Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Avalanche safety course

Last weekend some members of the Caltech Alpine Club drove to Mammoth Mountain, a dormant volcano and super duper skiing resort only 5 hours drive from Pasadena. On arrival we set up sleeping arrangements in a somewhat stacked condo, then settled back in the jacuzzi to watch the stars overhead, blow steam, throw snowballs, and attempt conversation in Czech.

Next day the course began, which involved a lot of talking and a fair amount of moving snow from place to play to try and identify layers, weaknesses, and potential instabilities. In the afternoon we shifted to search and rescue training, which involved using beacons to find other buried beacons, probing, a fair amount of innuendo, and occasionally getting stabbed. Probes are a lot less sharp than they look!

That evening we chilled back at the chalet, ate some dinner, watched the x-games at Aspen on TV (not enough crashes), and eventually went to sleep. Next morning it was back to the mountain. I'd traded in my sandals for snow boots and shoes, and finally gave my new jacket the run it had been looking for. I spent a fair amount of time experimenting with different ways to configure gear to try and take the edge of my n00biness next time we go alpine climbing!

Sunday too consisted in large part of digging holes in the snow and trying to break it into large chunks in a semi-regular way. The afternoon involved a more realistic beacon and probe search over a hectare or so. Finding a buried beacon is somewhat harder than a person, as they're not very big! None the less we managed to consistently extract the burials within 15 minutes.

That afternoon I set up my camera on the rear view mirror of M's car and did an epic time lapse of the drive home - a public version is coming home. I also did some time lapses of sunsets and stars, one spin-off of which (ha!) is in the album. Which album? Read on!

Only 5 hours after leaving Mammoth we returned to the mothership, where I was just in time to catch the last half of FD rehearsal and memorise a few new songs. In other news an undergrad attempted to emulate my photo of semi-transparency in front of the city of LA, and wound up getting winched off the mountain by helicopter early Saturday morning, though without injury!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sister comes to the US of A

This is a rather late and thus rather short account of a visit to the USA of my sister A.

I collected A early one morning from LAX, and she and I spent five days exploring Pasadena, hanging with my friends, climbing the mountain and shopping.

In due course we flew to New York, where we were joined by our brother M to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway, which was well received! We also explored much of the island, hung out with friends, and got a dose of culture.

First, museums. We started with medieval chess pieces at the Cloisters and finished at the Met, with everything else in between. We admired the pipe organs of St Ignatius Loyola and St John the Divine. We saw an improvised musical comedy, two operas (Faust and La Fille du Regiment), and took a train out to Coney Island.

We spent Christmas eve with my friend J's family, and New Years Eve with M in New Haven, chilling in the hospital and on the historic Yale campus.

All too soon it was time to pack our bags and head for our respective homes. One more flight across the geological wonderland of the western US, and A continued to Australia.

Next day I was back in class, to start the winter term.

More recently my friend S was in town and we tackled Echo Mountain in under 4 hours. Not bad for 23km in the dark.

Photos of A. Photos from Echo Mountain.