Friday, July 23, 2010

Mt. Warren (Pk. 3300+) via Fox/Warren Creek

Days of rain and self-pity at Salmon Lake (above, looking north), folded up between the mountains, the lake, the fog, and the DELUSION that I AM THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE.  On the third day I left the cabin, with a compass and a map of the Fox Creek area downloaded on a very feeble short-term memory, and headed east into the hills, having decided to provide my little summit-grubbing ego with a tiny nub of consolation:  a peak lying on the divide between Warren Creek (a tributary of Fox Creek which drains into Salmon Lake) and the Southeast Fork of Crater Creek:  Peak 3300+. 
Looking up Warren Creek (above)...   Madness quickly set in, claustrophobia.  Locked in a cell of fog all day, the brain is receiving inputs from four of the senses that the mountains are all around, but no fifth sense, no visual.  You can feel the mountains like a phantom limb.  It's disorienting, like Neo and Morpheus standing in the construct.  The obligatory Grizzly dissolved into and out of the view for a moment, precipitating much irrational fear and unnecessary detouring.

Several miles in from the Kougarak Road, the slopes began to rise, up and up.  Vapors, nothingness, sensory deprivation.  Onset of hallucinations.  Voices.  I had had too much caffineated GU.  The compass was constantly in play.  Fortunately, the terrain was matching the feeble brain download.  The summit of Pk. 3300+ (or Warren Mt., as I had started to call it) finally appeared through the fog (left).  As is usual with Kigluaik summits, the north side dropped off into chasms, while the south side provided a Class II walk up.   
This is supposed to be a picture of the fearsome drop off to the north (right), but as you can see, the image is nothing more than fuzzy shapes on a sheet.  Standing there, you could feel the space beneath your feet registering as a tingle in the solar plexus region (where lie the sensitive organelles in the electromagnetic energy body that register the sense of vertigo) but without the corresponding visuals, the feeling lacked adrenal punch. 

This, then, is the theme:  a mountain, and a sensibility, truncated by fog.  Follow the lines in this picture of Mt. Warren from the north (above), taken on a subsequent gear-ferrying trip up Crater Creek.  Extrapolate where the apex of Warren Mt. must be. Thus, our mind throws a veil over the peaks of our enlightenment.  Nothing has changed much for a week.  Reality shrouded.  Sanity diffused.  Motivation muted. Tarps dripping.  Poor American:  his belly is full, but he still finds something to complain about...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Windmills, by Raina

   Overall psyched about this post because it marks the debut of MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAINA MCRAE.  Age six, relationship daughter.  She actually had to dangle from holds with one hand and wield the camera like a veritable Jim Thornburg to get these shots. Time of shoot was about 10 p.m. last month around solstice.  Night sweet as can be, with a breeze to blow the bugs, and the 'Skox herd lurking nearby.

 (below) The "jut" on Courtyard traverse, .10c
      Something completely tedious and boring (like bouldering) is rendered interesting by handicapping oneself in a variety of ways (both on and off the field) thus increasing the challenge.  For instance, the low-ball traverse rule:  you cannot use holds that are on the top edge of the boulder.  In the picture above I may seem to be violating this rule, but I am allowed those holds on a technicality, namely, the .10c rule:  once the problem is harder than .10c I will need to begin removing handicaps to make it .10c again because that is the hardest I can climb.    
Therefore, all my hardest boulder problems shall henceforth be rated 10c.
(above) Awning.  This sloping pull-over problem I have almost topped, but not quite. Wish I were allowed the desecration of a Fat Pad for the distasteful landing in the center of the Courtyard that a blow-out from the last move would bring.

(below) Scoop traverse, 5.8.  Killer M-5 ice tool pendjy-swing move in winter, from where the Scoop gets its name:  in deep snows, always a classic little wind-sculpted scoop formed at the top of an enormous drift, out of the wind, with dreamy convex landings (when not rock hard from wind), and fun moss sticks.

(left) BoreHole Overhang, 5.6. or what have you. This move is actually just a tiny bit off the deck. I was trying to get Raina to convey a sense of exposure, but all the photo conveys is a sense of age. The move is part of the overall Bore Hole Traverse, my current "proj", constituted by the low-ball circumnavigation of the entire lower wall at the Windmills.  Rating coming in at —  .10c, of course.  The windmills have a surprising number of crack moves here and there.  
(above) Hamlet.  This was Raina's favorite pic, and she wanted it included.  This little mouse is a survivor.  Like Diemberger on K2, Hamlet narrowly avoided the SNAKE.  He'll never know how closely he touched the void.  He was the best climber, cranking Separate Reality moves upside down on the roof of the cage, and this is what saved him.  
     At the start of summer, my student Kaitlin showed up at the door with 4 fat adult mice to feed to "Speedy", our class snake, who is currently residing in my bathroom at home with the hot shower on at my summer spa for arctic pythons.  Kids from all over Nome bring their rodents to us.  Mom and Dad say we have to get rid of them.  Raina has learned to successfully petition me to take one mouse out of ever fodder as a pet, just for one night.  Hamlet was the clear choice.  
    The first three victims were dispatched without great ceremony, BAM!, squeak!, gulp.  Hamlet, the fourth, went into Raina's room, and that night slept in golden chambers.  He entertained us with his cheer, good disposition, and hard climbing.  He was a hit with the neighborhood children, pawed and fondled by all with no complaint or bite on his part.
     Raina left the house the next day.  I whipped out Hamlet by the tail and carried him towards the big cage where the python was waiting for him, coiled, ready.  And then I was overtaken.  Suddenly, profoundly...  Every unit of KARMA I had accumulated from every living MOUSE I had ever thrown to this MONSTER suddenly burst forth from my chakras in one agglomerated spasm.  I fell to the floor, weeping.  "Oh, my offense is rank, I stinks to heaven!"  I wept for 20 minutes.  I cursed Hamlet hysterically and hurled him back in his feeding cage:  "I CAN'T DO IT!"  He was just a mouse, but he was so cool, he had a life, I had known him from an earlier incarnation.  
    We took Hamlet to Animal House, the awesome Nome pet store, where Chrystie was kind enough to take him in.  A sign was posted on his cage  proclaiming him the Kurt Diemberger of mice.  He eventually went to the home of another wonderful, kind, child of Nome, Alaska, where I'm sure he is bouldering on the walls of his cage.