Ice Climbing

My friend Jason Deugan and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday to get in a bit of ice climbing. This was my first time climbing ice, and I wanted to try out my new ice tools and crampons. We hiked up to Loch Vale and found an easy toprope to climb, called Mo’ Flo’ Than Go. I climbed an easy ice/snow gully to the left of the climb to set up the toprope, then Jason and I took turns climbing the WI3 route. I had a great time, both on the hike in and climbing. We did learn several things yesterday that I’ll have to keep in mind in the future.

Rule 1: Always bring tools for your gear. We needed to adjust Jason’s crampons and didn’t have a screwdriver, so we had to improvise a screwdriver using the points of his crampons. I also bashed the freshly-sharpened pick of my ice tool on some rock and seriously dulled it. If I had a flat file I would have been able to sharpen it.
Rule 2: Bring along a thermos to keep your hot drinks hot. A Nalgene with an insulating cover doesn’t keep liquids warm when it’s 10 degrees out. We brought a stove, but it was quicker to just start hiking out and warm up that way. A thermos of coffee would have really hit the spot.
Rule 3: Remember clear-lens eyewear. I had to borrow Jason’s yellow-lens sunglasses when I was climbing, you’ll get a lot of ice in your face when setting your tools in the ice. Eye protection is always wise. Keep your helmet down over your eyebrows, too.

Both Jason and I had a great time. We hiked about 5 miles overall on a packed snow trail, postholed up 200′ to the climbs from the packed trail, and glissaded down around 100′ from the climb. On the way out we met some other climbers heading back to the trailhead who gave us some good beta on other ice areas and also showed us a shortcut back to the car. I think I’m hooked.

Remote Controls

Monika and I like to watch a lot of movies, and I’ve always wanted a decent home theater setup to make it more enjoyable. When we moved, we bought a 42″ High Definition plasma and an upconverting DVD player to watch our DVD collection with. We use the Comcast HD DVR to record shows for Samuel and ourselves in HD. Recently I bought an XBox (to play Amped 2) and the component cables that allow HD gaming. All these components are either HDMI or component cables, so to switch between the different component inputs a component switch is required. Controlling all of these systems together to watch a DVD or watch TV can be annoying. In order to watch a TV show, the TV, DVR, Component Switch and AV Reciever must all be turned on and tuned to the correct inputs. To watch a DVD, a different set of inputs on each device must be selected.

Harmony Remote

This is where my remote control comes in. The Logitech Harmony 880 is one of the nicest tech purchases I’ve made in a while. It is a multi-function programmable remote control that does complex actions without the complex programming steps. The remote has a USB port to allow it to be programmed by your computer – just plug it into your PC and answer a few questions about your home theater setup and it will learn all the IR codes from it’s online database. The remote then presents you with “Actions” you can take on it’s LCD screen, like “Watch TV” or “Play Video Game”. Pressing one of these action buttons will turn on all the components you need and tune them to the correct inputs. If it is not working correctly, press the “Help” button and the remote will ask you a series of yes/no questions that will help correct the problem. Amazon.com has the Harmony 880 on sale right now for $150, and you can often find them new on eBay for the same price.

Holiday Greetings

This past month we were able to take advantage of some nice weather here and get some climbing, hiking and skiing in.  Samuel’s skiing is improving every time we hit the slopes, and he now prefers the chairlift to the rope tow.  Monika’s been snowboarding with her sister again at Winter Park, and I was able to get up there once, too.  I went to A-Basin today, it was a bit windy but the snow was very nice.  I found a few areas that still had a foot or two of untracked powder, definately worth getting up at 6am.

We took the family up to Chautauqua Park in Boulder to get a good Christmas picture, and made them into cards at Wal-Mart.  There are always people there taking photos, I think the Flatirons there are the most photographed place on the Front Range.  The next photo below is a view of the Indian Peaks from Green Mountain, just behind the Flatirons.  The third is a view of Boulder from the summit of the First Flatiron, I climbed it with Jason and Jessica Deugan earlier this month.  Cold day, but nice to get out and get some climbing in.

Family Flatirons Picture Indian Peaks Jason and Jess on the First

Samuel’s First Skiing Trip

So far this year, I’ve been able to ski at Copper Mountain, Monika has been able to snowboard at Winter Park, and today I took Samuel up to Eldora for his first time skiing. He did far better than I expected, I thought that we would only be there for a few hours and we ended up skiing for four. I tried to just make it fun for him and not expect him to learn anything, but he was able to move around on his skis pretty well by the end of the day. He even wanted to use the pony lift by himself! I let him decide when we were going to leave, and he kept wanting to do “one more time”. I would take him up the lift, then ski backwards in front of him and catch him when he was going too fast. He loved it. Here are some pictures from the day.

Having a Snack Tasting the Snow Samuel at Eldora Samuel at Eldora

RSS Feeds

Something I’ve been using regularly for the past few years with good results is an RSS newsreader. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a way for websites you like to visit to summarize changes in a way that a news reader can understand. What this means for me is instead of visiting Wired News, Engadget, and about 20 other websites I like to read, I can view all new changes on their site in my RSS newsreader. Each feed can be updated every hour so I can stay up to date on my news sources.

My site now has an RSS feed, you can subscribe by clicking on the RSS Feed link on the lower right hand corner of this page. You can find other RSS feeds by looking for the RSS feed symbol on many websites. I have feeds for quite a few things, including the ski report for Colorado, the latest Dilbert comic, newly released movies on DVD, and recent pictures uploaded by my friends on Flickr. Whenever someone I know on Flickr uploads a new photo, it will show up in my RSS newsreader within the hour.

On Windows, a good RSS newsreader is SharpReader or GreatNews, I use Akregator on my Linux desktop at home. There are quite a few RSS newsreaders that are web-based also, and a few good RSS plugins for the Firefox web browser. I like newsreaders that will show you how many articles are unread, and allow you to organize your RSS feeds into folders so you can categorize them by topic. With Akregator, I can click on the Comics folder I’ve created to see all the latest comic strips I subscribe to.

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