27 March 2016


One thing I am learning about mountaineering is that, if you let it, it will take all your time and all your money. Three weeks in, it's taken about $800 (and counting), all my Saturdays, two Tuesday nights and one Friday afternoon. Between that and the commute, I do virtually nothing else. 

The good news is that I save money in other areas. Plans for Friday night? What plans? I'm getting ready for a hike and going to bed in time to get up at 4:45 am. 

Yesterday's hike was even harder than the previous two, although I'm getting stronger and learning how to be more efficient. The key has been the rest step, which means that each time I take a step on a steep uphill, I lock my back knee, stretching my calf and improving blood flow. With that step, the 1000 vertical feet per mile for 3.5 miles was no problem. 

Also, I stay near the front. The front moves slowly and steadily. But I've learned that the long line of 20 people inch-worms, as the instructor says, and when you are in the back you have to stop for the people who are slow getting over some obstacle and then try to move faster to catch up. 

I am not so much sore today as I am stiff. My muscles are pleasantly tired, but my joints are displeased with me, especially my knees. I got stuck with the rope, you see, the 8 pound rope strapped onto my backpack, for most of the way down, even though I had proclaimed on the way up that I would carry it all the way up if only I didn't have to carry it down. Still, somehow, after hiking up and over a couple of saddles, it was my turn again by the time we started hiking straight down.

"What are your plans for the year?" the instructor asked, on the way straight up the hill.

"I haven't really thought much beyond this class," I said. "I'd like to hike [Mountain I've Climbed Twice Before] again, because I have friends who haven't done it. And I never thought I wanted to climb [Mountain that Overlooks the City] because too many people die on it, but now I think I might try it if I were with people whose safety conscientiousness I trusted."

"You've made a good start toward [Mountain that Overlooks the City]," he said. "Most people who die on it die because they aren't being as cautious as they should be."

So that might happen, despite my proclamations only 3 weeks ago that it would never would.

We also rappelled for the first time. Not straight down, though. We just practiced the rappelling technique on a very steep section of trail, which I found harder than (at least conceptually) rappelling straight down a vertical cliff, because I had to think not just about where my feet were but also about how to get over the next obstacle between me and the bottom. It mostly worked. 

Part of the expense of mountaineering is the class. Part of the expense is the gear. Part of the expense is getting to the places. Part of the expense is the food. And part of it is the fact that I will do just about anything not to be cold, including buying more warm clothes to ensure that I won't be cold. 

(It doesn't work. You can have the best clothes in the world, and when you keep switching back and forth between steep up and steep down, you are going to be alternating way too hot (take off layers) and then freezing (put layers back on). But I keep trying.)

20 March 2016

climbing problem

The hike yesterday was, hm, let's just say: harder. 

Much of it was very steeply uphill, so I ate my way through the ziplock bag of sour jelly bellies that I had stashed in my cargo pocket, which is my method of keeping my energy up on steep hikes.  

There were more ropes - did I mention that we all have to take turns carrying 8 pound ropes tied to our packs? no? we do, and it is not pleasant, because they are heavy and unwieldy - so we each had to take more turns carrying them. With the rope, I started up the trail with a 33 pound pack. (Truth be told, I have no idea how my pack got to 25 pounds without the rope. Maybe it was the thermos of hot chocolate? Maybe it was the climbing harness and all the carabiners?)

Our fearless leader wanted it to be as challenging as possible, so we climbed straight up a boulder field half-covered in slippery, melting snow. We walked/slid straight down a different snow field. (Not a glacier, thank goodness. The class last week made me paranoid about glaciers and crevasses and avalanches, especially since I live in a place that has constant rotation between snowing / thawing / raining / freezing / snowing, resulting in slabs of snow between layers of ice, which is apparently the perfect set-up for slab avalanches. But this was a small snow field, and I don't think the snow was deep enough for an avalanche.)

When I took my pack off at the end of the hike, I felt so free that I could hardly help but jog on my way to the restroom. It's kind of weird to me that I have so much energy after so much hard work. Never fear, it disappeared completely by the time I got home and had to try to stand up to brush my teeth. I could have used a stool to sit on in the bathroom. I was that exhausted.

Then I slept for 11 hours and today I started thinking that maybe I want to climb this mountain again. I looked it up, and it's harder than what I did yesterday but maybe about the same difficulty as what I'm doing next Saturday. Although if I go at the right time of year, there is no snow on the trail (the best time is August/September). I have time to get into better shape. And the view from the top is incomparable. I'm not sure there is anywhere else in this state with quite the same view. 

I'm turning into one of those people with a climbing problem. 

16 March 2016

little bitty mountain

I was a little bit nervous about the first hike with my mountaineering class because I am not in the best shape of my life and I hate carrying heavy things up mountains. I expected to be lagging at the back of the very fit crowd.

But lo! Apparently running the stairs in my office and walking the hills at lunchtime has kept me in better shape than I thought. I will never be able to keep up with the dudes who just race up the hill, but I can keep up with the bulk of the group. I never even felt like I was struggling. After we got down and went to a restaurant, I jogged on my way out to the car to get my rope to practice knots. (It was raining, thus the jogging, but the point is that I had the energy to jog.)

We hiked a little mountain that I've hiked before - it's about 3 miles up, with 2800' of elevation gain. Any time a hike approaches 1000' vertical feet per mile, I consider it strenuous. And I've hiked this mountain before, but it was two years ago when I was out of shape and having some issues figuring out how to pack the right food for hikes. I also hiked with some people who were radically in shape, so I almost don't even remember it. It was a haze of exhaustion and hypoglycemia. 

Not so, this time around. Even when I had to carry the rope on the steepest part of the trail, I was near the front of the pack, looking back to make sure we didn't lose the stragglers. 

The sun came out as we approached the tree line, but the wind threatened to blow us off the mountain. I put on my puffy jacket and my rain coat, and then I rolled up my neck warmer and put it over my ears. 

At the very top, some of the experienced climbers had gone up before us and were waiting with snacks and hot chocolate. 

Every climb should have people waiting at the top with snacks and hot chocolate. 

And it didn't start dumping rain until we got back to the car, which is a complete win for spring in this part of the world. 

07 March 2016

climbing things

I start a mountaineering class tomorrow. I think this means, like, rock-climbing and also how to not die if you start falling down down snow into a crevasse. I have that vague idea.

Every time someone hears that I'm taking this class, their response is, "Are you going to climb [the Mountain That Overlooks the City]?" and the answer is no. I am not going to climb the Mountain That Overlooks the City, and the reason why I am not going to climb the Mountain that Overlooks the City is because that mountain has a bad habit of throwing large rocks on people's heads at random and killing them, or dropping people into crevasses (presumably, although we don't actually know because the people are never found). So no, I will stay off that mountain, thank you very much.

(I reserve the right to change my mind about this. BUT, if I do, I will take a Mountain Locator Unit. I want to be findable.)

Nonetheless, I am taking the class. 

Yesterday I trekked off to one of the mountain stores, where I put on harnesses and hung from the ceiling for a while. Yeah, that's a thing you do. You want to be only somewhat miserable, not totally miserable, from straps cutting into your legs and waist. 

I learned the following: 
  1. Despite having fairly skinny chicken legs, I have to open the leg holes all the way to fit them on my thighs. How...?
  2. No matter how tightly I cinch the waist belt, even to the point of pain, I can still twist my fingers around between the belt and my waist. You are not supposed to be able to turn two fingers when you put them between your skin and the belt. It's like I'm just mushy or something. 
  3. It seems that I have a narrow gap between my ribs and my hip bones, because the expensive, wide belts dug into my ribs like whoa. Saved me 20 bucks!
Actually, I haven't made the purchase yet (the harness is on hold), because apparently we get a coupon at class tomorrow night. Winning.

06 March 2016

breaking all the things

The other day, I had one of those clumsy days. 

I woke up and pulled the spinach out of the fridge. It hit one of my Ball jars of chai, knocking it over and spilling chai all over the fridge and the floor. I cleaned it up as best I could in my hurry to get out the door, but our fridge is constructed strangely, and even when I've cleaned up all the visible liquid, it still drips out from somewhere for a while. I left that to deal with when I got home.

Back in my bedroom, I picked up my phone to put it in my purse. It slipped out of my hand and landed on a bottle of vitamins in a little crate next to my bed, somehow creating a volcano of vitamins. I think it hit the top of the bottle, broke it off, and jostled the bottle enough that it spewed vitamins out the top. There were little vitamin Ds everywhere. I picked up the ones I could find, stuffed them back into the bottle, tried unsuccessfully to get the top back on, and ran off to work.

The phone was fine. (This is why I buy cases.)

At work, I almost killed my delicate-looking little tea cup by dropping another dish on it in the dish rack (it's sturdier than it looks, fortunately). 

From then on, I just tried not to touch anything for the rest of the day.


I've had eczema for a decade or so now, and it seemed much worse this year, which is weird, because stress is supposed to contribute, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. (I have a job I love, an awesome apartment, a steady paycheck, fun outdoor activities, and great people around me. It's all good stuff.)

And yet. The scaly red spots on my neck, they are persistent. One of them started to feel like it was just a permanent thing, like I'm actually turning into a snake, starting at the neck. 

When my mom was visiting me last weekend, we tried on a bunch of dresses at various stores as potentials to wear to my sister's wedding this summer. I tried on several of them and, being bridesmaids' dresses, many of them had open necklines. My scales were visible. Also I scratch at them a lot, because they itch unbearably.

It wasn't until my mom suggested that I try going to the dermatologist, because maybe they have some new ideas since the last time I went four years ago, that I thought things through and realized:

1. I have been trying to use up a jar of moisturizing cream that I stopped using last winter because it wasn't working (this one should come with a giant red flag), and 
2. there are other products out there.

So I did some research on the eczema websites and bought a different product, which seemed to help a little. 

Then I stopped at an actual drug store (usually I go to T@rget or something), where they had a cheap little tube of Aveen0 available. You know, the kind with oatmeal in it? I haven't really thought about Aveen0 since probably junior high, when my friends and I were trying new lotions that felt fancy to 13 year olds in the Midwest. 

I've seen the Aveen0 around, but somehow I thought it had a fragrance, and fragrances are worse than anything for my eczema. (It does not have a fragrance.) 

I bought the cheap little tube on a whim, and I put some of it on my neck. 

I really don't have words to describe the difference. This is the first product (even including prescription hydrocortisone cream) that has actually made my neck feel less itchy. I don't know if it will make the eczema go away completely, or how long it will work for me, but for now I am reveling in the feeling of applying it whenever it starts to itch, and feeling the itch go away. 

It's amazing how you don't realize the unpleasant physical sensations in your body until they are gone. 

03 March 2016


Me: I've figured out how to eat chocolate four times a day without ruining the healthfulness of my diet.* I have eight chocolate buttons with my chai in the morning, eight chocolate buttons after lunch, two squares of mint chocolate on the drive home, and two dark chocolate peanut butter cups when I get home. It means that I have to keep my other snacks pretty healthy, so I usually just have a cheese stick and some chocolate-covered almonds in the morning.

J: So... you don't count the chocolate-covered almonds as chocolate?

Me: Noooo...? I guess not? Because those are almonds. Just with some chocolate.

I guess I eat chocolate five times a day.


* Diet in the "what I eat every day" sense, not the "trying to lose weight" sense.