Video Fridays: Mountaineering, Monty Python & My Son The Rock Climber

jclimbing2It’s been WAY too long since I wrote about My Son The Rock Climber!

That’s him six years ago, age 12, in the lede photo here, climbing on the wall we built for him in his bedroom. By the time this photo was taken, he’d been climbing for about six years, he’d joined a local youth climbing team six months earlier, and a year later he qualified for the national championships!

Well, while My Son The Rock Climber, now age 18, no longer competes, he still climbs and is AMAZING!!!, he works as a route setter at a local climbing gym, and when he climbs he looks like this:


In some ways, not much has changed. In other ways, EVERYTHING seems to have changed.

Anyway, last night he and I went together to the 10th Annual Reel Rock Film Festival, a collection of short films about rock climbing and mountaineering. It was inspiring for him, but it was terrifying for me.

See, while I’ve been super supportive of My Son The Rock Climber’s climbing for years, and while I know that the vast majority of climbers are hyper-safety-conscious, the Reel Rock films are chock full of some of the most intense, dangerous climbing you can imagine, and the thought of My Son The Rock Climber somewhere like, let’s say, 2,000 feet up the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, fills me with anxiety and dread.

For now, he’s solely interested in the relatively safe form of climbing known as bouldering, consisting of difficult, technical routes typically no more than 20 feet high.

But last night he expressed an interest in ice climbing, a component of mountaineering, and the film that focused on mountaineering, A Line Across The Sky, the most terrifying of the evening, was about two climbers who climbed this:


That’s Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina, and the two climbers were and thankfully still are Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold.

For Video Fridays, then, I thought I’d spread the terror around a bit by posting the trailer for A Line Across The Sky, encouraging you to seek out and see the whole film, which, beside being terrifying, is absolutely gorgeous to look at and an inspiring story of human dedication, perseverance, and achievement.

Following that, I’ll share what I turned to for relief from the anxiety at the thought of My Son The Climber ever doing anything remotely that dangerous.

At least one of the members of Monty Python had to have been a mountaineering enthusiast, because mountain climbing featured prominently in three different skits from their Flying Circus days, and the technical terms peppered throughout make it clear that they knew what they were talking about.

Here now, then, the serious and not-so-serious side of a very dangerous activity.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Eyecatchers: A VERY Different Kind of Mobile Home

Now THIS is incredibly cool!

Via Inhabitat, I’ve come across this amazing tiny house, built on a trailer bed, in which five skiers/snowboarders lived, as they traveled around the U.S. and Canada in search of the best fresh powder they could find.

And the kicker, a killer surprise, it turns out that I know one of the skiers, a guy who helped my wife and I build a rock climbing wall in our home.

Anyway, it’s one thing to dream up an idea like this, but it really comes down to implementation, and this structure is nothing short of tremendously rad!

With only 112 square feet of space, which breaks down to a mere 22.4 square feet per person, space-saving measures like a sleeping loft, minimalist spiral staircase, mini-kitchenette, and a tiny wood-burning stove, make the space surprisingly functional. But, what I think is special, is that this house was built with great attention to detail as well as aesthetics. This could have been simply, ugly shack, but the carpentry is exquisite, with elegant trim touches, and the tiny front porch is an incredibly cute touch.

Here are some more photos (click on the images to enlarge), along with the 20-minute video about the project:

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Dad, you’re embarrassing me!

Originally Published: November 14, 2009

embarrassingHe didn’t say it.

Didn’t have to.

It was frickin’ cold outside this morning, frost on the rooftops and windshields, and I was up at 7am on a Saturday, doing my fatherly duty, dropping my son off at the YMCA, where he loaded into a van for a trip to a rock climbing competition in Seattle.

On the way to the Y, it was a really sweet time. I lightheartedly teased him into eating his eggs, he joked about having to carry those eggs up the wall as he climbed, we listened to the Hawaiian music radio show on KUGS, and we reminisced about having been swimming with sea turtles off the Big Island several years ago.

Shortly after we arrived, the rock climbing team and their coach loaded into the van, my son took a spot in the back by a window, and I went up to the window to say goodbye. For years we’ve been saying “I love you” to each other in sign language in moments like this, so I flashed him the signs. Usually, he responds instantly, but this time he hesitated.

Feeling like something was missing, that this was not a sufficient send-off, I started signing again, but in wildly dramatic fashion, making all kinds of silly faces, tapping on the window, waving my hands goodbye frantically…really hamming it up for comedic effect.

Like I said, he didn’t say it, but the non-verbals, the roll of the eyes and lack of reciprocation of the sign language, almost certainly could be translated as, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

And it was the first time this phenomenon played out for us. The first of many times it will play out, if there is any degree of truth to the anecdotes from other parents and stories from my own childhood.

I have to say, it’s a little heartbreaking.

Keep on Reaching

News From Nationals

Per my post from Thursday, here’s a quick report from Colorado Springs, where tonight my son Julian competed in the Qualifiers for the American Bouldering Series National Championships.

Sadly, despite his best effort, not just tonight, but for the past weeks of intensive training, Julian will not move on to Semi-Finals tomorrow.

It was a pressure packed experience, he’s feeling a lot of disappointment, and it’s hard to see him go through that after all of his hard, hard work.

I don’t have time to provide details, but suffice to say, I am tremendously proud of my son, and it was totally worth it to make the trip here.

Out of Office: Off to Nationals!

Julian in Joshua Tree National Park

Last month I exercised my parental bragging privileges and wrote about how my 14-year old son, Julian, qualified to go to the American Bouldering Series National Championships, an indoor rock climbing competition.


Well, we’re leaving this morning for Colorado Springs, where Julian will climb in qualifiers Friday night, competing against 34 other boys in his 13-14 year old age group. The top 16 that evening will move on to semi-finals on Saturday, and the top 8 will climb in finals on Sunday.

On Friday night, Julian will climb 4 routes. Prior to climbing, he’ll be in isolation, unable to see the routes until it’s his turn. Then, he’ll be guided out to a chair in front of the first route, with his back to the wall, facing an auditorium full of spectators, and when the buzzer goes off he’ll turn around and see the route for the first time.

He’ll have 4 minutes and can make as many attempts to complete the route as he can manage, getting more points the farther he can get, and extra points if he can complete a route on the first attempt.

Then, he’ll be guided to sit with his back to the next route, rest 4 minutes, buzzer goes off, repeat, rinse, repeat, etc.

Yikes! I’m nervous for him just typing that!

I’m incredibly proud of Julian for even qualifying for Nationals, and if all he gets to do is climb Friday night I will think of it as an amazing achievement. He’s been training his butt off for the past two weeks, and I’m so deeply impressed by his dedication and determination.

Meanwhile, things could be rather quiet here at Fish & Bicycles between now and next Tuesday. I’ll try to post news about Julian from Colorado, and I might have a few posts written ahead of time that I’ll schedule to be published here while I’m gone.

But, if that just can’t quite tide you over, feel free to browse around the vast Fish & Bicycles archives in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Eco-Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Monthly Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Go Julian!!!

Fatherly Pride Redux

The Story Thus Far
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the tremendous pride I experienced, when my then 13-year old son, Julian, took first place in the Men’s Intermediate Division at the annual Veni. Vidi. Ascendi. rock climbing competition at Western Washington University.

Julian continued climbing in the year since, facing the typical ups and downs, and since this is not a hardcore climbing blog and you, my readers, are not, for the most part, I assume, hardcore climbing enthusiasts, it really hasn’t made sense to chronicle here much of what has transpired. For rock climbing is essentially a practice of such small incremental progress, measured in cryptic rating systems that are completely meaningless to the layperson, and at the same time it’s more about achieving one’s personal best rather than beating the competition.

The News
BUT…then there are the occasional HUGE accomplishments, like when Julian qualified at the Regional Championships on December 10th to move on to Divisional Championships, and when this past weekend, at Divisionals he qualified to move on to the National Championships in Colorado Springs, CO the first weekend in March!


The Irony
The Injury: Right after Regionals, Julian hurt the middle finger on both hands from overuse, he was told he needed to rest for 4 weeks, meaning no climbing at all, we’d just completed construction of a new, killer climbing wall in our garage and he’d qualified for Divisionals.

It was torture! Julian had to develop some serious discipline, with daily ice baths for his hands, and resisting the temptation to climb, with all his climbing buddies itching to get on the new wall.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is how well he stepped up to these challenges, which really enabled him to heal in time to train hard the week before Divisionals, and then, of course, enabled him to do as well as he did there.

The Money: Usually we think about success in terms of positive gains. There’s the sense of accomplishment we earn, the acknowledgment of the accomplishment from others that we receive, and some times there are even prizes or other awards.

In the case of Nationals, well, Julian’s accomplishment will be costing us a hefty chunk of change, for airfare, car rental, lodging, meals, competition registration, etc.

And yet, I give it all up gladly, that he might have this amazing experience, that he can see where his hard work and determination can take him when he sets his mind, his will, and his passion towards his goals.

Go Julian!!!

Fish & Bicycles: Out of Office

It’s going to be quiet around here at Fish & Bicycles for the next few days, as the family and I are heading north tonight for Beautiful British Columbia!

Two nights and a day of city time in fabulous Vancouver, followed by two days and one night in gorgeous Squamish, home of the magnificent piece of granite you see here to the right, a rock climbing mecca called the Stawamus Chief.

For those of you who don’t know the geography, this involves driving about 25 minutes north from here in Bellingham to the U.S.-Canadian border, havin’ a quick chat with a Canuck border officer about passports and our plans, driving another 45 minutes or so to Vancouver, and then on Saturday morning driving another hour north to Squamish.

As easy as pie!

Internet access will be unpredictable, and at times unavailable, so I might not be able to post anything more than a photo or two.

In the meantime, feel free to browse around Fish & Bicycles in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

I’ll back at this blogging thing before you know it, but if you are REALLY going to miss me, I wouldn’t mind if you left me a comment telling me so. (hint, hint, nudge, nudge)

That’s my boy!

Staycation Day 2: Rock Climbing @Mt. Erie

Well, yesterday’s adventure wet our appetites, so the family and a friend are now here at Mt. Erie, rock climbing the Powerline Wall.

Gorgeous weather once again, spectacular views of the Puget Sound, covered in clouds, and the San Juan Islands in the distance.

I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful place!