Spring Break hi jinks on the PCT. I tried to convince them to bring their skis and find a hill we could lap, but they weren’t having it.

We snowshoed out from Barlow Pass and then set up a basecamp. They’ve been stoked to go winter camping and I wanted to do a trial run to see what they thought. They loved it.

We cut benches in the side of the shelter and kept a nice countertop for cooking. Then we cleared out a little more space and had a dance party.

This tent is palatial. A little bit tricky setting it up, but easy enough with someone holding the center pole and another person staking.

Wonka ‘Low 4’ Rivard

We said goodbye to Wonka this morning.

He wasn’t the mischievous one. That was his little brother Chief. Wonka was above it all. He was aloof. He never begged, but he always gave a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when getting puppy treats. He was always down for whatever. Never over the top excited, but never shied away from an adventure.

S and I were talking last week and it was almost like we were his guardians. The family he lived with, but he wasn’t our fur baby like Chief. We adopted him in New Mexico. He was a res dog. Australian Cattle Dog. He was deaf and had short little legs. Legs that could take him anywhere – going one speed. Slow and steady.

I’m going to miss him most at night after everyone goes to bed. We spent a lot of time together after 8pm. Years. Just the two of us hanging out passing the time.

The past couple of months weren’t that much fun for him. His legs were starting to go and he was having trouble standing up. We’d wake up at night and hear him spinning around having trouble standing. The past weeks we had been carrying him outside and then back inside. Setting him down in front of his bowl so he could get a drink of water, then helping him walk straight back to a spot in the living room so he could lie down in a good vantage point.

His lack of hearing never bothered us or him. I don’t know if dogs can sense the tone of your voice when you speak to them – with Wonka we just gave him lots of pets, lots of hugs, lots of scratches to let him know we were there. Last night I laid down next to him on the floor and spooned him so he could feel me breathing. I just rubbed his side and we fell asleep for a while.

He was my wing man.

Moderately Fast

Mentally going through the transitions for Saturdays skimo race and I realize I’m going to be sloooowwww in a couple places. I’m using Volkl skin pin Colltex skins, so I can’t leave my skis on and pull the skins in a transition. I just didn’t want to spend more $$ to buy race skins that have a standard tip attachment. I’m going to need to pull my skis off and remove the skins.

I’m also going to leave my leashes on — it would be a nightmare scenario of I removed the leashes and a ski got away from me during a transition. That would be a big bummer.

I’m just thinking: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Deliberate motions, focus on what I’m doing. I’m only racing myself.

Skin to bootpack

  1. Put poles down or in snow
  2. Unclip leashes
  3. Pop off bindings (thumbs)
  4. Skis together
  5. Through loop, hook over shoulder
  6. Grab poles, hammer

Bootpack to skin

  1. Poles down
  2. Skis off pack
  3. Clip leashes (one at a time)
  4. Step into binding
  5. Pull binding for uphill mode
  6. Grab poles, hammer

Skin to downhill

  1. Use pole to unclip bindings
  2. Poles down
  3. Unclip leashes
  4. Downill skin 1 : pull skin and put in jacket
  5. Twist heel for downill and step in
  6. Uphill skin 2 : pull skin and put in jacket
  7. Twist heel for downill and step in
  8. Grab poles : hammer

Downhill to skin

  1. Use pole to unclip binding
  2. Poles down
  3. Pull skin 1 from jacket / put it on
  4. Twist heel for uphill
  5. Put ski down
  6. Pull skin 2 from jacket / put it on
  7. Twist heel for uphill
  8. Put ski down
  9. Step into both skis
  10. Pull binding for uphill
  11. Pick up poles : hammer

The Poetics of Space

This has been a bit of a start / stop book for me. I think I’ve passed the initial hurdle though and it’s picking up. I was watching Arrival with my daughter this weekend and we there is an explanation about the words that you read have a tendency to start to change the way you think. That was one of the premises of that movie. It also happens with good fiction – Murakami or David Foster Wallace. Some books have a long on ramp to start to think about the ideas the writer is trying to convey. Then it clicks.

2 thoughts come to mind as I make my way through the book. The first: when I was running my own company I would receive a barrage of email, 24/7 and it was extremely stressful. When I left my office and went home, I had to consciously tell myself that home was my safe space – I cannot be reached here, I’ve removed myself from the flow of time and information. It was liberating and worked to gain some semblance of relaxation. 2: My work shop is in the basement, it’s a private space where I can sit at my bench, sketch and think and plan the things I want to build. It’s a design space, and a creation space. The fact that it’s in the basement more approximate to what Bachelard says about the the flower inside the almond:

The flower is always in the almond. With this excellent motto, both the house and the bedchamber bear the mark of an unforgettable intimacy. For there exists no more compact image of intimacy, none that is more sure of its center, than a flower’s dream of the future while it is still enclosed, tightly folded, inside its seed. How we should love to see not happiness, but pre-happiness remain enclosed in the round chamber!

The Poetics of Space


Felt like I was cheating a little using my heel lifters today. I try not to use them and find it’s better to set a not too steep skin track. I wanted to pick up the pace a bit and try and get some vertical in from Timberline. I’ve always thought about doing laps on Palmer from Timberline. I got mostly there today — I hit my turnaround time at the mid-lift (second time up) and had to ski out and get home.

I didn’t stop until I was above Silcox on the first lap and then had some water and a Clif shot. Then I continued on to the top of Palmer where I made a quick transition, skied back down to Timberline Lodge, put my skins back on, ate a sandwich and then skinned back up to the mid-lift on Palmer. The sun went away on the first lap and it got cold quickly, sun was back out on the second lap and the wind died down.

4500 vertical, 3:20 minutes with a few short breaks for water and gel. Never felt really worked, felt faster on the second lap in fact… I think I had more calories in me.

Cotton ball
This cloud cap formed over the summit and then blew East in the afternoon.
About 3 inches of powder on the way down.

The Education of Littleski

From Lou Dawson at Wildsnow.

1. Judgment. Combine fear and respect with knowledge.
2. Peer Pressure. Watch for it, we all succumb.
3. Equipment. Use it well, but don’t let it fool you. Your body is fragile.
4. Mentors. Be bold and reach out to someone.
5. Intuition. It’s a bit woo woo, but important as it’s your subconscious working overtime.
6. Excellence. Make this your attitude.
7. Risk vs. Reward. Be risk averse.
8. Debriefing. Talk it out.
9. The Social Contract Think of your mother, your wife, your friends.
10. Reading. Education is not a dirty word.


I wrote the last post with my feet kicked up on the sofa on my phone. Like a big text msg. I looked at it this morning and realized I mistook CO2 with CO. One molecule of Carbon, not 2.

I actually hate that first person narrative style. It’s boring. This kind of writing usually begins in situ, then backs up to the start of the story. Like this:

I reached down to pick up they hydration pack that I dropped next to my pack and realized it had frozen solid in the few minutes I had been huddled below the windbreak.

I made this up.

Then back to the start of the story arc.

I much prefer the more introspective style of writing found in … I think it might be called The Sharp End … if we’re talking about adventure / alpinism writing.

Someone else direct experience can be interesting, but the subtext of “what did u learn?” is way more interesting. I’m not going to write another first person narrative like the last one.

Bubble Dance

The plan was to leave at 20:00, sleep for a few hours in the parking lot at Timberline and then get up and start skinning by 2:00. First trip in J’s new van – a Nissan NV high top that he recently acquired. I texted and said I needed more time b/c I had to finish watching Valerian with my daughter… her first intro to Luc Besson and the amazing set/costume/characters of his films. I also hadn’t packed anything yet. Once the movie was over I hustled to boil water for tea, make some pbjs and throw my gear in a pile for a 20:30 pickup.

We rolled into a mostly empty parking lot about 10 and left the van running to crank up the heat while we re-packed. J started the Mr. Buddy Heater and the van was toasty. I set up a camp chair and sorted my pack and set my clothes out for a 1:30 wake up.

Through my ear plugs I could hear the wind whipping through the parking lot from deep in my cocoon as the van gently rocked side to side. The only part exposed from my sleeping bag, my nose, was freezing cold. We were two mochi in a walk in freezer, struggling to sleep a few hours before signing out at the climbers bivouac to start skinning up Mt Hood.

After snoozing twice I watched the time on my phone change from 1:58, 1:59, 3:00. Daylight savings and we’re an hour behind before we even started.

I was a bit worried about carbon monoxide when we had the heater and the MSR Reactor both cranking as we boiled for coffee and oatmeal and changed for the climb. What does a CO overdose feel like… I’m already tired and lightheaded from 3 hours of fitful sleep. Best to wrap it up and get out into the pre dawn air.

The wind was blowing about 20-25 with stronger gusts on the regular. I kept my heel lifters down and powered up to Silcox on 120 counts… 120 steps, pause to turn my face to the West to rest my right eye and face from the ice microdermabrasion coming from the East.

We stopped for a quick drink and then continued up Palmer – I always use the mid lift hut as a mental gate in the dark – it’s a good landmark to set direction toward I- rock, or to just get a bearing on the way to the top of Palmer.

I got to the top of Palmer, pulled out my puffy and shovel and started digging a windbreak where J and I could rest and decide what we wanted to do.

Palmer before the sun hits is a strange place – sometimes times moves faster, sometimes slower. Climbers are tucked behind snow berms when the wind is up. Skiers are swinging wild windmills frozen in place standing in their skis, headlamp beams scanning ahead illuminating the spindrift.

When J arrives we took over a shelter 2 previously climbers had abandoned, dug in deeper to get out of the wind and I sat and drank my chai. The sun began to rise and we decided today wasn’t the day – J had to be back in town by 2, the forecast didn’t call for calming winds until the afternoon.

We tore the hides and skied variable crust and wind blown powder back to Timberline. We cut right at Magic Mile and had first tracks on freshly groomed corduroy. Sweet. It was just sweet sweet carving.

I caught myself falling asleep a couple of times on the drive home, but arrived home and into the Sunday schedule in time to take my daughter to see Captain Marvel at the Baghdad. Perfect.

It’s Spring in the Cascades but today had the max old man Winter feel. Great mini adventure on the local hill.


I was sick in early February – just a cold. I was calling it the cabin fever cold. Most likely from breathing stale, dry air. It started with a sore throat and persisted with congestion that just lingered for a week and a half. There was a period of 2 or 3 days where I was up every few hours with Wonka so I didn’t get a good nights sleep. He’s 16 and in low power consumption right now. When he goes outside he needs an assist down the stairs and a boost coming back up. The only way I get sick is from lack of sleep – my immune system is weakened and I catch a cold. I ran very little during that time and gave myself a pass at not being motivated.

Looking back at past years, I don’t drive myself too hard in January and February. In the context of annual training periodization – I tend to lay low, mentally and physically let myself take a break and begin to make plans about the upcoming spring and summer.

In 2018 I ran 20+ miles consistently for 52 weeks and always tried to hit that mileage. For me it was a mix of a few lunch runs and longer run on the weekend. I made a big effort to just be consistent and it felt like a good balance overall.

The only race I have planned right now is in July – a marathon, but I’m feeling the itch to go longer. I haven’t decided yet, but with many things, past experience builds year over year. Nothing seems very exceptional to me right now. I need to think about where I should point my effort and motivation. I was reading something recently where the questions was asked, “what’s your 10 year plan? well why not just do that in 6 months?”.

I’m less “stoked for whatever” or “down for whatever”. A few years ago I started thinking about the concept of “no epics”. I’ve had many in the past – days where it was unclear if you were going to make it home or things were going to go pear shaped and get desperate. Overall, it’s just experience and maturity. Stack the odds completely in your favor, mitigate risk and go recreate. I’ve found that when people are “stoked” to go anytime, it’s because they don’t have much experience, thus they just want to log hours. That tends to get old quickly. Skiing in whiteouts, climbing when avy danger or conditions are marginal. Maybe it’s just me being older and more risk averse, but it also detracts from the fun.

There was a time in the recent past where I tied much of my identity to my outdoor pursuits — but there’s a risk there, of being one dimensional, of being … less interesting.

It reminds of Walt Whitman’s famous saying, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

My motivation is coming back like a spark growing into a fire. I’m making lists of objectives. I’m looking forward to the mountains this spring and summer. Time to start getting after it.