Wednesday, July 27, 2011

K-9 on Rappel

K-9 on rappel

Scared shitless, that would be a good way to describe this. Of course, you are thinking, why the hell would you torment your dog. No, I was scared shitless. Looking down at my harness was a clusterfuck (a climbing term for a mess or log jam) of epic proportions. The only other time my belay loop/tie in point has ever been that busy was while aid climbing. The big difference between this and aiding, Colvin isn't aiders or a haul bag.

I'd planned this day for a while, starting back last Autumn when I re-purchased the Ruffwear Doubleback technical harness. Petzl used to make such a harness, for a fair price at that, then one day they stopped. A fairly recent addition to the Ruff Wear catalog, the Doubleback is the only harness not designed specifically for the needs of search and rescue or SWAT dogs. It's designed to be worn at all times, with hide-away leg loops and a strength rated tie-in point. It's basically a recreational climbing harness for your dog. In theory you could use it as a standard trail harness, but the chest pad and need to "double back" the threaded straps would make it highly inconvenient, and possibly uncomfortable for the dog. Colvin wears his only when I think I might need to rope or haul him.

We used the harness a few times this winter on semi technical terrain, and also hoisted Colvin in it to test the fit and rigging. Outdoors we used it in the Northern Presidential's, on terrain that is often underestimated by novice mountaineers and experienced hikers alike. If the terrain calls for an ice axe and crampons, roping the dog should be a serious consideration. While SAR comes out pretty quickly for humans, I'd prefer not to find out they won't come to rescue a dog. So being extra cautious is important. With this in mind, I practiced short rope techniques with Colvin on a short rope belay. The short rope wasn't really needed due to the conditions not being as snow covered as potentially possible. Still, it was good opportunity to test and refine a technique for more technical terrain when necessary.

I'd taken Caney, my previous trail dog, on the North-South Arapaho traverse (class 3-4/5.0) and up and down various glaciated peaks via snow climbs and scrambles around Lake Isabelle and Triangle Lake in the Indian Peaks; on Central Gully on Mount Washington (WI2, mostly snow), and on various slides, slabs and 4th class scrambles in the Adirondacks. So I know these dogs are capable of going places many choose not to take a dog, but I also know this all comes with a greater responsibility on me. Not only am I responsible for myself, I am also responsible for the dog on very challenging terrain. Practicing under controlled circumstances is the best way to assure everyone is safe.

My ideal test place for our first rappel was someplace quiet, secluded, without other climbers. Also preferred was a slightly overhanging face or a free hanging rappel, with high fixed or natural anchors at the top. The Gunks would have done the rock portion of my requirements quite nicely but finding solitude isn't always easy. There was a good chance Colvin would be squeaking and squealing, which he did, as we went over the lip of the cliff. The last thing I wanted to deal with was the cacophony of beta spewing climbers giving unhelpful advice.

K-9 on rappel

Though not well known nationally -due to being in the shadow of the Gunks- the Adirondacks have an immense amount of high quality technical rock climbing routes. And unless you seek out a crowd (the High Peaks roadside options), you will rarely climb with other people. 2,000 routes on 260 separate climbing areas 82 of which offer multi pitch climbing, all spread out over nearly 4 million acres of public land. For this project, Carl's New Baby, a bolted 5.10b on the Hudson River was just perfect.

Petzl Stop. Image:
Safety came in the form of 2 independent but equalized tree anchors about 5 feet from the cliff edge. There was nice clean rock before and over the lip. Aim backed up the first rappel with a top-rope belay topside. The second two rappels she only belayed me over the lip, where the best chance of something going wrong was. In the future I'd probably use a Petzl Gri-Gri, a Petzl Rappel Rack, or perhaps best, a Petzl Stop descender. If nothing else I'd add a carabiner to increase friction.

Petz Rack. Image:
Nevertheless, it took me a while to get everything to where I wanted it, or rather was comfortable with it. Not only was it about being safe, but also making the rappel as comfortable and smooth as possible for Colvin. A bad experience the first time could have left him unwilling to do it again.

Looking at all the anchors (3 in total, two ropes, multiple attachments) it was beginning to look overwhelming. After double, triple, and finally, quadruple checking everything I just said it, "I'm pretty nervous, my heart is pounding." A dog can sense your level of anxiety, and I was hoping to not have been that nervous. Colvin was already attached to my harness, I lifted him up and carried him to the edge, leaned back on my anchor and we were rappelling.

Once the instinct to grab the cliff for dear life was exhausted, Colvin, as with most dogs, gave up and became very calm and still. No squealing, no whimpering, no barking, and no flailing. I'm not sure he was relaxed, it's more a submission than anything, but my anxiety was gone after a few feet of descent.

During the first rappel, Colvin was attached directly by a single locking biner to my belay loop. I've seen this method used by SWAT and fast rope teams, however, he didn't hang far enough down and removing him from the harness was difficult once we touched down. I'd say this method would be better, if I went directly through my rappel biner while on lower angle terrain. Keeping him high on low angle terrain would keep him from bouncing into the rock.

For the second rappel, I used a tripled shoulder length alpine draw, with lockers on both ends to attach Colvin to my harness. I stabilized his rear leg loops with a 4 foot sling that I shortened. The rear loop tie-in isn't required and it's not truly a functional tie-in. What I mean is that it doesn't enhance safety, it's about comfort.  This setup worked pretty well and it seemed like he was in near perfect position, perhaps a few inches lower would have been ideal.

By the third rappel, I was having fun. The anxiety was gone, Colvin was doing awesome, and the setup was just about perfectly refined. Again, I had Aim belay us but just while we were getting setup on the edge. Once we were on the rappel rope and anchor, she was free to take the belay off and snap a few photos.

Aside from not having time to actually climb, it was a hell of a day.

K-9 on rappel

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking out loud, the Great Range Traverse

Storm above the Great Range from the Brothers.
Winter storm over the the Adirondack Great Range
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” - T.S. Elliot

I've been planning to do a Great Range traverse this summer for some time. Ideally it would be early to mid September under cooler temps. However, with Aim being away and Caney's death anniversary in late July, I started thinking it would be a wonderful way to honor him.

Last summer, on the 1st anniversary of his death, we paddled 13 miles upstream on the wild Oswegatchie River to his favorite swimming section, spreading his ashes for the first time. We then hiked deeper into the Five Ponds Wilderness and spread his ashes at two interior ponds. He loved being in the wilderness more than any human I know, so it was fitting he was released back to some of the most remote wilderness in the eastern US. Spreading more of his ashes over the 8 summits that make up this immense day hike would also be fitting for Wonder Dog.

At the same time, it will be a good way to knock out one of the countries hardest -if not the hardest- loop day hike out with my next generation trail dog. Sort of a remember the past, live for today type thing.

For a long time, I wouldn't even consider traversing the Adirondack Great Range or White Mountains Presidential Range in summer for two reasons. 

  1. Anyone with two legs and a little fortitude can complete either hike in summer. 
  2. I hate the heat and dehydrate incredibly quickly.

I drink about 1.5-2.0 gallons a day and still lose several inches off my waist. while hiking Dogs, especially black ones, do poorly in summer heat as well. There comes a point where you have to either drop off the spine of the Range to get water, or carry enough to last the day. At 8 pounds per gallon it starts getting pretty ridiculous.

Normally I filter my water as I go, never carrying more than 2-4 liters when possible. Often I get by with as little as 1.5-2 liters between water sources depending on the temps, humidity, terrain, distance and confidence in the source. Unlike the Presidential traverse, there are no water sources, and no places to buy milk, cookies and dog treats. Nor do you get a reprieve from mother nature to enjoy air conditioning at some summit building, or get a foot massage while hiking the Great Range.

However, while the Presidential traverse might be easier due to more bailout and water options, it's a lot tougher on a dogs paws. And since we tried and failed at the Presidential traverse last spring, I felt it was time to put the more paw friendly one in the bag, even if it meant being quite ordinary and doing it in the summer.

Still, I've got some serious reservations about the water situation this dry summer and it is going to require an unseasonably cool day, along with a 4am start for us to have a fair chance at completing it. Perhaps we are being a little ambitious in the timing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Running out of Spring, a soggy day on the Soda Range

Running Out of Spring
Running out of spring in early June on the Adirondacks beautiful and generally panoramic view filled, Nun-Da-Ga-O Ridge.

What do you do when your human companions bail because the weather calls for rain, rain, more rain, and the magnificent views are gone?!

Well of course you hike anyway. It's precisely why trail dogs were created. To equalize the forces of human fickleness with the primal desire to just do stuff.

I will say, however, that the humans made a good call. This was the best view to be had that mid spring day; staring down at my boots as I hiked in the rain and wind, trying to stay warm. A sharp contrast from the upper 90s and humidity earlier in the week.

This was perhaps -debatably- the best of several attempts at having something memorable from this hike. I put my Samsung TL500 on an Ultrapod II pocket tripod, and set the self timer. All I had to do was time the shot right. Easier said than done.

As far as keeping the TL500 dry, I put my hat brim over the camera (after squeegeeing the excess water from the brim) . This provided enough cover to work without stressing over the cameras lack of weather sealing.

I guess the question is, when you have a 6 mile hike in the rain, do you find it quite as easy to amuse yourself during mid hike breaks?

A soggy Colvin doing what trail dogs do
A soggy Colvin doing what trail dogs do, hiking independent of the weather or any other extraneous factor that causes humans to abandon a day on the trail.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can I See Your Papers, Finding the Ultimate Trail Dog Is Easier Than You Think

After 9 Years Of Dedicated Service, A Hard Day At The Office
Caney, a shelter rescue, on the hike out after 3 days of ascending the most technical trails in the Northern Presidential's.

Recently, while checking a forum for my lost trekking poles, I noticed someone asking where they could buy a Chocolate Lab to share their love of the trail. Everyone has their reasons for doing different things, but there is almost no way to justify buying a Lab from a breeder. This is one of the most over bred and common dogs available. Everyone loves Labs, big, lunky, dumb but highly trainable, lazy and loyal. The best trait of Labs, in my opinion, is they are a good dog for weekend warriors. They are content to lay around all week, but will hike/swim till either you stop, or their paws fall off on weekend outings.

Beyond that, there is entirely no reason to buy a "trail dog". The majority of trick dogs, agility dogs and even Search and Rescue  (SAR) dogs are shelter dogs. As a matter of fact, it's arguable SAR dog training is probably the most mentally and physically demanding of all dog training...hiking an average Class 2-3 trail should be cake for the average dog! Exceptional dogs should be able to climb 4th and easy 5th class, but I have yet to see a breeder advertising climbing dogs.

Health, durability, and breed specific traits:

It used to be believed that purebred dogs were healthier and more prone to living long lives. However, it's now widely accepted that mutts are healthier. There is a simple reason for this, Darwin's theory on natural selection and evolution is clearly at play in mutts. Recessive genes are weeded out quite quickly as weak animals die before they are able to reproduce. Not to mention, no one is breeding sickly mutts, but many home breeders and puppy mills do breed weak and sickly pure breeds. They then sell them off to unsuspecting neophyte dog enthusiast. They are able to sell these dogs because of a precious (yet entirely meaningless) AKC lineage paper, and you are stuck with an awful dog that probably will end up in a shelter or dead on the street. The best "trail dog" in the world is probably in a pack of strays on some Indian reservation in the Dakotas. So if you care about durability and longevity, head out to the reservation and get you a stray!

Unless you are a show dog trainer, or you need a dog to perform a very specific task, or perhaps need a hypoallergenic dog, there really is no reason to buy a dog. Just because a dog has it's "papers" doesn't mean it has good traits or will be a good dog. For instance, not all Border Collies have a strong herding instinct. And believe me, if you live in a suburban neighborhood, where the only thing to herd are kids and cars, you do not want a dog with this instinct. However, if you are a rancher, you probably do want that very same dog.

Most people breeding aren't breeding traits, they are breeding breeds! The best breeders don't sell dogs for $50, $100, 200, 500, $750, etc, these dogs are $1500-2500 or more, have just one litter a year, and they are dogs with winning heritage at some aspect of their breed, whether herding, working, protection/law enforcement, etc. These dogs aren't being bred for their looks, rather they are bred because they have a strong pedigree of traits or physical prowess.

So where am I'm going with this? It's simple, you should never buy a dog from a pet store, puppy mill, or home breeder, because there are millions more dogs in this world than people to take care of them. Buying from home breeders just encourages breeding. And it's not the breeders fault. If I want to make a few thousand dollars extra a year, I might consider buying 2 "pure bred" Border Collies with papers and breeding them. You say, "if they are already born, it's not hurting anyone to buy them." Yes it is. It's enabling. If you wait till those puppies hit 6-9 months, chances are they will be in a shelter or given away for free. A few litters later those breeders start to lose interest in losing money on shots and feeding, they eventually toss in the towel.

Pros of getting a shelter dog:

1) Puppies are cute, they have to be or we'd probably kill them for all the havoc they wreak. Most shelters don't have "true" puppies, and that in itself saves you from a lot of expense! A lot of these dogs come vaccinated and neutered, saving you time and money! Shelters that do have real puppies usually adopt them out before they are even born; sight unseen. We were at one shelter where a woman was taking the train and then a cab from NYC, 4 hours upstate to claim her puppy. It's crazy, and should tell you how dumb it is to be puppy crazy.

2) Getting a young non puppy or adult dog has it's advantages. You can often get a good idea of the temperament of a 6 month old dog or a 5 year old dog, but puppies are very tough to figure out for the novice dog trainer. By getting an older dog you also won't end up with an adorable puppy that turns out to be a not so cute adult dog. Remember #1, we tolerate puppies because they are so darn cute, once they are adults that puppy cuteness has worn off. When we were looking for a new dog, my wife kind of wanted a puppy, but I just looked at them and wondered how they were gonna look, how their temperament was going to be; and most importantly, how many extra months it would be till they were ready for some real training.

3) Pound puppies are rarely problem dogs, many came from good homes that cared for them but were forced to give them up. Allergies, money, living situation, death, or change of careers are all non problem dog reasons why some dogs end up in shelters. Besides, you don't want to hear my tirade that problem dogs are the result of problem people, do you? A lot of adult shelter dogs are house broken to boot. And lets face it, training a dog can be fun, but cleaning up accidents is never fun!

4) No one will ever ask you for your dogs "papers" on the street, but if you must have a specific breed, there are many breed specific rescues. Dogs at these rescues are evaluated for temperament and health, and then they are matched to good homes based on an extensive application process. In a sense the breed specific rescue is what a real breeder would do. Analyze traits and temperament and match them to the needs of the buyer. Of course your local shelter probably has a few of those puppy mill purebreds to. One more thing "rescues" do like a real breeder, if at any point you decide the dog isn't for you, they will take it back. Yes, real breeders will take your dog back without question, so do rescues. Try that at the pet store, puppy mill, or home breeder!

5) You are doing a good thing for several reasons. You are rescuing a dog that could be put to death, you are opening a space for another dog at that shelter, you are not giving puppy mills and amateur home breeders profits to continue to over breed. I'll state this again, if you buy from a puppy mill or home breeder, you are the problem!

6) Think about the money you are spending to buy a "pure breed", now think about the millions of dogs in shelters. If you rescue a shelter dog, you could donate the money you saved paying a breeder to keep more shelter dogs alive. Shelters aren't free, there is no such thing as free medical care, and dogs do get put to death.

7) Within a few months of spending time training and playing with your new dog, teaching him/her how to hike, swim, behave in a boat, climb up ladders and rocky trails, etc, you will not care one bit if it's the breed you thought you wanted in the first place.

Cons of getting a shelter dog:

The biggest reason I can see for buying or seeking a specific breed is getting the best likelihood of the traits you prefer in a dog. The problem is, part of the dog expressing those traits is the way it is trained and nurtured. Buying a specific breed guarantees nothing, it only increases your chances. If you buy a dog from parents of the finest trail dogs in the world, and lock it in a closet for 3 years, good luck on the trail! However, as expressed above, unless you are buying from a top breeder who specializes in the traits you desire, you are always playing Russian Roulette.

Colvin on the south summit of Saddleback
Colvin, a shelter rescue, on the south summit of Saddleback Mountain. The trail that was ascended to this point is considered by many the most technically difficult in the Adirondacks.

Where to rescue from:

There are many options. With the Internet you can literally browse dogs from all over the country and have one shipped to you for a reasonable fee. Colvin cost $175 to ship from Arkansas, which was a very fair price. The South typically has more rescues than the North. In combination with lower human population, lower spay/neuter compliance, and more kill shelters, they will often ship dogs up north to keep them from being euthanized. Many rescues and shelters will send you videos of the dogs you are interested in, as well as additional pictures. They will cat, dog, kid, leash, and car test. They will do almost anything you need them to do to make sure it's the right dog for you. They'll even take the dog back if it's not the dog for you. This is also something a top end breeder will do, but not a puppy mill.

It's kinda funny, really, these people (rescues and shelters) will bend over backwards to get you the right dog, but instead many people will play Russian Roulette with a "pure breed" from the equivalent of a shady used car salesman! Does that make sense?

The beauty of all of this is, while you are doing a really good thing, you are in many ways getting a more customized dog than you would have gotten had you bought a puppy for $500 from the woman down the block at 6 weeks old.

If you've been offended by any of this post, well, the truth is ugly, but it's the only way to combat a serious and somewhat solvable problem.

Keep an eye out for some guidelines to selecting and training a trail dog in a future blog post. I'm no expert, but you'd be surprised at how many people get a puppy and toss a 15lb pack on it's back, then head off to hike the Great Range, without any thought to the undertaking.

Four Paws on Adams: Winter Mountaineering in the Northern Presidential's
Colvin, a shelter rescue, leading the way up the summit of New Hampshire's Mount Adams under full winter conditions. Despite dozens of humans attempting, he was one of only three total individuals to summit on that particular day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mountain fit vs. gym fit, functional fitness at it's core

First off, I’m neither. I have no identity crisis. However, I’ve had a few opportunities over the last few months to hike with people that were either gym fit or mountain fit. And even in my relatively poor conditioning (mostly my BMI, I’m actually in pretty decent trail shape at this time), I was amazed by the difference between being functionally fit (trail fit), and looking good (gym fit). 

One of the biggest areas that that gym fails is at proprioception. It’s a word tossed around after major connective tissue injuries, brain trauma, or reconstructive joint surgeries, by physical therapist and surgeons. But it’s something that you need even when healthy. You never gain sport specific proprioception at the gym, no matter how good your gym fitness.

Don’t get fitness confused with proprioception, which is basically your body being constantly aware of it’s positioning. For example, your knee knows without you actively thinking about it that it is at maximum extension, thus you don’t hyper extend your knee. Your ankle knows where it’s maximum roll point is before you trip and fall, or worse twist and tear ankle ligaments and then fall. Slightly more complex, your quadricepts muscle knows when it should fire in relation to your hamstring muscle, a simple action that allows you to walk, run and sprint without injury. 

Often you’ll see backpackers on the trail who could probably lose 15-30lbs, yet they are able to hike 15-20 miles and gain thousands of vertical feet with a 40-50lb pack, without batting an eye. They somehow don’t get injured or look uncoordinated, though everything you know about fitness and performance says they should.  You could certainly call these people functionally fit. You put that same 50lbs on your standard urban gym rat and you are going to be in for a long day. As a matter of fact, that 50lb pack has a better chance of injuring that specimen of human kinesiology than someone who is has developed functional trail fitness. 

On Independence Day weekend, I had the honor of hauling 60-70lbs of climbing gear on some short hikes, while my wife and sister carried Camelbak half day packs, and my little brother and sister just carried 30oz Camelbak reservoir packs. The kids are only 8, so they get a pass. Though my little brother Om is a natural mountain goat. My wife gets a pass because she’s just lazy. My sister, Heather, on the other hand spends many hours a week, I’d guess in excess of 8-10, working out at the gym or similar activity. She looks extremely fit, but she struggled with many basic camp/hike daily task. Pumping and carrying water to the campsite seemed like it was going to break her. Yet she probably tosses 25lb weights like feathers at the gym. 

Someone reading this is going to call a bullshit on my 60lb pack claim, but I’m being conservative. The pack easily felt heavier than my multi-day overnight winter packs with technical winter gear. Here is the bulk what I was hauling: 2 60M dynamic ropes, 100ft of 8mm cord, ½ rack (passive gear; nuts, tricams, hexes, and a few mid size cams), 100ft of webbing, 5 harnesses (yep, lazy bastards couldn’t even wear their harnesses), 3 pairs of shoes, helmet, first aid kit, 1.5 L water, lunch, snacks, a camera and a hefty guide book. Since we had 5 people, the idea was to set up two ropes at a time and pair off. 

Enough about my Sherpa load, back to my gym fit sister. I’m not busting on my sister, the last time I was that gym fit was the summer of 2005 when I was at my pre college weight. However, this was with one big exception, I was also trail fit. At that time I was able to haul 65lbs over the continental divide in rotten waist deep spring snow on multi-day backpacking trips.  I was hitting the gym 2 times a day several days per week and hiking long days on weekends. But looking at my sister strain, struggle and just not seem to have the energy, reminded me that hitting the gym isn’t necessarily going to give you sport specific strength or endurance. It certainly won’t give you the body control and proprioception needed in the mountains. 

The problem with the gym is that it isolates muscle groups. While this can be good for overall strength and joint protection; and I’m quite certain it prevented my knee(s) from being destroyed in 2006 when I fell on the Trap Dike and merely had a 40% tear of a single ACL, it isn’t something that conditions you for the sports you are playing.

My specific sports these days are backcountry travel. This might mean being on skis, snowshoes, in a canoe or kayak, climbing vertical rock and ice, or merely lacing up the boots and putting a pack on my back and covering distance and elevation. 

As my sister and wife needled me during the short but steep .6 mile and 550ft up Owls Head, I wasn’t too happy, but at the same time I was ok with hauling the gear. Why? Getting trail fit involves three things: 1) building endurance 2) building power/strength 3) building cardio fitness. 1 and 3 might seem the same, and perhaps if you are running 20 flat miles it’s similar cardio output to gaining 5000ft, but the reality is they are completely unrelated, at least initially. Since these hikes to the base of our rock climbs were short, they were a good distance to overload my pack and build some strength and cardio fitness.

When I’m climbing a 20-30% grade with a pack on my back, my heart is pounding very similarly to when I’m running sprint intervals. My legs need oxygen and thus blood and they are taxing my heart and lungs to get that oxygen carrying blood as quickly as possible. At the same time, any living human without some serious health concern can hike 20 flat miles in a day without serious consideration. Your heart will never work very hard if you keep a moderate pace. Try keeping your HR down on an ascent, you’ll never get to the top! This why endurance and cardio fitness aren’t necessarily the same. 

This winter, I had the power phase taken care of, but I’d bonk after 5-6 miles under the load of a winter overnight pack, and my cardio fitness just wasn’t there. I remember being in the Presidential’s and simply hitting a wall about 2500ft into a 3000ft ascent, while my older but more trail fit partner pushed ahead. I underestimated my fitness. I had been day hiking with a loaded winter day pack, but I wasn’t hauling more than 30lbs. 60lbs is a lot different. A day later we were summiting with daypacks on semi technical terrain, and I was perfectly fine again, leading the way and setting a good pace. 

Fitness equals safety in the wilderness, but it also equals fun. To be mountain fit you need have all three of the above, but ideally change only a single variable at a time while getting there, slowly over time. Because I’ve been disappointed in my winter conditioning the last 2 winters, a season which in this part of the world is unforgiving on the unfit, this spring I began working on the endurance aspect. I started out hiking 15-20 mile days with a day pack over moderate terrain. Then I added some weight to the pack and even did a little backpacking over similar terrain. New boots and associated blisters slowed down the backpacking. This was OK, I didn’t intend to backpack much, I typically don’t backpack over the summer because of heat, water and crowd considerations. Following that I started adding big elevation days with the daypack, and much rougher terrain into the mix. When the cooler weather of the fall comes, I’ll start backpacking again, adding strength and power into the mix. 
I can’t stress enough, that while being in great shape is always a great head start to being in sport specific functional shape, it CANNOT replace actually training in the mountains. As my partner in the Presidential’s noted and my other partner on Mansfield, a steep 3000ft descent with a 50lb pack isn’t necessarily much easier than the ascent was. Descending takes body control, muscle fitness, and strengthening of muscles that the gym just fails to train those muscles or teach body control.

The moral of the story is, be in shape regardless of how you get there. But don’t expect to translate leg pressing 700lbs into ascending 7000ft in a day. Don’t expect to translate back extensions, situps, and shoulder presses into carrying a 60lb pack over rugged terrain. Don’t expect the treadmill and eliptical to translate into cruising up a mountain. 

Most of all, the worth remembering lesson is, carrying a 60+lb pack is always gonna suck, but if you want to get really trail fit, it’s a lot better workout than mindlessly chugging away on the hamster wheels at the gym.  I’d personally rather life suck in the mountains than at the gym! Pine smells a lot better than the sweaty fat guy (that would be me) next to you, pounding away on the “deadmill” like a pack of buffalo. The best part about the 60lb pack was that it was the last pack load I carried till the following weekend. And when I picked up my 20lb full-day pack and did a 15 mile hike on the Adirondacks Great Range, it felt like a feather!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't Build Your House At The Bottom Of A Mountain.

All this really shouldn't be surprising to anyone. First, it's well known the Adirondacks have generally poor soil. Second, it's well known the Adirondacks have thin soil that is prone to "slides" following excessive rain or snowmelt, look around at the scenery, all those bare 2000ft rock slides came from somewhere.

My layman's take on this, it's a lot like when you get several types of snowfall in a short period of time. The different layers CANNOT bond together, thus they are more prone to creating an avalanche. These slides in Keene Valley are essentially dirt avalanches. And this particular slide is from multiple types of dirt, in different layers, unable to bond.

I guess I don't understand why people feel the need to tempt fate with selecting a home location. For example, when you build your house on the coast of the Outer Banks North Carolina, you have to expect it's going to get hit by at least one hurricane per year, if not several. Eventually, erosion, winds and flooding will destroy the house, one way or another. When it comes to mountains, just take a look around the base of them. They are filled with big piles of rocks, rubble and dirt that used to be somewhere closer to the top.Where is New Hampshire's "Old Man" of the mountains today? Despite being epoxied and wired into the mountain, he eventually succumbed to the forces of gravity and weather, and is now just a pile of rocks at the base of a mountain.

In spite of all our technology, we cannot defeat the forces of nature. Some disasters are just random acts of mother nature, but many others are people intentionally tempting fate.

From the ADK Daily Enterprise:

But what happened to the Adirondacks during the last ice age laid the groundwork for the landslide. Kozlowski said glacial ice advanced south into New York and then retreated at least 20 times. Water was often trapped in front of the glaciers, forming large, deep lakes where clay and silts were deposited.

"As we've been looking around over the past month-and-a-half, we're finding glacial lake sediments at elevations at 2,000 feet and higher on the sides of the High Peaks," he said. "This was not recognized prior to this."  - Adirondack Daily Enterprise