Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pk. 2345, Johnstone Creek

..saw this tor (left) on the hike out... was hoping to redeem myself for the "insufficient fifth class" foul I had received on the trip thus far... i bounded up the thousand-foot slope expecting a summit tor with mandatory 5.8, but it turned out the tor wasn't a tor at all, but more of a scarp, built into the hillside like a sod house... the back side required little more than class II moves to reach the top.   .

    The west side of the tor, however, sported some precipice action... bouldered this 25 ft. route (right) to the summit of 2345..  warm, sunny day... curious little falling away sensation when you finally hang back into the air...  thoughts in the head clean up desktop... tune in the head clarifies.... ear pressure changes white noise as assemblage point of energy body shifts... but it was only for a moment...

   (above)  A 2 m. chunk of white marble near the top of Pk. 2345.  One sees these white rocks scattered everywhere around the Seward Peninsula.  Have you ever mistaken one for a patch of snow?  People will knowingly pronounce it to be quartz, but I believe the correct answer is marble.

   The 2345 Tor I climbed, iamprettydarnsuresortof, was granitic gneiss... in other words, the pluton, a piece of the bedrock poking up through the shell of schist...  Pk. 2345 is one of many triple clashing zones where the three dominant geologies of the Kigluaiks coexist in one place:  the granite, the schist, and the marble.  

   The Amato/Miller map seems to refer to this spot as a "strike and dip of foliation" and gives a "trend of stretching lineation."  Studying these geological hieroglyphics, which I am not fully equipped to understand, led me to believe the map was saying 2345 Tor was formed by a slippage along a fault line, like laying two books together and then sliding one up an inch...  the tor is the part of the one book that's sticking out... 

   Too bad it wasn't the dream climb I came for... very recommendable as a hiker's summit... high meadows,  soft tundra beds with flowers, a bit of decent rock awaiting more routes, falcons soaring nearby...

  Here is the view looking south (above) from Pk. 2345, which is the arc of the panorama I left out in the tragedy constituted by the previous post to this one...  I just haven't come to know this part of the range well, yet... the apical mountain there in the very back, furthest south in the picture, is the great Singtook, Pk. 3870, the western sentinel, battering ram of southwest storms, the ship's prow, lead Tooth, third highest in the range, trickster, beacon, the Mt. Washington of the Seward Peninsula.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peak 3000+, Southwest Ridge

  WHY AM I COMMITTING THE WRONG I'M ABOUT TO COMMIT?  I've become a stamp collector with a little album.  I have used Photoshop to type little numbers on the mountains, which I shall now categorize, classify, number, name, shuffle, and dote over.  Even more absurdly, they're only the Kigs, barely even big enough to qualify as mountains, mere dunes, really.

   Answer:  I'M HAVING SO MUCH FUN DOING IT.  There is something about the Internet, with all that consciousness pulsating through each keystroke, that is blowing away my lifelong writer's block.  Every unit of suppressed spray accumulated over years is coming bursting out, accompanied by features formerly poo-pooed, such as maps, pictures, and route descriptions of climbs which are not even climbs at all, but firmly belong in the category of hikes, such as today's feature.  Blame it on the utter transparency of the Matrix.  Couple this giddy loss of cyber-inhibition with the giddy fun of hiking and climbing in the Kigluaiks, and click!, you have these transgressions.  I invoke the Alex Lowe theorem: FUN is the measure of the climber. 

"...Go out and have entirely too much fun..."    Doug Buchanan
(above) Pk. 3000+,  one of the high points on the divide running west from Glacial Lake.  Class II.  It was a hike-up.  I got a funny feeling it has been ascended before.  My first foray of the summer into the high Kigluaiks, the well-springs of power, chi, prana, sinh tala in Athabaskan.
(above)  The ridge took about an hour.   "The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun."  It was so much fun last week to simply be hiking up a little mountain,  not surfing around my own event horizon on a death-pile.
(above)  Looking east around the bend of upper Johnstone Creek canyon.  Pk. 3000+ in background.

     MY EXCUSE for LAMENESS, for not seeking out a pocket of true, TECHnical climbing:  this was an exploratory trip

    Never had I properly explored the western side of the Kigs, it was time to do so.  The goal was to find a southern approach into the Kigs from the Teller Road into Canyon Creek, where lurks granite.  The GLUE of town was attached to my ass like a stretchy tendril, so I couldn't stay in there long enough—3 days, 2 nights— to do justice to my explorations.  The resistance of the GLUE was greatly increased by my extreme and irrational BEARONOIA, though once I got out there with my cannon slung over shoulder and madly singing, I saw literally no critters at all the entire three days.  

    So, what follows, simply because it's so much fun, is a little panoramic indulgence.  To a true Kigs enthusiast it would prove irresistable and might help mediate the disgust you should feel at this public disrobement of beauty.  It should also remind you somewhat of a dog trotting in circles peeing in various places systematically and with great enthusiasm.  Do dogs not have fun when they do this?  And is not FUN the justification for today?

Thanks to "Bedrock Geologic Map of the Kigluaik Mountains," by Jeff Amato and Elizabeth Miller.  I am butchering the geology.

(above)  View looking east from summit of Pk. 3000+.
1.  Tigaraha.  Means "finger" in Inupiaq. I've climbed it by at least 3 different routes, with Mikey and Lahka, but don't know who made the first ascent. Gneiss.
2.  Pk. 3367.   Visible from many places. A landmark.  Cobblestone headwaters. Deserves a name.  I've always called it "Three Gables" ("Tikilik" maybe?).  Climbed it solo one Iditarod on a mystical snow-machining day. No idea about the first ascent. Schist.
3.  One of the Grand Central or Crater Creek peaks.  It's probably Fox (Kayuqtuq), poking up from behind.  Currently stalking this one. Gneiss and schist clashing zone.
4.  [i think] One of the Grand Central peaks that form the right side of Grand Central, Pk. 3190. I always call it the "Mother." ("Aana").  Snow-climbed it one spring via machine. Schist, as are the next two.
5. A little Grand Central peak, 3290 [i think]. I always call it "the Child" ("Uiviilaq").  Skiied with Tyler and Keith one year.
6. Tallest Grand Central Peak besides Osborn, Pk. 3922. The "Father" ("Aapa"). Cramponed up with Phil on a very cold January day.   
7.  Mt. Osborn, Pk. 4714, King of the Kigs. First ascent unknown, at least to me. Do not leave comments reminding that it does not matter, we know this. Maybe it was Osborn first climbed Osborn?  Probably a hunter from Beringia.  It's only a rolling, flowing lump in the mantle.  My understanding is that Osborn is a giant chunk of "meta-sedimentary" marble riding up on the pluton.

(above) Looking northeast from Peak 3000+.
7.  Osborn, with [probably] unclimbed west face.
8. Pk. 2490. Just north from Glacial Lake on the right.   
9. Pk. 3320. I mean the peak down below the little red "9".  
10. The north peaks of Osborn. (one on right higher.) 
11. Suluun, the Dorsal Fin. Andy and I did 3 routes there. 8, 9, and 11 are a line of the orthogneiss, pink on Jeff's map.
12. East terminus of a line of jagged peaks visible from Teller. Are they the "Sawtooths"?

(above) Looking northwest from Pk. 3000+
12.  I've heard them called the "Dragontooths" and the "Oro Grande".  "Sawtooths" works.  Ascents by Amato. A ridge studded with granite tors.
13. Pk. 3700+ over by Falls Creek. I would like to know more about this area.
14. Pk. 3300+.  Granite.  I suspect it of having non-hideous rock climbing.
15. The mysterious 3850+.  One of the higher elevations in the range.
16. Canyon Creek.  MUCH more searching for real climbing to be done.

   O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven...
    It hath the primal eldest curse upon't—
And yet, here's one more.  A sign of aging, plus extreme self-centeredness, plus lack of job.

(above) TR region, Johnstone Creek area
1. Pk. 3000+
2.  Inuksuk pass (see below)
3.  "Johnstone/Right Fork Pass" I had good walking on snow fields, probably a doable snow-machine ride in winter if there were not cornices..." 
4.  Pk. 2930 a slice o' the gneiss
5. Pk. 2710 couple of hour backpacker's climb, I didn't get to it.
6. Another way to get over to Canyon Creek. I'd wager it's machinable.
7.  Pk. 2345  I climbed a little 5.7 on the summit tor;  this is a classic hike.
8.  My bearanoid campsite, out of the way of the main corridor. 

(above) inuksugait  Strange to be surrounded by homunculi in the lonely mountains. Here is a link about rock piles that took seconds to find:

...and so there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it, and I ain't a-going to no more

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spring Bouldering

     Have continued to languish in the River of Forgetfulness:   warm, golden, syruppy, midnight-sun BOULDERING sessions around Nome, the high Kigs but a distant memory.  Post school-year lapse is to blame;  every year it takes me at a week to recover from the end days of school.   I am too exhausted in the first days of vacation to do anything other than slump.  Any grade-school teacher will understand.      
    How could an expedition to the remote hills be mounted at such a time?  This is a time for merriment, music, parties, and the crucial, often underestimated, human-bonding.  That the weather has been fine through these days of peace and love has only exacerbated my guilt at failing to extricate from the glue of town.  But the BOULDERING, nightly BOULDERING... that is what gets a climber through. 

(below)  Old picture of Mylon Schield on a (granitic) gneiss boulder at the Sinuk headwaters.  This is BLM land, so you can actually sort of talk about it without fear of impending ethical thunder clap.  From Nome, getting to the gneiss (ohjustcallitgranite) generally requires a day of hiking.  
     Came to Nome 10 years ago expecting the end of climbing.  After all, western Alaska is flat, like Bethel.  Oh well, we'll make a lot of money and go to Denali in the summer and get out of Nome as soon as possible.  But then, from the plane, as we flew low coming into town, we immediately noticed lots of little dark smudges on the tundra down there.  
  Turns out that each of these smudges houses a little rock garden.  Life in Nome is like this:  you just espy the tip of an outcrop from a conveniently-placed road, hike over to the outcrop, and more often than not, the view from the road had been concealing a little extra 15 feet of rock.  Am I just hard up, and out of touch?  Or is there not nice bouldering in these little Nome klettergartens?  And they are endless, BTW, thousands of them poke up across the wastes of Beringia, you could grab a pair of axes and just boulder your way back across the land bridge...
(above) The featured Raptor this Spring at Sunset Rocks is a family of Gyrfalcons. Look closely at the photo above and you can see Mom directly above the nest, which is perched on a little nose sticking out.  Mom is concerned about a menacing little simian scurrying around the base of the rock.  

The calendar on my wall translates this month as "Time of Year When You Encounter Lots of Critters At the Boulders."  Rock Gardens are natural gathering points.  Every time you approach the rocks, the chance of an encounter hangs potent in the air.  What will IT be, in just a moment, when I crest this rock, waiting on the other side, its peaceful grazing suddenly disturbed?
     In the later years of my life, living here in Nome, I have morphed into a type of person that my California environmentalist Hippy upbringing demands I revile:  I have become a wildlife harrasser.  I don't mean to be...  Some of these guys just get so, well, territorial.  Take the old Musk-Ox bull up at the Windmills the other day.  He startled my colleague Andrew so badly that the tiny human dropped his backpack and ran;  then, the beast refused to relinquish the pack back to Andrew's care, but instead sat there snorting and stomping his hooves over it, for all the world an old Cassius Clay befuddled from the years of head-butting and quite out of it... an old man being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole.
     I don't mean to harrass.  But I've encountered too many of these old fellows.  Obviously, Musk Ox are extremely intelligent, especially in the social domain.  Look in their eyes and it's like, mammal-to-mammal here!—  this isn't harrassment.  I am lobbying for my right to occupy part of this rock, that is all.  I understand that this guy is working with a different set of criteria, but really, we can work it out, there is no reason we cannot share this rock.
    Am I anthropomorphizing?  Am I attributing this ungulate human tendencies he does not possess?  Or am I legitimately negotiating a niche out here in the wilderness like any other animal?  They get so officious, sometimes it's hard not to mount 5.7 rock directly over their heads and laud it over them a bit like a chattering monkey safe in his tree.  But I sing them songs too, for balance. (Musk Ox do NOT appreciate the lycan high registers of the human voice, but seem to tolerate low growls on the order of Tom Waits.)  These very behaviors, though questionable, led to the return of Andrew's pack.
      The alacrity with which Musk Ox (relatives of sheep and goats) adapt to these negotiations leads me to believe that they do not feel particularly harassed.  After a while, they forget all about you, and then THERE YOU ARE bouldering amidst herds of Musk Ox thinking, too bad the bouldering mentality does not more readily encourage the bringing of a camera...
    But they would be horrified in California.  I would be villified and cited.  How hath the redneck taken root?  Who placed MAN at the center of things?    But, in the deeper programming, the Californian inside me retains some unassailable primacy.  My rule is, always give the critters their required space.  Respect nests.  And if you even remotely suspect you might truly be creating a negative impact, then you must perform the difficult but sometimes necessary act of NOT CLIMBING.
(above) Chris Miller crimping the Bore Hole traverse at the Windmills. The rock is some crazy half-baked schist.  Often looks like death-by-crushing and probably very well is.  Nome climbers should follow the "3 points of attachment" rule. 

(below) Looking up orange wall (every crag must have an orange wall) at Angstroms Rocks. This is an 80 feet chunk of meta-sedimentary marble next to the Kougarak Road, way fun to climb, but friable as chalk!  The featured Raptor is Golden Eagles;  their nest is visible directly to the right of Mikey Lean, who is battling the nice 5.10a Angstroms Orange on a crisp Fall day.  Photo by Phil.
    Out at Angstroms the other night... sated on the Lotus fruit of limestone climbing...  CHI oozing liberally up through the pores of the hillside, the air alive with buzzing and chirping and whirring of wings... plenty of scare and dare, breath or death, trust or dust, the ground was 30 feet down and I didn't even care, mantels and pockets and it was all there...  Flexibility and strength were soaking up into my limbs like water returning to the sponge. Winter was so long and cold.  It's all an abstraction now, a 30 second commercial in the mind. Now, back to our main feature, big blue summertime and warm rock under the hands...
      When all at once—  LARGE MAMMAL IN THE CORNER OF MY EYE!  Fight or flight!  Flee!  Hide! screams Brain.   So I did hide, up on the limestone.  I don't care what they say, bears can't do 5.8 or higher...  So I'm out of breath, heart pounding, freaking out in a totally unnecessary fashion, and the whole time my brain was processing the visual data from what I had seen...  very poor visual data, I have to add, my old eyes have gone very bad.  The animal had been a good quarter mile away.  So my brain is sort of Photoshopping the image, and lo and behold, the latent image emerged not of BEAR, but of WOLF.  The audio kicked in, and I realized I had been listening to the wolf howling for several minutes without realizing it.  So, back to the limestone (marble) for a long, sweet night of bouldering. 

(below, bottom) BSNC lands. 

    At every indent I am bumping my head against the problem, the problem of posting descriptions of sacred places on the internet, of all places.  I have manufactured various rationalizations and justifications for the act, but the act still has an unsettling feel to it, the fear permeates each keystroke.
    Worse yet, the problem of seeming to encourage climbing rocks on shareholders' lands.  It's sort of embarrassing to be a climber these days;  we are the final scourge of the west, the scavengers who pick the remains from whatever the cowboys, explorers, and businessmen failed to ravish.  Never spray.  It is petrifying to be doing so.  But I'm not out there shooting anything....    

Banner Creek Bouldering Getaway

the lovers were loving at the love-in
the music drifted down to the willows by the river
the rock it was solid and undercut—
     oh, leave it all and get off to the war

we lay sprawled on the grass, the sun glinted off riffles,
her voice was a tickle just this side of a dream...
one more try and we'll have unlocked this sequence—
      now, off to the war, enough of this peace

  the nap hung heavy on our eyelids, the breeze blew away the bugs,
 i had convinced myself we were where we ought to be...
  but when we awoke, the ground was too close—
       so, it's off to the war, before we get used to this

no more capering with our seats next to the ground
off to the glittering kingdoms, to be in peril in the air
away from this babbling brook of Forgetfulness—
     now, off to the mountains, to the war...