Category Archives: LIFE

Learnist Climbing Boards: Clear Creek and Kelso Ridge

I’ve recently begin creating content for Learnist, which I would describe as “the Pintrist of learning.” I’m enjoying the web-trawling involved, and I’m learning a lot in the process of sharing my own “learnings.”

Last week, I returned to my home in Colorado’s Vail Valley, so it’s been a work of joy for me to share the beautiful places around here that have been the source of inspired adventures. I recently compiled sources related to Clear Creek Canyon’s climbing areas:

Learnist- Climbing Clear Creek

Clear Creek Canyon, near Golden, Colorado, is a place where I like to climb in the fall and spring months. It has several sport climbing locations that are easy to access, so it’s a fun place to go for a quick climb with Front Range friends.

Since 2008, I’ve lived in the Vail Valley–West Vail, then Avon, now Edwards, and the mountains around here have been a big inspiration. Yes, it’s supposed to snow here tomorrow, but one fall I was able to take advantage of warmer temps as I speed climbed up Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak with my friend Rich. That experience inspired me to create a board about this route:

Learnist-Kelso Ridge

Enjoy exploring these boards…I hope they inspire you to go to these places or to seek out similar adventures of your own.

If you haven’t yet checked out the above links, click here to access these learning boards on Learnist:

Rock Climbing in Colorado’s Clear Creek Canyon

Colorado Fourteeners: Climbing Kelso Ridge on Torreys

Life: Hut Trip–10th Mountain Division Hut

Following the blue diamonds to any one of Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Huts is a treat. I’ve only been on one hut trip so far this winter–to the hut that’s actually named… the 10th Mountain Division Hut. The trailhead for this hut is north of Leadville on Highway 24, off a side road midway between Leadville and Ski Cooper. The approach to this hut starts out totally flat. It weaves through a marshy area, and then the incline ramps up slightly. The gradual incline remains steady through a nice meadow, and then the last little bit qualifies as the only real climb. I went for an overnight trip with a fantastic group of people, and I’ve found out on other hut trips that, despite the always-spectacular surroundings, it’s those on the trip who make it memorable.

In perfectly sunny conditions, we shoveled off the deck and went inside to check out the interior.

At the 10th Mountain Division Hut, we had to get two fires started. The wood stove in the large living room area became the one we all gathered around in the evening, telling stories, laughing, playing cards.

And the stove in the kitchen was the one we gathered around for mealtime bonding. We hauled in a ton of food and good drinks, so nobody on this trip went hungry.

The sleeping quarters were cozy, hostel-type accommodations. We all spread out our sleeping bags to claim our spaces.

And, seriously? Even the outhouse at this place was cute. If it weren’t an outhouse, I would have wanted to stay here and live in this cool little structure!

The weather remained clear all night, and the next morning we had a great view of our surroundings, including the lovely Homestake Peak.

With snow conditions in such a sorry state, we didn’t go off on any ski ventures aside from a short exploratory skin-about before dinner. But our ski out was nearly as leisurely as our ski in, and we all left feeling refreshed from the cold, mountain air.

Merry Christmas!

from Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, ya’ll.

Life: Go…Green?

For Christmas, my sister bought the entire family tickets to yesterday’s New York Jets vs. New York Giants game. What excited me the most about this event? The tailgating—the tailgating from the backside of my sister’s avocado green 1979 VW Westy.

Shawna’s been known to concoct quite a tailgating spread, and from her previous Jets games, she’s earned a reputation for driving “The Jetmobile.” We arrived early (8:00 for a 1:00 kickoff) and planned multiple courses. It was very, very cold, however, so I spent the first few hours inside the VW, huddled in my down jacket and wrapped up in fleece blankets.

But then the sun finally started to warm things up, so I got outside to inspect the spread. My mom bought an array of Christmas cookies with her on the plane from Louisville, Kentucky, and Shawna mixed up some morning mimosas.

Other items in the spread included herbed potato and egg breakfast burritos, turkey burgers, corn salad, and a crunchy broccoli slaw.

We walked to the stadium with full bellies and took our seats. This being my first Jets game, I had many new cheers to learn. Luckily, they weren’t difficult. Announcer: “It’s a Jets…?” Crowd: “FIRST DOWN!!!!” Captain Ed (fan cheer leader): “J!” Crowd: “E-T-S…JETS, JETS, JETS!!”

The flight crew cheerleaders took center field during halftime in sexy Ms. Claus-like santa suits and performed a holiday dance routine. Then the Jets started losing, and the crowd began losing its good holiday cheer. I watched two little scuffles break out between mouthy Giants fans and Jets loyalists. Late into the drinking day, things began turning sour.

MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,566) stood strong, holding us all together—Jets fans and Giants fans alike—until the late-day sun worked its way up the crowd and left us cold in its shadows. Final score? Giants: 29. Jets…14.

Life: All in the Family

The core-unit Macnamara family’s gathered here in NYC for the Christmas weekend. Yes, my sister has a van, too. She’s named it Basel Ribbit, and Basel’s for-real because he has a Facebook page. Shawna and Basel picked us all up today in Manhattan, and we cruised around to get supplies for tomorrow’s festivities: the Jets vs. Giants game. We plan to get up early, put coffee in a big Thermous, and tailgate like I haven’t tailgated since my days at Notre Dame. I’ve been informed that I must wear green because I’m Jets fan.

Driving through New York City at this time of the year is pretty exciting. In addition to the ever-present yellow cabs and throngs of people on the sidewalks, the buildings are all lit up with dazzling holiday décor.

Mom and I cozied up in the backseat and enjoyed the ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, where we went to The Meat Hook (inside of The Brooklyn Kitchen) and got special sausages for tomorrow’s tailgater.

Dad sat in the front seat to navigate…and then helped us get installed for the eve at my sister’s apartment. Four of us in a studio with an office = holiday love!

The Meat Hook
100 Frost St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

The Brooklyn Kitchen
…same address as above…

Life: Say Cheese!

Ahhh…the wonders of cheese. On a recent trip to NYC, my superstar sister signed us up for a Mozzarella cheese making class at Murray’s Cheese Shop (pictured below), which has got to be the closest thing to cheese heaven on this earth.

In case you were wondering what cheese heaven on this earth looks like…it looks like this:

Being a class, I thought that this would be a serious intellectual, but hands-on, pursuit. We’d learn the history of Mozzarella. We’d learn about its different types, textures. We’d learn about the essential ingredients, and we’d learn how to make Mozzarella ourselves. True—we did learn a bit about all of these things, but we also arrived at the Murray’s kitchen classroom to find that this was also a cheese tasting, complete with bottomless bottles of red wine, sparkly, and rosé. So, way more fun than expected.

After a bit of tasting, we all got our own stock of Mozzarella cheese curds, from which we fashioned the finished product.

My sister (pictured above) was really excited about this process, as you can see. We poured hot water over the square-shaped curds and then started pressing them together into a fist-sized cheese ball.

We added some salt and then started stretching the cheese so that the curds would become stitched together. Think of this as the String Cheese Incident portion of the class.

Finally, we rolled the cheese into a ball and tucked in the edges. Honestly? Making Mozzarella from the provided cheese curds was not a very difficult thing to do. You need the curds, for starters, and then you only need water, salt, and little bit of gumption to pull it off.

If you’re a cheese-lover, Murray’s Cheese Shop is definitely the place in NYC to fuel your passion. Murray’s offers an array of classes at their “Murray’s Cheese U” such as “Cheese 101” and “Off the Beaten Path: Pairing Kimchi and Cheese.” They also have a three-day “Boot Camp,” which involves all things cheese-related; participants can take a Boot Camp final exam to earn a Certificate of Achievement. The Boot Camp sounds more serious than the Mozzarella class we took, but I’m sure it’s just as much fun, too.

Check it out:
Murray’s Cheese Shop

Life: Climbing 1000′ of Fun

The rock route called “1000’ of Fun” in Utah’s San Rafael Swell lives up to its name, for sure. Good rock, nice features, five pitches of really fun, easy trad. I climbed this one with my friend Tom on Day Two of a multi-day trip to the area. Day One was a bit disappointing due to the crumbly rock on our chosen route, but this route was much more solid. We took turns leading and cruised through the pitches, which ranged from 5.4 to 5.6 climbing. It felt nice to just move up this line from one nice hold to the next. As I’m leading (at right), you can see the big hueco-holds…and also in the photo below.

Since this isn’t splitter-style sandstone, getting in some of the protection was tricky, but it was all there…and it wasn’t scary.

We were up to the top in less than two hours taking in the nice desert views above Three Finger Canyon.

Click here if you want to know more about this route, description, directions, etc. on Mountain Project.

Life: Canyonlands Camps

One of my favorite things about being in the Utah desert is hanging out in camp. Yes—the climbing/biking/backpacking is all great the desert, but there’s something about being in so much wide-open space that calms the soul. I get this sense more in camp, especially at night, and especially when there’s a campfire burning.

On Night One of the recent Canyonlands backpacking trip, we camped for free in a (mostly) climbers’ campground near Bridger Jack Mesa in Indian Creek (pictured above). Memories of my time here learning to crack climb came flooding back, and I stayed up after the sun went down to watch the nightlife come alive. Mice darted around while the Spaniards next to us got louder, and the campsite across from us became animated with singing and guitar playing.

We camped at Bridger Jack so that we were close to Beef Basin Road, which we drove down the next morning to access our trailhead at Cathedral Butte. On Night Two, we set up camp and watched the storms roll in. We woke up the next morning wind-worn and decided to hang out in camp while it hailed. Cathy laughed out loud as she read Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid

…I wrote in my journal and re-read underlined sections from my copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

We took a leisurely pace the next day and spent most of the afternoon hanging out by the watering hole near Kirk Cabin before retiring to our Night Three campsite in the cliffs. We had to get a backcountry permit to camp in this area, and this campsite—known as SC1—was available by reservation only.

We were the only ones at SC1, and I felt like it was a place from another time. On this trip, I was in charge of all details related to the route/routefinding, and Cathy was in charge of food. She and her husband are known for spectacular hut trip culinary displays, and I wasn’t disappointed with our fare on this trip, quite colorful here, eh?

On Day Three, we hiked back to our car at the Cathedral Butte trailhead. After two nights of scrambling to set up the tent in wind, sleet, and rain, we opted to do the ultimate car camp on Night Four. Really—we camped in the car. I believe that vehicles are useless unless you can sleep in them, and this night reminded me how comfy sleeping in my Subaru can be.

(BTW—what am I wearing there? It’s like a combo dress-pants-winter-spring-hiker-climber ensemble.)

Even car camping like this in the desert is fun. With red rock cliffs and golden evening light as the backdrop, I’m perfectly content to sleep in a car, or a tent, or right out there in the open on sandy ground.

Life: Adventures in…Marriage?

I recently took a weekend away from my still-snowy life here in Colorado to attend a still-snowy wedding location near Sierra City, California. This wee mountain town is just north of Tahoe. Patty—an American friend I met in Chamonix, France—married Phil—a Scottish guy I also met in Cham (Phil, at right—in kilt). I haven’t been to many adventurous weddings, but this one definitely falls into that category. Wedding guests skied, snowshoed, or snowmobiled into the ceremony location at Sardine Lake.

Skis were lined up all over the place, and guests wore comfy, casual outdoor clothing for this part of the day. One guy even set up a camping stove to make much-welcomed mugs of hot cocoa and coffee.

Bride Patty in her sparkly-studded ski suit looked like a mountain-girl rockstar, right at home in this spectacular Sierra landscape.

After exchanging vows, the newlyweds posed for photos while guests ate sausage sandwiches…

…and then Patty revved up the sled for a ride back into town.

Later that evening, guests gathered at the Sierra City Community Hall to celebrate.

The Community Hall had been transformed from a small-town meeting place to a fancy dining establishment with a live band.

For this part of the evening, guests wore their best, and Patty looked amazing swirling around in her long white gown.

Everything about this wedding felt like a grand adventure—traveling to and fro, exploring a tiny mountain town, staying in a backwoods cabin, drinking coffee with friends at the only open café. But—what sticks with me now even more than the adventure of it all is this: LOVE.

For more on Patty and Phil’s Sierra Ring Swap, including some amazing photo albums, check out their wedding site:

Life: Homey-Home Adventures

I returned from McMurdo Station, Antarctica just in time to get in some good spring skiing here in the Vail Valley. I’ve lived in Vail for the past three winters and missed most of a superstar ski season by being away. While I was gone, friends here emailed me the updates which sounded something like this: twelve inches of new snow today…two feet this week…we’re getting slammed with snow…skiing powder again. It was enough to make any skier jealous. So I’ve been making up for lost time skiing at Vail and in the surrounding backcountry. I devoted all of March to last-minute training for a backcountry ski race, the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a 40-mile suffer-fest from Crested Butte to Aspen.

Training for this beast-of-a-race involved many ascents of Minturn’s Meadow Mountain on Nordic skis (yours truly on the summit, above).

My EMGT race partner Rich and I whittled down our time from the parking lot to the Meadow Mountain summit cabin to just under one hour and twenty minutes.

The view from the top of Meadow Mountain (above) made the lung-bleeding speed sessions worth it.

Other training involved skinning up Arrowhead in the evenings, as above with Rich and Tammy. On Nordic gear, the icy descent was often a screamer, but it did help me get better control on this set-up that we used in the race.

Rich’s birthday involved a social training day on Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest fourteener at 14,433 feet. We started early and got a glimpse of the peak in pink morning light.

The Elbert Crew made this a fantastic day out. Lisa and Tess were the sassy ladies kicking butt up this peak with a great group of guys–Billy, Eph, Carl, Kenny, Rich, and Marble—Carl’s superfit dog.

EMGT race day arrived, and Rich and I were thankful to complete our final gear check. For weeks, we obsessed over our gear, which included a list of required items such as a stove, tools, spare bindings, emergency/first-aid kit, avalanche gear, and pretty much all of the ten essentials.

The race started at midnight in Crested Butte. For the next several hours, we skied by headlamp, and we reached the Friend’s Hut in freezing temperatures just as the sun was making its way over the horizon. I slipped on ice and slid off of Star Pass…and was sort of broken mentally and physically by the experience of having to climb out, using my ski poles to keep me from falling further down the ravine.

After the Star Pass incident, I felt like the race ended up being more about finishing than racing, which was a bit disappointing. But…Rich and I did indeed finish the 2011 Elk Mountain Grand Traverse with smiles on our faces. At just under 16 hours, the EMGT was one of the most sustained physically painful things I’ve ever done in my life. Would I do it again? Yes—but only to race it next time…and I think I’d have to train all winter in the mountains (instead of the on Antarctica’s flats) to make that happen. Hey, EMGT: I’ll be back?