Last night, we watched Valley Uprising, the latest in the Reel Rock Tour movie series, all about Yosemite Valley's climbing revolution. It made me want to get back on the wall again. Like, immediately. Like, if Jonathan said, "Let's move back to California and live close to Yosemite this time," I would have begun packing before he finished the sentence. That's not likely to happen, though, at least not for now. The movie was cool, full of wicked climbing footage and resonant musings on the evolution of the sport. If you're a climber, you should definitely check it out.

But this is not a post about climbing. Rather, I was reminded last night that one of the downsides of being a climber is what it does to your hands. For years, not only did I have to keep my nails cut down to the quick, but the chalk dried out my skin and my fingers were constantly scraped up, sometimes bloody. I didn't know what I was missing, really, because years of playing and coaching volleyball and basketball had also necessitated strong, quick, low maintenance hands. But since moving to Norway, I've had the luxury of growing my nails out on occasion (and one pleasant side effect of pregnancy happens to be healthier nails), which has made me think about nail polish for the first time in my life.

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OPI has quickly become my favorite brand. It's awfully expensive here in Oslo (like everything else), so I don't get it often, but last weekend I acquired a new color from the Duty Free on the DFDS mini-cruise we took to Copenhagen. Why? Because their new Nordic Collection was so sparkly.

With colors like Going My Way or Norway? and Thank Glogg It's Friday and Do You Have This Color in Stock-holm? how could I resist?

I nabbed OPI With A Nice Finn-ish, a shiny gold. Sadly, because I haven't become the kind of grown-up who is dainty with her hands, I'm sure it will be chipped up like crazy before Christmas, but I don't mind. I'll just do it all over again in a couple of weeks. Because my last final paper will be due next Wednesday and then I'll be on winter break. Time to celebrate!

*A fun write-up on all the colors in the Nordic Collection can be found on The Polish Aholic Blog.

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No matter how far I travel from it, my heart belongs to Yosemite. My husband and I grew up there, fell in love there. That's why I'm so proud and excited to announce that my short essay "We Climb Anyway" will be published this winter as part of a new anthology from The Yosemite Conservancy:

Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories from Yosemite

"On June 30, 1864, amidst the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act to protect Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This act that set aside the first public parkland for future generations was a legacy for our nation and an inspiration to the world.

"To honor the 150th anniversary of this milestone, a call went out inviting the public to celebrate in prose and poetry the national park they love. The 150 pieces in this book were selected from hundreds of submissions from people who have visited, lived in, or worked in Yosemite National Park. These collected reflections feature, among other things, treks up Half Dome, escapades at The Ahwahnee, revels at the long-gone firefall,and, yes, encounters with those bears; and range from the hilarious to the historical, the enlightening to the uplifting. Inspiring Generations will encourage many journeys to the park filled with family, friends, and the stuff memories are made of."


This commemorative book will be published by the Yosemite Conservancy and will be sold as a fundraising item benefiting the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant.

"One of my passions is hearing from park visitors how Yosemite has impacted their lives in a positive way. This book is a great way to record those experiences and recount how cherished and important the park is to past and present visitors," said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent.

Every piece in the anthology is less than 1,000 words. Micro-essays and flash fiction. Knowing even that much of my writing will appear in a book for sale in Yosemite National Park is a dream come true. 

Inspiring Generations will be available for purchase in YNP bookshops and visitor centers this December. At the Mariposa Storytelling Festival in March 2014, the book will receive an official launch. And you can buy the paperback on Amazon in May 2014 (preorder it now).

I encourage everyone to Like the Yosemite Conservancy on Facebook; it's an easy way to keep up-to-date on anniversary events and park news. And please buy a copy of this anthology to support the efforts of the Yosemite Conservancy.

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I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Tom McClintock titled Yosemite National Park: Closed for Preservation, a rant instigated by the following legal action against the National Park Service:

Environmentalist groups such as Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government challenged the National Park Service's 2000 and 2005 plans to manage the Merced River, which runs through the park, claiming that the Park Service was insufficiently preserving the river's "wild and scenic" character. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs and invalidated the Park Service's plans in 2008. A settlement, agreed to in September 2009, required the Park Service to draft a new plan for the Merced River--and also paid these professional environmental litigants more than $1 million, courtesy of American taxpayers.

As a true Yosemite girl, having climbed the domes and hiked the backcountry, having read Muir's musings on a flat rock in the Merced at dusk, and having married into the surname Camp, I felt the need to respond:

California Democratic Rep. Tony Coelho wrote a letter to the director of the National Park Service, vowing to fight any measure which removed current recreational facilities from Yosemite Valley, stating: "The Merced River in Yosemite Valley has been recreational for almost 150 years. Yosemite Valley has never been wilderness."

That's idiocy. And it's also the difference between someone who wants national parks to be preserved for generations to come and someone who actually understands what that will take to achieve.

When President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant in 1864, he designated Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as a protected area "upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort and recreation". But in 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted, a landscape architect who served on the Yosemite board of commissioners, warned that "the slight harm which the few hundred visitors of this year might do, if no care were taken to prevent it, would not be slight, if it should be repeated by millions." This classic conflict between the desire to keep our parks pure and to attract tourists is what pressed President Theordore Roosevelt, after camping in the Yosemite wilderness with John Muir in 1903, to remove control of the valley and grove from California and return it to the federal government. President Lincoln's mid-Civil War desire to set aside a national treasure had been absolutely essential to the process, but it was an incomplete one, and Olmsted's words continue to ring true.

California's population density breaks down to roughly 283 people per square mile. That's pretty crowded. (For the sake of comparison, Norway's population density breaks down to only 35 people per square mile.) The wear and tear of people and their vehicles, not only on the ground, but to the air, the water, the amount of trash and sewage generated and accumulating in the parks, is astonishing, and must be slowed. The most militant environmentalists want it to be stopped altogether. And I don't blame them for that, but I pity them their shortsightedness on another hand. What good is a beautiful thing if no one gets to see it? If it languishes in a secret spot, we run the risk of forgetting it's even there.

Yosemite and Yellowstone and the like are some of my favorite places in the world. I have great childhood memories there, and sharing Yellowstone and Teton with Jonathan for the first time in 2007 ranks up there with the truest pleasures of my adult life. But there's a line we must make and be willing to hold, those of us who claim to admire and uphold Muir's legacy. He wanted Yosemite preserved for the generations to come, but he couldn't have known how large those generations would be, or how much strain we would put on the environment. He couldn't fathom families arriving in enormous gas-guzzling SUVs, using diapers that don't biodegrade, with seven different electronic gadgets, each with its own charger. At sixty, John Muir was still climbing to the tops of 80-foot trees to sit and consider the music of the wind. He couldn't guess that obesity would become an American epidemic, and that his favorite valley trails would be paved over to allow, not just foot and bike traffic, but scooters and electric wheelchairs. He wrote in his journal every day; sang songs robustly as he stomped off into the trees; camped so he could rise and walk directly into the mist of the waterfalls. He never imagined whole families would spend their evenings ensconced in deluxe rooms watching television and checking Facebook.

So, where is the line?

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Moving to Europe, I expected some downsizing. The average private vehicle size, for instance, is far more compact here than in the U.S. When we see big trucks on the road, they are a novelty. We take notice and assume a wealthy American decided he couldn't transfer to the Norwegian branch of his oil company without his trusty Dodge. Cars here are just smaller. Ditto city apartments, meal portions, playgrounds, and storage spaces of all kinds. 

This last is best demonstrated by the average size of refrigerators in apartments across Oslo.

On the left, you can see our kitchen the week I moved in, back in April 2011. The poor, little guy had been retrieved from the bowels of our building's basement by our landlord. Who knows how long he'd been decommissioned before that. To say we've crammed him full of food is something of an understatement. As a car-free couple, the grocery haul must be restricted to what we can fit into a backpack and reusable bags. Even then, if both of us went to the market, we were able to bring back enough food to make that tiny fridge bulge at its aging seams. There isn't enough room to hold all (or even most!) of the beer cans Jonathan's friends bring over on game nights, either.

Plastic drawers were cracked. The door bleated in protest each time we swung it open. The freezer wouldn't close all the way without effort. The temperature inside the fridge swung wildly from just cold enough to keep the milk good to so cold I couldn't pour soda past the iceberg that had formed within the bottle.

And then last week, as we sat in the living room minding our own business, Jonathan and I heard an enormous crack! One of the glass shelves had split right down the middle. And there was almost nothing on this shelf, so we knew it wasn't our fault. Little Fridgy had simply given up.

I would have felt sentimental about the whole thing had our landlord not acted so quickly to replace it. I worried about having enough time to say goodbye... and then the new hunk showed up. Gleaming. A foot taller, inches deeper. With baskets that could accommodate frozen pizzas. With shelves in the door that could hold soda bottles... get this... standing up!

I stripped Little Fridgy of his magnets and sent him on his way. Because magnets, in my world, are the way I show love to my kitchen appliance. And it was time to magnetize the new guy. Tenderly. One bit of memory at a time.

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IMG_6282.jpgYosemite National Park. The best granite climbing in the world. The Tuolumne region of YNP is famous for its giant granite domes: Stately Pleasure Dome, Lembert Dome, Fairview Dome, and Pywiack Dome. One of our favorite multi-pitch climbs in Tuolumne is Zee Tree on Pywiack Dome. We've completed this ascent together multiple times. It's a good introduction to multi-pitch climbing as the overall rating is only 5.7. 

On multi-pitch, bolted routes like Zee Tree, permanent belay stations are located every 50 to 100 feet (the length of a single pitch); these consist of heavy bolts screwed into the face of the rock. Climbing works best in teams of two moving inchworm-style: Climber One is tied into the front of the rope and leads the climb, placing protection on his way, and fixes the anchor at the top; Climber Two follows once the anchor is set, cleaning the route by removing the protection, and arrives in time to belay Climber One on his next pitch.

The second climber in the team is better protected. While the "leader" (Jonathan, in our case) brings the rope up behind him, relying on the placement of gear to protect him in the event of a fall, I follow once an anchor has been built above me. If I fall, Jonathan's belay will have me within a few inches. If Jonathan slips on his climb, he will fall twice the distance between his feet and last piece of protection in the rock before my belay catches him from below. 

Above: Six pitches of slab will challenge both your physical and mental stamina, but the wide-open exposure has its perks. The view southwest to Tenaya Lake is a breathtaking sweep of emerald green and piercing blue. 

Objective: Zee Tree (5.7)
Style: Sport Climbing/Trad Climbing (final pitch)
Level: Easy/Moderate
Length: 700 feet, 6 pitches, 3 hours
Approach: Drive up and park on Hwy 120. (Winter closures.)

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With its wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and sparkling, emerald panoramas, Mt. Diablo State Park is an East Bay must-see for any visitor, but it's also a popular destination for climbers. Jonathan and I have climbed there multiple times over the years. The photo at left shows me atop the Lower Tier at Boy Scout Rocks, preparing to rappel down Amazing Face (5.10a). Over my right shoulder you can see a formation aptly named Butt Rock

This seems like a good time to mention that, if you're going to be a climber, you'll need to develop both tough fingers and thick skin. Butt Rock, Butt Crack, and Butt Hole are fairly innocuous as route names go. There are many far more potentially "offensive" names out there. In 2010, the Swedish Climbing Federation chairman moved to ban all offensive route names in Sweden "after sport climber and historian Cordelia Hess found certain route names offensive at a crag in Gaseborg, Sweden. She told a Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, that the Nazi-themed names, such as Swastika, Himmler, Hitler and Third Reich, 'trivialize the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust.'" As Meghan Ward notes in response to this story on the Alpinist blog, "By tradition, deciding route names is an honor given to those who first ascend a route. Often these names are inside jokes between climbers. For many, to legislate the naming process would take away the fun and spontaneity that leads to these names in the first place." Fair warning: If you're easily offended, climbing outdoors may be fraught with more anxiety than necessary for you.

Today I'll focus on a single Butt Rock climb we completed with some friends in April 2009.

Objective: Butt Rock, Boy Scout Rocks
Route(s): Butt Crack (5.4), Butt Face Direct (5.7), Butt Face (5.8)
Style: Top Rope
Level: Easy/Beginner
Approach: Drive up and park. Short walk.
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After a year's sabbatical, Jonathan and I are back on the wall. It feels good and, to keep our spirits high, I thought I'd do some retrospective chronicling of our past climbs together. LEFT: Me, topped out on Deep Dish on The Leaning Tower of Pizza.

Climbing. It's a sport we picked up together shortly after we'd begun dating in 2003. (As an aside of sorts, I highly recommend that couples just starting out take a stab at indoor climbing. Climbing requires trust, respect, sensitivity, and constant verbal communication. There is no better way to bond with one another.) For the first few years, we stuck to the plastic. Our membership at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord, California was a necessary expenditure every month. Eventually, following the organic progression of climbing, we moved outdoors. In California, that meant easy access to all types of rock almost year-round.

In May of 2009, we took a road trip down the Eastern Sierra, from the east entrance of Yosemite National Park to Joshua Tree National Park, with a pit stop of a few days in and around Bishop.

From our campsite near Big Pine, we drove an hour south to visit the famous Alabama Hills Recreation Area, backdrop for classic TV westerns (The Gene Autry Show and The Lone ranger) and blockbuster films (Iron Man and Transformers). Our car kicked up a dramatic cloud of dust as we rolled along Movie Flat Road; we clenched our jaws tight as we rattled over the washboard.

Objective: Leaning Tower of Pizza
Style: Sport Climbing
Level: Easy/Beginner
Approach: Drive up and park.
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