Three days, three mountains

A local outdoor supplies store puts on the A16 3-Peak Challenge every year. I first heard about it last year, but it was too late in the year to attempt. The challenge is to climb three of the highest peaks in Southern California within a certain self-defined time, either 24 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months. 3 days seemed like an achievable but tough goal, so at the beginning of the year already, my wife and I decided we should attempt it.

The year got busy and we didn’t. Running out of time, we identified the Labour Day long weekend as the perfect opportunity. With only two weeks to spare, we started planning. And realized how late we’d left it. While the peaks are all within viewing range of each other, depending on traffic, it could take us 4+ hours to get to some of the trailheads. It made sense to camp somewhere central for the weekend.

As we’ve come to realize though, Americans are far more active campers than South Africans, that or there are just more of them. Los Angelenos are anyway, as all 250ish of the campsites in the San Bernardino Forrest had already long been reserved. So we decided to chance it, and grab one of the first come, first serve campsites.

The next challenge is that San Gorgonio requires a permit to hike. The popular Vivian Creek Trail’s permits were all issued, for every day of the weekend. After a bit of digging, we found that an alternative route had recently opened, and still had permits available, turnaround time was 5 days though.

And so it was Friday afternoon that we set off to the San Bernardino Forest to camp in a site we didn’t yet have, and climb a mountain we had not yet acquired a permit for. But apparently it was meant to be. We arrived late on Friday evening, and after finding a full South Fork Campsite, we lucked out on an empty spot amongst the Yellow Post Sites.

As part of the challenge you are allowed to choose any order to do them in, and pick any route to the top. We wanted to do Baldy (San Antonio) last, as it was closest to home, and would allow us to go straight home, instead of returning back to camp, this meant it had to be done on Monday. We didn’t arrive early enough on Friday to pick up a permit from the ranger station, so that meant Gorgonio would have to be on Sunday. So our first hike was San Jacinto.

San Jacinto (via Palm Springs Aerial Tram) – 3,300m

SanJacinto

View from the top

We had previously attempted San Jacinto via Marion Mountain. It wasn’t really a planned attempt though; started far too late in the day (11am) and ended in the dark (8pm at the start of winter), without us having summited (me being ill being partially to blame).

The A16 challenge however encourages you to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway part (most) of the way. Although making it an easier climb, it still requires some effort. The tramway is something in itself; a cable-car setup identical to Table Mountain, but climbs from 805m all the way up to 2,600m. Cost is roughly $25 per person, and there was a $5 parking fee. This leaves an additional 700m (920m of climbing) to the summit.

San Jacinto Cablecar

There is a large area you can walk around if not intending to summit, but if you intend to enter the wilderness area, a permit is required. Permits are free of charge and can be collected at the ranger’s station at the top of the cable car. It’s a beautiful hike through the pine forests at the top. While fairly short, at only 8.8km, it’s still a tough hike. We were in a bit of a hurry, as we still wanted to get back to Gorgonio to pickup a permit, so pushed through to do 2ish hours to the summit. With a 20min lunch break at the top, it actually took us a bit longer to get back down. Mainly due to waiting to allow later ascenders to pass us by (mountain rules are you yield to those ascending), many of the higher paths only have space for one person at a time.

The weather at the top was cool but sunny, with thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. It made for easy hiking, and the forest provides a lot of shade during the hike. Just before arriving back at the tram station, you’re forced to endure a short climb up again. This promptly necessitated a stop at the restaurant/cafeteria at the top to grab an ice-cream before our descent.

18.5km, 920m elevation
Tram up departed: 08h43
Summit: 11h15
Tram down arrived: 14h15

San Gorgonio (from South Fork) – 3,506m

SanGorgonio

View near the top

San Gorgonio, also known as Old Greyback, is the highest mountain in Southern California, topping out just over 3,500m. There are three main routes to travel it, but up until recently only the Vivian Creek route has been open. The South Fork and FIsh Creek options having been closed due to fire damage for the past year or two.

Vivian Creek is still the most popular route and results in its permits getting issued quickly. As such we resorted to the South Fork trail. It was conveniently located only a few miles from our campsite, which made a 7am start a bit easier, and you could still receive same day permits if you desired. While Vivian Creek is the shortest route to the top, the South Fork route doesn’t have as much climbing. We hiked up via Dry Lake, and after reaching the summit circled back via the Dollar Lake route.

SanGorgonioScarredThe fire damage has resulted in some truly spectacular scenery on this hike. The route takes you through vastly different landscapes, all very green for this late in the summer. The route has one of the most constant gradients I’ve ever experienced. There are very few extremely steep sections, and at the same time, almost no flat areas. This makes the hike quite a slog, and the hike back down can get very long. Many people prefer to do this route as a multi-day hike.

Not an option for us. We enjoyed being surrounded by various birds all the way along. After dry lake, you reach a first section of short switchbacks, followed by a long stretch to the Fish Creek turn-off. From there you have several sweeping switchbacks which gain you some elevation and take you past the remains of the a C-47 which crashed in the mountains in the 1950s. It’s remarkable how much of it is still left 60+ years later.

OldGreyback

After the switchbacks, it’s still a bit of walk as you swing around behind the mountain, meet up with the Vivian Creek trail and do the last stretch to the summit. From there you’ve got a long walk home. The Dollar Lake route may not have as many switch backs, but it is just as long.

We were once again blessed with ‘good’ weather. It was cool and pleasant on our hike up, but the clouds rolled in as we summited, leaving us with little view. On our way down the rain decided to pay us a visit, and while not terrible, we had to break out the rain jackets, and do some trudging. Would definitely like to give the Vivian Creek trail a try some time to see how it compares.

33.7km, 1,500m elevation
Started: 07h00
Summit: 12h33
Finished: 17h17

San Antonio (via Baldy Bowl) – 3,070m

SanAntonio

View from the top

Mt Baldy should really be done as a round trip, but we’d just spent our entire long weekend hiking, and opted to cut our final day short by heading up and down the same route (something we prefer to avoid), the shorter Baldy Bowl Trail, which passes the Ski Hut.

This being our last hike, we woke up at 05h30, packed up camp and drove halfway across LA, and followed the winding roads up to the ‘base’ of Baldy. As we were driving we were a bit concerned to see a big sign advertising a trail run on Mt Baldy. Things worked out quite well though, as the starting gun went off at 08h00, as we arrived. Giving them a good head-start, as we got our packs ready. In the end they took the longer fire break trails up the mountain, so wouldn’t really have been a problem.

LAInTheDistance

While we both enjoy hiking, it had been a long weekend, and we were a bit over it. The route is far steeper than our previous days’ hikes, even though it was just 3.3 miles. Regardless it was a slog. Along with some confusion as to where the top actually was, we were both slightly surprised to all of a sudden appear on top of the mountain, along with a bunch of runners who had just finished.

I’m sure the views from Baldy can be spectacular, but the normal LA haze had probably been exasperated by the recent fires, meaning our view was not particular amazing. Our hike up had been relatively cool, but as we descended the sun came out in full force, and we were very thankful to have already completed the hard section. The route down had us in much higher spirits, especially with the thoughts of a swimming pool and cold beer awaiting us at home.

10.6km, 1,190m elevation
Started: 08h21
Summit: 11h27
Finished: 13h40

Summary

It was a long 3 days, in which we did little other than hike and drive. By the end of the last day we were tired and ready to get home. That being said it was an awesome experience, and will probably be repeated some time. Each hike has its own unique draw, and (weather permitting) offers some spectacular views from the top.

Having completed it in 3 days, the next obvious step is the 24-hour challenge. While on paper our times would allow us to achieve this, a lot more training would be required to get it right without the luxury of sleep and full meals we ended each day with. Maybe not next year, but someday.

Shady Practices (Antera/DomaSchooner Phishing)

I’ve recently gone through the process of moving one of my domains from one domain registrant to another. For a couple reasons, but cost and whois privacy are part of it. I’ve switched hosting providers a number of times, and that’s not an issue, but getting different domain registrants on the same page to ensure a downtime-free transfer isn’t a clear process to me, so during this time I was particularly susceptible to notifications about the transfer.

It was then that I noticed an item in my spam account titled “Domain Expiration SEO”. Now I didn’t notice the SEO in that title at first, and was immediately concerned about the terms “Domain Expiration”. The fact that it was in my spam folder at least made me immediately cautious, but the fact that they used my full name and postal address in the “invoice” confused me.

The email had a large title saying “Final Notice, your account is pending cancellation”, th email came from “info@antera.org”, a domain with no discernable website, and links on the page directed to “domaschooner.win”. What I don’t like is that the entire premise is that you’re about to let something that you had expire. In the meantime nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems they somehow identify domains that are being transferred, grab the whois data and then generate emails, in my opinion, hoping to catch people not paying attention into paying $86 for supposed SEO software.

If you pay close attention to the email, they do note that they “…do not register or renew domain names…” and their email disclaimer states “…This is not a bill or an invoice. This is a SEO purchase offer. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated unless you accept this purchase offer…”. So while they do a good job of telling the truth, the immediate implication of the email implies something worse. So while probably not illegal, very shady.

Baseball vs Cricket: the obvious(?) comparison

I don’t necessarily feel that I am the best person to make this comparison. While I feel I know the rules to cricket fairly well, I attended sadly few matches growing up in SA. Resigning most of my spectating to the TV-room couch. At the same time I’ve watched a grand total of one baseball match. Nevertheless I feel it necessary to comment.

It was a fun outing. We watched the LA Dodgers play against the NY Mets at Dodger Stadium. We were fortunate enough to go with friends who were able to answer all our questions, and when they were stumbling, a nearby spectator who overheard our conversation was happy to ensure we did not leave un- or misinformed.DodgerStadiumAt a base level, the sports are the same. You have bowlers/pitchers who try ‘throw’ the ball towards the batter/batsman, who after successfully hitting the ball have to run somewhere. Now there are obviously many differences too. In cricket you only get one ‘strike’, and technically the bowler can have as many ‘balls’ as he wants (no-balls & wides) as opposed to just four, although he’s forfeiting runs each time.

Bowls and pitches all come in different varieties with differing amounts of speed and curve on them. And the man with the bat who’s not receiving is always trying to gain a couple feet (or a lot) before the ball has been thrown. A home run is much like a 6, and even when the ball bounces, they can all still gain two bases in what is known as an automatic double, much like a 4. One complaint I will make is that baseball players apparently need help being told whether they should run or not, as evidence by the first and third base coaches who occasionally wander onto the field.

Like many other things in America, an MLB match isn’t just about the baseball, but the end of every innings instead brings entertainment for the spectators in one form or another. This could be spectators trying to win free tickets, kiss-cams, veteran appreciation or a rendition of ‘Take me out to the ball game‘. It’s understandable that cricket has had to lean towards the 20-over variety, considering the entertainment crammed into a 3 hour MLB match.And I don’t think it’s fair to compare a one-day or test cricket match to baseball. They certainly have different appeals. At around 3 hours, a 20-over cricket match is certainly a fair comparison, although I feel there’s a lot more action involved in such a match than a baseball game. Baseball appeared to have a lot more waiting, especially between batsmen coming out and innings changeover. Something that happens 17 times in a match. Compared to the single innings changeover in cricket, and fairly quick end-of-over switch.

At the end of the day I really enjoyed the game. It was fun learning all the rules and seeing the whole spectacle. My only gripe is the difficulty in distinguishing whether a ball or strike was called immediately after it happened. I feel that everyone on the field obviously knows what’s happening and has reacted, but it takes me a while to catch up. I’m aware the umpire does signal this, maybe our seats were too far away, but in cricket it’s usually immediately evident as to what happened.

If I had to choose between a 20-over cricket match and a baseball game, I’d still go for the cricket match. But in the absence of such events, baseball does a great job of filling the gap. Next up, football vs rugby?

If you’re looking for an alternatively biased article, you can read Zack Case’s American view on how boring cricket is over here.

Brake Pad and Disc replacement – 2008 Hyundai Tucson (1st Gen)

The rear brake pads on our 2008 Hyundau Tucson were wearing thin; I’d also noted some vibration after extended braking coming from the front wheels. As such I decided to replace the rear brake pads, as well as the front discs and pads.

I had replaced the pads on my old Audi previously, and while it wasn’t difficult, it was still a hassle. In contrast, replacing the Tucson’s pads is something almost anyone can do, all you need is a size 14 socket.

There are a bunch of manufacturers who all make products to fit your car. I went with Bosch, because they were the only brand I recognised, but there are many other good manufacturers. In fact I was quite disappointed by Bosch, who packaged incorrect parts into one of the boxes I ordered. Amazon were quick to send me a replacement set.

two parts with the same number, but different shape

For the 2008 Hyundai Tucson, I purchased the following parts:

Disclaimer

Properly functioning brake pads are a critical safety component of your car. While the process for replacing these parts is relatively straightforward, you shouldn’t perform the task if you’re not comfortable doing it. If anything doesn’t fit right, or looks unusual, rather get it checked out by a professional. Additionally, after installing new components, your brakes take some time to wear in, and won’t function 100% immediately. For more info on properly wearing in your brakes, look here.

Rear Wheel Brake Pad Replacement

Get the car up onto jackstands and remove the rear wheel. The brake system is fairly prominent. The entire mechanism is attached to the back of the wheel with two size 14 bolts that are tensioned with a spring washer. You don’t need to remove these. There are another two size 14 bolts (caliper bolts) that are more accessible and easier to remove that hold the mechanism together.

rear wheel caliper bolt

Loosen just the top bolt, and the mechanism folds open. You can then remove the old pads and runners if you have replacements. Now is the best time to push the piston back in. I opened the brake fluid reservoir and emptied some fluid from it before pushing the piston back. This way you don’t have to worry about it overflowing. I put the old brake pad on top of the piston, and used a C-clamp to push it back in.

Now you can load the new clips and pads. Depending on what you purchase, you may want to switch shims over from your old pads to the new new ones. Installation is easy, and you can also apply some lubricant to surfaces that you want to slide easy (not the brake surfaces!). Slide everything back together and tighten bolt.

Front Wheel Brake Pad Replacement

The front brake pad replacement is basically identical. The only difference is that instead of loosening the top caliper bolt, you’re going to loosen the bottom one and open the mechanism upwards.

Front wheel caliper bolt

Otherwise the process is the same.

 

Front Wheel Brake Disc/Rotor Replacement

The brake rotors only have two bolts holding them in place, but the entire brake mechanism has to be removed as well. For the front wheels you’re going to need a size 17 socket/spanner. For the rear wheels it’s a 14. Loosen both of the bolts, and have something nearby that you can rest the brake mechanism on.

front brake bolts

Front wheel brake bolts

Then you need to loosen the two screws holding the rotor in place. You need a rather large Philips screwdriver. These screws can be quite tight, I used a bit of WD40 to loosen them up, but if you’re going to be reusing the discs/screws, make sure to clean them properly, you want them to be tight.

My old discs came off very easily. Some people have more trouble, especially on older cars, you can try something like this if you’re stuck. The new discs go on in reverse order.