Tuesday, July 26, 2011

07_26_2011 Baby bird season and other stuff - Mostly terrible photos. :)

We woke up this morning to a gorgeous sunrise. Happily Dave took this photo (with the point and shoot!) so I actually had a chance to see it. I took the rest of the photos in the blog so you'll understand the abrupt change in quality. :)

The backyard has been a blast because all the adult birds are bringing their youngsters to show them the ways of the world. Some of those lessons include 'how to eat from a bird feeder,' 'how to land on a bird feeder,' (clearly young birds initially believe they are to land ON any other bird there), and they are getting schooled in the harsh reality of weaning.

The most noticeable of birds getting weaning lessons are the Flickers. For the past week, we've had this family of dad, daughter and son coming by several times a day.

Dad keeps showing them how to get food from the suet feeder (advanced bird feeding it seems), but the babies still insist on being fed. And dad is feeding them. But then he turns a bit nasty on the youngsters. I'm looking forward to seeing the little ones finally get some suet on their own so they don't have to take the verbal and bill beat-down dad is starting to dish out.

Today seems like it was "Bathe a bird day". Lots of bathing and better yet, lots of little ones learning how to bath. One bird hops in the bath, and many youngsters sit and watch. Then they step forward to try it themselves with mixed success. Pretty cute.

It's been hot - really hot - here lately (and before you whine it's always hot where you are recall that we don't have an a/c. 100 degrees with no a/c is not that pleasant even for a lizard like me).

Good times. And a great view for doing work!The heat is slowing down all of the animals. I like the way the squirrels have been lounging. One in the photos watched a young Grackle get the hang of bathing.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

07_23_2011 Road Ride - Mt. Evans...Not!

Dave and I got up too darn early (in the 5am hour...ugh) to drive to Idaho Springs. Our goal - riding Mt. Evans. He's done it many times, it was to have been my first. Though up early, I really looked forward to it.

Fate had different plans in store for us though. You see, one day a year there is a race up Mt. Evans. And on this day, the road it closed to cars and non-participants. We could have gone part the way up with 15,000 other cyclists. Mad house! So the 1/365 chance we hit - no riding Mt Evans for us.

Instead, we drove to Granby and decided to ride Trail Ridge Road to the top in Rocky Mountain National Park (elevation 12,183). The reverse of this ride was what we were going to do on the Bike Tour, but we got wintered off of it.

It turned out to be great fun. Good weather, and we saw all sorts of critters. We saw moose, elk (very close!), birds - including a Red-Tailed Hawk that was so close we could have touched it, squirrels, etc. Many up close. The ride was 80 round trip with almost 6,000' in total elevation gain (this counts the rollers).

The top was a madhouse! So many cars, tons of people. It was absolutely crazy. And both on the way up and back down, there was a complete traffic jam in the road. Why? A moose. Admittedly, it was a big pretty moose but what a gaggle of people! Pretty funny we saw him on both the to and fro part of our ride.

We grabbed a fair number of photos of the good time. Fun ride...maybe Mt. Evans next time?

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07_11 to 16_2011 Outward Bound in Leadville CO

I've been involved in DCLF (Denver Community Leadership Forum) for the last year. It is a group of about 38 of the Denver area business leaders. People come from all over - political offices, non-profits, for profits, etc. A really diverse group of alpha independents.

For the year, we've been tossed into situations were we learn to be better leaders. That's what they tell us anyway. I think it is all about learning to work as a team member better - something that most we can use some improvement in. :) And listening. That seems to be something they are trying to emphasize. It's surprising how little people listen to others. It's the biggest source of frustration I deal with...period. Nothing goes well when everyone wants to lead and fails to listen. Humans seem slow to catch on to this concept. :)

The highlight of the year and this work happened July 11-16 in Leadville as we all took the week off to attend Outward Bound. I went in with a bad attitude - after all, I had (have) a ton of work, lots of deadlines, and besides, I can challenge myself all I want at home. Further, having Dave as a husband means I'm pretty much married to getting up early and being pushed. Why do I need to go for a week with some *strangers* to do so?


I went though. And of course, it turned out to be a great experience. We did some climbing, hiking, mountaineering (Mt. Galena), orienteering (a favorite), team building, etc. My favorite was something that totally surprised me - jumping into a freezing creek at 6am. How could this be fun? Not sure but it was. Clearly there was something in our kool aid and I drank a bunch of it. :)

Physically, it was not challenging for me. But for others, it was quite challenging. And it was awesome seeming them succeed. Emotionally and psychologically it was *very* challenging. I think this was especially the case for us introverts.

It is designed obviously to push everyone's buttons no matter their buttons. There was some big friction, but we worked it out and in the end everything was better than ever. It was simply a fantastic experience.

A lot of that is due to the people I was there with, but especially the Outward Bound folks that were there. I spent most time with Karen Immerso and Jason Anderson. Also Paul Duba. Fantastic people - all of them.

Enjoy the photos!

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06_2011 Peru Part IV - Huaraz and climbing Chopicalqui

We spent a nice rest day in Huaraz after descending from the Ishinca valley. I was feeling a bit better being at a lower elevation and I think the antibiotics were helping. Quinn started feeling a little sketchy, so we went to the emergency clinic to get him some antibiotics just in case.

We had about 6 days left in the trip, so we sat down and discussed options along with considering conditions on various mountains in the range. Since the previous weeks had dropped considerable snow on the range, the face routes on most of the mountains were not safe due to extensive avalanches. Instead we decided to head to a peak named Chopicalqui. This beautiful mountain boasts an aesthetic and long ridge climb to its 6,345 meter / 20,817’ summit.

The next day we sorted out our gear and packed as light as possible for a 4-5 day adventure. This time there were no burros or camp cooks, just the 4 of us going as light as possible. We took an incredibly scenic 3 hour bumpy cab ride to the “trail head”, which is just a small trail that heads off from a hairpin turn on the dirt road that seems to go on forever…

When the cab left we felt pretty isolated as we headed up into the valley to our first camp – a fairly easy hike of about an hour from the road. On the way to our first camp we passed another group’s base camp that has literally been destroyed by aggressive cows grazing in the area. We decided to camp a few hundred feet higher in a tiny meadow as high as we can find running water.

The weather was great, the views of the surrounding high peaks were amazing and our spirits were high. Being in a quiet valley all to ourselves with amazing peaks all around – this is what we came for! We looked up at the summit of Chopicalqui, about 6,000’ above us and realized we’ve got some major effort ahead of us. We all slept pretty well now that we are pretty used to camping at 14,000+’, but we have to take turns in the night and early am to chase the crazy cows from our campsite. They are surprisingly aggressive, but no real damage was done before we left the camp the next morning…

We woke up to fantastic views and had a relatively leisurely morning as the frost melted from our tents. We contemplated the roughly 4 hour hike up to moraine camp at just over 16,000’. The hike up was steep and exposed in parts and our 40+ pound packs created a lot of heavy breathing. As I started to lag behind the others part way up, I realized I was nowhere near over my illness. I coughed and hacked my way to camp. Our camp spot was in an incredible location with amazing views of several high peaks in the area. We could hear and sometimes see avalanches on several of the peaks, reminding us that our selection of a ridge route was the way to go at this point in the season.

Our plan was to get up at 10:30pm after whatever sleep we managed and head up. By climbing through the night we hoped to be traveling on consolidated snow and ice to allow faster progress. If all went well, we hoped to summit at about 8am in the morning. We knew this would be quite challenging, but overall it seemed to be less work than establishing yet another camp at about 18,000’ and going from there. So, we had a basic mountaineering kind of dinner, took in the view and headed to our tents for a few hours of rest/sleep.

We got up at 10:30pm to a nice bright moon, packed up and headed out. The lack of sleep was felt by all, but we made pretty good progress through the night. We traveled as a team of 4 on a single rope. I was in the #2 position and I was able to keep up the pace fairly well, but required a major effort. We stopped for a snack and some water about every hour. The terrain included steep sections up to about 50 degrees and the snow was only partly consolidated, so we had to take care to ensure our footing and ice axe placements were relatively secure as we moved upward in the darkness.

Just after dawn and some amazing lighting, we arrived at the base of a fairly steep section. We were at about 19,700’ at this point (about 6:45am). We all met up at a stance at the base of the steep section and assessed the situation. I realized that at this point, I was running near empty and my infected lungs were struggling for oxygen. Quinn was unfortunately feeling the effects of altitude and looked a bit weathered as well. Andy and Alex were doing ok, so they decided to press on, Quinn and I decided it would be best if we headed down.

So, disappointed, but not for lack of trying, Quinn and I started down the slopes we just climbed. We turned back from time to time and see Andy and Alex continuing up. We took a few hours to reach moraine camp, where we tried to rest and eat. We were both coughing a bunch and feeling marginal. A few hours later we saw Andy and Alex coming down to camp. We hoped they had successfully reached the summit, but they tell us they turned back when their progress became too slow and snow conditions were a bit sketchy…

All of us had lost our appetite due to altitude to some extent, but we basically forced down a dinner and crashed hard in our tents just after sunset. It had been a very long day/night/day for sure. In the morning, Quinn and I still felt pretty darn rough, so we decided to descend and head back to town. Andy and Alex re grouped and decided to try again, this time using a higher camp as well.

We gave them a bunch of food and headed down the valley where we hitched a series of rides back to Huaraz. The next day Quinn and I knocked around Huaraz trying to feel better. We had a good time checking out new areas of town then headed for dinner. After dinner, we ran into Andy and Alex who had successfully summitted very early that morning and made it all the way back to town the same day – excellent job!!

On our last day, Quinn and I went for a day hike in another beautiful valley and Andy and Alex rested and hung out. In the morning, we headed to the bus station and take the long bus ride back to the very 3rd world city of Lima. We headed right to the airport, had a few celebratory beers and the 3 of them headed to their gate and flight. My flight was in the very early morning, so I enjoyed a “bivy” on the floor of the Lima airport.

Everybody’s flights went fine and before we knew it, we were all back to “reality” in Boulder. I was home 3 days before starting a new full time job. Overall, it was a great trip to an amazing and beautiful mountain range. The locals were wonderful and we all have many fond memories. Who knows, perhaps I will return someday and hopefully have a healthier trip to the Cordillera Blanca… I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the stories from our adventure. Cheers – Dave.

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