Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My go-to workout

If you ask five mountaineers what their secret to mountaineering fitness is, you'll get five different answers. A lot of them will say running. Going for long, boring runs that make people like me want to dropkick a baby dolphin off the Diamond. A select few who see the light through the haze of carbs-and-cardio fanatics that seem to make up much of the population of climbers swear by CrossFit, but these folks are rare.
So, in addition to the Manitou Incline, deadlifting and squatting religiously, my go-to workout to get in mountaineering shape quickly is:

4 rounds for time of:

30 walking overhead lunges (20lbs or more)

50 bodyweight squats (full squats! None of this half-assed parallel-or-higher bullshit)

10 knees-to-elbows (or toes-to-bar if I'm feeling especially dextrous or energetic)

This usually takes about 15 or 20 minutes, by the end of which, your legs should feel it. If they're not, add more weight to your lunges or do goblet squats or something. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mexican Meatloaf Supreme

Meatloaf. A staple in any good paleo kitchen. Ground beef and vegetables, quick and easy, and not too hard on the budget (organic or not, ground beef is one of the cheapest sources of good protein). I usually get 90-95% lean, but lots of people who want more fat go for 85% or even 80%. The more fat, the cheaper it is. You'll be adding fat to this in the form of delicious bacon, so lean beef is appropriate here.

So. Meatloaf.

This isn't your grandma's meatloaf with breadcrumbs and shit like that. This is Mexican Meatloaf Supreme. Prepare to light your tastebuds on fire (or not).

1lb ground beef, however lean you want it
2-4 strips of bacon, depending how much you like bacon. I used 4.
1 serrano pepper
2-4 jalapeno peppers*
1-2 Anaheim or Numex peppers (I don't really know the difference)
1/3 C chopped onion
8oz canned tomatoes or 1 fresh tomato
4oz (~113g) Mexican style (queso?) cheese. I used "Casero," and I don't know what the hell that is, but it tasted good.
1 tsp salt

1. Roast the peppers in an oven (or over a fire if you're a badass like that). If you don't know how to do this, refer to this post, or just google it because if you're intelligent enough to eat paleo, you can probably figure out how to roast a pepper.

2. Chop the bacon up into small pieces. I cut each strip in half lengthwise and then chopped them into like ~1cm pieces.  

3. Remove skin and seeds from peppers (if you didn't do this already), then chop them into small pieces as well. Also chop the tomato if you're using a fresh one. 

4. Mix beef, tomato, onion, salt, peppers, and bacon together in a large mixing bowl.

5. Put some of the beef mixture into a loaf pan - enough to coat the bottom, probably about 2cm thick.

6. Cut up the cheese into pieces that you can assemble into a log-shape. Arrange them in the middle of the loaf pan.

7. Pile the rest of the beef mixture around the cheese so that it's completely covered.

8. Bake at 350F (175C) for about 50-55 minutes.

Note: This will have lots of grease on it from the bacon and the beef, so I won't judge you if you drain some of it off. If you're a talented mofo like I am, you can do this by holding the loaf in the pan with a big spatula while tipping the pan to drain the grease.

*If you're one of those WEIRD people like my sister who doesn't like jalapenos, just substitute them with a pepper of your choice that has similar heat content. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

TR: Mt. Siyeh

Peak: Mt. Siyeh
Location: Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Elevation: 10,014 ft (3052m)
Route: South Slopes (Class 2-3 scrambling)
Distance/Elevation Gain: ~11 miles (RT) / 4200'

My mom and sister were in town for a week, and since there's fuck-all to do here, we took a 3-day trip over to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. I'd been wanting to visit Glacier ever since reading The Journey Home, and this seemed like as good an opportunity as any.

At around 07:15 on Thursday, August 16, I started up the Piegan Pass trail from Siyeh (pronounced "sigh-YE") Bend, just off Going-to-the-Sun Road. As a side-note, I'm not sure how much the bear danger in Glacier is over-hyped, considering it attracts tourists all across the spectrum of backcountry-savvyness and rangers (understandably) would likely err on the side of caution when giving people information about bear activity. I'd seen bear scat in two or three different places on the short hike up to the Mt. Brown Lookout the previous day, so I brought my pistol along and periodically made noise just in case I stumbled upon one.

The trail is initially very mellow as it meanders through the forest up towards the first trail junction. Frost coated the bushes and grass, and silence filled the cool, still air as I strolled through the trees and meadows. About a mile up the trail, there's a junction for the trail that leads to Piegan Pass and Preston Park and one that leads back to Going-to-the-Sun road. Shortly after this junction (maybe about 1/4 mile more), I got the first and biggest adrenaline rush of the day when I heard a noise that sounded like a rather large animal.
"Hello?" I yelled.
No response. I drew my pistol and chambered a round, not sure how far away whatever it was was.
A second noise -- this one considerably more human -- echoed from somewhere further up the trail.
"Are you human?" I yelled.
"Cool, man. Sorry," I laughed. "I'm a little paranoid about bears."
I put my gun away and continued up the trail, greeting my fellow hiker when I caught up to him in a couple minutes. We both had a good laugh about the whole thing, and he complimented my noise-making efforts and claimed responsibility for the fake growl that had kept me on my toes there for a moment.

Continuing up the trail, I reached the second junction, where the left trail leads up to Piegan Pass and the right trail leads to Preston Park and Siyeh Pass. Taking the right trail (towards Preston Park/Siyeh Pass), I hiked for about another half-mile before leaving the trail and heading towards the talus fields at the base of Mt. Siyeh. 

 Looking back across Preston Park after reaching the talus field.

After a hundred yards or so of bushwacking, I reached the talus and continued on up towards the gullies that lead to the upper slopes. 

 Looking up at the gullies. The "route" is a little to climber's left, where the arrow is pointing.

There are a few cairns, but they're sparse enough that they don't spoil the routefinding fun. The climbing can easily be kept at difficult class 2/easy class 3, but there are plenty of spots for more difficult moves on terrain that isn't terribly exposed. Looking back from a little way up the slope, one can identify an obvious landslide deposit directly below the gully that could be useful for making sure you're in the "right" place, but the climb is pretty straightforward.

The obvious landslide deposit below the south slopes.

The rock in the gully is mostly limestone and shale, and there's a fair amount of loose scree, though it's nothing like the Maroon Bells. I saw two other parties on the mountain, and I was the only one with a helmet. Possibly over-prepared, but it's not like 4oz of extra weight was that much of a burden. Overall, the scrambling is pretty fun, and easier options usually exist when faced with a more difficult move.

A fun class 4 option in a corner...

...or a class 2 option to the right (east). 

 Easy scrambling in the gully

 More easy scrambling on fractured limestone

Further up the gully, there's an obvious sill of black diorite that offers some more fun scrambling. I scrambled up the sill to the upper contact with a white/tan limestone unit, where I traversed a little to climber's right to continue up the gully toward the exit to the upper slopes.

The route leading around to climber's right at the diorite/limestone contact.

Later, on my descent, I noticed some cairns leading around the top of this gully to climber's right, but I exited the gully on the left, which put me on the scree field anyway. It's pretty much a "choose-your-own-adventure" kind of thing.

The exit from the gully onto the scree field
A little ways up the scree field, there's a semi-permanent snowfield just below the ridge to the summit. Initially, I tried going around this to climber's right, essentially making a beeline for the top. While the scrambling over there isn't difficult, the scree is pretty loose, and it's much easier to go around the snowfield to climber's left and gain the ridge immediately after the snowfield.

The ridge to the summit

From here, it's an easy walk up to the summit. There's a trail through the rock bands just below the top. In a few places, there was some verglas on the rocks, a sign of how short-lived summer is in the high country, especially this far north.

 Verglas on the rocks near the summit

Nearing the summit, I was greeted with a 3000' drop-off on the north side of the peak -- quite a contrast from the gentle slopes that I'd just ascended. Looking down the vertical wall, one can see beautiful Cracker Lake -- a small tarn given it's milky turquoise color from glacial sediment.

 Looking out over Cracker Lake and the 3000' of exposure from the summit

I chilled out on the summit and enjoyed the views for 15 minutes or so, before heading back down. I took my time descending, and was back at the trailhead by 15:30. I sat in Siyeh Creek -- a glacially-fed stream is as good an option as any for icing one's muscles after a long hike.

Also, I didn't see any bears -- black or grizzly -- at all, nor even any sign (scat, digging, etc) of them. Other tourists said that they'd heard most of the bears were over in the Many Glacier area, though they're often seen around Preston Park in late July. There weren't any berry bushes up there (that I saw), so that's probably why they weren't around. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Climber Food: JayBars

I've decided to categorize (some of) my entries -- because like most humans, I have an affinity for putting things in categories. Sometime over the next week I'll go back and change the titles ... if I remember.

Part of my quest to live a paleo lifestyle involves integrating the paleo/primal diet into my mountaineering endeavors -- which can be a challenge at times! Most pre-packaged "climber food" has at least one or two non-paleo things in it, and while some things (i.e. canola oil and corn starch in a Mountain House Buffalo Chicken meal) are probably less harmful than others (i.e. virtually everything in a Pop-Tart ... a popular breakfast option among many climbers I've met), the products that I consume while climbing are still something I think about quite a bit.

So when I see a new product that is at least marginally paleo-friendly, like these JayBars, I figure I might as well buy a couple and give them a try.

 I enjoyed a fudge brownie bar on my climb of Mt. Baker last week, and my general thoughts were:

The Pros:
- Very filling. Regardless of calorie content, it's difficult to find a snack bar that can really fill me up when I'm climbing.
- High protein content. With 14g of protein, this bar has more than any other snack bar I've found.
- Good source of protein (whey protein isolate). The Kind "+Protein" bars have soy crisps, and I try to stay away from soy if at all possible. While protein powder-esque things aren't strictly paleo, I'd prefer whey or egg protein over soy any day.
- Taste. While it doesn't taste exactly like a fudge brownie, it's much more palatable than most other protein bars.
- Weight. It is small and light -- definitely something to consider, especially when planning for an expedition or multi-day trip.
- Gluten free.
- Soy free.

The Cons:
- It isn't totally paleo. But then again, it's a snack bar, and most snack bars aren't.
- Xylitol. Sugar alcohols are something I have mixed feelings about, but generally try to avoid. Also, in large quantities, sugar alcohols can cause gastro-intestinal discomfort, so I probably wouldn't want to eat more than one of these per day (especially when climbing at higher altitudes ... that causes enough of those problems as it is).
- Agave syrup. It might be natural, but it has a high fructose content.

The Verdict:
JayBars seem to be a good option for multi-day trips and expeditions, but I wouldn't bring them on overnight trips or day hikes/climbs. The reality of expedition climbing is that it's going to be impossible to eat totally paleo, so the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this case as far as that is concerned.

So, chow down and climb on!