Barcroft Winter Trip

March 13 and 14, 2009

John Smiley

Larry Freilich crossing the high plateau west of Piute Mountain (looking south).

I hiked up to Barcroft in March 2009 in order to check the station batteries and add water to them if needed, and to repair the internet connection. I was accompanied by Bishop Resident Larry Freilich. We left Bishop at 4:30 am and drove about 1/2 way up West Piute ridge (a.k.a. the Moulas Mine Road), when we realized that the 4WD on the truck was not working. We turned the truck around and drove down to the highway where we met Gary Milender with a different truck. So much for an early start! We drove up and parked at the Moulas Mine.

We finally got hiking at 7:30 am and headed up the mountain. There was about a foot of soft snow which increased to 18" or more in many places. The snow was very light and the snowshoes floudered a lot. The sidehill traverses were moderately difficult but the sagebrush flats were much softer, with each step being an effort. We learned to look for windscoured flat surfaces which could sometimes support your weight. As we climbed the conditions got better and by the time we reached the Barcroft gate the snow was easy to walk on. Still, the 7 1/2 mile trip took us a little over 10 hours. We arrived at about 6 pm. (click on photos to enlarge).

White Mountain Peak from Astronomy Dome, 3-14-09

The main goal of the trip was to check the station battery system, for which we are trying voltage settings for preventing overcharge. Thus far the settings have been too high and the batteries have hydrolyzed away a lot of water. The previous setting of 56.4V was still too high and the system lost 4 gallons over 6 weeks. This is better than nearly 2 gallons per week in mid-January, which we lost with a setting of 58V. On this trip I reset the battery diversion setpoint to 52.8 Volts. This should prevent the batteries from overcharging and boiling any more water, yet allow a full recharge in the mornings.

After spending the night in the station (the station hydronic heater kept the station a balmy 41 degrees F all night long!) I hiked up to the Astronomy Dome and re-set the power supply to the communications system. Then, after a breakfast of oatmeal and kippered herring, and about an hour to go through the shut down procedure, Larry and I headed down to the gate. We made it to the car in about 6 hours, following the "high road" just below Piute Peak and descending all at once down west Piute Ridge.

John caught red-handed by astrophysics web cam on Saturday morning. He was out taking the pictures shown below.

Barcroft Field Station in all its glory.

The pens and large animal building for raising sheep. The research is designed to understand and help babies in the womb who are suffering from hypoxia (low oxygen).

The Barcroft Astronomy dome.

The power supply for the communications equipment.

Snow drifts in front of the astronomy labs.

More drifts. What is funny is that there are no drifts on the other three sides of the buildings, just on the east (leeward) side.

The Barcroft inverter system. The batteries are in the insulated box to the right (the lid has been removed for maintenance.

Just east of the road - a possible site for solar panels.