roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

30 Aug 2002 - 12:47:00 AM
I saw that Signs movie this evening, and I wasn't particularly impressed. It was basically a movie about faith, but trying to be fancy with the trappings of The War of the Worlds. The faith thing didn't do it for me and, frankly, neither did the stilted dialogue, or the continually abrupt transitions between meditatively slow sequences -- the movie just didn't flow. Further, The War of the Worlds storyline is the mother of all science fiction cliches. I haven't seen The Sixth Sense, but I have seen Unbreakable, which I liked better than this one. Unbreakable, at least, had an original story idea.

Signs gets: * (out of 4)

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28 Aug 2002 - 11:41:23 PM
Today I discovered one of those quintessential web sites -- entertaining and useless. -- a great way to waste an hour or so at work.
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27 Aug 2002 - 7:45:24 PM
The gecko mystery has been solved. What I want to know is: When will I be able to get a pair of rock climbing shoes with this revolutionary gecko technology?
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26 Aug 2002 - 11:40:02 PM
I spent the weekend in the North Cascades, ostensibly to climb Black Peak (8970'), but it didn't quite work out as planned. There were eight of us total hiking up to Wing Lake (6905'), but two of the party had moved ahead of the rest of us. This wouldn't normally have been much of a problem, but at Lewis Lake (5702'), the weather turned a little nasty, with thunder, lightning, and, for a dramatic minute or so, hail. The six of us ended up going right instead of left and ascended a steep ridge, which, as it turned out, wasn't where we wanted to go. The two speedy ones saw us make the wrong turn from the other side of the lake and went to look for us. We were more persistent than they expected, and so they didn't find us, coming instead to the conclusion that we had turned around and headed back to the trailhead because of the foul weather. They decided to head back out, as well. The six of us eventually did go back down to Lewis Lake and, in the rain, continued on to Wing Lake along the preferred route, thinking that the other two were probably already at the lake, setting up camp, and waiting for us. Fortunately, the rain stopped, and we did finally make it, but of course, the other two were nowhere to be found.

In the morning, clouds started rolling in around 7:30, and, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to try the scrambling south route rather than the technical northeast ridge. By the time we reached the south saddle (~8000'), however, we could hear thunder from nearby storms and, rather than scramble up another thousand feet on potentially wet rock with lightning and hail, we headed back down to camp, packed up, and hiked out. Back at the cars, we changed into dry, comfy clothes and stowed our packs. Then it started to rain. We piled into the car and drove back to Seattle.

In some ways it was disappointing (didn't summit, the weather was pretty lame), but in other ways it wasn't. The hike in and the area around Wing Lake were gorgeous, as was the view west over the south ridge. Wing Lake still had ice covering more than half its surface, and the rest of it froze over ever so slightly overnight -- had to pop a hole in the thin crust of ice to filter water for breakfast. Also, I think it was a wise decision to head down when we did, even though we all wanted to summit. Black Peak will be there for a long time yet, and I'm sure I'll return one of these days (although maybe not with such a heavy pack...).

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20 Aug 2002 - 5:23:37 PM
Here's an interesting article on the controversy surrounding a scientific experiment subjecting mice to drugs and loud music. Dude! Think they're accepting applications for human subjects?
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19 Aug 2002 - 11:11:59 PM
I had dinner at the Thai-ger Room in the U-District this evening. It's one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Seattle, actually, even though it has that silly name. Anyway, a guy in his 40's shuffled in, with a subtle twitchiness to him, and began talking to one of the waitstaff, laughing. He had somewhat dirty hair, several days' worth of stubble, and a tweed jacket and slacks that needed a wash. The way he was talking, though, it sounded like he knew the staff, so I turned my attention back to my food.

About five minutes later I heard some shouting behind me and twisted around in my chair to see what was going on. The disheveled guy and one of the men working at the restaurant were yelling at each other. Off to their side was a woman dining alone at the table closest to the door.

"I can come in here! I work at the Port of Seattle! You can't kick me out!"

"You're harassing our customers! You can't do that in here! Get out!"

The shouts went back and forth a few times, with a few menacing forward movements from each party. But the disheveled guy turned around and started for the door. The waiter backed away towards the counter.

The disheveled guy stopped, leaned towards the woman dining alone, and said a few things to her I couldn't make out. The waiter moved quickly back towards the man, and another waiter joined him.

"Stop bothering her! I said get out!"

The two men started pushing each other. The woman dining alone jumped out of her seat and hurried away from the men. She stood behind my chair, her back to the wall. The first waiter brought up his knee but didn't connect with the other's body. Then he took a step back and raised his clenched fist.

"I hate that this keeps happening!" the disheveled guy yelled.

The other waiter pushed him out the door, and the first came up behind, hopped up slightly, and spat as hard as he could.

There was shouting coming from the street but it grew fainter and fainter. I looked up at the woman behind me and asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," she said. "I'm fine." She went back to her table, sat down, and took a few tentative spoonfuls of soup.

I finished my dinner, got my bill, and waited for my change. The woman said to the waiter, "I think I'll get this to go." I pocketed my change, left a tip, and walked out of the restaurant. As I headed up the Ave to my car, I passed by the disheveled guy. He stood on the sidewalk, yelling into the empty street, apparently still upset that this keeps happening to him.

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18 Aug 2002 - 11:25:28 PM
I'm kind of tired. Hiked up Mount Townsend (6280') over in the Olympic National Forest/Buckhorn Wilderness Area with my friend Brady. There was about three hours of actual hiking time, an hour at the top, and about eight hours of traveling to and from Seattle, including almost two hours spent waiting for the Kingston-Edmonds ferry. Would've been faster to drive south to Olympia and back up. Oh well.

The hike was pretty good, though, but more relentless than I thought it would be. I knew about the switchbacks at the very beginning and the end, but I was expecting a relatively flat middle part. It was all up, up, up, however. The middle bit just felt like a curiously long switchback. The view from the top was decent: Rainier, Glacier Peak, Baker, the tiny sticks of Seattle highrises, various Olympic peaks, a cloudy Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a hazy Vancouver Island.

So, yeah, it was pretty good, but there just wasn't quite enough payback for me from the amount of time invested. Then again, we did nibble Kendal Mint Cake on the summit, which was satisfying in its own little way. I think I'm finally coming down from the Mint Cake sugar high, actually -- maybe that's why I'm so tired.

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17 Aug 2002 - 11:11:12 PM
I drove all the way out to the Redmond REI this afternoon just so I could buy some Kendal Mint Cakes. They still had four twin packs left, unlike the Seattle store which has been sold out for over a week now. A new shipment supposedly came in a couple days ago, but they haven't yet hit the Seattle shelves yet, and I couldn't wait any longer.

Although I'd never heard of them until two or three weeks ago, Kendal Mint Cakes are sort of a traditional mountaineering snack. They're a little on the heavy side, actually, but they've got history. As Sir Edmund Hillary said about his 1953 Everest expedition: "On the summit Tensing embraced me - We nibbled Kendal Mint Cake." Also, check out the ingredients (as listed on the back of the box): Sugar, glucose syrup, oil of peppermint. You can't go wrong with that.

I was in a hurry to get them because tomorrow I'll be heading out to the Olympic Peninsula to hike the Mount Townsend trail, and I thought it'd be a fine thing to nibble Kendal Mint Cake on the summit of Mount Townsend.

On the way to REI, though, I hit some nasty traffic on northbound I-5 before getting on eastbound 520. Westbound, I noticed, was backed up across the bridge and out past Bellevue Way. On the way back, I passed 520's Marymoor Park off-ramp, which I'd taken en route to REI, and saw that it too had become backed up, apparently because of some festival going on in the park. Basically, Seattle traffic just plain stinks.

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13 Aug 2002 - 12:21:48 AM
Here's a quote from Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust that I think applies to a lot of things in life:
"Ah. Well I daresay it's more interesting than it sounds," conceded the genial passenger, "else people wouldn't do it so much."
I'm quite enjoying this book. Makes me want to see Gosford Park again.
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12 Aug 2002 - 12:51:51 AM
I managed to summit Kaleetan Peak (6259') in the most inefficient manner possible yesterday.

I'd been trying to think of a one day hike/scramble to do Saturday, and on Wednesday night a friend of mine suggested Kaleetan. Sounded perfect. On Thursday morning, however, there was a team meeting in which we discussed the details for a group hike scheduled for Friday -- contractors were welcome to join the hike, but it wouldn't be billable. (I still haven't figured out how to get paid for hiking.) I thought the group was leaning towards the McClellan Butte trail, but on Thursday they decided to go with Denny Creek. I'd never hiked the Denny Creek trail, so that would normally have been a good choice from my point of view, but the main route to Kaleetan Peak is the Denny Creek trail. I didn't say anything about my Saturday plans, though -- another option (Rachel Lake) had been ruled out because I'd hiked it en route to Alta a couple weeks before. I didn't want to seem like some sort of high maintenance hiker guy. Oh well.

The hike went well on Friday. It was a beautiful day, the pace wasn't too fast, and we took several rest breaks on the way up. 4.5 miles to the Melakwa Lakes (lower and upper), where we hung out, ate lunch, and looked at the beautiful, stark peaks (including Kaleetan) rising all around us. Then we headed back down to the trail head.

Saturday morning, bright and early (well, bright and early for me), I headed back out to the Denny Creek trail head, arriving at 9:30. The weather wasn't nearly so beautiful -- completely overcast with low clouds -- but it was supposed to clear up in the afternoon. In theory, this is perfect -- nice and cool during the hike up, and then the brilliant sunshine appears, birds sing, marmots dance, etc. Well, I reached the lake around 11:30, and the visibility was still poor -- couldn't see the other side of the lake, much less the various peaks. I hung out for half an hour, eating a little, trying to decide about whether I wanted to keep going to the summit, and getting annoyed by a group of boisterous guys egging each other on to jump into the freezing cold lake (they'd camped there the night before, but I didn't recognize them from Friday).

At noon, I could just barely make out the trees on the other side of the lake, and, encouraged by this meager improvement in visibility, I strapped on my pack and set off in search of the climber's trail up and along the south ridge. I found the trail to the bathroom easily enough, but not much branching off it. Figuring I'd find something once I made it to the ridge, I headed up a small, rocky, "dry" stream/gully ("dry" because with all the low clouds, everything was wet). It soon became obvious that this was not the recommended way up, as the little gully gave way to an annoying bushwhack, but I did eventually gain the ridge and, happily, find the trail.

I continued up and around and then came to the top edge of a talus field, marked by a cairn. The larger rocks had been cleared away from along the top, creating an obvious trail, but, after a ways, it eventually petered out, and I hadn't seen the trail continue away elsewhere. Above the talus was a seemingly continuous patch of wildflowers and a dense pocket of trees. I spotted something that looked like a cairn a little ways into the talus and sort of a path through the rocks, so I continued on. The path through the talus quickly stopped pretending to lead anywhere, though, and soon I was just scrambling along and up the talus slope, bypassing the trees and heading to the next section of exposed ridgeline.

Happily, I found the trail again and managed to stay on it for the most part until a very rocky section of the ridge. I was by myself, and its steepness made me a little uncomfortable (I think it was Class 3) to give it a go solo. The other option seemed to be to descend a ways down the western slope, cross a very large talus field, and then head back up to the ridge, just below the last steep stretch to the summit. Great. More talus.

At least by this time the low clouds had burned off, and I could actually see things, like the peaks and the lakes. It was around 3:00, and my turnaround time was roughly 4:00 -- just a quick scamper across the talus, and I ought to be able to make it, yeah. More talus. Can't get enough of it. At least these rocks had a red tint to them (blood stains from other Kaleetan hopefuls?), which made them different from the first batch, which was something, I guess.

I got to the ridgeline yet again, right at a point marked by a rock cairn. Hmm. Maybe the talus route was more popular than I thought. I pushed on, trying to follow the trail, which wasn't being particularly helpful, branching every ten feet or so, weaving around trees and wildflowers and back into more talus. I met two guys who were on their way down, and they told me I was nearly at the Class 2 gully to the summit. My legs were getting pretty tired by this point, but I managed to pick up my pace as I passed them -- it's all about image, right? Did I mention I was wearing my nifty MEC shirt and Schoeller pants? Very fashionable.

The Class 2 gully was a blast, actually -- lots of big holds and ledges to scramble up -- and I had the summit all to myself. The time was 3:40, and I figured a turnaround time of 4:15 would be okay, too. But not later than 4:30. I signed the summit register, stored in a surprisingly heavy metal tube that a group of Mountaineers had lugged up last September. I recognized one name among the other folks who'd signed in the past 11 months (a guy from the WAC, naturally). There was also on the summit a permanently installed metal plate with arrows pointing out various peaks.

The view was great, but not excellent -- lots of white, puffy clouds lined the horizon, obscuring views of distant mountains, but Rainier (and Little Tahoma, as well, sometimes) stood out above the cloud line. Rainier is just plain huge. Very impressive. I took a bunch of pictures and then headed back down at 4:20.

At the rock cairn, I followed the trail a short ways, but it ended at the top of the east face route. I still didn't want to do the Class 3 section of the ridge, so I headed back down to the western talus slope. Bleah. At least it was that interesting red colored talus. Huffing and puffing on my way back up to the ridge, I managed to get an extra protein burst by swallowing one of the annoying flies buzzing around me. Yum. A little dysentery never hurt anyone, right?

On the way back, I made of point of sticking to the trail, and more or less succeeded. I avoided most of the first talus slope -- the trail sort of weaved its way down through the wildflowers in a mostly haphazard manner, eventually reaching the talus near a rogue tree (separate from the dense pocket of the rest). The trail continued all the way down to the bathroom trail, actually, branching off it from the uphill side of the tree with the "bathroom this way" sign on it, just above the horrible little gully I took.

About a third of the way down from Lower Melakwa Lake, I started feeling somewhat ill -- I guess the fly I'd swallowed didn't particularly agree with me. I got back to my car, and, more importantly, the trail head bathroom, around 8:15, a good 30 or 45 minutes before it got dark. Great timing, eh?

So, yeah, 9 miles on Friday and then those same 9 + 3 miles on Saturday. Sunday I decided to take it easy, and so I stayed in Seattle and helped a friend move a bunch of heavy furniture into his new house.

Ack. Enough. Maybe Sean was right about my outdoorsy posts...

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7 Aug 2002 - 12:09:57 AM
I had dinner with a few friends this evening at Café Lago (note: I picked the link because of the current User Comment from a couple of Czech students looking for a summer job in the US -- pretty funny), and one of them (them = friends, not the Czech students...) mentioned that he reads the roblog periodically and likes all the posts about hiking and climbing. So, screw you, Sean! I'm going to keep up the outdoorsy entries, whether you like it or not! Yeah. Just you watch.

Last Saturday I spent the day rock climbing with Sim at Leavenworth. The weather was great on the east side of the Cascades -- must have been around 80, with occasional puffy clouds obscuring the sun and providing pleasantly cool breaks. Much better than a couple weeks ago when I heard it was 105.

Spent a long time on a four pitch trad route (R&D, 5.6). It's a fairly popular climb, and part of what took so long was waiting for the party ahead of us to finish each pitch, and they, in turn, were waiting on the party ahead of them. But it was fun. There was one awkward crack, but otherwise it was straightforward and enjoyable.

Then I tried leading another 10a bolted route, a four star climb called Facelift on 4th of July wall. That didn't quite go as well as that other 10a I led, in that I couldn't actually finish this one. Afterwards, Sim mentioned the description in the guidebook: "Stiff for its rating." Yeah, I would agree with that. Thanks for telling me about it after I leave a piece of gear on the route. (At least it was Sim's gear...)

Anyway, it turned out that there were several other people we knew climbing in the area, but we didn't run into any of them, which was odd. I'm just starting to get used to the small world of climbers -- I now sort of expect to run into folks I know while I'm way out in the mountains.

Right. Still reading, Sean?

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3 Aug 2002 - 12:35:38 AM
Saw Austin Powers in Goldmember this evening. It had some very funny parts, but it also had some unfunny parts. An odd mix. So, I'm not sure what to think of it. Whereas for Men in Black II I was expecting the worst and therefore pleasantly surprised to find I liked parts of it, I guess I was expecting to laugh the whole way through Goldmember and therefore disappointed that I didn't. Huh. So maybe I'll be generous.

Austin Powers in Goldmember gets: *** (out of 4)

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