Tag Archives: ice

And then, there was ICE

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When it gets cold in the mountains and your fingers start seizing up when you touch rock, it’s time to dig out the ice climbing tools. Having had a  bit of practice dry-tooling, we set off on a search for climbable ice. This led us to some interesting places – King’s Creek where the skies opened and we were soon hiking through ever-deeper snow in the first big snow dump of the season…

Though there was lots of snow, the ambient temperature was still quite mild, so the climbing wasn’t all that great… Though, the proportion of ice to flowing water was definitely higher than our first effort on Grotto Falls.

After the blizzard, the temperatures fell and things began to firm up. We climbed Cascade Falls – twice –

Fabio leading up one of the lower pitches Cascade

Fabio leading up one of the lower pitches Cascade

Cascade Falls, Banff National Park

Cascade Falls, Banff National Park

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In terms of the view, it’s not a bad thing to be caught high on a mountain as the sun begins to set…

The first day we climbed all the lower pitches and ran out of light before we were able to climb the top pitch.

The next day we tried again and this time walked around the bottom three sections so we would have time to climb right to the top. The one small hitch in this plan was my total lack of experience and failing nerve right at the top. The ice was so thin up there it seemed like the water rushing underneath my feet was just as likely to suck the ice right off the rock and send it (and me) flying. In one place there was a huge hole in the ice and when I stood on the lip trying to collect my thoughts and convince myself going up was a good idea, my boot and leg got totally soaked by the waterfall rushing past and underneath me. My climbing companions for the day were totally unfazed by all this – apparently flowing water is just part of ice climbing – who knew?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWind, water, and chilly temperatures create wild ice sculptures at the top of Cascade Falls – Banff National Park

There was no disagreement about the beauty of the place. But right about where Fabio is (over on the right in the photo above) I had a total crisis of confidence and a complete failure in my minimal ice climbing skills and slithered off my precarious perch.

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Help me…

I slipped and swung sideways, landing in a sort of cave of icicles. There I waited patiently for Dan, the third member of our team that day, to climb up to where Fabio was belaying from up top to tell him that I wasn’t going to make it up and over the final, flimsy bulge and that I needed to be lowered back down to the previous anchor. To say this was a tad disappointing would be a huge understatement. It was frustrating for everyone, I think – and I now need to go back and climb Cascade a third time in order to see what lies at the top.

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This House of Sky

Our next expedition was to a climb called This House of Sky in the Ghost River Valley. This is rather an exciting destination even if you never climb anything as the approach involves a lengthy drive over a wilderness of snow drifts, rocky river bottom and then through the ice-choked river. Several times. The bottom part of the actual climb is not particularly difficult – it’s made up of a series of modest steps as the waterfall makes its way down a narrow canyon. It’s rather magical to make your way up through this secret passage, climbing ever upwards… The biggest problem was the warm weather – the lower pitches were absolutely soaking wet and crumbly. Delicate ice, is how Fabio puts it. He looks at stuff like this and salivates, relishing the challenge of climbing this type of thing gently. With finesse. Feeling you way up rather than bashing your ice tools into something remotely solid.

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Haffner Creek is a popular destination for ice, rock, and mixed climbing. It was a great spot to go for a mixed climbing clinic.

Though I did manage to more or less keep up on the climb up and over the various small waterfalls, I wasn’t exactly feeling competent. So, I signed up for a mixed climbing course taught by Sean Isaac. Fabio headed off to climb something actually challenging and I spent the day learning some basic techniques and practicing using my tools on routes that combined rock and ice. The day flew past and I had lots of fun learning about body position, kicking techniques, and ice tool swinging strategies.

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Getting to the top of a route in Haffner Creek

With my newfound skills (hah!) it was off to tackle Guinness Gulley. Managed to get up the bottom two pitches, though not without some issues. I had trouble negotiating the second one and slipped off when trying to retrieve one of the ice screws Fabio had put in on his way up. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a huge issue but I had parked one of my tools in the ice so I could unscrew more easily but when I fell I accidentally left one of my ice tools lodged firmly in the ice and well out of reach. People who actually know what they are doing don’t have much trouble climbing with one tool, but I was a bit flummoxed and determined not to have to be lowered down on another climb. I thrashed around getting ever more flustered, but managed to inch my way back up to where I was supposed to be in the first place. I suspect the initial problem was poor foot placement – both feet popped out when I was fiddling around with the ice screw – and as I crept up the ice with my remaining tool I realized just how poor my footwork still was.

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Joe on the third pitch of Guinness Gulley

At that point, it was all mental – I totally lost my ‘I can do this’ attitude (which seems to be a bit elusive on the ice anyway) and by the time I got to the top and looked up what seemed like an endlessly long stretch of ice in the next pitch, I was done.

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I sent Fabio and Joe on ahead and hunkered down against a rock to await their return. Quite honestly, I was thiiiiiiiis close to throwing in the towel and sticking to rock climbing, but then we decided to do a day of remedial ice. The fact this took place at one of the most gorgeous places on the planet (Johnson’s Canyon) did a lot to boost my flagging spirits.

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The bottom part of the Upper Falls at Johnson’s Canyon

The hardest part was lowering myself off the little lookout platform (where a steady stream of hikers stopped to watch the crazy ice climbers throughout the day).

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“Just lower yourself over the edge… Try to aim for the big rock.”

Coached by Fabio and Dan (relentlessly – neither of them really wants to wait days for me to fumble my way up stuff that really shouldn’t be that difficult…) I was drilled on kicking techniques, foot placement (and more foot placement), how best to orient the crampons to the ice, keeping heels low, moving beneath my tools, maintaining an ‘A’ shape with a single tool at the apex, feet wide and stable below, not moving on shaky tools, reading the ice for better tool placement, how best to swing, etc., etc., etc. until my head was spinning. However, climbing the same routes several times did a lot to build my shaky confidence back up and drill some basic techniques into me.

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Practice, practice, practice… 

All of this came in very handy on our second trip to This House of Sky… but that will have to wait for another blog post as this is already way too long.

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On Cascade Mountain

 

Photo Friday

20140207-081425.jpgThings are taking a (way too) long time to get done around here, what with everything being frozen solid… So I thought I’d post a few photos on the fly today as I’m not so likely to find myself inside with a long stretch at the computer.
This first one is of the frozen pond down by the sheep field…

What freezes faster? Cold or warm water?

This question has been tormenting me since I was a student in Banff Elementary School and a teacher asked us what would happen if you put two identical containers outside in the snow. The first container held hot water, the second cold. Which would freeze faster?

We all offered our opinions and explanations why the cold water would obviously freeze faster. The teacher, though, wouldn’t provide any sort of answer or further information, but instead said nebulous things like, “The obvious answer isn’t always the correct one.” By the tone of voice, we were all made to feel a bit stupid, but the teacher didn’t enlighten us, and then a weekend came and went and then we were on to other problems.

Recently, this came up again when The Belmont Rooster commented on a blog post that hot water freezes faster than cold (this in the context of me putting out hot water for the critters during a recent chilly snap) and this then led to a series of very informative comments and a couple of great links from my favourite Iowans of Jar Blog and Catbird Quilt Studios fame.

Thinking that maybe I was not the only one to wonder about this matter, here is my summary of what I think I now understand about the whole hot versus cold water issue.

First, though there have been a number of experiments done demonstrating that in fact, under certain conditions warm water will freeze faster than cold water, there is no consensus as to the exact mechanism by which this happens. Which might explain why my teacher, way back when, was unable to give a clear explanation of why we were all idiotically guessing the wrong, but seemingly obvious answer.

The effect (and this is intriguing to someone who writes books for kids) is known as the Mpemba effect after a high school student in Tanzania by that name noticed how fast hot fluids froze back in 1963. Not that this was the first time the phenomenon had been observed. Aristotle noted that people who wanted to fast-freeze water first stood it in the sun for a bit to warm it up… Others (Bacon, Marliani, Descartes) also observed the same thing, but somehow, this was relegated to urban legend status until Mpemba was in a hurry to make ice cream at his high school. A scarcity of fridge space meant he rushed to put his hot milk and sugar mix into the freezer before the milk had cooled. When he noticed that the ice cream seemed to freeze faster, he asked his physics teacher what was going on and was basically told he was a fool and to stop making up his own brand of physics.

[I am not making this up, btw – the long version of events is described here. Thanks to Iowa Jim for the link…]

Several theories have been put forth and many experiments done, but it seems water is a magical and complicated substance and reasons for why this happens are slow to be revealed. If the only thing that mattered was how warm it was, then the answer to the speed of freezing question would be pretty straightforward. Cooler water would freeze faster because you wouldn’t have to cool it down first. But, it turns out you need to take into account things like the way properties of water change as it changes temperature.

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We all know that water changes shape, volume, and state when it gets cold, for example. Over-filing a jar with liquid, screwing on a lid, and then freezing it leads to trouble when the ice expands and breaks the glass. Trying to drink solid water in the form of ice is obviously not so easy. At the other end of the temperature scale, the stuff disappears and floats off into the atmosphere when you boil it, turning into some sort of misty haze that then magically condenses and turns back into drinkable liquid when it hits something cool.

These changes in property are dramatic and obvious – so why we don’t immediately think of warm water perhaps behaving differently to cool water is actually kind of interesting. The amount of gas dissolved in warm water is different to that in cold water. Convection currents occur as water cools (same idea as warm air rising) and some think that this causes the water to cool more efficiently. Then there is the matter of supercooling (when water gets colder than zero degrees C but doesn’t turn into ice) and whether this might occur at different rates for cold versus warm water.

There are also questions of the size, shape, and type of container, evaporation, and where the container is sitting (pour a lot of hot water into a bucket of chicken water sitting on the ground and it would melt the layer of frost or snow underneath, which could impact how fast the contents freeze).

The end result of all this is that nobody knows for sure why hot water freezes faster than cold, but often it does. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story to me is that some kid in Tanzania refused to let go of what he knew to be true even though all the adults who were supposed to know better (his physics teacher, for one) told him he was a fool. Perhaps I will add another theme word to my list for the coming year: PERSISTENCE.

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NaBloPoMo – Glass Half Empty? or Half Frozen?

Prompt: Do you see the glass as half full or half empty [on the farm]?

I’m looking at my Iphone screen right now and having a serious glass half full/half empty moment:

Half full?On the glass half full side, look at all those little yellow suns!!!! Not only is a bit of sun (low slung though it may be these days) a balm for the post-November soul, it also means the heavy traffic hog zones will dry out a bit, as will the mucky area near the gate to the turkey pen where I have my breeding birds. For some reason, this year the water has been pooling right there, which means I risk getting stuck, or the gate getting stuck when I’m trying to maneuver into the pen with buckets of feed and vegetables and water containers while not letting any turkeys out.

Turkeys

This dance of the hysterical turkeys (because they do get a bit silly when they see a human coming with buckets attached to her arms) will resolve itself very soon when the field where the Christmas birds are growing out will become available for the breeders. This lovely, large, and securely fenced area will give the few birds I will keep for next year’s procreative roster plenty of room to frolic before we have to get serious about selecting breeding groups, collecting and hatching eggs, etc.

Also on the glass half full side of the equation is an upward nudge of the daytime temps to just above freezing (for my friends south of the border, we are looking at Celsius temperatures, not Fahrenheit). The forecast had been putting the daytime highs just below freezing, which would definitely have been more of a glass half empty kind of thing.

As it is, with several nights of below zero temps, all my water pipes are going to freeze. And that is most certainly NOT a good thing. The little suns mean no snow, sleet, hail, or other nasties falling from the sky (half full!) but the frozen water ,means hauling Jerry cans into the laundry room, filling with hot water, lugging said cans, now full and VERY heavy, to various water containers up and down the hill…

Oh yes. The hill.

Room With a View

A half full sort of geographic feature when you are standing on top of the hill surveying the amazing view we enjoy, but a half empty bump in the road when you are slithering down it trying to hold back the cart loaded with VERY HEAVY containers of hot water because the hill is a) steep and b) frosty and you realize as you are about to hit a fence post because the cart has developed a mind of its own and is determined to plow you over and send you arse over tea kettle into the goat pen but there’s no way you are going to let go of the cart because then it would tip over and the cans would fly out, probably shatter in the cold, and then you’d have to make a trip to Canadian Tire to replace them with better, stronger versions so you can return to the laundry room sink, refill, and try again. I don’t think that last bit was in any way grammatically correct, but who thinks of grammar at times like that?

Where was I? Oh yes, trying to think if there was a glass half full way of looking at my frozen water situation because, basically, I am very much a glass half full kind of person.

Nope. I don’t think there is. Wait! Yes, I did think of something that won’t happen when there is a nice, thick layer of ice on top of the hog water tubs: the ducks won’t be able to get in there and blow their noses and wash their backsides!

Little White Duck

This may not be a good thing for the ducks, but it is a good thing for the hogs who (after I hack drinking holes for them) will have cleaner water to drink and for me because I won’t have to tip, scrub, and refill the hog water so often.

The other thing that won’t happen if the water freezes is I won’t find little bodies in the horse troughs. Every now and then the bantam hens and certain foolish wild birds decide they can drink from the horse troughs (they can’t – they slide in and can’t get out…). Fortunately, this is an infrequent event and those who don’t figure out that they are NOT ducks generally don’t survive to raise future generations of misguided offspring. A protective layer of ice will eliminate this problem entirely. Which is a good thing.

The other good thing about the forecast is that single degree above zero will give me hope each day that the water pipes might start flowing. I will check every half hour starting at 1pm, just in case. This will continue until 4 pm and the sun starts to go down and the temperature dips again. Most likely, the pipes will NOT unfreeze, once they are nicely frozen – but where there is sun and a single plus side degree, there is hope. And where there is hope, the glass is always half full.

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Day 24 – Frost!

I try to keep this quote in mind when my fingers are not functioning properly and the garden beds are crispy, solid, and completely unworkable.

I try to keep this quote in mind when my fingers are not functioning properly and the garden beds are crispy, solid, and completely unworkable.

The one good thing about frost or a light dusting of snow is that everything looks so darned sparkly! The whole world is clean!

The turkey field looks quite different when it's frozen solid.

The turkey field looks quite different when it’s frozen solid. Fortunately, the birds don’t seem to mind.

Frozen water is a pain in the backside to deal with.

Frozen water is a pain in the backside to deal with.

All that glittery frost might look magical, but man, when frozen water pipes mean you have to haul buckets and Jerry cans of water from the house to distant water containers all over the neighbourhood, the thrill of a glorious morning wears off pretty quickly. A couple of chickens wouldn’t be so terribly difficult to deal with, but horses? Lactating sows? A whole herd of thirsty turkeys? I was more than a little pleased when the temperature began to rise again and the water started to flow. That gurgle of water splashing into an old bathtub in the horse paddock is a special kind of music!

LOVE that sun after a few gloomy rain days... Though, it always astonishes me just how low it stays all day long through these shortest days of winter.

LOVE that sun after a few gloomy rain days… Though, it always astonishes me just how low above the horizon it stays through these shortest days of winter.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days agriculture blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Day 5 – Seasons Change for Better, for Worse

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You know summer is long gone when chunks of ice fly out the end of the hose when you fill the poultry waterers.

It’s hard to know what to wish for, weather-wise, at this time of year. Living here on the wet west coast where grey skies day after day after day can bring down even the cheeriest soul, it’s hard not to hope for clear skies and a bit of sunshine. Clear skies, though, also generally mean colder temperatures – that dreary blanket of cloud is a blanket of the warming kind, too.

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My farm is small and it’s spread over several neighbouring properties where I lease land to graze my animals. Even though the entire operation is contained within a kilometer radius, the difference between what’s freezing at the lowest lying, most exposed field and what’s still just wet and cold is remarkable. Yesterday morning the remaining grass down in the main turkey pasture area was crispy with frost while up at the top of the hill near our house everything was soaked with heavy dew. The water was running freely at the house but down there in turkey-land, after some ominous gurgling and crackling, chunks of tube-shaped ice shot out the end of the hose. That was too close to a full on freeze up for my tastes!

Frozen water lines are a pain in the backside around here and require schlepping of hot water from the house to whatever frozen water bucket needs to be defrosted. Given that we have years where we never freeze (last year was one of those) and over the course of most winters we endure truly cold temperatures for only a few days, it’s not really worth installing expensive water systems even here at the home farm and not an option in the various leased fields.

And so, I watch the skies and the weather reports and on a morning like today when I look outside and see slate grey sky and hear the sound of rain, I breathe a little sigh of relief.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!