Sunday, October 8, 2017

Highly Resistant Boulders of the Hundred Year Old Rockfall

Leonard and I made it into Windy Creek in July, 14 Saturdays ago. It was one of those trips you go on anyway even though you know the entire trip will be cold, wet, and miserable. Leonard tried to sleep in a Megamid and got eaten by mosquitoes. We stayed one night and then bailed, soaked. On the way out I asked if Leonard could shoot me posing on the "Highly Resistant Boulder," one of many at the Hundred Year Old Rock Fall.
       I am prepared to disclose the location of the best bouldering spot in all the Kigs. It's on BLM land, so what is there to lose? But what impulse would drive me to such gross indiscretion? Feathers of toilet paper will soon be clinging to human feces all over this fragile environment, all because of a blogpost that was written too clearly, with directions too precise. Perhaps it is because there is nothing else to write about. The trip last July really was as gray as this washed-out image off my not-dead iPhone 4S depicts. What else do I have to offer than the location of the best spot in the Kigs.
     It's the "Hundred Year Old Rockfall" across Windy Creek. This is only what I call it, though it has to be older than one hundred years. The area is clearly visible on the original USGS map from 1915, just past the turn-off to Mosquito Pass, three miles north of Northstar Creek. There. It is done.
      Many years ago, a huge swath of "highly resistant coarse-grained politic paragneiss and schist" spilled off the west sidewall of the canyon. Windy Creek eventually cut through the obstruction, and carpets of tundra populated the tumbled boulders. Little waterfalls thread their way through some excellent and varied bouldering terraces. You could have the Pocatello Pump there, but you'd have to helicopter in a few smellies. And I will be prosecuted in Kigscourt for this post.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oro Grande Cirque Ski

BLOG-LAG:  16 Saturdays ago....

GLUE is the force preventing you from getting to outdoor recreation.
       Significant penetration into the Kigluaik Mountains occurred the second weekend of April. Or, should I say, significant infection, for what are outdoor recreationalists but pathogens invading the otherwise healthy outdoor environment?

David skinning up, Oro Grande Valley, looking northwest.
Click here for climbing trip report from 2012
        David and I prepared to go winter camping at Mosquito Pass. We would snow-machine over the pass on a Friday night and camp on the Cobblestone flats, then skin up on Saturday into the five-mile long Western Cwm of Mt. Osborn and make a ski descent of Peak 4500+, "Peak Grand Union," a close neighbor of Osborn, and the second highest peak in the Kigs.

Looking northeast from
Oro Grande Valley.

       Early last Spring season, I was hit by an injury that every alpinist dreads: I became involved in a play in town. "Good In The Country" it was called, an operetta composed of local songwriters' songs. Playing joyous music with friends, having TOTAL fun, has proved to be a substantial constituent of the GLUE of TOWN. The trip with Dave would be my last chance to get some serious training in preparation for my upcoming trip to the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter in June, before the GLUE of the PLAY would set up like epoxy around my boots, binding them firmly to Nome itself.

Not the line we skied.

      This attempt with Dave on Peak 4500+ constituted no less than my eighth attempt upon the north-side Kig. All other attempts had ended in failure and wild shenanigans, failure due to laziness, WORK GLUE, route finding error, and snow-machine hubris, well documented in the following posts:
Zero For Seven on Peak Grand Union Part 1
Zero For Seven on Peak Grand Union Part 2

The line we did ski, but it got too icy.
       We never had a chance. Zero For Eight on Peak Grand Union, Part 3. Friday evening rolled around and the GLUE had gelled onto the surface of everything and stuck there in opaque clumps that greatly slowed the process of leaving town as planned. Sleds, lashings, linkages, caps, shelves, walls, boxes, phones, mittens-- everything had clumps of this weird, jiggling, GLUE-like substance clinging to it.
       "Hey, I'm not ready. Let's just go early tomorrow morning."

More north-facing topography in our
side valley off the Oro Grande.

      By the time we arrived Saturday at our camp on the Cobblestone, it was 2 p.m. Too late to slog all the way up the Western Cwm to access our objective, Peak Grand Union. The weather report called for low-pressure to start barreling in the following afternoon on Sunday, so the jig was, once again, up.  Now that the GLUE had won, my switch was flipped, my plot was shot, leaving David and me free to simply wander randomly in the mountains without an agenda. Accordingly, with the remaining daylight we set out on our Sno-Gos, for all intensive purposes the Che Guevara and Alberto Granada of the outdoor recreationalist world, looking for something to do in that most holy and beautiful of ranges, the Kigluait.

Moon over Western Cwm,
looking east from Oro Grande Valley,
April 2017

         West up the Oro Grande Valley, we threaded willows in the gullet, then introduced our noise pollution into the upper valley, trying to gun our throttles over sastrugi and rocks. A fine-looking ski area came into view on the left, a north facing cirque spilling forth fresh terminal moraines, so we parked machines, disengaged boards, and from our parkas produced skins with still-warm glue which we affixed to the base of our skis and started up, me on my Tazlinas and Dave on his legendary Split-Board, until the parabola of the slope grew too steep for skinning, and the soft snow to boilerplate on the upper mountain, making our skins prone to dreadful, explosive blow-outs that sent us sliding backward down the hill, whereupon we chopped out ledges into the slope to serve as a base of operations for de-skinning and assembling our rigs for the downhill run. For some time a distinct sun/shadow line had been stalking us, and now overtook us, but as we swooped downward we passed back from the shadow into the sunlight, leaving two harmonized sine waves tracking across the zones.
A. The cirque where we went boarding  B. Camp on the Cobblestone Flats  C. Peak Grand Union

Bonus Pic from April 2017: Emily getting into the spirit of Beringian
bouldering. There was no ice at Dorothy Falls, so we clung to
thawing choss in order to get a workout.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven

Author posing on precipice, main summit of 3367 behind.

        If the Kigs are indeed mountains, then "Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven" is one of the range's great peaks.

       First of all, that number— 3367— while not a prime, the prime factorization includes 3, 7, and 37. My sense is that this figure had to be a close estimate by any of several U.S.G.S. surveyors from the earlier part of the century with a predilection for interesting numbers, probably bored with assigning 4-digit elevations to various Beringian prominences. The theory of bored surveyors might explain why the elevations alone in the Kigs are often sufficiently euphonious to stand alone as names. 

       With this theory in mind, I regret suggesting the Inupiaq name "Pingaroot" for Pk. 3367. At the time I came up with this name (or,  rather, when the mountain whispered its true name to me, which might loosely translate into English as "Three Gables") I was caught up in the Kigsblogian "Reverse the Trend" Movement, an effort to reverse the historical trend of assigning place names of European derivation to geographical features of Alaska. My regret comes from the conviction that the name "Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven" is a hard one to beat.
       Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven really sticks up from many places in the range, undoubtedly why the U.S. Army Map Service chose to install a survey station mark on the summit in 1949.  From the Cobblestone Valley to the north, attractive rock routes await a first ascent on granitic gneiss. The gullies that drop to the south, along the moderately steep mountain wall that extends from Pk. 3367 to Pk. 3213, are excellent for skiing, and highly approachable by snow-machine. Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven is a peak that a mountaineer might return to again and again.
         Three trips to 3367 I have made, the last two times accompanied by badass downhill skiers, both of whom I deprived the summit of 3367 by misdirecting them to the wrong gable of the mountain's three gables, repeating the same misdirection twice in separate years. This Spring it was Wilson, about to graduate from High School and leave for the greater ranges (to whom I facetiously said on the summit, gesturing to the entire Kigluaik Range, "All this is your's...") Back in the spring of 2011, the victim of my poor directional sense was Tyler, whose fine photographs of the trip I have finally, only now, been able to pilfer off Facebook, and which feature prominently on this post, without his permission. (Thank you, Tyler Rhodes) The moral of the story is that it's rather hard to distinguish which peak is actually 3367 from the bottom of the nameless valley to the south, so FOLLOW THE MAP closely.
Central Kigs from Teller Road:
A. Pk. 3367  B. Mt. Osborn  C. Mosquito Pass Peak
D.   Pen Tri Cwm  E. Tigaraha  F.   SaGuiq

Pk. 3367 from the north

Location of PK. 3367, Pingaroot, Three Gables Mountain
Iditarod week, March 2004. 
       FOLLOW THE MAP was all I had my first time to Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven. A thick, fat, hungover FOG obscured the morning. Alone, I drove for three hours through 100-yard visibility into the Kigs, in terrible fear of the zero visibility, and of my first ever snow-machine, a Polaris .340 that would eventually earn the name "Crusteo" which I had purchased from Morgan's Sales and Service just the year before. This was to be the snow-machine trip where I passed from beginner to intermediate, but first I had to get there. 
       Every single one of the 35 miles into the peak was permeated with a strong, palpable sense of DREAD, of wanting to turn around. The claustrophobia of fog creates madness, a dream of incubi pushing on your chest, a prison sentence, an anxiety attack that won't cease. Every single half-mile I stopped the machine, fished map and compass out of parka pocket, and carefully correlated the base of hills and mountains where they disappeared into the clouds with their counterparts on the map. Just a little further. Squiggles on the map were tiny injections of reality into a vast fog bank of unreality. In this way I tremulously made my way up the Snake River, across the Stewart, and through Silver Creek Pass.
         Arriving after several hours at a main river recognizable as the Sinuk, I so wanted to turn back, even though the Sinuk meant I was close to Peak 3367, my destination. If my calculations were correct, I had reached the Kigs"deep water", past the point of return where self-rescue becomes a hassle involving an all-night ski, frostbite, aircraft, and panicked friends in Nome, and this in the turn-of-the-millennium days before we all carried panic buttons with us. Wilderness is a sense as much as anything, and getting to the Sinuk always feels like traveling past the continental shelf where the water all of a sudden gets colder as it gets deeper, or like the abyss hoving into view beneath your feet while climbing, a sense of: Shit Just Got Real.
Tyler's calendar shot, author with Soul Powders on board, hiking up Pk. 3367

"She's just waiting for the summertime when the weather's fine.
She could hitch a ride out of town and so far away 
From that low down, good for nothing, mistake-making fool
With excuses like 'Baby, that was a long time ago,'
But that's just a euphemism 
If you want the truth he was out of control,
But a short time's a long time 
When your mind just won't let go..."
       Is this how Kristine felt? The new mother remained behind in our house on Fourth Avenue with our brand new, two month-old daughter, Raina. My mind was further fogged by the disequilibrium of the new father, a mental residues from confusion and miscommunication. 
       The only machete that allowed me to chop through the GLUE that day was Jack Johnson's new album, On and On, playing strong on the mental soundtrack in my head in those days before headphones. Just when the FOG seemed too dense to continue, little trickles of Hawaiian sunshine would trickle through Just a little further. For weeks, Jack had been most effective in rocking colicky baby Raina to sleep in my arms while simultaneously keeping me the exhausted dad awake and standing upright, and now Jack was powering me as I paddled out the back to my appointment with 3367. 
But somehow I know it won't be the same
Somehow I know it will never be the same 
Looking northwest from 3367. The granite mass of
Suluun is visible on skyline

         I arrived at a hilly place I calculated to be the root of the beanstalk where it disappeared into cloud. It was Peak 3367, but I was not certain.  
       But surely today cannot really be a climbing day! The FOG pressed down, a terminal illness, an inescapable responsibility, a bad romance. Behind the fog, the spatial yawn of remote wilderness. Driving a snow-machine is quite a different thing than shutting the thing off for hours and hours, leaving the complicated hunk of metal to frost up while you climb into bad weather wearing increasingly soggy underwear. Today's trip is just a snow-machining exercise, right? Time to turn around and head back for the Wet Buns contest in Nome
          But then, a sign from the heavens... Through the muffle of FOG blanket, I heard the clear sound of an airplane several hundred feet above. Think about all the times when you're sitting in the plane and the mountains look like islands in a sea of vapor.
          Thirty-Three Sixty-Seven is easy from the south. I don't think crampons were even needed. And sure enough, precisely at the 2900 foot level, I mantled right out of the fog onto the cloud ceiling. I paused for a moment, mid-mantle— my legs remained submersed in gauzy cloud, but my torso had broken through into the sun. The caterpillar sheds its skin.
       Only the highest of the Kigs three-thousanders formed islands in the sky, from the main island of Mt. Osborn a short way across, all the way over to the Singtook at the western tip of the archipelago. I wanted to walk across the FOG and inhabit each and every island. 
         But you get no photographs... The climb took place before the invention of photography. All you get is this confusing description of the internal and external landscape as experienced by one guy's subjective consciousness.
Couloir between Pt. 3050+ and Pt. 3200+ 

 Pt. 3050+ couloir
April 2011
     The first time to Pk. 3367, FOG, dampening my sensibilities, had forced me to concentrate, to overcome the A.D.D. that usually runs rampant in my brain, and so conversely provided me with a more accurate map of the outside world than I would have had otherwise. Justification for medication?
      But the second time, when I went back to 3367 with Tyler Rhodes seven years later for a ski descent, the day was bright, the visibility excellent. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, I assumed the mental map I carried in my head matched reality, and started up the wrong place.  We ended up atop Pt. 3050+, the penultimate gable of "Three Gables Mountain", the next bump to the west of the main summit. Tyler craved ski more than summit, so on we clapped them, and swooped down. 
       Even more rad was the couloir we skied later that afternoon on Pt. 2550+, a peaklet a couple of miles to the west of 3367.  We easily machined to the col at the very top of the valley (a valley for which some type of name would be handy, leave comments if you know) where it dumps over into the Glacial Lake cirque. Little hope exists that a snow-machiner might continue down the other side without ending up tangled wreckage and body parts strewn over rocks. 
       We parked machines at the col and skinned up some peaks to the south. On that day I was riding Tyler's "Soul Powders," his rather chattery tele skis he had abandoned long ago for the European rig. I was proud, for once, to keep up with Tyler for a whole run. Normally, I would have had to don crampons and down climb what he skied.
Looking west from west summit of 3367.  This picture was taken
in 2011 by Tyler, but shows the peak that Wilson  and I skied off of  recently in 2017.
April 2017
       Six years after the route-finding error with Tyler, having failed to register the event as a learning opportunity, I sent young Wilson up the same wrong part of the mountain, denying him the main summit of 3367 as Tyler before. Like Tyler, however, Wilson seemed less concerned with which was the highest bump on the ridge than which was the best line of huck.  The Nome-grown, incipient badass carved down a face through steep little channels formed between many sharp rocks, while I hobbled down from the top on boot ski, old and brittle. We met up with Leonard and Lupe at the bottom and all zoomed up the valley for more fun and boarding in the High Kigs, before commencing the long ride home via Silver Creek Pass and Snake River Valley.
Mr. McRae's class skiing with the Ski Ku, April 2017.
      Many of the images used in this post were pirated off Tyler's Facebook. Thank you Tyler, let's go back. Here at Kigsblog, an image is considered nothing more than "blog seed," necessary only for the orthogenesis of text, and never a means to its own end. So it is an honor to have excellent photos from someone who knows what they are doing. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Oregon Creek Hill

       Broke GLUE-LOCK on early February weekend, Mr. McRae and Mr. Lastine, astride fearsome, belching, two-stroke torpedoes aimed west away from Nome, to climb and ski the mysterious hill at Oregon Creek, "Pk. 1900+", a foothill of some prominence left out of my foothill report from the Winter of 2015.
nome ski snowboard oregon creek snow-machine penny river
Looking up Oregon Creek. Pk. 2900+ in background. Super Smooth Andy G. in foreground.
     Mr. Wind had destroyed our snow even before we got to it. As we dismounted machines and disengaged boards at Oregon Creek, Pk. 1900+ rose bare before us, slopes of snice corrugated by schist chips, once-fluffy snow like we had skied the day before on Newton ABSOLUTELY POUNDED by a continuous blow-holes into a veneer unskiable, at least by an old telly dad with my pitiful skills.
Parts of the old road are still visible and helped us get through the willows to the gulches on snow-machine. Saw no cabins, but lots of remaining ditches on the hillsides
Leonard Lastine snow machine master       The greatest excitement occurred during the snow-machine phase, of course, the most dangerous segment of any trip, when, unbeknownst to my own awareness, I executed the most prodigious jump ever accomplished by myself on my snow-machine (the redoubtable Bearcat, Super Smooth Andy G.) when, purely by accident, I launched off a bare tussock at high speed and sailed 16 feet over a creek. Leonard, following my tracks, wasn't as lucky... his front end went into the creek and he over the handlebars, his face smashed in the process.
        "How is my face?" he inquired.
          Oh no, the wedding is off. It was like that Seinfeld episode where George drops the guy at the Shawangunks. How is his face?
          "Not gushing."
           He examined himself in my phone. Nothing to do but get back on the hogs and GUN IT onwards toward our objective.
Nome Alaska ski Nome Teller Road hill
    Did I mention it was cold? Allapa, allapa, yes, cold as a van of I.C.E. Agents throwing up dust in a carrot field. Since I had never climbed Pk. 1900+ (though it has undoubtedly been well walked-over by members of the Oregon Creek mining community who lived at the foot of it some time last century), I left my skis strapped to Super Smooth Andy, and set out to bag the summit. Leonard couldn't go up because he had neglected to bring his Micro-Spikes, and the snow, which could no longer be deemed snow but simply ICE, seemed really a bit treacherous, take-off-like-a-rocket-on-easy-ground kind of thing.
Nome Alaska hill summit climb ski snow-machine
Shadow selfie on summit.
       "Could this be the mist bootyful somewhat we half ever seen." Just short of a Donald, Pk. 1900+ evinces a pleasing architecture, the ridges like runnels, the kigs-view as encompassing as any hill's, jagged as it is into the big flows of weather that stream across the peninsula between the Norton Sound and Imruq Basin, the very flows that had hardened our ski into an ice climb. 
       With the attainment of this high point, all of my dreams and ambitions had been realized. Buddha-hood, achieved. Ego/Id structure, momentarily stabilized. My self-identity was no longer in doubt for I had become nothing. There lay the Kigs in the near distance to the north. The GLUE TENDRILS simply vaporized into wisps that dissipated in the clear, cold air. 
Nome Alaska Seward Peninsula ski snowboard adventure
One looming question remains. Is Pk. 1900+ the intriguing summit that often pokes up behind the Snake River hills as I am driving home on the Beltz Highway from Nome? The one that sometimes gets mistaken for Osborn because of the way it pokes up? In other posts,, I have attributed this peak as Pk. 1460, the one out by Cabin Rock. So I drew this little map to see if there existed a line of sight poking through the Snake River hills. Thinking now that peak must by 1900+. What an utterly exciting discovery to make in a mundane life of driving back and forth from Nome to home.  

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

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


climb serpentine
"The PHI waves were so palpable they seemed almost to be visible."
        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?
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"


* 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.