Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2010

With each passing day I have this sense that each day is a little shorter. I never quite get everything done, the rote stuff seems to take more of my time and those truly special moments, the ones to cherish, never seem to last. This is in contrast to Sam, our senior in high school, who in two brief months will cross the thresh-hold of education to enter as an adult in our society. For Sam? These two months seem like an eternity. The clock is constant for both of us; it is our perception relative to our experience in life. Having experienced three decades more than Sam time is very precious and moves faster.

Art Mortvedt, pilot extraordinaire, came to visit Bozeman and Montana to share his quest to fly the Polar Pumpkin from pole to pole. The Cessna 180 is a fine durable single engine plane that has cris-crossed the planet. I had the good fortune to fly with Art while working in Antarctica more than a decade ago. One of our most memorable flights was a low elevation flight over the Minnesota Glacier in Antarctica filming for the Nova special (TK). The crevasses were a rope length below us, the epitome of inhospitable land. Art and his wife run a small lodge north of Fairbanks, the Peace of Shelby. Aside from walking and dog sledding flying is how you get to their magnificent place. Art is a top drawer fellow – he is a man of the land. Art is adept at keeping things in good repair and keeping a level head about it all. Yep, visiting Art in Alaska is on my big “to do” list.

My training friend Scott Creel and I enjoyed 24 hours of Hyalite on the 6th of March. We started climbing at 5 PM, went through the night and finished the following day. Lots of fun. Got to climb lots of ice!

Start!

Palisade!

Night Climbing.

Nice mixed climb.

Happy Campers!

Every year for the past four years my friend Boone Speed comes and visits us in March. Boone and I go back to the mid eighties in Salt Lake City. Boone was one of the key motivators in the development of American Fork, the limestone area south of the Salt Lake valley. At the time I couldn’t keep up with Boone and his fingers of steel. He still pulls down. We meet up to capture images of ice climbs.

This year Sam Elias, a young climber who took second at the 2010 Ouray Ice Festival came along. Being 20 years younger than I am and very strong Sam got on an open project in the Bingo World cave in Hyalite Canyon. After two days of working the route he sent it on his fifth go – pretty darn hard, a tour de force of mixed climbing. It was very inspiring to see Sam pull multiple figure fours out the roof.

Max was home from university and joined our small group up at the base of the Andesite cliff amongst the pine trees. As an aspiring photographer it was inspiring to see Boone share his skills with Max. The ball of knowledge. Learn from it, add to it and pass it on.

Last week Jenni, Sam and Isaac and I visited Sayulita, Mexico for spring break. In the past we would go camping in the deserts of Utah. Which is very nice. Except when it snowed. Beating snow off a tent in the predawn is my idea of a good time. Then I would here a bit of grousing that this isn’t a “vacation”.

Same Bat Channel – more to come!

The total sum of carbon based energy, be it in the form of wood, coal, oil, methane, natural gas or biomass, originated from the sun. Photosynthesis captures sunlight and converts it to oxygen and reduced carbon forms. We see this in plant life. Plants give us oxygen, nutritional sustenance and fuel. In the distant past the cycle of plant life created carbon energy that has allowed humans to advance to the state we now enjoy. Fifty to sixty million years ago eastern Montana was home to a shallow swamp like environment. The jungle and forests were overlain with sediment, compressed over time and transformed into the coal that, through electrical generation, Bozeman illuminates its houses and streets with. The amount of energy the sun bestows upon earth in six months is equal to the collective reserves of all carbon based fuel sources.

Obviously we are a long way from harnessing sunlight in a cost effective and efficient manner. As we face dwindling carbon reserves and an atmosphere dramatically changed by the consumption of carbon fuel, harnessing energy from the sun a technological break-though that will benefit all humans. Will it happen in our lifetime? Chances are slim given the volatility and ease of transport for carbon based energy. Transitioning from one system to another will require massive capital expenditures. Given these challenges how do we as a society proceed? There are those that shy away from challenges and those that see it as an opportunity to try harder. Energy independence is one area that will require a fair amount of ingenuity, determination and perseverance. Success is ever more sweeter when the odds are against you.

Solar energy is currently harnessed by two methods: passive and solar. Aligning a building to have maximum southern exposure is an obvious example of passive collection. Active collection has principle methods: photovoltaic and thermal mass. Photovoltaic panels are constructed with silicon wafers that directly convert sunlight to electricity. Your calculator with a miniature cell is probably the most common form of this technology. Photovoltaic cells are between 12 – 20 % efficient, that is 80 % of the solar energy doesn’t convert to electricity. The current costs do not match the direct costs of electricity generated by coal. As efficiency increases with technological advancement photovoltaic collection will feature in our future energy mix.

Thermal mass captures sunlight in a manner that is transferred or stored without being converted into electrical current. The energy captured is typically used for low-temperature applications. The simplest form of thermal generation is a roof top solar water heater. The energy captured can be used in two ways that benefit daily energy usage: water usage and structure heating. Hot water from the roof heater is piped into or through the existing gas or electric water heater thereby reducing the energy load required to heat water to the desired temperature.
When designing new or retro fitting existing structures radiant heating is an efficient and comfortable way of warming interior spaces. Piping is plumbed into the floor and the warm liquid heats the structure from the ground up. By using the water from the roof top solar water heater the need to heat the water from carbon-based sources is lessened or entirely negated. Commercial and institutional applications stand to benefit from this technology.

Montanans are known for their ingenuity and perseverance. Encouraging solar thermal design and installation will bring us closer to the goal of energy independence. Making the transition to sustainable energy is a big step. If, like children, we start with small obtainable steps we’ll eventually make it.