Friday, September 30, 2011

Rescue on Yosemite’s El Capitan

If you haven’t seen them already, take a look at these amazing photos by Tom Evans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News flash!

According to the New York Times, a study has just demonstrated the obvious ...  that the “talk test” is not for people who are training, as opposed to out-of-shape people looking for basic fitness (like me). The talk test is fine for warming up, cooling down, or a long, slow recovery run after a tough race, but it’s not going to get anyone into good shape or keep anyone there. This is a concept known to every runner. To get better and stay good, you have to work up against your lactate threshold, which happens to be pretty much the same thing as Arthur Lydiard’s aerobic threshold. Very old news. Why does the Times treat it as a surprise, a turning over of established beliefs?

Of course, these days, I do try to shuffle along with the talk test in mind because I want to complete my tours of the cemetery without actually requiring space there. But I run alone, so I wind up gasping my little mantra over and over: “Jeez. How did you. Ever. Get so fat and. Slow.”

It was probably because I stopped running at my lactate threshold.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lac de Lhurs

Counting the little Belvédère ramble, I had five walks in mind when I arrived in Lescun, thanks to my readings in Andy Howell’s blog and Kev Reynolds’ Cicerone guidebook. None of them looked like a terrible slog. All looked like attractive and moderately challenging day walks. Reynolds calls this one “quite strenuous, but ... an entertaining day out.”

And away we go...!

The weather still hadn’t cleared up on this Sunday morning, but we were confronted by a misty moodiness we found quite attractive.

I always fuss and fiddle with my gear for a while after a start. You’d think I’d remember those little comfort and efficiency factors, but I never do, even day to day. Here, I’m deciding whether to buckle the pack’s waist belt above or beneath the reversed bumbag I’m wearing (bellybag?). (Below, of course.) I think I’m also considering trying the tube of the water bladder under my arm instead of over my shoulder. (Wrong, wrong, wrong.) P, meanwhile, just gets on with it.

Soon after the start, we got this great view back into the pastures near Lescun. Hobbiton? What are the right words? Pastoral? Verdant? Something along those lines. A gentle and homely beauty.

Gaining some altitude, we came to this notable feature. It’s a bit of a transitional area between forest walking and more open and mountainous terrain.

A little farther along, on rougher ground. You may be able to see my red shorts doddering toward the camera. (A took most of these photos.)

Along this stretch, I shot this video. I did a lot of this (you’ll see more), entirely with my iPhone, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

The path toward the notch. (Col, I suppose, would be more correct, but I do most of my walking in New Hampshire. So notch.) This stretch is quite attractive, with green, green grass and shrubs in contrast with rough gray rock.

Odd rough gray rock.

And finally we arrive.  Unfortunately underwhelming. Two of us have walked together in California’s Sierra, where mountain lakes invariably are are swimmingly freezingly gorgeous. Lac de Lhurs? Not so much.

But P did make a new friend.

We descended and finished happy, nonetheless. Portrait of triathloner and two chubs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A little on Lescun

Five of us arrived at the Maison Willert on a Saturday. It’s a lovely place in a great location, just on the outskirts of the village of Lescun. It’s the second house along the distant row.

Three floors: one is essentially a great room, combining a kitchen with a sitting area and the desk with the stereo and internet modem (there’s wifi!). One flight up is another sitting area in front of a big fireplace; two bedrooms, and a bath. The top floor had room for two more bedrooms and another bath. Outside, the patio that lots of sun during the day, and terrific view. Of course, there are terrific views from all over Lescun. This, from just up the road a few yards, is the church.

 Two of us were here primarily to walk. One more was willing. I really wanted to start the proceedings with a short jaunt around le Belvédère, a walk that starts a few yards from the Maison Willert’s doorstep and takes you on a high loop behind and above the village, yielding terrific views for a moderate effort. It sounded like a great intro walk.

And, despite uncooperative weather, it was. From early along the path, you get this view of the village. Maison Willert is the farthest house to the right..

We strolled along.

The mist was hanging low, but we still got a good idea of the local topography: valleys, high meadows, and higher mountains.

Le Belvédère is easy walking, much of it through forest, and the dark and misty weather lent the wooded areas a feeling of enchantment ... or, I suppose, apprehension, depending on your personality.

The grand view from the top was entirely obscured, but we were perfectly happy. It’s a very pleasant walk. As the path completed its circuit and we came back down, we got another good view of the village.

And we had a week’s walking before us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I’m back, and will be posting on wonderful Pyrenean walking soon, but while I was in Europe I got some interesting news. An article in USA Today has named the project I’ve been working on one of the 10 coolest book apps for fall. Despite the technical fact that it’s a book, not a book app, my partners and I are chuffed.

Twenty-some years ago, I had a little imprint that published Yo, Millard Fillmore!, a children’s book based on a friend’s idea to teach kids all the American presidents, using funny (okay, silly) mnemonics. He did the memorable hints, another partner did the art, and I did the more-or-less straight bios and most of the incidental writing meant to create a light tone. (I always write with a smart 10-year-old in mind ... a fairly tough audience, actually, but I have an ace up my sleeve: I have the instincts and sense of humor of a smart 10-year-old.)

Over the years, Millard was updated several times and sold a quarter-million copies. A second book, Yo, Sacramento!, using the same techniques to help kids remember all the states and capitals, sold another 150,000 or so (and we’re currently working on its iBook, version). 

Over the last few months, we’ve taken on a fourth partner to tackle the Apple iBook market. It’s been fascinating experience, and since Millard lends itself to an electronic treatment (and Sacramento even more so), we’ve created something actually better than a set of pages. Movement, sound, video.... In five years this may seem old hat, or even old-fashioned, but right now it’s near the cutting edge of iBook concept and production.

The books are both targeted toward late elementary-school children, but of course, are marketed to the parents and grandparents of these young geniuses. We’ve also found that teachers in droves buy both titles, and we’re hoping that electronic availability will make it easier for more of them to use.

It will be available at $7.99 from Apple’s iBookstore soon ... probably next week. And, of course, it comes with our no-nonsense iron-clad guarantee:
Watch the videos, read the book, and you'll soon be able to AMAZE your friends, DAZZLE your teachers, and GUARANTEE yourself a life of SUCCESS and HAPPINESS!
And now, having tooted the horn of the Yo! iBooks in the hopes that my dozens of readers around the world will buy it and make my fortune,  I slide gently back into my standard occupation of struggling to get a decent page a day of plain, old-fashioned, paper-based prose. Not for 10-year-olds. Which may be the problem.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lescun, Day 2

Trouble posting. Here's a placeholder.

YouTube Video

- Mobile posting.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cirque de Soliel, take a back seat to the Cirque de Lescun

So we're here in Lescun, in the French Pyrenees. Got here late Saturday afternoon, but didn't get out for a walk until Sunday -- the Belvedere, a stroll around behind the village that took us from Lescun's 1,000 or so meters to about 1,200 and back down again over a pretty leisurely two hours. Sensational views at first, eventually subsumed in the mist. Good wine and great food, followed, of course.

Today, three of us wandered up to Lac de Lhurs, which we found underwhelming, though we did have a good chat with the cabane's resident(the shepard?).

YouTube Video

The other views, both up toward the peaks and back down to the green and bucolic pastures of Lescun, were wonderful. And the walk, as a walk, lived up to its billing as strenuous but an entertaining day out.