Monday, March 4, 2013

Metamucil Therapy

This is a re-post from February 9, 2012.  I had forgotten about it until I ran into somebody that had read the blog and mentioned he enjoyed this article, and that he had tried it out with some success.  I posted it back when about seven people (all of which are family members) read my blog.  I am up to about 12 people now, so for the five that haven't read this article, here you go.  Maybe it can enhance your future outdoor experiences.

Metamucil Therapy

Without going into too much detail about my own digestive system, I want to share something that makes my multi-day outdoor outings much more enjoyable.  One of the many great outdoor innovations (debatable) of our time is the freeze-dried, just-add-boiling water backpacking food.  It is light, easy to prepare, pretty tasty, etc.  But like most food you find today, one thing freeze-dried food lacks is fiber.  Most people get the majority of their fiber from vegetables and some fresh fruits.  In the mountains, however, it is difficult to take fresh fruits and vegetables.  Vegetables generally don't have enough calories to be worth their weight and bulk to carry.  Fruits are usually heavy and sometimes hard to keep from spoiling or getting smashed.  Combine this with the fact that many foods that are great for the mountains, especially during winter (proteins and fats, like cheese, meats, etc), often have the opposite effect of the fruits and veggies, and you have a recipe for, at the least, discomfort, and at the most, digestive disaster (which isn't pretty on multiple levels).

Last year, while camping at Ingraham Flats on Mt. Rainier, our group was sharing a camping area with a guided group of about 15 people.  Of course, while camping on a glacier, there aren't too many places (one, to be exact) to go to do your business.  That one place is right out in front of everybody.  So, when you walk over to, well, you know, you simply inform everybody that you're dropping your pants and everybody else turns around (hopefully).  I don't know about you, but I enjoy my privacy while #2ing.  So, I hope, when I get over to take care of business, it goes quick and clean and nobody sees anything.  Well, imagine (figure of speech, probably not worth really imagining) you just hiked up to Ingraham Flats (or 14 camp, or any other glacier with other people), you have to go to the bathroom, you've eaten a lot of cheese and other calorie-rich, fiber-poor foods, you haven't been able to eat many fruits or vegetables, and there are people around.  In your head you're praying that the whole process takes less than 30 seconds, but you know that's not likely.  Bad situation.  You'd probably almost rather hike back down to Camp Muir to use the solar toilets.

Ok, so when you're in the mountains and not on a glacier and it's time to find some privacy, maybe it's not as big of a deal to keep it under 30 seconds, or a minute.  It is, however, much more enjoyable when the process is clean and comfortable.  It makes hiking more comfortable, cleaning up leftover bathroom supplies easier, etc.  A nice, comfortable two-zy can be quite an enjoyable process, especially if the view is good.  It's a nice change from staring at the wall of a bathroom.

A poo with a view, Avalanche Canyon, Tetons

Digestive health is simply a small detail that nobody talks about that can make a trip more or much less enjoyable.

In order to minimize my bad outdoor bathroom experiences and take full advantage of potential good experiences (i.e. good views), I do what I call, "Metamucil Therapy."  The idea is simple.  About a week before the trip, start taking metamucil.  Don't go overboard, but be consistent.  Make sure your digestive system is working well.  Then, when you get into the mountains, keep taking it.  You may need to up the dosage a little to get the same desired effect as you did at home with a healthier diet.  Metamucil is not like most other laxatives on the market.  It doesn't cause diarrhea (at least it shouldn't).  It's bulk-forming and softening.  That's why I use it instead of other fiber supplements while in the mountains.  And it tastes better than a lot of other fiber options, in my opinion.

It's a good idea to try it out before your trip.  It may take some time for your body to get used to it and there's a small chance that it just won't work well for you.  But if it does work, what a great outdoor skill to improve.  I use this system on pretty much every trip I go on that is over more than about 2 days.  It has allowed for consistent sub-30 second bm's, which is key when other people are around and there's no escape to seclusion.   

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Most Recent and Most Exciting Adventure

I got a phone call from my wife yesterday as she was driving back from Salt Lake City, letting me know she was having contractions and was headed to the hospital.  Three hours later, we had a new baby boy!

I don't care what other people say or think - fatherhood and children are 1 million times better than any mountain adventure I've ever had, and this is only day 1.

Lincoln Mac Reynolds is his name, we think.  He was 6lb 10oz, 19.5 inches long.  Born at 36 weeks.

Here are a few pictures:

Proud New Papa

Happy New Mama.

Healthy New Baby

Everybody racing to be the first on Facebook with the announcement (this was not staged until I was about to take a picture and then the last person but up their phone).

Lincoln Mac Reynolds.  He was breech and had to be delivered C-Section.  His head was a little flat on one side but has since rounded out nicely.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stairway To Heaven, Provo Canyon

My friend Phil and I made plans about 6 months ago to head to the Tetons in early February to give the Black Ice Couloir on the Grand a go.  We had been told that climbing the Black Ice Couloir during the winter is the closest thing to climbing the Japanese Couloir on Denali as you can get in the states.  Both are at about the same elevation, both have about the same technical grade, and both have to deal with similar temperatures. Because the Cassin Ridge is on my "to do before I die" list, we thought it would be worth checking out.

As early February arrived, my wife (who is pregnant) started having consistent contractions.  She got a checkup and the doctor told us the baby could come at any time, even though it was still a couple months early.  I didn't feel comfortable taking off on a climbing trip and risking missing the birth of my first child, and not being around to help my wife during her time of need.  Phil understood and we canceled the trip.

After about a week of no action on the baby front, my wife started encouraging me to go to the Tetons and get this climb done (probably so she didn't have to hear my talk about it anymore, and because she is very supportive of my good habits).  Without too much effort, I was convinced and we started making plans to go again.  A busy week of work postponed it a week, but we were ready to go.

Another appointment with the doctor a couple days before we were to leave confirmed that taking off at this point was too risky.  My wife was partially dilated and mostly effaced, and the baby was a week away of being full-term.  I called Phil up to apologize again.  He understood and we made plans for a climb closer to home (since we both already had work off).

With that wordy introduction, here are some pictures and explanations of our climb of Stairway to Heaven in Provo Canyon:

Stairway to Heaven

Neither I nor Phil had ever climbed Stairway to Heaven.  In fact, we had never done any ice climbing in Provo Canyon.  Most of our ice climbing had either kept us closer to home, or led us to some larger mountains in Wyoming or deeper into the mountains of Utah.  But, with a baby coming soon, we decided to get on something bigger than Ogden had to offer, but close enough I could get back quickly if necessary.

Phil took a nasty 65 foot tumble on snowy 4th class terrain about 3 weeks ago while approaching a gully of ice in Ogden.  He smashed his face, knee, hip, elbow, and was bruised all over.  He walked away from the fall, quite battered and sore, but still able to walk.  He assumed he was just bruised all over, but even after 3 weeks, putting on a seatbelt hurt his hip and he still has some pain in various parts of his body that were banged up on his tumble.

As we approached the waterfall, our excitement grew.  We had heard stories that Stairway can be quite busy, so we were psyched to see that we had the waterfall all to ourselves.  Phil claimed the first pitch and I belayed.

Approaching the waterfall.

Phil half way up the first pitch.  Following the path of least resistance, P1 is WI3.  Picking a steeper line could take it to WI4.  Our path was probably WI3.

After leading the first pitch, Phil mentioned that his previous fall (from 3 weeks earlier) had gotten into his head a little, and that he'd like to top rope a pitch or two before he tried to lead something a little harder.  In addition to that, his knee, hip, and arm still hadn't totally healed.  So, I took pitch 2. 
Myself on P2.  I don't remember how long it was.  Maybe 80-100 feet.  WI4

Again P2.

Topping out on Pitch 2.

Myself heading up Pitch 3.  It was only yesterday and I have already forgotten how long it is.  I think about 80-100 feet and WI5 (according to Mountain Project, which only had the rating, not the length).  The length to the belay anchor is much longer than 80 feet.  It seemed like steeper climbing than the previous pitches, but not quite as steep as Pitch 5 which is also rated WI5.

Near the top of Pitch 3.  Because it had been climbed a lot previously, this pitch went really quickly and easily with minimal effort.  Happy hooking:)

My view from above Pitch 3.  I didn't get many pictures of Phil because I usually couldn't see him as he followed.  

After following a few pitches, Phil decided his head just wasn't in the game for the day and I gladly continued to lead.  Phil is every bit the ice climber I am and would have cruised these pitches just fine.  I've taken some falls, never as big or as bad as his recent fall, and took longer to recover and get back out climbing than he did.  I'm impressed at how quickly he was back at it and don't blame him one bit for letting someone else lead.

I didn't get any pictures of Pitch 4.  It was a shorter, albeit steep pillar.  I'd guess it was about 25-30 feet.  WI4.  This ended up being one of the more difficult sections for me, simply because I got a tool stuck and had to fight for about 5 minutes to get it out.  I swung the tool into a depression and sunk the pick fairly deep, with the top of the pick flush with the ice so I couldn't pry it up to get it out.  I tried and tried for a few exhausting minutes before I put a screw in, shook out, and went at it again.  I was afraid to chip at the ice above the pick for fear of having that pick (the one weight-bearing pick) come loose.  So, I sunk my other tool about 4 feet above my stuck tool, matched on the higher tool, hiked my feet high, and kicked at the ice.  Looking back, I think that was a pretty dumb thing to do.  I could have potentially kicked the tool loose and lost it into the snow below (which was really only about 20 feet below) and been stuck with one tool.  Oh well, it worked, I got the tool loose, and I topped out on the 30ish foot pillar, somewhat pumped and tired.  What normally would have taken 5 minutes to climb probably took about 20.  But I didn't get any pictures of this pitch and Phil didn't either.  I think he was watching intently, waiting for me to do something stupid and fall.

Anyway, I pulled over the top and got a look at Pitch 5, the crux of the pitches that were in.  We were hoping that they would be in up to Pitch 7, but no luck.  

After the short pillar on Pitch 4, there is a small snowfield and then some low-angle ice leading up to the P5 pillar.  I belayed at the base of the pillar.

This is another view of P5 on the descent.  It was a really fun pitch.  There were a few bulges that almost made the climbing feel a little overhung in places, though I doubt that was the case.

Myself traversing out onto the pillar.  I had gloved stuffed in my jacket.  I'm really not that fat.

The views of the canyon from this high were incredible.  There was ice all over the cliffs on both sides of the canyon.  I couldn't believe it.  There was as much ice in just this small section of canyon as there is in all of Ogden and its surrounding areas.  

With that said, I think I'd put Ogden's ice climbs up against almost any other ice climb of similar size and difficulty.  I'd put Malan's waterfall up against almost any 3-pitch, WI5 climb around.  I'd put Willard Waterfall up against almost any multi-pitch WI3 climb around.  The beauty of the surroundings and the exposure (of Malan's 2nd pitch in particular) make these climbs incredible and classics, in my opinion.

Ok, back to Stairway.
Phil at the belay.

Though Pitch 5 is steeper, there was a narrow runnel that allowed for a little bit of stemming lower on the pitch.  The whole pitch went pretty smooth.  Up high I got a tool stuck again (same way as before), but got it out much quicker this time with a little bit of chipping from the other tool.  It did wear me out though.  This pitch was about 100 feet of steep climbing, followed by about a 75 foot snowfield to the anchors.  There wasn't enough ice on pitches 6 or 7 to climb, unless we wanted to do some mixed climbing, which we weren't really prepared for (in time or enthusiasm).

More stemming.

A bit higher.

More of the same.

After topping out on P5, we started rapping back down.  At the top of P2, I dropped a glove which slid down over the edge of the waterfall.  We had to work around another group that was heading up, which led me to forget about the glove.  We rapped down to the bottom of the waterfall before I realized I forgot to find that glove.  Phil hadn't come all the way down yet, so he headed back up and I belayed myself back up while he looked for the glove.  By the time I'd climbed back up the first pitch, Phil had been looking for 15 minutes without any luck.

I decided to climb halfway up the 2nd pitch to see if I could find the glove.

The glove slid down through the gully that is just up and right from where I am on this climb.  When I peeked my head up over the ice, the glove was sitting right there smiling at me.  This glove was a recent gift from my wife for Valentine's Day.  There was no way I could have gone home without it.  I'm grateful to her for the gloves.  They worked incredibly well on this climb.  Rab M14 gloves.  I recommend them.