The 2004 Tsunami: Our Story

Since the tsunami struck Japan on March 11th, people have been asking me about what it was like back in the Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004. Sonja and I wrote about the experience a few days after it happened. Here it is again:


We arrived in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka on December 22. It had been an epic journey from Kandy to Boticaloa and then south along the coast of Ampara. Sam (from Toronto) and Liz (from Utah) were already there and had found an idyllic spot not far from the lagoon, near the center of the bay. Our Swedish friends, Erik and Jonas, showed up at our 2 bungalows on the beach a day later. Sonja and I had been travelling for 2 months through Thailand and Sri Lanka and we were looking forward to a rest and some time in the surf.

December 26, 2004

The day started like any other. The morning was already hot and sticky but a strong wind from the ocean kept us cool. Unfortunately it also rustled the palm leaves so much we heard nothing from the beach. The group of us, except for Jonas who was packing his stuff next door, were sitting inside the bungalow, chatting about what we should do for the next part of our journey.

If we had been paying attention we might have noticed the water rushing out from the beach dragging everything with it but a few stranded fish; we might have heard the yells of the fishermen as they ran for higher ground; we might have seen the wall of water coming toward us, a boiling white line that crashed over the receding water as it charged for the shore. But we heard only the wind.

Continue reading The 2004 Tsunami: Our Story

Snorkelling in the Molokini volcanic crater

Sonja and I caught a boat ride this morning to Molokini Island for a few hours of snorkelling. We didn’t see anything big but we were serenaded by humpback whales the whole time — If you listen carefully you can hear them in the video. They sounded so close Sonja wanted to swim out and find them.

The Molokini Crater is a partially sunken volcanic coldera off the coast of Maui. It’s also a marine reserve and, apparently, one of the best dive sites in the world.

The Wedding

It’s Monday morning and I’m in the basement sitting at a small desk staring at my computer and pink insulation. Sonja and I have been living with lots of family at my brother Tyler’s house in a small suburb of London Ontario. I’ve spent the last 6 days traveling from Nelson, standing at Tyler’s wedding, meeting long-missed relatives, and swimming in the hotel pool.

The wedding was beautiful in all the traditional ways — the elegant bride, the dramatic church, the loving parents and precocious children — and it had it’s share of drama, but really only in potential, as everything was held together by a fundamental decency and sense of love. There were a awkward moments, and I was responsible for more than my share, but I think in the end, it was just, fun.

1 week later: I don’t have any photos to share right now other then this one of Sonja and I riding a stretch limo from the airport in Toronto to her parent’s place in North York (we had actually ridden it all the way from London with Tyler and Tammy).

The one radical tactical shift

When I encounter a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, I have 3 choices: try harder, give up, or make a radical shift in how I think about it so it no longer appears insurmountable, or even an obstacle. In rock climbing, I face this choice all the time. The third choice almost always seems to be the right one.

Here’s an inspiring video by Lewis Pugh about how he made this choice while attempting to swim across a lake on Mount Everest.

The Bus Becomes Cool Again?

I’m not one to dwell on the minutiae of life, which is a shame. The best writers seem to be able to see, and help us appreciate, the magic in our day-to-day world.

I also try to avoid generalizing.

So with both of those things in mind, my bit of amazing news is this: the transit bus into to Nelson from the north shore is actually full! Normally I’m one of only three or four people. If this happens one more time, I’m going to call it a trend and start interviewing people about what’s going on. I got the headlines ready: “Transit ridership up 2000%” or “The bus is really cool again, say local kids”.

Into Pine Creek Canyon and meeting Peter Croft

Road to Pine Creek Canyon
Road to Pine Creek Canyon

The wind was blowing hard and cool but the sky was blue and although the clouds raced over the mountains from the west they were still small. We knew bad weather was coming and if we were going to make it into the Pine Creek Canyon to climb it would have to be today. Continue reading Into Pine Creek Canyon and meeting Peter Croft

Into the Gorge

Owen’s River snakes through the Owen’s Valley north of Bishop, CA. Over the centuries it has cut a deep gorge and exposed a long string of beautiful volcanic rock walls. In doing so, the river has created California’s best sport climbing crag. The approach into the Gorge is down a steep sandy talus trail, which at first seems dreary and lifeless, until you get to the bottom and find a sparkling river surrounded by verdent trees and green grass.

Sonja and I started late today — we worked at home until 4pm and then made a break for it. We climbed here yesterday and we were anxious to get back.  On the way down, we passed a number of climbers heading out.  It was late but we had time. We ended up climbing 4 routes each, including Sonja’s project (which she sent), a tricky over-hanging 10c crack called Hardly Wallbanger.

You can see more photos here.

In Swall Meadows

You can see Mount Tom (13,652′) in the background. The ridge coming down from the right is Wheeler Crest (12,000′). Our house is in the middle of the photo (6,500′). This little suburb high above the valley is called Swall Meadows.

It’s 8:30am and I just got back from walking Zira and Jake. The temperatures have dropped to almost zero and the wind is blowing cold over the mountains to the West. We’ll have a few more days of cold, maybe even snow. Right now the sun is shining bright but has no warmth. I love this feeling. The cold carries the potential of the new season but I know it’s only an early preview. Summer will come charging back soon enough.

We Arrive in Bishop

After 2 days of driving (23 hours) from Nelson through Washington State, Oregon, Nevada and California, we arrived in Bishop, CA.
Once again we got here in the dark, making our way up the winding roads from the highway to the high country of Swall Meadows, 4,000 or so feet above the Owen’s Valley floor. The night was dark and the air was still warm, surprising for the high desert.

As we pulled into the driveway Karleen and Dave came out to say hi. We’re taking over their house for the month while they head off to Switzerland for a base-jumping holiday (Dave’s a pro base jumper and Karleen a pro snowboarder). We’re here to dog-sit Zira and Jake, work, and rock climb.

I’m excited to be here and have the time to focus on development of In the Koots and finish up a number of key projects for our clients. And in the time we’re not working, Sonja and I are going to climb as much as we can — from the big walls of Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra to the crags of the Owen’s River Gorge to the boulders of the Buttermilks. I’ll keep you posted with photos and videos and updates as much as I can. In the meanmtime, here’s a photo of Jake: