Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Celebrations in 2012

It is always so fun to share Christmas traditions with family.  This year we all made a good effort to do just that.  It was the year where everyone in the family was ill at one time or another.  So lots of subdued looks on faces, but no serious issues.  I had to work the 6 am shift through the Christmas block and Marty of course shadows my shifts as my scribe.  Lots of fun gift giving and playing with the grand kids.  Cold winter weather showed up just in time.  Not as much climbing, but one good powder day up on the mountain.  Fun impromptu Larsen party last evening with my parents and my kids and grandkids and CJ & Lisa's family (mostly).  I am not sure the whole Lowell Larsen clan could fit in my home comfortably anymore.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing has become a big part of my life.  As a young kid I was always exploring the neighborhood and climbing trees.  I would climb as high as I could in the big trees along Millstream in Bountiful.  I had a tree hut in one of those trees as did my friend Scott.  I would climb out of the tree house and continue up the branches until the branch would sway and bend under my weight.  I got up really high sometimes and I'm sure if I had fallen it would have injured me significantly.  My first bone fracture was from climbing a pine tree up onto the roof of our house and then jumping off to the ground.  I broke my foot in 3 places.  Getting it set by the orthopedic doctor was one of the most painful memories that I have.  My Dad took me backpacking and hiking all over the state of Utah.  I especially enjoyed our trips to the redrock of Southern Utah.  I would scramble and stem up and down slots canyons as far as I could without any technical gear.  In the High Uintas I often climbed and scrambled up the mountain ridges and peaks around the lakes where we were camped and fly fishing.  I always wanted to go higher and try something a little more challenging.  I still have that desire.  When I look at a steep rock face or a mountain peak looming over the valley I am always studying the features and looking for a good "line" to climb.  When I was on my mission in Colombia there were some snow covered mountains in the distance and only on a clear day could I see them for a few moments.  I wanted so much to go to them and climb them.  In some ways it was a torture to go about my missionary duties and resign myself to stay in the foothills amongst the people.  I wanted to go see and stand on top of those majestic looking peaks.  I still do.

Living in St. George has afforded me the ability to climb on a daily basis.  The cliff bands and canyons in the area provide many excellent rock climbs.  To my joy, Debbie has started climbing with me regularly and will spend hours each week at my side belaying and climbing.  Naturally she has her limits and sometimes I still have to find one of my friends to tackle the harder more difficult climbs.  I have yet to convince her to ice climb with me. Marty has also been a great climbing partner for many years.  There was a time when he and I spent many hours each week tied into the same rope exploring and attempting the many rock climbs of Southern Utah.  I still love to climb with Marty when I can get him out on the rock. He is my most trusted partner.   Many of the scouting activities in the past has included rappelling and climbing.  All of the young men in our ward know how to put on a climbing harness and tie into a rope and rappel.  Some of them have gone on to climb on their own with their friends.  In my speaking assignments on the High Council of the YSA Stake I am known for incorporating climbing into my messages.  The other leaders often refer to my climbing and mountain experience, even more so than my skills as a doctor (which is just fine with me).  My vacations are often created and scheduled around climbing much to the dismay of my children.  I think they will eventually see the reason behind this as they mature and get tied up in the grind of life, family and raising kids.  Climbing will be a part of me until the day I die.  I am a climber.  

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Long Way Home

We are back home in good o'le St. George!  Our trip home was long.  I thought the trip over was miserable, but the trip home was much worse.  We caught a "red eye" flight out of Phuket, Thailand where we had a sandwhich at a Subway in the airport.  Bad choice.  We ended up with food poisoning and spent our 12 hour flight from Beijing to San Francisco getting to know the lavatory on the plane.  Between Deb and I we probably visited it 15 - 16 times.  The Chinese on the plane probably thought we were some crazy Americans.  It was the longest 12 hours of our lives!!  We finally got to my medicine kit when we collected our luggage in San Francisco at customs and things started to improve from there.  Today I am still not back to normal, but I feel so much better than yesterday that I feel great.  We even rented an airport hotel room at the airport in Beijing and slept for 4 hours and took a shower.  It should have made our trip home much better, but the "gambu" changed all of that.  Neveretheless, we had a great time once again in Thailand and will most likely go back again in a couple of years.  It is good to be back with family and in our own bed.  Now I have to work a bunch of shifts at the hospital.  And Christmas is just around the corner.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


I got up at 5:30 a.m. and met Andrew on the path to Tonsai Beach at first light to begin the hike over there.  We planned to climb a big wall towering over Tonsai Beach.  It is a multiple pitch climb (5 pitches) named "Humanality".  We had a few fiascos such as a knotted rope and a dropped chalk bag, but were able to climb it successfully.  The 4th pitch involved leaning out from the wall and reaching out to a huge stalactite and climbing up it for several moves before regaining the face and continuing up wards.  All of this with 300 feet of air underneath you.  Crazy and wild and amazing!  We spent some more time at the beach and will try and enjoy our last evening here at Railay Beach as tomorrow evening we begin our journey home.  We miss everyone, but would like to stay a little longer as it is such a sweet spot of paradise for us.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Deep Water Soloing

An early morning climb named "Gengis Bond" was excellent on a wall that can only be reached at low tide.  We then went aboard a sail boat owned by a local rock climbing guide company.  They took us south to Poda Island where we climbed on cliffs overhanging the ocean.  We also snorkeled and had lunch on a small isolated beach.  The "deep water soloing" is harder than it looks.  First of all the climbing is mostly difficult because the wall needs to be steep and secondly your hands and feet are dripping wet and then the most challenging thing of all is the height.  Several times I faced the dilemma of climbing higher versus the drop back into the water.  I made several jumps during the day but twice it hurt enough to make me get back in the boat.  They had a small inflatable speed boat to shuttle us between the sail boat and the cliff.  Deb even gave it a try and had some fun.  On the trip back to Railay they put up the sail to conserve fuel.  It was awesome to be sailing across the Andaman Sea on such a fine day. Today is a national holiday in Thailand.  It is the King's birthday.  He is very revered here and his portrait is up everywhere and they are serving special dinners.  I guess he is nearly 90 years old and has been the King for 61 years.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wading Out to Happy Island

No rain today.  Hot, sunny and a great day for the beach and swimming.  We climbed in the morning and again at dusk.  Andrew Fitzgerald and his wife Adrian arrived.  They will be here in Railay with us for the next 4 days.  They are Zion rangers.  Deb, Andrew and I waded out to Happy Island at low tide just before dark and climbed my favorite route "Don't Worry Be Happy".  I still had to lift Deb with the cheerleader move to get her on the climb.  Beautiful star filled sky this evening.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Reindeers in Railay?

What a nice surprise from our little reindeer granddaughters!! This morning as we checked our blog, it made us laugh.  Yes, we couldn't stay here forever with such cute and beautiful family back home.  Love you all!  Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa.

The Girls Hijack the Blog!!!

Grandpa and Grandma keeping updating us on what they are doing in Thailand.  We wanted to make sure that they still want to come HOME!  So we thought we post pictures of us being silly at their house!

Please excuse our reindeer noses.  Our elf who checks in on us and reports to Santa Claus colored our noses in our sleep!

Paddling to Phrang Nang Beach

Up again this morning at the crack of dawn.  We are always first to breakfast at our resort, the Bhu Nga Thani.  A nice session of climbing on Phrang Nang Beach on the "Monkey Routes".  I then had a wonderful Thai Massage before we grabbed lunch and then rented a kayak.  We paddled over to Phrang Nang Beach and around Happy Island.  Deb set a killer pace up front and I could tell that her arm and shoulder muscles are buff from teaching that Group Power class all year!  We did another session of climbing before dark.  Now we are off to sample another Thai beachside restaurant.  "Oh yes!  This is the life"!  to quote my father from years past.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Monkey Business

Today we rested from climbing.  Instead we went diving.  I should say that I went diving and Deb snorkeled above.  We were on the same dive boat as three guys from Morocco.  They didn't speak English but one of the guys spoke spanish in addition to their native Arabic.  So we communicated with  each other in spanish.  Kinda of cool.  The diving was not great as the recent rains and wind from yesterday produced poor visibility under water.  I still had a good time and saw a couple of new things that I hadn't seen before.  Lots of clown fish too.  There was a brief thunderstorm on our way back in and then we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach.  We had purchased a can of pringles and Deb put it beside her on the beach mat.  A monkey came down from the trees and snuck up on Deb and stole the half full can and went up in the tree and popped off the lid and started chowing down.  Sneaky little thing.  Found another seaside restaurant and had yet another fantastic Thai dinner for less than 10 dollars (diet coke included)!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tonsai Beach

Today we were up before the sunrise which was obscured by left over clouds from yesterday's thunderstorms.  It was also windy today which helped keep the mosquitos off us as we climbed at the Diamond Cave wall up in the rain forest.  We still got some bug bites though as the conditions are ripe for them in the jungle.  After our morning session of climbing my body was feeling the fatigue and soreness from three days of hard climbing.  So to the beach we went.  Today we visited three beaches.  Phranang, Railey West and then Tonsai.  That is where we saw two climbers base jump off the cliff after doing a multiple pitch climb.  That looked cool!!  At Tonsai the scene is much different than here on Railey.  Lots of dirt bag climbers, hippies, backpackers and dread locked characters hanging out smoking and drinking.  There are definitely some really good rock climbers from all over the world climbing some very hard routes up the cliffs around Tonsai.  Deb and I felt out of place over there.  First of all we are a little old for that crowd, and believe it or not, I don't climb that hard (at least not onsight) and then we are too well groomed, clean and willing to pay a little extra for a nice room.  Still a very interesting atmosphere and if I were 20 years old again, I could see myself hanging out over there and climbing hard and dirt bagging it in the jungle bungalows. I also stopped in at a massage hut off the walking path and had an hour long massage for 10 dollars.  We did a lot of walking today and for the first day since we arrived it didn't rain.