Saturday, August 26, 2006
Her Town Too

Latenight 70s following the Subaru to Kits, all the stoplights winking yellow after midnight. Sweet Baby James in navy blue plaid, the double vocal lines rising and falling like waves.

Well, people got used to seeing them both together
But now he's gone and life goes on
Nothing lasts forever, oh no
She gets the house and the garden
He gets the boys in the band
Some of them his friends
Some of them her friends
Some of them understand
Lord knows that this is just a small town city
Yes, and everyone can see you fall....
Reading Thomas E. Ricks' superb Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, full of striking anecdotes like the following:

"On April 6 [2003], Douglas Hoyt, a platoon leader with the 3rd [Infantry Division], saw looters for the first time. 'I remembered looking through the sights on my tank at people and trying to determine if they were hostile or not,' he recalled later. He didn't stop them. 'It was not our mission at the time.'

The division's official after-action review states that it had no orders to do anything else: '3RD ID transitioned into Phase IV SASO with no plan from higher headquarters,' it reported. 'There was no guidance for restoring order in Baghdad, creating an interm government, hiring government and essential services employees, and ensuring that the judicial system was operational.' The result was 'a power/authority vacuum created by our failure to immediately replace key government institutions.' In a surprising criticism for an Army division to make -- especially one that had led the way in toppling an enemy government -- the 3rd ID report laid the blame for all of this at the feet of its chain of command, leading to [General] Franks to Rumsfeld and Bush: 'The president announced that our national goal was "regime change." Yet there was no timely plan prepared for the obvious consequences of a regime change.'"
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Mondo Spider Project Blog -- lots more information on yesterday's spooky mechano-arachnid, fabrication notes, etc. The sight of that beast scuttling across the Black Rock desert playa at twilight would be enough to send me instantly sprinting for higher ground.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Vancouver-built passenger-carrying mechanical walking spider. Footage shot by my friend Keith Dunsmuir. Funnily enough, not sourced off Bruce Sterling's blog, which, so far as I know, has made no mention of it. Hah! Take that, Austin!

(More spider beta, courtesy designers

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Simply Red's "Sunrise," its clever quotation of the tinkling melody of Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go For That." (Goofy YouTube video provided as audio evidence only, and not aesthetically claimed)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adolescent white-tailed ptarmigan, Lagopus leucurus, one of a peeping brood of six watched over by a scrupulously attentive parent bird just below the summit.

Needle Peak emerging from the fog. Another Bartoszewski/Brayshaw midweek extravaganza. Straight up the ridge in the middle of the picture, over crumbly granite and small sandy ledges to the summit cairn and no views at all beyond a small red memorial plaque and a world of billowing white clouds.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Nah na nah nah na na, nah na nah nah na na, Batman!

"Who will call me crazy now, BatFool???? What's the matter, fish got your tongue? HaHahAAhaHAhahAAAAhahHahahahaHAHAHAHaha"

(via dru)

Gone scrambling; back Thursday!

It is Happening Again

Another context for the ghosts, and a late entry into the scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-cjb sweepstakes. Extreme and disturbing imagery, probably not suitable for all viewers. Still, a useful & important source.

Why I Hate Your New Age

"We put distilled water into a bottle and tied a cellular phone on it with a string. We called the phone ten times and kept the line on in silence for a minute each time. The result was the picture above; however, the one with the label, 'love and gratitude' formed a crystal."

Exposed scrambling on Stonerabbit Peak's SE face. The flat terrain at upper right gives some idea of the relative angle and exposure. Photograph (plus the two below) by Simon Chesterton.

Low angle slabs on the approach, Stonerabbit Peak. Left to right: cjb, Denis Blair, Ted Oliver.

The author in his trademark oversize plaid, North Skwellepil Forest Service Road
Pulpfiction Books
Business Hours

Mon-Wed 10am-8pm
Thu-Sat 10am-9pm
Sun 11-7pm
Minor Deviations Likely

9:45am. Folks with coffee on the doorstep. Lights off, door locked.

BROWSER #1: [rattles door]

BROWSER #2: [reading sign, above] 10 a.m.

BROWSER #1: If this was Starbucks, they'd be open now.

Thoughtful review of Robert Niven's show @ CSA, plus good photographs of the gallery and most of the works in the exhibition (scroll)

Finding an Easy Way to Break Your Heart
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Trip report posted to

"Killer Wabbit"
Ascent of Stonerabbit Peak, SE Face, "The Rabbit's Coat"
16 August 2006

Participants: [ members] cjb, dblair, tedoliver, simonc, Rose T. Cat (mascot)

There's a picture on North Vancouver climber Brad Braun's website that I kept returning to all spring: Stonerabbit Peak's huge southeast face under a bright blue August sky, grey granite waves rolling up to heaven. With a few days of sunny days and warm nights, I figured that the face, which is basically a waterfall, or series of falls, when the weather's bad, would be in condition. I posted a trip to go look at it, which generated phenomenal interest, and several 4x4s that disappeared as the trip approached. What to do? Cancel the trip, as things turned out. Then, just when it looked like interest was at its lowest ebb, dblair came through with his old Toytota truck and a team of Retreads and Retreads-in-training: coastal legend tedoliver and "Speedy Gonzales" simonc. Right on! I thought. I'm getting out with some real West Coast hardmen! This thing's in the bag! Read on...

We rendezvous Tuesday evening at the Sasquatch Inn and drive up the Chehalis mainline in dark and dust, somehow missing our turnoff by a sweet 15km. Out in the dark in the middle of nowhere Simon calibrates his GPS to passing satellites. Where are we? Not on the map at all, is the answer. Back down the road and to bed in the mossy and pleasant Skwellepil North Forest Recreation Site. Up at dawn. Coffee brewing, bouldering on the mossy low-angle slab back of the campsite, views of Chehalis Lake down the hill past the little green outhouse in the trees.

Gear stowed, we proceed up the steep and rocky Skwellepil N Forest Service Road (currently deactivated). Waterbars, rocks pinging off mufflers and tailpipes, alder branches swiping at paint jobs and mirrors. The road follows the north bank of the creek, slowly gaining elevation and contouring into the head of the valley below Stonerabbit Peak. 3.5km in, we reach the first of the serious waterbars and I park my Subaru. Everyone gets cozy in Denis' truck as we slowly roll over tank trap-style waterbars and boulder gardens to the 7.5km mark, where the road has been completely torn apart by a flood. A ten or fifteen foot drop from the road to the creekbed. The SE Face looms above us like the moon, intermittantly visible through the trees. It's big, far bigger than I had ever imagined, easily as wide as the Apron and the Grand Wall. My pulse starts to tick a little faster.

We strike off across the creek, following the logging road as it sharply turns and parallels the creek draining Stonerabbit’s south face. When the road next crosses the creek we turn and proceed upstream, boulder-hopping and walking along the bank. Soon, as the flat creek bed gives way to low-angle slabs and short vertical granite steps, we enter a smaller side drainage that rises west of the main drainage. We follow this through traditional West Coast bush: mixed brush, slimy slabs, vegetable belays, yellow cedars whipping us in the face, loose rocks bounding down all around. Mixed 2nd and 3rd class. “Good training for Judge Howay,” is the refrain. Our consensus is that the approach would not be enjoyed by most, and we’re not having that great of a time ourselves.

As we enter the alpine, we contour east, through shrubby meadows, to emerge in a boulder field directly below the center of the SE face. A large chunk of late season snow marks this spot, high and scenic, with views back down the valley, and father-off views of Baker, Slesse, Rexford & etc. We are also able to look back down the main drainage to where several large headwalls block a direct retreat down the creek bed. Thus our ascent route, though ugly, looks to be the correct line.

Onto the rock. We follow slabs steeply up from our perch, snaking up and around water-worn slabs and grooves reminiscent of the Apron’s Banana Peel. The rock is polished and warm, with numerous large holds. Occasionally the holds pinch out and we find ourselves slab climbing in mountaineering boots – not the world's best sensation. As the climb steepens, we move up and left (west) across the face, heading up toward a series of darker overhangs. As the angle continues to steepen, we head steeply up and left on a series of diagonal grass-filled cracks, aiming for a prominent bushy “shoulder” to the left of the overhangs. Our plan is to sneak past the overhangs on the shoulder, and then back over top of them. This plan, in retrospect, is different from the line shown on Brad Braun’s website, which suggests climbing straight up to the overhangs and passing them to the right.

We now face considerable exposure. We’re all nervous. We reach the bushy shoulder, rest a minute, and then proceed to traverse across a steeply angled slab with 500’+ of air under it. Beyond the slab a sharply angled crack leads up to more bushes. Denis and Simon crabwalk across the slab and pull up the crack. I follow across the slab – boots skittering around on tiny holds – and reach a fragile stance. The next move is a pull up off the slab and into the crack – maybe only 5.5 or 5.6. But, I realize, if I slip, I will bounce out over the overhangs and down the face. Denis and Simon are thirty feet or so above me; their stance isn’t much more secure. I can feel my feet starting to skate around on the slab. Ted announces that there’s no way in hell that he’s coming up without a rope, which he won’t be, because he’s behind me and the rope’s in his pack. OK. Fuck it. Ted and I will go down together. I call the plan up to Denis and Simon, and then slowly downclimb the slab. In my mountaineering boots. Ted downclimbs ahead of me, one hand, one foot at a time. The angle isn’t awful, but the holds are just nubbins, and less than fifteen feet away is that awful granite lip, with the breeze rising up from it, eddying, hovering there….

“Good work there,” says Ted, as we sit together, shaken and moreorless speechless, on the bushy shoulder. “We can head over to the west ridge and make the summit that way.”

A moment of confusion here. I’m sure I ask Ted to wait up while I rearrange my pack. Ted’s sure that I’ve understood his plan. We’re both shaken by the events of the last ten minutes. I dig down in my pack, drink a litre of water from my Platypus, take some photographs. When I next look up, Ted’s gone.

Where? Straight down, is my guess. I make my way down the shoulder, calling and getting no answer. The shoulder pinches off into bushy bluffs. No Ted. Did he fall? I don’t know. I call again, still getting no response, and can feel myself starting to panic, the whole situation spinning rapidly out of control. Sit down, I tell myself. Relax. I drink some more water, talk to Rose the stuffed cat, and then, refreshed and level-headed, make my way down to the far end of the ridge. Steep-sided cliffs, and, thankfully, a crooked 3rd class ramp dropping off the shoulder to the boulder field below. Down in the boulders I drop down below the face, so that the entire shoulder is visible to me. I look for Ted. No sign. I think about heading up the west ridge, decide against it. If Ted’s fallen, or hurt himself, I want to be doing something useful, something to help him. I scan the face again and again, calling and calling. No answer.

A whistle from high above. Denis and Simon are visible on the summit ridge. I wave to them, gesticulate, aiming them away from the bluffs and down across the face. They begin to descend, heading far to the east. I angle across the boulders to intercept their descent path. An hour or so later we meet up, and they ask the natural question: “Where’s Ted?”

“Haven’t seen him,” I say, and tell my story. We review our options, and decide that an immediate descent is most prudent. It’s getting late, the sun sneaking down across the sky. We have one headlamp between us, and little in the way of overnight gear. The keys to Denis’ truck are in Ted’s pocket. So, either Ted will be snoozing in the back of the truck, and we will have a funny story to tell our friends and family, or Ted will be missing and presumably injured and we will have to hotwire the truck, drive back to civilization, and initiate a search and rescue callout.

Down the drainage to the headwall. West through the bushes to intercept our ascent gully. Down, tripping and falling, in the failing light. I take a header off some bushes and put a pretty good bruise on my left leg. Denis cuts his hand. Simon slows from a blur, keeping pace with us. At twilight, we stumble out onto the logging road and make our way down to the dark, empty truck. Simon breaks into it and we hunt for a spare set of keys. Our mood’s grim, all the day’s early humor in reserve. And then, just as Denis finds a spare key and guns the truck to life, there’s a shout, and, lo and behold, there’s Ted, strolling down the road in the twilight.

Much astonishment. “I went to the West Ridge,” says Ted, amazed. “Got the summit, too.” Did not see Denis and Simon, because they were descending to the east as he ascended from the west. Did not see me, because I was far below him, hollering up from the boulder field. And so off we go, in the dark, down to my Subaru, and the long drive out, which is interrupted only by jamming a rock the size of a shoebox up under my wheel (which Ted helpfully pile-drives out of the way) and the 35km drive back to the Sasquatch Inn, and beer, and the wooden sasquatch in the foyer, and the end of a stressful, amazing day in the mountains.

Lessons Learned:

Some readers will probably second-guess decisions that we made. That’s fine; in climbing, as in art criticism, there are multiple correct answers, and the correctness of one’s reponses often correlates with taking reponsibility for one’s own decisions. We are not inexperienced climbers, yet we all found ourselves challenged, sometimes in less than pleasant ways, by our route. So, a few observations, applicable both to our own trip, and to alpine scrambling in general, based on an ever-increasing number of people getting out onto trips like ours:

1. It’s easy to get off-route on a big face where the correct route is not obvious.

2. The rope should not be in the last party member’s pack.

3. Exposure ups commitment considerably. Unprotected 5.6 slabs at Murrin Park are different than unprotected 5.6 4 hours into a long alpine climb.

4. An alpine rack should consist of more than slings. No one wants to haul 20 pounds of unneccessary gear up a climb, but climbers should consider that fewer pieces of gear may result in not being able to protect all conditions adequately. I am a big fan of small tricams; any alpine rack, even an “express” rack, should contain a few. They’re handy, cheap, and easy to place.

5. No one likes to sweat under a helmet, but in my view, a helmet is the most fundamental piece of scrambling equipment there is.

6. Headlamps are essential even on day trips. Even a few hours’ delay can turn a day trip into an “after dark” trip. Consider the difference between downclimbing a 3rd class vegetated gully with a headlamp, and by starlight.

7. Route finding and bush travel are important West Coast mountaineering skills. Alpine scramblers should be comfortable and confident with off-trail travel. “Non-aesthetic” approaches like Isolillock, the Needles, etc. actually teach skills which are never considered part of “scrambling,” yet in my view are harder to acquire and practice successfully than the skills deployed after the approach.

8. I had a great time out with Denis, Simon and Ted, and we look forward to travelling together again in the not-too-distant future.

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Composition Pilot

"Achieve the most harmonious composition in your photos!"

The Scare-the-Bejeezus-out-of-cjb-Sweepstakes (Runners-Up)

Grant Munro's Toys (1966) -- screened at Poorly Socialized Kids' Camp some time in the mid-1970s.

John Carpenter's Hallowe'en 2 (1981). The Horror Channel's then-and-now scouting guide for the first two films convincingly fuses vernacular landscape photography and implied supernatural menace to great effect.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

David Lynch's Twin Peaks, episodes 1, 2 (1990), and 22 (1991).

Alan Parker's Angel Heart (1987), from William Hjortsberg's fine novel, Falling Angel (1978).

Nevil Shute's On The Beach (novel, 1957)

H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness (novella, written 1931, published 1936)

John Varley's "Press Enter■" (novella, 1985)

Charles Dickens' "No. 1 Branch Line: The Signal-Man" (short story, 1866)

Ridley Scott's Alien (1979)

Peter Straub's Ghost Story (novel, 1981)

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (novel, 1983)

Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

George Sluizer's The Vanishing (1988), which yesterday evening scooted past John Carpenter's Hallowe'en (1978), George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001) to take first place in the scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-cjb sweepstakes.

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (25), 2006

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