|Top of Buffalo Creek, looking west to Pt. 3270|
Due to a BLOG LAG of exactly one year, Kigsblog is currently "lapping itself." Now it's time to blog about the white stripes I skied a year ago, but they greatly resemble the white stripes I am skiing now. A resonant frequency is created in the seasonal blog amplitude between action and writing about action. A stroboscopic merging of the two streams is throwing off bright spokes of snow that blind my eyes and burn my skin, and all point to a central conclusion: this is a WARNING TALE of climate change. Skiing never used to happen in June in the Kigluaik Mountains. Now it seems a periodic occurrence.
|Pilgrim Springs area, heading for Crystal Kingdom|
|Looking north across the Kuzitrin|
As it was for 2018. The participants were Otis Stoddard, Luke Stoddard, and me, Deke Stoddard, along with Rattler, my good dog. We drove west on the Teller Road and the Singtook drew closer. Soon we could see the mountain wore a gauzy veil of wind, and we knew that buffeting was in store for us that day, but at least there was plenty of snow cover upon which to ski after the blizzards of 2019.
|Snows of 2019, Nome, Alaska|
Though the run down the west ridge might not have mustered an"extreme," it nevertheless required skills. The firn snow on the summit ridge was scalloped with rime peanuts as we carved between granite outcrops with a low hum of wind underlying everything, then down past the fabled 3870 lake into the fun middle part of the descent where you make S-turns down an 80 ft. wide couloir in snow that is usually friendly if it has been heated up by the day or rained on, then punch a couple of turns around a narrow isthmus of boulders at the bottom of the couloir and start the schuss down the lower slopes, preserving speed to make it to the car. The day provided a Stoddard that the three of us will remember for all time.
|Stoddard Bros 2018|
|Radio Tower 3870 summit|
All the Stoddards this year are either young, extremely fit, or both, except for me. No one seems any longer to exemplify the spirit of sybaritic impairment and moral decline that marked the original Yahoo Expedition to 3870 in the presence of the Arch Fiend. I have forgotten my skins, but fortunately, the spring firn is firm enough for walking, and the Stoddards only have to wait forty-five minutes at the summit for my arrival, whereupon they clap on their Euro skis and launch straight down the west face, not the west ridge, because there are copious amounts of snow once again this year and rains have made the snow rather slow and soggy and it is clearly the year to ski the face.
I get out on the face in my beat tellies and duct-taped Terminators but am afraid to throw a turn on the steepness, so I traverse north on edges to where it's a few degrees less steep and I am free to start hucking huge sets of sine wave turns while the others wait below at the lake for the old man to catch up again.
I can remember decades ago standing in a group of young badass friends waiting for the old man to catch up. How beautiful are life's processes that have put me back in the old man position. White stripes of the present and white stripes of the past are both perhaps present in white stripes future. Only the patterns hold, even as the details are polished away in a defective memory. It's all a blur. Hail to the spirits, and hail to the white stripes of summer. (Greg, if you are reading this, I'm really not sure why you were chosen. I think it's like one of those mundane little expedition jokes that people keep repeating over and over, but now I may have blogged into permanence...)
|Stoddards, 2019. This is the only picture I took.|
The rest were taken by Otis. Thank you, Otis.
|Upper Singtook, June 2019|
|Middle section - fun couloir|
|Start of upper west ridge, Woolley Lagoon on horizon|
|While they party on the summit|
|Here cometh an aged mountaineer|
The superposition of wave states has my mind greatly interfered. THEN and NOW are superimposed on the oscilloscope of consciousness as I procrastinate this very blogpost by getting out into the gullies instead of staying in and writing. I drive my buggy across the three roads of life through the wavy white stripes of this year's harvest, bobble-headed for the line of the day, when I should be at home slowly carving away all this excess verbiage. I must escape this BLOGLOCK and make it to the hot, sunny mountains that wait outside this cyberspace, but the white stripes of summer must first be rendered by stream of consciousness, into which there is no other choice but to lapse. I must complete this post before I can leave for the mountains again...
|The Construct, Buffalo Creek, diagonal at center. Only 1500 ft., great for earnyourturns skiing|
Buffalo Creek, June. Following the summer threshold of the Stoddard ritual comes the Buffalo Creek phase: big days up at Nugget Pass on the Kougarak Road, multiple zooming day trips with friends or alone with dog, speed up that Kougarak Road like Neal Cassidy or even Fred Beckey at the helm of his pink T-Bird, pull over on the shoulder by the moose signs and wallow in the glue of the car a while, then slam that door and break glue, load skis on your back or on your feet, and head up Deep Creek to vanish into the very earth of the mountain itself. Bands of parallel snow crackle all around as you ascend. A minor pass dumps you a couple hundred feet down into a brown canyon where legendary ski runs come down the wall in bars of white like paint runs, Sister Turner, the Construct, others, all manifestations of an algorithmic code that forms the Matrix.
Such a great glitter of stripes, the memory is almost solid white, the sequence lost, and now is random. Can a damaged brain remember any details at all? Only the pattern which repeats...I remember good times with Otis, discovering new tors at the top of Deep Creek I never knew existed, shooting half pipes over giant sags of snow collapsing into the creek, bouldering on gneiss in Scarpa Terminators. I remember a solo camping trip in which I demotivated on continuing down into the Thompson Creek Cirque and contracted a sunburn lying around the tent so bad the tattoos lasted the rest of the summer. Half the trips to Buffalo Creek, overall, must be conducted in some degree of whiteout. Was 2018 year we skied in complete nothingness with Robin and Daisy and Luigi and the Construct got its name, but only theoretically because we could never be sure what we really skied? Do you think that's air you're breathing? But that event was outside the purview of this article, because Buffalo was white that day, and this is about Buffalo's stripes.
|Otis, Rattler, and Tor|
|Above Deep Creek|
|Deep Creek is the approach of choice to Buffalo Creek|
We met a pilgrim out there on the road, one of these types of hot spring seekers who was just feeling his way towards the hot pool in a tiny car, without a whole lot of information to guide him, and only a vague awareness of where he was. "How far is it? Am I going the right direction?" He had heard there was a hot springs out here somewhere and was just following the other birds. "They'll have to close the road soon if they're letting these types in," I remarked presciently to Otis. We felt somewhat superior to the tourist because we were parking our car before the springs and heading off toward the bowls on some fat white stripes we were riding.
Summer had advanced, snow had receded, and stripe navigation was complex. The trick is to stop differentiating between snow and tundra, and just churn ahead over tussocks, through willows, and across creeks, leaving your skis on as if they were giant hiking boots. Instead of swirling snowflakes, clouds of mosquitoes came at us. Instead of hypothermia, heat exhaustion. Otis and I assembled a set of meaningful ups and downs that took us across ribs and bowls. It was art: a pastiche of turns, threaded rocks, skinny snow isthmuses to link patches, swoops, forks, stripes... I was disappointed not to bag any high-value northside summits, but the summit is not the point, it's how you put together the stripes.
|3 Mile Hot Springs Road|
|Spider Bowl, Crystal Canyon, ?|