Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Category: Travel (page 2 of 4)

Goings On

Well, it’s been exactly two months. I can’t say I’ve been too busy to post, but this is what’s been going on in the life of Alec…

Sept 26: Adopt-A-Crag Day: Ferguson Canyon

After two years of climbing all over the Wasatch, I decided to put in a Saturday to contribute back to the community.

Steve and I were in a group of 10-12 climbers tasked to do some trail work in the Cathedral area — mostly moving big boulders around and raking dirt and scree. Hopefully our work will prove fruitful in the Spring when the runoff is diverted away from the cliffs and the newly constructed trail. It was a fun if not exhausting day. Honestly, though, I was just itching to climb, so I returned the next day:

Oct. 09: Craggin’ Classic

The second annual American Alpine Club’s Craggin’ Classic event was held in Salt Lake this year, featuring slideshows by local badass Brian Smoot and renowned alpinist Steve House. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at routes on Mountain Project, and have come across (and climbed) dozens of Brian’s, so I was excited to match a face to the name. The slideshow was superb, looking back at 60 years of climbing in the Wasatch, in every area, in every medium. Seems like the dude has done it all, and is still incredibly humble.

The main event though, of course, was the day of cragging in the canyons. I had signed up for a clinic with a friend, and we happened to fall under the guidance of Cedar Wright, a professional climber known for his crack-climbing expertise. Nancy Feagin, another local under-the-radar badass climber, tagged along. Both guides were exceptionally helpful and modest the whole time, leading by example. We went to the Dihedrals area of Little Cottonwood and played around on some 5.9s and .10s. There I met Erik, a correspondent for Alpinist magazine on his way to moving to Boulder, who later posted this article about the event. It was pretty fun — I even took my first lead fall on my own gear later in the afternoon, just to scamper back up and finish off the climb without further mishap.

Nov. 07: Castleton Tower

Ever since I started climbing, I had heard of the otherworldly sandstone towers of Southeast Utah: hundreds of feet tall, solid rock, and amazing scenery. At last, I made the trip down to Moab to climb to climb the most famous one, Castleton.

I must say I was quite intimidated at the parking lot. The tower looms in plain view, seemingly vertical and unclimbable. However, around the back side of the tower was a series of stepped dihedrals and chimneys that looked easier and less exposed. This is where the Kor-Ingalls (5.9+ III) route lies.

As expected, we ran into several parties on the route, as early November is peak season for desert sandstone. The climbing went pretty quickly, though, and Brian made sure to stick me with the crux third pitch. I needed a few minutes to compose myself before setting off on lead, shimmying up the first section before wedging myself in a chimney to get some gear in. A large section of the crux pitch is unprotected, and only a very low bolt and two small cams protected the upper part, which I chose to stem. The stemming was technical but not too strenuous and I ran it out to the top, heart pounding. Exhilarating! Soon afterwards we were on the summit, about as wide as my house.

Photos

Nov. 13-15: Red Rocks

After reading so many great things about Red Rock Conservation Area, near Las Vegas, NV, I decided I needed to see for myself. Luckily, Brian’s trip was postponed to a later weekend and I was able to tag along. Brenton unfortunately had to drop out so it was just the two of us. We took off early Friday morning and drove through a snowstorm for about four hours down to Cedar City. By the time we passed through Arizona it was sunny and warm again, and soon enough we were passing through the City of Sin. We secured a campground (barely) and made our way to Red Rocks.

I was (am) nursing an injury to my IT band so I was hoping to limit the uphill hiking to keep the pain to a minimum. Thus, we chose to climb in First Creek Canyon the first day. We started on Black Magic, an excellent 5.8 on the Lotta Balls buttress. Brian led the first and third pitches, by far the best of the climb, while I gladly followed. For some reason my lead head was not in shape for the whole weekend, a shame since I ended up on the sharp end for eight or nine pitches! I can only chalk it up to not being familiar with sandstone, especially the textured sandstone of Red Rock. Breaking off a pebble on my first lead of the trip probably didn’t help, either..


Cloud Tower


Mount Wilson and Cloud Tower. The rightmost tower in the center has a 1000′ crack system on the right containing Crimson Chrysalis

The second day we got up at five to beat the crowds to Crimson Chrysalis, a nine-pitch 5.8+ in Juniper Canyon. The approach was arduous, and I was feeling the pain in my knee about an hour into the hike. By 8:30 we were climbing, psyched to be the first party on the route. The climbing was steep, continuous, and surprisingly moderate. I again had to psych myself up for the lead, even though it was only 5.8, and terrifyingly made my up to the next anchors. About half of the belays were hanging, a rarity on a 5.8!

Brian and I swapped leads for the rest of the day, clipping bolts and face climbing. I didn’t need to do more than a dozen or so jams the entire route — gotta love Red Rock! Around 1-2 we topped out on a glorious summit with magnificent views of the valley and Rainbow Wall, towering over us to the west. I’d say it was the best route I’ve ever climbed, and we didn’t see a soul all day on it!

The rest of the trip was pretty anti-climatic, we returned to Lotta Balls buttress the next day for another classic four pitches before making the long drive back to Salt Lake. I’ll be back this Spring!

Photos

2009 Ice

Well, the Utah ice climbing season is unfortunately over. It was a very short season, and also my first “full” one anywhere. My first climb was January 4 in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the last was a sketchfest last Sunday in North Creek Canyon. That’s about seven weeks worth of climbing, with an off week in there due to a January thaw. So really, six weeks worth of solid ice. Not much time for a weekend warrior like myself.

Oh well, I got after it pretty well during this time period:

  • January 4: climbed the Great White Icicle, a classic WI3 halfway up Little Cottonwood Canyon, with Curt, who led the whole thing. A nice, easy introduction to the season. I would end up repeating the climb twice more by the end of the month.
  • January 9: Drove down to Ouray, CO to attend the Ouray Ice Festival. I had a blast last year and, having company this time, it promised to be even better. Curt and I did a handful of routes Saturday, watched Josh Wharton kill it at the comp, then headed to one of the hot springs. Later we checked out the annual Ouray FD dinner, got some schwag, downed a few beers, saw Max Turgeon’s slideshow, then headed to the after-party. At one point Curt turned around to hand me a beer right when some dude was walking by, spilling it a little bit. We turned to look who it was:
    “Dude — Conrad Anker spilled my beer!”
    It was pretty funny. No hard feelings, Conrad, haha.
    The rest of the party and weekend was a blast. The next day, Josh taught my clinic, giving me some much-needed advice on my horrific ice technique. Amazing how far a little technique goes towards increasing your endurance…
  • January 17: Headed down to Santaquin Canyon, just South of Provo, to check out the ice. Feeling confident from Ouray, I led the last pitch of Squash Head, my first lead ever! It wasn’t too scary, so Glenn and I did another route on the other side of the canyon.
  • February 13: Drove up to Cody, WY for the Cody Ice Festival. The first day was pretty uneventful climbing-wise, but we checked out the Silent Auction/dinner/slideshow that evening, which was pretty fun. Dawn Glanc put on a pretty good show (and a ton of pull-ups!) and we retired early after a few beers. The next day we rose early to take a stab at High on Boulder, arguably the most classic climb in the area, and right at our level difficulty-wise. Curt took the first lead on the WI3 bulge, and I volunteered to lead the crux pitch, a WI4(+?) near-vertical 100ft curtain. Having never led anything harder than a WI3 before, this was probably a poor choice. But I felt confident, racked some screws, and got after it.
    Right around the 4th screw it steepened from 80° to vertical, and I started to get pretty pumped making a diagonal traverse to what seemed like easier ice. Putting the 5th screw in was a challenge for my jello-arms, but it was bomber and went in with a struggle. I yelled “take!”, hung on the screw (another first), and rested for a while, 2/3rds of the way up the curtain. Soon afterwards I started up again, and, having lost my nerve, ended up putting in a belay by that 5th screw so Curtis could lead to the top. He TRed/led the pitch in one continuous motion — I was impressed. It was a good learning experience on the best ice I’ve ever climbed, hands down.
  • February 22: Curt and I drove 1.5 hours south of SLC to North Creek Canyon, where we had heard of a fantastic, multi-pitch WI4. Unfortunately, the weather was warm and the ice was sketchy so we made the choice to bail after the first two pitches. It looks like a stellar route though, so I’ll surely be back next season…

Not a bad amount of climbing for a short period of time: I had been hoping to get ten days in, but only got seven. The weather has been horrifically warm all over the west (67° today!?) so I don’t think Ouray’s ice park will even survive much longer. I’m afraid my favorite sport is on the front line of the impending climate war…

Around the World: Part Five

Continued from Part Four

After scarfing down a quick lunch we three set back off on the trail to the highest and Northernmost point of our trek: Everest Base Camp at 5340m (17.5k ft). The trail traverses a rocky moraine with fantastic views of the adjacent Khumbu glacier and the huge Khumbu cirque rimmed by the giants of Nuptse, Everest, Khumbutse and Pumo Ri. Soon we find ourselves winding around on the dirty glacier itself, marveling at the 15m seracs all around us. Before we know it, the jumble of tents seemingly strewn over the glacier appears and we are there.

Base Camp
Everest Base Camp

To be honest, it was a bit anticlimactic: Base Camp isn’t really a set place but wherever each expedition decides to plop a bunch of tents near the foot of the Khumbu Icefall. In this case, three expeditions had just kicked off for the post-monsoon season, from Italy, France, and Korea. The French camp happened to be the closest so we struck up a conversation with a rather entertaining Parisian dude, probably in his late 20s. He mentioned that he had competed in (won?) the Everest Marathon a few years ago, and that they were being sponsored by a French television station and were focusing on recording medical data during the ascent. The expedition was already about a month in and we could spot some climbing Sherpas descending the icefall through the binoculars — pretty cool stuff. After some gabbing we take off back to Gorak Shep, arriving near dusk.

That night is horrendous — I wake up at midnight or so with by far the most splitting headache of my life — it literally feels like my head is wedged in an ever-tightening vise. I pop some more (magic) ibuprofen and grovel to the toilet, expecting to hurl my guts out. It never comes, so I go back to bed and lay in agony til the Vitamin I kicks in and I fade back to dreamland.

We had planned to wake early for the steep slog up to Kala Patthar at 5650 m (18.5k ft), and end up setting out at 7am or so. The timing is excellent — we are behind most of the crowds and have a decent amount of time after sunset to enjoy the views in relative solitude. I wake up feeling fantastic and manage to book it up the hill in under an hour! The Brits meet me up a bit later and we (they) celebrate with Marmite (*vomit*) and crackers. We take pictures of one another and I bask in a heavenly panorama of the entire Khumbu region. I am quite content.

Khumbu Glacier
On the Khumbu Glacier

Later in the day I stumble on Cameron and the posse of Australians he had been traveling with. We agree to meet in Lobuche tomorrow so he has time to go to base camp and Kala Patthar. Tanya, Darren and I depart Gorak Shep in the mid-morning and make our way back down to the nicely low-lying (or not) Lobuche, where we hang out, read and nap for the rest of the day. The next day I meet up with Cam and a couple other Brits, while Tanya and Darren take off on a different path to make their way over Cho La and eventually Gokyo, a supposedly spectacular adjacent valley. The four of us instead descend back to Pheriche and the Himalayan Hotel, where we happen upon Simon and Andy again. I jokingly ask if they ever left the hotel at all and we have a tame evening of cards.

The next day we take eight hours or so (an exceptionally long day by lazy Nepal standards) to get back to Namche Bazaar, where we had pledged to support the fledgling alcoholic merchandising industry as best we can. About twenty beers later (at 11.5k feet mind you) we are drunkenly carrying on in the hotel restaurant about football, politics and god knows what else. Good times.

The next and last day is pretty typical, save the random rendezvous at an Irish Pub in Lukla (wait, what? Yes, an Irish Pub. They even served Guinness.) before we fly out bright and early the next morning. We are the very first flight out and by 9am are checked into a Kathmandu hotel for the next leg of our journey…

This was to be continued, but I unfortunately lost motivation. Contact me and I just may write up the rest…

Around the World: Part Four

Continued from Part Three

A few hours after setting off, the trees start to slowly fade and I find myself in a sub-alpine meadow at about 4000m (13,100ft). I sit and gaze at a massive gash in the mountain across the river, caused by a recent landslide. As I’m daydreaming about climbing Aba Dablam, now shrouded in clouds, some familiar faces crest the hill behind me. It’s Darren and Tanya — somehow they had gotten behind me. We greet each other warmly and set off together towards Pheriche, our next destination at 4200m (13.8kft). Soon we’ve crossed the roaring river again (on a sketchy! plywood bridge). By 1pm or so we’re situated in our hotel of choice, the Himalayan Hotel, which would become by far the most memorable of the trek.

Pheriche
Pheriche

As we sit down for lunch a group of other Brits run into us that Darren recognized from earlier. We celebrate our early arrival with a beer (quite effective at 14k feet!) and a delicious lunch, and decide right then and there to take a rest day the next day; not because of any need for acclimatization but rather due to the (relative) poshness of our environs: a brand-new cozy dining room with seemingly unlimited free reading material (so key!)

At Pheriche there is a semi-permanent camp of the Himalayan Rescue Assocation which happened to be staffed by three Americans while we were there. At three we decide to attend a talk about altitude sickness and it is excellent. The dude had a Gamow Bag, and due to my wearing an altimeter I got to take it for a ride. The doc gave it a pump for a few minutes and I watched my altimeter drop hundreds of meters at a time, until it read 3400m or so. It was pretty cool — a bit claustrophobic but extremely effective for treating altitude sickness.

We spent the next couple of days lounging around the hotel, reading, playing cards and eating. I took a short day trip to Chhukung (4730m/15.5k ft), another beautiful (forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but everything is stunningly beautiful up there) village nestled below the giant South face of Lhotse (8516m/28k ft). Unfortunately I was pretty much in the clouds and couldn’t see much. A nearby hill by the name of Chhukung Ri (5550m) would’ve been by next objective, but I figured there’d be nothing to see up there. Instead I headed back down the valley to Dingboche and Pheriche. Little did I know Cameron was staying in Dingboche when I walked past!

Early the next morning Darren, Tanya and I departed (Simon, one of the others, was feeling the altitude a bit so they stayed behind) for our next destination, Lobuche, at 4910m (16.1k ft). It was going to be a big day elevation-wise, a gain of 700m, so we took it fairly slow. It’s worth mentioning that about Pheriche, the hiking is never difficult or even strenuous, but the altitude starts to make things a bit unpleasant. By lunchtime we arrived, and right around then I started to feel a bit dazed. On my expedition to Mexico a few years ago I didn’t feel any effect from altitude until around 15k feet — this time I was a bit more acclimatized. Regardless, I felt a bit spacey during lunch and felt a moderate headache come on — I decided to pop some Ibuprofen and take a nap.

After waking up I felt awesome — the perfect cure for a hangover! Err, altitude sickness rather. I ambled down for dinner, and there I met a group of Americans in their 50s who were going to attempt Lobuche East, a 6100m trekking peak just west of town. It was especially interesting talking to their Sherpa, a former guide on
Everest, about the nature of commercial expeditions as well as the guiding lifestyle.

Gorak Shep
Gorak Shep’s alpine beach

The next morning we set off again early, excited to make it to the terminal town of the trek, Gorak Shep at 5140m (16.9k ft). We were all feeling pretty good, with slight headaches easily remedied with Ibuprofen (the wonder drug!)
Again we made excellent time and were able to have lunch at our destination. We seemed to have escaped the scourge of the clouds, as well, and finally were able to admire the astounding peaks all around us. The next day’s climb of Kala Pattar, the trek’s terminus, was looking pretty good, not to mention Base Camp…

To be continued

Around the World: Part Three

Continued from Part Two

I step outside our room into the courtyard, turn to go into the kitchen, and am stopped in my tracks. A massive white peak glows in the twilight above. After a cloudy afternoon it is my first good close look at a 6000m peak, presenting itself in dramatic fashion. I snap a picture and smile into the dining room.

Thamserku
Thamserku (6618m) looming over the hotel

A few hours earlier Cam and I set foot on the trail. I was excited to get out of Lukla and finally into some peace and quiet in the countryside. It came quickly and was wonderful. Though this section of the trek is fairly heavily populated, the pace of living quite suits someone who grew up in the woods of Northern New York. We meander through the towns, greeting other trekkers and porters, and eventually make our way to a waterfall by the trail. A short, steep climb brings us to what looks like an amazing hotel. It is perched on a hill with one side looking at the waterfall and the other the fertile river valley below. We immediately get a double room ($3 USD), ditch our packs, and go the dining room to order some food and a gigantic pot of milk tea. There we meet a solo trekker from Switzerland and a British couple. They were headed up, and in a few days I would be joining them.

Dinner was delicious and by 8pm we had passed out, weary from the long day. This would be the start of a pattern — bed near dusk, rise at dawn. A very welcome change from my night owl lifestyle back home. The next morning we headed out early and walked for a few hours before making it to Namche Bazaar (3440m/11,300ft), a beautiful terraced town cut into a bowl in a hillside. Namche is the “Sherpa capital” and largest town in the Khumbu, so we had our choice of dozens of hotels in town. We ended up picking one right in the middle — it had a spectacularly positioned dining room looking out over the gorge to the Southwest, from which we proceeded to gorge ourselves on lunch.

From the start of the trek Cam had been complaining of weariness and coughing, so we decided to take a rest day; mainly for acclimatization but also to give his body a chance to shake out the respiratory infection. We slept in, changed to a “luxury room” (attached shower! wooohoo!), and I set off on a day hike to Thame, a famous Sherpa village four miles up the churning Bhote Kosi Nadi river. It’s a gorgeous walk along a hillside above the river and I chat with a group of cute Sherpa kids on break from school in town. By one pm I’ve made it to Thame (3800m) and have a huge lunch of (unlimited!) Dhaal Bhat, a dish of rice, lentil soup, and vegetable curry. The day is rather cloudy but once in a while the clouds would part to reveal a massive 6000m snow-capped peak a seemingly stone’s throw away.

By the time I make it back to Namche it’s late afternoon and drizzling a bit — we order dinner and I take a (much-needed) shower. Cam is starting to feel better, so we plan to rise early and hike to the next town.


We round a bend in the trail, and something strangely familiar comes into view. In a gap in the clouds two massive mountains appear, and I recognize one instantly: Everest. I stop in awe for a few seconds and snap some pictures — though they’re still 25km away they seem larger than life. It’s a pretty, warm day and I can’t help thinking about what the conditions would be up there..

Thamserku
First glimpse of Everest and Lhotse

A steep drop back down to the Dudh Kosi and back up the other side eventually brings us to Tengboche (3860m/12,660ft). Its famous monastery dominates the town and owns half of the hotels in the village. I know the view is supposed to be incredible, but the afternoon clouds have again robbed any chance of sightseeing. At this point Cameron was feeling pretty rough and was anticipating needing two days to rest. Not looking forward to sitting idly for two days, we decide to split up and meet up at the top of the trek. Luckily, we run into Darren and Tanya (the Brits) again at our hotel at chat it up over dinner. We’re enthused to keep going and I decide to go along with them the next morning.

I wake up excitedly the next morning and peer out the window at a massive cirque of peaks. Rushing outside, I gaze in the splendor of the most superb view of my life. Nothing had ever even come close. Two massive peaks (Thamserku [6618m] and Kangtega [6783m]) dominate, and I mean utterly own, the sky to the Southeast. Their glaciers creep down 2800 vertical meters of their flanks, connecting to the summits less than 6km away. To the North Ama Dablam’s picturesque summit foreshortened the Everest-Lhotse massif just beyond — stunning alpine scenery at 6am.

I pack up after breakfast and bid Cam adieu, setting off on my own. The trail drops down to a thick rhododendron forest and I’m not psyched to be off on my own…


To be continued

Around the World: Part Two

Continued from Part One

So, after a day wandering the city I was back sitting in an airport, waiting for my Etihad Airways flight to depart for Abu Dhabi. It was an overnighter, and one of the best flights I’ve ever had, actually. You could choose your own entertainment (in coach!) and I even managed to get a few hours of sleep in the half-empty plane.

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi International

Dawn revealed a dusty, desolate airport with no view whatsoever. Pretty much what I expected in the Middle East — though a view of the city would’ve been nice. I ran into a few obvious American and European trekkers in the terminal, and by mid-morning we were off, bound for Kathmandu.

The flight in was pretty chill — I was in high spirits and excited to see a familiar face again. However the situation started to deteriorate rather quickly. I will retell it stream-of-consciousness style:

Didn’t bring extra passport photos…must purchase photos from photo stand guy in terminal…but no money…not enough cash to exchange for Nepal Rupees or to pay for visa…must go to ATM..which is outside airport…hand over passport as deposit for my return to get visa…walk out get harassed by throngs of people get money from ATM..can’t find entrance back to arrivals hall…go through security in reverse…retrieve passport…buy passport photos exchange money wait in line for over an hour…………….. ipod almost dead………… no charger………….. mind-numbingly boring waiting ……………………………………….. get visa…get harassed by throngs again…pick random dude for taxi…sun is setting and it is pouring…negotiate for price, ask them to bring me to Cameron’s hotel…car looks like it was built in the 50s…traffic is INSANE…no traffic laws…still pouring…no windshield wipers…driving British-style on the left…air smells like i’m swimming in a smokestack…moving about 100 feet a minute… people bikes motorbikes everywhere… bombing down a one-way street with 3″ of clearance on each side…potholes like swimming pools…where the hell am I?…pulling out in front of incoming traffic like they’re not there… bracing for impact … interminable, incessant honking… traffic flowing like a fluid… stopping. People grabbing my bags…”yes, this yellow house”…”no I need to meet my friend is he here?”…”yes yes this vewy nice hotel vewy comfortable”…”what is this place?”…”you stay here you like”…”no I have to meet my friend, please bring me to Paknajol”…”you stay here tonight I bring you there tomorrow morning”….”NO I HAVE TO FLY OUT OF HERE TOMORROW JUST BRING ME TO THE YELLOW HOUSE”…”ok ok 500 rupees more then”….. [no way in hell sleazeball] ……back in the car with my bags…still raining…seeing westerners in the street…good…pull into crazy steep gravel terrible rutted driveway…stop again…look at sign…The Yellow House…pay driver 600 rupees for fare and tip $2USD…talk with dude at desk…walk downstairs…finally…see Cameron.

“Where the hell have you been?” is my greeting. I’m four hours late. Guess that was expected. I order Pad Thai and a big beer, plop my tired ass on the wooden table’s bench and relay the story. Release.

“So when’s our flight tomorrow?”
“Seven.”
“AM? No way.”
“Yep. Our taxi comes at five.” It’s ten o’clock.

We organize payments, gear, etc, and pass out. Ten minutes of knocking later and I wake up — it’s 4:30 and time to go. We hop back in a taxi, go to the airport (different, domestic terminal), wait for hours, and by 11 are sitting in a plane. We only know it’s ours by noticing people getting on with the same color tickets as us. Awesome. Soon we’re airborne and by one PM it looks like we’re going to fly into the side of a mountain. But no, we touch down and slow to a crawl in the span of about fifteen seconds. After a delicious lunch in Lukla, packs on our back, we’ve come to the main event: 11 days of trekking in the heart of the Himalaya, up to Everest Base Camp at 5300m. We’re in Lukla, at 2800m, but energy is high and we’re feeling good. Well, for a little while anyway..


To be continued

Around the World: Part One

On the 21st of October I returned from a four-week trip around the world. Where to begin?

One of the goals of this trip was a complete disconnection from my (at the time not so great) normal life. In this spirit, I turned off my cell phone and left it at home. There would be no laptop, no phone, and no way to get in touch with me. Perfect.

Trax-Bus-Plane-Plane-Shuttle-Train-Subway-Subway-Train-Car

After 24 hours, an hour of sleep, and myriad forms of public transportation I was navigating the Métropolitain in Paris to get to Gare Saint-Lazare so I could catch a train to Caen. By the time I met my folks at the Caen train station (still quite familiar from three years ago) I was a zombie. I did my best to maintain a (groggy) conversation with my Aunt and Uncle as we made our way to the rented villa in Hermanville-sur-Mer, home of the first church service in liberated France in June 1944.

Well, that’s about all it had going for it. I had been to Caen already along with several D-day beaches so we decided to head to Mont Saint Michel to the Southeast for something new. Mont St. Michel is a small medieval town and Cathedral built on a 250 foot pointy hill on the coast. The setting was excellent, and we waded through the Japanese tourists around and up to the Cathedral of which we received an excellent tour.

The next day brought a tour of nearby Lisieux and Saint Therese Cathedral. It was nice to have some time with my Aunt and Uncle but the day was pretty short. The apex of my few days there was the next evening, a stunning nine-course meal at the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Caen. It sampled the whole gamut of French seafood-based cuisine and finished off with three desserts, ranging from an avocado sorbet to chocolate mousse. Wow. I figured I’d be remembering that meal for a while — Nepal isn’t especially renowned for its fine cuisine — so I soaked it all in (the service, the wine, everything) as best I could. I still think about Camembert (think I finally overcame my long aversion to stinky cheese) even now.

Car-Train-Taxi

A light travel morning brought us (my folks and I) back to Paris with a day to kill. It was a Saturday and we decided to just wander around the neighborhood a bit, seeing the Moulin Rouge (whoopdee-doo) and walking up to Sacré-Couer in the Montmartre neighborhood. It was a dead ringer for the Spanish Steps in Rome and had a fantastic view of the sprawling city.

Parisian building
View from Sacré-Couer

We lounged around for a little while on the steps, then headed back to the hotel for some R&R before going back out again for an early (by Parisian standards) dinner. I tried some Beef Tartar (spiced raw beef) and found it delicious, and we had a really nice meal between the three of us. I was really loving living it up before heading out by my (cheap) self.

But it had to be. My folks left early in the morning to catch their flight, but I had all day to wander around Paris before my 8:30 flight. I first checked my email (so much for disconnection) and made plans to meet up with Cameron in Kathmandu, then wandered South to the Louvre. It was then that I remembered that the Musee d’Orsay had been closed during my last trip to Paris, so I bought a ticket and checked it out. It was excellent: Impressionism and Post-impressionism were probably my favorite periods, and the museum ranked right up there with the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. Afterwards I still had time to spare but decided to just head to the airport four hours early. There I savored a sumptuous meal at…McDonalds. So much for livin’ it up.

To be continued

Namaste! From Nepal

I’m sitting here in a hotel dining room at 11,500 feet (3440 m) surfing the internet. Ah yes, satellite internet; not cheap at 10 rupees / minute but almost expected in this day in age. Needless to say, this is gonna be a short post.

On the 30th I touched down in Kathmandu, Nepal to a warm rainy evening after a layover in Abu Dhabi, United Aram Emirates. The taxi ride to my hotel was absolutely insane — anyone who’s been in a large city in India would understand…immediately I was put off by the rather destitute environs and by 5am the next morning Cameron and I were off to the airport to escape to the mountains.

So two days ago we landed in Lukla and started our trek — now I’m in Namche Bazaar at the last large village before continuing our ascent to Everest Base Camp (5530 m). Kala Pattar, a lookout point adjacent to Base Camp, is our ultimate goal.

I have been amazed thus far at the magnificent generosity and warmth of the Nepali people. Out here in the mountains there’s next to no worries about crime or even distrust, and I expect this to continue as we get higher.

Oh, and the scenery’s pretty good. Pictures are forthcoming…

Peacin out

First of all, I bought the domain name lalon.de. Then, naturally, I created the sub-domain alec.lalon.de. Yes, if you just type my name in your address bar with a couple of dots you’ll get to this site. Sweet!


In other news, I will embark on a four-week trip around the world in two days.

First, it’s off to Paris and Normandy for a few days with my folks and Aunt and Uncle.

Then it’s off to Nepal.

See ya in a month.

Climbing is dangerous. Well, climbing trees anyway.

Funny how my last post focused on mountaineering in the cold and snow. Well, since my ascent of the Pfeifferhorn a few weeks ago I haven’t really been doing much mountaineering, mostly due to a (stupid) accident a couple weekends ago.

I’ve told this story dozens of times, and I don’t really want to tell it again, so I’ll give you all the short version: I was playing pong in the backyard with some friends when I saw a soccer ball above the garage of the apartment complex next door. There’s a small tree next to a fence that goes up and branches over the garage, making the roof pretty accessible. Well, I like to climb stuff (if you haven’t noticed), so I thought, sweet, an excuse to climb that tree (I had climbed the other tree in the backyard earlier in the day). So I retrieve the ball easily and am descending when the branch I am holding on to breaks at about five feet off the ground. I kind of jump backwards to stay on my feet and feel a sharp pain in my leg, then look down to see my thigh making a distinct imprint in the fence. I didn’t even think I had really hurt myself (that part of the fence was plastic and relatively soft) until I looked closer and saw my jeans in shreds. Weird, I thought, how’d that happen? Everyone was looking at me saying “you all right dude?” and I curtly responded “yeah it’s all good” while limping over to the house. Then I lifted a flap of denim from my tattered jeans and noticed a solid square inch of flesh missing from my thigh. Muscle and fat were clearly visible and a slow stream of blood was trickling out of the wound. Holy *@#%$#% ^%$#! (use your imagination) I exclaimed while my roommate gazed at it with incredulity.

I briefly considered going to the ER, but after recalling my last $800 visit there I decided to just bandage it up and go to a clinic on monday. I’ve been cleaning it, disinfecting it, and redressing it every morning since. I even took antibiotics for a couple of weeks after my first clinic visit. After two weeks it’s still pretty exposed but healing nicely.

The first week after that sucked. Bigtime. I couldn’t run, and chose not to climb for fear of exacerbating it. Only this past week did I start to climb again and I’ve gotten back into it with a vengeance, going out four times in the past six days. I’m starting to feel strong again; not quite back to where I was in February, but definitely getting there. My collarbone is a non-factor at this point (Ten weeks for a full recovery! Hell yeah).

I was down in St. George this weekend to cheer on a friend in his first triathlon. It was pretty fun overall; I really love Southern Utah, especially this time of year. It’s like Mars with some vegetation. The highlight for me was climbing at a nearby crag on some sweetly featured sandstone, a first for me. I felt strong and it was awesome.

This week will hopefully be more of the same. I still don’t feel like I can start running again but I’ll definitely be pushing myself on some stone. Sweet!

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