Saturday, March 11, 2023

Blog 2.0 - 2023, The Arizona Chapter

 It's been nearly 4 years, and if nothing else there are some photos and stories to share on the latest adventure to Tucson, Arizona.  There was plenty to blog about between 2019 and now, but the days, weeks, and months of life pass rapidly - especially in the wake of a global pandemic (SARS-COVID-19.)   Having been almost 12 full years since I started the blog and with some new adventures on tap, why not pick it up again?

Italy (2020) was thwarted by COVID and travel by air is still risky, but we haven't gotten sick yet. So needing to use our Delta airline credits we figured air travel within the US was a safe bet - not for preventing illness, but mostly because if we did get sick we'd be in our home country in an AirBnB where we could be relatively comfortable.  Having always wanted to check out the climbing on Mt. Lemmon near Tucson, Arizona we booked flights to the southwest.

Our new climbing friend Marty wanted to join us and we were meeting up with Randy and Beth from Colorado while there.  Other than the unexpected TWO snowstorms and Marty getting COVID on Day 3, the rest of the story is told in photos and captions below.

Day One, Tucson Mountains - the road was closed to Mt. Lemmon.
So we climbed a choss pile called The Saloon

Cut couple, eh?

La Milagrosa Canyon. "5.11 Heaven", but we climbed the easy routes

3 hours of hiking trying to find the wall in La Milagrosa, then 3 hours of climbing.

Oh No! COVID Marty at safe distance for afternoon happy hour at the AirBnB

Annie topping Scorpion King at The Forehand Wall

From Sabino Canyon you see the second snowstorm during our visit

Iconic saguaro cactus

Lots of water running in the creeks

The Watering Hole cliff at The Zoo crags just above Molino Campground

Climbing Deer Direct (slabby sport route)

Zoo animals after climbing at The Zoo!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kindness, Compassion, Dignity

One Sunday afternoon in October of 2015 my mother in Maryland called me and it was clear she wasn't feeling well.  This was the start of a prolonged and often gruesome march along the path of decline.  In my mother's case, this was defined by her disease - Alzheimer's.  A swift trip to Maryland where I remained for 3 weeks marked some of the most trying days I have ever experienced.  With the flip of a switch, I was a caregiver, furiously working with doctors, therapists, insurance companies, assisted living facilities and lawyers.

Removing my mother from her treasured home that she cared for and valued for over 55 years (most of that time independently) was an agonizing decision followed by enduring the hardships of confusion, change, and emotions for the next few years.  Despite all of this she was fortunate (thanks to long term care insurance) to be able to afford the premium fees at a well-respected care facility.  This doesn't make the dementia process easier, but I am grateful to her for her own forethought and planning regarding her end-of-life care.  Without it, I would have faced the additional burdens and stress of caring for her at home.  That scenario is all too typical today.

(Betsy passed away in March of 2018 freeing herself of the hardships of dementia.)

Caregiving your parent(s) at home isn't all bad of course.  The intimate times you share living together would not be experienced otherwise.  But make no bones about it - caregiving in your home is arduous, depleting and potentially wreckful.  To undertake this is a huge sacrifice.  To do it well is exceptionally honorable.

In Seattle, we have a friend along with her husband who is caring for her 96-year-old mother in their home.  Our time with them and their two 16-year old little dogs was enlightening and inspiring.  Marta, an only child, cares for her most wonderful, endearing mother Barbara who we all fondly call "Bat."  Husband John is a vital part of the caregiving, silently making meals, transporting, guiding and encouraging Bat daily.

Bat suffers from numerous health issues including macular degeneration which limits her vision terribly.  She is dementia-free however, a blessing she and all are most grateful for.  I've included some videos and photos here to provide some flavor - none of which do justice to the actual experience of living these moments.  Nevertheless, we are most grateful to have shared these days and nights with them.  And my highest honor and praise to Marta, John and everyone who performs caregiving at this level - a thankless but saintly task!

Here we all have a good laugh about something while playing a game.

These 2 precious bichons turned 16 and Marta gave them birthday cake. Consider what it might be like to be 112 years old when you can't see or hear. It might take a moment, but once you realize there's cake there's no hesitation!

Annie and Bat at the visitor center near North Cascades

Annie and I riding with her - we call it a "Bat Sandwich"

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Yes, It CAN be Done Better!

We were most impressed by the way things are done both in Seattle and in British Columbia.  It all seems to center around simple courtesy and respect.  With very few exceptions, everyone we met in public spaces, on the trails and in the retail shops and restaurants were happy, friendly and delighted to serve.  Even the cashiers at the grocery stores and the housekeeping staff in public restrooms were delightful!  We talked to Canadians some about their view of Americans and for the most part, they still like us as people but are dumbfounded about where our country is headed and what our policymakers and politicians are up to. No surprises there.  Here are some photos to characterize some of the good and better ideas we came across.

Example of trail beauty  at Skaha Bluffs
Nicely maintained

Nicely marked! Includes a crag map!

I can't believe I haven't yet seen this at climbing areas that we frequent in the U.S. 
And we saw not a single dog at the climbing crags the 2 days we were there.
A welcomed non-sighting!

In Squamish, they have similar signage and pretty ample restroom access.  This was my favorite sign!

Doggie bag dispensers are throughout the city of Squamish
And by the way, in Washington State plastic bags are banned (or so it seems) at the grocery stores.  If you don't bring your own bags and use the paper bags you are charged 5 cents per bag.  In BC we found there were plastic bags but the cashier ALWAYS asked politely if we had our own bags and when we didn't we felt ashamed.  From what I understand, Canada approaches the issue in a more voluntary and incentivized way. They call it the 3 Rs of product stewardship - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

In Seattle, bikes rule the roads.  It sometimes seemed there were as many bicyclists on the city streets as cars (not of course on the highways which are riddled with bad traffic).  And eBikes are available everywhere.  We used the bright orange JUMP bikes (rent via the Uber app) to get back from downtown to our friend's house one afternoon.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Run From the Rain

By later in the week the forecast became less muddy, more clear - for RAIN that is! 100% chance of RAIN (not "showers") the next 2 days is enough to want to make you run for the hills - dry climate - but where?  When we descended from the Laughing Crack there were 4 young men awaiting their turn - glad to advise where we should run to.  Someplace called "SKAHA".  Less than a day's drive east over the mountains and into the desert of southern central BC is a place called the Skaha Bluffs.  It sounded too good to be true but Mike at Climb On climbing shop agreed, so we picked up a guidebook and headed east the next morning!

After saying our goodbyes to Randy we drove up to Whistler in light rain and found our way slowly over the passes towards Duffey Lake and the Okanagan Valley.
Panorama shot of Duffey Lake (B.C. Route 99)

Another view of the lake

Skaha Bluffs near Penticton, B.C.

Penticton and Skaha Lake is the gateway to the bluffs and the climate was indeed dry and warm. The rock is gneiss (nice!), mostly sport climbing with some crack and flake lines scattered about on almost every crag.  Once used to it, I found the ratings to be very soft, sometimes even 2 or 3 grades over-graded from what we are used to or the granite of Squamish in some cases. We camped at Banbury Green right on the lake and everyone we met in the area was incredibly friendly and helpful.  We met lots of friendly climbers at the crags, the trails were well marked and mapped and volunteers have built and maintain composting toilets far in the backcountry to reduce (probably eliminate) human waste issues.  This place was a true model for climbing management and here in the US we could learn a few lessons from them.  If only Rumney and The Gunks could be so well managed!  I regret not taking more photos here!
If I remember correctly this is the White Wall

Climber lowering on a sport route at the Red Tail area

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Squamish 2.0

After 2 days of cragging (Smoke Bluffs and Murrin Park) and the forecast declining we took the opportunity to multi-pitch on the classic and oh-so-popular Route Skywalker at Shannon Falls. The weather (and forecast) became intermittently rainy the next few days so we continued to Crag.  Meanwhile, we enjoyed the company of Margie and Ron at our campsite for a couple of nights!

Randy headed to Vancouver the day before the rains came in.  Annie and I climbed Laughing Crack at Smoke Bluffs, the highlight before bailing out of Squamish.  Plenty of fun but sad to leave Squamish without getting in a long route on the Chief or Apron. Climbers advised us to head east to Skaha where the climate and climbing would be dry and warm.  The drive over Duffey Lake Pass was breathtaking albeit a bit long - so worth the views!  The climbing at Skaha Bluffs was an extraordinarily pleasant diversion. For 2 days we climbed on dry Gneiss while Squamish recurved 100 millimeters of rain in a day.
Pitch 2 of Skywalker is a steep and slippery start.  The climbers
below Annie are Randy (3rd in our team), others awaiting
their turns on the Pitch 1 ledge and on the ground, you can see
the line up of climbers.  It is said this is the most popular
multi-pitch that always has a line.  Good luck!

The traverse on Pitch 4 is a stroll - like walking across a tilted tabletop. Nice view!
The fixed anchor starting Pitch 4 - "may the force be with you"

Annie traversing across the Skywalker pitch
Topout Skywalker
View of the Sound at the top of Skywalker

The proof is in the sluggin'
Rainy day activity
Five Friends at MTN Fun Basecamp in Squamish

Monday, September 9, 2019


Although we have now been here now a full week this is the first chance to post a few photos. Weather now (after 5 days straight of stellar sunny, warm weather) is the typical moist pattern with not much rain but intermittent showers sometimes true to the predictions, sometimes not.  Plenty of local one pitch cragging can be had on these days. Only multi-pitch climb we have done thus far is Skywalker the mega classic at Shannon Falls.

From downtown looking at The Chief

Randy testing out an easy line Day One 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Welcome to Washington

A day trip to the Snoqualmie National Forest with spectacular weather.  Pics are of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. Click for a bigger view.