Monday, March 13, 2017

Moon Mountains 2017


Nameless crags of schist by Fairview Creek

It was many and many a year ago
In a kingdom by the sea,
Two Park Rangers and a teacher
Started hiking happily

Toward the Mountains of Moon
Where exactly a year before
They had wandered lost, chilly and cross,
For what seemed like many years more.

Now, to return, and step at last
On the Mountains of Moon,
To reach the barren tundra
Where grey is the tundra's hue,

And hope that the fog racing over the bog
Sweeping up from Woolley Lagoon
Would not suck them again, completely within,
On their way to the Mountains of Moon.

rocks seward peninsula Teller Road Livingston Creek climb
Bouldering of Beringia 
To publish in a blog, the 'tudes of the Moon
Might piss off the corporation--
Not to mention the spirits of the land
That dwell in that sacred location

On a mound from the war, they left their sorry car
And headed southeast towards the Moons,
The season was Fall, Friday the call,
And they figured they'd get there soon.

But the bog was all squishy
And the mountains so far,
They pitched tents in the darkness
Still rather close to the car.

And started hiking by ten when the morning came again,
Keeping on a southwest tack,
Until they got to the cut bank at Fairview Creek
Where each one dropped his pack.

Then past the Cranestock Tors, they hiked
Past Skin Folded Badly Rock.
Just ahead lay the grey tundra bed
They had hiked so far to walk.

Derek, Lucy, and David, with the Cranestock Boulders in background.
And they came to a hutch, between two creeks,
The ptarmigan dormitory,
The birds took to the air, the hikers walked right in there,
Into the tundra food factory.

Bushes to the left, bushes to the right
Bushes above and around;
Fur on the branches, blood in the halls,
And feathers on the ground

Of  little ptarmigan rooms
Where birds hopped through the willows.
The bellhops were all foxes.
Fluffing up the pillows.

The desk clerk was an aklaq,
They saw the poop on the floor,
The three hikers tip-toed on by
Singing on the way out the door.

The doorman was a raven
Hanging with two pals.
His hands were full as he perched on his stool
With a parking lot full of owls.

All day at the buffet, with their families,
The owls were three to a bush;
With all the secondary consumers all around,
The hikers bushwhacked out in a rush.



Three photos of the hike in to the Moon Mountains. We only barely penetrated  to the lunar "playa".  The peak in the distance on the bottom picture is probably the high point of the Moons. I have not found evidence of a rock climbing cornucopia in here. Mostly the rock seems to be degraded piles of rotten marble. 

And they came to a land like the surface of the moon,
Though to the moon they had never been.
Had Qaweraq turned to Nevada?
It could have been Burning Man.

Oh, limestone is a choss rock
It falls down bonk on your head
It has saturated the soil
And turned the red to gray, instead.

No wind on the moon like they had it,
But no less of a lunar cold,
The breeze it did freeze as we hid behind a wall
That had the look of a wall of old.

"So this is all you get, well, I've seen this before, 
In Death Valley And the Bristlecone.
Will it someday be a reserve, all special and preserved,
Or hope they just leave it alone?"

Too far of a way to go
Down the Valley of Shadow
Three hikers turned round, for the Glue of Town,
To come back for the Moon Mountains tomorrow.

To the north into Livingston Creek
The travelers made their way,
An interesting drain that goes against the grain
They wandered the rest of the day.
Proof of climbing: the author, resembling a patch of lichen, is visible dangling from numb hands on another enjoyable highball at the Fairview Creek crags.

At Livingston Creek, a swarm of crags
Came up on the horizon
Lined up on a ridge
Like heads on Easter Island.

The rock was choss, as a matter of course,
A not unagreeable kind.
The vibes were good and it was understood
That there would be time to climb.

I grabbed a jug and hoisted high,
The jug held in its place.
I yarded another, testing the wine,
Just a little taste.

And then great draughts of climbing,
Of cruising over the stone,
Your ass hanging over the land
Out in the great alone.

Jugs with crinkles of lichen
Jams full of dirt and grit
Wearing the desert like clothing
Trying not to fall off of it.

Crack and chimney, crimp and bone,
Clutch on the moss, cling to the stone;
A thousand years is passing by,
A part of the rock you have grown.

Camp at Fairview Creek. Pk. 940 in background.
They walked a circle on the Moon.
It was time to get back to the module.
They got back to their tents at Fairview Crick
And crawled through their vestibule.

Nothing was said, though everyone knew
The three had changed since they began.
This place they had traveled, its mysteries unraveled,
This place where the peninsula ran

Counter to the grain, had taken them in,
This land of playa and fog;
What resonates with beauty becomes beautiful
Felt the hikers and the dog.

The GLUE of TOWN began to come down,
They rose the morrow morn,
Back to the car to go,
Someday to return.

David's record of our hike made by his Delorme, for which I am grateful, because I can't for the life of me ever figure out where we hiked in this region. The area is plagued by electromagnetic anomalies that interfere with my already poor sense of direction. It's as if the Moon Mountains are permanently shrouded in a fog of the mind as obfuscatory as the ones that sweep up from Woolley Lagoon. The jury is still out on which is the shortest way to hike in to the Moons from the road. There is a 4-wheeler road we saw intermittently that covers this same ground. Hopefully, we will return each Fall for our own, lonely, cold, Burning Man celebration. Thanks to David Panepinto for supplying a few pictures and this map. And thanks to Edgar Allen Poe.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Greg Stoddard Memorial Yahoo Ski Trip To 3870

video
Keith Conger and my dog Lucy are but specks in my primitive iPhone 4 as they race down the west face of 3870.
Looking east from 3870, May 7, 2016. Lucy is standing at the top-out of the North Face route.
      The vernal equipose when the roads around Nome are open for driving while the snow yet lingers in the mountains...  Tailgate parties on the Kougarak Road... great convoys of snow-machine trailers lining the shoulders... big gully skis on firn in T-shirts... 
     Time for the Greg Stoddard Annual Memorial Yahoo Field Trip To 3870, our annual ski descent of that most iconic of Teller Road hills, to celebrate both the renewal of Spring and the athletic debauchery of ski mountaineers everywhere, including the arch-powder fiend himself, Stoddard, who departed Nome long ago...
"Solar Sidewalk" Ski Route on Thirty-Eight-Seventy. A strip of drift-snow lingers into May and provides a continuous sidewalk from car to summit. Note the secret parking area north of road, shortly after the Woolly Lagoon sign. The yellow arrow shows where Nils Hahn and I descended a few hundred feet down onto the north face in June of 2004-- any further down the ridge to the east and we would have needed to rappel a hideous cliff.
KigBonus Pic:  Lizzy and Raina ski touring up Grand Central Valley, May 1, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

April Sinuk Weekend

     Significant penetration into the Kigs occurred early April. Like bacteria trailing the whiplike flagella of our own vanishing snow-machine trails through the freshly fallen
Blog-Lag: 33 Saturdays Ago. An all-time kigsblog high.

taken by ian mcrae at Sinuk headwaters
Pk 3050+, looking west, taken from the ridge between the Upper Sinuk and Grand Central drainages, April 9, 2016. A cool descent drops out of sight down the northeast couloir to the right, between the twin summits, the "Z-Couloir" (referred to elsewhere in kigsblog as the "Snakey Couloir"), snow-climbed to the summit but not skied by Mikey Lean and I in some distant year. (Lift leg: Mark!)

Pk. 3050+ from Grand Central Valley
snow, David, Leonard, Lupe, and I, three teachers and a park ranger, on three machines, motored into psychological darkness north of Nome on a Friday night after work, laden with winter camping gear and downhill boards for the next day. The GLUE tendrils, all those elastic lines of force that might draw us back toward town (my sled that flipped and broke on the pass between Snake River and Stewart River, the weather forecast that had predicted storm for Sunday, my own fears and laziness) stretched, stretched, snapped, and popped, one by one, with no recoil to our forward movement, as the mountains took us in, looming invisibly on all sides, mind set free.
Fine morning on Upper Sinuk
       Given that a storm was forecast Sunday, my lawyers would be bound to get me off with a JUSTIFIED BAIL if I didn't do a big climb the next day. To do a big climb I would need to separate from my party of friends, not allowable under the NO SKETCH PARTNER LAW. On the other hand, if I didn't try for a big hard-ass climb, I would place myself in possible violation of the SNOW-MACHINE MOUNTAINEERING PROVISO, which states that a snow-machine or all-terrain vehicle may only be used in support of a reasonably hardcore climbing objective, not simply for the sake of snow-machining itself. Another problem with not climbing the next day was the SNOW-MACHINE / MOUNTAINEERING RATIO: the minimum threshold is 1:1, or "fifty-fifty" snow-machining to mountaineering, but if I didn't pull off a full-value climbing day the next day, the ratio would shoot sky high, and I would once again be out of compliance with the MANDATORY CLIMBING REQUIREMENT LAW.
sinuk river looking south
Looking southwest out the Sinuk headwaters. In another distant year, Laurent Dick and I fabricated a mixed climb out of that low-angle ridge visible background left, the northwest rib of "False Tigaraha." (Lift leg: Mark!) 
      My self-prosecution received a dismissal the next day when we managed a fine little skin-up and ski-down at the direct head of the valley, thus barely avoiding a NON-PARTICIPATION CLAUSE. The deal was sealed when we saw tracks: an aklaq had recently emerged from its den not 300 meters from our chosen line. To the southwest,  weather began to loom up off the ocean and head our way. A long ride home awaited us. Dave shredded on his splitboard. I managed on my telly rig.
       Sufficient evidence of demonstrable danger on all sides forced the Kigs-Judge to throw out the TECHNICAL CHICKEN-OUT, bringing the dismissal. Redundant, really, when one considers the monumental Kigsblog vs. Allapa, where a summit attempt on Turncorner Mt. was thwarted by a long nap on a ledge and the case brought to court, in which it was decided that the presence of beauty obviates the need for any self-prosecution in the first place. 
     Beauty abounds in the upper Sinuk Valley. Just to be in the sacred cirque is rad enough, and to be there with friends elevates the experience to a joy so pure so as to consign narcissistic drivel such as that demonstrated in this blogpost to the realm of pure silliness.
ski kigluaik mountains
Tigaraha, the Finger, looking southwest. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Iyat

climb serpentine
"The PHI waves were so palpable they seemed almost to be visible."
Phi
        The moment we reached the Serpentine Hot Springs area, PHI readings shot off the scale. We turned off our snow-machines for a moment, and just listened, despite the breeze, despite our puffy headgear.


       "Ten to the negative fifth past one!"


       "Off the scale, at least for Alaska. I've only seen PHI like that in the Southwest deserts."


       "Surreal... what could be causing it?"


       "Well, that's what we've come to find out, isn't it?"


       We ripped our machines back to life and continued through the waning March light towards the National Park Service Bunkhouse just ahead, where we planned to stay for two nights while we did research in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. One-hundred twenty miles we had snow-machined to get there from Nome, often bumping over bare ground, the whole way with a daunting North wind pummeling our faces, a wind that had shut us down at one point in a total whiteout and sent us scurrying into an unlocked miner's shack to unpanic. 

        But any frostnip or ass-poundings we might receive that day would soon by repaired, we knew, with a long soak in mineral-rich waters at the end of the day, waters ionized by the very electo-gravimetric anomalies and frequency modulations we had come to study. *
The pluton underlying Serpentine hugely contributes to the elevated PHI levels of the region
        A significant domain contributing to Serpentine's elevated PHI levels is its history. Consciousness, according to Giulio Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT), is whatever level of recursive informational complexity remains after a "thing" is subtracted from the "thing itself." **  One reason Serpentine Hot Springs registers as more than just plutonic rocks and geothermally heated groundwater is the fact that humans have been visiting this site for over a millennium. Eskimo stories, rites, rituals, and experiences relating to the place of Serpentine Hot Springs are embedded in the fabric of space/time, creating coded transforms of information that contribute to a morphogenetic field which resonates in sync with the actual place. 
        The informational complexity of these human experiences adds ever so slightly to Serpentine's degree of consciousness, to an almost negligible degree, true, but one which a PHI-Sensitive Device (PSD, or "Phi-Si'" as we like to call it in the field, pronounced like "Sci-Fi" but reversed) should be able to register. ***
offwidth in crampons
Author wedged into a squeeze chimney. Sketchy doing heel-toe jams in crampons.
      So, as I swung the door to the Bunkhouse open, not knowing who our roommates for the weekend would be, I was not surprised to find several Inupiaq-speaking friends from Nome inside. Several were more than just acquaintances— they were individuals configured into the same Karass Potential Field (KPF) as I, sucked into the same causality-attractor on the day as David and I by the wampeter known as Serpentine Hot Springs. (I hesitate to refer to Serpentine as an "entity"-- much as we long for the landscape to be alive, the PHI we surveyed that weekend was just not sufficient for that kind of categorical leap.)  
       Syncronistic encounters such as meeting our friends at the Bunkhouse, on the other hand, are a predictable outcome in a micro-region charged with elevated levels of non-entropic Mental Process. If we could match the space-time of the syncronicity with a generalized PHI bulge in our data, the encounter at the Bunkhouse might offer support to our theories of rock sentience. However, we would need harder data than this if anyone were ever going to take us seriously.
climbing serpentine
Climbing around on one of Serpentine's tors in cold, snowy conditions
     The next morning, after a great night in the tub listening to Jim's wild-west tales of U.S.A. / U.S.S.R. border shenanigans across the Bering Strait in the 1970s, David and I got ready for the most important segment of our weekend scientific survey: a visit to Serpentine's granite tors. 
        Various reports had trickled in to me of Serpentine's granite, of rock so grainy it disintegrates into ball bearings at the slightest touch. If climbers in the past had made any effort to summit Serpentine's overhanging tors, on average about sixty feet high, those climbers had kept it a secret. 
        Not only had I come to climb around for fun, but to employ the stone of the granite tors in our survey of Serpentine's consciousness via the Chi Amplification Method (CAM): our PHI-Sensitive Devices would be used to harness the electromagnetic properties of the tors, which are essentially giant quartz crystals poking out of the tundra like so many Stonehenges, to detect elevated PHI levels that we suspect flow in the immediate region of the tors. The only equipment needed would be my two Black Diamond Cobras, crampons, and helmet, which I strapped onto my machine, and roared out of camp, racking the silence of the valley with the hideous whine of our machines.
Ian climbs Serpentine
Author kitted out with sampling rig: climbing gear, neural network, electromagnetic antenna

        Stampeding murmurations of caribou parted before our machines as we bumped across the divots left in the snow by their many hooves.  I drove out to the nearest tor, dismounted, and madly began to fondle the surface grains of granite.

       "This rock doesn't seem so bad."


      Gloves off, I crimped down on a micro-flake, set a plastic boot on an edge, and cranked a move.


       "Mark it down for the record— climbing is possible on Serpentine's rock."

       
       Though the temperature was below zero, the day was sunny with only a light breeze. Such an unusually fine day, it raised the spectre of Anthrogenic High Pressure Syndrome (AHPS), good weather caused by human thought, a controversial idea still only the province of Wooists and concert-goers, but shown to have an increased probability in regions of elevated PHI.  
        The tors appeared from a distance to be coated with a white frosting which I had forlornly hoped to find was a thick, well-bonded rime ice, but which turned out to be dry, cold, powder snow, useless for swinging picks into, and difficult to troll through. I would end up summiting no tors that day. 
       This did not prevent David and I, however, from completing our scientific mission: to measure the degree to which Mental Process infuses the Serpentine Hot Springs area; to calculate its degree of consciousness using Tononi's algorithms; and form hypotheses as to the causes for the elevated sentience of the micro-region.
PHI climbing
Tors at Iyat (Serpentine Hot Springs)
       We vectored our machines over to an attractive clump of granite tors protruding from what appeared to be the highest hill in the area. Here we set up our field laboratory, happy to shut down the yawping, smoke-belching iron dogs for a while. David erected his mobile neural-network antenna and wandered off to a silent corner to calibrate. I donned my helmet, crampons, and Cobras, turned on my PHI-sensitive device, calibrated, and started bouldering.
Mobile climbing laboratory at Serpentine Hot Spring granite tors
        The place was unreal. The tors were etched against the filtered arctic light as if photoshopped by a hypnagogic action. The PHI-waves were so palpable they seemed almost to be visible. Like a heat mirage that makes the road ahead go blurry, so my mind was affected by the sentience of the place. 
        As I harmonized my Phi-Si to the rock's frequency through the communicative act of climbing on it, the device began to crackle to life with that familiar buzz, not unlike static electricity, but occurring independently of the five human senses, and a quick glance at my readings showed a degree of consciousness emanating from the rock that, if not anywhere near a level that could truly be called "sentient", was at least orders of magnitude higher than the sheer fact of the matter-field making up the rock.
       But then, suddenly, I had more pressing concerns than science. So intent was I on gathering electromagnetic data, that I had not noticed myself climbing out over a 30 ft. drop. Crampon front points screeched over rounded rugosities in the porphyritic granite. For my hands there was nothing, so I mantled down around knee level onto a scoop in the granite, tools dangling, threadbare mitten palms trying to dig into the rock grains through the thin film of ice crystals.
       My Phi-Si still crackling wildly, I extended my left leg over a horizontal sill and began to worm my weight onto the leg.  I hated hearing the gore-tex fabric of my million dollar shell pants grating against the quartz and feldspar crystals in the rock. 
        Suddenly the remaining front points on my right crampon disengaged with a horrible "SCREECH!" My weight came onto the floppily cammed left leg. Was I coming off?
Panepinto
David synced to the weird vibe that pervades this area
       Adrenalin pumped from my endocrine causing my neural-network antenna to cascade and flare. At the same moment, the cusp of my own Personal Death Attractor (PDA) shifted, slightly, imperceptibly, but measurably closer to my present point in the space/time continuum, where my body clung desperately to loose little sand piles of snow perched on rounded ledges. 
        I felt my PSD crackling with indicators of Mental Process, like a cell phone vibrating in the middle of a sketchy climbing move, but I dared not pay any attention to the device. Every facet of my being was focussed on the weight shift onto my left leg.     
       Also simultaneous with my risky activity occurred  a Continuum Shift (CS). Every individual act I had ever perpetrated in my entire lifetime elongated an infinitesimal distance within space/time as my Death Attractor hove closer to my consciousness proximity. The boundary layer of my Infinite Possibility Matrix (IPM) shifted frames, not far enough for me to be truly worried-- I was confident I could climb my way out of the situation without dying-- but far enough, I hoped, that I could parse evidence of the shift from the data once I took it home to Nome for analysis. 
David Panepinto
David taking readings on his PSD
         I bouldered for hours, staying close to the ground because of the slippery sketch-factor. Unprotected chimneys and offwidths will be the key to summiting the granite tors at Serpentine, though with the PHI-readings we registered that weekend, climbers would do well to avoid probability shifts that might result from too aggressive a Summit Orientation Ego Indicator (SOEI). 
      David wandered the corridors between the tors, collecting photographic data, though pictures, like words, are of limited value in conveying the feel of the place. Like the place is watching you. Like the place is all inside your head, which it certainly is, by definition, because the Serpentine you experience is only a version of the Serpentine itself streamed to you by your brain.****
Ian McRae
Selfie of author. Note the damage to the protective plating on my PHI-Sensitive Device.
        In the midst of bouldering, I suddenly realized my data was invalid. There was no need, even, to take it back to Nome for analysis. The Chi Amplification Method (CAM) I had devised relies on the essential prerequisite that the climber become ONE WITH THE ROCK. This is what makes the calculations possible. If climber (x) is one with the rock (y), then both climber and rock can be assigned a value of 1, making possible a simple mathematical equality, x=y. Consciousness levels are measured by whatever factors sway this equation into an inequality, but it is essential the climber eliminate all emanations from his or her own ego, and quiet the superfluous electromagnetic chatter that fills the cerebrum. The experiment is sound, but the tolerances and error margins associated with it are quite minuscule.
       My brain was too scattered. My mind was way too busy with silly thoughts, useless concerns, comparisons, rankings, cravings, anxiety, and also a creeping torpor that has come upon me in middle age. Usually, the act of climbing is sufficient to calm these flurries of extraneous thought, but not always. Most of the data my PHI-Sensitive Device carried turned out to be only a reflection of my own neurotic tendencies shining against the Plato's Cave wall of my narcissistic consciousness. For the CAT technique to work, the climbers mind must be totally empty during the interval the body is making moves over the stone. 
       Later, when I ran filters on the climbing data to extract the Mean Fun Index (MFI), it was found, surprisingly, despite the cold and tricky climbing conditions, to be of a very high magnitude of order. 
boulder Serpentine
Attempting to enact the CAM method
          The GLUE of the hot tub began to tug at us forcibly like a tide. Resistance was futile. We suspended our rock investigations, and departed the cold, breezy hilltops for the hot mineral waters in the enclosed tub at the Bunkhouse. 
       Water does not afford as effective an electromagnetic charge for our PHI-Sensitive devices as does rock. The entropy of molecules in a liquid precludes the temporal stability needed to access the phase variances for consciousness detection. Plus, the hot water seems, in general, to exert a dampening effect on our devices, so we did not so much view the opportunity to soak as research, but as a chance to relax. But as we pulled into camp and switched off snow-machines, another piece of data was about to fall into our laps.
       Our theory predicts an increased probability of spirit animal interface in a wilderness region with elevated PHI (genetic similarity is a medium of resonance), but it was still with shock and awe I looked into one of the sleds outside the Bunkhouse and saw three wolves laid out by a hunter from Shishmareff. Our PHI-Sensitive Devices would surely have registered a PHI spike at this space/time transect, but by the time I encountered the wolves, our devices were soaked, and possibly giving off false readings.
north side Kigluaiks
David testing for LPR from the north side of the Kigluaik Mountains on the return ride
        In the morning, after another night in the 102° F waters, in which discussed acupuncture points of the Seward Peninsula and their true Inupiaq names with our knowledgeable friends, we saddled up sleds and prepared for the 7-hour ride home to Nome. 
        The objective functioning of our PHI-Sensitive Devices seemed to be affected by the soaking they had received the day before. The whole ride that day they gave readings as if PHI levels were remaining abnormally high, a measurement we thoroughly suspected as corrupt, though there was no denying the dreamlike feeling that made the surroundings whizzing by at 70 mile per hour speeds look more beautiful than anything I had ever seen. 
         Through white shrouds of 3-dimensional gauze we flew down a perfect trail made flat by a dusting of new snow. Across the rolling hills of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, back over the Kougarak Bridge, the Kuzitrin Bridge (really the Cushman Street Bridge from Fairanks) where the view opened up and the north side of the Kigluaiks was revealed in high-resolution image. Long-wave PHI Resonance (LPR) from this highly sentient range of mountains would have registered on our Phi-Si's had they been working properly. I gave up on executive function, and just let the GLUE of TOWN slowly draw our machines in like doomed satellites in decaying orbit.
          What puzzled me was that PHI readings remained elevated for days, even once we were back in Nome, as if the phase variation of Serpentine Hot Springs had followed us home and clung to our perception like a drug trip that won't wear off. Regular objects, paper clips, the Post Office, the neighbor's dog, took on a sensory luminescence that lingered for days, long after our trip to the sacred wilderness area was over. It was paradoxical enough to fool me into thinking that the elevated PHI-levels we saw there were just figments of my own mind, a common mistake made by old-school Mind researchers. I am confident that once I get better data and the math nailed down, I will be able to account for the lingering effect of the Hot Springs. 
      After a few days dealing with humans and foibles and jobs within the GLUE of TOWN, the post-Serpentine luminescence wore off completely. Our PHI-Sensitive Devices once again showed a base reading of 1.0. Life had lost the post-Serpentine glow.


"PHI readings remained elevated for days, even once
we were back in Nome"

FOOTNOTES


* This article is only a blogpost of a trip. Hard data analysis will follow when the project is completed.


 **Disclaimer: Other than having read links on the internet, I have no real idea of what I'm talking about here. I need to order some of Giulio's books and read them, also, take a refresher course in Calculus.


***When I use the word "thing", I am referring to any number of dynamic processes for which we may draw a definable boundary. Most likely, there is no such thing as a "thing" for the reason that what we call a "thing" always turns out to be an emergent feature of some dynamic process. 


**** It is extremely important to connote here that the word "brain" implies not only the brain itself, but a triad of brain, nervous system, and Human Electromagnetic Energy Field (HEEF) generated by the human body. The HEEF is an often overlooked sensory organ critical to the energy transformations studied on this trip. Any further questions may be directed to the What Is Mind? thread on Supertopo; somewhere in all the links and pontification, the answer can be found.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bouldering 2015

       For any climbing narcissist seeking to assuage their desperate need for ego recognition, Facebook provides a far more efficient spray-device than a blog. So prodigious a spray-device is Facebook, I routinely chicken out of posting on it. Of course, I could paint a noble picture of my self and claim this is because Facebook violates the ancient taboo against bragging, or that my ego structure is so Buddha I have no need of simulating my territory to the map of Facebook, or that action is all that counts in this life, but that would be a lie, only to mask the fact that I am another person ruled by fear, prevented from posting by my own introversion and social anxiety disorder. 
      So this blog it must be, a smaller, more obscure nozzle to release the great tensions of the ego. "Pee-marking" is what I call it on Kigsblog-- gaining attention online for a move of climbing you have executed. Giving in to the irresistible urge to claim credit for an act of climbing, a first ascent, or even a second first ascent. To matter, for an instant, in the eyes of others, before geological time subducts the climb you have proudly done into an eroded, toxic miasma of the future.

Nome Alaska ice climbing
Great mud mounding action this year, climbing on frozen tailings
     Always bouldering... three days a week, four, all year round. Wandering in a dream state, executing little yoga moves on loose rock. Kind of an odd behavior really... A child lost in his imagination. humming softly to himself as he imagines a great abyss under his feet. I am Walter Bonatti stemming a dihedral on the Jorasses, with the soft ground one foot away. In the summer, rock shoes, in the winter, crampons and ice tools. It takes a fervent imagination, but if you can sustain the illusion, the rewards include a reduction of stress, freedom from lower back pain, and abundant adrenalin, as suddenly the child snaps into reality to find that the ground has become much further away in reality.
Nome Alaska climbing
James on the Orange Wall (5.10a) at Engstroms Mountain
       I hereby officially claim during the 2015 bouldering season that I spread urine on every square inch of rock within a twenty mile radius of Nome. That is, executed or repeated any and all climbing moves which might within an error range of three YDS grade levels be deemed a V0 or easier, (that leaves an awful lot of harder problems left for YOU to claim) at Anvil Mt., the Windmill Boulders, the Sunset Boulders, the Penny Boulders, the awesome Penny Crags, King Mt., and Engstroms Mt., in multiple visits, in continuous circuits, by car, snow-machine, or ski.  MARK!  MARK!  Can't anyone smell this? Look what I can do!
Nome rockclimbing
James on his "first trad lead," the fun Chimney Route (5.5) at Engstroms
        No. The weather and the tides will wash away the scent of your climbing. New climbers will come and lay their pee-marks over yours. You have bolted no sport lines, you have published no guidebooks, you have left the crags the way they were. Others will post on multiple websites and lay down a golden sheen over these pitiful squirts. There will be no recognition, no ego-satisfaction. Narcissus is forced to get up from the side of the pond and just go climbing, despite the will of the Gods that he be cursed for an eternity to dote on his own profile.
climb Nome
The big bouldering news of 2015 was the long-awaited send of the Courtyard Arete (5.10b) at Windmill Rocks, a high-ball with a treacherous landing. Many was the time I fondled the creaky flakes of the last move, but backed off, as in the photo above. This year, the Courtyard was filled with an extra padding of drifted snow, ten feet thick. Sure felt good to crank off that last move!

      Now there is only the next move: a patch of toe rubber oozing off the hold as the areoles of lichen crumble underfoot. A centimeter of chrome moly steel cammed into an icy crack in the schist. The blue of the ocean hoving into view as you struggle to get your foot up so you won't have to look like a noob and use your knee at the top of the crag. And now you're about to break your leg and crack your skull and lie paralyzed dying in the cold as you realize you did not bring a cell phone. It was all meaningless and pointless. The only reason to climb was to climb. There was nothing to say about it all along.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cape Nome Ice, Iteration 2015

Cape Nome ice climbing
In December light, James is climbing quarried chunks of granite held together by frozen mud
Red arrow points to Ayasayuk, Cape Nome. 
Nome ice
Third Tier ice, 2015. We climbed a dirt/ice line out of the picture to the left. James was fated to leave town, the Winter Solstice world grew mega-cold, and the GLUE OF TOWN sealed me over. I never made it back out to climb this pitch.

       Cape Nome lies about 20 miles east of Nome. Viewed from Nome on a clear day, the bluff resembles a 5-mile long sausage, with the seaward end of the sausage visibly gnawed-on. Drive out there on the Nome-Council Road and the gnaw-marks prove to be the 450 ft. high Cape Nome Quarry, a long-time source of “industrial grade armor stone and rip-rap commonly used on seawalls, causeways, and breakwaters,” and also, my secret, no-doubt-trespassing, little ice climbing area in the late Fall. 
        So loose, such a hanging mine field of rock and mud is the Cape Nome Quarry, that one would never set foot on it unless it were well frozen. The Quarry is a little microcosm unto itself, a self-contained space shaped not unlike a Greek theatre. The ice that "cryo-sucks" down the face each year is a study in randomness, for no two years are ever the same. Somehow, a central flow always develops, but the path followed by the water varies according to a complex equation involving temperature, saturation, and dynamite.
         We are used to the ephemerality of ice, but this is ephemerality of Earth. Some years the quarry face has been blasted away completely leaving no trace of the climb from the year before. There is something satisfying about doing a climb which has never existed before, and will probably not exist into the next year. This year's iteration of Cape Nome did not offer particularly high-volume ice flows, but it did offer the usual helping of climbing adventure as I managed to once again to ascend the quarry face from bottom to top, up the middle of all four tiers. 
Cape Nome ice climbing
James hiking the First Tier, Council Road below
Cape Nome ice climbing
Ayasayuk, November 2015

       I drove out there twice in late November to check it out. Some interesting pillars of ice had blossomed, but my first order of business was to complete the yearly game of ascending the quarry face from bottom to top. I started up solo, but in the middle of the third tier, the ice receded into the mud wall, leaving me looking at a hundred feet of exposed, frozen mud soloing. All I could think of was how much better this mud section would be if I could go back into town and talk James into coming back out with me to hold a psychological rope.
       So we returned in early December. Technically, it was James' first alpine climb. Too bad his first ice climb had to take such a ghastly form. Stupidly, we double-rode on the snow-machine to get out there, bumping across the tundra, getting lost in the fog, and overheating the machine as people passed us by in their nice comfortable trucks up on the road, which was still open, it turns out. 
       We accessed the magical quarry kingdom from one of the access roads that transverse the face, and then dropped down to the main Council Road to make the full, bottom-to-top ascent. The first two tiers of the face are a casual mud romp, no rope necessary. Frozen mud seems to behave exactly like ice, and crampons and axes work quite well if the saturation is right. In between the tiers, the access roads provide big, spacious ledges.
        The Third Tier is the highest of the four tiers, more than a pitch. The main ice flow could be cascading down on the right in a spot that was different than the year before. A new pillar had formed, and above that, ten-inch thick slab of ice was trying to adhere to an utter hanging shit-pile of creeping granite blocks. I fully intended to return for this ice a later date, with a rack of stubby screws and a James now schooled in the ways of ice climbing, but for now, the line was to take the path of least resistance, up a mud groove to the left with an easy piping of Grade 1 blue ice at the back of it.
       At the spring, the high point of my solo a week earlier where the ice recedes into the mud wall, I made a good belay and brought James up. It's not like the next pitch was hard. There's not a hard move on it. There is just something hideous about steep frozen mud climbing. The medium is like real ice, so you whack your tools extra hard, but you feel like some sort of slump or solifluction is going to suddenly pitch you off and down the 45° slope in a great clattering, clawlike mass of spikes and rope. I drove a few Snargs and Spectres straight into the mud. They wouldn't have held a thing.  I really don't know what James thought of the whole charade as he is always rather an inscrutable lad, but I do know I was overjoyed to have him there holding the useless belay. Hard to say whether that pitch was a Class 4 scramble up some dirt, or a real pitch deserving of an "M" rating. Probably the former....
       The Fourth Tier, only about 60 ft. high, offered more flows and steep ice, but the afternoon light was throbbing with darkness. We did an easy pitch up the middle and reached the top. Waves from the dim sea lapped against the beach hundreds of feet below. An emaciated Red Fox watched us curiously. The December sunset was only a red smudge against the gray pall in the west. The lights of Nome could already be seen, and the GLUE of TOWN began to suck us slowly and inexorably toward it.
Cape Nome
Third Tier from the Proscenium
ice climbing in Nome
Looking down Third Tier
         As we zig-zagged down the access roads in the big, deep, Arctic dusk of December, still wearing crampons because the roads were a sheet of ice, I noticed the hydraulics of the ice flow underfoot. In places, birms made by machinery had caused the ice to pool up and grow thicker. Could it be that water flowing down the access roads is the source of the ice flow at Cape Nome Quarry? I had always assumed that some type of aquifer was leaking out the scar of the blown-out bluff, but this makes little sense given the elevation of Cape Nome and the fact that water does not flow uphill. 
        Geologists do not seem to have come to a consensus regarding the Late Proterozoic meta-granite of Cape Nome. Is Cape Nome related to the meta-igneous gneiss of the Kigluaiks thirty miles to the North? Just what is this anomalous little intrusion of ancient rock doing here?Marine life seems to get bunched up in the waters off the cape. Before the dynamite and the flu epidemic of 1918, plenty of people lived on the bluff. Strange little men called isragak roam the grassy headland. It was named "Ayasayuk" by the natives, "Tolstoi" by Captain Tebenkov, "Sredul" on an 1852 Russian hydrographic chart, and finally, "Nom" by Sir William Kellet, though what the British explorer meant by writing that word on his map is anyone's guess. 
Cape Nome Quarry 2003
The glory days somewhere around 2003 when that Grade 3 ice on the right used to come in. This is almost an entirely different cliff than the one in 2016 (though odd vestiges remain). Begging forgiveness from BSNC...