Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Currently: May

Currently living/working in: The Superfeet Supervan!!! We are 1/3 of the way through our summer speaking tour around the US (2000+ miles) in our borrowed Sprinter van. The van is awesome and I can’t wait to share interior pictures! 

Current mood: This road trip/speaking tour is totally our jam, so I would say happy everyday! 
Currently excited about: Seeing America. Gosh, we’ve probably around/across the country 25 times. Maybe more! I’ve lost count. Even so, we continue to discover brand-new scenic routes and places to explore. How is that???? 
We discovered this off-the-beaten path rest area in Oregon that was full of slugs! It was gorgeous (never thought I'd use the word "gorgeous" paired with slugs). 
America the beautiful ... you got that right!
Touring marble caves in Oregon!!

Currently not excited about: California traffic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone keeps warning us as we move further south in the state, it will get worse. 

Currently proud of: Inspiring our audiences to get outside and make life a little less ordinary. 
Another podcast in the books!! Listen via iTunes here. Episode 21 of JammedUp (also available via Stitcher & SoundCloud). 

Currently worried about: Navigating California cities. So far, we’ve been getting from Point A to Point B easily with Justin as the driver and me as the navigator. But, California has way more people than anywhere we’ve been (population 38.3 million!!) and that is scary! GoogleMaps, please be on your best behavior.  

Currently thankful for: Seeing so many friends from all our walks of life. I just had lunch today with a friend who I met in Spain while studying abroad in 1999!!! We’re going to see one of Justin’s childhood friends this weekend. The visits may be short, but they sure are sweet. 
What a treat to see someone you haven’t seen in 15+ years!!

Currently regretting: So we’ve crammed in a bunch of micro adventures already, but frankly, there’s still so much to see and do! Just this past week, we rolled into Redding, California for a presentation and planned a work day. Turns out, Redding is a hotspot for outdoor opportunities. And while I really didn’t want to lumber up any more mountains, Mt. Shasta sat not too far away taunting us. 

Currently amazed by: When Superfeet was converting their Sprinter van into a camper, they asked for our needs/wants/dreams. We told them a toilet/shower was the lowest priority, so they skipped it. I am that girl that can live without a bathroom, and well, that sort of amazes me. As my dad says shaking his head in disbelief, “I really don’t know who raised you.”

Current confession: I worried we would need something while living on the road that we didn’t have … the truth is, you can just get by on what you have. It makes me want to go back to our storage units and clean house!! 

Current guilty pleasure: Starbucks! Starbucks has been our HQ for Internet catch-up times. Sure, we have a hotel at least once a week, but we also have weekly work sessions at Starbucks where we spend 5 hours catching up on e-mails, blogging and whatnot! 

Currently reading: Nada! I brought our Kindle in high hopes we might read. Hasn’t happened … yet.

Currently watching on Netflix: We download a few Netflix movies here and there and are finishing up the last episodes of “Breaking Bad.” 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pacific Northwest Tour Recap

First of all, can I just tell you how much I big puffy heart the Pacific Northwest? Our time in Washington & Oregon has been full of presenting and playing and almost immediately, I said to Justin, "we need to move back to the PNW one of these days." From the moss-covered hemlock and douglas fir forests to the lofty mountains to its gorgeous coastline, I love everything about it.

So back to a recap. These past 2 weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend have been jam-packed. As I mentioned, we picked up the Superfeet van and are now traveling in style (I promise to blog about it soon!). We've only had 5 events in Washington and Oregon, but lots of climbing mountains (see previous posts), visiting friends/family, a concert (U2!!!) and tons of meetings. Many of the tour's sponsors are based in the PNW, so it was fun to have some face time one-on-one.

As of 5/13/17, this was ours!!!
Lunching with Austin, our sock guy!
So many reps in one place at our Seattle presentation!
Only Justin could find a concert in our route ...
U2: The Joshua Tree Tour 2017
Visiting REI corporate!! By the end of this tour, we will have presented at nearly 60 REIs in our lifetime. We had to stop at REI corporate!! 

Visiting pets and people! 

The tour events have been fantastic! We are now 11 events in, making us 1/3 of the way through. One of the coolest things is that we've had friends/family come out for all 11 presentations, except for one (Tucson)! Just goes to show how many people we know around the country and how supportive they all are.

If I had to highlight a few events from the PNW, I would say Seattle & Eugene, OR. Seattle is always a biggie being a flagship REI and we were not disappointed in the turnout.

As for Eugene, we presented at Beergarden Brewery! We still scheduled the event through REI, but because of the store's Memorial Day Sale, they couldn't accommodate us in the retail space. So they partnered with a brewery to still make it happen! We were a little skeptical at first, and there were certainly spacing and sound challenges, but it all worked out and people loved it.

Combining beer & gear in Eugene = success!

Anyway, the whole tour is going super lightening fast! We are now in California for 7 stops over the next 2 weeks. Everyone keeps warning us we are going to be sitting in a traffic jam from Sacramento south until we leave California. LOL! 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Exploring Oregon: Mt. Hood and Beyond

Be warned: long post!

Justin has a nemesis of a mountain. Its name is Mt. Hood (11,249 feet) in Oregon.

In late May 2014, he and his climbing partner Bobby (Bolt) attempted to climb Mt. Hood. They were essentially climbing inside a ping pong ball, with all the snow causing whiteout conditions. It was dangerous and taking way more effort than it was worth. They abandoned the climb about halfway up.
In planning our summer adventures and knowing we would be going through Oregon, Hood had to be on the list. So we made arrangements with Bolt and his wife to rent a condo for a few nights, one of which would surely be a great night for them to summit.

Now, Mt. Hood is the highest point of Oregon. And since it is also MY goal to at least attempt to climb as many state high points as possible, I also had to give it a try. But, it gave me great anxiety to think about climbing with J & Bolt. Not only is their stride 15 times mine, my mountaineering skill set is way beginner. Hood can easily be a one-day event and is not a terribly technical climb, although you do need your ice axe and crampons (spikes for your boots) because it is dangerous (people have died this year!!!). In fact, it is known as the second most climbed glaciated peak next to Mt. Fuji. Still, I needed to do this on my terms. But, I didn't want J & Bolt to be having to worry about me and my skills or wait on my slow pace.

So here we have a tale of 2 climbs. One team summited, one team did not. I think you know where this is going, but read on.

On Saturday, May 20, fresh off my grueling climb of Mt. St. Helens, I met with Timberline Guides  and my team for "snow school." That's where they teach us all the proper techniques for climbing--footwork in mountaineering boots, crampon and ice axe techniques, rope systems and self arrest. It was a great reminder, as I haven't used some of this equipment since my Rainier attempt in 2013.

Our team of 6 clients and 3 guides would meet at 2:30am Sunday morning, so I scurried back to our condo to visit with everyone before attempting to grab a few hours of sleep.

Sleep before climbing a mountain? Nope, mainly just toss and turn.

I was insanely nervous. Mountaineering gives me great anxiety. I shoveled a half a banana down and called that energy (not my smartest decision). The way you climb with a team is that you climb steeply for an hour, then take a break. Guided teams take a snowcat halfway up the mountain, so it's really only about 3 miles and about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Should you think this sounds easy, remember, this is not hiking. This is climbing, so 10 times the effort.

Immediately at break 1, I felt nauseous. Of course it had to do with my measly breakfast, but also the fact that Mt. Hood is a volcano and there is a strong sulfur smell (aptly named Devil's Kitchen). By break 2 (Hogsback), I felt worse and told my guides. I tried my hardest to eat bits of food and water. By break 3, I didn't feel any worse, but not any better and updated my guides, making sure to note I really wanted to summit. I knew I could work through the nausea. The day before, Justin gave me some really good advice. "As soon as you really start to feel miserable, it will be over." I knew he was right.

Fumarole Photo Credit: Bobby/Bolt
At the next break, we were dropping our trekking poles and roping up. This was going to be the moment of truth if the guides would let me climb.

Well, I got really lucky. Since we had 3 guides and 6 clients and they never rope up more than 3:1, one guide (Jeff) said he and I would be on a rope alone. This meant we would be in the back of the pack and could go slow and could turn back if need be. At this point, though, I knew I could summit.

The mountain just keeps getting steeper and steeper and our last pitch was vertical climbing. Like literally, you use your ice axe to dig at last one strong hold into the ice, dig the front points of each crampon into the wall and hoist yourself up.
 It's really hard to describe what is between the 2 arrows, but it is something like a 75-degree angle and maybe 100 feet height. All I know is it felt like vertical climbing to me; I had to dig my front points of my crampons and ice axe in to make any forward progress! 
Looking back to where we climbed.

Once over the lip, it was a short ridge walk to the summit and I was beyond excited.
Just a short ridge walk to the summit ... and that's my guide, Jeff! 

You have cell service all the way up and down Mt. Hood, so once I reached the top, I texted J to say we reached the summit at 7:34am. He was elated for me of course!

Views like this are the only reason I admit I like climbing ... seeing the peaks of Mt. St. Helens (left), Rainier (middle) and Adams (right) above the clouds is amazing!!!

All of my team made the summit!

Getting down is no easy feat, and that's the main thing you have to remember about climbing mountains. Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.

The whole climb took about 9 hours. I am glad I summited, obviously, but it confirms what I already knew: I dislike any kind of mountaineering. If the activity involves crampons, ice axe and mountaineering boots, I'm better off to avoid it!

Anyway, when I reached the parking lot after my climb, it was just about the time J & Bolt were leaving the lot to start their climb. Since they did not have the luxury of taking the snowcat in the middle of the night (only available to guided groups), they took the ski lift halfway up to camp, ensuring they can have an alpine start.

So this is what you need to know about Mt. Hood's conditions in May 2017. The weather was the exact opposite of J's whiteout snow conditions from 3 years earlier. It's been extremely warm on the mountain. The freezing level was somewhere above 13,000 feet. The crevasse has opened way earlier than years past. Melting snow also equals increased avalanche risk. The day I climbed, it has been warm (40s), but windy, keeping the snow pretty solid. Even still, my guides commented on how slushy the snow was getting when we were coming down in sunlight.

The warming trend continued during that day, so when J & Bolt made camp, there was no overnight freezing. They immediately noticed soft snow as they started climbing around 2am. (All photos from J's climb are from Bobby/Bolt)

 That is not Justin or Bobby. Some locals built a ski jump close to where they camped, so they had entertainment for the night! 
2:15am: Let's go!
Another cool thing you can see when climbing: the shadow of the mountain as the sun is rising!

As they reached the Hogsback, they could actually hear snow falling around the next steep section. Sounds of a waterfall on a mountain are never good. There were a few other teams up there, and all of them were turning back. J & Bobby got to the vertical pitch at 5am and immediately agreed it was unsafe. They could potentially make it up, but as the sun rises and warms the mountain more, getting down would be too unstable.

So they turned back. 300 feet from the summit. Oy vey. That darn Mt. Hood.
"I will be back," Justin says. 

Otherwise, we enjoyed our condo in Mt. Hood and in between everyone's climbing expeditions, we enjoyed visiting with each other, catching up on laundry and other life items. It is always nice to stand still for a few moments while immersed in the chaotic road life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exploring Washington: Climbing Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens in southern Washington erupted on May 18, 1980.

Thirty-seven years and one day later, we climbed that darn volcano!
For your history lesson of the day, I will share our newfound knowledge that it all started with a 5.1 magnitude earthquake, which disrupted the volcano with the biggest landslide in recorded history. For days, officials evacuated homeowners and monitored the mountain, watching seismic patterns. On May 18, 1980, it erupted. The entire catastrophic event killed 57 people, obliterated animal populations, flattened 230 square miles of forest and blew 1300 feet off the mountaintop.

What's left of the mountain stands at 8,328 feet and is a very popular--albeit a beast of a--day hike.

You need a climbing permit for Helens from April 1 to October 31 and they go on sale starting Feb.1. They sell 500 permits for each day and our chosen day (May 19) sold out within 48 hours. Thankfully, not all 500 climbers showed up (apparently there was a high reported avalanche risk, but we saw none of that).

We snagged 3 permits, thinking we may be able to convince someone to join us. Turns out, we didn't have to do much convincing! My cousin's husband, Jeremiah, who lives in Seattle, had been up the mountain a handful of times and was up for another notch on his belt.
Being that we are still early in the season, we had to climb from the Marble Mtn Snowpark, so our roundtrip mileage was 12 miles. The volcano is not snow-covered year round, but even though the trek up it is shorter during the summer, I'm going to venture to say it's a little harder because you are climbing rocky terrain, then ash and pumice nearest to the top! In this case, I'll take snow travel.

Recent climbing reports advised us to use snowshoes for the climb because of the soft, mushy snow (or skis, but we are not skiers; Jeremiah skied). We carried crampons and ice axes, but didn't need them because the snow was so soft even all the way up to the summit.
This was only the beginning of the climb!

It was a long, long slog of a day. It took us 11 hours for the whole roundtrip!!! Jeremiah and Justin could have cut their time at least by a few hours, but I needed multiple breaks.
Jer taking a break and showing some leg

Photo credits for the last 3: Jeremiah

At the top, you can peer down into the mile-wide caldera, which is still smoldering! However, my quads are still trying to decide if the view is well worth the effort ...

Thankfully, the way down was made much easier by a little "glissading" (definition: sledding on your butt).
Stay tuned for our last outdoor adventure of the week ... as a teaser, it involves both of us climbing another mountain, but only one of us making the summit. Any guesses who reached the top???