Climbing in Sierra Nevada: the Prettiest Road Goes up the Cliff

This is not my image, but this is what we climbed

It is 11 pm Pacific time. I am dreaming of granite walls merging with the sky, of snow patches hiding from the sun in the north facing gullies, of boulder fields and screes, of the city of rocks, of occasional pine trees and small lakes glistening far below, of an adrenaline rush, of fear and excitement, of happiness. I am dreaming of mountains.

I started mountaineering late, in my mid-twenties. It crept up on me over the years, slowly turning into an addiction. Why do I climb, spending days and weeks stuck in the mountains and on the cliffs, suffering through cold and heat, bleeding, eating power bars, sleeping on the rocks and fighting altitude sickness?

A journalist once asked George Mallory (one of the greatest mountaineers humankind has seen), “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” 

Mallory answered, “Because it is there.” 

He disappeared while trying to climb Everest in 1924. His body was found 75 years later. Some time ago, I tried to explain to my mom why I climb. “Mom,” I said, “All the roads don’t lead to Rome. They all lead to a cemetery, but the prettiest one climbs up a cliff.”

Continue reading

Outdoor Clothing for Pregnant Men

I bought a gore-tex jacket from Patagonia online. It came in. I tried it. I shuddered. I wrote an email to Patagonia customer service. With pictures. Here it comes:

Dear all,

Recently I bought a Patagonia gore-tex jacket on the internet (M’s rain shadow 84470 LMA M). Over the years, I’ve worn a lot of Patagonia clothing and I’ve been quite happy. So, I didn’t expect any problems. The package came in, I tore the plastic apart impatiently, happily pulled the jacket out and inspected it. The jacket was quite good. The material was fine, pockets were nice, all the zippers were there, etc… Then I put the jacket on. And, I was in for quite a surprise. The jacket could comfortably clothe approximately 1.5 of me.

Hmm, I thought, maybe I got a wrong size. I looked at the jacket label and it said in plain English Men’s M. As in medium.  

Hmm, I said again, maybe I am not a medium size person anymore. Maybe, I suddenly lost lots of weight and shrank. I measured my weight and height – 160 pounds and 5’10”.

patagonia 1

Continue reading

Climbing in the Cascade Mountains


I am airborne, like a plague.

A plane is taking me away from my work, my girlfriend and my friends, away from my fat black cat and from her white belly, away from the city of New York, my immigrant home.

 Middle America leisurely rotates below me. The quiet corn fields glow in the sun. The smooth round cows wander in the fields, munch on the corn and drool on both ends. The locals stately push their carriages along the extra-wide Walmart aisles, their children wobbling behind. The warm humid air pulses over the parking lots. The little white churches lead to salvation. The flyover states enjoy their summer.

The Cascade mountains are drawing closer at 600 miles an hour, 10 miles a minute, almost 100 feet per one heart beat.

Tomorrow my friend Sprax and I will sort our gear, pack our backpacks, exhale the last gulp of car exhaust and start walking uphill.

A Princess, a Pea, and a Sleeping Pad

Below is my letter exchange concerning the leaking sleeping pad from the Cascade Designs. I cc’d my letter to my girlfriend, Yvonne, hence her reply.

From: Boris Itin
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2012 2:38 PM
To: consumer@cascadedesigns.comCc: Yvonne Lin
Subject: RE: Cascade Designs Warranty/Repair Order Received

Dear Fellows,

With a great regret I have to inform you that the repairs by Cascade Designs worked exactly for 1 days. By the second day, my sleeping pad was flat again as we camped in Sierra Nevada. It slowly leaked as I was asleep. Somehow, without waking up, I kept crawling on top of my climbing partner – she was softer and warmer than the ground. To specify: she is not my sexual partner, in fact, she is my buddy’s girlfriend. My climbing partner expressed her unhappiness about the situation in a number of technical four letter terms.

So, for the rest of the week, I ended up spreading climbing rope and backpack under my 40F summer sleeping bag.

I am not by any means a princess, my climbing gear is not a pea and the flat sleeping pad is not twenty mattresses.

Still I remembered the corresponding folk tale by Hans Christian Anderson called “A princess and a pea” quite a few times on my last trip.

Oh, well, nothing lasts forever. I guess it’s the time to look for another sleeping pad.

Boris Itin