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Saturday, July 23, 2011

June Mount Adams Climb in Winter Conditions

At the end of this June, I led three friends up a south side route of Mt Adams. Only one of them had climbed a glaciated peak before and towards the end of our first day approach, I was worried that this climb might kill them and I would lose a few friends. Luckily, everyone adjusted on the 2nd day and we all made it to the false summit at 11,600 feet. Two of us summited. Their difficulties were probably driven by the fact that this was the first time they had backpacked up elevation in the snow. I think that our bodies have an initial defense mechanism to prevent us from doing that by creating extreme muscle fatigue.

Despite the end of June date, we had to do the winter route of the south side of Adams since there was that much snow on the ground. That included hiking an additional 3 miles to the parking lot which contributed to the excessive first day for all. It wasn't even a leisurely 3 additional miles as it involved some trail finding, setting compass points, and snow whacking.

Prior to leaving, we also had a lively discussion about whether to bring snow shoes or not due to soft snow in the late afternoon. We did and were very happy since we were on the soft snow in the late afternoon. If a group can make good time and get to their destinations while the snow is still firm, then snow shoes would not be necessary.

In the summer, the south side route typically is west of Crescent Glacier. However, from the photo below on the left, one can see how the enormous cornice (aka overhanging shelf of snow) made that route too dangerous. Therefore, we took the route from the photo on the right which was east of Crescent Glacier up the unfortunately named Suksorf Ridge.

The route up Suksdorf ridge was fairly straight forward and one can see the boot tracks in the photo. It ends at the Lunch Counter (9,000 feet elevation) just like the typical south side route. However, we camped at around 8,100 feet of elevation at a wonderful spot that had a flat area for 2 tents and 1 kitchen area. There were numerous quiet campsites on the way to the Lunch Counter which provided a rest from the additional 3 miles on the snow covered forest road.

The next day, we left camp at 6 am and headed up the south route. We were extremely fortunate that the snow conditions preserved a pristine set of steps all the way from the Lunch Counter to the False Summit. We made it to the False Summit by 10:30 and it then took two of us an hour to make it to the last 600 feet to the top (pictured below):

That's Mount Rainier in the background.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Building Customer Feedback Loops and Surveying Medicare members in a Non-Resource Intensive Way

My longest blog title ever describes my presentation at the Medicare Market Innovations Conference. Although the title could have been "Speaking about Building Customer Feedback Loops and Surveying Medicare members in a Non-Resource Intensive Way while eating at In-N-Out Burger and getting Sunburned at the Beach." I get some points for brevity. It was a very enjoyable 2 days in Newport Beach, California and a great conference by Strategic Solutions Group. Now I see why Orange County, CA was the location of The OC as opposed to Oregon City, OR.

Below is a link to a presentation about how someone can create customer surveys and get good information without needing to do third party, double blind research with every Chi square dotted and every t test crossed. I also share the dramatic moments that this created in product development. Most readers are probably thinking, "Dramatic moments in product developments? Harry Potter fighting Voldemert creates dramatic moments. The only dramatic moments in product development are wondering if the finance folks are going to fall asleep during your meetings."

Here are the highlights from the rest of the conference:
  • Best quote: "According to John Hopkins, here is what people are thinking about during presentations like this. 10% of you are paying attention to what I say. 20% of you are surfing the web on your phone. 70% of you are thinking about sexual fantasies. That means, no matter what I say, 70% of you are going to have a great time during my talk."
  • Second best quote from the marketing director of a plan that serves Medicare and Medicaid: "According to state statistics, our company's customers represent 5 of the 10 poorest, unhealthiest, fattest, laziest, and least educated, people in America. But it's home."
  • If anyone in insurance is looking for a group to test the strategy of doing absolutely nothing to respond to external market changes, the Medicare Supplement or Medigap insurance business provides an excellent example. The speaker for Medicare Supplement shared all the times that industry analysts thought the Medicare Supplement business was over due to external changes. The business didn't change tactics and luckily, neither did its customers. When I asked how the speaker would respond to an external threat that I identified in the northwest (providers no longer accepting original Medicare), his response was, "Oh yeah? We'll see."
  • The average conference attendee composition is 66% vendors who are trying to sell services to 33% of the other attendees. As I learned previously, 70% of each groups are spending most of their time thinking about sexual fantasies.
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