Monday, March 30, 2009

Echo Lake, Ralston Peak- Ski camping

At the end of many of my trips, my buddy Kevin and I always say good bye with a parting hand shake and him saying, "another one for the books". This last trip however he did not...

Planning a group trip is always difficult. First there is the time of year which is best suited for each particular event. Spring=back country skiing and camping. Next a weekend should be worked out at least a month in advance which excludes the least number of people. And finally you need mother nature to agree with your plans.

This last weekend March 28th was the set day for my spring backcountry ski/camp trip. The initial list started at 13 interested and ended up with about 6. 50% is about normal turn out for this kind of stuff. Here is a snap shot of the group in front of Pyramid Peak.

The trip started at about noon from Echo Lake Sno-Park trail head. Logistics included a $5 per day sno-park permit, purchased ahead of time at local vendors. A wilderness permit, since we were in the desolation wilderness. $5 per person per night. $10 max per person, $100 max per group. Though I typically do not get permits for the winter, I did this trip due to its size and the good example I was setting.

Soon after traveling up Echo Lake Road, you arrive at Echo Lakes (1 mile). This was the first time I got to test out my ski pulk. I estimate the load to be about 50-60 lbs. It is much easier to pull heavy loads , across flat surfaces on a sled, than to carry it on your back. With Skippy hooked up to me, and I to the sled, we made short work of lower Echo Lake.

The weather was perfect 60 degrees.

We soon climbed up above the lakes and made camp on the hillside right above Tamarack Lake. A short ski to the lake, supplied us with water from a breach in the snow at the lakes inlet. We had brought extra fuel for melting snow, but was please that we did not have to. I dis like the taste of "fried" water.

Saturday. This was our summit day, but my idea of climbing and skiing Pyramid peak were a little too lofty. Instead we climbed up to Hypress Meadow and the ridge that over looked the Aloha Lake Basin. From there our group split up. Some want to check out Aloha Lake, others wanted to climb Ralston peak.

It did not appear that the summit of Ralston Peak had a suitable route to ski off off. But we found a suitable drop in along the ridge. The pillowy appearance of the snow, was truly so, thanks to the mid day sun.

Saturday night an intense wind storm hit us. It dropped the temperature significantly, but no moisture was associated with the wind and clouds. Wind storms are always so violent, when experienced from the inside of a tent. Those without ear plugs did not get a good nights sleep.

Sunday we packed up early. There was a bit of anxiety within the group in the presence of unsettling weather. No second cup of coffee, just pack and go. However, as base camp was reduced to six packs, the clouds broke and the sun came out.

From camp to Upper Echo Lake was a 200 foot decent. I handed sled duties over to my wife, who was undoubtedly the strongest skier of the group. I had a back up tether attached to the top of the sled, which helped keep it from rolling on steep traverses. The skills Leslie has been honing for the last 20 years really showed as she effortlessly guided the sled to lake level.

The last leg of the journey was 2.5 mile trek across the top of the a well frozen Echo Lake.

Kevin and I never did start a "book" to log our adventures. We always meant to document our trips, primarily for reference sake. I guess he knew that with this blog, the idle reference of documentation, aimed at criticizing our shortcoming, was no longer needed. Thanks Blogger: we now have a book, and one for it!

How to attract women

Life has been a bit busy. Here is a really funny video I stumbled upon recently.

Hope it holds you over till my next post.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ski Pulk-Gear Sled

The last few nights I have busied myself, building a ski pulk. I thought that since this is the preferred method of gear carry for Arctic explores for decades, I ought to try it out.

Pictures like this have always inspired me. Soon, I will be dragging my supplies behind me. You can bet that I will have a detailed write up on my sled: design, build, and test. This is just a little preview.

I gained a lot of knowledge from this guy and his website. Including a very nice little PDF guide on how to build your own.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Coffee Cup Lids

I have drank my fair share of gas station coffee. Though it is not my first choice, there is a time and place for everything. Not going into the quality of the coffee, I have noticed that there are three basic kinds of coffee cup lids. And some of them really just don't work. Let's discuss.

First there is the Starbucks style lid. The lid with the little hole you are suppose to drink though. How does one not burn their mouth with this lid. The little hole acts as a nozzle to spray scalding hot coffee into you mouth. Bad Bad Bad.

The next most popular lid is the MacDonald's type, lift and lock. This type doesn't work much better either. After lifting the tab, you are left with a gaping hole where the coffee simple sloshes out. No wonder that poor lady burnt herself.

But if you have spent enough time visiting the various gas stations across the country, you might have been lucky enough to come across the best coffee lid design EVER!! The sippy lid.

Made by DART industries, this coffee cup lid represents the cutting edge of coffee cup lid technology. Though it has been around for a long time, it seems that its existence has been held in secrecy. As if bad coffee cup lids are placed to discourage "to-go" coffee; coffee should be drank in dainty coffee shops out of giant ceramic mugs. What makes this lid so great. Well first you can actually sip your coffee with the lid on. The ridges introduce cold air to the coffee and cools it before you drink it. The flap which you sip from acts as a splash shield and prevents coffee from sloshing out, it careful meters the perfect amount of coffee for your drinking pleasures. Since drinking with this lid is so pleasurable, you do not find yourself removing the lid, to either cool the coffee faster to a drinkable temperature or to regulate the amount of liquid which gets dispensed. Keeping the lid on prevents spillage, and having your coffee get cold too fast.
I assume that DART must hold a the patent on this lid and thus no other company can copy it. But that patent must be running out. With any luck, this lid will become the standard coffee lid for all those to enjoy. So please do your part and encourage the purchase of the DART sippy coffee cup lid, and maybe one day, spilled coffee and burnt lips will be a thing of the past.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Concert Time

It has been a busy few days. House stuff is not going smoothly. Work is busy. Personal projects are piling up, and I have been under the weather. This weekend I am traveling down south to attend a concert my brother is putting on. It should be a good show, so if you are in the area. Feel free to come on down. There will be an after party as well. See you there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pizza Night

One thing that my wife and I love to make and eat regularly is Pizza! When it comes to homemade pizza there are four options for dough. Boboli, Pillsbury, home made, or Betty Croker.

I started with the Boboli with my mom, when I was younger. Good, pre-made, but expensive for what it is: flour, yeast water, heat. Many years later we tried to make the crust from scratch. Very similar to making bread. The result however was not to our liking. Maybe be cause we were not good at it, or did not practice enough; regardless the effort was more than it was worth. At about the same time we discovered Pizza crust in a tube. That crazy Dough boy once again comes through. This pizza crust has been the staple for the past several years. But it is still expensive for what it is and compared to the other "bread in a tube" type products. Anyways there was always something unnatural about getting prefabbed dough in a tube.
This most recent trip to the market yielded the newest consumer product in our love affair with Pizza: dough mix in a pouch. Why is this any better, I don;'t know, it just is.
The pouch contains a white powder you mix with hot water. I assume it is simply flour and quick rise yeast. Beat the mix 20 times and let stand for five minutes. Then roll it out with "floured fingers" per the directions. I was even able to practice my pizza dough tossing. I think that this is the cheapest of the pre-made crust. It also gives you a sense of satisfaction. I was once told that according to consumer testing, cake mixes where you had to add your own eggs, milk, and oil, sold much better than the ones were you simply added water (the other stuff was already in the mix). In fact I think it was Betty who pioneered this marketing technique.
The other ingredients for tonight's pizza included: mozzarella cheese, spaghetti sauce, pesto, Canadian bacon, pineapple, parmesan cheese, onions, and a little Roster sauce for some kick. Grill the onions before placing them onto the pizza, they need a little extra cooking. Construct the pizza to your liking . 15 minuets in the oven, and voila: Dinner is served.

double roll pin

The other night I was transferring components from one transmission to the other, and something caught my attention. I was required to tap out a roll pin in order to remove the gear selector input shaft. A dust boot around the the shaft was going to be transferred and needed to be free.

I took out a small punch and drove out the inner roll pin 80% of the way. Then I took a larger punch and drove the larger roll pin out. I placed a magnet to catch the pins so they do not fall into the depths of the tranny.

A roll pin within a roll pin. I have never seen such a thing. I am sure it is there so greater "holding" or outward force is applied. Generally using a punch to drive out a pin is the limiting factor of the amount of holding force can be achieved; pounding a pin in place is easy. The tip of a small punch bends easily, thus the interference fit can not be too great. To achieve the necessary holding capacity a small roll pin is driven into a larger. Cleaver!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Transmission

Last Friday I drove into the heart of Sacramento to buy a used tranny. A Latino kid crashed his 95 300z and was parting out everything. Well I wanted the transmission. It took a few week between initial contact and a set date to make the transaction. I approach all craigslist deals with a certain degree of anxiety. This one was no different. Maybe a little more than usual.
The problem with buying a used transmission is that there is no test to check the integrity of the internal componets. I was able to look at the drain plug to insure that there was no gear teeth on it. This was discerned by seeing that the plug magnet was not cleaned. The usual amount of deposits was still present, and not wiped off. I haggled briefly about the price with all his buddies over looking. Nothing to spectacular transpires, and I drove back to Tahoe with a 95 transmission with 146 thousand miles on it, in the back of my truck.

Tonight I swapped most of the new parts off my my old transmission to the new/used tranny. This included the speedometer pinon gear, the tranny mount, and fork boot, set the throw out bearing and fork. There are still a few things to take care of before this tranny is ready to be installed but I am working in that direction.

With this house buying thing, my projects have taken a different direction. I need to wrap things up to a "movable" condition. That means, for the Z, that alot of the trim and interior are not going to be addressed. I need to get things on all project wrapped up to a transferable state. My work is defiantly cut out for me these next few weeks.

Weekend Skiing - Keyhole

Since I do work a regular 40 hour a week job, most of my skiing is done on the weekends. This last week however was special. We, my boss and I (both bosses: wife and work boss), make an exception when there are mid week powder mornings. This last week was spectacular as far as snow goes, and I skied Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Though it seems like a lot, some of those days was just for an hour; kindda like going for a jog on your lunch break. One thing that I have noticed is that the patterns are different midweek vs. weekend. On weekdays when it is primarily locals on powder mornings, all the off trail chutes and trees get skied out rather quickly, but on weekends, I can find secret powder stashes all day.

The snow pack in the sierras has hit 91% of average. (we need 130% of average to get us out of the drought however) Thus finally coverage is looking pretty good. Leslie and I decided to hit "keyhole" a double black run at Alpine Meadows that neither of us have ever done before. Not only is it steep, but it is sprinkled with rock outcroppings and trees. Exciting! I drew in my route on the picture below.

Keyhole can be accessed by a short hike from either Alpine bowl chair or Summit six ski lifts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Buying a Home

Sorry I have not been posting as much these last few days. Leslie and I are trying to boost our local economy, by buying a house.

There is a little more to consider then when selecting new ski goggles.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Woop Woop - Skier Com

When I was a child I read a book which was very influential in my life. "Where the Red Fern Grows". One thing that struck me as unusual when I read it, was the "wooping". The boy would woop at his dogs, his father would woop at his son. I never heard the term used before, and just figured it meant to hoot and holler. I was familiar with that term.

Many years later when I was visiting my future mother in law, I was introduced to her version of the woop. "Beuuu Beuuu", was how she called out to the dog in a very audible tone. I was also informed that this was how she use to call out to her children. It was very effective, her voice carried.

As Leslie and I started skiing together more, we developed our own form of communication while skiing in the trees. While skiing in the trees it is very easy to become separated from your ski partner. Line of sight might possibly extend 20-30 feet within the glades. However ear shot can extend well over 100 feet. WOOP WOOP. It works similar to sonar. Except that you do not listen for your own voice to bounce back, but your partners. As soon as you hear a WOOP you answer back with your own WOOP. Though it sounds simple and intuitive, it is very effective yet not instinctive to answer a call in the woods. A vector of information, one WOOP can tell you what direction and how far your ski partner is from you.
My regular ski partners and I have perfected this form of tree skiing communication, that we can enter a tree run, ski hundreds of vertical feet down, and without seeing each other once, pop out of the trees within relative proximity to each other. Over time each person develops his/her own distinctive woop.

So the next time you leave the mother ship without your communicator just remember Little Ann and Big Dan; WOOP WOOP!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire - Not such an underdog

We all have questions that need answered, and we all wish there was simple answers for them. For those that have not seen the movie, one common question seems to jump out: Does it live it to the hype? To answer it simply: YES!

What I thought was an independent Bollywood film, turned out to be a Hollywood production directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 days later, The Beach). The movie however does retain a very indi like feel; most likely due to the unknown actors as well as the foreign setting.

I won't go into the plot, it is rather simple, but I would like to discuss what makes this movie so enjoyable to watch, and possible why it won so many awards. This question however is much more difficult to answer, and can go back to the question: why do we enjoy watching movies?

Watching a movie can be best described as a temporary escape from reality. In many ways it is not much different than alcohol or elicit drug use, however cheaper and with less detrimental effects. A good movie not only take us away to far off lands but place us in situations that we would never imagine experiencing ourselves. A great movie however does the aforementioned in a very believable way, teaches us something, relates personally to our lives, and for me, leaves me feeling happy or at least satisfied. Slumdog Millionaire does all that. But how did it do it better than all the other movies that came out this year?

Movie aficionados love foreign and independent films. The cultural separation of a foreign film immediately creates a sense of "far away land", the slums of Mumbi is much more exotic than another California based Hollywood set. Yet foreign films are difficult to relate to. The same things that makes such a film exotic, cultrual differences, creates a disconnect between the writer and the American audience. Slumdog however has the best of both worlds. Not only does it have the exotic appeal, but it has the home court advantage. Danny Boyle though British born, directs "American" or western movies. Come on, Alien Resurrection, that is about as American as it gets. Also the screenplay which was based on an Indian novel, was written by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty). Again British but at least Western.

I originally mistook Slumdog to be made by an independent film maker. Indi films speak to the rebel in us all. Something about a filmmaker that isn't involved with the whole Hollywood scene appeals to me. By simply watching an indi film I am expressing my disapproval for all things mainstream, things which I think are wrong with our government... However the fact that I go to movies, and write on my own blog shows that I am mainstream. Who am I really kidding. For this reason Indi films many times do not satisfy. I find them poorly made, lacking a large enough budget to fully develop the story with lavish sets and adequate extras. Though Slumdog give the indi film feel, Fox Searchlight Pictures made sure the movie was not lacking in that respect.

This movie won best picture of the year, not only because it embodies what we viewers want to see in a film, but it also gives us the feeling we want to have about ourselves. Free thinkers that are not bound by societies norms and expectations. However what it really says about us, is that we are all very much alike, part of the mainstream norms, with the same expectations for movies at the very least.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great Ski Race

What could be more exciting than a ski race? A GREAT ski race. The annual Truckee Tahoe Great ski race was held this last Sunday March 1st. First raced in 1977 with 60 participants, the race starts at the Nordic Center in Tahoe City and finishes 18 miles later in Truckee. It is the largest cross country ski race this side of the Mississippi River, and draws racers from all over the country. The race benefits the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue. Due to the poor weather conditions the turn out this year was less than average with 690 racers finishing. It snowed the first third of the race, and rained the next 2/3's. The weather made conditions slow with this years winner, Tad Elliott of Durango CO, coming in at 1 hour 19 minutes and 58 seconds. A bit off the course recorded of 1:06:51, set last year.

Congratulations to all that participated, and to my Wife who shattered her personal record.