Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ethics Class - Final Paper

Note: This last semester I've been taking an Ethics class at Shasta College. "Ethics - Understanding Right and Wrong" The following is my paper, which I actually wasn't so sure of when I wrote it. Sort of thought it was kind of rambling. But happily, I guess, my professor liked it, so I thought it good enough to share.

Here are my professor's comments

The paper could use a good edit, but I am delighted to have a paper that actually makes an argument and supports it. Yours is the first real argument I have read so far, and I am over half way through reading finals. Thanks for giving me a spurt of energy to keep reading!!

Happy Holidays!!!

The assignment was to pick a moral issue from our textbook that we had covered during the course and argue for/against it, using the moral theories we studied. (utilitarianism, Kant, natural law, etc)

So Here it Is....

December 13, 2007 was a landmark day in professional sports. It’s the day the Mitchell Report came out, a document that detailed use of performance enhancing drugs by a number of major league baseball players. Some of the most well known players in the game were named in the report, as well as several little known mid level players who were just scrounging out a living in the big leagues. In the three years since the report came out, Major League Baseball has instituted one of the toughest drug policies in sports. Instead of home run races fans now count no-hitters as the steroids and HGH have left the game, supposedly. But what is this hypocrisy that allows us to eat Belgian Blue cattle, yet cry foul when our athletes pump themselves up? If a gene therapy is developed, that is not harmful, how can we protest using it to create a super athlete? It brings to mind the “ick” factor. We think of the old tales of the East German Women’s Olympic teams and how they were supposedly more male than female. What’s the real truth to all this? The problem is modern science is much better than the old myths. Care must be taken, but in the end, to deny and disallow genetic engineering is to deny and disallow the further evolution of our species.

One of the main issues with genetic engineering is that to see results obviously there must be experiments done with human subjects. This is a valid concern, and one not to be taken lightly. We don’t want mad scientists running around, creating Frankenstein’s. That is why government oversight and regulation remains an important factor. Tying the research with federal funds allows control and keeps the science from falling into the hands of James Bond-type super villain billionaires who may use the knowledge for evil doings. One thing the steroid scandal of baseball showed us, there’s never a shortage of people willing to risk experimental procedures with their bodies if the results can help them achieve some sort of ultimate good. I might be worried about the long term health consequence to my body by a genetic manipulation, but if it helped me hit 75 home runs and hence make $25 million dollars in one year, I would probably say the cost benefit ratio makes sense for the side of risking the genetic manipulation.

Then there is the other counter that genetic engineering allows man to “Play God”. This is bad they say because man is not meant to determine godly matters, only GOD can determine these matters of chance. To err is human, they cry, and before long during all this time of experimentation, humans will create an error and “the genie will not be able to be put back into the bottle” as they like to say. To them, it is inevitable that humans will screw it all up, only their God is perfect, or can create perfect things. So anything humans create must be evil and will eventually destroy us.

Genetic engineering is just an unnatural thing the common argument goes. We are creating things that should not be. A strain of corn can be modify to resist a parasite. Similarly, a human can be modified to resist a cancer. This seems to go against what some people see as the natural order of things, because apparently death is a natural occurrence. Yet if we take the thing causing death out of the equation, we are now being unnatural in the way we do things, even though we are using only our natural given abilities, our intelligences and thought processes, to do so.

If genetic engineering is unnatural, then all technology is unnatural. The guy who invented the wheel? How dare he play God!- Enabling humans to get from point A to point B faster than they could on their own two feet. He was manipulating the world to make things better for us, and only God should have the power to do that. So unless a giant hand reaches down from the sky and hands you a Michelin, then you have done something unnatural and therefore have partially played God.

There also rises the concern that the great pharmaceutical corporations and research giants who pioneer and develop the genetic therapies would profit the most by them and would protect their investments by doling out their services only to the highest bidders. This is a well-founded worry and one that I also addressed earlier with the question of human subjects in experiments. Obviously the government cannot afford to be involved in every single genetic experiment going on however. Our free market economy dictates that these companies must be allowed to somehow recoup the millions of dollars they spend on studying and increasing our knowledge on these subjects.

We have a duty, to put into the categorical imperative, to maximize our potential as human beings. Part of this maximization is pursuing every advancement we can in scientific study that can lengthen and enhance our lives here on earth. To ignore these obvious opportunities is to invite death when we know we could have life. It just goes against our nature as beings to survive. Science has made great strides and we simply cannot ignore solely for the purposes of someone thinking that we are too scared to make mistakes.

Religion doesn’t necessarily have to take a back seat either. Why would a God not want us to reach our full potential? To think like that is to think like the Mennonites. Yet most modern people reject that kind of thinking as na├»ve and rightly so. There is no shame in using our brains they way they were designed to work. If the ultimate result of our efforts is less and less ways to die, than that is what is meant to be. Maybe the opposite is true. Maybe our genetic experiments unleash some new horrific super killer that wipes out most of the planet. Could this not as easily be a result of God’s Will? How conceited it is of Man to assume that only he could invent such a killer.

The millions of dollars spent today will pay huge dividends in the lives saved and the dollars earned tomorrow. The cost benefit ratio is not even a contest. There could be millions of lives saved in Africa, for example, with new crops that could be grown in lower quality soil or in drought years. Or perhaps these same crops could be genetically engineered to provide a greater amount of the needed nutrients for a healthy life. These lives saved would then grow and become worthy members of their societies and maybe even someday make scientific discoveries of their own. The amount of good brought about by genetic engineering dwarfs the amount of bad that can possibly come from it by an exponential margin.

To go against genetic engineering is to go against our own nature. The advancement of the human race is dependent upon it, and the science simply cannot be denied. Instead of looking at the advancements we have made as “letting the genie out of the bottle” or a “Pandora’s Box” rather we should look at what these great achievements really are – major breakthroughs that benefit and better our lives on earth. Sure, maybe the old stat geeks and newspaper men who refuse to allow Mark McGuire into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he used PED’s will never see the truth of reality. Remember however, that these same people are the ones who’ve allowed baseball to fall from grace as the once National Pastime has now become nothing but another video game (and not even a good one) to today’s youth. Science is the future, and it should not and cannot be denied. The progress of our kind is dependent upon genetic engineering and even God will allow that is good.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Exercising Huskies

A tired dog is a happy dog. Especially when that dog is a siberian husky. A few years ago, a learned a trick to exercising our dog, Denali. Now, I'm teaching that same skill to our new pup Makalu.




All this is leading up to me buying a dog scooter. Basically, its a scooter that your dogs pull you on. This is going to be my new hobby, or at least one of them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This One Goes To 11 - Colorado 2010


It’s always a bit tricky planning out our Colorado vacation every year. When we first started going, I would plan them out day by day very methodically. However, I soon learned that Colorado is a state that does not much care what my schedule might be. A great example was 2008. We went in August, thinking it would be nice to get away from the broiling heat of our home at that time. I had a plan for us to do 12 mountains that year. Well, Colorado had a different plan for us, as it decided to snow on us August 15. Yeah, that put a little crimp in our plans. We still managed to climb 10 that year, but only after being chased off the summit of Mt. Yale by a hailstorm and a snow climb up Bierstadt. Last year the plan was to do 7, and more importantly finish up the Sawatch range. Once again, mother nature had a different idea. The thunderstorms seemed to roll in about 10:30am every day instead of noon, so we ended up only getting 6, and leaving one peak, Mt. Columbia, undone in the Sawatch. So I always preface my schedules now with the word “tentative” as weather conditions can never be factored into a schedule made a month before with any amount of accuracy.

This year we originally had planned to go for just a week. But then we just kept planning and planning, and realized we could afford to take another week, thereby extending our schedule to be able to tie up some unfinished business from the years before, and also dabble in some new ranges we haven’t visited before. So this is our schedule for 2010 (Tentative);

1. Pikes Peak (14,110’) – This will be our warm-up hike. I’m expecting it to be a little weird of course, as there is a road all the way to the top, a restaurant and gift shop. I am looking forward to having a hot slice of pizza when I reach the summit, honestly. We will not be hiking the road obviously. Our route will be the North West Slopes route, with a little over 13 miles round trip and 4,300’ of altitude gain. I always start out a little slow, so this will be a good starter for the trip. This also will finish up the Front Range peaks for us, as we have done all the others in previous years.


2. Mt. Columbia (14,073’) – The one that we missed out on last year. We climbed it’s neighbor, Mt. Harvard, our last day of climbing last year. We had hoped maybe for a long day that day to complete the range, but a thunderstorm had different ideas. So we will return this year and finish up the Sawatch Range. All the Sawatch mountains were fun hikes, and really climbing them was a big part of our inspiration to climb them all. We will also miss going to Breckenridge every year. After three years in a row, we really felt at home there. But it’s time to move on.


3. Humboldt Peak (14,064’) – I’m really looking forward to this one, our first foray into the Sangro de Cristo range. Our route will be the standard West Ridge route. I use 14ers.com for all our route information. It’s always fun when they say “rough 2WD drive” road to the trailhead. When they say “rough” road in Colorado, they mean “ROUGH”. It will be interesting to see a rough 2WD road. This is the reason we now drive our 4Runner out to Colorado instead of flying out and renting a car. There’s no security better than being in your own vehicle on roads like that.

4. Mt. Lindsey (14,042’) – Again, this one will be in the Sangro de Cristos. This one looks to be a very challenging climb. We will be climbing the North Face (standard) route, which is described as “Difficult Class 2”. So far, while I have found Colorado 4X4 roads to be rougher than they are rated, I have found the climbs to be slightly easier than they are rated. This trip will test that out much more, as we have this one and another one described as “Difficult Class 2” and one other climb that’s Class 3. We will see.

5. Uncompahgre Peak (14,309’) - After a couple of days rest in the middle of the trip, we will head to the San Juan Range. Here we will climb Uncompaghre Peak, the highest peak of our trip. We will go by the standard South Ridge route.

6. Wetterhorn Peak (14,015’) – I’m really looking forward to this one. Many people describe Wetterhorn as their favorite of all the 14ers. So far, my favorite 14er has been Longs Peak, and some have described this one as something of a mini-Longs. A Class 3 climb leads to the summit via the Southeast ridge. We will have our cameras at the ready for sure. Definitely thinking that this one will be the highlight of the trip.

7. Redcloud Peak (14,034’) and 8. Sunshine Peak (14,001’) – This will be the only time during the trip when we can get a double-day. Luckily, these are lower Class 2’s, so there should be no problems there. Of course, as we have learned over the years, we always must budget a lot of time for doing 2 in a day, and be able to get down fast if a storm rolls in. Backtracking the first peak on the way out is always a pain. So we hope all goes well this year.

9. San Luis Peak (14,014’) – San Luis Peak is considered the most remote 14 thousand foot peak in the US. A gentle but long hike will take us to the summit. Should be fun.

10. Mt. Sneffels (14,150’) – This is the other “Difficult Class 2” we have on our list. Looking forward to the climb and also being in the Ouray area, which I have not seen since I was maybe 7 years old.

11. Handies Peak (14,048’) – The Finale of the trip, an easy trip up Handies. Should we be lucky enough to climb all 11 of these peaks, we will bring our total to 36 of the 58 Colorado 14ers, or 35 of the 54 “Official” Colorado 14ers. Funny, we hope to climb 8 “Peaks” this year and only 3 “Mt.’s” … I just thought that was odd. Can’t wait to get back there and start climbing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mike Lansing and the Mitchell Report

Website Owners Note:I wrote this several years ago, and only published in 2012. I'm wondering about PEDs and climbing these days. I wonder if that would change my outlook on this blog? I dunno. Definitely, the subject of this blog is a good guy. Not sure what I think about Performancing enhancing drugs anymore. Quite a dilemma. 


Yesterday was a shocking day. Something shocked me that I certainly wasn't expecting. Something hit very, very close to home. I thought twice about writing this blog. I woke up this morning and figured I would not write it. Now, this morning, I cannot help myself but start to type.

There have not been many famous citizens from my town of Casper, Wyoming. There have been even fewer athletes. For whatever reason, the best known in my mind are all baseball players.

Mike Devereaux played several seasons with the Dodgers and Orioles, among others, in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. I did not know Mike Devereaux; he was many years older than me and lived on the other side of town. I always followed his career closely though.

Tom Browning once threw a perfect game for the Cincinnati Reds. Tom also was quite a bit older than me. His little sister, however, was the most feared hitter in our little league. I mean, that girl had game. I never knew Tom, but always followed his career closely.

Mike Lansing was named in the Mitchell Report yesterday. Mike Lansing grew up on the same street I did, about 10 houses down. He is one year older than me. His best friend lived across the street from me. I can remember summer nights when all the kids in the neighborhood would play "freeze-tag" and "TV-tag", Mike was there. I remember the very first time I played soccer and it was with Mike and his friends Tony and Tommy. Tony ran into the yard light post in Tom's yard by accident, and I had never seen so much blood in my life.

In grade school, they divided the T-Ball team up into two teams because there were so many kids. My Dad was coach of one team; Mike's Dad was the coach of the other team. One day I was walking home from practice by myself. An older kid who had gotten kicked off the team for missing practice among other things accosted me. He pushed me down and threw my ball and glove down the street. I cried for a few minutes (hey, I was 6) and got up. Up came Mike and Tony. They brought me my glove and gave me a pep talk about how good I had been playing, how neat it was to have your Dad coaching you, and how we should all be looking forward to playing real baseball soon. I realized years later they had probably seen everything unfold from down the street, and where trying to cheer me up.

As the years went by, Mike's ability in sports was more and more evident. I remember in the 5th grade, we would have these epic snowball fights sometimes. The 5th graders vs. the 6th graders, ya know? Mike hit me with a snowball so hard, even from across Ridgecrest Drive it gave me a welt the next day. That kid had an awesome arm. As we grew older, Mike became the Big Jock at school, and I developed a love for heavy metal and playing guitar, grew my hair long and dropped out of sports. However, my brother played halfback in high school - 2nd stringer behind Mike Lansing. So I would go to the games, and wondered why my bro, who was 4 inches taller and outweighed him by at least 25 lbs, was only running back kicks instead of starting. But Mike was busting gains. I'm pretty sure he was All-State - on a team that went undefeated and took the state title.

After high school, our paths took completely different routes. Mike attended college, where he starred at Wichita State and pursued his dream to play baseball. My life led to California, where I pursued my own, more difficult dreams. However, I still followed him. I hung out with a tough crowd then - a crowd that did not care much for any sport the Raiders didn't play. But I remember when Mike made his Major League debut. He batted leadoff and went 1 for 5. One of his next games later that month, in front of a number of folks who drove the 200+ miles to Denver to see him play against the Rockies, Mike had five hits in one game. I clipped the box score and showed all my friends. "This is My home-boy". I was proud of him. He had made his dream come true. He is an inspiration to all who come from small Nowhereville towns across the country. Anybody can make it if they try hard enough.

Mike had a decent career. Never outstanding, but decent. He was part of the 1994 Expos, who had it not been for the strike, almost certainly would have won it all. His best year came with the Expos in 1997, hitting 20 home runs. Later in his career, he returned home (almost) to play for the Rockies. By this time, however, injuries were beginning to take their toll on him and his play slowly deteriorated. He signed a big contract (6 million a year) in 2000 to play for the Rockies and even hit for the cycle on June 18. But he wasn't the same player he used to be, and shortly thereafter was traded to the Red Sox. He was released after the 2001 season after another subpar year. He tried to latch on with the Indians in 2002, but was unable to make the team.

That same year, back in Casper, a new ballpark opened. Casper was always supportive of minor league franchises, but never had the economy to support one for very long. A CBA team came and went in the 80s - but finally in 2001 there was enough to support a A league baseball team. The Casper Rockies were born. The name of their new field, a beautiful little ballpark on the edge of town, was named Mike Lansing Field. Visit here to see some pictures; it's really nice. http://www.digitalballparks.com/Pioneer/CasperInfo.html.

Then yesterday, I saw his name on "The List". He very probably was the last person I expected to see on the list when I clicked on the page to view it. This morning, as I do most every morning, I opened up SI.com. Of course, the front page story - The Mitchell Report and it listed a bunch of names. Only one on that list jumped right out at me. Not Bonds, Clemens, nor even Tejada. Mike Lansing. This is what I found:

According to [Kirk] Radomski, he was introduced to Lansing by David Segui while Segui and Lansing played together with the Expos. Radomski recalled that he engaged in four to five "small transactions" with Lansing. Radomski said that Lansing was familiar with testosterone and "knew exactly what he wanted." Radomski produced two $1,000 money orders from Lansing, retrieved from his bank, made payable to Radomski; both were dated February 5, 2002... Radomski stated that this payment was for testosterone and one kit of human growth hormone. During the search of Radomski's residence, an undated, partial shipping label was seized with Lansing's name on it and a Colorado address. We have confirmed that Lansing resided at this address when he played with the Rockies. Lansing's name, with an address and two telephone numbers, is listed in the address book seized from Radomski's residence by federal agents.

So he is now a "cheater". A shame to baseball and the great American game. No better than Bar-roid Bonds himself. What do I think? What I think is, Mike was trying to revive his career long enough to get another couple of years out of it. He had been injured a lot, and although illegal, was using HGH to recover from injury. Enough to keep playing the game I know he loves. So do we strike his name from the record books? Does his hitting for the cycle on June 18, 2000 get taken away? I suppose at this point the Mob mentality is that all these guys are blatant criminals and we should think of them as destroyers of the game.

He is not. Even though I haven't spoken to him in over 20 years, there is one thing I am absolutely positive of. Mike Lansing loves Baseball. The Mitchell Report absolutely does not change my opinion of him NOT EVEN ONE IOTA. Mike is a real person, a person I admire and still do. And probably many of you would have done exactly the same thing as Lansing did in the same circumstance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Cost$ of Climbing Everest



So just how much does it cost to climb Mt. Everest? It’s a question I hear a great deal, as soon as folks find out my wife is an Everest climber. When the conversation comes up, invariably at some point either subtly or not so subtly, people want to know “So just how much this is costing you guys?” I really don’t mind the question and don’t mind answering though. It is a fairly interesting topic as a matter of fact. I hope this can give folks a pretty general idea.

The common opinion deriving from the “Into Thin Air” readers is that it costs $65,000. If I had a dollar for every time someone has quoted me that figure…. Ah, but Mr. Krakaeur’s book is now almost 15 years out of date. Still, it’s not an utterly inaccurate figure. It’s just that the entire game has changed since Jon wrote his infamous book. You can still pay that amount, if one has the means to, of course, you can now even pay more. People wouldn’t be summiting Everest in record numbers every year though if everyone on the mountain were paying that kind of money. We are in a worldwide recession, remember?

Back in 1996, almost all expeditions who took clients were climbing on the South Side of Everest, from Nepal. Towards the end of the 90’s however, China relaxed a great deal on letting climbers give it a go from the North Side, through Tibet. China’s climbing permit fees are far less than Nepal’s, hence the cost of the entire expedition from Tibet is less. This was coupled with another revolution in Everest climbing – that of the unguided climber. People were beginning to find out that with enough experience on other mountains, one could be just as experienced in climbing Mt. Everest as your guide on Mt. Everest would be, should you choose to hire one. So why hire a guide? Climbers realized all you really needed was someone to take care of the logistics of an Everest attempt, someone to hire the Sherpas, move the gear to the different camps, check on the weather, provide communications, etc. – In other words, all you really needed was a Base Camp Manager. These factors combined with increased competition to drive the price for climbing Mt. Everest from the North Side down to a more reasonable rate, more realistic for the masses whose interest was now peaking in the sport.

It took a little while for the South Side to catch up. Until 2008, when the Chinese decided to close down the North for the season, the majority of Everest climbers were going from Tibet. When the Chinese showed the world their Olympic glory was more important to them, and that they had the power to close down the mountain at any time they wanted, that made many climbers think twice about investing even the lesser cost of an expedition to their side. As a result, unguided expeditions on the south side boomed, albeit for still a slightly higher cost than the north could offer. Yet even this year, 2010, there were more teams on the North Side than on the South.

From Nepal, the permit fee is higher, but also there are other factors that make the price a little more. Nepalese Sherpas “cost” more to hire than Tibetan Sherpas. (The Sherpas from Nepal are thought to be superior to their Tibetan cousins.) There is also the matter of the trek into Base Camp. On the south side, a 10-14 day journey is made by foot, where all supplies must be carried in by yak and by Sherpa’s back. On the north side, those crafty Chinese have built and paved a road right to Chinese Base Camp, so supplies can be trucked in most of the way, and only a two-day journey is needed by foot to reach Advanced Base Camp, where most climbers stay.

Some climbers don’t prefer the unguided option. For these folks, the security of a guided team presents an acceptable upgrade in the cost of their Everest journey. Rightly so, as hiring a guide does increase one’s chances of summiting, Everest is no picnic and many who try to climb the mountain do not make it. If you have the money to spend, it can be worth it to spend the extra $20,000 - $40,000 to give yourself little better odds.

So the following prices are from the more notable companies providing logistical and climbing support on Everest. This is just a sampling, there are more companies than this, but this gives a good cross-section of the differences. All of these prices include oxygen. Since only a handful of people in the world are capable of climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen, it really is pointless to state their costs without oxygen. Cleverly, some companies will give a price, but after reading the fine print the hidden costs become evident, the biggest one of these being oxygen. So oxygen and other hidden costs have been added in if they weren’t already. This is just the costs from climbing either side and I’ve left out the Pros and Cons of each side, as that would really is another blog entirely.

From the Tibet (North-China) Side

Asian Trekking - $23,000. Asian Trekking is a Nepalese company owned and run by Sherpas. They do offer one of the most cost-efficient ways to climb. Their success rate is not fantastic, a climber must rely heavily on his or her own experience. Their north side reputation for quality is not as good as their south side reputation. This is an unguided expedition, although you would have a Sherpa with you for summit day. An extra “personal” Sherpa is available for about $6,000 more.

Adventure Peaks - $23,500. A company from England catering to mostly British climbers. Bloody ‘ell. This one is also an unguided expedition, and really geared toward British climbers with a great deal of previous experience at high altitude. They have a good success rate, mostly due because they are aimed towards climbers who already have a good background and good chance to summit anyway.

Summit Climb - $29,500. Low-budget provider run by American Dan Mazur, Summit Climb is a popular choice for many Americans. The price shown includes 5 bottles of oxygen, which is about the minimum needed. This price includes a personal Sherpa, which you can pay for on your own our split his services with another team member, reducing the cost to you. This too is an unguided expedition, but they do offer the services of a guide however, for those willing to pay extra.

Having an extra Sherpa with you on your summit day is a really good idea.

7 Summits Club - $29,900. Run by Russian Alex Abramovich, this company runs a fully guided expedition at a bargain basement price. Most of the people who climb with 7 Summits are predominantly from Europe and Eastern Europe countries.

From the Nepal (South) Side-

UnGuided

Summit Climb - $34,000. Dan Mazur’s company again, this is their South Side option. To revisit the oxygen subject, 5 bottles is really a minimum. Each bottle extra is $510, and even on their website they state it is nice to have at least 2 bottles extra. This is unguided although you climb with at least one Sherpa all the time. This price includes a private Sherpa, so you would have 2 Sherpas with you on Summit Day.

Asian Trekking - $37,000. The Nepalese company has a much better reputation for their south side endeavors. Their Eco-Everest expedition, besides putting a number of members on the summit, helps to clean debris and garbage from the mountain. They also run the Everest bakery in Base Camp. This is an unguided expedition, but the price there includes a private Sherpa, so again a climber has two Sherpas with her on Summit Day.

IMG - $40,000. International Mountain Guides is a very well respected company from the USA. They were featured in last year’s Discovery Everest series joining with Russell Brice’s Himex expedition. This is for their unguided option, which includes a personal Sherpa. They have a reputation for running very organized expeditions.

Peak Freaks - $45,000. Same sort of thing, unguided expedition with a “Leader” but no guide. This is their price which again includes the private Sherpa.

Guided

Himex - $55,000. Led by Russell Brice and made famous by the Everest “Beyond the Limit” Discovery television series. For years they were the considered the best company on the north side, but had to cancel the 2008 season and afterwards decided only to guide from the south side. Their price, however, is still the same. So when they were on the north side they were one of the most expensive options, and now on the south side they are one of the most inexpensive options among the guided groups. Funny.

Jagged Globe - $58,000. British company that leads full service expedition.

Mountain Trips - $62,000. US-based company offering full service expedition.

Mountain Madness - $63,000. Very reputable Seattle-based company.

Adventure Consultants - $65,000. Company founded by Rob Hall, the famous guide who died in 1996. Back then, they charged $65,000 to climb the mountain. Today, they charge $65,000 to climb. How many things cost the same as they did 14 years ago? I’ve got to believe their profit margin has gone down as the years have gone by, but maybe they make up for it with more people climbing now. I don’t know. I kind of have the feeling that back in ’96 they were just pulling the $65k figure out of their asses, and now it actually costs them that much to put the expedition like this on.

IMG - $70,000. This is IMG’s guided option. So for an extra $30,000 you get the services of a guide. Seems like an awful lot to pay, yet people will pay it or they wouldn’t be able to charge it.

RMI - $74,000. Climb Mt Everest with a world-famous mountaineer as your guide. Quite a thrill if you can afford it. I guess it would be something like driving Daytona speedway with Jeff Gordon or something.

So it’s a lot of money, no matter what way you look at it, but it really doesn’t have to be as prohibitive as you might think. Sponsorship can help, but we know from experience that sponsorship is a double-edged sword. Nobody just gives you money and expects nothing in return. Then there are so many other climbers out there that sponsors can pick and choose who they want to support and why, which can make it very frustrating to those who are not chosen. Then you hear the stories of how much climbers ask for from companies to sponsor them. I heard reports that Jordan Romero, the 13-year old climber, costs were $50,000 a piece for him, his dad and his dad’s girlfriend to climb. They were unguided too. That made me scratch my head a little, what – did the dad quit his job to train? Why so much? I hear other stories of climbers asking for $120,000 from companies to sponsor them. It must be nice to have some stupid company pay you that kind of cash just to climb. Imagine how much a really good climber could pocket from that if he went with one of the low-budget climbing outfits? What a brilliant scam. Whatever CEO gives someone that kind of scratch should put down the copy of Into Thin Air and really investigate the actual costs.

Of course all expeditions are not created equal. They more you pay, the more extras and benefits you will have. I haven’t gone into much detail on this, because there are so many differences between each company. Just like whether a climber chooses to climb the North or the South side routes, there are Pros and Cons for all of the climbing companies. This is just about the cost, nothing more. Other things that must be taken into consideration are equipment (a pair of Everest OneSport boots made by Millet, regarded as the best boots for Everest, run about $800-$900) or plane ticket to Kathmandu ($2500 or so). Then there’s satellite phone minutes to call home, and just spending money in general – oh, those hidden costs! Oh yes, also don't forget that you will be taking off work for about 2 1/2 months - the length of the expedition. That won't cost you too much will it?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Six Years Ago

It still seems funny to me that it’s been this long. Actually, its something I don't really think about much, but for some reason the other day it hit me. Six years ago this week I was accepting the transfer to the Redding office. Although we had talked about moving for years, in a very short time span we uprooted and relocated our lives to a place three and a half hours north, to a community we really knew very little about. I was taking a job that promised to be quite a bit more challenging than the one I was happy with at the time, and we willingly threw Gina into a state limbo, as she would wind her business in the Bay Area down for a few months before moving up to join me in the summer. It was a time that tested our marriage to the fullest and looking back at it now, ended up giving us our greatest reward.

We were happy in the Bay Area. It was the place where we had met, where we had fallen in love, the place where all our memories together had taken place at. Gina had a successful cleaning business, complete with a waiting list of future clients in the wealthy Orinda-Moraga area and I had the best job of my life working for PG&E on a special project. After years of struggling, we were finally feeling secure. Although we could only afford to rent, we were living in the biggest house we had ever had, a nice 1750 square foot place in San Ramon. The neighborhood was great, clean and safe, with a walking/bike/running trail just down the street. We knew exactly where to go to get all the things we might need, from where to go for a good hike to which dog park to take the dogs. In short, we were comfortable. So why change?

Although comfortable, Bay Area life wasn’t perfect. It’s an expensive place to live, and to afford our nice house in San Ramon I worked another job in addition to my job at PG&E, delivering newspapers for the Contra Costa Times. This meant waking up every morning – and I mean EVERY morning – at 2 am and heading off to the Distribution Center in Concord, wrapping newspapers, and then heading out into all types of weather to throw newspapers. The money was too good to stop, and was necessary for us to make ends meet. Unfortunately, finding a substitute so we could go away on weekends was not cheap, and I found myself with the ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, whenever I wanted to. But there was another reason, a reason that was much bigger than just my daytime napping skills.

We had to get closer to a mountain. For beginner mountaineers, Mt. Diablo was fine. At 3800’ but with the base at almost sea level, Diablo offers a respectable 3500’ or so of elevation gain from base to top, depending on which trailhead you are at. When we began climbing we were on Diablo constantly, always searching for new trails and enjoying the beauty and serenity of this Bay Area treasure. We explored probably every square mile of the park and enjoyed it as much as we could. We tested ourselves physically by how fast we could climb it with our loaded backpacks, as we trained for climbs of Mt. Whitney (both the normal and Mountaineers’ routes), Mt. Rainier, and lastly Mexico’s giant volcanoes Izta and Orizaba. After the Rainier climb, we had full-on become climbing enthusiasts, and the trip to Mexico only reinforced our new passion. Diablo was an excellent training area for where we were then, but Gineth had dreams to go further, much further. She knew she wanted to climb the Seven Summits. I knew that for in order to make this happen, we needed to be closer to the mountains – to BIG Mountains, the kind of mountains that we could only travel to occasionally from a Bay Area home. We needed to find a new training ground, one that would prepare her for the adventure she was about to embark on.

There were a couple of options for us. Working for a company whose service territory encompasses most of Northern and Central California has its advantages, and it’s not impossible to move around if you so desire. The union has a bid system, and based on your seniority you are given a number. The person with the most seniority gets first crack at it, and so on and so forth. I had put bids in around the system and was weighing the possibilities based on the likelihood that my number would come up. The locations that offered the most hope for happening were Santa Maria and Bakersfield. Redding was in the mix, but my number seemed too high for it to really happen. Santa Maria seemed like it would be nice, the beach and everything, but for mountains it was no better than where we were. Bakersfield seemed like a better choice. Neither of us had ever been there, only passed through on our way to Whitney. It wasn’t really that close to Whitney though, probably still about 3 hours away from Lone Pine, as one has to go south and down around the horn of the Sierras, back up through the Mojave to actually get to Whitney and mountain country. Not a perfect choice, but do-able. So maybe it would be Bakersfield…..

Then things started to happen with my Redding number. Each day as I checked my bids my number got smaller and smaller, as people ahead of me turned down the job. Through the grapevine I learned that in fact there was going to be not one, but two job openings in Redding. Through the weeks I watched as my number went from a beginning of #17 down all the way to #5. I also learned that the company fills open positions by a rotation with management. One position would be filled by union bidding, the next would be filled by management’s choice. Since the special project I was on would be ending within another year, guys from my group were given priority consideration for open positions. The Redding option suddenly leaped forward to the front of our list. You see, not far from the city of Redding, just another hour north on Interstate 5, sits the North State Icon Mt. Shasta. All 14,179’ of its snowy slopes towering above the hills around it, watching over the entire north valley and seen from as far away as Orland on a clear day. Years earlier, on our honeymoon trip after our church wedding, Gina and I had stopped and gawked for hours at the sheer immensity, magnificence and splendor that Shasta possessed. We wondered aloud (back then, before we became climbers) how anybody could scale such a monster, and took a slew of touristy photos with Shasta standing in the background. Now, all of a sudden, an opportunity to move within striking distance was at our doorstep. Would we, could we, take the next, risky step to get closer?


We thought about it a great deal. For Gina, this meant that she would have to end her business in the Bay Area, then restart it again in Redding. Its hard to think about closing a successful business in one place, just so you can start all over from scratch in another. But Gina wanted to make the move just as badly as I did. She was already making plans for her first expedition, a trip in July to attempt Mt. Elbrus in Russia, the European representative of the Seven Summits. We knew we wouldn’t be able to afford to send her unless her money kept flowing in. The business in the Bay Area had to keep going at least until July. My opportunity, however, wasn’t going to hold until then. That meant for those months in between, during the week we would have to live in different places, with only the weekends to spend together. We made the decision, if it were to happen, then we would move the house up to Redding, where rent was cheaper, and rent Gina a room so she could keep her business going Monday through Friday. For her dream, Gina and I gave up being together 7 days a week, all for the future dream of living in proximity to a mountain.

We took a day trip up to Redding one Saturday. We told ourselves that we were just going to go to Blue Mountain, a hiking trail we enjoyed up a little north past Berryessa Lake, one that you had to go north on I-5 to get to. But we kept going past the off-ramp, kept going to the north. We stopped in Redding and found a Starbucks to have some coffee. Redding had a mall, at least some sign of civilization. (Later we would find out how small the mall was, but that day it didn’t matter.) We went to the grocery store to buy some lunch. The cashier said hello and started conversation with us. Cashiers in the Bay Area don’t do that. The friendliness of the people actually shocked us, we were so desensitized from years of Bay Area indifference. We continued up I-5 to Mt Shasta. We kept going up the Everitt Memorial Highway, all the way to the trailhead at Bunny Flat. Since it was late March, the parking lot was already crowded with skiers, snow-shoers, and best of all to us, even some mountaineers getting ready for a climb. This was the place we needed to be.

Things happened pretty fast. A cowboy named James took the union position a couple of notches ahead of me. That meant that I had to get the management’s choice position. The Supervisor, Ron, invited me up for a look-see. The ADE who I would be working for, Rodger, invited me to stay at his house for the night I came up. I don’t know why, but immediately I felt at home. The area was going through an unprecedented building boom, one that taxed all the employees to the extreme. I was told I would be able to, and that I would probably feel the need to, work up to 30% overtime. Customer contact, something I had never dealt with before, was mandatory. I had always heard the horror stories of estimators who had customer contact and before thought that was something I would never want to do. But here I was, willingly and blindly saying “no problem”, I’ll do whatever I have to for the job. At the end of the day, Ron took me aside into his office, and told me that the job was mine, if I wanted it. I accepted it on the spot. I called Gina and told her. We were so excited, but so nervous. Finally, we were going to move closer to the mountain.

They needed help immediately, and I was given a report date that was in just a couple of weeks. We came up the first weekend and looked at houses for rent, found one that suited our purposes, and the next weekend came up and finalized the deal. The rent was unbelievably low to us, but average for this market. I realized that my days of working two jobs were about to be over. I delivered my last newspaper and got familiar again with what a full night’s sleep felt like.

The whole house was packed up as me, the 2 dogs and the 2 cats all prepared to move, while Gina was left with just a few basics to make it through the next few months. While I moved in April, it wouldn’t be until August, after she returned from Russia, that Gina would join me in living in Redding full-time. The next few months she would live out of duffel bag, driving from Redding to work in Orinda early on Monday mornings, then living and working by herself until Friday afternoon, when she would make the return trip north to be with me. The move was much harder on Gina than it was on me. I had the house, the dogs, the TV, the normal life, while she had her days alone, with nobody but a voice on the other end of a telephone. Gina was the one who really sacrificed for this, and it was her dream of climbing that got her through it.

I started working in Redding April 15th and two weeks later, at the last weekend of the month, the day came to move the last of our things to Redding. Gina rode with me as we pulled out of the driveway of our San Ramon house for the last time. Even though Gina would live/commute for the next months, we both knew that our time in the Bay Area was over. I turned the 4 Runner to drive away, and Gina stopped me to look one last time at our old house. Tears welled up in her eyes, and I asked her what was wrong. “Its just that we were so happy here, I can’t believe that we are leaving.” I held my wife and told her not to cry, that everything would be alright. “Everything’s going to be fine, sweetheart.” I told her. “You’ll see, it’s all going to work out for the best.” I flipped on the radio, just to help get her mind off of the sadness. Over the speakers came the strains of Bachman-Turner Overdrive in mid-tune, jamming “You Ain’t See Nothing Yet, B-b-b-baby you just ain’t see nothing yet….” And we drove away.