Chamonix 2015, Days 1 and 2

In July of 2015 I found myself in Basel on business.  Only 4.5 hours by train from the Chamonix valley, and desirous to escape the heat wave made worse by the Swiss aversion to air conditioning (it’s not strictly illegal, just rather onerous to obtain the necessary permits), I took a few vacation days to fit in some alpine climbing.  By happy coincidence the mountain guide Mark Houston had an opening in his schedule and I was able to obtain his services for the adventure.

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Helmets: My Two Cents

Earlier this summer a question on the Great Outdoors StackExchange site led me to look further into the standards for climbing helmets.  The question itself, a basic “can I use my bicycle helmet for climbing”, was fairly simple and has been asked many times in many places.  The development of lightweight foam climbing helmets has also caused some confusion in this area, with even experienced people confused as to where these new designs sit on the spectrum from traditional hard-shell climbing helmets and ultra-ventilated bicycling helmets.

For example, one person wrote: “there are helmets sold as climbing helmets which are basically one-hit-wonders. Those are constructed similar to bike helmets that are meant to crack as they absorb the force of an impact. Once they are so compromised they are pretty much useless. A proper mountaineering helmet would be one built with high impact plastics and other shock absorbing features that allows them to absorb multiple impacts and keep on ticking.

My immediate thought was this writer has rather unrealistic expectations about both types of helmets.  As you’ll see at the end of this post, the relevant climbing (and cycling) helmet standards call for each test helmet to receive impacts in a few different spots (e.g. two on the crown, one on each side, etc.).  Contrary to many expectations, the bicycle helmet standards seem to have just as much emphasis on these “multiple impacts” as do the climbing helmet standards!  Additionally, most “hardshells” currently on the market are actually single-impact hybrid designs.  So, let’s dig into this a bit more…

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Shoulder Season

Lake Aloha

California’s Desolation Wilderness has far more trees than the name would suggest.  The choice of photo is purely coincidental.

To reach Aloha Lake from the Echo Lakes trailhead one passes through an area marked “mosquito pass” (at least according to one trail marker).  At the time we visited, snow still covered the higher elevations, though patches of broad-leafed plants gave hints to the insectile clouds summer would bring.  Hiking in autumn, or at least after the first snow, provides a welcome escape from mosquitos, and gear also stays much cleaner with a few inches of snow covering the ground.

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Orange Blossoms

My dwarf citrus trees have finally blossomed! Both the lemon and lime present a decent showing, and the orange has truly outdone itself. I can pick up the fragrance almost as soon as I step outside, but it is very delicate. There is also a mammoth geranium that is watering itself from the hose bib; it’s almost the size of a small tree. As soon as I get more planters, I think I will start taking cuttings.

Orange blossoms

Sports Update

Snowboarding HeavenlyI am the recently-new owner of a snowboard and associated gear. Its initiating run was a weekend trip to Tahoe a few weeks back, where we visited both Heavenly and Kirkwood. The first day was very rough, but the second was much easier. I half suspect that may have been due to simply being too tired for bad technique.

Next stop, soccer. Last week the emails started up, and last Wednesday was our first practice of the season. I thought I’d be in somewhat reasonable shape but still managed to push myself to the limits. Continuous sprinting wasn’t in my practice routine, something my legs did not hesitate to make clear the next day.

Finally, sailing. I met up with my parents and friend Kenneth in Alameda for an afternoon of sailing. We took the 32′ boat Caroline; it was my first time sailing a Jeanneau, but I found it handled very well. I kept a single reef in the sail to keep things from getting too exciting, and also practiced steering with the sails alone. Hopefully the weather will return to sunny-goodness soon, as I would like to get in a few more days of experience in the next month.