Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 Day of the BEETLE

It would be fitting that the last triple digit day of the century would be my brother Beetle's birthday.  He is probably the most unique guy I know, and definitely one of the most fun to be around.  I wish I could be there to share 12-12-12 with him today but instead I am sharing one of my favorite stories of him.

Growing up he was always the guy willing to do the most wild and crazy things of anyone I knew.  As his older brothers, Rocky and I were always dreaming up something off the wall for him to try and he rarely disappointed us.  Here are a few of my favorite Beetle feats:  Acid jumping off a 10 foot retaining wall into 1 foot of water, snorting a package of green Kool-Aid, swallowing a flaming marshmallow, taking on a Belgian Malinois police dog, consuming bacon until the microwave overheated, and breaking a frozen burrito on his head.   Most of these events are deserving of there own blogpost and all of them are true except the frozen burrito.  Beetle did not break a frozen burrito on his head.  He broke a partially frozen but mostly thawed burrito on his head, but masterfully passed it off as a fully frozen burrito.  This is one story when Beetle got the last laugh on big bro.

When we were growing up, Costco boxes of Lynn Wilson burritos were a staple in our house. Arriving home from school, they were often the snack of choice. We would grab a burrito out of the freezer and fight over who was the next to use the microwave. We quickly learned that if you didn't break the burrito in half before cooking it, your burrito came out hot on the outside and cold on the inside. There was a nice brick corner by the wood burning stove that was sharp and perfect for breaking the frozen burritos on. You would have to unwrap the burrito grab it on either end in the palm of you hands and slam it against the 90 degree angle of the brick. It usually didn't break on the first time, just a little piece of frozen tortilla would chip off. On average it probably took three good hits before the burrito would succumb to the solid brick.

One day after breaking a particularly stubborn burrito, one brother said to another, “How cool would it be if you could break a frozen burrito on your head.”

This comment started an argument that went on for weeks about whether or not it could be done. Most days we agreed it wasn't humanly possible, but everyone agreed it would be awesome.

One lazy Saturday afternoon Roman rushed into where Rocky and I were watching TV, “Beetle says he is going to break a burrito on his head.”


“Is he crazy?” (We all knew the answer to that.)

We hurried into the kitchen, on the way Roman yelled up stairs “RACH, ROX.... Beetle is going to break a frozen burrito on his head!!”

The big brothers simultaneously reacted, “SHHHH!!! Don't let Mom hear.”

In the kitchen we found a confident Beetle. Sure enough Roman was telling the truth. My first thought was 'WOW, This is going to be ugly!'

Beetle made sure we were all watching as he went to the freezer, pulled out a burrito and unwrapped it. Then the con was on. He began with his 'pump up routine.' You know what I am talking about, pacing around the kitchen, breathing hard, some muffled words under his breath, a snort now and again. It was quite an act for a 7th grader and Rocky and I were both buying it.

Rocky whispered to me “Beetle is going to kill himself.”

“Yeah, It's going to be awesome.”

Finally he took the burrito in both hands and with a scream slammed it into his forehead. To mine and Rocky's disbelief the thawed burrito broke right down the middle.  Beetle followed his amazing feat up with another yell for style points.

I thought to myself, 'Holy crap, did I really just witness that?'

If it had been Rocky doing the same thing, I think I would have seen through it, but Beetle was crazy and we all knew it. If I knew anyone capable of breaking a frozen burrito on his head it was Beetle. I bought his con completely.

My train of thought that followed went something like this, “My brother who is almost five years younger than me just broke a frozen burrito on his head. I know he is a little bit crazy but I am bigger and stronger than him, surely I can slam something into my head with as much force as he can and if my head is as hard as his head then I must be able to break a frozen burrito on my head as well.” It makes sense, doesn't it?

I quickly announced, “If you can do it, then I can too.”

Beetle was the first one to agree, “Yeah you can totally do it. You just gotta totally commit. As long as you hit it hard enough to break it, it won't hurt, but if you don't fully commit and the burrito doesn't break, you're going to feel it.”

Again it made sense. I just had to fully commit and I could do it.

I started to get myself pumped up. My 'pump up routine' had pretty much everything Beetle's did but add in some nostril flaring and a little less talking to myself. I was fired up and it wasn't an act.

Beetle gave some last words of encouragement, “You just got to fully commit!”

I nodded my head and muttered to myself, “Fully commit.”

Roman whispered to Beetle, “Rangi is going to kill himself.”

“Yeah, It's going to be awesome.”

A couple more big nostril flares, my best mean face, a rebel yell, and I slammed the burrito into my forehead as hard as I could.

This time the burrito did not break. There wasn't even a dent in the tortilla.

For the next few minutes this was all I saw:   


I was not knocked unconscious, but there was blood.

Luckily for Beetle I was stunned enough that I still didn't see through the con for a while. Once I did figure it out, Beetle swore he didn't have any malicious intent but was only trying to impress his older brothers. When I decided I was going to duplicate his feat, he couldn't come clean, he just had to go with it.  I don't know if I totally believe him but I think he owed me one regardless of his intent.  Plus it makes for a good story.

Happy B-day Beetle!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sara gets her Whoa-Man status!

Rig and I had committed Grandpa Steve to come on our annual Fourteener trip far in advance, but the week of the trip Sara expressed some disappointment with always being left at home.  So I talked her into coming along with just a few days notice.  She was a little apprehensive about her lack of training and experience but once I convinced her I wouldn't leave her alone in the wilderness the first time she asked for a break she was in.  
Originally we were planning to climb Mt. Tyndall but since we had Mom as our celebrity guest, we decided we would let her have a crack at the Big Dog, Mt. Whitney.

We had more sun in the first 10 minutes than Rig and I did in two days on Rig's first trip up Whitney. 

During our last guys trip someone raised the question of which one of our wives would be most likely to climb the Grand Teton.  Sara's name was mentioned but I don't think she was put on the top of many people's list.     

 Rig and Sara viewing some deer.

This guy let me close enough I thought about jumping on his back.

The hike was beautiful and I felt spoiled to be sharing it with my wife.

Of our group I figured Sara to be the weakest link, but Rig was struggling more than usual.

 Then I turned around to see this.  
"What the heck?  Are you seriously letting Mom carry your pack?"
After giving Rig a hard time, he insisted on taking his pack back from Sara but it was too late.  I already had this photo and video proof.

We made a little over half of the elevation on the first day.

Rig, Sara and I all squeezed into a two man tent.  I gave Sara my nice sleeping pad.  That and the cramped sleeping quarters made for a long night.
Grandpa Steve left us all in the dust on the first day but a short bit into the second day his back had had enough and he sent us onto the summit without him.
I carried all the gear for Rigdon and Sara including the pringles.  They were free to get their hike on and I was free to get my snack on.
Whatever Rig was missing the day before, he found for summit day.  He motored to the top waiting occasionally for me and Mom to catch up.
Sara was very impressive, especially for cold turkey.  She passed group after group on her way to the top.  I was only a little bummed because I always assumed Rigdon got his hiking prowess solely from me.  That is obviously not the case.
Sara on top of the lower 48.

Last time Rig and I were here it was white out conditions.
This was the first time Rig got to see the view.
Rig and Sara both represented well for the blonde portion of the family.
On the hike back Rig and I had to get our 14er count up so we scrambled up Mt. Muir.
 It was scarier than I thought it would be.
Rig did good but I had to spot him a couple of times.

The summit had only about a 5 foot diameter.  It was pretty erie to stand on.  Rig did it for one picture but both of his eyes were closed in it as opposed to this one where one is still open.

We hiked all the way out that night.  The last hour of it in the dark.

Next guys trip when we are discussing which wife is the most likely to be able to hack it, Sara will at least have earned herself some serious consideration.  Nice work babe!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guys Trip 2012--The Grand Teton

To any readers I still have I apologize for my lengthy hiatus.  Losing a dear family friend (Lola) took my blogging mojo and only a guys trip could get it back.

The Grand Teton, a mountain that needs no introduction.  Even by it's easiest routes it is a technical mountain.  Its jagged 13,775 feet of rock make it perhaps the most famed mountain in American mountaineering.  We had vowed to come back after a failed attempt of the Middle Teton four years ago.  This time the plan was simple.  A one day summit starting up the peak at 2:00 am and hopefully finishing by night fall.  We carried all the gear necessary for 12 pitches of technical climbing that would be required for the Upper Exum Route.

One of the bonuses of going back to the Tetons was having a chance to go back to Alpine WY and visit my favorite restaurant The Cheeseburger Factory.  Theirs is a burger you don't forget easily.  None of the guys had forgotten it either and everybody was stoked for a return trip.  

On the drive up there we googled the Cheeseburger Factory.  It was no surprise to see that it had 11 reviews and every single one was 5 stars.  The 5 hour drive was long as we salivated at the thought of what was ahead.

I took this picture of my meal back in 09 and when I posted it on my blog originally I had been accused by some of photoshopping it.  It is a beautifully proportioned burger, but I would never sink to photoshopping.
Here is the group prepped for a joyous reunion of Man and Burger.

You can imagine our disappointment as we got to the door and saw the place was empty.  Not empty of people, out of business.  To say I was bummed was a huge understatement.

When the adventure started it was dark and unfortunately dark again when it ended. 

This is what most of us saw for the first four hours of the hike.  If you can't tell, that is the back of Rhett and it looks like he might be texting as he hikes.

Towards sun up I got ambitious and started leading the group.  As the sun fully rose I stopped to look around and realized I had led the group up the wrong wall of the canyon.  We had climbed about 700 feet that we were going to need to descend and re-climb.  

I then got the pleasure of breaking this news to the team one by one as they caught up to me.  Bram smiling before the news.

Bram's reaction after.
I could have been lynched and had it been later in the day maybe I would have, but everyone either laughed it off or cussed it off depending on how tired they were.

Bram found his smile again for this picture as he was the only member of the group who had summited the Middle Teton.

Soon enough we were back on track and to the fixed ropes before the Lower Saddle.
The first time I saw this picture I thought that couldn't be me, the butt is to big.  Unfortunately it is me and my "powerful" rear end.

Rhett on the lower saddle.  At this point we were two hours behind our planned schedule and starting to have doubts as to whether we could pull the Upper Exum off with the large group we had.  It was here that Danny decided he had enough.  He was doing the whole thing cold turkey.  We were all impressed he did as well as he did. 

 The rest of us started up towards the technical climbing ahead.

Nobody in the group wanted to summit more than Bram, but he was not having his best day.  He was sick and coughing and sounded horrible from the very beginning of the hike.  He was obviously not himself.  At this point he begged the rest of us to leave him.  He gave us some malarkey about how he was slowing the group too much and sabotaging the chances for the rest of us to summit.  None of us believed it or wanted to go to the top without him.  If it wasn't for Bram the guys trips would have never began.  
Luckily I know Bram's weakness.  You're probably thinking....Kryptonite, actually it lies in his inability to turn down any challenge.  I pointed to a large rock high on the mountainside ahead of us and said, "Just see if you can get to that rock in under an hour."  That was all the coercing it took to get Bram to keep going.

At this point we decided to save the Exum Ridge for another day and just take the easiest route up the mountain the Owen Spaulding Route.  This would not require us to rope up until the upper saddle where there is only about 600 feet of climbing left.  The climb to the upper saddle is a bunch of scrambling.  Though it looks exposed in this picture if you stay on route it isn't too bad, of course we didn't but we managed eventually.

Finally making it to the upper saddle.  Rhett definitely on his phone this time.

This is the rope up spot where the technical climbing begins.  The first pitch is the famed belly crawl pitch, however it was backed up with a group of climbers already on it.  I had read about an alternate route that the guide book called a "spicy finish" to the Owen Spaulding.  It was a vertical crack that started just to the right of the belly crawl, it had the same wild exposure but more difficult climbing.  We talked it over  and decided we felt like the team could pull it off.  I was lucky enough to get to lead the pitches.  I had Bram and Roman on my rope.  Rhett and Rocky followed us with Rhett leading their pitches and Rocky cleaning off the gear.      

This is me heading up the first pitch.  I put in one piece of protection and kept climbing and before I put in my second piece of protection the guys yelled up to me that my first piece had fallen out.  Don't worry we had a solid anchor that Roman was belaying me from but still it isn't how you want to start your technical climbing when you literally have thousands of feet of air below you.  

This is Bram topping out on the first pitch.  I sabotaged him by telling him to drop his climbing shoes on the way up and I would let him use my climbing shoes when we got to the technical climbing.  This would have been fine on the regular route but when we opted for the "spicy finish" and I was leading I reneged on my promise and left Bram to climb in his boots.  

Bram is still all smiles despite being sold out by his best friend.

This picture doesn't look like much but I titled it, "Living the Dream."  Yes my dreams are probably different than yours.  There are four of us uncomfortably crammed in a little belay station with Rocky still waiting to come up.  Webbing is running every which way from the anchor I had built. Notice the chalk on Rhett's hand and the overhang above us that we were going to have to traverse out around.  Not to mention we were over 13,000 feet.  It felt like legitimate mountaineering and I was contributing as a leader.  I was living the dream.  

The next move was the crux of the climb.  The traverse out onto the face wasn't that far but there were almost no foot holds and the crack was awkward to hold with nowhere to put your head.

It felt like a solid 5.9 move. 

Pulling back out onto the face was glorious.  Look down and there was air forever below you and above were big holds and easy climbing.  

This is Rhett coming up the next pitch.  

Roman with Bram on belay.
This pitch took forever because with the wind it was impossible to hear from one belay station to the next.

Rocky making his way up the last pitch.

Topping out on the technical portion.  There was actually one more pitch of 5.4 climbing but in the interest of time we elected to put the rope away and solo up that.

Three hundred feet later we were celebrating on the summit.  Unfortunately our celebrations were cut short as we saw a thunderstorm approaching.

We had to make two rappels to get safely off the summit and wanted to do it before the storm got to us. We didn't make it in time and it started hailing on us right as we started the 2nd and more technical rappel.  

I was surprised to hear that Roman and Bram had never rappelled before.  They picked a fine time to learn.

The hike down was as long and miserable as they usually are.  Rhett had a few more chances to check his phone.   
We made it down at 10:00pm for a 20 hour round trip.  Not setting any records but goal accomplished none the less.

The whole team the next morning with The Grand in the background.  What a blast.