Monday, June 30, 2014


I make an effort to blog every weekday. Sometimes just showing up an saying something is enough to show you are still in the game.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nolan's 14

I want to run Nolan's 14. I have for about four years now. This came to my attention, or I discovered it, at least by 2010 as I was getting into mountain running. This also has meaning for me because Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive are two mountains that in 2002 and 2003 shaped the trajectory of my mountaineering career. It's not an easy hike. Simply navigating could be an issue.

Anton Krupicka tried to do it last year in under 30 hours, which would have dramatically beaten the 55 hour best time. However, I think he suffered from lack of sleep. He did post some great times for what he did do. I have thought for sometime that it could be done in under 48 hours, that would mean only one sleep session.

So my intentions are out there. When will I try it? I am not sure, but it would be fun this summer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Short thought today, and no I'm not going to complain about not paying off my debt vs. going to Everest for the 2014 disaster, is the reason the western world appears so prosperous because of easy access to credit and debt? Think about it, there is no way the average person in the US could buy a $150,000 house without a mortgage. New cars are very similar, $25,000 for something that depreciates at 10-20% per year? Even college educations, with all the discounts, and going in-state can still cost tens of thousands of dollars more than the average family can afford in cash. If we had to pay for things like this in cash, far fewer people would be able to afford them.

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that less developed countries have not had the easy access to credit like we have. No one really likes debt, but it can be very enabling. I don't know if I would be an engineer without it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Women in Engineering and Technology

First of all, my sister is an engineer, and it's just the two of us kids in our family. So if what I say comes off sexist or racist, I'm probably more feminist than my sister, and for the record, being an even mildly feminist man doesn't help at all wooing the ladies. My sister just wrote a blog post on being a woman in engineering and it inspired me to write this. Only about one in seven engineers is female and that has pretty much been her experience.  As for the racist part, you are welcome to call me racist if you want, but then again I'm trying to start Sustainable South Sudan, and you're not helping me. I am afraid that whatever I say as a white American male, anything I say will come off racist and sexist. Hey, I didn't pick my parents. On the other hand, and the reason I am going through with publishing this, if I don't talk about it, how will we ever encourage more women, and minorities, to get into engineering and technology?

I have been thinking about this for some time since Google released it's employment demographics a few weeks ago. When I first heard that Google was 30% female I was stunned! I was amazed! I thought, 'how in the world did they get so many women?!' It was roughly the same for their ethnicity, I thought, 'only 61% white?! Where did they get all the other ethnic groups?' That being said, 30% Asian actually makes a lot of sense between Japanese, Indian, and Chinese citizens or descendants. I think my reaction was actually somewhat opposite the mainstream media's reaction to "diversity" in the technology sector.

Since I originally wrote this post, I was letting it simmer so that I had time to revise it again before I publish. In the last week Yahoo came out with it's diversity numbers. Once again, the details, directly from Yahoo, are not actually that surprising to me. Basically 15% of the technical staff is female.

The company I work at is roughly the same person count size as Google, and from my experience has far fewer than 30% women. In my limited experience it seems we have about 10% women, but my experience is nearly all direct engineering, not marketing or supply management or manufacturing. When I was part of the FEA group, we had one woman, out of like 40 employees. How's that, a 2.5% ratio? For the record, it's a little hard to directly compare statistics at a place of work when accounting for contractors and contingent personal, also for a global company like mine with several working groups split into several countries but effectively reporting to the same person. Now, it's not that 40 people in several different countries actually report to the same person, but effectively they do. Global organizations are complicated to say the least. Yet as W.L. Gore has shown, clear organization is not necessary to stay in business. The point being, of those 40, maybe only 10 (including the one woman) would show up in the official statistics because the rest are contractors or work in a different company and have a different official reporting structure.

In college in my aerospace engineering class of 2008, I think of about 40 graduates three were women. Those are approximate, because I'm not 100% sure who was aerospace versus mechanical engineering with aerospace concentration, but you get the picture. Materials science was very different, maybe 30-40% women, pretty stunning actually. In my graduating class at semester there were only two of us, and the other graduate was a woman. These are all anecdotal of course, your experience in engineering and technology will vary of course.

Why is it this way? Well, first of all, I think that there will never be an equal 50% split between men and women in science, technology, engineering and math fields. I feel that way because I know enough women and their husbands, and a lot of women make the decision to stay home and raise the kids. Yes I know two stay at home dads too, but they are in the minority. Still, why is it not 45%/55% women to men or at least 40%/60%? There were always more girls than boys in my high school advanced classes like calculus and college biology and physics. In fact, in my high school physics class of about 18 people, only two of us were male. Why did the two of us go into engineering while I think all the ladies in that class went into less technical careers? I feel that it has to do predominately with cultural expectations, and to a lesser extent the college support structure. Men are engineers that go to the office and do math, by themselves, and sit at a desk. Women work with people and collaborate in team environments, like a nurse on staff. Honestly, I think that cultural expectations are the major reason for the disconnect. There is also an attitude of competition in science and engineering, not necessarily direct, but the curriculum is tough and teaches you how to solve problems. A lot of people, men and myself included, often dove into the work alone for hours at a time, and while obviously working in teams and getting help from others is necessary, I am afraid that women see the system and don't want to do the solitary number crunching that college presents as "engineering". Now, actually in industry as a design engineer I spend probably 15 hours a week in meetings, another 10 hours a week talking to people informally about my projects, and then maybe 15-20 hours a week actually doing work at my desk. It is so different than college, there is very little on your own technical work, at least in my view. Design engineering is more like art meets sales. We create some art and then try to sell it to the rest of the team, making changes as they recommend until it is very functional art.

On the college support side, classes are not like the real world. There are similarities, but the differences are dramatic. I am afraid that throughout the formal college education process many possible engineers are not supported well enough. In other words, people skills don't get you strait A's in an engineering college, but they might get you CEO in a company.

I should really have high school job shadows now, because some days I feel like all I do is go to meetings and talk to people, Thursdays especially. True story, today I was running a machine in the morning to show a function to some South Koreans then in the afternoon I was running an impact gun changing worn bolts on one of the designs I am responsible for. I always enjoy asking women in engineering how we can get more women in engineering. I mean, I think in some small way I helped motivate my sister into it and I would like to get more women to try out science and technology. The way I think of it is, with an engineering degree, you can teach school, you can go to medical school, you can get an MBA, you can go to law school, you can start a business, and oh yeah, you can be an engineer too. Without an engineering degree, you certainly can't engineer, and chances are your degree will be much more limiting.

A standard argument for a liberal arts degree is that it expands your mind and shows you different ways to think about things, no one says that about a science or engineering degree, but those people obviously haven't sat through Compressible Fluid Dynamics or Intermediate Physics Mechanics II, not to mention studying relativity. I'm biased of course because I have two engineering degrees. I feel that there should be more engineers in the world. We get stuff done. Science is just amazing! Gears for example are simply fascinating.

Looking forward, I won't always engineer. At some point I would like to teach. I also have some other career goals which don't involve engineering. Yet, engineering is fulfilling, and often social, and there is no other education path which I feel would have developed my career and progressed my life like engineering has. For those of you that think, 'people like me don't go into science, technology, engineering, or math.' We want you! We want you to come to our meetings and say something we had not thought of, yet was actually realistic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Talking about Everest

This continues to be a strange experience. Everywhere I go people want to talk about Everest. They all lean in when asking about it too. Maybe I talk too quietly. The conversation seems to follow the business at hand, before returning again to climbing Mt. Everest. It feels like I have talked about it so many times.

The look on people's faces show they are mesmerized and stunned to even think about it. I have spent so much time thinking about it, and the corresponding death and danger, both before and after the accident that to me it basically seems business as usual. It is not business as usual, 16 people died in one minute. Plus, I guess most people don't try to go climb Mt. Everest.
April 16th on the hike to Pumori C1
I mean what is there to say? Oh there is a lot to say I suppose. The details of returning, in other words, will I return and under what conditions would there have to be? The only reason I went after Everest is the reason everyone goes after it, it's the tallest. There is only one.
April 24th Press Conference
Yet my experience is so tainted by tragedy, how do I reconcile myself with all of the negatives of this experience?

Tonight on the Heritage trail as I finished my run for the day, a man said, "Keep it up Mr. Everest!" I don't know who he is. I told him to keep it up too. Last night I went out to eat on a business dinner with some colleagues from another company, and country, after hearing I just went to Everest, they would turn the conversation around back to Everest every 25 minutes. I'm happy to share. It is just a little painful to talk about. Many of the positive parts are hard to talk about, like running with snow balls in my hands in freezing weather to train, the Gorak Shep mile, an easy 21,000 foot mountain. My perspective on what is easy and what constitutes effective training is often so far beyond what almost anyone else will do that even admitting these basic simple things they stare at me in disbelief. 

Here is a nice article written by Ang Tshering Sherpa, Dawa Steven's dad, who owns Asian Trekking, who yes I did meet at Dawa's restaurant and saw again at the April 24th EBC press conference. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 157

I'll call this a long week. It started Sunday in Massachusetts. I had breakfast with my hostess for the weekend and we had a nice hour and a half chat about life, where we are, where we are going, what has all happened, and specific events. Then I went to the church I went to in college and quite a few people were excited to see and, and of course I was thrilled to see that much of what I left was the same as when I was there. Getting from Worcester back to Dubuque ended up being more of an adventure than I anticipated. I left my host's house, went to church, stopped by another friend's house in Worcester to pick up a book, back to my host's house to drop of the loaner car (Thank you!) and walk to the commuter rail station. Catch a trail with eight minutes to spare, then switch to a bus (subway) south station and get to the airport with maybe 90 minutes until take off. Then we had a delay, before boarding the plan because of wind in the windy city. After maybe only half an hour we boarded and were quickly in the air. The whole flight I spent talking to a recent Dartmouth grad who was now back in business school at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Kind of nice to be a little social sometimes. Lading I made my way out to F lot to pick up my van. A quick drive through the city to Busse Park for a five mile run before the sun went down then a long drive back to Dubuque arriving close to midnight. Travel…

Work went well this week. The biggest event to report was that we were getting ready for one of our coworkers from India to visit for six weeks. Otherwise, it's business as usual. We did have a golf outing on Friday to celebrate one of our own taking a promotion and moving to North Carolina. That's the one golfing outing for me for this year.

Running went well, with 91 miles for the week including a 20 miler Saturday morning. I also had a 45 mile bicycle ride with the group Wednesday night and we averaged a whopping 20.5 miles an hour! Overall nothing to report on the workouts or racing scene. I need to do lateral exercises more often! I have weak hips, which causes other issues…

Saturday evening I was back out at Park Farm Winery for the first time this summer. I worked a wedding, it was actually pretty quiet. The interesting news is they have two dark dry red wines out there new this year that I have not tried yet. I'm thinking I might need to stock pile a few bottles because they are getting more experienced and better at making quality wines every year.

In general news, I need to go to a physical therapist and get my whole body tested to find out exactly where I am weak, because even now, running 90 miles a week I know I am not 100%. I hate shopping for medical professionals. It's so personal, and so often they are trying to sell pills, orthotics, surgery, or some other medical device or service I don't want.

Worth noting, I was charged a bank fee of $12 this month! I just found out one of my checking accounts instituted a new fee schedule. Another bank recently started charging me $6.95 per month, but was strangely paying it, until last month. So I will be closing a number of accounts over the next few weeks and moving most likely to just my Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) which still has free checking, and I will probably be opening a credit union account. I don't like the thought of paying a company for the privilege of allowing them to hold my money. I understand that a checking account costs them money to operate, but why can't they have a fee schedule like Paypal? This is a much deeper subject, I'll stop here. Happy week 157 living in Iowa!

Friday, June 20, 2014


On one of my recent 100+ minute "recovery" runs I was thinking about my life and how strange it can be. In 2010, I applied for over 400 jobs, I had seven in person interviews, and out of that netted only two job offers. No company wanted to touch me.

The thought that sparked this post was thinking about my encore Everest presentation at work. The first one I gave a few weeks ago was attended by probably 100 people including people online. The second one was another maybe 40-50 people including the online attendees. As far as I know, no other presentation, except for company business, has had two showings. I presented to my supervisor, her manager, and his director. In short, my boss, boss's boss, and boss's boss's boss. I have had quite a few compliments about how well the presentations went. In addition to the recent presentations, I have had two raises in the last nine months and I have all sorts of design authority. Sometimes I think my work should be better checked.

I feel that I am very wanted. When I walk down the hall, someone stops me to talk or someone I don't know says, "hi Isaiah". It's very strange to me. I still have a chip on my shoulder because of how difficult I found it to break into industry. Yes, I know it was the Great Recession or recovery from the Great Recession. Yet the contrast between giving an encore presentation or getting a raise and being turned down again for even a phone call interview is bewildering to me. I don't have any great lesson from this dichotomoy. I'm the same person that gets complimented and rejected, even for the same thing! Life is strange.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rainy Season?

Dubuque, Iowa is a wet place. Why does Iowa have such great farm land? Maybe because in the last four days we have had five inches of rain and it's been sunny at least part of every one of those days. Of all the places I have lived Iowa ranks equal to Massachusetts for lots of rain. It wins when it comes to decent soil for agriculture and sunlight.

Most places in the world are more tropical than we are in the upper midwest. It's less expensive when nothing needs to be heated four months a year and thus appeals to a wider demographic, at least that's one interpretation. In tropical places there are rainy seasons and dry seasons, not exactly the winters and summers that we enjoy. As we in Dubuque enjoy the five inches of rain so far this week, I have to wonder, is this our rainy season?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Communication at Everest Base Camp

In this picture you can see a porter carrying one of the NBC crates down the valley as well as some of Asian Trekking's satellite dishes. While satellite Internet is great and very convenient, it costs on the order of $10-11 per hour and is about 128-256k speeds.
EBC Satellite Communication
Then there is also Ncell service at Gorak Shep, but sometimes it's down and it doesn't reach base camp, maybe about a mile from BC at the "3G Rock". It's a hike but 1 GB is about $21 and 5 GB about $32 for a month. The speeds are decent, but it's just plain HSPA. In the picture below you can see the blue roofs of Gorak Shep above my computer just below where the snow starts. The tower is on top of one of the roofs about 20 feet above the roof.  There is another cell phone service at EBC, NTC, and I believe they even had better reception than Ncell this year.
Blogging from 3G Rock with Gorak Shep above my computer in blue.
I had my Delorme InReach SE as well, but that's so unique and capable off the grid, it deserves it's own blog post. So in 2014 those were basically the options. Ncell or NTC for 3G not quite at base camp or satellite at base camp for a lot of money.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Motivation is a complicated subject, I think I spend a lot of time thinking about it. In the process of making my Everest presentation I was asked to discuss goals. While goals on their own I never really directly addressed, this is one aspect of achieving goals I find helpful, if not necessary.

Motivation for me starts with the pull toward what you want. It is also countered by the thing or things we fear or hate, the things we might actually be running from. There is also a positive feedback loop of previous successes. Because I had good grades during my education, I feel that in business I can also do well. Because I ran a good workout two weeks ago, I can run a good race. This is also countered by our previous failures. Because Janzen Gear was a failure I will never approach a business or a patent the same way. Failure happens, and I feel it it best to learn from it and use it as motivation as we move forward.
The Flow of Motivation
It's not the best graphic in the world, it has some issues, but it's the best I have so far. The main point of this is to show, it's not just a vacuum drawing us to what we want, motivation is a much deeper more experience based mindset.

This has particular value to me because I feel I have buckets of motivation, and I have great difficulty giving that to others. This graphic is one small step in the direction toward motivation education. In other words, the ability to teach or mentor someone to have great motivation. It is possible, but certainly difficult.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 156

This was a rather long week. I am still tired. I'll probably be in bed by 8:15 tonight. 

The big obvious highlight of my week was going back to WPI in Massachusetts for a wedding of a friend. We had a blast! We're all older and neither night did we stay out to even 10:30, but the maturity makes the conversations so much deeper and substantial. Wow, my friends are awesome! When I say I have the best life in the world, I say that because of my friends, I have the best friends in the world. 

What a world we live in?! I go to weddings and they are often an hour long in a church, very planned. This wedding was seven minutes and the husband and wife each said their vows and the female justice of the peace said her lines, and that was it. There was not even any "Here Comes the Bride" music. 

Unfortunately for you all I'm not going to go into much detail because, well, you had to be there. There were a couple funny incidents. So I am technically friends with the bride and bridesmaids and at one point there were seven of us out dancing and I was the only man out there. It's just funny. I was looking at the husbands and boyfriends and thinking, 'come on! Get out here!' Fortunately they all did for at least a few songs. Also, if you want to try perhaps the best tequila, Don Julio 1942 might just be the best in the world. It's so good, you can drink it neat. 

Work was good. I had an opportunity to work with FEA from the design side. In other words, submitting geometry to the FEA person for analysis. Well, it only took five days and three geometry renditions on my side, another nine geometry tries on his side changing curves. In short, one of the fastest projects we work through between design and FEA. My experience does help me and the company. 

I ran about 67-68 miles including Tuesday totally off although I have logged my mileage yet. A long run of 16 miles at 6:55ish pace with a 6:18 and 6:03 mile in there. I also did some strides and I'm doing band work for my lateral weaknesses. This week the goal is a tempo and long run and more lateral exercises. 

Bring on the next week!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Here

We often talk in this post modern society about being in the here and now. Certainly an interesting topic. I'm sitting in a coffee shop in the Boston airport waiting on my ride to come pick me up. I'm in Massachusetts, specifically Worcester for two days and nights for a wedding. I didn't tell most of my friends out here I was even coming, despite the desire to see many friends. The reason being, I was invited out for a wedding, hopefully a once in a lifetime experience. I made the decision long ago I have to be where I am. I have so many long distance national and international relationships (none romantic, that's a different aspect I'm going to ignore) that I can't give them all the time and attention I used to while we physically lived close to each other. This is life. 

I feel bad about it. Who doesn't? On a related note, I have 6500 unread personal emails. No guarantee an email you send me will get read. I read emails at work, not necessarily at home.  Regardless, when we spend time together I plan to give you my full and undivided attention. For me that direct and personal communication and that time in my life and the emotion in my voice are all valuable and I don't want to cheapen them simply to "connect" more.

On the odd chance you see me out in Worcester tonight or running around Massachusetts tomorrow, don't be offended I didn't tell you I was coming. I only booked the flight a few days ago and I have to give my friends at this wedding all the attention I can, because I might not be back this way for sometime. 

It's not right for every relationship. I know I have both crushed some others' emotions, and by the same token had some of my emotions crushed when I thought a relationship was more than it was. So I don't know. Every relationship is an experiment of two people. I do know, I'm here, in Massachusetts to see some friends, specifically a couple getting married.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Next Step

When I am climbing a technical route on a mountain this is roughly where my mind is at, mostly the next step. The number one cause of death in the mountains is "falling while climbing unroped". That's why I added the "perfectly" to the bottom of the pyramid, it is critical to me to do one move, one step at a time, perfectly, because Christina Castagna died in 2009 on Broad Peak because of one misstep on the way down. I don't want to repeat her experience.

I feel this perspective applies to most tasks in life. I can think about being a great runner, going to the world championships, the races I will run this fall and this summer, and the workout I need to do in the next few days and weeks, but I need to run today and get the most out of my workout, whatever that may be. Similarly, after articulating this thought, I think this is part of why I get so much done in most things that I do. Take one task, and finish it. We talked about this at Everest base camp this spring, the focus to do the next step is common among Everest attempters but within the world at large there does not always exist that drive, patience, and focus to do the next step. I am still working out what I think about that, but I think it's a big deal. In other words, how do we teach that direction to work on the next step?

Focus on the Next Step, the Next 10 Steps, and the Big Picture
A fair amount of time is spent looking about 10 steps further. I refer to it as micro-route finding. You have to prepare for any upcoming obstables or challenges that may cause you to change the style of climbing, perhaps from flat footing to front pointing. You are constantly monitoring the need for water and food, the risk of avalanche, and upcoming terrain changes, but certainly not as much as doing the next step perfectly. Often times, even on very big mountains, the hardest part boils down to a 20 foot section of the route. Up to camp 3 on Broad Peak there was basically only one steep 75 degree slope for about 20 feet just above camp 2 around 6400 meters. Otherwise the route was pretty easy. (Okay, there is a steep step at 6150 meters just before camp 2 and another at 6900 meters, but those two aren't quite as steep maybe 60-70 degrees.) Same for the Casual Route on Longs Peak, one hard pitch of 5.9 to unprotected squeeze chimney to 5.10a, otherwise basically 5.8.

A relatiely small portion of time is spent thinking about the big picture. That's the fun part to think about. That's the part people think about the most when I am talking about climbing. Yet when actually climbing, precious little time is spent worrying about the summit, the overall logistics, or the sacrifices and opportunity costs to get there. It's still an important part, but on a percent of time thought about the big picture during climbing basis, it only marginally factors into the climbing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My View of Everest 2014

How I view my Everest 2014 experience is so much different than how most other people see it. This is another slide from my Everest presentation at work. Everyone I talk to sees almost only Mt. Everest. They see a six week period in my life, a waste of money, a risk of death, and media coverage. For me, it's just part of the story, part of the journey. Oh I realize it could have been the end had the avalanche happened one day later, but it isn't the end. Along those same lines, it is nowhere near the beginning. Take a look at the graphic.
My View of Everest 2014
This is just a smattering of the events leading up to Everest. One that people seem to get fixated on is the money. Yes, it was tremendously expensive to me. I saved for three years. That seems like a huge loss to most people, and it is, I am depressed about it, but it happened during a formaitve time in my life, and now I have built my life into living below my means, saving lots of money, and going after big goals. To me, those positive aspects that are now somewhat hardwired into me are great skills. A lot of people will talk about wanting to chase a big goal "someday", well, I've already done it once. I can do it again. I can chase a big goal two more times. I can chase a big goal three more times, maybe a dozen times, if I don't die before then. Not everyone has the follow through that for better or worse I now have.

Also on this graphic I reference the three times that I nearly died in the mountains. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say mistakes were made in each circumstance that I could mitigate against in the future. To some extent, they could happen again, but I would be much more aware of the events leading up to a serious accident. Experience matters. As a young person I like to imagine that skills make up for experience, and to some extent they do, but ultimately you have to live through the experiences first hand to understand.

I am not planning to talk about every bubble on the chart. The point of this is that Mount Everest is just part of my mountaineering experience. The final specific thing I want to point out is I basically taught myself how to mountaineer from reading Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills 6th edition. I read it cover to cover in 2004 and practiced everything in the book. To be honest, if you want to get into mountaineering, or any style of climbing, read that book, newest edition of course, and practice all the techniques and rope work it details.

So that's how I see it, Everest is a small part of my mountaineering experience. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

IF... I was to Attempt Everest Again

Obviously the big question that everyone has been asking the last month, that I don't know the answer to yet is, "are you going to try again?" I have no idea. I have decided I will not even make a decision until at least August. I need time to really process everything. However, after thinking about it quite a bit I do know that I would not go back in exactly the same way that I went this time, something, or things, would have to be different.

The best article about the situation on Everest 2014 I have read yet was written by Tim Mosedale, who I may have met, but I don't remember all of the guides I met, they kind of blend together in the small world of Everest guiding. Needless to say, there is a lot to think about in regards to a return trip.
  1. The easiest option is to go back to the south side (Nepal), south col route, and during spring, everything like I did. However, that also strikes me as the option most likely to have something like this happen again. It's easy and might even be the least expensive. However, politically, the situation is probably going to be tenuous in the future too. So there could be another strike. Secondly, with 800+ people trying to be above base camp on the south side in the spring season, the potential for 16+ people to die, is much higher. There are lines, there are bottlenecks. An accident is more likely to hit more people. Plus, with tragedy comes media attention and frankly, I want media attention for positive events, not tragedies. I would certainly be very active about taking close up pictures of the seracs on either side of the Kumbu ice fall and trying to understand the danger better. Since I won't be the only one worried about those glaciers in the future, I feel some sort of monitoring system would be a big help, and I would pay extra for someone to become an expert on the area. Main benefits: cost, many people to push the route up the mountain. Main concerns: political instability, traffic congestion.
  2. The north side is also an option. It is generally a much smaller group, maybe 100-200 climbers and Sherpas combined. There is no ice fall. The problem is high camp is at 8300 meters (27,000 feet) and you spend a whole lot of time above 8000 meters, more than any other mountain in the world, and going without oxygen that is an issue. Plus, the Chinese are not always receptive to foreigners, often specifically Americans. To be fair, I don't blame them. The situation in Tibet has it's politically unstable moments. The point being, the Chinese are not a huge fan of a bunch of hippie climbers going into Tibet and making protests and taking pictures and videos. The Nangpa-La shooting is a perfect example of what the Chinese don't want getting out to the rest of the world. Again, I don't blame them, Americans tap everyone's phones and read everyone's emails and don't want the world to know that. How can I be a hypocrite? Main benefits: no ice fall, less traffic congestion. Main concerns: too much time at high altitude, political challenges.
  3. There are unorthodox alternatives to the main south side or main north side routes in the spring. I have thought of a couple, but don't really know their feasibility for me.
    1. South side or north side post-monsoon (September, October). This is a huge unknown. Teams, if anyone, are generally small. Sometimes there are maybe 20-40 people on one side of the mountain post-monsoon in a big year. Other years you might be alone, as in the only climber. Main benefits: a known route, no crowds. Main concerns: few people to break trail and help with rescues
    2. Pre-monsoon alternative route, like the west ridge. I spent a lot of time looking at the west ridge and took a number of zoomed in pictures of the first part of the direct west ridge for reference in my decision making. Doing an alternative route, and I'm pretty much only thinking the direct west ridge here, would mean I, and maybe any climber parter I had, would have to do a huge amount of work and end up going for it alpine style. It's possible, but really really hard and the chances for something to go wrong on that route (climbing 5.7 at 8000 meters going alpine style) are pretty big. I'm not saying I can't do it or the risk is too great, but it would be tough, and I might have to go it solo, which I don't really have confidence or experience to do. Main benefit: really cool, the best style to climb Everest. Main concerns: no help, high risk.
So those are kind of my options. Very possible to go back, to try again, but in my mind they all involve greater risk than I had in my mind three months ago to attempt Everest pre-monsoon south col route. That's in large part what the decision will boil down to, my acceptance of risk, being more informed now than I was before April 2014. In other words, the risk of going home empty handed, and the risk of death are both higher, in every scenario, than they were in the past. Yes, I still want to climb to the highest point in the world, but if the risk is too great, I won't do it. I'm okay taking risks, big risks, but there are certainly limits to my risk taking. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 155

Part a busy week and parts me being lazy. I suppose that's pretty normal. Work continues to go well. I will tell you what, product development is not a quick process. It's no surprise it takes two years for Apple to redesign a phone and five years to come up with a new product. In some ways that's pretty quick. 

Running went well, 75 miles for the week. I'll be in the triple digits in no time. I did over 50 miles on the bicycle as well. It was all pretty slow, but three new Strava KOMs, although one was already beaten. 

It's kind of funny, I feel guilty for not writing more about my week, but it's late Monday, I haven't checked my email lately, and giving some details of my social life doesn't really appeal to me at the moment. It was a good week. I'm still here. I've some good blog posts with graphics in the works! (Yes, they are Everest related.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Ascent to Attempting Everest

For the presentation I gave at work last week I had the opportunity to finally put down on paper in graphics some of the ways I think about things. I am generally a visual person, which is to say, when I do multiplication in my head sometimes I see circles arranged in rectangles, or I describe a problem in a flow chart of causes and effects that has led us here. So I made this visual to describe how in 2003 I was getting more serious about spending time in the mountains and through a series of events, I got to the point where I was ready to go.

It's not important what each box says. One of the things I wanted to show was that while progress is linear when we plan something, it rarely works out so smoothly. I did not expect 2010 to be what it was for me. Another thing I wanted to show was that each box represents a big step, a new skill that I learned before I would feel comfortable attempting the highest mountain in the world. I like to imagine that if I died on the side of a mountain, inexperience would not be listed as a contributing factor. I don't want to be that guy they write books about and point fingers at as an example of what not to do.
The Non-Linear Ascent to Attempting Mt. Everest

The point of this is, there is so much work just to getting there, healthy, fit and skilled that maybe 80%-90% of the work has already been done. Mentally, I've already climbed the mountain.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Exercise Therapy

There are some things you just can't work out mentally until you are five miles into a run out in the country. I'm not sure who said that first, but it's true. Given my spring, I'm in need of some time to mentally process everything, and exercise therapy is one method of choice. Saturday I spent a whopping five hours running and bicycling. Wednesday I spent nearly four hours running and bicycling.

People ask what I think about when I am out there running, or bicycling, alone. The answer is: everything! I'm not sure if physical exertion activates different chemicals in the brain that result in providing different perspective on life events, but it feels that way. For example, last night on the final 15 miles of my bicycle ride I thought about Everest, bicycle racing, Strava KOMs, women, a project at work, checking my email, voicemail, and Facebook which I rarely do, working out at the winery, visiting some family members, booking a trip to Massachusetts for a wedding, how amazing the weather was light night, how I might be alergic to breathing gnats, and what serious races I want to run this fall. That's just in one hour.

One of my favorite things about running is that it gives me time to think. So often I feel we are trying to put out fires and respond to others that we don't get much chance to reflect or think about where we are headed. In that respect, I'm very fortunate that I can spend so much time out there exercising. I realize that it won't always be this way, life obligations seem to only grow as one becomes older. However, the serenity of a run down a quiet tree covered trail or a gradual bicycle climb up a deserted country road will probably always maintain the mystique of a wise old sage who says, "do, or do not, there is no try." Meaning, you are out here doing something, take that can-do attitude to the rest of your life, and yes it may be hard at times, but the idea is to finish things or quit things, not leave them in limbo.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What do You Want?

It's a good question. Lots of people don't know. While it's a common question in the service industry, how often do we think about it so bluntly?

The corollary to this is, if you ask someone what he or she wants, are you prepared to give it to that person? Because giving someone what she or he wants is often much harder than just asking a preference. Yet on the other hand, it's pretty powerful too. A guaranteed way to make a lasting connection with that person.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Yes, I am Depressed

People continue to be amazed how upbeat and positive I am about this whole experience. The truth is, I am about 2/3 upbeat and 1/3 downbeat. I try to show the positive side more than the negative side like 90% positive to 10% negative, so I do frequently mention the money I spent is gone and that I never even had the chance to take a step above base camp. Those two factors are quite depressing. Of the dozen possible scenarios I imagined, such as losing fingers or toes, falling, having to help rescue others, getting altitude sickness, even a mass casualty incident, I never imagined that early in the season a large group of Sherpas would die from a serac collapsing in the ice fall. I had no idea. It has never happened before. 

There is consolation, I look at the money that is gone, and I learned from the experience. First of all, I am alive to mourn missing the money. That is a luxury 16 people don’t have. Second, I learned to save money. I have friends and coworkers that spend a lot more money on their daily, weekly, and monthly lifestyle than I do. I have learned to be quite diligent about what I buy and the many things I don’t buy. Third, it is a rich thing to say, but it is only money. Money comes and money goes but we only get one chance at life. I realize that is a wealthy thing to say, especially in this instance, but I will recover from this. Fourth, even while I was saving I was paying slightly more than the minimum on my loans, so my debt has been going down very gradually, and I never passed up any 401(k) matching, so my retirement funds continue to grow. Fifth, I have no medical expenses resulting from this experience. I was very prepared to have to spend time in the hospital due to an injury, and that did not happen. 

On the not even getting a chance to go above base camp there is consolation too. First, I did get to climb Mera Peak at a little over 21,000 feet. Second, I set the Strava speed record on the Kalla Pattar weather station, a full nine minutes faster than the second fastest time. Third, I ran an 8:07 mile at Gorak Shep, with an average heart rate of 174, which was very interesting. Fourth, what if I had gone up on the 18th? We were scheduled to go up on the 19th, and what if the serac had fallen 24 hours later? I might not be writing this. If you look at our world in terms of material possessions, like cars, houses, computers, bicycles, feet, toes, and even our entire body, wouldn’t you say that your life, and thus your body, is your most valuable material possession? 

So yeah, I “wasted” a lot of money and I didn’t even get the chance to really push myself on the goal I planned, and yes I’ve been drinking more alcohol since I got back. (I had two drinks Friday night, and two drinks Saturday night! I haven’t partied that hard two nights in a row in years!) The whole experience is very upsetting, but life goes one. That’s why I keep saying I don’t know what is next or what the future holds. This really put a dent, or at least delay, in some of my other plans. 

While this is probably one of the more depressing events in my life, since I didn’t know anyone killed personally, it is mentally far less devastating than failing a business and having 57 weeks of unemployment from engineering. If you’ve ever seen the dark side of depression, and made it through to the light again, I mean really made it through, future depressing events are just not so traumatic. On this note I will add, for years I have thought about going back to school to be a doctor, a medical doctor specifically. If it happens it won’t be for years, I have a lot I still want to do in engineering. However, the two areas I am most interested in are psychiatry and emergency medicine. The first is because I have had so much first and second hand experience with mental problems I think there is a lot of opportunity to help others. I did not appreciate mental illness until I had significant experience around it. The second because helping someone in an emergency and saving a life is just so powerful. What better way to help the world than to actually save the life of a kid crushed in a car accident 12 minutes ago?

So yes, I am depressed, but I have so much to be thankful for, it’s just one of the emotions I am experiencing now, and not even a dominant one. What if the avalanche had happened 24 hours later? The answer to that question is simple, in part: money and the summit of Everest are insignificant compared to the chance to live to see my 28th birthday and strengthen my relationships over the course of at least the next year. 
The Sun is out Today!

Monday, June 2, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 154

Another week, living the dream! Every time I say that, it’s like I don’t totally believe it, this isn’t how I dreamt my life would go, but I just said it, and I’m not very good at lying, so it must be true. In all seriousness, the things I have to complain about, like being single, or running slow, or blowing money on Mt. Everest, are pretty privileged things to complain about and the fact that they matter to me, is my own doing. 

The highlight of my work week had to be a one hour long presentation about Mt. Everest. Everyone said it went really well and it was a packed room with people standing at the back, maybe 80-100 people total, not counting those on the phone. For me, there is so much to tell that I felt like I was going so fast, and leaving out so many details, yet the clock just kept flying by. My favorite part of the experience, was actually preparing the presentation. In fact, I put some of my thoughts and ideas about focus and motivation into graphical form for the first time and I’m so happy with how they look, I will be posting some of them here. As far as the engineering side of things, we’re doing really well on our four year long project. We had another test finish this week, and the results, while requiring us to redesign a few things, were much better than I expected. Good test results are the kind of thing you want to high five the team afterward.

The week in exercising went really well. I ran more than 63 miles and bicycled more than 80. Certainly not a huge volume week, but a big increase over the last few months. It’s still all pretty slow and I’m just trying to get in volume, but I’m healthy, and I’m recovering well. The highlight of the week is pionereing a new grade 3 bicycle climb north of Dubuque. No one had ever done it on Strava before. Basically there is a town, and a few miles away and 600 feet higher is another town. There are two roads to get from A to B, a shorter, all paved road, and a longer road with a mile or more of gravel. Well, I put my skinny tires and carbon fiber bicycle over the gravel and almost fell off a couple times, but made it up to be the first one to do such a thing, at least in the last few years. It’s a small “first” but I have to find ways to keep pushing myself and that was not my usual bicycle ride for sure. 

Other than that, Sunday I saw a couple teachers from my high school and middle school days at a retirement party down in Kansas and thanked them for the huge positive influences they had on my life. Monday, having Memorial day off I basically just slept in a ran 15 miles. I’ve gotten out and socialized a little more than usual lately. I say that relationships are the most important thing in the world, yet I spend so much time alone, that I have to wonder how much I value those relationships. This Nepal experience has given me immediacy in my relationships, and I desperately want to spend time around others and talk and get to know each other better.