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Tag Archives: Conrad Anker

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.

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Well now that I have your attention… with either fast and furious music or yummy bits of vegetable adorning rice I’ll take a minute to catch up from our last chat.

Thanks to those of you that are dedicated readers. Your notes are super meaningful. My friends over at Timex prompted me to write and the result after a couple of years has been a most wonderful.

Since the last post – Ouray and the likes – I have been over to Nepal to conduct the seventh session of the Khumbu Climbing Center. Jenni joined me for the last part of the journey, which was very nice. Sam and Isaac managed the house just fine – it didn’t burn down and I don’t think they spent too much time on the X Box. The dogs must have loved being under the care of the boys. Think gravity feeder. Happy is now holding the title of “bacon back”. Not that he knows what it means. Just gotta get him out running and ice climbing.

Ross and I departed Montana for Nepal on the 14th of January, routing through the Tom Bradley International Terminal @ LAX. With the cultural melting pot and gate to Asia this hub seems to be the 21st century’s equivelent of Ellis Island. To an extent. The flight takes 15 hours direct to BKK, with a two hour transition before flight 319 to KTM.

“Mishandled baggage complaining desk.” One certainly appreciates the honesty.

As we flew in the Himalaya defined the northern horizon. Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Everest standing above the adjacent mountains. Somewhere below Everest on Tawoche Renan Ozturk and Cory Richards (Nan & Roti) were steps away from the summit after establishing a new route on the south buttress. They had a great time – running out of water, climbing loose rock and hard ice. Like, what is the point of you don’t suffer, eh?

Check out their cool ascent here: http://vimeo.com/rockmonkeyart/videos

After a two day stint in Kathmandu we flew to Lukla for the beginning of the trek. Steve Swenson, president of the American Alpine Club, David Weber NPS, Steve Gipe MD, Ross and me trekked to Monjo the first night. While in Monjo we met David, an engineer from MIT who was ice climbing with his wife and friend. He likened our meeting to a Bilbo Baggins gathering in the Shire. With his full beard and twinkling eyes he might just have been a Hobbit.

The range is dry this year, which could equate to a lack of ice. Fortunalty it was very cold and the water that was flowing formed very nicely. Once we took care of the opening ceremony we began climbing and learning the ropes.

This year we moved a bit closer to having the program run by our Nepali friends. The lead instructors were all Sherpa, we filed the Nepal articles of non profit incorporation, changed the name from Khumbu Climbing School to Khumbu Climbing Center (Nepal is very strict in that school may only be used in the traditional educational sense) and began work on the physical building.

Students climbed with great enthusiasm and learned to be safer climbers. All in all we were very happy.

Lila Bishop taught English, which is great as it is the shared language for people who trek and climb in the Himalaya. Thanks Lila!

Climbing on the steep ice of Lapharma. The Sherpas led the pitches, which are WI 5 .

That is Everest in the background. Jenni is awesome!

Taking notes below Ama Dablam, a mountain I climbed twenty years ago. The swell watch is the new analog EAltimeter. It is super cool.

See you : )

Ice climbing and surfing are both water sports. There is probably an 80 degree Fahrenheit difference between the two disciplines. Which is pretty vast. What they do share is that they are both conditions dependent. The ephemeral nature of surfing is that one needs the right wind that creates the swell, atmospheric pressure and perhaps alignment of the stars. For ice climbing it is probably the same except that in there is no swell. Periodically surfing is given a huge season. The surfers go nuts and the legend grows.

So it is with ice. Hyalite Canyon in SW Montana we are totally happy to be in the first month of what promises to be an epic season. To start off the Mummy climbs received an ascent on the second weekend of October. Then in November the seldom seen climbs started filling in. The Big Sleep, Black Magic and Winter Dance all were climbed before the 1st of December. The standard climbs formed in well.

So what brings on a good season for Hyalite Canyon? First of the geologic layup of the canyon favors ice climbing. The canyon is on the east side (read cold) of the divide and drains north. The peaks sit atop a layer of volcanic mudflow and andesite – both a bit more impermeable to water than the country rock above. Combine this with a very wet summer, a cold October and a heavy Sierra grade layer of snow the second week of November and everything lines up! Ice grows fastest (albeit brittle) when the temps are cold.

Just for the record – I am a totally novice surfer. I aspire to get better, but until then I’ll have to be happy with dicey run outs, falling ice and the occasional smile at the top of a pitch.

The family at the 3rd annual Huffing for Stuffing 5 & 10 K Fun Run on Thanksgiving Day. Our community raised 20 K $ for the food bank. Good karma.

Sunday 13 December somewhere on Interstate 15 near the town of Monida, a tiny village straddling the border of Montana and Idaho. I’m 15 hours in to an epic bus ride across the basin and range of Nevada, up on to the Snake River Plain and into Montana. This past weekend on the 12th of Decemebr Isaac participated in the United States Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country running meet. Over 1200 young runners descended on Reno, Nevada. Saturday’s meet was chacterized by blowing snow, packed snow, light snow , wet snow, icy snow, slushy snow, sugary snow and even more snow. Lucky for the Montana contingent this kind of weather is de riguer in the latter part of the season. Our one week to race run was a five miler in ten degree weather.

Isaac, Colter & Theo!

Some of the runners were from climes a bit warmer. A young lady and her mom from South Texas were completely challenged. Mom was in training shoes, not water proof and the runner was tip toeing about in racing spikes. Which have about as much insulation as a pair of dragon fly wings. The family was super psyched to be part of the event – the snow was a real treat.

Blowing snow could be considered a homefield advantage for the kids from Helena, Great Falls, Butte and Bozeman. Which it was. Eight runners made “all American” (top 25) and the Girls Youth Team took second in team points, edging out the powerhouse Bowerman Team from Portland Oregon.

Cross country running is the perfect mix between pure athleticism and trail running. The courses are generally set on rolling hills with a few obstacles – sharp turns and other runners that fall over for good measure. My haunch is that kid runners will follow through with the sport for the rest of their lives. I did.

Not all is cream and peaches. This past Thursday the climbing community lost one of it’s guiding lights. Guy Lacelle of Canada fell to his death in Hyalite Canyon. A small pocket avalanche caught Guy as he was transitioning from moderate to low angle terrain. Guy will be dearly missed by the international climbing community. He was a tree planter in BC because he loved to care for nature. He was an ice climber because he loved nature in its most rare and ephemeral state.

Miss you Guy……. thanks for the 17 years of friendship. The day we caught Happy Days in nick is one of my most memorable moments.

Peace.

It is the 28th of November 2008 here in Bozeman, Montana. Yesterday was out traditional family Thanksgiving. Our son Max was up from college and we had our Sheridan, Wyoming relatives over.

Thursday was the second “Huffing for Stuffing” fun run. The 5 & 10 k races are a benefit for the Gallatin Valley Foodbank, kind of a way to burn off a little of the calories we were bound to ingest in a few hours and more over, a way to give back in the spirit of Thanksgiving. In it’s second year the race rocketed to Bozeman’s most popular race.  p1000764

This is the post race image. The family that runs together…  stays together.

October was a freakishly warm month for SW Montana. The airport reported that temperatures were 10.3 degree F above normal. Which of course affects ice climbing, one of my favorite activities. Normally we climb by the third week of October and we have a tradition of climbing on election day. Alas – none of this happened. Too warm! As humans we will be able to adapt our recreation to the various climatic considerations. Yer for the animals? We went up to our ice climbing area – Hyalite Canyon and were shocked to find hardly any ice had formed. We went dry tooling – using ice tools to climb on rock – at this cave. The super sick routes are still awaiting a free ascent. In fact some of the rock is a little loose. This is a block that would have been a mighty headache. Bingo World Cave

Yeah – that block is the size of a fridge and it is in motion.

Another cool community project we have going is the construction of our second artificial boulder here in Bozeman. These are concrete “rocks” that are located in public parks. Anyone can play on them – they are a ton of fun. Our hope is to introduce climbing to a broad range of people and eventually get them outdoors for a bit of tun.  Check out this link –

http://bozemanboulders.blogspot.com

This is the final application of the concrete. TBoulderhe volunteers are sculpting the holds.

Thanks for checking in.  Send me note!

January 2008

Welcome, all, to the Return to the Outdoors blog by Conrad Anker, a world renowned mountaineer, big wall climber, author, and conservationist.