Sunday, November 15, 2009

Karst Caving

While down in France, Kim and I toured a Karst Caving network close to the city of Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey which was said to be one of the best in the area (there are many many caving options in southern France). It was nicely lit, was quite extensive, and had music and commentary to guide you through as well. It was a pretty cool experience.

The entrance to the world of Karst
A little teaser at the beginning of the tour
Heading Down.
The caves covered quite the elevation gain and loss with many installed staircases to guide you through.
The first open cave area
Cool roof formations
Very beautiful stalactites
More beauties
I don't think that one ever tires of seeing these formations
Stalactite and Stalagmite reaching for each other
Pearl white delicate stalactites
Iridescent pools of flowing water
Moving up the caving network
A very wide and striated stalactite
The lighting really added to the whole experience!
Unfortunately, no one (Gary) did not quite get the correct photo contest answer. So, Gary will not win the $10,000 of Todd Created Money (TCM). The correct answer was a Jesus created double header dildo/butt-plug combo. Yes, it is a type of stalagmite but this one was designed with a higher purpose.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Photo Contest!!!

I stumbled upon this a couple of weeks ago. It is hard, moist, and smooth. The correct answer gets $10,000 of TCM (Todd Created Money). I mimic banks so I create $10,000 out of thin air (that currently did not exist), put a 1 with 4 zeros after it on a ledger with your name on it, and then you just pay me back plus daily compounded interest. Trust me, this prize is not a scam. Banks do it all the time. Send this to everyone who wants to experience the pleasure of increased debt based on nothing.
Note: Winners do not have to accept prize package and can simply claim bragging rights.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Vermont Death Race

I was stumbling in the internet today and just happened to get directed to a race site called the 'Death Race'. No, this is not the ultra running event held in the Rockies in Canada, this race is quite different. With a website address of, it's a little overexaggerated but crazy nonetheless. This race has you crawling up barbed-wire ditches with a bunch of gear, finding a tree stump with your bib number on it, cutting down the stump, and dragging it down the ditch with you to the start/finish area.

Now, that's just the start.

The rest of the course has you carrying the stump you cut a bucket and wheel and chainless bike to do such tasks as carrying a pail of rocks 2000 feet up a mountain, fetching a match and egg by walking down a river and then going back to light a fire, boil your egg and eat it. Other tasks are mental such as memorizing the names of the first 10 presidents and if you're wrong, you have to hike back up 1000 feet to memorize the answer again. Another similar task has you study a block of lego made up of 20 or so pieces. Then, you have to hike back down, and build the same block with pieces you are giving in a bag. And, yes, you guessed it, if you're wrong, it's back up 1000 feet.

And for the bike, the competitors eventually got to a checkpoint where there wheels and chain were, got to assemble it, ride it around a five minute loop, and that was it for biking.

I don't think I'd want to do anything quite like this but for those crazy enough, it may be your calling. I'd highly recommend going to the website and just watching the 'Surviving the Death Race' video. Also, I read a great race recap by Mike Sallade which I'd also recommend giving a read.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Montserrat - Over 3,500 Climbing Routes - Barcelona's Gem

Montserrat is quite the mountain if you can really call it that. I say this since instead of being like a typical mountain with sloping sides up to a summit or perhaps several psuedo summits, this one is literally made of thousands and thousands of rock pillars, and folded rock towers all made of conglomerate rock. Mapping a maze-like mountain like this would be a huge undertaking; and that is what climbing clubs have helped do over the past 100 or so years.

Now, Montserrat is not so large but the sheer density of the features is astounding. This is why there are over 35 THOUSAND bolted climbing routes in this park. That is more than you could likely do in a lifetime of climbing doing nothing but that. I should say though that despite the number of bolted anchors, they are very hard to see unless searching for them and the routes are generally not marked on the rocks (no placards and very few markings; thus, a guidebook should be used when selecting routes). So, in terms of aesthetic purposes, this is a non-issue.

A group of us met at the park and before we went climbing, Xavier really wanted to show us some of the park by taking a tour.

The group climbing up for some better views

The typical Montserrat rock pillars! Very very cool!

More pillars with a feature called the 'elephant' in the upper left corner

Xavier and Carol

Overhanging rockman

Some of the vertical faces allow for over 600m of multi-pitch climbing!

Very Cool!

Me, ready for some climbing!

Three routes going at once

Getting to the top on a good route. I should note that the rock at Montserrat is typically grippy but with only small little finger pockets and crimpers. So, even though this route wasn't vertical, it was still quite challenging.

Finishing off the day

Getting a view from the north side of Montserrat via a tour around the mountain by Xavier.

This was a very amazing place that I would love to come back to. Carol and Xavier, thank you very much for all your hospitality and for showing us some of the best of the best!


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Climbing in the Pyrenees - My first 200m Multi-pitch

While on vacation down in Spain, Kim and I hooked up with Carol, an old friend of Kim's, and got out for some climbing close to the Pyrenees. Carol lives and Barcelona and really got into climbing and mountaineering through her husband Xavier who is a expert climbing guide (they just got married last weekend and are headed down to Portugal for a honeymoon cycletour trip!). Neither Kim or myself had ever down multi-pitch routes before (more than one rope length) so it was a new and rewarding experience for us. I'm definitely now hooked and would love to do some multi-pitch routes like 'The Chief' in Squamish when I return back to Canada.

Carol, Kim and myself on a 'warm-up' four pitch route. Since there were four of us, we used three half ropes with Xavier leading on both, then belaying Carol and Kim with Kim also climbing up with the third rope. I then cleaned the route as Kim belayed me from the top. It was a good system.

Kim making her way up

View getting close to the top!

Our 2nd climbing spot. 200m nearly vertical wall adjacent to a dam. Five pitches and super duper fun! The climb went from the extreme lower right up to a ledge right close to the top.

Many, many, many other climbing possibilities everywhere in the area.

Kim belaying Xavier from the bottom

Xavier and I at the top of the first pitch

The rock was just perfect; very grippy with no chalk required.

Kim and I hanging out with big Smiles!

At the top!

Heading down

Another perfect day!

Unfortunately, Carol got sick and wasn't able to do the 2nd climb with us which was too bad.
I'm defintiely sold on multi-pitch climbing now. It is much more about the experience and less about pushing the limits of your abilities like you typically do on a short 8m route. Not that multi-pitching has to be easier. It's just that climbing long easier routes quickly makes for a very fun time. Highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to try it!


Monday, November 02, 2009

Peaking out in Stavanger

As I mentioned in my last post, I had to stop running for a significant time due to a toe injury. This all stopped when I went down to France and with no bike, I had to get in some aerobic exercise. So, I brought my running shoes and started to run. At first I was hesitant with my toe and took it nice and slow to get the muscles working again. No fast sprints and no fast paces; just easy strides with escalating distances up to about 16km. I got in about 10 runs during the three weeks and while my fitness increased on my feet, my toe did not make a whisper. It is a great feeling to know that you are back to 100% this fuelled my passion for running once again. So, when in Stavanger for the weekend, I was able to get in a small peak run and traverse overlooking the Stavanger area (as above).

The run started through this sweet orienteering heaven of open forest with large boulders EVERYWHERE! Would love to run a course in there!
Looking back at the peak I had just descended from

Nice backcountry lake with trail intersection

Nice open rocky trail back to the start

All in all, it was a great run and I am pumped about putting in some miles over the winter here. I even just made my own studded ice shoes for the super slippery roads and sidewalks in Trondheim so that I'll be able to stay on my feet and not injure myself again! Will review this process once I take them out a few times and take them for a spin. No ice yet but with temperatures pushing the zero mark at night, it won't take long until the streets turn into ice rinks (which is the norm here due to the weather hovering around zero all winter).

Happy Trails


Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Climb Faster on the Bike - Loose Your Gears and Stand

Due to toe injury I sustained last December, I had to stop running completely to give the time it needed to heal. Thus, since then, all I have been doing is putting solid time in on the bike. This has been great as it gave me the time to really focus on my riding and I can honestly say that even though I haven't been racing, that I reached another level of fitness. I think a large reason for the improvement has been a change of my riding style which was forced upon myself when I decided to ditch the front derailleur and extra gears and run a 1x9 setup. I've been really into the idea of single-speeding as it doesn't take long to figure out that people who ride single-speeds are powerhouses! Think of Jeremy Grasby who consistently puts in the best mountain bike times at the Cumberland MOMAR and does so with only one gear.

As I don't have the current means to add another bike to the quiver, I first started to experiment by leaving my 3x9 setup in one gear and not shifting. At first, this was very hard to get use to but soon enough, I found myself moving to higher and higher gears.

Then, another thing happened to me. My XTR big ring hit too many rocks and became useless as the missing teeth would skip the chain off. So, I now had a useless big ring and a granny ring that I never used anyway. So, it just seemed natural at this point to drop the extra rings and go for a 1x9. However, instead of using the 32 tooth ring that was getting worn out, I picked up a sweet 36 tooth Surly steel ring (unramped and no pins) to boast my high end and I figured, if the low end is too high... deal with it.

I immediately liked this setup. It was simple, the front ring was super solid and gave me better purchase than on a 32 tooth ring. And for the high end, I was still getting close to a 44x15 gearing and since I'm riding a 29er, this would by closer to a 44x12 (on an outdated 26er) ;)

I setup my bike like this shortly before I came to Norway and at first, I found myself in the low gear a lot (36x34). Eventually though, my riding style started to change as steeper than steep climbs forced me out of the saddle much like single-speeding does. I've always been one to like standing but now, I was standing more than ever and once the body adapted to it, I found that my climbing ability grew tremendously. As my climbing got better, I also started to push bigger and bigger gears to the point where before, I would be riding a 36x34 and now, I would be riding a 36x23 or 36x20 up the same section.

How to do the Standing Climb
Contrary to popular cycling theory, I think the standing climb is a winner and if you want to go faster than maybe this is your ticket. The sit and spin methodology way work best for road riding most of the time but for mountain biking, where much more instantaneous power is required, standing is the bomb. There are a couple of things to remember though:

First off, standing on the bike is much more of a full body workout. You use your forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, lats, and most importantly your core much more than you do while seated. Yes, these are all smaller muscles then in your legs but when used efficiently together, I find I can continually stand for long long climbs and do not get as wore out and more importantly, do not get a sore lower back which I always suffer from when climbing seated.

Secondly, you really need some bars ends to change your hand position so that you can really yank on the bars. This will widen your grip and give you more power to the pedals. For bar ends, you don't need those huge multi-position ones, just a small stubby one or some light little ones like I use from Singletrack Solutions.

Lastly, you have to find the balance while standing. Most people put themselves way too far forward when standing which takes weight off the rear wheel and causes you to loose traction. Move farther back on the bike, stay fairly upright and rock the bike back and forth without turning the bars much (don't steer as you rock). If you climb like this, you should have about just as much traction as you could while seated. Experiment with this on not so steep climbs and soon enough, you should get the sweet spot.

I would highly recommend going to a 1x9 setup or simply getting a single-speed to supplement your riding. A single-speed is a no options machine. You either give it your all or walk. If you're not ready for that kind of commitment, a 1x9 can do wonders or even just try it out on your 3x9. You'll hate me at first but if you stick with it, you'll be riding up stuff faster than you ever thought possible!



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stavanger... DAMN SKIPPY!!!!!! Kjerag and Preikestolen

Just as Kim and I settled in from getting back from three weeks in the South, we got the opportunity to head down to Stavanger, Norway to visit some of the most famous and visited places over here; Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) and Kjerag (The Hanging Rock). If you're from Victoria, or have been over to Victoria, you'll probably recognize Kjerag from the billborad advertisement for Robinson's Outdoor Store as you leave the ferry coming from Vancouver. All I can say is WOW! There is definitely a reason people come and visit these places. And what's better about both is that you have to hike at least 1.5 hours one way to visit either one (Kjerag is more like 2.5 hours). So, it makes them both that extra bit special and you also have to climb 600 or 900 meters to reach them. I'll let the photos do the talking!

Start of hike to Kjerag from the end of Lysefjorden

I've been on a lot of windy roads in Norway and this one is right up there with the most turns. I believe there are 22 hairpins with over 1000 meters of climb right from sea level.

Moving up into the bedrock and snow dusted alpine

Uber windy. I'm talking over 20 meters/second kind of wind. If uncluched, our poles would go horizontal with the gusts of wind!

Lying down and getting a 1000 meter vertical drop view down to the fjord bottom below at Kjerag!


The barren but beautiful landscape of the Norwegien Alpine

Looking down at Lysebotn: A small village at the end of the fjord.

The hike to Preikestolen. Almost there!

A slightly wet and windy arrival at the Pulpit Rock!

Preikestolen - A ~650 meter high tower of rock with a flat top and overhangingly vertical walls that plummet to the fjord below!

A beautiful shot of Kim taking a look down with the restless but sublime Lysefjord in the background winding its way toward Kjerag.

Don't know what more to say!
Life is Beautiful