Everest-007 January 2006

1/17/2006
I’ve got six weeks to get ready for my big sea kayaking expedition/course off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia. Found my early morning way back into the gym and yoga class today…running, Pilates, and more running tomorrow.

In honour of Chinese New Year, a friend and I were going to sea kayak through the Quidi Vidi gut. I had to rush to collect my boat from one place and my gear from another-the Omamobile doesn’t have a rack so tying my boat on presents special challenges…I arrived at the launch with seconds to spare. The air temperature was minus a few and it was lightly snowing-I was about to embark on a historic paddle of several firsts: First January Paddle, First Sea Kayaking in Snow (was going to say first paddle but then remembered on trip in the Boundary Waters where we broke the ice with our boat in order to paddle through), and first paddle with Ian.

The weather/wind combo was delightful and the sun even poked out on a few occasions. We felt like we had a coup on the go, as we were the only ones on the water except for some sea birds who checked us out. Three bald eagles flew overhead and we shared a cup of green tea at our turnaround point. We paddled back and threw the boats on Ian’s car and dropped mine by the U and I rushed home to get my hockey gear. No time to get out of my wetsuit so arrived in the locker room dressed for sea kayaking carrying a hockey bag-nice image, eh?

Canyon Explorations

I have a soul-level connection with the Red Rock country of southern Utah. The multicolored layers of rock remind me that I am but a small speck in geologic time. I stand in stunned silence as I truly take in the history that is visible to me. I journeyed to this part of the world with a Hampshire College group of eight students and their instructor, Karen Warren.

I met the group in Massachusetts and we packed all of the food and gear to fly to Salt Lake City. There we gathered a few last supplies and fresh food and drove 4 hours south to the San Rafael Swell. Here we based out of Goblin Valley State Park and did many days of slot canyon exploration. We started by doing a traverse up Little Wild Horse Canyon and down Bell Canyon. We began to hone our moving over rock, our spotting, and our pack passing skills as we negotiated several obstacles in the tight canyons. The highlight was a 1/2-mile section of canyon narrows that towered above us.

The next day we did an out and back exploration of Crack Canyon. We were surprised to find a frozen section of creek that we could slide belly like a seal style on-if we’d had skates, we could have played the first in canyon game of hockey. We took a break from canyoneering to pay a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. We finished up our time in the Swell by doing a traverse of Ding to Dang Canyons. I actually got to be part of the Ding Dang Singers who went up Ding, Down Dang, Up Dang and Down Ding again. Follow that?

From the Swell, we traveled to Moab, Utah to spend a few days there exploring. We spent one day learning about rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs) from a local expert we dubbed “Rock Boy.” We spent another day hiking around Arches National Park and a third day preparing for our backpacking excursion into Canyonlands National Park. We drove 2 hours south to the Needles District and spent a night in the front country campground before departing for our six-day trip into the backcountry.

We backpacked over the slick rock into Chesler Park and set up camp for three days. Our first morning we were greeted by snow and high winds so we took the morning off to rest. We did a 6-kilometer water run that afternoon up towards Druid Arch and the next day hiked the Joint trail. It took us through a narrow slot like canyon that was formed through by two rock joints coming together rather than water based erosion.

On our fourth day, we traveled over several slick rocks passes-several of which required using ladders to get up and down them. We camped in Lost Canyon at the end of a 12-kilometer hike. The next day we tried to hike to a lookout but got turned around by snow covering the slick rock on north facing slopes. On our final morning in the backcountry, we awoke to 4 inches of snow and we wondered if we would be able to get out over the pass we needed to cross. We packed and set off. The backside of the pass was dry as it faced south. As we reached the top and looked down, the route looked doable if we used the rope to pass the backpacks down.

We hooked up a belay and sent folks and packs down the slippery slope and we all made it safely. We hiked the remaining 4 kilometers to the van in relative silence-thankful for the time spent surrounded by red rocks of Southern Utah. In Moab, we rented “Grandma’s Place,” had a wonderful feed and cleaned and dried tents and gear. The next day we drove back to Salt Lake City paying a quick visit to Temple Square and the Patagonia outlet. We boarded our United flight the next day and made our way back to Hampshire College with bodies and souls much richer for the time spent exploring the red walled canyons of Utah.

Happy Chinese New Year!!! 1/29/2006
Perhaps doing downward dog for the first time in 8 months this morning was my way of welcoming the Year of the Dog. Hello to all. I hope the New Year has treated you well thus far. My trip in Utah was excellent-all I could have hoped for and more. The Red Rock country of Utah pulls at my heartstrings now in much the same way as the Arizona landscape does. We spent almost a week exploring the slot canyons of the San Rafael Swell and then moved to explore Capital Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks for another week and a half.

We backpacked for a week in Canyonlands and the first day I’m sure my pack weight rivaled that of mine on Denali’s. It had been a while since I’d worn a pack that hurt…generally they begin to hurt about the 75-pound mark-they make funny noises as well. We had to carry water in as the first campsite had no water and at 1 kilo per litre-it adds up quickly. The first few days home were so busy I didn’t have time to notice how much I missed sleeping outdoors, going to bed with the darkness and awaking with the light, seeing millions of years of history laid out before me in the layers of the rock strata, noticing subtle shifts in wind the resulting changes in cloud cover…I miss it all as I transition back into my urban existence. I miss the deliberateness of outdoor life and the immediate feedback and consequences of decision-making. The students were very fun, articulate and willing participants and my co-leader for the trip is a dear friend-life doesn’t get much better than that…

Except perhaps yesterday-yesterday was a the kind of day I wish lifetimes were made of…the TCP (time control plan) was a bit tight so I had to rush from thing to thing…I started the day with an hour long run got home with enough time to chow breakfast and change into paddling clothes. In honour of Chinese New Year, a friend and I were going to sea kayak through the Quidi Vidi gut. I had to rush to collect my boat from one place and my gear from another-the Omamobile doesn’t have a rack so tying my boat on presents special challenges…I arrived at the launch with seconds to spare. The air temperature was minus a few and it was lightly snowing-I was about to embark on a historic paddle of several firsts: First January Paddle, First Sea Kayaking in Snow (was going to say first paddle but then remembered on trip in the Boundary Waters where we broke the ice with our boat in order to paddle through), and first paddle with Ian.

The weather/wind combo was delightful and the sun even poked out on a few occasions. We felt like we had a coup on the go, as we were the only ones on the water except for some sea birds who checked us out. Three bald eagles flew overhead and we shared a cup of green tea at our turnaround point. We paddled back and threw the boats on Ian’s car and dropped mine by the U and I rushed home to get my hockey gear. No time to get out of my wetsuit so arrived in the locker room dressed for sea kayaking carrying a hockey bag-nice image, eh? Scored a hat trick and had so much fun playing that I didn’t want to game to end. Headed home for a quick dinner and then out to a night of viewing the Banff Festival of Mountain Films-one of my favorite events of the year where two of my passions come together…outdoors and filmmaking.

So today my head is filled with dreams of filmmaking and adventure-good thing too as I’m back on the training bandwagon. Found my early morning way back into the gym and yoga class today…running, Pilates, and more running tomorrow…I’ve got six weeks to get ready for my big sea kayaking expedition/course off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia. I’ll start training for Cho Oyu specifically when I return from Tofino. During the same six weeks I’m also trying to turn my last year’s writing into a book, at the moment the working title of the book is “A Year on Denali.” If you have any favorite quotes about the months of the year or favorite quotes about mountains or being outdoors, please send them along. I’ll be looking for a quote to lead each chapter with.

Speaking of writing, I received a real treat of an e-mail this week out of the blue. A local poet had read about my climb of Denali and was moved to write a poem. It’s called “Prayer for a Denali Climber” and I found it quite moving. It will be published in May as part of a collection. He starts the poem with a quote I gave in one of my interviews, “To forget little things, you must climb mountains.” I didn’t remember saying that but heck, it sure sounded good. Once the poem is published, he said I can put it on the website.

I hope all is well on your end-let me know what you’ve got on the go for the New Year. I’d love to hear.

Take care,

TA

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