"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

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Size matters

This winter has been extremely disappointing for us Finns willing to climb ice. Actually you pretty much need the calendar to know, that it, indeed, is mid winter, not early autumn as the weather has been plenty misleading. Should winters go on like this, retailers should probably forget about long screws and only stock 10 and 13 cm versions; there's not much use for the 16 or even 22 cm screws when your drink has more ice than local ice falls.

Lucky for me then, that since I happened to own a pair of recalled Petzl Sharken crampons, I decided to take single 10cm Petzl Laser Sonic ice screw as part of the compensation for returned crampons. I initially though that that screw wouldn't see much action. How wrong I was! This year I've placed it on most of my leads, to the point that I went on and bought another one, this time Black Diamond Express. Seems like American 10cm is more than 1cm shorter than the French one.

Although 10cm screws don't look like much, if you only have 10cm thick layer of ice, those certainly are the best options, much stronger than tied of 16 or 13 cm screws. Furthermore, fully sunk 10cm is way preferable to 13cm screw that made a little too close contact with underlaying rock. Saves plenty of money as well. Obviously quality of the ice is even more paramount to the strength of the placement than is the case with longer screws, though.

Vertical Pleasure

 Shot on 2009-10-09 Photo taken.Licensed under: Public Domain.

After reading some very interesting stories about the climbing life of Briton Mick Fowler, that can safely be described as eventful, not to mention hardcore, I decided it was time for me to buy his autobiography Vertical Pleasure: Early Climbs in Britain, the Alps, the Andes and the Himalaya.Fowler, MickBaton Wicks Publications2006This is the first set of mountaineering memoirs of one of Britain's leading mountaineers that was shortlisted for the Boardman/Tasker Award and published in Britain and the United States. Fowler describes his full development as a climber initially under the tutelage of his widowed father, then with school friends in London, then to Britain's more esoteric haunts, (sea stacks and far flung ice climbs) and finally in the Alps, the Andes and the Himalaya. Mick Fowler, who works for the Inland Revenue, is now recognised throughout the world as one of the most innovative and widely travelled mountaineers of his era. With job and family life making all the normal demands, his big climbing ventures have to be squeezed into tight holidays. Despite this he has pulled off some of the finest climbs and first ascents of recent years that are envied by his fellow mountaineers for their shrewd esoteric selection, grandeur and bold challenge.97809385674009780938567400Vertical PleasureBiographyen.

Turned out that buying that wasn't nearly as straight-forward as I expected. amazon.co.uk offered it for a bargain prize of £75.00. Most of my usual suspects don't seem to list that at all and those that do offer prices even higher than Amazon, culminating in thoroughly affordable $350.00 at Chessler Books. Surely it is supposed to be superb read according to reviews (eg. Vertical Pleasure), but $350 sure is steep. Finally I stumbled on Antiqbook, which offered it for much more reasonable € 29.50 + shipping. Not exactly affordable either, but not too astronomic.

For brief foretaste, read the article The Secret Life of a Tax Collector: Climbing Mountains.

All mashed-up

Since I have recently employed quite a few web 2.0 techniques, I decided to continue the trend. This time around, I added mashup of sorts, namely I exported newly geo-tagged locations from Glockner Group page (Hohe Tauern) to Google Maps map and embedded that map to said Glockner group page.

While I was at it, I also implemented a couple more microformats, this time hCalendar and hAtom. This essentially forced me to employ tagging as well. Next time I feel the need to review something, its likely to mean the inclusion of hReview.

Finally, I fixed some bugs in RSS creation (change log), added tiles to index page entries, and changed the presentation of the said entries slightly.

ABC going semantic

Microformats logo. Credit: Microformats.org, Licensed under: Public Domain.

I decided it was time to go more semantic by implementing microformats. In more exact terms, I implemented hCard (html vCard) to item list type, which I use to contain information about huts, hotels, lifts, tramways etc.

The big idea behind hCard is to allow browser to recognize contact information on a web site so that it can be easily picked up and exported to vCard, common standard to store contact information that can be exported from and imported into common contact management applications, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google's gmail. Somewhat related, postal address works poorly in the mountains, therefore coordinates are much more usefull in locating huts etc. Especially if you use gps device. Luckily, there's microformat for that as well, namely geo. My own homebrew linking system seems to be not too far away from xfolk so I might change the site a bit so that it takes advantage of that as well.

Forthcoming Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8 are likely the first browsers that can handle such microformats out-of-the-box. That being said, there are already plugins for current browsers, eg.

Laying it out

Parts of the site now has new layout based on the techniques and ideas behind 3 columns fluid layout by TJK design website relying on Faux Column technique and stylesheet branching to keep things compatible and manageable.

Being anal retentive tinker I am, I couldn't go with the solution as it was, of course. Instead I had to roll up my sleeves and incorporate some changes. As I get the rest of the kinks ironed out, the whole site will switch to new layout. After Ajax, RSS is the next web 2.0 technique employed by the site.

Housekeeping the information

Pretty complete rework of info page. Most of the information is the same, but organization is improved and some more information is added. Also some of the dead links have been removed.

ABC goes Ajax

I added nice javascript code tablesort.js which uses Ajax technology to turn static tables into sortable ones. While I was at it, I also tweaked table css a bit to produce nicer looking table. Also, I couldn't resist adding title attribute to grade link to show link description as tooltip. All this is currently in action on 4000m peaks in the Alps.

Cherry-picking in the Kunlun

On the climbing side, few Finnish climbers have been in Kunlun for a while, doing a couple of first ascents. Hats off! The expedition has a blog at: Kunlun2007.

Farther Than the Eye Can See

Licensed under: Public Domain.

I recently saw a document film called Farther Than the Eye Can See It’s a true story about blind climber summiting Everest. I have to say I was scared when watching him cross numerous crevasses using unstable ladders in Khumbu Icefall. Somebody once said that many of the most incredible feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they are impossible. After seeing the doc, I must admit there might be some truth to it.

Keeping to the theme, I was wondering whatever happened to Stephen Daldry’s film Everest. It’s filmatization of infamous 1996 incident on Everest (you know, that “Into Thin Air” deal)? The crew went to summit Everest few years back with several elite climbers acting as stuntmen (David Breashears, Ed Viesturs and Veikka Gustafsson among them). Gotta admire the strive for authentity.

High Exposure

Licensed under: Public Domain.

Speaking of David Breashears, if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and read High Exposure.Breashears, DavidSimon & Schuster2003For generations of resolute adventurers, from George Mallory to Sir Edmund Hillary to Jon Krakauer, Mount Everest and the world's other greatest peaks have provided the ultimate testing ground. But the question remains: Why climb? In High Exposure, elite mountaineer and acclaimed Everest filmmaker David Breashears answers with an intimate and captivating look at his life.For Breashears, climbing has never been a question of risk taking: Rather, it is the pursuit of excellence and a quest for self-knowledge. Danger comes, he argues, when ambition blinds reason. The stories this world-class climber and great adventurer tells will surprise you -- from discussions of competitiveness on the heights to a frank description of the 1996 Everest tragedy.06848654590684865459High ExposureBiographyen It ranks very high on my list of best biographies, climbing related or otherwise. It’s full of interesting, and sometimes funny, anecdotes related to his previous filming projects. Best known of them being Everest and Cliffhanger .