March 2012

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Trip Date: March 24, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Alex Le, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report: Obligations to friends and family kept me in town Friday and Sunday, which left us with a wonderful Saturday to make the most of.  Although we had been planning to go to Mt. Frosty (as I did on the last weekend of March last year) we made a late change of plans Friday evening after realizing that over 50cm of new snow was reported to have fallen in the Manning Park area.  Keeping things simple, we decided to head up to the Diamond Head area and just go as far as we felt like.

A reasonably early start got us up in Ed’s X-Trail to the Diamond Head parking lot at around 9am, and we were out on the trail at about 9:20, and with firm yet non-icy snow on the road, we made quick work up past the Red Heather Shelter to Paul Ridge on a well beaten track.  It was an absolutely blue bird day with not a cloud in the sky and I couldn’t help but be slightly envious of Jeff, Petr, and my other friends who were ahead of us doing a neve traverse.  Nonetheless, we had fantastic views in all directions on our way along Paul Ridge, ranging from Atwell and Pyramid to the north, the Mamquam massif to the east, and Alpen and the Sky Pilot group to our south.

Three of us reached the Elfin Lakes hut at around 12:30 (somehow my dad managed to beat us there by 30 minutes even though he was with us as we came around Round mountain…), and after eating all of my meagre supply of food (much of my lunch was left in the car) and sharing my skin wax with the grateful throng at the hut, we set out for the saddle between Columnar and the Gargoyles a bit before 1.  Within minutes of leaving the hut, the ski tracks ended, and we had to begin breaking trail.  Although the temperature was hovering around 0, the intense solar radiation was melting the snow, leaving it heavy and a real slog to break trail through.  Alex and I alternated breaking trail, which served to exhaust both of us, and we were all grateful when three locals caught up with us and broke trail for the last leg up to the saddle and from there onto the main peak of the Gargoyles, which we reached some time around 2:40.  After a short break, we descended wonderfully consistent slush and corn down to the low point below the Elfin hut, and began our skin back up Paul Ridge.

The return skin was uneventful, even with a brief detour over the sub-summits/bumps of Round mountain, but a severe lack of calories consumed left me completely exhausted by the time we came around Round mountain and were able to take off our skins for the ski down.  Luckily, Britt had half of a mushed up former sandwich in her pack that served to fuel me just enough to make it down to the car.  The road was surprisingly soft for the evening and we made a quick run down the road, reaching the car in the vicinity of 5:45pm.

In all, it was an amazing day trip with perfect weather, great views, and just enough distance and vertical to leave everybody satisfied with their accomplishments.

Rating: 3/3

(Photos by Alex Le)

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Minus 148

The introduction to Art Davidson‘s Minus 148° claims that it is “one of the few true classics in the literature of mountaineering”, and having recently read it, I would happen to agree.  Tight and vivid in its description of the first winter ascent of Mt. McKinley (Denali), the book details both the varied and colourful personalities of the expedition members as well as the events of the climb itself.

Few of us could imagine the situation that Davidson, Johnston, and “Pirate” Genet found themselves in, holed up for days in a snow cave for days on end, with the windchill outside below 148 degrees, and the other expedition members below slowing being persuaded that the climbers above must be dead.  Yet despite the unimaginable suffering endured after the success of reaching the summit and the tragedies that unfolded weeks earlier on the climb, the trio managed to persevere and endure until a break in the storm let them descend.

This is a remarkable tale of human survival and victory as well as a glimpse into the mind of the climber, and why he chooses to place himself into such hardship.  This may not be a long book, but you will be gripped from beginning to end.

Verdict: 5/5

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Fischer Black

Fischer Black was an eccentric, a genius, and consistently far ahead of his time in terms of his insights and understanding of finance and the markets.  At least, that’s what I know I’m supposed to believe after having read Perry Merhling‘s biography of Fischer Black, Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance.  In reality, however, after reading this book I understand that he was an eccentric, but in this book, Fischer’s (he’s always referred to by his first name) genius fails to shine through.

This book does a decent job of walking the reader through Fischer’s life and describing the intellectual debates that he engaged in during his time in academia and industry.  Mehrling does a fairly good job at helping the reader understand the various sides of each debate and how Fischer’s influences parleyed their way into his beliefs.  However, he fails at revealing why Fischer’s ideas amounted to genius or revolutionary except in the vaguest sense.  Despite the apparent richness of the subject, this book unfortunately fails to rise above the level of mediocre.

Verdict: 2/5.

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For a few months at the end of last year, it was near impossible to walk by a book store without noticing a prominently placed copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow, and in short order curiosity got the better of me and I sat down to read this book.  Written by Daniel Kahneman, the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, this is no fluffy Malcolm Gladwell book, but is instead a deep and wonderful book that reveals many remarkable insights into the human mind.

The book is roughly divided into three parts.  The first, on “Two Systems” reveals the distinctions between System 1 (Fast and multi-tasking) and System 2 (Slow and single-tasking) thinking, and the phenomena that can be explained by these two systems.  The second, on “Two Species” discusses the differences between Homo Econs (the perfectly rational human assumed by standard economic theory) and Homo Humans (real humans), and the third part is a discussion of “Two Selves”: the experiencing self that experiences events as they unfold and the remembering self that actually makes our choices.  Each of these sections is well supported by experimental studies, as well as small experiments performed on the reader as he/she reads the book that take the points made from abstract to experiential.

Although I’m not sure that I can agree with the blurb about the book being in the same league as The Wealth of Nations or The Interpretation of Dreams, this is a fantastic book that should be read by anyone interested in economics, psychology, or understanding the workings of themselves and the people around them.

Verdict: 5/5

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