Yearly Archives: 2013

Tiny Adventures: Searching for Ice

When the weather first turns cold, I always find that it takes a little bit of time before I realize that I can still go outside and do stuff. You’d think I’d remember from *last* year, or the year before, but I mostly just want to stay inside, in the comfort of a heated home, warm kitties, and blankets.

I snapped out of it last weekend, when Seth wanted to go searching for ice. I pulled on some baselayers, geared up, and headed out into the cold. We picked up a friend on the way, and went exploring!

The Mississippi River runs through Minneapolis, in some parts separating the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. We knew of one place across the river where ice forms, and I had heard of another spot, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was.

Our search for ice turned into a lovely little tiny adventure!


The ice is getting there! Just needs to stay cold….

One of my very favorite things about the Twin Cities is that it takes only a few minutes to feel like I’m *not* in the middle of a city. These falls are less than two miles from our house, and only a five minute walk from the busy streets above.

Listening to the ice

Listening to the ice

We continued our adventure from here, following trails down to the river, up little rock faces, down gullies and inlets.

There was one spot where plates of ice from the river were washing up on the shore. Among the sound of the waves was the delicate clinking of ice. Like little glass xylophones.

That was my favorite part.

From there, it was on to some climbing shenanigans. We tested our undercling traversing skills along the side of a wall:

Rob and Seth working on their undercling skills

A long ways to go.

A long ways to go.


And then headed out to find more ice.

This ice forms at the end of a city aqueduct that eventually drains into the river. When we climbed up top to check out potential anchors, we found some already there, bolted into the concrete. Yay!



A successful day of adventuring, only a few miles from home. The very definition of a tiny adventure.

Proof that we were still in the middle of the city? This graffiti, right above the anchors for that last ice climb.


Wilderness First Aid

It was a cold, rainy November day. Seth and I were on a hike down by the river bottoms when we heard some groans from ahead on the trail. We turned a corner and saw a mountain bike strewn across the trail. To the side lay a woman tangled in the bushes, leg wrapped around a tree. We did a quick scan of the area and ran over to help her. She had been riding at a good clip, lost control, and landed here. The details were foggy. Her leg was obviously injured, and she had a pretty good bump on her head.

Ok… before you get too far into this, you should know that this didn’t really happen. This is a fake scenario that was presented to us in the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course that we took earlier this month. Alright, continuing on….

Marianna's fake head wound.

Marianna’s fake head wound.

Seth held her head in case of a c-spine injury, and we had her hold a handkerchief to her head wound to stop the bleeding. We checked her airway, her breathing, and her pulse, and I did a more thorough assessment to see if there were more injuries. Her spine was sore, and her leg was most likely broken. We made her as comfortable as we could, kept her head stabilized, and I constructed a make-shift splint out of what we had on us. We decided we would need help getting her out, so we called for help and kept an eye on her vitals while we waited.

Once we were finished with the assessment, our mountain biker stood up, brushed the dirt off her pants, and we all headed back into our classroom to discuss what we had done right and what we could have done better.

This particular WFA course was through the NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute. 16 hours over a weekend. A fair amount of time was spent in the classroom learning about the basics of first aid care. We wrapped ankles, built splints out of sleeping pads, learned the symptoms of shock, hypothermia, dehydration, etc, and we learned how to give a thorough and helpful report to a rescue team if needed.

That knowledge was immediately put to use in scenarios outside, where folks would pretend to be hurt. Our injured included climbers, skiers, mountain bikers, hikers… fake blood, fake bruises, and even fake compound fractures. They were armed with details about their allergies, their medications, what they had eaten that day, and even the last time they urinated. The grand finale was rescuing a woman out of an avalanche chute. We had to make tough decisions about how many people to send in, and how much to treat before moving her (and us) to safety. By the end we had her wrapped up in a burrito to keep her warm and called for a rapid evac (after moving her out of harms way, of course).

It was a fun weekend, it was a very informative weekend, and I learned a lot. I’d recommend a course like this to anyone who’s doing any serious playing in the outdoors. I walked away feeling very fortunate that I haven’t encountered any serious injuries on a trip up to this point. Now I feel equipped to assess the severity of a situation, if it arises, and I can administer basic medical care until more definitive care can be reached. I hope I never have to use these skills, but I’m glad to have them. I’m also glad to know how to tape an ankle.

Thank you to the NOLS Wilderness Institute, and to REI for hosting this course.





My First Trad Lead: Spire Two

Spire Two. A few years ago, this climb had been my first multi-pitch attempt. I had followed our guide up the first pitch, and after some time at the first belay station found myself spiraling into a panic. I lowered off the climb (full story here). Now, three years later, I was back to not only climb the route, but to lead it. Seth and I had chosen it as our first trad leads.

Hiking in to the Cathedral Spires

Hiking in to Spire Two

The Cathedral Spires are a line of tall, pointy rocks perched high in the Black Hills in South Dakota. There are five main spires in the group, and many ways to climb them. Spire Two is a three-pitch climb with decent placements and bolted anchors. Seemed like a good choice for us.

I had been practicing gear placements at our local crag, placing gear on top rope, having them checked by another climber, asking questions. I had plenty of sport leading under my belt, and following of trad pitches. I had been pouring through “Freedom of the Hills,” making sure I wasn’t missing anything. Books can only get you so far, though, and at some point, it was time to just go for it.

Starting up the first pitch.

Starting up the first pitch. I really should have worn a red shirt!

A relatively short hike in got us to the base of Spire Two, both excited and nervous to do our first trad leads on this rock. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning, not another human in sight. We knew we would be slow at the belay stations, and weather was expected to move in later, so we set a turn-around time for ourselves and stuck to it.

Seth flaked the rope, I racked up, we exchanged high fives, and off I went, up the first pitch.

And…. I loved it.

I felt focused. Hyper aware of what I was doing, where I was. No other thoughts were swimming around in my brain. I was out in this beautiful place, climbing this spire, and that was all that was happening. There were no other people around, no commotion of any sort. Just me, the rock, a gentle breeze, and the sound of my gear clinking together as I climbed. It was amazing.

I knew that I didn’t want to fall. There are good gear placements on the route, but there really aren’t any clean falls. The climbing was not difficult, I just needed to be thoughtful. I didn’t feel overwhelmingly scared, I didn’t feel anxious. I just felt focused. Again, an amazing feeling.

Happy after my first trad lead

Happy after my first trad lead

Top of 2nd pitch. Seth's first trad lead!

Top of 2nd pitch. Seth’s first trad lead!

I reached the top of the first pitch, anchored myself in, and set up the belay for Seth. This was the place where I had panicked three years earlier. Now I felt calm and collected. It’s really fun to see that mental progress! Seth climbed up to join me, more high fives were exchanged, and we continued on. Time for Seth’s first trad lead now, on the second pitch of the climb. He rocked it.

On Rappel!

On Rappel!

We decided to rappel back down from the top of the second pitch. It was nearing our turn around time, we had felt the wind shift, and we knew we were going to be slow. By the time we reached our car, it was raining.

Seth and I learned a LOT on this climb. We picked a route we knew we could do, and we allowed ourselves ample time to figure it out and triple-check everything. We didn’t make it to the top, but I still considered the day a success.

We both fell in love with trad climbing that day, and as we continue to learn more, a whole new world of climbing is opening up for us! Seth has gone on to do a lot more trad since, and I’m not far behind. As for Spire Two, I still haven’t finished the entire route, but it’ll get ticked off next season.



There He Goes Again…

I was at the beginning of a pretty normal day at work when this photo arrived on my phone.

Seth in Smith Rock, Oregon

That’s my husband, Seth, on a climbing trip in Oregon with one of his buddies.

His previous trip was in July, to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Him and two friends made a whirlwind trip to the Cirque of the Towers and climbed Wolf’s Ridge. That was a big trip, with some big stories. But I wasn’t there.

After my first trad lead

After my first trad lead

The last climbing trip we took together was in May, over Memorial Day weekend. We headed out to the Black Hills in South Dakota and together we ticked off our first trad leads. I was super excited to do more, as was he. He’s had the time to take more trips since. I just haven’t been able to get away.

It never occurred to me that he could eventually be seeking out climbing trips on his own. Seth initially began climbing because I climbed. It was something I had fallen in love with. When we met, I was just getting my first multi-pitch climbs under my belt, doing some sport leading, and starting to work on my trad skills knowing that’s what I wanted to be doing.

Now, Seth is not only climbing, he’s surpassed me in a lot of ways. And my own reaction, although I’m not proud of it, is interesting to observe. When he was out in Smith Rock, I found myself grappling with my own feelings of jealousy, resentment, and plain old selfishness. Since our first trad leads in May, Seth has gone on to lead close to 10 more pitches of trad. I’ve led none.

I hear how that sounds. Even reading it back, I hear a whiny little brat stomping her feet and saying “but why don’t *I* get to go?” I hate that I even *had* that reaction, but I did.

Just to be clear, I love my job. It’s been pretty hard to get away, but I really enjoy my work. My colleagues are awesome as well. Two of them even climb with me. And it’s my choice to be there, doing the work that I’m doing, and sometimes sacrificing trips to do so. Despite knowing that, it was hard to watch Seth doing the things that *I* want to be doing more of, and finding myself looking in from the outside.

Those feelings of jealousy and resentment are no good in a marriage, so we had to work through them pretty quickly. The solution seems to be to focus on my own goals, keep working on getting out there, even if it’s close to home, and, of course, to look past myself and realize that I’m super excited for Seth. I am! He’s out there having fun and doing things he loves. And yeah, he’s gotten out more than me this summer, but I have big plans for next season. We’ll get to do lots of climbing together, I have no doubt.

Seth has fallen in love with trad climbing, and it’s really fun to see that. Once I catch up, we’re going to make a pretty great team, and be able to do even more awesome stuff together. Maybe we’ll be like the Smileys someday. A competent trad climbing partner is a *very* good thing to have.

I’m curious to hear your comments. How do you balance work and play? Have you ever struggled with jealousy of a friend or partner’s adventures?

Strengthening My Lead Head

Marianna a.k.a. "Rope Gun"

Marianna a.k.a. “Rope Gun”

“Do you want to take some jumps today?” That’s my friend and climbing partner, Marianna. We also lovingly refer to her as our rope gun. She’s a super strong climber, and she seemingly has a lead head of steel. Her idea of practicing lead falls at the gym is getting to the very top, not clipping, and having her belayer let out a little *more* slack before she jumps off the wall. Once she’s dangling comfortably from the rope, you can usually hear her laughing.

I’ve been working to build my lead head again lately. It was at a decent level, but a few months ago it tanked. I was back to the beginning, afraid to even fall from a clip. I knew I had to actively work on getting it back, and Marianna’s style of practicing falls just wasn’t right for me.

So, what have I been doing?

I started, not by taking huge falls, but by taking small ones. The first day, I would climb, clip my rope, and fall (and that was even hard for me mentally). On lead, this is usually still a bit of a fall, and has a different feel to it than falling on toprope. Every clip I would do the same. Climb, clip, take a fall. Climb, clip, fall, etc.

Once that felt ok, I took it one step further. I’d clip, make one move above the clip, and fall. Then two moves, and fall. You get the idea. I find that I’m surprised when the falls are just fine. Before I let go, my brain tells me it’s going to be scary and horrible and I just might die. And then I let go anyway and find that I’m very comfortably caught by my belayer and a stretchy rope. I like it when my brain is wrong about things like that.

The next step for me has been doing this kind of practice with different belayers. I’m very careful about who I’ll let belay me on lead, but the folks that I regularly climb with are all good, attentive belayers. The first few falls with a different person on the brake are always a bit unknown, but learning how their catches feel gives me a boost in confidence when I’m climbing.

I have a long way to go. I start from the beginning each session, but I feel myself moving through the falls more quickly every time, and my general confidence with leading is returning as a result. I’m not yet to the point where I can just go for a big move well above my last clip, knowing that it’s going to be ok if I fail. But, that’s where I’m headed. And my friend, Marianna, who likes to leap from the top of the wall, is happy to catch my comparatively tiny falls in the meantime, while I work my way up.

Tiny Adventures: Making Pickles

The cucumber harvest is plentiful this year. At least, compared to years past. So, I thought I’d try making some pickles. This is a tiny adventure for a few reasons, the biggest of which is I’ve never canned anything before (and never made pickles before, either). Canning is scary because, if done wrong, it can make you pretty sick. So….. I did quite a bit of research before delving in. Finally, after I felt like I had a pretty good idea of the dos and don’ts, I gathered the ingredients, took a deep breath, and went for it.


The finished pickles

Turns out that it was pretty easy. And when I woke up this morning, the jars were all sealed up. Very exciting! I’ll let you know how they taste in 6 weeks.

Tiny Adventures: Hatching Praying Mantises

This is probably the coolest addition to our garden yet.

First off, the garden is looking amazing this year. It’s dense with goodies, and all of the goodies are really happy. Carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, beans, cabbage…. all sorts of yummy things. We do, however, have a few pesky visitors munching holes in leaves.

Enter, these little guys:

Praying Mantis


Praying Mantis Egg Case

Praying Mantis Egg Case


A few weeks ago, a friend gave us some praying mantis egg cases as a gift for the garden. The instructions said to hang up the egg cases, each of which contains an average of 200 eggs, and wait for them to hatch! The baby mantises thin themselves out (aka, eat each other), until there are just a few left in the garden, eating all of the bad guys.


So, that’s what we did. Yesterday, I stepped out to see this:

Hatched Praying Mantises

Hatched Praying Mantises

Those are a whole bunch of baby praying mantises, hatched from their egg cases, trying to get out. So, we distributed them around the garden, and hung the egg cases in case there were more in there. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, every time I go out to the garden, I’m not only pulling errant weeds and checking for ripe veggies, I’m looking for praying mantis babies. I love them.





Tiny Adventures: Giant Snowball and Warm River Hike

Spring is fickle. Winter tries its hardest to hang on, but eventually the warm weather wins. The battle results in a pretty wide range of weather in short periods of time.

For example….

On a late April evening, four of us took advantage of several inches of fresh, wet snow, to try and roll the biggest snowball that we could. It was perfect snow for snowballs, and we successfully rolled a five-foot tall beast. The snowball was so heavy at the end that with four of us pushing, we could barely move it. Bonus: as a funny joke, we left it in front of our neighbors’ front door. They were the talk of the neighborhood!

With four tiny snowmen on top.

With four tiny snowmen on top.

DrainpipeFive days later, the snow was melted (but not the giant snowball, muahaha) and Seth and I were able to do some exploratory hiking down by the river in t-shirts. We discovered a new path and a beach that would be perfect on a warm summer evening, and a big ol’ drainpipe that empties into the river.

Two completely different adventures based on two completely different seasons, within one week.

Waiting for Spring

It’s raining here in Minneapolis. The weather people are saying it will quickly turn to snow, that we’ll wake up with a fresh 8-10 inches of it in the morning. This has been April in Minnesota this year. Perhaps not far out of the ordinary, but by this time of the year, we are all dreaming about that day when the temperature tops 50F, the sun comes out, and everyone is smiling and happy.

Last week I knit myself a new pair of mittens, thinking that I could jinx the cold weather away. But it didn’t work. I’ve been wearing them every day. It’s a good thing they’re awesome.

I’ve been getting spring started indoors, growing plants for the vegetable garden. It seems that I’ve gone a bit overboard this year (I’m guessing I won’t need 30 tomato plants), but it’s fun as always, and every year my setup gets a little better.

Vegetable Seedlings

I have six varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, two different kinds of kale, red cabbage, and lots of onions. If everything goes well, it will be a great garden.

Life is changing, and it’s good. My veggies are happily growing in the other room, I start a new job this week, and I see many more opportunities for adventures big and small in my future. To top it off, the weather folks say that spring will be arriving this weekend. For real this time.

Tiny Adventures: Snow Camping

The temperature crept up to nearly 50F last week. Snow was melting and the rumor was that one of the south facing walls at Barn Bluff in Red Wing was dry and warm, ready to climb. The forecast looked good, so Seth and I packed up our gear and our tent and headed down. It turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than expected!

First Outdoor Climbs of the Season:

Hiking into Barn Bluff

Hiking in to the climbs


The hike in was still quite snowy, and a lot of it was just plain ice. We still had a little bit of snow in our backyard, so I’m not sure why this surprised me, but it did. The wall that’s dry is the wall with more difficult climbs on it, so it was more of a project day than a sending stuff day. We hung out and worked a few routes before heading to our campsite.

Excited to Climb!

Snowy Camping:

We chose a walk-in site at Frontenac State Park and realized very quickly that we were probably the first to camp there in quite a while. The trail and the sites all had probably 10″ of snow covering them, something I didn’t expect at all, although in retrospect it seems pretty obvious that snow would be a possibility. This is where the tiny adventure part of the trip begins. Believe it or not, I had never set up a tent in snow before!

The question turned out to be, how do we stake out the rain fly when the ground is frozen (That was my question, at least. Seth knew all about using deadman anchors, extending the anchors with rope, tying something to the end and covering it with snow to hold it in place)? Since we weren’t very worried about rain, and the design of the tent keeps the rainfly above the mesh at the top, we just let it flap in the wind. Problem solved.

Once the tent was set up, our next project was getting a fire going. Remember the snow in our campsite? There was also ice in the firepit. A big chunk of it. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, either, but Seth was confident that it would all be ok.

Campfire on Ice

Campfire on Ice

We stacked our firewood and kindling and got the fire going, but as the ice melted, it took the coals with it. We had picked up two bundles of firewood in town and quickly realized we would need more. As Seth went back into town for more firewood, I kept the fire going, bailing out water from the firepit as the ice melted.

Seth returned victoriously with more firewood, and by the end of the evening we had steamed all of the ice/water out and had a roaring fire going. We threw some hobo packs on the fire, filled with seasoned ground beef and lots of veggies, and had a delicious meal before heading to bed.

Our delicious meal

I loved that we were the only people out there, camping in the snow, making a fire on the ice, and making it work. I learned all about staking out a tent in the snow (even thought we didn’t actually do it) and the wonder of meat and veggies cooked in tinfoil. Another successful tiny adventure!