Oh Hai, Sore Knees (or: Osteochondritis Dissecans + Volleyball Might Not Mix)

Alex’s birthday was this past weekend and, coincidentally, it was one of the few weekends we had off from mountaineering school. When I asked Alex how he wanted to spend his birthday weekend, he decided that he wanted to play in a volleyball tournament Friday night and rock climb on Saturday. Done!

Alex and I use to play volleyball together all the time when we were in college but since my knee surgeries, have only played a handful of times.

We played 10 games of volleyball on Friday night – 1 round of 4 games, 1 round of 3 games and the finals round of 3 games. Partway through the second round, my left knee started to twinge with a familiar pain. I had Alex grab me some ice between the second round and the finals; I iced my knee and sipped my beer as we waited for the final round assignments.

We finished the tournament just after 1 a.m., coming in 2nd! (…of the bottom bracket) and collected our prize (matching waffle tshirts!).

As we left, I was gingerly limping my way to the car when I just started chuckling to myself. Maybe it was the late night, maybe it was the irony of the whole situation…but I couldn’t help laughing at the fact that the sport that was always my first love and gave me identity and self-worth for so many years could ultimately be a factor in my crummy knees.

(To be clear: Osteochondritis Dissecans is not necessarily caused by sports – it can be but mine is not. However, sports can definitely aggravate it.)

If sore knees on Friday meant I should slow down, I blatently ignored that suggestion. I met a friend for an easy 4 mile run/walk and then spent the afternoon rock climbing at Earth Treks, as Alex wanted for his birthday.

Osteochondritis Dissecans - Sore Knees from Volleyball

While my knee is still sore, I’m confident some down time will relieve it. Nothing feels ‘wrong’ with it, just uncomfortable.

On the whole, this surgery cycle (2.5 years ago!) has been wildly successful for me. 99% of the time, I hardly think about my knees - they don’t inhibit what I want to do and they aren’t sore or hurting. But because I started this blog to share my Osteochondritis Dissecans and DeNovo NT surgery experiences, I would be remiss to not share the times it DOES hurt.

[END NOTE: now I'm chuckling because I just re-read a previous post from the last time Alex and I played volleyball. The parallels are uncanny. I wrote this post before remembering I might have blogged about the previous experience but I might as well have copied it!]

Emotionalism: What Mountaineering School Taught Me About Myself

The first weeks of mountaineering school were hard. Like, really hard.

Work + personal + mountaineering class obligations all joined forces to make the first 4 weeks of class hell for me, emotionally. I was over-commited, under-rested and completely exhausted.

It all culminated one Thursday night, after a particularly busy week when I came home for the fourth day in a row at 10:30 p.m.; I got into the shower, sat down and sobbed. I felt like I was drowning (figuratively, of course). Like I was failing at everything. Like I couldn’t get a handle on anything. Like I was half-assing work, doing the bare minimum for class and being a terrible friend and even worse wife. It didn’t feel great.

I’m a compulsive over-scheduler. I have friends in different circle and varied interests – and I want to see them all! I don’t want people to feel left out or that I don’t want to spend time with them…so I try to fit everything in. I know many of us do this – I’m not unique in this aspect.

But I’m an introvert. I love people and really enjoy being social but I desperately need down time, alone time, to recharge. Without mountaineering class, I can operate on a crazy schedule because I give myself some time on the weekend to lay low. But mountaineering class took my down time away as I spent Friday nights packing for Saturday’s full day event. On Saturday nights, I would eat and sleep; on Sundays, I would read 100+ pages for class on Monday. On repeat.

I was frustrated, irritable and tired. Those weeks were a real treat to live with me, let me tell you.

But after that much-needed cry, I realized that I’m not a passive player in this situation. I can affect how I feel, what I do and how I choose to react to adversity in my life. I needed to take care of ME first if I wanted the remaining weeks to be any better.

In that moment, I changed my attitude. I stopped saying ‘YES!’ to everything and instead started focusing on what was best for me. I stopped worrying that I was letting my friends down by not meeting at 5:50 a.m. to run before work. I stopped RSVPing for every fun activity that happened during the week. I stopped scheduling ANYTHING on Sundays.

It was hard! Saying no to fun events and important friends is always hard. But the moment I decided to take ownership for my situation and feelings and do what I needed to do to get myself right, lightness returned. The drowning went away and I was breathing deeply again.

We try so hard to be all things to all people at all times – to be the best spouse, friend, employee, student, blogger, social media personality, etc, etc, etc. In the chaos of trying to do everything, I forgot to take time to do nothing and take care of me. I can’t be the best anything if I’m not talking care of me first. I can’t even be a mediocre anything!

As trivial and trite as it is, mountaineering class forced me to take a step back, take care of myself and truly prioritize my time. I hope that I keep this mentality close as class requirements start to ease and I can easily fall back in to cramming my schedule. It’s okay to say no sometimes. The friends and fun invitations will still be there.

tl;dr – sometimes, crying in the shower brings wonderful epiphanies and makes life a lot better. 

As an aside: I do realize this was only a relatively short segment of my life. People deal with these feelings and schedules for far longer than that – my hat is off to you, seriously. In the thick of it, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the thick of it, those weeks felt like an unending eternity from which I couldn’t escape. I know this won’t be the first time I’ll feel this way but I’m glad I’m learning how to take control of my feelings and take care of me first.



Basic Mountaineering School: First Rock Field Day

Saturday was our second field day for Basic Mountaineering School, First Rock Day. This field day kept us a bit closer to home as we met in Boulder at the Chautauqua Park parking lot at 5:50 a.m.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

The parking lot sits at the base of the Flatirons, a very iconic view and well known view in Colorado; it was really neat to see it quiet, in the dark. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, we saw headlamps of people already hiking up the Flatirons trail and we waved to 5 other non-mountaineering-school cars as they parked to begin hiking before the sun had risen.

Our destination was a mile hike in to Crown Rock. Crown Rock is accessible by road (there’s a parking lot right next to it) but what’s mountaineering class if we don’t approach hike in?!

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Because Crown Rock is a super popular boulder and hiking trail, our instructors decided to set us up a few hundred yards away from Crown Rock. I’m not sure if this rock has a name but we situated ourselves here:Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

On our agenda? Practice climbing and belaying on a real rock (my first time!), practice escaping the belay and to practice rappelling.

First up, escaping the belay! We practiced how to escape the belay (removing ourselves from the rope system without affecting/dropping the climber we were belaying) and were required to demonstrate to our instructors that we could effectively complete the procedure, unprompted.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Escaping the belay practice.

Pretty sure we all enjoyed creating fictional stories as to why our belayer need to come attend to us – needed a beer, didn’t have enough ‘stoke’, taking a nap. But in all seriousness, I hope to never be in a situation where I’d need to escape the belay to help an unconscious or unresponsive climber.

While half of us practice escaping, the other half of us roped up and gave outdoor climbing a try. It was my first time climbing outside on a real rock (and climbing in mountaineering boots) and HOLY COW was it different than climbing in a gym! The mountaineering boots made it even more challenging but it was a lot more fun!

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

We had two different routes set up to climb – each pair climbed each route twice.

After a quick lunch break, we moved on to rappelling. To be completely honest, rappelling was (is?) the task I was most nervous about. In our reading, the chapter about rappelling makes it quite clear that this is serious business. One wrong move or careless mistake and you’re life is toast, basically. (I think the words in the book are ‘certain death.’)

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

We had 3 stations set up – low, medium and steep angled routes. I started on the (very) low angled route to get myself comfortable with the system and process. (The low angle is that little ditch area in the photo above.)

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Lucas on the steep rappel.

One I understood how rappelling worked and how I could control my speed, I was a lot less intimidated and I tried the medium and steep rappels.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

That’s not to say my heart didn’t pound the whole time, just that I was more comfortable with the heart pounding!

After we finished practicing, we learned how to build anchors, what different pieces of climbing protection are used for and what happens in a multi-pitch climb (a climb that requires more than one belay station). We finished the field day by flaking and coiling ropes (checking for knots/damage and then wrapping in a coil for carrying and storage). Holy arm workout! Flaking and coiling ropes is no joke – my arms are still sore!

We then packed up and hiked our mile back out to the Chautauqua parking lot to call field day a wrap.

Per BMS tradition, after our official field day ended, we hit a dive bar in Boulder, the Dark Horse, for post-field day refueling. I’ve been to the Dark Horse before and have to say that my favorite part of the bar is the bathrooms.

Basic Mountaineering School - First Rock Climbing Day // lgsmash.com

Do you go in the door your gender is pointing to? Or the door with your gender painted on it?! The answer is to go where the door is pointing but, without fail, people get it wrong and I can’t help but giggle watching an embarrassed man walk out of the women’s bathroom.

A tasty sandwich and beer later, the post-field-day/post-mealtime sleepies hit hard and I was thankful not to be responsible for driving back to Denver (thanks, Lucas!).

First Rock Day was far more exciting than Navigation Day – Alex and I came home from Saturday’s exercise really excited about outdoor rock climbing, ropes and mountaineering. Starting on a smaller rock really helped me get a feel for what these techniques will feel like and I’m excited to keep practicing and continue to feel more comfortable in high, exposed places.

Basic Mountaineering Class: Requirements Outside Scheduled Classes

Mountaineering school has sucked up almost every morsel of my free time the past 4 weeks. I’m definitely not complaining but I am looking forward to this intense period of learning tapering off.

Luckily, we’re on that horizon – on Monday, Alex and I took our knot tying test – and passed! – and our final classroom day and final exam is in two weeks. But for those considering the class (and my friends who’ve been wondering why I’ve been canceling all my plans), I wanted to share what is required OUTSIDE of the pre-scheduled classes.

When registering for Basic Mountaineering School, we knew we’d have weekly classroom nights (6-9:30 p.m. usually) and field days (like Navigation Day and tomorrow’s First Rock Day). What we didn’t know was that in addition, we also have weekly reading assignments (usually 4 chapters, ~100ish pages) in Freedom of the Hills (also known as the ‘mountaineering bible’), optional-but-not-really meet ups and at-home knot tying practice.

Basic Mountaineering School Mule Knot // lgsmash.com

Business casual knot practice at REI.

The Monday before last, 1 week before our knot test, our group met at REI to practice tying the 15 knots on our test. Our test required we know the 15 knots and be able to explain their uses so that’s exactly what we practiced.

Basic Mountaineering School Kleimheist Knot // lgsmash.com

Kleimheist-ing like a boss.

But before REI, Alex and I spent many nights and lunch breaks practicing our knots ahead of our meetup. We are both new to climbing so except for a handful of knots (figure 8, figure 8 retrace, figure 8 on a bight, overhand and double fisherman), we were starting from zero familiarity with names, uses or tying.

Another strongly encouraged meetup is ‘first rock wall night’ and ‘second rock wall night.’ On these nights, our group meets at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden (where CMC is headquartered and all classes are held) to use their way cool rock wall. Our first rock wall night was last Wednesday and we practiced tying in, belaying, climbing commands and escaping the belay. While climbing experience is encouraged, it’s not required for Basic Mountaineering School so students in our group range in ability from never, ever climbed before to solid sport climber. Alex and I are much closer to the beginner side of the spectrum, having gone to the climbing gym maybe 10-15ish times ever, but we’re quickly seeing improvement in our skills and technique.

Basic Mountaineering School Rock Climbing Practice // lgsmash.com

Climbing in jeans is not a thing except when you come straight from work and forget your gym bag.

Our second rock wall night will be a few days before our Second Rock field day at the end of April so we can become familiar with the techniques we’ll be practicing in out in the field.

I feel extremely lucky to be taking this class with Alex. Having someone else go through the same intense time commitment and learning the same information has been so helpful for both of us. Last weekend, when I struggled to understand a component of the ‘fall factor’ equation in my reading, Alex and I were able to talk through it and we both better understand the concept for it. (Although, looking now at that Wikipedia article, I could have answered my own question immediately!) And practicing our climbing techniques and commands with the person who will be our primary climbing partner is really great – we’re already becoming familiar with each other’s styles and preferences. But most students don’t take this class with a significant other; we are definitely the outlier.

If you plan on taking Basic Mountaineering School with the Colorado Mountain Club’s Denver Chapter - just know, it’s even more of a significant time commitment than initially presented on the schedule or website, especially in the first weeks/month. Despite the stress and lack of free time, to me, it’s worth it to have a super-busy 4-6 weeks to gain valuable skills that are already opening new trails in the mountains to me.

Last Night, My Dog Headbutted Me. No, Seriously.

Recently, I’ve been making it a point to run in the evenings with Philly to give her some exercise. She loves to be outside and loves to run and in my head, doing things she loves with her will hopefully show her I love her, too. Usually Alex will take her out in the mornings and I’m on after work walking duty. Instead of just walking her down the street, I’ve been either running around our block (~1 mile) or we drive to the park for a lap together (~2.5-3 miles).

Because we always go to the same park, Philly has come to recognize where we are from the car. As we pull up, she excitedly whines, wags her little tail and jumps around in the back of the car. It’s really cute and makes me really happy to see my timid, scardey-cat dog show some personality.

Philly is scared of her leash (and whoopsy, we lost her in the mountains once because of it) so I usually take her leash off when she rides in the Outback. She sits in the trunk area which opens from the bottom and the last thing I want is for her to dart out of the car with her leash on, get spooked and me have to chase her down. Generally, this works pretty well. She’s a great listener so as I open the door, I tell her to sit and she usually sits and waits for me to ask her to jump out.

Not last night.

Nope. Last night, she was too wound up to sit still and wait. Last night, she jumped out of the trunk into a fairly busy main road lining the park.


Immediately, I reached for her, trying to grab her harness or some part of her body to keep her from jumping in the street. I knew she wouldn’t run but, being a nervous dog, I knew that if one thing spooked her – like a car driving by – in her already excited state, we’d both be in big trouble.

Seconds after she jumped, I grabbed Philly enough to pick her up so that I could put her back in the trunk and clip her into the leash. But Philly doesn’t like to be held so as I lifted her, she thrashed around in my arms and *pop!* Her little forehead connected with the bridge of my nose.

My dog literally just headbutted me. And it hurt! I feared blood and a broken nose but thankfully, had neither.

All’s well that ends well, though. I was able to clip Philly into her leash and, despite my throbbing nose, we ran 3 miles around the park. Exercise for both of us and no further mishaps. Win!

Philly Headbutt // lgsmash.com

And even more thankfully, I woke up this morning to no black eye or swollen nose, a true miracle given my special ability to bruise at nearly anything.

So that, folks, is the story of how my dog headbutted me at the park. And why, in general, I opt to leave my ridiculous pup at home for most adventures.

Basic Mountaineering School: Navigation Field Day

Like all other Colorado Mountain Club schools, Basic Mountaineering School has a classroom days and field days. On Mondays, we meet for our lecture and group meeting time and on the weekends, we get out and put learned info to practice.

Our first classes focused on navigation. A pre-req for Basic Mountaineering School is a solid navigation foundation – knowing how to read a map, use a map and compass, plot points on a map and shoot bearings in the field. This is a skill that’s taught in Wilderness Trekking School (also Colorado Mountain Club) – most mountaineering school participants take Wilderness Trekking but some can waive out of it by proving strong navigation skills.

Our first field day was orientation practice. We’d been given 6 points to plot on our topo map during our classroom day, Monday, and knew that we’d be seeking these points ‘in real life’ on Saturday.

Alex and I crawled into bed extremely early Friday night as we set our alarms for 4:15 a.m. the next morning. We had to meet our group at 5:30 a.m. at the designated park-n-ride 30+ minutes from our apartment. OUCH.

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

super early snapchats, courtesy of yours truly.

At the park-n-ride, we split up in to carpool groups and hit the road. Our first plotted point was the parking lot where we would start our day, the Long Scraggy parking lot in Deckers. Our team of 10 parked, geared up and began our exercise before the sun had even officially risen. In short, EARLY.

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

Writing about the details of the day is as boring for you to read as it will be for me to write. So I’ll give the highlight reel instead.

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

We found all 6 points. Each point we’d plotted on the map translated to a tree with orange surveyor’s tape. The orange made it easy to see from a distance…if the tree was within eyesight. Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

For each point, 2 people teamed up to lead the group. I am not someone who jumps at the chance to lead 10 people (through the wilderness or otherwise) so being forced to do exactly that was a good ‘life skills’ practice. I volunteered to lead twice – can’t get better (or more comfortable) without practice, right?
Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

Group dynamics play an enormous role in how well this exercise goes. 10 people with very different perspectives can lead to disagreements but, fortunately, our group gets along really well. Yes, we have different personalities but everyone is respectful and supportive of each other which makes for a really successful group navigation day. Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

99% of our day was spent bushwacking (ie – not following trails). While it’s definitely cool to ‘blaze your own path,’ MAN is it hard to bushwack for hours and hours with a heavy pack and heavy mountaineering boots!

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

We lucked out with weather. The first 3/4 of the day was a moderate temp (30*s) and mostly blue skies. As we sought out our last 2 points, the clouds started dumping snow on us. Fat and fluffy flakes.

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

In total, we found all 6 points in 8 hours (including a lunch break), covered just under 9 miles and more than 2,100 feet of elevation gain. WHEW.  Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

A few years ago, the mountaineering school groups started seeking out the dive-iest dive bar near the field day for post-field-day food and drinks. So per mountaineering school unofficial tradition, after our field day, we caravaned up the road to The Bucksnort Saloon in Pine, CO. The Bucksnort is this tiny little bar in a teeny tiny town – it’s a way cool place to stop for a beer. The food is so-so but the atmosphere and service make it more than worth your while to stop.

Alex and I pulled back into our apartment parking lot 15 hours after we’d left. We picked up the dog from the kennel, inhaled a second dinner and crashed hard – we were both sound asleep by 8 p.m. and slept for 11+ hours.

I really enjoyed navigation day – I have a solid knowledge of how to use my map and compass but is a skill I don’t practice enough. Having 8 solid hours or orienting, measuring and navigating was a major confidence boost.

Official Garmin stats (instructors carried GPS – we weren’t allowed)Basic Mountaineering School - Navigation Field Day // lgsmash.com

One field day down, seven more to go!

Currently: March

 Currently: March (rock climbing at CMC) // lgsmash.com

…drinking from a mountaineering firehose (SO MUCH INFORMATION!).

…feeling super excited about upcoming field days (rock climbing! glacier travel! ropes!).

…trying to keep up with daily life on the side (and, some days, feeling like I’m barely keeping my head above water).

…swapping early morning running for afternoon lunch runs and…

…savoring the hour break to clear my head, take some ‘me time’ and be in the fresh air.

…eating homemade kale salads…and liking it!

…anxiously looking forward to catching up on DVR shows (Cosmos, Top Gear, Portlandia, Parenthood).

…shopping online and excitedly awaiting picking up the packages next week.

…finding this article about exclamation points very interesting.

…cherishing the moments of laughter and lightness in the evenings with my husband.

…remembering that changing my perspective (my former OLW) can change my attitude (or: when life is chaotic, doesn’t mean I need to respond chaotically).

Mistakes In The Backcountry (#STPLive Topic!)

Mistakes. Oh boy, have I made mistakes in the backcountry!

Part of the reason I really enjoy taking outdoor classes with the Colorado Mountain Club is because I’ve made mistakes before and as I want to get in to more techincal or out-of-the box activities (winter camping, rock climbing, technical mountain climbing), I know I can’t really afford to make mistakes.

But, like everyone, I’ve definitely had my fair share of mishaps while out adventureing and this week, Sierra Trading Post has asked us #STPLive chatters to share our stories. Partly to commiserate with each other, partly to learn from others mistakes. You can find the full roundup of posts here.

(PS – join us on Thursday, 3/27 for #STPLive and share your mistakes while out adventuring!)

I have two big mistakes that I can laugh about now but made my heart pound in the moment.

1. Philly’s Grand Adventure (or: You’re Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link)

I have a really nervous dog, Philly. We adopted her from the local shelter as a 5 year old pup with no real details on her past. She’s very quiet and very timid even 2.5 years later but, man, that girl LOVES to be outside.

Philly CT hiking and camping 2012 // lgsmash.com

The summer after we adopted her, we decided to take her on a car camping adventure – a one-night stay out in a tent – to see if she’d be a solid mountain companion pup. Alex and I took her with us to a section of the Colorado Trail, just outside Turqoise Lake near Leadville. We’d spent the summer day hiking and exploring; as the afternoon changed to evening, we’d set up camp, eaten dinner and refilled our water. Last task? Change clothes and hop into our tent for the night. Easy, right?

A miscommunication between us left Philly’s leash unattended on the ground.

Many things terrify Philly but an unattended leash (or a tethered leash) seems to take the scariest cake. When she caught sight of that leash laying on the ground, following her, she BOLTED. In the dimming evening light, she ran down the trail a couple hundred yards to the open parking lot. Spotting that leash sill behind her, she tore back up the trail, slipping past our attempts to corner her or grab her leash.

Alex and I had just taken our hiking boots off. I’d taken my contacts out. Our headlamps were still in our packs. The sun was behind the mountains and our dog was running wild, scared out of her mind in the wilderness. This was not a good situation.

We chased Philly up the trail as best as possible but ultimately decided to protect ourselves and head back down the trail and call it a night. Our search party would begin again in daylight. It was a hard night, full of tears (by me) and awful images of Philly ending up like the goat in Jurassic Park.

The next morning, Alex and I were up before dawn and hit the trail in the direction we last saw the dog run. About ten minutes later, I saw her little black ears peeking out from low shurbs and my heart burst with relief. We’d found our pup! We calmly cornered her – I distracted her while Alex snuck in and grabbed her leash – and brought her back down the trail to the tent.

Lesson learned? You’re only as strong as your weakest link. If my dog can’t handle being on a leash, unattended, she is a major liability in the wilderness and will stay at home, instead. And – that communication is KEY in any situation but especially with a special needs dog.

2. The Epic Snow Saw Incidient of 2013

Last winter, Alex and I took a winter camping class to learn how to survive a night in the snow. We’d participated in all of the classroom lectures and field days and were really excited to put our practice to the test on our first overnight trip at St. Mary’s Glacier with our group.

St. Mary’s is notoriously windy. The morning had been super snowy and windy as we set up camp and built our snow kitchens. Around 3 p.m., our groups were finishing up their campsites as the snow and wind broke. Blue skies! Quiet air! It instantly warmed up and Alex took his gloves off to finish setting up our sleeping pad and bags that I was retreiving from our packs and handing to him.

Winter Camping Overnight // lgsmash.com

It’s hard to see but there’s a snow saw sticking out of the snow without the guard on in the corner of the photo. We certainly didn’t see it. Winter Camping Overnight Snow Saw // lgsmash.com

As the wind gusted through, it took with it a stuff sack I hadn’t secured and Alex instinctively reached out to snag the bag before it was lost forever. As he grabbed the sack, the unguarded saw sliced through his thumb.

In an instant, blood was all over his hand and he was yelling. After the initial shock, he remained surprisingly calm, applied pressure to his cut as our instructors hustled over to assess the wound and bandage him up. Immediatly, the instructor administering first aid told me to collect his essential items (ID, insurance card, water, trekking poles and snowshoes) because we needed to get Alex off the glacier and to a hosptial. This was a significant slice that required medical attention ASAP.

We strapped on his snowshoes, gave him a trekking pole and left the rest of our gear on the mountain as we slowly hiked the .75 miles to the car. Alex was alert the entire time, did not once complain of pain and remained in good spirits the entire way to the hospital. Because the Alex was doing much better than we had expected, our instructor brought us to Rose Hospital in Denver, our preffered hosptial, rather than stopping in an unfamiliar hospital along the way.

2 hours later, Alex was stitched up and discharged. Thankfully, our saw was brand new so the cut was clean and had only nicked a tendon so the damage was as minimal as could be.

Winter Camping Overnight // lgsmash.com

We spent the night at home in Denver, obviously, but returned for the next overnight trip a few weeks later and completed the course with no further incidents. You can bet we never, ever leave a snow saw (or any sharp object) unguarded and certainly never leave any loose object unsecured.

There have been mini-mistakes along the way, too, but these two major mistakes take the top spots in our ourdoor adventure mishaps.

Now it’s your turn! Come share your stories on Twitter this Thursday, 3/27 at 4 p.m. MT using the #STPLive hashtag and follwing @SierraTP for questions. Catch ya there!

And So Begins Basic Mountaineering School

For the next 13 weeks, my calendar is BOOKED. 10 of those weekends are devoted to mountain and rock climbing.

In the next 7 weeks, I have 8 classroom and required rock climbing & knot tying practice sessions on my calendar - in addition to weekend trips.

I have a gear closet that recently made room for lots of climbing ropes, extra carabiners, crampons and an ice ax.

I am overwhelmed, a little bit terrified but so incredibly pumped.

Where is all my free time going? Well, last week, I started Basic Mountaineering School with the Colorado Mountain Club.

Basic Mountaineering School // lgsmash.com

These next 3 months are sure to be a wild ride.

I’ll be pushing myself way out of my comfort zone to learn valuable mountaineering skills to be a more efficient and safer climber. By the end of this class, a small class 3 route like Kelso Ridge won’t make me almost cry. By the end of this class, I’ll be confident in climbing peaks in snow and ice. I’ll be confident in my rope skills and rock climbing ability. I’ll be confident in ascending and descending peaks that scare the crap out of me (but also completely inspire me!) right now.

I’ve had to cancel race plans (RIP dreams of PR’ing at Mt. Evans Ascent) and fun trips (Sorry, Blends!) and I’m pretty sure my friends won’t quite understand me being MIA for so long. But to me, the time sacrifices are worth it and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my friends and family won’t completely write me off before school is over in June!

For the next 13 weeks, I’m ready to devote my free time to learning these skills that will take me further than I could ever go on my own. And for the first time in a long time, I’m really excited about having a serious challenge ahead of me. To be reading a ‘textbook’ again, to be studying knots and putting these lessons into practice.

Basic Mountaineering School // lgsmash.com

You Should Do It, Jack Cheng // lgsmash.com


Mountaineering school, let’s do this thing!

Ski The Fish! (or A Recent Ski Trip to Whitefish, Montana)

In real life, this trip happened in January. Fortunately in blog life, it doesn’t quite matter if it happened yesterday or yester-yester-month.

A few years ago, Alex and I met a group of our friends in Park City, Utah for a long weekend ski trip. Since that trip, we’ve committed to making the ski trip an annual get together where we spend a long weekend skiing at a mountain no one has ever been to before. Last year, we met in Denver and caravaned to Telluride, Colorado. This year, we all hopped on planes and met at Whitefish Mountain resort near Glacier National Park in Montana. As Alex says, ‘basically Canada.’

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

The flight from Denver is short and direct so Alex and I arrived in Kalispell, MT just before 9 p.m. and were immediately struck by the dense fog blanketing the airport. We hopped in our shuttle, bound for our condo when we learned our friends’ flight was grounded in Salt Lake City for the night due to weather in SLC and the fog in Kalispell. Bummer!

The shuttle ride from Kalispell Airport to Whitefish Mountain took about 30 minutes (in dense fog). We passed through downtown Whitefish about 8 miles before reaching Whitefish Mountain. We learned that the only way to get to/from downtown was by utilizing the free snow bus because the local taxi company had recently gone out of business. No taxis in Whitefish. At all!

Whitefish Mountain is a really small resort town and arriving mid-week made it feel that much quieter. By the time Alex and I dropped our bags (9:50 p.m. on a Wednesday night), all of the ‘on mountain’ restaurants had closed and the snow bus had stopped running. Fortunately, we found some snacks at the on mountain 24-hour convenience store and stocked the fridge.

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com


Our friends were due to arrive early afternoon on Thursday and Alex and I opted to sleep in, forego a day of skiing and take the snow bus down the mountain to REALLY stock the fridge for the weekend. The bus ran fairly on time and pick up/drop off times were clearly marked at the bus stops. Our round trip took just about an hour. Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

The market was small but had most grocery store items (including produce and deli meats), just fewer quantities and for a higher cost. We picked up enough food for breakfasts, dinners and snack for our group of 5.

Our friends arrived right on time, early afternoon. They dropped their bags and the 3 of us renting skis headed up to the rental shop to rent our gear for the next two days.

Then, it was happy hour. (Isn’t every hour with long-distance friends happy hour?!)
Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

We played entertaining word games back at the condo on Thursday night while dining on homemade chili and cornbread. Ahh, ski trip food.

We woke on Friday morning to nothing surprising – freezing fog on the mountain. Undeterred, we fueled up and hit the lifts!

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

Breakfast of Champions. And lgsmash.

We’d picked Whitefish over Big Sky (also in Montana) because we’d heard that Whitefish flew under the radar and was typically less crowded than it’s sister ski resort; couldn’t be more true!

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

After finding our ski legs in limited visibility, we took the lift up, up, up the mountain. And miraculously, we rose above the clouds! The summit of Whitefish is only 6,800 ft high so it was a very surreal feeling to be at the top of a ski mountain, with trees, and clouds below us. #coloradoproblems for sure. Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

Becky and I skied together most of the weekend; the boys are longtime friends who rarely see each other and, as they say, boys will be boys, right? Fortunately for me, Becky and I have similar skiing abilities so we’re a good pair! Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

After a full day of skiing through the freezing fog, we trekked back to our condo to clean up for dinner. I know I already said this but…Whitefish Mountain is a pretty small village, especially compared to Colorado resorts. But that is a big part of what made it so awesome! It has a slow, laid-back feel that I really enjoyed. A small mountain means limited restaurant choices full of ski town personality.

We ate at Hellroaring Saloon on the mountain and each of us were blown away by how GREAT the food was (and how reasonably priced!). They tout that they’ve been rated one of the best apres-ski bars in ski country by Skiing Magazine and I absolutely can see why. I will definitely come back to Hellroaring Saloon during my next Whitefish visit.

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

I promise we had more than a shot-ski for dinner.

We skied again on Saturday – our second and last day on the mountain. (For the record: 2 days is hardly enough time to ski a new mountain. I so wish we’d been able to ski our 3 planned days!)

Becky and I split off from the boys early on and thought we’d try a new side of the mountain…without first consulting a trail map.

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

And ended on a lift with teeny tiny little skis attached to teeny tiny little people. We’d found the beginner’s lift. Dangit!

We took a few more runs (not on the bunny slopes) before meeting back up with the boys to round out the afternoon.

Alex and Ben tackled this double black routeWhitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

While I took the milder blue/black trail.

As we made our way back to the front side of the mountain to head back to the condo…the clouds started to clear. For the first time, we were able to see what Whitefish and beyond looks like.

Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com

We had such a fun time at Whitefish Mountain Resort and would so love to come back again in the future. The slow pace of life, lack of lift lines and excellent mountain food made this a really great ski trip. The freezing fog was, well, cold and made it hard to see but it also added to the character of Whitefish. It was a unique experience and truly made skiing in Montana feel like we skied in Montana. Whitefish Montana Ski Trip // lgsmash.com