Friday, August 27, 2021

Paragliding Maneuvers Clinic (aka "SIV clinic")

This past weekend, I did a paragliding maneuvers clinic (aka "SIV clinic"), simulating incidents that can occur during flight, and learning to handle them. The gist is simple: you get towed by a boat over a lake, get to about 2,500ft above the water, release the tow line, and then listen to the instructor (who's watching you from ground level) walk you through maneuvers over the walkie-talkies strapped to your shoulders. In my particular case, the instructor was Matty Senior, a New Zealander with an Australian accent and one of Washington's best pilots. "Alright mate, now we're going to induce a collapse on the left side, so go ahead and pull on the left A risers. Yep, there you go. Now shift right to control the heading, then apply right brake to enter a low-g spiral. Keep applying, keep applying. Well done, mate. Let's do a full 360, then exit the spiral by releasing the brake, then releasing the collapse, and then take that wing's energy into a turn into the same direction to prevent a surge. Nicely done. Now let's do it in the opposite direction."

Ten minutes to tow, then 3-4 minutes of maneuvers (you're inducing collapses, stalls, spirals, and spins, so they burn through altitude pretty fast), then another 5-15 minutes of ridge soaring by the beach if the wind conditions allow... and you're back on the ground, watching the other five people in the group take their turn. Three runs on Saturday, three runs on Sunday – and you've got yourself a weekend SIV clinic. I was reminded of the phrase "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror," which apparently is a war adage, whereas this was a strictly voluntary activity – and in any case, the boredom wasn't long and the terror wasn't sheer. Never-the-less, there's definitely an interesting rhythm to the SIV exercise...

Matty gave us an excellent hour-long briefing before the start, but by the time we got to the boat, unpacked everything, and got going, I'll admit that I forgot a good chunk of it. Most crucially, I forgot how/when to release the tow line, so my first tow was quite the experience. Relative to normal launching, towing is a weird experience, as you have to keep making course adjustments to keep the tow line taut when the boat turns. I was so focused on watching the boat and making adjustment on my first tow, that it was quite unexpected when I realized that I was about to go into the clouds, which were fairly low that morning. Due to a problem with my radios, I couldn't make out what the boat operator was telling me to do, but I definitely wanted to remain tethered to something as I got engulfed in whiteness all around. I've never been in the clouds before, but I've heard the horror stories of going into the "white room." By remaining tethered, I at least wouldn't be lost flying around in circles or heading into the mountainous terrain nearby (it's very easy to get disoriented, and for the SIV course I didn't have the instruments that I usually fly with), and I wouldn't get sucked higher into the clouds. Engulfed in the dense white fog, I gave a nice pep talk to my wing, and we eventually emerged out the side of the cloud. By that point, the boat had stopped, and I was beginning to overshoot it, and the tow line was tugging awkwardly at me from the wrong angle. The situation didn't feel sustainable, and there were more clouds coming up, so I let go of the brakes, yanked on what I rightly guessed to be the release handle, and was back under my own control right as I heard Matty's voice come quietly on the radio to encourage me to do just that. Matty's voice transmitted louder than the boat driver's, so I was able to execute a few simple maneuvers (collapses and spirals) on that first run – and we corrected the volume issue for the subsequent runs.

Observations and lessons learned:
  1. If in doubt, speak up. I thought the volume felt quiet even before takeoff, and should have double-checked that while still on the ground.

  2. Once I got used to it, and when I wasn't going into the clouds, towing was sort of fun – a slightly surreal experience that reminded me of my tandem-passenger experience with my brother (maybe because you don't have control over the direction, and so you're basically there for the ride like a passenger, when the boat is going straight?).

  3. For the types of wings that all of us had (beginner wings, A-s or B-s), that wing just wants to fly. It wants to recover from collapses, it wants to fly straight, and it can recover from just about anything, provided that you have enough ground clearance for it to do its thing. I feel like the SIV really reset my feeling for what bad turbulence is, and what my wing can handle. If there's one thing I learned this weekend, it's that – while its pilot is still a work in progress – my wing is rock solid!

  4. Spirals were intense, especially the first few times (and I'm glad I got to experience them twice before when flying tandem, once with my brother and once with Matty a few months ago). But they were also kind of fun. Apparently, you can remove some of that intensity by doing do a low-g spiral by collapsing the outside portion of the wing. In practice, I'm not sure I could tell the difference (but maybe I would after more revolutions – I was exiting my spirals after a max of 2 revolutions to not burn up too much altitude).

  5. The B-line stall was fun, and felt like doing a pullup on my wing. It felt very mellow. Full stalls, on the other hand, felt like chaos – the wing flapping like crazy overhead. Finding the backfly (tailslide) position was cool, but coming out of it symmetrically wasn't easy. Out of the dozen stalls that I did, on at least two instances I came out spinning, under no control whatsoever – and was basically relying on either the wing to do its thing or for Matty to tell me what to do. Spinning was super disorienting, and I considered throwing the reserve if the spinning wouldn't stop within a few seconds, though I thankfully regained control soon (not sure whether through my efforts or not).
    • If I understood it correctly, the trick to doing it right is to release the backfly just a bit (and symmetrically!), while looking up at the wing. At that point the wing will surge forward. Then apply the brakes before the wing surges too far ahead, and again, make sure that everything is symmetric.
    • If it's NOT symmetric, you can just re-stall the wing. A stall is a reset button after all, and will stop the spinning. By the time we talked about this after my run, it was time to start other maneuvers so I didn't have a chance to try it out.
    • Along the same lines, something that wasn't obvious to me, but that another fellow classmate explained to me: if you're spinning, you want to apply brake to the outside to slow it down. I.e., if you're spinning to the right (clockwise), apply left brake to get that side to slow down, and you won't be spinning anymore! Again, didn't get a chance to practice it, but it seems obvious when put that way.

  6. I did get very good at clearing cravattes, which I got after half my stalls. Pumping the brakes works for small cravattes, but for larger ones I found that the only way I could get them out was by pulling the same-side stabilo line.
    • If I understood correctly, the trick to avoiding the cravattes in the first place after a stall is to semi-aggressively pull the brakes after releasing the backfly (or at least to maintain good pressure?). Without enough pressure, the wing tips get tucked under and then require clearing.

  7. I could not get the hang of an asymmetric spiral (though it meant I basically practiced exiting the spiral over and over again). If I understood correctly, the idea was to start with a regular spiral and then weight-shift to the other side while exiting. It sounded like I was a little late with my weight-shift and/or my exit. Matty said that the asymmetric spirals are a great way to build up to wingovers (and, in his mind, are the safer way to approach wingovers), so I would like to learn this eventually... but it may have to wait till I do another SIV.

Though each run of maneuvers was just a handful of minutes, both days felt quite long and I learned a lot – both during my own flying and when watching the others. Driving back from Riffe Lake, I felt nicely satiated. But, writing this report four days later, I'm already excited about doing another SIV (I was initially thinking that I can wait another couple years... but maybe next year?). And I'm looking forward to doing some regular non-maneuver-y flying this weekend.

Thanks, Matty, for the excellent coaching, and to Kevin Stone & Maggie Johnescu for the excellent video footage!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Spreadsheet Adventures: Coloring Fun with Conditional Formatting

They say Isaac Newton invented Calculus while quarantining from the Plague. While my dad hasn't reached that level of quarantine boredom, he's devised a really fun and artistic approach for teaching Excel – and yesterday released the first e-book in his "Spreadsheet Adventures" series.

"Coloring Fun with Conditional Formatting" is a step-by-step guide and puzzle collection. It shows how to create beautiful mathematical patterns in Excel, while building up the reader's familiarity with formulas and conditional formatting. In proofreading my dad's initial draft, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was blown away by the beauty and unpredictability of some of the patterns. I'm including just a few of the images below.

If this piques your interest, you can purchase the e-book here:

More info about the Spreadsheet Adventure series can be found on my dad's website: And you can also follow him on the Facebook, where he plans to post weekly puzzles and beautiful pictures at

I hope you enjoy it (and if you can think of someone else who'd benefit from the book, please help spread the word :-)).

Sunday, January 10, 2021

PNW Packrafting FAQs

There's been a growing interest in packrafting in Washington, with over 100 people joining our "PNW Packrafting" Facebook group group over the past month! I though it'd be useful to compile a list of FAQs related to packrafting in Washington. I posted this set of FAQs on our Facebook group this morning, but since that post is only visible to group members, I am re-posting it here for public viewing. For folks living in Washington/PNW and interested in packrafting, I highly recommend joining that group (we frequently do group outings together, and members will often share trip reports and recommendations).

Q: What are packrafts? What does one do with them?

A: Packrafts are an lightweight but rugged inflatable boats. Packrafts are versatile, and are great for anything from floating on an alpine lake, to floating on Class III/IV rivers (or even higher!). For running rivers, packrafts are akin to whitewater kayaks, but are more stable and easier to get started on. Packrafts generally have whitewater decks, similar to whitewater kayaks. For winter trips, it's best to have a drysuit -- but in the summer and/or on easier rivers/lakes, it's possible to go without.

Q: What are the best packraft brands? What about DIY packrafts?

A: The two most common brands are Alpacka and Kokopelli. Alpacka is generally considered the higher-end of the two (and is a little more expensive), but both are good brands.

I own three Alpacka packrafts. They are all of the "classic" variety (click on "classic" on, with a "Whitewater Deck" build configuration. I bought mine before either the Cargo Fly or the ability the whitewater deck to be a Removable Whitewater Deck were in an option. If I were buying now, I would definitely get the latter and I would maybe get the cargo fly, though I'm less sold on that and it costs a little more extra. For most people, and especially if you'll only have one boat, I do think that getting a whitewater deck (of one type or another) is better than going down the self-bailing option, but there are folks who really like their self-bailers.

My other packraft is a Kokopelli Nirvana with a spray deck. It's a little heavier and bulkier, but the price for Kokopelli is definitely cheaper. So if price is a large consideration for you, you could get a Kokopelli and still have a great time.

There is also an exclusively self-bailing Bakraft by Aire. It's an interesting boat -- I've been in one before, in Costa Rica -- but I haven't seen them in use in either Washington or Alaska. Like I said, for Washington/PNW/Alaska, most folks go for having a whitewater deck.

There are the really cheap floatables as well, e.g., the Uncharted Rapid Raft or the Klymin LiteWater Dinghy. I don't have direct experience with either, and they might be good boats for going out on a lake, but they're not whitewater boats.

Finally, there are do-it-yourself packrafts. I personally don't have any experience with them -- and have some skepticism regarding the amount of time it would take to do a quality job, and/or the amount of glue fumes you would end up breathing in in the process -- but it is a thing. There was a discussion about it earlier this year:

Side-note: why do I have four boats? My wife and I bought a boat for each of us, to be able to do trips together. However, we found that we often had friends who wanted to join, so we bought a third boat. Then we realized that most guests/friends come in pairs, so we eventually bought a fourth one. I rarely need all four boats, so if you're just starting to look into packrafting and would like to borrow one to try it out -- especially on a trip that I'm already going on -- just let me know.

Q: Talk to me about safety

A: I'm a firm believer in a packrafting safety culture! Packrafts are a lot of fun, but especially when in the PNW, you're going in fairly cold water, and there are frequently downed trees and logjams in rivers. So please, get into this sport safely!

The first element of safety is being prepared. If you're new, go with someone who's experienced. Progress slowly -- start at Class I/II- rivers before progressing to II/II+/III-. Have a quality life jacket (and make sure it's buckled snugly) and drysuit (more on that below). Bring a change of clothes in a dry bag. Unless it's a super easy river that you've done before, don't go solo. Check the water levels before you go, to make sure that the river isn't running too high. Use this group to let folks know that you're thinking of doing such-and-such river, and see if others in your skill level want to join!

While you can be a self-taught packrafter ("self-taught" as in taught by a more experienced buddy), it is a good idea to take a class. I took one such course two years ago, and it's made me a much more competent and confident paddler, especially with regards to self-rescue and running Class III whitewater. It's also where I tried out a drysuit for the first time, and subsequently bought my own. We are fortunate enough to have such trainings offered in North Bend (an hour east of Seattle) once a year or so. The North Bend course is led by Zak Sears from the Swiftwater Safety Institute (same guy who led it two years ago). This year, the North Bend dates are April 6-7 and April 12-13. See for more info. A different company (but listed on same site) is also going to be offering a similar course in Idaho on July 27-28, right before the 2021 APA Packraft Roundup that's scheduled for July 29-August 1st.

Even on "mellow" runs, the deadliest thing to watch out for are wood hazards (log jams, trees across the river, etc). Do not underestimate the force with which current would push you into/under one of those things -- and avoid encountering them at all cost! If you can't see around a river bend, and especially if the river is narrow, get out to scout if you need to; portage the boat around those hazards if you can't navigate the water safely with enough margin for error; paddle at an angle upstream if you have to in order to get to shore before hitting one of these things. The other thing to remember is -- if you flip on a rapid and go into the water -- to swim in a "defensive swimming" position with your feet up to avoid entrapment. Look it up online (e.g., at, and once again: consider taking a whitewater safety course as soon as is practical!

If you'll be in an area outside of cell reception, I'm also a big fan of having a Garmin InReach (which I use for my other sports, e.g., hiking and paragliding). It gives you a way to communicate to the outside world in case of an emergency, and to be able to check in ("running later than expected, but I'm all good").

Q: How do I get started? What are some rivers to run? What are good resources?

A: If you're in the Seattle eastside area -- which is the area I'm most familiar with -- there are a number of great rivers to get started on, that are Class I or II-. Classic car-accessible runs include:

For slightly more advanced runs, the Upper Middle Snoqualmie Fork (listed as Class II, though I would call the beginning section of it a II+) is one of my all-time favorites: There is also a short-and-sweet II+ run on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie:

Going up to more of a II+/III-, the Sauk (near Darrington) has several different sections that are all great, and can accommodate multiple skill levels. The lower Sauk is a Class II (, though be on the watch out for logs. There's a slightly more advanced (II to III-) section at And finally there's a more advanced run in-between those two sections, that is a III+, though it can be started a little later to make it a III-: Further up north, there is also the beautiful Nooksack:

I really love the recently-updated "River Info" map page on the American Whitewater site: You can pan around the map to find rivers that are in your area, color-coded by difficult level. From there, just click on a river and view the details (which will often include the current flow rate and the recommended flow range).

I've also used the "Paddling Washington" book before, which I own in Kindle format for easier searching:

Of course, packrafting offers a lot more opportunities than just doing the sorts of rivers that river kayakers can do! I've had a great time taking a packraft up to Colchuck Lake ( and to Goat Lake ( I also had a good time hiking with my wife up the Queets River in the Olympic Peninsula, and then floating back down. I'm sure there are many other trip opportunities as well -- and I encourage folks to post trip reports to get the community excited about these!

Finally, for those wanting a book about packrafting as a sport, Luc Mehl -- a packrafting legend in Alaska -- is currently writing a Packrafting Handbook that I'm really excited about, to be released in May of this year. You can learn more about the book, and join the mailing list, here:

Q: What other gear do I need? (Drysuit, paddle, life jacket, throw rope, helmet)

A: For any serious paddling in Washington (class III) and/or serious winter paddling, a drysuit is a must. Mine is a fairly basic one, and I'm perfectly happy with it. For me personally, having borrowed a drysuit with a standard neck gasket during the packrafting safety course -- and having hated it! -- I've opted to go for a "semi-dry" drysuit that uses a neoprene collar in place of the latex. My thought is that unlike river kayakers (who do Eskimo Rolls, etc.), packrafters don't intend to spent much time with their head underwater, and I'd rather be comfortable rather than feeling like the neck gasket is trying to strangle me. But I'm a bit of an anomaly in that regard. For those who are curious, my drysuit is Get a set of neoprene socks to go over the top of the drysuit, to protect the feet more. I then use the Astral Brewer 2.0 Water shoes -- two sizes larger than than what I usually would wear -- for footwear on the river.

You'll obviously need a paddle. Most packrafters use a kayaking paddle, but as short as possible. I personally have always owned AquaBound paddles, and really like their Manta Ray 4-Piece Posi-Lok: Most packrafters I know use Werner paddles.

I would recommend spending the extra $50 to get a 4-piece instead of a 2-piece: it will make it easier to take hiking, or to take a spare with you in the boat on a group trip (I've had two occasions now that I've gone with a group and someone broke or permanently lost a paddle; so since then I've generally taken a spare).

You'll want a life jacket (PFD), something like the NRS Ninja: For anything beyond Class I or II-, you'll also definitely want a helmet. You can use a bike helmet if you're in a pinch, but for more serious whitewater you'll want to get a whitewater helmet.

For winter-time paddling, I like to use either pogies (e.g., or mitts (

As you advance and take a whitewater safety course, you'll want to get (and know how to use!) as throw rope. The Waist Belt Throw Bag by SolGear ( is the best I've seen, and was recommended by my whitewater safety course instructor.

For folks who live in the Seattle area: I highly recommend the Kayak Academy in Issaquah, which is where I bought my drysuit (new) and helmets (used). They sell used and new gear, and also rent gear (drysuits). They have an online store as well: Call ahead during COVID times to see whether they're still operating at the physical location...

Q: Talk to me about logistics. How do you plan which river to run? How do you shuttle back from the takeout to the put-in?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, I use the American Whitewater website (and/or the Paddling Washington book) to come up with a candidate set of rivers that I'd like to go on, and then -- as it gets closer to the day that I'm going to go -- use the current flow rates, weather, and insight into the desires & skill levels of my group to pick the river.

I like to grab a bicycle with me, and drop it off at the takeout before driving to the put-in. This solves the shuttling problem (and is especially handy during COVID times!). If I'm going with a family member who drove up with me in the same car, having them stay at the takeout is easier than packing everything up and biking up with it -- but hey, they're called "packrafts" for a reason, you can absolutely pack them down (and that's where having a 4-piece rather than a 2-piece paddle really helps too)! An overnight backpack backpack (e.g., a 70 liter+) will work for gathering your gear.

I hope this helps folks who are getting into Packrafting in the PNW -- and again, I encourage you to join the our "PNW Packrafting" Facebook group for trip reports, group-floating-trip coordination, and questions. Have fun, paddle safe, and see you on the water!

* * *

Some photos below, for a sampling of trips that I've done in Washington:

Packrafting the Upper Middle Snoqualmie Fork (
A Class II+ run.
Oct 2019

Packrafting on Goat Lake ( It's a 5-mile hike each way, but not too intensive.
June 2018. (Pictured here is my wife, Katrina Zlatkovsky)

Yours Truly, packrafting with a group on the Sauk river (likely the Bedal Campground to Whitechuck Boat Launch section, or maybe the section below that) in summer of 2019.

My mom on Colchuck Lake. It's a 4-mile hike each way, with the last two miles fairly steep. But *so* rewarding to be out on the water, once you make it to the top!
June 2019

Me on the Queets River, 2013. My wife wrote a blog post about it:

Packrafting with my dog on the Snoqualmie River, just downstream of Carnation. At that point on its journey, it's a Class I river.
For the dog, I put some booties on him to prevent him from scratching the boat. He wasn't too fond of this whole affair, but if I had him sitting inside the boat and me hugging him with my legs, he stayed put. September 2018.

Class III section of the Sauk, Dec 2020. The group was assembled using the PNW Packrafting Facebook group! See for a trip report.

Yakima (Class II,
July 2020

Skagit River. Class I-II.
Sept 2018

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Parenting limericks

In late October, our sweet little daughter Skyla Aurora Zlatkovsky was born, and our life changed rather dramatically.  To pass the hours of bottle-feeding, diaper-changing, and kiddo-entertaining, I began composing limericks.  Here is a compilation of the first ten:

* * *

There once was a three-day-old child
Whose temperament was sweet and mild
But she wanted to feed
All night long — yes indeed! —
And now we are OMG tired...

* * *

Thanks, all, for your congratulation!
We're filled to the brim with elation!
If only this girl —
Our sweet little pearl —
Would soundly sleep post-lactation.

* * *

My wife is a champ, there's no hiding
How lucky I was, in her finding.
For she stayed with our daughter
Alone — what a a martyr —
While hubby-o went paragliding!

* * *

First to eat, then to sleep, Skyla wanted
And with little squeaks had our nerves taunted
But we managed OK
On our third at-home day
We're new parents, but we are undaunted!

* * *

A walk to the Falls at Snoqualmie
Together with daddy and mommy.
I'm down for that —
In my sleep sack and hat —
As long as there's food in my tummy.

* * *

They tried to instill in me fear, "Oh!
As parents your sleep will be zero".
But thus far, for now,
We have managed somehow.
And also, my wife is a hero!

* * *

I couldn't have guessed it — who coulda?
I didn't predict it, but shoulda:
From feasting all day
On a breast milk buffet,
Our girl looks like a baby Buddha!

* * *

Little girl crying up a small ocean
"Let her suckle" was clever dad's notion
But his hands occupied —
So his big nose he tried —
And she latched onto it with devotion!

* * *

On what you'll become my thoughts linger:
A teacher? A chemist? A singer?
I'm sure you'll do well,
I can already tell,
By how firmly you suckle my finger!

* * *

There once was an excellent mommy
Whose milk filled our little girl's tummy.
A young infant's life
Involves diaper-change strife;
But suckle — and life ain't too crummy!

* * *

More limericks to come...

Also, for the original birth announcement post and photos, see this Facebook link.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Backpacking in Patagonia

In December 2018, we went on a spectacular 2-week backpacking trip to Patagonia – one of the world’s premier trekking destinations, where the peaks of southern Chile and Argentina offer dramatic glacier-strewn vistas, notorious raging winds, and a welcome summer respite during the dark winter months of the Northern Hemisphere.

1st Hike: 87-mile Torres del Paine Circuit Backpacking Trip

A world-famous Chilean trek with fantastic peak formations, massive glaciers, and flower-covered fields dipping into ocean-like lakes.  All viewed via a very accessible trail:  highly maintained, low-elevation, relatively flat, and extremely popular, with flush toilets and hot showers, requiring advanced reservations.

Hiking out on the last day, we also got our first real glimpse of the beast known as the "Patagonian Wind": see Michael’s creative parody song ‘Patagonia’, in both Russian and English, inspired by this windy day.

2nd Hike: 5-Day Guided Ice Hike and Gorra Blanca Summit near Fitz Roy, with “Mountaineering Patagonia

Fantastic trip near the famous Fitz Roy area outside El Chalten in Argentina: trekking up a stunning valley towards Lago Electrico and onto Marconi Glacier, with fantastic views of Fitz Roy, Patagonian Ice Field, and surrounding peaks. And in the middle of the trip, summiting 9,500ft Mt. Gorra Blanca.

*          *          *

Extra photos from our first Torres del Paine Trek:

The “las Torres” – the iconic granite towers for which the park is named

The spectacularly-colored black-tipped "los Cuernos", or "the Horns"

Wild llama-like "guanacos" roam across South America
Right after trekking over the John Gardner Pass through a cold drizzly rain, we were greeted by an incredible rainbow stretching out over the massive Grey Glacier – quite an amazing reward!

And a few photos with us in it:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Patagonia song

In December 2018, we went on two spectacular backpacking trips in Patagonia.

After a week of hiking in Torres del Paine (the first of our two trips, a week-long 87-mile circuit in Chile), the combined effects of the scenery and wind inspired a song.  See the embedded video below, which I put together to a slideshow of thematically-picked pictures from the trip:


Let's face it, though:  Just one song isn't enough to describe how beautiful Patagonia was!  To try to remedy that, here is its musical cousin, with the same melody but with the lyrics in Russian (which is actually how I had originally conceived the song – the translation to English came second, during the second week of hiking, and was quite a fun challenge!)


If you liked it, and think that your friends might too, consider sharing it on Facebook  :-)

We took many more pictures than could fit into a single song, and we also had a whole second trip that we went on, near Fitz Roy in Argentina.  We'll be posting a compilation of those photos in the next couple weeks.

Lyrics: Patagonia (English)

Wind is howling, wind is raging –
Shrieking past each rock and tree
Like a wild mountain spirit
That was chained, and now broke free.
If to see Torres del Paine
You had traveled far and wide
Soon you'll be on first-name basis
With this beast, that's at your side...

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

But how beautiful the mountains!
And how splendid to behold
All these ridges, all these textures,
Every line so crisp and bold!
And when at each rocky cliff face
Glaciers with blue ice abound
Its no wonder that to hike here
Folks come from the world around.

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

From the glaciers water trickles –
Thus a river gets its birth
Down the cliff sides it rebounds,
Gurgling with frigid mirth.
Through the valley it meanders,
Polishing the ancient stone
While spring flowers at the foothills,
Add some beauty of their own...

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

From one valley to another,
On we walk through rain or shine.
On the face of the Gray Glacier
See a rainbow quite divine.
Walk through forests, where the tree trunks
From the wind stand halfway bent
We're just guests in wind's dominion –
Blow, wind, to your heart's content!

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

Lyrics: Патагония (Russian)

Ветер дует, и бушует
И ревет со всех сторон.
Будто бес в горах родился,
И с цепи сорвался он.
Коли ты к Торрес-дель-Пайне
Снарядился в дальний путь
Ты тут с ветром породнишься,
От него не увернуть...

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
Со снегами и ветрами, Патагония!

Но какие здесь вершины,
И какая красота!
Впечатляет что рельеф их,
Что наклон и высота.
А когда на каждом склоне
Разместились ледники
Не спроста со всего мира
Сюда едут знатоки…

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
С озёрцами и ручьями, Патагония!

С ледников стекают капли –
Так рождается река.
Не спеша она в долине
Обмывает гор бока.
Ну а склоны – вот красотки! –
Нарядились все в цветы,
Добавляя свой оттенок –
Нежной, пестрой, красоты!

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
С многоцветными лугами, Патагония!

Перевал за перевалом,
Так неделю мы идём:
То под тучей, то под солнцем,
То под солнечным дождем.
То под радугой проходим,
То в густой ныряем лес –
Ну а кроны так и ходят,
Дуй же дуй, бесплотный бес!

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
Со снегами и ветрами, Патагония!

PS:  Finally, if you can't get enough of travel-inspired songs by Yours Truly: see last year's Geothermal-themed "I Will Survive" parody, from our travels to Rotorua, New Zealand.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Alaska adventures, August 2018

(Written by Katrina)

In early August, we went to visit Alaska and Michael’s parents for a short visit, and also got to re-meet-up with Erik’s family.

Our first day: Michael, Erik, and I took the scenic Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Placer River, where we hiked 3 miles to Spencer Lake.
Bridge across Placer River, along hike towards Spencer Glacier

Michael and Katrina

Michael and Erik

At Spencer Lake, we packrafted on the lake to the terminus of the Spencer Glacier, exploring the fascinating way the ice spills into the water. 
Spencer Glacier, viewed from the lake

Exploring Spenscr Glacier by packraft
Erik in yellow boat, Katrina in green

Erik eating a chunk of glacier-ice
Erik on Spencer Glacier (having managed the difficult extraction from packraft onto the ice)

Exploring the ice caves created underneath glacier chunks

From there, we paddled past icebergs of fantastic shapes, where I could easily imagine creatures of all shapes and sizes frozen by enchantment, but ready to spring back to life with the right spell (like the Narnian courtyard filled with stone sculptures of animals waiting for life to be breathed back into them).

Icebergs towards the end of Spencer Lake

Distant view of icebergs from far shore of Spencer Lake

Paddling through some of the larger icebergs

We then paddled on the Class II Placer River back to the car – though the rain unfortunately obscured what would have been beautiful mountain views.  (If you're curious what it looks like in good weather, see the bottom third of Michael's blog post from two years ago, when he did this trip with his dad:

* * * 

On the following day, I had long been looking forward to the rare adventure of going ice climbing at the Matanuska Glacier. Michael and I got a quick glimpse into ice climbing on a trip to Mt. Kazbek last summer, and found it to be remarkably awesome. But without more knowledge about glaciers, ice, anchors, and assembling the right gear (including ropes and climbing-specific crampons and ice axes), ice climbing is not something we would attempt by ourselves. This guided adventure with NOVA was an excellent and more thorough introduction into the sport, along with a great tour of the glacier. The location itself was incredibly scenic, with the Matanuska glacier melting into various pools and mudflats in the beautiful mountain-surrounded valley. And as an added bonus, Ariel – also visiting Alaska – was able to join us for his first experience with ice climbing.

Michael (with his new go-pro camera on his helmet), Katrina, and Ariel

On the Matanuska Glacier

We each had four climbs total: two climbing up a low-angled wall, one being lowered towards a crystalline-blue pool and then climbing back up, and a final, a more challenging climb that involved being lowered into a crevasse before climbing back up the fully vertical, very hard ice (its crust having never been softened by the sun). It was an awesome experience!

First and second climbs, on the same, low-angled wall:

Katrina on the first of her four ice climbs (complete with crampons on feet, harness, helmet, and two ice-climbing-specific ice axes)

Michael being lowered after completing his first ice-climb

Michael being lowered after first ice-climb
 3rd Climb:
Katrina being lowered down in order to being third climb
Katrina after having been lowered beside the crystalline-blue pool filled with melted glacier-water, ready to begin her third climb

Michael about to begin his third climb, with the ice-climbing-specific ice axes

Ariel finishing his third climb:

4th Climb:
Michael being lowered towards a crevasse for the fourth climb

Michael being lowered deeper into the crevasse

Michael deep in the crevasse, about to begin his fourth climb

Michael climbing back up from the crevasse

Continuing to climb up

Success! The most challenging of the four ice-climbs completed!

Video clips of Michael's climb:

Video of Ariel climbing:

Katrina being lowered for her fourth climb

Katrina being lowered towards the crevasse

Deep in the crevasse

Katrina climbing up

And continuing to climb up...
Video clips of Katrina's climb:

Beautiful views of the Matanuska Glacier, which is incredibly scenic in its own right:
Matanuska Glacier 
Beautiful pools at the base of the glacier

Michael with his new go-pro camera

Ariel in crampons


 * * *

On the following day, we went to one of my all-time favorite hikes: the start of Crow’s Pass, this time with low-lying clouds and mist blowing through:

Can you spot the mountain goat?

Our third glacier seen in three days: this one terminating in a rushing waterfall

Before leaving Alaska, we enjoyed driving up to Talkeetna where we stayed with Erik and his family at a cabin by the lake.  It was a lovely quick jaunt to Alaska!