Friday, March 26, 2010

Thompson Creek- Maniilaq Falls

Town was a glue, a terrible glue.  It sucked at our feet like muskeg and threatened to prevent our leaving.  Nome had turned into Sodom and Gomorrah due to Iditarod.  So we tore ourselves away and headed back up the Kougarak Road late on a Wednesday night, back into the white mountains.

Maniilaq Falls (WI 2)  in Thompson Creek was about a pitch long.  It felt odd to be whacking into actual BLUE ice in the Kigs in winter;  usually these cold mountains are able to produce only alpine ice.  Our waterfall must be fed by a little tarn above it. 

There was a disturbing hole at the top of the falls in which we belayed, the obvious source of the frightening detritus we had seen at the bottom.  You can see the hanging crown face of whatever bizarre thing it was that released in the picture, below.  

Thompson Creek is a cool little cwm walled off by the north face of "False Tigaraha," an area where the pluton comes into contact with the schist;  Maniilaq was our mysterious name bestowed upon the blob we climbed on the east wall of Thompson Creek.  Many new ice blobs have been sighted this winter due to low snowfall.     

out of the cone of Hells Angel roaring
into the silence of the whackety whack and wind
 how temporary your hair in this temple of nothing
so precious your mud flows for only now
i don't want anything to move
nothing in this place must change
i tip-toe around the frowns on all your faces
we are all become the prophet on the stick
he said to make hot water bottles before you go
don't go back to town, you are not wanted there
and this is how every snow-machine mountaineering trip must end

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kayuqtuq North Face

  (left) Earp on easy mixed at 30 below, an NB (new bail) on unnamed peak located on divide between Crater Creek and Fox Creek (for fancy's sake I refer to it here as Kayuqtuq), Monday of Iditarod week.  We turned around a pitch below the summit having done perhaps 1700 ft. of Class 4/5 snow and gneiss climbing— the crap gneiss, the brown, bloody stool-colored stuff.  In background of photo you can see the formations referred to elsewhere in this blog, also fancifully, as the "C-Togs."      

I was relieved to see consternation on the normally fearless Earp's face as we dismounted our machines (my new Bearcat and the redoubtable Polaris, Crusteo.)  It confirmed what I have never been able to verify but always felt:  that it's scarier than hell to be alone up a lonely valley in the high Kigs at 40 below.  I always harbor secret terror just to be there in the deep water...

(above)  Kayuqtuq (Pk. 4,000+) may qualify as one of the rare "Four Thousanders" of the Kigs.  Kayuqtuq means "Fox" (Vulpes Vulpes).

Crunchy stabby, dagger-and-go, dagger-and-go...  we certainly would have soloed but the slabs looked so loaded man, well hung and snow-white tan, so we hassled the rope between us, which slowed us horribly.  Beautiful, arighaa, bon, bon, but did I mention it was cold?  Yes, it most certainly was, sure is cold, yessir, man!, allapa!, F-word!

(above)  Pk. 3050+, south wall of Crater Creek on the drive in;  Crater Creek is a sort of parallel analogue to Grand Central Valley 10 miles south.  The peak in this photo appears to be a sort of translation of Grand Central's Crater Lake Mountain (Pk. 3147), very confusing since Crater Lake ain't at Crater Creek.  

(above)  The Third C-Tog (Pk. 2650+)   
       Definitely uncomfortable with the naming of things.  These are not the real names.  The names on this blog are just little contrivances my brain has had to come up to cope with the hours of slogging in solitude in the Kigs.  
     What do you do when you have come to know a geological feature as a distinct entity?  You're dangling from the thing all day, admiring its form, power-lounging on its tundra ledges, admiring the view, and, at times, talking to the thing, talking to stone itself—  at some point you invent a little cognomen to apply to this geological formation so that you might refer to it succinctly in your self conversations.  So the names in this blog in many cases are just widgets of one guy's brain and not meant to be taken seriously.    (BTW people, it was not Stan's fault that the spire in the Arrigetch got called Justice Spire.  He only climbed it...)  So, why continue something sure to offend?  Because it's just too much fun!  The Kigs are a landscape right out of an Ursula Leguin novel....
       If you know the true name of the mountain, please comment...

              Often, the scarlet "L" burns on my forehead, and I doubt our decision to bail from Kayuqtuq.  Other times I trust that our intuitive apparatus was working correctly at the time, that some hurt or extra suffering lay in wait among the folds of potentiality surrounding the last pitches to the summit.  Endless vacillation between these two poles. 
        For me at least, the vacillations have tended to settle upon the former pole, the Pole of Total Loserdom.  Those last moves WOULD HAVE BEEN glorious.  It was ONLY —35° F (with the wind at 20 knots and increasing as we neared the somewhat).  We bailed at the rock bands that guard the summit, 2 or 3 pitches more of casual mixed climbing.  Question marks lurked:  there was going to be frostbite....  I see a fearful sweaty little dad go scurrying back down to the security of his fuming machine.  
      Obviously, once again I was committing the logical error of equating my entire self worth with a moment's action.  Power is gushing from the breaches in my ego.  So last night I got out The Rock Warrior Way and began patching the patches of the patches so we can go up again next weekend.  Here's a link to Arno's site   

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ayasayuk Iterations

i take full responsibility for trespassing.   

Below is a comparison.  The upper picture is from 2 weeks ago, year 2010, and the lower one is from, uh, 2002 perhaps.  It is a quarry:  the idea here is that humans must keep blasting the climbs out of existence so that they only exist any longer in the mind's eye.  Am I to be prosecuted?  What cliff, i say,  what ice?  

I so apologize for putting this person in there, this image seemed to give the best resolution of the ice:  the longish thinnish looking one in the center of photo was a pitch of WI 3+ with a short pillar section.  First Iteration Right.

Circa 2002.  First Iteration Right is at center of the photo.  It was as ephemeral as it was ephemeral.
       In Fall of 2001 or thereabouts, Mikey Lean and I drove out there after school and I got up the pitch.  Up top, I made a sitting belay on a frozen pool anchored to equalized willow tips.  Down in the darkness, Mikey thrashed and struggled and panted.  With a blood-curdling scream, she exploded off a little overhanging bulge.  I was pulled from my stance and skated on my butt toward the edge which I found myself suddenly looking down.  Mikey appeared to be cratering, but it was only her headlamp off her helmet.  I glanced back and the tiny ropes of the willow branches were completely taut as Mikey dangled in space, rotating like Dr. Jonathan Hemlock.
        The lefthand flows in the picture were easier.  I remember various climbs of these spaced over a few years, (before quarrying resumed to build the new port of Nome,) some solo, some with partners, including Paul LaBolle, longtime Nomen, who reports making an early ascent of the Cape Nome ice somewhere in the haze of the eighties or nineties.  Was Paul's the first ascent?  Did Paul climb an earlier iteration? (He couldn't remember if the climbs had changed from when he first climbed it.)  Even when the blasting started up again, the lefthand flows continued to exist a few years after the center pillar was destroyed.
       Like the year O A.D., the appellation "First Iteration" is relevant only to one person's personal reference,   there were undoubtedly earlier iterations of the cliff / aquifer system which only the old-timers remember.  It's just my little thingy:  if I come upon evidence of earlier iterations, I'm going to have to assign them negative ordinals.

  Unidentified climber on some random smear of Ayasayuk ice nestled in the folds and faults of space and time and slices of preCambrian orthogneiss.  We are used to the ice morphing and changing with each year, but the stone?

The mysterious Pig Man