Monday, July 11, 2016


So recently Danielle gave me editing permission on her blog. And by recently I mean a year or so ago. She has been patiently wondering if I would ever actually contribute to the blog. So today to Danielle's astonishment you get to hear from the other much less talented contributor to Luma Solem.

Note: All the images have a title. Hover of the images with your mouse to read them.


Devon and I had planned on doing Squawstruck last year right after the Koberstein reunion. However I managed to crack a rib the week before we were scheduled to do the route. (And yes it was cracked despite what the other blogger said about it previously) This was very disappointing to me but I only had myself to blame. But my dearest wife Danielle told me that if another opportunity came up to do the climb I should fly out to do it. It just so happened that Devon was in the area this past week.

Final plans were not made for the trip until a few weeks before the trip. It felt a little hectic but it was also nice to not have any time to stress about it. During my preparations I realized I would miss my Father's birthday as the trip was on the same weekend as his birthday. It was sad but I had already committed to the climbing trip before any birthday plans were made and the tickets were non refundable. So I decided to head out on the climb anyways. Sorry Dad.

I have done a few 'big' climbing trips in the past few years. Details can be found on my mountain project page. So far most of my routes have been in the easy range. However Squawstruck is the longest and hardest route to date. It is a 5.11- and 1900 feet of climbing broken up into 22 pitches. I was very excited to try something hard that required a little bit of skill and ability. I was looking forward to testing all the training I have been doing while Dawna and Larry are in their climbing class.

Devon and I decided to start our climb at midnight. This would require a little bit of climbing in the dark but would help us avoid the heat of the day. Unfortunately I had to travel and work on Friday and didn't get to sleep until 10pm. This is why I look a little bit crazed in this 1 am start-of-climb picture.
We did not coordinate our outfits. It just happened.
Fortunately the climbing was interesting and hard enough that I did not feel tired again until after we were safely back in Provo.

The only snafu during the climb happened on the first pitch. We climbed up an intimidating roof which had some good pockets that made it easier than it looked. And then when we got to the top I was moving my belay device around and it jumped out of my hands. I heard it hit the rock by my feet once and I shouted something incoherent. Devon felt it slide past his feet and then we heard it hit something soft on the ground 110 feet below us. At this moment I knew that I had again ruined our attempt to finish the route. You need two belay devices to do a climb like this. We talked about options and Devon decided to rappel down on his device and look for mine on the ground. We didn't hear it hit the rock on the way down so IF we could find the device it should be safe to use for the rest of the climb. With little hope I waited in the dark at the top of the first pitch to see if Devon could find the device. Amazingly he found it just after he lit upon the ground. I heard a loud shout of joy and then he climbed up and we were ready to go again. Also this gave me the chance to use the Munter hitch as an improvised belay device. That's the first time I've had to do that. Glad I have spent the time learning how to do that.

After a several hours of climbing in the dark the sun began to show up. I was happy to turn my head lamp off. Climbing in the dark makes finding holds harder and my light was getting dimmer making it harder as I went. The only down side about the sun is it mean the dreaded heat was coming. We hoped that the rock wouldn't get too hot to hold in the afternoon.
Sunlight approaches!

Unfortunately the most interesting photo opportunities in a climb like this are not easy to capture. Because you are holding onto the cliff attempting to not fall off. So you end up with a bunch of pictures at belay stations or near them like this one.
Chilling 900 feet up the route.
So I'm going to have to use words to explain a few of the interesting things we saw.

Pitch 2 has the leap of faith. You climb up a pillar and then have to down climb 10 feet of the far side of the pillar and step jump onto the face of the wall next to the pillar.

Pitch 3-5? At one point during the climb I went to stick my hand into a pocket and a large wolf spider (3 in across) crawled out. It surprised me a bit and I decided to skip that pocket. Luckily it was on easy terrain and didn't require me to use that particular hold to climb through.

Pitch 6 was my hardest lead. 5.10c. I was pretty pleased with myself at this point and even considering leading something harder. However some unexpected falls when I was following Devon in the next few pitches reminded me that I am prone to falling as the grade approaches 5.11.

Pitch 9 was the Orange Julius pitch. It started off with a small cave that had a mystery liquid dripping out the bottom. I suspect it was bat guano. A little further up there was some of the strangest and worst rock of the trip. It was oozing yellow-redish rock. It was more a mix between clay and rock than actual rock. I'm really not sure why it was oozing.

Between pitch 11 and 12 was a cave or mine.

Last shade until we hike down.
The cave was supposed to be a nice place to cool off from the sun but fortunately it hadn't gotten too hot yet. As we climbed higher the wind picked up and kept us from boiling in the afternoon.

Pitch 14 The crux pitch. Devon lead this pitch (he also led the other 5.10+ pitches before and after this one). He did an amazing job and only fell twice at the crux. These where his only two falls for the whole trip. I unfortunately claimed quiet a few more falls on the climb. But not too many more than Devon.

Pitch 15 was missing a bolt on the crux. I hate to admit it but I was glad that Devon also lead this one. It looked scary with the missing bolt. It would have been a pretty good fall after the missing bolt.

Pitches 17-22 We thought that since we had passed the crux the rest of the climbing would be easy.
Getting up pretty high now and nearing the top.
However we forgot that some of the following pitches were nearly just as hard as the crux. All the way to the last pitch the climbing was pretty tough. The "easy" climbing included several roofs and difficult moves and all felt much harder than the rating would indicate. I think the long day took it's toll on me. These last pitches had some very very sharp rock as well. There were pockets that had razor sharp crystals like the inside of a geode. The limestone up here and was so sharp that the slopping holds felt like they had little pin head sticking out of them. It was nice because it made it easier to hold onto the rock but we also paid the price for the nice sticky rock.
The back of my hand.
Also at about this point I ran out of water. 3 liters was not quiet enough water for comfort. I had to climb the last 4-5 pitches sharing water with Devon. He only brought 2.5 liters of water but doesn't leak water as much as me.

Topping out!
Finally we reached the top! When Devon yelled back that I was on belay he startled a group of girls sitting near the flag. They were not expecting to see two smelly men crawling up the cliff face.
Now all we had to do was hike down with no water. Seemed like a small task at this point. On the way down I began to feel something touch the back of my throat. I tried to spit it out but it would not move. Panicking a little bit I asked Devon what was in my mouth. It was my uvula. Apparently if you don't drink enough and breath a lot (due to hard climbing) you can dry your uvula out enough for it to swell from the irritation. It was an odd feeling to have your uvula dragging around on the back of your tongue. Fortunately it quickly healed once we reached the drinking fountain near the bottom of the climb.

I recently heard a famous climber say that the best climber in the world is the one who is having the most fun. By this metric I definitely have a chance at being the best in the world. I know that I am the luckiest. I have a wonderful family who supports me in my crazy adventures and even tags along with me when I'm not trying things that are too crazy. Between a great climbing partner, my wonderful wife and my four perfect kids I truly am the luckiest and at least the happiest climber in the world.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Fun, Something's begun!

Our first week of summer was filled with fun and excitement on all fronts.

Around the house, it was fun to watch American Home Renewal work hard replacing all our windows and our sliding patio door!
 Scaffolding had to be used to reach the upstairs window and trim. Jade was particularly tempted by the low bars and potential for climbing...
Goodbye old door!
Fun to see one by one the old windows go and the new slick windows go in!
And now there are bedroom windows that my kids can actually open! And they're up to code and fire safe and all that jazz...
But as any homeowner knows, one home improvement project begets another... so yes, as you can see, we now have a painting job to consider... yay...

For our Cub Scout, the first week of summer was filled with loads of learning and crafting and shooting at Cub Scout Day camp!
 Lawrence's den performing the classic "JC Penny" skit ("Where'd you get that jacket? ... watch?" etc. "From JC Penny." Last scout runs by wrapped in a towel. "Who are you?" "JC Penny!" haha...)
In spite of a rough beginning to the week with the scout trailer being burglarized, the leaders pulled off a great camp for the boys.  Lawrence was particularly proud of a wooden box that he made and the gold bead that he earned for making a bulls eye on the archery range! On the last day, I treated the kids to McDonalds for lunch and had a picnic lunch at the park before watching each den perform their skit. 

Back at home in our garden, we thinned out the carrots and enjoyed nibbling on the little ones, making room for bigger ones to grow.  We're trying some multi-colored fun this summer in the garden, including purple/white/yellow/orange carrots, green and gold beans, and yellow/red/purple beets. 
The only big downside to the week was that daddy was gone at Zion's camp all week.  He had a great time helping the boys do some climbing and serving with the youth, which is a good thing, but the evenings are always harder when daddy's not home... and clearly, my photography is not very good when daddy's not home... 

Week one of summer fun: done. 

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Three Through and Through!

 My baby is three. Yikes. (pause for a few deep cleansing breaths...)

Jade loves to sing, loves to chat, really hates her curly hair (probably because so many people like to tug on her curls...), loves "Nastics-for-day" (gymnastic s day), and climbs like the craziest little monkey you've ever seen! She scales the outside of the stairs, tries to climb up door jambs, and loves to traverse around the low hand holds while Dawna and Lawrence are at climbing class.  And lately, she's been into My Little Ponies like crazy. Every day after the big kids go to school, she asks, "Wanna play ponies with me?" On one particularly busy day, I hadn't found time to play with her yet, and she informed me, "Mom, Jesus knows how to play ponies," in an accusatory tone.  Ok, Jade, I'll try to be more like Jesus.  ;)

We did most of the celebrating the day after her birthday... because on her birthday, a couple friends and I dragged the poor little thing into the city for...

The Hunger Game Exhibition!
 But really, what three-year-old wouldn't want to sit on the set and pretend to get interviewed by Caesar Flickerman for the third Quarter Quell??? Yeah, I know... all of them... I think she mostly had fun though. There were quite a few interactive exhibits. to play with...

Anyway, after school, it was crazy as usual getting homework done and getting to climbing and gymnastics, and in the middle of all that, I took Jade to Costco to pick out a birthday cake. She picked a cheesecake (yesssssss!!!) and enjoyed putting her very own candles in it!
 The next day, she actually got to open all her presents and have her favorite dinner--pepperoni pizza with the pepperonis taken off--NOT cheese pizza, mind you... and as a bonus, Alex came over to play!
All in all, a successful little birthday for my sweet little one! Can't wait to see what this new year brings to you, Jade!

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Pinewood Derby!

Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats! The race is about to begin! But before the cars are lined up and the lever is pulled, let's journey back in time a bit to see how we got here...
As any scout mom knows, a pinewood derby event begins long before race day--in our case, months before. Lawrence got his car kit back in March, but there was no date for the race set. Even so, we took initiative and started to get to work on his car. Back in April, the same weekend as the quarry climbing in Sacramento, we brought that pinewood derby car kit to Uncle Weston's house... for he is endowed with many woodworking tools, yea, saws of all kinds hath he in the garage. 
 Lawrence sanding his axles on the drill press! Perfectly safe, I assure you.
 And here's Lawrence cutting his car shape out on the band saw, which is a significantly scarier instrument...
But don't worry, daddy's fingers are there to take the fall if something should go wrong...

The sisters of the cub scout hanging around that day could not resist trying to tell Larry what he should do to make his car fancy and awesome! Larry was not particularly interested in their wild ideas. But thanks again to Uncle Weston, he found scraps around the garage and helped each of my girls design and cut their own cars. 

Dawna made an awesome pickup truck. Xochitl designed a classic race car with fins going up the back and everything. Jade wanted a little truck, and so she got a little half-sized flat bed to call her own. The cars got painted; we ordered extra pinewood derby car wheels for the girls' cars, and waited for a date to be set for the big day!

Finally, June 3 was date decided upon. But there was just one minor problem... our troop had no pinewood derby track. 

Somehow, I volunteered myself to find out what track the other troops around the stake had used and where they were stored and figure out how to get one.  My phone scavenger hunt led from Becca S. to Jeff A. to this guy named Larry S. 

Larry S. was an electrical parts store owner in Fremont, getting ready to retire and downsize his shop. Way back when, he was involved in cub scouts and had stored in his shop for many years a pinewood derby track.  
And as it just so happens, our troop was on the hunt for one at the same time that he was trying to get rid of it. Perfect! And so it was that literally one week before our pinewood derby, I went to pick up a very fine hand-crafted track, along with loads of other goodies such as a winner's podium, cones, signs, and all manner of decorations. 
All in all, thanks to Larry, S., we actually had a very nice pinewood derby. Had it not been for this fortuitous meeting, our derby would have been much less fancy... or may not have happened at all... Our little troop of ten boys was delighted by the event. The following Sunday, one of the boys even gave the event a "five star" rating.

So, was this meeting Larry S. and finding a track at just the right moment a miracle? Well, that might be too strong a word to use. I sometimes like to call it a stroke of "guk," (rhymes with luck) meaning God Understands and Knows. He understood what we needed and understood how the parents and leaders of the troop were doing their best. And He knew how to align the timing to fill the needs of both parties. God indeed Understands and Knows what we need.  As we are obedient, He'll nudge, align, and arrange things to make our life just a little easier. And that's what happened with this pinewood derby track thing...
So in the end, Troop 197 got to have their pinewood derby. Lawrence, with some assistance from dad's YouTube research on how to weight cars and bend axles, got second place for speed out of the ten boys!
And after the event, many many races were carried on late into the night! Fun times on the race track! Can't wait for next year's derby... and this time, we won't have to go on a wild hunt for a track :)

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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Terrifically Ten!

 Our darling daughter Dawna is a full decade old now! As a mom, it feels almost surreal to have a kid so big! She is an incredible girl, as anybody who has met her knows--far more than I could ever have imagined she would be!

Dawna is always so aware of having healthy, yet still special and fancy, treats for her birthday. This year, she wanted to make apple swans for her class. Jon and I made these a month ago for the Mormon prom dinner based on this YouTube Video. We were all up late Tuesday night carving 18 of these babies (I insisted that the kids in her class could share them...).
 All the kids in Mrs. Chapman's class were impressed and enjoyed their swans! Especially when they  dipped the wing slices in caramel and peanut butter! Mmmmm....
Dawna also loves naturally beautiful things! She asked for fresh flowers and an exotic fruit--so we found this Santa Claus melon! It was quite delicious! Very light green flesh with a good sweet taste--though I couldn't tell you if it was ripe or not...but we loved it! 
 And since Dawna's mom couldn't get her head on straight enough to figure out a birthday party, the primary presidency did it for her :) Sis. Ringlein invited the activity day girls plus a couple extra to come over after school to escape the heat in her pool!
I made this watermelon "cake." It's literally a cylinder of watermelon frosted with heavy whipping cream--whipped almost to butter status to make it thick enough to stay on the wet melon--and then topped with fruit and coconut cookies. 
 Just for proof--once it was cut through, you can see that it's just solid watermelon! (you can tell that I didn't exactly get a straight cut... so I filled it in with some whipping cream...) It was refreshing and delicious on a hot summery afternoon! And MAYBE healthier than cake... definitely
Hard to keep a candle lit in the afternoon breeze... 
Happy Birthday, my dearest Dawna! Lover of good books, fruits and vegetables, and all things musical! I can hardly believe she's TEN!!!


Monday, May 30, 2016

Burney Falls: The Happiest Place on Earth!

Burney Falls could well be the happiest place on earth. Kids are happy with the abundance of rocks, dirt, water, and critters; parents are happy hanging around the campfire swapping stories and taking turns cooking; grandparents are happy watching the energy and giggles of the grandkids...see for yourself...

This year at Burney...

...Jade got to catch a fish with Grandpa Severson!

...Lawrence hiked/scrambled ALL the way to the base of the falls pool and felt some of the small trickling waterfalls, proudly exclaiming, "I touched the Burney Falls!"

...we went on a night hike along the rim trail and up the falls trail!

...Uncle Matt and cousin Ezra caught the most enormous tadpoles I've ever seen!

...we all felt a little nostalgic thinking that next year, Nana and Papa will be missing the Falls at memorial day...the mission calls!

...everyone was relaxed and happy and in heaven in the happiest place on earth!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Biology is Life... and Death...

The words of Dr. Gary Booth have been echoing in my head this week... "Behold, Biology IS life!"
Unfortunately, we have learned this week that biology is also death...

On the exploration of life, our little Wolf Cub Scout went on a delightful nature walk with dad in order to identify four different animals that live in our area. The two of them had a great time! ...

Well, a mostly great time... as long as the pokey weeds stayed out of their socks. But the boys were very successful in finding some beautiful bird life out on the wetlands, including...

Male Mallard duck taking flight.

A Snowy egret striking a pose in the mud.

A blue heron striking almost exactly the same pose.

Lots... and I mean LOTS and LOTS... of these little snails peppering the mudflats.

This little Marbled Godwit spells death for those little snails... watch out for that beak!

After coming home, Larry named these four birds and told me how to identify them--by their color, size, and length of leg or beak. It was very helpful that dad had taken pictures :) Call of the Wild, Requirement 3: COMPLETE!!

During our research we learned that the Bar tailed Godwit (the species on the Asian side of the Pacific) have been known to fly over 7000 miles non stop. One named E7 flew from Alaska to New Zealand in one flight! That such a small bird is the record holder for longest single flight is amazing.
I really should have learned how to swim!

**Fair warning: this rest of this post is kind of a downer...because biology is Also... Death...**

For Xochitl's birthday, we took on a month-long science project: trying to incubate and hatch quail and chicken eggs. We tried this about a year ago with four little chicken eggs... none of them hatched and only one had developed at all. This time, we had 12 chicken eggs and four quail eggs. None of the quail eggs made much progress, but as for the chickens, we were able to witness a lot of growth and learn a lot about the hatching process.

We tucked our little eggs into incubators like this on April 20, to await a hatch on May 11. We turned our chicken eggs twice each day at 8am and 8pm (I know there's a lot of different ideas about how often and when to turn the eggs... that's just what we did) and monitored their temperature closely, just as the incubator instructions said we should...

(The eggs are marked with X on one side and O on the other so it's easy to tell if they've been turned)

About 12 days after starting the incubation, we "candled" the chicken eggs, meaning that we held a bright light underneath them to see if any embryos were forming. It's really amazing!
We took this egg from the fridge to get a "control" and set the camera settings to get pictures of the eggs. This perfectly clear, one color egg is unfertilized...
...but in a fertilized egg, you see shadows, dark splotches, and spidery veins throughout (if you zoom in on this egg, you'll see the vein patterns on the right side of the egg.) What's really fun about candling is that you can actually see the embryos responding to the light and movement... the little chicks actually wiggle around in there! At least four of our eggs had strong veins and movement when we candled them on day 12. We were feeling excited for our little eggs and were hopeful for a few healthy chicks to arrive!
On May 8 (day 18), Jade helped me set up the brooder with some shavings, food and water dish, and heating lamp for the chicks. After that day, we turned the eggs for the last time and set the incubators into "lockdown." At this point, the chicks are getting ready to hatch and they have to find their way to the air pocket at one of the egg to prepare to pip and unzip and hatch!

So we waited. Waited for the little chirps we were supposed to hear from inside the shells. Waited for the eggs to wiggle to and fro as the chicks positioned themselves correctly. Waited and watched for any little pip or crack to appear. Nothing. Day 21 (normal hatch day) came and went... as did days 22, 23, 24, and 25. Our eggs were just as still and quiet as they had always been.

Finally, at the end of day 25, it was time to call it quits. I put on my Biology teacher hat and prepped for the "egg-topsy" to find out if anything had developed.

I'll spare you any nasty details... suffice it to say that most of the eggs had not developed and some appeared unfertilized.

But then there were four... four beautiful fully formed chicks, dead in the shell, who had made it all the way to the last week, but for one reason or another, didn't make the hatch. Was the temperature wrong? Humidity too high? Too low? Not enough air flow? Not positioned correctly? I'll never know...

It was very interesting to examine the first little lifeless chick...but as the second and then the third appeared, I felt that Biology teacher hat falling off as I saw the sad faces of my kids and felt myself get teary-eyed for these little chicks that didn't make it. I knew from the beginning it was a long shot... it's a very delicate and intricate process to get eggs to hatch, but I couldn't help soaring up on the wings of anticipation, hoping for darling little fluffy chicks to appear... I felt invested in their survival, and felt that I had failed them to somehow.

But such is life. Sometimes, the circle of life is very small. Such are the ups and downs of the study of life...and death.

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