Archive for Monte Rosa

Il cimitero degli alpinisti

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by xi'an

In the cemetery around Chiesa Vecchia in Macugnaga, at the bottom of Monte Rosa (and the other size from Zermatt), there is such a number of alpinists and guides buried there that the cemetery is called the cemetery of the alpinists. A memorial recalls deaths of local guides and climbers on the different routes of the Monte Rosa group [there is no Monte Rosa peak per se but a collection of 15 tops above 4000m]. Plus crosses and plaques on the church wall for those whose bodies were not recovered, according to a local guide. (Which sounds strange given that these are not the Himalayas! Unless these are glacier-related deaths…]


the DeepMind debacle

Posted in Books, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2017 by xi'an

“I hope for a world where data is at the heart of understanding and decision making. To achieve this we need better public dialogue.” Hetan Shah

As I was reading one of the Nature issues I brought on vacations, while the rain was falling on an aborted hiking day on the fringes of Monte Rosa, I came across a 20 July tribune by Hetan Shah, executive director of the RSS. A rare occurrence of a statistician’s perspective in Nature. The event prompting this column is the ruling against the Royal Free London hospital group providing patient data to DeepMind for predicting kidney. Without the patients’ agreement. And with enough information to identify the patients. The issues raised by Hetan Shah are that data transfers should become open, and that they should be commensurate in volume and details to the intended goals. And that public approval should be seeked. While I know nothing about this specific case, I find the article overly critical of DeepMind, which interest in health related problems is certainly not pure and disinterested but nonetheless can contribute advances in (personalised) care and prevention through its expertise in machine learning. (Disclaimer: I have neither connection nor conflict with the company!) And I do not see exactly how public approval or dialogue can help in making progress in handling data, unless I am mistaken in my understanding of “the public”. The article mentions the launch of a UK project on data ethics, involving several [public] institutions like the RSS: this is certainly commandable and may improve personal data is handled by companies, but I would not call this conglomerate representative of the public, which most likely does not really trust these institutions either…

at the foot of Monte Rosa

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2017 by xi'an

After last-year failed attempt at climbing a summit in the Monte Rosa group, we came back for hiking on the “other side” of Monte Rosa, at the Italian foot of Dufourspitze with less ambitious plans of hiking around this fantastic range. Alas the weather got set against us and thunderstorms followed one another, making altitude hikes unreasonable because of the fresh snow and frequent fog, and lower altitude walks definitely unpleasant, turning the trails into creeks.

While we had many nice chats with local people in a mixture of French and Italian, and sampled local cheese and beers, this still felt like a bit of a wasted vacations week, especially when remembering how reasonable the weather had been the week before in Scotland. However, all things considered, the previous week had seen a deadly heat wave cross the south of Europe that very week, so I should not be complaining about rain and snow! And running a whole week checking the altimeter instead of the chronometer is a nice experience.

A Milano [not jatp]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2016 by xi'an

Today, I went to Milano for 13 hours to give a seminar at l’Università Bocconi. Where I thus gave a talk on Testing via mixtures (using the same slides as at ISBA last Spring). It was the first time I was in Milano (and thus at Bocconi) for more than a transfer to MCMski or to Pavia and it was great to walk through the city. And of course to meet and share with many friends there. While I glimpsed the end of the sunrise on the Italian Alps (near Monte Rosa?!), I was too late on my way back for the sunset.

San Francisco ½ marathon [1:26:32 – 15/7533]

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2016 by xi'an

Just completed the 2016 San Francisco ½ marathon. And this despite Air France’s best efforts to keep me out of it (and thanks to my son!), a long flight and hardly any sleep before the 5:30am start. This is the most brutal, unforgiving, relentless ½ I ever ran, with a significant positive differential of more than 700 feet (215 meters) and according to other runners with tracking devices possibly 0.3 miles extra (close to 500 meters). And fierce winds on the Golden Gate Bridge, both ways! So I am utterly flabbergasted by the outcome, which sees me arriving 15th altogether and first in the over 50 group [and third French!]… race_2167_photo_39804811Even though I presume the training for Monte Rosa, the (unsuccessful) attempt at Monte Rosa, and the additional bike rides the previous month helped, although I did very little speed sessions. The race got hard the moment we started climbing, first a little hill near Fort Mason, then the slope to the bridge that truly slowed me down. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge both ways was exhilarating, although I could not see one pile from the previous one, being in a cloud the whole time and Sun being not up yet. And although this section of the race was the most exposed, with no runner around to run in packs. Thankfully, there was one big downhill run around the 11th mile (that I passed in 1:11:11!) which helped me gaining back some time if no position, and facing the last climb, which seemed to last till the finish line in the Golden Gate Park… My overall time of 1:26:32 is surprising in itself if I account for the elevation: by Naismith’s rule, that would brings the time on a flat terrain under 1:20, a feat I only achieved once. And many other things are just weird in this race, from the 7500 runners I never saw, many of which finished over 4 hours, to the number of young winners (the third male runner is 17, the first female runner 20, a 14 year old came 22nd and even weirder the second female in the 5k is 8 year old!). And to the fact my ranking changed several times from 18th to 16th, 15th, 17th, and eventually 15th again.  [Congratulations to the organisers, by the way! The whole race was brilliantly organised with all kinds of amenities I had never seen before. And thanks to the supportive Erythrean taxi who took me from the airport and offered me a free ride back if I ended up in the top ten! It sounded like a joke at the time….]

on Monte Rosa [a failed attempt at speed climbing]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2016 by xi'an

With my daughter Rachel and her friend Clément, we tried last week to bag a few summits in the Monte Rosa massif, which stands between Italy (Aosta) and Switzerland (Zermatt). I wanted to take advantage of the Bastille Day break and we drove from Paris to Aosta in the very early morning, stopping in Chamonix to rent shoes and crampons, and meeting with our guide Abele Blanc at noon, before going together to the hut Rifugio Città di Mantova. At 3500m. Our goal was to spent the night there and climb to Punta Gnifetti (Rifugio Margherita) and Zumstein the next morning. Before heading back to Paris in the evening. However, it did not work out that way as I got a slight bout of mountain sickness that left me migrainous, nauseous, and having a pretty bad night, despite great conditions at the hut… So (despite my intense training of the previous weeks!) I did not feel that great when we left the hut at 5am. The weather was fine if cold and windy, but after two hours of moderate climbing in a fairly pleasant crispy snow of a glacier, Rachel was too out of breath to continue and Abele realised my nose had [truly] frozen (I could not feel anything!) and took us down before continuing with Clément to both peaks. This was quite a disappointment as we had planned this trip over several months, but it was clearly for the best as my fingers were definitely close to frozen (with my worst case ever of screamin’ barfies on the way down!). And we thus spent the rest of the morning waiting for our friends, warming up with tea in the sunshine. Upon reflection, planning one extra day of acclimatisation to altitude and cold would have been more reasonable and keeping handwarmers in our backpacks as well… In any case, Clément made it to the top with Abele and we got a good altitude training for the incoming San Francisco half-marathon. Plus an epic hike the next day around Cogne.

sunset over Rifugio Città di Mantova

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2016 by xi'an