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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Equipment checklist - climbing gear

With only six more days until I depart, I am starting to pack.  There are plenty of days and time to pick up anything missing plus I can always grab some last-second things in Kathmandu.  The point of this post and many that follow is to document what I intend to pack.  I have pictures and explanations of all the equipment.  Today's post or at least this post covers my climbing gear.  
Index:

Crampons - close-up view
1.  Crampons with anti-bailing plates (orange things) and tip covers (black/grey things on the pointy ends).  These puppies go on my climbing boots and keep me from slipping on firm snow/ice.  Crampons are the most important pieces of equipment for safety - at least as far as the lower body is concerned.  I also have the tip covers on my crampons and use these throughout the expedition because they protect my pack from getting pierced and they weight much less than an crampon bag.  Highly recommended.



Ice axe
2.  Ice axe (piolet) with leash and tip covers:  The ice axe is to the upper body as crampons are to the lower body.  I use the ice axe for upper body purchase and for self-arrest (stop yourself from sliding down the mountain).  The tip protectors are used for transit and get left in the expedition bag once I am on the hill.  They add unnecessary weight but they sure do save bags.  


3.  Climbing harness:  I use a standard alpine bod harness because it is relatively light, easy to put on and take off, and I can use it with mittens without having to take them off.  This harness has four accessory loops that I find particularly useful - especially when I am a little light-headed and cannot locate a carabiner with ease.  

4.  Ascender (jumar) with two locking carabiners:  The ascender is for ... you guessed it .... ascending (going up) the fixed ropes.  A cam mechanism with sharp pointy teeth clamp down on the rope and only allow the device to slide up the rope.  Think of shark teeth.  If you pet these teeth one directly they are merely bumpy - petting them in the wrong direction causes some slight pain.  Any pressure in the downward direction causes the teeth to bite into the rope and for the device to stop (along with you).  The two locking carabiners keep you attached to the 

5.  Figure Eight (8) with locking carabiner:  This device enables the climber to clip into a rope and abseil (rappel) down without a huge hassle.  Many times high up on mountains, fixed ropes are frozen and cannot pass through the usual rappel device.  A figure 8 makes the rappel easier to setup.  I have mine clipped into the short end of my cow's tail.

Cow's Tail
6.  Cow's Tail:  There are many renditions of this setup but the one I found most useful was depicted by the simple diagram below.  As you will see, the two tails have locking carabiners that connect to the ascender.  The short tail connects to the bottom of the ascender (and to you) and the long tail gets connected to the top of the ascender and holds the fixed rope in place.  As you see from the diagram to the right, I have my figure 8 connected to my abseiling loop already.  I would not climb with that complete setup - too heavy.  Instead, I would either use only the carabiners if there were little chance of a fall or I would use the two carabiners with the ascender for steeper ascents.  For easier descents, I would merely clip in with the carabiners for safety and abseil with the fixed rope wrapped around my arm.  On steeper, less safe descents, I would use the figure 8.  For a really thorough discussion, I recommend you visit this page. <----click font="" left.="" text="" the="" to="">

7.  "Double" Dynex runner:  This cord is for attaching my ascender under some conditions that do not warrant the cow's tail.  Actually, I bring this along regardless of it's intended use.  These runners are almost always useful at some point in some situation.  They weight next to nothing and offer backup for my cow's tail.

8.  Wire (non-locking) carabiners:  Now is a good time to introduce the difference between locking and non-locking carabiners.  Locking carabiners have various mechanisms that "lock" the device from opening.  Under conditions where you life depends upon the carabiner to hold you, locking it makes the most sense.  Non-lockers are good when speed is the most pressing issue and safety - although unimportant - becomes less relevant in terms of the carabiner than the safety that comes from descending quickly.

9.  Trekking poles:  I usually find these helpful when I am carrying a heavy pack.  The trek into the south base camp may require some hefting, I decided to take these along.  The sharp points can be saved by tip-savers (i.e., rubber cups that fit snugly onto the sharp ends).  

10.  Climbing gear bag:  A very light mesh bag is useful to keep all these elements - save for the sharp objects - together in one nice neat location.  Scattered gear gets beaten up and that beating can shorten the life of these critical, safety tools.  I love this mesh bag because it weighs nothing (maybe an ounce) and stores a ton of gear without holding water/ice/snow.  

A final note.  Just for accounting purposes after the trip,  I included a picture of my 10 toes - partly by accident.  Note that I will come back with all of them because of the equipment I packed for my feet.  Expect that in my next post.   


That one thing

Six days to go until I take off.  Today, I have some thoughts to post about the upcoming climb.

Imagine waking up, stumbling out of bed, tripping on a shoe, and hitting your shin on the end of the bed frame.  I occasionally do that after a long night in the tent.  How do I feel?  Not good.  That feeling then extends to other aspects of my day - slowly gaining momentum until I start feeling frustrated with everything.  Sound familiar?  Well, maybe you are better than me.  That scenario didn't happen to me today but it paints the perfect picture of a series of events that often color my days.  The events are singular and intrusive;  they change the way I view myself, others, or the future.  I call it "that one thing."

I am not a sensitive guy nor am I terribly grumpy but many events nudge me toward a mood or outlook.  A colleague may compliment me, another driver may cut me off, or I may read something inspiring.  These "things" affect me - sometimes against all my willful efforts to resist them.  Climbing seems to amplify that "one thing" more than any other context.  Climbers experience setbacks and triumphs.  How we respond to those experiences often sets up a series of events that color our view of the climb.

Many of you probably appreciate the fact that I am a preparer.  I try to over-prepare for most major things in my life.  When I trained for competitions, I often thought about what else I could do to address a concern, a worry, or a weakness.  I read.  I train.  I think.  That is just who I am.  Preparation includes both the physical and the psychological.  Today's post is about preparing for the psychological problems I am certain to encounter while I climb.

Consider a few relevant "things" that will certainly color my days ahead.
  1. Slow acclimatization:  Every climber acclimatizes to high altitude at a different rate.  Predicting who acclimatizes quickest remains one of the big questions in high altitude medicine.  Several promising biomarkers exist but we never use them nor would we climbers offer our blood for inspection before an expedition.  Instead, we all work at roughly the same rate up the hill with the aim to adjust to the higher altitudes.  Many of us experience minor setbacks in the process; in fact, I doubt anyone is immune to these setbacks.  I recall on Denali that my spO2 fell below 70% after a particularly hard (and memorable) day.  That low level spooked me and I considered slowing down or taking a day off.  Fortunately, I recovered quickly and went on to summit two days later.  I was surrounded by a strong team and their strength gave me strength.  Not everyone was so fortunate.   Several people I chatted with in the high camps became so focused on their slow acclimatization that they focused on the spO2 level and failed to do something more productive.  How we react to the acclimatization signs can color not just a day but many days following.  What am I going to do if I am slow to acclimatize?  Relax.  There are many rest days built into the itinerary.  I plan to focus on acclimatizing for the real summit push and not worry about setbacks along the way.  Avoiding HAPE and HACE are my goal so I have no problem taking my time.  Acclimatizing can be a slow process.  I know I have already put in enough time in my tent; now I need to put in time on the hill.  Relaxing along the way will increase my chances of a successful acclimatization routine.
  2. Expedition conflict:  Climbers tend to be strong individuals; group activities rarely fall into their comfort zone.  Big climbs like Mt. Everest require big teams or expeditions.  The logistics and sheer magnitude of the effort cannot be practically managed without numbers.  Some people - particularly the elite - perform well enough in small groups but it is so rare for anyone to climb solo.  What happens when you mix the rugged individualist with forced team membership?  Conflict.  I have been on expeditions where conflict was the primary memory that lasts well after the climb.  That conflict just drains the energy from the team.  In many instances, every team member strives to distance him or herself from the rest of the team.  A huge blowout may affect the team's performance.  The "one thing" could be a comment or even a sideward glance that trips off further conflict.  Avoiding conflict by discussing differences may reduce the total impact but conflict seems unavoidable up high.  Our brains do not function well and emotions often get the best of us.   I plan to read my books and keep at peace with all around me.  Being a good citizen helps reduce the conflict.  I can only control one side but I will control my side.  Peace.
  3. First signs of illness:  Everyone gets some sort of bug while climbing.  Apparently, Everest offers us a whole host of bacteria and virus that afflict us all.  Those first signs often precede thoughts of dread and hopelessness.  If I know I will get sick, how will I prepare for it?   Prevention:  a) reduce my exposure to these pathogens by trekking a bit faster through the lower, crowded sections of the approach, b) washing my hands religiously before all meals and after all washroom breaks, c) avoid uncooked foods that contain these beasties.  Treatment:  I intend to treat any problem early with the appropriate medication.  Focus:  Finally, I will remind myself that almost all successful climbers experience AND overcome illness.  Getting sick is not a knockout punch for an expedition.  
  4. Speed and social comparison:  Most of us are competitive.  Yep, competition brings out the best and worst in climbers.  Many people compare their times to others.  Mountaineering is not a race.  Anyone who gets caught up in comparing their performance to others loses focus on what matters most - acclimatization.  A poor day climbing (slow up the hill to a pre-defined objective) can send some climbers into a tailspin of self-doubt.  I am not immune to this potential.   We all experience the pangs of doubt.  My plan?  Control the controllables.  A bad day is simply a bad day.  Getting caught up in the potential implications only robs me of important energy resources that could be used in a more efficient manner.  
The "one thing" often shifts our focus to being more future oriented and catastrophic - altitude does not help the process either.  We get caught up in these early signs and over-interpret them to mean something more than what they really signal.  My aim is to BE HERE NOW.  Laurence Gonzales wrote several great books on survival and resilience.  He stressed the importance of being present - "in the moment" - and focused on controllable objectives.  That focus often eliminates the impact of the "one thing" and enables me to move forward without problems.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Altitude and Attitude

The past few weeks were extremely busy and left me little free time to post much. I had a few updates if you recall but nothing on working out. Well, I'm not working out. My only focus is to gain a little weight and get strong. I feel great. The point of this post is to show you a trajectory of where I have been - in terms of altitude - and where I plan to go. Every data point up to about April 10th is fairly accurate and after that date I used many different (past) climbing reports to cobble together an expected schedule. So here goes….


plot of chunk TSplot


You'll notice that Everest is one tall mountain. Yep, the tallest of course. Another thing that becomes readily apparent from the figure above is that acclimatization is a process. We climb high, sleep low. Or, in my case, I sleep high and train low. In just 7 days, I leave for the real acclimatization process; it all begins in Kathmandu (KTM). The past few days are a blur. I slept an average of 4 hours each night. Between the altitude and the deadlines, I just cannot stay asleep. The lone positive from the pressure is that I am getting a ton done. Can't wait until I get on the plane for KTM. Seven days and counting….


See many of you shortly at the pub (Auld Shebeen from 3-9pm today) Bring the kids!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

There is no such thing as a true catastrophe....a quick change of plans

One of the people I admire most in life - Lee Sechrest - patiently advised me through graduate school and often said "there is no such thing as a true catastrophe."  Those words had little impact on me then but they ring true today.  I believe it now - not just as a trite saying to brush off unforeseen problems but really as a truism in life.  Today, I got a simple message from Dan Mazur that read......
"We are very sorry to have to inform you that due to unforseen circumstances, you will not be allowed to go to Tibet this spring. I am very sorry about this. The Tibetan mountaineering government authorities informed us of this today, and the reason they gave is that they are unable to grant entry permission to Americans who have never been to Tibet before now. This seems like an extremely lame reason to not allow you in. We are very upset about it. We spent all day on the phone with the Tibet office and they are not going to budge on this. They are unable to grant entry permission to Americans who have never been to Tibet before now. This is not their choice and is being forced on them by other branches of government. We are very sorry."
Dan went on to say that he would welcome me on the Nepal Everest expedition for a hugely discounted price (a small additional charge from my current expedition fee).  I jumped at the chance so I am now climbing the South Col with the hordes of others.  Summit Climb is a first class outfit and I am thrilled to be part of Dan's climbing expedition.

Am I disappointed?  Nah.  I still get to climb.  Was I looking forward to Tibet and the North Col?  Sure.  I wanted less crowded climbing conditions.  The upside is that I get to climb with my pals John Carney and Dan Mazur.  I see this change as a net gain.  If the Chinese government doesn't want my money then I will gladly part with some fun coupons to benefit the Nepalese.  There are far more near-catastrophic things in life than having travel plans change.

The climb is on!  The party is on too.  Come join us at the Auld Shebeen this Saturday from 3-9pm.

Thanks Lee for giving me the right perspective.

Success is a round-trip

After chatting with several friends, I kept reminding them about what climbing success means or rather how to gauge success.  My reminder was that success is simply a round trip.  Upon my return, regardless of the outcome, I will be successful.  Some may hold a different opinion or view my definition as a defeatist mentality where I built in failure from the start.  I hold no such view.  My aim is to summit.  I will summit if allowed by luck, weather, and fitness.  Overall, however, my climb will only be successful if I am able to return home to my family and friends.

Nothing wrong with a dash of realism sprinkled onto fanciful dreams.

Expect another update shortly....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Climbing for fame or self-discovery?: The trappings of classifying climbers based upon inferred motives

Thanks to Dr. Mardy and his weekly quotes, I was inspired to post these thoughts as I prepare for my climb.

Climbers are often classified by their goals.  Some seek fame while others appear to seek some other ephemeral outcome.  Those who classify the climbers do so at a distance and then value the accomplishments of others based upon this classification.  

Fame

Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.  -- Socrates
Fame drives many people to endure the extremes.  The goal is not necessarily fame but the perks that go along with being a "known" person.  What people want before becoming famous often turns into a burden.  They want attention perhaps or to be the "talk of the town."  I get it.  It is far better to be talked about favorably than to be ridiculed.  The difference between the two, however, might be razor thin.  More often, those who seek fame only find themselves at the mercy of public opinion.  

Self-Discovery

While some adventurers may seek fame, others seek appreciation of the unknown and perspective of the known.  The fruits of these labors offer little other than the possibility of self-discovery and, perhaps, distance from contemporary society.  I intend to explain the second possibility later; for now, I want to focus on the self-discovery.  George Mallory's oft-quoted line that climbing Everest is "of no use" was even further clarified by "[t]here is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever."   I beg to differ.  We gain by these endeavors by understanding ourselves.  Maybe we become more patient.  Perhaps the opposite.  Any time a person endures some hardship - whether self-imposed or imposed by others - the impact remains.  

Classification and Values

Drives or motivation appears to be an important variable when we differentiate climbers.  There are those who want the fame that may accompany great adventure.  These people often pay attention to the "famous" and treat them with special attention or respect.  The people who seek self-discovery ignore others and focus on themselves.  More often than not, the fame seekers have a low regard for the self-discoverers and vice versa.  I have no earthly clue why but that appears to be the case.  Evidence to the contrary would be welcomed.

The purpose of my post is simple.  Neither motivational extreme contributes positively to an expedition team.  We adventure seekers come together in these large expeditions - like on Everest - and that merger does not always produce the most amicable conditions.  I believe the friction comes from different drives or motivation.  We each see others as odd or difficult to understand.  I find it odd that some people collect peak "summits" (aka peak baggers) like others collect stamps.  My views do not render their accomplishments any different from those who have other motives.  I yearn to be out in the wilderness and summit if/when possible.  Still, I have the same objectives as the peak baggers; the fact that I find them odd only communicates my lack of understanding or a lack of agreement with our climbing motives.  Our objectives are the same.  Our motives differ.

One major advantage of not seeking fame or a check-off for my climbs is that I enjoy the outcome no matter what happens.  I am no different than most people.  If I compete, I want to win.  When I climb, I want to summit.  Sure, the objective remains no matter what the situation.  If I fail to win, summit, or achieve an objective, I am bummed but there is more to the process than the outcome.  Those who seek the outcome for others must answer to those "others" when things do not go as expected.

One important caveat to my post is that I hold no value judgments on anyone who seeks adventure.  The drives are immaterial.  Adventurers are adventurers.  It is more often the non-adventurer who places values on the adventurers.  Firsts are almost always lauded and seconds, thirds, and later are considered mere minor accomplishments.  Think about the runners who now break the 4-minute mile.  Many people who hear of a 4-minute mile runner shrug it off as if it were common.  

Adventures, however, are not the same for everyone.  Similar to the 4-minute mile, we must all work to overcome our own weaknesses.  The process is what matters.  We seek adventure for whatever reason but we all ought to value one another regardless of the motive.  Find peace within your own motives and climb on!
If you cannot find peace in yourself, it is useless to look for it elsewhere.  -- La Rochefoucauld

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quick update on 1) new domain name, 2) SPOT updates, and 3) Tibet (North Col) Everest route

New domain - same google blog

To make my blog distribution simpler, I purchased a domain name via godaddy and now you can reach the blog and share it with others via this URL:


The return on my $7 domain name investment comes immediately after my first face-to-face encounter where I can simply say...."go to my blog at www.climbingonpurpose.com."  There you have it!  Go Daddy rocks.

Google maintains the old blogspot name along with my new domain so either works just fine.  Once a person types in the old address, the browser quickly resolves the old address to the new domain name.  

Find me on Spot

Some of you likely saw my recent post - or rather several odd posts that were failed attempts to forward my location to my blog.  I have a SPOT locator device that pairs with my GPS (Delorme PN-60w) and transmits my location to facebook, twitter (@pem725), and this blog.  If you click on the second link, you will see a google map of my current location.  The first link takes you to a 1990's website that looks awful and performs even worse across browsers.  Use the google link for a better experience.  Currently, I am in Fairfax, VA right now and that location is not terribly interesting.  While I travel to Nepal, climb the mountain, and return home, I intend to post my whereabouts so check it out and keep monitoring the blog (or facebook and twitter).  Finally, I added my wife to my blog author list.  She may be posting for me while I am climbing if the satellite phone coverage interferes with my web posting.  Expect SPOT updates posted at least daily if not more frequently when I start climbing.  Those updates work regardless of my sat phone connection.

See the North Col Route

There are several ways you can learn about the route I intend to climb (North Col from Tibet).  First, many of you may appreciate a phone/tablet app available from this website.  The developers produced a really interesting 3-D rendering of the North and South Col routes.  Another option is to watch Alan Arnette's animated route map here:


Both options offer slightly different perspectives on the climbing route.  Alan's animated map contains more details about the typical expedition movements along the route while the everest3d app provides a closer look at all the mountain features.  Check 'em both out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Check-in/OK message from SPOT PN60wSPOT

PN60wSPOT
Latitude:38.83111
Longitude:-77.27289
GPS location Date/Time:03/16/2014 14:40:03 PDT

Message:All is OK. Just testing.

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/F_2y9/38.83111N/77.27289W

If the above link does not work, try this link:
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=38.83111,-77.27289&ll=38.83111,-77.27289&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

PN60wSPOT

You have received this message because PN60wSPOT has added you to their SPOT contact list.

Ready for Adventure
FindMeSPOT.com

Week 40 Update: Post 2 of 2 for today - The Weight....

Week 40 Update: Mar 16, 2014 for the week beginning on March 9th, 2014


Second post of the day. Sorry for the delays the past few weeks. I was swamped with work and climb preparations. Here are some major updates from the past two weeks:

  • Training has taken a slightly different course. After I got sick with whatever attacked my system, I had to re-evaluate what mattered most for my climb. The bottom line is that I needed to gain weight and get acclimatized more than get fit. I was already fit. I have enough training to last me a few expeditions. Now, I need to gain some residual weight to shed while climbing (more on that in a subsequent post). Eating is a chore these days. Between the hypoxia and the meds I am taking to kill this beastie living inside me, I cannot muster any enthusiasm for eating. I love food…but I don't love food now. I eat to eat.
  • Work stress is high and only going to get higher as I approach my departure date. That stress affects my sleep. I wish it didn't but the reality is that it does. Nothing I do affects people's lives directly. Sure, I have students who appreciate my guidance but they can cope just fine without me present at all times. Projects consume my spare time - whatever spare time means. Now that I am not training as much as before, I do have more discretionary time. That time is almost completely devoted to getting things done. I have four major projects that rely on me to get things done. All my efforts are focused on wrapping them up before I leave. My colleagues expect me to be done and I will be done before I leave - I promise. The stress from that promise weighs on me every evening when I fail to complete all I need to complete. Stress….stress….stress.
  • Lists, lists of lists, and more lists. I am a checklist fan and every day I go over several lists to make sure I have all my gear sorted and ready to pack. Mt. Everest is a different climb from the traditional alpine style climb I grew accustomed to preparing for. These lists help me keep things in order and ensure all is there before I leave. The lists, however, only remind me. Each list item takes time. Passport photos (1 hour at Kinkos), emergency preparations (hours of paperwork and email to family and expedition leaders), communications (sat phone and spot setup), travel details (flight, hotel, etc.), pack weight (packing, sorting, repacking, resorting, culling, adding ), additional food (snacks and dehydrated food) and and countless other things keep coming back to mind - especially when I go to bed.
  • Not all stress is stressful. Yes, I am stressed by work and preparation but most of my stress is good stress - whatever the heck that means. I am so excited to leave. Sometimes, when I get really tired, I just think about getting on the plane and drifting off to sleep. Yes, I can sleep on planes - just ask Kathy. I got on a plane to Australia once and slept for 17 hours. Sleep is my friend and there is not better place to catch up on sleep than on a plane. For those of you who know about airplane survival, don't worry about my sleep interfering with my survival plans. I never sleep for the first or last 15 minutes. Very important to be alert and ready during those periods. The rest of the time….I sleep. I can't wait to log a few high-quality nap hours on that first flight.
  • Another positive stressor is the excitement to climb. I cannot wait. The thought of being on the glacier and doing what I love to do in the mountains excites me to no end. I remain focused on today but I cannot help but think about mid-April when I can finally climb.

Workout Progress


Feel awesome training or at least the little bit of training I am doing these days.

plot of chunk WeekEx

All that training sits in the bank ready for me to draw upon it while climbing. Now, I rest and get strong. Fat and strong. Well, fat might be a bit of hyperbole. I want to be fatter than a skinny dude. Bring on the bacon!

plot of chunk DailyWL

Little added this week. All is well though. Those antibiotics are winning the battle inside me. Only 3 more days of 'em.

plot of chunk DailyWL2

More data….to show that I am not contributing much to the overall total. I met my goal to be fit. Now, I focus on other things.

plot of chunk CumWL

Weekly Summary


Thanks to Dr. Ted Kim and my brother Sean (Dr. Sean McKnight), I am now pretty much healed. I can breathe without any problem, workout if I see the need, and sleep when tired. The drugs they prescribed or suggested really helped. Better living through chemistry? Nah. Just better living when these bugs get killed.

Mood


I'm starting to feel almost manic. The lack of training and running around gets me antsy to burn some energy. I am not totally sedentary - far from it. Shifting from 15-20 hours a week to 5 feels like nothing I experienced in a while. I have so much energy. That energy is being put to good use. By getting things done, I am feeling better and relieving some of the pent-up stress that builds from my impending deadlines.

plot of chunk Mood

Hypoxic Training


Yep, back at it. I now train exclusively at 20,000 feet and feel great. There are times when I get off the elliptical after a session and feel pretty wonky. The other day I had my students over for a brief chat. They arrived just as I climbed off after 3 hours at a relatively low intensity (90 HR @ 130 Watts) and I felt stupid. Altitude training sure ain't gonna make me smarter. In fact, I know it has a short but profound influence on my cognitive ability. Maybe all that reading I have planned might be a bit optimistic. Perhaps I ought to bring some children's books on my Kindle.

Sleep remains a problem. I am not going to comment on it other than to say that I find it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. Too much on my mind.

plot of chunk Hypoxia

Recovery (Restwise Data)


Yep, finally recovering. I had a few days two weeks ago where I registered restwise recovery values in the 20's and now I am usually hitting well above the 80's. Little wonder that I am recovering when I am barely training.

plot of chunk RestwiseData

Updates for the week


Plenty to report this week and plenty of folks to thank. Here goes…

  1. Thanks to Roz Schanzer, Steve Schanzer and Rich Wilson for hosting us (Kathy and me) for a wonderful dinner. We really enjoyed the company - especially after several days of recovering at home without much social contact. Roz and Steve are wonderful hosts. They have so many great interests that overlap with ours that we wanted to stay for hours. Roz is an accomplished artist and author. She wrote so many books, I lost count. Please check out her website. I know Roz through swimming. She is my inspiration. Roz kicks butt! Steve - Roz's husband - is a fantastic guy. He and I are very similar. Hopefully, I can laugh as much as he does when I retire. Steve is a true renaissance man. He makes beautiful art pieces, tames computers, and remains the most down-to-earth guy I have met in ages. Kathy and I both look forward to many more evenings of chatting with Roz and Steve. The purpose of our meal was also to meet Rich Wilson. Many of you know me and know that there are few if any individuals who I hold in such high regard that I would feel giddy to meet in person. Some people are prone to “hero worshop” but I am not one of them. Rich Wilson comes as close to a hero in my eyes that I felt giddy the whole day before our dinner party. He is quite an inspirational guy. Not only did he sail around the world solo in the Vendee Globe race but he also posted to an educational website during the event. The website is called SitesAlive! and he has completed several adventures and posted about these events DURING the adventure. Some of you may not appreciate how amazing this feat is but you ought to watch some of the youtube videos on the Vendee Globe. Rich is quite a guy. He is smart. He is adventurous. He is kind. I admire him greatly. Roz and Steve are great friends with Rich and they agreed to host the dinner. It was the highlight of my week, month, and perhaps even past year. Thanks to you three. We hope to get together soon. See you in a few weeks at my sendoff party.
  2. Last night, Kathy and I had another dinner party. Well, this was not exactly dinner but it as a heck of a party. We went to John and Leslie Carney's house for a wonderful get together. They live on George Washington's former property in Alexandria and have a beautiful house. John is a fellow climber. He had an unsuccessful attempt on Everest in 2012 with the Himex expedition group. The expedition leader called off the climb after rock fall and other hazardous conditions presented too much danger for the team. It was a painful decision for sure but probably the best for all involved. John took the cancellation well - at least two years later he was not bitter about it. John is climbing Everest again this year from the Nepal side. He and I intend to stay in touch via sat phone while we approach the climb from different sides - him the south and me the north. I really admire John. He is a great guy. He runs a business, does triathlons and maintains a wonderful family life. I met John at a Quantified Self meeting last year (June or July) that he hosted at his company's office in Alexandria. John and I could be related. No, not literally related but figuratively related. He has a similar sense of adventure, humor, and interests. We are geeks at heart. Kathy and I felt at home with his family and friends. They are great people and I look forward to seeing him in Kathmandu after our climb. Our post-climb party ought to be quite memorable; might need my patented Ronco™ strap-on party liver to keep up with his friends. Thanks again Carney family for the great evening. Good luck to all of you on the trek and to John on his climb. I look forward to our summit bear hug.
  3. The Weight.



I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey mister can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just ginned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said ….
Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
And…and….and you put the load right on me……
– The Band (no not R. Robertson but The Band)

I love the Band. Saw Levon Helm at his studio in Woodstock for one of his famous Midnight Rambles. The weight is my theme song for the next few weeks. I'm trying to put on the pounds. The weight just ain't comin' but I'll have it when I need it. Right now, I hover at 168 regardless of my intake. Come join me for a huge meal if you are in the area. I dine at Curry Mantra for lunches on Mondays and then the pub (Auld Shebeen) on Friday evenings. The rest of the time, I can be found at Elevation Burger eating a few burgers, fries, and a shake. Life could be worse but I feel stronger than ever and need just a few more sacrificial pounds before I head out. Come on out and help me put on “The Weight.”