BLOG-LAG tremendous. The Kigsblog-year is in danger of lapping itself. It's almost time to return to Ayasayuk for the new ice climbing year. This is an update for the last two.
|Quarry face, November 2016|
The idea was to blog the iterations of the quarry as it develops over the years, adding to the layers of information like successive tree rings each December when the rivulets freeze into ice, when all the ice climbers in town drive 15 miles out to the point of land with their ice tools brandished, intent on grappling the ice and frozen stone dust that glues the hanging rubble to the quarry face. Each new year brings a subtle deviation in the layout of the cliff. Or sometimes a not so subtle deviation— during the years of the Shishmareff seawall project, the entire cliff was blasted away into infinity several times, hence the iterations, but there is always a path of least resistance for water to find its way down, and so there is always some kind of thin, wandering ribbon of ice to climb, even a pillar or two, if the gods of the quarry have been kind to ice climbers that year. For the hardcore Valdez climber it would all be weak sauce, but this is roadside ice climbing in Nome, let us be thankful for any helping of that.
With only minor variations in the last three or four years, the iteration has remained the same. This tree ring represents climbing adventures from the last two years, as I did not manage an Ayasayuk post last year. Each year, the game is to follow a Direct route up the entire cliff, bottom to top, incorporating as much ice as possible. Lamefully, I haven't successfully completed a Direct since three years ago with James.
The First Tier presents only steep hiking, a chance to test the bite of your crampons in the frozen stone dust of a new day. The crux is crossing the road, the boundary of trespassing, trying not to be glimpsed by cars as you leave the road and launch directly up the quarry face— this is uncool, to climb here, and I will be cited for this blogpost. You soon come to the wide access road at the top of the First Tier. Solariums have been installed at the top from which to view the surrounding amphitheater. If you think about it, the cliff at Ayasayuk represents a 430 feet tall void left by the earthly removal of the bluff once known as Ayasayuq. But what does not remain remains a place of power to this day.
More fields of hanging stone dust lead up the Second Tier. The motions involved with climbing the dust mimic those of true alpine climbing. Sometimes blobs of real water ice seep from the Second Tier, but not for the last two years, so you just kick your way up great buttresses of steep, hard dirt. The consequences of a wee slip from the dust slabs are not just a mimic of alpine climbing, however, but the real thing: possible enmanglement.
The Third Tier is the main business, the highest of the tiers, a pitch and a half of climbing up to the next access road. The weeps and seeps have followed variable patterns the last few years, but the usual Direct route has gone up a not-very-steep mud runnel with a ribbon of water ice at the back. The runnel pools out at the top and vanishes right into the stone dust. To complete the Third Tier the climber is forced out onto the hanging dirt fields, easy terrain, but palpably creepy, and studded with rip-raps of gneiss that look like they were arrested in motion mid-roll. Typically, I solo up to the frozen pool halfway up, where I file for a petition of chicken-out, and downclimb. Three years ago, James and I made it up the Third Tier: we draped the rope across fins of frozen stone dust, pretending it was pro.
They shaved away the Third Tier until the face of the quarry was about level with the the top of the bluff. However, a few more little rises remained in the bluff profile, unshaved, so a few more access roads went in, creating the Fourth Tier, a 50-foot cliff situated in a little network of roads at the top of the quarry. This road network pools up with Fall rain in unpredictable ways to create a head-dispatching system for all the frozen flow below. With a minimum of treachery, tope ropes can be set up for practice on Grade 2-ish and 3-ish water ice, and there's often"childrens ice climbing area" with perfect soft landings in billows of drifted snow.
It's all coming down on you
There's nothing you can do
And it was me that triggered
The death cascade.
Cracking, shouts, thundering,
Let your destiny ring!
Ship is going down
Just jump the whole thing,
While I stand to the side
Watching you drown.
I'm sorry we never danced around
Or stopped at the Safety Saloon
The lights of town
Were always dragging us in.
Now the climb is gravity's child,
Groaning half ton blocks
Right down on your timeline.
Now the climb is coming down
Right into our face
If ever we get back to town,
Never go back with you to this place.
Peemarking, in a 2-year tree ring such as this post, presents a technical challenge due to my complete lack of recall. I do remember soloing around. I whacked tool into every chunk of ice that was present. I do remember air under the crampon points, and punch-card holes spent on objective danger. I remember chickening-out of every climb I started up. I remember David chunking his way up some wet flow on his first day ice climbing. But I do not remember enough details to lift a leg and make a confident peemark (a claim of real climbing using locations, grades, nomenclature). Any peemarking claims I might try to make would only spray, dispersing message. Too bad there so few ice climbers come to Nome. David went south. Lack of climbing partner creates such a weight of nothing. No partner creates psychological rope drag holding you back from a partner that's not there. Chicken-out is reduced 75% when there is another climber present. If only there were another climber besides the great lone ME hanging in the sky, blocking the sun.
|Map showing Norton Sound Coast inupiaq place names, found in a random drawer at Nome Elementary School|
Earth energy streams eastward off the Pacific, into the bottleneck of the Norton Sound, and gets channeled up against the Norton Sound coast between Cape Rodney and here, bathing the bluff in PHI waves. The other key ingredient for sentience is present: a rich archaeological history of the area. There may no longer be a kasGi every seven miles, no more L.A. coastline glittering with lights, nor even a big encampment of families a fathom down where the water is now off the beach at Nook, but stone memory is slow to dissipate. Ishigait, little people, still roam the place, manifestations of morphogenetic eddies, like dust devils of PHI, potential nodes of mental process. Does an ishigak climb ice?