Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

The Place of Definitions

Hunter S. ThompsonBent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering in the wind… But with the throttle screwed on, there is only the barest margin and no room at all for mistakes… and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms…The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others – the living – are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and the pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to then it came time to choose between Now and Later.

But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it’s In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, the place of definitions.

Hunter S. Thompson – Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

There are other means to the same end. Bikes and LSD aren’t the only way to find visit The Place of Definitions.

Continue reading »

Snoqualmie Mountain’s Pineapple Express

North face of Snoqualmie topo. So Mark Bunker and I decided to have a go at The Pineapple Express (Cauthorn-Strong 2005, IV M6 5.8 WI3+) on the north face of Snoqualmie Mountain on Sunday. As far as I know this route has seen few if any repeats so we were at the mercy of the Dan Cauthorn’s write up in the NWMJ:

We … traversed beneath the New York Gully area to the lowest toe of the rock buttress. The first pitch started just left of the lowest point of rock and climbed a thin slab of ice hidden in a long right-facing corner (WI3+ R). After this pitch we trended up and left, pulling steep heather into a mixed gully leading to a tree belay beneath a rock headwall. The superb third pitch climbed the steep right-facing corner to a tree belay (M6 with good gear). Pitch 4 led up and right into snow and trees. The next pitch squeezed through the trees and traversed right to a 5.8 rock step that led up to a tree belay. We then continued up easy mixed ground to a flat ledge beneath the huge headwall that guards the top to the Northwest Face. We then traversed easily along a spectacular ledge system rightward to join the last two pitches of New York Gully. In total, we did nine long 60-meter pitches.

For me the first crux was getting out of bed and on the road before 5am but eventually I met Mark in North Bend. Note to self; partying the night before an alpine start looses its appeal sometime past your 30th birthday.

Continue reading »

More site updates

If you subscribed to my Stories blog the content has been merged into my Alpine Climbing blog. It still lives in a separate “Stories” category. I’ve also added a new page of photography gear I’d recommend.

Hopefully that’s pretty much it in terms of site upgrades and I can get back to writing new content, like the review of the MSR Reactor I promised to write.

Cultural Whiplash

One moment sitting on a glacier in the Yukon. Ten hours in later a diner in Seattle. Enough to make your head spin.

Thirsty? Fire up the stove and melt some snow.
Hungry? Better cook something.
Want to sleep? Get out the shovel and dig a ledge.
Need to get home? Read the map and start walking.

Fancy a drink? Buy a Coke loaded with phosphoric acid.
Want to eat? Pay someone minimum wage to cook your food.
Sleepy? Check into a hotel. Who made the bed?
Going somewhere… in your SUV with GPS navigation?

Which is really more civilized? Get off the train, it isn’t taking you anywhere interesting.


None of this is true. It’s all fiction at best, outright lies at worst. In mountaineering, much like war, The Truth meets a prompt but messy death early in the proceedings. Fear makes terrain seem steeper, rock looser and routes longer. Ego compels the protagonists to perpetuate their version of reality even with the benefit of hindsight.

Shrinking the World

Life is simply too big; the Internet, multi-national corporations, global trading partnerships and hundreds of TV channels to watch the action on. My primate brain just can’t cope with a social group of more than a hundred.

Continue reading »

Don’t Listen to Your Friends

A day spent at Knob Lock in the Adirondacks with Simon Catterall and Jim Lawyer, two fine climbing partners. Climb with them if you can but don’t listen to them…

Continue reading »

The Joy of Building

Tyler Durden: Guys, what would you wish you’d done before you died?
Steph: Paint a self-portrait.
The Mechanic: Build a house.- Fight Club (1999)

The DeckThere’s something incredibly satisfying about building something. Since finally buying a house The Susan and I have remodeled the kitchen and rebuilt the deck, along with a myriad of smaller projects.

It’s not that there weren’t times when I wished I could pay someone else to do the work, there were. Especially towards the end of the deck build when the weather turned bad and I was reduced to building in the garage. Or the time I turned my hand into a bloody mess with a mallet and then a hammer, both in the space of a few hours while finishing the kitchen counter.

But it’s yours, you built it. You get to go sit on it and drink beer in the sun.

Showing up

There are no prizes for just showing up.

Anything of value requires commitment. Just turning up isn’t going to get you anything. Nobody is going to give you credit for just being there. You get out what you put in.

I thought this was a Lance Armstrong line but it turns out it isn’t. So I guess it’s mine.

Solitary Confinement

This week I started doing hard time. My product team moved buildings and I got my own office. It was on a busy section of corridor so people dropped by to congratulate me on my new found status. After two years or so I’d moved up the corporate ladder high enough not to be forced to share a room.

Problem is, for the most part, I actually liked sharing an office. In fact in a decade of working the I’ve only had one other job that also merited an office all to myself. Come to think of it, that job, and that office, also felt isolating and impersonal.

Having a roomie to come in and shoot the breeze with every morning was pretty nice. Occasionally we’d talk about work but for the most part he’d tell me things I didn’t know; like about his brother working construction in Alaska. I’d reciprocate with trivia from my past or present.

People, well most people, aren’t designed to be loners. We’re instinctively tribal; used to eating, living and even sleeping in small groups. When will Corporate America get wise to this?