Thursday, February 25, 2010

Distin Bluff Mixed

 Bluff  (Pt. 1,129)  in front of (southwest) of Mt. Distin 

     Collins and I went back to Twin Mt. for the M3 that had been denied us due to the freezing off of our derrieres related in an earlier post, but by the time we got back on a Sunday morning, a chinook had sprung, and we couldn't cross the Snake like we had the first time.   So we thumbed our noisy hideous mobiles on down the Glacier Creek Road to that old standby, Distin Bluff, a quartzite ridge of some geological sort lying southwest of Mt. Distin.  
     A conundrum fell upon us:  whether to utilize the brutally-heavy climbing equipment we had lugged up from our machines to the base of the cliff, or simply boulder around like sprightly little spirits.  We had learned from previous frostbite:  Ropes stayed inside the pack.  Axes, helmet, and crampons came out.
     Did I mention it was cold?  Well, yes.  Lunatic cold.  Pure undiluted Allapa.  However, these little south-facing cliffs have a pleasant way of providing little sunny safe havens where you can hang out under the warm mothering influence of the stone.
     Later, Jeff and I ran west a klik over to Silver Creek to check if there was ice, and, Saints Preserve Us!, there was.  We soloed Grade I, pretending we were big shots.  Thwack went the dinner-plates.  

Earp starting M-1 solo, Distin
   Next week (the mental murk of February sometime),  a miraculous email:  from an experienced alpinist, living in Nome, with tools, jonesing to go climbing.  More than just an abstraction- it was Earp.
     We saddled up my ponies, .570 Bearcat and good old .340 Polaris.  Town had been a complicated escape.  We roared off with my note to Kristine reading: 1. Glacial Lake  2. Mt. Distin, back by tomorrow at 11:00, will G-Spot you my love.  Always put tomorrow for your return time even though you will be dead by then-  better than having THEM come for you.  KOW
     Did I mention it was cold that day?   Yes.  Bitterly.  Allapa.   Little orthoscopic knives penetrated my swaddling face masks.  It was only regular allapa on the way out there, —15° F, a breeze out of the north at 5 to 15.  The incredibly tough Earp was game to continue on into the Kigs, so we thundered past Mt. Distin, down into the spreading plains of the Stewart River, west across the sprawl of the Sinuk (upon whose totally bare ice  I lucked out unscathed for the 22.3 x 10^5 time in my life, getting thrown from my horse on a spin-out.  Need studs.)

      But when we got to Glacial Lake, something mystical occurred.  I certainly can't explain it, you hadda be there.  The cold... just.. dropped.  The temps went to minus forty, fifty, sixty, who knows?  The wind freshened to a very steady 25.  It went from regular allapa to super-mega-amundo allapa, like the tune of the cold modulating from sub-Arctic to Arctic, with inhuman arpeggios.  Only the inexplicable warmth of the snow-machining bubble kept us alive.  
     There was no question of climbing the gneiss face (Peak 2740, "Glacial Lake Peak") we had come to bag that rose majestically in front of us.  There was no question of turning off the machines.  "So?" screamed Earp over the murderous wind, "Time to get out of here!" It must have had something to do with the fact that Glacial Lake is an orographic pressure valve between the Imruk Basin and the Norton Sound, and that the colder flow sinks to the bottom.
     We returned to Distin and had a splendid day on the Bluff, not thinking for a few hours about our fortunes actively deteriorating in town.

    Whack of frozen turf not quite the same as whack of water ice, but both vibrations are equally reassuring when you are thirty feet or more, yes, she's thirty feet or more.   A torque into the monolithic here, a hook of frozen flake there, she's telling herself, try not to care, try not to care.  This sideways foot is all I have, scuttle on by, scuttle on by....

   We do not fool ourselves that this activity is any more pointless than creating big toxic sludge ponds to obtain the yellow metal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mt. Osborne Pilgrimmage

Mt. Osborne, 4704-- last saturday, Chris Miller (aka "the dentist") and I attempted Osborne-  this photo shows our high point, plus the definitive summit of the mountain-  if you are thinking of attempting Osborne and you care about which tor is the true summit, study the picture carefully-  that's about 3500 ft. of mountain there...

  here is the image savagely mangled the image by drawing the little lines of ascent i have made on the hill over the years, the ravages of ego...  the E. Face had some WI2 and M3 when Phil and I did it, 11 hours, i think--  and, i was up on that Northeast Ridge (the "4-20 Arete," 'cause i climbed it on 04-20-'06) for 7 hours tip-toeing around on alpine ice (Mikey Lean and I having nearly climbed the Northeast Ridge a month earlier in a 21 hour tour de force)...    

 confusion exists over the true summit of Osborne- the summit ridge is a long line of marble tors, running north-south, like a fence-  the mountain has been climbed many times in Nome's hundred-year history, but who was the first may never be known.... many locals say they have "climbed Osborne," when in fact they only reached the summit ridge, without bothering to ascend the alpha tor-  (but if they tell you someone has snow-machined up to the summit ridge, that's probably true...)

  the most massive of the summit tors looks like the highest in the picture, but it's not-  i call it the "Penultimate Pinnacle" which i ascended in 2001 with ropes and chocks, finding it to be about 5.6 on the south side  (Roman Dial may or may not have soloed in the '90s)--  thinking it to be the summit of Osborne, i was surprised to see, off to the north, one of the lumpier tors appearing to be about 10 ft. higher--  darkness was falling on a September evening, i had no time to traverse the  class 3 or 4 slopes over to this tor, so i retreated (and spent the night siwashing in Grand Central Valley under the northern lights next to a fire of beautiful california redwood, leftover timber from a mining ditch...)

finally made it over to the alpha tor with Nils Hahn a few years later, and have reached it several times since then, in alpine conditions (though never before March 21st, so there you go!  i have reason to believe Chris and mine would have been a FWA)-  you bypass the big tor (Penultimate) and work across  45° slopes-  the highest tor is not very craggy, with a few moves, Class 4 at best-  in winter conditions, a different story-  Chris and i were happy to be wearing the ropes, the slopes were perfectly icy, one mistake and you'd be off like a rocket-

in summer, most people can make it up to the high point without a rope, no problem-  who really cares which tor is the high point anyway?  one of these days i'll have to haul a transit up there, but even then, we're all out of here in a geological second, Osborne included...