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bcep 2017 / snowflake lemmings, part three: rock day!

My third time out at Horsethief Butte with a group of BCEP students and the first time it’s ever been warm enough to take off my layers! I was in a t-shirt for a good chunk of the day. We got some sun but some rain, too, and plenty of wind, so yeah I’m wearing my puffy in that group photo above that we took on the way out. I actually placed a tricam to protect my camera in case it fell off the rock where I precariously balanced it for that shot.

Did a little bit of climbing and a fair amount of wrangling rope at the top of the super cool chimney climb ’round the other side, helping students set up a top-of-pitch belay and bring up their next teammate. Found time to take some photos, too.

bcep 2017 / snowflake lemmings, part two: snow weekend!

Last month on the mountain with the Snowflake Lemmings. Rather than burying the lede I’m starting out with that sweet photo up there from Sunday afternoon of everyone at the top of our glissade practice hill. I dodged all those snowballs, looked down to check out the awesome photo I’d just taken (above!) and got nailed by a straggler. Not cool, Lemmings. All the same, lots of fun on the mountain learning and teaching snow skills…

saturday at white river sno park

Denara built a bollard anchor—which means, more or less, that she wrapped the rope around a bunch of snow and buried it. Then eight students all tied into the rope and tried to get the anchor to fail. It took them yanking hard in concert several times to get it to move at all! Pretty cool:

saturday evening at mazama lodge

sunday at timberline lodge

Denara & Geoff, recent ICS grads, showed off their crevasse rescue skills by “rescuing” Jay from a “crevasse” at the end of the day:

(A couple weeks later I took a crevasse rescue class myself, and made magic happen with prusiks and pulleys and ropes. Why can’t my physics class be more like this, am I right?)

bcep 2017 / snowflake lemmings, part one!

The Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program is in full swing (ok, it’s actually almost over for the year) and I’m assisting again! Here are some photos of this year’s team, the Snowflake Lemmings, from the first half of the program.

Dog Mountain

Kings Mountain

Yellowjacket Snowshoe Trail

Elk-Kings Traverse

And here’s one bonus photo of me from the snowshoe—my first time ever snowshoeing!

life continues apace

Hey there, blog readers, such as you may be. It’s been a while. Recently I found these scraps of posts that never became anything, because, well, I was having a rough time:


I’d be lying if I said I’m happy that summer’s over, but my summer was a long, stressful mess, so I guess there’s a part of me that’s glad to be putting more days between me and then. Time heals all wounds, right? That’s what they say. This summer already feels distant, the way even the vividest dreams do by the time you’re washing the dishes from breakfast. And yeah, I long for it a little like you long for a dream… that is, unproductively. I made some mistakes I’m trying hard to learn from. I learned a little bit about my blind spots about myself — the differences between who I think I am and the way I really behave.

I took three terms — usually a full school year — of anatomy & physiology at PSU in nine weeks: three hours of lecture and three hours of lab four days a week, with a lab quiz or a lecture exam or a lab practical pretty much every day — sometimes more than one in a day — and a final exam every third Friday. I was also working my usual shift at work, four or five hours every weekday afternoon and evening. At work and after work I studied, making flashcards and labeling diagrams and writing out odd descriptions of bone bits and cell types and blood vessels in hopes of being able to identify them on models and cadavers. I went through many highlighters while reading through my lecture notes, looking for the information that seemed most important and ultimately pretty much eliminating the usefulness of highlighting by highlighting everything. I biked to school and work everyday…


2016 was a mixed bag and that’s the truth. The past few days, when everyone’s been reviewing what’s past and anticipating what’s to come, it’s been hard to find the good things about the year, though I know they’re there — I am definitely in a funk, unfocused, feeling a little discontent and stuck. I have had rough years before — 2008, when I was hit by a car, comes to mind, and 2013, when I separated from my ex-husband and moved from California back home to Oregon — but in those years I always felt like bad things were happening to me. In 2016, I had to confront some uglinesses in myself.


Somewhere in there I was looking through old journal entries and I found this little bit from March 18th, 2007, almost a decade ago, when I was writing my undergrad thesis on (among other things) Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: i was talking to my mom about the fig metaphor and she said, “figs don’t ripen all at once. so pick one and eat it while you wait for the next fig to ripen.” I didn’t get it then, or didn’t believe it. But I ate a lot of figs in my twenties. And I waited for a few to ripen that never did. Others I pulled off the tree too early and they tasted tart and green. The older I get, the easier it is to spot the ripe ones, the braver I feel about climbing up to pull them down, and the more I savor them. I know, I know — cheesy as hell. Well, it’s all true on a good day. The narrative fallacy works for me!

Some good stuff happened in the latter half of 2016. I got all A’s in anatomy & physiology and really enjoyed the heck out of it except for the whole stress-and-lack-of-sleep thing. I am kicking butt in my classes, and I’m glad I decided to make this big leap and go back and study some of the stuff I basically started wishing I’d studied the minute I graduated from undergrad, even if it means that in the meantime I’m broke and living in the apartment over my parents’ garage. I’m really thankful for the apartment over my parents’ garage. I’m really thankful for my job at a physical therapy clinic and for the way it makes me more enthusiastic all the time about the path I’ve chosen, rather than less and less enthusiastic about — to, as usual, extend a metaphor past its breaking point — the clearing I found myself in, with no sense of how I’d gotten there or where to move to next. The push my mom gave me to quit my old job and the support my folks continue to give me in the form of free rent were basically an airlift out of that clearing, and I am so grateful. I’m so impatient, too. But this is the fig that’s ripe right now, I guess. I like being a student. I love studying science (um, except physics, if I’m being honest). Who knew?

In September, the week after I climbed Mount Daniel, I hiked all the way around Mount Hood on the Timberline Trail (and maybe at some point I’ll make a blog post about it). On the morning of the second day, I twisted my left ankle three times in quick succession, and then walked a couple more days and thirty more miles on it.

The week after the Timberline Trail, Elana came to visit me and we went to Olympic National Park for a night — we planned to camp on the coast for a couple nights, but packed up, soggy, in the morning, and spent a day driving around and hiking the short tourist trails in the rain instead.

In October I ran a couple 5k races with my mom, and then I finally went to a physical therapist about the nagging pain in my left ankle. Which pain, unfortunately, I’m still dealing with months later. In the process of trying to heal, I’ve learned a lot about the habits of my body. For now, I don’t run, I wear an ankle brace and mid-top shoes when I hike, and I’m the weirdo at the bus stop standing on one leg, practicing correct foot posture and trying to strengthen my tendons and stabilizer muscles.

In the new year, feeling optimistic, I set a goal of 50 hikes in 2017—with a generous definition of “hike” and, after a little consideration, no minimum mileage. Here’s what I’ve gotten in so far —

• I got a pair of microspike traction devices for Christmas, and in the first week of the year managed to test them out on very snowy Dog Mountain:

• A week later there was epic snowfall in Portland—not our first snow of the season, but the deepest and longest-lasting for sure. I got a snow day off of school and work, and I walked all over town, including up Mount Tabor—counting it!

• A few weeks after that, Trump was inaugurated, and the day after that, millions of women and allies across the country took to the streets, including 100,000 in rainy Portland.

• I tried to head across town to Marquam Nature Park the week after that, but my car’s alternator dropped dead halfway there (on the highway! Very exciting!) and I got a tow from AAA back to southeast. I tried again a whole month later on the first sunny weekend day in a while, and did a little hike up to Council Crest and back. The elevation gain and the view at the end were nice, but Marquam Nature Park is otherwise just like the worst of Forest Park (lots of ivy, muddy trails, never really out of sight of streets and houses). The woods are lovely, dark, and… not very deep. It’s been hard to get out of town for hikes this winter — lots more ice and snow than in most years. And sometimes my foot hurts, and sometimes I just prioritize other things.

The winter has been long and dark but with any luck is almost over. I go to the gym a lot and lift weights and get stronger. I feel best within my body when I move it and use it. I study. I cuddle with my cats. I go out with friends and watch tv shows and feel mildly guilty about not reading books. I get angry at the news. I listen to approximately a bazillion podcasts (reviews coming soon!?). I sit with the uglinesses I mentioned at the top of this entry and I try to be better. I cook things, sometimes — usually noodles. I’m trying to learn how to cook. I water my houseplants and watch it rain outside.

on wind

I read the following at my church this morning.

In 2010, in the first few weeks of my cross-country bike ride, I heard a lot from westbound riders about the wind in Kansas. About half of them told me I sure was lucky to be riding east since I’d have a sweet tailwind across the Plains. The other half told me I was foolish to be riding east since I’d be heading right into the wind across the Plains. When I finally got to the Plains, the wind I actually encountered was strong, gusty, and out of the south. I was told it was always like that, and I was told it was very unusual, the result of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, or something like that. I realized pretty quickly that all I could really know about the wind was whatever it was doing right at that particular moment.

For my first several days in Kansas, I rode on one road that pointed exactly due east, straight and flat with absolutely no variation whatsoever. For the entire time I was on this road, the sidewind out of the south was my near-constant companion. I camped in tiny city parks and the wind made my rent flap noisily all night. I woke up very early in the morning, packing up my tent in the dark in order to get on the road before sunrise and try to beat the heat. I’d watch the sun rise ahead of me over whatever distant town I was riding towards that day. After several days of this, the road finally turned—south—directly into the wind.

I was about six weeks and a few thousand miles into my trip, and my boyfriend at the time, with whom I’d ridden from Oregon to Colorado, had gone home to start grad school. I was lonely and sad to leave behind not only my riding companion but also the breathtaking mountains and well-stocked bookstores of Colorado, and that plus the fierce wind made me think a lot about why the heck I was doing this ride at all. In the time I’d spent planning the trip, a few friends and family members had tried to convince me that the middle of the country would be boring and I should skip it, and as I rode across Kansas, tossed around by the wind, I kind of thought they might be right. But, the beautiful mountains of Colorado aside, some of my favorite memories of the trip are from the flat middle parts of the country. The homeowner who saw me stopped across the road to check my maps, who ran outside with a bottle of cold Gatorade for me. The woman who pulled me over to ask about my trip and offer me a place to stay at her house that night. The motorcycle-riding pastor who stopped while I was struggling with a flat tire and an inner tube that just didn’t want to stay inflated, who called his friend and congregant in the next town, who just so happened to have a bike tube that would fit my tire and actually drove to bring it to me in the middle of nowhere. The chain-smoking construction workers from Seattle, also riding their bikes across the country, who rode with me across Missouri and managed to sweet-talk their way into no-cost shelter for us three rainy nights in a row. The kind people who provided us with that shelter — a motel room once, a church sanctuary another time. The woman at a bed & breakfast who made me delicious vegetarian lentil burgers and sent me off with the recipe written on an index card. The little placard on her wall that said, “Don’t worry when you begin that you don’t have the strength. It is in the journey that God makes you strong.” The town in eastern Kansas where I watched from the back of a pick-up truck a fireworks show, rescheduled from the 4th of July to September, when I just so happened to be riding through.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these people and places over the past couple of weeks, because I think, with the possible exception of the construction workers from Seattle, they most likely voted a different way in this election than most of us here in Portland. It’s possible, also, that many of the people I met wouldn’t have been so kind to me had I not been a white woman traveling for the most part alone. But I can’t hate these people. The host of one of my favorite storytelling podcasts, Snap Judgment, said in his most recent episode, “you cannot simultaneously know someone’s story and hate them,” and I think that’s true. But to know someone’s story, you have to be in the right time and the right place to hear it.

I want to bring this back to the wind that I turned and faced in Kansas. The wind, unlike the mountain passes of Colorado, is not a thing you can get to the top of and ride down the other side. It just is, unpredictable and powerful, and the only thing you can do is lean into it and keep pedaling until you get where you’re going, or until the wind ceases or changes direction. It feels like the wind is blowing hard against us right now, and after eight years of a moderate tailwind, that is overwhelming. But the only thing to do is lean into it and keep telling our stories—shouting them above the wind, if we have to—and doing our best to hear those of others.