things that are cool about the usa (part 3 in a 3 part series)

    Gear is cheap!
    In DC – the metro (the ticketing system, the fact there are staff everywhere, the flashing lights on the platform before a train cames, the fact trains come so often)
    Squirrels, chipmunks and deers (and all these other novelty animals)
    Snow making things pretty
    The countdown number on the pedestrian crossing, so you know how long you have to cross
    Drive-through ATMs
    Those huge choc chip cookies in Pentagon City Mall
    Self-checkout at some supermarkets
    Things in the supermarket having prices/pound for everything, so you don’t have to work out yourself whether the big or little things are better value
    You can get cheaper flights to lots of places, and you’re closer to a lot of the world than you are in Australia
    Lots of yummy Mexican food (and pseudo Mexican, with Chipotle)
    Saigon Cafe in Harrisonburg, WV VA
    Cycling with traffic on the right side of the road = I can put my foot on the kerb at traffic lights
    The Bolthouse Farms range of drink, especially the Chai Protein drink
    A&J’s Chinese restaurant in Rockville
    Huge range of yummy icecreams
    Petrol is cheap
    They have high mountains
    You can always turn right on a red light (would be left in Australia – thanks to Mimi for the reminder about this one)


things in the usa which are different, but about which i have no strong feelings one way or another (part 2 in a 3 part series)

    All petrol stations seem to have the pay stations at the pump, so you don’t have to go inside to pay
    People keep saying ‘excuse me’ just to signify they’re walking past you (which kept making me jump until I got used to it)
    People have a greater tendency to be loud and excessively enthusiastic about things
    Flags everywhere – not just USA flags, but flags for St. Patricks day, flags for Valentines Day, and so on
    Lots of parades, filled with marching bands and cheerleaders
    People being excessively excited about college sports (and as a result, universities having enormous football stadiums)
    Traffic being on the other side of the road – sounds obvious, but it makes crossing the street far more interesting, and also means keeping to the right side of the pavement
    Everyone uses tumble dryers
    Needing a card for the store to be able to get grocery store specials
    People ignoring the speed limit on freeways (no fixed speed cameras, as they’d infringe on peoples civil liberties)
    Sultanas are on the shelves as currants
    Plain flour is all purpose flour
    Choc bits are semi sweet morsels
    Petrol is called gas. So is gas.
    Toilet paper is labelled ‘bathroom tissue’
    Rubbish is trash
    Crisps are called chips, which is fair enough
    But chips are called french fries! (or freedom fries… or fries)
    People use the phrase ‘good enough for government work’
    Excess use of non-electric kettles
    The huge range of chips and cookie dough and brownie mix in supermarkets
    Creamer powder instead of milk
    herbs = ‘erbs
    They call scones ‘biscuits’, and give them away with take away food
    And then they call biscuits ‘cookies’
    Instead of “eat in or takeaway” you get asked “for here or to go” which ends up being pronounced “fahrerortehgo” which confused the hell out of me a few times before I realised what was going on
    The traffic cones are enormous things you can fit inside of, rather than wear on your head
    Cheese is orange
    The light switches are upside down
    Coffee and cookies vs tea and biscuits
    University is abbreviated to Uni
    Mosquitos aren’t mossies
    They think utes are trucks


things that aren’t cool about the usa (part 1 in a 3 part series)

So when I first arrived in the States, I started making lists of all the weird differences I noticed. Today is Part One – The things I did not like.

    Sugar or honey being in everything! (sultanas, cereal, bread, etc)
    The weather in DC being freezing cold (having to wear gloves just to go outside my house!) or stinkingly hot and humid (sweat dripping from every pore, without me even moving)
    Cars having indicators included with the brake light, so they are red, and hard to see – if people actually use them that is (saves money)
    The money being paper, and all the same size and colour
    Still having one cent coins (pah!)
    The real estate system involving a ridiculous number of people
    Climbing gyms using tape instead of coloured holds for routes
    Tap water having chlorine in it – as a result, newly washed clothes smell like swimming pool
    Roads having numbers and directions instead of signs to places, and names
    People still being allowed to smoke where you’re eating
    Greasy American food
    The lack of birds in Winter
    Lousy selection of chocolate
    Sneaky taxes being added onto the shelf price
    Difficulty finding good vegetarian food
    The unorganised and messy garbage system
    The evil non-working plugs that are incorporated into the sink, so you can’t buy a functioning plug to replace it
    The pizza
    Having to pay individually for ingredients on pizza
    So many places being closed on Sundays (including Saigon Cafe, damn them)
    The Mars Bars are called Milky Ways, and they’re absolute rubbish
    The Snickers don’t taste as good either
    The lack of an automated computer banking system – so you have to use cheques for everything!

general trip reports

so… the longs peak story

(rewind to Wednesday 21st September)

I wake to the alarm at 1am, after a night of restless sleep and strange dreams. I pull on a pile of clothes, it’s feeling fairly warm though, and there’s no wind. “Doesn’t seeing rings around the moon mean bad weather is on the way?” Boer asks. The sky looks cloudy, not promising. We hike to the ranger station and fill out the log, then repeat Mondays easy trek through the trees. The moon is only a few days from being full, so it’s bright enough that our headlamps are unecessary. It gets darker and lighter as clouds pass infront of the waning moon though. We reach the stream in decent time and keep on trekking, winding up the side of a knoll. We take a break, then start heading up through boulders, zig-zagging up hill as the wind picks up. By the time we reach the boulder field proper, it’s nice and windy (by nice I mean unpleasantly cold, and gusting strongly enough to nearly blow me over). The sky is looking clearer at least though.

the boulder field

I see Orion bright over Longs Peak, with the waning full moon bright to the right of it. Here the trail finding is hardest, as we try and pick out the cairns and make our way up to the Keyhole (which doesn’t look like a keyhole at all). The ‘path’ becomes steep and scrambly, and very windy as we dive into the stone shelter next to the Keyhole. The sun is rising, pink sky is spreading over Boulder and Denver, and we can see the cloudy sky properly for the first time. Boer looks dubiously at clouds to the north of us – I say they’re not rainclouds…

“Then what are those things underneath them?”
“Um, they’re dangly bits… we’ll be fine.”

We contemplate our options, and how bad the wind will be, but decide to go through the Keyhole and see what conditions are like round there, while keeping an eye on the weather. I think it will hold. None of the clouds are in our area, and in the direction the weather is coming from it looks clear.

longs peak climbing views

Getting through the Keyhole is a struggle, as the wind is intense. Once we get round the corner though, it dies off to being manageable. After a few metres we realise it’s time to stash the trekking poles. The view down is gorgeous, to glacier ravaged valley, and we hop along the side of the mountain, following the red and yellow bullseyes marking our way, and avoiding plummeting into the valley. We reach the trench and start picking our way up through the loose rock. There’s snow lurking between some of the rocks. We reach the notch, and move around to the east side of the mountain, fighting the wind again. The wind stays strong as we move along the Narrows, with its steep drop off – but I’m having fun! Even if the strong gusts do make life interesting. The exposure really isn’t that bad. We reach the home stretch, and start making our way upward on the Grade 3 scramble. Boer is feeling a bit tired, but I’m really enjoying the climb, and am almost a bit disappointed when we reach the top – a boulder strewn plateau – at 8am.

longs peak summit

Photos are taken (and we have to weight Russell the Moose so he doesn’t blow away for his) and we eat and hang out for half an hour or so, before heading down. We reach the trough before meeting anyone else, then between there and the end of the boulder field meet another 14 people. Some very alarming, as they seem to know little about the mountain, or the weather. We hike down – my eyes are sore and dry, so much so that it hurts to have them open. We race down for a while as we’re getting closer to the campground, when we think we might make it back by 1pm. But it ends up being 1.13 when we reach the ranger station.

longs peak climbing views

In camp we cook pasta and sauce, crash in the tent for a few hours, before waking sticky and hungry, and drag ourselves into town, for eyedrops, and for dinner at Ed’s Cantina, where we are served by a manically chirpy waitress. Home, we crawl into bed and crash.


so long, and thanks for all the fish

To all the DC climbers – thanks to everyone who I went out climbing with, everyone who belayed me, spotted me, went adventuring across the continent with me, played stupid climber games with me at parties, played on woodies with me, decorated my crash pad with evil mooses, tried to convince me that drinking Fosters would be a good idea, let me borrow their house, drove me to the airport, everyone I don’t have photos of, the Governor Stables Bouldering Comp kids, the Red Rocks kids, the adventure racing team, the Summersville deep water soloing pontoon boat kids, and the Sportrock Alexandria crew. I’ll miss you, and looking forward to seeing lots of you in Australia next year :)

DC climbers

(Oh, and there is a reason behind the order of the pictures, I think I got it right – and yes, I did have way too much time in my hands while I was flying back to Australia)