Friday, February 22, 2008

President's Day Celebration

This week the winds that have plagued the Colorado Front Range for weeks finally died, and the avalanche conditions guarding the approach to the Longs Peak area settled to "moderate." I woke on Wednesday, checked the forecast, and decided to declare a "no powder, no wind day." I'd been waiting for the chance to do the mixed route Martha on Mt. Lady Washington for a couple of years, but partners and conditions had never lined up. Now I had no partner but conditions were excellent; I decided to celebrate President's Day, two days late, on my own.

Martha is a route that was probably climbed 30 years ago, but only recently became popular, thanks to Internet spray on Mountain Project. It's a long, moderate mixed climb on the south face of Lady Washington, looking straight at the Diamond across Chasm Lake. The setting couldn't be more spectacular.

After a two-hour walk on well-packed trails, I reached Chasm Lake only to find that Martha had no ice. But there seemed to be enough snow to cover the rubbly low-angle sections, and I knew there wasn't supposed to be any rock climbing harder than low fifth-class, so I decided to head up anyway. It was good fun: steep snow interspersed with short rock climbing cruxes, most of which were easy to climb with gloved hands; I seldom needed the single ice tool I had unstrapped from my pack. At the top, I sat down to bask in sun that was rapidly being obscured by the next incoming storm, gaped at the Diamond across the chasm, and then slogged to the 13,200-foot-plus summit of Mt. Lady Washington, another place I'd never been. With soft packed snow on the trails, the walk/skid out was a cruise, and I was back at the car by 3 pm, in time to return a few calls and emails. Another workday well utilized!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ads They Wish They'd Never Run

This Rossignol ski ad ran in late 1994, after the first bombing at the World Trade Center in February 1993. Of course, they couldn't have known what was coming seven years later, but still....Ouch!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Behind the Slovenian Curtain

Many American mountaineers have wondered how it's possible that so many climbers from Slovenia, with a population of just 2 million and no mountain higher than 9,400 feet, have gotten so good. (Think Silvo Karo, Andrej Stremfelj, Marko Prezelj, Janez Jeglic, Pavle Kozjek, and Tomaz Humar, just for some better-known names.) Surprisingly few Americans, however, have traveled to Slovenia to check out the climbing that produced these greats. Steve House is a notable exception: A year-long student exchange in Slovenia launched his sterling alpine career.

This winter American Fabrizio Zangrilli has spent more than two months in Slovenia, trying to come to figure out their secrets. Zangrilli's blog offers a rare glimpse into the Slovenian world of hard training, bad weather, and scrappy limestone mixed climbs. Great reading for armchair alpinists—or for genuine aspirants.

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