Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tour du Mont Blanc

It's been a dream of my father-in-law's to run the Mont Blanc Tour. His friends (who are awesome) operate a running guide company out of Minnesota, so when they put the UTMB on their roaster, we were in.

Adventure Running Co organized the trail itinerary, lodging and food, we just RAN. Or power walked A LOT because it was about 33,000ft of climbing and then about the same in descent. My husband and father-in-law are ultrarunners, so the 100-mile distance over a couple of days, wasn't too worrisome for them. I, however, was quaking in my trainers.

Each day was a half marathon or so. I have notoriously bad knees, so I locked those things into ace braces for the whole ride.

The trail moves up and down passes through France, Italy, Switzerland, and back to France. We were sick when we learned that the record for this whole mother-loving thing is around 19 hours.(Held by a Frenchman, dieu merci)

The trail actually circumnavigates the section of the Alps that contains Mont Blanc. So you see the range from all directions. This is the back side; across the range is the Chamonix valley where we started. Mmmm.. climbable rock.

We were blessed with good weather until half way through the penultimate day when the heavens opened up the flood gates.

We planned this running gear rainbow after frantically dashing through a thunderstorm on top of a col.
We made it to the summit of Brevant (our starting point) and the official end of the 110+ mile run. After a full day of wet running, soaked to the bone, it took a while to warm up. But we were stoked and ready to eat a crap load of cheese and baguettes.

Summer Climbing in Alps

I finished Barry Blanchard's book just in time to set foot (ice axe, crampon, and death-gripping hands) on the Alps. Here's a slice of life from our incredible intro into the dramatic peaks around Chamonix.

We met some friends from the UK who drove down through all of France with camping gear, ropes and most of the climbing gear that we needed, which was awesome! Saved us from toting at least an entire extra bag of gear. We were able to catch the World Cup climbing competition in downtown Chamonix where we saw legendary climber Adam Ondra take another win. The place was packed.  I've never seen so many climbers/mountaineers in one place. Walking down the sidewalk, there were multiple people with packs and ice axes just strolling through town at all times.  To say nothing of the climbing gear stores. One on every block. Welcome to Valhalla.

Glaciers reaching down into the valley between every formation. Fresh glacial water just running out of spigots at every corner. 

Our best day was climbing the Aiguille du Peigne. Across the canyon the Aiguille du Midi was shedding cornices, sending chunks of ice and rock thundering down the couloirs. It was a sort of ominous echo in the background all day.

P leading a traverse with the beautiful valley below.

Grand Perron ridgeline between Switzerland and France. With a daunting view of the Alps we would be running around next week.

Lunch on top of the world. When in France... you climb like the French. We lugged baguettes, Camembert, and pâté up there. Pourquoi pas.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Frustration is wanting a different outcome without putting any more or any different kind of effort into the objective.

~ Arno Ilgner | The Rock Warrior's Way
I think about this quote all the time, whenever I get frustrated and annoyed. I always ask myself if I'm willing to do anything different and usually the answer is no. So this definition for frustration is spot on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Thoughts on Happiness by Matthieu Ricard

This transcript is from a conversation between Matthieu Ricard and Krista Tippett from OnBeing. I find these thought very useful in finding a state of deep contentment beyond the discomfort and trivialities of everyday life.  

"People sometimes imagine that constant happiness will be a kind of euphoria or endless succession of pleasant experiences. But that’s more like a recipe for exhaustion than happiness.

Pleasure depends very much on circumstances, what triggers it. Then it’s a sensation, in a way. So sensations change from pleasurable to neutral and to unpleasurable. I mean even the most pleasurable thing — you eat something very delicious. Once, it’s delicious. Two, three times, OK. And then ten times, you get nauseous. You are very cold and shivering. You come near a bonfire, such a delight. But then, after a few minutes, then you move back. It’s too hot. The most beautiful music, you hear it five times, 24 hours, it’s a nightmare. And also, it’s something that basically doesn’t radiate to others. You can experience pleasure at the cost of others’ suffering. So it’s very vulnerable to the change of outer circumstances. It doesn’t help you to face the outer circumstances better.

Now if we think of happiness as a way of being, a way of being that gives you the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life, that pervades all the emotional states, including sadness. If we think of sadness as incompatible with pleasure, but it’s compatible with what? With altruism, with inner strength, with inner freedom, with sense of direction and meaning in life — those aren’t sad things. But if you don’t fall in despair, still you maintain that wholeness and that sense of purpose and meaning.

Happiness can encompass every mental state except those who are just opposite, which is like despair, hatred, precisely the mental factors that will destroy inner peace, inner strength, inner freedom. If you are under the grip of hatred, you are not free. You are the slave of your own thoughts. So that’s not freedom. Therefore, this is opposite to genuine flourishing and happiness. So we have to distinguish mental factors which contribute to that way of being, the cluster of qualities like altruistic love, inner freedom, and so forth from those who undermine that, which is like jealousy, obsessive desire, hatred, arrogance. We call that “mental toxins,” because they poison our happiness and also make us relate to others in a poisonous way. So that’s something that you can cultivate, unlike pleasure. You don’t cultivate pleasure, but happiness in that sense is a skill. Because why? Because altruistic love can be developed. We have the potential for it, but it’s really untapped. All these other qualities can be enhanced to a more optimal way, and therefore, those are skills.

The quality of our experience can easily eclipse the other conditions. Not that the other conditions don’t matter — don’t mistake for that. I mean it’s infinitely desirable that we provide to others, and to ourselves, conditions for survival. There are so many people in this world that cannot feed their kids. It’s unacceptable. So anything that can be done should be done, and it’s a joke if we don’t do it. I mean we are failing all principles of basic morality.

But yet, we should acknowledge at the same time that you can be miserable in a little paradise, have everything, so-called, to be happy, and be totally depressed and a wreck within. And you can maintain this kind of joy of being alive and sense of compassion even in the worst possible scenario, because the way you translate that into happiness or misery, that’s the mind who does that. And the mind is that which experiences everything, from morning till evening. That’s your mind that translates the outer circumstances either into a sense of happiness, strength of mind, inner freedom or enslavement. So your mind can be your best friend, also your worst enemy, and it’s the spoiled brat of the mind needs to be taken care of, which we don’t do. We vastly underestimate the power of transformation of mind and its importance in determining the quality of every instant of our life.
Outward circumstances are important, I should do whatever I can. But I should certainly see that at the root of all that, there are inner circumstances, inner conditions. What are they? Well, just look at you. Now if I say, “OK, come, we’ll spend a weekend cultivating jealousy,” now who is going to go for that? We all know that, even say, “Well, that’s part of human nature,” but we are not interested in cultivating more jealousy, neither for hatred, neither for arrogance. So those will be much better off if they were not — didn’t have such a grip on our mind. So there are ways to counteract those, to dissolve those. I mean you cannot, in the same moment of thought, wish to do something good to someone or to harm that person. So those are mutually incompatible, like hot and cold water. So the more you will bring benevolence in your mind at every of those moments, there’s no space for hatred.
That’s just very simple, but we don’t do that. We do exercise every morning, 20 minutes, to be fit. We don’t sit for 20 minutes to cultivate compassion. If we were to do so, our mind will change, our brain will change. What we are will change. So those are skills. They need to be, first, identified, then, cultivated. What is good to learn chess? Well, you have to practice and all that. In the same way, we all have thoughts of altruistic love. Who doesn’t have that? But they come and go. We don’t cultivate them. Do you learn to piano by playing 20 seconds every two weeks? This doesn’t work. So why, by what kind of mystery, some of the most important qualities of human beings will be optimal just because you wish so? Doesn’t make any sense.

Matthieu Ricard - monk extraordinaire
I have a friend who is 63 years old. He used to be a runner when he was young. He gave up running. Now a few years ago, he started again. He said, “When I started again, I could not run more than five minutes without panting for breath.” Now last week, he ran the Montreal Marathon at 63. He had the potential, but it was useless until he actualized it. So the same potential we have for mind training, but if we don’t do anything, it’s not going to happen because we wish so.

We need to put that in action, in a way. “Action” doesn’t mean frantically running around all day long — which I have unfortunately been doing a bit too much — but exemplifying that in our life. So that’s what led me — my only regret, some years ago, was not to have hands on, trying to serve others. So when I had the possibility of doing that, I jumped into that, and I’m absolutely grateful and delighted that I can. Now we have — we treat 100,000 patients in the Himalayas, India, Tibet, and Nepal. We have 15 kids in the school that we built. It’s not huge, compared to some other big organizations, but at least we did our best. So my motto, in a way, will be to transform yourself to better serve others.

If you see the humanity in the world, grains of sand that bring everything to a halt, it’s corruption, clashes of egos — human factors more than resources. So how to avoid that? There is a lack of human maturity. So it’s not a vain or futile exercise to perfect yourself to some extent before you serve others. Otherwise, it’s like cutting the wheat when it’s still green, and nobody is fed by that. So we need a minimum of readiness to efficiently and wisely be at the service of others. So compassion needs also to be enlightened by wisdom. Otherwise, it’s blind.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Magical organism of the sea

Ocean magic. These huge colonies of organisms filter water to consume plankton. They can be as long as a whale and as wide as 6 feet, but according to some scientists you wouldn't want to get inside one, they look like a Chinese finger trap. One group of scientists found a dead penguin inside who couldn't maneuver front or back and so was stuck. Added bonus, they glow in the dark (bioluminescent). Makes me want to dive.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Tis the season

“True action, good and radiant action, my friends, does not spring from activity, from busy bustling, it does not spring from industrious hammering. It grows in the solitude of the mountains, it grows on the summits where silence and danger dwell.” – Hermann Hesse

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

...Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness..

from In Praise of the Earth by John O'Donohue

It's a wonderful and cold time to be in the mountains.  I got new skis, alpine bindings and rudimentary avalanche knowledge thanks to So Cal Avi Center. Ready for sufferfesting.

Monday, November 26, 2018

We got married!

Just a nice little thing in the backyard. 
He brings so much joy, adventure and love into my life. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Comp Tshirts 2018

These shirts I made for the Fall/Halloween Competition at Stronghold Climbing Gym. 

I've been climbing at Stronghold for about a year and a half now. I still miss the sense of community at Rockreation LA, but I do really enjoy the routes and general setting at Stronghold.  The facility is in the old Edison steam power plant on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The boilers were removed a while ago, and now the large brick building from the early nineteen hundreds has nearly 50-foot climbing walls. Not a bad place to train.

I entered one of the Touchstone Bouldering Competitions a year or so back, but couldn't get into the spirit. You have to be a little pushy to get a turn climbing on the wall. I'll leave those comps to the young bucks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018