Saturday, November 22, 2014

Getting the Previa Winter-proofed

Snowed in...almost.
This winter I am back in the mountains of Colorado and according to the farmer's almanac it is supposed to be chilly...chillier than last which had a couple of weeks that it was dropping down to -25F. So far, unfortunately it seems to be holding true with nights dropping down to -7F in the second week of November, last winter I had not yet moved from blankets to my sleeping bag and now I have spent the last week and a half sleeping in my bag, with several of those nights being uncomfortably cold (my fault since I sold my winter bag and have been sleeping in a lighter bag rated to +45F) for more than a few nights.

To ready the van for the winter I have used a few tricks from the previous winters, modified some others and introduced a couple of new ones.

Returning due to popular demand:
-As in has been the case in prior winters when it's chilly and you're warm the motivation to put cold shoes on and step outside to visit nature loses some of its appeal, so the pee bottle has remained a constant.
-Another constant is the memory foam mattress that gets rock hard when cold but almost melts underneath you when it warms up, it's the closest a mattress can get to a hug and it feels great!
-The Coleman two burner continues to make cooking and water boiling a cinch while also cranking out those BTUs and making the van interior feel like a tropical paradise despite the snowy landscape.
-Books and podcasts as I talked about in my entertainment post have occupied much of my evening free time.

Version 2.0 
- This summer when I sold the purple dragon (the van I spent the previous two winters in) the home made tea candle space heater went with it. So far I have dabbled with a modification of placing a small bowl in a low walled pail (for draft protection). It fits three tea candles and I think is just fine for taking the edge of the air while I sleep. I moved away from the prior construction because last winter I knocked it over many times which was something of a fire danger as well as a great way to spill hot wax everywhere. The down side to the new design is that the candles to light up the van which isn't very stealthy and can sometimes inhibit sleep, also the exposed flames continue to present a fire hazard, we'll see if any more modifications occur as the winter progresses as it's still an imperfect system.
The Coleman with the coffee percolator, perfection!
-My hot beverage system, however, has been perfected with the introduction of a new mug in addition to my Hydroflask mug. In the morning I make my first cup of coffee and put it in the new mug that is less insulative and therefore makes for a great hand warmer and makes the coffee a more drinkable temperature faster. My second cup of coffee goes into the Hydroflask for work or more long term sipping as it will keep stuff hot for hours and if you're not careful like me is a recipe for a burnt tongue!

New this Season:
-All Wheel Drive, as you may know I upgraded to a Toyota Previa this year and it has AWD, it is awesome. With new snow tires and ingenious design I have had to work to make it slip. Time and time again I have assumed that I won't get out a snowy parking lot or will slip going around a corner, all of which would have been true in my previous vans. Time and time again I've been disappointed with a mundane and safe drive to my sleeping place or work. I now understand how my friend Nathan was able to pull my old Dodge out of ditches and through town with his Previa last winter, they're amazing vehicles!
The ensolite foam insulation on the sliding door.
-However, the Previa is a mini van and so has boat loads of windows A.K.A. heat sinks. To combat this I've installed the reflective bubble wrap cut to fit, backed with canvas that Velcros to the interior. On the sliding door the canvas wasn't very practical so the bubble wrap is glued to some ensolite foam, the bubble wrap was from Nathan's Previa, saving me a bunch of work which was awesome. For the front I've attached Velcro to the reflectors you can put in your windshield in the summer so that the reflective surface faces into the sleeping area. This set up has proved to be surprisingly warm, keeping the van (I'm guessing) 20-30F warmer than the exterior temperatures when combined with my tea candle heater.
-Down socks, they're awesome also! I wear mine inside the van when lounging, inside my sleeping bag on cold nights, in my snow boots when I'm lazy and it's cold outside. They pack down to nothing so are easy to accommodate in the van and are extremely warm (You might recognize the guy in the  picture in ^ link).

Books on the left, chitenge from Zambia on the right
and a man cave in the middle.
A view of the yard out of my bedroom window.
River front property is as great as they say it is.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Climbers unite!

Check and check, American Death Triangle, retired leeper hangers,
 hardware store wedge bolt, star dryvin, a modern 3/8" 5 piece
 that's hanging ~1/2" out of the wall, lots and lots of faded tat and
4 extremely heavily worn leaver carabiners
 and all of it is...kind of equalized.
This past climbing season one of my big missions out in the desert has been working with a few other folks to replace and update as many anchors as possible. Bolting has been something that I've done on and off for the past couple years, though rather intermittently particularly when not doing first ascents. I prioritized rebolting and equiping old routes with new hardware which was kind of awesome, I got on routes that I had never done before, routes that I'd done years ago and not touched since, I worked on routes that I regularly lap and felt good about doing all of them. It was sweet to be able to structure my climbing day around routes that needed a little love, there were entire climbing days of doing only routes on the list which completely eliminated the "well we could do that one, but this one looks good, but that one is kinda long/short/wide/thin etc" hmmming and hawwing conversation. Instead it was easy to point my rope gun at the route and then ride a top rope up to the anchors.

I learned over the course of the season that fixed gear is far too often blindly trusted, and I'm certainly guilty of this as well, however there were so many anchors composed or sun rotted webbing, outdated bolts, poorly placed bolts, single bolts, fixed nuts...well the list goes on, that have been used for years and it is a minor miracle that more people have not died by ripping anchors in the desert. The alarming ease of removing some of the hardware that I did has certainly been an eye opener and solidified the need for a growth in the community of anchor updaters!

Close up of a poorly placed modern bolt.
If you're getting in to doing or have been establishing new routes please for the love of god spend the little bit of extra money and get hardware that is going to last! Buy the steel (not aluminium) rap rings and the 3/8 chain and quicklinks rather than 3/16" crap that I've seen hanging of new routes in the desert. If you've been using good stuff then many thanks for the hard work and investment in the future safety of others!

Check out some of these...sub par anchors for a good laugh and what not to do as well as these:
Two bolts, two hangers and an faded tat. None to be trusted.

If you're feeling pscyhed on doing some of the same check out some of these groups and resources:

Here's a whole library on basically everything you could ever want to know on tech specs, how to rebolt, bolt identification etc.

Here are some of the places that have been at least partially updated.

Also feel free to use me as a resource if you're psyched, if I can't help directly I know some people that know some stuff that I can put you in contact with!

Edit: Here is a write up on some of these pictures.

Modern anchors and drilled angles with some
 heavily worn carabiners and cross threaded quicklink

Lots of keychain carabiners!

More crappy hardware.

One pile of bleached tat and cordalette.

Another pile o' tattered webbing and cordage!