What if there was a giant, snow-clad mountain in Silicon Valley

General

For years I was obsessed with this mountain. Old habits die hard – I always try to fly only at sunrise or sunset in Seattle. Just to get a glimpse of this awesomeness in perfect lighting. Seeing Rainier is a hit or miss. It is not visible everyday. Yesterday, I fell asleep on the way and we ended up there sooner than I had expected and I woke up with a start and looked out the window and saw Rainier almost behind us already. Very quickly I put on my lens and used a 200mm w/ 1.4x teleconverter to get at least this. And yes my heart had stopped beating for that entire time ❤️

Isn’t this such a special thing? Almost the same size as Mt Everest (just that Everest starts higher, so ends higher). Having a mountain near us keeps our egos in check. It makes it easier to give in to awe. To be big picture. To have a holistic perspective.

I have always wondered what would Silicon Valley & the tech industry be like if there was a huge mountain right outside reminding everyone of their place.

Us people here in the Bay Area – our thoughts, attitudes, desires, values etc. have a disproportionately outsized impact on the world through the mediums of things like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, AirBnB, Slack, etc. The decisions we make here are always biased towards the contexts we find ourselves in. And most of us here are usually quite unhappy, in survival mode, delaying gratification, playing the race to the bottom game, with a hope to someday be able to cash out or make it to finally make it all sustainable for ourselves. With that mindset, what are we optimizing for and for whom? And what impact does it have? 😀

Turn around at Mt Baker summit

General

We attempted a late season climb of Mt Baker in Washington state. We were not experience enough to be just a two-person rope team – so that was kinda stupid. But we were quite risk averse in other ways. When we realized that the sun was beating quite hard and the snow bridges were beginning to melt, we decided it wasn’t safe to continue upwards. Given 80% of mountaineering accidents happen on the way down, we didn’t want to push our luck. Two other parties continued ascending and they did summit and also came back down safely. Different risk appetite, and luck.

Outdoor Movies in Seattle 2014 – ical and csv format

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Thrillist put together a great collection that lists out all of the outdoor movies screening this summer in Seattle . However, they didn’t offer a calendar format of that data which makes it kinda hard to plan these movies around other things that I also have going on. To make it easy to compare this with other things on my calendar, I manually scrubbed the list and put it together in a spreadsheet.
  
And then I made it available as  XML, iCal and HTML versions if anyone wants to subscribe/add this to your own calendars. Enjoy!

Seattle Outdoor Movies 2014

Understanding weather forecast trends for alpine climbing

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We were planning on climbing Mt Rainier this weekend and then decided not to. Here’s why.

Hidden in the small text changes between the forecast right now (left) and the forecast earlier this morning (right) is the information that the conditions are slightly worse than they initially thought. For optimal climbing conditions – you wanna catch a positive trend in forecasting, not a negative trend. So we’ll likely delay our summit attempt to a later window.

The concerning detail is that 2 days ago it was supposed to be sunny on Sunday. Last night they predicted thunderstorms on Sunday. This afternoon they are predicting snow showers on Sunday. Even though each prediction is a “slight” chance, cumulatively it points to a larger negative trend that makes it smarter to avoid from a mountaineering risk analysis perspective.

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Ridge soaring with a Paraglider on Gas Works Park

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There’s not a lot of upward winds on the tiny mound that is Gas Works Park. But it’s windy enough that this guy might be on the something. He is able to inflate the glider, get stable, but every time he tries to lift off it finally drops back down.

Reminds me of the time I used to paraglide back in India and it’s a very meditative experience as you sit and patiently wait for the wind to pick up or sometimes just go home if conditions aren’t right. But you typically do this on a high enough ridge. I trained on a 300ft hill and “graduated” to 1000ft ones. That’s hardly nothing for a pro, but I am still at a beginner level.

We are all rooting for him here. May the force be with you.

Seattle is the sum of the city and its surroundings

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Sunset from Mt Rainier

Seattle is a growing city with a lot to offer with all its wilderness parks, great restaurants and bars and nightlife. However, just 25 miles in any direction, you experience things I always thought you would need a vacation to access. My wife and I have internalized the Seattle lifestyle and incorporated a lot of backcountry and outdoors into our life. We don’t take the car to work. But we do take the car to get out there where people don’t usually go and enjoy nature on a weekly basis. Here’s what Seattle looks like as experienced via half-day and full-day ventures into it’s surroundings:

You can build a snow-cave on an active volcano, two hours from the city.

You can build a snow-cave on an active volcano, two hours from the city.

You can see gorgeous sunsets any time of the year

You can see gorgeous sunsets any time of the year

You can climb a 12,500ft mountain in one day!

You can climb a 12,500ft mountain in one day!

You can go snowboarding after work

You can go snowboarding after work

Walk alongside glaciers

Walk alongside glaciers

Or plunge into a crevasse on the awesome glaciers

Or plunge into a crevasse on the awesome glaciers

Of course, you get the beautiful city views all the time

Of course, you get the beautiful city views all the time

When you start counting the stuff within a 0.5-4 hour radius of the city, coupled with the clean crisp air and beautiful city itself, the bar is set pretty high when you decide to go someplace on a vacation!

Time Lapse of Mt. Rainier visibility from Kerry Park in 2012

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Mt Rainier from Kerry Park

Visibility of our surroundings is a key aspect of the experience of a place. I live in Seattle and one thing everyone here is obsessed with is Mt. Rainier. It’s common to hear the phrase “The mountain’s out”. How many times in a year can you see Mt. Rainier from Seattle? Some people claim that it’s a “few days a year”. This time-lapse shows that in 2012 you could see Mt. Rainier a total of minimum 83 times. That translates to once every 4-5 days.

Since I am only looking at pictures taken at exactly 3pm every day, the actual number of times you can see the mountain at least once is definitely higher if you consider other times of the day you get a peek at it.

Pictures taken by the awesome folks at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. I recently found out about them but am in no way affiliated to them. Watch their visibility camera here: http://www.pscleanair.org/airq/visibility/default.aspx

I wrote this simple perl script to grab the images from the website and then actually used iMovie to put them together and manually added the counter.