Thursday, June 26, 2014

City of Rocks

We owe a huge THANKS! to the Dalpias family for planning and inviting us to tag along on a super fun climbing trip to City of Rocks over Memorial Day weekend.

I hadn't been climbing in City of Rocks since high school, and I had forgotten what a beautiful, unique place it is.
The kids loved running around the granite rocks with their friends and cousins.

It was sooo pretty!

As were my lovely ladies.

And we had a big group with lots of great friends and family.

Of course, the climbing was impeccable.  This is the view from the top of one fun climb, "Delay of Game," that many in our group climbed.

Suzy, conquering "Delay of Game."

 This was Tenny's first official climbing trip, and he was a natural.

And the below picture is probably my favorite of all, because it shows my youngest sister Heather half-way up "Delay of Game."  Look carefully--and click the picture to enlarge, if needed--and you'll see her almost dead center of the picture, making an impressive ascent up the spine of "Delay of Game."

Cute, but crazy.

Sunsent over our "Twin Sisters" campsite.

And this is a super fun climb that we set up near our campsite and spent the weekend trying to climb.  We named it "Mean Mama," and we all left a little pride, sweat and blood on this one.  In this picture, uncle Tom is showing off his mad skillz and remarkable upper-body strength.

Super fun trip, and one we all hope to do again!

4MM - Yesterday was hike day (3.1)

OK, so it wasn't yesterday.  But the third season of the Four More Miles Hike Club is officially underway.  We kicked off our third season with a delightful little hike to Donut Falls up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

This is a popular, family-friendly hike that ends up at the aptly-named falls.  It's a little hard to see in that picture, but Donut Falls consists of a river that drops down through a hole in the rock and then runs out the bottom.
And, evidently, this is what happens when "forever" doesn't work out but you advertised on a Quaking Aspen that it would.

We're looking forward to a great new season of hiking, and, as always, all are welcome to join!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Lady Mountain - ZNP

Suzy's brother Jason has been talking up the "Lady Mountain" climb in Zion National Park for over a year, and I finally had a chance to climb it with him.  It lived up to the hype.

It's less than 2 miles to the top of that mountain (from the Zion Lodge parking lot), but you climb 2,675 feet in that short distance.
And I do mean climb.  Here's Jason navigating one of the climbing sections.

And, of course, this is Zion National Park, so it's stunning from top to bottom.

OK, mom, maybe don't look at this next picture.  Jason took this of me climbing the "ramp" section about 1,500 feet above the valley floor.  Exhilerating.

And, evidently, falling deaths are much more common on other Zion hikes, like the extremely easy, and mostly paved, Emerald Pools trail.  From the Zion National Park FAQ page:

Q. How many fatalities from "falling" have occured in Zion National Park?A. Below is a list of fatalities from "falling" in Zion National Park, dating back to the parks establishment. The info below is incomplete. The below list includes only incidents where suspicious activity was not involved.
Angels Landing 5
Cathedral Mountain 1
Emerald Pools 7
Lady Mountain 2+
Mt. Kinesava 1
Mt. of the Sun 1
Observation Point 2
Watchman 2
East Rim Trail 1
Checkerboard Mesa 1
Crazy Quilt Mesa 1
Deer Trap Mountain 1
Hidden Canyon 2
Canyon Overlook 2

OK, those stats may be a bit deceiving, since it doesn't show how many people hike those trails.  Compared to the thousands of people on the Emerald Pools trail, and the hundreds on the Angels Landing trail, we didn't see anyone else on the Lady Mountain climb, and evidently that's typical.
The Lady makes you work for it, but boy is it rewarding.  (Below: looking down the canyon.)

This one is looking up the canyon.  For those of you familiar with the Park who want the orientation, Observation Point is the ridge on the horizon, and Angels Landing (half as tall) is the ridge in front of that.

This is a picture I took 6 years ago from Observation Point looking down the canyon.  In this picture, Angels Landing is the first ridge, and then Lady Mountain is the tall one behind that (on the flat-looking ridge, the fourth bump from the right).

Anyway, this is a super fun climb and definitely one I'll be doing again.  In a nutshell, I would describe it twice as tall as Angels Landing, 4 times as hard, 100% less European tourists, and 7 times as rewarding.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Retreating with the family in Phoenix


 This year, Jeremy's firm's annual retreat coincided with the end a long trial, which was proceeded by months of single parenting by Suzy while Jeremy prepared for the trial.  And this meant that the whole family was in need of a retreat, and a chance to spend time together.  And what better way to do that than drive to Phoenix and back in the family mini-van?

We took the long way to Phoenix, and the long way back, and we were rewarded with beautiful views, lots of adventures, dozens of potty breaks, and many, many DVDs to entertain the kids.
And, while it wasn't quite as relaxing as just having the two of us in a nice resort for a few days, we were so glad that we took the kids on this one.  They loved the food.

They lived in the pools.

And they even slept much better than they normally do because they were so exhausted from the long, adventure-filled days.

The only problem with these kinds of road trips is that you discover so many places you would love to explore, but just don't have the time to do it.  Like Marble Canyon, where we only had 5 minutes to explore but were treated with a show of California Condors scavanging around the cliffs of the headwaters of the Grand Canyon.

And we would have loved to have explored more in and around the Navajo and other reservations--located on stunning desert lands--but there just wasn't enough time this trip.
So, we added about 10 more destinations and activites to our ever-expanding bucket list, which is probably the mark of a good trip.  And it was a good trip, especially because we finally got some much needed family time.
Who ever said law firms don't bring families together?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Update on the Barrasso Family

A while back we brought you the tales of our friend, the Blind Skier Dude.  Continuing that tradition, here is a recent story about one of our very good friends, Alex, who is the 5-time U.S. Blind Chess Champion, and has competed (and won) other chess championships around the world.
Alex's next tournament takes him to Greece (from his current home in Prague), and we're already warming up to be his biggest cheerleaders.  We're super proud of Alex.
Oh, and he happens to be the father of our Goddaughter, Valeria (pictured above), who is so adorable and getting so big we can't hardly stand it!
Go Alex, Brenda and Valeria!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Climbing the Tetons - August 2014

It's been six months since our epic Teton 2014 trip, and I feel like a slacker for taking so long to post about it, but it's not for lack of desire.  Honestly, it's the third child.  Oh, she's a sweetie, but that third child put us over the edge and has seriously cut back on our blogging time.

Back to the story.  Amazing, amazing trip.  I'm never happier than I am when I'm in the Tetons, and this trip was no exception.  In fact, I was so giddy the whole time that I think I drove everyone else crazy with my constant singing and whistling.  Great family and friends for a few days in the Tetons--without cell phone reception--is about as close to heaven as you can get.

This trip was particularly special for me because I got to share it with my oldest sister Tammie.  In a family of die-hard Teton fans, Tammie's love for the Tetons is unsurpassed.  But she had never had the same opportunities as some of us to backpack and climb in the Tetons.  Until now.  And, as you'll see, I took it upon myself to document her maiden voyage.

This trip, we backpacked from the west up Teton Canyon to Alaska Basin, which served as our base camp for the day hikes and excursions that followed.  One day we set out to climb Battleship Mountain (the peak in the above picture, which has always been a goal of mine).  Unfortunately, none of us was able to summit because--and I'm not making this up--the rocks were so sharp and loose that we feared being severely lacerated if anyone slipped.  No, really.  I still want to climb that mountain (because I'm sure the views are spectacular), but I'll do it with thick pants and gloves.

But no failed summit could spoil this party.  For example, we made it to Hurricane Pass and enjoyed the below view of Schoolroom Glacier, Cascade Canyon, and (from left to right) the Grand Teton, the Middle Teton, and the South Teton.

Sisters Tammie and Holly enjoying the view.

We also discovered this really cool place that I didn't know existed that was covered with large rounded, rocky mounds.  Jason, the geologist, tried to convince us that these mounds were ancient corral beds that used to be under the water but were now on a ridge at about 9,500 feet above sea level in the Tetons.  He could be right, but I still think they're probably fossilized brontosaurus dung.

Oh, and did I mention it was absolutely gorgeous, and the company was unrivaled?

And the highlight of the trip was my papa's 60th birthday, which we celebrated by waking up at 3am and hiking from Alaska Basin to the top of the South Teton.  We hiked through the dark past Sunset Lake and raced up the steep talus slope (pictured below) to try to make it to that saddle/notch by sunrise.

And we made it.  And watching the sun rise behind the Tetons was one of those moments I'll never forget.  The peak on the right is the South Teton--our destination.

Tammie Sue enjoying the view.  And, I think, realizing how far away and big that mountain is that we're about to climb.

Two points for anyone who can find Tammie in the below picture.  I took this one from the "base" of the South Teton looking back toward the notch (on the far right) where we watched the sunrise.

And that's when the fun really began.  I had done this same route up the South on two previous occasions, but I had forgotten how steep and long it is.  It just goes up and up and up.

And up.

But we made it.

And here is my dad, reaching the summit of the South Teton (12,513') on his 60th birthday.  As you may recall, my dad and I climbed the Middle Teton on his 55th birthday.  There's a trend here, so I asked my dad what he wanted to do for his 65th birthday.  His answered that he wanted to stand on the top of Rendezvous Mountain--the Teton peak to the south of us, that has a tram to the top.  Of course, months later he's now forgotten the pain and he's already planning the next climb.

View of the Grand (the tall one) and the Middle (in front of the Grand) from the South Teton.

And this is my favorite picture from the whole trip (click to enlarge).  It's an amazing view, but even better is that it shows Tammie on top of the South Teton to the right.  It was her first major climb.  It had been her dream for a long time (decades of staring at it from the bottom).  She said it was the hardest thing she's ever done.  I'm sure there were times she wanted to quit, or doubted whether she would make it.  I'm sure there were times she wanted to kill me for bringing her on the trip with promises that she could do it.  But there she is.  I was so proud.

I love climbing mountains, but really I'm a guide at heart.  I get even more joy from sharing these experiences with other people.  Which makes me think of the second time I climbed the South Teton, in the summer of 2002, with Suzanne.  We were just dating at the time and I really wanted to share this with her.  But she had horrible blisters on her feet from backpacking in, so she had to wear her Teva sandals because she couldn't stand to have her hiking boots on.  But she told me she was OK and--I kid you not--she climbed that mountain in her sandals.  Looking back, I can't believe she continued to date me and eventually married me.  She should have known at least by then that I was crazy.  But, I sure do love that memory of sharing the South Teton with Suzy, too.

Here's the view from the top, looking south.  Snowdrift lake (center) is the most amazing color of blue. Pictures don't do it justice.

These are just such unique experiences, filled with beauty and adventure, and trial and pain, that they stick with you forever.  I still remember exactly how I felt when I took the below picture of my dad, sister and 12-year-old nephew:  I felt proud--proud to be part of a family that brings three generations together on a beautiful day to climb a serious, beautiful mountain.  

Unfortunately, we eventually had to leave.  But the memories are sweet.  And motivational--we're already planning our next few adventures.