zero over night. That makes for some really solid hard brittle ice. The climb was big, beautiful and blue. It was so good to see fat ice again. I was a really nervous hiking in on the river to the climb. I had heard some nightmare stories about the ice on the first pitch being so hard that one of the best woman climbers in the area could not get her screws in all the way. But when we arrived at the climb the first pitch looked pretty easy. We confidently strapped on our gear and talked about how we would be at the top of this pitch in no time. Little did we know we would be quickly humbled.

So I started my lead. I got a feel for what the ice was going to be like on the first section of low angle ice and started to feel uneasy. The ice was exploding under my picks and the noise was unsettling. Ping! Ping! Like I was swinging my tools into rock. I would swing a tool and the ice would explode in all directions leaving a shear face for me to swing into again. I couldn't sink my tools in far enough.

Let me explain. On a good day it goes something like this. You swing hard, your pick sinks into the ice, you give a yank to make sure it's secure and you move your feet up. Repeat. Today it went something like this. Swing, swing, swing, crack, start over because the ice you were swinging at is now gone. Swing, swing, swing, crack, exploding ice in my face. Repeat.

Finally I get my tools in solid and move up. This process was totally exhausting. And I never really knew when the ice that I had sunk my tool into was going to crack again. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I'm now hanging on the edge of this climb about 20 feet up and totally not confident that I can keep going like this. I put in a screw, but it takes about 5 minutes. And then, my feet slipped out from under me. Luckily my picks were in far enough that they held, but I was done. I had to back off.

Kim said she wanted to give it a go, and I thought that was a good idea. I just wasn't feeling this climb. She had a similar encounter with the climb and had to back down. I could hear her breathing heavily as she down climbed.

Having to back off of a climb is not a good feeling. For a brief moment you feel like a total failure. Or as Kim would say, a "heaping, steaming pile of failure". But then you begin to verbally rationalize your fears and convince yourself that it would have been dangerous to continue. I know that it would have been dangerous to continue, but not because of the condition of the ice, but the condition of my mind. And that does not make me feel better.

And so my first bad day of the season. But at least the season has begun. And I know now that having bad days just make the good days that much sweeter.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Symphonic run

I was supposed to go to Team in Training practice today for my long run, but when I found out it was being held at the Subway Track again, I decided to make my own plan. My training plan dictated that I should run for an hour and twenty minutes. I knew that I could get creative and get in an hour an twenty minute run that did not involve running in circles around a track. Eleven and a half laps equals two miles? No thank you. So I took Niko up to the North Bivouac trailhead and ran for an hour and half outside.

Saturday is my day for the long run, which is my favorite. I know that all of the runs are important, but there is just something about the long run that until now I could not put my finger on. I discovered a little bit about why I love to run this weekend.

I have not always been a runner. In fact, I didn't start running until I was 25. I remember when I was younger and we were required to participate in Presidential Fitness tests where we had to run a mile. I hated it. It seemed like such a pointless thing to do. Why would I want to torture myself like that? I wanted to play a sport that had a purpose. Or one that allowed me to run fast for short distances. The meaning of the word endurance completely eluded me. I didn't see the value in running at all.

I think back to that time and I understand why I hear so many people today say, "Why would you want to run?" "I hate running." "I don't get it." I usually just shrug it off and never expect to be able to explain it to someone who doesn't run. I was inspired by an article that I read in Runner's World last night about the long run. The author used the word "symphonic" and it suddenly became clear in my head.

For the first few miles I struggle to get warmed up and it feels kind of awkward. I am forcing my feet to propel forward as I work to keep my upper body relaxed. Every nagging pain I have been feeling for the past week now suddenly comes to the forefront. After a few miles I feel the blood start to rush to my legs and arms and I loosen up. For the next mile I try to settle into a pace that feels comfortable, but an effort to keep up. The pain melts away.

That's when the symphony begins. The first thing I hear is my breathing. It's slow and rhythmic, but loud. Then my heartbeat chimes in. I notice the shush, shush of my wind jacket rustling as I swing my arms and the crunch, crunch, crunch of my shoes on the snow. Then I hear myself breathing again. And I feel good. My body is working hard to keep this rhythm, but my mind is calm. Every muscle in my body is working, but somehow I feel more relaxed than I ever have in my life. And I feel like I can go forever.

Eventually fatigue sets in and I slow down, but for a moment I feel as if I can do anything. That's not a bad feeling.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dreaming of ice

I ran down to the Turnagain Arm today to check out the climbs. There is a climb on the highway called "Scales" (by the weigh station) that was my friend Lucia and my after work practice climb last year. It's a super easy climb... Grade II ice. But when you are learning how to lead and you work in Anchorage during the week, it's a fantastic little haven.

It's on the highway, which I am generally not a fan of, but it became our own little private ice climbing gym. The bonus is that it's under a street light so you can climb at night without a headlamp. All week the temperatures have been in the teens and 20s so the climb has begun to form up nicely. Unfortunately, today it was 40 degrees.

Standing under the newly formed, untouched ice, I listened to the sound of it dripping and melting away and felt a sadness similar to what I feel during breakup in the Spring. And there was nothing I could do. I must have looked lost out there standing on the side of the highway looking up at the ice with a pathetic look on my face. I could even see the green webbing I put up at the anchor on my first climb there last year. But all I could do was admire it from afar.

Will I get to climb at all this year? The forecast for the next week is showing highs in the mid 30s. Enough to kill the already formed ice. So sad, so sad. These fluctuating temperatures are enough to kill the entire ice season. I'm bummed...

So I guess now I can only dream about ice. The picture above is one I took in Alberta last year at the Canmore Ice Climbing Festival. I haven't climbed anything of this magnitude yet, but I can think about a day when I will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Studs, studs, studs

In the winter in Alaska there is ice everywhere. Ice on the roads, ice on the trails, ice on the tundra, ice on the rocky cliffs. So we put studs on everything. Studded tires on our cars, studded tires on our bikes, studs on our mountaineering boots (well crampons), and now studs on our running shoes.

Team in Training had a shoe clinic at Skinny Raven last week to aid us in getting the right shoes for training in the winter in Alaska... Naturally I end up with the most expensive pair of sneakers I tried on. They are made by Icebug and they have built in studs. Hearty studs, the kind that make a lot of noise when you run and scare off any shady early morning prowlers in the woods. No need for dogs or bear spray.

Now I stomp around the trails every morning with confidence in my big bad studded shoes.

Sorry Brian, you may have thought this was a post about you and your biking such luck. :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

10 degrees and dropping

I dressed up in my cold weather running clothes as soon as I got home from work tonight. I knew if I didn't immediately go out for a run, I would end up snuggled up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea. It was about 10 degrees and dropping when I got home from work, so I headed right out.

Cold weather running is interesting. I know that I'm supposed to be a little bit cold when I step outside, so that when I warm up I don't overheat. But when it says 10 degrees on the thermometer it is so hard not to bundle up. Can I stand 5 minutes of being extremely uncomfortable so that I will feel comfortable later in the run? No, not this time. I went against all of my knowledge of exercising in the cold and piled on the layers. Face mask and all.

When I walked outside I knew I had overdressed because I felt relatively comfortable. The only thing that told me it was in fact 10 degrees, was that the inside of my nose was freezing up within seconds of stepping outside. Actually my nose was the only skin I was baring to the air. Within a few minutes of running I felt the blood rushing to my extremities. I ditched the mittens and one of my layers. And the face mask is just cumbersome when you are trying to get oxygen to your lungs fast. That came off too.

After I warm up, it really doesn't matter what the temperature is, I sweat. So I ran for about 45 minutes, sweating my ass off and feeling like it was about 80 degrees not 10.

Ahhh.. Alaskan winter.. finally. Well, yesterday I was whining about how warm it was, and today I am running in 10 degrees. Tonight it's supposed to go down to -10. Just what we need to get some big fat ice building up. Maybe tomorrow I'll head down to the Turnagain Arm at lunchtime to check out how the climbs are coming along. If these temperatures keep up we may be climbing down there by the end of the week.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ughhh... no ice in South Central

Kim and I headed out to the beer climbs again this morning. We left town at 8:15 am in order to get there when the sun came up. Because of the consistently cold temperatures this week (in the 20s) we were sure we were going to find some ice fat enough to climb.

We sat in the car at the trailhead and watched the frozen pads of ice float down the Knik river, hesitant to get out of the car and into the arctic weather. It was about 20 degrees when we left my house in the morning. We laughed about how wimpy we have become to the cold, because we haven't been on the ice in 2 months. Finally I mustered up the courage to step out into the cold, looking forward to the crisp air on my face and hands as I shoveled on my mountaineering boots. But, to my surprise, I stepped out to a warm breeze and overwhelming sense of disappointment in how this winter is starting out.

It was way too warm down there at the base of Pioneer peak for the ice to be in. But we hiked up anyway to see how the climbs were coming along. We found out they are not coming along. They are in the exact same state as they were two months ago when we were there. We both let out a big sigh and then hiked back down. We decided not to get too upset about it, but it's hard. We had a plan for this winter and things are just not going as planned. We talked about how nice it would be if global warming could speed up a bit and kick us right into an ice age. That would be sweet. Well, we can only dream.

I guess we'll just have to ski. Here's some pictures from Brian and my hike/ski in Eagle River yesterday. We met a pretty cool guy from Eagle River who showed us where the powder usually is and gave us the inside scoop on where to avoid because of avalanche danger. He told us a story about how he kicked up a pretty large avalanche last year on the same slopes, while snowboarding with his dog. He was able to ride out of the slide and into a rocky area, but his dog was not as lucky. The dog, "Serac" had been behind him. After the slide came to a stop he couldn't find him. A few minutes later he started to cry, when out of the pile of avalanche debris he saw two tiny paws sticking up out of the snow. They were digging. Serac clawed his way out after being buried by the avalanche.