Sunday, September 28, 2014

Frankfurt Airport

We arrived at Frankfurt International Airport after 7.5 hours flight from Pearson International. I couldn't get any connection in Toronto although there were numerous iPads available for free!
Apparently restaurants have provided this service to attract customers. You can order your food and drink while reading your favourite news or checking the weather. I couldn't get to my mailbox though. There are only certain websites which are available for free for the customers. That's how Apps work.
(Photo: Lufthansa plane is seen parked close to terminal building in this picture)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

On the Way to the East

Writing from Calgary airport after checking the damn bags in. The big challenge is to get to the fuselage with all these carry-on. Our first stop is Pearson International and then we will cross the Atlantic.
(Photo: Took this photo from this 2-Engine plane with Nosehill Environmental Park in background while waiting for our flight)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Imposed War (1980-1988)

22-Sep.-1980: I vaguely remember that day, as I was a child. We were out, all four of us in the family. Dad was behind the wheel of course. We saw long lines at gas stations and there was this rummer later that the Iraqis had attacked the airport: This was the first day of the 8-year Iran-Iraq War. It was just two days before schools started again. 
The coming weeks and months after that were filled with air attack sirens, power outages to prevent presumably Iraqi bombers to see their targets, military march on TV and radio and constant war news on TV: This number of Iraqi tanks are destroyed today, that number of soldiers are killed and wounded (the number always would come in a combination!), this number jets are shut down and the enemy is basically defeated! But the real and complete defeat took 8 years(!) and only when Iran accepted the UN's 598 resolution and was in a way defeated!
Iraqi POWs captured during the last hours of Khorram-Shahr liberation operation in May 1982. Many countries including the Arab League intervened to end the War at this point but the murderers who benefited form the  war turned down all of the proposals which eventually made them going to Imam Khomeini and tell him the story of their defeat. He then drank the poison glass, as he indicated himself, and ordered the war to be ended!
There's no doubt that Saddam invaded Iran and started the devastating war but there's also no doubt that the ones who benefited from its length were key factors in lengthening it. These are the people who knew their survival depended on the war. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the throne-less king of Iran and one of very rich people of the country is known to be one of the biggest supporters of the war. 
The devastation of the country did not end when the war was over. The country carried on its dive economically, socially, environmentally and culturally after the war in a way that after 26 years that the war has ended it has the weakest currency in the entire world! Enough Said!
(Photo: An Iraqi Su-22 attack aircraft is cripled after crushing to the ground. Iran's air power was not very dominating during the war due to lack of technical support, maintenance and parts since many of the Iranian planes were American including F-14 and F-4E)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alberta's Shaky Economy

There's this guy who worked at the same company I'm working for at the moment and then he quiet. I see him every 6 months or so. A. M. a bit of a goofball but he thinks he's very smart. He, I believe, makes good money now and saves a tremendous amount monthly. He shares a small apartment with his brother-in-law and drives a fairly inexpensive car. No alcohol, no girlfriend, no hanging out, no gambling, no smoking, no hookers! Basically he does nothing but working. His hobby is talking to his siblings at the other side of the country and in the old country on daily basis and he changed his employment position from staff to a contractor just to save more money when he got this new job of his. So far so good. 
His plan was to purchase a house and he was looking at something between $700 K and $800 K, I guess. I intimidate him every time we meet and this past weekend he finally mentioned that to me by saying: You always say the situation is not good, every time I see you! Obviously it's something that I enjoy a lot but he is not too certain about the future himself. Hundreds of people have been laid off from the company he works for and he doubts that he stays there for a long time. In the other hand he says his position is secure due to the fact that he is the only one who has the specialty he has! 
Anyways he told me last time that he had cancelled a purchase for a house, recently and lost $10,000. I have difficulty believing his story because why would you make a decision like that and then regret it so much that you be OK by losing $10,000?! And particularly when you're someone who's very careful with money!?
If we consider the current economic situation, this might be construed as a wise decision: Sacrificing $10,000 for the sake of losing a big house but why not think wisely in the first place?
I read that a few days ago that 75 people or 75 families (which is worse!) on average come to Calgary every day! This is going to turn the city to a big shit-hole similar to fucking dirty Toronto and Shit-Couver (Some might call it Vancouver). Excessive population will bring poverty, crime, drugs, corruption and everything similar. These fucking idiots of the Government seem to be ignoring that. There are neighbourhoods in fucking Toronto which are more dangerous than areas in southern Tehran. Ghettos have been formed there, for years which all sorts of illegal refuges, drug dealers, war criminals from Central America, Eastern Europe ans Africa live there. The Government seem to be making it a bit harder to come to the country but not hard enough.
Ontario is much bigger than here and its market is already saturated and ruined. Alberta's will be soon the same especially that the big pipeline has not been approved after 6 years. Fasten the seat-belts, brace for impact. The big disaster is on the way!
(Photo: Highrises are going up rapidly in Downtown Calgary on daily bases. Lots which used to be a hangout for hobo and homeless are becoming popular! The prices are unbelievably expensive for such bad locations but surprisingly people are buying. This one is on 12th Ave., SW)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Debt Free

I'm officially debt free starting today. Yesterday the last instalment of my car was automatically withdrawn by the financial company. 5 years! The Lady told me to finance the damn car for only 3 years but I didn't listen at the time. Thought would be tough to pay it off. It's over now. I have reduced its insurance to minimum. That's another good thing. 
I was thinking of a better car but with this shitty economy, unstable job market and the damp we live in, I guess, it would be much better if I could find a better residence for us. 
The car now has a few issues that should be taken car of:

1- Break Pads should be replaced and I guess I have been told about them 6 months ago!

2- There's a rock chip in the windshield and that actually happened when I was going for a hiking on Highway No. 1 last winter. I don't know how much it would cost but it a damn thing. 

3- One of the speakers in the back is out. This really hurts! These guys charge a fortune just to look at the car.

I drove it less than 48,000 Km in 5 years! If I did not have that road trip to British Columbia two years ago and all the hikes and scrambles starting last May, it would not have more than probably 40,000 to 42,000 KM on it by now but it's OK. That's what a car for! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is Keen a Good Shoe?

 I bought a pair of Keen hiking shoes from MEC last year around this time. It's gone now! In fact I wore it in the past 3 or 4 scrambles of mine which were all tough ones and it was ruined! I never expected that to be out of shape this fast although the store names it Light Hiking Shoe. They have stuff for over $200 and $300 and that's what I should have gotten. They are Italian brand called Zamberlan
In fact if I'm going to more serious scrambles, particularly over 3000 m. and in ice and snow and these regular $100 shoes especially when they are not Waterproof, would be useless.
I contacted the customer service of Keen and they wanted me to fill out an online warranty form but I have not kept the receipt and they are asking all the information which you only can find them in there.
I display the shoe photographs here and you be the judge! I will need another pair for my upcoming journey and I have not bought one yet. The Lady was saying to but another similar Keen and simply replace it with a new one in 10 month or so because we go on light t hikes together and I go on solo long difficult scramble but I guess there's something wrong with my feet too! I probably do not take good paces. Many people suffer form a problem similar to that and do not have their entire sole in touch with the ground when they are walking. A foot specialist, a good and skilled one, would be helpful here. Perhaps I should see one soon. 
(Photo: I have two pictures of my Keen hiking shoe here. They are useless now)

Friday, September 12, 2014

All the Fallen Trees

 There are lots of tree branches on the streets and sidewalks of Calgary these days. The municipality has asked people not to touch them, well not exactly that just move them away from where they block the roads and has said they would take care of it and in fact they have started. In most of the streets that I have been to, I saw a trucks and workers working on the trunks and branches or the area was taped off for future work. 
Bow River Trail was partially covered by branches the day before when I went for jogging but that was not a big deal. It will all cleared up in a week or so. 
What is the question here is what caused all these beautiful trees to lose their branches? It certainly was not the strong winds we normally have in Alberta and particularly Calgary and it most definitely was not the weight of the snow, as one oxymoron on radio was stating the other day!
We have a few small vases in our balcony that they are always knocked down if a little strong wind blows. They were solid and standing the entire time, all the days that we had snowfalls and limited visibility. 
I'm no biologist expert in planets and vegetation but no snowfall similar that has ever broken that many branches. My assumption is maybe the sudden change in the temperature has caused it but that does not make much sense as well. 
I hope one of these bigheads in the university uses his or brain and find the answer to this question. 
(Photo: These pictures are taken from Cliff St. SW in Downtown Calgary. Many other roads are similar to this, covered with branches and leaves)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9-11-01 Seems Forgotten Now

I remember the first anniversary of Sep.-11-2001. I seems to far away now. I was working in this meat packing company and I was on a non-stop chain. They halted the production line for 1 minutes to respect the victims of the attacks which is said were more than 3000 individuals. It resumed immediately after that and that was the only year they did that. All the other years after that, there was not such a tribute as I worked another 3 years in there.
I didn't say much in the news today and it seems a forgotten unfortunate incident in the history of the US and of course the world. 
Lots have been said about that day, before and after it, whose fault it was and who did it. I'm not going to discuss them here but would like to point at Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 as a good source for the ones who are looking for the truth.
(Photo: A memorial site has been erected in the place of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, NY, a city that I will visit soon)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Calgary's First Snow

When I saw snow on Mt. Sparrowhawk trail the day before I realized there had been snowfall during the past week although it was a hot and sunny day last Sat. However I was not expecting any snow for today because weather forecast only was mentioning rain. 
Then I woke up early morning from the noise that heavy rainfall made. It was around 05:15 AM, I guess. It continued when I was walking to work and then turned to horizontal, very fast snow and carried out up to 05:00 PM and later 06:00 PM. It's still snowing but it's not as heavy as before. The forecast says sunny and partially cloudy weekend but with this amount of snow in the city, I can easily imagine how bad the high elevation would be, making a long hike/scramble very dangerous. We'll see.
(Photo: This picture was later taken the next morning. The snowfall continued with several breaks in between but because of not very frigid temperature and rainfall before that, not much is accumulated on the ground)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mt. Sparrowhawk Summit

V. J. showed his interest during the past week to team up with me for a hike. I accepted and promised him to pick something easy up. My goal was to go to Kananaskis and Ribbon Creek, take the trail and go all the way to Highway No. 1! That would have killed him! So our plan was to call him yesterday (Sat.) around 05:30 AM and wake him up. I woke up at 05:15 AM and after a few minutes gave him a ring. No answer. He had told me that he would be partying with his buddies and there would be lots of drinking. So I assumed that he had come home late and tired. I tried the number again and no answer and I left a message. He called me back in a few minutes and said that he was too drunk to go. After a few telephone call exchanges and stupid text messages from him, which showed he was drunk because he even couldn't spell correctly(!), not that he would have been able to, had he not be drunk(!), I let him go back to his nasty life and sat back because I knew I would not be able to go back to sleep. The Lady woke up around 08:05 AM to get ready to go to work and was surprised by seeing me. I explained to her what had happened and showed her the text messages. We got ready and I decided to go by myself after dropping her off at work. 
My destination was Mt. Sparrowhawk because that was the hike/scramble I originally wanted to do when we went to Old Goat Glacier last June and my teammates turned it down due to the amount of snow that they thought would have been accumulated there. 
Going to Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis is a long and tedious drive especially because you have to drive on Smith Dorrien Trail which is a gravel road. Leaving the city after grabbing an Egg Salad Sandwich from Safeway, something I normally don't do but wanted to try something different yesterday, by the time I was at the trial-head it was almost 11:00 AM! Fortunately the information I had obtained from the net was accurate and complete and I was able to find it quickly and easily. There were at least 8 cars parked there when I reached. I started my hike at around 11:09 AM and went up directly the trail by Sparrowhawk sign and after a few minutes turned left in the forest when I saw the blue ribbons as it is stated in the guide. 
Read's Ridge (or Tower) at right and the summit block far away. It's at least 2 to 2.5 hour to the summit from here.
I exited the forest after, I guess, an hour of steady steep hike up the hill. There was a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and Spray Lakes Reservoir but I saved it for the time that I would get more elevation. This was where I reached a plateau and I was able to rest a bit and I saw Read's Ridge and the summit's block. It's obvious that you should not go over the ridge but beside it. So I approached and followed the clear path. Unlike Mt. Yamnuska you don't get close to the ridge and after a few minutes you see the a few streams, small waterfalls and you hear the beautiful sound of them. I wasn't expecting to see that much snow on the mountain but seemed clearly that enough had come down earlier during the week. I started going the rocky scree beside the streams and over the snow and simply followed the footprints and visible path. While going up I looked up a few times and I saw two people. First it was not clear to me whether they were going up or coming down because I think I saw them just standing or maybe they were going up slowly. When I finished the gully and reached up there, they where some 15 to 20 minutes ahead of me. I looked with more attention and I realized there were two young Caucasian girls one in shorts. The one behind looked back a few times and seemed tired because she stood every few steps. They were having conversation in between themselves and I assume the taller one, in short, was trying to encourage the other one to carry on but they were taking the wrong way and it didn't take long to me to caught up with them and pass. When I looked down next, probably half an hour later, they were 20 to 25 minutes behind me! 
At this point I got close to a small cubic shape cabin which looked to be for meteorological purposes. I learnt through one of the guys who were coming down with his dog that I had to approach the summit block from it's right or better to say south side. Then I saw two other guys that they seem struggling too. When you approach the block, you have to go around and try to reach the summit from behind similar to Mt. Yamnuska but Sparrowhawk's summit block ascent is much harder than Yamnuska's. So when I reached the behind, I saw the two guys, one boy and one girl, who looked like a Filipino just a few meters in front of me trying to go up using both hands! 
This is what happens to your car after it's parked by Smith Dorrien Trail for over 7 hours! The best best would be parking in one of the nearby parking lots and walk. I'm lucky that no one hit it, it was not broken into or was stuck by a big rock thrown by crazy speeders on the road! 
These two seemed very inexperienced and not very smart either and although they were young they should have known that in mountain what is important is to avoid going starlight up. You have to zigzag and find the easiest path. There were also a couple who were coming down and that gully was very steep and covered with mud and snow. I asked them how far I was and at that spot I didn't see the Filipino girl and his boyfriend. They were way down. The guy told me that I was about 20 min. to the summit but didn't give any information as how to reach there from the awkward position of mine. What I did and it's really recommended if you ever get there, is I moved to the left where stable rocks existed and avoided the steep, muddy, snowy center. I get myself up a narrow steep passage and saw another meteorological box. I was at the summit after a few steps! 
I took a few photos from around the summit. It was all beautiful but a little bit too sunny which affects the photos. I wanted to wait for the two clowns to come up so I can ask them to take a photo from or with me with the flag but I looked down and they were still crawling up like a couple of infants! I waited I guess for 20 minutes and eventually got bored and headed down. I had to tell them what to do and what to avoid to reach the summit easily and I hope they are safe now. 

On the way back to Highway No. 1 and shortly after passing Goat Creak and Miners Peak, I saw a small heard of goats and stopped for a photo. These are 3 out of the 5.
There was nothing special on the way down. There were a few good photography opportunities that I used them all. There was no sign of the two Caucasian girls. I guess they had returned. When reached deeper down and close to the streams I could not resist and filled up my bottle and enjoyed the water. I guess it took around 3 or may be 03:30 hours to reach down. I guess it was a good achievement considering the other individual's effort and the time I spent. Scrambling Mt. Sparrowhawk gives nice views and good exercise but performing that in earlier time of the year I bet would be better because of the vegetation and wildflower availability. For me that is it. Every summit is done once. 
(Photo, top: Spray Lake Reservoir, the dam and many Kananaskis mountains that I cannot recognize them and of course Smith Dorian Trail from the summit of Mt. Sparrowhawk)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Grotto Mt. Summit: A Hard Labour in Labour Day

As I indicated earlier and many know the hiking and scrambling season is short in Canada for most of the people. Not many would want to go up a mountain or walk by a frozen lake when it's -15 degrees C and the wind is blowing to their head. I had planned for as many as 22 hikes/scrambles for this summer/fall and because I missed a few days I decided to do another one yesterday, Labour Day. For that I chose Grotto Mountain in Canmore, the scramble that I had tried 2 times previously and had not finished once due to the bad timing and kind of intimidation and the second time due to losing the route. 
I didn't do any mistake this time or maybe I should say no major mistake. I left home at around 05:20 AM and everything was fine. Just when I was closing to Canmore I saw the sign for Exit 93 while I had to take Exit 91! That cost me at least 20 damn minutes if not a speeding ticket because I had to go to the town and this damn town is all covered with Max. 50 and Max. 30 signs. Eventually I got myself to the road which leads to the trail-head and of course Alpine Club of Canada. There were only two cars parked there and none of them seemed to be scrambler. I geared up quickly and started at about 07:15 AM. Another thing that cost me a few minutes was the food I had eaten the night before and it was a lot! I had to take a dump so that was another time-consuming, non-productive activity of the day. I was perfectly fine after that and after looking at a few available signs I stayed at the west side of the main gully and simply took the trail. The trial is very steep and requires utilization of one or two trekking pole. I have none but I use a branch which I have taken it to many hikes and scramble and it came very handy this time. 
I call this part of the ridge walk The Corridor. The rock wall on your left kind of protects you both from falling and the strong wind. The summit is seen in distance.
I guess it took me about 02:30 h to reach the ridge. That's where you get a nice view of Mt. Lady Macdonald. From there it's all walking to the ridge which is easy and the trail is well-stepped on and visible. 
When you reach the ridge there are spots which are scary and close to the edge and the trail is faded. The other problem here is loose rocks which actually is not as bad as what I experienced in Yamnuska and The Middle Sister but you have to be careful. You gain a little elevation here as well but it's not more than probably 20 meters or so when you reach the summit. The wind could be a problem here. It was blowing and the closer I got to the summit the stronger it got. 
At one time I was so frustrated by the strong wind and tiredness that I wanted to give up but then got it all together and claimed up a big rock which appeared to be the summit! When you reach the summit you have to look for Solar Panels and antennas on your east side. If you see them in a short distance below you it means you have reached the summit. The Three Sisters are of course to your south, Town of Canmore below you and Lac Des Arcs to your east as well. There are mountains at your north but I have no information on them. The entire ridge that you walked on and Lady Macdonald are both at the west side obviously. 
Photo taken from the summit of Grotto Mountain pointing at north
The sun was shining and that was a relief which helped to warm up a bit. My hands were frozen but I didn't want to put a pair of gloves on. No one was seemed to approaching even from far distance. I took a few photos and headed back from the same side. There was nothing especial on the way back unless a few times missing the trail but I managed to find it quickly. Just when I was ready to leave the ridge at its most western spot and head down the trail I saw a guy was coming up. He was young and tall but tired and panting. He asked me how long I had stayed on the top and I told him. We said good luck and split quickly. 
There was nothing on the way down and no one else was seen coming up not a soul. It seemed that people wanted to spend the last day of school closure somehow else. I guess it was almost 14:00 that I reached the vehicle and accomplished something that I had in my list for about a year: A very good scramble. 
(Photo, top: The camera is turned to west while on the summit showing the ridge, part of Mt. Lady Macdonald, part of Town of Canmore and Bow Valley, even Cascade Mountain at the end which is another destination in my list)