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Margaux Rhymes with Fargo

Mirthful Musings, Ridiculous Ramblings, and Comical Codswallop

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Random Adventures

Chairlift conversation topics by popularity

On Friday I skied down the equivalent of Mt. Everest, which also includes riding chairlifts up the equivalent of Mt. Everest. So, I spent a lot of time making small talk with randoms on the lifts, and the conversation topics ranged from normal to strange, including the following, in order of frequency:

  • The lack of snow
  • Last season’s snow was amazing
  • Is Kirkwood any better? (About the same right now, but I did see Heavenly people there on Thursday, so there’s that)
  • The fact that this is still better than east coast skiing
  • Where everyone on the lift is from, including Santa Cruz, upstate Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Pittsburgh, and Colorado (in which case, why are you here?! The snow is so much better over there right now!)
  • Absurd traffic driving to Tahoe
  • Does Yosemite in summer get as crazy as Tahoe during ski season? (Yes, and more, minus the weather complications)
  • We want to leave the Bay Area but it’s got so much going for it
  • Are different brands of skis really that different from each other after all? (Probably, but I’m not good enough to tell, plus I’ve been skiing on the same pair for the past four years)
  • The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain
  • That guy looks kinda like Gumby
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Mt. Everest is tall
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Springtime in February {Tahoe ski trip}

I booked this solo birthday trip to Tahoe a few months ago, hoping for some powder. Twas not to be. I got particularly worried about the lack of snow as I was playing soccer at lunchtime in 70+ degree weather this week. That’s not conducive to frozen things staying frozen.

Luckily, some of the snow did stay behind, and it wasn’t as slushy as I anticipated. Plus, I got away with wearing just a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker, and I even spotted a few guys in t-shirts. No cold fingers this time, unlike the -16 F weather that I encountered skiing in Canada over Christmas. Who knew that in California you could go springtime skiing at the beginning of February?!

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Obnoxiously teal and proud of it. Plus I match my skis, obviously, because why not?
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Solid half-day, powered by an entire sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies for lunch. It’s my birthday and I can eat what I want. I had quinoa for dinner so it all evens out, right?!
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Celebrating in style. Thanks, Trader Joe’s!

Happy birthday to me!

It was a dark time [60 hours without a phone]

For the record, that photo has nothing to do with my story. It’s just the darkest photo I’ve taken recently, and these posts always look kind of bare without one. Also it’s from a mountaintop (well, really a plateau-top) in Chile, Cerro Tololo to be exact. The Blanco telescope is that big bump on the left-ish side of the photo, and all the smaller bumps are smaller telescopes, mostly robotic ones. I’m planning to post some more pictures from the trip once I recover from a full month of traveling (home for the holidays, then two back-to-back weeklong work trips).

Anyways, I was out running on Sunday morning, and just like that my phone rebooted itself. Or, at least, it tried, before failing and then trying again, ultimately getting stuck in an infinite bootloop that not even a factory reset could fix. The worst part is, I can’t even prove that I was out running because my Strava feed didn’t save. That’s five whole miles of my life I’ll never get back!

On the bright side, I bought the phone 11.5 months ago, so seredipitously, it was still under its original yearlong warranty and I received a newer replacement phone for free. Boom!

Speaking of serendipitous timing, not only did I barely eek into the warranty window, my phone also managed to work perfectly fine during two back-to-back weeklong work trips, during which I definitely needed a phone, and then died the day after I got back. The stars are aligned somewhere, that’s for sure. Maybe we’ll be able to see them with this giant telescope camera we’re building.


Things I learned from going without a phone for a few days:

  • A dumb phone is better than no phone. I had to chat with the Google Fi support specialists via the chat box in my browser, and when I say “specialists”, I do indeed mean more than one because man they are useless sometimes.
  • There’s this thing you can do when meeting up with friends where you pre-arrange a time and a place to meet (via email in my case), and then you actually show up on time at that place. Pretty revolutionary.
  • I couldn’t get money out of my venmo account. I went to log in to my account via the browser on my laptop, but needed duo authentication (i.e. a code that they wanted to text to me) in order to log in. I mean, if I had my phone, I wouldn’t be using my laptop in the first place. Duh!
  • I also needed duo authentication to get into some work accounts, which was annoying. There’s a workaround but it takes forever.
  • I would have gotten lost if I had tried to navigate anywhere more than five miles from my house. Luckily for me, my office is only 1.5 miles away.
  • I realized right before going to bed that I didn’t have a way to set an alarm for the morning, so I went digging in my closet and found an old-school alarm clock that I used in high school, before I had a smart phone. Man, those beeps are jarring in the morning. I am very excited to be back to waking up to nice and peaceful ocean-y sounds.
  • Trying to read a recipe off of a laptop while cooking dinner and also snacking on leftover trail mix leads to a sticky keyboard. Lesson learned. Next time I’ll skip the cooking and just stick to the trail mix.
  • I don’t actually talk to that many people anyways.

And I survived. So it worked out, I suppose.

That time I climbed Half Dome and never blogged about it

And by “climbed”, I mean with ropes and stuff. Back in May, my high school friend and her dad invited me along to climb Snake Dike, a technically easy but absolutely beautiful  climbing route up the side of Half Dome in Yosemite. It’s not quite the vertical section of the face (though I’ll admit I’m dreaming about that one…), but I still felt super legit scaling a part of the dome that many people don’t get to see.

As a bonus, before we started climbing we also scrambled a little past the base of the route over to the area where Ansel Adams took that iconic picture of the face of Half Dome (scroll to the bottom to see our recreation of said photo). Definitely worth the extra time and effort.


 

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The casual mid-pitch photo op

The trip involved a few firsts for me:

  • camping in Yosemite (I know, I know, I’ve been there a few times before but it’s always been in a hotel or glamping)
  • getting absolutely soaked from the waterfall on the Mist Trail (I’ve been up this trail twice before but never with the water running this high. There was so much water and mist that I could have shampooed my hair and it would have all washed out no problem. In hindsidght, considering how sweaty and smelly I was, I probably should have done that.)
  • rock scrambling in the dark without my headlamp because I’m an idiot and forgot where I put it (I found it the next morning, much to my chagrin)
  • sleeping under the stars (wedged between some rocks on a mountainside)
  • climbing a multi-pitch route (i.e. a climbing route with more than one pitch, this one had eight) (I definitely didn’t need that explanation but this bullet point felt naked without it)
  • carrying two giant backpacks down the Half Dome cables – mine with all my climbing and camping gear on my back as well as another guy’s pack on my front, because he was injured and struggling to descend – and sliding/crashing/falling into multiple people (sorry everyone)

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So. Much. Water.   And this is before the wet part.
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Can you tell this is before a full (read: exhausting) day of climbing and hiking?
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If I’m just chillin at the anchors, what else am I supposed to do besides take a selfie and almost drop my phone 2000 ft?
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Ansel, how’d we do?

Soccer is not a photogenic sport

I play pickup soccer (almost) every day at lunchtime at the SLAC gym, and a couple of weeks ago one of our regulars left SLAC, so we took a group picture and some action shots of the game. Usually we have a bigger crew, but it was an ungodly temperature outside that day.

Turns out I look pretty silly in action. On the bright side, my socks match my shirt and I’m proud of it. Anyways, I’m just gonna leave these here for your enjoyment.

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I’m looking very intense while everyone is super chill. 
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Just smilin’ and squattin’
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Again all smiles, but only an inch off the ground, if that. I missed the ball, in case you can’t quite tell.
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One more leg in there should do the trick.
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I’m not quite sure why I spend so much time bent in half, looking at the ground. It’s apparently a recurring thing.
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Pretty sure I’m not supposed to be folded over so far. Weird habits indeed.

Mount Whitney by the numbers

We made it to the top!

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Not gonna lie, the ice axe made me feel pretty badass the whole time, when it wasn’t busy saving my life.  Photo credit: Marco Lobato. He lugged his camera up 6100 ft. for this celebratory shot. What a hero. 
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Not this mountain, the higher one behind it, waaaaayyyy in the back. Turns out Mount Whitney is freakin’ tall. Photo credit: Marla McPherson. She also took the sweet shot of the moon at the top of this post.

 


Total number of hours on the mountain: 18.5

Round-trip mileage: 22

Feet of elevation gain: 6100

Highest elevation, in feet: 14,505

Number of (non life-threatening) self-arrests: 1

Depth of snow I accidentally stepped/fell into about a hundred times, in feet: 2.5

Percent of the hike for which crampons and an ice axe were needed: 60

Number of times we referenced this joke from The Oatmeal: 25 (give or take a few)

Temperature of mountain stream water in which I rinsed my feet after the hike: absolutely freakin freezing

Mickey-mouse-shaped coconut pancakes devoured the next morning: 4

Hours without a shower: 68

Aggregate hours of sleep Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights: 16.5

Number out of ten would do it again: 10


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Rest assured I was nowhere near this smiley on the way down. Photo credit: Marla McPherson
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Handstand at 14505 ft, because, why not? Although to be honest, this took every last bit of strength I had. Going back down was super rough.  Photo credit: Marco Lobato
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Fun fact: snow is super reflective and will burn to a crisp the delicate skin on underside of your chin that’s never ever seen the sun before. You’ve been warned.  Photo credit: Lorenz Haghenbeck

Good for you {Pinnacles National Park}

Will and I found out that last week was National Park Week upon our arrival to Pinnacles National Park on Sunday morning, which was filled to the brim with screaming children and lines for the bathroom. Flup.

We had to park in an overflow lot and eventually accepted what we thought was a 1.2 mile hike to the start of our intended hiking loop, in order to avoid sharing a shuttle with said children. We later found out that the approach trail was closer to 2.7 miles. And by later, I mean about 45 minutes in, when we finally found the start of the loop next to a sign pointing back they way we had come that said “Visitor’s Center: 2.7 miles”. Will was not pleased.

Capture

Ultimately, we hiked about 9 miles on the trail, although we did do some extra exploring to find some climbing spots, so I’d round up to fifty miles or so total. Somewhere in that ballpark. At the end of the hike, we end up taking the shuttle back to our car from Bear Gulch, so I guess technically it’s more of a scribble or a poorly drawn sigma than a loop, but you get the point.

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Spelunking on the cave trail

And now for story time. One of the sections called High Peaks is quite steep and narrow, and Will and I were quite excited when made it to the top. As we passed another couple up there, the woman turned towards me and said, “Good for you.” No exclamation point, no emphasis, just a statement of fact. Being a rational human being, I assumed she was talking to her partner and kept hiking.

Will, on the other hand, looked all confused, and as we were walking away from the couple he turned to me and said, “Was she talking to you?”  A few seconds later: “Hmm, that was a bit condescending.”

Now I was the confused one, because I couldn’t think of a good reason for a total stranger to congratulate me, let alone why that would be condescending. My first and best guess was that the woman was complimenting me on the attractiveness of my boyfriend. I’ll admit he’s quite dapper. But that’s a compliment, for Will at least. Maybe I appeared to be batting out of my league? The messy hair probably didn’t help.

Will, of course, went in a totally different direction. He thought that the woman might be complimenting us for making it up the steep climb, because maybe we looked like we barely made it up the mountain? Which is, indeed, condescending. But come on, we weren’t crawling the last few meters or anything.

We ultimately came to the conclusion that the woman couldn’t have been talking to me, but it makes for some fun speculating. Will and I had a good time coming up with other reasons she may have wanted to compliment me:

  • We have an awesome camelbak (thanks to my brother)
  • It’s a beautiful day out for hiking, good for us for coming out
  • Good for us for being chipper in the face of such a steep trail
  • My hiking leggings are pretty fly (in Will’s words: “Maybe she was complimenting you on your outfit?”)

And finally, good for you for making it to the end of the post. I very much appreciate it.

#selfie fail

Will and I had a lovely weekend at Mt. Rose just north of Lake Tahoe.  The snow wasn’t great, but it was beautiful and sunny outside and we had a wonderful time skiing, watching the ski team practice slalom racing, watching others checking out Will and his sweet ski suit, and attempting to take a few selfies (#strugglebus).

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