This "Prindle Bucket" (above) stashed in the moraines at Crater Creek is an indication I am still in the game. I am a climber who has gear stashed in the mountains. My next attempt is imminent. I'm a player. To the question, "Been doin' any climbing lately?" I am able to answer in the strong affirmative, yes, how are you, as a matter of fact I AM climbing at this moment, simply by virtue of having a bunch of hardware and ropes in a 5-gallon bucket cached deep in the mountains (because my back is trashed and I have to double-carry everything these days.)
But now, September had come. The bucket was coming out. Summer rock climbing in the Kigs was coming to an end. The beginning of Loserdom once more....
Yukon Jack acted counterintuitively as a stimulant, and got me out of Nome on Friday night. But then, hours later, mounted on a four-wheeler with no high beam in pitch darkness out by Salmon Lake, one mile from my destination after a long ride on a long Friday evening, I drove straight into a large herd of Muskox on the road.
OOMINGMAK!! Drat! I had only been wanting to get to the cabin and collapse in my bag. Now I would have to bull my way through this crowd of head-butters like a Polaris Centaur. Again I would wear the hat of wildlife harasser.
One calf did not grasp the concept of get outta the road. His mom, like Jim Otto, squarely in my headlights. I rode in tight, quick circles, advancing forwards in incremental loops, my little bobble head swivelling, waiting for the awful contact with the great skull-plate coming out of the darkness. It took 25 minutes to sweep the herd slowly off, and certainly constituted the most perilous moment of the whole trip. I was grateful to finally fall asleep in the utter serenity and peace of the most grateful cabin at Salmon Lake... (below)
Ostensibly, this bucket trip would also be a rematch with the lumpen heap of Pk. 3535, scene of my fog and ennui the week before. And indeed, the day dawned beautiful, one of those not-quite-freezing Autumn days suspended in time, but the familiar Kigsborne ennui of hiking up a hill and calling it a climb persisted, like vestigial fog on a sunny day.
I followed my trail along the bluffs on the south side of Crater Creek. AKLAQ was all around, including the polite brown one that Janet, Carl and I had met a week earlier. But the Aklaitch were fat with fish and berries; situation non-stressful. I dozed and power-lounged on tussoks, captivated by the thrumming humming marvel of the Kigs... That weird thing happened, where the mountains cease to be inert stone, and reveal themselves to be sentient presences, ever communicating.... no way to translate it.
The climbing day slipped away. I had been defeated (for the umpteenth time) by the debilitating power drains of town, coupled with my own foolish inability to patch them.
As consolation, I went for a hike (above) up the upper east fork of Crater Creek, a valley I'd never seen before. Up some high moraines until I could see around the corner, lusting for a view of the hidden north face of Pk. 3325— it proved to be another of those brown facades on the clash zone between the schist and pluton, reminiscent of False Tigaraha: not worth climbing, unless some ice drip were to drip it on down, which looked entirely possible, north-facing cauldron like it is... A stupendous view down the length of the entire upper Crater Creek canyon— but I had forgotten the camera down at the bucket. You'll just have to slog up there yourself.