Entries By mike uchal

Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team Arrive at Base Camp

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal, Pepper Dee | June 12, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

After some long trips from our respective homes, our crew arrived in Anchorage and formed the super team, “El Siete” (RMI Team Seven). We made the journey to Talkeetna, AK the day before yesterday and started to prepare for our flight onto the mountain. We spent yesterday packing in the hanger. The weather did not seem to be on our side and the probability of us flying into base camp on time seemed very small. We figured we would be joining all of the other teams that had been doing the “Talkeetna Wait” for days. We woke up today anticipating that we would not fly this morning and we were not wrong. After a good breakfast, lunch, and a few wanders around town, we planned on getting a pizza and watching the NBA finals. As soon as the crew started to get into the game, the flight service called and told us there was a small window for us to fly.

So here we are on the glacier ready to climb the big one. If you did not get a call from us before we left, we were in a mad rush and we will get back to you after we summit!

RMI Guide Mike Haugen & Team

Talkeetna, AK. RMI Photo Collection View around Mt. McKinley Base Camp. RMI Photo Collection

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Mt. Rainier: June 27th - UPDATE

Posted by: Win Whittaker, Mike Uchal, Alex Barber, Kel Rossiter, Leah Fisher, Billy Haas | June 27, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 11,200'

The Four Day Summit Climb Team led by Win Whittaker and Kel Rossiter climbed to Ingraham Flats this morning (11,200’), but due to snow, high winds, and poor visibility they were unable to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier.  The entire team is safely back at Camp Muir and will be starting their descent back to RMI BaseCamp shortly.

Congratulations to today’s Team!

RMI's Four Day Summit Climb Team en route to Camp Muir June 26, 2014
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Mt. Rainier: June 24th SUMMIT!

Posted by: Brent Okita, Mike Uchal, Christina von Mertens, Seth Waterfall, Mike King, Alex Barber, Robby Young | June 24, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

Early this morning the Four Day Summit Climb led by Brent Okita reached the summit of Mt. Rainier.  Brent reported clouds above and winds 20 mph, and some new snow on the mountain.  The team has started their descent and are now en route back to Camp Muir.

The Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons Team led by Seth Waterfall reached the summit via the Emmons route at 11:50am this morning.  The will spend a bit of time on the summit before starting their descent.

Congratulations to Today’s Teams!

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RMI’s Solar Snow Melt System on Mt. Rainier

Posted by: Mike Uchal | June 04, 2014
Categories: *Mount Rainier *Responsible Climbing

Camp Muir and the Cowlitz Glacier (Jon Mancuso)

Every summer, RMI climbing teams consume over 7,000 gallons of drinking water at Camp Muir, the primary camp on Mt. Rainier‘s Disappointment Cleaver Route.  For many years, melting snow in a large barrel heated by propane created drinking water for Camp Muir. We knew that there was a better way to provide drinking water to our teams and it just required a little bit of creativity, brainstorming, and initiative. Over the course of the 2012 and 2013 climbing seasons, a new solar thermal system was installed at Camp Muir. This system, designed to use environmentally benign and free solar energy to efficiently melt snow, provides drinking and cooking water for RMI climbers and guides at an elevation of 10,060’. The system was designed and built by RMI Guide and alternative energy professor Mike Uchal and his colleague Dr. Brian Raichle, who is a professor of solar energy technology at Appalachian State University. RMI Guide Cody Doolan also contributed with the design, installation, and maintenance.  RMI’s Solar Snow Melt System, part of our commitment to Responsible Climbing, reduces our environmental footprint on Mt. Rainier by minimizing the need to burn liquid propane gas in order to melt snow, cuts our operating costs, and reduces the environmental footprint of the helicopter used to transport propane to Camp Muir.

Diagram of RMI's Solar Snow Melt System at Camp Muir

How it works:

A small electric pump powered by photovoltaic panels pulls water from the burn barrel, a large barrel used to melt snow, uphill to a solar thermal collector. The collector, a conventional flat plate solar thermal collector is the kind that is typically used in residential and commercial domestic hot water systems. The water is pulled by gravity through the copper pipes in the collector and is heated by solar radiation before returning to the melt barrel. RMI guides keep the barrel fed with clean snow from the snowfields above Camp Muir and this snow mixes with the warm water and melts into liquid form. A controller turns on the pump in the morning and off at the end of the day when the sun goes down. Because the collector is uphill of the barrel, gravity drains water from the collector at night to prevent damage from freezing water. This system design eliminates any problems associated with overheating during late season conditions when solar energy can be plentiful and strong.

RMI Guide Mike Uchal showing the Solar Snow Melt System at Camp Muir to a climber (Mike Uchal).

How it performs:

On warm, sunny days at Camp Muir, typical in the late summer, the solar snow melting system heated the 30+ gallons of water in the burn barrel to above 100°F. That is nearly spa temperature! On cold, sunny days, often found early in the season, the system heated water to temperatures above 40°F - enough to effectively melt snow. Propane is still used during storms that last several days, when solar radiation isn’t strong enough to heat the collector, but the solar snow melting system dramatically reduced the amount of propane burned during the 2013 summer climbing season.

The solar collector at Camp Muir (Mike Uchal).
The system's stainless steel water barrel (Mike Uchal).

Anecdotally, before the 2013 climbing season the propane burner was running for around 3.5 hours per day to melt enough snow to provide drinking water for the RMI teams. During the 2013 climbing season, guides estimate that the burner was needed on average around 15 minutes per day. During the summer climbing season of 2013, we estimate the solar system saved approximately 250 pounds of propane, the associated cost of transport that propane, and 0.33 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

This project is part of RMI’s commitment to the outdoor community and environment as we work to reduce the environmental footprint of our climbs in order to ensure that many future generations are able to enjoy the same mountain environment that we enjoy.  The RMI Solar Snow Melt System is a great example of practices that can reduce a business’ environmental footprint and provide cost savings at the same time. By the end of its first full year at Camp Muir, the system paid for itself with savings in fuel and helicopter transport costs.  The next time you make it to Camp Muir, swing by the guide shack and check it out! The guides would love to show you the system in person.

_________
Mike Uchal is a Professor of Alternative Energy at Appalachian State University and guides trips on Mt. Rainier and Mt. McKinley for RMI Expeditions.  Mike lives the mountain life, rock climbing, paddling whitewater, mountain biking, trail running, and skiing whenever he has spare time.

Mike Uchal showing a climber the Solar Snow Melt System at Camp Muir (Mike Uchal). The system's solar collector (Mike Uchal). The system's stainless steel water barrel (Mike Uchal).
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Mt. Rainier: July 21, 2013 Summit!

Posted by: Mike Uchal | July 21, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Mike Uchal and Five Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Paul Edgren reached the summit of Mt. Rainier after a 6 1/2 hour ascent.  Mike Uchal reports sunny, beautiful weather and a busy route. The teams are en route back to Camp Muir, and will be back at RMI Basecamp later today.

Congratulations to today’s teams!

An RMI Climber on approach to the summit - RMI Photo Collection
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Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team Back in Talkeetna!

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal | July 06, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 346'

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 at 1:50 a.m. PST
We made it!
We stomped a runway.
Ate breakfast.
Went like Vikings to raid a cache (unsuccessfully).
Made two hours of quesadillas.
Packed up camp for incoming airplane.
Listened as incoming airplane went away.
Made camp again.
Made dinner.
Packed up camp as planes came back.
Flew back to civilization!!
Pizza.
Welcome home!

RMI Guides Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal, Katie Bono and the RMI Summit Team 6

The RMI June 11, 2013 team celebrating their return to Talkeetna! Photo: Mike Haugen

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Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team Still Chillin at Basecamp

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal | July 04, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

Thursday, July 4, 2013
It has been like a sunny beach vacation…except if it were sunny we would have flown far away from this particular snowy beach days ago. The snow keeps coming a bit harder and the forecast says through Sunday now. Could be worse; we have plenty of food, fuel, and great conversations!
RMI Guide Mike Uchal made almost five hours worth of pancakes in a continuous stream for most of the camp. We have a small backlog of climbers around us. There are not many new climbers in basecamp since the weather has prohibited much movement on the mountain from any of the different camps.

RMI Mt. McKinley Summit Team 6

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Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team - Ground Hog’s Day

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal | July 04, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
We woke up today to more of the same conditions at McKinley Basecamp. At least with these conditions, there is no waiting around to see if we are going to fly. There is always tomorrow!
We took a walk down to the lower airstrip to stretch our legs a bit.
With plenty of food and gas, at least we are eating well! The morale is still good and the team is hanging in strong while missing our loved ones (and real food).

RMI Mt. McKinley Summit Team 6

Mt. McKinley, 20,320'.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team Remain at Basecamp

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal | July 03, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Still here in base camp in case you were wondering. It is snowing with poor visibility. There were some “sucker holes” in the clouds that gave us some false hope at midday today.
We did get out and get some exercise today. Everyone in camp that is waiting to fly got on their skis/snowshoes and stomped down a runway in the snow. We all took it quite seriously since we want the airstrip to be ready when the weather is good enough to fly!
Everyone is happy and healthy and ready to be off the mountain. Cross your fingers!

RMI Mt. McKinley Summit Team 6

P.S. Lance wants his girls to know he loves them and will be home soon.
P.S.S. Steve will call Tania, mom and dad, & Bill and Lisa as soon as he is off the mountain.

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Mt. McKinley: Haugen & Team Waiting for Flight to Talkeetna

Posted by: Mike Haugen, Mike Uchal | July 01, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

Sunday, June 30, 2013
After waking up at 2 in the morning and making a massive push to get to the landing strip, we are stuck in freezing rain with no hope for a flight today.

Peter- Cannot wait to see my loving wife and daughter Maggie. Had a great trip!

Grasshopper- Dream realized. Love to everyone!

Cindy- Thanks for all of the great comments!  Maija, the Internet code is Zootrubie :)

Sandra- Cant wait for Thanksgiving in Hawaii!

Quinn- Save my seat on the couch. Give everyone a hug! See you all soon.

Lance- Cannot wait to see my three girls! Kisses to all.

Steve- To Bill and Lisa, where are the gluten free Pop Tarts? Tania, can’t wait to see you as soon as possible my darling!

Uchal- family : I love you all so much and thank you for the understanding and support. I can’t wait to see everyone when I get back. I have decided to leave NC this winter so I can spend more time in Roc City. Keep the couches open - I am coming home.

Katie- To Mom and Dad, love you and miss you.  See you soon!

Haugen- Love you Amber, Paris, Paige, Brigitte, Jack, Alex! I love you mom and dad and I for sure owe you a Halibut dinner!! Thank you all for the blog comments!

A view of the NE Fork Kahiltna Glacier.  Photo: RMI Collection

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