Pyranees Backpacking Day 2

August 14, 2017

At night I dreamt some sci-fi weird shit, like I was trying to keep these gooey soft green stress balls out of the tent. They were alive! And we were in outer space, floating around in the pop-up Quechua tent. Sounds funny, but it was pretty terrifying in the moment. Though I slept not very much, I was in a happy mood when K came by to make sure we were awake. We were half awake, and quickly grew to fully awake with a large smile as I had the first peep out of our tent.

First LightIt revealed a stunning wall of sharp rock over 800m in height, its top spires illuminated by the first rays of sun. I was re-living a slice of the life I had when attending University in Toulouse. It is a place where we shared experiences, our food, water, and lives with each other in the true fullness and honesty, with a sprinkle of sarcastic humor, and lots of human empathy. I realized this is what I and probably any other Europeans miss the most after moving to the USA, as I stared around the rest of the camp gearing up – ropes, helmets, various belay devices and harnesses worn by people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures. Petting the loud donkeyQuickly, we packed our gear into D’s bag and sat with T and K, reflecting on the poor quality of sleep we all had for different reasons: the moon’s brightness, the resident donkey’s panting cries in the dead of the night, which in turn induced various dreams and nightmares. Glad it was behind us, we looked forward to the crux of our trip: to climb the Pic Midi d’Ossau, an 800m ascent on partial vertical terrain. Then to come back down and head into the next valley to camp one more night. The weather forecasted to be sunny – a pretty rare occurrence in these Southern mountain range – we headed out over the initial boulder field towards the saddle.

The wind howling through my hair, I lead a brisk pace till the saddle, sweating profusely in the already baking sun. A quick snack and water break later, we paused before the rock – there was already a line of French people heading up the first crack. We decided to venture on the right which turned out to be a good idea. We passed two rope teams traveling much slower. We brought a 50m rope, borrowed from Lolo’s husband Paul, but was only planning on using it to rappel down. The way up became more and more breathtaking.

Rappel Down

Of course it was due to the view but also from the stair-like climbing which seemed to go on forever.The slope was 60 degrees or more at times where we were literally panting for breath every 15 minutes. Mainly, it was a ladder type climb with solid hand holds and spots for our feet. By the time we reached the top, I was genuinely exhausted, my legs trembling from the quick pace set by the Slovaks.

The view past the peak and all around was like from one of those red bull rock climbing video series with Alex Honnold – rock tops jutting out of the Earth all around us. Intermingled were series of lakes and huts, paths meandering all over the valley, spotted by white and brown farm animals grazing below. They were merely the size of pins from this distance. I was glad to have brought my puffy and mid layers. At 2880m, it was not summer-like heat, the windchill washing away the cozy warmth of the sun with powerful gusts. Rope Teams Coming back down, we met people on their way up, hearing more and more spanish “hola’s” instead of the french “bonjour” as greetings when passing each other. I mused over this as a curious difference in culture – the spanish start their day later. I was joking with the group: I bet the Germans were already back down by the time we even got going, clinking their beer as a salute to a successful sunrise finish.

Much of the rest of the way down was a blur between my aching thighs, tired knees and setting up rappels in three different sections. While waiting for other groups, I had the chance to chat with some real southern french men, probably in their 50s who have been doing this stuff for 40+ years, and reminisced about their youths: visiting and climbing El Cap and in Joshua tree. Their accented voices rose and lowered in the most charming tangy-slow and manner. It was music to my ears to hear this kind of dialect again. Back down by the refuge and lake, we sat to eat a snack and peel back the layer of sweaty sock caked in powdered dust from the climb. Refilling our water bottles and packing the tent & sleeping supplies, we headed SSW around the peak to another saddle called col Peyregret and to the Lac au dessus where I took the most restful nap in a long while. The three boys watched Marmots galavanting around, the furry animals completely ignoring all the humans around them.

It was already a long day and the sun was on its way down. Tomas asked me if I wanted to keep going or stay here. I was very tired, but felt I would be even more sore tomorrow, so made my opinion clear that I would like to continue the proposed 2.8km to the valley below where we would hopefully find more water. We were running quite low and I was definitely dehydrated in an attempt to conserve it. The amount of water I have to drink normally is at least 2-3x what I was feeding myself now. The bonus side effect was the lack of need to pee all the time.Sheep StampedeWatering Hole Narrowly avoiding a sheep stampede we finally got into the valley finding a canyoneering-type river that went from canyon to shallow waters. This is where I waded all the way into the water up to my neck after dropping my pack. I reveled in the feeling of frigid water cooling my inflamed joints and muscles. Quickly it became chilly and we settled in for the night. Close to falling asleep, suddenly a storm rolled in, faster than anyone could imagine, which is when we turned the 2 person tent into tight quarters for three as K, spooked buy the lightning and drizzle + wind, asked to join us. We welcomed him in, wondering what T would do. It got very hot quickly (just 5 mins before I was shivering) and between stretches of sleeping sandwiched between two dudes, the sky became starry, cloudy, shook with thunder, illuminated by flashed of light. Despite the angry weather, I felt very safe and unconcerned as I heard deep breathing on both sides. Knowing at least the two men were in deep slumber, at least while I was en guard.

Pyranees Backpacking Day 1

Day after Lolo’s surprise wedding. Castet, France.

Woke up “relatively” early to a beautiful day in the Pyrenees: mountains all around. Today, after the picnic at noon in Port de Castet, we were headed out towards GR-10 trail close to the border of Spain, en-route to Pic Midi D’Ossau. It will be just T, K, D and I. Getting excited, we were gearing up, going to the grocery story where we bought too much food (as always), and some gifts to take home. While we’ve been in France, D and I have completely broken our diets, eating bread and cheese almost every day. I still refrain from eggs for the most part. So far we have experienced little to no side effects, having regular bowel movements. D’s even been eating pork.

Lolo was so welcoming, allowing us to use her new car when we needed one and we also borrowed sleeping bags, a tent and pads from her. Plus her most favorite 49L backpack since I didn’t have one big enough. The brunch was left over food from yesterday, enjoyed on a wide plateau 5km east of her castle-like house in Castet. As the four of us drove up in her tiny white Dacia, we had more and more expansive views of the opposing mountains.

PicnicFrench FoodAt the top, we were treated by a loud eew-haw from the next door donkey and grazing horses with cowbells chiming across the field of soft green grass – the type you would want to roll around in – except for the minefield of fresh and sun-dried cow pies. Paul had driven his yellow camping van to the middle of this open pasture, and dished out the boeuf-roti, ham, fromage de brebis, carottes-rapés, haricots vests, among many other delicacies of the region.

We found the beer tap in the basement, next to the “dungeon” dormitory we slept in that night, and brought over a bottle to everyone’s delight. The mood was very relaxed, a lazy dimanche après-midi in South France.

SiesteAfter a large plate of food, a glass of juice/beer/wine, we lazed around in the sun, the chilly breeze whipping up light goosebumps on my skin. In the distance, colts rolled about in the dirt, hooves kicking the air. A bit closer, dogs licked the remainder of plates to their owners’ nonchalance, and babies hummed softly as they learned the art of the afternoon “sieste”.

Packing up, the drive to the Pic began – first in a wide valley, then detoured through a village where we got stuck behind a tractor and some herders herding two cows (which decided to take a nice shit right in front of the car, our wheels squishing through the moist manure seconds later). Finally back on the main road, it narrowed between a deeper canyon on the right, and steepening walls on the left.

Pic Midi D'OssauNoses pressed to the passenger glass window, we arched our necks up to see the tippity-tops of rocky peaks peeking out left and right. Parking the car at a lake we were originally going to hike to (we weren’t sure if the roads were open), I was really jumping up and down in excitement watching other people mull around with packs, hiking poles, and climbing gear. It was so great to be out here, the Pyranees where I had spent my 23rd year of life, six years ago.

Our team of hikersThis time it was with my life partner and two of my favorite people in the world. We even brought a rope, as we expect the peak to be a series of easier 5.3- 5.4 climbs – which we will do tomorrow. Six and seven-tenth km, rolling hills, many sheep, cows, and horses in the shadow of high-jutting peaks later, we reached the refuge de Pombie at 2032m.

Nearby was a lake and farther, awe inspiring views to mountains in the east turning orange, red, then purple in the reflection of the quickly approaching sunset. Tent set next to a stream of water, we finished 1.5 L of wine and nearly a full bar of hazelnut chocolate before retiring to bed.

Bicycle Charged Cellphone ChargerPS: there was a bike to recharge non-iphone mobiles (Pedal to create electricity) and T & K found the coolest camp spot under a 45degree angle boulder. They called it their “living room 🙂

Inspiration over Tofu Tacos

So I’m sitting in my living room working through some home-made tacos I made just a minute ago. I put on a You Tube video: High Resolution interviewing Judy Wert. They do a fantastic intro, and finally, she comes on screen. Her smile and mannerisms captivate me. Listening to the talk, I barely get 4 minutes in when she makes a point about her coffee cup, how UX design starts with the person who made this coffee cup, how many kids they have and what is his father like.

At this point I had gotten through one and a quarter taco, and as I take one more bite, I stop looking at the screen of my phone, and start observing the phone itself. I have this sort of out-of-body experience where I just observed myself as the user who has made a work around on how to prop up their phone while watching this video. Instantly, I drop my half taco (it’s still sitting there),

pause the video and start writing. This is what I’m writing about: 

My need – to watch a video while not holding my phone. There are many solutions out there to this already:

In fact, I have one of those piggies. Yet, I still don’t use it. Why? because it’s inconvenient. It’s upstairs somewhere, and my food is getting cold and yes I’m just lazy to get it, plus it doesn’t stick onto my case. So I end up using my PDX carpet coasters to prop up my phone.

But what if…. the Lifeproof case – which by the way last weekend saved my phone when I dropped it in some hot sand – had an edge that better promoted sideways standing. If the leaning tower of Pisa from thousands of years ago can do it, why can’t the phone case?

Lifeproof already has a bomber case, but there’s always room to improve, right? Competition is right around the corner.

Anyways, I’m not an architect, or industrial designer, but I’ve done the observation, and documented what the workaround is, at least in my case.

What do you do to prop up your phone(s)/tablet(s)?? Comment below.

 

My Polymorphic Light Eruption

I don’t have rabies or anything crazy, it’s only a skin condition that feels horrible and looks completely unattractive. It developed it after I spent a couple years living under the eternal rain cloud that covers Portland, OR from October to May. Here’s the timeline:

2011 July: I move to Portland from sunny Toulouse after studying there for a year.

2012 December 30: I go to Miami and to spend time with my Cousin for NYE in a warm place while it is storming in Portland:


This is when it first happened… dun dun dun: my stomach erupts with these dime-sized red dots everywhere. At first it’s just red, and then it gets itchy. The worst is that the space between these dots stay completely white. It’s like my body forgot how to tan.

And so I go home, and they disappear within a day. I forget about it.

Summer of 2013: The dots come back, especially furiously early on, and they get less and less vehement by the end of the summer. I basically ignore it, mostly because I don’t spend very much time outside because of work.

Summer of 2014-2015: I put a lot of sunscreen on, but the red dots still make a comeback, including some side trips I take to Australia in the spring.

Summer of 2016: I’m fed up. I start researching the key words “sun allergy”, “sun rash”, “red dots from sun” all these come up with a lot of symptoms that are similar, but there is one key thing missing: why does the sun rash I have get less intense after more months of exposure. That is when I finally searched for something to the effect of: “sun allergy that gets better with time in the sun”. And bingo: I find a blog about how a woman had conducted an experiment on herself for ten years, using only one lotion every summer to see how well it works against her condition. That is where I find many lotions that kinda-sorta help, but the 10th one was the 100% awesome solution. It is this shirudo lotion made in Montreal.

January 2017: I got a big tube of the creme at the end of last summer, and this year is the first year I’ve tried the creme, and it works like a charm. Now my skin tans like it did before, it’s not itchy, and I can say it’s the best thing ever, and a mystery solved!

 

Patagonia Március 4

A tegnap kozelferkeztunk a gleccserhez. Ehhez át kellett menni két függőhídon és megérte. Úgy értem, h Ildikó atveszekedte magát az ingó deszkák során volt a fizetség, nó meg extra három órát tettünk a jarnivalohoz. De ki is voltunk mire visszaértünk a la grande painehoz. Útközben kisütött a nap és bar ugyanazon az ösvényen jöttünk mint azelőtt nap, mégis egy más kirándulás volt. Visszafele nézve a gleccser fele a felhő lélegzeten átsütött északról jövő napsugár. Ez agyferdülést okozott bennem, most mar beleszoktam hogy a nap közepén észak felé áll magasan a nap.
Egy nézéssél hófedte csúcsók, gleccser kékje, balra tó, mely fehéres szürke ahol suti a nap és kekes ahol a felhő árnyékfoltja. Vajon azért e a neve hogy lago “grey”? És szivárog lassan valami kérgen keresztül ez a szépség, majd betör a lélekig és lesz belőle egy imádság. Egymást botlasztva Ildikóval hol nekiindultunk hol felujjongtunk. A fáradtság  vett hatalomba úgy estünk be a recepcióhoz hogy a türelem határán kapartuk elő az útlevélkét.
Ildikó állatmegfigyelő. Hol rókat, hol nyulat vett eszre, több alkalom kellett, amíg én is megpillantottam. O egy  vadászjelenetet is látott meg le is filmezte.

Másnap balzsamos napsutos áradt a vidékre. Hallom h kattannak a kamerák itt ott. Négykézláb kitolom a fejem a repedésen és látom én is. A tegnapi esti szürkületben felszálltak a felhők és a legmagasabb szikla katedrális csúcsa körvonalazódott. És ma reggel a felkelő nap megvilágította roszazsinű

Ma este kellemes menet után eljutottunk campo italianohoz. Ildikó segített felhúzni a sátrat. Utána a domo francesnel elvaltunk. Ildikó ott éjszakázik én pedig visszasiettem a táborhelyre. Varom Ildikót reggel hogy a gleccserfolyó menten felnyomuljunk egy meredek völgyön újabb szögből megbámulni e geológiai kompozíciót. Közben hallgatom a soknyelvű csevegést amely az asztaloknál ülő fiataloktól árad.

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Patagonia – Március 2

Végre jött szó anyukám felöl:

A tegnap este összepakkoltuk a hátizsákot. A többit az Erratic Rocknal hagytuk. Kibéreltem egy sátrat, amit a park füvén probáltam kitesztelni. Hozzánk csatalkozott egy kóbor kutya. Elötte becéztük és egyböl baratságba kerültünk. Sok kóbor kutya van a városi utcákon. Mint a hajléktalanok ott fekszenek a járdán es alszanak. Ildikó aztan szólt neki hogy ne kövessen. És értett magyarul.
Hostel Lucy-nel aludtunk.  Csínos ápolt b&b. Ildikó nem aludt nagyot de én nem bántam a az utcai zajokat. A zsákom lehet vagy 15kg. A buszok nagyok és kényelmesek amivel PN-bol kihoztak a parkba. Reggel 7 után csak jelentek meg a hatizsákosok es különbözo utcákbol egyre tobben parádéztak a buszállomás felé.

Katmaranon meglegyintett a hegyi szél ahogy fodrozott a kék vizü tó. Olyan tenszeru es kék volt a parthoz közel. A térképem beleesett a vizbe. Onnan piszkálta ki a hajos egyik legényzete. A pallón leállt a forgalom es drukkoltak a papirhalászatnak. Most itt örzöm a kabátom zsebében.

Szoval hogy is van a gleccserrel? Ohh erzem hogy luktet a lábam és forró és sulyos. A Paine Grande-tol jottünk a Refugio Grey-ig és most a bérelt satorban a vadonatuj halozsakomban fekszem. Ildikó a menedékházban alszik.

Nem konnyu atadni azt a pillanatot amikor megláttuk a gleccsert. Olyan szép az ösvény, változatos,  barátságos. És a tó és a kék jégdarabok. És jobbra mint a katedrális égbeszökõ szikla tornyai. És tekereg az ösvény néha alábukik néha hosszan hullámosan fel-le. Izzadunk, kalimpálunk a botokkal a sziklák között. És felkaptatunk és nézzuk a gleccsert. a végtelenböl elénk agaskodva. Óriási jégkockák a víz hátrán.  A szinek kontrasztok.

Pötyörögnek cseppek a sátorra és én aludni fogok. Deréktöl lefele meleg olom vagyok

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A Déli Csücsök

Eddig terv szerint mentek a dolgok. Reggel még Santiagóban ébredtünk. Négy órás repülőút Punta Arénásba vártunk egy kicsit aztán kényelmes, magas ülésű buszban jöttünk Puerto Natalesba. Kissé megpillantottuk a Magellan szoros haragzöld vizet jobb felől. Utána kietlen rétek mentén haladtunk és láttunk juhokat vagy hasonlókat szétszórva. Később hegytömbök emelkedtek a láthatáron. Havas tetejük van. Holnap korán kelünk. Busszal megyünk a parkig. Ma este istenit vacsoráztunk és igyekszem aludni. Kíváncsi vagyok hogyan bírom a hátizsákot.
– Tóth Erzsébet

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How to make your weakness the reason why people like you

This post was inspired by one of those many articles that try to outline ways to become more likable. There are obvious things like, “Smile more”, or “be more positive”, or “be genuine”. But there is one that really struck home, and I think it’s a hard one to do, especially for those who are perfectionists and hugely insecure in maybe the one thing they cannot perfect.

My advice: Embrace this weakness.

Research actually shows that although people may respect you if you appear perfect in every way (no one really is!), it actually makes you less approachable. Only deities are truly perfect (well maybe the Greek ones had some issues)  so people will look up to you but have a hard time getting closer. So – this weakness I told you to embrace: make it your human trait, and then work on perfecting everything else.

This is one silly example, but I think helps explain the point. Maybe your weakness is being really gassy. Let’s say you’re really good at yoga, and one day you let one little toot out during a yoga class. Up until then, people around you might have been thinking, woah, (s)he’s so good. I wish I were that flexible, strong, whatever. But until that toot, they would probably have a hard time approaching you. (Kids are better at this by the way…). And especially so if they are self-conscious about the lack of their strength or flexibility.

So you farted. What to do next? Perhaps turn red and avoid all eye-contact? That might be the instinctive thing to do. However, the best way is to fight the urge, and react lightly: make fun of yourself, or just a whisper of “oops!” and smile. This reaction will bring you down to earth from the clouds in the minds of others, and in fact make you more likable, and perhaps even relatable for some people 🙂

Of course you should strive to be all of those simple like-able traits like smiling and positivity, but this adds another tool in your toolbox. Good luck, and have fun with it!

Birth of Changi, the cute elephant

I was supposed to go to dinner with my friends after climbing at Planet Granite. It was around 9pm on the 23rd of August, my 28th birthday. All afternoon I had been checking my phone at every moment I got, for S called me earlier that day saying “It looks like A’s going to give birth either today or tomorrow!” And I was supposed to take pictures of the event. No one was expecting it this early; she was actually due in mid-September.

In the brief minutes that I was distracted from checking my phone, Szilard had texted me again: “Come now! She’s giving birth!” The unread text sat on the screen of my iphone 6, as I was climbing a very tricky yellow-handhold 11B in the corner of the gym. The distraction continued in the form of friends crowding me in a circle, singing happy birthday in the gym during probably the most crowded time of day, as I pretended that I was also singing for someone while turning bright red. Of course they yelled my name really loud, just as A was probably screaming in effort to push a new life into this world.

My friends presented the “cake” aka a bunch of cut fruit in a cake tin, as the nurses placed an equally if not more sweet baby girl into A’s arms. My present had all sorts of fun things in it: figs cut in half, spears of pineapple, bright red strawberries, soft melon, and strips of dried coconut topped with unlit candles. In the same moment, S was gaping with awe at the soft-cheeked baby Changi with a bright red face, struggling to open her brand new eyes to this new world she rushed into. Was it really a good idea she must be thinking to herself? Unsure, she wails as she is placed on her mother’s bosom.

Mostly through my “slice” of the fruit-cake, I casually check my phone, and nearly choke on a piece of coconut. “Guys, I have to go, dinner is cancelled, my niece was just born!” After that, everything happened so fast: I throw my climbing stuff into my bag, jump into D’s car and we race to the curtly instructed location: West Pavilion, Purple Elevator. D drops me off, and I rush in the entrance, past the security guard. Having no idea where I’m going, I just feel my way through the hospital, looking for signs: purple elevator… purple elevator. As if I was being led, the elevator revealed itself in a corner; anyone watching me would probably have thought I knew exactly where I was going. Come on come on… open faster – I thought willing the sliding doors to open already.

Reaching the floor, everything looked calm, but I was anything but that. The lady at the front desk was my last obstacle. “I’m here to photograph the new child, last name is Suto,” I tell her. “Sorry, I can’t hear you, can you come closer?” Ahhhhhhh! But I put on a placid face. “The mother’s name is Arty.. I mean Tatawan Suto.” I say more clearly. The lady bobs her head, pulling out a sharpie as I’m tapping my foot impatiently and slowly writes on a sticker already marked with the date Aug 23: Suite 324. She points to a double doors, hands me the sticker-badge, and I’m on my way through the labyrinth of hallways and adjoining rooms, the 3 by 5 foot white poster board I brought floating like a sail in my right hand. I wanted to be prepped with a light reflector in case the lighting was awful.

I finally reach the door and knock. For a split second I thought I had the wrong door, as a low-pitched lady voice mumbles, “what?..” Then I hear my cousin S’s masculine voice as the nurse opens the door. He pushes past her and grabs the door wide open, with an even wider grin. I have never seen him happier, and I have known this guy for 25 years.

Let these pictures tell the rest of the story…

A set of meaningful quotes from the first two hours after Changi’s traumatic entrance into our world:

S: “I’m in love” [while holding a sleeping Changi in his arms]
A: “Nothing on my calendar matters anymore…”