Monday, June 29, 2009

An Honest Man - The Gabriel Method for Weightloss

I keep an ear/eye out for scams, frauds, come ons and general bad deals. (I am also a fan of mixed metaphors which is why the one in the title is still there - I swear it was an accident - they make the best ones). When the bottom fell out of the housing market, my favorite one, and how this all got started, the predatory house lending offer, has pretty much disappeared fortunately and I have to look elsewhere.

What gives me hope for humanity are the ones that hold up to scrutiny. The ones that accidentally made themselves look like scams by their choice of advertising such as AM Radio commercials and Facebook advertising. (Examples are Laurel Langmeyer's The Millionaire Maker, and James Lehman’s Total Transformation Program for dealing with your kids - use Google to learn more - this isn't about them)

What this is about is Jon Gabriel and The Gabriel Method.

In 2001, Jon Gabriel weighed over 400 pounds and in his words had tried every weightloss method there was and got a handy dandy wake up call by being scheduled on the ill fated, and famous 9/11/2001 United Airlines flight 93 to San Francisco - a flight he actually didn't make, and which lit a major motivational fire under him (funny how nearly dying does that to us mortals - never mind that if we're dead it doesn't matter anymore). So he set off to figure it out himself and things started to click. Fast forward to 2004. Garbriel now weighs 184 pounds and is maintaining that loss. We're talking a 220 pound weight loss and he has no extra skin ( What he describes is convincing his body that it wanted to be thin. This is very much in the "the mind is a powerful thing" category.

The fact that his mind could influence the cell programming of his fat cells to reset to a lower preferred level is what is catching my attention. As many know (I should get a ref but well, I know you know :) your body has a preferred size, making weigh loss difficult. If you try to starve it off, when you stop paying attention, your body will shift into a super efficeint mode to horde every calorie and you could well gain more weight. This happened to me. I carry an extra 10 pounds got sick of it and got impatient and decided to just starve it off (it's only 10 pounds for heaven's sake). I got half way there and then the holidays happened and I stopped paying careful attention. Shazam. I regained the weight plus another 3-5. Boy was I peeved. I'm now back to my usual weight and am wondering whether Mr. Gabriel's approach might be perfect, but I digress.

Full disclosure I don't own the book though I may get it since his methodolgy is very intriguing, but what I really find interesting about him is what he's not doing, and he's showing incredible restraint in doing so.

Here's the deal. For $25 you can buy his book (I'll skip the link since it's certainly not benefiting me :) which describes his story and approach. Fair enough. And after you read the book you can get a CD of his with visualizations (Sounds to me like self hypnosis). Right. And how much is that? Zero. It's free with the purchase of the book. It's what? What kind of guru is this guy?
Oh wait I see a "limited time offer" in fine print so he may not be the complete financial golden child, either that or a business advisor had given him a talking to about giving out free advice that could easily make him more money.

And according to this website: he's been giving free advice over the phone and there is a whole bunch of him on You Tube (I can see his business manager slapping him around right now). I have some You Tube links below.

Doing the research on this amused me. The cons to his method were listed as (my comments in []):
- holistic, not specific [because I need to be told exactly what to do]
- gradual, too slow [I think it's been proven over and over again that successful, non-surgical weightloss is gradual, and look at the dates on the pictures on his site - it was pretty dramatic.]


Gabriel has over 10 videos on You Tube. Here are just 2.

Visualizing Your Ideal Body:
The Mind-Body Commection

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett; Change of Heart, The Lion's Game

While I'm still miffed that Jackson's death has overshadowed Farrah Fawcett's, it is understandable. Fawcett was a little older (62) and has been battling anal cancer for 3 years, her death was very sad, but not a complete surprise. Jackson's death, while on some level not a surprise at all (kinda frail, subjected himself to a whole bunch of medical procedures, though a great dancer and still in ok physical shape), did seem to take a whole bunch of folks unawares. Jackson was only 50 and was working on a new show. People were really hoping he could grow up (dammit) and get past some of the drama that has plagued him, and to summarize: just shut up and dance. It will be interesting to hear what the autopsy results show.

Taking a break from the book Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult.
I'm halfway through listening to Change of Heart and I desparately need a break from all the angsting. So I decide to get a highly rated spy thriller The Lion's Game by Nelson Demille. While it doesn't have quite the same moral angsting that Change of Heart does, it's not like it's relaxing. In Change of Heart 2 people die, Lion's Game is up to a few hundred and I'm only 1/4 of the way through it. There's just less dwelling on the deaths. Change of Heart has characters reliving their guilt trips over and over again, and agonizing about how to make decisions in light of what's happened, Lion's Game is the much more simple: chase those bad guys.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, Health Net, The book: Change of Heart, Michael Jackson

Going to try to treat this a little more like Twitter since I've seen other bloggers do it, though here I get to use as many lines as I like. I could also do Facebook updates, but am conscious of overwhelming my friends news feeds, so I try to keep that down to two a day or so.

Farrah Fawcett
CNN breaking news tells me that Farrah Fawcett has died at 62 of cancer. Details aren't out yet, but will be soon. I grew up watching Charlie's Angels and while I'm not at all like her (I'm more the Kate Jackson type) I did admire her being out there hair and all. However what is giving me the more pause is realizing that Fawcett had the world's best medical care and also took care of herself. She's been diagnosed for a while and was in remission but it came back and didn't let go. I find this sobering. It's easy to kill yourself over time by not taking care of yourself, and not getting good medical care, but for this to happen to someone who's done probably everything right and to be so relatively young is sobering. These days you have to financially plan on living to 90, and people of both genders routinely make it to 80 these days (my own parents are 83 and 86), but it doesn't always happen that way, despite all of our efforts.

The Health Net Dance
My own annual Health Net dance is entering what I hope is the final act. Each year because they way, way jacked up the cost of my copayment for my M.S. medicine I meet my max out of pocket expenses for the year in about February and then I start the 3-4 month process of telling them that I've met it and to please tell all the providers that. This time the part that I've met me maximum happened in record time (2-3 weeks) the problem is they left out the part that involves giving me my overpayment back. Plus there's also this part about having to file an additional claim to cover the part that I had to pay while they were taking their time processing the original part (which sometimes isn't necessary if they're paying attention).

It's now the end of June and I've now received my reimbursement check now it's time to get that last copayment overpayment back. I was hoping that this part wouldn't be necessary but this year it appears to be - sigh. Trouble is I have to keep reminding Health Net what they're job is without knowing what their job is unles they think to tell me. I've started keeping careful notes (thanks Google Docs) and can look up the pitfalls year to year. It's getting better, but it's still a pain in the rear each and every year.

The novel Change of Heart by Joli Picoult
My book club is reading this and let's just say it's not light reading or listening (I'm going through the audio book). It's about the death penalty and several perspectives on it, plus some apparent magical reality showing up just when I was about to give up just to really complicate things. Other fluffy topics are freedom of religion, what exactly is religion, what compromises will you make to save your child, revenge, letting go of revenge. It's from multiple perspectives and all of the characters are 3 dimensional - even the secondary characters. It makes me cry (multiple times), yell, laugh, argue. It's just exausting. I'm nearing half way through and I think I'll stop and listen to a spy novel or a light comedy.

Michael Jackson Cardiac Arrest
I'm just ever so slightly offended that Michael Jackson is having heart problems the day that Farrah Fawcett passes away.

Now I read that he fell into a coma and died. I've removed the stuff of the history of his face.
Now the superstitious "these things go in threes" speculation begins. Trouble is that has been my experience so I am waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Denali dreams

It's funny what one's mind does when you read about things that are incredibly hard (sometimes impossible), but still sound fun. Ah, romanticizing. I wonder why we do it. It's like the opposite of a survival mechanism. It serves no obvious purpose yet we clearly need flights of fancy as we have been telling each other stories since the time when we figured out how to talk. (Ok, I don't know that, but neither does anyone else and it's something we all seem to mostly agree on.)

Denali (AKA Mt McKinley) is a gorgeous mountain that I have spent most of a week looking at while taking a class on the Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park in Alaska. Here's a photo of it that I can proudly say that I took:

I've also written before (and many others have also) that it's one seriously bad ass mountain (I have at least two books about that very subject). It's 20,320 feet, but at its high latitude apparently the effective altitude is much higher and it's cold, cold, cold (there are a lot of references for this which I should probably put here when I dig them up). The wind can howl for days - if you like being stuck in a small very battered tent for days, you will be in heaven (not I). Some people (heresay) say that Everest is actually easier (probably because they have the invaluable Sherpas). I don't know about that, but let's just say it's not Disneyland.

I write all that to remind myself of the reality, and in a valiant effort to not feel whistful when I read that American Alpine Institute has just had their 4th summit this season:

Sigh. Now for more reality.
4 people have died on Denali this season and we're not talking amateur hour like you get on Mt. Whitney and Mt. Hood:

Mountaineering is a fabulous way to get yourself killed, but I now have a family (a wife and 2 dogs :) and even though I do carry life insurance which is designed to cover the mortgage and would make a decent apology: "Sorry I died, but how about a nice paid for house?" For some reason, I don't think I'd be very easily forgiven.

Going with an excellent guide service like AAI certainly makes a huge difference and one of the best ways to increase your odds of coming home safely, but that's no guarantee. It's also the hardest climb they do (this is from one of their employees). You have to be able to carry a 60 pound pack and tow a 100 pound sled using snow shoes, not skis.

And there's the altitude thing which is what really kills it for me. You can't train for altitude really. Sure you can be in really good shape so at least you're not distracted by that aspect, but altitude can take you down even so. The one good thing about big mountains that you don't get with the smaller mountains like Rainier, and Shasta is that they build in a lot of aclimatization time and you can get pinned down which forces you to spend time at that elevation (or go down). But then I'd just get lonely and miss my family. I swear I'm just so not cut out for this. Fortunately my other obsession is dog sports is highly social and I'm going to be starting to learn group road biking which should be fun.

But I still get whistful and I think that's just going to be the way it is. I'm sure I'll come up with some compromise solution, but for now the only thing I have planned is Mt. Whitney and even though that's pretty high, I'm pretty sure I can succeed at it since I've done most of the route (and know it very well - I could guide it easily), we are going up gradually, and I've since gotten really good at pressure breathing (put a ref in here), and it's a silly, well used trail (you're not route finding - which is sort of a bummer since that's the fun part), and I've been sick often enough to know that so far, what I get is Acute Mountain Sickness (not HACE or HAPE) and I can cope with that for a day.

But Denali. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Check Fraud - Wrap up and Lessons Learned

I've been delaying writing the end of my check fraud misadventure as the final details had not wrapped themselves up, but I'm going to take a chance and say they are.

As I detail here, someone(s) created and wrote fraudulent checks against my checking account.
The bank asked me to speculate who I thought it was and I cheerfully did so as the obvious suspect was a large, busy Doctors' office who I had no history with and written a check to.

After I sent that off I started receiving nasty grams from Telecheck, who does the electronic check handling for Wal Mart. They had their undies in a twist about Wells Fargo stopping payment on the 2 Wal-Mart checks, and they wanted their money. By that time Wells Fargo had sent me a letter about the Wal-Mart checks saying that they obviously weren't mine and that the money had been refunded to me. Tele-check wanted a full notarized affidavit, but that was if I didn't have the bank behind me (in other words, if I was just reporting it to them), so I just sent them the bank report. The Wal-Mart charges were resolved just by a phone call to Wells Fargo, the 4 figure Nordstrom Rack nonsense is the one where I had to do the written affidavit (but never needed to notarize it - since it wasn't my signature that was in question.)

Some days pass, and I nervously watch my checking account get clobbered by late fees. Even though the account is frozen, electronic and pre-authorized transactions (both electronic and paper check that I've told them about) still go through. This is great as it protects me from further fraud but other things are not impacted. However there is a catch. I had forgotten about two rather large monthly preauthorized payments that went through overdrew the dwindelling funds (Tired of being ripped off, I had removed most of the funds except what I needed) and incurred still more overdraft fees. Peeved I called Wells Fargo and ran into a wall I'd never run into before. Customer Service said they'd be happy to help but they can't since the account is frozen and under investigation. Escalating to a supervisor got me the same exact story. Frustrated I printed out the details and wrote a letter to the fraud people supplying the case number. The fees disappeared a few days later. They might of anyway if I'd done nothing but I felt better. WF did charge me $2 for the phone call even though it did me no good - I was not charged for reporting the fraud.

A few days later the Nordstrom Rack money reappears and all the service charge fees disappear, and I mean "disappear" they don't refund the fees like customer Service does, they make them completely vanish. Now that's power. Now I'm just waiting for one last check to clear (the Forest Service for Mt. Whitney)

Now you have to assume with these things that you're never going to hear back if anything happed from any investigation, but I got in the mail a letter from the merchant I pointed the finger at. It's written to all of the patients in the practice (not to me specifically) saying that they have received information that it's posible that some patient check or credit card information may have been compromised. GOTCHA! It's like you want to ask the person(s) responsible: "Was that really worth it?" You likely don't have a job now. You definitely are being investigated. You may be arrested. You may be sent to jail. You are or will be considerably poorer that you were before you decided to take this risk. You probably did this to get out of some severe money problems. Now those problems are worse. If you have a family things for them just got worse also, unless having you out of the picture helped.

This all appears to be winding down and guess who reappears again. It's TRS - Telecheck and the letter is mostly in CAPITAL LETTERS demanding payment (i think I saw them jumping up and down in it) saying that a collector will be contacting me (I'd welcome that, but they never did). It's like you want to sit them down and gently say: I'm so sorry, but there are bad people out there and sometimes bad people steal from you. (Especially if you're a large company dealing with a lot of money - probably why the letters get so strident.) I call the Wells Fargo check fraud people and the person helping me asked if they've sent me a "Merchant Letter." "Er, no."' I repond. After confirming which transactions we're talking about she says: Ok, we'll send you one out and you can just make copies of it and that should take care of it.

A few days letter as promised Wells Fargo send me an official letter saying that this transaction was fraudulent and this "in no way should reflect poorly on [me]." I send a copy of that letter off to TRS. Some days after I hear back from TRS acknowledging that they've received information that I may (ha) have been a fraud victim and could I help them out by doing this and this and this oh and this also, and please have it all notarized. Now normally I love helping out with investigations as I find the process completely fascinating, but I really have had enough of Telecheck, and after a careful reading of the letter to make sure that it's a request and not a requirement, I just file the whole thing with everything else.

I'm hoping I'm done with Telecheck. I must admit fearing I'm not. The thing is that I rarely use their service so how am I supposed to know if I'm still on this blacklist? The only way is to write a check to my regular Dr. who uses them which I guess I should do just to test it out, but I'm just not sure I care enough - but for completeness I should.

Lessons learned
- The first one is obvious. Don't write a check to someone you don't know. Use cash (I hate cash so this is an adjustment - I now record cash spent in my register which makes me feel better about it). If it's a business then use a debit or credit card. The problem with this is with tradespeople, but tradespeople don't have large offices so there's less cracks for a check to fall through.

- The other one was much less obvious. Whilw you shouldn't use that checking account again, don't be in a hurry to close the account until you have downloaded all the information you want from it. After I closed that account I immediately lost my online access to it. Calling up to complain about it repeatedly did no good. Asking to reopen the account did no good. My only access to it now is to ask Customer Service to mail me the statements. I know they keep them for seven years so I'm just leaving it be for now but I'm out about a year and a half of statements since I was a bit lazy about downloading them. I have switched all my accounts back to online and paper. This is ironic as I usually scan and shred most of my autopaid bills now, but this will cover me if I don't do it right away.

So I have emerged from this more educated and only about a few small dollars in small service fees (less than $10) poorer. I got all my money back. Wells Fargo did an excellent job handling it even with the stumbling blocks.

And let's hope I'm done with Telecheck.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lassen Peak: Let's Hear It for Plan B

I am semi-bummed because we were rained out of our Shasta trip, but I admit to being kinda relieved too. It rained HARD all night long at Treva's in Redding on Wed night and we were supposed to leave Thur morning, but consulting the weather channel that morning showed the entire Western States under a cloud of rain and predicted to not lift until Sat.

More sobering were the thunderstorm predictions. If there is some place you do NOT want to be during a thunderstorm it would be on a mountain, especially when hanging on to an ice axe or trekking poles: "Here lightning lightning lightning, I have your favorite target right here." Well ok I could have been playing Golf on a mostly flat golf course, but still... I also decided that I didn't want to hang around in a wet 3 season tent as I like to climb in near perfect conditions (light snow falling is great, rain is not great at all). A 3 season tent is fine in the rain, but needs time to dry out - eventually it's going to soak through. I'll pass.

So it turned into a day trip to Lassen which was fun as the whole time we were in at least part of a cloud. Since it was a day trip and we were dressed for Shasta the weather just didn't matter (save for thunderstorms and there weren't any) and the rain became snow in just a few feet of elevation gain. that's right in June, snowing on Lassen at at just under 9000'. How cool is that? Patricia took a photo of me and since I was completely bundled up I was completely unrecognizable. She said I looked like a muppet.

We didn't get all the way up as, my friend, Patricia's knee started to catch (she has some torn cartilage in it that she needs to address), but we'll go back in Summer so she can see the mountain. Though she's been on it, she's actually never seen the mountain in person.

So it's time to focus on Whitney where Terri and I will be going in mid July. I'm pretty confident about it and I like that very much. The best thing going for us is that it's a well used TRAIL and not cross country. The other good thing is that there won't be much snow. Trouble is I love snow. You can fall in it and usually be ok, and you stay a lot cleaner, but snow progress is much slower than dirt when you're on foot unless you're glissading or skiing or sometimes snowshoeing. But dirt it is for now. Will keep training in the gym on an inclined tread mill 5 deg 15 min; 10 deg 15 min; 15 deg 30 min, and working in elements of my Shasta training plan that Courtenay at Body Results designed for me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Predicting Trends and Getting it [Mostly] Wrong

I am pretty bad at predicting what will last and what won't.

While I'm not as bad as the person who quit his job at a start up because he was completely convinced that what they were involved with was completely ludicrous. They were working on something where someone would actually "log in" to a computer network and talk to other people - who would do that? What they were working on was related to the internet which as we know was a complete failure.

I at least had the fortune to see how powerful the internet and email was because I was thrust into the middle of it in grad school. I saw how useful it already was because we were using it. I didn't have to use my imagination.

But I've sure gotten other things wrong. I wish I had the email where a friend emailed me about this research project they were working on in Europe. It was called the World Wide Web and everyone would have a website where other people could come and check out what they had on their server. I was sending out an email newsletter at the time and would I be interesting in converting the newsletter to a special language they used called HyperText Markup Language (HTML)? Now I was in grad school. I routinely heard about lots of different research projects. I politely declined, though I at least knew to keep at ear out for such things, so I could tune back in when I saw "" show up on business cards and some really geeky magazine ads.

Ok so the Web I got semi-wrong. I got another one completely wrong. During the beginning of the DotCom boom there were a lot of online communities that were petering out. Things like AOL, and eWorld, and several others. Everything was becoming a fad and would have very brief but bright times in the spot light and 1000s of suddenly wealthy companies were trying to turn just about any idea into money. Everything was trying to move online including some people who tried to live their entire lives online (remember that?). So it was another time to be dubious of things even during that wildly optimistic time where nothing can go wrong (Can It?).

Someone (actually more than one) had come up with this idea of having auctions online. Where people could bid real money in an attempt to buy something they'd never seen before. Now if you've been to a real auction, you know there is a time before the auction where you can inspect what you're going to be bidding on. I bought my now vintage guitar at auction and I had a chance to play it before bidding on it. The idea of having auctions without an inspection period was completely nuts. Who on earth would do that? Really now. Come on. Oops. Yeah well I've bought many things on eBay since then - good thing I didn't go very public with that opinion.

If I was asked to guess how long people would put up with the chore of texting I'd get that wrong too.

So now we have Facebook, My Space, Twitter and a ton of other social networking sites. I don't see My Space lasting forever as Facebook does such a better job of it. Facebook is an obvious juggernaut and while I delayed getting involved in it for a long time, the phenomina of having people from 10, 20, 30 years ago plus some folks I didn't even know existed (an unknown cousin in my case) is most definitely a jaw dropping one.

But what's going to happen to the short attention span specialist Twitter? Facebook has a Twitter like function where you can say what you're doing right now, but Twitter is more set up for having your own page of updates without overwhelming your friends' news feeds. I don't know though. They really need to find a niche and they're certainly trying to. It's great for someone who is really busy and really interesting, and who has a fan base who wants to know what they're doing. Rachel Maddow has one which is great but wouldn't it be great if Obama had one (maybe he does I haven't checked.)

So I don't know what is going to happen to Twitter, but there is one prediction that I'm willing to put in print. Facebook will kill I've complained quite a bit about the Social Extortion tactics of Classmates (will put a link in for that entry) where they will encourage you to contact someone you went to school with and then won't show them the message until that person pays them money. Apalling extortion. Even dating sites have higher class. In dating sites, the person who wants to send a message pays money, not the recipient. Because of Facebook, I have come into contact with many, many more people than I have with Classmates. will die it's only a matter of time.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Legal Same-Sex Marriage: California's Version of "Honorary White"

Those of you who either remember or have studied the bad old days of apartheid in South Africa may have heard that a status sometimes awarded to those of a different race traveling to S. Africa was "Honorary White." I had heard of the term in 1982 from a friend who was from there and it made such an impression that I remember the conversation clearly. Now that I'm researching it I find the specific details a a little different according to this 1962 Time Magazine article, as it was used for Japanese who traveled there because, well, money talks - at least then it did.

What relevance does this have now? Well none I wish, but the analogy keeps occurring to me.
According to the Calif Supreme Court, my same-sex marriage is legal. My marriage is one of 18,000, which lands us all in this really strange position. We have been granted admission to a country club that has shut the door on all the other riff raff just like us. The law of the land is that sames-sex marriage is not legal - oh except for you. What does that make me? An honorary heterosexual? You've got to be kidding. While I'll take it as I very much want to be married, that's equally as ludicrous as Honorary White. This will not last and it appears the court is of that opinion too and the court has requested the legislature fix the equal protection fubar that this leaves us in.

So we will vote on this in 2010 and possibly again in 2012. The cool thing is that while I'm annoyed at how much money this past election and the future ones will cost me in donations, I did not spend my life savings on it like some completely short sighted Yes on 8 morons let their church talk them into. If they spent their life savings on this past election, then they don't have it for this one or the next one and it also means they are completely illiterate when it comes to reading the writing on the wall. They're still stuck on "But we voted on it. Aren't we done?" (As if you can vote on someone's civil rights.) Um, remember prohibition? That was a US constitutional amendment and so was the undoing of it. The California constitution is much easier to amend (look it up).

And it means they're not noticing that children don't care nearly as much as they do about who marries who, save for maybe their children that they've succeeded in brainwashing.

So we continue to live in interesting times.

Rattlesnake Canyon

This week's Car Talk Puzzler is about Rattlesnake Canyon in Santa Barbara a place that I've hiked in many times, while I was thrilled to hear about it, I find the timing ironic as parts of the area just burned in the Jesusita Fire in early May. (Yes, like 3 weeks ago.)

The puzzler is why is the water level higher in August than in the beginning of summer even though the rainy season doesn't start till Nov or so. I could swear there's a hot spring on the trail and was sure that it had something to do with that (the summer heat maybe bringing the water out more), but I can't find a reference to a hot spring, just a description of the pool that people would play in created by a very old filled in dam (this part i remember well). There are also a lot of very cool small falls on the trail. The water is clearly from a spring, so it's possible that the fact it's from a spring has something to do with it. Though I can't figure it out as the spring on Shasta stops running late in summer so it's probably not from a normal spring which brings me back to there must be a hot spring in there somewhere. My memory of the area just isn't clear enough - guess I spent too much time playing around the water (it was a great obstacle course) and didn't soak in the water much. There are worse fates.

Anyway I'm sad about the area burning. I know it's intended to burn, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Shasta Prep

I have a mountain of food in the living room and I'm just not really up to organizing it, so I've asked for Patricia's help. I'm getting less and less thrilled with playing house in the mountains. I like to climb things, but the mechanics of going on a trip into the mountains I am not fond of. If I could keep up with groups, I could just always go on group trips. Problem is that I like to do my own trips and itineraries as I'm pretty good at route finding. Maybe I should just hire someone to help me prep for a trip (menu creation and organizing). I don't know who does that, but someone must. There are plenty of underemployed guides who cook. While I'm dreaming I could just have my own sherpa and a cook too.

It's likely going to be wet and rainy at Shasta. I don't know whether I'm disappointed about that or relieved. given that my goal is just to get above Helen Lake (hopefully up to the Red Banks), that should be completely doable in the wet, but if the temperature doesn't drop enough at night to refreeze the snow, it would mean being in soft snow the whole time and that just won't work and I would not be inclined to leave at midnight which is what it would take for me to get that far as I climb slower than average. Mountaineers leave at night because frozen snow is much easier to climb (using crampons), and mountain weather in the afternoon is unstable so it's best to head down at noon. I can climb to Helen in the dark as I've done that part of the trip more than twice. I've been as far as 50-50 Flat (which is not flat just not as steep) around 4 times, as far as Spring Hill more than 6 as I can reach it during a day trip from the Bunny Flat trailhead. So the lower part of the route I know well - well enough to know that the trail to Horse Camp is actually harder than just staying in Avalanche Gulch proper and then traversing left at the treeline.

However past Helen is where things get really steep and really tough (though no crevasses fortunately). The slope on the part of the route just below the Red Banks is over 30 degrees. It's that part that I want to try just to see how it is. Fortunately I have good ice axe skills (I'm a glissading queen) and am good at self arresting (using an ice ax to stop yourself when you fall on a snow slope), however a 30 degree slope is usually not where you want to test your skills as simply hanging on to the ice ax in that scenario is really hard and if the snow is firm you may not be able to get the pick into the snow and you may find yourself taking a fast trip back down to Helen. This happens to a Shasta climber one or twice a year though deaths aren't common fortunately (there's a dangling modifier in there but it's too awkward to fix - I'll assume you understand that it's not just one Shasta climber that this happens to.)

For the most part we're going to be hanging out at the Sierra Club's beautiful "Horse" Camp. There are no longer any horses there, in fact you can't even have dogs there, though you can outside of the Sierra Club property. In fact you can take your dog as far as Helen. Which dog would be a fun question as Yoshi is in better shape and there are hardly any dogs there but he's such a nervous boy. Trek is more resilient about the outdoors, in the snow there would be no poop to find and eat or roll in, and she'd love the quiet though she's currently not in as good of shape but we're working on that. I'm supposed to be writing about a snow trip and I'm again writing about my dogs - what does this mean?