Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When life gives you lemons...



Well, I've found myself in an interesting situation. Last year when Brian and I stayed in Alaska for the holidays we said we would never do it again. As much as I hate the shopping and the music and the crowds and the stress and the whole consumer aspect of Christmas, there are many things about Christmas that I love. And I find myself here in Anchorage, missing those things.

I like the tape of Nat King Cole that my mom has been playing while decorating the tree every year since I was born. I like the party my aunt Pammy throws on Christmas Eve, which is the only night of the year that I get to see most of my extended family. I like that my Aunt Carol makes mimosas on Christmas while we open our presents at Nana's. I like going to my best friend Kate's parents house late night on Christmas Eve to have a few beers and hang out with friends that I never get to see. I like the cookies. I like the wine. I like the tradition.

But alas, I am here in Anchorage. Alone. I can't even bake cookies because my oven is broken. It's dark. Sounds depressing right? Not really. I talked to my friend Kate on the phone today and she reassured me that if anyone would take this situation and have fun with it would be me. So I'm trying to do that. I have three days off to do whatever I want. That never happens.

I mean, I have weekends off all the time, but it always seems like in between climbing and spending time in the mountains, there is a mad rush around to do all my chores and run errands. I'm already packed for my trip and I have three unexpected days with no real responsibility and it's kinda nice.

Last night I stayed up until 3am watching movies and reading books. Today I started my day off by sleeping in until 10:30. When I finally rolled out of bed I took the dogs for a long walk in the morning and then made a giant breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee.

I packed up a bag with lunch and hot tea, bundled up in my warmest layers, and took Brian's snow bike out for a ride on the coastal flats around 1. It was about 5 degrees and clear. It's been so cold lately that the city is covered in white frost, plus there is fresh blanket of snow covering everything. I had a slight mishap (I'm and idiot) while riding and ended up having to walk the bike back to the house, but I was just glad to be out in the sun with no responsibilities to come home to.



For dinner I made myself a big pot of clam chowder with crusty bread and salad. I'm about to pour myself a glass of wine and get in the hot tub. I'd say it's not such a bad Christmas Eve after all...



Merry Christmas to everyone! And if you are spending time with your family this Christmas, don't take it for granted!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stranded



Yesterday I spent 7 hours on the phone and online trying to reschedule my flight. My flight down to Seattle was delayed. If I got on that plane I would have missed my connecting flight to Philadelphia. I tried to reschedule the flight to Pennsylvania, but there was not one seat on one flight from Seattle to anywhere on the East Coast until Saturday. Saturday.

So I didn't go and tried to reschedule my flight out of Anchorage online. Nothing until Saturday. I even tried to get to Chicago and then was fully prepared to take the train to Philadelphia. No go, couldn't get to Chicago either. Or anywhere for that matter. Every flight out of Alaska was booked.

Every time I found a flight that I wanted, by the time I clicked on it, it was gone. The flights kept moving farther and farther away in the week and getting more and more expensive. I found flights online through continental and then called them to see if I could reschedule the first part of my flight, but they would not let me. The earliest I could arrive was Sunday.

I got so frustrated that they wouldn't put me on flights that obviously had seats on them that I asked them to give me a full refund. I would book the flight myself online and get something before Christmas.

After 7 hours online and on the phone, I ended up settling on a flight on Friday. It leaves in the morning and I will arrive in Newark, NJ at 10:30 pm.

Before Brian left Monday morning on his flight he was considering canceling for fear of leaving me here alone on Christmas. But as of Monday morning everything looked fine. My flight appeared to be on time and there were no delays in and out of Seattle.

Now I find myself here in Anchorage with three days off from work before I leave and am realizing that it's not that bad. I have a few days to relax and play. Suddenly I am here at home with no responsibility and it's kind of nice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

We made it!



Whew! We made it past the solstice. Not that there was any doubt that we wouldn't. But ya never know. Last night was the longest night of the year. Yesterday Brian and I headed out for a "short" ride up near Hatcher's Pass with a bunch of his riding buddies.

Long story short, I ended up having to turn back pretty early in the ride, because of my lack of winter vehicle. On the uphill I had to push the whole way and on the downhill my skinny 2.3 inch tires were digging into the snow and tossing me every time I had to brake. There is no doubt that I could have finished the ride, but the guys would not have been happy with me trailing farther behind than I usually do.

Brian talked me out of buying a Pugsley earlier in the season. Well, for one, I really can't afford it right now, because I have to support my very expensive climbing habit. But also, he was convinced it was not needed. But for a ride like this it definitely would have been welcome.

The guys continued on, while I rode back and drove the car back down to Houston (Houston, Alaska that is) and waited. They ended up having a great 5 hour ride, for which I am jealous, but it was just not my day.

I've decided to start a Pugsley fund. I may not have the full amount to buy one until next season, but that's fine, I have enough to do this winter.

I leave for Philadelphia tonight and will be arriving in Allentown, PA by midnight tomorrow night. I am so excited to see my family and friends this time around. Some of them I haven't seen in over a year so it will be a treat. A little bit of direct sunlight can't hurt either.

Oh and thanks Manny for the photo...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Powder - A cure for crazy



I was reluctant to go with Brian down to Turnagain Pass today to meet up with his new ski buddies. I have just been in such a bad mood lately that I didn't think it would be a great introduction. But I really needed to get out(and so did Niko) for a full day in the sun so I went.

It was my first day out skiing in the backcountry this year, so my skinning technique was a little rusty to say the least. Brian and I decided to tell the guys to go ahead on the ascent, and we would hang back and have a mellow day.




My day got worse and worse as the hill got steeper and my skins kept slipping. I fell numerous times despite Brian's attempts to coach me, it just seemed to be getting worse. I looked out at the view and could not enjoy it. Great. A bunch of really beautiful mountains covered in snow. Whatever.

My mood was degenerating as we neared the top where we would take off our skins and ski down. I just could not turn my attitude around. What the hell? Why couldn't I just suck it up and have fun?



We had some sandwiches, took our skins off and I watched Brian start down the slope of creamy white snow. Wow. The powder looked really nice. I pushed off and did one turn and my mood instantly turned around. It was smoothest untouched most beautiful champagne powder I have ever skied in. It was like floating on marshmallows. And I was happy.





Back at the car, tired and happy... who knew that is all it would take.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I love Fridays off

Here some pictures from my last Friday off, two weeks ago that I never posted.

Hillside Pillars!









Tomorrow I'm heading down to Candyland again. Dean says it's in big enough to protect so we are going to try to climb the whole thing tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Madness

Well, this is it. The last week before the solstice. We are down to 5 hours of daylight. The darkness has a choke hold on us now. Working 9 to 5 really sucks in the winter. I never see the sun.

This is the week that I start to go mad. I can't fall asleep at night and can't get out of bed in the morning. Yesterday I awoke (late) in a fit of rage. I yelled at the dogs and Brian and the kitchen table and anything that got in my way. What was wrong with me? I was going mad from lack of sunlight.

It was not a pretty sight. Brian tiptoed away from the bathroom door as I tried to dry my frizzy hair while screaming. He knew it was best to just leave me be.

I ordered an extra large coffee around 9:30 am hoping that somehow more caffeine would cure me of my madness. It didn't work. It just shot my nerves and made me more crazy.

Worked seemed pointless. Who cares about this crap when I feel like this.

I thought about the 5.11 that I attempted in the gym the night before and could not get off the ground. This seemed easier last week. Something has to be off. It must be the crazy streaming through my veins.

Sunday is the solstice. Monday night I fly into sunny Pennsylvania. Ahhh, sweet relief. By the time I get back we should be up to 6 hours of daylight. Only a few more days to bear.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two is not always better than one



I always thought that I wanted to have two dogs. Ya know, they would play with each other and wear each other out. They would snuggle together on the couch and keep themselves warm. We would all be so happy.

And that's how it was the first few days that I have been watching Laura's dog Aly while she spends some time back east. But sometime today when I left her and Niko alone things started to go sour.

Today I came home to Niko's snout all swollen and bleeding. There had been a serious fight here while I was at work, and Niko did not come out a winner this time. Her and Niko don't really have a good track record (Aly bit Niko on the nose at their first meeting), but I thought lately they were getting along.



I thought a nice run would burn off some of their energy, so I harnessed them up, tied them to my belt and took off. The first mile was a mess. A pulling, tangling, barking, yipping, spinning, hair flying, teeth growling mess. Once we got that all sorted out we had a nice run. But I can't imagine doing this every day. Instead of calming each other down, they get all riled up. What if they were children? Nope not ready for that yet.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Candyland!



I woke up at 7 am this morning to take Laura to the airport so that she could head back east for the holidays. I bundled up in my warmest dog walking gear and stepped outside to a biting cold, the kind that freezes the inside of your nose instantly. My warmest wool mittens were even failing me.

Upon returning from the airport I crawled back into bed under my down comforter and vowed never to leave. It was still pitch black at 8am and felt as if the sun would never rise.

But alas, it did, and then I remembered that I was suppose to be picking up Dean and Kim to head down to Candyland at 10. The cold and dark dampened my mood and I was not super enthused about the prospect of ice climbing. But I went anyway and it turned out to be a beautiful day. And frankly I have adapted so well to standing out in the cold in the past 3 and half years that zero degrees didn't even really feel that cold to me after the sun came up. My nose was a bit frigid but that was it.

Due to last weeks warm temps this climb has melted quite a bit, but it has formed up some in the past few days. It was thin conditions, but fun sticky climbing. We even had to do a few mixed climbing moves. I discovered today that I love climbing thin conditions. The climb was steppy, so I could get good foot holds and than tool around until I found something to hook. Sometimes it was ice. Sometimes it was hard snow. Sometimes it was rock. Sometimes there was nothing there and I just had to use my knees to get up over a ledge. I know, bad form.

Since the ice was too thin too protect (I'm sure some would argue with this) we ended up climbing around to the ledge and setting up a top rope.





On the ledge looking out to the highway...



Kim carefully stepping up the thin fragile ice...



Dean kicking ass climbing all the way to the top where it got reeeeaally thin...



I wish I could do this every day!