Saturday, September 20, 2008

The "United" Empire Strikes Back...

It's Saturday morning and my original 8:55 AM flight from Lansing, MI to Denver, CO is delayed for 3 hours.  Something about a cabin pressure issue...

I've been in Lansing since Wednesday night to teach an Intro GIS class at MSU.  Getting here was an adventure in ineptitude for United Airlines.  My outgoing flight was delayed 2.25 hours due another mechanical problem - a gear indicator light.  As the annoucement was made for the delay, I sprinted to Customer Service to rebook my flights as I had "already" missed my connecting flight in Chicago to Lansing.  I'm glad I ran b/c I was 4th in a line of 75-80 people.  If you've ever stood in a Customer Service line you know the lines move glacially...cockroaches move faster...

So I was rebooked on a United flight to Minneapolis and a Northwest flight to Lansing - I seriously doubted my luggage would make it.  I was correct.  The luggage spent the night in Chicago, I spent the night in Lansing.  I spent at least 1 hour in my hotel room with United and Northwest to arrange delivery of my suitcase to my hotel.  Neither would accept responsibility b/c I had not filed a claim report in person at the Lansing airport.  Here's the rub - there was no one to file a report with!  My flight arrived at 11 PM in Lansing and customer service for NW and UAL (in Lansing) hours are 7 AM - 9 PM...  AND they said they could not do it over the phone even though they had all the information they needed from the computer systems.  I WAS LIVID!

So no thanks to NW or UAL, I had to drive to the Lansing airport after class Thursday in my 2-day worn clothes to pick up my suitcase.  I now have clean undies!  Class continued Friday and the students were happy with the materials and presentation. 

I toured the old "Holiday Inn" homestead, got some dinner at Clara's (an old railroad depot in downtown Lansing) and went to a Blues Fest for about an hour.  Headed back to the hotel, packed my suitcase, talked with Karen, and went to bed in preparation to be home in Denver by 11:30 AM MST.  That was not to be the case...

So, here I am in the Lansing airport waiting for a delayed flight and hope to be home by 5 PM today...I'll miss a cookout this afternoon...BUT I am hiking Mt. Princeton tomorrow with good friends Pete and Nancy.


Climb On!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Hard(rock) Weekend...

This past weekend, I had the joy (and pain) of pacing my good friend Scott Olmer at the Hardrock 100 in Ouray/Silverton, Colorado. What is the Hardrock 100 you may ask??? Well, for some reason, some folks think that the marathon distance is not quite enough nor is a 50-mile run. Nooooo, they have to run, walk, trot 100 miles in 48 hours! Honestly, I can't fathom the idea but that's what folks, like Scott, want to do in their spare time. And they enjoy it....

Several weeks ago, I was approached by Bob Rayburn (one of the regulars at our Thursday night Southern Sun Happy Hours) and he quite simply asked "would you be interested in crewing for Scott at the Hardrock this year?" Crewing a runner means that you are a pacer, a motivator, a drill sergeant, a nutritionist, a stop watch - all for the purpose of motivating the runner to the finish line. Being a runner and an avid mountaineer, I was curious and asked what it entailed. Bob's reply..."well, all you have to do is do 2 legs - one is on Friday night and the other is taking Scott to the finish line..." Sounds like fun - count me in! What did I get myself into....

Friday, July 11th, 2:30 PM - Ouray - the little Switzerland of North America. Ouray is probably one of the prettiest places in Colorado with a small town surrounded by majestic peaks. Google it sometime, you'll see... I call Bob to learn that Scott is progressing nicely from his 6 AM start and should be in Ouray around 8 PM to pick up his first pacer of the race - me. My leg with Scott consists of "Ouray-Engineers Pass-Grouse" - 15.8 miles (5785' gain/2775' loss) in about 6:30 hours in the dark...with headlamps...through Bear Creek Canyon...average trail width 3' ...narrows to 1.5'/2'...with your step...or it's down the canyon with a not so good outcome. Apparently, there has been no injuries - serious or mortal in this section. I'm still a bit leery at this section b/c my new flashlight (in the LED section at Target) is not an LED rather it's the old fashioned yellow bulb (like the ones from childhood) and I've got a serious case of vertigo at the moment. While focusing on this one yellow beam, my equilibrium is not cooperating at the entrance to the canyon. Fortunately, Scott has a great LED light to brighten the path and the vertigo goes away. We proceed over up the mountain to an aid station around 12,000' and continue for the next few hours to the pacer hand-off at Grouse. We reach Grouse - it's 2:30 AM Saturday and Bob continues with Scott for his 32 mile leg that will take him until 4:48 PM Saturday...

Saturday, July 12, 3:30 AM - I'm back in Silverton at the cabins Scott has rented for everyone. I'm tired, my feet are wet from numerous stream crossings, and all I want is sleep. I crash hard for 5.5 hours and awake to the noise of Bob's wife, Jana, stirring in the main room of the cabin. We head over to the Brown Bear Cafe for pancakes/sausage/OJ/lots of coffee. We have the rest of the morning and afternoon to follow Scott's progress at "Hardrock Central" as well as play tourist in Silverton. About 3:30 PM, Jana and I decide we better head to Cunningham Gulch for the "pacer hand off" we believe to be around 5:30-6 PM. Much to our surprise, Scott has made up an hour over the day and arrives in at 4:48 PM. Scott and I leave the aid station at 4:49 PM and were on our last leg to the finish line in Silverton. The leg consists of 2700' gain/3840' loss - better than 14 hours ago. We work our way up the mountain - hiking slowly and gain the summit ridge in 2 hours. From there, the race is on - running down 3840' to Silverton! We run on goat trails (even saw one!), we run on Jeep 4WD trails, we run on single track trails, we run through streams filled with snow melt until we hear noise from the motorcycle rally at the old ski resort in Silverton. We're close! We break through the trees - the last 0.5 miles to the finish line! I slow down to run with Scott rather than ahead of him - no need to pull him through, he knows the finish line is there. We chat about being done, about his accomplishment. He thanks me for crewing him. We near the finish line and I slow down to walk into the crowd - the pacer does not cross the finish line - only the Hardrock finisher. Scott finishes another 100-miler in 38:35 ranked #30 out of 98 finishers - damn good!

Sunday, July 13th, 9 AM - the awards presentation at the Silverton High School Gym. There are hundreds of people here for breakfast and the awards program. Family members, volunteers, pacers, athletes - you name it. The breakfast is great - eggs, sausage, fruit, sweet rolls, OJ, coffee - the awards program entertaining. Bob and Scott ask "sooo, now that you've experienced a 100-miler as a pacer, what about as a runner?" My answer - quite simply - no. I enjoyed the experience as a pacer - would do it again if asked. But running/walking/sleep walking 100 miles - nope...I'm interested in altitude, going higher...

Climb On my friends!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meet Karen...

Okay, I know I've been REALLY slack on my outhiking blog - I think I need to set an Outlook reminder once a week to write something new - note to self - set reminder on Monday AM...

Here it is almost summer in Colorado and to say it's been a busy 2008 would be an understatement! Between traveling for work in April and May, teaching Denver classes in June, and attempting to start the 14er season with all the snow STILL in the mountains, I decided I would write this update to share with you someone who is very important in my life these days, my girlfriend Karen.

I first met Karen in 1998 as part of a Colorado Athletic Club "How to Climb a 14er" group that a mutual friend had formed. Basically it was 10-12 folks from the club who were interested in hiking easy 14ers and we "trained" over 4-6 weeks with progressively higher mountains culminating with my first 14er on Mt. Bierstadt. During the "class", my former spouse and I got to know Karen and her former spouse. Over the next 3-4 years we double dated with them - catching a flick sometimes, watching the Nutcracker Suite at Christmas and dinners out in Denver or Fort Collins.

About 4 years ago, Karen and her then husband moved to Albuquerque, NM for a business opportunity and as sometimes happens, we lost touch with them. Fast forward May 2007, an ESRI business trip takes me to ABQ to teach classes. Remembering they lived there, I emailed the only email address I had (Karen's) to meet for dinner and catch up on news/life. Well, life had changed f0r Karen as I came to find out during my visit. We had a wonderful meal, I met her son Ethan, and we caught up on 4 years of news. My connection with Karen had always been platonic but now the connection felt different for some reason. Towards the end of my week in ABQ, I posed a hypothetical email question "If I asked you out to dinner, what would your answer be?" Creatively, I received a hypothetical "Yes." I was nervously excited and interested to see where this could lead. I had no expectations - heck, I was in the midst of my divorce as was Karen. But for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could open myself up to another person again.

Fast forward June 2008, Karen and I have been dating for a year. We have a wonderful relationship (even if it is long distance for now) and our connection with each other is strong. We see each other at least once a month - twice a month if work takes me there. We have similar interests in some things and others are individual pursuits (i.e. my climbing "addictions" for example). I am a friend to her son and we sometimes plan my visits to coincide when he's there too. It's a kick, Ethan is totally into Star Wars, as am I, so we run around the house sometimes with light saber battles and shooting down Imperial Star Destroyers!

We all see each again end of June for a music festival - Karen, Ethan, and me - I'm looking forward to it!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Return to Posting....

Whoa - I realized that I've been neglectful in posting anything since February 17, 2008!! Either I've been incredibly busy or pretty much slacking off from my once a week ramblings - I tend to think the later myself. So what has been going on you may ask? Well, winter in Colorado has slowly been transitioning to Spring with warmer daytime\nighttime temperatures and truly bizarre spring weather patterns during the day. For example, Thursday started off with a dusting of snow mixed with rain, nice sun/blue skies around noon, snow squalls blowing sideways at 3 PM and blue skies to wrap up the work day. Spring is a fun time of the year where the weather is schizophrenic at best leaving one to decide whether to wear a t-shirt or fleece...

So what's been going on in my life??? Easter was spent was friends at the Fowler-Hilliard hut near 11,000. The trip was complete with ham, potatoes, green bean casserole, wine, and 3 flavors of cheesecake! The Easter Bunny made his presence known as well by leaving plastic eggs along the 5-mile trek to the hut - the eggs were filled with candy and pocket shots of liquor. Apparently the Easter Bunny has started drinking excessively due to the numerous baskets he has to deliver to children... Beyond the hut trip, I spent a great weekend with Karen watching UNC basketball, eating wonderful gourmet pizza, hot tubing at Betty's Spa, and enjoying our time together.

April is proving to be incredibly busy with a 5-day teaching assignment in Albuquerque followed by a 4-day conference in Cedar City, Utah. Somewhere in the midst of this, I am volunteering with the Colorado Mountain Club's "Wilderness Trekking School" as an assistant instructor. And training for a 1/2 Marathon in May...

My good friend, Alan Arnette, has left for Nepal and his quest to summit Mount Everest. If your interest in following his trip, check out

That's about it for now - I promise to be more diligent with the updates! Until then - Climb On!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pause and Reflect

Today I realized it's been 3 weeks since I returned from Orizaba and longer than I'd like in order to post a new update to the ole blog. Seems like a bit longer due to settling back into normal life of teaching classes for ESRI, a trip south to visit Karen, and skiing at A-Basin. How's the saying go - the only constant is change. True, true...

Folks have asked about the trip details -- I'm planning a "Brown Bag" presentation for coworkers this week to discuss the highlights. Interestingly enough, when I typically finish any trip report, folks tend to ask me what's next. Honestly I haven't thought about it much other than mountains on my 2008 14er list that Patrick, Alan and I will be discussing in the coming months. Too much snow in the high country at the moment to give it any serious thoughts.

But I do have to say that Orizaba presented a wonderful challenge not only in setting a new personal altitude record but also exposing me to just a small bit of international mountain climbing. If this truly translates to bigger mountains around the world, I don't know. Denali in Alaska is of interest but that's yet another level beyond anything I've done so far AND the success rate is abysmal. Killimanjaro is also of interest too - I'd like to see the glaciers on her before they melt. Aconcagua in western Argentina is another that is a strong possiblity as well but due to $$ of these trips realistically only 1 per year - unless I win the lottery! The positive of Orizaba is I geared up with stuff I could use on future trips. Perhaps a trek to base camp at Everest to just to see the monarch of all mountains - still no interest ever in climbing that one...

So what is next for me? Plan to hike with Alan and a "new" climber tomorrow on Longs Peak, have dinner with friends Friday night, plan to volunteer at a 10 mile race next Saturday, climb Mt. Silverheels with Alan and Patrick next Sunday, teach a new class "solo" next Monday, see Karen in 2 weeks, run a 1/2 marathon in May...really just live and enjoy life! As folks know, that means stay busy!

Climb On Friends!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Orizaba Success!

At 7 AM January 26, 2008, our team successfully summited Pico de Orizaba east of Tlachichuca, Mexico, after leaving our high camp of 15,100' to the crest of the Orizaba caldera at 18,490'. After nearly a week of acclimatizing increasing altitudes from Mexico City to Tlachichuca to the Piedra Grande hut to our final high tent camp, the team took five hours in the early morning hours navigating "The Labyrinth "rock/cliff band to the Jamapa Glacier. There, the slope gradually increased from 10-30 degrees to a high of 50-60 degrees near the upper rock formation affectionately known as "The Sarcophagus!" Team members were roped together via a 100-meter climbing rope, equipped with plastics boots, crampons and ice axes.

Smelling whiffs of sulfur, we neared the summit at sunrise and were treated with incredible views of the Mexican plains to the east and west of the summit. To the west, the shadow of Pico de Orizaba formed a perfect pyramid shadow that perhaps the Aztecs used as a model for their pyramids hundreds of years ago. We stayed on the summit for about 20-30 minutes to take pictures, offer congratulations to fellow team members, and take in the accomplishment. With wind chills easily below zero, we began a tight rope descent upon the glacier. Three hours later, we were back at high camp to rest, drink water, break down camp for the return to Piedra Grand hut and Tlachichuca that evening. Cold cervezas greeted us at Senor Reyes climbing compound and after a hard nights rest, we traveled back to Mexico City. Some boarded flights back home that day while others remained for a day or two to tour this old city of 20+ million residents.

For detailed dispatches, please visit What an incredible experience with close friends and the "high point" of my climbing career! Climb On!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

El Orizaba Cuatro!

Or to the Spanish challenged (myself included) - the Orizaba Four! Our intrepid team leaves for Mexico City in a little over 3 days and I thought it good to introduce you to the team. Essentially, we're a team of many things. We are weekend warriors, friends, father's, big mountaineer's, homebrewers, ultra marathoner's, engineer's, instructor's, retired(?), and men with a climbing addiction.

In the photo on the far left is Scott Olmer - ultra marathoner extraordinaire. I've known Scott for nearly 10 years and over that time, we've backpacked and/or hiked 14ers in Colorado, gone on too many hut trips to count, enjoy a good cigar from time to time, and enjoy the finer Colorado micro brews weekly at the Southern Sun Brewpub in Boulder. Scott is a natural athlete and excels in 50/100 mile races a couple times of year - crazy!

In the next photo is the remainder of the team. From left to right is Robert ("The Goat") LeClair, Patrick ("The Navigator") Vall, and Alan ("Big Pappy") Arnette.

I first met Patrick on our Rainier trip in July 2004 and got to know him well over the years on numerous 14er hikes. Patrick owns his own veterinarian practice in Woodland Park, CO, has a wonderful family of 4 children, a very understanding wife (Shannon), and a slight obsession with THE University of Ohio State - this presents a problem at times when he sees a "University of Meeechigan" hiker on some of our summit attempts. Patrick is a very strong yet smart hiker and provides his GPS expertise to our group during the summer climbing seasons. He has written numerous trip reports on SummitPost ( and is a great friend.

Alan, "Big Pappy", Arnette is our hiking/climbing guru. I first met Alan back in 2001/02 through my former spouse and our mutual interest in mountains lead to many hikes in the Colorado high country. Alan has traveled the world in search of mountain peaks to climb, breathed the rarefied air above 25,000', and was the instigator of the 2004 Rainier trip. He provides a wealth of information about mountaineering to both Patrick and I - we're constantly learning more about the topic through his patience and guidance. Orizaba is the final preparatory climb for Alan - he's planning to return to Mt. Everest in April/May 2008 as part of his "Memories are Everything" campaign to raise awareness and donations for the Cure Alzheimers Fund.

So there you have it - the "client" team for Orizaba 2008. I look forward to challenge of Orizaba as well as sharing the summit with some very good friends - it will be an experience! Climb On!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Successful Summit!

Congratulations to Alan Arnette (aka "Big Pappy") for his successful summit of Aconcagua (22,841') yesterday. His team, guided by Mountain Professionals LLC (our guide service to Orizaba), successfully made the summit 8 hours after an early alpine start (3:30 AM 'ish) from their Advance Base Camp. Cold temperatures (0 degrees) and high winds made for a challenging summit push but Alan reported that the team did well.

If you want to hear audio dispatches of the climb, please visit the following URL for details: I believe Alan's site will have audio dispatches as well as periodic updates of our progress on Orizaba January 20-27, 2008 if you're interested in following that climb too. Climb On!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Orizaba: Day by Day

Last night, I realized when talking to Mom that very few folks know the full extent of my upcoming trip to Orizaba in Mexico. My flight to Mexico City takes off in 17 days, so come along on a virtual journey...

  • January 20th: Depart Denver, Colorado (5,280') at 8:47 AM to Mexico City via Los Angeles, CA. Arrive in Mexico City (7,340') around 7 PM. Catch the free Holiday Inn shuttle to the Holiday Inn-Plaza Dali and meet Alan Arnette/Patrick Vall/Scott Olmer for dinner and cerveza's.

  • January 21st: Meet Ryan Water and Dave Elmore from Mountain Professionals, LLC and transport gear/people to Tlachichuca, Puebla, Mexico (8,497'). Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

  • January 22nd: Expedition overview, gear check, and explore local artisan market. Believe it or not but this is part of the acclimization process - having fun!!

  • January 23rd: Transport via 4-wheel drive to the Piedra Grande hut at 13,972. Acclimization hike and return to hut.

  • January 24th: Acclimization hike to high camp; set up tent camp and return to Piedra Grande hut for a good night's sleep.

  • January 25th: Hike to high camp with the remainder of summit gear and attempt to get some sleep.

  • January 26th: SUMMIT DAY to 18,490'! Alpine start (usually 12 AM - 2 AM - depends on guide service) and push for the summit. Pray for good weather!! Return to base camp to break down high camp, hike back down to the Piedra Grande hut for rest of the gear, and jeep back down to Tlachichuca for a celebratory dinner and Cuban cigars!

  • January 27th: Morning transport back to Mexico City to catch flight back to Denver, Colorado feeling exhausted but happy!

That's it friends! If you're interested in more details, you can visit Alan Arnette's website at His site is a wealth of information about climbing in the States and around the world. As part of Alan's 2008 return to Everest, he is raising funds for Alzheimer's research and a cure for this horrid disease. Unfortunately, this disease has hit home as his Mother is suffering from this mind-robbing condition. Please consider making a charitable donation through his website. Climb On!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Hard to believe it, but another year has ended and a new one started this morning at 12 AM! I've never been a huge New Year's Eve partier nor desire to pay those huge cover charges to hang out in a club with a couple hundred people you don't know. My Dad used to work in hotel management years and years ago for Holiday Inn and he called New Year's Eve "the night of amateurs!" Rather than join the amateurs, I spent the night at a friends house party and rang in the New Year with a small glass of champagne and a late night call to K. Awoke to brilliant Colorado sunshine and hit the cross country ski trails at Eldora for a day of blue sky, light winds, and rolling terrain!

I always have to laugh when I read the newspaper on New Year's Day - all the advertising is geared towards New Year's Resolutions and NCAA Bowl Games. I prefer the later myself but that's another story - GO CLEMSON BTW! Resolutions are a funny thing - it's that one time of the year people "promise" to change something in their life for the better. Although a noble idea, most resolutions are doomed to failure whether it be to exercise more, lose weight, etc.. because folks often return to what is comfortable, easy, or in most cases, life just plain gets in the way.

I prefer goals rather than resolutions - goals are often attainable and are easier to gauge success or failure against. So without further adieu, here are my 10 goals for 2008 in no particular order:
  1. Be happy!
  2. Spend time with K and her son!
  3. Live each day to its fullest!
  4. Volunteer in 1-2 organizations.
  5. Make a difference in someones life.
  6. Run the Colorado Colfax Marathon in May 2008 - brother Jim's upcoming Disney Marathon inspired me - signed up December 31, 2007.
  7. Stay in contact with friends via phone, email or visits.
  8. A safe and successful climb on Pico de Orizaba January 20-27, 2008.
  9. Continue good health through good eating, exercise, and mental R&R.
  10. Continue hiking, climbing, mountain biking, down hill skiing, XC skiing, homebrewing...and...and...
That's it friends - Happy New Year and make it a good one! Climb on!