Earth Hour

March 29, 2009 at 7:54 am

If you haven’t met me, or read the About Us page yet, I (Kate) am a graduate student at Colorado State University, working on my Phd in Atmospheric Sciences. More specifically, I’m doing research into the methods used to include the effects of clouds in climate models, and hoping to improve our ability to forecast weather, climate and future climate change.

Working in an academic environment, full of atmospheric scientists, has been a truly wonderful experience, and one thing we all end up talking about is our impact on the very thing we have devoted our lives to studying. Topics of conversations around our “water coolers” invariably end up returning back to ways to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints.

In Fort Collins, our carbon comes from the same general mix as the rest of the country. Electricity production and transportation are the two biggest sources, with electricity beating transportation by a measurable, but relatively small, chunk. This EIA report has great statistics all the way through the end of 2007. In Fort Collins, most of our electricity is generated by the Rawhide power plant, just north of town, which has improved emissions greatly in the last few years, but still helps Colorado into the “dirty” category on some carbon monitoring sites.

Earth Hour Mark

On Saturday night, between 8:30 and 9:30p, we participated in Earth Hour, by turning out our lights. While I know this really won’t reduce carbon emissions in the grand scheme of things, Mark and I decided to add our lights out to the rest as part of the “movement.”

It didn’t really look like a movement from where we were. Most of our neighbors were out for the night, so their lights were off anyway. Those that were home stayed on. I didn’t see any grand gestures or amazing splotches of darkness.

I think there’s more than one ethical question to be had about “lights out.” Most of our per-capita carbon in the US comes from power going to industrial and municipal sources. Office buildings with lights and computers on all night, towns with lights on parking lots 24/7. But this isn’t necessarily a “waste” of energy as many people suggest. It is a safety issue. My dad often talks about New York and other cities turning off the lights to save energy in the 70’s, and the huge spike in crime and murder that followed.

So, in my mind, turning off the lights might be a nice thing for the environment, but I do recognize the reasons we keep them on so often as well.

Earth Hour Kate

But for our Earth Hour, I took the chance to happily unplug from the world. I took a wonderful long bath, and then fell asleep at 9p. The lights didn’t come back on in our house on Saturday.


March 26, 2009 at 7:42 am

As I’ve started to grow my garden, I’ve also started to grow a few houseplants. I have a couple succulents, including the ever useful and difficult to kill Aloe Plant. I also have an incredibly hardy orange tree, that I’ve tried to kill several times in the last year and half, but it just keeps plugging on. It’s got three little green oranges on it right now! In Colorado!


Last weekend, I repotted the tree into a much larger pot, and noticed a handful of these little wormy/catapillar bugs in the tray below the plant. When I repotted the tree, the roots seemed in good shape, and I sunk the tree deeply in moist, rich, dark compost and then brought it back inside. A few days later, I was examining the roots and noticed that there was an explosion of the little wormies. I pulled a few out and eventually identified them as millipedes.

Millipedes from the Orange Tree 03-09

I always thought millipedes were much larger, and lived in outside gardens. However, this tree sat outside all summer last year, and seems to have picked up a bit of an “infestation.” The new, moist compost has made them VERY happy as well.

I’m left with a sort of a quandary here. The tree is big, and the pot is huge and heavy, so soaking the plant or roots to kill the buggies is not really possible. I have, after reading a bunch on the interwebs, learned that potted plants should only use sterilized potting soil. But this is a tree. Do trees grow in potting soil?

In a few weeks, it will be warm enough outside to move the tree back out, and then I don’t really care if there’s millipedes in the pot. They don’t seem to be harming the tree at all, especially if they’ve been in there all winter. My current line of attack is to fill the top inch of the soil with Diatomaceous Earth. I think this will keep the ‘pedes in the pot, at least until I move the tree outside again.

Millipedes from the Orange tree 03-09

Vedauwoo Season Opening!

March 21, 2009 at 7:12 pm

The weather has been warm, beautiful and dry for months. Our soil is drying up and blowing away on the Front Range. The water managers are starting to wake up at night screaming about the snowpack. And Mark and I were able to get in spring climbing at Vedauwoo a full month earlier than usual.

Mark getting geared up for our day

We pulled out all of the reslung cams on Friday night. The week before, we invested in a new pair of double ropes (Mammut Genesis 8.5mm) to use on Lumpy and in the Park this summer. I also even bought a new Petzl Reverso 3 when I discovered last week that the edge on one side of my old one was worn to a razor sharp edge. So, all kinds of exciting new gear to play with this weekend too!

New ropes and a new Reverso!

There are very few climbs in Vedauwoo that you can reasonably do with double ropes. The subset of these that are south facing is an even smaller number of climbs. Luckily, Ed’s Crack fits all of our criteria. It’s two pitches run straight up a beautiful hand crack to a short off-width roof. A double rope rappel gets you right back down to where you started.

Looking up at Mark on top of the first pitch of Ed's Crack

Mark was so excited on Saturday morning that he taped up before we left the house. As we pulled out of the driveway, our neighbor stopped us to talk, and exclaimed “Mark! What happened to your hands!?!” We looked at the medical/athletic tape covering the backs of his hands and laughed. “Nothing, yet.”

The main area was still closed when we arrived, so we parked (for free) outside of the gate. There was snow back in the trees, but the road, the base of the climb, the crack and the top of the rocks were all completely snow-free. The sun was shining on us all morning, right up until we set up the rap for the trip down.

Summit shot!  On top of Ed's

We ate lunch as the clouds and wind rolled in. Our ambition to climb more was eroded faster than the dusty topsoil in my garden. We hung out with a cool guy named Chris who was out ropesoloing 4th of July crack that morning. We hiked around the base of the main area and checked out Mainstreet (10a) and Fallout (9), both of which look like they’d definitely go.

It was a warm and mellow day. Shocking weather for Vedauwoo in mid-March. Though, two days later, the weather in Vedauwoo looked like this…

Monday's weather was a bit different

We might not be back for a week or two.

Hiking Greyrock with the Gang

March 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

It’s spring, it’s my birthday, and I’m lucky enough to have my favorite group of friends together one more time. Over the weekend, Dylan and Ann came up from Santa Fe, and we joined them with Doug and Liz and Sean for a big dinner on Friday night and a hike up Greyrock Mountain on Saturday. There’s some pictures from the sunny Saturday hike in the gallery.

Heading up the trail to the summit!

The hike to the summit of Greyrock is a classic jaunt, starting in the Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins. Doug asked me how many times I’ve hiked this trail, and I came up with a number around 12. I think Saturday was our 13th! It’s amazing that you can do a hike so many times and still love it so much. It was a beautiful day, a wonderful place to get some more miles on my boots, an amazing view, and great friends to share it with.

On the Summit

Kate on the summit blocks

Thanks, everybody, for a great day, and sore legs! Let’s do it again next year!

Liv is having an awesome day!

What’s going on here?

March 11, 2009 at 7:26 am

Thanks to great blogs like Think Buddha, I’ve recently stumbled across the fun little app at While word clouds are nothing particularly new, this site does a fantastic job of simply reading in your most recent rss entries and creating a beautiful piece of word art, concisely showing what it is you seem to be most interested in blabbering on about.


In word clouds, the most common words are the biggest. So, in this blog, I mostly talk about Mark! This seems appropriate. I also use the words “sun,” “roof,” “climb,” and “image” a lot. Must be the trip reports. But right after Mark is “Get.” Hmm. Really? I’ll have to watch that one. Surely there’s better words out there than “get” to use all of the time…

What does your Wordle word cloud look like?

Taxes Finished!

March 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm

My feelings on Taxes… (click on image)
Black Books Clip
My only regret is that the clip does not have “Quick! Get the hobbling post!”

So, I finished. Hooray. Sunday is completely gone. I deserve fruit pie. Liv, put on your walking collar, we are gonna hoof it over to the supermarket and get Daddy some sweet treats.

Kate’s Free Desktop Image 8

March 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Well, it’s definitely starting to feel like spring out side, and in Colorado, that means lots of wind, and a good bit of snow. We haven’t had much snow, but we’re doing just fine for wind around here.

I made the image here as a comp (composite) in Photoshop using two pictures. One was a wide-angle shot of the clouds with the sky darkened using the circular polarizer. And the other was a 300mm telephoto image of the moon on a clear sky during another afternoon. I think it turned out ok. As usual, I’ve saved the image as a few different sizes for the most common screen resolutions. Feel free to down load the one that works for you by clicking on the link to the correct size below the image!

Sky Scape

1024 x 768, 1440 x 900, 1600 x 1200, 1680 x 1050, 2560 x 1600

Climbing in the Desert, Part 2

March 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

On Sunday morning, we rolled out of the tent and were greated with overcast skies and a chill in the air. We took our time getting the camp cleaned up, making breakfast and getting ready for the day. After a few hours, the clouds burned off of our part of the valley, and the sun came out. The temperature started to rise rapidly, and we decided to head to the nearby cliffs in Sand Gulch.

There’s photos from the weekend in the gallery.

Rapping Contest Wall

When we got to the Contest Wall area of Sand Gulch, the area was quiet, and there were only a couple of people around. The sun was shining brightly, and the cliff was very warm. I spent Sunday basking in the spring sun in my tank top. The weather at the rim of the valley felt for all the world like a beautiful mid-summer afternoon.

Mark and I dropped the rope and set up to climb Times Square (5.8) for the morning warm-up. After a fun romp up that route, we hiked down the trail a bit further to check out some new routes that we noticed the last time we were up there. There are probably 2 or 3 new routes just north of Suburbia, and I haven’t had much luck in finding out information on any of them since we got home.

View towards the far wall of Sand Gulch

We decided to climb a long route, covered in pockets and bulges, that stuck out a bit from the wall, and was south-facing enough to get sun when the rest of the east-facing crag was starting into the shade. Mark put up a nice, long lead. The rock was sandy, and felt sketchy and full of possibly loose holds. The top of the climb was confusing, as the bolts moved right around the side of a huge (4ft) roof. Once Mark made it up to the bolt to the right of the roof, he was not sure where to go. He called over to somebody on top of a climb about 20ft to our left, and they said there were anchors about 8ft to his left. He made a careful traverse across the edge of the roof, 100ft up, with all of the loose rock and air of the valley below him.

When it was my turn to follow on top-rope and clean, I was pretty nervous. The rope was bent over the lip of the roof above me in a creepy looking way. Shelf Road limestone can be soft and sandy or bone hard and sharp as needles. This route had layers of everything. The pockets were huge and fun, and pulling the steep overhang on big holds was awesome. But that roof. Woo. When I finally got up to it, I wasn’t sure what to do. If I went right, Mark assured me that the traverse across the lip would be just as unprotected for me on a sideways toprope as it was for him on lead. I couldn’t find anything to use to pull up the bottom of the roof from below it. I ended up swallowing my pride, swinging out on the rope and bat-manning (pulling up on the belay line to haul myself up a few feet) up to eye level with the edge of that big roof.

Our last climb of the day was a new route - maybe 5.9?

There were jugs all over it! And the rope was in good shape on a flat section of wall, in no peril of damage from sharp rock. I hooked my heal and pulled over the edge with a little hoot. I cleaned the route and came down just as the last of the sun left our wall. So, we packed up and hiked back to the car. When we got back on the road, my hands were raw from the rock, my shoulders and stomach was sore from climbing, my back and cheeks were stinging from sunburn. That’s a good weekend.

Kate enjoyed the warm weather a bit too much.