Thursday, October 8, 2009

The "Steely Focus" Buttress, IV, 5.9

July basecamp was on these moraines. Many thanks to Bering Air for choppering us right to this spot. Around the corner to the right (south), hidden out of the picture, the barest nub of a glacier can still found-- is this one of Kaufman's 3 living glaciers in the Kigluaik?
Such a wonder to have someone out there to talk with, for once. Andy and I chatted ceaselessly. At one point, Andy remarked: "Boy, it sure takes a steely focus in your home life to keep climbing all the time." L.A.F.S. (Love At First Sight Syndrome, a resonance phenomenon) was immediately recognizable with the utterance of the phrase "steely focus" as soon as Andy spoke the words. At that precise moment, it became our nom de jour, and the inevitable name of the climb that was about to follow.

Here is Andy perching at the top of Pitch 1. Andy had spotted the line the day after our harrowing ascent of the Sulu Tor. The next morning we had hiked to a spot at the very locus of the entire cirque. We had stood on a hump and slowly whirled around, watching the walls for where to climb next. The Steely Focus Buttress had appeared to be an area of possible lesser choss among the pure choss fields.
The first pitch was indeed more igneous than metamorphic, which felt pleasant after all the terror of the preceding days. It felt a bit like Toe Jam at J-Tree for one moment. The sun heated the rock. The healing vibrations of warm granite began to repair our damaged bodies.
The routefinding presented a type of aesthetic dilemma: whether to grovel up the green bryophytic strips which overlay the more solid rock, or jam and stinkbug out on more elegant flakes which were not, in any way, not the least bit, attached to the main wall.

In the winter you sink a pick in the moss clouds, but in summer you clutch at them with starfish hands. Despite the green strips, the Steely Focus had a few nice moves in its 7 pitches. Each pitch ran consistently at 5.7 or harder (and this 5.7, of course, was rendered desperate by the choss and the crumble, felt more like 5.9.) A very cool roof, some delicate crack, classic belay ledges, very nearly but not quite a wall ambiance, lots of pro (none of it worth a DAMN but the pins!), many different route options, an extremely cool top-out at the rim, I believe it might possibly be the first route of its kind in the Kigluaik, unless you count the Chimneys of Tiresias.
Descent, on the other hand, sucked big as we tried to glissade in rock shoes. We were deep inside an amazing horrific exfoliating chasm (definition of "chasm": a fault or gully which runs continuously from the top of Suluun to the base, which might provide either ascent, descent, or egress) the 4th chasm from the left when looking from basecamp. We gave up glissading and banged in pins; they are still there but you'll never be able to reach them because there will never be as much snow during summer as there was last July of 2009 when Andy and I gamboled about there.

Here is a topo from Ian's little yellow book. Silly- but we were bored in the tent. There was definitely some 5.9 in there somewhere. There are a hundred different ways you could go. I always seem to choose the easy way. But it's death, mate, don't go.....

Once more, the secret location of Suluun, which, I believe, is on BLM land, under a outdoor recreational designation, i am sure...