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   

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