Castle Mountain in Spring

Castle Mountain in Spring

It feels like spring at Castle Mountain. While the mornings are still chilly (-22C last Sunday), it sure warms up during the day. Over two days of cross-country skiing around the hostel and downhill skiing at Lake Louise the sun shone brilliantly and warmed me up even when the air was still cool.

Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain
Michael enjoying a fast ski
Michael enjoying a fast ski
The sound of trains passing in the night is one of the things that defines this palce
The sound of trains passing in the night is one of the things that defines this place
Cell phone tower
Cell phone tower and still-snowy mountain tops

Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

I’ve just spent the last week climbing in Red Rock Canyon with climbing partner Jonathan and some new friends.

Desert views
The colours of Red Rock Canyon

 

 

While everything here in Canada is still frozen, the weather in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon is ideal at this time of year.

Stretch

It feels great to get a taste of summer and to climb outdoors again.

Crimp or dyno?
Concentration

Desert-like Red Rock is famous for its sandstone formations which make for some great climbing. It rarely rains here but when it does the sandstone turns soft and brittle. On our second day we woke up to a big rainstorm that drenched the entire area. So the following day we set off to find a limestone cliff recommended by some local climbers.

Is that the crag over there?!?
Searching for the crag

After five hours walking in the desert and scrambling up a narrow slot canyon in search of the climbing area we decided to make it a hiking day. Climbing could wait for another day. Turns out that when we turned back we were no more than a few minutes away from finding the crag.

cactus
Desert life

It turned out to be a great day anyway and a good opportunity to explore the desert.

and bullet holes
Where did we park the car again?

And being only a short drive from Las Vegas, we got to enjoy some of Sin City’s famed nightlife.

The Strip
The Strip
Fremont Street
Fremont Street

 

Glimpses of North Korea

Glimpses of North Korea

It’s been almost a year since I visited North Korea. The country has changed a lot in that time. In May of 2012 it still felt very isolated and secretive. Now visitors are permitted to bring in mobile phones and access the internet. That’s a big change. While I ponder where the Hermit Kingdom is headed, here are some photos from an amazing trip.

Kids on their way to school
Kids on their way to school
On their way home from work
On their way home from work
Wonsan, an industrial city on the east coast
Wonsan, an industrial city on the east coast
Revolutionary posters decorate the street much like billboards in other countries
Revolutionary posters decorate the street much like billboards in other countries
Kids practicing for the Mass Games in front of Hamhumg Grand Theatre
Kids practicing for the Mass Games in front of Hamhumg Grand Theatre
Unification monument symbolizing the two Koreas joining together
Unification monument symbolizing the two Koreas joining together
Brand new apartments development, constructed in under a year
Brand new apartments development, constructed in under a year
View of Pyongyang, the capital, from Juche Idea Tower
View of Pyongyang, the capital, from Juche Idea Tower
Smash the Imperialist American!
Smash the Imperialist American!
Kim Il Sung, internationally renowned leader.
Kim Il Sung, internationally renowned leader.
Pyongyang's metro system puts any 5-star hotel lobby to shame
Pyongyang’s metro system puts any 5-star hotel lobby to shame
Squirting clams with gasoline from a water bottle
Squirting clams with gasoline from a water bottle
Our guides: Mr. Kim, Hannah, and Hwong
Our guides: Mr. Kim, Hannah, and Hwong
Power!
Power!
Her dress remains perfectly clean. Chollima Steel Works
Her dress remains perfectly clean. Chollima Steel Works
Everyone loves a carnival ride
Everyone loves a carnival ride
Koreans love to express themselves through dance and song
Koreans love to express themselves through dance and song
Pyongyang's streets see more and more traffic every day. A few years ago there were few vehicles. Now buses, trams, motorcycles, and private cars have joined the bustle alongside military lorries.
Pyongyang’s streets see more and more traffic every day. A few years ago there were few vehicles. Now buses, trams, taxis, motorcycles, and private cars have joined the bustle alongside military lorries.
A passionate guide takes us through the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
A passionate guide takes us through the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (i.e. Korean War) Museum
Beauty transcends borders
Beauty transcends borders

Concept of the 30-Day Challenge

I’ve always enjoyed things that challenge me, so when I learnt about the concept of a “30-day challenge” I was really excited. The idea is that you choose something difficult or impactful and you commit to do it for 30 days. It could be adding something to your life, like exercising or eating well, or getting rid of a bad habit.

Last year I read the book Wheat Belly so for December I decided to try an initial 30-day challenge of going gluten/wheat-free. It was a fairly easy thing to do, although I’ve learnt that there is wheat in things you’d never guess – like herbal teas and soy sauce. It was an interesting experiment, not so much in the results of the diet, which were minor, but in making a new habit part of my life over a relatively short period of time. I’m still following the wheat-free diet today.

Last September I injured my ankle while rock climbing and it has taken a long time to heal. I’m still working toward getting back to 100%. For my next 30-day challenge I committed to really step up the corrective exercises my physiotherapist and strength coach had given me. Doing those exercises everyday made a big difference. My ankle now feels stronger and more stable and those exercises have become a regular habit. It feels like they take very little effort now.

In February (technically only 28 days) I wanted to do something related to fitness. I love quantifiable goals and I have a habit of collecting gadgets so I decided to commit to measuring my heart rate while exercising and getting it above 140 every day (my Zoladz  zone-4 “tough exercise” is roughly 140-150). Here are the results…

30-Day Challenge: Heart Rate
30-Day Challenge: Heart Rate

In retrospect, intense cardio exercise every day is pretty hard on the body when you combine it with the strength training I’ve also been doing. I think a few rest days are a good thing – they help you recover. Ultimately, the real goal is improved fitness. So, I changed strategy mid-month and gave myself two days off from this challenge. On those days I was doing intense strength training and my coach suggested doing more moderate cardio. So, I listened to his advice. The second half of the month I was happy just to meet my goal of 140 rather than really pushing it. I found that this became pretty easy, much more so than at the start of the month. I’d call that a successful challenge.

Any ideas for future 30-day challenges? What would you like to commit to over the next month?