Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slump & Consolation: Fall of 2010

Cirro stratus over the Kigs on a Friday night in September from my doorstep in Icy View (left), right on time to create the illusion of Job one more time to cap off the school week, a week of fine Fall weather held  prisoner prowling the playgrounds smelling out trouble before it happens, all the meanwhile huge arrangements being made for the forthcoming weekend expedition and asses being made of oneself in one's family, all for the sake of climbing in the Kigs,  followed by Expedition Friday and  the sudden inexplicable rising of huge barometric pressure changes at the 3,000 ft. level, wind rising, the Nomens hunkering down to only party, the agony of defeat.  Is this what life is like in El Chalten?

       This pattern has been manifesting for a year and a half:  a precise and maddening enhosement, the weather bad when time is available, weather good when harnessed to responsibilities and the GLUE of town.  I have been through slumps before in 32 year career, but this one has really settled in.  What is implied by SLUMP is a failure to goal-achieve the BIG things.  There is always bouldering in this Arctic bouldering paradise, there is perpetually climbing, almost every day come moves with a move of the pure isolation over a particular section of stone, almost every weekend comes with a GRATEFUL TO THE WIFE mountaineering adventure of a surprisingly high cast—  but the thing that one lives for is the LARGE, the EXTENDED, the CAN'T FIND MY WAY BACK HOME of total commitment and wisdom-enhancing NO FEAR.  And a summit.  In this range, the tippy-top counts, it's part of the mathematical fun.

 Nothing coming in a year and a half.  Enhosement.
 (above) Penny Boulders, crazy meta-sedimentary a mile or two north of Penny Bridge, looking south in this photo, Teller Road in background:  homo traverse boulder and top of the orange lichen alpha clump of this group, the raptor tor, a fine klettergarten.

    Searching for causes of mountaineering slump, I consider this blog, this VERY BLOG.  There exists an exact correlation between start up of blog and beginning of slump.  COULD THIS BLOGGING B.S. YOUR ARE READING NOW BE AFFECTING CLIMBING OUTCOMES?  It's a proven fact (i jokes) that the nonentropy of minds participating in a mass consciousness structure (such as an internet site) can affect the probabilities of a climb.  More concretely, maybe keeping a blog is messing up my climbing brain.  The reintroduction of Ego after all that work to annihalate it! 
     Or, blame it on the GLUE of TOWN.  Muir had Martinez; I have Nome.  But this seems grossly unfair.  For the time has come to reveal a truth.  The slump is the result of an awakening.  The slump is transcendence, a stage of enlightenment.  The slump is the product of a slow awakening to the BEAUTY of the precious gifts of the GLUE?  It is time to look through the skin of this conceit and view the heart of the concept, the truth behind this term, "GLUE" OF TOWN, and see what really lies therein...  
so many blessings i cannot speak of them without the fragile flame of what they are blowing out like a candle:  love, family, friends— don't speak of them for they are the truly sacred— spray of climbing, but spray not of the sacred, love, family and friends... 

now the truth comes out:  the GLUE of town is composed of these wonderful things,

 these blessings...  this quagmire, this nemesis, this THING I had reified into a Chimera, is in reality the very fabric of which life is made, everything that is good, respectable, likable, warm, and human, everything that I cannot describe because my subcription is to the gloom and doom...   climbing is not important— it is the GLUE that truly feeds the spirit...

no wonder it takes such STEELY FOCUS to turn away from town

    (above) Consolation:  Penny Crags, from Penny Boulders, September 25, 2010.  Denied the copious Chi-intakes of the high Kigs, a great bouldering day between storms can forestall the onset of the climbing demons...

into white, the sudden giving way
one foot is gonna be on ice today
and one foot on rock, and rock was my bottle,
look at that white creeping in.
well, let it cover over,
let the whole thing go down,
i'm tired of the spray, 
let the machines resound,
once more into the iPodstream,
the roaring and the Kougarak,
heading into the Kigs today
with four bottles in eight socks.
the blog goes from tundra
into a blanket of snow,
now you've become an icecap
with your secrets below,
let go of summer,
it was overrated anyway,
the Cobras are out, and
now it's time to play
you crunchety-crunched,
you were stemming on rime,
don't push too hard,
ooh, that delicate spine!
the clouds were shrieking,
faith is absolute
live to see another day,
it's all turning to white.
(above) Rocky Mountain on the left, Pk. 2374, 100 ft. Bluff on the right, October 17, 2010.  Consolation in the form of a slog up the main mountain, my third time up this hill.  Too warm temps that day for the choss bluff.

 (left) Earp starting up the Bluff in a previous, more frozen-up year than this one is shaping up to be.

(above) Tom's Cabin:  rocks are visible as smudges up on the ridge.  Upon closer inspection, they open up to reveal,surprising depths of bouldering.  Not the Kigs, but a sweet Fall consolation.

(right)  October 10, 2010 (10-10-'10!  No wonder that day was such fine consolation), late afternoon, up at Tom's Cabin Rocks.  Pictured are a pair of aretes I slimed up.  Anything under 5.6,  I probably slimed up that day, including top-outs on each of the surprisingly exposed pinnacles.  However, the slime parameters were high that day, post extended Autumn rainfall, the lichen saturated to the point of mush. I know Graham and Jeff had slimed up a lot of these problems in previous years during their summer residence at the haunted cabin, and, for all I know, so did Tom, before them.  Increased ectoplasmic readings in this gulch...
(above)  The Discovery Goldfields, my ice hunting grounds on Sunday, November 7.  No ice to be found, but the snow was the finest consolation imaginable, silky sibilant grain snow parting with a sigh over steel edge of touring ski, perfectly weight-supporting.
   TINMIURAQ (above)   What privilege to be an integrated part of a hillside for a day.

     And indeed, these are times of wretched SLUMP.  The Kigs are but a distant memory, the Alaska Range so far away now I can no longer imagine facing those looming seracs.  No throne have we sat upon for many a month.  Only the gnarled clumps that cling to the ground, closer to home.
    Yet, zoom in, zoom in.  These clumps contain fractal depths and thrones in their own right...  flex and strain down in your tundra pit, hidden away from sight wrestling with rock puzzles...  what difference be a move whether it is one foot up, or thousands of feet off the deck?


  1. ...but that sure was one of my most fun nights playing music stuck in the glue!

  2. I like this: "These clumps contain fractal depths and thrones in their own right... flex and strain down in your tundra pit, hidden away from sight wrestling with rock puzzles... what difference be a move whether it is one foot up, or thousands of feet off the deck?"