Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Humphreys Winter Epic - Feb 18, 2012

This is a placeholder for our winter epic on Humphreys... pics to come.

Oh that cursed mountain.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Off-trail Scramble up South Mountain

Class 3 & 4 Scramble / Free-solo up to Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain
Focus on speed but good, careful route-finding. No snakes hopefully. And safe moves on the features of course (nothing too risky, since I'm usually alone).

UP: GPS Track
Distance: 1.1 miles
Time: 54:31 hh:mm:ss
Avg Speed: 1.2 mph
Avg Pace: 49:59 min/mile
Climb: 1177 ft
Distance: 1.7 miles
Time: 24:25 hh:mm:ss
Avg Speed: 4.1 mph
Avg Pace: 14:38 min/mile
Climb: -1177 ft

Video from run:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ContourHD External Mic Mod

So I got a sweet lil' helmet cam off of a while back -- something like half-off of last year's model. I've used it on several outings up high to document our time in the mountains and I don't have too many complaints, other than the "phish"-eye is a lil' wacky, the contrast in low light is less than desirable, and so on. Most importantly, however, the lil' internal mic, which is fed the audio of its surrounding world via small pin hole, really really stinks. Even with the smallest wind gust resonating across that pin hole, the audio of whatever you're filming sounds like it's being drug unconscious through a concrete hallway of metal shards, jacks, glass, and other brittle materials. Not good.

To remedy this, I went digging online. Turns out, I'm not the only one who thought so kindly of this included audio enhancement / effect. Now there are tons of good tutorials out there on how to take the internal mic, solder a few ends a wire to it and extend it out of the camera, or damp the mic with foam, etc. What I really wanted was something that incorporated a clean interface to allow an additional mic source to be fed in. After an even deeper search, I happened upon this brilliant fella's mod that incorporated a standard headphone jack into the camera circuitry. What's especially convenient is that this mod only adds to the functionality of the camera itself, keeping the original internal mic intact, just in case you forget the external mic or you want to just default to the original operation.

Behold the final product...

With mic.

And without external mic.

Original Instructions:   (Leave it to the Russians!)
VholdR ContourHD external microphone modification 3.5 mm 1/8 inch jack MOD tutorial

Here are some pics from my mod. It's been a long 8 years since my last use of a soldering iron in Electrical Networks at the university, so it was good to be back with that cancer-causing stick in my hand, burning away pleasant smelling airborne metal fragments. No worries, I was not in the state of California at the time of use, so I should be okay, health-wise.

Oh Noooo! Halp. It's broken :-(
This is the key: adding one of those crafty bypassing headphone jacks into the mix. Pretty fresh, son. It barely fits in there with all the circuit board components.
Shaving the "outer" hole to fit the metal ring took the most time. Take your time and make it  look good.

There's the internal mic still intact. Last move is to solder the ground connection from the jack to the mic's ground.
Here's an old mic I rigged into a pen cap.

And complete. Look at that clean interface, eh?

Finished product with external mic attached and ready.

Testing, testing, testing...

In order to figure out how to get the camera apart safely without damaging the circuit-board, look online first. There are a ton of websites that have already covered this with tutorials. Kudos to these fellas who took the time to document this:
e.g. Tips on modding the ContourHD
e.g. My Mic Tutorial on the Contour HD

Do I even need to disclaimer this? I don't trust our legal system these days, so... If you follow what I did, realize that you will VOID any warranty on this camera. If you can't do this "sort of advanced but still simple" mod, don't even attempt it, just live with crappy audio in your videos -- it's not too bad on non-windy days, right? If you mess up, that's really unfortunate.

EDIT 5-May-2012: Took down outdated link to ContourHD disassembling instructions; added links to youtube videos of the same process.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Upcoming Trip: Mount Timpanogos

Due to extremely poor avalanche conditions, this trip will be postponed. Spoke with a ranger from the Utah Avalanche Center and received some sage advice to attempt the west side of Timp during the ideal melt-freeze spring cycle on the mountain -- much firmer conditions, better climbing overall. As a backup, we'll be heading to Humphreys in northern AZ instead. Oh well. 

In less than two weeks, I will join three friends and put our mountaineering mettle to the test against Mount Timp's Everest Ridge.

(pic borrowed from

Everest Ridge
  • Elevation Gain: 6,500’
  • RT Distance: 9.22 mi
  • TH Elevation: 5,349’
  • Summit Elev.: 11,749’
  • Rating: III, Class 4, Steep Snow
A month ago, the prospects of this climb were bleak and the Wasatch was starved for moisture with only traces of it's October / November faceted crystals remaining. Since then we've seen a resurgence in the typical northern Utah snowpack, bringing season totals closer to expectation. Herein lies the issue. Five to ten feet of fresh, wet snowpack has now cemented itself atop the aforementioned 2011 facet layers. The cohesion of everything new is great for a solid foundation, however, even this foundation could slide since it's essentially resting on what we should think of as tiny ball bearings. I've been feverishly scoping the avy rose every morning, hoping for more yellow, and now more green to inherit the majority of its pie slices.
Luckily for us, our intended route lies on a predominantly southwest ridge. Until we actually get there, we can only hope for stellar conditions both with the weather and the snowpack itself. Regardless of what comes to fruition as far as our plans are concerned, I cannot wait to get on that ridge.