Monthly Archives: July 2011

Dog Days of Summer


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area ent...

Image via Wikipedia

It is late July in Las Vegas and the weather is hot, humid and sometimes plain uncomfortable.  It is difficult to spend a lot of time playing outside when it is like this. I prefer to keep on getting out and enjoying myself withouyt the confinement of four walls. But it means making sure to DRINK, DRINK, DRINK or find myself spread eagle on a trail somewhere like a bad episode of Death Valley Days

The last week or so of July always feels like summer is endeing. This, despite the fact that the weather will not cool for a couple of months.  The best of kayaking for the summer is yet to come and the days are still nice and long.  I still like going to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area when it is hot, even though people say it is crazy to do it.  But I am not the only one because every weekend there are bikes, hikers, climbers and walkers all over that place. It is only Tuesday, but my mind is outside playing, and I cannot wait to get there! 

Bumps in the Road


Cable Car in San Francisco - double-ended car ...

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T minus 8 mo. 3 days to lift off to Everest Trek. Seems like quite a ways off, but truth is, it is right around the corner. Between now and then, I need to:

  • Complete my gear aquisition
  • Get all shots and meds
  • Save money to spend
  • Increase aerobic sterength
  • Increase leg strength
  • Lose big chunk of weight

That is what comes to the top of my head at any rate. And time passes quite quickley when you need it to slow down. That is a proven fact. I have great plans of consistant CrossFit and hiking. But I need to make those plans a reality and not just good intentions or I will find myself at 10,000 feet ready to go and developing a splitting headache, unable to ascend and my dream gone lickity split.

Saturday I go to San Francisco for Scrableganzapalousa. I am pretty dang sure I will not be getting any more fit than I am right now at that event. Likely not going to eat well either. So, here is the plan. I cannot afford to have too many more bumps in the road. Especially bumps I can avoid. August starts when I get back. Next big family event is October when Dad turns 80. That gives me 2 months to string together some consitant, hard effort. So I am publishing that here to let ya’ll know, the heat is ON, baby!

 

 

1996 Everest Disaster — Dueling Perspectives


Cover of "The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on ...

Cover of The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest

I have read both Jon Krakauer and Anatoli Boukreev‘s books explaining the events that occurred on Mount Everest in May of 1996. INTO THIN AIR is Krakauer’s and THE CLIMB is Boukreev’s.

I must admit, some of the differences in the information are disturbing. I have always enjoyed Krakauer’s writing but given the answers provided him about his criticisms of Boukreev, and that he and his publishers got them prior to publication makes me ask why he never changes his criticisms. One of the biggest Criticisms of Boukreev is that he did not dress well on summit day.  Photo evidence debunks this assertion outright yet Krakauer does not move from his statement. Pictures of Anatoli in the top state of the art climbing gear that existed in 1996 are easy to find.

The Climb By Anatoli Boukreev - Boukreev On Everest Summit Ridge Near Hillary Step, Anatoli Boukreev and Martin Adams on Everest Summit May 10, 1996

I truly have read most that I can find written by Krakauer. And my decision to use Mountain Madness came after reading his treatment of the 1996 event and before reading Boukreev. But I feel dismayed that Jon seems not to have been able or willing to adjust to facts that were provided to him and his answers to why, with regard to some of them, left me outright appalled. What he thinks and what he feels are far less significant than what is trye when telling this story. There are times he claims he had heard conversations that he later, after being confronted with statements disputing his presence, says that he FEELS that what he heard was more accurate than what the first hand witnesses retell. For instance. He claims to have heard a conversation between Anatoli and Scott Fisher in which Anatoli was never told to descend immediately. Yet another climber present at the time claims the questioned conversation took place after Krakauer had begun a repel down, making it impossible for him to have heard what was or was not being discussed.

Whatever exactly happened on that mountain during that climb will never be completely clear. Anatoli is dead now. So is Lopsong Sherpa. Certain knowledge died with them. But the core of what is disturbing about INTO THIN AIR, is that Krakauer seems to have played fast and loose with the facts in order to hang the blame on one man….Anatoli Boukreev. And to what end? Both were on the same climb during the awful events that occurred.  In my opinion, as a guide, Boukreev had a responsibility to his clients on the mountain. By all accounts he felt that way too. Krakauer was not a guide and had no professional responsibility to assist when Boukreev asked for help going back up to search for missing climbers. I don’t judge any non-guide’s decision not to foray out into what probably was a death sentence for themselves to assist climbers, some of whom were not well prepared to even be on that mountain. But Boukreev pulled off what truly is amazing. he got Sandy Hill-Pittman, who by most accounts was not a prudent climber, having used up more than her share of oxygen while ascending/descending among other counter productive actions that chipped away at others’ ability to get down the mountain alive. He got two other women down that were struggling and assisted a male climber in getting back to camp IV. All after his own ascent and decent and taking him out into the same storm that would kill 8 people that night. All with nobody willing or able to assist him. He made every attempt…repeated attempts…to gather helpers to no avail. He gave up his own emergency O2 supply so others could use it.  In the end, Boukreev got all of the clients that Mountain Madness had taken fees from off that mountain. The only loss was company owner, Scott Fisher. The captain went down with the ship.

Rob Hall was a captain too. He was the captain of the ship Krakauer was riding. But the clients of that expedition did not do near as well. Rob was high up the mountain dying. The Sherpas and guides were either in camp or themselves lost and did not attempt to go back up to get anyone.  Several died. Beck Weathers was left for dead more than once, only to defy the grim reaper with his own gumption and get to where he could be taken off the mountain. Badly and permanently injured for the efforts.

So what is Krakauer’s real beef here? Why soil a man’s reputation that did so much that night. Agree or disagree with his methods, they seem to have been chosen for the purpose of the clients and not to be self-serving. But no matter the evidence presented to Krakauer to show that, he persists in his outright campaign to keep Boukreev the villan.

This has made me become a little skeptical of one of my all time favorite writers. His books read so well and are absolutely some of the best story telling I have ever encountered. He truly is an artist. But if he is compromising facts along the way for what motives can only be known by him, then I will find myself less willing to read his work. If the integrity of the writing is sacrificed, it becomes but an empty, hollow shell.

More Books about that same day in Everest history:

  1. Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, Broughton Coburn
  2. Dark Summit – The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season, Nick Heil
  3. Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy, Lene Gammelgaard
  4. Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, Beck Weathers
  5. High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, Michael Kodas
  6. Mountain Madness, Robert Birkby
  7. Dead Lucky, Lincoln Hall

Distilling the Trek To Distance, Days, and O’s


After my epic blister hike of Saturday, I wanted to be more pragmatic about my preparation going forward. I decided I needed to know everything about this trek I was embarking on and in doing so, better plan the remaining 8 1/2 months of training to get there. By reading the Mountain Madness itinerary, and another base camp trek blog I searched out, I was able to analyze the trip and thus get a clearer picture of what I was in for.  I would actually be hiking about 80 miles with 12 days of actual hiking going on. There are two days of rest built-in, but from what I gather, rest means hiking. The only difference is, you are not making progress toward the destination, just going up and down to acclimatize.  I would be breathing at altitudes that ranged from 73% Oxygen, (known as O’s for the lingo savvy) down to about 50% O’s. See. I am savvy. Here is what I found:

  1. Day 1: Descend 650 feet, breath 73% O’s, travel 3 miles.
  2. Day 2: Ascend 2600 feet, breath 64% O’s, travel 6 miles
  3. REST DAY
  4. Day 3: Ascend 1587, breath 60% O’s, travel 6 miles.
  5. Day 4: Ascend 1363 feet, breath 57% O’s, travel 5 miles.
  6. REST DAY
  7. Day 5: Ascend 2200 feet, breath 53% O’s, travel 4.5 miles.
  8. Day 6: Ascend 850 feet, breath 52% O’s, travel 10 miles.
  9. Day 7: Ascend 1500 feet, descend 1500 feet, breath 50% O’s.
  10. Day 8: Ascend  575 feet, travel 3.2 miles.
  11. Day 9: Descend 575 feet travel 3.2 miles.
  12. Day 10: Descend 2400 feet.
  13. Day 11: Descend 3300 feet.
  14. Day 12: Descend 1950 feet, travel 9 miles.

I still have some research to find some info to fill in toward the end of the return, but clearly, this is going to be a knee crushing, leg whipping, lung busting adventure!

 

My Three Year Old Does That One…..


Image representing EveryTrail as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

At work, when we are standing around the proverbial water cooler and I am regaling them with stories of my weekend adventures, one or two of them often tell me their three year old kids can do that. It is all in good fun. But it is true also. Their kids are out their burning up trails I am struggling with.

Yesterday, my brother and I went to the South Loop of Mt Charleston. Charleston is the highest peak in the area. We had no plans of going to the summit, but we were hoping to go to what is called the Saddle. I was a bit nervous because this hike starts at 7600 feet. I am always worried that I will start out and find that as the altitude increases I will find some aversion to it that will indicate I am one of those people who cannot do the altitude thing. I am borrowing worry. I know.

We started out and as usual for me, I get winded right off the bat. I never know if that is because I try to keep up with my brother or if it is just the way I warm up. My brother asked how it was going and I said fine, but he kept telling me we were on the flat. He lied. And he laughed about it after. I know he lied because when I was coming down later, my knees took a beating on that part of my decent. I guess since he doesn’t have a three year old to brag about running full speed on these trails, he just lies about the trails.

We passed a lot of people coming down. And my kayaking pal Kate Sigworth was on the trail with her dog (over three).

Kate and her trusty hiking pup

 She started when we did but was coming down when we were just to the first overlook. She had offered to hike with us but I told her that I was so slow that she would not get done what she was there to do.

I use a trip tracking program to track distance and altitude changes in the hikes I do as well as to map routs to climbing walls. It is called EveryTrail and this is the South Loop information it recorded for me. I find that it does some strange stuff. If you look at it it seems to go off and record some weird running around stuff that I know never happened.  But it is what I have right now and it recorded that I gained 2200 feet in elevation on 4.5 miles. SO my hike was 9 miles and topped out at 9800 feet of elevation.  

My Base Camp trek will start at 9350 and actually descends from that altitude to 8700 feet that first day. I don’t think altitude hits me hard but will have to get higher to have a better idea of that.

Going up was very slow for me. Four hours to get 4.5 miles in 2200 feet. Coming down took 2 hours. Mainly because there were lots of little stair steps that wreak havoc with my knees.  In the first mile going up I had two huge blisters on my heels and coming down my toes and balls of my feet were either dead or on fire. That means the Asolo boots I got are not the ones for me. I will go back to the Keens I had before. But as I sit hear today, my muscles are not sore. My knees and feet are, mainly bone sore from bad boots and lots of steep decent. So all in all, I might not beat your three year old. But I can drive and don’t have to go to bed early. So there is a trade off.

…But It’s a Dry Heat.


May 15: Las Vegas, Nevada is founded with auct...

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There is not much to dislike about a Las Vegas summer. It is hot and bright and holds all the hope that the 4th of July will be suitable for framing. When I reflect back on the summer’s that have gone by during the 14 years that I have lived here, I remember laughter and cool drinks in casinos, at pool side, and on the patio of a nice restaurant. Hikes and kayak trips with nothing but time and the outdoors in front of you.

But when you start a Las Vegas summer it is not like the memory evolves after one is over. Instead, it is a windy and often cold spring that you wish away to summer, only to be greeted by the heat you so wanted to feel on your skin to be spoiled by summer monsoon humidity. When the beautiful 110 is wrapped in 90% humidity it seers itself into your skin and fills your lungs with what feels like hot, heavy liquid. Days like that seem so long and uncomfortable. But it doesn’t seem to deter me from calling out to the weather and asking for triple digits. I guess the only true gambler in me is one that will ask for heat and hope it does not come with humidity.

Every building in Vegas is hooked to a life support system of sorts. Not unlike you see in the CCU of any hospital in America. It has a big unit with all sorts of wires and tubes coming out. There are portable ones too…sort of like the Barney Clark portable heart. Those are housed on big chassis with four wheels. A person literally lives in the building or in the chassis and cool air is pumped in to make them comfortable. To help them stay alive. But there are occasions when you go from a building to the chassis, or visa versa,  that you are unsupported and have to deal with the weather unaided. At this moment I am inside and it is cool enough in my building that I am actually a bit cold. Outside it is 98 degrees and there are thunder heads around. I know that could mean a skin poaching if it is too long a journey from building to chassis.

But I love it. I really do love it and would not trade it for the weather anywhere else I have lived or traveled. Come and visit. Lose the coat!

Back To CrossFit @ CrossFit Max Effort!


CrossFit is one of the ways I am trying to get this body ready for my 2012 trek. The gym I started at has dissected and I will be at the grand opening of CrossFit Max Effort today for a workout, to take pictures and to eat some great Paleo food. The owners of Max Effort are Zach and Lindsay. Both total wonderful people and they will push me where I cannot get myself to understand that I can go. So today is going to be GREAT!

Iron Makes You Stronger

It will be hard work and that is what gives the payoff. After my Colorado River paddle of two days ago, my shoulders are still a bit sore, but I am sure that more work, not less, is exactly what they need. Today’s workout is Deadlifts, Burpees and Pullups. Not a bad way to get back into the game!

Vegas in July vs. Thaynboche in April


July 1, 2011. Las Vegas. 106 degrees fahrenheit  Altitude: 2014 feet.

Fast forward nine months in the life of Karen Whelan:

April 1, 2012. Thyanboche, Nepal.  40  degrees fahrenheit. Altitude: 14,250 feet.

When people talk about two places being worlds apart…I think this is what they mean. Going from the Mojave desert to the Khumbu can hardly be more opposite.  Though I grew up in the Great Pacific Northwest, I have lived the last 14 years here. Vegas gets HOT HOT HOT. But it does also get cold in the winter. We have even had snow from time to time. This very last winter seemed to be oh so cold and windy. But the house and office were both warm and cozy.

Once in Nepal, I will not see another hot day until I return. There will be 25 days of weather ranging from warm to very cold. Nights, though in tea houses, will be spent in a Big Agnes 0 degree sleeping bag with a sub 5 degree sleeping pad in an unheated room. Of course, the best night of all will be at Everest Base camp in a tent.

I am getting incrementally more excited about this trip and as the summer wears on and we eventually emerge from the heat to the late fall cooling, I will likely start to get some idea of what I am, at least in the lower elevations, in for!

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